Showing posts with label РОССИЯ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label РОССИЯ. Show all posts

Monday, April 6


Europe losing Italy for COVIN-19? Furious at their plight being ignored and over resistance to coronabonds, Italians’ sense of betrayal deepens. Miles Johnson in Rome, Sam Fleming in Brussels and Guy Chazan in Berlin wrote.  Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles.

A year ago Carlo Calenda ran in European parliamentary elections in Italy under the slogan “We are Europeans”, a rallying cry to defend his country’s place in the EU at a time of rising nationalism. Now even Mr Calenda, a 46-year-old former minister and Italian permanent representative to the EU, is experiencing a crisis of faith in an idea he has spent a lifetime fighting for. 

“This is an existential threat, I am not sure if we are going to make it,” he says. “You have to consider my party is one of the most pro-European parties in Italy and I now have members writing to me saying: ‘Why do we want to stay in the EU? It is useless.’” 

As Italy faces its most severe crisis since the second world war, with more than 15,000 deaths from coronavirus and its economy on course to suffer the deepest recession in its modern history, there is a rising feeling among even its pro-European elite that the country is being abandoned by its neighbours. 

As Italy faces its most severe crisis since the second world war, with more than 15,000 deaths from coronavirus and its economy on course to suffer the deepest recession in its modern history, there is a rising feeling among even its pro-European elite that the country is being abandoned by its neighbours. 

“A massive, massive shift is happening in Italy. You have thousands of pro-Europeans moving to this position,” says Mr Calenda, who leads the recently formed liberal Action party. 

Last month Sergio Mattarella Italy’s softly-spoken 78-year-old president, and the man its establishment has relied on to safeguard its constitution and international alliances, warned the future of Europe was at stake if its institutions did not show solidarity with their country. 

“I hope that everyone fully understands, before it is too late, the seriousness of the threat to Europe,” he said in an evening television address beamed into the homes of millions of Italians. Many in Rome now feel that unless bold action is taken by northern European countries, they risk Italy turning its back on the European project forever. 

There are already signs that Italian faith in the EU has been damaged. In a survey conducted last month by Tecnè, 67 per cent of respondents said they believed being part of the union was a disadvantage for their country, up from 47 per cent in November 2018.

Donald Tusk, the former European Council president, told the FT the situation today was much more worrying than during the euro crisis — both politically and economically. 

Southern European expectations of a rapid demonstration of solidarity from the rest of the EU early in the pandemic were not met, even if the bloc has subsequently ramped up its assistance including financial aid and equipment. 

“I hope everything can be fixed, but the loss of reputation is huge,” says Mr Tusk, who is now president of the European People’s party, the centre-right political alliance. “We must save Italy, Spain and the whole of Europe and not be afraid of extraordinary measures. This is a state of emergency.” 

Mr Tusk says the EU’s assistance for Italy and other hard-hit countries is vastly more substantial than that from China and Russia, but he warns that “in politics perception can be more important than fact”. 

In 2018 Italy became the first founding member to elect a government hostile to the EU, with Matteo Salvini, the anti-immigration League leader and then deputy prime minister of the coalition government, raging against “the Brussels bunker”. 

The following year that government fell, and Mr Salvini was banished to opposition, giving pro-Europeans hope that the nationalist threat had faded. But many believe bitterness felt from events over the past month could permanently alter the country’s politics in Mr Salvini’s favour.

“There was a feeling before that the political system had marginalised the anti-EU forces,” says Lorenzo Pregliasco, a pollster at YouTrend. “Now if pro-European party activists and politicians are no longer so sure how they feel, imagine what the voters think.”

Figure 1

At the core of the argument is a bitter divide over the extent to which euro area countries should be pursuing a far more unified economic response to the crisis. Finance ministers will meet on Tuesday to attempt to agree a package of measures aimed at marshalling greater Europe-wide fiscal firepower.

Italy is among the member states that are pushing for the euro area to be far more ambitious by collectively selling bonds to help fund the massive economic rebuilding efforts that lie ahead. 

The discussions mark just the latest iteration of a longstanding dispute over collective fiscal action that economists call debt mutualisation and which many see as the biggest missing element of the single currency. 

The EU does have a rescue fund called the European Stability Mechanism which countries can use. But despite assurances to the contrary from the ESM’s managing director, Klaus Regling, many Italians still fear lending from the institution would come with tough conditions attached and would stigmatise the country. It would feel to many that their country was being punished for a disaster that was outside of its control.

Roberto Gualtieri, Italy’s finance minister, has said that Italian gross domestic product is likely to fall by 6 per cent this year. Other economists believe this may be a conservative estimate. With the country entering the crisis with a debt-to-GDP ratio already at 136 per cent, there is a real threat that Italy’s debt reaches a level that brings into question its sustainability. 

In March, with the virus already ripping through southern Europe, nine euro members led by France, Italy and Spain signed a joint letter pushing for so-called coronabonds — jointly issued debt backed by all euro countries including deep-pocketed Germany — to help pay for the recovery effort. 

The depth of divisions over the topic was exposed at a tough EU leaders’ video conference call in late March in which the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte and his allies pushed hard for the door to be opened to coronabonds. 

Mr Conte said the euro area’s bailout instruments had been developed for the last crisis and were ill-suited to the current symmetric shock hitting the entire continent. “What will we tell our citizens if Europe does not prove capable of a united, strong and cohesive reaction in the face of a symmetrical, unpredictable shock of this historical magnitude?” he asked.

