United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

ANALYSIS: 'Ingredients for a repeat of 9/11 are slipping into place' (Patrick Cockburn)

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In the final piece in a five-part series published on Thursday in the London Independent, Patrick Cockburn reviewed the propagators of Salafist jihadist ideology, whose work is often well-financed and marked by a surprising degree of "professionalism."[1]  --  The main target is Shia Islam, but "violent hostility to Shia does not mean that the Salafi-jihadists approve of Sunni or Western states," Cockburn said.  --  "If there is another Palestinian uprising, or some such event creating pan-Islamic anger, then the West is likely to be targeted once again.  --  All the ingredients for a repeat of 9/11 are slipping into place, the difference today being that al-Qa’ida-type organizations are now far more powerful." ...

Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2014 07:16 Read more...
 

ANALYSIS: Why the Syrian uprising failed to achieve a non-sectarian democratic state

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What went wrong when the Arab Spring broke out in Syria?  --  In Part 4 of a series of five articles in the London Independent on recent developments in the Mideast, Patrick Cockburn on Thursday noted that "All revolutions have notoriously devoured their earliest and most humane advocates, but few have done so with the speed and ferocity of Syria’s."[1]  --  Cockburn spread the blame:  "The degenerate state of the Syrian revolution stems from the country’s deep political, religious, and economic divisions before 2011 and the way in which these have since been exploited and exacerbated by foreign intervention."  --  As a result, today "Syrians have to choose between a violent dictatorship in which power is monopolized by the presidency and brutish security services, and an opposition that shoots children in the face for minor blasphemy and sends pictures of decapitated soldiers to their parents."  --  COMMENT:  This article is more impressionistic than its predecessors in the series and does not deliver on its title's promise to explain just how "Syria's secular uprising has been hijacked by jihadists."  --  But the involvement of "Arab and Western intelligence agencies" appears to have been just as important as the infiltration of jihadist groups....

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ANALYSIS: 'About half of Iraq is not really controlled by the government'

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Strange to say, Western powers failed to see, when they decided to commit themselves to the overthrow of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, that "by supporting the armed uprising in Syria, they would inevitably destabilize Iraq and provoke a new round of its sectarian civil war," Patrick Cockburn remarked Tuesday in Part III of his five-part overview in the London Independent of recent developments in the catastrophic failure that is known as the War on Terror.[1]  --  Cockburn reports that the success of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formerly known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq) among Sunnis in western Iraq is much greater than has been reported, and that "Its grip over Iraq’s third-largest city, Mosul, is probably more important than its position in Fallujah but gets little publicity because of an assassination campaign against local media appears to be aimed at concealing this."  --  In Mosul, the Iraqi government's most important representatives "are being killed off, forced to flee, or to co-operate with ISIS.  --  Minorities  such as the Yazidis and Christians are being targeted to drive them out of Mosul.  --  ISIS has enough authority to levy taxes on everybody from people selling food on the street to construction and mobile-phone companies."  --  "[T]here is no sign of an effective government counter-attack." ...

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ANALYSIS: Hysterical Saudi fear of Shia expansionism fuels jihadist support (Patrick Cockburn)

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In Part 2 of a series reviewing the failure of the war on terror, on Monday veteran Mideast correspondent Patrick Cockburn of the London Independent attributed to the quasi-hysterical "[s]ectarian hostility to the Shia as heretics" the willingness of Salafists, and especially of Saudi élites, to act as the principal financiers of the al-Qaeda movement.[1]  --  “The beliefs of Wahhabism, the puritanical literalist Saudi version of Islam, are not much different from those of al-Qa’ida or other Salafi jihadist groups in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Libya,” he noted.  --  BACKGROUND:  Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world that bans women from driving, is an absolute monarchy that says the Coran (along with the Sunnah) is its constitution.   --  Saudi Arabia has no political parties, no elections, and no courts without a system of judicial precedent (Saudi judges apply Sharia law and are empowered to disregard previous judgments and apply personal interpretations).  --  The Saudi state sponsors Wahhabism both politically and financially.  --  Religious freedom is non-existent.  --  Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries to refuse the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.  --  Yet the U.S. government celebrates “the longstanding, steadfast relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and . . . the strong defense partnership that anchors the two nations,” in the words of Pentagon Press Secretary George Little on Apr. 23, 2013.  --  It seems fair to say that there would be no al-Qaeda movement if this “longstanding, steadfast relationship” did not exist....

