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Peace & Socialism

NATO - Balkan paper tiger Part II

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Balkans Post: How do you see the consequences of Montenegro’s membership in NATO for the broader region?

NATO continues to creep eastward, now hosting thousands of troops in Latvia, a clear provocation against Russia, which has no claims on it or anyone else. Slovenia is a member since 2004, Bulgaria and Romania are members since 2007, Albania joined in 2009, and Croatia in 2013. (Bosnia and Macedonia are still pending.)

Montenegro joined in June 2017, despite strong opposition. The parliamentary vote was boycotted by the main opposition and hundreds demonstrated outside. The country is a mix of Montenegrins, Serbs, Bosniaks, Albanians and Croats, with two thirds of the population Muslim. Serbian is still the majority language. Montenegro's truly multicultural make-up allowed it to survive the break-up of Yugoslavia relatively unscathed, unlike Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.

It has a small military of about 2,000 troops, but is strategically positioned to give NATO full control over the Adriatic Sea. The other Adriatic nations – Albania, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy – are already in the alliance, so NATO is delighted, if not the Montenegrins.
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NATO - Balkan paper tiger Part I

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Balkans Post: What's up with NATO these days?

In 2009, NATO celebrated its 60th anniversary. With its recent deluge of new member states, it needed more space and announced it would build a new HD across the street from the bunker-like 1950s original one.

It was supposed to open in 2015, but in a fitting metaphor for the troubled organization, it was discovered that the half billion euro project would cost twice that, and would not be finished till 2017. Just in time, as the new US president was toying with the idea of dispensing with what he has called an expensive, obsolete organization, even as it continues to expand, long after what many considered to be its expiry date.

So it was with a sigh of relief that the 28 European member heads of state welcomed the abrasive American leader in May 2017 for the dedication of the new HQ.  Trump came, but took the opportunity to lecture his NATO allies for not spending enough for collective defence, and declined to endorse Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty, which states that an attack on any member is an attack on all. His subtext: Enough of pulling Euro irons out of fires.
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New World Order triumvirate: US, China, Japan

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Watching the most recent Hollywood blockbuster, The Martian, I was struck by the political subtext. The great pioneer of outer space was the Soviet Union, and in those days, Hollywood followed the spirit of detente and cooperation in space with such uplifting films as Space Odyssey 2010 and the tv series Star Trek. Now the hostile Cold War has returned, and Hollywood mirrors this in what is otherwise a rather ordinary adventure film. The startling plot device is to point to China as the new partner in space, leaving the Russians pointedly out of the equation. Just imagining a Hollywood nod to Russia--the pioneer of outer space exploration and good will--is impossible given the crisis in international relations today.

Hollywood is a barometer for changing political weather conditions. Of course, the Muslim terrorist is the usual trope. This new embrace of China will make The Martian a hit in Beijing. At a time when world trade relations are in deep trouble, and we are on high alert to the possibility of a hot war breaking out, we can see this sea change in US foreign relations, where China is now the implied US friend in the world and Russia the enemy. This is a moment for India to ponder where she stands.

In the past, the Soviet Union was India's reliable partner, and suffered US hostility for her peaceful, nonaligned policy. When the Soviet Union collapsed, India adjusted, maintaining good relations with Russia and at the same time striving for good relations with the world hegemon. But the world hegemon has its own interests, and so far, India is not a priority. Because of the mess the US created in Afghanistan, Pakistan takes precedence over India diplomatically, and now China is catching up, with its formidable economic might and lack of a world hegemonic agenda making it attractive.
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Picking up the Cold War pieces Part II: Muslim diaspora

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US policy in Somalia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan from 1979 on helped reduce all three countries to failed states. It created massive refugee populations from all three. This was not intended nor foreseen, and has been a headache for the West ever since. Also unintended and unforeseen, this brought millions of Muslims to the West, undermining "Judeo-Christian civilization", which is really just a pseudonym for imperialism, with little sign of anything 'Jewish' or 'Christian'. These Muslims are by definition anti-imperialist and are forcing the West to deal with Islam, now an integral part of western society.

There are more than one million Somali refugees, spread from Sweden to the US, and Somalis abroad are forced to downplay the clan system, though it still exists where enough of one clan can form a community. But the second generation exiles are not interested. Andrew Harding, author of The Mayor of Mogadishu: A story of chaos and redemption in the ruins of Somalia (2016), was told by an interviewee that Somali exiles are almost like a new set of clans. The American Somalis are "a bit more outgoing, they like to push things harder." The Scandinavian Somalis are the opposite, "endlessly trying to bring everyone on board." The British are somewhere in between.
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Picking up the Cold War pieces: Somalia, Ethiopia

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In 2016, Somalia was declared the most fragile state in the world – worse off than Syria. Famine struck yet again in 2017, compounded by President Trump's attempt to ban Somalis from entering the US. But for the first time since the 1991, when Somalia collapsed along with its one-time ally the Soviet Union, Somalia now has functioning political institutions.

Dual US-Somali citizen Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo became president in February 2017, approved by the US, refugees are returning from the US, Canada and Europe, and remittances from them buttress the economy. Just to make sure Farmajo knows who's really in charge, Trump ordered an air strike on suspected militant bases in April 2017, near the Bab el-Mandeb strait chokepoint separating Yemen from Eritrea, boasting it killed 150 Shabab fighters.
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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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