NATO Incites Ukraine to War against Russia

In the forty-fifth edition of the Russian Newspapers Monitor, Professor Filip Kovacevic discusses the articles from four Russian newspapers: Izvestia, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, and Pravda. He discusses the exclusive frontpage interview by the former Afghan president Hamid Kharzai, sharply critical of the U.S. president Donald Trump, in the pro-government Izvestia. In addition, he chronicles the U.S. Secretary of Defense James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis’ visit to Ukraine and how the U.S. and NATO are planning out total political and economic isolation of Russia. Lastly, he discusses some recent Gladio C provocative operations in the Russian border regions. The NATO-Russia proxy conflicts are getting more and more dangerous to world peace. Do not miss this exclusive edition of the Russian Newspapers Monitor!

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Show Notes

Izvestia – August 25, 2017

Rossiyskaya Gazeta – August 25, 2017

Nezavisimaya Gazeta – August 29, 2017

Pravda – August 25, 2017

Freedom for the Speech We Hate: The Legal Ins & Outs of the Right to Protest

“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” — Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

There was a time in this country, back when the British were running things, that if you spoke your mind and it ticked off the wrong people, you’d soon find yourself in jail for offending the king.

Reacting to this injustice, when it was time to write the Constitution, America’s founders argued for a Bill of Rights, of which the First Amendment protects the right to free speech. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, was very clear about the fact that he wrote the First Amendment to protect the minority against the majority.

What Madison meant by minority is “offensive speech.”

Unfortunately, we don’t honor that principle as much as we should today. In fact, we seem to be witnessing a politically correct philosophy at play, one shared by both the extreme left and the extreme right, which aims to stifle all expression that doesn’t fit within their parameters of what they consider to be “acceptable” speech.

There are all kinds of labels put on such speech—it’s been called politically incorrect speech, hate speech, offensive speech, and so on—but really, the message being conveyed is that you don’t have a right to express yourself if certain people or groups don’t like or agree with what you are saying.

Hence, we have seen the caging of free speech in recent years, through the use of so-called “free speech zones” on college campuses and at political events, the requirement of speech permits in parks and community gatherings, and the policing of online forums.

Clearly, this elitist, monolithic mindset is at odds with everything America is supposed to stand for.

Indeed, we should be encouraging people to debate issues and air their views. Instead, by muzzling free speech, we are contributing to a growing underclass of Americans—many of whom have been labeled racists, rednecks and religious bigots—who are being told that they can’t take part in American public life unless they “fit in.”

Remember, the First Amendment acts as a steam valve. It allows people to speak their minds, air their grievances and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just world. When there is no steam valve to release the pressure, frustration builds, anger grows and people become more volatile and desperate to force a conversation.

The attempt to stifle certain forms of speech is where we go wrong.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is “a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment...that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.” For example, it is not a question of whether the Confederate flag represents racism but whether banning it leads to even greater problems, namely, the loss of freedom in general.

Along with the constitutional right to peacefully (and that means non-violently) assemble, the right to free speech allows us to challenge the government through protests and demonstrations and to attempt to change the world around us—for the better or the worse—through protests and counterprotests.

As always, knowledge is key.

The following Constitutional Q&A, available in more detail at The Rutherford Institute (www.rutherford.org), is a good starting point.

Q:        WHAT LAWS GIVE ME THE RIGHT TO PROTEST?

A:         The First Amendment prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Protesting is anexercise of these constitutional rights because it involves speaking out, by individual people or those assembled in groups, about matters of public interest and concern.

Q:        WHERE CAN I ENGAGE IN PROTEST ACTIVITY?

A:         The right to protest generally extends to places that are owned and controlled by the government, although not all government-owned property is available for exercising speech and assembly rights. However, beyond public or government property, a person cannot claim a First Amendment right to protest and demonstrate on property that is privately owned by someone else. This also applies to private property that is generally open to the public, such as a shopping mall or shopping center, although these areas sometimes allow demonstrations and other free speech activity with permission from the owner. You are also entitled to engage in protest activities on land you own.  The Supreme Court has ruled that the government may not forbid homeowners from posting signs on their property speaking out on a political or social issue.

Q:        WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS TO PROTEST IN A TRADITIONAL PUBLIC FORUM?

A:         Places historically associated with the free exercise of expressive activities, such as streets, sidewalks and parks, are traditional public forums and the government’s power to limit speech and assembly in those places is very limited. The government may not impose an absolute ban on expression and assembly in traditional public forums except in circumstances where it is essential to serve a compelling government interest.  However, expression and assembly in traditional public forums may be limited by reasonable time, place and manner regulations. Examples of reasonable regulations include restrictions on the volume of sound produced by the activity or a prohibition on impeding vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  To be a valid time, place and manner regulation, the restriction must not have the effect of restricting speech based on its content and it must not be broader than needed to serve the interest of the government.

Q:        CAN I PICKET AND/OR DISTRIBUTE LEAFLETS AND OTHER TYPES OF LITERATURE ON PUBLIC SIDEWALKS?

A:         Yes, a sidewalk is considered a traditional public forum where you can engage in expressive activities, such a passing out literature or speaking out on a matter of public concern. In exercising that right, you must not block pedestrians or the entrances to buildings. You may not physically or maliciously detain someone in order to give them a leaflet, but you may approach them and offer it to them.

Q:        CAN MY FREE SPEECH BE RESTRICTED BECAUSE OF WHAT I SAY, EVEN IF IT IS CONTROVERSIAL?

A:         No, the First Amendment protects speech even if most people would find it offensive, hurtful or hateful. Speech generally cannot be banned based upon its content or viewpoint because it is not up to the government to determine what can and cannot be said. A bedrock principle of the First Amendment is that the government may not prohibit expression of an idea because society finds it offensive or disagreeable. Also, protest speech also cannot be banned because of a fear that others may react violently to the speech.  Demonstrators cannot be punished or forbidden from speaking because they might offend a hostile mob. The Supreme Court has held that a “heckler’s veto” has no place in First Amendment law.

Q:        HOW DO THESE RIGHTS APPLY TO PUBLIC PLACES I TYPICALLY VISIT?

A:         Your rights to speak out and protest in particular public places will depend on the use and purpose of the place involved.  For example, the lobbies and offices of public buildings that are used by the government are generally not open for expressive activities because the purpose of these buildings is to carry out public business. Protesting would interfere with that purpose.  Ironically, the meetings of a governmental body, such as a city council or town board, are not considered public forums open for protest activities because the purpose of the meeting is generally to address public business that is on the agenda.  However, some government councils and boards set aside a time at the meeting when the public can voice their complaints.

The grounds of public colleges and universities are generally considered available for assembly and protest by students and other members of the institution’s community.  However, those who are not students, faculty or staff of the institution may be denied access to the campus for speech and protest activities under rules issued by the school.

Public elementary and secondary school grounds also are not considered places where persons can engage in assembly and protest.  However, students at these schools do not lose their right to free speech when they enter the school. The First Amendment protects the right of students to engage in expressive acts of protest, such as wearing armbands to demonstrate opposition to a war, that are not disruptive to the school environment.

Q:        DO I NEED A PERMIT IN ORDER TO CONDUCT A PROTEST?

A:         As a general rule, no. A person is not required to obtain the consent or permission of the government before engaging in activities that are protected by the First Amendment.  One of the main reasons for that constitutional provision was to forbid any requirement that citizens obtain a license in order to speak out.  The government cannot require that individuals or small groups obtain a permit in order to speak or protest in a public forum.

However, if persons or organizations want to hold larger rallies and demonstrations, they may be required by local laws to obtain a permit.  The Supreme Court has recognized that the government, in order to regulate competing uses of public forums, may impose a permit requirement on those wishing to hold a parade or rally.  Government officials cannot simply prohibit a public assembly according to their discretion, but the government can impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of peaceful assembly, provided that constitutional safeguards are met. Such time, place and manner restrictions can take the form of requirements to obtain a permit for an assembly.

Whether an assembly or demonstration requires a permit depends on the laws of the locality.  A permit certainly is required for any parade because it would involve the use of the streets and interfere with vehicle traffic. A permit to hold an event in other public places typically is required if the gathering involves more than 50 persons or the use of amplification.

Q:        DO COUNTER-DEMONSTRATORS HAVE FREE SPEECH RIGHTS?

A:         Yes, they do. Just because counter-demonstrators oppose you and the viewpoint of your demonstration does not mean they have any less right to speak out and demonstrate. However, the same rules apply to counter-demonstrators as apply to the original assembly. The group cannot be violent and must assemble and protest in an appropriate place and manner.

Q:        WHAT CAN'T I DO IN EXERCISING MY RIGHTS TO PROTEST?

A:         The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the First Amendment protects the right to conduct a peaceful public assembly. The First Amendment does not provide the right to conduct a gathering at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, interference with traffic on public streets or other immediate threat to public safety. Laws that prohibit people from assembling and using force or violence to accomplish unlawful purposes are permissible under the First Amendment.