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ANALYSIS: Why the 'war on terror' has demonstrably failed

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In early 2014, al-Qaeda-style groups are "the most powerful military force in an area the size of Britain," veteran Mideast correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote a week ago in the first of a series of five articles in the London Independent on the global catastrophe history will know as the "War on Terror."  --  Al-Qaeda (or as Cockburn, a competent Arabist, prefers more accurately to transliterate the term, "al-Qa'ida,") is "stronger than ever now," despite (or rather because of) the campaigns of the United States and its allies.  --  The war has "demonstrably failed," and the reason it has failed, according to Cockburn, it that in its campaigns priority has been given to geopolitical factors that are at odds with fighting terrorism.  --  First and foremost, according to Cockburn, if terrorism were really the issue, the U.S. would have focused on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two nations that "fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement."  --  But the U.S. "did not do so because they were important American allies whom it did not want to offend."  --  Moreover, by presenting al-Qaeda as "having a command-and-control structure like a mini-Pentagon, or the Mafia in America as shown in the Godfather films," it falsified its nature, presenting a "fantasy picture" to the public in order to mobilize opinion.  --  For in fact, al-Qaeda is "an idea rather than an organization." ...

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NEWS & COMMENTARY: Financial élite exults at arbitrary US sanctions against Putin oil crony

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Reuters reported Friday that the Russia sanctions the Treasury Dept. announced on Thursday contained something "startling":  an assertion that "Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds."[1]  --  "The wording of the statement goes far beyond anything that has been said previously about Putin," Reuters said.  --  Gunvor, the world's fourth-largest oil trading company, was cofounded by a 55-year-old oil baron named Gennady Timchenko, who is designated by the sanctions because he is supposedly one of the "members of the Russian leadership's inner circle."  --  The U.S. presented no evidence that Timchenko has done anything illegal, but sanctioning (without or without drones) individuals by executive fiat seems increasingly to be the American conception of international law.  --  The assertion of Putin's financial links to Gunvor provoked, Dmitry Zhdannikov said, "a quick and furious response."  --  "Gunvor said the statement was 'outrageous' and 'blatantly false.'"  --  The move seems calculated to hurt Putin personally, and observers are expressing concern about what the Russian president may do in response.  --  "[T]he growing concern among analysts is that the accusation, and the direct blow at Putin's closest allies, may provoke an even more dramatic response from Moscow -- potentially even using its vast energy supplies as a weapon against the West."  --  After all, "Russia supplies a third of Europe's gas and between a fifth and a fourth of its oil."  --  "'We expect asymmetrical moves by Moscow in coming days,' said think-tank and risk consultants Eurasia group."  --  The Financial Times of London, though, did not seem concerned.  --  In a tendentious editorial posted Friday, it called the American moves "smart, forensic, and focused" and "the right action to take."[2]  --  And there was more.  --  Noting that "There has been much agonizing over NATO’s future role after its withdrawal from Afghanistan," the paper jubilated that "Mr. Putin’s biggest achievements this week has been to restore to NATO its original raison d’être." ...

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 March 2014 07:04 Read more...
 