Leaders eventually struck a compromise and issued a statement using vague language that effectively kicked deliberations in to Tuesday’s eurogroup meeting of finance ministers. 

But the truce did not last long. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president and a former German defence minister, appeared to use dismissive language in an interview, describing coronabonds as a slogan and appearing to express sympathy with Germany’s concerns about the idea.

The language provoked immediate rebukes from Mr Conte and Mr Gualtieri, forcing the commission to issue a late-night statement that vowed to leave open all options that are compatible with the EU treaty. 

Ms.Von der Leyen’s shifting positions reflected in part sharp divisions among her commissioners as well as the EU as a whole over the idea of coronabonds. 

While the discussion over which financial instruments can be used to help Italy is technical, the tone of the debate has become emotionally charged in both southern Europe and in the north, where the Netherlands has sided with Germany in opposing coronabonds.

Mr Calenda last week took out a full-page advert in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, signed by himself and a number of leftwing mayors and governors from the regions worst-hit by the outbreak. 

In it they attacked the Dutch position as “an example of a lack of ethics and solidarity”, called the country a tax haven and compared German reluctance to support joint European debt with the partial cancellation of Nazi war debts by European countries including Italy after the second world war.

“Germany could never have paid it,” the letter said. “Your place is with the Europe of institutions, of values of freedom and solidarity. Not following small national egoisms.”

“They shouldn’t be using such emotional arguments,” says Eckhardt Rehberg, a German MP in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. “Every country should ask itself whether it bears some responsibility for the situation it is in. Look at Italy’s health system. You cannot blame all your difficulties on Europe and Germany. As a German politician, I find that unfair.

The current German-Italian tensions are part of a much longer dispute, stretching back to the eurozone sovereign debt crisis of 2010-12. 

Even back then, many in southern Europe saw eurobonds as a potential solution. But Ms Merkel was always opposed, saying in 2012 that there would be no such instruments “as long as I live”. For the chancellor and her CDU party, the EU treaties were sacrosanct: and they expressly forbade the mutualisation of debt. The rule was clear: states cannot finance each other.

Yet in the eurozone more broadly, her reputation suffered. Southerners increasingly saw her as Europe’s great disciplinarian. Posters appeared in Greece showing her with a Hitler moustache. She was depicted as a witch, a dominatrix or a wicked stepmother, and accused of trying to subjugate the whole continent.

In Italy the hostility to her was fanned by the media empire of then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Records of bugged phone calls emerged in which he referred to the chancellor in extremely disparaging terms. In August 2012 the newspaper Il Giornale, owned by Mr Berlusconi’s brother, had a front-page picture of Ms Merkel raising her hand in a vaguely fascist salute, accompanied by an article claiming Italy was “no longer in Europe, it is in the Fourth Reich”. 

The crisis has emboldened politicians on Italy’s right who sense the mood in the country is shifting against Brussels, as well as becoming more anti-German. 

“The EU has gone from doing absolutely nothing to some trying to profit from the difficulties we are facing,” says Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy, which has made significant gains in opinion polls to become the second most popular rightwing party after Mr Salvini’s League.

“There are people who are trying to use the virus to speculate. There is a game to weaken Italy and buy its strategic assets,” she told the FT. “While we are counting our dead, they are counting the risk of losing interest on their bonds.”

Claudio Borghi, a League MP who has led a ferocious campaign against Italy accepting money from the ESM — arguing it would be tantamount to a surrender of sovereignty — this week posted an Italian Fascist era poster with a smiling German soldier extending his hand. The text reads “Germany is truly your friend”. Mr Borghi wrote: “Time goes on, but the tactics are always the same.”

Franziska Brantner, a German Green MP, says the Italians she has spoken to see themselves as “a laboratory for corona”, adding: “They feel, Germany is just watching them and trying to learn from their experience. There is real bitterness among my pro-European friends in Italy. They’re saying what have we done to the Germans to make them treat us like this?”

Italy’s pro-Europeans are hoping that the mounting shock from the Covid-19 crisis will jolt recalcitrant northern European countries into making a large enough gesture of solidarity to repair the damage that has been done. 

In recent days opponents of collective fiscal action have been on the defensive as the sheer scale of the economic slump has become clearer. In the Netherlands, the government of prime minister Mark Rutte last Wednesday proposed a solidarity fund worth €20bn, with cash transfers set to go straight to the coffers of Rome and Madrid to fund emergency medical spending. 

His finance minister Wopke Hoekstra had been criticised in the south after he called on Brussels to investigate why some economies did not have fiscal buffers to see them through a crisis. Portugal’s prime minister António Costa called the remarks “repulsive”. 

Mr Rutte’s proposal would only fill a small part of the gap given the vertiginous public finance challenges facing Italy and Spain, but the very fact that a country that has traditionally been a vociferous opponent of any fiscal transfers between euro area members should make such a suggestion is indicative of the changing public mood. 

Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, on Thursday laid out plans for an “exceptional and temporary” joint fund that would help countries kick-start their recoveries. This would issue bonds with the joint guarantee of all EU member states and be operated by the European Commission. 

For Mr Tusk there is now little time left for the EU’s richest nations to come forward with bold and positive initiatives and avoid instilling any sense of humiliation in countries that needed help. “People are suffering now — it is not a political game,” he says. “People have to feel that we are a real community and a real family in such a time.”