Q:       AM I ALLOWED TO CARRY A WEAPON OR FIREARM AT A DEMONSTRATION OR PROTEST?

A:         Your right to have a weapon with you when you protest largely depends on what is allowed by state law and is unlikely to be protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee to freedom of speech. Not all conduct can be considered “speech” protected by the First Amendment even if the person engaging in the conduct intends to express an idea. Most courts have held that the act of openly carrying a weapon or firearm is not expression protected by the First Amendment.

The right to possess a firearm is protected by the Second Amendment, and all states allow carrying a concealed weapon in public, although most require a permit to do so. Some states allow persons to openly carry firearms in public. However, it is not yet settled whether the Second Amendment guarantees the right to possess a firearm in public. Thus, the right to carry a firearm at a demonstration or protest is a matter that depends on what is allowed under state law. Carrying other weapons, such as stun guns, which are not firearms also is subject to restrictions imposed by  state law. Possession of weapons also may be prohibited in certain places where demonstrations might take place, such as a national park.

Even if possession of weapons is allowed, their presence at demonstrations and rallies can be intimidating and provocative and does not help in achieving a civil and peaceful discourse on issues of public interest and concern. Demonstrations often relate to issues raising strong feelings among competing groups, and the presence of counter-demonstrators makes conflict likely.  In these situations, where the purpose of the gathering is to engage in speech activities, firearms and other weapons are threatening, result in the suppression of speech and are contrary to the purpose of the First Amendment to allow all voices to be heard on matters of public importance.

Q:        WHAT CAN’T THE POLICE DO IN RESPONDING TO PROTESTERS?

A:         In recent history, challenges to the right to protest have come in many forms. In some cases, police have cracked down on demonstrations by declaring them “unlawful assemblies” or through mass arrests, illegal use of force or curfews. Elsewhere, expression is limited by corralling protesters into so-called “free-speech zones.” New surveillance technologies are increasingly turned on innocent people, collecting information on their activities by virtue of their association with or proximity to a given protest. Even without active obstruction of the right to protest, police-inspired intimidation and fear can chill expressive activity and result in self-censorship. All of these things violate the First Amendment and are things the police cannot do to censor free speech. Unless the assembly is violent or violence is clearly imminent, the police have limited authority under the law to shut down protesters.

Clearly, as evidenced by the recent tensions in Charlottesville, Va., we’re at a crossroads concerning the constitutional right to free speech.

As Benjamin Franklin warned, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

It must be emphasized that it was for the sake of preserving individuality and independence that James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, fought for a First Amendment that protected the “minority” against the majority, ensuring that even in the face of overwhelming pressure, a minority of one—even one who espouses distasteful viewpoints—would still have the right to speak freely, pray freely, assemble freely, challenge the government freely, and broadcast his views in the press freely.

This freedom for those in the unpopular minority constitutes the ultimate tolerance in a free society. Conversely, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplewhen we fail to abide by Madison’s dictates about greater tolerance for all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, the end result is always the same: an indoctrinated, infantilized citizenry that marches in lockstep with the governmental regime.

Some of this past century’s greatest dystopian literature shows what happens when the populace is transformed into mindless automatons. For instance, in George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.”

Where we stand now is at the juncture of OldSpeak (where words have meanings, and ideas can be dangerous) and Newspeak (where only that which is “safe” and “accepted” by the majority is permitted). The power elite has made their intentions clear: they will pursue and prosecute any and all words, thoughts and expressions that challenge their authority.

This is the final link in the police state chain.

If ever there were a time for us to stand up for the right to speak freely, even if it’s freedom for speech we hate, the time is now.

# # # #

 

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Exposed: Clinton Train Paid The Young Turks $20 Million

In this week’s episode of Newsbud’s Spiro Reports, Spiro investigates the deep state’s role in influencing the so-called alternative media. Recently the Young Turks secured an investment deal for $20 million. You know what they say, follow the money! Find out what we discovered in this hard hitting Newsbud community exclusive as we uncover the shady powerful network within the Clinton train who is pulling the money strings for the Young Turks. Plus, find out what former FBI whistleblower and Newsbud Founder Sibel Edmonds had to say about the Young Turk front man only at Newsbud.com

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Show notes

Progressive media outlet The Young Turks has raised $20 million in venture-capital funding and plans to double its staff

The Media Consortium

Meet the New George Soros

3L Capital

Dave Leyrer’s Omaze Raises Money For Clinton Foundation

Hacked documents reveal Soros plans for more Internet regulation

Soros-Funded Lefty Media Reach More Than 300 Million Every Month

Don Gevirtz; Democratic Fund-Raiser

2010 Overview The Aspen Institute

Brookings Institute Attendee List

The “Partners”: Who’s Who in the Democracy Alliance

George Soros’s Democracy Alliance

Democracy Alliance

Security Tight at Secretive Democracy Alliance Meeting

Obama’s Top Fund-Raisers

WndrCo LLC

Global Development Council Alan Patricof 

Millenium Challenge Corporation Report

So many choices … from the Aspen Institute

Is Hillary Clinton still the one to beat in 2016?

Global development leaders offer suggestions for next US president

The Secret Masters

Jeffrey Katzenberg - news and investigations

With cash from Jeffrey Katzenberg, The Young Turks looks to grow paid subscribers

Greycroft Alan Patricof

Newsbud Exclusive- Distracted by Charlottesville as America is Destroyed by an Economic Takedown_

Once again, the establishment media has taken us down a diversionary path. The tragedy of Charlottesville, where two factions of the political spectrum clashed with deadly consequence, has dominated the headlines. President Donald Trump has been trounced for his response while former president Barack Obama is hailed and a tweet he sent out—a regurgitation of a quote by Nelson Mandala—has become the most-liked tweet in Twitter history.

An endless series of stories—from the hyped threat of North Korea to the opioid crisis and ongoing culture war—dominate the news cycle while the nation slowly yet steadily disintegrates. “The one guaranteed source of doom is our broken financial system,” writes Charles Hugh Smith. “Anyone who thinks our toxic financial system is stable is delusional.”

Smith rightly points out the crises hyped by the establishment media “are not causes of discord: they are symptoms of the inevitable consequences of a toxic financial system that has broken our economy, our system of governance and our society.” [READ MORE]

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Newsbud Exclusive- “Neocons & Democrats Reunite as War on Russia Intensifies!”_

Perturbed by the outlier Donald Trump, Democrats have circled the wagons and reunited with Bush era neocons under the banner of the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), a project sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). The organization’s mission is predicated on a baseless presumption that has gone viral—Vladimir Putin and the Russians are actively involved in a nefarious plot to undermine democracy in America and Europe.

ASD’s mission statement avers it will strive to “develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions. The Alliance will work to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States and Europe.”

In July, the journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out ASD is “the ultimate union of mainstream Democratic foreign policy officials and the world’s most militant, and militaristic, neocons. The group is led by two longtime Washington foreign policy hands, one from the establishment Democratic wing and the other a key figure among leading GOP neocons,” to wit Laura Rosenberger and Jamie Fly. [READ MORE]

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As The Flood Waters Increase In Trump’s Swamp… Soros Eyes Asia Through ISIS

The hottest stories from Newsbud.com in this weekly round up, plus a sneak peak of whats to come.

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To apply for the available positions with Newsbud, submit your resume to apply@newsbud.com

Show Notes

Weapons & Energy: Putin-Erdogan Alliance

Space War: Feeding the Military Industrial Complex

American Horror Story: The Shameful Truth About the Government’s Secret Experiments

India Blinks! Soros in Asia; and Pattycake with Miles Kwok

Newsbud Exclusive – After Nuland, “Nuland”: A. Wess Mitchell Nominated to Direct the U.S. European & Eurasian Affairs

Probable Cause with Sibel Edmonds- Making Our Way through Slippery Slopes & Thin Lines

Welcome to our ninth episode of Probable Cause. This episode is dedicated to a few macro points and questions that were raised by you through our discussions on the last few episode topics. Consider this episode a needed pause to reflect and recollect before we proceed to our next subtopic.

With our topics and related context and real-life examples we have been dealing with heavy doses of reality on the ground. We are lifting the curtains, letting the light in, to see the naked truth. We are pushing the illusions out of the way, and staring truth in the eye. And the truth is not pretty. Far from it: it is ugly and vicious. It seems ominous. In many cases it is like a cancer that has greatly metastasized. How many activists and whistleblowers stop and turn their backs when they look the beast in the eye? How many people cover their eyes or look the other way when they catch a glimpse of the beast? How do we resist this common fate?

Additionally in this episode we’ll be talking about the difference between Pollyanna-esque optimism and realistic optimism. We’ll be discussing the importance of recognizing and acknowledging obstacles before we begin to look for approaches to overcoming them, and the importance of knowing our enemy, our opponents and their methods and tactics. And finally, we’ll be addressing one of the repeated questions in our forum: When are we going to take action? Is it going to be only talk, talk, and talk? How and when we are going to put all this talk into action?