NEWS: US recording 100% of unidentified country's phone calls (Wash. Post)

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The NSA has built and is using a voice interception program called MYSTIC to record all the telephone calls of some foreign country, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.[1]  --  At the request of American officials, the Post declined to name the country.  --  An NSC spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but did assert that because of "new or emerging threats" the U.S. "must consequently collect signals intelligence in bulk in certain circumstances in order to identify these threats."  --  "Some of the documents provided by Snowden suggest that high-volume eavesdropping may soon be extended to other countries, if it has not been already," said Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani.  --  The program "may," they said (do you think?) be "inconsistent with Obama’s Jan. 17 pledge 'that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.'"  --  BACKGROUND:  Gellman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; Soltani is an Iranian-American privacy and security researcher who has been called "the leading technical expert on ad-tracking technology."  --  In its statement of Aug. 1, 2013, UFPPC warned that the the U.S. was "now only one more national crisis away from a full-fledged Orwellian national security state," but news like this makes us wonder whether we not have already arrived there....

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 15:31 Read more...
 

SCIENCE: Observable universe 'only an infinitesimal patch in a larger, unknowable cosmos'

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Announcing the first-ever observation of gravity waves, a result "as big as it gets," scientists at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, on Monday reported that their observations corroborated the inflation version of the Big Bang, the New York Times reported.[1]  --  "If corroborated, Dr. [John M.] Kovac’s work will stand as a landmark in science comparable to the recent discovery of dark energy pushing the universe apart, or of the Big Bang itself," said Dennis Overbye.  --  "It would open vast realms of time and space and energy to science and speculation.  --  Confirming inflation would mean that the universe we see, extending 14 billion light-years in space with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, is only an infinitesimal patch in a larger cosmos whose extent, architecture, and fate are unknowable.  --  Moreover, beyond our own universe there might be an endless number of other universes bubbling into frothy eternity, like a pot of pasta water boiling over."  --  "The new results do have to be verified," Michael D. Lemonick of Time noted.[2]  --  "Even though the BICEP2 team methodically checked and rechecked its work to rule out any mistakes, nobody, including Kovac and his colleagues, can be 100 percent certain until independent groups, using their own instruments, see the polarization signal too.  --  That shouldn’t take long, given that cosmologists at Princeton, Berkeley, the University of Minnesota, the Goddard Spaceflight Center, the University of Chicago. and more were already in the hunt." ...

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COMMENTARY: 'Ukraine more complex than black-&-white caricature presented by NYT & WP'

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Despite the complexity of the Ukraine crisis, U.S. mainstream media is presenting a good-guy/bad-guy narrative.  --  Robert Parry pointed out on Sunday that this is a pattern Americans have seen before, and that in the past, stories with this pattern have not had happy endings.[1] ...

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NEWS: Crimea votes to reunite with Russia

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In Simferopol on Sunday, "shortly before midnight, Crimean political leaders emerged on a giant stage and declared triumphantly that with half the vote counted, 93 percent of Crimeans had chosen to be reunited with Russia," the Washington Post reported.[1]  --  According to the Wall Street Journal, "local officials" put the figure at 95.5 percent.[2]  --  The U.S. and the E.U. rejected the process as illegal, but "[i]n a statement Sunday, the Kremlin press service said Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the referendum was 'being conducted in full accordance with international law' and that Russia will respect its results," Paul Sonne and Anton Troianovski said.  --  In the face of threatened sanctions, Russia is holding in reserve the threat of similar proceedings in eastern Ukraine, where "[t]he Kremlin has said it received calls to 'protect peaceful civilians.'"  --  But in Donetsk on Sunday, pro-Russia demonstrators appeared to be "unable to muster widespread support in this eastern city amid varied aims and a lack of clear leadership," the Wall Street Journal reported in a separate article.[3] ...

