Sunday, December 14, 2014

• US threatens Russia with deploying nuclear missiles in Europe

US warships launch a coordinated volley of missiles.
 The Pentagon has threatened Russia with redeploying nuclear cruise missiles to Europe, accusing Moscow of violating two arms control treaties.

We don’t have ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe now obviously because they’re prohibited by the treaty,” said Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary for policy at the Department of Defense.

But that would obviously be one option to explore,” he added. Washington says Moscow violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

However, Russia denied the allegation and said the testing of a ground-launched cruise missile in July 2014 was in compliance with the INF treaty. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller announced that US President Barack Obama has written his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about the violation.

Gottemoeller said that the United States were considering a list of “military countermeasures” against Russia. McKeon also warned Russia not to engage in an “escalatory cycle of action and reaction.” He said Russian and US counter-actions "will make Russia less secure.”

“This violation will not go unanswered, because there is too much at stake,” he said. Russia says the US missile plans across the globe are a real threat not only to Russia but also to the whole world, adding the missile systems harm the strategic balance of forces across the globe.

In October, the US military commissioned its new missile base in southern Romania amid strong opposition by Russia.

The military base will be the first to feature the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile system and it will be operational by the end of 2015.


in Europe 

The US may redeploy nuclear cruise missiles to Europe in response to Russia’s alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a leading Pentagon official said on Wednesday. Such unprecedented aggressive rhetoric could make the Treaty the latest casualty of the New Cold War.
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian P. McKeon made his threats during a joint hearing in Congress, marking what may be the most forceful rhetoric to ever emanate from the Obama Administration thus far.
“We don’t have ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe now obviously because they’re prohibited by the treaty,” McKeon said.“But that would obviously be one option to explore.”
He went on to add that Pentagon's options include deploying new defenses against cruise missiles; exploring whether to deploy American ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe, a step that would also be counter to the treaty; and building up other military capabilities.
It comes almost a week after House Resolution 758, the harsh Cold War-era legislation that passed the lower house of Congress last week, which urged the President “to hold the Russian Federation accountable for violations of its obligations” of the INF Treaty. 
All in all, the American government’s latest push against Russia is part of the larger anti-Russian ‘containment’ measures being implemented in this New Cold War, where Washington seeks to simultaneously pressure Moscow across the diplomatic, economic, and military fronts, all of which are in play with this issue. 
US: 1, Russia: 0
Looking more in-depth at the treaty, it’s easy to see why it’s always been to America’s advantage. It eliminated all ballistic land-based and cruise missiles with a range of between 500-5,000 kilometers and entered into force in 1988. It handicapped the Soviet missile deterrent more so than it did for the US due to the geographic considerations of fighting a theoretical war in Europe (the Soviets had more INFs and had a greater strategic use for them there than the US). However, it is understood that this concession was needed to herald an end to the decades-long Cold War. 
Afterwards, the concern over INFs didn’t dissipate, as new threats began to emerge in a post-Cold War Europe. NATO’s expansion eastward created unexpected challenges for the Russians, since although their hands were tied due to the INF Treaty’s limitations, no other European country (especially the new NATO members) was constrained by such legalities. 
The prospect always remained that these fears would become a horrible reality one day, and it certainly affected the thinking of Russia’s political and military decision makers. They assessed that Russia had prematurely surrendered a strategic capability, one that has now placed it on the defensive and opened new advantages for non-signatory states.  Still, Russia remained compliant with the Treaty. 
The Next Decade-Long Crisis
Now there’s talk of the US pulling out of the INF Treaty due to suspected Russian violations, or even of Russia doing so in advance out of protest and for strategic benefit, either of which would create another layer of crisis between the two Great Powers. Back in 2001, the US set the precedent when it unilaterally announced its intention to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to build the global missile defense shield project. 
This elicited a strong reaction from Russia, which has since then accused it of actually being aimed against its own nuclear missiles, which would upset the delicate balance between the two nuclear states and increase the odds of a successful US nuclear first strike in the future. For over a decade, this single (albeit critically important) issue has dominated the bilateral relationship, and it’s expected that the nullification of the INF by either side would have the same effect. 
A Post-INF World
More than likely, the US is trying to impel Russia into entering another arms race, just like in the previous Cold War, but this isn’t likely to succeed. Moscow has repeatedly said that it won’t fall for this costly trick and that the lessons of the past have properly been learned for the present. 
Manager of Stop NATO International Network Rick Rozoff told Sputnik News that the US is trying to test Russia's reserve — but that this "ultimately may be a catastrophic and even apocalyptic gambit on the part of the United States."
But aggressive rhetoric aside, there is an irony to this move. Because to punish Russia and force it to return to observing the Treaty’s conditions…the US will have to violate them themselves. Pot, kettle – you remember the saying.


