Archive for the ‘Ex-Yugoslavia/Balkans’ Category

Russian and Western influence in Macedonia compared

By Biljana Vankovska

Text of report by Macedonian newspaper Nova Makedonija on 12 June

Commentary by Biljana Vankovska: “Russia ante portas!”

The UK The Guardian recently issued a bombastic report based on certain intelligence leaks, apparently resembling WikiLeaks, that revealed the big and terrifying secret of the Russian bad boys working on Macedonia’s distancing from the West for nearly 10 years through the use of old-fashioned methods (strange and mysterious spies and conspirators) and sophisticated means of influence via public diplomacy and “soft power”.

This crown “evidence” has fitted in perfectly with the subtle campaign that a number of national media has been leading for a while now, promoting the “intimidating notion” of the Macedonians regarding Russia as a friendly country. An opinion poll on our foreign political orientations has indicated that as many as 17 per cent of the respondents have a positive view on Russia.

Imagine, these impertinent persons have dared reduce the incredible 95 per cent of people who support the West, which was typical only of [Albanian communist leader] Enver Hoxha’s Albania and Bulgaria during [Bulgarian communist leader] Zhivkov’s era!

This thesis is being reiterated ad nauseam and serves a double purpose: first, it should prove the harmful effects of the perfidious policies of the VMRO-DPMNE’s [Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity] fake patriots and, second, such an approach of the journalists’ genuine shock and concern is a preventive disciplinary measure for those who – Heaven forbid – would dare criticise the West.

It is interesting that The Guardian report deals with the “self-leakage” of the Macedonian Counterintelligence Agency and that the text was prepared by famous Macedonian journalists.

The story of Russia’s clout, spread through the media propaganda of our journalists who think that it is virtuous to play into the West’s hands, has (once again) imposed our country as an instrument to settle a score between the great powers. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 410: The meaninglessness of war: Aleppo Photo Series # 6

By Jan Oberg



Lund, Sweden – March 24, 2017




Can the almost total destruction of Eastern Aleppo be used constructively? 


Only if we are willing to ask and dialogue about this: 


Why does the world go on investing US$ 2000 billion annually in warfare and US$ 30 in all the UN does – only to create destruction of people, places, past and future?


How absurd, how meaningless – indeed how far must it go to destroy the West itself – before we learn to conflict intelligently?


The Meaninglessness Of War by Jan Oberg on Exposure

•


I’ve see much destruction during my work in conflict zones the last 25 years. But nothing compares with Aleppo and the destruction of Syria and its people.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – can justify this barbarian process, not even an alleged dictatorship and ruthless regime policies. 


We must learn from Aleppo and all the other places:


- to hate violence and war, not each other;

- to stop siding with some presumed good violence that shall combat evil violence because there is no (good) violence that is better than dialogue;


- to criminalize arms trade to conflict zones and never let a private arms trader or goverment at large when they profit and make peace impossible;


- to learn the tools of conflict-resolution and do what we have all promised to do: struggle first for peace by peaceful means as stated in the UN Charter.


• 


My photo series “The Meaninglessness of War: Aleppo” aim to encourage you to think deeply – much deeper than siding with one or the other side. 


We need a tectonic shift in the theories and practises of international politics and conflict management. ASAP.


Otherwise the rest will one day be just that: Silence. 


A global Aleppo.


Side instead with peace, decency, truth and humanity. And learn your Gandhi and other wise thinkers. Get out of the box! The group think! 


And the future of the world will be so much more promising. Even bright.

The Meaninglessness Of War: Aleppo

All the photo series at Exposure.

TFF PressInfo # 403: Discussing NATO with a former US Assistant Secretary of Defence

By Jan Oberg

On the occasion of NATO’s defence minister meeting on February 15-16 discussing NATO, Ukraine, Crimea, Syria and the eternal threat images which are fake – with former Assistant Secretary of Defence of the United States, Mr. Lawrence J. Korb.

I’m afraid he got some stuff wrong such as the establishment of NATO and whether or not Kosovo is part of the Balkans.

He also believed that NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia-Kosovo had a UN Security Council mandate.

Enjoy those small moment and the rest where I am trying to present some more general thourght on why the whole NATO philosophy is outdated – the only point where I agree with President Trump…

Media experience and policy

Lots of people in the debate seem to believe there is something strange about being in the “propaganda” media of “enemies of the West” – read the global Iran’s PressTV and Russia’s Russia Today.