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COMMENTARY & ANALYSIS: Competing imperialisms make mockery of 'int'l law' in Ukraine crisis

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Despite the pious invocation of "international law" and "Ukrainian law" by the United States and other Western countries intent on detaching Ukraine from its Russian orbit, an examination of history, both recent and remote, demonstrates that when it comes to determining whether a right of self-determination can be invoked to change borders "there are no 'international law' or universal values" except "when the Empire says so," Pepe Escobar said Friday in a column posted by Asia Times Online.[1]  --  Escobar cited a recent analysis in the London Guardian showing that in the current crisis, while Russia's imperial aggression is clearly a central factor, the U.S. effort to rollback Russia's sphere of influence in Ukraine by other means in pursuit of its own geopolitical and strategic interests raises awkward questions."[2] ...

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BACKGROUND: US geostrategists see Ukraine as crucial 'geopolitical pivot'

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It was former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski who, in The Grand Chessboard, most strikingly laid out the reasons for which the United States is so aggressive in opposing supposed Russian aggression in Ukraine, Chris Ernesto pointed out Saturday in an Antiwar.com.  --  In that 1997 book, Brzezinski wrote:  "Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia.  --  Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. . . . However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia."[1]  --  For this grand strategist of empire, Ukraine is an example of a "geopolitical pivot," one of the states "whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location . . . which in some cases gives them a special role in either defining access to important areas or in denying resources to a significant player."  --  Other "geopolitical pivots" are Azerbaijan, South Korea, Turkey, and Iran, according to Brzezinski....

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NEWS: Open war between Feinstein & Brennan over investigation of CIA torture

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On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has been "one of the CIA's staunchest defenders," launched an extraordinary attack on the agency in an hour-long speech that accused it of violating constitutional principles, the New York Times reported.[1]  --  "[T]he rupture with Ms. Feinstein, one of its closest congressional allies, could have broad ramifications," said Mark Mazzetti and Jonathan Weisman.  --  Hours after her speech, CIA Director John O. Brennan essentially called her a liar:  "Nothing could be further from the truth," he said, referring to her charges.  --  The report in the New York Times is as usual extremely oblique and leaves out key parts of the story, including President Barack Obama's vigorous defense of Brennan.  --  It is usefully supplemented by an account by WSWS which notes that at the bottom of this affair are the CIA's actions toward "committee staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s program of detention, interrogation and torture under President George W. Bush."[2]  --  "There are few, if any, historical precedents for such a direct charge from the floor of the Senate of criminal behavior against the U.S. spy agency," Barry Grey said.  --  "Moreover, such accusations against CIA Director John Brennan, one of President Obama’s closest associates, could have serious legal and political consequences for the White House.   --  Tuesday’s remarks by Feinstein reflect a profound crisis within the American state."  --  "Feinstein implied that the motive behind the CIA’s actions was a desire to cover up and block from public view the enormity of the crimes carried out during the Bush years in connection with secret CIA 'black site' prisons and the abuse and torture of alleged terrorists detained in them."  --  "In her remarks Tuesday, Feinstein spoke of Intelligence Committee investigators 'wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed,' and 'an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation.'  --  Feinstein’s speech was all the more remarkable since she is one of the most slavish defenders of the intelligence agencies and is herself, along with the congressional leadership of both parties and the Obama White House, complicit in the criminal and anti-democratic practices she claimed to be opposing.  --  Feinstein has unreservedly defended mass spying by the National Security Agency and joined in the official witch-hunt against whistle-blowers such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning."  --  "The fact that she felt obliged to go to the floor of the Senate and charge CIA leaders with impeachable offenses testifies to the increasingly naked manner in which the U.S. security agencies are dispensing with even the trappings of democracy and asserting dictatorial control." ...

