The US Navy has sent four warships to the Barents Sea, off the coast of Russia, for the first time since the Cold War. The warships were joined by one warship from the British Navy. The Navy has said the warships are there to ‘conduct maritime security operations’.
Russia was notified to the operations on May 1st, ‘in an effort to avoid misperceptions, reduce risk, and prevent inadvertent escalation’ a US Navy spokesperson said.
The US-British naval presence in the region comes at a time when Russia is pushing ahead with a huge military build up in the Artic.
The Arctic region is rich in hydrocarbon reserves, and as the sea ice melts Russia hopes to capitalise on the opportunity.
‘In these challenging times, it is more important than ever that we maintain our steady drumbeat of operations across the European theater, while taking prudent measures to protect the health of our force,’ said Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet.
‘We remain committed to promoting regional security and stability, while building trust and reinforcing a foundation of Arctic readiness.’
Russia, with the backing of China, has had a resolution passed to see the establishment of a panel to look at the use of the internet for illegal purposes. The panel will work to set up “a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes,” the resolution said.
However the US, Europe and other western nations fear the purpose of any restrictions would be to limit freedom of speech.
“It is precisely our fear that (a new convention) would allow the codification at an international and global level of these types of controls that’s driving our opposition and our concerns about this resolution,” a US official said.
Human Rights Watch called the UN resolution’s list of sponsors “a rogue’s gallery of some of the earth’s most repressive governments.”
The countries who have backed the resolution have a history of repression of free speech, and actively try to restrict their citizens access to the internet. China for example blocks internet searches they deem harmful to their regime. India cut off the internet to muslim-majority Kashmir earlier this year; and Iran took most of their nation off-line for a time amid protests.
Iran, China and Russia have held joint naval drills in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. The operations come at a time of increased tension between the US and Iran. In May last year the US withdrew from the nuclear deal signed by Obama.
“The message of this exercise is peace, friendship and lasting security through cooperation and unity… and its effect will be to show that Iran cannot be isolated,” Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani said on state television.
Iranian State television said the co-operation between the nations signals “the new triangle of power in the sea”.
Iran said the drills aims were to increase security, combat piracy, and strengthen intelligence sharing operations.
Japan also said on Friday it would send its own battle ships to the region to aid security, but would not join a US-led collision. The Japanese Chief of Cabinet said “Japan’s own measure aimed at peace and stability in the Middle East as well as ensuring safety of Japan-related vessels,”
One America News (OAN) has filed a lawsuit against the Daily Beast. The Daily Beast have accused OAN of spreading Russian Propaganda.
The story revolves around links between OAN staffer Kristian Rouz and the Kremlin’s Sputnik news network. They claim that through the connection OAN is influencing westerners to support Kremlin policies.
In an interview on US television President Assad of Syria warned the US that “everything” would be possible if the US were to strike the country. Assad also repeatedly denied claims that he had used his chemical weapons stoke pile against his own people.
“You’re going to pay the price if you’re not wise. There are going to be repercussions,” Assad told CBS television in an interview recorded in Damascus and broadcast on Monday. “It’s an area where everything is on the brink of explosion. You have to expect everything.”
Also today Russia has urged Syria to hand it’s chemical weapons over to the international community. Russia’s plan was welcomed by the US and European leaders. Since the chemical weapons attack Russia has stood by the Syrian regime, claiming that rebels carried out the attack. However, most in the international community believe the weight of evidence points to the Assad government was to blame for the attack.
The troubled island nation of Cyprus is running out of time to secure a bailout form it’s eurozone partners this weekend. If it fails to secure the bailout the nation will default on it’s debts, and will go bankrupt. Cyprus needs to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in order to secure 10 billion euros in loans form the eurozone.
Lawmakers in Nicosia have rejected a plan to raise part of the 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion), by taxing private bank accounts. The banks in Cyprus have been closed all week, and the ECB has told Cyprus to keep them closed until Tuesday, in order to prevent a run on the banks. However, Cypriots have spent the week queuing at ATMS to withdraw as much of their money as possible, fearful of what the government may do.
The European Central Bank has told Cyprus they will not continue to provide emergency funding past Monday, if a plan is not in place to secure the 5.8 billion euros.
The uncertainty has caused stock markets to fall throughout Europe. Russia has been angered by the prospect of bank accounts being taxed, as Cyprus is a favourite place for Russians to do business. However, Germans will be unwilling to be seen to bail out wealthy Russian oligarchs. Cyprus and Russia currently do $¼ trillion of business annually, and Cyprus has debt repayments of $53 billion annually to Moscow. The close business ties between the two nations has led many to speculate that Russia will offer to bailout Cyprus, if Europe will not.
Lawmakers are looking at ways to restructure the countries ailing banks. It looks likely that Laiki Bank will close, with it’s assets moved to other banks. Laiki Bank has suffered heavy loses due to it’s exposure to the Greek debt crisis.
One of the most popular french actors has taken Russian citizenship, to avoid the new tax rate for millionaires in France. French President Francois Hollande is introducing a tax rate of 75% on earnings above €1 million.
The actor Gerard Depardieu became one of many wealthy Frenchmen to quit the country.
The actor, who grew up in a working class family before becoming a successful actor, has said that he has paid millions in taxes over the years and that the new high tax rate is an attack on success.
Depardieu has now taken up Russian citizenship. He flew into Russia today, where he was greeted by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Russia has a flat income tax rate of 13%.
Depardieu has worked in Russia in the past, and has previously spoken of possibly taking up Russian citizenship.
Depardieu’s friend Arnaud Frilley told France’s RTL radio: “The President [Francois Hollande] called Gerard to ask if he was really serious about leaving France for good.
Gerard told him it wasn’t the taxes themselves that sickened him, but he was sickened by the way France spits on success. At one point he got very annoyed.
He also said he felt the way the media had treated him was terrible and that he needed to take a step back.
But he did say that he would remain French in his heart and that he felt he was a kind of spokesman for all other successful people like him who had not spoken out.”
Next month, nations will gather in Dubai to discuss the future of the internet. The mission of the conference is to secure “the free flow of information around the world, promoting affordable and equitable access for all”.
In the build up to the conference, there has been growing debate amongst some nations that the United Nations should take over control of the internet. A leaked document from Russian officials says:
“Member states shall have equal rights to manage the internet, including in regard to the allotment, assignment and reclamation of internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources and to support for the operation and development of basic internet infrastructure,”
Today the European Union have voted on whether they believe the UN should control the internet. The EU parliament have rejected this saying that UN control would “negatively impact the internet, it’s architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online”.
Currently different bodies around the world control the internet and it’s structure. Most of these bodies, like ICANN, ( Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) are found just south of Santa Monica CA in Marina Del Rey (where the Dalai Lama’s second in command lives). They act independently of government control. Those opposed to handing control of the internet over to the UN argue that many of the member states of the UN do not seek to promote the free, “equitable access of all” that the internet allows.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration said Tuesday that Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime….
Pentagon in awkward position, U.S. military has come under criticism in Congress for working through what is apparently the same Russian firm to purchase helicopters for the Afghan army.
Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, had initially raised questions about the Russian contractor. He had written a letter Monday to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressing “grave concerns” about U.S. dealings with the firm that is “arming the Assad regime” in Syria.