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 Attacks Syrian Terrorists with Strategic Bombers

Moscow, Jan 23 (Prensa Latina) Russia attacked with six TU-22M3 strategic bombers camps, weapons and ammunition stores, as well as troops from the Islamic State (EI) terrorist movement in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

Russian control mechanisms confirmed the destruction of all programmed targets after bombers flew over Iraq and Iranian airspace to carry out their mission, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry.

In the operation, SU-30MS and SU-35S fighters sheltered the bombers, after leaving Jmeimim air base in the Syrian province of Latakia, the official statement said.

All the air ships returned from the mission without complications, emphasizes the Ministry of Defense, which issued a similar part last Saturday.

The city of Deir ez-Zor has been besieged for several weeks by the EI, which took peripheral areas through the mass use of car bombs and suicide bombers, media reports say.

The attack of the EI against the locality intensified as the approaching start of this day in Astana, the Kazakh capital, of the first direct talks between heads of armed groups and representatives of the Syrian government.

Contrary to many in the West, who wagered on the continuity of the conflict in an attempt to remove President Bashar Al Assad from power, the Astana meeting brought together leaders of 13 armed opposition groups.

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More than 30 Syrian Military Personnel Killed near Damascus

Damascus, Jan 18 (Prensa Latina) More than 30 Syrian military personnel were killed this morning following a bomb attack on the headquarters of the Army Transportation Administration in the town of Harasta, four kilometers east of Damascus, official sources confirmed.

According to early reports, the explosive charge of almost two tons was introduced through a tunnel leading to the four-story building, which was completely destroyed.

Preliminary reports indicated that among the 33 victims is General Bilal Bilal and three other senior officers.

The sources added that after the confusion and chaos reigning, armed elements attacked the nearby capital neighborhood of Jobar, but were rejected.

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Russia scales down military presence in Syria, Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier to leave first

The Russian Navy is returning the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and its group from the Mediterranean Sea back to Russia, the defense ministry reports. The move comes as Russia begins reducing its military presence in Syria.

The Kuznetsov group will return to its home base in Severomorsk, the chair of the Russian General Staff, Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov, announced on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial pullout of military forces from Syria after negotiating a ceasefire deal with Iran and Turkey. He said it offered an opportunity to end the six-year armed conflict in the Middle Eastern nation.

The Kuznetsov was deployed to Syria in mid-October 2016, accompanied by three other warships and several support ships. In addition to using its warplanes to target militant forces, the group used its Mediterranean mission to train in joint action with other branches of the Russian military, Col. Gen. Andrey Kartapolov, commander of the Russian forces in Syria, said.

This included interaction with warplanes deployed to the Khmeimim Air Base near Latakia, interaction with shore-based Bastion cruise missile batteries, and establishing joint air defense over Syria involving both ground-based and ship-based anti-aircraft systems.

All combat tasks assigned to the aircraft carrier group have been accomplished,” Kartapolov said.

As the Russian military pulls out of Syria, Damascus reiterated its gratitude for Russia’s help in the conflict.

“The support that the Russian Air Force offered was crucial for our victories, which paved the way for a ceasefire and created the conditions for launching a political settlement of the Syrian crisis,” the chair of the general staff of the Syrian armed forces, Lt. General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, said, as reported by RIA Novosti.

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Ukraine Announces Demobilization in Armed Forces

Kiev, Nov 2 (Prensa Latina) Ukraine completed a sixth wave of demobilization in the Armed Forces, and will send only professionals to the region of conflict in Donbass, said Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of Staff of the Ukrainian military.

During a meeting with President Peter Poroshenko, Muzhenko said that those serving in the troops deployed in Donbass have been changed to a contract regime.

'The armed forces must be composed of well-prepared and armed professionals and volunteers,' said Poroshenko in response to reports that many men in Ukraine have fled abroad to avoid being recruited and sent to the conflict zone.

The exodus of men of ages between 18 and 50 years has increased as the conflict in Donetsk and Lugansk has intensified.

Ukrainian authorities extended the call to military service beyond 18 years to extend military enrollment beyond the age of 45, in order to address the shortage of staff in the punitive operation against the aforementioned rebel regions.

Although there have been repeated violations, the ceasefire in Donbass and withdrawal of heavy war materiel from the front line is still in force, but analysts suspect that Kiev is readying an offensive with a better-equipped army.

