TBR News March 15, 2015

Mar 14 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 14, 2015: “Both the Russian, Ukrainian and US people make up all kinds of stories. The Ukrainians are absolutely the worst and the US is second. 

Putin plays a close hand.
          Note the hysterical jabbering in the US when Putin was out of sight for a few days?
          I know where he was and what he was doing but the US intelligence doesn’t have a clue. They will find out soon enough.
          And the precious euro is tanking now at a rapid rate. Once worth $1.40 it has fallen to $.95! 

And is going to fall further, believe me.
          I told a good friend, living in Paris, to dump all his euros about two months ago and he did, nearly a million dollars worth.
          And now my friend is having a fit laughing.
          Here comes the Mark, there goes Poland, down the drain!
          And where ever did Putin vanish to?
          Seek out the brilliant and well-informed Gordon Duff and find out the Real Truth!

And I am very careful about linking to sites I do not know.
          Many of them, though not all, are traps for the unwary.
          For example, a pro-ISIS site is set up to attract potential recruits and an anti-FBI site to attract potential trouble-makers.
          The American government is none too subtle about this but then the general public here is really stupid and gullible.
          If the law enforcement people can’t find real bad people, they try to encourage potentials to involve themselves and then try to get them on tape, via an informer, to agree to some outrageous and illegal plot.
          Then the FBI arrests ten fifteen year-old boys and crows in the friendly New York Times that they have “just broken a major terrorist link planning to blow up” the Statue of Liberty or some New York subway station. 

US military and intelligence computer networks

March 11, 2015


          From the Snowden revelations we learned not only about NSA data collection projects, but also about many software tools that are used to analyze and search those data. These programs run on secure computer networks, isolated from the public internet. Here we will provide an overview of these networks that are used by the US military and US intelligence agencies.

Besides computer networks, they also use a number of dedicated telephone networks, but gradually these are transferred from traditional circuit-switched networks to Voice over IP (VoIP). This makes it possible to have only one IP packet-switched network for both computer and phone services. It seems that for example NSA’s NSTS phone system is now fully IP-based.

US national networks

The main US military and intelligence computer networks are (of course) only accessible for authorized personnel from the United States. Special security measures are in place to prevent interception by foreign intelligence agencies. Most of the tools and programs used by NSA run on JWICS and NSANet, but here we only mention them when this is confirmed by documents.

DNI-U (Director National Intelligence-Unclassified)

– Until 2006: Open Source Information System (OSIS)

– Classification level: Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU, color code: green)

– Access: US intelligence users

– Controlled by: DNI-CIO Intelligence Community Enterprise Services office (ICES)

– Purpose: Providing open source information; consists of a group of secure intranets used by the US Intelligence Community (IC)

– Computer applications: Intelink-U, Intellipedia, etc.

NIPRNet (Non-secure Internet Protocol Router Network)

– Classification level: Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU, color code: green)

– Secured by: Network traffic monitored by the TUTELAGE program and QUANTUM-DNS at gateways

– Address format: http://subdomains.domain.mil

– Access: US military users, via Common Access Card smart card *

– Number of users: ca. 4,000,000

– Purpose: Combat support applications for the US Department of Defense (DoD), Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Military Departments (MILDEPS), Combatant Commands (COCOM), and senior leadership; composed of the unclassified networks of the DoD; provides protected access to the public internet.

– Computer applications: E-mail, file transfer and web services like the Joint Deployable Intelligence Support System (JDISS)

– Video Teleconferencing (VTC)

SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network)

– Classification level: SECRET (color code: red)

– Secured by: TACLANE (KG-175A/D) network encryptors

– Address format: http://subdomains.domain.smil.mil

– Access: US (and some foreign partners)* military and intelligence users, via SIPRNet Token smart card

– Number of users: ca. 500,000 *

– Controlled by: JCS, NSA, DIA and DISA *

– Purpose: Supporting the Global Command and Control System (GCCS), the Defense Message System (DMS), collaborative planning and numerous other classified warfighter applications, and as such DoD’s largest interoperable command and control data network.

– Computer applications: Intelink-S, Intellipedia, TREASUREMAP, Joint Deployable Intelligence Support System (JDISS), Defense Knowledge Online, Army Knowledge Online, etc.

– Phone service: VoSIP (Voice over Secure IP) as an adjunct to the DRSN for users that do not require the full command and control and conferencing capabilities.

– Secure Video Teleconferencing (VTC)

JWICS (Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System)

– Classification level: TOP SECRET/SCI (color code: yellow)

– Secured by: TACLANE (KG-175A/D) network encryptors *

– Address format: http://subdomains.domain.ic.gov

– Access: US intelligence users

– Controlled by: DIA, with management delegated to AFISR

– Purpose: Collaboration and sharing of intelligence data within the US Intelligence Community (IC)

– Computer applications: ICE-mail, Intelink-TS, Intellipedia, GHOSTMACHINE, ROYALNET, TREASUREMAP, ICREACH, Joint Deployable Intelligence Support System (JDISS), etc.

– Phone Service: DoD Intelligence Information System (DoDIIS) VoIP telephone system

– Secure Video Teleconferencing (VTC)

These various military and intelligence networks run on a world-wide physical infrastructure that is called the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN), which is maintained by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and consists of landline, mobile, radio and satellite communication links

Most of these communication links are not connected to the public internet, but because radio and satellite transmissions can easily be intercepted by foreign countries, the security of these networks is assured by encryption. This encryption can also be used to run higher classified traffic over communication links with a lower classification level through Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnels.

Classified communications have to be protected by Suite A Cryptography, which contains very strong and classified encryption algorithms. On most networks this is implemented by using Type 1 certified TACLANE (KG-175A/D) in-line network encryptors made by General Dynamics:

As long there’s the appropriate strong link encryption, only the end points with the computer terminals (where data are processed before they are encrypted) need strict physical and digital security requirements in order to prevent any kind of eavesdropping or interception by foreign adversaries.

Most American military bases are connected to the SIPRNET backbone, but for tactical users in the field, the SIPRNet and JWICS networks can extend to mobile sites through Satellite Communications (SATCOM) links, like for example TROJAN SPIRIT and TROJAN SPIRIT LITE, which consist of a satellite terminal that can be on a pallet, in a shelter, on a trailer or even connected to a transit case.

