EU summit in Ypres: The end of the European Union in its current form

Peter Schwarz

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Cameron, and Merkel,
nominally the Chancellor of Germany, but in reality Washington’s
& Tel Aviv's complete whore.

The president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, is opening today’s EU summit in the Belgian city of Ypres. The 28 heads of state and government are due to pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of troops who died on the battlefields of the First World War around the town in Flanders. “It will be a moving ceremony as we will be testifying to what Europe is: a project of peace, solidarity and cooperation”, Van Rompuy commented.

In fact, Ypres is likely to be a symbol for the opposite: national discord, social conflict and war; and for the end of the European Union in its current form.

In the run-up to the summit, the conflict over who should be the future president of the European Commission escalated to a point that makes any compromise virtually impossible. British Prime Minister David Cameron is determined to prevent the election of former Luxembourg government leader Jean-Claude Juncker, who is supported by the majority of the EU parliament and of government heads. A vote, which Cameron will lose, seems inevitable. For the first time in the history of the EU, the influential head of the Brussels bureaucracy with its 33,000 employees will not be determined by consensus.

Fascist propaganda on the front page of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Peter Schwarz

If one tells a big lie, and repeats it often enough, then people will believe it in the end.” This principle of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, today serves many in the German media as a guideline for writing columns opposing the widespread resistance to a revival of German militarism.

Since Berlin and Washington helped a right-wing regime come to power in Ukraine, and thereby provoked a dangerous conflict with Russia, leading German media outlets have not shrunk from any lie in order to justify this policy. They play down the significance of the fascists of Svoboda and the Right Sector, depict the resistance in eastern Ukraine as a Russian conspiracy, and denounce their critics for daring to “understand Putin.”

But that is not enough. In order to undermine the opposition to the “end of military reticence” announced by the German government, they are even prepared to deny the historical crimes of German imperialism.

On Monday, the front page of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) carried a comment piece uniting both positions, headlined “One-sided friendship.” It combined hateful attacks on Putin and Russia with a presentation of the Second World War which one usually reads only in Nazi publications.

FAZ editor Frank Pergande complains about the “understanding shown for Putin’s policies, especially in eastern Germany,” and ridicules the “apparent friendship with the ‘big brother’ in the GDR [former East Germany].” He praises Chancellor Merkel, who “already at a time when she wasn’t even a politician” (i.e. in the GDR), knew “what was to be thought of Russia.”

Indeed, according to Pergande, the relationship with the Soviet Union was also marked by fear in the GDR. “Those who had experienced the end of the war,” he writes, “had to keep silent about their vile experiences: murder and suicides, expulsion, rape, camps, reparations. On the way to Berlin, the onslaught of the Red Army destroyed towns like Frankfurt (Oder), Prenzlau or Demmin, to the extent that the wounds ache to this day.”

Europe’s 9/11?

Peter Schwarz

In an interview Sunday in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen compared the annexation of Crimea by Russia with 9/11 and the “war on terror.” This comparison says more than Rasmussen and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung perhaps intended.

For over twelve years, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 have served the US government as a pretext for illegal wars and a massive buildup of its military forces. In the name of the “war on terror,” the US has attacked Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya; abducted, tortured and murdered suspected terrorists; spied on billions of people around the world; and built up the structure of a police state in America.

With the crisis in Ukraine, which they provoked, the ruling circles of Europe and, in particular, Germany, are embarking on a similar path. They are pursuing definite economic and geopolitical interests: pushing back Russia and expanding their influence in the Black Sea region, the Caucasus and Central Asia. They are also using the crisis to attempt to overcome deep-rooted popular opposition to militarism and build up the state apparatus in preparation for future class struggles.

Speaking to the newspaper, Rasmussen [also] called for a massive rearmament by Europe’s NATO members. “Stop running down your defense spending, turn the trend around and step by step invest more money in defense,” he demanded.

“What has happened in Ukraine must be a wake-up call for Europe,” he said. Russia had increased its defense spending by 30 percent, while some European NATO members had cut their spending by 40 percent.

The general secretary of the world’s biggest military alliance threatened Russia with “serious consequences” should it further destabilize Ukraine or provoke a conflict with a NATO member. The Russians, he said, cannot “have the slightest doubt that we consider an attack on one member as an attack on all of us.” He claimed that NATO’s deployment of troops, combat aircraft and naval units to Eastern Europe was a policy only of “deterrence.”

