Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Photo story: The destruction of Eastern Aleppo

By Jan Oberg

This is one of several stories I just have to tell.
You can see the original in large format here.


The destruction of Eastern Aleppo, Syria by Jan Oberg on Exposure

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Here a little more as background to the coming series:

TFF Photo Story



Lund, Sweden, December 27, 2016

Of course you have seen media images of the destruction in Syria. But not these taken in mid-December when Eastern Aleppo was liberated.

We live in a time when images – real and fake – influence perceptions more than ever.

My photos are real. Documentary. They reflect my role as witness on the spot at a time when only a handful of Westerners were present.

At a time, too, when all the mainstream media were conspicuously absent – as were the dual-purpose White Helmets who have delivered quite a few of the theatrical images from this war.

As a conflict and peace researcher and photographer I take pride in using not only analytical texts but also the medium of photography.

I am anyhow unable to describe just in words what I have seen.

Thanks to modern technology the small, smart, independent and truthful of this world can compete, to some extent, with the multi-billion dollar marketing and propaganda machines.

This is the first of a series to appear in weeks to come that will give you an impression of both life in Damascus, Eastern Aleppo’s destruction, the destruction in Aleppo’s old town, the human victims of this horrific war on Syria, the celebrations at the liberation of Aleppo etc. 

I do not believe that pictures of wars and victims will, in and of themselves, lead people to think of peace. Hiroshima films have done little to eliminate nuclear weapons. 

But in this particular case I do believe it is necessary to document just how big, systematic and unjustified the destruction of Aleppo has been – not only for those who built it and lived there over 7000 years but also to humanity, to all of us.

With what right did all the parties contribute to this utterly heartless and meaningless destruction? 

How did it come to this surreal level of violence wrought upon a historic cultural and industrial city and its vast majority of innocent fellow human beings? 

Will we ever learn – not only that war is stupid but also that this type of destruction cannot conveniently for some be blamed on one single side? 

All parties who used violence have blood on their hands.

Aleppo’s blood.   

This is the first of a series of stories that I must tell as a witness to an event that more intelligent and civilised generations in the future will have nothing but contempt for.

And if you ask me which side I am on, the answer is simple:

I’m on No government’s. No military’s. No leader’s.

I’m on the side of the tens of thousands of innocent, suffering Syrian citizens. Nobody deserves this!

I am on the side of the underlying, perfectly legitimate conflicts and not on the side of anybody’s violence.

And I do admit to have a particular problem with those – many – who interfered violently in the internal affairs of Syria and did only harm and no good.

Syria’s future is for the Syrians – all of them – to decide.

TFF PressInfo # 397: Syria’s destruction – When everybody thinks power and no one thinks peace

TFF Conflict and Peace Report Syria # 3

By Jan Oberg

People try to live their lives and enjoy the small things in Damascus. © Jan Oberg 2016

In spring 2011 I was invited by then Danish foreign minister, Villy Søvndal, to be a keynote speaker at a conference in Copenhagen arranged by the ministry and the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) with experts, then UN mediator Kofi Annan’s adviser, scholars, diplomats and, most importantly, a number of Syrian (opposition) politicians and civil society representatives.

The minister left the conference when he had opened it and, like most politicians today, obviously did not give priority to listen to the input of this high-level group present in the conference room.

I made these major points, trying to be as educative as I possibly could:

1) Look at conflicts as if they are problems to be solved – adhere to the peace research concept of the ABC conflict triangle and study A for Attitudes, B for Behaviour and C for the Contradiction/conflict that stands between people. (Cf. Johan Galtung). It’s a classical model that can be applied by virtually anyone.

2) Remember that there are always more than two parties to international conflicts – this is a kind of civil war but also part of the international wars – or aggressions – conducted since the assault on Afghanistan October 7, 2001.

3) Apply this model to another simple methods, namely that of Diagnosis, Prognosis and Treatment (DTP) – try to be conflict doctors instead of Realpoliticians. That is the only – only – way in which you can approach peace in the future and prevent a huge war with thousands of dead and much destruction.

So ABC and DPT – extremely simple for anyone who wants to understand conflict and help conflict-stricken peoples and countries to solve them and not just use conflicts as opportunities to promote one’s own more or less noble interests.

But he spoke of his next trip, I think to Paris, where the “Friends of Syria” – a group initiated by then-French President Sarkozy who was responsible for much of Libya’s destruction – were planning to meet. Intuitively I felt things were already going wrong there and then.

I then added Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 394: The State of the World Right Now: A Macro View

By Johan Galtung

“View” meaning not only a glimpse from above, but a position taken on the world on which the US electorate is now dumping Donald Trump.