Friday, March 27


Influenza aviaria e pandemia: arriverà mai un'altra "spagnola"? Se lo domandavano i "cervelloni dell'ISS" nel 2006: leggi a pag 03

Tuesday, March 10


The Oil War between Russia, Iran, U.S: and Saudi Arabia is broke out. These greedy nations created a terrificant worldwide "financial disaster".  The world media campaign with deafening with a subliminal drum roll the covering  of this "dirty war" well hiding it, with the best weapon on the world: COVIN19 ALIAS CROWNVIRUS FROM 1933.
Today, however, the disintegration of the Opec, the alliance created at the end of 2016 between  14 OPEC countries and the 10 non-OPEC countries led by Russia precisely to raise prices, and the intentions that are not too veiled to start a war to grab market shares have made the crude live a day that will remain in history.
American shale oil producers are already in crisis. If prices remain around $ 30, production could drop by 2 million barrels per day from the end of this year to the end of 2021. The effects of the oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Waiting for the stimulus measures, the markets rebound The stock exchanges and the oil take a breath after Black Monday. Governments prepare stimulus measures: Italy is preparing to ask for a further increase in the deficit, Japan also launches extraordinary stimuli. Now the ECB's board is expected to arrive on Thursday 12 March 2020.
Trump and central banks are reviving markets after Black Monday, so markets are taking their breath away from the US president's promises of new tax cuts. There is also a bet on a new FED intervention and a maxi injection of liquidity by the ECB. Wall Street futures are also on the rise, and crude oil is recovering after yesterday's thud.

Saturday, July 28


Guai se la denuncia del nazi-fascismo, risuonata nel 70° anniversario della liberazione di Auschwitz, servisse a depistare l’opinione pubblica dall’altro più pericoloso FASCISCMO quello ECONOMICO, fondato, principalmente, sulla menzogna che giustifica i peggiori atti, terminando in sistematiche aggressioni a POPOLI E CULTURE, AUTOCTONE, DEL MONDO INTERO

Per esempio la Jugoslavia, rasa al suolo dopo la decisione della Germania, assieme al Vaticano (1991) di riconoscere i separatisti, cattolici, sloveni e croati: inaccettabile, per la nascente EUROZONA, la sopravvivenza di un grande Stato, multi-etnico, come la JUGOSLAVIA  e, con l’economia interamente in mani pubbliche. 

Per esempio la Libia, di Muhamar Gheddafi, travolta dopo una sua  decisione di costituire una Banca Centrale africana con  un'unica moneta in oro, alternativa al dollaro. 

E avanti così, dalla Siria all’Ucraina, fino alle contorsioni terrificanti del cosiddetto ISIS, fondato sulle unità di guerriglia addestrate dall’Occidente in Libia contro Gheddafi, poi smistate in Siria contro Assad e quindi dirottate in Iraq. Possiamo chiamarlo come vogliamo, dice John Pilger, ma è sempre fascismo-economico

«Se gli Stati Uniti e i loro vassalli non avessero iniziato la loro guerra di aggressione in Iraq nel 2003, quasi un milione di persone oggi sarebbero vive, e lo Stato Islamico non ci avrebbe fatto assistere alle sue atrocità», scrive Pilger in una riflessione ripresa dal “Come Don Chisciotte”. 

Se gli USA avessero esitato, disse Obama, la città di Bengasi «avrebbe potuto subire un massacro che avrebbe macchiato la coscienza del mondo». Peccato che Bengasi non sia mai stata minacciata da nessuno: «Era un’invenzione delle milizie SCIITE-islamiche che stavano per essere sconfitte dalle forze governative libiche».

I nuovi “mostri” sono «la progenie del fascismo-economico moderno, svezzato dalle bombe, dai bagni di sangue e dalle menzogne, che sono il teatro surreale conosciuto col nome di “informazione”». Infatti, «come durante il fascismo-economico degli anni ‘30 e ‘40, le grandi menzogne vengono trasmesse con la precisione di un metronomo grazie agli onnipresenti, ripetitivi media e la loro velenosa censura per omissione». 

In Libia, nel 2011 la NATO ha effettuato 9.700 attacchi aerei, più di un terzo dei quali mirato ad obiettivi civili, con strage di bambini. Bombe all’uranio impoverito, sganciate su Misurata e Sirte, bombardate a tappeto. Il massacro di Ghedaffi in diretta mondiale, da parte degli uomini del DGSE, mischiati tra la folla, «è stato giustificato con la solita grande menzogna: Ghedaffi stava progettando il “genocidio” del suo popolo». Al posto della verità: Ghedaffi stava denunciando Nicholas Sarkozy per corruzione

L'insignificante Barak Obama, premio Nobel per la pace disse che se gli USA, non fossere intervenuti immadiatamente, la città di Bengasi «avrebbe potuto subire un massacro che avrebbe macchiato la coscienza del mondo» 

Paradossalmente, avvene un ALTRO tragico fatto:" il, prevedibile, massacro dell'ambasciatore statunitense Chris Stevens e della sua scorta a Bengazi sotto la totale INERZIA della Casa Bianca e del Dipartimento di Stato. 

Peccato per il povero Stevens, ma Bengasi non è mai stata minacciata da nessuno: «Era una INFAME invenzione delle milizie islamiche sciite libiche che stavano per essere sopraffatte e sconfitte dalle forze governative tripolitane». Le milizie, aggiunge Pilger, dissero alla “Reuters” che ci sarebbe stato «un vero e proprio bagno di sangue, un massacro come quello accaduto in Ruanda». 

