Tuesday 5th of December 2023

when the NYT was still honest.....

In late 1996, the impression was allowed, or caused, to become prevalent that it had been somehow and somewhere decided to expand NATO up to Russia's borders. This despite the fact that no formal decision can be made before the alliance's next summit meeting, in June.

The timing of this revelation -- coinciding with the Presidential election and the pursuant changes in responsible personalities in Washington -- did not make it easy for the outsider to know how or where to insert a modest word of comment. Nor did the assurance given to the public that the decision, however preliminary, was irrevocable encourage outside opinion.


By George F. Kennan

  • Feb. 5, 1997

But something of the highest importance is at stake here. And perhaps it is not too late to advance a view that, I believe, is not only mine alone but is shared by a number of others with extensive and in most instances more recent experience in Russian matters. The view, bluntly stated, is that expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era. 

Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking. And, last but not least, it might make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to secure the Russian Duma's ratification of the Start II agreement and to achieve further reductions of nuclear weaponry.


It is, of course, unfortunate that Russia should be confronted with such a challenge at a time when its executive power is in a state of high uncertainty and near-paralysis. And it is doubly unfortunate considering the total lack of any necessity for this move. Why, with all the hopeful possibilities engendered by the end of the cold war, should East-West relations become centered on the question of who would be allied with whom and, by implication, against whom in some fanciful, totally unforeseeable and most improbable future military conflict? 

I am aware, of course, that NATO is conducting talks with the Russian authorities in hopes of making the idea of expansion tolerable and palatable to Russia. One can, in the existing circumstances, only wish these efforts success. But anyone who gives serious attention to the Russian press cannot fail to note that neither the public nor the Government is waiting for the proposed expansion to occur before reacting to it. 

Russians are little impressed with American assurances that it reflects no hostile intentions. They would see their prestige (always uppermost in the Russian mind) and their security interests as adversely affected. They would, of course, have no choice but to accept expansion as a military fait accompli. But they would continue to regard it as a rebuff by the West and would likely look elsewhere for guarantees of a secure and hopeful future for themselves. 

It will obviously not be easy to change a decision already made or tacitly accepted by the alliance's 16 member countries. But there are a few intervening months before the decision is to be made final; perhaps this period can be used to alter the proposed expansion in ways that would mitigate the unhappy effects it is already having on Russian opinion and policy.







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NATO's turkey....


BY Salman Rafi Sheikh


Turkey’s decision to block Sweden’s NATO membership has sparked a new controversy in the alliance at a time when the alliance is desperately looking to expand. Tukey’s Erdogan thinks that Sweden has failed to take the action that it was supposed to take i.e., act against “terrorists” living in Sweden and expel others involved in the 2016 military coup controversy. Turkey’s decision to block Sweden’s membership has, however, produced something else: a new military pact between Sweden and the US. Called a bilateral “Defence Cooperation Agreement”, the pact will allow the US to deploy its forces immediately to Sweden. The pact has been announced at a time when the US – and its allies in Europe – are already intensifying their war on Russia by supplying tanks. But the question that merits attention is: why is Turkey blocking this membership even though Sweden claims to have all it could do to fulfil Turkey’s conditions?

At it appears, the underlying reasons for this blockade have more to do with the Erdogan government’s own interests rather than any real annoyance with Sweden’s non-compliance with the 2022 agreement with Ankara, in which Stockholm had agreed to act upon Turkey’s demands.

There are political and geo-political factors. That Russia opposes Sweden’s (and Finland’s) NATO membership is a well-known fact. But why does it matter for Erdogan? Today, Erdogan is leading a country whose economy is sinking fast. The Erdogan government is sitting on the country’s worst inflation rates in over two decades. In November 2022, the inflation rate was 84.4 per cent according to the data released by the Turkish Statistical Institute. (It dropped to 64 per cent in December.) In this context, Turkey’s ties with Russia matter and Ankara calculates this might not be the best time to support a western decision that is targeted at Russia. Why does Russia matter to Turkey?

Since the start of this conflict in Ukraine, Turkey’s export of (cheap) energy (oil and gas) from Russia has increased manifold. This supply of cheap energy is helping Erdogan keep the country’s economy afloat. Not only is it buying discounted gas, but it is also paying for the gas in roubles rather than USD. Paying in roubles helps the Russian currency and it helps the Turkish economy as well. Turkey is not only importing from Russia. Turkish exports to Russia, in fact, rose by 45 per cent in 2022. In short, the way Turkey’s ties are constituted with Russia at the moment leaves little room for Turkey’s support for NATO’s expansion.