Other US goverment departments and intelligenc agencies also have their own computer networks at different classification levels:


– LEO (Law Enforcement Online; Unclassified, for law enforcement communications)

– FBINet (Federal Bureau of Investigation Network; Secret)

– SCION (Sensitive Compartmented Information Operational Network; Top Secret/SCI)


– HSIN (Homeland Security Information Network; Unclassified)

– HSDN (Homeland Secure Data Network; Secret)

State Department

– OpenNet (Unclassified)

– ClassNet (Secret; address format: http://subdomain.state.sgov.gov)

– INRISS (INR Intelligence Support System; Top Secret/SCI)


– AIN (Agency InterNet; Unclassified)

– ADN (Agency Data Network?; Top Secret/SCI)


– GWAN (Government Wide Area Network, also known as NRO Management Information System (NMIS); Top Secret)

– CWAN (Contractor Wide Area Network; Top Secret)


– NGANet (National Geospational intelligence Agency Network; Top Secret/SCI)

Finally, there’s the Capitol Network (CapNet, formerly known as Intelink-P), which provides Congressional intelligence consumers with connectivity to Intelink-TS and CIASource, the latter being the CIA’s primary dissemination vehicle for both finished and unfinished intelligence reports.


US multinational networks

Besides the aforementioned networks that are only accessible for authorized military and intelligence personnel from the United States, there are also computer networks set up by the US for multinational coalitions, and which therefore can also be used by officials from partner countries.

The group of countries that have access to such coalition networks is often denoted by a number of “Eyes” corresponding with the number of countries that participate.

NSANet (National Security Agency Network)

– Classification level: TOP SECRET/SCI (color code: yellow)

– Secured by: TACLANE network encryptors *

– Address format: http://subdomain.domain.nsa

– Access: US, UK, CAN, AUS, NZL signals intelligence users

– Controlled by: NSA, with management delegated to CSS Texas

– Purpose: Sharing intelligence data among the 5 Eyes partners

– Computer applications: SIDToday (newsletter), TREASUREMAP, MAILORDER, MARINA, TURBINE, PRESSUREWAVE, INTERQUAKE, World Cellular Information Service (WCIS), GATC Opportunity Volume Analytic, etc.

– Phone service: NSTS (National Secure Telephone System)

Besides NSANet as its general purpose intranet, NSA also operates several other computer networks, for example for hacking operations conducted by the TAO-division. We can see some of these networks in the following diagram, which shows how data go (counter-clockwise) from a bot in a victim’s computer on the internet, through a network codenamed WAITAUTO to TAONet and from there through a TAONet/NSANet DeMilitarized Zone (DMZ) to data repositories and analysing tools on NSANet:


– Until 2010: GRIFFIN (Globally Reaching Interconnected Fully Functional Information Network)

– Classification level: SECRET//REL FVEY

– Access: US, UK, CAN, AUS, NZL military users

– Controlled by: DIA(?)

– Purpose: Information sharing and supporting command and control systems

– Applications: Secure e-mail, chat and VoSIP communications

STONEGHOST (Quad-Link or Q-Lat)

– Classification level: TOP SECRET//SCI

– Access: US, UK, CAN, AUS, NZL(?) military intelligence users

– Controlled by: DIA

– Purpose: Sharing of military intelligence information

– Applications: Intelink-C, etc.

CFBLNet (Combined Federated Battle Laboratories Network)

– Classification level: Unclassified and SECRET

– Access: US, UK, CAN, AUS, NZL, and at least nine European countries Research & Development institutions

– Controlled by: MultiNational Information Sharing (MNIS) Program Management Office

– Purpose: Supporting research, development and testing on command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems.

– Applications: Communications, analytic tools, and other applications

For communications among the members of multinational coalitions, the United States provides computer networks called Combined Enterprise Regional Information eXchange System (CENTRIXS). These are secure wide area network (WAN) architectures which are established according to the specific demands of a particular coalition exercise or operation.

CENTRIXS enables the secure sharing of intelligence and operational information at the level of SECRET REL TO [country/coalition designator] and also provides selected centralized services, like Active Directory/DNS Roots, VoIP, WSUS and Anti-Virus Definitions.

There are more than 40 CENTRIXS networks and communities of interest (COIs) in which the 28 NATO members and some 80 other countries participate. The best-known CENTRIXS networks are:

CENTRIXS Four Eyes (CFE or X-Net)

– Classification level: TOP SECRET//ACGU

– Address format: http://subdomains.domain.xnet.mnf

– Access: US, UK, CAN, AUS military users

– Controlled by: DIA

– Purpose: Operational coordination through sharing and exchange of intelligence products

– Applications: Various services


– Classification level: TOP SECRET//ISAF

– Access: ca. 50 coalition partners

– Controlled by: ?

– Purpose: Sharing critical battlefield information; US component of the Afghan Mission Network (AMN).

– Computer applications: Web services, instant messaging, Common Operational Picture (COP), etc.

– Voice over IP

CENTRIXS-M (Maritime)

– Classification level: TOP SECRET ?

– Purpose: Supporting multinational information exchange among the ships of coalition partners of the US Navy to provide access to critical, time-sensitive planning and support data necessary to carry out the mission

– Computer applications: E-mail, Chat messaging, Webpages, etc.


Some other CENTRIXS networks are:


– For the ca. 80 Troop Contributing Nations of the Global Counter-Terrorism Force (GCTF)


– For the Combined Maritime Forces, Central Command (CMFC)


– For the Combined Maritime Forces, Pacific (CMFP)


– For the United States and Japan


– For the United States and South-Korea

Links and Sources

– US National Intelligence: A Consumer’s Guide (pdf) (2009)

– Paper about How to Use FASTLANEs to Protect IP Networks (pdf) (2006)



Leak investigation stalls amid fears of confirming U.S.-Israel operation

March 10, 2015

by Ellen Nakashima and Adam Goldman

Washington Post

A sensitive leak investigation of a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stalled amid concerns that a prosecution in federal court could force the government to confirm a joint U.S.-Israeli covert operation targeting Iran, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Federal investigators suspect that retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright leaked to a New York Times reporter details about a highly classified operation to hobble Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability through cyber-sabotage — an effort not acknowledged by Israel or the United States.

Prosecutors will have to overcome significant national security and diplomatic concerns if they want to move forward, including pitting the Obama administration against Israel if that ally were opposed to any information about the cyber-operation being revealed in court.

The United States could move forward with the case against Israel’s ­wishes, but such a move might further harm relations between two countries, which are already frayed because of a disagreement over how best to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Administration officials also fear that any revelations could complicate the current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

“There are always legitimate national security reasons for not proceeding in one of these ­cases,” said John L. Martin, who handled many sensitive espionage investigations as a former Justice Department prosecutor.

The case captures the tension between national security concerns and the desire of prosecutors to hold high-ranking officials to account for leaking classified secrets. The Obama administration has been the most aggressive in U.S. history in pursuing those suspected of leaking classified information.

The Justice Department has offered no clues to whether it intends to proceed with a case against Cartwright, who helped design the cyber-campaign against Iran under President George W. Bush and was involved in its escalation under President Obama.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department, the White House and the FBI declined to comment for this article.

Gregory B. Craig, Cartwright’s attorney and a former White House counsel in the Obama administration, said he has had no contact with prosecutors for more than a year.