The number of professionals in the military reached 90,000 between 2014 and 2016, the government announced.

Poroshenko signed in last October 26th a demobilization law for those who were enrolled in August 2015, leaving only professionals in the Ukrainian coal-mining region of Donbass.

However, Alexander Turchinov, Secretary of the National Security Council and one of the main figures in the coup of February 2014, said recently that should the conflict break out again, the state will carry out a new mobilization.

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Iraq demands that Turkey pull its ‘occupying’ troops out of military base near Mosul

Outraged by Ankara’s decision to extend the stationing of its troops in northern Iraq, 30 kilometers from Mosul, Iraqi MPs have called on the government to review its relations with Turkey and lodge a complaint against the “occupation” with the UNSC.

On Tuesday, the majority of Iraqi legislators spoke out against the Turkish parliament’s decision to prolong the stationing of about 150 Turkish soldiers and some 25 tanks at the Bashiqa military camp in Iraq’s northern Nineveh Province, which is located at the forefront of the battle with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

 
In a written statement, the MPs decried the decision, appealing to the country’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to summon the Turkish ambassador and file a complaint with the United Nations Security Council that would designate Turkey’s military contingent as an “occupying” force, according to Rudaw news agency.

On Saturday, the Turkish parliament green lighted the extension of the Turkish military’s engagement in both Iraq and Syria. 

Since 2014, Turkish servicemen have provided training and support to Kurdish Peshmerga units and Sunni militia known as Hashd al-Watani forces at the camp, subject to agreement with the Iraqi government. However, on December 4 of last year, Turkey beefed up its military presence at the camp, allegedly to protect its advisers. The move infuriated Bagdad, which insisted that Turkey had not asked for permission from the Iraqi government to deploy additional troops, thus violating its sovereignty.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to acknowledge this at that time, claiming that Turkey was acting within the scope of the previous agreement.

“Turkish soldiers are in Basheeqa camp at the request of Haider al-Abadi in 2014. Now I am asking why he has been silent since 2014,” Erdogan said in December, disputing claims that Turkey was intervening in Iraq.

Speaking in the wake of the vote, Abadi publicly called for Turkey’s troops to immediately leave its territory, saying that “the Turkish insistence on their presence inside Iraqi territories has no justification.”

The prime-minister told journalists on Tuesday that Iraq has managed to enlist the support of the ‘international community,’ as well as the US-led international coalition, in its bid to remove the Turkish military from its territory.

While Iraq doesn’t want to be dragged into a military conflict with Turkey, it finds the actions of its government “not acceptable by any standard,” he added.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus stressed on Wednesday that Turkey’s military presence in the Bashiqa camp is intended solely to provide stability and train the local forces, and that Ankara does not aim to become an occupying force.

Turkey will not allow this to become a matter of debate,” he told reporters as cited by Reuters.

Both Turkey and Iraq summoned each other’s ambassadors on Wednesday to discuss the growing rift between the two states.

Turkey’s foreign ministry also condemned the vote, the Daily Sabah reported.

READ MORE:French fighter jets take off on mission against ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq

Back in December, Iraq appealed to NATO to force Turkey to withdraw its forces, but the alliance found Ankara to be in compliance with the terms of the training agreement.

Iraq’s largest city, Mosul, fell into the hands of Islamic State in 2014, and Iraqi forces are currently preparing an offensive to retake the terrorist stronghold, aided by US-led anti-terrorism coalition.

If the operation is successful, Iraq wants to “ensure Turkish troops do not exploit the power vacuum after achieving victory against Islamic State in Mosul,” Abadi has stressed.

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'I still have nightmares': 13yo girl shot 5 times by Israeli soldiers speaks to RT

A 13-year-old girl who was shot five times by Israeli soldiers has told RT she is still haunted by the incident, and hopes that soldiers will restrain themselves from shooting other “innocent children.” Her father says he wants Israel to compensate his family.

Speaking to RT, 13-year-old Bara'a Owaisi said she had traveled to a West Bank checkpoint after dreaming about her aunt, who had been killed there.

“She called to me saying, 'I want to see you.' So I went to the checkpoint to see where my aunt died, because I miss her,” Owaisi explained.

“The Israeli soldiers spoke to me, but I couldn't understand them, so some Arab workers explained. They asked me to take my bag off my back and put it down. I removed my bag. I said I wanted to see where my aunt died. They asked for my aunt's name and I answered...then they opened fire on me. The two soldiers said, 'This one is a terrorist,' and ordered the others to open fire,” she said.

