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Boat

Five Chinese Navy ships sail off Alaska coast as Obama wraps up visit

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© Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters
Chinese navy warships arrive in Sudan in August as part of military cooperation between the two countries. On Wednesday, the Pentagon said five Chinese navy ships have been seen off the coast of Alaska.

Five Chinese navy ships are currently operating in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, the first time the U.S. military has seen such activity in the area, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The officials said they have been aware in recent days that three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel and an amphibious ship were in the vicinity after observing them moving toward the Aleutian Islands, which are split between U.S. and Russian control.

They said the Chinese ships were still in the area, but declined to specify when the vessels were first spotted or how far they were from the coast of Alaska, where President Barack Obama is winding up a three-day visit.

"This would be a first in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands," one defense official said of the Chinese ships. "I don't think we'd characterize anything they're doing as threatening." The Pentagon official confirmed that the five ships were operating in international waters.

Comment: The US shouldn't be surprised since they do this all the time all over the world, including off the coast of China.

What, by the way, was Obama doing in Alaska? Was this visit just a late-term thing to do? Or was it related to important matters?

The White House recently cleared Shell Oil to re-open US Arctic drilling operations for the first time in two decades.

With Russia increasing oil and gas operations and conducting military drills in the Arctic region, and staking a claim on the North Pole itself, Washington might be hoping that some dedicated PR will remind Moscow who is boss of ALL the planet...

See also:

It's not just Crimea: Alaska petition to secede to Russia going strong at 18K signers


Megaphone

Give all refugees a free ticket to Brussels

A few days ago, I joked to Nicole that Paddypower should by now have a bet open on how much longer the Schengen open border treaty will be valid in Europe. Didn't check if they actually had one, mind you.

But it can't be long anymore, so it wouldn't be a big money maker even if it existed. I give it a few days at most. Italy just announced it wants guards at Brennero, one of its main border posts with Austria. One down, a few hundred to go, and they may go at a rapid clip.

Europe's countries are not each others enemies yet, but they will shut borders. Germany pulled a fast one yesterday by telling Hungary to stop the trains from rolling west, but now Budapest has a big problem. They should have just allowed the refugees to board the trains and leave. Put them on a train, give them food and drink and make them first Austria's and then Germany's problem.

Light Sabers

Syriza insider claims Tsipras tried to use Russia as leverage to gain concessions in negotiations with EU

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© AP
Tsipras - not a genuine guy
Interview with Syriza insider confirms: That Tsipras's approaches to Russia were never intended seriously and that there is no political constituency in Greece, even on the ant-Euro Left, for such a realignment
Russia Insider has previously said Greek Prime Minister Tsipras's approaches to Russia earlier this year during Greece's negotiations with the European institutions were manipulative and were not intended to lead to a realignment with Russia.

Instead we said that Tsipras was trying to use Russia as a scarecrow to panic the Europeans into concessions.

We also said that though the Russians were initially willing to help, they quickly figured out what Tsipras was up to, so that beyond a certain point their offers of help became progressively less generous.

This was an isolated view. Pretty much all of the rest of the international media was reporting Tsipras's approaches to Moscow differently. In fact there was a great deal of alarmed - or hopeful - talk about how Greece's loyalty to the West was in jeopardy, and about how it was preparing to tilt towards Russia and the BRICS.

Comment: It should have been pretty clear to Russia that Tsipras was taking Putin for a ride when they voted in favor of anti-Russian sanctions earlier this summer. That said more about Tsipras' motives than any hollow words out of his mouth.


Document

China, Russia, and the West's geopolitical maneuvers against them

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© AFP 2015/ FRED DUFOUR
This is a parable about the new geopolitical new normal.

The parable stars someone who closely interacts with selected Masters of the Universe. Through his business deals, he has no doubt about having identified the way the current high-stakes geopolitical game is being played. That even led him to pen a letter to the People's Bank of China (PBOC) in Beijing conveying his apprehension.

Our man in the parable claims access to privileged information confirming what just happened with Chinese stocks involved market manipulation by Wall Street and selected hedge funds to severely disrupt the Russia-China strategic partnership — and consequently destroy the attempt at organizing the Eurasian landmass into a coherent economic union.

He refers of course to the interpenetration of the Chinese-led New Silk Roads, or "One Belt, One Road", as they are known in China, and the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union.

Attention

The #1 terrorist group = Domestic citizens

© US Department of Homeland Security
Government talks about Islamic terrorists, but their number one fear is YOU. The internment camps are for you, not Islamic extremists. Government CANNOT honor its promises so it will not even try. They are confiscating money everywhere, doubling fines, and punishing people for insane things.

A neighbor received a ticket and a $200 fine for using a cell phone while driving. The use? Looking at the Google Maps. She even went to court with her phone records to prove she was not on the phone. The judge declared that she should have looked at that BEFORE she left. I suppose if you write down the directions and look at the piece of paper that is OK, you just can't look at it on your phone. That applies to even looking at the time on your phone.

