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Obama Issues Executive Order Freezing Assets Of Seven Putin Aides | Zero Hedge

Obama Issues Executive Order Freezing Assets Of Seven Putin Aides | Zero Hedge.

As was largely expected, the first retaliation by Obama has arrived, courtesy of a just issued Executive Order by the president, in which he has blocked and frozen “all property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person” (i.e. assets) of not only the pre-coup Ukraine president Yanukovich and the Crimean leader Aksyonov, including all Russians that operate in the Russian arms industry, but most notably seven Putin aides. Not Putin himself of course – that would be too “escalatory”…

From the White House:

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660 of March 6, 2014, finding that the actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine — including the recent deployment of Russian Federation military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine — undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in…

The people impacted:

  • Vladislav Surkov

Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov (born 21 September 1964)[1] is a Russian businessman and politician. He was First Deputy of the Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration from 1999 to 2011, during which time he was widely seen as the main ideologist of the Kremlin. Allegedly he contributed greatly to the electoral victory of President Vladimir Putin in 2004. Surkov is seen as the main architect of the current Russian political system, often described as “sovereign” or “managed” democracy.

From December 2011 until 8 May 2013 he served as the Russian Federation’s Deputy Prime Minister. While his resignation was described as voluntary, presidential spokesman Peskov linked the resignation with the government’s failure to carry out decrees by President Putin., in the late 1980s he started as a businessman as the government lifted the ban against private businesses. He became a head of the advertisement department of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s businesses. During the 1990s he held key managerial positions in advertisement and PR departments of Khodorkovsky’s Bank Menatep (1991 – April 1996) and Rosprom (March 1996 – February 1997) and Fridman’s Alfa-Bank (since February 1997).

In September 2004 Surkov was elected president of the board of directors of the oil products transportation company Transnefteproduct, but was instructed by Russia’s PM Mikhail Fradkov to give up the position in February 2006.

Sergey Yurievich Glazyev is a Russian politician and economist, Full Member of Russian Academy of Science since 2008. He was a minister in 1993, a member of the State Duma in 1993-2007, and ran for President of Russia in 2004. Glazyev was a co-founder of the Rodina party. Glazyev announced his retirement from politics in March 2007, and said that he did not intend to seek a further term in the Duma, arguing that Vladimir Putin’s rule had crowded out all forms of political opposition and debate in the country.

In July 2012, Putin appointed Glazyev as presidential aide for the coordination of the work of federal agencies in developing the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Glazyev has authored more than forty books and hundreds of pamphlets and research papers. One of his books has been published in English translation by the LaRouche movement’s Executive Intelligence Review as Genocide: Russia and the New World Order (ISBN 0-943235-16-2). In 1995 he was awarded with the Gold Kondratieff Medal by the International N. D. Kondratieff Foundation and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RAEN).

In August 2013 Glazyev claimed that stating that all Ukrainians favor Ukraine to integrate in the European Union “is some kind of sick self-delusion”.[3] Because, according to him, “sociological surveys by Ukrainian sociological services say something different: 35% of people prefer the European Union and 40% the Customs Union”. He blamed “numerous political scientists and experts, who have fed on European and American grants for 20 years, and a whole generation of diplomats and bureaucrats that has appeared after the years of the ‘orange’ hysteria, who are carrying out an anti-Russian agenda” and “who are too far from the economy and real life, don’t really know their country’s history and are divorced from its spiritual traditions” for creating “an effect that Ukraine doesn’t want”.[3] Ukrainian opinion polls that polled support in Ukraine for European Union membership did indicate that at the time of Mr Glazyev’s statements Ukrainians preferred joining the European Union rather than the Customs Union.

  • Leonid Slutsky

Leonid Eduardovich Slutskii is a member of the State Duma of Russia, a member of the LDPR party. Currently he is the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the “Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Integration and links with compatriots”. Slutsky as been a First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs. He is dean of the international relations department at the Moscow State University of Economics, Information and Statistics. He has held senior banking positions and was an advisor to the mayor of Moscow. Slutsky also reported to a directorate of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. He holds an economics degree from the Moscow Economic-Statistical Institute

  • Andrei Klishas

Dr. Andrey A. Klishas served as Vice President and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Interros Company since June 2008. Dr. Klishas is a visiting Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law Faculty and an Assistant Professor of Constitutional and Municipal Department (Legal Department) of Russian Peoples Friendship University. Dr. Klishas is an Assistant Professor of constitutional and municipal department of Moscow University for the Russian Ministry of Domestic Affairs. From June 1998 to October 2001, he was the Legal Matters Director and Deputy General Director of Interros Company. From October 2001, Dr. Klishas served as the General Director of Interros and from December 2001, he was the Chairman of the Management Board. From January 2004, Dr. Klishas was a Member of the Board of Directors of the firm. He held different posts at Russian Federal Property Fund from 1995 to 1997 and at UNEXIM Bank, where he was the Deputy Head of Legal Department from August 1997 to June 1998. On July 2007, Dr. Klishas was elected the President of Federation of Hunting Dog Breeding.

Currently, he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Polyus Gold since June 26, 2008 and Open Investments company and a Member of the Board of Agros Group and Polyus CJSC. Dr. Klishas serves as a General Director at KM Invest Private Joint Stock Company. He has been Director of MMC Norilsk Nickel since December 2008.

  • Valentina Matviyenko

Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko is the highest-ranking female politician in Russia, the former governor of Saint Petersburg and the current Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation. Born in the Ukrainian SSR, Matviyenko started her political career in the 1980s in Saint Petersburg (then called Leningrad) and was the First Secretary of the Krasnogvardeysky District CPSU of the city from 1984 to 1986. In the 1990s she served as Russian ambassador to Malta (1991–1995) and Greece (1997–1998). Between 1998–2003 Matviyenko was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia for Welfare, and briefly the Presidential Envoy to the Northwestern Federal District in 2003. By that time she firmly allied herself with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an alliance which secured her a victory in the governor elections in Saint Petersburg, Putin’s native city.

On 19 May 2007, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation announced that on 16 May it had detained several members of an undisclosed youth religious group allegedly preparing an assassination attempt on Valentina Matviyenko’s life using hand grenades and plastic explosive. On 23 May FSB Director Nikolay Patrushev announced that the prevented attempt had been scheduled for June.

Controversial businessman Vitaly Arkhangelsky accused Matviyenko in corporate raiding and corruption. According to him Matvieyenko is the real owner of the bank “Saint Petersburg” that staged a corporate raid on the property of his company, OMG that included Vyborg Port and Western Terminal of Saint Petersburg port using falsified documents with forged signature of Arkhangelsy. The lawyers of bank “Saint Petersburg” insist on exclusion materials of Matviyenko’s involvement from the criminal case in London court.