What they don’t seem to have acknowledged is that tons of Westerners are being interviewed and do commenting (like myself for years) at these media. Here is Mr. Korb with me at Iran’s international TV channel.

What they also don’t know is something I am sorry to report: I’ve met attempts at manipulation and “editing” and censorship with a series of Western mainstream media, not the least in my native Denmark, but I have not experience any of that even once with Russia Today and PressTV. Very decent professionals!

So much for the free press and for the propaganda channels. My personal problems is, which is which?

About my policy vis-a-vis the media.

TFF PressInfo # 389: Ukraine as the border of NATO expansion

And why Russia doesn’t have to be a threat to the West

By Jan Oberg

TFF Series ”The New Cold War” # 7

If the Ukraine conflict is the centerpiece of the new 2nd Cold War, it is essential to ask: What really happened? What did NATO countries do to cause it? What did Russia do to cause it?
And – if you live in the West, in particular: Did we really have to end in this situation given Russia’s significant weakness over 25 years?
This article argues that the superior West could have played its cards differently and it’s time for self-critical soul-searching and just a little living yourself into the shoes of the other.
If peace rather than war is your true aim.

There was a beginning and a framework

The Ukraine conflict has a 25-years history. Instead of dissolving NATO, the alliance was expanded. Relieved from there being a Soviet Union and a Warsaw Pact, the alliance went as fast it could to do all it wanted. Remember, a series of WW III scenarios has been written in which that war would start with some uncontrollable event in Yugoslavia. Now it could be chopped up – freely and without risk. Serbia was bombed and Kosovo carved out without a UN mandate whatsoever (1999).

How did they think about that in the Kremlin at the time, one must wonder?

Clinton literally did not give a damn about all the promises made to Soviet leader Gorbachev by US leaders such as Bush, James Baker and German leaders including Hans-Dietrich Genscher. (Yes, they were not written down but confirmed by those involved and present).

He began the expansion of NATO in 1994 – in Georgia (see what I refer to elsewhere in this series). All around a Russia on its knees Americans were placed in the offices of prime ministers, defence and foreign ministers – I saw it myself in former Yugoslavia – and met CIA people in Croatia disguised as humanitarian workers. And had a long conversation with the representative of the US in Tblisi in 1994. Historical moment!

The bad Christians, the Orthodox, were the Serbs and Russians and Greeks – all should be antagonized and the good guys in Yugoslavia were those who had been on the fascist side in WWII – the leaderships in Croatia, Muslims in Bosnia and the Kosovo Albanians. The Serb minority that had lived 400 years as a minority in the Croatian republic were, in the common Western discourse, invaders masterminded by strongman Slobodan Milosevic – whom Clinton without hesitation called the new ’Hitler of Europe’.

Ukraine was – and remains – what its name says: the border areas (like Krajina in Croatia). This is where NATO can establish itself as little as Chruschev could get away with deploying nukes in Cuba – considerably further away from the US, but anyhow.

Imagine – with a little bit of empathy (not necessarily sympathy) how Washington would react if today Putin’s Russia was 12 times stronger militarily than the alliance-free US (NATO dissolved 25 years ago) and tried with his alliance of 27 other members to make Canada or Mexico the 29th member. Perhaps most people in the US and Europe would have some sympathy for the negative reaction of Washington. Rand remember, Trump wants to build a wall to Mexico…

The main reason, it is stated again and again, in the Western press, NATO and other political circles is: Ukraine and Crimea. The lie about Putin’s aggression on Ukraine is told so many times that it is becoming the truth. Just see these two recent articles by Newsweek as two of hundreds of articles.

Here’s the chosen story in politics and media alike

The narrative is simplified beyond recognition and goes like this:

Putin (there is always just one top guy in Western eyes and it is one leader at the top like Milosevic, Mohamed Farah Aideed, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khaddafi, al-Assad) is a bad guy and you know that because out of the blue his suddenly annexed Crimea. By that he changes the borders of Europe and then he gets his disguised soldiers into Eastern Ukraine – a Ukraine that we, in contrast to Bush Senior, care very very much about today.

We care so much about it that Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo 357: Denmark, Decency and Decay (1/4)

By Jan Oberg

Or, where there is a will there is a way*

Once again Denmark appears in the international community and media for the wrong things, this time for a law package with three main, draconian anti-refugee laws. One legalises stealing – that’s what it is – valuables owned by refugees upon arrival if they exceed US$ 1450; the second cuts down on the already meagre daily benefit and the third extends the family reuinion period from 1 to 3 years.