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Probable Cause with Sibel Edmonds: Deep State Sugar Daddies, Mega NGOs & Controlled Opposition

Welcome to our eighth episode of Probable Cause. During our previous episode we talked about one of several tactics used by the powers to counter viable activist movements: Use of Sheep-Dipped operatives.

In this episode we are going to discuss another widely-utilized strategy for the purpose of coopting, pacifying and neutralizing opposition groups, networks and grassroots activists: Coopting and neutralizing viable movements via deep-state-funded political NGOs. I will attempt to explain how this process takes place, why it has been a proven method for success (success for the powers; the deep state), and what happens when a movement resists the cooptation. As with the previous episode I will be providing you with a real-life example as context, and will outline the tactic through a step-by-step account.

What we are about to cover here is the real-life dead-end of many organizations that begin with very noble causes, with a small dedicated network of activists, who become viable opposition, thus, a target of suppression and cooptation.

As always, I will be providing my take based on my experience and through my own personal lens and analyses, and will pose macro questions for you to consider. And as usual our next episode will be based on your reaction, critique, responses and questions posed in the comments section below.

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A Few Related Links

Part I. The Tentacles of Megas

Part II. The Journey from Watch-Dogs to Lap-Dogs

Part III. A Watch-Dog for All Seasons

Part IV. POGO: Mastering the Art of Lap-Dancing for Mega Sugar Daddies

How the ACLU, Ron Paul and a former EFF Director helped jail a CIA whistleblower

Compliance Guide for 501(c)(3) - Internal Revenue Service

Pros & Cons of 501(c)(3) Status

The New Great Game Round-Up: February 2, 2015

China Tries to Lure Turkmenistan with Surface-To-Air Missiles, Russia Vows to Support Tajikistan as ISIS-Taliban Rivalry Escalates & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Over the years, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has proved himself to be an excellent Twitter warrior. Aliyev regularly uses his favorite medium to blow his own trumpet and blast arch-enemy Armenia. So he started the new year by calling Armenia "a powerless and poor country," which "is not even worthy of being a servant." The conflict between the two neighboring countries over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has escalated in recent months. Although international mediators have repeatedly called on both sides to work towards a peaceful solution, the clashes intensified again in January. On Thursday, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said it had shot down an Armenian drone near Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia dismissed the statement as "absurd." Despite all that, Aliyev is touting Azerbaijan as "an island of stability." Most people will also have a hard time agreeing with Aliyev's claims that "the fight against corruption and bribery is proving very successful" and that "no-one is prosecuted or arrested for a critical opinion in Azerbaijan." Baku's unprecedented crackdown on journalists, human rights activists and NGOs has drawn a lot of criticism from the West. Even "civil society" expert George Soros is deeply concerned:

George Soros urges President Aliyev to loosen his stranglehold over civil society The Open Society Foundations are deeply concerned about the intensifying campaign against civil society in Azerbaijan, including the detention of several prominent human rights activists. In April, the authorities targeted Open Society’s foundation in Baku, the Open Society Institute–Assistance Foundation. They froze the foundation’s local bank account and seized its computers, as well as questioned former employees. The Open Society Foundations dismiss any allegations of wrongdoing. George Soros, founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations, met with President Ilham Aliyev in Davos, Switzerland, and urged the president to loosen his stranglehold over civil society and to end his harassment of legally registered charitable organizations.

Atlantic Council Working on Transatlantic Strategy for Europe's East

Aliyev knows full well that he is not in a position to defy Soros and the U.S. deep state, which Soros represents. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Azerbaijan will abandon its pro-Western course, as many people have suggested in recent months. Baku's friends in the U.S. are already trying to pour oil on troubled waters. This week, The Washington Times launched a marketing campaign for the Aliyev regime. The highlight was an article by former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives Dan Burton, in which he explained why "America and the rest of the free world need more friends like Azerbaijan." Burton is currently the chairman of the Azerbaijan America Alliance. He can look back on a long career as lobbyist for Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan and FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds included Burton in her State Secrets Privilege Gallery with good reason. Speaking of 'Gladio B,' former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza, whose name might sound familiar to readers of The Lone Gladio, likewise urged the U.S. to pay more attention to Azerbaijan. It is well known that Aliyev's fiefdom in the South Caucasus is very important to the U.S. and NATO. The Atlantic Council's new strategy for Eastern Europe will definitely take this into account:

“Toward a Transatlantic Strategy for Europe’s East” conference held in Washington

The Atlantic Council in partnership with the government of Latvia has hosted a conference titled “Toward a Transatlantic Strategy for Europe’s East” in Washington. Head of the Azerbaijani Parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Samad Seyidov attended the conference. Mr. Seyidov jointly with Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia and Georgia, the Deputy FM of Ukraine and a Polish official participated in the “Toward a Europe Whole and Free" program.

Azerbaijan's neighbor Georgia plays an equally important role in Washington's plans to create a Europe "whole and free," which means the consolidation of a unified Europe controlled by Brussels on behalf of the United States. Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili attended the Atlantic Council conference during her four-day visit to Washington, where she met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials. Moreover, Beruchashvili found the time to talk to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) about Russia's imminent "annexation" of South Ossetia. The Georgian Foreign Minister was referring to South Ossetia's new integration treaty with Russia, which is expected to be signed later this month. Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia's has already signed a similar treaty. Russian officials have assured that neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia will be incorporated into the Russian Federation but the draft of the South Ossetia treaty tells another story:

South Ossetia is the Next Crimea Unlike the treaty of the same name that Russia signed with Abkhazia at the end of 2014, which underwent several re-writes, the draft of the South Ossetia treaty involves the transfer of huge amounts of sovereign responsibilities away from the de facto authorities in the capital Tskhinvali to the Russian Federation. These transfers are so comprehensive as to effectively signal the end of South Ossetia as an independent entity. If this treaty is signed into law, South Ossetia will lose control of its military, police, border control, judiciary and education system. In short, all of the attributes of a sovereign polity, recognized or not. The immediate impact of this will be softened due to de facto Russian control, official or via infiltration, of many South Ossetian institutions, but writing such control into law is groundbreaking.

South Ossetia has been calling for much deeper integration for quite some time, which is not difficult to understand considering Georgia's actions. While Beruchashvili was meeting with U.S. officials in Washington and helping the Atlantic Council with its "transatlantic strategy towards Europe's East," her colleagues at home were also busy furthering Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration. At the beginning of this week, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili welcomed Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, who visited the South Caucasus to discuss Georgia's integration with the EU and NATO. And shortly thereafter, they hosted NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, who flew to Tbilisi to scout out prospective sites for NATO's planned military training center in the country. Vershbow hailed Georgia's "remarkable democratic and defense reforms" and stressed that the U.S.-led military alliance is "committed to have the training center up and running later this year":

NATO To Start Military Exercises In Georgia This Year NATO's planned military training center in Georgia will start operations this year, a senior alliance official said on a visit to Tbilisi. "Starting this year, we aim to hold periodic military exercises here in your country, with NATO Allies as well as with other interested NATO partners," said NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow at a January 30 speech in Tbilisi.

The exercises will be held at a "Joint Training and Evaluation Centre," the establishment of which NATO and Georgia announced last September. A location for the center still hasn't been determined, but one of the items on Vershbow's agenda in Georgia was to scout out locations; Civil.ge reported that one of the candidates sites he visited was the Vaziani training range near Tbilisi.

Russia Vows to Support Tajikistan as ISIS-Taliban Rivalry Escalates

In light of NATO's activities in Georgia, Russia's "annexation" of South Ossetia makes perfect sense. Meanwhile, Russia is also trying to convince Tajikistan of closer integration. Moscow would like Tajikistan to become the third Central Asian member state of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) after Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which is expected to join the bloc in May. To this end, the Kremlin wants to exploit Tajikistan's dependence on remittances from labor migrants in Russia. Remittances from Tajik workers abroad make up about 50 percent of the nation's GDP. Given that Russia's new regulations disadvantage migrant workers from outside the EEU, the Tajik authorities will have a hard time rejecting EEU membership. Furthermore, Russia eyes closer military cooperation with Tajikistan. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov stressed this again during this week's visit to the Central Asian country, as he tried to assuage concerns about slow deliveries of promised military aid:

By providing assistance to the Tajik army Russia strengthens its own security, says Russian official “Antonov noted that Russia and Tajikistan have no choice but to expand cooperation because they face common challenges and threats,” Faridoun Mahmadaliyev, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told Asia-Plus in an interview. “We realize that Tajikistan is our advanced post in the fight against terrorism and other challenges and threats,” Antonov said. He further added that the Russian defense ministry would continue providing assistance to the Tajik armed forces.