La menzogna, segnalata il 14 marzo 2011, ha fornito la prima scintilla all’inferno della NATO, definito da David Cameron come «intervento umanitario». Molti dei “ribelli” sciiti, segretamente armati e addestrati dalle SAS britanniche, sarebbero poi diventati ISIS, decapitatori di “infedeli”. 

In realtà, per Obama, Cameron e Sarkozy – scrive Pilger – il vero crimine di Gheddafi, come prima anticipato, fù l'imminente indipendenza economica della Libia dal franco francese e dal dollaro USA e la sua dichiarata intenzione di smettere di vendere in dollari USA le più grandi riserve di petrolio dell’Africa, minacciando così il petrodollaro, che è «un pilastro del potere imperiale MONDIALE DO CONTROLLO americano». 

«Era l’idea stessa ad essere intollerabile per gli Stati Uniti, che si preparavano ad “entrare” in Africa -gia nel 1999, corrompendo i governi africani con offerte di Clinton e Blair-collaborazione-militare».

Così, “liberata” la Libia, Obama «ha confiscato 30 miliardi di dollari dalla banca centrale libica, che Gheddafi aveva stanziato per la creazione di una banca centrale africana e per il dinaro africano, valuta basata sull’oro».

La “guerra umanitaria” contro la Libia aveva un modello vicino ai cuori liberali occidentali, soprattutto nei media, continua Pilger, ricordando che, nel 1999, Bill Clinton e Tony Blair inviarono la Nato a bombardare la Serbia, «perché, mentirono, affermando che i serbi stavano commettendo un “genocidio” contro l’etnia albanese della provincia secessionista del Kosovo»

Finiti i bombardamenti della NATO, con gran parte delle infrastrutture della Serbia in rovina – insieme a scuole, ospedali, monasteri e la televisione nazionale – le squadre internazionali di polizia scientifica scesero sul Kosovo per riesumare le prove del cosiddetto “olocausto”. L’FBI non riuscì a trovare una singola fossa comune e tornò a casa.

Il team spagnolo fece lo stesso, e chi li guidava dichiarò con rabbia che ci fu «una piroetta semantica delle macchine di propaganda di guerra». Un anno dopo, un tribunale delle Nazioni Unite sulla Jugoslavia svelò il conteggio finale dei morti: 2.788, cioè i combattenti su entrambi i lati, nonché i serbi e i rom uccisi dall'UCK. «Non c’era stato alcun genocidio.

L' "olocausto” jugoslavo è stato una menzogna».

L’attacco NATO era stato fraudolento, insiste Pilger, spiegando che «dietro la menzogna, c’era una seria motivazione: la Jugoslavia era un’indipendente federazione multietnica, unica nel suo genere, che fungeva da ponte politico ed economico durante la guerra fredda».

Attenzione: «La maggior parte dei suoi servizi e della sua grande produzione era di proprietà pubblica. Questo non era accettabile in una Comunità Europea in piena espansione, in particolare per la nuova Germania unita, che aveva iniziato a spingersi ad Est per accaparrarsi il suo “mercato naturale” nelle province jugoslave di Croazia e Slovenia». 

Sicché, «prima che  gli europei si riunissero a Maastricht nel 1991 a presentare i loro piani per la disastrosa Euro-Zona, un accordo segreto era stato approvato: la Germania avrebbe riconosciuto la Croazia». Quindi, «il destino della Jugoslavia era segnato».

La solita macchina stritolatrice: «A Washington, gli Stati Uniti si assicurarono che alla sofferente Pilger-economia jugoslava fossero negati prestiti dalla Banca Mondiale, mentre la NATO, allora una quasi defunta reliquia della guerra fredda, fu reinventata, CON PRONTEZZAcome tutore dell’ordine imperiale».

Nel 1999, durante una conferenza sulla “pace” in Kosovo a Rambouillet, in Francia, i serbi furono sottoposti alle tattiche ipocrite dei sopracitati tutori. «L’accordo di Rambouillet comprendeva un allegato B segreto, che la delegazione statunitense inserì all’ultimo momento».

La clausola esigeva che tutta la Jugoslavia – un paese con ricordi amari dell’occupazione nazista – fosse messa sotto occupazione militare, e che fosse attuata una “economia di libero mercato” con la privatizzazione di tutti i beni appartenenti al governo.

«Nessuno Stato sovrano avrebbe potuto firmare una cosa del genere», osserva Pilger. «La punizione fu rapida; le bombe della Nato caddero su di un paese indifeso. La pietra miliare delle catastrofi era stata posata

Seguirono le catastrofi dell’Afghanistan, poi dell’Iraq, della Libia, della Siria, e adesso dell’Ucraina. Dal 1945, più di un terzo dei membri delle Nazioni Unite – 69 paesi – hanno subito alcune o tutte le seguenti situazioni per mano del moderno fascismo-economico

Sono stati invasi decine e decine di governi, i loro legali rappresentanti rovesciati, i loro movimenti popolari soppressi, i risultati delle elezioni sovvertiti, la loro gente bombardata e le loro economie spogliate di ogni protezione, le loro società sottoposte a un assedio paralizzante noto come “sanzioni”. Lo storico britannico Mark Curtis stima il numero di morti in milioni

«Come giustificazione, in ogni singolo caso una grande, immensa, sporca menzogna è stata raccontata dalla centrale del fascismo-economico-mondiale.»