81 MPs voted yes, 27 No, 1 abstained and 70 MPs were absent. The main argument is that Denmark wants to “signal” that asylum seekers should go elsewhere. Otherwise marketing-conscious politicians have overlooked that there are millions upon millions out there who are not asylum seekers and they get an extremely bad impression of Denmark. Like they did when Denmark put ads in Middle Eastern newspaper some time ago to deter potential refugees.

The three laws – of which the first clearly provokes memories of what the Nazis did to the Jews – are just a peak point in a long (mal)development of Denmark’s foreign policy. It can be characterised by incremental absence of ethics, solidarity, compassion, empathy and sound human judgement – all concepts outside the domain of ‘real’ politics – combined with increased interventionism, militarism and lofty contempt for international laws.

By passing these laws, the country’s parliamentarians – with a few exceptions – have soiled the image of the country abroad even more and for a very long time ahead, one must fear.

It is not unreasonable to assume that terrorists will pay attention to this development which is de facto targetting refugees which are almost 100% Muslims.

Many Danish citizens including myself now recognise that ‘Dane’ rhymes with ‘Shame’. This trend in Danish policitics doesn’t happen in our name.

Once upon a time

Denmark used to be known and appreciated around the world Read the rest of this entry »

The clouds are dark and getting darker

By Johan Galtung

The process has now gone full circle, from Sykes-Picot Agreement negotiated from 1915 to 16 May 1916, about control of the Ottoman Empire, when beaten, to England now joining France in bombing Syria. “Violence In and By Paris” two weeks ago was wrong about England wanting to stay out: the House of Commons on 02 Dec 2015 voted 397 to 223 for bombing; 56 Labor MPs for, only 7 Conservative MPs against.

Russia played a minor role in Sykes-Picot as now also in bombing maybe mainly the opposition to Assad.

As Robert Savio points out, “They all fight to the last Syrian.”

The likelihood of an atrocious Paris 13 November type violence in London went up many points. And Russia had a civilian plane bombed.

The USA is as addicted to bombing as a hammer to a nail, not only to use allies and train locals. James A. Lucas, “The United States has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations since WWII”, in 1945 (jlucas511@woh.rr.com) seems not to be enough; they just go on and on. More than a million Muslims killed in West Asia mainly by the USA since 1991. In San Bernardino, somebody may have killed 14 in revenge.

The new name for what they fight, after jihadism, is the Islamic State, calling it sometimes IS, ISIS, ISIL. What is it, this Daesh?

There seem to be heavy elements of Saddam’s army, the Baath secular party (also Assad’s), and the Tikrit clan from the recent past–now adding maybe ten fighters for each killed by the West. Daesh seems to Read the rest of this entry »

TFF 30th Anniversary Benefit Event



Lund, Sweden, September 5, 2015
Updated September 5 and our apologies if you’ve received this before.
We want to catch all and miss no one over all these years.

Dear friend!

We are happy to invite you to the TFF 30th Anniversary Benefit Event !
September 11-12, 2015

Live Lectures by videostream
Exciting lectures on world affairs and peace over two days – See program below.

This is not an invitation to visit the foundation in person.
It is an online, live video streamed event that you will be able to follow from anywhere in the world
Here is the link and it’ll also be shown via Facebook, Twitter and on our website.
And all the lectures will be available later as videos on our own video channels.

Open House at the foundation
Saturday September 12 at 14:00-17:00
It’s at Vegagatan 25 in Lund, Sweden – deadline for your registration September 7.

1. Lectures on-site with live streaming

We’ll shortly tell you the links where you may see it all and where videos will later be available.

Lecture program

Friday September 11

Live, video streamed:

16:00
September 11: Alternatives to the devastating War On Terror – Jan Oberg

17:00
TFF 30 Perspectives – TFF Associates and Board on the better world we dream of – And cheers!