Antonov stated that Moscow wants to strengthen the Tajik army as "an outpost of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Central Asia" and the strengthening of the Tajik-Afghan border was reportedly also high on the agenda during his meeting with Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon. Russian and Central Asian officials have recently sounded the alarm due to the growing number of insurgents in northern Afghanistan. Kidnappings along the Tajik-Afghan border highlighted that the threat has to be taken seriously. The four Tajik border guards, who were supposed to be handed over to Tajikistan last week, are still being held hostage in Afghanistan and two more border guards were lately wounded in shootouts along the frontier. Many of the insurgents in northern Afghanistan are believed to be Central Asian fighters belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) or splinter groups, such as Jamaat Ansarullah. Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's special representative for Afghanistan, raised a few eyebrows when he claimed that the jihadists are from the Islamic State (ISIS) but recent reports suggest that some insurgents have indeed joined ISIS and this has brought a new private militia into the arena:

“Marg” Group formed against Taliban and ISIS in northern Afghanistan A new group calling themselves “Marg” or “Death” announced its existence in northern Afghanistan. Dozens of members of “Marg” group yesterday went to the provincial council of northern Balkh province and announce their readiness to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Taliban in Afghanistan. Marg Group claims that more than 5,000 people have announced their allegiance with them to fight ISIS and Taliban.

Balkh province borders Turkmenistan in the north-west, Uzbekistan in the north and Tajikistan in the north-east. The Central Asian regimes will be relieved to hear that a homegrown militia is now giving the Afghan security forces a hand. But perhaps the problem will solve itself. ISIS and the Taliban are not exactly on the same page. ISIS is trying to woo fighters away from the Taliban and wannabe Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called Taliban leader Mullah Omar "a fool and illiterate warlord." As mentioned last week, former Taliban commander and Guantanamo detainee Mullah Raouf Khadim was leading ISIS's recruitment efforts in Afghanistan but the Taliban lost no time in getting rid of the competition. It remains to be seen if this signifies the end of ISIS in Afghanistan. All indications are that the much-hyped terrorist group won't give up that easily. ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani recently announced the group's leaders for "Khorasan," which covers Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Tajikistan. Hundreds of Taliban fighters have reportedly joined the new branch of ISIS in Pakistan and the insurgents, who escaped Pakistan's Operation Zarb-e-Azb, are potential recruits as well:

Militants Driven From Pakistan Flock to Afghan Towns Arab and Central Asian Islamist militants have moved into Afghanistan after a military offensive by Islamabad largely eliminated havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Afghan officials and local residents say, posing a potential new threat to the country’s already tenuous security. At least 400 families affiliated with militant groups—including members of al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan—crossed into Afghanistan in December and now live in the homes of locals in lawless parts of the country, Afghan officials say. Afghan officials say these fighters aren’t engaging in combat, but their arrival comes as a robust Taliban insurgency confronts the government in Kabul. Islamic State, which occupies swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, has also sought a foothold here.

China Tries to Lure Turkmenistan with Surface-To-Air Missiles

ISIS's expansion into the region has apparently only just begun. The director of a Bishkek-based think tank told reporters last week that ISIS has allocated around $70 million to destabilize the situation in Central Asia and that the group's main target is the Fergana Valley, which spreads across eastern Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These alarmist predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. The insurgents in northern Afghanistan give the neighboring countries cause for concern but they have not even crossed the border into Central Asia. Furthermore, Uzbekistan is perfectly capable of dealing with the threat. The Uzbek regime will put the 300 armored vehicles from the U.S. to a good use, regardless of whether that means fighting ISIS or crushing dissent at home. Only Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have a good reason to worry about ISIS, the IMU or whatever else the insurgents in northern Afghanistan like to call themselves:

Islamic State fighters appear on Turkmen-Afghan border The presence of Islamic State (IS) fighters has been reported in the Almar district of Afghanistan’s Faryab province along the border with Turkmenistan, Radio Azatlyk (the Turkmen service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) reported on January 22 with reference to Afghan parliament member Gulmuhammed Rasuli. 

According to Rasuli, on January 21 in Kabul, heads of Afghanistan’s special services discussed the situation in the north of the country, and confirmed the fact of IS fighters’ movement from southern Afghan provinces to the north. Rasuli was quoted as saying that black flags of the Islamic State seen in Almar villages inhabited by Pushtuns testify to the presence of IS fighters close to the Turkmen border.

As previously discussed, the presence of insurgents along the Turkmen-Afghan border prompted the Turkmen regime last year to "invade" Afghanistan and push the fighters back. The situation has been very tense ever since. Most of the insurgents, who are causing trouble on the border, were members of the Taliban or the IMU but according to Rasuli, several Taliban groups in the region have now joined ISIS. In contrast to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan cannot count on support from Russia or the CSTO because the country refuses to join the Russia-led military alliance or the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for that matter. Turkmenistan attaches great importance to its neutrality. This has advantages but also some disadvantages. As the security situation deteriorates, the Turkmen authorities might be tempted to turn to Russia or China for assistance. Beijing is already trying to lure Ashgabat with HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles but this begs the question why Turkmenistan would need surface-to-air missile systems:

Central Asian countries trade with China natural gas for weapons China plans to sell HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles to its Central Asian neighbors of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to reduce the price it has to pay the two countries for natural gas, reports Kanwa Defense Review, a Chinese-language military magazine based in Canada, on Jan. 25. Since natural gas produced in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is vital to China's development, the country is willing to sell advanced weapon systems such as the FD-2000, an export version of the HQ-9 missile, to its western neighbors as a way to get better deals. Yet there is a catch. If China successfully convinces both nations to purchase FD-2000s, they will then have to purchase Chinese radars, early warning aircrafts and even fighter jets to coordinate with the air defense system.

From China's point of view, the deal makes a lot of sense but the Turkmen regime would be well advised to think twice about increasing its dependence on China even more given the fact that Turkmenistan is already heavily dependent on its strategic partner. If Iran goes ahead with its plan to boost domestic gas production and stops importing Turkmen gas, Turkmenistan's gas exports will depend entirely on China's demand. China received 25.86 Bcm of Turkmen gas in 2014, a 5.3 precent increase from 2013, but still less than the 30 Bcm/year agreed between Turkmengaz and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) in 2007. It is doubtful that the two companies can adhere to their agreement to boost China's imports from Turkmenistan to 40 Bcm/year by 2015. With China about to import more Russian gas, Turkmenistan is under pressure to diversify its gas exports. As expected, the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline remains a pipe dream. Turkey and Azerbaijan think that they have found the solution but Russia will beg to differ:

Turkey and Azerbaijan want Turkmenistan to join Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline - Turkish FM Both Turkey and Azerbaijan want Turkmenistan to be included in the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline, an indispensable project for Turkey that will be completed within three years, Turkish foreign minister said Thursday. Addressing a press conference after the trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in Ashgabat, Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu said, "TANAP is an indispensable project for us. We plan to finish this project in three years," reports Anadolu News Agency.

Cavusoglu said the secure transmission of the Azeri and Turkmen natural gas through Turkey to Europe was also discussed.

# # # #

Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

BFP Exclusive: A Nuclear Tinderbox in Ukraine?

To claim that war is the formula for prosperity and unity is to pledge allegiance to the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

The accusers

Europeans hardly had time to drink all the champagne left over from the New Year's Eve parties when George Soros declared to them (yet again) that they are "at war" with Russia and that "they need to start acting like it".[1]

Acting as if Europe is at war means a full-scale political, economic and military mobilization against the enemy. It means the radical reorientation of the EU economies from domestic needs to the needs of the military-industrial complex. It means less schools, hospitals and nursing homes and more missiles, tanks, and helicopters. It means death and destruction instead of life and creation. Isn't it obvious that war turns all the things that a rational person would want for herself, her family and community into its opposites?

And yet Soros insisted not only on the war's ongoing status but also on its beneficial nature. In the discourse that had the elements of a "warmongering frenzy", he even went so far as to claim that it is only the war that can pull the EU from the current economic, institutional and identity crises. He openly articulated the infernal metaphysical thesis that "war is the father of all things" (Heraclitus). In doing so, he appears to have consciously placed himself into the enemies of the open society camp so carefully dissected by his mentor Karl Popper. To claim that war is the formula for prosperity and unity is to pledge allegiance to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And there is no doubt that Soros has done exactly that.

Some observers speculate that this public statement could be Soros' job application for the position of the chairman of the Central Bank of Ukraine.[2] Be that as it may, the current leadership of Ukraine has repeated, line by line, his basic points. It has been a while since the prime minister Arsenyi Yatsenyuk accused Russia that it wanted to start the World War III.[3] And this sentiment is prevalent in the US-NATO intelligence and military circles.

This powerful behind-the-curtains group is, however, faced with a huge public relations problem. The majority of the Europeans do not believe their fiery rhetoric and do not consider Russia as a threatening enemy. They are not willing to turn their countries into war fortresses and accept the suspension of democracy by military emergency decrees. Clearly they need to be convinced somehow; they need "to start acting" like being at war as Soros put. How is this to be done?

By instigating something big, scary and deadly and pointing the finger of blame to Russia. But, considering the stakes, it has to be on a greater scale than what the world has seen so far. From where can this 21st century "shot in Sarajevo" be fired?

Going nuclear?

