My recent interview about the German domestic spy agency, the BfV – the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, ironically – being allegedly infiltrated by ISIS.
During the seemingly endless US election, a few months ago Donald Trump said at a convention that NATO is not a gift that America can keep giving. In his stated view – at the time – the other member states should be expected to make a greater financial contribution (the USA currently contributes 70% of NATO’s budget) and if not they could not expect automatic protection in the face of an attack.
On 13th November in the UK’s Observer newspaper, the Secretary General of NATO, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, wrote a think piece in response and acknowledged the need for more widespread contributions, while crying up the historic importance and future need for NATO by citing growing Russian “assertiveness” (diplo-speak for aggression) and the threat from international terrorism.
I was invited onto RT to analyse this and am here expanding on some of the points I made in an always-all-too-brief interview.
Stoltenberg was right to acknowledge Trump’s concerns about the contributions to NATO. But I think that he was also addressing another and already-serving president somewhat closer to home – head of the European Commission and totemic Eurocrat, Jean-Claude Juncker – who for a while now has been plotting an integrated EU army and who ramped up the rhetoric last week after Trump’s victory. The head of NATO is naturally not going to be too happy that the EU is poaching on his territory.
It was also reported in The Observer that France and Germany are planning to announce the acceleration towards a EU army over the coming weeks. So much for European-wide consensus. It would appear that Juncker also sees this as a bargaining position in future Brexit negotiations, if Britain ever does get around to triggering Article 50. Any EU army would need the UK’s contribution – not just the armed forces, which are the second largest in the EU, but also continued close cooperation with the intelligence agencies.
After all, if both the UK post-Brexit and the USA after the ascension of Trump become increasingly isolationist and isolated, it would be natural for the two countries to pivot towards each other to the increasing exclusion of Europe. The UK/US “special relationship” has always been heavily predicated on the uniquely close working relationship of their spies, and the EU will fear being left further out in the cold.
So, if Juncker carries on regardless with his vanity EU army project and Britain agrees to contribute post-Brexit, there may be other sweet deals on offer to the UK during the Brexit negotiations. At least, that seems to be the position Juncker seems to be oiling his way towards.
But the fundamental question has to be asked: why, now, do we need either a New Model EU army or the cavalier NATO? Stoltenberg tried to address this in his article:
“In the last few years we have seen a dramatic deterioration of our security, with a more assertive Russia and turmoil across north Africa and the Middle East. Nato allies have responded together. We have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the cold war. [….] This is deterrence, not aggression. […] Nato also continues to play a crucial role in the fight against terrorism. Every Nato ally is part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State…”
Let us unpick these comments.
Firstly, is Russia indeed becoming more of a military threat, or is this just so much diplomatic grandstanding? After all, is it Russia or NATO that has been more, umm, assertive over the last 27 years?
In answer I refer you back to an article I wrote two years ago after the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Referencing the work of former senior CIA officer and fellow Sam Adams Associate, Ray McGovern, it made clear that a deal was made between the Soviet Union of the time and the US and that, in return for the withdrawal of 260,000 Soviet troops from the GDR and the reunification of Germany, NATO would not move one inch further east than the German border.
Well, today we can see the result of these negotiations – another twelve countries, most in Eastern Europe and right up to the Russian border, have been assimilated into NATO. Recently within most of these border countries large-scale military exercises have been provocatively and publicly staged, plus missile “defence ” systems have been planted in the fertile paranoiac soil of an increasingly aggressive and nationalistic Poland.
Yes, Russia has in retaliation been conducting its own border exercises. The leadership has to be seen to be doing something, otherwise it will appear weak and not protecting its own people. That might be “assertive”, but it’s certainly not “aggressive”.
Nor let us forget the fact that in 2008 NATO was warm towards the idea of Ukraine and Georgia joining, provided they could meet a few conditions. This would be taking Western forces directly into Russia’s back yard. It would be encircling Russia’s border with the rest of Europe with a new “Iron Curtain”. And I have to say that *is* an aggressively political move at the very least.
How did this play out? Well, first stop for the campaign of Russian demonisation was Georgia, under Western neo-con puppet president Mikhail Saakashvili , invading a small and ethnically Russian segment of Georgia, South Ossetia. Russia responded by protecting the population, and then was excoriated across the Western world as conducting an unprovoked invasion of Georgia. This myth has long been exposed factually, but it is the hysterical headlines of the time that residually stick in most people’s minds.
Similarly in Ukraine. In 2014 a coup against the elected head of state, Viktor Yanukovych, apparently partly orchestrated by the USA as we know from intercepted calls between the Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
Interestingly, it was Yanukovych who blocked Ukraine’s accession to NATO in after his election in 2010, perhaps an additional motivation for the 2014 coup.
All this laid bare the fact that the US had pumped $5 billion in to subvert the Ukrainian state over the preceding few years and that, in the face of European opposition to it, the US thought “fuck the EU”. And yet still the EU acquiesced to US-led sanctions against Russia that have hit the EU economy hard.
