BFP Exclusive- A Hot Spot in the Cold Seas: The US-Russia Continuing Border Dispute

Bering Sea, the 1990 US-Russia Maritime Border Agreement & the Imperial Interests

History is no stranger to wars which began due to the disputed border territories. Even the start of the US Civil War was in part fueled by border conflicts between certain states. This is why it is of great importance to pay careful attention to any existing border disputes, especially if they take place between countries armed with nuclear weapons.

While the world is focusing on the Ukrainian conflict which is rapidly morphing into the Cold -War-type proxy war between Russia and the US-dominated NATO Alliance, not many are aware that Russia and the US also have a long-running maritime border dispute in the Bering Sea. This state of affairs may lead to a direct violent confrontation and hence be more dangerous to the overall survival of the planet than any proxy war, no matter how atrocious.

The seeds of the dispute were sown at the time of the US Alaska purchase from the Russian Empire in 1867. The purchase treaty left undetermined the precise coordinates of the sea border. For a whole century this apparently did not make much of a difference, but the implementation of the UN-sponsored Law of the Sea in the 1970s re-ignited the issue.

The Law of the Sea allowed each country to establish an exclusive economic zone for the exploration and exploitation of natural and mineral resources up to 200 miles from its coastline. There now appeared certain parts of the Bering Sea where the US and the Soviet jurisdictions overlapped. The overall disputed area encompassed about 80,000 square kilometers and contained significant oil and gas reserves as well as the huge potential for fish harvesting (especially with regards to Alaskan pollock).

What compounded the problem was that in determining the exact (straight) line of the maritime border, each side was using different methods in order to maximize the area under its control.[1] The Soviets used the rhomb lines and the Mercator map projection, while and the Americans chose the geodetic lines and the conical map projection. Obviously, no side wanted to back down.

This is where the context of larger political and social transformations becomes relevant - the so-called "wind of change" which turns out always to benefit the Wall Street.

Throughout the 1980s, the USSR was rapidly losing its political strength as it headed toward the collapse in the early 1990s. Its political leadership with Mikhail Gorbachev as the Soviet Communist Party General Secretary and Eduard Shevardnadze as the Foreign Minister, for a variety of reasons (not the least of which are the allegations of outright corruption, especially regarding the latter), beat the retreat on many geopolitical fronts including this one.

On June 1, 1990 Shevardnadze and the US Secretary of State James Baker signed an agreement in Washington which gave the US 12 times more territory in the disputed area. In this way, 77,400 square kilometers went to the US control and 6,600 square kilometers to the Soviet control.[2] No wonder that the US Congress quickly approved the agreement in September 1991. The article in Washington Post published at the time boasted that the US now controlled more than 70% of the Bering Sea.[3]

However, neither the Soviet Parliament nor its successor, the Russian State Duma, approved the agreement and this means that it is not legally binding for the Russian side.

And yet, the US government has chosen to disregard the provisional nature of the agreement and has enforced the border line if it were the unquestionable law of the land. This has led to several seizures of the Russian fishing vessels by the US Coast Guard.

The biggest scandal happened in September 2002 when the Russian trawler "Viytna" with more than 20 fishermen aboard was seized and hauled into the Alaskan port of Dutch Harbor.[4] The Russian fishermen claimed that they stayed within the Russian economic zone, while the US government thought otherwise. Though the fishermen were let go a few days later, this did not stop similar incidents from happening in the following years. In fact, one scholar cites the US sources in saying that they may consider using "naval gunfire, in the form of warning and disabling shots, against the noncompliant [Russian] ships".[5]

Given the global geopolitical dynamics in 2015, it is not difficult to imagine what dangerous repercussions for world peace the US Coast Guard shooting at the Russian civilian ships might have.

To add insult to injury, the US high-level officials have presented the Shevardnadze-Baker agreement as fair to both sides. Thus, the one-time US Ambassador to Russia, later rewarded with the position of the Deputy-Secretary of NATO, Alexander Vershbow is quoted as saying that the agreement is "quite balanced and reflects a number of compromises".[6] He is also convinced that "it is hard to imagine that new negotiations could generated some other results".

This arrogant, hard-line stand in defense of the unjust deal is echoed by the US State Department. In its 2009 statement, it affirmed that the US "has no intention of reopening discussion of the 1990 Maritime Border Agreement".[7] However, the agreement becomes "Agreement" only when it is accepted as such by both sides. And this is far from being the case.

Several Russian Federation Council members have over the years attempted to spearhead efforts for the renegotiation of the agreement. Not surprisingly, they were strongly criticized for doing so by the US-sponsored Russian NGOs.