Though it is shuddering even to contemplate it, the answer might involve Ukraine's nuclear reactors. As we all know, Ukraine was already the site of one of the two biggest nuclear disasters in human history: the Chernobyl reactor meltdown in April 1986. The radiation spilt into the atmosphere led to many immediate deaths in the affected area, while many more have died from the exposure in the subsequent years both in Ukraine and beyond (including Northern Europe).

Apparently, this disaster also had dramatic political consequences. Influential commentators trace to it the beginnings of the policies of glasnost and perestroika which eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union and the communist (state capitalist) system.[4] As the narrative goes, the Soviet government elite which attempted to hide the truth from its citizens was eventually punished by them for its mendacity. How come nothing similar ever happens in the West?

At this time, Ukraine has four nuclear power plants (NPP): Zaporizhia (six reactors), South-Ukraine (three reactors), Rivne (four reactors) and Khmelnytskyi (two reactors). None of the plants use the type of the reactor which exploded in Chernobyl.

All except Rivne have official websites.[5] The websites of the South-Ukraine and Khmelnytskyi NPPs are in three languages (Russian, Ukrainian, and English), while the website of Zaporizhia NPP is only in Russian language. This might be accidental and meaningless, but the crux of the matter is always in the details.

The Zaporizhia NPP is the largest and most powerful of them all. In fact, it is the largest NPP in Europe and, according to its website, in a month or so, it will celebrate the occasion of the one billion kWh energy production since its opening. It produces about one half of the total nuclear energy in Ukraine.

And it is precisely this plant that has been most endangered since the fighting began. It is about 200 km from the reported warzone and many observers have already expressed considerable fear for its security.

In June 2014, the Greenpeace nuclear expert Tobias Munchmeyer claimed that the plant was "insufficiently protected" from possible bombardments and that its protective walls could withstand only "a small aircraft crash" (Mind you, this was before the MH-17 crash).[6] The official reply was that it could survive up to 5 tons of TNT explosives within the 200-meter parameter and a direct hit of MiG-29. This is hardly reassuring as somebody could pile up more than 5 tons of TNT, or bring it closer than 200 meters, or send two or three MiG-29s.

Also, RT reported in May 2014 that a group of the alleged members of the neo-fascist Right Sector paramilitaries attempted to storm the plant. According to the grainy video posted on the web, they wanted to "protect the plant" from the pro-Russian groups which supposedly wanted to replace the Ukrainian flags on the roadblocks with the Russian ones.[7] The paramilitaries were eventually surrounded by the regular police and forced to leave the area. However, in a recent article in London's Independent, it is reported that the pro-Russian "agitators" were actually inside of the plant.[8] This of course makes the situation appear much more serious. Another twist to the story is that the Right Sector officially denied that the paramilitaries in question had anything to do with their organization.

To add fuel to the fires of suspicion, last month (December 2014), two of the plant's reactors were shut down (one, on December 3 and the other, on December 28) due to what was publicly explained as "electrical malfunctions". In the instance of the first shutdown, the prime minister Yatsenyuk caused a minor panic when he used the word "the accident", which was notoriously used by the Soviet press to break the news of the Chernobyl disaster.[9] This could have been a test to see how the public and the international community would react.

What is perhaps most worrying is that the delivery of the fuel assemblies to the plants has been the cause of the bitter competition between the American Westinghouse Electric Co. and the Russian state-owned TVEL.[10] For the two decades of the Ukraine's post-Soviet independence, the TVEL had a monopoly, but things began to change recently when some of the plants signed up with the American supplier. This led to the paradoxical situation that in certain cases the assemblies from both the Americans and the Russians are used in the same reactor. Perhaps this would not be much of a problem if one side did not consider itself to be "at war" with the other.

As if to underscore the danger staring us in the face, the Westinghouse official Michael Kirst was quoted as saying that "if you look at a photograph of (the TVEL fuel assembly), you’ll see the space between is so narrow that (Westinghouse) must force its fuel assemblies into the reactor. I don’t have to tell you that (with nuclear fuel assemblies) that is a bad idea. These things can’t be forced.”[11]

Obviously, the fuel assembly issue looks like a fertile ground for things to begin to deteriorate quickly in the direction of Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. And for either side to take advantage to blame the other.

We would of course know who really pulled the trigger, that is to say, placed the
defective fuel assembly. But I doubt that those few survivors of the nuclear winter would really care at all.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Boiling Frogs Post contributing author and 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. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco, and can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/vMhn5F3UZO8miWQ86TnXmK/George-Soros--Europe-at-war.html;

The earlier version of this article was published in the New York Review of Books. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/20/wake-up-europe/

[2] http://journal-neo.org/2014/12/28/soros-as-kiev-s-central-banker-and-ridiculous-us-laws/

[3] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-crisis/russia-wants-start-world-war-iii-ukrainian-pm-yatsenyuk-n89481

[4] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/12403612/ns/world_news-europe/t/chernobyl-cover-up-catalyst-glasnost/#.VLCHhU0tA5s

[5] http://www.npp.zp.ua/; http://www.sunpp.mk.ua/; http://www.xaec.org.ua/store/pages/eng/khnpp

[6] http://www.nucpros.com/content/ukrainian-nuclear-plant-vulnerable-kiev%E2%80%99s-artillery-strikes-%E2%80%93-greenpeace-expert

[7] http://rt.com/news/159640-ukraine-gunmen-nuclear-plant/

[8] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-turns-off-reactor-at-nuclear-plant-after-accident-9947540.htm

[9] http://mashable.com/2014/12/03/ukraine-nuclear-plant-accident/?utm_campaign=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_cid=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_medium=feed&utm_source=rss

[10] http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/fuel-duel-326535.html

[11] Ibid.

The New Great Game Round-Up: November 24, 2014

Soros' Visit a Bad Omen as Kyrgyzstan Prepares to Join EEU, TAPI Countries Push Pipeline Despite Afghan Violence & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

So-called color revolutions have long been used by the United States to replace governments all over the world with more pliable alternatives if the respective leaders have outlived their usefulness or antagonized Washington, the most recent example being the Euromaidan in Ukraine. After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, the U.S. and its allies launched Orange Revolution 2.0 to ensure Kiev's commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration and to nip Ukraine's accession to the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in the bud. On November 21, Ukrainians gathered in Kiev to mark the first anniversary of the start of the fateful anti-government protests, which have plunged the country into war, leading to a new confrontation between Russia and the West. In light of the developments in Ukraine, many governments are increasingly alarmed at color revolutions. Especially Russian officials have been repeatedly warning against this "new form of warfare" in recent months. A few days ago, President Putin urged Russian security chief to do everything necessary to prevent a color revolution in Russia and the issue was also high on the agenda during this week's talks between Russian and Chinese defense ministers:

Russia, China should jointly counter "color revolutions" — Russian Defense Ministry

Russia and China should jointly stand against “color revolutions” which both countries are facing, a deputy Russian defence minister said after talks between Russian and Chinese defence chiefs on Tuesday.

“We focused on those events which have recently taken place in Hong Kong, and both ministers acknowledged that no country is immune from ‘color revolutions,’” Anatoly Antonov said.

“It only seems that these “color revolutions” and these experiments by Western spin doctors, including those from the United States, are being implemented somewhere far from China or the Russian Federation,” Antonov said. “All this is in fact near us, and we believe that Russia and China should work together to withstand this new security challenge to our countries.”

Soros' Visit a Bad Omen as Kyrgyzstan Prepares to Join EEU

Before he travelled to Islamabad to sign a landmark military agreement with Pakistan, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu met with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan and other top officials in Beijing to discuss military cooperation between Russia and China. Chang called for joint efforts to "promote bilateral military-to-military ties to a higher level" and both sides agreed to respond to Washington's attempts to strengthen its military and political clout in the Asia-Pacific region by forming a regional collective security system. Moscow's concerns with regard to color revolutions probably found a sympathetic ear in Beijing considering that the Chinese government is worried about the Hong Kong protests. Beijing has been portraying Occupy Central as an evil Western plot but although the usual suspects have a hand in the "Umbrella Revolution," the protests are not merely another color revolution. Nevertheless, both Beijing and Moscow have every reason to be on their guard, as the example of Ukraine shows. Some people are concerned that China's neighbor Kyrgyzstan will be the next target and the visit of color revolution expert George Soros didn't help to allay fears of a Kyrgyz Maidan: 

Myktybek uluu Bekbolot: Kyrgyzstan will not survive after another coup

"We are against arrival of the billionaire George Soros to our country," the representative of NGO Strong Kyrgyzstan Muratbek uluu Bekbolot defined the aim of the protest, passing near the building of the US Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic, to 24.kg news agency.

According to him, after his first visit to our country there was a coup in 2005. "Now Soros again appeared, and we suspect that he is planning another revolution in our country. We are for peace Kyrgyzstan and don't want war. Our country will not survive after another coup," he added.