  • Dmitry Rogozin

Dmitryi Olegovich Rogozin  is a Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in charge of defense industry. In January 2008, he became Russia’s ambassador to NATO, until December 2011. He was a leader of the Rodina (Motherland) party until it merged with other similar Russian parties to form the Fair Russia party.He speaks 4 languages and holds a doctor’s degree.

On 18 February 2011 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Dmitry Rogozin as a Special Representative on anti-missile defence and negotiations with NATO countries on this issue. On 23 December 2011 Dmitry Rogozin was appointed deputy premier of Russian Government in charge of defense and space industry. As responsible for the defense industry he leads the creation of the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry (Russian DARPA).

In 2008 he was appointed a Russian ambassador to NATO. As Russia’s NATO envoy he was heavily opposed to Ukraine and Georgia becoming members of NATO. After the two countries were denied membership of the NATO Membership Action Plan he claimed that: “They will not invite these bankrupt scandalous regimes to join NATO…more so as important partnerships with Russia are at stake.”. For such words he was criticized by some Ukrainian and Georgian officials. Former Ukraine’s envoy to NATO Ihor Sahach said: “In my opinion, he is merely used as one of cogs in the informational war waged against Ukraine. Sooner or later, I think, it should be stopped”. The envoy also expressed a surprise with Rogozin’s slang words. “It was for the first time that I heard such a higher official as envoy using this, I don’t even know how to describe it, whether it was a slang or language of criminal circles… I understand Russian, but, I’m sorry, I don’t know what his words meant”.The Foreign Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Ohryzko stated that he did not regard the statement as serious.

  • Yelena Mizulina

Yelena Mizulina is a Russian politician serving as a member of the Russian Parliament between 1995 and 2003 and again since 2007. Since 2012, she has been the center of attention in regard to a set of controversial laws concerning the rights of the LGBT community in Russia and the adoption of Russian orphan children by foreigners. She is currently Chairman of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs. She has changed her political affiliation several times, having served public office on behalf of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the liberal Yabloko and Union of Right Forces parties and is currently representing the region of Omsk in the Duma as a representative of the social democratic A Just Russia party.

Obama Issues Executive Order Freezing Assets Of Seven Putin Aides | Zero Hedge

Obama Issues Executive Order Freezing Assets Of Seven Putin Aides | Zero Hedge.

As was largely expected, the first retaliation by Obama has arrived, courtesy of a just issued Executive Order by the president, in which he has blocked and frozen “all property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person” (i.e. assets) of not only the pre-coup Ukraine president Yanukovich and the Crimean leader Aksyonov, including all Russians that operate in the Russian arms industry, but most notably seven Putin aides. Not Putin himself of course – that would be too “escalatory”…

From the White House:

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660 of March 6, 2014, finding that the actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine — including the recent deployment of Russian Federation military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine — undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in…

The people impacted:

  • Vladislav Surkov

Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov (born 21 September 1964)[1] is a Russian businessman and politician. He was First Deputy of the Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration from 1999 to 2011, during which time he was widely seen as the main ideologist of the Kremlin. Allegedly he contributed greatly to the electoral victory of President Vladimir Putin in 2004. Surkov is seen as the main architect of the current Russian political system, often described as “sovereign” or “managed” democracy.

From December 2011 until 8 May 2013 he served as the Russian Federation’s Deputy Prime Minister. While his resignation was described as voluntary, presidential spokesman Peskov linked the resignation with the government’s failure to carry out decrees by President Putin., in the late 1980s he started as a businessman as the government lifted the ban against private businesses. He became a head of the advertisement department of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s businesses. During the 1990s he held key managerial positions in advertisement and PR departments of Khodorkovsky’s Bank Menatep (1991 – April 1996) and Rosprom (March 1996 – February 1997) and Fridman’s Alfa-Bank (since February 1997).

In September 2004 Surkov was elected president of the board of directors of the oil products transportation company Transnefteproduct, but was instructed by Russia’s PM Mikhail Fradkov to give up the position in February 2006.

Sergey Yurievich Glazyev is a Russian politician and economist, Full Member of Russian Academy of Science since 2008. He was a minister in 1993, a member of the State Duma in 1993-2007, and ran for President of Russia in 2004. Glazyev was a co-founder of the Rodina party. Glazyev announced his retirement from politics in March 2007, and said that he did not intend to seek a further term in the Duma, arguing that Vladimir Putin’s rule had crowded out all forms of political opposition and debate in the country.

In July 2012, Putin appointed Glazyev as presidential aide for the coordination of the work of federal agencies in developing the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Glazyev has authored more than forty books and hundreds of pamphlets and research papers. One of his books has been published in English translation by the LaRouche movement’s Executive Intelligence Review as Genocide: Russia and the New World Order (ISBN 0-943235-16-2). In 1995 he was awarded with the Gold Kondratieff Medal by the International N. D. Kondratieff Foundation and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RAEN).

In August 2013 Glazyev claimed that stating that all Ukrainians favor Ukraine to integrate in the European Union “is some kind of sick self-delusion”.[3] Because, according to him, “sociological surveys by Ukrainian sociological services say something different: 35% of people prefer the European Union and 40% the Customs Union”. He blamed “numerous political scientists and experts, who have fed on European and American grants for 20 years, and a whole generation of diplomats and bureaucrats that has appeared after the years of the ‘orange’ hysteria, who are carrying out an anti-Russian agenda” and “who are too far from the economy and real life, don’t really know their country’s history and are divorced from its spiritual traditions” for creating “an effect that Ukraine doesn’t want”.[3] Ukrainian opinion polls that polled support in Ukraine for European Union membership did indicate that at the time of Mr Glazyev’s statements Ukrainians preferred joining the European Union rather than the Customs Union.

  • Leonid Slutsky

Leonid Eduardovich Slutskii is a member of the State Duma of Russia, a member of the LDPR party. Currently he is the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the “Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Integration and links with compatriots”. Slutsky as been a First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs. He is dean of the international relations department at the Moscow State University of Economics, Information and Statistics. He has held senior banking positions and was an advisor to the mayor of Moscow. Slutsky also reported to a directorate of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. He holds an economics degree from the Moscow Economic-Statistical Institute

  • Andrei Klishas

Dr. Andrey A. Klishas served as Vice President and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Interros Company since June 2008. Dr. Klishas is a visiting Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law Faculty and an Assistant Professor of Constitutional and Municipal Department (Legal Department) of Russian Peoples Friendship University. Dr. Klishas is an Assistant Professor of constitutional and municipal department of Moscow University for the Russian Ministry of Domestic Affairs. From June 1998 to October 2001, he was the Legal Matters Director and Deputy General Director of Interros Company. From October 2001, Dr. Klishas served as the General Director of Interros and from December 2001, he was the Chairman of the Management Board. From January 2004, Dr. Klishas was a Member of the Board of Directors of the firm. He held different posts at Russian Federal Property Fund from 1995 to 1997 and at UNEXIM Bank, where he was the Deputy Head of Legal Department from August 1997 to June 1998. On July 2007, Dr. Klishas was elected the President of Federation of Hunting Dog Breeding.

