NATO's Aggression Reaches for Russian Waters

December 7, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - The recent Kerch Strait incident marks a new low amid the US-led expansion of NATO eastward.

The intentional provocation executed by Kiev saw three Ukrainian naval vessels seized by Russia. The vessels were intentionally violating protocol for passing through the Strait - protocol previously agreed upon by Kiev and previously observed by Ukrainian naval vessels.

The extent to which Ukraine was aware of these protocols and the 2003 agreement that put them in place includes entire events organized in Ukraine by NATO-sponsored "think tanks" discussing the necessity to "rip them up" and attempt to assert greater control over the current joint-use of the Sea of Azov.

In the wake of this incident - predictable calls are being made to use it as a pretext to expand NATO even further east, with senior American Foreign Policy Council fellow and former professor at the US Army War College Stephen Blank declaring the need for the US to "lease" Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, patrol the sea with US warships,  all while committing to the "full-fledged" arming of Ukrainian forces.

Blank's commentary - published in The Hill in a piece titled, "Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an act of war," predicates an anti-Russian narrative and NATO's eastward expansion into Ukraine upon a number of blatant falsehoods.

He mentions Russia's "seizure" of Crimea, its "claiming that Crimea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait are exclusively Russian waters," and the building of the Crimean Bridge which Blank claims is impeding Ukrainian commerce in the Sea of Azov - all as Russian provocations.

However, Blank conveniently omits the US-NATO backed putsch that seized power in Ukraine in 2013 - setting off Ukrainian-Russian tensions in the first place. Nowhere in Blank's commentary does he mention the prominent role paramilitary Neo-Nazi organizations have played in both overthrowing the elected government in 2013 and militancy carried out against Russian businesses, institutions, and even Ukrainians of Russian decedent - particularly in Donbass, eastern Ukraine.

Blank would even feign ignorance over Russian President Vladimir Putin's motives in repatriating Crimea and taking measures against a now fully hostile Ukraine sitting on Russia's borders.

Also conveniently omitted from Blank's commentary was any mention of decades of NATO's eastward expansion along with various episodes in NATO's history where it waged wars well beyond its jurisdiction and mandate, including in Libya and Afghanistan.

Coupled together with Blank's prescription for a "response" - it is abundantly clear who stood most to benefit from the Kerch Strait incident - especially considering the systematic expansion of NATO that has been ongoing long before President Putin ever came to power.

Who is Winning the US-Chinese AI Arms Race?

December 2, 2018 (Gunnar Ulson - NEO) - Information technology has already transformed virtually every aspect of modern civilization. The rise of artificial intelligence and the ability of systems to train themselves rather than be programmed, allowing them to perform tasks no human could, is expected to have as much, if not more an impact than the proliferation of computers and the Internet.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an interview with Kai-Fu Lee, former head of Google in China and current CEO of Sinovation Ventures in Beijing, comparing US-Chinese strategies regarding the research, development and deployment of AI.

China's lack of regulatory obstacles and deeply entrenched corporate monopolies is giving China an advantage over the US. While US higher education is producing more, and better computer scientists specializing in AI at the moment, China is catching up.

Ultimately, for AI, the nation with the most data to train systems is the nation that will eventually dominate the field. Here, China has a clear and uncontested advantage. As tech companies across China work on AI and roll out applications for public consumption, the sensors, input and overall data accumulated across China's 1.3 billion people will far exceed that accessible to US companies.

Lee would explain, regarding whether the US or China was in the lead regarding AI:
In internet AI, which is algorithms making profitable recommendations for people based on their Web browsing history, China and the U.S. are about equal. China will probably get ahead because it has more user data. In business AI, where companies mine their customer data to come up with new product ideas and improve service, or use it to monitor systems to make them more efficient or lucrative, the U.S. is ahead, and will probably stay ahead because its enterprise data is properly archived and more usable for AI. In perception AI, or things like facial recognition and other biometric interfaces, China is ahead because it is building more sensors cheaply and for broader uses, and it will probably get further ahead.