Tuesday, April 24


Dedicate to H.E. JOHN McCAINE (from Adriaticus)

U.S. Congressional investigators want to know what an former CIA operative was doing in Montenegro last fall at the time of an alleged Russian backed coup plot against NATO’s newest member.
Michele Rigby and Joseph Assad
(U.S. authorities say they are curious why former CIA operative Joseph Assad, seen above in 2016 with his wife, Michele, was in Montenegro last fall around when an alleged coup plot was foiled). 
Photo by Lady Hereford/ Palm Beach Atlantic University
Former Central Intelligence Agency‎ Officer Joseph Assad is celebrated in Washington for helping extract dozens of Iraqi Christians from Islamic State territory in 2015‎. Last October, days before a hotly contested national election in Montenegro, Mr. Assad flew to the tiny Balkan country that has been the subject of tensions between the U.S. and Russia.

The imbroglio is a sign that old East-versus-West spy games are alive again in Europe. Current and former U.S. and Russian officials acknowledge privately that their operatives are at work in the Balkans and in Montenegro in particular.

U.S. and Montenegrin officials say the campaign culminated in a Russian-backed plot that was thwarted at the last moment. The government’s opponents say the events amounted to a fake coup intended to rally the people to the ruling party’s side.

Montenegrin officials said they are investigating whether Mr. Assad was hired to help the alleged perpetrators. Prosecutors have charged 14 people in the alleged plot, including what the indictment describes as a group of Serb nationalists, several of whom called themselves The Wolves. 

The indictment, recently upheld by Montenegrin courts, says the men planned to overthrow Montenegro’s government, possibly kill its prime minister and install a pro-Russian regime. It doesn’t charge Mr. Assad, but names him as a potential contractor hired to help to lead a subsequent escape from the country.

U.S. and allied officials have said it makes no sense that the coup plotters would use an outsider to help extract their team from the country. But Montenegrin and U.S. officials said it is possible Russian operatives wanted to associate a former CIA officer unwittingly with the plot so as to obscure Moscow’s responsibility.

U.S. and allied officials said one reason they believe there was a coup planned was that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said his country’s security services had found “undeniable and material” evidence to back the Montenegrin account and cooperated with the investigation.

Prosecutors allege in their indictment that Mr. Assad approached a Florida security firm, Patriot Defense Group, looking for someone to help with “counter surveillance and evacuation” for the opposition party.

Brian Scott, a former CIA official and chief executive of Patriot Defense Group (John McCain), said a staff member spoke with Mr. Assad about general security work in Montenegro for a company affiliated with Patriot. Mr. Scott said he didn’t know if the work was to conduct an evacuation, adding his company quickly turned down the job because it wasn’t aligned with his firm’s mission to assist U.S. companies overseas.

Mr. Assad, who hasn’t been indicted, declined to speak to The Wall Street Journal. His lawyer, Vincent Citro, said Mr. Assad had been in Montenegro to assist a friend and colleague who was managing the opposition’s campaign. Mr. Citro says Mr. Assad had nothing to do with any plot and denies Mr. Assad was working as a spy for Russia or anyone else.

Mr. Citro confirmed there was a call between Mr. Assad and Patriot Defense Group. He said Mr. Assad has cooperated with the U.S. government “to clarify misinformation coming from Montenegro” but said he was told his client isn’t under investigation.

A story about Mr. Assad and his wife on the website of his college alma mater and a 2016 profile in a Florida newspaper provides this sketch of Mr. Assad: He is an Egyptian Christian raised in Lebanon and Egypt and is now a naturalized U.S. citizen. He moved to the U.S. to attend Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, where he focused on political science and biblical studies and graduated in 1994. In 1999, Mr. Assad and his wife, born in the U.S., both joined the CIA.

In 2015, after Mr. Assad moved to a private security consultancy, ABC’s 20/20 featured a segment on how the Assads helped rescue 149 Iraqi Christians from ISIS.

Among those charged in the alleged plot in Montenegro are two accused Russian operatives, three members of the Montenegrin opposition and nine Serbs. The trial will hinge on the credibility of the government’s main witness, a (unindicted) Serb who in a statement cited in the indictment says he was recruited by a Russian intelligence agent to overthrow a government.

Staff members and investigators of the House Intelligence Committee this week reached out to Mr. Assad and Mr. Scott to ask them questions. “If Americans were involved we need to investigate,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the committee’s chairman. He recently visited Montenegro to meet with prosecutors about the allegations of Russian involvement. “This was an attempt to take down the pro-NATO government by Russian interests,” he said.

Last year, Montenegro’s Democratic Party of Socialists, which has ruled the country since independence in 2006 and has pushed for NATO membership, faced a stiff challenge from the Democratic Front, a coalition of opposition groups that campaigned on an anticorruption platform and called for a referendum on NATO.

The opposition hired Aron Shaviv, a British-Israeli campaign manager who had made his mark producing amusing political advertisements for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. With Mr. Shaviv’s satirical ads poking fun of the government on the air, Mr. Shaviv said, he was followed and pulled over by Montenegrin police and security.

Mr. Shaviv said he called Mr. Assad, with whom he had worked previously, to come to Montenegro to conduct a security assessment. Mr. Assad’s lawyer says his client provided the assessments for Mr. Shaviv, then left on the day of the election.