Saturday September 12

Live, video-streamed 10:00-18:00

10:00
Iran And the Nuclear Issues – Gunnar Westberg

11:00
Integration – Why and how? Example: Afghan Youth In Sweden – Christina Spännar, Sweden

12:00
Nuclear abolition is necessary and possible – Gunnar Westberg, Sweden

13:00
West and East: Ukraine and New Cold War? – Jan Oberg

14:00
Human Rights And War Crimes – Jonathan Power, UK/Sweden

15:00
Women, Self-Esteem and Violence – Annette Schiffmann, Germany

16:00
Yugoslavia – What Should Have Been Done? – Jan Oberg (in Memoriam Håkan Wiberg), DK/Sweden

17:00
Media and Peace – Sören Sommelius, Sweden

18:00
Burundi’s Crisis And Possible Ways Out – Burundi expert

2. Open House hours 14-17
Buffet, drinks, coffee and tea, cakes and other sweets.
You must register your visit by September 7 at the latest at TFF30@transnational.org or call 0046 738 525200.



3. Peace with peaceful means
The day is devoted to the – ongoing – struggle for ”peace by peaceful means“ as the UN Charter puts it. Gandhi said that the “means are goals in-the-making”. To realize that noble goal remains the mission of TFF. Today we show you how and promote all related activites with the help of social media and new video technologies.

4. This is a Benefit Event – Your support to TFF please!

TFF is unique in being totally independent of government and corporate funds. It’s people-financed. No one related to TFF has a salary; we’re all-volunteer.
This provides for truly free research and permit us to be critical and constructive and practise our freedom of expression. Not everyone can boast that today!
Wars, nuclear and conventional arms, bombing raids and occupations etc. are financed by your tax money. Sadly and unfairly, no tax funds go to realise the UN norm above.

We think that people who believe that peace is better than violence should also pay something to the research, education and activism in favour of that UN norm.
If you can come to Lund on our big day or sit somewhere following our rich lecture program, we urge you strongly to make a donation. Every day over 30 years, TFF has given the world something useful.

You can do it right in the middle of our homepage – click the “Give” button or under the headline “Support” in the right-hand column where many options exist, including PayPal. It easy, fast and secure!
Cash – but no cheques – can also be donated at the event.* *

Thank you so much!

5. Videos
We’re proud to present the first two short videos – 3 more to come – in which the founders talk about various aspects of 30 years in the service of peace on the basis of questions asked by board member Annette Schiffmann. Watch, comment and subscribe!

The First

The Second



6. Brand new Online Magazine
The announced online magazine launched to mark our Anniversary is now here!

“Transnational Affairs – TFF Magazine for conflict-resolution, non-violence and peace-building”

Excited as we are, we’ll be back to you soon with more details!

Yours truly

Christina & Jan
Founders

* If you are able to come in person, you must register to TFF30@transnational.org or call 0046 738 525200 by Tuesday September 8 at the latest.

* * This does not apply to you if you have already made a donation in 2015.

Our 30 years with peace – And what happened to world peace? Part II

By Christina Spannar and Jan Oberg, TFF founders

Part 1 here

TFF was established on September 12, 1985. We think that it’s 30th Anniversary is a fitting occasion to reflect on what has happened in the big world and in our lives with the foundation.

It is also a piece of Lund’s research history in general and of peace research and education in particular.

Part 2

Weak aspects of TFF

• Being outside many networks and institutions – it has become more and more difficult to influence the world if you are small, independent and don’t accept governmental and corporate funds.

• A perception that the interest/commitment of TFF is out of sync with the sentiments of times, of the Zeitgeist. In spite of that we maintain the fundamental belief that peace is essential and that we can forget about the rest if major wars or nuclear exchanges take place.

• Too ‘academic’/theoretical to forge deeper, permanent links with public opinion and movements.

• Too ‘radical’ or ‘idealistic’ to be interesting to governments and most mainstream media.

• A constant very hard work load – resting on a small international group and on the founders in Sweden – vulnerability also in the perspective of us having gotten 30 years older.

• The struggle for funds getting more and more tough and we are much more vulnerable than, say, ten years ago. Being all-volunteer, we still have to pay the bills for what enables us to do things: the Internet, computers, travels to conflict areas, insurance, bank fees, fund-raising, phones, sending out mails, using social media, etc. 
The generosity of yesterday has been replaced by a ”stingy” attitude of being entitled to get things free in the affluent Internet-based society. This attitude implies that it is not my responsibility to finance peace, somebody else does (and the somebody else is never me). Few citizens seem to recognise that they are the taxpayers who de facto finance all the weapons and wars. 
The far majority of those who support us are idealists without particular means – while wealthy people for peace a far and few between.

TFF’s stronger sides

• We are still here, operating with amazing TFF Associates around the world who share the commitment to ‘peace by peaceful means’.

