Terrorist threat higher in Europe than anywhere else except war zones – EUCOM chief

The threat posed by violent extremism is higher in Europe than anywhere else in the world, apart from actual war zones and hotspots, US European Command head General Curtis Scaparrotti said, commenting on Wednesday’s terrorist attack in London.

“The number of threat streams that we have of this type within Europe – it’s probably higher in Europe than any other part of the globe, with the exception of the places we’re actually physically fighting [terrorists], like Syria […] Afghanistan and Iraq,” the senior US military leader in Europe, who is also NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

He said that Europe is faced with a “difficult challenge” posed by extremists.

 
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Europe is challenged by both the flow of terrorists returning from Syria and other places. They’re challenged by an internal threat of those inspired by ISIS [Islamic State or IS] or directed by ISIS and this is another, an example of the attacks that we’ve seen in Europe in the past year. It’s a difficult challenge.”

On Wednesday five people, including the assailant, were killed in the attack in central London, after a car plowed into pedestrians near the British Parliament. Police identified the attacker as 52-year-old British citizen and Muslim convert Khalid Masood, born Adrian Russell Ajao. Eight more people were detained in connection with the case in raids at six different UK locations.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the terrorist group’s ‘news agency’ Amaq.

Scaparrotti expressed his condolences to those injured or killed in the tragedy, noting that the United States is ready to further support its NATO ally, the UK.

 
© Denis Balibouse

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to these victims and their families impacted by this senseless attack. We strongly condemn this attack, and will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO ally, and our partners, to defeat terrorism,” he stated.

Asked by committee Chairman John McCain whether there is any “connection” between the increased European terrorism threat and the inflow of refugees from the globe’s hotspots, Scaparotti said he is particularly concerned by the criminal groups that smuggle asylum seekers into Europe illegally.

He stated that apart from people whose identities it is difficult to establish given the circumstances of their arrival into Europe, these groups “are more than willing to move equipment, personnel, weapons” to carry out terrorist plots.

Before reports of the London attack broke on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted a meeting of 68 nations of the global anti-IS coalition, aimed at finding ways to defeat the jihadists and reduce the spread of terrorism on a global scale.

READ MORE: Brussels district hosts 51 NGOs with suspected terrorist links – report

While stressing the importance of IS’ defeat, Tillerson warned against a possible spillover of the terrorist threat to other areas once the group is defeated in the Middle East.

“As we stabilize areas encompassing ISIS' phony physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere,” he said, as cited by Military.com.

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Moscow ‘knows nothing about’ reported April visit by Tillerson

Moscow diplomats say they are not aware of any preparations for a visit by US State Secretary Rex Tillerson. Reuters said the American would arrive in Russia in April.

When asked about the reported visit on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Interfax: “I know nothing about it.”

 
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson © Lintao Zhang

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said she could not confirm Tillerson’s visit either.

“At this stage, we do not intend to neither confirm nor refute the information which emerged [in the media],” Zakharova wrote on her FB page, pointing out that the information had initially been leaked.

“It is time for US political elites to decide: have ‘the Russian hackers’ hacked the US State Department servers again or is the threat to the security of US information of an American origin?” she joked.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dodged the question about the news agency report.

“Let’s wait for the official statements on the matter rather than those of Reuters. For the State Department and the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to announce the visit,” he said.

Reuters originally ran the story on the alleged visit under the headline “Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April,” it then explained that the reason was that the summit will overlap with a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Florida estate on April 6-7.

While Tillerson will not be in attendance at the NATO summit on April 5-6, he is scheduled to hold a meeting with the members of the international coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) on Wednesday this week, when all of the ministers will be present, according to a spokesman cited by RIA Novosti. The US will be represented by Tillerson’s deputy in Brussels.

READ MORE: US hosts anti-ISIS meeting of 68 nations, fails to invite Russia, Iran

“[US Undersecretary] Tom Shannon will represent the United States at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting,” the State Department spokesman told RIA Novosti.

Before he goes to Russia, Tillerson is scheduled to take part in a meeting of G7 foreign ministers early in April, the spokesman added.

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US experts confirm Russians played prank on NATO chief Stoltenberg – report

Russian pranksters who called Jens Stoltenberg in early February, one of them introducing himself as Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, did indeed reach the NATO Secretary General, Life.ru reported, citing US experts.