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NEWS: Maliki says Saudi Arabia & Qatar are at war against Iraq

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In a France 24 interview broadcast Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that Saudi Arabia and Qatar "are primarily responsible for the sectarian and terrorist and security crisis of Iraq," a more specific and stronger statement than any of many previous statements tending in the same direction, Al Jazeera reported.[1]  --  "They are attacking Iraq, through Syria and in a direct way, and they announced war on Iraq, as they announced it on Syria, and unfortunately it is on a sectarian and political basis," he said.  --  Al Jazeera's report, based on news agencies, noted that "Saudi Arabia and Qatar have emerged as regional rivals because, while both have provided support to fighters opposed to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the two countries have also sparred in recent weeks over Doha's support for the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.  --  Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, withdrew its ambassador to Qatar this month.  --  Baghdad has long complained that support for groups fighting in Syria's civil war finds its way through to Iraq with weapons in particular ending up in the hands of armed groups." ...

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NEWS: Russia indicates intent to annex Crimea

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Although "[e]arlier this week, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had said he did not foresee the possibility of the Crimean Peninsula becoming part of Russia," on Friday "Russia’s parliamentary leaders, both strong allies of Mr. Putin, welcomed a delegation from Crimea’s regional assembly and declared that they would support a vote to break away from Ukraine, now scheduled for March 16," the New York Times reported.[1]  --  The development "significantly intensif[ied] its confrontation with the West over the political crisis in Ukraine and threaten[ed] to undermine a system of respect for national boundaries that has helped keep the peace in Europe and elsewhere for decades." ...

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COMMENTARY: Who's delusional, Putin or Kerry?

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On Wednesday Robert Parry noted that in the bizarre U.S. mediasphere Russian President Vladimir Putin is thought to have "lost touch with reality" when he comments on the illegality of various American military operations, but John Kerry is treated as a serious diplomat when he blusters about what does and does not qualify as "twenty-first-century, G-8, major-nation behavior."[1]  --  "If someone notes the disturbing U.S. history of military interventions or describes the troubling narrative behind the 'democratic' coup in Ukraine -- spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias who overthrew a duly elected president -- you are dismissed as crazy," Parry said....

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BACKGROUND: The 'staggering hypocrisy' of American complaints about Russia

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Robert Parry took the time on Monday to write an essay pointing out the obvious:  the "staggering hypocrisy" of the U.S. government's present outrage at Vladimir Putin's incursion into the Crimea (a region that was, it should pointed out, Russian since 1783, before the United States existed).  --  Putin's action may have violated international law, but "the United States has invaded or otherwise intervened in so many countries that it would be challenging to compile a complete list," and has done so with impunity and without accountability.  --  And the hypocrisy extends to the pillars of U.S. mainstream media.  --  Parry devoted most of his piece not to American history but to the behavior of the Washington Post.  --  He argued that the Post's willingness to state what is false or dubious as fact is comparable to and indeed an integral part of the ability and willingness of American leaders to state what is false or dubious as fact when justifying military interventions....

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ANALYSIS: In Ukraine, 'moderation will prevail'

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It's hard to see much of a moral difference between the sides in the Ukraine crisis, but both Western officials and mainstream media and Russian officials and supporters would have those for whom they perform their rituals believe that there is one.  --  They only differ on which side they're on.  --  "What amazes me," Peter Lee wrote Tuesday on the website Asia Times Online, "is the widespread desire to turn this rather sordid escapade into a 'good vs. evil,' 'U.S. vs. Russia' cage match.  --  It began even before the Crimea crisis with disregard for the fact that the protesters, instead of standing up against tyranny, were simply trying to overturn an election whose results they didn't particularly like.  --  It continued with the uncritical valorizing of the protesters in Maidan, who relied on some unsavory neo-Nazi extreme right Ukraine chauvinists to serve as shock troops in violent attacks upon the police."  --  What will happen next?  --  "I think moderation will prevail," Lee said.  --  "The Germans have already inserted themselves in mediation between Russia and the West.  --  Apparently, the U.K. is against meaningful sanctions.  --  De facto, Kiev may have to resign itself to almost total loss of central government control in Crimea, but Crimea will probably remain autonomous and part of Ukraine."  --  In closing, Peter Lee "address[ed] one of the hoariest canards of the Ukraine crisis:  that Russia would recapitulate its actions of 2008, when it invaded Georgia.  This assertion has been made by Reuters, AP, and I think quite a few others.  --  The facts -- internationally recognized facts, I should say -- was that Georgia used the occasion of the Beijing Olympics to launch a carefully planned invasion to recapture the breakaway province of South Ossetia -- which was at the time autonomous under a truce agreement negotiated by Russia, Georgia, and the Ossetians in Sochi in 1993.  --  The Georgians massed 12,000-plus troops against 1,000 Russian peacekeepers and a few hundred Ossetian militia.  --  Georgia had apparently not anticipated a Russian intervention, and its forces were completely routed when the Russians indeed counterattacked.  --  Hopefully, the Georgia parallel will stand up in one regard:  that the Russians promptly withdrew from Georgian territory after their objectives were met.  --  And they did not annex South Ossetia; they allowed it to declare independence instead." ...