Currently, he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Polyus Gold since June 26, 2008 and Open Investments company and a Member of the Board of Agros Group and Polyus CJSC. Dr. Klishas serves as a General Director at KM Invest Private Joint Stock Company. He has been Director of MMC Norilsk Nickel since December 2008.

  • Valentina Matviyenko

Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko is the highest-ranking female politician in Russia, the former governor of Saint Petersburg and the current Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation. Born in the Ukrainian SSR, Matviyenko started her political career in the 1980s in Saint Petersburg (then called Leningrad) and was the First Secretary of the Krasnogvardeysky District CPSU of the city from 1984 to 1986. In the 1990s she served as Russian ambassador to Malta (1991–1995) and Greece (1997–1998). Between 1998–2003 Matviyenko was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia for Welfare, and briefly the Presidential Envoy to the Northwestern Federal District in 2003. By that time she firmly allied herself with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an alliance which secured her a victory in the governor elections in Saint Petersburg, Putin’s native city.

On 19 May 2007, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation announced that on 16 May it had detained several members of an undisclosed youth religious group allegedly preparing an assassination attempt on Valentina Matviyenko’s life using hand grenades and plastic explosive. On 23 May FSB Director Nikolay Patrushev announced that the prevented attempt had been scheduled for June.

Controversial businessman Vitaly Arkhangelsky accused Matviyenko in corporate raiding and corruption. According to him Matvieyenko is the real owner of the bank “Saint Petersburg” that staged a corporate raid on the property of his company, OMG that included Vyborg Port and Western Terminal of Saint Petersburg port using falsified documents with forged signature of Arkhangelsy. The lawyers of bank “Saint Petersburg” insist on exclusion materials of Matviyenko’s involvement from the criminal case in London court.

  • Dmitry Rogozin

Dmitryi Olegovich Rogozin  is a Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in charge of defense industry. In January 2008, he became Russia’s ambassador to NATO, until December 2011. He was a leader of the Rodina (Motherland) party until it merged with other similar Russian parties to form the Fair Russia party.He speaks 4 languages and holds a doctor’s degree.

On 18 February 2011 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Dmitry Rogozin as a Special Representative on anti-missile defence and negotiations with NATO countries on this issue. On 23 December 2011 Dmitry Rogozin was appointed deputy premier of Russian Government in charge of defense and space industry. As responsible for the defense industry he leads the creation of the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry (Russian DARPA).

In 2008 he was appointed a Russian ambassador to NATO. As Russia’s NATO envoy he was heavily opposed to Ukraine and Georgia becoming members of NATO. After the two countries were denied membership of the NATO Membership Action Plan he claimed that: “They will not invite these bankrupt scandalous regimes to join NATO…more so as important partnerships with Russia are at stake.”. For such words he was criticized by some Ukrainian and Georgian officials. Former Ukraine’s envoy to NATO Ihor Sahach said: “In my opinion, he is merely used as one of cogs in the informational war waged against Ukraine. Sooner or later, I think, it should be stopped”. The envoy also expressed a surprise with Rogozin’s slang words. “It was for the first time that I heard such a higher official as envoy using this, I don’t even know how to describe it, whether it was a slang or language of criminal circles… I understand Russian, but, I’m sorry, I don’t know what his words meant”.The Foreign Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Ohryzko stated that he did not regard the statement as serious.

  • Yelena Mizulina

Yelena Mizulina is a Russian politician serving as a member of the Russian Parliament between 1995 and 2003 and again since 2007. Since 2012, she has been the center of attention in regard to a set of controversial laws concerning the rights of the LGBT community in Russia and the adoption of Russian orphan children by foreigners. She is currently Chairman of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs. She has changed her political affiliation several times, having served public office on behalf of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the liberal Yabloko and Union of Right Forces parties and is currently representing the region of Omsk in the Duma as a representative of the social democratic A Just Russia party.

The West Should Butt Out of Ukrainian Politics | Jackson Doughart

The West Should Butt Out of Ukrainian Politics | Jackson Doughart.

Jackson Doughart

Posted: 03/05/2014 5:16 pm

The West, and especially the English-speaking West, has wrongly taken sides in the present conflict in Ukraine. On the one hand, our leaders have mimicked the line of the news media, which simplistically represent the revolutionary ouster of President Yanukovych as an occasion of desperate democratic action against a corrupt leader. On the other hand, various pundits have elevated Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the status of enemy, whose actions must be “contained” as an apparent foreign-policy sine qua non.

For instance, the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer argues that President Obama “sees Ukraine as merely a crisis to be managed rather than an opportunity to alter the increasingly autocratic trajectory of the region, allow Ukrainians to join their destiny to the West, and block Russian neo-imperialism.”

In response to the Administration’s claim that democracy “must not be imposed by outside intervention but develop on its own,” Krauthammer writes: “Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn’t allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.”

But this “authentic Ukrainian polity” is wrought with ethnic divisions, particularly concerning the Crimean peninsula, which is populated in a majority by ethnic Russians. The pro-Europe posture of the protesters is a reflection less of a considered moral preference than of a country torn in politics and identity between East and West. Krauthammer also fails to mention that the “Russian pressure” involved here is not a mere exercise in imperial Realpolitik. What’s really involved is the fear of Ukrainians that they may be unduly influenced by Russia, or worse, that they may lose territory. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Russians fear that a more nationalist government will leave them with less clout and fewer political rights, such as the regional language recognition that the new parliament has just taken away from them.

Putin isn’t going to leave the Russian residents of the Ukraine, and especially those in Crimea, proverbially out to dry. It’s a matter of legitimate interest for Russia, whose ethnic brethren was stranded from the homeland when Ukraine declared independence, to use its geopolitical might to protect them. (One remembers that it was only in 1954 that Crimea was tacked onto the Ukrainian SSR — a fact of little importance when the entire country was run by the Kremlin, but of great importance now.) But so too it is legitimate for the new Ukrainian government to fight any specter of partition in Crimea. It will want to preserve the territorial integrity of its state and ensure that the substantial Ukrainian minority in that region remains within its sovereign borders.