After Life.ru initially published the conversation, NATO accused them of disinformation, the Russian tabloid says. It then decided to contact an American investigative agency to prove the authenticity of the recording.

Life.ru gave VIP Protective Services Inc., a company that employs former agents from FBI, CIA and a number of European agencies, their recordings that featured a conversation between the pranksters and, allegedly, NATO chief Stoltenberg.

The phone talk in question happened earlier this month, when prankster Lexus, who works in tandem with another man known as Vovan, introduced himself as Poroshenko and asked the supposed Jens Stoltenberg whether Ukraine could become a NATO member within the next two years, “as advised by American partners.”

 
© Carlos Barria

The prankster posing as the Ukrainian leader was then told that there might have been “a misunderstanding,” as to be “able to meet the standards which are required for a NATO membership,” Kiev officials “have to do more” and “focus on reform.”

READ MORE: Ukrainian pilot relaxes dry hunger strike after pranksters send fake Poroshenko letter

The person who the prankster spoke to was indeed Stoltenberg, the US agency concluded, according to Life.ru. Having analyzed the files they received for voice identification comparison, “one known and one unknown speaker are the same speaker,” it said.

A number of features including pitch, mannerisms and even breath patterns have been used for the voice identification analysis, it added, saying that “the most precise approach” has been taken to identify if the person making comments on Ukraine's NATO membership is Stoltenberg.

Earlier, a Russian expert came to the same conclusion, Life.ru reported.

The pranksters gained popularity in Russia after they managed to speak over the phone with a number of high ranking officials and celebrities. Lexus and Vovan once made Elton John believe he had spoken to President Vladimir Putin about gay rights – which later led to a Kremlin promise to meet with the British pop icon for real.

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The hijacking of the Munich Security Conference

The Munich Security Conference took place between 16 and 19 February [1]. Like every year, it united more than 500 European Ministers and members of Parliament, as well as a number of foreign guests. This is the most important international meeting on European Foreign Policy and Defence.

Ten years ago, in 2007, Vladimir Putin caused a scandal by claiming that it was in the interest of the Europeans not to follow the Pentagon in its military adventures, but to act independently [2]. He also reminded his listeners that his country, Russia, is also a European state, even though it is excluded from the European Union. The participants had laughed at him and his pretentions. As one, they sought protection under cover of the NATO umbrella.

This time, it was Sergey Lavrov who caused a scandal, by calling for a post-Western world order. We are obliged to admit that NATO has lost its superiority in terms of conventional warfare – even though it easily maintains first place in terms of nuclear war. We are obliged to admit that after 15 years of uninterrupted war in the «Greater Middle East», the mirage of remodelling the region into micro-states, each with less than 10 million inhabitants, and the fantasy of eradicating secular régimes for the benefit of dictatorships run by the Muslim Brotherhood, have failed.

Astoundingly, the Europeans persist in pursuing these goals, which have been imposed on them by Washington, but which the People of the United States and their President Donald Trump do not want any more. So the Europeans are counting on the deep US state (that is to say the Raven Rock Mountain Continuity of Government group who organised the attacks of 11 September). Their political leaders continue, as a preventive measure, to denounce Donald Trump’s supposed racism and Islamophobia, the same people who applauded when George W. Bush and Barack Obama killed more than 3 million people. Their Press continually insults Donald Trump, whom it presents as capricious and incapable [3].

Horrified by the opinions of Donald Trump, according to whom NATO is «obsolete», they were reassured by the declarations of his ministers, who in essence, told them the same thing – NATO no longer needs to exist in its current format - it needs to be transformed into a defensive alliance, and if you want to be part of it, you will have to dedicate 2% of your Defence budget.

Obsessed by their imperialist lunacy, the Europeans were terrified by the possible abandon of their anti-Russian investments in Ukraine and Syria. There too, they were reassured by declarations which were nonetheless as vague as could be. Trump’s ministers repeated that they would give up no interest vital to the USA in Ukraine, and that they would pursue a «political solution in Syria». So why did the Europeans understand that the People of the United States has vital interests on the banks of the Dnipro and that a «political solution in Syria» means replacing the Republic with the Muslim Brotherhood? Simply because that is what they were taught by the Obama administration – the administration that was rejected by the People of the United States.