U.S. President Barack Obama looks on during the Summit on College Opportunity while at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, December 4, 2014

The rift between United States and Russia continues as the Pentagon threatens Russiawith releasing nuclear missiles in lieu of the Moscow's violation. According to the US, the country is prepared to redeploy nuclear weapons as a means to keep Russia at bay following its breach of two arms control treaties. Meanwhile, the US Congress has been working on new sanctions for Vladimir Putin following decisions over Ukraine tension.

Putin and his administration have been in hot water since its move against Ukraineand other activities in the Baltic region. The US government appears unforgiving of the region's moves as it threatens Russia with nuclear missiles and new sanctions.

PressTV quote principal deputy undersecretary for policy at the Department of Defense Brian McKeon: "We don't have ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe now obviously because they're prohibited by the treaty."

However, the official did note: "But that would obviously be one option to explore." According to Washington, Moscow breached the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia denied the accusation and clarified that its ground-launched cruise missile last July followed the INF treaty.

President Barrack Obama has raised the violation issue with Russian president Vladimir Putin according to Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller. The Arms Control official also said that the US was thinking of pushing through with "military countermeasures" to emphasize the treaty breaches. Russia has been warned not to continue any cycle of action to prevent provoking other military counter measures.

On the other side of Washington, Yahoo reported US lawmakers working on another sanction concerning weapons companies in Russia. If the sanction will push through then it may also include measures on high-tech oil investments in the region. Just this Thursday, the Senate and House of Representatives agreed and passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. The bill was sent back to the Senate following house panel changes. There should be a vote soon though President Obama has been opposed to this. The president clarified that he does not agree with additional sanctions unless Europe also agrees on them.

If the US president will agree on the sanction then companies like Rosoboronexport (arms exporter) will be affected. The bill pushes that these providers contribute to the rising tensions in Syria, Georgia and Ukraine.

McKeon further stated: "This violation will not go unanswered, because there is too much at stake."

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WASHINGTON, November 22. /TASS/. The United States and its partners may toughen sanctions against Russia if Moscow fails to change its policy towards Ukraine, the US Department of State has said.

“We have a broad understanding and a similar point of view with our European partners with respect to the steps Russia needs to take and the ways in which the costs to Russia should increase if they fail to abide by the agreements,” spokesman Jeff Rathke said at a press briefing on Friday.


EU countries not ready to escalate economic sanctions against Russia

Washington remains “in contact with the European partners” and continues discussions on the issue.

Rathke insisted however that “there’s no military resolution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine.”

Relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated amid the Ukrainian crisis, as the US and the EU imposed economic sanctions against Russia, and Moscow responded with a ban on food imports from countries that sanctioned it.

The West accuses Russia of aiding militias in eastern Ukraine, while Moscow has repeatedly denied the claims condemning Kiev’s operation as war against Ukraine’s own people.

Washington (AFP) - The US Congress unanimously approved fresh economic sanctions against Russia and lethal weapons for Kiev, defying President Barack Obama and hardening American lawmakers' response to a Kremlin-backed insurgency in Ukraine.

Identical texts of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act passed both the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday, but because of a technical issue it returned to the Senate where it passed by unanimous consent moments before the chamber adjourned late Saturday night.

It is now up to Obama to either sign or veto the measure. The White House said Thursday it was "looking at it."

On Saturday, one day ahead of a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, Moscow warned that "undoubtedly, we will not be able to leave this without a response."

The legislation authorizes -- but does not legally require -- Obama to provide lethal and non-lethal military aid to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, ammunition and troop-operated surveillance drones.

Washington backs Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, but Obama has yet to approve the bulk of an arms request by Kiev.

"The hesitant US response to Russia's continued invasion of Ukraine threatens to escalate this conflict even further, warned bill coauthor Senator Bob Corker.

Congressional passage heaps political pressure on Obama.

On Thursday he signalled he was against unilaterally putting the economic squeeze on Moscow, saying it would be "counterproductive" for Washington to "get out ahead of Europe further" on sanctions.

In November, the Pentagon delivered the first of 20 anti-mortar radar systems to Ukraine.