A few dozen protesters carrying signs with slogans such as "U.S. hands off of sovereign Kyrgyzstan" gathered near the U.S. Embassy Bishkek to demand that George Soros must immediately leave the country and stop interfering in Kyrgyzstan's internal politics. Neither Soros nor the Kyrgyz authorities were swayed by the small rally and the founder of the infamous Open Society Foundations completed his first trip to Kyrgyzstan after almost ten years without incident. After meeting with a representative of the Aga Khan Foundation and the current president of the American University of Central Asia (AUCA), Soros visited AUCA to talk to students and check if his money is well-invested. AUCA is being funded by Soros' Open Society Foundations and the U.S. government. The multi-billionaire also met with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev to discuss the activities of the Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan, which begs the question of whether or not Atambayev told Soros that one of the projects financed by his foundation will be charged with "inciting interethnic hatred":

Kyrgyzstan's Spooks Hounding Rights Groups with "Absurd" Charges

The State Committee on National Security (GKNB) charged two staff of the Human Rights Advocacy Center, an anti-torture campaigner in Osh, on November 20 with “inciting interethnic hatred,” a source with intimate knowledge of the case told EurasiaNet.org. One was told that the former director of Freedom House’s Kyrgyzstan office would also be charged.

The GKNB had outlined its case in a September
criminal complaint, stating that an opinion survey distributed by the Advocacy Center posed a threat to national security and could reignite interethnic conflict in the country’s volatile south. The Advocacy Center project was funded by Freedom House, which receives some of its funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The source with intimate knowledge of the case believes Kyrgyzstan will try to shut down foreign-funded NGOs altogether and kick out USAID, as Russia did in 2012. “This is the beginning of the end. This has been building for awhile,” the source said. The Advocacy Center and Freedom House are just scapegoats, the source added. “Russia wants these groups to leave. They’re going to push. It may take a year or more, but they [Russia] are aiming to get them cleared out.

The Human Rights Advocacy Center receives funding from Freedom House as well as from the Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan. As previously discussed, the above-mentioned survey caused a great stir in Osh and in light of the Euromaidan protests and subsequent coup d'état in Kiev, the Kyrgyz authorities take no chances when it comes to the activities of foreign-funded "non-governmental" organizations. According to Kyrgyzstan's National Institute for Strategic Studies, 16,000 NGOs are now officially registered in the Central Asian country and although only a few hundred are active, it is difficult to stay on top of things. Therefore, legislators in Bishkek have been pushing for a Russian-style foreign agents law in recent months. As Kyrgyzstan is preparing to join the EEU and moving closer to Russia, some people in Bishkek and Moscow are concerned that Washington will try to impede this process but the Kyrgyz government stands by its decision to cast its lot with Russia:

Kyrgyzstan Has "No Alternative" to Closer Russia Ties - Prime Minister

The slowdown of Russia’s economy is inflicting pain across Central Asia. But impoverished Kyrgyzstan has no choice but to stay close to Moscow, Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev tells EurasiaNet.org.

In recent weeks, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament has passed reams of legislation on membership in both the customs union and the EEU, which will come into being on January 1.

“We’ve gotten some criticism from the United States,” Otorbaev says of EEU membership talks. “I would like to hear the arguments of those who would like us to close the border. [...] With whom are we going to trade? I don’t know. The United States is not here. Europe neither. China is very aggressively importing things. If someone would advise us, I would be more than happy to hear them.

Georgia's "Pro-Russian" Government Continues NATO Integration

George Soros and the U.S. government will have to do a lot of persuading to woo Kyrgyzstan away from Russia. But although U.S. NGOs have lately been running into trouble in Kyrgyzstan and Russia, the use of NGOs is still very popular around the world. Archil Chkoidze, the leader of the Georgian NGO coalition "Eurasian Choice," recently suggested that Russian NGOs should beef up their presence in Georgia to counter U.S. influence in the country. Chkoidze stressed that many U.S. organizations are already working in Georgia to this end and nobody can deny that they have been very successful so far. Before visiting Kyrgyzstan, George Soros spent two days in Georgia to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Open Society Georgia Foundation. Soros also met with Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who has been doing his best to assure the West of Georgia's commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration after the dismissal of Defense Minister Irakli Alasania. This week, Garibashvili travelled to Brussels to attend the first meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council and to meet with NATO's new Secretary General:

Georgian PM, NATO Chief Discuss Implementation of ‘Substantive Package’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met Georgia’s PM Irakli Garibashvili in Brussels on November 17 and discussed implementation of the “substantive package” of cooperation, which NATO
offered to Georgia at its summit in Wales in September.

Among those elements of the package are assisting defense capacity building in Georgia through, as Stoltenberg put it, “embedded trainers” and setting up of a joint training center in Georgia.


“We are pleased that Georgia will also host NATO-Georgia Training Center. The Center will help the Georgian forces to maintain their ability to work with NATO and it will prepare Georgia and other partners for future contributions to NATO Response Force,” the NATO Secretary General said.

Stoltenberg emphasized that he has "no reason to doubt" Georgia's commitment to NATO integration and he stated that concrete decisions on the training center will be made at the ministerial meeting of NATO countries in February 2015. With that said, it is quite difficult to argue that Georgia is about to abandon its pro-Western course or that the Georgian government is loyal to Russia but that is exactly what some people in Georgia are alleging. A few days ago, dismissed Defense Minister Alasania, who called the corruption investigation into the military "an attack on Georgia's Euro-Atlantic choice," gave a 'final warning' to the Prosecutor’s Office and threatened to get the international community involved if his lawyers don't get the files of the case. Shortly afterwards, Alasania travelled to the United States to meet with representatives of the State Department. Another darling of Washington is also blasting the government in Tbilisi. According to former president Mikheil Saakashvili and his party, the current government is pursuing a "policy of appeasement vis-à-vis Russia":  

At ‘No to Annexation’ Protest Rally UNM Slams ‘Collaborationist’ Govt

Thousands of protesters were gathered in Tbilisi center on November 15 at a rally organized by the opposition UNM party against what it calls is Georgian government’s “inaction” amid threat of “annexation” of Georgia’s breakaway regions by Russia.

In his address via video link from Kiev, ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who is chairman of UNM party, told protesters, gathered on the Rustaveli Avenue outside the Parliament, that it is now time “for the entire nation to stand united and to tell, before it is not too late, to [ex-PM Bidzina] Ivanishvili that the Georgian nation does not share his dream.”

Saakashvili and his United National Movement are the most vocal critics of Russia's "attempt to annex" Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which is quite ironic considering that they have contributed significantly to the current situation by starting the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. Former Georgian President Nino Burjanadze heavily criticized Saakasvhili and the current government for their "NATO rhetoric" and she stressed that Georgia's territorial integrity is more important than joining any international organization. Burjanadze blamed Tbilisi’s endless talk of a NATO training center in Georgia for Russia's decision to offer Abkhazia a new treaty and she urged the Georgian authorities to talk to the Russians, Abkhazians and Ossetians about this issue instead of "going to Brussels like kids and complaining before [NATO and EU] officials." Unfortunately, it is already too late for this. Russia and South Ossetia are working on a new integration treaty and Abkhazia is about to sign a revised version of the treaty proposed by Moscow a few weeks ago:

Russia, Abkhazia to Sign Agreement on Strategic Cooperation, Integration

Abkhazia's President Raul Hajimba will visit Russia Monday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and sign a deal on strategic cooperation and integration, Kremlin's press service announced Sunday.

"President of
Abkhazia Raul Hajimba will visit Russia on November 24 at the invitation of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin… It is planned to sign an agreement on integration and strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia," the press service stated.

TAPI Countries Push Pipeline Despite Afghan Violence

Georgia's quest for NATO membership comes with heavy cost. Russia's southern neighbor is not only paying with its territorial integrity but also with the lives of Georgian soldiers for its dream of joining NATO. Georgia has made its mark as the top non-NATO troop contributor in Afghanistan and 750 Georgian troops will stay in the war-torn country after the so-called withdrawal. The security situation in Afghanistan is dire, as demonstrated by the recent suicide bombing at a volleyball match, and given that the casualties suffered by Afghan security forces in the fight against the Taliban have reached an "unsustainable" level, it came as no real surprise, when U.S. President Barack Obama secretly signed an order that expands the United States’ direct combat role in Afghanistan throughout 2015:

In a Shift, Obama Extends U.S. Role in Afghan Combat

President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the
Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

Despite all that, some countries think that it is a good idea to push major regional and international infrastructure projects, which depend on the situation in Afghanistan. Representatives from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey discussed recently in Ashgabat the construction of a transport and transit corridor connecting the five countries. Furthermore, the Turkmen capital hosted the latest round of talks in the never-ending saga of the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI). Last week, the state gas companies of the four involved countries established a company that will build, own and operate the planned pipeline and a few days later the TAPI steering committee agreed to start the construction of the project as early as next year:

TAPI countries agree to start pipeline project by 2015

Taking another step towards realising the ambitious TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) natural gas pipeline project, petroleum ministers of the four countries
met in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan Thursday and agreed that steps will be taken to start the project by 2015.

