Russia Isn’t Buying NATO’s Missile Defense Assurances

Russia is wary of plans by NATO to build missile defense bases in Poland and Romania. The military alliance insists Moscow has nothing to fear, that Russia and NATO are not “enemies.” Why then, Russia would like to know, is NATO unwilling to build a joint

Russian 2K12
Russian 2K12
Elena Chernenko

BRUSSELS Russia remains highly suspicious about NATO plans to set up a strategic missile defense system in Eastern Europe. During meetings Thursday with NATO officials, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow still needs "precise, hard guarantees' that NATO's new system will not be directed towards Russia.

Despite Russia's concern about the project, the United States plans to continue with preparation for the first two bases, in Romania and Poland. Washington says it plans to work with Russia, and hopes to use Russian radars as part of the project.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's general secretary, declared that Russia and NATO are not "enemies," and will not be attacking each other. Lavrov, however, called NATO's assurances "absolutely insufficient," and said that Moscow's leadership strategy, in this situation, is "trust but verify."

"It is crucial that we complete a joint agreement regarding military-technological specifications of the entire U.S.-NATO missile defense system as concrete assurance that the system is not directed against any European Country, including the Russian Federation," said Lavrov. The Russian official said it is important also that the defense shield "is being constructed in accordance with its announced goals, meaning the neutralization of missile threats from outside Europe." He did not discuss how Russia would respond if it did not receive those assurances.

"Bring a flash drive"

At the same time, a whole line of ministers from NATO members expressed serious concern about Russia's intention to put a missile complex in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave nestled between Lithuania and Poland, in response to the expansion of NATO's missile defense system into Poland.

Rasmussen said there would not be a misunderstanding between Russia and NATO if they were to actively collaborate regarding the missile defense system. He once again offered to create two information exchange centers to jointly evaluate risks and prepare research.

Moscow, however, doesn't consider the offer sufficient, and prefers that Russia and NATO should jointly create a missile defense system. NATO is not prepared for that. Rasmussen insisted Thursday that the information centers would be more than enough for Russia to see with its own eyes that the missile defense system is directed elsewhere.

A source at NATO reminded Kommersant that Russia can already access the technological specifications of the U.S. missile defense system, and that there is already a standing invitation for Russian experts to visit the American missile-interceptor test site in Colorado Springs. "I don't understand why the Russians refuse to go," the NATO employee said. "We are ready to show them everything - just put a flash drive in our computers."

But a source in Russia's foreign ministry said that NATO's invitation was nothing but fiction. "They'll let us see the missiles with binoculars, and there won't be anything important on the computers," the diplomat said. "The U.S. Congress has forbidden the military from giving Russia any classified information on the missile defense system. As as long as they don't trust us, an inspection would be useless."

Read the original article in Russian

Photo - Ed Brambley

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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