Of course, everyone can see the struggle between the Trump administration on one side and the «Continuity of Government» group on the other. The mountains trembled when Donald Trump excluded the CIA and the Joint Chief of Staff from the National Security Council [4]. Everyone noticed the way in which the CIA, in response, refused Defence accreditation to six of the President’s advisors, and accused the National Security advisor of being a Russian spy, forcing him to resign, and how they are still pursuing four other representatives from the Presidential team. But losing a few battles does not mean losing the war, and it is distressing that the Europeans – enslaved for so long – do not know this. How can they believe that Donald Trump was going to sweep away such a powerful «deep state» in just a few days? And how could they imagine that his first defeats would be enough to make him give up? [5]

Over the last few years, this Security Conference has been a way for Germany to serve as a link between the United States and their European partners. This year, its only goal was to force the European leaders to confirm their allegiance to the deep US state, without taking into account either the will expressed by the US People, or the change in the White House.

A preparatory document, drawn up by the German organisers of the Conference, was handed to the participants. The Press was careful not to mention it. It contains an article by Volker Perthes, author of the Feltman plan for the total and unconditional capitulation of the Syrian Arab Republic [6]. This eminent «expert» presents his vision of the «Greater Middle East», or rather the vision of the US «Continuity of Government» [7].

- 1. [Even if we have not managed to remodel it,] this region will not be unaffected by the wars and the «Arab Spring». [We didn’t do all that for nothing].

- 2. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran has become a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Chiites [which masks our geopolitical ambitions].

- 3. While everyone is caught up in this false religious conflict, no-one is paying any attention to the Palestinian situation [for the greater benefit of the colonial state of Israël].

- 4. While the Europeans are unanimously tired of these bloodbaths taking place far from their homes, and hope for the long-awaited triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood, no-one in the Greater Middle East has yet admitted to having been beaten.

- 5. During the war in Syria, the alliances have continually been sealed and unsealed at the regional level, the latest of which was the pact between Russia, Turkey and Iran, which should not last [luckily] any longer than the others.

- 6. Syria and Iraq will not beat terrorism, and will not find peace other than by inclusive government [that is to say, by accepting to introduce al-Qaëda and Daesh into their governments].

- 7. All of this could only end, for all the populations of the Greater Middle East, by a major international conference during which the Westerners would determine their future, just as, at the Congress of Vienna (1814), the Quadruple Alliance decided the fate of the rest of the world.

Quite clearly, neither faced with the vote of the US People, nor the Resistance of the Arab Peoples, do the European leaders intend to change – they can only be dismissed by the European People

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USA Demands NATO Members to Increase Military Spending

The United States demanded today that the other member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) increase military expenditures and contributions to the alliance before the end of 2017.

At a press conference, US Vice President Mike Pence indicated that the White House offers until the end of the year for Canada and European allies to make 'real progress' in their investments in defense and the distribution of financial burdens in the group.

The statement came after a meeting here with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who agreed with the positions of the US executive.

According to Pence, the United States wants the allies to 'keep their promise and do more for our common defense,' and asserted that President Donald Trump 'expects real progress by the end of 2017.'

Currently, the northern power government covers more than 70 percent of the cost of NATO, and 'we are committed to our part, but the time has come for the allies to take a step forward,' the representative of the White House said.

Many allies, some of the largest, still fail to meet the target of rising their spending on defense to two percent of Gross Domestic Product in a decade as agreed in 2014 during a NATO summit in Wales, he said.

'Our country has made continuous investments in European security and we see that the European countries are left behind,' he stressed.

According to Pence, Stoltenberg's 'leadership' in NATO places the increase in defense spending as 'first priority', which satisfies his country.

'Europeans cannot ask for more from the United States if they do not commit more,' Stoltenberg said.

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Russia Calls on the USA to Avoid Aerial Ban Areas in Syria

Moscow, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) Russia today called on the United States to weigh the possible consequences of the creation of aerial ban areas in Syria, especially for the lives of refugees.

'It is a matter of utmost importance to avoid a worsening of the refugee situation,' Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said while commenting on a decision by US President Donald Trump.