NATO steps up military pressure on Russia

Stefan Steinberg and Peter Schwarz

François Hollande, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Petro Poroshenko and
Vitali Klitschko. Poroshenko and Klitschko have in recent weeks
met with various European political leaders, who all support the
fascist coup in Ukraine, thus throwing democracy under the bus.

NATO continued its military build-up on the Russian border even as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Paris Sunday evening to discuss the conflict over Ukraine. The meeting, involving four hours of “frank” talks, ended with no breakthrough and separate news conferences.

The two men met after Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated his readiness to make certain concessions. Last Friday he phoned US President Barack Obama in Saudi Arabia to discuss a “diplomatic resolution to the crisis.” On Sunday, Kerry dismissed Lavrov’s proposal for a Federal Ukraine that was not part of NATO, cynically declaring that was “up to the Ukrainians”—that is, the fascist-led regime in Kiev backed by Washington.

Kerry again rejected Russia’s annexation of the Crimea as “illegal and illegitimate” and accused Russia of massing troops on its border with Ukraine. Western governments are using the alleged Russian troop movements to justify the steady boosting of their military presence in the Baltic states. The former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were admitted into NATO in 2004, but the military alliance did not previously deploy troops there in order not to provoke Russia. The three states have tiny armies, numbering between 5,000 and 12,000 each, and without any tanks or fighter jets. This is now being changed.

Coup in Ukraine: A warning to the international working class

Peter Schwarz

This is Svoboda, the Neo-Nazi group that is doing the fighting
in Ukraine. Svoboda is supported directly by Washington.

The recent events in Ukraine are a warning to the international working class. Under conditions in which workers lack both a perspective and a party to enable them to intervene independently in political events, the situation in Ukraine has developed in an extremely reactionary direction. What had been unthinkable in Europe since the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich in 1945 has come to pass: while the US and Germany ruthlessly and recklessly destabilized the country, fascists became the decisive force on the ground.

The crisis was sparked in November of last year by President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. This was unacceptable for Washington and Berlin. As Theo Sommer put it in Die Zeit, the issue at stake was “Where should the EU's eastern boundary, and the western boundary of the Russian sphere of influence, be situated?”

The US and Germany systematically supported the pro-EU opposition, which organized the demonstrations against Yanukovych. In addition to Julia Tymoshenko's Fatherland and Vitali Klitschko's UDAR—two right-wing parties with close ties to the German CDU—the opposition also included the fascist Svoboda party of Oleh Tyahnybok.

EU and Washington step up pressure on Ukraine

Peter Schwarz

The European Union and the US used last weekend’s Munich Security Conference to massively step up pressure on Ukraine. They are seeking to install a technocratic government pledged to implement harsh economic reforms drafted by the International Monetary Fund, change the constitution, curtail the power of the president and bring the opposition into power.

To achieve their aims they are planning substantial short-term financial assistance for Ukraine, as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton reported. Ashton explained these plans to the Wall Street Journal, which wrote of the West’s most significant move to date to reopen the geopolitical struggle for Kiev since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych turned his back on an EU economic pact and, instead, signed a deal with Russia for $15 billion in aid.

In contrast to most other media outlets, the mouthpiece of Wall Street refrained from euphemistic phrases about freedom and democracy and openly admitted the real aim of the Western powers in Ukraine: a “geopolitical contest for influence” and a struggle “to blunt Moscow’s ability to control Ukraine economically and politically.”

How Khodorkovsky became Russia’s richest man

Peter Schwarz

The oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly before Christmas after ten years in prison, is being celebrated by German politicians and the media as a martyr for democracy.

Green Party politician Marie-Louise Beck told Deutschlandfunk radio that when she talked to Khodorkovsky for the first time in Berlin, he was “a person I had stayed very close to emotionally for over eight years,” and that to embrace him “was really very nice.”

Left Party chairman Gregor Gysi wrote on his Facebook page, “The pardon is an important, overdue and urgently necessary step.” Left Party deputy Stefan Liebich also expressed his satisfaction at the release of the oligarch, criticising only that one had “the impression that the head of state decides who goes to prison and who is set free.”

Foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, “I am happy that Mikhail Khodorkovsky is free in Germany. Everyone who had a part in this deserves thanks.” Chancellor Angela Merkel also welcomed the move.