And the USA accused Russia of meddling in their democratic processes this year? Pot and kettle springs to mind.
Add to this a probably NATO-approved strike on a Russian jet involved in the Syrian conflict earlier this year by NATO member Turkey (at the time one of the closest trading partners of Russia and which, temporarily, caused bilateral damage that has since been repaired) and the military wing of Western interests is not exactly coming up smelling of roses.
But perhaps NATO was just being “assertive”.
So to Stoltenberg’s second point of justification for NATO: the success that it has had combating the threat of international terrorism.
Where can I start with this? Since NATO invoked Article 5 (when one state is attacked, all must respond) in the wake of the 9/11 attacks against America, western countries have been dragged into war after illegal war across the Middle East, central Asia and North Africa.
Let us examine the roll-call of successes: Afghanistan (now back in the hands of the Taliban warlords and supplying ever more heroin to the illegal drug trade that goes some way to funding terrorist groups, including ISIS); Iraq, now a basket case and the cradle of ISIS; Libya ditto plus the drugs; Yemeni communities being vaporised with “precision” bombs by US proxy Saudi Arabia: and Syria of course.
So the NATO Secretary General’s second justification of the organisation’s continued existence is not exactly what one would call compelling. But I suppose he had to try, when Juncker’s threatened folie de grandeur that is the EU army is even less inspiring.
So, back to President-elect Donald Trump. What will he do, faced with this mess of competing western military/security interests and Euro-bureaucrat careerists? Perhaps his US isolationist position is not so mad, bad and dangerous to know as the wailings of the western liberal press would have us believe?
American “exceptionalism” and NATO interventionism have not exactly benefited much of the world since the end of the Cold War. Perhaps the time has indeed come for an American Commander-in-Chief who can cut deals, cut through the sabre-rattling rhetoric and, even unintentionally, make a significant contribution to world peace.
Stranger things have happened. After all, outgoing President Obama won the Nobel Prize for Peace a mere eight months after his inauguration….
Now, I speak all over the world at conferences and universities about a whole variety of interconnected issues, but I do want to highlight this conference from earlier this year and give a shout out for next year’s. Plus I’ve finally got my hands on the video of my talk.
Webstock celebrated its tenth anniversary in New Zealand last February, and I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak there. The hosts promised a unique experience, and the event lived up to its reputation.
They wanted a fairly classic talk from me – the whistleblowing years, the lessons learnt and current political implications, but also what we can to do fight back, so I called my talk “The Panopticon: Resistance is Not Futile”, with a nod to my sci-fi fandom.
So why does this particular event glow like a jewel in my memory? After expunging from my mind, with a shudder of horror, the 39 hour travel time each way, it was the whole experience. New Zealand combines the friendliness of the Americans – without the political madness and the guns, and the egalitarianism of the Norwegians – with almost equivalent scenery. Add to that the warmth of the audience, the eclecticism of the speakers, and the precision planning and aesthetics of the conference organisers and you have a winning combination.
Our hosts organised vertigo-inducing events for the speakers on the top of mile-high cliffs, as well as a surprisingly fun visit to a traditional British bowling green. Plus I had the excitement of experiencing my very first earthquake – 5.9 on the Richter scale apparently. I shall make no cheap jokes about the earth moving, especially in light of the latest quakes to hit NZ this week, but the hotel did indeed sway around me and it wasn’t the local wine, excellent as it is.
I mentioned eclecticism – the quality of the speakers was ferociously high, and I would like to give a shout out to Debbie Millman and her “joy of failure” talk, Harry Roberts, a serious geek who crowd-sourced his talk and ended up talking seriously about cocktails, moths, Chumbawamba and more, advertising guru Cindy Gallop who is inspiring women around the world and promoting Make Love Not Porn, and Casey Gerald, with his evangelically-inspired but wonderfully humanistic talk to end the event.
All the talks can be found here.
It was a fabulous week. All I can say is thank you to Tash, Mike, and the other organisers.
If you ever have the chance to attend or speak at the event in the future, I seriously recommend it.
And here’s the video of my talk:
President-elect of the USA, Donald Trump, said during his campaign that other NATO members should pay a fair contribution and not rely on the USA to always bail them out.
On 13th November the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, defended his organisation in UK newspaper The Observer.
Here is a short interview I gave to RT on these developments:
No doubt you, as well as I, have been watching the 2016 USA presidential election with a sense of appalled fascination – has ever a campaign been fought so viciously in modern Western politics?
But the Americans have made their choice (between the devil and the deep blue sea), and will have to live with it. I hope it works out well for them.
However, my focus is more on the implications for the rest of the world. As a post-Brexit Brit based in Brussels, these are many-layered.