That world is today basically multi-polar, maybe with 8 poles: 1) Anglo-America, 2) Latin America-Caribbean, 3) African Unity, 4) Islam-OIC from Casablanca to Mindanao, 5) European Union, 6) Russia more region than state, 7) SAARC from Nepal to Sri Lanka, 8. ASEAN, Australia-New Zealand. [See list of abbreviations with links to the mentioned organisations under the article]

And thre is the multi-regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization, SCO, with China and Russia, Islamic countries, India and Pakistan.

There is a waning state reality, smaller states being increasingly absorbed into regions.

There is a waxing region reality with the above eight; adding West Asian, Central Asian and Northeast Asian regions, maybe eleven.

There is a global reality based on IGOs, inter-governmental organizations, with the United Nations on top; TNCs, the transnational corporations, with the US-based on top so far; and INGOs, international non-governmental organizations, with religions on top.

Now, insert into all of that something concrete from William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report #146 and his Rogue State.

From WWII, the USA has: Read the rest of this entry »

Peace can be made with Russia

By Jonathan Power

November 22nd 2016

Trotsky, the one-time close comrade of Lenin, reportedly said, “You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you”.

This is how it seems to have been with President Barack Obama when it comes to his policy towards Russia.

Having come to power with President Vladimir Putin open to a closer relationship after the aggressive pushing forward of Nato’s frontier during the time of presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Obama will leave the presidency with a state of hostility between the Russia and the US that most thought had evaporated once the Cold War ended in 1991.

Now, instead of a life time of peace and cooperation ahead of us, as was widely thought, we have Russia engaged in nuclear sabre rattling and the US expanding the frontier of Nato even further right up to Russia’s border and trying to put the heat on over Russia’s involvement in the upheavals in Ukraine, using economic sanctions.

Some observers talk about war between the West and Russia. Although this could not happen as long as Angela Merkel is Chancellor of Germany and France remains French it may be a “damned close-run thing” (as the Duke of Wellington was supposed to have said after victory over Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo).

It is up to President-elect Donald Trump Read the rest of this entry »

If Obama stayed in power?

By Jonathan Power

November 8th 2016.

An interesting question is what would happen to American foreign policy if President Barack Obama were allowed to have another four year term in office?

It would be a less interventionist presidency than what is about to become. This is not to say that I think the way Obama has handled the war in Afghanistan has been successful. Nor do I believe the attack on Libya was a sensible idea. Nor do I think the way he dealt with Russia and Ukraine in the last four years has been anything but counterproductive.

But I do believe the world would be an even messier place if he had not been president. Syria would have been invaded with ground troops. Iraq would have been replicated.

I think confrontation with China over the ownership of the contested islands in the South China and East China seas would have been more serious than it has been.

There would have been no bringing back Cuba in from the cold. (Cuba was the home of the missile crisis of 1962 when the world came terrifyingly near to a nuclear war.)

Most important, there would have been no nuclear deal with Iran. Iran’s research which could have led to the making of a nuclear bomb (not that I think it had any intention of going that far) would have continued.

At some point Israel would have bombed Iran’s reactors Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 391: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, at 50. Now change name to SIMSI

By Jan Oberg

Is there a new cold war? And what steps can be taken by whom to reduce tension and make peace?

Indeed highly relevant issues in an era of European history where the characteristics of a new Cold War are becoming ever more significant. And a good intellectual way to celebrate an important research institute’s 50th Anniversary, namely SIPRI – Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Now, what was this SIPRI supposed to be 50 years ago as the brainchild of, among others, brilliant visionary sociologist and social democratic politician Alva Myrdal who later became Sweden’s disarmament ambassador, wrote an impressive book on disarmament and security and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982?

If you go to its entry at Wikipedia, it is very clearly spelled out in 1966 (my italics):

“A Swedish Royal Commission chaired by Ambassador Alva Myrdal proposed in its 1966 report to establish an institute, later named the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI. The Institute’s research should seek to contribute to “the understanding of the preconditions for a stable peace and for peaceful solutions of international conflicts” and the Commission recommended that research be concentrated on armaments, their limitation and reduction, and arms control. The Commission also recommended that SIPRI work be of “an applied research character directed towards practical-political questions [which] should be carried on in a constant interchange with research of a more theoretical kind”.”