• We have remained faithful over all these years to the original ideals, not succumbing to go mainstream/politically correct to achieve more funds or appearing acceptable to the masters of war, i.e. government – neither by the way in Sweden nor Denmark. Read the rest of this entry »

Our 30 years with peace – And what happened to world peace? Part I

By Christina Spannar & Jan Oberg, TFF founders

Part I

TFF was established on September 12, 1985. We think that it’s 30th Anniversary is a fitting occasion to reflect on what has happened in the big world and in our lives with the foundation.

It is also a piece of Lund’s research history in general and of peace research and education in particular.

Motivation

The 1980s was a decade of gross changes in Europe, the struggle against nuclear weapons in particular.

Lund University was predominantly about education and single research projects – while TFF could be more of an experimental playground. We wanted to do truly free research and not negotiate with higher levels at, say, the university what to do where, in which countries to work and what to say to the media.

Peace has always been controversial and there were – and remain – enough examples of places that become ‘mainstream’ and routine – rather than experimental and radically ’alternative.’

What we did not know back in 1985 was that Lund University wanted to get rid of all inter-disciplinary academic endeavours – women, environmental, human rights and peace studies – and closed down the Lund University Peace Research Institute of which Jan had been the director since 1983, in November 1989.

Being a private undertaking

The HQ is the first floor of a two-family house in a villa area of Lund. Visitors, board members etc. have held seminars there, eaten and often stayed with us. Board members were colleagues and personal friends and new board members were recruited from Associates who were also personal friends, like-minded colleagues or mentors one way or the other.
Our children and other friends were often involved in the things TFF did – including printing newsletters in the basement, gathering them, putting them in envelopes and fix address labels.

Goals

The permanent top priority has been to promote the UN Charter norm that ‘peace shall be created by peaceful means’ (Article 1).
This was promoted through traditional book-based research and later field work – i.e. conflict analyses and mediation and peace plans – in conflict zones, but also through intense public outreach/education such as newsletters, media participation, press releases – and, from 1997, the Internet and then social media.

Secondly, we wanted to integrate theory and practice. While it is good to do basic research in the laboratory, what is peace research really worth if it is never applied to real life’s tough situations?

The first five years we did book projects like everybody else in the trade. But in September 1991 TFF went on its first peace mission to former Yugoslavia. It is safe to say that we were among the first to embark on that in-the-field philosophy and practice it – with all the problems and risks that it entailed.

Foundation and management

The word ‘foundation’ does not mean that we had an endowment to start out with – and funding has been a constant problem every day and year ever since. And getting worse over time.
But it meant flexibility and – being and remaining small – quickly adapting to a changing world.

Being our own and not part of Lund University was another advantage – and a drawback in terms of finding funds. TFF had to build its own reputation from scratch rather than piggyback on that of the university’s. It was quite tough but also more rewarding in the long run. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 334 – Getting Russia right

By Jonathan Power

Even today in many different ways the US and Russia remain close. There is cooperation in space, not least the International Space Station. The US regularly hires Russian rockets to launch its crews to the Station and to launch satellites. Russia sells advanced rocket engines to the US. Russia allows war material en route to Afghanistan to pass through its territory on Russian trains.

Russia worked hand in glove with the US to successfully remove the large stocks of chemical weapons possessed by Syria. It shares intelligence on Muslim extremists including ISIS. Conceivably it could enter the battle against ISIS.

It has encouraged Western investment including joint oil exploration of the Artic. Recently it stood side by side with the US and the EU as they forged an agreement with Iran on its nuclear industry. At the UN Security Council Russia and the US voted together for a resolution approving the agreement. President Barack Obama phoned President Vladimir Putin to thank him.

US diplomats are now conceding that Russia’s claim that the neo-fascist so-called “Right Sector” in Ukraine is wrecking havoc is true. The Right Sector in the eyes of many was a key – and violent – element in the success of last year’s Maidan demonstrations that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich.

When the Russian, French and German foreign ministers hammered out an agreement with the support of Ukraine’s parliamentary opposition for Yanukovich to step down at the next election the West totally “forgot” about it in the next few days as the Maidan demonstators drove Yanukovich into exile. Washington and other Western capitals supported the “democratic revolution” rather than demanding the fulfillment of the agreement. No wonder Putin was livid.

What is now needed in Western capitals is an acknowledgement that they have not always got Russia and Putin right. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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