"It was decided that the next meeting of the steering committee will be held in February 2015 in Islamabad," the petroleum ministry said in a statement here on the 19th round of TAPI steering committee meeting attended by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

There has been a lot of talk about the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline in the last two decades but the security situation in Afghanistan has always prevented the implementation of the project and it is still "practically impossible" to build the pipeline. Especially the Turkmen authorities should be aware of the deteriorating security situation in neighboring Afghanistan given the fact that they were already forced to send troops across the border to drive back insurgents in the area. But since Turkmenistan is desperately looking for new gas customers to check its dependency on China, inconvenient facts are apparently being overlooked. The Turkmen authorities have been trying hard to diversify the country's gas exports after the Iranians announced that they no longer needed gas from Turkmenistan because they were planning to boost Iran's domestic gas production. Fortunately for Turkmenistan, this requires more time and money than the Iranians previously thought meaning that Turkmenistan will be able to keep its second-best gas customer for now:

Turkmenistan and Iran Reignite Gas Affair

Iran, it seems, was calling Turkmenistan’s bluff earlier this summer when Tehran said it no longer needs gas from its northern neighbor. Now a top official says Tehran will keep buying.

That is good news for Turkmenistan, which is so dependent on its main gas customer, China, that it is starting to look like a client state.

The Iran-Turkmenistan gas trade has been
dispute-prone over the years. Iranian energy officials have complained on a number of occasions that Turkmenistan does not always deliver on the contractual terms it signs. So the deal may mean more on paper than in practice. But for the moment, it buys both a little time.

# # # #

 

Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: November 9, 2014

CSTO Alarmed at NGO Activities as Soros Visits Kyrgyzstan, "Isolated" Russia, China Push Eurasian Integration & Much More

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Russia's southern neighbor and staunch NATO ally Georgia has been hitting the headlines on a daily basis in recent weeks. While Georgian officials were still freaking out over Russia's "attempt to annex" Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, inspired by the treaty offered to its separatist twin, began to draw up a similar agreement meant to insert the disputed territory into the Russian Federation. Tbilisi tried to win back the two regions by offering them broad autonomy and to share the prospective benefits of Georgia’s integration with the EU, but to no avail. To make matters worse, the Georgian government didn't even have the time to comprehend that Georgia is about to lose Abkhazia and South Ossetia once and for all because the country is facing yet another crisis. It all started with the arrest of five former and current officials of the Defense Ministry and general staff of the armed forces, who are accused of contract-rigging and thereby defrauding the state of $2.34 million. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, who was visiting France and Germany at the time, got behind the detained officials and condemned the arrests in the strongest possible terms after his return:

Georgia: Defense Minister Claims NATO Plans under Threat

Georgia’s NATO-membership plans have come under attack from within the country's government itself, embattled Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania claimed on November 4, as a crisis over investigations into his ministry deepens within the ruling coalition.

Alasania, rated as Georgia’s favorite political figure, declared in a televised briefing that prosecutors’ sudden spate of inquiries into the defense ministry’s work is politically motivated. After
the arrest of five former and current ministry officials last week as part of a probe into a tender, prosecutors today filed criminal charges against three army medical officers in a food-poisoning case.

“This is an attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice. This is an attack on the agency with an outstanding record in achieving our foreign policy goals,”
Alasania asserted. “I will not be intimidated by the prosecutors or by mud-slinging by certain media groups,” he added.

Georgia on Euro-Atlantic Course Despite Government Shake-Up

Although some members of the government coalition share Alasania's concerns, he probably should have chosen his word more carefully if he wanted to keep his job. Only a few hours after the popular Defense Minister had made this startling statement, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili dismissed Alasania from his post and replaced him with Mindia Janelidze, who served as head of the National Security and Crisis Management Council. Alasania praised his successor as a "patriot" but he emphasized that he is worried about the country's political direction. Predictably, Western media and politicians are also alarmed. Georgia has changed eight Defense Ministers in the last ten years but Alasania was supposed to put an end to this. Officials in Washington and Brussels see Alasania as one of their own and they counted on him to lead Georgia into NATO. In the light of his sacking and the resignation of Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze, who is Alasania’s sister-in-law, the United States and the European Union are now worried that Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration could be threatened:

Georgia Political Crisis Alarms EU

The abrupt departure of several pro-European government ministers in Georgia has prompted a government crisis and alarmed senior European Union officials, who fear a country pivotal to Western interests could be shifting toward Russia.

Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze, the minister of European affairs and several deputy ministers resigned Wednesday, one day after pro-Western Defense Minister Irakli Alasania was let go. Later, Mr. Alasania’s Free Democrats signaled they would pull out of the ruling coalition, leaving its future unclear.

The departing ministers said Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili was veering from a European path, a claim he denied. The personnel shifts are entangled in Georgia’s complex political infighting, but EU officials worry they could portend a slowdown or even reversal of the country’s move toward Europe.

The United States urged Georgia not to veer from pursuit of a "Euro-Atlantic future" but there is absolutely no reason to suspect that the Georgian government is really planning to change course. PM Garibashvili made it clear from the very beginning that the allegations voiced by Alasania and Panjikidze are "naive" and "ridiculous" and he immediately met with foreign diplomats in Tbilisi to assure them of Georgia's firm commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration. He even managed to convince Deputy Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili, who had resigned along with Panjikidze, to stay on her post. Only one day after Beruchashvili had warned that Georgia’s "European choice is under threat," she toed the government line saying that the country's "European integration is irreversible." New Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze lost no time in conveying this message to Georgia's most important "partner":

New Defense Minister Meets U.S. Ambassador

Georgia’s
new Defense Minister, Mindia Janelidze, who has replaced sacked Irakli Alasania, met on November 7 U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, and reiterated that the ministry will “continue and intensify” cooperation with the U.S. and NATO.

“We very much appreciate the new minister Mindia Janelidze’s invitation to come and meet this morning,” Ambassador Norland continued. “He made a point in saying that given that the United States is Georgia’s primary strategic partner, symbolically he felt it was important to have the American ambassador be first visitor and we see this as a sign of continuity of our relationship on the military-to-military front and in bilateral security cooperation.”

Alasania has caused a great stir by linking the investigation into the defense ministry to Georgia's NATO-membership plans, much to the dismay of PM Garibashvili. The Prime Minister lambasted Alasania, calling him "adventurist, stupid and ambitious," and he warned the ex-minister that there will be "many surprises" about him that "will be embarrassing for him personally and his allies." Alasania was right when he said that the investigation is politically motivated but it has less to do with Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration than with a domestic power struggle. Georgia's richest man and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is still very much pulling the strings behind the scenes, and his protégé Garibashvili are apparently trying to get rid of an immensely popular rival, who was more inclined to please Washington and Brussels than to please Ivanishvili. Although Ivanishvili, Garibashvili & Co. have also been steering the country towards NATO membership, they favor a less aggressive policy vis-à-vis Russia than Alasania who pushed Georgia's militarization like no other. With Alasania's Free Democrats leaving the Georgian Dream coalition, the ruling coalition is now struggling to retain the majority in parliament and the 2016 parliamentary elections are going to be interesting:

Alasania Becomes FD’s Chairman, Hopes to ‘Celebrate Victory’ in 2016 Elections

Ex-defense minister Irakli Alasania, who was elected on November 8 as chairman of the Free Democrats (FD) at a congress of the party he
founded five years ago, said he hopes FD “will celebrate victory together with people” in next parliamentary elections in 2016.

Addressing the congress of FD party in Tbilisi, Alasania, who was the only candidate for party chairmanship, spoke about the need of upholding democratic values, saying that the state “should be based on fair laws and not on the will of one man.” He said that “hatred, tension, disrespect and revenge” should no longer be part of the politics. He also spoke about Russia and said that its “imperial fundamentalism” is Georgia’s “sworn enemy.”

CSTO Alarmed at NGO Activities as Soros Visits Kyrgyzstan

But regardless of whether Georgia is led by Alasania or by Ivanishvili and his men, the Euro-Atlantic integration of Russia's southern neighbor is set in stone. The same applies to Russia's second neighbor in the Caucasus. Azerbaijan's recent quarrels with the West over human rights abuses and NGO legislation have cast doubt on Baku's relations with its "Western partners" and there is some speculation about a possible realignment of Azerbaijan but Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev knows full well that he cannot overplay his hand. Baku's supposed crackdown on the CIA-backed Gülen movement is an example par excellence of Aliyev's reluctance to sever ties with his friends in Langley and Washington. Moscow is most certainly following the current government crisis in Georgia and the disputes between Azerbaijan and the West very closely in the hope of capitalizing on the situation but so far there is no evidence of NATO losing its grip on the South Caucasus. Moreover, Nikolay Borduyzha, the head of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), pointed out during this week's CSTO parliamentary assembly in Moscow that the United States and other Western countries are up to some mischief in the Eurasian Balkans:

CSTO Chief Accuses U.S. Embassies Of Fomenting Instability In Region

Most interesting were Bordyuzha's claims about the U.S. and other Western countries fomenting dischord in the CSTO region. While this isn't an especially new theme for Russian officials, Bordyuzha's comments contained an unusual amount of detail. From the CSTO's
account of the event:

Bordyuzha said that the West is guilty of destablizing the situation in the CSTO countries. He said that evidence of this was a "disproportionate increase in the numbers of officials in Western embassies, especially those of the U.S." as well as "the activization of the work of the many NGOs financed by Western grants."