The excitement in German ruling circles over Khodorkovsky reveals more about the state of democracy in Germany than political conditions in Russia. The rise of the 50-year-old to the position of richest man in Russia, which ended in 2003 with his arrest, went hand-in-hand with crimes punishable under German law.

German defence minister praises German deployment to Afghanistan

Peter Schwarz

A German Bundeswehr soldier fires a gun during a night-time
exercise in the district of Chahar Dara in northern Afghanistan.

“Kunduz, this is the place where the German army (Bundeswehr) fought for the first time and had to learn how to fight,” Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière declared last Sunday, as the German encampment in Kunduz was handed over to Afghan security forces.

His remark summed up the significance for the German ruling class of the ten-year Bundeswehr mission in the northern Afghan province. The German army and in particular the German public, which harbours a deep aversion to militarism following the horrors of two world wars, must re-accustom themselves to soldiers killing and being killed in the interests of German imperialism.

De Maizière referred to Kunduz as “a turning point—not only for the army, but also for German society… Kunduz has marked the Bundeswehr like no other place. A place which was built up and fought over, where tears were shed and comfort given, where soldiers killed and fell in battle,” he said.

General Jörg Vollmer, who commanded the German troops in northern Afghanistan since the beginning of this year, told Tagesschau that after eleven years, a different army was returning to Germany. “It was the first time that soldiers had to kill, but also experienced fallen comrades and the wounded.”

Another officer, who was twice deployed in Kunduz, boasted that the combat operations in Kunduz had rid the German armed forces of its reputation as an “army of quitters…The image of fat, cake-eating Germans who play football in the afternoon was gone after the first death in combat,” he told the Tagesschau. “In Kunduz, in almost every patrol I was in a situation of asking myself: do you have to shoot the motorcyclist over there just because he is sitting alone on his machine and could possibly be an assassin?”

The Bundeswehr mission in Kunduz began in fall 2003, under the Social Democrat (SPD) - Green coalition government, with the take over of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) from the United States. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) said at that time that the army would “secure construction efforts in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz” with a force of 250 soldiers. He claimed the intervention had a civilian character. German soldiers would protect construction workers, repair roads, schools and hospitals, and train police officers.

The NSA given a free hand to operate in Germany

Peter Schwarz

NSA facility in Bad Aibling, Germany

An interview with historian Josef Foschepoth published in the online edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung makes clear that US intelligence agencies have a free hand to do what they like in Germany, with the knowledge and blessing of the federal government.

Foschepoth is professor of history at the University of Freiburg, and an expert on the role of Allied intelligence in postwar Germany. In 2012, he published a book on the subject entitled, “Überwachtes Deutschland” ["Germany Surveilled"].

The historian regards the indignant response of the German government regarding the spying activities of American and British intelligence services unmasked by Edward Snowden as pure hypocrisy. For a Western intelligence agency, such as the National Security Agency (NSA), there are in principle no limits in Germany. "The NSA can do everything in Germany," explains Foschepoth. "Not only because of the legal situation, but above all because of the intensive collaboration between the services, which was always desired and always politically acceptable."

According to Foschepoth, the legal basis for the activity of Western intelligence services in Germany goes back to 1963. At that time, Germany and the Allied nations committed to close collaboration in the collection, exchange and protection of intelligence in a supplementary agreement to the NATO Status of Forces Agreement. The agreement came about through secret negotiations and was strictly confidential.

The infrastructure of a police state emerges in Europe

Peter Schwarz

Satellite dishes at GCHQ's outpost at Bude, close to where
trans-Atlantic fibre-optic cables come ashore in Cornwall.

The real target of the intelligence surveillance is the vast majority of the people. This is the real enemy identified by the ruling class. The ruling class senses that popular opposition is growing and is responding by placing the entire population under surveillance.

Former NSA employee Edward Snowden has exposed the infrastructure of a police state whose surveillance powers far exceed those of totalitarian dictatorships such as the German Nazi regime.

American and European intelligence agencies monitor and store the communications data of hundreds of millions of citizens. Based on the metadata of tapped connections, they can draw up a seamless profile of an individual’s movements and contacts. This in turn enables them to selectively filter out the content of conversations and emails.

The right to privacy—a basic human right enshrined in the American and every European Constitution—and the associated guarantee of the confidentiality of the post and telecommunications are being ripped to shreds. The wiretaps are so obviously illegal that intelligence agencies in one country often delegate their activities to foreign partners in order to avoid overly blatant violation of their own national laws.

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