Montenegrin and U.S. congressional investigators have questioned the timing of Mr. Assad’s exit. In conversations with the Journal, they asked why a security adviser would leave his client on the day of the election, hours after high-profile arrests of alleged plotters.

Mr. Shaviv, who hasn’t been accused in the plot, said the Montenegrin prosecutors’ allegations amount to believing Moscow tried to topple a government using a team made up of a political consultant, a former CIA agent and “some farm boys from rural Montenegro with their hunting rifles.”

Mr. Shaviv said Montenegro’s government faced defeat in the October election and whipped up the “sloppiest conspiracy theory ever concocted.” Both the Montenegrin government and ruling-party officials deny the allegation.

While Russian officials deny they are trying to destabilize NATO aspirants or countries on their borders, U.S. officials said they expect more Russian interference across Europe. 

Gen. Ben Hodges, a senior U.S. Army commander in Europe, said Russia is “going to continue doing this, putting pressure on countries on their periphery.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at and Drew Hinshaw at

Sunday, April 15


Edward M. Spiers, professor of strategic studies at Leeds University, in England, explores both the myths and realities of chemical and biological warfare. Organized more or less
chronologically, Spiers recounts the evolution of chemical and biological weapons from the first mass uses of chemical weapons in World War I to the potential of modern biology to transform bioterrorism.

Spiers writes that chemical and biological weapons have probably been around as long as warfare itself. Ancient European, Indian, and Chinese history is replete with the use of poisonous snakes, insects, diseased animals, incendiaries, poison-tipped weapons, and poisoned water supplies in warfare. The first large-scale use of chemical weapons occurred in World War I, when the Germans discharged chlorine gas from cylinders at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915. 

Reported casualties from the gas ranged from 7,000 to 15,000 people, but after the initial surprise, the Allies were able to improvise protective measures. Within five months, the British were able to retaliate at the Battle of Loos, but they suffered 2,000 casualties to their own gas.

The failures of gas to break the enemy’s lines at Ypres, Loos, and other battles contributed to the legacy of gas warfare in World War I as a failure. However, Spiers argues, this legacy was largely shaped by postwar historians, because few participants shared that view. The use of gas actually increased over the course of the war. In addition to consequent casualties, gas negatively affected morale and considerably contributed to psychological and physical stress. Antigas defenses also made warfare more cumbersome, exacerbating logistical and communication challenges.

As evidence of the effectiveness of chemical weapons, real or imagined, Spiers writes that the Allies prohibited Germany from manufacturing and importing asphyxiating or poisonous
gases as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war. Furthermore, in 1925, 44 nations signed the Geneva Protocol, which prohibited the use of chemical and biological weapons by international law and the “conscience and practice of nations.” Nonetheless, during the period between World Wars I and II, Britain considered but, for largely moral and political reasons, did not use chemical weapons in Egypt, Afghanistan, India, and Iraq.

Winston Churchill himself was “strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes,” Spiers writes. The eventual use of gas bombs by the Italians in Ethiopia in 1935–36, however, in direct contravention of the Ge ne va Protocol, reawakened Europe to the possibility of gas warfare. In Britain, more than 50 million “antigas” helmets had been distributed by the beginning of World War II. 


A Kurdish woman carries photos of relatives killed in chemical weapons attacks ordered
Questions of efficacy aside, Spiers writes that a combination of other factors averted the use
of chemical weapons during the Second World War. Because of the industrial and economic
hardships engendered as a result of the First World War, German, French, and British
chemical production capacity was limited. Hitler personally disdained chemical weapons,
which had injured him during World War I

Moreover, early in World War II, Germany did not need to resort to chemical weapons, and the Allies could not risk using them near friendlycivilian populations. Eventually, Germany did test its V1 and V2 rockets with chemical warheads, although the nation was deterred from using them by fear of reprisal against its civilian population. 

By the end of the war, U.S. military-industrial might had produced the world’s largest stock of chemical weapons and the air power to deliver them. However, the development of the atomic bomb, and success on other fronts, made their use unnecessary.

Biological weapons were not used to a significant extent in either the First or Second World
Wars. Nonetheless, as Spiers describes, there were still chilling reminders of the potential
power of even crude biological weapons. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, six Japanese soldiers released hordes of plague-infested rats and 60 horses infected with glanders into the Chinese countryside, leaving Changchun and surrounding environs uninhabitable until the mid-1950s.

Nuclear weapons, of course, came to dominate deterrence strategies during the Cold War.
Nonetheless, the proliferation of a new class of chemical weapons, nerve agents such as
sarin [2-(fluoro-methylphosphoryl)oxypropane], touched off a new chemical arms race, Spiers writes. From 1954 to 1969, the U.S. also manufactured and stockpiled numerous antiplant and antipersonnel biological weapons.

In Vietnam, the U.S. faced criticism, both at home and abroad, for its use of riot-control agents (to clear tunnels, for example), defoliants, and chemical weapons to kill crops and render soils infertile. In 1967 alone, the U.S. defoliated 1.5 million acres of vegetation and destroyed 220,000 acres of crops in Vietnam. In 1969, the Nixon Administration announced the end of the U.S. biological weapons program, in part, Spiers argues, to blunt criticism for its use of herbicides and riot control agents in Vietnam.

In the meantime, Spiers writes, the Soviets were developing the world’s most advanced chemical and biological weapons program.