The interview also made it clear that while US and Chinese companies seek to do business in each other's markets, the US and China can be perceived as "parallel universes" where US and Chinese tech companies are better suited to providing solutions and products within their own respective markets. In other words, unless Chinese companies can do what American companies cannot, there is little opportunity for them to do business in America and vice versa.

For example, while Facebook and Google seek to do business in China, the market is already saturated with Chinese companies doing what Facebook and Google do as well or better than Facebook and Google do it. Conversely, Google's Waymo subsidiary which concerns autonomous vehicles has no direct analogue in China, which is why it is able to successfully do business in China.

Syria: Alleged Chemical Attack Elicits 180 Degree Response from West

November 29, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) -  On the heels of another alleged chemical attack in Syria  - the Western media has responded with skepticism - even silence. This acutely different response to its regular "chemical weapons" hysteria is because unlike previous incidents, it appears this most recent attack was blatantly carried out by Western-backed militants operating in Idlib, Syria. 

While evidence of this most recent alleged attack must still be collected and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has yet to arrive and carry out its investigation, it should be remembered that none of this was previously required by either the Western media to create a storm of hysteria accusing perpetrators - mainly Damascus - and demanding a Western military response, or by Western leaders who would promptly carry out such military responses. 

Compare and Contrast

With no actual evidence in hand, the United States along with the UK and France would carry out military strikes on Syria in April of this year after an alleged chemical attack the West claimed was carried out by Syrian forces in Douma, just six miles northeast of Damascus. 

British state media - the BBC - would unquestioningly repeat claims by dubious organizations like the "White Helmets"  that chemical weapons were used and killed scores of civilians. In one BBC article titled, "Syria war: At least 70 killed in suspected chemical attack in Douma," it was claimed:
The pro-opposition Ghouta Media Center tweeted that more than 75 people had "suffocated", while a further 1,000 people had suffered the effects of the alleged attack.

It blamed a barrel bomb allegedly dropped by a helicopter which it said contained Sarin, a toxic nerve agent.

The Union of Medical Relief Organizations, a US-based charity that works with Syrian hospitals, told the BBC the Damascus Rural Specialty Hospital had confirmed 70 deaths.
Buried deeper in the article - past rhetoric aimed at preparing the public for a Western military strike - the BBC would eventually admit that the Syrian government had taken most of the surrounding territory through years of fighting - assumably through the use of conventional weapons - and that the remaining opposition-held territory was occupied by Jaish al-Islam - one of several US-NATO backed Al Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria. 

The article, and many like it, would begin by claiming:
At least 70 people have died in a suspected chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria's Eastern Ghouta, rescuers and medics say.
Compare that with the BBC's  article regarding the most recent chemical attack on Aleppo titled, "Syria war: Aleppo 'gas attack' sparks Russia strikes," which begins by claiming:
Russia has carried out air strikes against Syrian rebels it accuses of launching a chemical attack on the government-held city of Aleppo.  
The BBC would immediately provide denials made by militants operating in Idlib and frame the entire incident as a likely fabrication to justify Russian air strikes on militant positions.

The article fails to point out that even if the mortar rounds allegedly containing chemical weapons were instead conventional - the militants would still be in violation of a provisional buffer zone created between Syrian forces and Idlib-based militants - and would still be viable targets for Russian military aviation as well as Syrian military retaliation.

The sudden skepticism and incredibly ironic "whataboutism" displayed by other appendages of Western war propaganda, including human rights fronts like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as NATO's "Nonresident Senior Fellow, Digital Forensic Research Lab, Future Europe Initiative" Eliot Higgins, also highlights the disingenuous, cynical abuse of human rights and "open source investigations" as war propaganda by the West.

