Planet Watch
anthropocene

COP28: landmark deal, or messy compromise?

The COP28 climate summit concluded in the United Arab Emirates with a so-called “UAE Consensus” that resolves to “transition away from fossil fuels”—hailed as an historic first commitment to eliminate the principal cause of climate change. Many climate activists, however, assail the document as vague and non-binding. Another failure pointed to by skeptics is the lack of finance commitments to come out of COP28. The funds made available by rich countries to help developing countries adapt and transition continue to lag far behind what is needed. A New Collective Quantified Goal for Climate Finance is set to be discussed next year at COP29, to be held in Azerbaijan. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Palestine
Gaza

Israeli official broaches nuclear strike on Gaza

A member of the Israeli cabinet broached a nuclear strike on the Gaza Strip, making outraged headlines in the Arab world. Jerusalem Affairs & Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party said in a radio interview that there are “no non-combatants in Gaza,” and using a nuclear weapon on the Palestinian enclave is “one of the possibilities.” The comment was immediately repudiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who issued a statement saying that Eliyahu has been suspended from cabinet meetings “until further notice.” Nonetheless, this comes as the death toll in nearly a month of Gaza bombardment approaches 10,000, with increasingly genocidal rhetoric voiced by Israeli officials up to and including Netanyahu. And despite a supposed relaxation of international tensions after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s highly anticipated speech was less bellicose than expected, the nuclear-powered (and presumably nuclear-armed) submarine USS Florida has arrived in the Middle East. The Ohio-class submarine is now operating under the command of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which polices the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Arabian Sea—a clear signal to Iran and its regional allies. (Photo: Maan News Agency)

Planet Watch
uranium

Podcast: Niger, Siberia and the global uranium wars

The Tuaregs of Niger and Buryat of Siberia, like the Navajo of the US Southwest, have had their territories usurped and destroyed by uranium mining for the nuclear-industrial complex, and it makes little difference from their perspective whether the extractivist bosses were French, Russian or American. While the Great Powers wage a neo-colonial game for control of this strategic resource, the indigenous peoples on the ground pay with their lands and lives—and are fighting back for autonomy or outright independence, and ecological and cultural survival. Bill Weinberg breaks it down in Episode 192 of the CounterVortex podcast. (Photo: Russian uranium mine in Buryatia, via Moscow Times)

Africa
Gabon

Gabon coup: another blow to Françafrique

A group of soldiers in Gabon seized control of the country and canceled the results of its presidential election—just after incumbent President Ali Bongo, heir to a corrupt dynasty closely aligned with France, was declared the winner amid claims of electoral fraud. In scenes reminiscent of those in Niger after the recent coup there, crowds have poured into the streets of Gabon’s capital Libreville, expressing their support for the new junta—and animosity for both the ousted Bongo dynasty and France. The coup appears to mean a further reduction for the French influence sphere in Africa, known as Françafrique. Over the past three years, coups have ousted French-aligned regimes in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea as well as Niger. Russia appears eager to step into the erstwhile role of France in providing military assistance to these countries. The day after the Gabon putsch, a Russian delegation met with Burkina Faso’s interim regime to discuss stepped-up security cooperation. (Map: PCL)

South Asia
Aksai Chin

Podcast: Himalayan fault lines in BRICS

In Episode 189 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that despite all the tankie pseudo-left enthusiasm for the BRICS summit in South Africa, the notion of a unified bloc against Western hegemony is illusory. The Johannesburg confab was immediately followed by a diplomatic spat between China and India, sparked by Beijing’s release of an official map of the territory of the People’s Republic—showing two Himalayan enclaves claimed by India as Chinese territory: Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, which have both been the scene of border skirmishes in recent years. The map also shows an island in the Amur River, by mutual agreement half controlled by Russia, as entirely Chinese. Moscow, depending on China’s acquiescence in the Ukraine war, has lodged no protest over this. But the border disputes between nuclear-armed India and China have the potential to escalate to the unthinkable. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: CIA via Wikipedia)

Europe
Sakharov Center

Russia: court closes Sakharov human rights center

A Moscow court ruled to liquidate the Public Commission for the Preservation of the Heritage of Academician Sakharov, or Sakharov Center, one of Russia’s most respected human rights organizations, after an application from the Ministry of Justice. The Sakharov Center, established in 1996, had been convening public discussions for citizens to speak about the status of human rights and freedom in the country. The Justice Ministry contended that the Center’s discussion groups constituted a “violation of its territorial sphere of activity.” In a statement, the Center warned of closing political space in Russia, saying: “Uncontrolled power corrupts society… Sakharov warned about this, we see it with our own eyes today.” (Photo of Sakharov Center building via Wikipedia. Sign reads: “War in Chechnya since 1994. Enough!”)