Bordyuzha said that several years before the change of government in Ukraine the staff of the American embassy in Kiev grew to almost 1,500 workers. "The emergence and development of hotbeds of conflict in the CSTO space in most cases is connected with the activization of external influences," Bordyuzha said. "The West crudely interferes in the internal affairs of other governments, trying to manipulate public opinion, economically and financially affecting the government and population."

Bordyuzha didn't specify which countries are being targeted but it is safe to say that Kyrgyzstan is on the list. As highlighted last month, Russia has been steadily strengthening its foothold in Kyrgyzstan in recent years, culminating in the closure of the U.S. air base at Manas International Airport in summer of this year. This was a heavy blow for the U.S., which has set up a not-so-secret intelligence-gathering operation in southern Kyrgyzstan to retain at least some military presence in the strategically located country. Furthermore, Washington is relying on its countless "non-governmental" organizations to wield influence in Kyrgyzstan and U.S. ambassador Pamela Spratlen emphasized lately that the U.S. is not going to leave the Central Asian state to the Russians without a fight:

U.S. Ambassador To Kyrgyzstan Warns Of Russian Influence

The U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan says that the Central Asian state's "growing partnership with Russia" presents a challenge to U.S. efforts to support democracy in Kyrgyzstan.

In an
article published on the website of the Council of American Ambassadors, Pamela Spratlen said the "strong partnership" that Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has forged with Russian President Vladimir Putin "has had its impact on our efforts."

Kyrgyzstan has seemed to follow Moscow's lead on several issues recently, including drafting laws that legitimize discrimination against homosexuals and would require foreign-based organizations to register as "foreign agents."

American NGOs are currently under high scrutiny in Kyrgyzstan and the activities of the U.S. State Department's TechCamp project have even aroused fears of a Kyrgyz Maidan. CIA/State Department front organization Freedom House was forced to suspend its activities and to close its office in the city of Osh after its survey among ethnic Uzbeks in Osh was met with fierce opposition. According to local residents, the questions related directly to the ethnic clashes, which rocked the region in 2010, and were aimed at inciting ethnic hatred. Freedom House is of course protesting its innocence and trying to file a complaint about the actions of the security services. Multi-billionaire and NGO master George Soros can perhaps put in a good word for Freedom House with the Kyrgyz authorities when he makes one of his extremely rare visits to Kyrgyzstan later this month:

Billionaire George Soros to visit Kyrgyzstan

Billionaire George Soros will visit Kyrgyzstan, the Executive director of "Soros - Kyrgyzstan" Fund Shamil Ibragimov said to 24.kg news agency.

According to him, the American financier will arrive in the country for one day (allegedly on November 17) in the framework of a trip to the Eurasian region. He will examine the work of his foundation in the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as visit the AUCA.

Last time George Soros visited Bishkek about 10 years ago, back in the presidency of Askar Akayev.

"Isolated" Russia, China Push Eurasian Integration

The Kremlin would be well-advised to keep a very close eye on the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek and the activities of the various "foreign agents." Russia has already lost one potential member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) due to a Western-instigated putsch in Ukraine and it is easily conceivable that the West could try to torpedo Kyrgyzstan's accession to the newly created economic bloc, which will go into effect at the start of next year. Although the economic war against Russia is leaving its marks, for example in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Moscow doesn't have a hard time finding new partners for the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry told RIA Novosti this week that Egypt is considering joining the Customs Union and India is also interested in closer cooperation with the economic bloc:

India, Russia agree on negotiations for FTA

For the first time India and Russia have agreed on negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India & the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan & Russia.

As The Hindu had reported earlier, the agreement marks the first FTA negotiations initiated by the NDA government, and discussed by visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during the 20th session of India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission (IRIGC) in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Mr. Rogozin also co-chaired the eighth India-Russia Forum for Trade and Investments, an active business forum between the two countries, along with the Minister of State for Commerce & Industries Nirmala Sitharaman.

Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin is an outspoken proponent of Russia's pivot to Asia and he lauded the India-Russia Forum by tweeting: "This is how businessmen respond to Western sanctions." Rogozin, who is seen by some as a potential successor of President Vladimir Putin, visited India for the second time in five months to finalize the joint "economic vision" package, which will be unveiled during Putin's trip to India next month. Russia and India are looking to boost their trade and economic ties so that they eventually match the strong political ties between the two countries. But before Putin and Indian President Narendra Modi get to unveil their joint economic vision package, the Russian President wrapped up yet another major deal with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Even the wannabe cold warriors who are still promoting a "revived strategy of containment" will have to realize at some point that the West cannot isolate Russia. The only question is how many more energy deals Russia and China will have to sign before this happens:

​Putin, Xi Jinping sign second mega gas deal on new gas supply route

President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have signed a memorandum of understanding on the so-called “western” gas supplies route to China. The agreement paves the way for a contract that would make China the biggest consumer of Russian gas.

Russia’s so-called “western” or "Altay" route would supply 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to China.

The new supply line comes in addition to the “eastern” route, through the “Power of Siberia” pipeline, which will annually deliver 38 bcm of gas to China. Work on that pipeline route has already begun after a $400 billion deal was clinched in May.

Neither the new mega gas deal nor the fact that Putin and Xi were also discussing the possibility of payment in Chinese yuan, including for defense deals, bode well for the U.S. and Europe. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev used yesterday's celebration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall to warn that Europe "will be weakened and become irrelevant" if the new Cold War continues and the latest gas deal is a perfect example of this. As previously discussed, Europeans will be on the losing end if Russia becomes a swing natural gas supplier between Europe and Asia and "it will be a dream situation for Russia but [it] will be a nightmare for Europe" if the Altai project materializes. China on the other hand has profited from the new Cold War and continues striking one deal after another. The New Silk Road economic belt is making progress and China is prepared to spend huge sums to finance the construction of infrastructure linking its markets to three continents:

China to establish $40 billion Silk Road infrastructure fund

China will contribute $40 billion to set up a Silk Road infrastructure fund to boost connectivity across Asia, President Xi Jinping announced on Saturday, the latest Chinese project to spread the largesse of its own economic growth.

China has dangled financial and trade incentives before, mostly to Central Asia but also to countries in South Asia, backing efforts to resurrect the old Silk Road trading route that once carried treasures between China and the Mediterranean.

The goal of the fund is to "break the connectivity bottleneck" in Asia, state media quoted Xi as saying during a meeting in Beijing with leaders from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia,
Myanmar, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

# # # #

Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

A Dangerous & Absurd Disconnect: “Everything on the Internet Should Be Free!”

The Hidden Price of the Establishment Sugar Daddies-Backed Propaganda & Vulture Advertisers-Sponsored Free Content

The other day I was chatting with a man who was expressing his appreciation for our irate minority home-Boiling Frogs Post. Everything, all the brief communication, up to a certain point, was going well. Until … until he made the following comment:

I love what you guys are doing. It is activism, and it is so badly needed. I wish I had the time to participate and contribute work to your site. But the thing is I have a very hectic life … a full-time job, family and kids, and elderly mother who is about to go to a care facility, and a bunch of health issues. So, unfortunately, I can’t afford spending any time on activism at this time.

I was truly taken aback. I was offended. I was also offended on behalf of all my partners and activist friends here at BFP. Why? Here is why: [Read more...]

Podcast Show #118- Sibel Edmonds & Peter B. Collins Unplugged- Big Time!

This week Boiling Frogs Show brings to you an unusual segment. Peter B. and I decided to have a show where we just talk-talking the talk. The day we recorded this show my mood was totally affected by Jeremy Hammond’s speech during his sentencing session. We talked about that. We also discussed my latest commentary on Activism Within the System and what it means, and from there we ventured into the major disinformation campaign brought to you by Democracy Now, the pseudo-alternative fronts, Peter B.’s coverage of the Roger Shuler case, and beyond. Just to let you know, this was a show where I didn’t have to bite my tongue 😉

Listen to the full episode here (BFP Subscribers Only):

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Let’s Not Repeat the Barack Fuckup with Hillary

Did You Know: George Soros Is Delighted to Join More Than One Million Americans in Supporting Ready for Hillary

Not that it really matters who the Democrats nominate for the presidency in 2016. Whoever that politically regressive and morally bankrupt party chooses will be at best an uninspired and uninspiring centrist; in European terms a center-rightist; who believes that the American Empire – despite the admittedly occasional excessive behavior – is mankind’s last great hope. The only reason I bother to comment on this question so far in advance of the election is that the forces behind Clinton have clearly already begun their campaign and I’d like to use the opportunity to try to educate the many progressives who fell in love with Obama and may be poised now to embrace Clinton. Here’s what I wrote in July 2007 during the very early days of the 2008 campaign: [Read more...]