“General Cartwright has done nothing wrong,” Craig said. “He has devoted his entire life to defending the United States. He would never do anything to weaken our national defense or undermine our national security. Hoss Cartwright is a national treasure, a genuine hero and a great patriot.”

In discussions with the office of the White House counsel, then led by Kathryn Ruemmler, prosecutors sought to determine whether the White House would be willing to declassify material important to the case. Ruemmler was unwilling to provide the documentation, citing security concerns, including those relating to sources­ and methods, said a person familiar with the matter.

Ruemmler, who left the post in June, declined to comment.

“There’s a fundamental tension in cases­­ like this between the needs of a criminal prosecution and the needs of national security,” said Jason Weinstein, a former deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, who was not briefed on the investigation. “Where that comes to a head is when prosecutors want to use evidence in a courtroom that is highly classified and very sensitive.”

It is often the case that the needs of a particular criminal prosecution yield to national security interests. “At the end of the day,” Weinstein said, “if you can’t use the evidence you need in court, you can’t bring the case.”

Details of the joint program, including its code name, Olympic Games, were revealed by Times reporter David E. Sanger in a book and article in June 2012. The sabotage of Iranian nuclear centrifuges by the computer worm dubbed Stuxnet had emerged two years earlier, and security experts speculated that it was the work of the United States and Israel.

Confirmation of the joint authorship set off a political controversy, with congressional Republicans charging that the White House had deliberately leaked information to enhance Obama’s national security credentials as he sought reelection.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. assigned Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, to investigate the leak. His office declined to comment.

FBI investigators focused on Cartwright in the fall of 2012, officials said. They interviewed him at least twice, according to people who are familiar with the case and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. During the first interview, Cartwright had to go to the hospital.

Part of the challenge of preparing a case like this is determining to what extent authorities who control the declassification of information, in this case the White House and the intelligence community, are willing to divulge information.

In the case of a CIA officer who was recently convicted of espionage, the government disclosed sensitive details during the leak trial about a separate operation to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program that occurred more than a decade ago. The CIA even allowed a Russian scientist who had defected and taken part in the highly classified operation to testify.

“The government’s got to make a choice: Is it more important to prosecute a national security leak or more important to preserve relationships with allies and shield sources­ and methods that protect the country?” said one individual familiar with the matter.

The case also poses opportunities for “graymail” — a situation in which defense attorneys exercise leverage that lawyers in ordinary criminal cases­ lack by forcing prosecutors to make tough judgment calls about divulging sensitive or classified information.

Craig might, for instance, push for broad discovery of information aimed at demonstrating that other officials could have been sources­ of the leak. Experts say he also could press to establish the factual basis for the information leaked, which could expose sensitive material.

Cartwright, who retired in 2011, had White House authorization to speak with reporters, according to people familiar with the matter. Craig might try to put the White House’s relationship with reporters and the use of authorized leaks on display, creating a potentially embarrassing distraction for the administration.

The case could remain open beyond the point at which national security and foreign policy concerns are an issue. Under the Espionage Act, one of the statutes that the government probably would use, prosecutors have 10 years from the date of the alleged crime to file charges.

Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.


Greece threatens to seize German property, Berlin refuses to pay WWII reparations

March 14, 2015


Germany says it won’t pay Greece World War 2 reparations after Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said Berlin is using legal tricks to avoid paying compensation. Germany says it’s honored its obligations, while Greece says it may start seizing German property.

Germany once again dismissed Greek demands to pay reparations for the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Greece.

“It is our firm belief that questions of reparations and compensation have been legally and politically resolved,” said Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully, what will be a good future,” Reuters reported him as saying.

A spokesman for the finance ministry said there was no point in holding talks with the Greek government concerning the issue of reparations. The spokesman also added that the demands from Athens were just trying to distract attention away from the serious financial problems the country is facing.

With Germany refusing to budge from its position concerning the payment of war reparations, Greece’s Justice Minister said Wednesday that Athens could start seizing German assets.

Nikos Paraskevopoulos said he was “ready to approve” a Greek Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that would allow the appropriation of assets belonging to Germany’s archaeological school and the Goethe Institute. Proceeds from the property would be used to compensate the relatives of 218 civilians who were massacred by Nazi troops in a village in central Greece in June 1944.

“The law states that the minister must give the order for the Supreme Court ruling to be carried out…. I am ready to give that order,” Paraskevopoulos told Antenna TV, AFP reported.

Wednesday, Berlin rejected the renewed demands.

“It is our firm belief that questions of reparations and compensation have been legally and politically resolved,” said Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A spokesman for the finance ministry also said there was no reason to hold talks with Athens about reparations and called the demands a distraction from actual financial issues facing Greece.

The issue of war reparations dating from the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Greece is likely to increase already heightened tensions between Athens and Berlin. The two countries are already squabbling over Greek demands to renegotiate the terms of a €240 billion ($260 billion) bailout. However, with Germany showing few signs of leniency, the new left-wing Syriza government has decided to raise the issue of war reparations again with Berlin.

The issue of war reparations dating from the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Greece is likely to increase already heightened tensions between Athens and Berlin. The two countries are already squabbling over Greek demands to renegotiate the terms of a €240 billion ($260 billion) bailout. However, with Germany showing few signs of leniency, the new left-wing Syriza government has decided to raise the issue of war reparations again with Berlin.

Reichsmarks, now worth roughly $12 billion. The loan was never repaid, while Greece is also seeking further reparations from Germany due to the destruction wrought upon the nation during the Nazi occupation.

“Germany has never properly paid reparations for the damage done to Greece by the Nazi occupation,” Prime Minister Tsipras told the Greek parliament Tuesday. “The crimes carried out by the Nazis are still vivid, and we have a moral obligation to remember what the forces did to the country.”

Greece has been trying to get Germany to pay war damages for decades, but Athens has never quantified its reparation claims. The movement to get Berlin to pay up has become stronger over the last few years as Athens experiences financial hardships following austerity measures, which were a prerequisite of being given the bailout money, to stop the country from falling into financial ruin.

Tsipras says he will get a parliamentary commission to look into the matter, saying: “After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the legal and political conditions were created for this issue to be solved. But since then, German governments chose silence, legal tricks and delay.”

“And I wonder, because there is a lot of talk at the European level these days about moral issues: is this stance moral?” he said.

Berlin has flatly denied it owes Athens any more money, saying it has already settled its debts following German reunification in 1990. The “Two Plus Four” treaty, which involved East and West Germany, as well as the four occupying nations following the Second World War, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, saw them renounce all rights they formerly held in Germany. The document was also approved by Greece, which would effectively draw a line under any future possible claims for war reparations.

Germany says it paid Greece war damages of $25 million in the 1950s, equivalent to $220 million today, and also paid out 115 million Deutschmarks (a sum worth around $230 million today), to victims of Nazi crimes in the early 1960s.