Where does this leave Western countries and their national interests? As a rule, these kind of ethno-territorial conflicts involve deep-seated animosities that are scarcely appreciable to those unfamiliar with their histories. They also invariably involve the atrocious use of force by both sides, contrary to the tendency of news organizations and other media to portray such conflicts as one of “good guys” and “bad guys.” Evidently, not all human conflicts can be boiled down to matters of good versus evil.

A salient example is that of the Kosovo conflict of some 15 years ago. After having foolishly maintained an arms embargo that favoured the Serb forces over the Croats and Muslims during the Bosnian War, and subsequently intervening in pursuit of a peace agreement in 1995, the West came down like a ton of bricks on Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, which employed force to put down secessionist uprisings in the south. The Muslim Kosovar-Albanians formed a majority in the region and wished to break away from Serbia, either to form an independent state or to join Albania. The Christian Serbs, who formed a minority in Kosovo but a majority in the country, understandably wanted to keep Kosovo as part of their territory.

In hindsight, it remains remarkably unclear why the West was so decisively on the side of the Kosovar-Albanians. Perhaps we thought that extending a helping hand to the Kosovo Liberation Army would earn us sympathies in the Muslim world. Another idea, which is persuasive to me, is that the Western media collectively decided that Slobodon Milosevic was evil, which meant that any action his country took, however legitimate, was also evil. Today, Vladimir Putin has been deemed evil by our opinion-makers, meaning that any enemy of his is supposedly a friend of ours.

The Kosovo War had a further implication. When the United States and its allies directed NATO to perform air strikes on Serbia, it did so without the permission of the United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent and veto-wielding member. Perhaps more importantly, that case established the ability of a powerful state to choose one side in an ethnic conflict and commit military force in its support, seemingly without any overarching geopolitical reason.

Ironically, this plays directly into the hands of the loathed Mister Putin, who has called Obama’s bluff by first moving his troops to the Ukrainian border, and then into Crimea itself. Given the brazenness of our intervention in Kosovo, with its ignorance of international law as well as the wishes of other powerful states, on what remaining leg will we stand if Putin decides to forcibly remove Crimea from Ukraine? Such action, after all, would be ostensibly in support of a beleaguered minority seeking refuge from a nationalist government.

This is a very irresponsible way to even think about, and let alone conduct, foreign affairs. One doesn’t have to be an isolationist to see that some conflicts are not of paramount importance to the national interest, and hence to the calculation of sacrificing blood and treasure overseas. To the contrary, many such situations are, to use Krauthammer’s scornful words, “merely a crisis to be managed.”

Instead of making empty promises or threats, our message should be clear and decisive: “What is happening in Ukraine is a matter that its population has to sort out for itself. But, if asked, we will work with all interested parties to mediate a speedy and peaceful resolution.” No more, no less.

~
This piece also appears in the Prince Arthur Herald.

The West Should Butt Out of Ukrainian Politics | Jackson Doughart

The West Should Butt Out of Ukrainian Politics | Jackson Doughart.

Jackson Doughart

Posted: 03/05/2014 5:16 pm

The West, and especially the English-speaking West, has wrongly taken sides in the present conflict in Ukraine. On the one hand, our leaders have mimicked the line of the news media, which simplistically represent the revolutionary ouster of President Yanukovych as an occasion of desperate democratic action against a corrupt leader. On the other hand, various pundits have elevated Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the status of enemy, whose actions must be “contained” as an apparent foreign-policy sine qua non.

For instance, the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer argues that President Obama “sees Ukraine as merely a crisis to be managed rather than an opportunity to alter the increasingly autocratic trajectory of the region, allow Ukrainians to join their destiny to the West, and block Russian neo-imperialism.”

In response to the Administration’s claim that democracy “must not be imposed by outside intervention but develop on its own,” Krauthammer writes: “Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn’t allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.”

But this “authentic Ukrainian polity” is wrought with ethnic divisions, particularly concerning the Crimean peninsula, which is populated in a majority by ethnic Russians. The pro-Europe posture of the protesters is a reflection less of a considered moral preference than of a country torn in politics and identity between East and West. Krauthammer also fails to mention that the “Russian pressure” involved here is not a mere exercise in imperial Realpolitik. What’s really involved is the fear of Ukrainians that they may be unduly influenced by Russia, or worse, that they may lose territory. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Russians fear that a more nationalist government will leave them with less clout and fewer political rights, such as the regional language recognition that the new parliament has just taken away from them.

Putin isn’t going to leave the Russian residents of the Ukraine, and especially those in Crimea, proverbially out to dry. It’s a matter of legitimate interest for Russia, whose ethnic brethren was stranded from the homeland when Ukraine declared independence, to use its geopolitical might to protect them. (One remembers that it was only in 1954 that Crimea was tacked onto the Ukrainian SSR — a fact of little importance when the entire country was run by the Kremlin, but of great importance now.) But so too it is legitimate for the new Ukrainian government to fight any specter of partition in Crimea. It will want to preserve the territorial integrity of its state and ensure that the substantial Ukrainian minority in that region remains within its sovereign borders.

Where does this leave Western countries and their national interests? As a rule, these kind of ethno-territorial conflicts involve deep-seated animosities that are scarcely appreciable to those unfamiliar with their histories. They also invariably involve the atrocious use of force by both sides, contrary to the tendency of news organizations and other media to portray such conflicts as one of “good guys” and “bad guys.” Evidently, not all human conflicts can be boiled down to matters of good versus evil.

A salient example is that of the Kosovo conflict of some 15 years ago. After having foolishly maintained an arms embargo that favoured the Serb forces over the Croats and Muslims during the Bosnian War, and subsequently intervening in pursuit of a peace agreement in 1995, the West came down like a ton of bricks on Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, which employed force to put down secessionist uprisings in the south. The Muslim Kosovar-Albanians formed a majority in the region and wished to break away from Serbia, either to form an independent state or to join Albania. The Christian Serbs, who formed a minority in Kosovo but a majority in the country, understandably wanted to keep Kosovo as part of their territory.

In hindsight, it remains remarkably unclear why the West was so decisively on the side of the Kosovar-Albanians. Perhaps we thought that extending a helping hand to the Kosovo Liberation Army would earn us sympathies in the Muslim world. Another idea, which is persuasive to me, is that the Western media collectively decided that Slobodon Milosevic was evil, which meant that any action his country took, however legitimate, was also evil. Today, Vladimir Putin has been deemed evil by our opinion-makers, meaning that any enemy of his is supposedly a friend of ours.

The Kosovo War had a further implication. When the United States and its allies directed NATO to perform air strikes on Serbia, it did so without the permission of the United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent and veto-wielding member. Perhaps more importantly, that case established the ability of a powerful state to choose one side in an ethnic conflict and commit military force in its support, seemingly without any overarching geopolitical reason.