What will happen if Turkey’s economy were to sink further? In Turkey, this is elections year. With the Erdogan regime sitting on a sinking economy, it could face a startling defeat. As polls show, Erdogan and his party are already behind the opposition. For sure, for the Erdogan government what’s more important at this stage is not the question of NATO’s expansion but that of its own future as survival.

In this broad context, opposing Sweden’s NATO membership serves two distinct yet interrelated objectives for the Erdogan government.

First, it will obviously keep the flow of energy intact. Secondly, by demonstrating to its voters its government’s ability to follow an ‘independent’ foreign policy vis-à-vis the West, Erdogan hopes to boost its dwindling political position vis-a-vis a vibrant opposition. In other words, by keeping the economy afloat and by projecting an autonomous foreign policy, the Erdogan regime is trying to limit the space for the opposition and win back its popularity.

Blocking Sweden’s membership is a matter for Erdogan that is not simply a geo-political question. The recent burning of the Holy Quran has allowed him to add a religious fervour as well, as he said that “Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy [in Stockholm] can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership”, adding that “if you do not show respect to the religious beliefs of the Republic of Turkiye or Muslims, you will not receive any support for NATO [membership] from us.”

While Swedish authorities defended the incident as an expression of ‘freedom of expression’, it is obvious that Erdogan has a different political view of this so-called ‘freedom of expression.’ As it stands, he sees in it an opportunity to galvanise its supporters i.e., 85 million Turkish citizens, around his brand of Turkish nationalism, infused deeply and directly with religion (as opposed to a secular approach that its NATO allies cherish).

What might change this scenario? As mentioned above, the decision to block Sweden’s membership has not had a real, qualitative impact on the country’s shift away from non-alignment to alignment with the West. The pact with the US has practically ended the era of Sweden’s non-alignment, but it is still short of a full NATO membership.

Erdogan’s opposition is not permanent. Given the fact that this opposition is tied to elections – both presidential and parliamentary – means that Turkey’s official position might change soon after the elections, especially if the opposition wins, which is expected to take a more pro-West, pro-Ukraine foreign policy approach.

Even if Erdogan wins, the position can still change, since the threat of losing power would no longer be there and Erdogan will be more confident in dealing with his western counterparts in NATO and with Russia as well. The West might itself come to the conclusion that meaningful economic support – including enhanced trade – could ‘convince’ Erdogan to change its stance.

For now, however, things are unlikely to change for the next few months. Depending on how the conflict unfolds in Ukraine, the international geo-political scenario could possibly change in the next few months in ways leaving little to no room for sea changes.


Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.













By News Desk- February 07 2023


Over the past six months, major US outlets like the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and the Washington Post have published over 200 news pieces about Russia’s alleged use of Iranian drones in Ukraine while almost entirely ignoring the devastation caused by US-made bombs in occupied Palestine and Yemen.

According to research conducted by Responsible Statecraft, between July and January, the three major US publications published 215 pieces mentioning Ukraine and the words “Iranian drones,” “Iranian-made drones,” “drones made in Iran,” or other variations on these phrases, resulting in over one news piece per day.

In comparison, in May of 2021, when Israel carpet bombed the besieged Gaza Strip for 11 days straight, the same three US outlets published only 15 news articles mentioning Israel’s use of US weapons during a one-month period.

Similarly, when the Saudi-led coalition dropped US-made bombs on a prison in Sadaa, Yemen, in January of 2022 – killing dozens of civilians – only two articles were published by the US newspapers that pointed to Washington’s role in the massacre.

The three outlets have also been constantly warning readers to “beware the emerging Tehran/Moscow alliance” while at the same time failing to issue similar warnings about the decades-old Washington/Tel Aviv or Washington/Riyadh alliances.

Washington’s recent obsession with Iranian drones has become the latest example of the inherent bias of western media outlets, which act as government public relations firms more often than not.

Last month, CNN, NBC News, and Reuters were caught falling for this same trap after they published stories about a joint US-Israel military drill that settled for regurgitating a press release issued by the US military without offering any further examination.

This came just two months after Newsweek created a social media storm by spreading fake news that claimed Iran sentenced 15,000 protesters to death.

The bias of western outlets was also made evident in May of last year after the New York Times, the Guardian, and AP were all accused of whitewashing the murder of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla at the hands of an Israeli sniper.

This misinformation campaign is part of a broader attempt from Washington to silence dissenting voices, as was proven in December when an investigation into Twitter’s internal archives showed that the social media giant collaborated with the Pentagon for at least five years to wage a secret “PsyOps campaign” across West Asia to shape the discourse regarding the wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as the continued presence of US occupation troops in the region.