Athens has said it always considered that money as only an initial payment and expected the rest of the money to be paid back following German reunification.



Big Oil’s Broken Business Model: The Real Story Behind the Oil Price Collapse

by Michael T. Klare


          Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output at current levels (presumably to punish higher-cost producers in the U.S. and elsewhere); and the increased value of the dollar relative to other currencies. There is, however, one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s production-maximizing business model.

Until last fall, when the price decline gathered momentum, the oil giants were operating at full throttle, pumping out more petroleum every day.  They did so, of course, in part to profit from the high prices.  For most of the previous six years, Brent crude, the international benchmark for crude oil, had been selling at $100 or higher.  But Big Oil was also operating according to a business model that assumed an ever-increasing demand for its products, however costly they might be to produce and refine.  This meant that no fossil fuel reserves, no potential source of supply — no matter how remote or hard to reach, how far offshore or deeply buried, how encased in rock — was deemed untouchable in the mad scramble to increase output and profits.

In recent years, this output-maximizing strategy had, in turn, generated historic wealth for the giant oil companies.  Exxon, the largest U.S.-based oil firm, earned an eye-popping $32.6 billion in 2013 alone, more than any other American company except for Apple.  Chevron, the second biggest oil firm, posted earnings of $21.4 billion that same year.  State-owned companies like Saudi Aramco and Russia’s Rosneft also reaped mammoth profits.

How things have changed in a matter of mere months.  With demand stagnant and excess production the story of the moment, the very strategy that had generated record-breaking profits has suddenly become hopelessly dysfunctional.

To fully appreciate the nature of the energy industry’s predicament, it’s necessary to go back a decade to 2005, when the production-maximizing strategy was first adopted.  At that time, Big Oil faced a critical juncture.  On the one hand, many existing oil fields were being depleted at a torrid pace, leading experts to predict an imminent “peak” in global oil production, followed by an irreversible decline; on the other, rapid economic growth in China, India, and other developing nations was pushing demand for fossil fuels into the stratosphere.  In those same years, concern over climate change was also beginning to gather momentum, threatening the future of Big Oil and generating pressures to invest in alternative forms of energy.

A “Brave New World” of Tough Oil

No one better captured that moment than David O’Reilly, the chairman and CEO of Chevron.  “Our industry is at a strategic inflection point, a unique place in our history,” he told a gathering of oil executives that February.  “The most visible element of this new equation,” he explained in what some observers dubbed his “Brave New World” address, “is that relative to demand, oil is no longer in plentiful supply.”  Even though China was sucking up oil, coal, and natural gas supplies at a staggering rate, he had a message for that country and the world: “The era of easy access to energy is over.”

To prosper in such an environment, O’Reilly explained, the oil industry would have to adopt a new strategy.  It would have to look beyond the easy-to-reach sources that had powered it in the past and make massive investments in the extraction of what the industry calls “unconventional oil” and what I labeled at the time “tough oil”: resources located far offshore, in the threatening environments of the far north, in politically dangerous places like Iraq, or in unyielding rock formations like shale.  “Increasingly,” O’Reilly insisted, “future supplies will have to be found in ultradeep water and other remote areas, development projects that will ultimately require new technology and trillions of dollars of investment in new infrastructure.”

For top industry officials like O’Reilly, it seemed evident that Big Oil had no choice in the matter.  It would have to invest those needed trillions in tough-oil projects or lose ground to other sources of energy, drying up its stream of profits.  True, the cost of extracting unconventional oil would be much greater than from easier-to-reach conventional reserves (not to mention more environmentally hazardous), but that would be the world’s problem, not theirs.  “Collectively, we are stepping up to this challenge,” O’Reilly declared.  “The industry is making significant investments to build additional capacity for future production.”

On this basis, Chevron, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, and other major firms indeed invested enormous amounts of money and resources in a growing unconventional oil and gas race, an extraordinary saga I described in my book The Race for What’s Left.  Some, including Chevron and Shell, started drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico; others, including Exxon, commenced operations in the Arctic and eastern Siberia.  Virtually every one of them began exploiting U.S. shale reserves via hydro-fracking.

Only one top executive questioned this drill-baby-drill approach: John Browne, then the chief executive of BP.  Claiming that the science of climate change had become too convincing to deny, Browne argued that Big Energy would have to look “beyond petroleum” and put major resources into alternative sources of supply.  “Climate change is an issue which raises fundamental questions about the relationship between companies and society as a whole, and between one generation and the next,” he had declared as early as 2002.  For BP, he indicated, that meant developing wind power, solar power, and biofuels.

Browne, however, was eased out of BP in 2007 just as Big Oil’s output-maximizing business model was taking off, and his successor, Tony Hayward, quickly abandoned the “beyond petroleum” approach.  “Some may question whether so much of the [world’s energy] growth needs to come from fossil fuels,” he said in 2009.  “But here it is vital that we face up to the harsh reality [of energy availability].”  Despite the growing emphasis on renewables, “we still foresee 80% of energy coming from fossil fuels in 2030.”

Under Hayward’s leadership, BP largely discontinued its research into alternative forms of energy and reaffirmed its commitment to the production of oil and gas, the tougher the better.  Following in the footsteps of other giant firms, BP hustled into the Arctic, the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, and Canadian tar sands, a particularly carbon-dirty and messy-to-produce form of energy.  In its drive to become the leading producer in the Gulf, BP rushed the exploration of a deep offshore field it called Macondo, triggering the Deepwater Horizon blow-out of April 2010 and the devastating oil spill of monumental proportions that followed.

Over the Cliff

By the end of the first decade of this century, Big Oil was united in its embrace of its new production-maximizing, drill-baby-drill approach.  It made the necessary investments, perfected new technology for extracting tough oil, and did indeed triumph over the decline of existing, “easy oil” deposits.  In those years, it managed to ramp up production in remarkable ways, bringing ever more hard-to-reach oil reservoirs online.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, world oil production rose from 85.1 million barrels per day in 2005 to 92.9 million in 2014, despite the continuing decline of many legacy fields in North America and the Middle East.  Claiming that industry investments in new drilling technologies had vanquished the specter of oil scarcity, BP’s latest CEO, Bob Dudley, assured the world only a year ago that Big Oil was going places and the only thing that had “peaked” was “the theory of peak oil.”

That, of course, was just before oil prices took their leap off the cliff, bringing instantly into question the wisdom of continuing to pump out record levels of petroleum.  The production-maximizing strategy crafted by O’Reilly and his fellow CEOs rested on three fundamental assumptions: that, year after year, demand would keep climbing; that such rising demand would ensure prices high enough to justify costly investments in unconventional oil; and that concern over climate change would in no significant way alter the equation.  Today, none of these assumptions holds true.