Ironically, this plays directly into the hands of the loathed Mister Putin, who has called Obama’s bluff by first moving his troops to the Ukrainian border, and then into Crimea itself. Given the brazenness of our intervention in Kosovo, with its ignorance of international law as well as the wishes of other powerful states, on what remaining leg will we stand if Putin decides to forcibly remove Crimea from Ukraine? Such action, after all, would be ostensibly in support of a beleaguered minority seeking refuge from a nationalist government.

This is a very irresponsible way to even think about, and let alone conduct, foreign affairs. One doesn’t have to be an isolationist to see that some conflicts are not of paramount importance to the national interest, and hence to the calculation of sacrificing blood and treasure overseas. To the contrary, many such situations are, to use Krauthammer’s scornful words, “merely a crisis to be managed.”

Instead of making empty promises or threats, our message should be clear and decisive: “What is happening in Ukraine is a matter that its population has to sort out for itself. But, if asked, we will work with all interested parties to mediate a speedy and peaceful resolution.” No more, no less.

~
This piece also appears in the Prince Arthur Herald.

President Obama Warns Ukraine Against “Crossing The Line” | Zero Hedge

President Obama Warns Ukraine Against “Crossing The Line” | Zero Hedge.

The US is adding its $0.02 to the international condemnation of the actions under way in Ukraine – desparate to re-write Victoria Nuland’s narrative of “f##k the EUR” and political manipulation. President Obama, having not learned his lesson the last time he drew a red line, has come out swinging…

  • *OBAMA:`THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES IF PEOPLE STEP OVER THE LINE’
  • *OBAMA SAYS U.S. CONDEMNS UKRAINE VIOLENCE IN `STRONGEST TERMS’
  • *OBAMA:MILITARY SHOULDN’T ACT WHERE CIVILIANS CAN RESOLVE ISSUES

Of course, it’s unclear if open military action against civilians is ‘crossing the line’ but we await Putin’s response.

More from the WSJ:

The Obama administration is considering sanctions against Ukraine, possibly in concert with European allies, saying the threat of penalties may push the government in Kiev to halt the deadly violence there.

“All of us are deeply disturbed,” Secretary of State John Kerry said during a brief appearance in Paris with his French counterpart. “We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps with our friends in Europe and elsewhere in order to try to create the environment for compromise.”

Mr. Kerry and other U.S. officials didn’t detail what those sanctions might entail, but the administration in the past has held out the threat of individual sanctions, typically steps that freeze assets and limit travel.

The threat from the U.S. comes after violent clashes in Kiev this week have claimed the lives of at least 25 people and as the Obama administration and its European counterparts try to get a handle on the situation.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has blamed opposition leaders for the violence, while opposition leaders said the government was responsible.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy National Security Adviser to President Barack Obama, said the administration hopes the threat of sanctions will quell some of the violence. “We have made it clear we would consider taking action against individuals who are responsible for acts of violence within Ukraine,” he said while traveling with Mr. Obama to Mexico. Mr. Obama is headed to Mexico, among other reasons, to discuss trade.

China Demands Japanese Explanation About “That Other Plutonium” | Zero Hedge

China Demands Japanese Explanation About “That Other Plutonium” | Zero Hedge.

The world has grown tired of the inexorable rise in radiation levels and propaganda-talk sourrounding nuclear issues in Japan from the government in the last few years since Fukushima changed the nation’s future. However, there is another source of nuclear materials that is increasingly angering the Chinese. The tensions and rhetoric, from WWI analogs to Nazi comparisons, have risen recently; but this time, the Chinese are asking a legitimate question… “If a country claims that it sticks by the three non-nuclear principles but at same time hoards far more nuclear materials than it needs, including a massive amount of weapon-grade plutonium, the world has good reason to ask why…. After all, Abe and his cabinet have already caused too much trouble to regional peace and stability.”

Via Xinhua (Tian Dongdong),

Tokyo owes world explanation over weapon-grade

If a country claims that it sticks by the three non-nuclear principles but at same time hoards far more nuclear materials than it needs, including a massive amount of weapon-grade plutonium, the world has good reason to ask why.

As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Japan should adhere to its international obligations. As the world’s only victim of nuclear attacks in the final stage of WWII, it should clearly understand the horrible consequences of nuclear proliferation.

However, five decades are not long enough for the island country, where some politicians wish, openly or privately, for nuclear arms, to return the 331 kilogram of weapon-grade plutonium — enough for 40 to 50 nuclear bombs — it received from the United States during the Cold War.

Some Japanese experts have said that, with necessary amounts of weapon-grade nuclear materials, their country is capable of developing nuclear bombs within a year.

Adding to the world’s concern, Japan is also reportedly hoarding more than 1.2 tons of enriched uranium and another 44 tons of plutonium, which overwhelmingly dwarf its civilian demands.

The ecological and environmental catastrophe of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 had clearly showed that the superabundant nuclear materials are actually time bombs for a seismically active country like Japan.

What’s more, storing more than necessary nuclear materials is also against the regulations of the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which require countries to keep a balance between the demand and supply of nuclear materials.

The somewhat obsessive possession of nuclear materials is not the behavior of a responsible and reliable country, as Japan portrays itself in the international community.

It brings nothing but doubt and suspicion to the already volatile East Asia.

If the Japanese government truly wants to play a constructive role for regional stability, it should honestly explain its reluctance to the world and return the stored nuclear materials as soon as possible. After all, Abe and his cabinet have already caused too much trouble to regional peace and stability.

As The Diplomat’s Shannon Tiezzi adds,

Currently, even though Japan has shut down its nuclear reactors (and is not using plutonium), there are plans to open a new reprocessing plant at Rokkasho. According to a report by the International Panel of Fissile Materials, this new plant would separate out about 8 tons of plutonium each year—enough “to make one thousand Nagasaki-type bombs.”

There is clear concern in China that Japan’s plutonium reserves could eventually wind up being used to develop nuclear weapons. There’s historical precedent for this—India became a nuclear-armed state after using reprocessing to gain nuclear materials. For China, Japan’s plutonium stockpile is one more piece of evidence that Shinzo Abe is seeking return to Japan’s militaristic glory days.

This accumulation of plutonium also threatens global non-proliferation efforts, and thus runs directly counter to U.S. President Barack Obama’s emphasis on nuclear security. “We simply can’t go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we’re trying to keep away from terrorists,” he said in a 2012 speech at Hankuk University in Seoul. The White House has apparently been quietly pressuring Japan to drop the reprocessing plan, and to begin simply storing spent nuclear fuel rather than separating out plutonium.