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NEWS: West weighs cost of economic sanctions against Russia

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"The Kremlin has dismissed any sanctions as inappropriate and showed no sign of backing down under the pressure," the Wall Street Journal reported late Monday.[1]  --  "Economic sanctions that would hurt Russia without torpedoing the global economy are hard to find," said an economist at Morgan Stanley.  --  "Russia's oil output is too big for other producers to make up, while shutting off natural gas exports would leave European countries scrambling for other sources.  --  Import restrictions would also be unlikely to hurt much because Russia produces its own food and fuel."  --  "So far, the pressure on Moscow has been limited mainly to stern rhetoric and canceled meetings, including preparations for the Group of Eight summit in Sochi, Russia, in June," Greg White, Laurence Norman, and Andrey Ostroukh said.  --  "The White House said it won't send a presidential delegation to the Paralympic Games in Sochi either." ...

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TRANSLATION: French right critical of Obama administration in Ukraine crisis

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The conservative daily Le Figaro (Paris) on Sunday poured scorn on the supposed weakness and lack of credibility of the Obama administration in the Ukraine crisis and said that Western leaders fail to appreciate Russian President Vladimir Putin's "vertigo of omnipotence."[1]  --  Laure Mandeville quoted Brookings researcher Fiona Hill, according to whom "What is really making [Putin] hesitate at present is the risk of a war with the Ukrainian army," not any likely response from the West....

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ANALYSIS: Ukraine crisis finds weak EU lacking options

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Europe is facing its "biggest showdown with Moscow since the end of the Cold War," the Wall Street Journal said Sunday.[1]  --  More than a mere incident, the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine has taken away the international community's breath because of its audacity.  --  A major crisis has begun that promises to be of epoch-making dimensions, due to the historical and economic importance of Russia for Europe.  --  The Eastern European nations that feel most threatened lean toward invoking NATO (four NATO members share a border with Ukraine, and Ukrainian leaders have been discussing joining NATO), but this is not likely to happen:  "European heavyweights like Germany and France appeared to rule out any moves that might lead to a widening confrontation with Russia, such as military action or even economic sanctions," Stacy Meichtry, Harriet Torry, and Stephen Fidler said.  --  "European officials say they are wary of providing Moscow with any pretext to expand its military campaign beyond Crimea to other Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine."  --  Uppermost in their minds is the risk of "upending crucial trade ties, particularly the bloc's access to Russia's vast reserves of oil and natural gas."  --  Russia supplies "just under a third of Germany's overall gas needs, and is Russia's third-largest trade partner.  --  German companies had $22 billion in direct investments in Russia in 2013."  --  As a result, "'Economic sanctions against Russia would damage Germany itself,' said Philipp Missfelder, a senior lawmaker and key ally of Chancellor Merkel."  --  And the E.U. is so weak militarily that should Russia escalate the situation in Ukraine, the response "will now depend on what the Americans want to do," in the words of a European official....

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United for Peace of Pierce County meets 7:00-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma (621 Tacoma Avenue South).

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