Demand will continue to rise — that’s undeniable, given expected growth in world income and population — but not at the pace to which Big Oil has become accustomed.  Consider this: in 2005, when many of the major investments in unconventional oil were getting under way, the EIA projected that global oil demand would reach 103.2 million barrels per day in 2015; now, it’s lowered that figure for this year to only 93.1 million barrels.  Those 10 million “lost” barrels per day in expected consumption may not seem like a lot, given the total figure, but keep in mind that Big Oil’s multibillion-dollar investments in tough energy were predicated on all that added demand materializing, thereby generating the kind of high prices needed to offset the increasing costs of extraction.  With so much anticipated demand vanishing, however, prices were bound to collapse.

Current indications suggest that consumption will continue to fall short of expectations in the years to come.  In an assessment of future trends released last month, the EIA reported that, thanks to deteriorating global economic conditions, many countries will experience either a slower rate of growth or an actual reduction in consumption.  While still inching up, Chinese consumption, for instance, is expected to grow by only 0.3 million barrels per day this year and next — a far cry from the 0.5 million barrel increase it posted in 2011 and 2012 and its one million barrel increase in 2010.  In Europe and Japan, meanwhile, consumption is actually expected to fall over the next two years.

And this slowdown in demand is likely to persist well beyond 2016, suggests the International Energy Agency (IEA), an arm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the club of rich industrialized nations).  While lower gasoline prices may spur increased consumption in the United States and a few other nations, it predicted, most countries will experience no such lift and so “the recent price decline is expected to have only a marginal impact on global demand growth for the remainder of the decade.”

This being the case, the IEA believes that oil prices will only average about $55 per barrel in 2015 and not reach $73 again until 2020.  Such figures fall far below what would be needed to justify continued investment in and exploitation of tough-oil options like Canadian tar sands, Arctic oil, and many shale projects.  Indeed, the financial press is now full of reports on stalled or cancelled mega-energy projects.  Shell, for example, announced in January that it had abandoned plans for a $6.5 billion petrochemical plant in Qatar, citing “the current economic climate prevailing in the energy industry.”  At the same time, Chevron shelved its plan to drill in the Arctic waters of the Beaufort Sea, while Norway’s Statoil turned its back on drilling in Greenland.

There is, as well, another factor that threatens the wellbeing of Big Oil: climate change can no longer be discounted in any future energy business model.  The pressures to deal with a phenomenon that could quite literally destroy human civilization are growing.  Although Big Oil has spent massive amounts of money over the years in a campaign to raise doubts about the science of climate change, more and more people globally are starting to worry about its effects — extreme weather patterns, extreme storms, extreme drought, rising sea levels, and the like — and demanding that governments take action to reduce the magnitude of the threat.

Europe has already adopted plans to lower carbon emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 and to achieve even greater reductions in the following decades.  China, while still increasing its reliance on fossil fuels, has at least finally pledged to cap the growth of its carbon emissions by 2030 and to increase renewable energy sources to 20% of total energy use by then.  In the United States, increasingly stringent automobile fuel-efficiency standards will require that cars sold in 2025 achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon, reducing U.S. oil demand by 2.2 million barrels per day.  (Of course, the Republican-controlled Congress — heavily subsidized by Big Oil — will do everything it can to eradicate curbs on fossil fuel consumption.)

Still, however inadequate the response to the dangers of climate change thus far, the issue is on the energy map and its influence on policy globally can only increase.  Whether Big Oil is ready to admit it or not, alternative energy is now on the planetary agenda and there’s no turning back from that.  “It is a different world than it was the last time we saw an oil-price plunge,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven in February, referring to the 2008 economic meltdown.  “Emerging economies, notably China, have entered less oil-intensive stages of development… On top of this, concerns about climate change are influencing energy policies [and so] renewables are increasingly pervasive.”

The oil industry is, of course, hoping that the current price plunge will soon reverse itself and that its now-crumbling maximizing-output model will make a comeback along with $100-per-barrel price levels.  But these hopes for the return of “normality” are likely energy pipe dreams.  As van der Hoeven suggests, the world has changed in significant ways, in the process obliterating the very foundations on which Big Oil’s production-maximizing strategy rested.  The oil giants will either have to adapt to new circumstances, while scaling back their operations, or face takeover challenges from more nimble and aggressive firms.


Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.


At last, a balanced assessment of the Ukrainian conflict – the problems go far beyond Vladimir Putin

February 19, 2015

by Jonathan Steele

The Guardian

When Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, told a German TV station recently that the Soviet Union invaded Germany, was this just blind ignorance? Or a kind of perverted wishful thinking? If the USSR really was the aggressor in 1941, it would suit Yatsenyuk’s narrative of current geopolitics in which Russia is once again the only side that merits blame.

When Grzegorz Schetyna, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, said Ukrainians liberated Auschwitz, did he not know that the Red Army was a multinational force in which Ukrainians certainly played a role but the bulk of the troops were Russian? Or was he looking for a new way to provoke the Kremlin?

Faced with these irresponsible distortions, and they are replicated in a hundred other prejudiced comments about Russian behaviour from western politicians as well as their eastern European colleagues, it is a relief to find a book on the Ukrainian conflict that is cool, balanced, and well sourced. Richard Sakwa makes repeated criticisms of Russian tactics and strategy, but he avoids lazy Putin-bashing and locates the origins of the Ukrainian conflict in a quarter-century of mistakes since the cold war ended. In his view, three long-simmering crises have boiled over to produce the violence that is engulfing eastern Ukraine. The first is the tension between two different models of Ukrainian statehood. One is what he calls the “monist” view, which asserts that the country is an autochthonous cultural and political unity and that the challenge of independence since 1991 has been to strengthen the Ukrainian language, repudiate the tsarist and Soviet imperial legacies, reduce the political weight of Russian-speakers and move the country away from Russia towards “Europe”. The alternative “pluralist” view emphasises the different historical and cultural experiences of Ukraine’s various regions and argues that building a modern democratic post-Soviet Ukrainian state is not just a matter of good governance and rule of law at the centre. It also requires an acceptance of bilingualism, mutual tolerance of different traditions, and devolution of power to the regions.

More than any other change of government in Kiev since 1991, the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych last year brought the triumph of the monist view, held most strongly in western Ukraine, whose leaders were determined this time to ensure the winner takes all.

The second crisis arises from the internationalisation of the struggle inside Ukraine which turned it into a geopolitical tug of war. Sakwa argues that this stems from the asymmetrical end of the cold war which shut Russia out of the European alliance system. While Mikhail Gorbachev and millions of other Russians saw the end of the cold war as a shared victory which might lead to the building of a “common European home”, most western leaders saw Russia as a defeated nation whose interests could be brushed aside, and which must accept US hegemony in the new single-superpower world order or face isolation. Instead of dismantling Nato, the cold-war alliance was strengthened and expanded in spite of repeated warnings from western experts on Russia that this would create new tensions. Long before Putin came to power, Yeltsin had urged the west not to move Nato eastwards.

