German military association demands massive armaments increase reports that Lieutenant Colonel André Wüstner, President of the Armed Forces Association, said, “Whoever wants peace must prepare for war.” [1]

From World Socialist Web Site, February 14, 2015
By Johannes Stern

Against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis, leading German politicians and military leaders are demanding a massive rearmament of the army.

On Sunday, the president of the armed forces association [Bundeswehrverband], André Wüstner, attending the Munich Security Conference, declared: “Whoever wants freedom must be ready for war.” He has precisely the same view as the German government, namely that the conflict in Ukraine cannot be solved militarily, but that the army must prepare itself for any emergency.

The past year has shown “how quickly risks can turn into dangers,” said Wüstner. The situation in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq is dramatic, he said.

“For us, that means insisting that the army should be fully equipped—equipment caps passed by the previous legislature must be abolished! That begins with the weapons system and goes all the way to the personal equipment of the individual soldier.”

“To achieve complete preparation of the army for deployment”, he added, “we must raise the defense budget step by step in the next few years. Otherwise, we risk losing the trust of our allies that we have only just won back.”

Wüstner was referring to “global challenges” and the German role in NATO. Germany has a “payback responsibility” with regard to the army and NATO.

The lieutenant colonel complained, “Since 1990, the budget was restructured to save money at the expense of the army,” and demanded: “It is time for that to end—there have to be credible assurances of funding for deterrence and security!”

This year’s defense report raises similar demands and read like a blueprint for the rearmament of the army. In the forward, the parliamentary defense commissioner Hellmut Königshaus (Free Democratic Party, FDP) describes the year 2014 as “the year of truth” for the army. It is being rebuilt into an army capable of intervening worldwide, but is “stretched to the limit of its capacity.”

The first part of the report creates the impression that the German armed forces are a chronically underfinanced scrapheap in need of redevelopment and in urgent need of a massive increase in budgetary allotments.

In nearly all units, there are personnel problems: the anti-aircraft missile unit stationed in Turkish territory, the speedboat squadron, the U-boat squadron, the tactical air force squadron, the marine planes and the signals division.

With regard to large military equipment, the report says there are massive “inadequacies and deficits.” It mentions, for instance, the Eurofighter, the transport helicopter NH 90, the transport airplane Transall and the marine mine warfare systems. There are not enough armored personnel carriers, and barracks are dilapidated. Replacement parts for military equipment and adequate ammunition are also lacking. And the main gun used by the army, the G36, does not shoot accurately.

Wüstner and the defense report demand what the German government and NATO have wanted for a long time but have previously only formulated cautiously because of widespread popular opposition.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) said in her opening speech to the Munich Security Conference last weekend that Germany is working “very hard to bring the army’s weaponry and equipment into a condition that will allow us to maintain our role as enduring alliance partners.” NATO wants this to take place immediately. The military alliance has long demanded of its members that they raise their defense budgets to at least two percent of GDP. Recently, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that Germany set a good example.

Stoltenberg held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister von der Leyen about increasing military funding during his inaugural visit to Berlin in January. He also presented his plans to the parliamentary committees for defense and foreign policy.

Germany is a “key country” on the continent and has an important leadership role to play, said Stoltenberg. Therefore it must set an example for other NATO countries with its military. The security situation is changing “and we must adjust ourselves to that,” the NATO secretary general said.

Like Wüstner and von der Leyen, Stoltenberg directly related his plans for armaments with Russia’s “confrontation course”. NATO must stock up its arsenal, because only on the basis of a “position of strength” is a dialog with Moscow possible.

However, the most important reason for the demand to build up the army is not the NATO insistence, but the end of German restraint in matters of foreign policy announced by President Gauck and the German government a year ago. In order to be able to intervene worldwide to defend German economic, geopolitical and security interests, they need an army that is well equipped and prepared.

The complaints of the defense report about the bad condition of the army evoke historical parallels. In 1933, minister of the army of the Reich, Werner von Blomberg, prepared a memorandum in which he called the state of the German army “hopeless.” Like the current defense report, Blomberg’s memorandum complained that there were inadequate personnel reserves, military equipment and ammunition. Not even the equipment guaranteed by the Versailles treaty was available to the marines. Armoured ships were not delivered and the air force was almost nonexistent.

The dramatic development that then followed is well known. At the end of the same year, the Nazi regime began a rapid rearmament of the army. Within a short time, the German weapons industry, which had shrunk dramatically in accordance with the Versailles peace treaty, became a powerful fighting force that began the Second World War in 1939, left large parts of Europe in ruins and led a brutal war of destruction against the Soviet Union.