From the Brexit perspective the Trump victory could be good for the UK – he appears to be more sympathetic to the so-called “special relationship” than Obama. He is also probably more likely to try to cut deals with Russia over Ukraine and the ongoing war in Syria than the ultra-hawkish Hillary Clinton could ever bring herself to do.
This can only be good for Europe, as the sanctions put in place after the US-backed Ukraine coup in 2014 are hurting European trade. Yet again, Europe has been caught between Russia and the USA.
Also, let us not forget the infamous quote from Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, who said in 2014 “fuck the EU“, when it came to decision making in planning the Ukrainian coup.
But my main point is the European establishment’s response to the Trump presidential victory. And let us not deceive ourselves here – this was an emphatic victory. The American people wanted a candidate for change, for a push-back against the perceived Washington political elite.
Perhaps the election could have swung in another direction towards another candidate for change – if Bernie Sanders had been the Democrat nominee. Alas, as we know from the DNC files leaked to and published by Wikileaks, his campaign was undermined by his own party in favour of Hillary Clinton, while promoting Trump as the Republican candidate that Clinton could beat.
What pains me most is the European mainstream media’s reporting of Trump’s victory: “liberal democracy” is under threat no less, and populism is on the rise.
However, those most worried about “liberal democracy” tend to be the technocratic Eurocrats such as European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. And they are the very people trying to ram through the thoroughly *neo*-liberal agendas of CETA and the Trans-Atlantic Trade Investment Partnership – otherwise known as TTIP, widely resisted across Europe as a rape of our democracies.
TTIP, if passed, would eliminate any meaningful national sovereignty, replacing it with a global corporatist hegemony that could sue our national governments if they passed laws that could conceivably – sometime in the future – pass laws that could – conceivably in the future – inhibit the profit-making capabilities of the corporations.
That, and national asset-stripping, is the pure definition of neo-liberalism, and that is what our European overlords want to enact. Yet, at the same time, they are inveighing against the death of “liberal democracy” after the election of Donald Trump.
Am I missing something here?
Interestingly, he gave this interview to The Guardian, the paper that has won awards for publishing a number of the Edward Snowden disclosures about endemic illegal spying and, for its pains, had its computers ritually smashed up by the powers that be.
The timing was also interesting – only two weeks ago the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (the only legal body that can actually investigate allegations of spy crime in the UK and which has so far been an unexceptional champion of their probity) broke ranks to assert that the UK spies have been illegally conducting mass surveillance for 17 years – from 1998 to 2015.
This we could all deduce from the disclosures of a certain Edward Snowden in 2013, but it’s good to have it officially confirmed.
Yet at the same time the much-derided Investigatory Powers Bill has been oiling its way through the Parliamentary system, with the culmination this week.
This “Snoopers’ Charter“, as it is known, has been repeatedly and fervently rejected for years.
It has been questioned in Parliament, challenged in courts, and soundly condemned by former intelligence insiders, technical experts, and civil liberties groups, yet it is the walking dead of UK legislation – nothing will kill it. The Zombie keeps walking.
It will kill all notion of privacy – and without privacy we cannot freely write, speak, watch, read, activate, or resist anything future governments choose to throw at us. Only recently I read an article about the possibility of Facebook assessing someone’s physical or mental health – potentially leading to all sorts of outcomes including getting a job or renting a flat.
And this dovetails into the early Snowden disclosure of the programme PRISM – the complicity of the internet megacorps – as well as the secret back doors what were built into them.
It will be the end of democracy as we (sort of ) know it today. And, as we know from the Snowden disclosures, what happens in the UK will impact not just Europe but the rest of the world.
So how does this all link into the MI5 head honcho’s first live interview? Well, the timing was interesting – ahead of the Investigatory Powers Bill passing oleaginously into law and with the ongoing demonisation of Russia.
Here is an interview I gave to RT about some of these issues:
The CIA was recently reported to have issued the threat of cyber attacks against the Russian leadership, in retaliation for alleged and unsubstantiated claims that Russia is trying to influence the American elections.
Here is an interview I did yesterday about this, and wider, issues:
The diplomatic row rumbles on after US-led air strikes hit Syrian government forces in Deir ez-Zour, killing 62 soldiers and injuring over 100. This happened only a few days into a week-long trial ceasefire designed to be a precursor to US-Russian joint operations against ISIS.
Here is my initial analysis last Saturday immediately after the bombings, predicting that the US would have greater problems reining in the various militias than Russia would in ensuring that Syria held to the ceasefire:
Well, this was an interesting one. As I was stepping out of the shower this morning, my phone rang – RT asking if I could do an interview asap.
The subject under discussion? A former acting head of the CIA apparently recommending that the USA covertly start to murder any Iranian and Russian citizens operating against ISIS in Syria, and bomb President Assad “to scare him, not to kill him”.
And here is my take on this:
Here is an interview I did in the middle of the night for RT about the Nice terrorist lorry attack:
And here is the article I mentioned about the French spy chief warning that the next problematic episode could lead to civil unrest/war.