Planet Watch
F-35A

Rapid nuclear escalation, East and West

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that Moscow will deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons if NATO does not accede to demands to stop arming Ukraine and guarantee an end to eastward expansion of the alliance. His remarks come amid tensions over Russian military movements near Ukraine’s borders, where the Kremlin is estimated to have amassed some 100,000 troops. Amid similar tensions over Chinese incursions into the Taiwan Strait, a Pentagon report warns that the People’s Republic is undertaking an expansion and “modernization” of its nuclear arsenal to “provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.” And the US is meanwhile replacing gravity bombs with digitally guided nuclear missiles on its new design of the F-35A fighter jet. (Photo of F-35A via Air Force Times)

Greater Middle East
drone

Turkish drones decisive in regional wars

The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded “unmanned combat aerial vehicle,” the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı is a more advanced version of Turkey’s iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and carry more missiles. The TB2 has been used by Ankara against Kurdish guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces. Turkey has also provided the TB2 to various foreign militaries; it is held to have been decisive in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenian forces in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war, as well as the Libyan government’s victory over the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Ukraine, having already tested an initial dispatchment of the drone, is now ordering 24 more for use in its war against Russian-backed separatists. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Europe
Crimea protest

Putin rejects Ukraine law on indigenous rights

A Law on Indigenous Peoples passed last month by Ukraine’s parliament is aimed at protecting the culture, language and autonomy of the Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea. Putin in an interview after passage of the law asserted that the present leaders of Ukraine are clearly hostile to Russia. “Otherwise, how can you explain a law where Russians are a non-indigenous people? What will this lead to? Some people will simply leave.” He then compared these imagined “consequences” with the effects of a “weapon of mass destruction.” In another interview, he said that the bill “reminded” him of Nazi Germany, as it divides people into “indigenous, first-class and second-class people and so forth.” (Image: One of the last demonstrations in Crimea in March 2014, before the Russian occupiers crushed almost all protest. Via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Planet Watch
hiroshima

Podcast: Hiroshima at 76

In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city’s Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world’s nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Hiroshima Day vigil 2014, via Nihon zan Myohoji Buddhist Peace Council)

Europe
belarus cops

Fascist pseudo-anti-fascism in Belarus

Under long-ruling dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a fascistic order has long obtained in Belarus—and amid the wave of state terror following last year’s stolen elections, it may now be going over the edge into outright fascism. Which is why it’s particularly sickening that Lukashenko and his propaganda machine are playing to anti-fascism in the international flare-up over his latest outrage. Activist and blogger Roman Protasevich, arrested when a passenger plane was forced down by a Belarusian fighter jet, may face the death penalty for “terrorism” charges. But it all appears to rest on Protasevich’s supposed involvement in Ukraine’s Nazi-nostalgist Azov Battalion—and this seems entirely a matter of conjecture. (Photo: Libcom.org)

Europe
crimea

ECHR to rule on Russian rights violations in Crimea

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced that it will hear a case by Ukraine alleging human rights violations by Russia in the Crimean Peninsula. The peninsula was unilaterally annexed by Russia in 2014. Soon after Russian forces seized control there, Moscow oversaw a referendum in which Crimea, which has a Russian-speaking majority, voted to join Russia. The results of this referendum were deemed illegal by Ukraine and the West. In addition to the legality of the annexation, human rights violations in the peninsula have been a cause of great concern. There have been claims of violations on 12 counts, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and persecution of Crimean Tatars. The issue was brought forth by Ukraine for adjudication by the ECHR, which has agreed to take up the case. (Photo: chief39/Pixabay)

Europe

Europe rights court finds abuses in Maidan protests

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously held that there had been multiple violations of the European Convention on Human Rights during the 2013-14 Maidan protestsin Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities that led to the removal and flight of President Viktor Yanukovych. The court gave judgments in five cases having a total of 38 applicants who were either present at or played a role in the protests. They had all faced the police or non-state agents under police control (or titushky), and alleged police brutality, unjustified detention, and the denial of their right to protest. The ECHR stated that law enforcement officials and non-state agents had used “excessive and sometimes brutal force” against peaceful protesters, resulting in the escalation of violence. (Photo: Sasha Maksymenko via Flickr)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: Rule of the Strongmen

In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump’s evident preparation for a coup d’etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via Macmillan)

Europe
Ukraine

ICC prosecutor to open investigation into Ukraine

The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor said that a preliminary examination has found that there is a reasonable basis to believe crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Ukraine, justifying the opening of an investigation. The preliminary examination was opened in 2014 when Ukraine, not formally a member of the ICC, lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, accepting the jurisdiction of the court over possible crimes committed on its territory. Some of the war crimes allegations concern Crimea, a Ukrainian territory that was unilaterally occupied and annexed by Russia in March 2014. Ukraine is accepting the court’s jurisdiction while Russia does not, which could open a dilemma for the ICC. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Katie Halper: ‘Useful Idiot’ or Russian ‘infiltrator’?

Popular vlogger and comedian Katie Halper, whose journalistic take-downs of the Democratic Party establishment have been deftly exploited by the Kremlin propaganda machine, wears the accusation that she is a “useful idiot” for Russia as a badge of pride—”Useful Idiots” is actually the sarcastic name of the podcast she co-hosts with the equally problematic Matt Taibbi. We’ve always wondered if such figures really are useful idiots, or something more sinister—knowing propagandists for Vladimir Putin’s reactionary global ambitions. The debate has suddenly exploded onto the left-wing vlogosphere. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Watching the Shadows
neo-Nazis

State Department sees global ‘white supremacist’ threat

The US State Department’s newly released “Country Reports on Terrorism 2019” makes special note for the first time of an international white supremacist threat. The report states that the Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau “increased its efforts to combat racially or ethnically motivated terrorism (REMT). REMT, in particular white supremacist terrorism, continues to be a threat to the global community, with violence both on the rise and spreading geographically.” Given that this report is released just as Trump is becoming more blatant than ever in his own espousal of white supremacy, we must ask if this is not another example of the “Deep State” (read: those elements of the bureaucracy not completely co-opted by his dictatorial agenda) acting independently of the White House—or even, as the deplorables love to fear, actually seeking to subvert it. (Photo via Germ)