There are complicated domestic reasons for Japan to continue with the opening of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, including vested interest groups that insist on the economic benefits of continuing with construction. But Tokyo should not overlook the regional and global concern caused by opening a new reprocessing plant when Japan has no concrete plan for using or disposing of its current plutonium stockpiles.

But apart from that – everything is great in the world… it must be, US stocks are at all-time highs…

Of course, this places “ally” President Obama in an awkward position given his anti-proliferation stance… though we suspect he will have an angle: “if you like your plutonium stockpile, you can keep it.”

“The Vampire Squid Strikes Again”- Matt Taibbi Takes On Blythe Masters And The Banker Commodity Cartel | Zero Hedge

“The Vampire Squid Strikes Again”- Matt Taibbi Takes On Blythe Masters And The Banker Commodity Cartel | Zero Hedge.

The story of how JPMorgan, Goldman and the rest of the Too Big To Fails and Prosecutes, cornered, monopolized and became a full-blown cartel – with the Fed’s explicit blessing – in the physical commodity market is nothing new to regular readers: to those new to this story, we suggest reading of our story from June 2011 (over two and a half years ago),  “Goldman, JP Morgan Have Now Become A Commodity Cartel As They Slowly Recreate De Beers’ Diamond Monopoly.” That, or Matt Taibbi’s latest article written in his usual florid and accessible style, in which he explains how the “Vampire Squid strikes again” courtesy of the “loophole that destroyed the world” to wit: “it would take half a generation – till now, basically – to understand the most explosive part of the bill, which additionally legalized new forms of monopoly, allowing banks to merge with heavy industry. A tiny provision in the bill also permitted commercial banks to delve into any activity that is “complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety or soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally.” Complementary to a financial activity. What the hell did that mean?… Fifteen years later, in fact, it now looks like Wall Street and its lawyers took the term to be a synonym for ruthless campaigns of world domination.

Some key excerpts:

Today, banks like Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs own oil tankers, run airports and control huge quantities of coal, natural gas, heating oil, electric power and precious metals. They likewise can now be found exerting direct control over the supply of a whole galaxy of raw materials crucial to world industry and to society in general, including everything from food products to metals like zinc, copper, tin, nickel and, most infamously thanks to a recent high-profile scandal, aluminum. And they’re doing it not just here but abroad as well: In Denmark, thousands took to the streets in protest in recent weeks, vampire-squid banners in hand, when news came out that Goldman Sachs was about to buy a 19 percent stake in Dong Energy, a national electric provider. The furor inspired mass resignations of ministers from the government’s ruling coalition, as the Danish public wondered how an American investment bank could possibly hold so much influence over the state energy grid.

The motive for the Kochs, or anyone else, to hoard a commodity like oil can be almost beautiful in its simplicity. Basically, a bank or a trading company wants to buy commodities cheap in the present and sell them for a premium as futures. This trade, sometimes called “arbitraging the contango,” works best if the cost of storing your oil or metals or whatever you’re dealing with is negligible – you make more money off the futures trade if you don’t have to pay rent while you wait to deliver.

 

So when financial firms suddenly start buying oil tankers or warehouses, they could be doing so to make bets pay off, as part of a speculative strategy – which is why the banks’ sudden acquisitions of metals-storage companies in 2010 is so noteworthy.

 

These were not minor projects. The firms put high-ranking executives in charge of these operations. Goldman’s acquisition of Metro was the project of Isabelle Ealet, the bank’s then-global commodities chief. (In a curious coincidence commented upon by several sources for this story, many of Goldman’s most senior officials, including CEO Lloyd Blankfein and president Gary Cohn, started their careers in Goldman’s commodities division.)

Then there are the political connections:

In 2010, a decade after the Rich pardon, Holder was attorney general, but under Barack Obama, and two Rich-created firms, along with two banks that have been major donors to the Democratic Party, all made moves to buy up metals warehouses. In near simultaneous fashion, Goldman, Chase, Glencore and Trafigura bought companies that control warehouses all over the world for the LME, or London Metals Exchange. The LME is a privately owned exchange for world metals trading. It’s the world’s primary hub for determining metals prices and also for trading metals-based futures, options, swaps and other instruments.

 

“If they were just interested in collecting rent for metals storage, they’d have bought all kinds of warehouses,” says Manal Mehta, the founder of Sunesis Capital, a hedge fund that has done extensive research on the banks’ forays into the commodities markets. “But they seemed to focus on these official LME facilities.”

 

The JPMorgan deal seemed to be in direct violation of an order sent to the bank by the Fed in 2005, which declared the bank was not authorized to “own, operate, or invest in facilities for the extraction, transportation, storage, or distribution of commodities.” The way the Fed later explained this to the Senate was that the purchase of Henry Bath was OK because it considered the acquisition of this commodities company kosher within the context of a larger sale that the Fed was cool with – “If the bulk of the acquisition is a permissible activity, they’re allowed to include a small amount of impermissible activities.”

 

What’s more, according to LME regulations, no warehouse company can also own metal or make trades on the exchange. While they may have been following the letter of the law, they were certainly violating the spirit: Goldman preposterously seems to have engaged in all three activities simultaneously, changing a hat every time it wanted to switch roles. It conducted its metal trades through its commodities subsidiary J. Aron, and then put Metro, its warehouse company, in charge of the storage, and according to industry experts, Goldman most likely owned some metal, though the company has remained vague on the subject.

 

If you’re wondering why the LME would permit a seemingly blatant violation of its own rules, a good place to start would be to look at who owned the LME at the time. Although it eventual­ly sold itself to a Hong Kong company in 2012, in 2010 the LME was owned by a consortium of banks and financial companies. The two largest shareholders? Goldman and JPMorgan Chase.

 

Humorously, another was Koch Metals (2.32 percent), a commodities concern that’s part of the Koch brothers’ empire. The Kochs have been caught up in their own commodity-manipulation schemes, including an episode in 2008, in which they rented out huge tankers and sed them to store excess oil offshore essentially as floating warehouses, taking cheap oil out of available supply and thereby helping to drive up energy prices. Additionally, some banks have been accused of similar oil-hoarding schemes.

And then there is of course Blythe, who is now looking for a new job precisely as a result of the cartel story:

Chase’s own head of commodities operations, Blythe Masters – an even more famed Wall Street figure, sometimes described as the inventor of the credit default swap – admitted that her company’s warehouse interests weren’t just a casual thing. “Just being able to trade financial commodities is a serious limitation because financial commodities represent only a tiny fraction of the reality of the real commodity exposure picture,” she said in 2010.

