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Nato's New Agenda and Russian Repression and Violence in Chechnya


August 3, 2009
NATO's New Agenda and Russian Repression and Violence in Chechnya
by Arn Specter, Phila.

The new head of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Danish Prime Minister,
has set a firm agenda today, focusing on strong support for the Afghan government, the upcoming election, and carrying on the war in order to subdue the Taliban and al-Queda.

At the same time he is taking a diplomatic approach to those moderate Taliban who might join forces with the Western powers of France, England and the United States, along with NATO. (see article below)

Too, he is very pragmatic and conciliatory in making overtures for cooperation with Russia, indicating that their previous antagonistic relationship is no further desired. With tensions between NATO and Russia over the war in Georgia now subsiding, and the question of missile defense in Europe "off the table" for the moment, there seems to be an opening
for cooperation and peaceful progress in Europe and in other countries of the world.

Rasmussen, in his declarations today, failed though to take up the major issue of Russia as a State of Terror, particularly in the Chechnya region where dozens of journalists, lawyers and activists have been murdered in recent years. Protests have mounted from international organizations (United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland , www.ofchr.org/english ) as well as NGO and peacekeeping activists groups and individuals for transparent (honest) investigations to be carried out in these cases.

On July 15, 2009 Natalie Estemirova, one of the leaders and a journalist for the Human Rights group Memorial in Chechnya was murdered. An outpouring of sympathy and outraged followed by thousands of people around the world. The Memorial website, www.memo.ru details the history of Russian violence against her people and Memorial's courageous efforts to pressure Moscow to stop the terror.

Then on July 22, 2009 a Russian human rights activist was found dead in a sand pit weeks after he went missing according to police and a colleague who said that he suspects the prisoners' rights advocate was murdered. The victim, Andrei Kulagin, was head of Daralia regional branch of Spravedlivst. As reported by Steve Gutterman, AP Writer,
in Russian activist dead, colleague suspects murder.

Amnesty International Action Center has set up protest letters, see:
http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=jhK...
and read the background of the violence and murders in Russia which need to be investigated and served by justice.

Human Rights need to be upheld in order for people to have freedom and opportunities for "democratic" growth and development. While NATO may not feel that it is their role to take up or consider human rights as an important concern, in their new dealings with Russia, the European Union certainly should continue it's challenging position and lobby for those investigations to take place in Moscow, and perhaps in the
European Court of Human Rights ( www.assembly.coe.int ) as well.

The Court has already held dozens of hearings and concluded 95% of cases against Russia fining them millions of Euros for the families of victims - yet the violence continues.

The United States has also protested these murders and called for investigations.
"We call upon the Russian government to bring to justice those responsible for this outrageous crime and demonstrate that lawlessness and impunity will not be tolerated." White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer told reporters on
July 16, 2009, as reported by RIA Novosti, Russian Newspaper.

Arn Specter, Phila, arnpeace@yahoo.com
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New NATO chief to focus on Afghanistan, Russia ties
AFP – The new secretary-general of NATO, former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen addresses a press …
Play Video Afghanistan Video:Enjoy the Silence FOX News
Play Video Afghanistan Video:Afghanistan must not revert to terror hub: NATO chief AFP
Play Video Afghanistan Video:Media Blackout FOX News
by Philippe Siuberski Philippe Siuberski – August 3, 2009
BRUSSELS (AFP) – Anders Fogh Rasmussen took the helm of NATO on Monday with a pledge to prevent Afghanistan from once more becoming the hub of international terrorism and to build a new strategic partnership with Russia.

On his first day in office, the former Danish prime minister laid out his priorities at a time when NATO is embroiled in its biggest ever mission and ties with Moscow are only just beginning to recover after last year's war in Georgia.

Around 100,000 foreign troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan to counter an insurgency by the Taliban against the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Speaking to reporters, the new secretary-general said that troops serving in NATO's mission would help prevent Afghanistan from "becoming again a grand central station of international terrorism."

The Islamist militia has stepped up its attacks in the countdown to national elections on August 20, their latest bombing killing 12 people on Monday in the western city of Herat.

Seventy-five foreign soldiers were killed last month according to the independent www.icasualties.org website, making July the deadliest month for troops since the US-led invasion in late 2001.

Rasmussen, who has a four-year term in office, said that the long-term goal was to "move forward concretely and visibly with transferring lead security responsibility in Afghanistan to the Afghans."

"I believe during my term Afghans must take over lead responsibility for security in most of their country," he said.

But any suggestion that such a strategy amounted to cut and run was pure propaganda, he added.

"Let me be clear. NATO must and will be there in support. Let no Taliban propaganda try to sell my message as a run for exit. It is not," he said.

"We will support the Afghan people as long as its takes."

In a weekend newspaper interview, the 56-year-old said that he would support dialogue with moderates within the Taliban.

The Islamist militia had ruled Afghanistan until late 2001 but it was toppled by US-led forces after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Rasmussen's comments about engaging with moderates echoed recent statements by the foreign ministers of France and Britain who have argued that it is time to engage with Taliban willing to renounce violence.

The Dane said that the upcoming elections -- which the Taliban is boycotting -- must be credible in the eyes of the Afghan population and that NATO was playing its part to ensure their success.

"We are transporting voting material all over the country and help candidates meet voters. We are providing security in support to the Afghan police and army," he said.

The new secretary-general, who is succeeding Dutch diplomat Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, will also have to help defrost relations with Russia, which has long bridled at the alliance's westwards expansion.

Ties between Moscow and the alliance further plummeted last August when Russia and NATO hopeful Georgia fought a brief war, although the two sides agreed in June to resume political and military cooperation.

Rasmussen said while disagreements remained with Russia, they should not be allowed to poison ties and there were many areas of common interest.

"I believe that during my term, we should develop a true strategic partnership. We should enhance practical cooperation in areas where we share security interests," he added, citing Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, piracy, and nuclear non-proliferation.

He said he regarded it as "a very important challenge to convince the Russian people and the Russian political leadership that NATO is really not an enemy of Russia, that NATO is not directed against Russia."

Rasmussen said that the war in Georgia had had "a very negative impact" and that

"real differences" remained over the issue.

"But we cannot let our areas of dispute poison the whole relationship," he added.

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