MERKEL MEETS TSIPRAS IN BERLIN
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Berlin today, starting a week that Bloomberg characterizes as “decisive for Greece’s future in the euro area.” According to the Financial Times, Tsipras told Merkel in a letter last week that without the European Union’s continued support, it would be “impossible” for Greece to service its debt.
As tensions rise, the cover of this week’s issue of the German weekly Der Spiegel shows a smiling Angela Merkel spliced into a photograph of Nazi officers standing by Athens’ Parthenon during the German World War II occupation of Greece.
ON THIS DAY
[rebelmouse-image 27088781 alt="""" original_size="322x249" expand=1]
On March 23, 1919, Italy’s Fascist movement was founded. Time for your 57-second shot of history.
DEFEAT FOR FRENCH SOCIALIST PARTY
France’s governing Socialist Party suffered an important setback in local elections yesterday, coming third behind the victorious center-right UMP party of Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen’s National Front, though the defeat was not as stinging as expected, Le Monde reports. Speaking on RTL, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, however, congratulated himself for the fact that National Front didn’t finish first and called on all parties to vote against such candidates that qualified for next Sunday’s second round. Le Pen branded the Socialist Party’s defeat “historic” and called on Valls to resign.
"For the Ebola outbreak to spiral this far out of control required many institutions to fail. And they did, with tragic and avoidable consequences," said Doctors Without Borders Director Christopher Stokes, as the organization published a scathing report one year after it was alerted about the outbreak. The organization also accused the governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone, as well as the U.S. biotech firm Metabiota of obstructing early efforts against the outbreak.
U.S. TROOPS PULL OUT OF YEMEN
Washington has withdrawn its last military personnel from Yemen because of the deteriorating security situation, CNN reports. The decision comes as attacks intensify between Sunni Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, and the Shia Houthi rebels, who have been in control of the capital Sanaa and its surroundings since September. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombings of two mosques where Shia worshippers were gathered for Friday prayers, killing at least 137 people. The UN’s special envoy for Yemen warned that the country was on the “edge of civil war.”
‘O LUNA MIA
Spring has finally sprung here in the northern hemisphere and will be bringing Cancer some confidence. As for Capricorn, it’s a wonderful time for couples to plan a major event. What does this week have in store for you? Check out the Roman Horoscope here.
SINGAPORE MOURNS PATRIARCH’S DEATH
Photo above: Then Chih Wey/Xinhua/ZUMA
Thousands paid tribute to Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died today at age 91. Lee, the first and longest serving prime minister of the city-state, helped transform Singapore into one of Asia’s most prosperous countries.
Myanmar is expected to be the country with the highest increase of antibiotic use in animals with scientists forecasting a 205% increase by 2030. A study from Princeton University warns that antibiotic use in livestock could rise by two-thirds globally, increasing the risk of drug-resistant “superbugs.”
NUCLEAR DEAL IN SIGHT, ROUHANI SAYS
With the last round of nuclear talks beginning on Wednesday ahead of a March 31 deadline, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani expressed hope that an agreement could be reached between Tehran and six world powers, news agency IRNA reported on Saturday. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also acknowledged that “substantial progress had been made in key areas, although there are still important issues on which no agreement has yet been possible.” According to Haaretz, an Israeli delegation is currently in Paris to meet French officials today and attempt to “influence” a potential deal. But even if an agreement is reached, The New York Times reported that it would likely increase U.S. spying on Tehran.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
[rebelmouse-image 27088782 alt="""" original_size="610x600" expand=1]
As El Espectador’s Danila Arbilla writes, Brazilian President Lula da Silva spent liberally when the Brazilian economy was booming, leaving Dilma Rousseff to face the deferred impact of the global recession. His personal popularity aside, the country's current woes are largely his fault. “His tenure was marked by prosperity and easy money, neither of which describe today's Brazil,” Arbilla writes. “Lula’s strategy was to give fish to the poor, without bothering to teach them how to catch their own. The annual cost of this subsidy is around $11.5 billion.”
Read the full article, What About Lula? Why Brazil's Economic Mess Isn't All Dilma's Fault.
This is what happens when you interrupt mating tortoises.
When the world gets closer, we help you see farther
The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.
PARIS — Vladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.
In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.
Even if tactical nuclear bombs are less powerful than Hiroshima (15 kilotons of TNT, a thousand times less powerful than strategic bombs capable of erasing cities), they are still nuclear. Their use would trigger a spiral that could result in the annihilation of humanity.
Pressing the button
Most believe that the Kremlin is bluffing, but many also thought he would never invade Ukraine either: “A Russian nuclear hit is not very probable but we must prepare ourselves to every possibility,” says Admiral Jean-Louis Lozier, an expert at the French Institute of International Relations.