The new US head of state signed yesterday another controversial provision, this time for the Pentagon to present within 90 days a plan to create the so-called humanitarian security areas.

Peskov acknowledged that Washington never consulted Moscow about that measure, even though Russian combat aviation has been operating in Syrian airspace since late 2015.

Trump considered the day before that Europe made a huge mistake in allowing the entry of thousands of refugees to Germany and other nations of that region and affirmed that he did not want that for the United States.

More than five million Syrians were displaced from their homes because of a conflict that in barely six years left more than 200 000 dead people, many of them civilians.

Damascus accuses Washington of artificially promoting chaos and destabilization in the Levantine country that led to an armed confrontation in which violent groups received material and financial aid from abroad.

Press media here recall the disastrous experience of creating flight ban areas in Libya when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) aviation bombarded that country from March to October 2011.

The country suffered hundreds of civilian's fatalities because of NATO attacks, which interpreted a UN Security Council resolution to protect the Libyan population according to its whim.

Moscow repeatedly called on the West to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians, especially after the liberation of the eastern part of Aleppo last December.

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Russia boosts anti-missile shield over Crimea with S-400 system

A new battery of S-400 long-range surface-to-air missiles has been fully deployed in Russia’s Crimea after five months of training, the Russian military announced on Friday.

In August of last year, the cutting-edge systems were delivered to the 18th Guard Anti-Aircraft Rocket Sevastopol-Feodosia Regiment stationed near the city of Feodosia in the eastern part of the peninsula. Since then, the troops have been training to use the S-400 systems and demonstrated their new skills during the Kavkaz 2016 exercise.

The regiment is now fully operational and capable of deploying the long-range missile systems, the command of the Russian Southern military district reported on Friday.

“This truly large-scale system is going on combat duty and overlaps with the existent anti-aircraft defense system of our nation in a radius of hundreds of kilometers,” said Lieutenant General Viktor Sevastyanov, commander of the fourth army of Air Forces and Air Defense.

The ceremony marking the deployment is to be held on Saturday, the military district’s press service said.

The S-400 is one of the most advanced weapons system currently in service in Russia. Produced by the defense company Almaz-Antey, it can hit aircraft at a range of up to 400 kilometers and speeding missiles at ranges of up to 60 kilometers. The system is meant to protect strategically important sites, such as populous cities, military command centers, and ICBM missile silos, from aerial attacks.

Earlier this week, an S-400 armed regiment deployed near Moscow reached full combat readiness.

The system has been also deployed in Syria to defend the Russian military base near the city of Latakia.

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Venezuela 'Concerned' By Colombian Talks to Join NATO

Venezuela argues that this violates the principles of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

Venezuela expressed “deep concern” over an announcement made by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that he has begun the final discussions for his country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

RELATED: Colombian Attorney General Says NATO Deal 'Unconstitutional'

In an official statement, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the announcement "breaks” a p made in 2010 to by Santos to late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to not join the military alliance.

"The Venezuelan government strongly rejects the attempt to introduce external organizations with nuclear capability into our region, whose past and recent actions claim the policy of war," the statement from Rodriguez said.

Venezuela argues that this would violate the principles of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, or NAM, which prohibits its members to form part of international military alliances.

"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will use all diplomatic and political mechanisms to prevent war organizations with a pernicious record of war and violence in the world from disturbing the peace of our region," Rodriguez added.

Colombia, who chaired the NAM between 1995 and 1998, joined the movement as an observer in 1974 before becoming a permanent member in 1983 after the 7th Summit held in New Delhi. During its time as the head of the bloc, the South American nation defended the movement and promoted its modernization and strengthening.

During his Christmas speech to the army on Friday, Santos welcomed NATO's approval for the start of talks, which he considered "an acknowledgment of the country's military and police forces."

RELATED: NATO Deploys Thousands More Troops on Russian Border

The peace nobel laureate says the deal with NATO will be only for information exchange and to increase the fight against transnational crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.

NATO is the world’s largest intergovernmental military alliance, formed during the height of the Cold War to guard members states against purported “Soviet expansionism.” The pact currently has 28 member states across Europe, North America, as well as Turkey.

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