Wednesday, April 26, 2017

NATO Official Gives Major Update on the Ukraine Crisis - says Russia on a backward course

On 6 April 2017 at Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv,Ukraine,NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemueller gave a major address on the situation in Ukraine,Russian foreign policy and NATO's response to it,including Ukraine's special relationship with the Alliance.Here are several excerpts of her speech attended by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other Ukrainian dignitaries:
Since Russian forces first set foot on sovereign Ukraine in 2014,the NATO Alliance has spoken with one voice.We do not and we will not recognise Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and its ongoing destabilisation of the east of Ukraine.
In recent weeks,violence has increased.The latest report from the UN Human Rights Office highlights a dire situation:increased civilian suffering,with tens of thousands of people deprived of even the most basic of necessities.It estimates the death toll from the conflict to be almost 10,000 people,including more than 2,000 civilians.
Last week,Foreign Ministers from across the Alliance met in Brussels to reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine.Ministers were briefed by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin and then discussed the current security situation in the east of Ukraine and Crimea.NATO Foreign Ministers condemned Russia's ongoing hostility and occupation and confirmed that Crimea-related sanctions must remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.*
For as long as NATO has had partners,not long after the end of the Cold War,Ukraine has had a mission at NATO headquarters-one of the largest of all our partners-and NATO has more than 50 staff here in Kyiv.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have greatly improved their capabilities in recent years.Ukraine sends more people on NATO courses than any other partner,and NATO commanders enjoy close relationships with their Ukrainian counterparts.Ukraine has committed to reforming its security and defence sector in line with Euro-Atlantic standards and principles,and we have a sizable team of NATO advisors here on the ground to help support these reforms.
Ukraine actively contributes to Euro-Atlantic security in many ways.Indeed,it is the only partner country that has contributed,at one stage or another,to all ongoing NATO-led operations and missions.Right now,Ukraine has a heavy engineering unit in Kosovo and 10 people serving under a NATO flag as part of our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.Over the last two years,Ukraine has contributed strategic airlift,naval and medical capabilities to the NATO Response Force.
Beyond these specific missions,NATO is also learning a great deal from Ukraine's ongoing experience of hybrid warfare.Every country in the NATO Alliance,as well as many of our partners,have been affected by Russia's ongoing efforts to destabilise our democracies;cyber attacks;and most controversially,direct interference in our elections.But none has been affected like Ukraine.
Ukraine has been the prime battleground of this new type of warfare.Military operations;cyber attacks;propaganda and 'fake news' are all just points on the continuum of conflict with the aim of advancing Russian political objectives.
This is a decidedly backward approach to foreign policy-a policy of domination over its neighbours-and it is vital that we learn all that we can if we are to effectively combat it in the future.To do this,NATO and Ukraine are establishing a Platform on Countering Hybrid Warfare.Through this platform,we will improve our ability to recognise and attribute hybrid attacks.We will actively identify areas of vulnerability and strengthen resilience.Areas like critical infrastructure,strategic communications and crisis management.*
Russia's aggressive actions against Ukraine these last few years have had a lasting impact both here and far beyond this land.NATO has responded.For the first time in a generation,NATO has had to focus on 'collective defence'.
As I speak,we are deploying multinational forces to countries in the east of our Alliance and have substantial forces available at very short notice to provide reinforcements if they are needed.And for the first time in many years,defence spending across the Alliance is going up.*
At this posting,NATO's exercise Combined Resolve VIII is underway in Germany.Ukraine is one of 10 NATO member-states and partners participating in these extensive warfighting drills.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft Launches to the ISS - 18 April 2017

Joint Paschal Encyclical Issued by Syriac Orthodox,Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch

A joint paschal encyclical letter has been issued by two Patriarchs of Antioch,His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II;and His Beatitude John X,the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch and All the East,respectively.This was done in light of the grave crisis of war and terrorism enveloping the region,the Holy Land of Christ's birth,life,death and resurrection,which therefore has a place in the hearts of all Christians.Here are some memorable excerpts from this extraordinary missive:
Beloved spiritual brethren and children:
Christ is risen,truly He is risen.
Christ is risen and the East is bleeding.Christ is risen and our people of all faiths pay with their own lives the cost exacted by selfish interest.Christ is risen and the destiny of our brothers-archbishops Paul and John-is still unclear.Pascha falls this year close to the day of their abduction,the twenty-second of April.This fourth anniversary is perhaps the most appropriate time for us to raise our voice once more,and to put in the ears of our believers and of all the world the voice of our pain in the Church of Antioch,and the voice of all those who are afflicted in this East.*
We are being crucified in this East,suffering this great ordeal.The world looks at the cross of our agony,and is satisfied merely by expressing grief over us.Nevertheless,the power of this world will not drive us out of our land,because we are the sons of the cross and the resurrection.We have been displaced throughout history,and we are still being displaced to this day;but each of us is called to remember that the land of Christ will not be emptied of His beloved ones;and of those who were named after Him two thousand years ago.*
We are deeply rooted in the womb of this East.We are determined not to leave our land;furthermore,we will defend it with our own blood and lives.*
There is a war,unfortunately,imposed upon us as Syrians;and there are consequences that burden us as Lebanese.And there is a price which we pay as Easterners all over the Middle East stemming from the results of all wars,as though bets are being wagered on our land.Our summons today reflects upon events,as we cry enough!into the face of those who feed our land with terrorism,takfirism and blind extremism.Our summons today is a cry enough!in the face of those who finance the terrorist;but feign blindness to his existence,and later rush to fight him,or to make a claim to fight him.
In this Holy Paschal season,we supplicate the risen Lord to remove the stone from our hearts and to break with His spear the war of this world.In these holy days,we pray again for our abducted archbishops,repeating our call for their release.*
On this occasion,we call on everyone,here and abroad,to work hard toward the liberation of the Archbishops of Aleppo and toward closing of this case,which has been suspended by international amnesia.However,this issue is always present in our souls and in the souls of all our children,Christian and Muslim,as well as all those of good will.*
We are in the days of remembering the resurrection of Christ,even though mingled with a heartache that has not been healed for four years.We pray today to the risen Lord to instill His hope in our hearts,granting to them His Holy Spirit;and bestowing upon us the gift of the release of all the kidnapped,so that we may always cry:
Christ is risen and the angels are exultant.
Jesus is risen and the bars of Hades are destroyed.
Christ is risen and life is renewed;to whom is due all glory and dominion unto ages of ages.Amen.
Christ is risen,truly He is risen.
Damascus,April 14,2017.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Good Friday music from Basilique Notre Dame de Neuchatel,aka Eglise Rouge - Today is hung on wood - Σήμερον Κρεμάται επί ξύλου /Nektaria Karantzi & Choeur Yaroslavl, Concer...