But the bluff is not working for the moment, as the West is continuing to supply Ukraine with heavy artillery.
And so what would happen if Putin were to press the button? Let’s think the unthinkable, which is not so unthinkable after all, since he was only a hair's breadth away from setting off nuclear fire on at least three occasions already.
The Russian president presses the red button (which does not exist by the way, instead it is in fact the activation of a code with the help of a bag nicknamed "Tcheget"), to launch a bomb of 2 kilotons on Ukraine.
He would then likely obtain the immediate surrender of Kyiv. How can one imagine that soldiers, as brave as they may be, continue to fight against an adversary determined to kill 40,000 fighters and civilians with just one missile? Not to mention the panic caused by the deadly radiation. This is what led Japan to surrender in only a few hours in August 1945.
All Ukrainians fearing execution by the occupier, not to mention all those refusing to live under Russian authorities, would take the road of exile, which would then lead to 10 to 15 million Ukrainian refugees in Europe overnight.
A NATO-Russia war
The war in Ukraine will not be over any time soon. Wherever the Russian army is deployed the war will only change its nature with "behind every window a babushka armed with a Kalash," as the Ukrainians say. Not to mention the thousands of anti-tank and anti-helicopter missiles supplied by the West that have not yet been used.
Years of guerrilla warfare, worst than in Afghanistan, are in perspective.
After the shock wears off, the international community would need incredibly strong nerves. “The West cannot stay arms crossed” in front of such crimes, says the admiral: “new economic or diplomatic sanctions alone seem inadequate and a military response would therefore be necessary, for example by destroying the Russian surface fleet. But without resorting to nuclear weapons or touching Russian nuclear infrastructure, because that would cause an uncontrollable escalation.”
Retaliating, even in a conventional and limited manner, could however push Vladimir Putin, who has just shown that he does not back down from anything, to outbid a NATO country with nuclear weapons.
It would be a disruption of the nuclear 'grammar'.
The ostentatious alerting of the nuclear forces and interception batteries of all the countries of the Alliance would perhaps not be enough to dissuade him. At the very least, conventional hits from NATO would almost inevitably provoke Russian responses of the same order: put simply, a classic NATO-Russia war, a nightmare since the establishment of the Iron Curtain.
A replica of an AN602 hydrogen bomb, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created and tested, was shown at an exhibition celebrating the Russian nuclear industry in Moscow in 2015.
End of Nagasaki taboo
Retaliating would thus be risky, but not doing so would undoubtedly constitute an equivalent risk, simply postponed. Indeed, if Russia could bring Ukraine to its knees with impunity, it would no longer make tactical missiles a tool of defensive deterrence, but an instrument of offensive coercion.
It would be a disruption of the nuclear “grammar,” explains Peter Rosen, professor in military affairs at Harvard University, “which would give ideas” to China, North Korea, or other “mini Putins”, not to mention those who, in order to avoid the fate of Kyiv, would hurriedly gather up their arsenal: Taiwan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, South Korea and even Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, and so on. Eventually this would add up to fifty nuclear powers in the world?
Using an atomic bomb at his convenience against a peaceful neighbor, almost as if it were an ordinary weapon, “Russia would be destroying a keystone of the world security order," sums up Malcolm Davis, a member of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute: the Nagasaki taboo that has prevented its use since August 1945.
The ultimate pariah
A universal repulsion would follow this destabilizing planetary action making Russia a pariah state for years, even decades. Even the currently neutral African and Asian countries would be forced to cut ties. China too — furious at seeing the world stability shattered, compromising its prosperity. The last countries, currently less than a dozen, still handling regular air links with Moscow, would likely suspend them.
Russia would be destroying a keystone of the world security order: the Nagasaki taboo that has prevented its use since August 1945.
In addition to seeing a resolution voted against it at the UN by 190 countries over 193, Russia would no longer be able to sell its hydrocarbons because of the reputational risk, or sanctions against its customers, the West, which accounts for 45% of world GDP. As these sales provide the majority of its foreign currency revenue, this would result (in addition to a surge in international prices of black gold) in a vertiginous fall in the standard Russian cost of living and the bankruptcy of their state.
It's all enough to make the Kremlin hesitate, to say the least. One can try to reassure themselves by remembering that the Russian nuclear code is, it seems (a certain secret surrounds the procedure obviously) shared among three people, Vladimir Putin would need the consent of his Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, and Chief of Staff Valery (Vasilyevich) Guerasimov. Insiders consider both, despite close ties to the Kremlin leader, to be "reasonable" men.
- Lavrov's World War III Warning And Veiled Nuclear Threats ... ›
- How Millennials And Boomers See Putin's Nuclear Threats Differently ›
- Putin's Arsenal: How Russia Is Playing With Nuclear Fire ... ›