 

Loosely translated, Masters was saying that there was a limited amount of money to be made simply trading commodities in the traditional legal manner. The solution? “We need to be active in the underlying physical commodity markets,” she said, “in order to understand and make prices.”

 

We need to make prices. The head of Chase’s commodities division actually said this, out loud, and it speaks to both the general unlikelihood of God’s existence and the consistently low level of competence of America’s regulators that she was not immediately zapped between the eyebrows with a thunderbolt upon doing so. Instead, the government sat by and watched as a curious phenomenon developed at all of these new bank-owned warehouses, in the aluminum markets in particular.

Finally, the big picture:

[T]he potential for wide-scale manipulation and/or new financial disasters is only part of the nightmare that this new merger of banking and industry has created. The other, perhaps even darker problem involves the new existential dangers both to the environment and to the stability of the financial system. Long before Goldman and Chase started buying up metals warehouses, for instance, Morgan Stanley had already bought up a substantial empire of physical businesses – electricity plants in a number of states, a firm that trades in heating oil, jet fuels, fertilizers, asphalt, chemicals, pipelines and a global operator of oil tankers.

 

How long before one of these fully loaded monster ships capsizes, and Morgan Stanley becomes the next BP, not only killing a gazillion birds and sea mammals off some unlucky country’s shores but also taking the financial system down with them, as lawsuits plunge the company into bankruptcy with Lehman-style repercussions? Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman, even admitted how risky his firm’s new acquisitions were last year, when he reportedly told staff that a hypothetical oil spill was “a risk we just can’t take.”

 

The regulators are almost worse. Remember the 2008 collapse happened when government bodies like the Fed, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision – whose entire expertise supposedly revolves around monitoring the safety and soundness of financial companies – somehow missed that half of Wall Street was functionally bankrupt.

 

Now that many of those financial companies have been bailed out, those same regulators who couldn’t or wouldn’t smell smoke in a raging fire last time around are suddenly in charge of deciding if companies like Morgan Stanley are taking out enough insurance on their oil tankers, or if banks like Goldman Sachs are properly handling their uranium deposits.

 

“The Fed isn’t the most enthusiastic regulator in the best of times,” says Brown. “And now we’re asking them to take this on?”

Read the full story here (Rolling Stone link), or alternatively for those curious, here is a presentation highlighting all the key aspects of the aluminum price manipulation story by the big banks.

Obama Announces $750M In Pledges From Companies To Connect Students To High-Speed Internet

Obama Announces $750M In Pledges From Companies To Connect Students To High-Speed Internet.

CP  |  By The Associated PressPosted: 02/04/2014 6:01 am EST  |  Updated: 02/04/2014 6:59 am EST

Obama

WASHINGTON – Claiming progress in his campaign to get American schools wired for the future, President Barack Obama is announcing commitments from U.S. companies totalling about $750 million to connect more students to high-speed Internet.

Apple is pledging $100 million in iPads, computers and other tools. AT&T and Sprint are contributing free Internet service through their wireless networks. Verizon is pitching in up to $100 million in cash and in-kind contributions. And Microsoft is making Windows available at discounted prices and offering 12 million free copies of Microsoft Office software.

Obama was to announce the commitments Tuesday at a middle school in the Maryland suburbs near Washington. Also in the pipeline: an addition $2 billion that the Federal Communications Commission is setting aside from service fees over two years to connect another 20 million students to high-speed Internet.

“There is almost no more important way to make sure opportunity is available than making sure every child has access to the highest quality education we can provide,” said Cecilia Munoz, who directs the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. “Technology is clearly going to be essential to making that possible.”

The White House hopes the pledges will help fulfil a goal Obama set last summer to have 99 per cent of students wired at high speeds within five years. At the time, Obama said only 1 in 5 American students had that access, compared with 100 per cent of students in places like South Korea.

The initiative also builds on Obama’s focus for 2014 on helping more Americans join and stay in the middle class amid an economic recovery in which the benefits have come quicker for those at the top of the income scale than for those toward the bottom.

Gene Sperling, a top White House economist, said every student needs high-speed Internet, but the problem is more pronounced in disadvantaged schools where students are less likely to have Internet connections at home. He said digital learning tools make it easier for schools to cater to the needs of students who need extra help or who are ahead of the curve.

“People can learn at their own pace. They don’t have to be embarrassed if they’re struggling,” Sperling said. “And schools can make sure their fastest learners have their own opportunities.”

Sperling wouldn’t predict how many students would benefit from the funding commitments announced Tuesday, but he estimated it would be in the millions.

For Obama, the commitments from technology companies may help bolster his argument that despite opposition to most of his agenda from Congress, he can still be effective in his final years in office by deploying his power to bring parties together. In recent days Obama has held similar events to announce commitments from companies to address long-term unemployment and from universities to expand access for low-income students.

“This for us really isn’t about what Congress will or won’t do,” Rose Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation, said in an interview. “It’s really about the kids. I believe it makes perfect sense that we use our technology, our resources, our insight to have an impact.”

This Is Not the Keystone Decision That You Think It Is – Bloomberg

This Is Not the Keystone Decision That You Think It Is – Bloomberg.

By Tom Randall  Jan 31, 2014 2:00 PM ET

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, on March 11, 2013…. Read More

The U.S. State Department is about to release its long-awaited report on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would connect the Alberta Oil Sands to the gulf of Mexico. If you think it’s time to break out the shovels, this is not the Keystone decision that you think it is.

The environmental impact report says the pipeline won’t greatly boost oil sands or have a significant climate impact, according to congressional aids briefed on the study who spoke to Bloomberg News. It calls for additional safety measures to prevent and deal with spills, but it’s generally being received as a thumbs up for the project. Whether you find yourself disappointed or delighted, the Keystone fight is far from over. Here are three of the biggest hurdles that remain:

Hurdle 1: More Government Reviews

Today’s report will start a 90-day clock for eight U.S. federal agencies to weigh in. That includes the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior, which have both expressed reservations about the pipeline in the past. It was the EPA’s objections to the State Department’s draft assessment in March that prompted this new report in the first place. If the EPA objects again, it will pressure the final referee, President Barack Obama, to make a tough call.

 

Hurdle 2: Contractor Controversy

Today’s assessment was conducted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a U.K. company that environmentalists later criticized for potential conflicts of interest. The scrutiny is about to get heated.

Two environmental groups, Friends of the Earth and the Checks and Balances Project, accused ERM in July of lying about its ties to TransCanada, the Calgary-based company that wants to build the pipeline. Specifically, they charged that ERM claimed not to have worked with TransCanada for at least three years, when in fact they had worked together more recently on a pipeline project in Alaska.