Patriarch Kirill Meets with Italian President,Seeks Catholic-Orthodox Push for European Cohesion

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with the President of Italy,Sergio Mattarella,who was visiting Moscow,on 12 April.During the talks at the Danilov Monastery,headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church,the spiritual leader of more than 100 million souls in Russia,Ukraine,Belarus and the diaspora,remarked that:
The Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church can and should do everything to make the world a more peaceful place;to decrease the level of confrontation between East and West so that we again feel ourselves belonging to one cultural environment,which we call Europe.
I think our shared convictions-Pope Francis' and mine-are that today the religious factor should contribute to reconciliation of people in the European continent and spiritual union among them.*
In the joint declaration signed by Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis following their historic first meeting of a Catholic and Russian Orthodox primate in Havana,Cuba on 12 February 2016,they summoned Catholics and Orthodox to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation and to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times:
We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel,so that Europe may preserve its soul,shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Matters of Highest Concern:North Korea,Russia and Afghanistan-SecDef Mattis

On his first visit to the UK as US Secretary of Defense,Jim Mattis gave a press conference alongside his British counterpart,Minister of Defence Sir Michael Fallon,on 31 March 2017 in London.Mr.Mattis responded to reporters' interest in North Korea,Russia and Afghanistan:
In the larger scheme of things,in the global situation,which is dynamic,you've highlighted-I think correctly-the North Korean threat.This is a growing threat.This is a threat of both rhetoric and capability.Right now,North Korea appears to be going in a very reckless manner in what its conduct is portraying for the future-and that has got to be stopped.*
Russia's violations of international law are now a matter of record.From what happened with Crimea to other aspects of their behaviour in mucking around in other people's elections and that sort of thing,so I think that the point I would like to make is that NATO stands united;the trans-Atlantic bond is united.We are going to maintain Article V-an attack on one is an attack on all-as absolute bedrock of the NATO Alliance,and we will,as you see with the European Reassurance Initiative,act accordingly if Russia chooses to be a strategic competitor.On the Intermediate Nuclear Forces issue-as to whether Russia has violated the INF treaty with the US-we are in consultation with our Allies and we are still formulating the way ahead.In fact,it'll be addressed,I think,very,very soon as a matter of highest level concern.
We have seen Russian activity in Afghanistan vis a vis the Taliban.I'm not willing to say at this point if that has been manifested into weapons and that sort of thing;but certainly what they're up to there,in light of their other activities,gives us concern.I would just say that we look forward to engaging with Russia on a political or diplomatic level;but right now,Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor,and we're finding that we can only have very modest expectations at this point of areas that we can cooperate with Russia,contrary to how we were just ten years ago,five years ago.It's no longer a cooperative engagement with them.Right now,it's gotten to where we're diplomatically going to have to carve out some manoeuvring room here,assuming Russia can change its behaviour and act in accordance with international norms and international law.*
On the question about more forces for Afghanistan,the suggestions and recommendations coming into us from the NATO commander in the field,General John Nicholson,have been received and we are reviewing those right now.Our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs,General Joseph Dunford,is reviewing them.Obviously,in light of our close relations with the UK,we always engage with them on issues like this,simply because we consider them an equal partner.Their advice is always solicited.It doesn't come to the number of troops in the field,so we'll be working with our Allies on that issue.We have not made a recommendation yet.I've not yet put a recommendation forward to our President at this time.
With regard to Daesh being in Afghanistan,you're all aware that Daesh-aka ISIL-has every intention of striking externally from the region,and that immediate threat goes to Europe;and we're going to have to keep Daesh on their back foot,and that's where we're concentrating at this point,US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told journalists in London following his talks with UK Defence Minister Sir Michael Fallon.