Particularly revealing was the critique by Alexander Pikayev, the representative of the Moscow Carnegie Center, who warned his fellow Russians that "Americans are very sensitive to any pokes, especially if it has to do with Alaska. And Alaska is Senator Ted Stevens who is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee".[8]

It appears that, for Pikayev, the billions of dollars that the Russian state budget has lost in terms of fishing, gas, and oil revenues due to the unjustly drawn boundary line are less important than the opinion of one US Senator. Can anyone then wonder why the majority of Russians see the Carnegie Center and similar organizations as the fifth column working to subvert Russian national interests?

Be that as it may, the fact is that this hot spot in the cold seas of the North Pacific is bound to get hotter with time. Taking into consideration the implacability of the US officials in their defense of the imperial interests, more serious incidents, perhaps involving military planes and nuclear submarines, may be expected.

# # # #

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.css.ethz.ch/publications/pdfs/RAD-20.pdf

[2] http://www.zpu-journal.ru/e-zpu/2009/6/Palamar_Boundary_Differentiation/

[3] Ibid.

[4] http://www.npacific.ru/np/gazeta/2002/1/tv19_70_045_2002.htm

[5] http://www.css.ethz.ch/publications/pdfs/RAD-20.pdf

[6] http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/alaska-sale-shevardnadze-and-pollock-in-spat/243690.html

[7] http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/fs/128740.htm

[8] http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/alaska-sale-shevardnadze-and-pollock-in-spat/243690.html

 

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 Two Faux Democracies Threaten Life on Earth

Nuclear War is on Washington’s Agenda

Amitai Etzioni has raised an important question: “Who authorized preparations for war with China?” Etzioni says that the war plan is not the sort of contingency plan that might be on hand for an improbable event. Etzioni also reports that the Pentagon’s war plan was not ordered by, and has not been reviewed by, US civilian authorities. We are confronted with a neoconized US military out of control endangering Americans and the rest of the world. [Read more...]

Podcast Show #69

The Boiling Frogs Presents Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald
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This is Part IV of our interview series on the New World Order. You can listen to the previous interviews in this series here: Part I, Part II, and Part III

Authors and investigative journalists Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald join us to discuss their ground-breaking exclusive series ‘House of Mirrors’ on how America’s full blown surge into personal and private holy war caused the U.S. to slip into a crisis of identity. They explore the little-analyzed facts and mystical covert agendas that the United States continues to press on with into the 21st century, what those agendas may mean to America’s new role as the dark force that orders the universe, the prevailing motives that drive American national security policy today, and its de-evolution of rational defense policy and its immersion into the mystical. Gould-Fitzgerald talk about the top secret military operation known as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which views itself as a ‘dark force,’ Mystical Imperialism traced to both Britain and Russia’s 19th century efforts to establish dominion through a mix of imperialism and Christian zeal, and more!

Gould_Fitzgerald Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team, began their experience in Afghanistan when they were the first American journalists to acquire permission to enter behind Soviet lines in 1981 for CBS News and produced a documentary, Afghanistan Between Three Worlds, for PBS. In 1983 they returned to Kabul with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher for ABC Nightline and contributed to the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. They continued to research, write and lecture about the long-term run-up that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan. They are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story , Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire and The Voice. Visit their website here.
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Why Moscow Doesn’t Believe Washington on Missile Defense… or on Just Almost Nuthin’…

Marching Ineluctably Towards an Pre-emptive Nuclear War?

By William Engdahl

MissileMost in the civilized world are blissfully unaware that we are marching ineluctably towards an increasingly likely pre-emptive nuclear war. No, it's not at all about Iran and Israel. It's about the decision of Washington and the Pentagon to push Moscow up against the wall with what is euphemistically called Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD).

On November 23, a normally low-keyed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the world in clear terms that Russia was prepared to deploy its missiles on the border to the EU between Poland and Lithuania, and possibly in the south near Georgia and NATO member Turkey to counter the advanced construction process of the US ballistic missile defense shield: "The Russian Federation will deploy in the west and the south of the country modern weapons systems that could be used to destroy the European component of the US missile defense," he announced on Russian television. "One of these steps could be the deployment of the Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad." [i] Those would be theatre ballistic missile systems. The latest version of Iskander, the Iskander-K, whose details remain top secret, reportedly has a range up to 2000 km and carries cruise missiles and a target accuracy to 7 meters or less.

Medvedev declared he has ordered the Russian defense ministry to "immediately" put radar systems in Kaliningrad that warn of incoming missile attacks on a state of combat readiness. He called for extending the targeting range of Russia's strategic nuclear missile forces and re-equipping Russia's nuclear arsenal with new warheads capable of piercing the US/NATO defense shield due to become operational in six years, by 2018. Medvedev also threatened to pull Russia out of the New START missile reduction treaty if the United States moves as announced. [Read more...]