Even today at this late stage, a declaration of Ukrainian non-alignment as part of an internationally negotiated settlement, and UN Security Council guarantees of that status, would bring instant de-escalation and make a lasting ceasefire possible in eastern Ukraine.

The hawks in the Clinton administration ignored all this, Bush abandoned the anti-ballistic missile treaty and put rockets close to Russia’s borders, and now a decade later, after Russia’s angry reaction to provocations in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine today, we have what Sakwa rightly calls a “fateful geographical paradox: that Nato exists to manage the risks created by its existence”.

The third crisis, also linked to the Nato issue, is the European Union’s failure to stay true to the conflict resolution imperative that had been its original impetus. After 1989 there was much talk of the arrival of the “hour of Europe”. Just as the need for Franco-German reconciliation inspired the EU’s foundation, many hoped the cold war’s end would lead to a broader east-west reconciliation across the old Iron Curtain. But the prospect of greater European independence worried key decision-makers in Washington, and Nato’s role has been, in part, to maintain US primacy over Europe’s foreign policy. From Bosnia in 1992 to Ukraine today, the last two decades have seen repeated occasions where US officials pleaded, half-sincerely, for a greater European role in handling geopolitical crises in Europe while simultaneously denigrating and sidelining Europe’s efforts. Last year’s “Fuck the EU” comment by Victoria Nuland, Obama’s neocon assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, was the pithiest expression of this.

Sakwa writes with barely suppressed anger of Europe’s failure, arguing that instead of a vision embracing the whole continent, the EU has become little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic alliance.

Within the framework of these three crises, Sakwa gives the best analysis yet in book form of events on the ground in eastern Ukraine as well as in Kiev, Washington, Brussels and Moscow. He covers the disputes between the “resolvers” (who want a negotiated solution) and the “war party” in each capital.

He describes the rows over sanctions that have split European leaders, and points out how Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, is under constant pressure from Nuland’s favourite Ukrainian, the more militant Yatsenyuk, to rely on military force.

As for Putin, Sakwa sees him not so much as the driver of the crisis but as a regulator of factional interests and a temporiser who has to balance pressure from more rightwing Russian nationalists as well as from the insurgents in Ukraine, who get weapons and help from Russia but are not the Kremlin’s puppets.

Frontline Ukraine highlights several points that have become almost taboo in western accounts: the civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine caused by Ukrainian army shelling, the physical assaults on leftwing candidates in last year’s election and the failure to complete investigations of last February’s sniper activity in Kiev (much of it thought to have been by anti-Yanukovych fighters) or of the Odessa massacre in which dozens of anti-Kiev protesters were burnt alive in a building set on fire by nationalists or clubbed to death when they jumped from windows.

The most disturbing novelty of the Ukrainian crisis is the way Putin and other Russian leaders are routinely demonised. At the height of the cold war when the dispute between Moscow and the west was far more dangerous, backed as it was by the danger of nuclear catastrophe, Brezhnev and Andropov were never treated to such public insults by western commentators and politicians.

Equally alarming, though not new, is the one-sided nature of western political, media and thinktank coverage. The spectre of senator Joseph McCarthy stalks the stage, marginalising those who offer a balanced analysis of why we have got to where we are and what compromises could save us. I hope Sakwa’s book does not itself become a victim, condemned as insufficiently anti-Russian to be reviewed.


• Jonathan Steele is a former Guardian Moscow correspondent, and author of Eternal Russia: Yeltsin, Gorbachev and the Mirage of Democracy. To order Frontline Ukraine for £15.19 (RRP £18.99), go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846.


Progress Is Slow at V.A. Hospitals in Wake of Crisis

March 13, 1015

by Michael D. Shear and Dave Phillips

New York Times

PHOENIX — The nation’s largest hospital system has made only halting progress in hiring new doctors, replacing incompetent supervisors, upgrading outdated computers and rebuilding trust with veterans, nine months after President Obama concluded that a “corrosive culture” had led to systemic problems at hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Now, patients, veterans groups and doctors say delays in receiving care are still common, and they accuse department officials of failing to provide opportunities to see private doctors. Critics, including Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, say far too few senior managers have been held accountable for mismanagement at the hospital in Phoenix and at others around the country.

          Mr. Obama on Friday made his first visit to the department’s hospital in Phoenix since reports surfaced that officials there oversaw sham patient waiting lists used to hide long delays in appointments. Several veterans died waiting for care there. Those delays set off a political crisis last summer that led to the ouster of the department’s chief and raised questions about the government’s ability to manage the sprawling bureaucracy.

          The president spoke about the need to “restore trust and confidence in the V.A. system. “Very little has changed,” Dr. Sam Foote, an internist who was one of the first whistle-blowers to reveal problems with wait times at the Phoenix hospital, said in an interview on Thursday.

The continued problems at the hospitals underscore the grim reality that overhauling a federal department with almost 300,000 employees scattered across the country is a difficult and tedious process. That truth will almost certainly ensure that Mr. Obama fails to make good on his 2008 campaign promise to fix the “broken bureaucracy of the V.A.” before he leaves office.

But administration officials insist that the situation is getting better, if slowly.

In a highly stage-managed appearance at the Phoenix hospital on Friday, Mr. Obama acknowledged the need for more improvement. But he urged lawmakers and other critics of the system not to let the department’s recent problems keep people from recognizing the good work at the hospitals, including significant progress being made by Robert A. McDonald, the department’s new secretary.

          “The fact is that there have been a few bad apples, mistakes that have been made, systems that aren’t designed to get the job done,” he said. “I don’t want that to detract from the outstanding work from a lot of people inside this organization.”

Mr. Obama held a private discussion with the hospital’s managers, elected officials and staff as well as closed visits with some patients. He said that he expected the pace of progress to steadily increase and vowed to hold Mr. McDonald accountable for delivering high-quality care to returning members of the nation’s military and their families.

“We’ve brought in a new team that has been tackling these issues to make sure that wait times for scheduling, access to providers is greatly improved,” the president said in remarks after the closed-door meeting. “But what we know is there is still more work to do.”

Continue reading the main story Mr. Obama said that the incidents of “cooking the books” at the Phoenix medical center and at other facilities had eroded trust among veterans in the hospital system and in the government. But he praised the efforts of the many tens of thousands of department employees working to make the system better.

“Trust is one of those things that you lose real quick and then it takes some time to build,” Mr. Obama said. “The good news is that there are outstanding folks here at this V.A. and all the V.A.s across the country who are deserving of trust.”