The allegations are being investigated by the State Department’s Inspector General. In December, 25 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Obama asking for the final impact study to be delayed pending the outcome of that probe. That didn’t happen, but the conflict, if true, could conceivably lead to a do-over, which is not without precedent.

Hurdle 3 (the big one): The President’s Pen

Ultimately, this decision is for Obama to make. The State Department’s assessment is just one of many things he’ll need to consider, including pressure from his political base, public opinion, opinions of other scientific advisors, relations with Canada and energy security.

 

The Keystone report is a Friday afternoon news dump of Super Bowl proportions. By Sunday, even many Americans who oppose Keystone will be more concerned with the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks than the Canadian tar sands. Maybe that’s just as well, because the real Keystone decision is yet to come.

Snowden Docs: U.S. Spied On Negotiators At 2009 Climate Summit

Snowden Docs: U.S. Spied On Negotiators At 2009 Climate Summit.

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency monitored the communications of other governments ahead of and during the 2009 United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the latest document from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document, with portions marked “top secret,” indicates that the NSA was monitoring the communications of other countries ahead of the conference, and intended to continue doing so throughout the meeting. Posted on an internal NSA website on Dec. 7, 2009, the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it states that “analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies.”

“Second Party partners” refers to the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with which the U.S. has an intelligence-sharing relationship. “While the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the 2-week event,” the document says.

The Huffington Post published the documents Wednesday night in coordination with the Danish daily newspaper Information, which worked with American journalist Laura Poitras.

The December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen was the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which brings together 195 countries to negotiate measures to address rising greenhouse gas emissions and their impact. The Copenhagen summit was the first big climate meeting after the election of President Barack Obama, and was widely expected to yield a significant breakthrough. Other major developed nations were already part of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set emissions limits, while the United States — the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases when the protocol went into effect in 2004 — had famously declined to join. The two-week meeting was supposed to produce a successor agreement that would include the U.S., as well as China, India and other countries with rapidly increasing emissions.

The document indicates that the NSA planned to gather information as the leaders and negotiating teams of other countries held private discussions throughout the Copenhagen meeting. “[L]eaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last-minute policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding sidebar discussions with their counterparts — details of which are of great interest to our policymakers,” the document states. The information likely would be used to brief U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama, among others, according to the document.

The document does not detail how the agency planned to continue gathering information during the summit, other than noting that it would be capturing signals intelligence such as calls and emails. Previous disclosures have indicated that the NSA has the ability to monitor the mobile phones of heads of state. Other documents that Snowden has released indicate that the U.K.’s intelligence service tapped into delegates’ email and telephone communications at the 2009 G-20 meetings in London. Other previous Snowden disclosures documented the surveillance of the G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada in 2010, and the U.N. climate change conference in Bali in 2007.

The document also refers to some intelligence gathered ahead of the meeting, including a report that “detailed China’s efforts to coordinate its position with India and ensure that the two leaders of the developing world are working towards the same outcome.” It refers to another report that “provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to launch a ‘rescue plan’ to save COP-15.”

The Danish proposal was a draft agreement that the country’s negotiators had drawn up in the months ahead of the summit in consultation with a small number key of countries. The text was leaked to The Guardian early in the conference, causing some disarray as countries that were not consulted balked that it promoted the interests of developed nations and undermined principles laid out in previous climate negotiations. As Information reports, Danish officials wanted to keep U.S. negotiators from seeing the text in the weeks ahead of the conference, worried that it may dim their ambitions in the negotiations for proposed cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Danes did share the text with the U.S. and other key nations ahead of the meeting. But the NSA document noting this as “advance details” indicates that the U.S. may have already intercepted it. The paragraph referring to the Danish text is marked “SI” in the Snowden document — which most likely means “signals intelligence,” indicating that it came from electronic information intercepted by the NSA, rather than being provided to the U.S. negotiators.

That could be why U.S. negotiators took the positions they did going into the conference, a Danish official told Information. “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document,” the official said. “They made no constructive statements. Obviously, if they had known about our plans since the fall of 2009, it was in their interest to simply wait for our draft proposal to be brought to the table at the summit.”

Members of the Danish delegation indicated in interviews with Information that they thought the American and Chinese negotiators seemed “peculiarly well-informed” about discussions that had taken place behind closed doors. “Particularly the Americans,” said one official. “I was often completely taken aback by what they knew.”

Despite high hopes for an agreement at Copenhagen, the negotiations started slowly and there were few signs of progress. Obama and heads of state from more than 100 nations arrived late in the second week in hopes of achieving a breakthrough, but the final day wore on without an outcome. There were few promising signals until late Friday night, when Obama made a surprise announcement that he — along with leaders from China, India, Brazil and South Africa — had come up with the “Copenhagen Accord.”

The three-page document set a goal of keeping the average rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius, but allowed countries to write their own plans for cutting emissions — leaving out any legally binding targets or even a path to a formal treaty. Obama called the accord “an unprecedented breakthrough” in a press conference, then took off for home on Air Force One. But other countries balked, pointing out that the accord was merely a political agreement, drafted outside the U.N. process and of uncertain influence for future negotiations.

The climate summits since then have advanced at a glacial pace; a legally binding treaty isn’t currently expected until 2015. And the U.S. Congress, despite assurances made in Copenhagen, never passed new laws cutting planet-warming emissions. (The Environmental Protection Agency is, however, moving forward with regulations on emissions from power plants, but a new law to addressing the issue had been widely considered as preferable.)

The revelation that the NSA was surveilling the communications of leaders during the Copenhagen talks is unlikely to help build the trust of negotiators from other nations in the future.

“It can’t help in the sense that if people think you’re trying to get an unfair advantage or manipulate the process, they’re not going to have much trust in you,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a seasoned veteran of the U.N. climate negotiations. Meyer said he worried that the disclosure might cause the parties to “start becoming more cautious, more secretive, and less forthcoming” in the negotiations. “That’s not a good dynamic in a process where you’re trying to encourage collaboration, compromise, and working together, as opposed to trying to get a comparative advantage,” he said.

Obama has defended the NSA’s work as important in fighting terrorism at home and abroad. But the latest Snowden document indicates that the agency plays a broader role in protecting U.S. interests internationally.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment directly on the Snowden document in an email to The Huffington Post, but did say that “the U.S. Government has made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.” She noted that Obama’s Jan. 17 speech on the NSA “laid out a series of concrete and substantial reforms the Administration will adopt or seek to codify with Congress” regarding surveillance.

“In particular, he issued a new Presidential Directive that lays out new principles that govern how we conduct signals intelligence collection, and strengthen how we provide executive branch oversight of our signals intelligence activities,” Hayden said. “It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of our companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis, so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by the President’s senior national security team.”

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