Vladimir Putin’s interview with Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram

Posted on The Kremlin, February 9, 2015

In the run-up to his visit to the Arab Republic of Egypt, Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the Al-Ahram daily newspaper…

QUESTION: How would you assess the situation in Ukraine and around it? What do you think will be the most appropriate way out of the Ukrainian crisis?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I would like to remind Egyptian readers that the Ukrainian crisis was not caused by the Russian Federation. It has emerged in response to the attempts of the USA and its western allies who considered themselves ‘winners’ of the cold war to impose their will everywhere. Promises of non-expansion of the NATO to the East (given yet to the Soviet authorities) have turned out to be hollow statements. We have seen how NATO’s infrastructure was moving closer and closer towards Russian borders and how Russian interests were being ignored.

Moreover, in the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership Program there have been attempts to tear states which had been parts of the former USSR off Russia and to prompt them to make an artificial choice “between Russia and Europe.” The Ukrainian crisis has become a high point of these negative trends. We repeatedly warned the USA and its western allies about harmful consequences of their interference in Ukrainian domestic affairs but they did not listen to our opinion.

Last February the USA and a number of EU member states supported the coup d’état in Kiev. The ultranationalists who seized the power using military force put the country on the edge of disruption and started the fratricidal war.

Unfortunately, today we can see how the ‘war party’ in Kiev actively supported from the outside continues its attempts to push the Ukrainian people over the edge of a catastrophe. The situation in Donbas has aggravated dramatically. Ukrainian security forces resumed the bombing of Donetsk, Lugansk and other residential areas in the region. They are building up their military presence there. The “new wave” of mass mobilization has been announced in the country; there are calls for “taking revenge” after summer “military failures” and for a forceful “Ukrainization of Donbas.”

Ukraine is militarizing rapidly. We can judge by the statistics: in 2014, the Ukrainian military budget increased by almost 41 percent. This year, according to preliminary data, it will more than triple and reach more than $3 billion – which is about 5 percent of the country’s GDP. And this is happening when its economy supported mostly with international, including Russian, funds is in rather deplorable situation.

We certainly feel worried. We hope that common sense will prevail. Russia strongly calls for a comprehensive and exclusively peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis based on the Minsk agreements which were largely achieved owing to the initiative and efforts of the Russian side.

The most important condition for the stabilization of the situation is immediate cease-fire and ending of a so called ‘anti-terrorist’, but in fact punitive, operation in the south-east of Ukraine. Kiev’s attempts to exert economic pressure on Donbas and disrupt its daily life only aggravate the situation. This is a dead-end track, fraught with a big catastrophe.

It is evident that the crisis will continue until the Ukrainians themselves agree with each other. Until the unbridled radicalism and nationalism are finished with, and the society is consolidated around positive values and genuine interests of Ukraine. To achieve this, Kiev authorities need to listen to their people, find a common language and reach an agreement with all political forces and regions of the country. They need to elaborate such constitutional state system formula that would provide for a safe and comfortable living for all citizens with human rights being fully observed.

In the meantime, it is necessary to do one’s utmost to make all the parties to the conflict gather around the negotiating table. In this context, the Russian side stands for forging sustainable and direct contacts between Kiev and Donetsk and Lugansk, for continued work within the Contact Group. On our part, we intend to actively contribute to that process.

For the full interview with questions on many topics:

Anti-population budget devours the safety net as Ukraine nears the economic abyss

January 1, 2015
Anatoly Shariy
Translated from Russian by J. Hawk
Posted on Fort Russ

When discussing last week’s actions by Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers, one naturally has to mention the budget. However, the budget has been adopted, so it is too late to really discuss it. It’s like talking about a death sentence once it has been carried out. You can argue it was an unacceptable mistake a hundred times, but cannot reverse it.