Owaisi went on to say that she constantly replays the incident in her mind.

“I have nightmares. I was terrified of [the soldiers], and I see them in my dreams. They shoot at me all the time. I hope the soldiers don't shoot at any more innocent children,” she said.

Her father spoke of how incomprehensible it was to shoot his daughter so many times.

“They wanted to kill her. They shot her five times. One bullet is enough to take someone down, not five. They shot her in cold blood. She wasn't doing anything. The Israeli soldiers were shouting at her without any reason. My daughter can't do anything.”

He went on to state that his wife must now carry the young girl to the bathroom, and that he hopes his daughter will walk again. He said he wants Israel to pay compensation for the incident.

“I want Israel to pay compensation. It is not the first time this has happened. The Israelis try to kill many Palestinian children, and I want the world to know about this.”

RT reached out to the Israeli Defense Ministry, but received no response. A statement from the ministry following the shooting said the girl told interrogators that she went to the checkpoint “to die.”

The Wednesday shooting came amid a new wave of violence against Israeli soldiers by Palestinian assailants.

Just two weeks ago, Israeli forces shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian after he stabbed soldiers at a checkpoint at a village west of Hebron. Two other Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a holy site to both Muslims and Jews in Hebron.

While Israel claims most Palestinians are killed while carrying out attacks, the Palestinian authorities have accused Israel of often using excessive force, saying most of those killed posed no actual threat.

Palestinian leaders say the attackers are acting out of desperation over collapsed peace talks in 2014 and Israeli settlement expansion on territory which Palestinians are seeking for the creation of an independent state.

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Former NATO chief Rasmussen wants US ‘to police the world’

Former NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called on the US to act as the world’s policeman to “counter autocrats like President [Vladimir] Putin.” He made the comments in an editorial for the Wall Street Journal.

In his opinion, only the US has the “credibility” to be a “policeman to restore order, a firefighter to put out the flames of conflict, and a kind of mayor, smart and sensible, to lead the rebuilding.”

Central to his desire to have a strong America is his belief in the necessity to counteract President Putin, who he called an “autocrat,” while adding that “Russia is obsessed with rebuilding the empire the Soviet Union lost.” 

“The world needs such a policeman if freedom and prosperity are to prevail against the forces of oppression, and the only capable, reliable and desirable candidate for the position is the United States,” the former NATO secretary general wrote in his editorial. 

He also praised the US for its “leadership of the international rules-based order—which was created after World War II and which secured for the world an unprecedented period of peace, progress and prosperity.” 

 
Rasmussen fails to consider that since the start of the new millennium, the US has been involved in disastrous campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Pakistan’s tribal regions, while it has also failed in its fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). 

Washington’s record in the 20th century was not much better, with campaigns in Vietnam, Korea and the former Yugoslavia, which brought wide-scale suffering to the local populations. 

In 2015, a landmark study by the Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility group said that the death toll from 10 years of the ‘War on Terror’ since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million. 

Despite the horrific statistics, this did not stop Rasmussen from saying that the US was looking for peace across the world in his piece for the Wall Street Journal. 

“Just as only America has the material greatness to stop the slide into chaos, only America has the moral greatness to do it—not for the sake of power, but for the sake of peace.” 

Although not openly backing a candidate in November’s US presidential elections, Rasmussen seems to bank on a victory for Hillary Clinton, who has been openly critical of Russia and has expressed the need to continue to support NATO’s allies in Eastern Europe. 

“With Russia being more aggressive, making all kinds of intimidating moves toward the Baltic countries… it is not in our interests. Think of how much it would cost if Russia’s aggression were not deterred because NATO was there on the front lines making it clear they could not move forward,” Clinton said in April. 

“When America retrenches and retreats—if the world even thinks that American restraint reflects a lack of willingness to engage in preventing and resolving conflicts—it leaves a vacuum that will be filled by crooked autocrats across the world,” Rasmussen wrote. 

The former NATO chief, who was also previously prime minister of Denmark, did not hold back in his criticism of current US President Barack Obama for his “reluctance to lead the world” against President Putin. 

“While Europe and the US slept, [Putin] launched a ruthless military operation in support of the Assad regime in Syria and tried to present Russia as a global power challenging the US in importance,” he stated.

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