The government claims it wants to eliminate guns to protect society. The problem will be that the criminals do not buy their guns at a store. They want to disarm the public because you are their number one fear as outlined in this discussion paper by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Red Flag

German media: Poroshenko has lost control over anti-Russian nationalist front

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© Sputnik/ Nikolay Lazarenko
Constitutional reform and prospects of granting Donbass autonomy caused resentment among Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Western politicians. Poroshenko does not control Ukrainian right-wing forces and "cannot mobilize the entire front of anti-Russian parties to follow his policy," DWN wrote.

As result of the explosion in front of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev, about 125 people were injured, including members of the National Guard of Ukraine, the newspaper reported.

During the protests against the constitutional reform, an unknown person threw a hand grenade in front of the Verkhovna Rada, killing one of the police officers and injuring many more.

Among the victims, there was also a French journalist and a Ukrainian TV reporter. The OSCE called on the Kiev government to investigate the attacks on journalists, the article said.

Comment: See also:


Arrow Down

Defense Secretary: U.S. needs to upgrade radar system to detect Russian missiles

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© AP Photo/ Alexander Zemlianichenko
Radars at the Thule military base, the United States' most northern base located in Greenland, were installed during the 1950s, Carter noted, and need to be modernized if they are to operate as an adequate early warning system.

"Russians have long range nuclear-armed ballistic missiles," Carter said. "We [the United States] have to upgrade those [North Pole] radars... to cue missile defenses so that our missile defense interceptors can intercept them in flight."

"That is [North Pole] one of the places that ballistic missiles would overfly if they were en route to the United States," Carter explained. "We have to... make them more sensitive so that they are able to detect threats earlier."

In addition to Russia, he noted, the United States needs modern radar systems to defend itself against any possible missile attacks launched by China and North Korea.


Comment: While the fact that some U.S. military technology has been allowed to fall into obsolescence is interesting, it's highly unlikely that Russia or China would attack the U.S. This is another case of Western leaders spreading fear of an attack on American soil. Russia's attempts to upgrade its military is in response to U.S. provocation, not the other way around.


Network

Russia passes law obliging companies to store user data inside the country

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© Denis Balibouse / Reuters
As of September 1, Russia has new rules obliging all companies offering internet services to store users' personal information inside the country. The authorities refused to postpone the bill's enforcement, but allowed exceptions for some businesses, such as air carriers.

President Vladimir Putin signed the bill "On processing of personal data in information and telecommunication networks" into law on December 31, 2014. The initial draft suggested the law would have come into full force on September 1, 2016, but when the bill passed the State Duma it was rescheduled for this year.

The law says the state internet watchdog will be able to blacklist sites that refuse to comply with the new rules and possibly limit access to them. Violations of the law are punishable with a relatively small fine of 20,000 rubles (about $300) and the term for bringing violators' activities in line with state regulations is six months.

According to the law, personal data collected before September 1, 2015 can remain on foreign servers in its unchanged form. It also allows exceptions for cases described in various international treaties and agreements, such as foreign embassies' online visa services.

Better Earth

Preparing for the worst: Russian and NATO military exercises making war in Europe more likely?

© AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
NATO drills in Europe, August 2015
Over the last 18 months, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the relationship between Russia and the West has deteriorated considerably. One aspect of the confrontation, as previously documented by the ELN, has been a game of Russian-instigated dangerous brinkmanship which has resulted in many serious close military encounters between the forces of Russia and NATO and its partners over the last 15 months. Another aspect, however has been the increased scope and size of the military exercises conducted by both Russia and by NATO and its partners in the Euro-Atlantic area since the Ukraine crisis began. To assist the public and wider policy community in understanding the realities of this new and dangerous security environment in Europe, the ELN has prepared a short policy brief and two interactive maps presenting in detail the anatomy of two recent, large scale military exercises. The two exercises profiled are:
  • A Russian 'snap exercise' conducted in March 2015, which brought together 80,000 military personnel.
  • The NATO 'Allied Shield' exercise conducted in June 2015, which brought under one framework four distinct exercises taking place along the Eastern flank of the Alliance, totalling 15,000 personnel from 19 Members states and three partner states.

Comment: Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev said on Tuesday:
The United States and NATO are increasing their military presence in European states neighbouring Russia. Hotbeds of military tension are being created near our border. There have been continuous attempts at bringing anti-Russian political regimes to power in former Soviet states.
This is what Russia has to deal with. In August alone Russia carried out 79 military exercises, focusing on Central Asia. More are scheduled for September, including joint drills with other CSTO members (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).


Chess

Iran deal secured - Obama gathers enough votes to override Congress


With a Maryland lawmaker announcing her support for the Iran nuclear deal, President Barack Obama has enough votes in the Senate to veto the disapproval by the Republican majority. Europe, Russia, China and the UN have endorsed the deal already.

Barbara Mikulski of Maryland announced on Wednesday she would endorse the agreement, finalized in July after lengthy negotiations between Iran and six world powers. The decision, she said, came after careful consideration of how the deal would affect both the US and Israel.

"I have spent countless hours reading, being briefed and pouring over the intelligence. I have diligently worked to make an informed decision," Mikulski said, calling the deal the "the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb."


"I have been an unabashed and unwavering supporter of Israel," Mikulski noted. The current government of Israel is vehemently opposed to the deal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a "historical mistake."

Comment: The deal with Iran is the sane choice, a case of real politik. It may be the one good thing Obama accomplishes in his generally sorry legacy.