Kenneth Roth - executive director of Human Rights Watch would declare in his only post on social media regarding the attack that:
Syria asks the UN Security Council to condemn an alleged rebel chlorine attack--the same Security Council where Syria's ally Russia vetoed extension of an investigation that could identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks.
Absent from Roth's timeline is the same sort of hysteria, repetitive demands for justice, and calls for immediate action against the perpetrators following other alleged chemical attacks - the only difference being who the accused perpetrators are/were.

The Atlantic Council's Eliot Higgins would spend the day after the attack posting pictures of alleged munitions used in the attack on Aleppo - an admission that an attack and thus a violation of the agreed upon buffer zone had indeed taken place - claiming that none of them could have contained chemicals despite not being any sort of weapons expert and having never set foot inside of Syria, let alone having investigated that actual scene of this particular attack.

Chemical Weapons or Not, Militants Violated Idlib Buffer Zone

It would be premature to conclude what sort of munitions were used in the recent attack on Aleppo. However it is indisputable - even among the West's various propaganda organs - that militants in Idlib carried out some sort of armed attack.

The attack was - regardless and undoubtedly - a violation of agreements made to deescalate fighting between Syrian government forces and their allies and the remnants of the West's mercenary forces in Idlib - and required a military response.

When the OPCW investigators arrive, and as time passes, evidence can be collected and the true nature of the attack can be ascertained with further measures taken against Idlib-based militants if necessary.

And regardless of the outcome of these investigations - the West has suffered yet another tactical, strategic, and now political defeat as another loop of the long rope given to it by its opponents wraps around their collective necks, strangling the remnants of their credibility.

For organizations like British state media - the BBC - its transparent bias and politically-motivated inconsistency has so fully permeated its reporting that side-by-side comparisons of its headlines serve as the greatest indictment against - and parody of - of its legitimacy as a news organization.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.  

Ukraine Provokes Russia to What End?

November 27, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) -  Russia has seized three Ukrainian military vessels violating its territory near Russia's newly completed Crimean Bridge. The incident is a clear provocation carried out by Kiev and possibly engineered by Kiev's Western sponsors - particularly those in Washington and London.

Ukrainian military vessels are in fact permitted to pass from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov provided they notify Russian authorities beforehand. The Sea of Azov - according to a joint agreement signed by Kiev and Moscow in 2003 - is considered internal waters of both Ukraine and Russia.

With the completion of the Crimean Bridge connecting Russian Crimea to the rest of Russian territory across the Strait of Kerch, security measures have understandably increased.

According to Russian state media, Ukrainian military vessels have previously observed agreed upon protocol when transiting the Strait of Kerch with military vessels. For the sake of provocation, they chose not to this time.

TASS would explain in its article titled, "All three Ukrainian Navy vessels that violated Russia’s border detained in Black Sea," that:
The FSB [Russian Federal Security Service] stressed that Ukraine was aware of the procedure for warships’ passage through Russia’s territorial sea and Kerch-Yenikale Canal. "They have already used that procedure for innocent passage," it said.  

This incident is just the latest amid growing tensions in the Sea of Azov.

Tensions in the Sea of Azov are not New 

Tensions have been brewing since Ukraine's NATO-backed regime seized power in 2014. Articles across the Western media and NATO-sponsored conferences predating the most recent clash near the Strait of Kerch have obsessed over shredding past treaties signed by both Kiev and Moscow regarding the use of the Sea of Azov - as well as Ukraine's militarization of the Sea particularly in regards to reasserting some illusion of control over Russian Crimea.

In August of this year, US State Department's Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in an article titled, "Sea Of Troubles: Azov Emerging As 'Tinderbox' In Russia-Ukraine Conflict," would admit that Ukraine was building up a military presence and not only called the 2003 agreement regarding the joint use of the Sea of Azov "controversial," but also admitted that there have been calls within Ukraine to "rip it up."

In October of this year, the "New Europe Center - a US government-funded (pages 32 and 33, .pdf) front that claims to "increase support of Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic prospects among opinion leaders and officials of the EU and the NATO" - held an event titled, "Treaty with Russia on Azov: How Should Ukraine Act?