During the Cold War, Iran and Iraq also waged a devastating war (1980–88) that again witnessed the mass by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Credit: Newscom use of chemical weapons. The Iraq Survey Group (ISG) later confirmed that the Iraqis had used some 1,800 tons of mustard agent, 140 tons of tabun (ethyl Ndimethyl phosphoramido cyanidate), and 600 tons of sarin. 

Iraq estimated these attacks resulted in more than 30,000 Iranian casualties (compared with the 500,000 to 1 million estimated total Iranian casualties). As Spiers notes, although the number of casualties from chemical weapons may have been small on a relative basis, the psychological impact was significant. Iraq’s ballistic missiles, and the fear of their potential to deliver chemical warheads to Iranian cities, played a role in Iran’s accepting the United Nations-brokered truce in 1988. Iraqi chemical weapons also helped to suppress the internal Kurdish rebellion, killing and injuring thousands of Kurds and leading to the flight of 65,000 others to Turkey in 1988, Spiers writes.

By the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq had significantly restocked and improved its chemical weapons capabilities. U.S. Central Commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf originally planned for 10,000 to 20,000 chemical weapons casualties, but Iraq never resorted to chemical weapons. The George H. W. Bush Administration had already decided not to respond with nuclear or chemical weapons if coalition forces were attacked with chemical weapons, but they deliberately conveyed the opposite impression.

Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Tariq Aziz later commented that the Iraqis understood that the use of chemical weapons might very well provoke the use of nuclear weapons against Baghdad by the U.S. Although Iraq’s SCUD missile attacks against Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain inflicted minimal physical damage, the specter of chemical warheads inflicted great psychological damage. Spiers quotes Schwarzkopf: “The biggest concern was a chemical warhead threat. … Each time they launched … the question was, is this going to be a chemical missile. That was what you were concerned about.” 

Their unique ability to engender such fears, of course, is precisely what makes chemical and biological weapons appealing to terrorists. As Spiers astutely notes, “terrorists can choose when, where, and how to attack their targets, they can avoid many of the uncertainties that have bedeviled the military use of chemical and biological weapons. By maximizing the element of surprise, they can attack targets with low or non-existent levels of protection; by careful choice of target environment, especially an enclosed facility, they need not wait upon optimum meteorological conditions; by attacking highly vulnerable areas, they may use a less than optimal mode of delivery; and by making a chemical or biological assault, they may expect to capture media attention and cause widespread panic.”

Although chemical weapons have been used much more frequently, Spiers notes that on a per-mass basis, biological weapons are more lethal than chemical weapons. As advances in production technologies can simultaneously result in increased yields in smaller, harder-todetect facilities, the potential utility of biological weapons to terrorists will become even more significant. 

In the most well-known example of biological terrorism to date, in October 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks, anthrax-tainted letters began appearing in the U.S. Despite fears of another international attack, the strain was identified as having come from a domestic source, the Army research facility at Fort Detrick, Md. Letters were received in Florida, New York, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C., including a Senate office building. As Spiers described it, “massive panic and chaos” erupted, and Congress and the Supreme Court were closed for several days, although only 22 cases of anthrax actually resulted, including just five fatalities.

One of the most sobering developments outlined in the book is the application and
proliferation of emergent molecular biology techniques to the production of biological
weapons. Through the use of genetic engineering, new or modified organisms of greater
virulence, antibiotic resistance, and environmental stability may be produced. 

In one notable example foreshadowing the utility of biotechnology to weapons production, the Soviets developed the host bacterium Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, which through genetic engineering could also produce the myelin toxin. Infected animals developed both the tuberculosis-like symptoms caused by the bacteria and the paralysis induced by the myelin toxin. One former Soviet scientist recalled that after a briefing on the results, “the room was absolutely silent. We all recognized the implications of what the scientists had achieved. A new class of weapon had been found.”

Additional topics in this comprehensive book include the various international attempts at chemical and biological weapons disarmament, deterrence, and nonproliferation, including the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention; the sarin attacks on the Japanese subways in the mid-1990s; the use of chemical warfare in developing-world conflicts; and the embarrassing failures of American and British intelligence regarding Iraqi chemical weapons that led to the second Gulf War. 

For those of us interested in the potential impacts of chemistry and biology on humankind, Spiers’s book is a thoroughly documented, no-nonsense (often to the point of being dry) review of the malevolent potential of our science.

Read also here
and here

Monday, March 27

From BalkanInsite: Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic met Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, when the Russian President wished him every success in the April 2 presidential election, which he is tipped to win.

"We are certain the election will be held according to highest standards. We wish the current government success," Putin said at the start of the meeting in the Kremlin. [Vucic heads the current government in Serbia as Prime Minister.

The endorsement came hours after Kremlin spokesperson Dimitry Peskov said Russia had no intention of interfering in the upcoming election.
"I wish to thank you and your country for your support of Serbia's territorial integrity," Vucic told his host, referring to Russia's refusal to recognize the independence of Serbia's former province of Kosovo.

Vucic was accompanied to Moscow by the Minister of Defence, Zoran Djordjevic, and by the Minister of Labour, Aleksandar Vulin.
The official purpose of the visit was to talk about improving economic relations and defence cooperation.

Last year, Russia donated six MiG 29 aircraft to Serbia and their delivery was one of the topics of the meeting.

Vucic has been busy using ties with world leaders in his presidential campaign. He flaunted his relations with the Russian President, a popular figure in Serbia, when he told Serbia's national broadcaster, RTS, that he had met Putin "more than all others [the other candidates] combined”.

