Russia concerned over U.S.-Ukraine Black Sea military exercises
Ukrainians give NATO war games a cold reception: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le-8bX_cUwQ
Russia's Foreign Ministry voiced on Friday its concerns over the U.S.-Ukrainian Sea Breeze naval exercises currently underway in the Black Sea. "The nature of the exercises, and attempts to present them as anti-Russian, as well as the involvement of countries from outside the region cannot but provoke certain questions and certain concerns. Why was the Black Sea basin chosen for the drills?" the ministry said on its website, describing the purpose of the exercises as "questionable." The Russian ministry said Black Sea countries can independently, without outside interference, solve Black Sea security and stability issues. The ministry also said that the current military exercises had been met by protests from the local population, and that the demonstrations reflected Ukrainian public opinion in relation to the current Ukrainian administration's policy of seeking membership of NATO. The statement also said that this policy did nothing to improve relations with Moscow. Sea Breeze 2008, a NATO military exercise, began on Monday in Ukraine's Odessa, Crimea and Black Sea coastal regions. Two years ago, the Sea Breeze 2006 exercise in the Crimea was disrupted by protests. Ukraine and the United States are joined by 15 other countries for this year's exercises, which are due to end on July 26. Fifteen Ukrainian ships, four aircraft, 10 helicopters, and 500 service personnel are involved in the military exercises. Ukraine's parliament, the Supreme Rada, approved NATO participation in the exercises in April. In total, more than 1,000 NATO troops, 15 ships, two submarines, and eight aircraft are expected to take part. In May and June, several Ukrainian left-wing politicians announced that they would organize mass protests to disrupt the drills. Last Thursday, some 20 opposition activists set up an encampment in western Crimea, intending to picket the exercise. A branch of the Ukrainian Communist Party in Donetsk said over 1,000 people took part in anti-NATO rallies in the Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian Progressive Socialist Party said on Wednesday that authorities in Ukraine's Odessa region had banned broadcasts by Russian television channels over their coverage of the Sea Breeze 2008 exercise and the accompanying protests. Ukraine's pro-Western leadership has been pursuing NATO membership since 2004, when President Viktor Yushchenko came to power. Ukraine failed to secure a place in the NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward joining the alliance, at a NATO summit in April, but was told the decision would be reviewed in December. A poll conducted in April by the FOM-Ukraina pollster indicated that a majority of Ukrainians oppose NATO membership.
In other news:
Russia: will use military means if U.S. deploys shield
Russia said on Tuesday it would use military means if the United States deployed a missile defense shield close to its borders, a threat analysts said was aimed at stoking European opposition to the shield. Russia's Foreign Ministry said Moscow would be forced to use "military-technical methods" if a U.S. deal on building part of the shield in the Czech Republic was ratified by parliament. "If the real deployment of an American strategic missile defense shield begins close to our borders, then we will be forced to react not with diplomatic methods, but with military-technical methods," the Foreign Ministry said. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its www.mid.ru website that the U.S. missile shield would undermine global security and Moscow's strategic deterrent. It said Moscow's proposals to Washington on the shield had been ignored. Military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said Moscow was using typical Cold War rhetoric to discourage the Czech parliament from ratifying the shield agreement, signed by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Czech foreign minister. "That is why it is very unspecific but sounds threatening," he said. "It is psychological pressure, the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union, when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe, in an attempt to boost the anti-missile, anti-U.S. protests." Russia's United Nations Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the Foreign Ministry statement did not mean military action but a change of "strategic posture". "If you are talking about military action, this of course is not the case," Churkin said in New York. Former President Vladimir Putin, who is now prime minister, said in 2007 that Russia could aim missiles at European countries if the U.S. missile shield, which Moscow considers a threat to national security, goes ahead. Russian generals have threatened to deploy tactical missiles in neighboring Belarus and to resume production of short and medium-range nuclear missiles in response to Washington's missile defense plans.
Russia cuts oil to Czechs
Russian oil supplies to the Czech Republic have been cut by almost half after Prague agreed to host part of America's controversial missile defence shield. Czech officials have sought an explanation from Moscow about the reduction in supply, fearing that it could be retaliation for the radar base deal. Tomas Bartovsky, a spokesman for the Czech Trade Ministry, said Russia had ruled out "political reasons" for the reduction and had blamed negotiations between suppliers for the problem.
Gorbachev alarmed by growing militarization of U.S. policy
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev voiced alarm over the United States' increasing tendency to seek military solutions to political problems, in an appeal to presidential candidates published on Tuesday. "I am deeply concerned over increasingly visible signs of the militarization of politics and thinking in the modern world... even though the military route again and again leads to a dead-end," Gorbachev wrote in an article printed in the Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta. The presidential campaign will have to address the main policy issues facing the U.S. - the country's role in the world, its aim to lead in international affairs, counter-terrorism, and nuclear non-proliferation, all of which are inextricably linked to the Iraq war, he said. The U.S. administration under George W. Bush has shown a tendency to "seek to address these problems primarily through threats and pressure. Will the candidates develop an alternative approach to these most crucial problems? This is now the main question." Gorbachev said current talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, which Washington started after several years of belligerent rhetoric, is an example of an alternative, more effective policy. He also stressed the dispute with Iran over its controversial nuclear program cannot not be resolved by threats. Gorbachev hailed Republican candidate John McCain and Democratic hopeful Barak Obama for backing appeals to abolish nuclear weapons. In 1985, Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan reached a historic agreement on eliminating medium- and shorter-range missiles, which was followed by an agreement on a 50% reduction in strategic offensive weapons. Thousands of nuclear warheads were subsequently destroyed. Gorbachev criticized the vast level of borrowing by the U.S. government to prop up the economy, and linked the country's economic downturn to excessive military spending, which he said has caused a budget deficit "larger than at the height of the Cold War." He stressed that neither of the candidates for the November election has yet raised the alarm over growing military spending in America. "The subject of military spending has literally been shrouded in a curtain of silence. This taboo must be lifted," he said. U.S. military spending was reported to hit $547 billion in 2007, and accounted for 45% of the world total. The U.S. accounts for 50% of the world's output of arms and military equipment, Gorbachev said. "It runs over 700 military bases across the world and plans to build more as if the Cold War were not a thing of the past, and the country were surrounded by enemies." The next U.S. leader, Gorbachev said, will have to decide whether America will be an empire or a democracy, and to choose between global hegemony and international cooperation.