On the night of December 23, the government of Ukraine proposed to the Verkhovna Rada the so-called “budget packet”, which included about 50 legislative projects which would make radical changes to many legal codes of Ukraine, including concerning the budget, taxation, customs, and others.
The harsh, and in some places an openly anti-population budget caused not only discussion and disagreement, but also open resistance by the majority of people’s deputies. And we are not even talking about members of the opposition, but the governing parties.
What the government has proposed is an increase (and this during a raging crisis) of the tax burden, the introduction of new taxes on “little Ukrainians”, while at the same time radically cutting budget expenses, including the elimination of practically the entire “welfare state.”
The increase in excise taxes, the refusal to compensate grain traders for the VAT tax, the legalization of gambling, the introduction of estate tax, of housing tax, of retirement income tax, the complete elimination of all tax benefits and discounts to teachers, instructors, the disabled, children with birth defects, Chernobyl victims, and veterans of the Maidan.
Consequently on December 26 the Budget Committee of the Verkhovna Rada received over 300 amendments. In the view of the people’s deputies, such a budget could not be adopted.
But two days later they adopted it anyway. By a hand vote, after a reading of Yatsenyuk’s promises to lighten the impact of the budget in the course of its implementation, the budget for the entire year was adopted.
Incidentally, many of these radical changes were introduced by Yatsenyuk after his “consultations with international financial organizations.”
And there is a lot to consult about.
Ukraine’s foreign debt as of December 1, 2014, reached 1 trillion 33 billion 898 million 479 thousand hryvnia. The rapid devaluation of the hryvnia means the debt has become unmanageable.
Yatsenyuk’s government has been asking the West for money since March, and it has not been especially choosy when it comes to creditors. We’ll take any money, from anyone, on any conditions.
As a result Ukraine’s foreign debt has increased by 3.833 billion USD and its growth is not about to stop. The declarations that Ukraine cannot survive 2015 without another 15 billion USD merely confirms it.
The Cabinet of Ministers is also entering the New year with huge salary arrears. It is increasingly difficult to dismiss the discontent as the product of “Kremlin-paid provocateurs”, because the level of arrears is so huge.
As of December 1, the arrears had reached its 2003 level. The arrears in education were 192.2 million hryvnia, health care—184.4 million, science—123 million, and in art—18 million. To be sure, one can assume that 60% of the arrears concern territory no longer controlled by Kiev, where the Ukrainian government, in its infinite wisdom, had stopped paying salaries altogether.
But what about wage arrears on the wholly controlled regions, such as the Kiev region (124.3 million), the Kharkov region (123.7 million), the Dnepropetrovsk region (101.5 million), or the Lvov region (73 million)?
And the wage arrears are showing an interesting dynamic. In Kiev the arrears increased over the course of 2014 by a factor of three, on the Donbass by 9 times, but in the Dnepropetrovsk region by a factor of 14.5? What is the reason for that? Is the war an excuse on which everything is blamed?
Will the situation improve? No doubt it will, but not in Ukraine. And the Cabinet of Ministers itself is confirming it.
On December 22 the government adopted resolution no. 709, which amends the resolution no. 404 adopted on August 27, 2014.
On that date the wise Arseniy Yatsenyuk adopted forecast of Ukraine’s socioeconomic development for 2015. They adopted two scenarios: a pessimistic one and an optimistic one.
We wrote about them earlier, while noting at the time such forecasts are not worth the paper they are written on. And, by way of confirmation, the Cabinet of Ministers has “corrected” its own predictions.
Thus the best-case scenario GDP growth was supposed to be +0.3%, while the worst case scenario was +0.2%. Now the worst case scenario is -4.3%, while the BEST is -2.0%.
The optimistic inflation estimate in August was 10.9%, and the pessimistic one—13%. Now the optimistic estimate predicts inflation of 17.2%, while the pessimistic estimate predicts 17.9%.
This really speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
These numbers are clearly rigged and are entirely meaningless. They mean nothing at all, they are taken out of thin air.
And, even though the December forecast is actually the more realistic one, it won’t make things better for Ukrainians. If anything, it will only get worse.
Happy New Year!
Translator’s Note: 

What Shariy hints at but does not fully explain is that such forecasts are important when determining Ukraine’s eligibility for foreign loans, by both public (IMF, EU, US) and private lenders. But to secure loans and credits, and to secure them on non-usurious terms, one has to create the impression Ukraine is not doing all that badly, so as to persuade the creditors Ukraine is capable of actually repaying! Which creates a tremendous incentive for the Ukrainian government to “gild the lily”, so to speak. Consequently, even the pessimistic scenarios from December are actually wildly optimistic, because it’s hard to see exactly what the sources of growth for Ukraine’s economy are going to be. Ukraine has lost the bulk of its Russian markets (both due to the Russian government sanctions and the ruble devaluation, both of which are components of Russia’s import substitution strategy), while at the same time failing to secure European or US markets for its products. Yatsenyuk even went as far as boasting about the drop in Russian trade by half as his accomplishment. As to the Western creditors, they are facing the unenviable choice of letting Ukraine default now or continue propping it up, though even the $15 billion that Yatsenyuk is asking for is no guarantee Ukraine will not default later. And this while Greece is once again teetering on the brink of default and exiting the Eurozone.

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