The New Europe Center would summarize claiming:
Kyiv should comprehensively explore the issue of denunciation of the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Ukraine on cooperation in the use of the sea of Azov and the strait of Kerch since 2003, but on the whole this agreement does not correspond to Ukrainian interests.
The consensus among US-funded "experts" was that Kiev should denounce the agreement but had no means to follow through in its desire to pressure Russia out of the the Sea of Azov or change the current status quo in any meaningful way upon denouncing the agreement.

EU Event Chastises China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

November 26, 2018 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) put together a day-long seminar chastising the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Organised by Jonathan Bullock, a UK Independence Party (UKIP) Member of the European Parliament (MEP), it gathered European critics of China's rise upon the global stage along with US and European-funded agitators active in undermining Chinese-Pakistani relations.

The CPEC is a keystone project amid Chinese-Pakistani ties and an integral part of Beijing's One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR). It includes energy and transportation projects developing and connecting Pakistan's Baluchistan province along the Arabian Sea with Chinese territory along Pakistan and China's border.

When completed, the projects will increase both Pakistan's prospects and China's influence not only in Pakistan, but across the wider region. Together with other OBOR projects, CPEC will be yet another step toward the rise of Eurasia out from under centuries of European domination.

For MEP Jonathan Bullock of UKIP, it is somewhat perplexing to see a politician supposedly concerned with British independence so eager to interfere in the sovereignty of Pakistan and China, thousands of kilometers from British or indeed, all of Europe's shores.

The EFSAS website included a summary of the CPEC-oriented event:

A high level panel consisting of Members European Parliament (MEPs), Scholars and Academicians spoke at the event and discussed the construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its interrelated legal, geo-strategic, economic and environmental issues, which directly impact the stability of South Asia. 
Participants claimed that China would assume unwarranted influence over Pakistan over the course of the projects' construction. Concerns related to Pakistan's Kashmir region and Baluchistan were also brought up by representatives of separatist groups, many of which are funded by the US and Europe specifically to serve as vectors for Western influence in Pakistan and agents of destabilisation not only within Pakistan, but between Pakistan and its immediate neighbours (Afghanistan, India, Iran and China).

The EFSAS' statement would claim:
Mr. Fernando Burgés, Programme Manager at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), provided his perspective on the negative repercussion stemming from the construction of the CPEC, which goes through the disputed territory of Gilgit Baltistan, part of the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir over which Pakistan does not have any legal right.
The UNPO serves as collective representation for myriad separatist groups backed by Western special interests used to agitate around the globe.

They have included or currently include Chechen separatists seeking to carve off territory from Russia's south, Tibetan separatists backed for decades by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and various groups from Kashmir and Baluchistan. The latter are backed by the US State Department in their bid for independence and the effective end of Chinese access to the Arabian Sea via the recently built Gwadar Port. 

It should be noted that Pakistan's claimed portion of the Kashmir region is its only direct access to the Chinese border in the north. Thus it is especially convenient that here, the UNPO has found yet another group to support which seeks independence and would effectively close Pakistan off from China in the north.

While the European Union's various MEPs complaining about the CPEC will hardly do anything to slow down its construction let alone stop it, even augmented with US and European funded and backed separatist groups attempting to complicate security on the ground, it is important to understand the persistent imperial chauvinism that still deeply infects many circles of political elite across the West.

It is also important to understand how it manifests itself politically through various but entirely disingenuous and cynically abused "human rights" causes. Likewise, it is important to see how it manifests itself on the ground where these interests seek to disrupt their geopolitical competitors instead of finding common grounds for cooperation and mutual benefit.

Alternative circles of interests both in the US and Europe and elsewhere around the globe will seek common grounds for cooperation and mutual benefit with China and its many Eurasian partners. They will ultimately find themselves in prime seats at the table of emerging multipolarism while the instigators and imperial chauvinists find themselves out in the cold.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.