Europe
BALTOPS24

Baltic brinkmanship amid NATO war games

Sweden’s armed forces charged that a Russian SU-24 fighter plane violated the country’s airspace just east of the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, calling the act “unacceptable.” Just days before the incident, Sweden and other NATO allies were conducting naval exercises in the area as part of the annual Baltic Operations drill (BALTOPS). Amid the exercise, the Finnish military reported a similar airspace violation by four Russian warplanes over the Gulf of Finland. This was the first time Sweden and Finland had taken part in BALTOPS. (Photo: NATO)

Greater Middle East
syria

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war? (redux redux)

At least 42 people were reported killed in Israeli air-strikes near the Syrian city of Aleppo, allegedly targeting an arms depot belonging to militant group Hezbollah. Those killed included Hezbollah members and Syrian soldiers—as well as civilians, by some reports. Israeli air-strikes in southern Lebanon meanwhile killed 16 people, and one in Israel was killed by a barrage of rockets fired by Hezbollah from south Lebanon. Earlier, a series of air-strikes on Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zor killed 15 people, including a World Health Organization staff member as well as an Iranian military adviser. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for those strikes. But Israel’s intermittent air-strikes on Iran-backed militia forces in Syria have been escalating since the Gaza bombardment began. (Image: Pixabay)

Greater Middle East
syria

Podcast: Iraq, Palestine, escalation and errata

In Episode 212 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the latest escalation in the Middle East—and continues to note discrepancies in the reportage. US air-strikes on Iraq are said to have targeted the self-declared Islamic Resistance in Iraq, and its constituent militias such as Kataib Hezbollah. But some reports indicate the actual target has often been the Popular Mobilization Forces, a paramilitary network integrated into Iraq’s official security services. Meanwhile, insufficiently noted media accounts report “no evidence” to back up Israeli claims of Hamas co-optation of UNWRA, which has led to a devastating cut-off of funds to the UN agency by the Western powers. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Pixabay)

Greater Middle East
syria

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war? (redux)

The Pentagon carried out air-strikes on Iran-backed militia forces in Iraq in retaliation for a drone attack on a US airbase in Erbil, while a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was killed in a presumed Israeli strike in Syria. Israel continues to trade cross-border fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, while Yemen’s Houthi armed movement claimed responsibility for drone attacks targeting the Israeli port city of Eilat. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel is now fighting on “seven fronts”—Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen. (Image: Pixabay)

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)

Europe
Putin

Russia conducts simulated nuclear strike

Russia’s military conducted exercises with nuclear-capable missiles, shortly after the State Duma unanimously voted to revoke ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The Russian Strategic Missile Forces command claimed the exercises were part of a regularly scheduled annual training drill held every October. But Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the exercises were to simulate a retaliatory nuclear strike to be carried out if Russia were attacked with nuclear firepower first. The Russian military widely publicized videos of the exercises across state media. According to the Kremlin, the exercises were overseen by President Vladimir Putin from a Moscow command center. (Photo: Kremlin)

Greater Middle East
syria

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war?

As Israel intensifies air-strikes in the Gaza Strip, a northern front appears to be opening in the war.  Civilians are fleeing both north Israel and south Lebanon as Israeli and Hezbollah forces exchange fire across the border. Following Israeli air-strikes on targets in Syria, drone attacks by presumed Iranian-backed forces hit US military bases and outposts in both Syria and Iraq. The US responded with air-strikes on Iranian Revolutionary Guards positions in eastern Syria. The Iranian military has announced that it will launch large-scale maneuvers, involving infantry, air and naval forces. (Image: Pixabay)

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)

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
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)