However, here is today’s research programs of SIPRI – also from Wikipedia:

• The SIPRI Yearbook
• Euro-Atlantic Security and Arms Control
• Armed Conflict and Conflict Management
• Non-Proliferation and Export Controls
• Chemical and Biological Warfare
• Military Expenditure and Arms Production
• Arms Transfers
• IT Projects: “Facts on International Relations and Security Trends” and “An Internet-Based Early Warning Indicators System for Preventive Policy”

The character of this program is pretty obvious:

SIPRI studies wars and arms and very little, if at all, peaceful solutions to international conflicts and the – theoretical – conditions of a stable peace.

So here are Read the rest of this entry »

Russia-NATO games in Europe

October 26, 2016

Yet another example of how tension build up in this New Cold War situation – instead of doing what we did during the first Cold War: trying confidence-building measures.

Today too BBC announced that the US will deploy – permanently – 300 US soldiers to norther Norway, a break with Norway’s policies since it became a NATO member. And Reuters brought the news that NATO will deploy thousands of new soldiers in the Baltic countries and in Poland and, next year, planes to Romania – on top of the reinforcements already made.

The above short interview contains comments on these dangerous steps too.

TFF PressInfo # 390 – Ten articles on the new Cold War and a reflection

By Jan Oberg

Lund, October 26, 2016

Over the last four month, ten articles about the new Cold War have been published on the TFF Associates blog. And on our social media you’ll find hundreds of brilliant, informative posts written by others.

While this new Cold War is certainly different from the first Cold war that ended in 1989, we are not in doubt that there is a new such tragic war and that the risk of military confrontation between Russia and NATO countries in Europe has increased.

We also happen to think it could have been avoided.

This Cold War has to do with, among many other things, NATO’s counterproductive expansion since 1994, the way Yugoslavia broke down and was broken up, with Ukraine and now Syria as well as – perhaps surprisingly to some – the rapidly diminishing political power and legitimacy of the West in the emerging world order.

A reflection on how security politics and media contribute to the closing of the open society

The increasing symbiosis between the political and the leading mainstream media of the Western world implies that, grosso modo, Russia is blamed for having caused this new situation. While Russia is certainly not innocent and it usually does take two to conflict this blame is rather a sign of diminishing capacity (knowledge) and will (economic and intellectual independence and courage) to ask critical questions that now characterise the corporate media.

Defence and security political news coverage, journalistic processing, editing and commentaries have sunk to an intellectual level that is considerably lower than during the first Cold War. The entire field is given low priority by editors. Domestic issues, sports, entertainment, lifestyle etc. have made it to the top.

Out of sync with the globalising world, most media do with 1-2 pages about global affairs out of, say, 40-50 pages and they base this material on the same handful of Western news bureaus.

The double checking of a variety of sources, versatility and multi-perspective coverage are things of the past and we see more uniformity and more subjectivity in the news media coverage than ever.

Add to this that both Russia and NATO countries engage in media management, or propaganda (tax payers footing the bills) which squeezes out comprehensive knowledge and unbiased analyses as well as critical angles on one’s own policies and actions. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump visits Putin

By Jonathan Power

October 25th 2016

I have a fantasy. Donald Trump wins. He goes to Moscow on his first trip as president and gives President Vladimir Putin a bear hug and they go hunting in the forest, Soviet style.

When they emerge they have shot a couple of bears and have had a good lunch laid out for them by acolytes at which they have discussed the matters of the world.

They give a press conference. They have decided to re-start negotiations on major nuclear arms reductions and both say they unilaterally are immediately ridding themselves of a 1000 missiles each.

They have found a way to implement autonomy for eastern Ukraine, as done in Scotland, which Trump with his Scottish golf courses knows well. Ukraine can work towards both a trade agreement with the EU and the Russian-backed Eurasian Economic Union. Russia was always happy about such an arrangement, but many Ukrainians weren’t and only wanted an EU arrangement. This was the trigger for the uprising in Kiev and Western support for the powerful revolutionary movements that had a fascist pedigree.

Dealing with Syria is both simpler and more difficult – difficult because of the intensity of the fighting and the multi-nation interests and easier because neither Russia nor the NATO powers want to see a clash over a relatively small part of the global population – Syria’s population is 9 million, about the same as one of America’s eastern states.

In the forest they agreed to stop using Russian warplanes backing President Bashar al-Assad, the US to stop aiding anti-Assad guerrillas and both to concentrate on defeating ISIS. In return the US would invite Russia to share its airbase in Qatar. The civil war opponents would be left alone to fight. UN mediation would continue.

Trump has a point in wanting rapprochement with Russia.

At the moment Read the rest of this entry »

Syria: Change the Russia-NATO discourse

By Jan Oberg

October 17, 2016

 

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