Planet Watch
Oppie

Podcast: Oppenheimer and techno-hubris

In Episode 185 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reviews the Oppenheimer movie, and discusses the legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer 78 years after Hiroshima. Manhattan Project dissidents like Leo Szilard petitioned to stop the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. But such sentiment was overruled by Harry Truman’s geopolitical imperatives—and what Freeman Dyson called the “technical arrogance” of Oppenheimer and his circle. Now, as open Russian nuclear threats continue to mount in Europe, we are poised at the brink of unparalleled catastrophe. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via The Day After Trinity)

Europe
wagner

Wagner forces halt march on Moscow

Troops from the Wagner Group mercenary force abruptly reversed course after advancing through southern Russia toward Moscow, bringing an apparent end to what appeared to be an attempted coup d’Ă©tat. This came hours after President Vladimir Putin accused Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin of treason and vowed swift and harsh action, comparing the uprising to the 1917 Revolution. Wagner forces had reportedly seized control of Russia’s Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, which houses nuclear weapons. Belarusian authorities claim their country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko facilitated negotiations between the parties, allowing Wagner to call off the march on Moscow in exchange for the dropping of treason charges against Prigozhin. (Photo: Wagner Group/Telegram via Jurist)

Europe
Ukraine

Kakhovka: ‘ecocide’ as war crime in Ukraine

In Episode 177 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the unfolding Kakhovka dam disaster in Ukraine, an evident design by Russia to forestall a Ukrainian counter-offensive into the occupied southeast of the country. Massive flooding has been unleashed downstream, imperiling some of the world’s most important farmland. Upstream, coolant water to the Zaporizhzhia power plant is threatened, escalating Russia’s “reckless nuclear gamble” at the facility. It is true that the disaster gravely impacts much Russian-held territory, including the Crimea Peninsula. However, despite Moscow’s official denials of responsibility, Russia’s online internal propaganda organs are bragging about it. The Wagner Group mercenary outfit calls the disaster “beautiful” and boasts that the destruction of dams on the Dnipro River is a “trump card” against Ukraine. The cataclysm on the Dnipro provides a grim test case as the International Criminal Court moves to adopt “ecocide” as a recognized international crime. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: PCL)

Europe
ICBM

Belarus: Russian nuclear deployment advances

At a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Minsk, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin signed documents allowing Russian tactical nuclear weapons to be deployed on Belarusian territory. Shoigu and Khrenin cited a “sharp escalation of threats on the western border of Russia and Belarus.” Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union in Moscow, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko implied to an interviewer that the nuclear weapons may “already” be stationed in Belarus. The European Union responded to the signing with a statement condemning the agreement, calling it “a step which will lead to further extremely dangerous escalation.” (Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense via BAS)

Europe
Freedom of Russia Legion

What is the Freedom of Russia Legion?

Fighters in armored vehicles crossed into Russia from Ukrainian territory and seized a town in Belgorod oblast. They were only driven out after Russian forces responded with fighter planes and artillery. Two groups claimed responsibility for the raid, both said to be made up of Russians who are fighting for Ukraine. One is the self-proclaimed Freedom of Russia Legion, which released a video message to coincide with the attack, calling on Russians to take up arms “to put an end to the Kremlin’s dictatorship.” The other is the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), characterized as far-right nationalists—although this does raise the question of why they are fighting for Ukraine. (Image: LvivMedia via YouTube)

Europe
Red Square

Russia withdraws from Conventional Forces Treaty

In a declaration signed by President Vladimir Putin, Russia announced its withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the 1990 pact hailed as the “cornerstone of European security.” The treaty limits the contracting parties, including most European powers and the United States, to no more than 20,000 tanks, 20,000 artillery units, 30,000 armored vehicles, 6,800 warplanes and 2,000 attack helicopters. This marks a further development in Russia’s divergence from international norms since launching its war in Ukraine. This February, exactly a year since the start of the invasion, Moscow announced its withdrawal from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last remaining nuclear arms pact between Russia and the US. (Image: Vitaly Kuzmin via CBRNPro.net)