The current legislation authorizes $350 million worth of weapons, defense equipment and training for Ukraine over three years.

Lawmakers dropped a key provision in the original bill that would have taken the rare step of giving major non-NATO ally status to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

Senate aides said the provision was removed at the 11th hour in order to ensure final passage.

The measure hits Russia's defense and energy sectors, punishing companies like state defense import-export company Rosoboronexport.

It requires Obama to impose conditional sanctions on the defense sector should Russian state-controlled firms sell or transfer military equipment to Syria, or to entities in Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova without the consent of the governments in those nations.

The rule is aimed at helping stem the flow of weapons from Russia across the border into eastern Ukraine, where Washington and Kiev accuse Moscow of fomenting separatist unrest.

It also gives Obama authority to penalize Russian gas giant Gazprom if it is found to be withholding significant natural gas supplies from NATO states, or Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gestures during a 
meeting on December 9, 2014 in Moscow 
(AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)

Moscow (AFP) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday branded new sanctions approved by the US Congress against Russia as hostile.

"This move by the United States is of course hostile," he told Interfax news agency in an interview. "The President (Barack Obama) now has a choice whether or not to sign this law."

The US Congress on Saturday unanimously approved the Ukraine Freedom Support Act in both houses, which includes fresh sanctions against Moscow over its support of the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The measures, which are up to Obama to approve or veto, hit Russia's defense and energy sectors with conditional sanctions against firms that sell or transfer military equipment to the territory of Ukraine (as well as Georgia, Moldova, and Syria), with the goal of stopping the flow of weapons to separatists across the border.

Moscow's response to the sanctions will depend on whether they go into force and their "practical application", Lavrov said.

He said such sanctions could even hit Ukrainian businesses which happen to have partners in the Russian defence industry.

"This example shows that it's not concern for Ukraine that lies at the base of this initiative, but a maniacal wish to punish Russia for all conceivable and inconceivable wrongdoings."

Lavrov also said that Moscow has the right to deploy nuclear weapons in Crimea after it became Russian territory in a disputed March referendum.

"The Russian state has every right to use its legitimate nuclear arsenal accordingly with its interests and its international responsibilities," he said. "Crimea became part of a state that...has such weapons."

NATO last month expressed concern that Russia was moving nuclear-capable weapons to the Black Sea peninsula.


FILE - In this Sunday, Feb. 23 2014, file photo Russian President Vladimir Putin walks as he attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia. As the diplomatic chill over Ukraine grows, the Kremlin seems keener than ever on enlisting Europe’s anti-EU parties in its campaign for influence in the West. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans and Democrats spoke with one voice on Monday in pressing President Barack Obama to sign legislation that would slap new sanctions on Russia while providing weapons and other assistance to Ukraine.

The widely popular legislation cleared Congress late Saturday, but the White House has remained non-committal about whether Obama will sign it into law. Administration officials say the president is evaluating the measure, which would target Russia's energy and defense industries.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement saying the bipartisan bill underscores Congress' "strong moral commitment to the cause of the Ukrainian people" and he called on Obama to sign it immediately.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said lawmakers "stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Ukrainian government and its people against the aggression of Vladimir Putin who continues to upend the international order."

The legislation would require the president to impose penalties on state-owned arms dealer Rosoboronexport and other Russian defense companies tied to unrest in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Syria. The sanctions would be extended to individuals and entities that help the companies.

The bill also would give the president the authority to provide lethal and non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine. This includes anti-tank weapons, counter-artillery radar and tactical surveillance drones. The bill also authorizes $350 million over two years to cover the cost.

Russia annexed Crimea earlier this year and has given support to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, angering Western nations.

Visiting NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Ukraine's prime minister asked for help for his country's military as it tries to tamp down pro-Russian insurgents and pleaded for more financial aid from the European Union.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk said it was difficult to fight a nuclear Russia that is "armed to the teeth," and he accused Putin of trying to eliminate an independent Ukraine.

"In the face of aggression and intimidation, they have had two successful elections," Boehner said of Ukraine. "In the face of subterfuge, they have shown restraint. And in the face of cynicism from those who are not immediately facing the threat, they have defied expectations."

The legislation is a rare example of unanimity in a divided Congress as the measure passed the House and Senate by voice vote. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke to a joint session of Congress in September and was received warmly.

Menendez said: "The territorial integrity of Ukraine must be restored and President Putin must understand that his destabilizing actions have serious and profound consequences for his country."