The visit takes place days before the April 2 presidential election in Serbia. It was the third time Vucic had gone to Moscow just before or after an election in Serbia.

He visisted Russia a month after the 2016 parliamentary election, officially for medical check-ups.

While he was there, he met Putin who said Russia counted on the Serbian government including as ministers "people who will pay serious attention to the development of relations" between the two states.

Vucic also visited Russia five days after his party won the general election in March 2014, again reportedly for a medical check-up, though it remains unknown whether Vucic had any contacts with Russian officials during that visit. 

Vucic also met Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel on March 14, after which a rival presidential candidate, Sasa Jankovic, accused him of abusing such high-level meetings to score political points

Monday, February 27


A screenshot of the Telegraph story on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.
BalkanInsight: "Russia’s Foreign Ministry plan to combat an avalanche of hostile “fake news” about Russia by setting up a new section on its website designed to counter and “expose” foreign media lies".

It comes after Russia accused the Montenegrin government of running an anti-Russian information campaign supported by the West, following the extensive media coverage of an alleged Russian-backed plot last October to overthrow the government in Podgorica. 

Russian media reported the foreign ministry’s response after Moscow denounced reports on the front page of Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, which claimed the Kremlin had had a direct hand in a plot to kill Montenegro’s former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and stop the country from joining NATO.

A screenshot of the Telegraph story on Montenegro stamped with a red “fake” sign can be seen on the ministry’s website, along with several other articles from Western media about Russia’s alleged meddling in the upcoming French presidential election.

The new section on the ministry site is described as containing “examples of publications retranslating false information about Russia”.

The ministry said it would collect such “fake news” from the foreign media, expose them by publishing the original sources and data, and so “prove that the Russian side has already responded to the specific issues in question”.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the authorities in Montenegro of being behind the anti-Russian information campaign in that country. 

“This campaign is not new. It is simply going through a new stage of its development,” Zakharova said on Wednesday. 

“Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic could not help getting involved in the use of a thesis widely spread in the US and the EU countries and has accused Moscow and Russian special services of interfering in the election processes in that country,” she added. 

Zakharova noted that Montenegro’s Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic had gone even further by developing the claim that Russia Security Service, FSB, special forces, had been active on the territory of Montenegro. 

In the past few months – with a pick-up in recent days, Russian mainstream media have widely covered the accusations that Moscow supported an opposition-backed coup attempt aimed at overthrowing the elected government in Podgorica.  

The Russian media have called the accusations absolutely unfounded, with some leading outlets ridiculing Podgorica’s claims that its intelligence and security agencies narrowly prevented a Russian plot to install a pro-Moscow government.

State-run media such as Sputnik and Russia Today, but also the Tass news agency, have almost daily published state official and analysts’ reactions after Montenegrin Prosecutor Katnic on Monday accused “the Russian state” of orchestrating the attempted coup. 

According to Katnic, the head of the group plotting the coup was a Russian citizen known as Edward Shirokov but whose real name was Edward Shishmakov - and who was a former deputy military attache at the Russian embassy in Poland, expelled in 2014 for espionage.

In an article called “Keep Calm and Blame Russia” published on Tuesday, Sputnik cited political analyst Vladimir Kireyev as questioning the version from Podgorica and wondering “did this [coup] attempt happen at all?“

“They will most likely prove nothing but will go ahead with their allegations,” he predicted.

Even the more liberal online newspaper Lenta, considered less pro-Kremlin than other mainstream media, in an article published on Tuesday compared the story coming out of Podgorica to “a theater of the absurd”. 

Mainstream media have cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissing Katnic's allegations as irresponsible. Montenegro had failed to support those allegations with reliable information, Peskov said. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called Katnic's allegations "unsubstantiated".

Sergey Kozlovsky, BBC correspondent in Russia, said the coverage of Montenegro in the Russian media had been extensive because no allegation of this kind has been made before.

“Modern Russia has never been accused of a coup attempt in a European country.  I guess you can call it one of the major stories in Russia, to say the least,” he told BIRN.

However, Kozlovsky noted that some Russian media outlets were only covering this story in terms of “fake news” - presenting it as another piece of anti-Russia propaganda and as nonsense. 

Many Russian journalists continue to point out that there is no solid proof of Russian involvement in the coup attempt, only media speculation and statements by Montenegrin officials.

The situation changed, he said, when Katnic named Russian intelligence officer Shishmakov as involved in the coup attempt, and when he claimed “Russian state” bodies had also been involved “at a certain level”.

Montenegro and the Balkans remain an important region for Russia, tied to it by historic ethnic, political and religious links, continued Kozlovsky.

“There is a lot of interest in the events happening in Kosovo and Serbia. The issue of the possible accession of Montenegro to NATO is a big deal in Russia, where many people don't appreciate ‘Slavic brothers’ joining a Western military alliance seen by them as hostile to Russia,” he said.

On the other hand, one of the most influential portals in Russia,, in an article published on Tuesday, noted that Russians remain the most numerous foreign tourists in Montenegro, despite the disputes over the alleged coup and over the tiny Adriatic nation’s aspirations to become a NATO member.

The article said that the “coup” had not only failed to stop the flow of Russian tourists coming for the summer but might even be a kind of advertisement for Russians when choosing their holiday destinations. 

“According to the observations of the Russians living there, Montenegrins know how to count money and do not mix private business with politics.,” it noted.
“However, traces from the scandal, despite the friendship which has lasted since forever, are still there,” the article concluded.