Mr. Obama also announced the creation of a new advisory committee made up of representatives from nonprofit organizations, veterans groups and government officials to make recommendations about improving the veterans department.

Republicans who attended the session with the president, including Mr. Obama’s one-time presidential rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, are dismissive of the president’s claims. They say that reforms in the enormous veterans health care system have been sluggish, and that many of the leaders who presided over the scandal are still in place.

In a statement after the session, Mr. McCain said that the meetings “served more as a photo-op for the president than it did a meaningful discussion of the challenges our veterans continue to face in getting the timely health care they have earned and deserve.”

After Mr. Obama fired Eric K. Shinseki, his first secretary of veterans affairs, he selected Mr. McDonald, the former president and chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to turn around the troubled department.

The new secretary vowed to act “aggressively” in holding people accountable, but since taking control he has fired fewer employees than his predecessor did in the year before he resigned. Mr. McDonald was forced to backtrack in February after claiming on “Meet the Press” that 60 employees had been fired for manipulating wait times. A spokesman later said it was fewer than 20.

The director of the Phoenix hospital, Sharon Helman, was fired in December for accepting improper gifts, not for her role in the scandal. Lance Robinson, the associate director, and Brad Curry, the health administration services director, have been on paid leave for nearly a year, and have been issued “notices of proposed removal,” according to a department spokesman. Another spokeswoman said the investigation of them was continuing.

Dr. Darren Deering, the hospital chief of staff, who told a Senate committee in September that there were no manipulated wait times, remains in his job. Officials said that 1,100 employees across the department were terminated in 2014, but that those terminations were not directly related to actions taken as a result of the scandal.

“Not a single V.A. senior executive has been fired for wait-time manipulation,” Representative Jeff Miller, Republican of Florida and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement this week ahead of the president’s visit to Phoenix. “What’s more, efforts to hold employees accountable in Phoenix have been repeatedly botched.”

Revelations about widespread problems at the hospitals started in Phoenix with the reports that 40 veterans had died while they were stuck on waiting lists to see doctors. The department’s inspector general later said that at least 1,700 veterans in Phoenix were “at risk of being forgotten or lost” in the hospital’s convoluted scheduling process.

All the while, the report said, the hospital falsely reported waiting times that suggested delays were minimal.

Other inquiries documented problems far beyond Phoenix. Rob Nabors, a former deputy chief of staff for Mr. Obama who was sent to work with the department, wrote last summer that a “corrosive culture has led to personnel problems across the department that are seriously impacting morale and, by extension, the timelines of health care.”

Administration officials said this week that the overhaul Mr. Obama ordered last summer had begun to show results.

The addition of night and weekend appointments at the system’s hospitals have allowed doctors to schedule an additional 880,000 patient visits, and total visits for the last seven months of 2014 are up by 1.8 million appointments over the same period a year earlier, officials said.

The hospital system has added 800 new physicians and 1,800 new nurses and 1,300 medical support technicians, helping to reduce delays. But officials said they continued to have trouble recruiting people to work in the troubled health system, especially in rural or out-of-the-way posts. And whistle-blowers who met with Mr. McDonald this week say staffing shortfalls remain a serious concern.

Dr. Foote, the internist, said in an interview on Thursday that in some cases the hospital was hiding delays by persuading veterans to take appointments months in the future, then entering the dates as the veterans’ preference so the appointments did not count in calculations of wait times.

           Officials said Mr. McDonald had sought to confront the dysfunctional culture of the department by urging communication among top officials — he has given out his personal cellphone number — and by visiting hospitals personally. Mr. McDonald has been to 80 facilities in less than a year, officials said.


CIA Director Describes How the U.S. Outsources Terror Interrogations

March 12, 2015

by Cora Currier

The Intercept

In rare remarks about a sensitive issue, the director of the CIA confirmed today that the U.S. government works with foreign intelligence agencies to capture and jointly interrogate suspected terrorists.

“There are places throughout the world where CIA has worked with other intelligence services and has been able to bring people into custody and engage in the debriefings of these individuals…through our liaison partners, and sometimes there are joint debriefings that take place as well,” said John Brennan, the CIA director, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Brennan’s remarks confirm what journalists have long reported: that the Obama administration sometimes helps other countries do the dirty work of snatching and interrogating terror suspects–keeping the U.S. at arm’s length from operations that are ethically and legally dubious.

During a question-and-answer session, it was Fox News’ Megyn Kelley who questioned Brennan about “capturing terrorists.”

“Are we still doing that?” she asked. “And where are we keeping them and how are we interrogating them?”

Brennan responded that the U.S. is able to work with “partners” to “identify individuals and to have them captured… although there are not a lot of public pieces on Fox News about somebody that might be picked up in different parts of the world.”

In one of his first moves after taking office in 2009, President Obama famously shut down the CIA’s Black Site program, which was begun under President George W. Bush. After 9/11, more than 100 alleged terrorists were captured and sent to secret CIA-run detention centers where they were tortured and interrogated by agency operatives.

Although the Black Sites have been shut down and no new prisoners sent to Guantanamo Bay, detentions of terrorists—and attacks against them–remain a murky issue. The administration has brought several alleged terrorists to face trial in the United States, and it has killed thousands more in drone strikes, along with hundreds of civilians. Obama has also maintained the authority (as President Bill Clinton did in the 1990s) to render people to third countries, where laws are looser.

The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill and others have detailed cases during the Obama administration in which terror suspects were held in foreign custody at the behest of the U.S. In 2011, Scahill reported for The Nation on a secret prison in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Though officially run by the Somali government, Scahill wrote, “US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners” at the facility.

Brennan’s comments today are a rare confirmation that the CIA remains actively involved in the arrest and interrogation of terrorist suspects overseas. He also discussed a restructuring of the CIA that was announced this week, which will blur the traditional distinction between intelligence analysts and on-the-ground operatives. The overhaul brings them together along the model of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, which has spearheaded the agency’s hunting and killing of terror suspects since 9/11. Brennan said  it had become common in the “war zone” to have “analysts and operators who are working cheek to jowl,” and that the agency needed “to migrate those efforts to other areas.”

While there have been periodic reports that the Obama administration wants to shift the primary responsibility for drone strikes from the CIA to the military, where there would ostensibly be more transparency, Brennan said the CIA will still maintain “paramilitary skills and capabilities.”

In his wide-ranging remarks, Brennan also discussed cyber threats, saying government networks are under “constant assault” and “private companies are spending enormous sums of money to defend against hacking attempts, denial of service attacks, and other efforts to disrupt their networks.” He was silent, naturally, on the CIA’s own attempts to get inside private tech companies’ operations, like its multi-year effort to crack the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, revealed by The Intercept this week.


