NATO is just winding up its biggest military exercise since the end of the Cold War—Operation Trident Juncture, involving 36,000 troops and more than 140 aircraft and 60 ships from over 30 countries over a month-long span. The maneuvers were centered around Sardinia, where hundreds of local residents attempted to block the troops and craft in a civil disobedience action. They were angered by rising cancers, leukemia and birth defect rates on the island, where the soil and groundwater are contaminated with heavy metals, jet fuel and depleted uranium from decades of military operations and weapons testing there. Maneuvers were also held in Spain, Portugal, Norway and the Atlantic. (Gizmodo, Nov. 10; Revolution News, Nov. 3; ANSA, Oct. 21; NATO, July 15)
There was brief media splash last month after Germany's ZDF TV reported that the US is planning to replace 20 nuclear bombs deployed at Büchel airbase. According to the reports, the current B61 bombs are to be replaced this year with B61-12s, a newer version that is said more accurate and less destructive (potentially making their use more "thinkable"). Alarmingly, reports indicated that the new variants can also be fired as missiles, while B61s had to be dropped from aircraft. Moscow of course immediately responded by threatening "countermeasures"—including deployment of Iskander ballistic missiles to Russia's Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad. (The Telegraph, Reuters, Sept. 23; Washington's Blog, Sept. 23)
With a vote of 14 in favor, the United Nations Security Council on Oct. 9 approved a resolution to allow the European Union to inspect and seize vessels suspected of smuggling migrants. Authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the resolution permits certain nations to board ships in order to prevent human trafficking. Those nations may review vessels they have "reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya." The Council also urged nations to help Libya in its ongoing struggle against human trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea.
Crimean Tartars earlier this month launched an ongoing blockade of food deliveries to Crimea from Ukraine in protest of Russia's annexation of the peninsula. Refat Chubarov, a Crimean Tatar leader who was banned from the peninsula by Russia after its March 2014 take-over, told the New York Times no trucks would be allowed through border crossings after barricades went up on Sept. 20. Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed prime minister of Crimea, said the blockade would have little effect, as only about 5% of the goods consumed in the region come through Ukraine. "The trade blockade of Crimea begun by Ukrainian activists with the support of a number of Kiev politicians will not affect food supplies in the region," he told Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 satellite TV. "Crimea will not notice this."
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sept. 25 announced that the flow of refugees into Europe shows no signs of easing or stopping, as approximately 8,000 refugees a day seek to enter Europe. Amin Awad, the regional refugee coordinator for then UNHCR stated that problems now facing governments may turn out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Awad stated that the UN is planning for the potential displacement of 500,000 people from the Iraqi city of Mosul if Iraqi forces fight to recapture the city from Islamic State. Also that day, the UNHCR reported about the high number of migrants entering Europe along the Serbian-Croatian border. More than 50,000 migrants have entered through the town of Tovarnik, Croatia since mid-September.
Hungary's increasingly fascistic Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in Brussels to pitch the EU on his tough new anti-immigrant policy, issued a warning to Syrian refugees: stay out of his country. In a statement all the more sickening for being veiled in an Orwellian cloak of "morality" and "humanitarian" concern, he told reporters: "The moral, human thing is to make clear 'please don't come! Why you have to go from Turkey to Europe? Turkey is a safe country. Stay there, it's risky to come! We can't guarantee that you will be accepted here.'" And of course by "can't guarantee that you will be accepted," what he really means is "we will not accept you." Orban hopes to push through his new anti-immigrant law by Sept. 15, making it a criminal offense to cross the Hungarian border without proper documentation, or to cause damage to the new "security fence" being built along the 175-kilometer frontier with Serbia. (Euronews)
A German leftist politician who had faced threats for his work in support of refugees and immigrants escaped unhurt after a bomb placed under his car exploded outside his home July 27. The attack, targeting Michael Richter of Die Linke party, came in the the eastern German city of Freital, near Dresden. Richter and the leftist party are known for their work in support of refugees and immigrants. Die Linke parliamentary group released a statement saying: "The perpetrator or perpetrators have to be swiftly identified and punished. The rule of law cannot stand idly by the increasing violence against refugees and against people like Michael Richter, who take a stand for the well-being of refugees." Martin Bialluch, spokesman for Die Linke, told the Kurdish news agency Rudaw: "We have no proof about the perpetrators yet, but Michael Richter was often threatened for his work, by far right or racist groups."
Greece is in turmoil over what can only be seen as the ruling Syriza party's bait-and-switch: the government called a referendum on the EU-mandated austerity plan, voters said "No," and then the administration went ahead and agreed to a similar plan, sparking the worst riots in Athens in years. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis stepped down, and most Syriza MPs have broken with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Amid all this, the Jerusalem Post reports more news that will alienate Tsipras from his leftist base. It seems that on July 6, Tsipras' Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias spoke in Jerusalem of developing what the JP calls an "axis of security" (uncertain if Kotzias himself used that phrase) made up of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. This is an ostensible response to what Kotzias called a "triangle of destabilization" delineated by Ukraine, Libya and Iraq/Syria. "We have to create inside this triangle a security and stability framework, and the relations between Israel, Cyprus and Greece are very important," Kotzias said. "I call it the stabilization line in this area."