‘They want to topple me’: Netanyahu accuses Scandinavia of meddling in Israeli elections

March 14, 2015


           Benjamin Netanyahu has accused ‘Western governments, and mostly Scandinavian’ of trying to remove him from power by spending millions of dollars on meddling with Israeli upcoming elections where Israel’s prime minister is facing a tough challenge.

“Scandinavian governments have spent millions of dollars on a campaign to remove me from power,” he said in an interview on the Kol Israel radio station.

“Western governments, but mostly Scandinavian…They know perfectly well why they prefer Buji and Livni [his opponents in the elections] to me,” Israeli PM added, as cited by The Local.

Netanyahu’s own Likud Party is facing a tough run against competitors in the elections that take place March 17, where the vote will decide the next prime minister.

The Israeli PM repeated his accusations, addressing “Scandinavian governments” in an interview with Rega Radio station.

“Foreign governments, specifically Scandinavians, are part of a worldwide campaign to topple me,” he said, according to translation posted on Twitter by Israeli blogger and journalist Tal Schneider.

Netanyahu’s ‘they-want-to-topple-me’ comments were far from being welcomed among social media users in Israel.

 The relations between Israel and ‘Scandinavia’ have recently been challenged. In October Sweden became the first EU country to recognize Palestine as a state.

“We are not picking sides. We’re choosing the side of the peace process… There is a territory, there is a population and there is a government”, said the country’s new Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Following Sweden’s decision Israel ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman was recalled to Tel Aviv.

“The Swedish foreign minister would not have received any official meetings in Israel if she’d travelled here…It is no secret that Israel sees Sweden’s recognition of the state of Palestine as an extremely unfriendly act,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon said.

Netanyahu says “Scandinavia” is trying to topple him. Yes – you heard me – Scandinavia

This is not the first statement by Israeli PM on the conspiracy to topple him. Earlier in march he said he believes there is a “huge, worldwide effort” to make sure he does not get reelected in the upcoming elections.

“It is a very tight race,” Netanyahu said in the interview to Army Radio. “Nothing is guaranteed because there is a huge, worldwide effort to topple the Likud government.”

The latest poll for the Jerusalem Post found that the center-left Zionist Union would beat Likud by 24 Knesset seats to 22, although Netanyahu is seen as having a better chance of forming a governing coalition.


US Lawmakers: Russia’s Military Build-up in the Arctic ‘Disturbing’

March 12, 2015

by Kris Osborn



Several U.S. lawmakers are warning U.S. military leaders about the pace and scope of Russia’s Arctic militarization, including the addition new brigades, ships and airfields to the fast-changing region.

Russian initiatives are making it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to successfully compete in the area as new sea lanes emerge, they say. 

“When you look at what the Russians are doing in the Arctic, it is actually quite impressive –impressive, but disturbing,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Ala., told military leaders at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee Navy budget hearing.

“The Russians are looking at adding four new combat brigades in the Arctic as our U.S. Army is thinking at pulling them out of there,” he said. “I think that would give Vladimir Putin a lot of joy. They are building 13 new airfields and conducting long-range air patrols off the coast of Alaska.”

Sullivan said the U.S. military is ill-advised to consider removing one or two Army Brigade Combat teams from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright in Alaska.

“That we would even contemplate taking one soldier away from Alaska is lunacy given Putin’s recent actions in the Arctic,” he said. “Alaska’s Army BCTs are the best cold-weather and mountain-hardened BCTs in the country.  The training makes them uniquely valuable to the U.S. Army and their presence in Alaska hopefully ensures that other nations never make us use them.”

Experts say the pace of melting ice and rising water temperatures is expected to open more waterways in the region and possibly new sea-routes for commercial shipping, transport, strategic military presence and adventure tourism. The developments carry geopolitical and national-security risks, as well.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said the U.S. needs to intensify its preparations for Arctic activity.

“We need to look at it deliberately and understand it,” he said. “We need to get industry up there and study the place and find out when it is going to melt. What are the sea lines that will open? Are there territorial disputes? Are there threats? Russia is increasing their military presence which sort of makes sense. Also, how do we survive up there with our ships our aircraft and our people?”

The Navy is researching technologies that will better enable sailors, ships, sensors and weapons to operate in such a harsh environment.

“We have to look at the hardening of our hulls,” he said. “It is not just surface ships. It is the aircraft and the undersea domain. I’ve directed the increase in our activity up there.”

The Office of Naval Research has deployed drones underneath the ice to assess the temperature and salt content of the water so as to better predict the pace of melting ice and the opening up of sea routes.

Greenert also said the Navy is increasing joint exercises with Canada and Scandinavian countries in preparation for increased Arctic activity.

Despite these measures, some lawmakers are still not convinced that the U.S. is doing enough to counterbalance Russian military initiatives in the region. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, expressed concern that the U.S. only operates a handful of ice breaker ships compared to Russia’s large fleet of ice breakers.

“We have one heavy duty and one medium-duty Coast Guard ice breakers,” he said. “The Russians have 17 ice breakers in the Arctic. If we are talking about innocent passage and trade, ice breakers are the highway builders and that is an example of how we are really not adequately developing our strategic interests in that region.”

Sullivan also echoed Sen. King’s concerns about the small U.S. fleet of ice breakers, adding that the Russians have six new icebreakers in development with five more planned.


The U.S. has more than 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline along its Alaskan border. However, Russia’s Northern Sea Route, which parallels the Arctic and Russian border, is by far the largest existing shipping route in the region.

Recognizing that the quickening pace of melting ice and warming water temperatures may open up sea lanes sooner than expected, the Navy last year released an Updated Arctic Road Map, which details the service’s preparations for increasing its presence in the region.

The Navy’s initial version of the document released in 2009 includes mission analysis and “fleet readiness” details for the environment, including search and rescue, maritime security, C4ISR, cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard, strategic sealift and strategic deterrence, among other things.

“The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe,” the document states. “While significant uncertainty exists in projections for Arctic ice extent, the current scientific consensus indicates the Arctic may experience nearly ice free summers sometime in the 2030s.”

An assessment by the Navy’s Task Force Climate Change determined the rate of melting has increased since the time of this report. As a result, Navy planners anticipate needing to operate there to a much greater extent by the middle of the 2020s instead of the 2030s.

Although the thinning of the Arctic ice was reported by Navy submarines in the 1990s, there have been considerable changes to the environment since that time, said Robert Freeman, spokesman for the oceanographer of the Navy.

While stressing that budget constraints might limit what preparations are possible, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus also said the service was increasing its exercises and preparations for greater activity in the region.

“As the ice melts in the Arctic our responsibilities go up. It is not just platforms and capabilities — it is what we are facing,” he said. “We not only have less ice but it is freezing in different ways. The ice is forming in different ways that are beginning to be a hazard to navigation. We’re upping our exercises and research into the area.”


— Kris Osborn can be reached at kris.osborn@military.com


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