Russian President Vladimir Putin today held his annual in-depth press conference, during which he made the point emphatically that the two proposals he presented last week to the United States and to NATO, for the purpose of discussion and agreement on spelling out terms of security, are not optional. He said evenly of the U.S. reaction, “We have so far seen a positive reaction. U.S. partners told us that they are ready to begin this discussion, these talks, at the very start of next year.” But he pointed out that NATO had “cheated” Russia, with eastward expansion, and Russia needs immediate security guarantees.
Putin said that there have been “five waves” of NATO movement of forces eastward toward Russian borders. This forward deployment is now at a threatening phase, and must be de-escalated and contained. Imagine, he said, if foreign forces placed missiles in Canada and Mexico. That is how it is now against Russia, with NATO in Poland and Romania.
The reality of President Putin’s point—with the presence of British and U.S. personnel and weapons in Ukraine, and many other deployments, is evident to anyone, “with eyes to see.” The Schiller Institute will soon issue a concise history of the military and economic moves against Russia by the U.S., UK and NATO, and make the record irrefutably clear. This is to further the mobilization for sanity to prevail against what otherwise will be inevitable war—perhaps triggered “by accident.” People everywhere are called upon to exert leadership for the urgent, common good of peace and economic development.
The same need for leadership initiative is presented by the urgent situation in Afghanistan, for which there are important updates. On Dec. 22, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted up Resolution 2615, which opens the way for humanitarian aid to get around the raft of sanctions maintained by the U.S., UK, and the principal UNSC Resolution 2255 (from 2015,) and to flow into Afghanistan to avert mass death. At present, 95% of the population are in worsening poverty, 23 million of 38 million are marching toward starvation, and 9 million are in famine, as reported by the World Food Program’s David Beasley. The new measure exempts from sanctions, humanitarian aid (medicine, food, fuel, clothing, logistics and staff, remittances, cash transfers for necessities—where a market exists to purchase them), and so on, for one year.
Donation announcements are coming forth from other nations, among them, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia. Today, the World Health Organization announced aid for a key hospital in Kandahar city, capital of Kandahar Province, in southern Afghanistan. The WHO tweeted, “Mirwais Regional Hospital in war-affected Kandahar Province has received 13 types of life-saving equipment to treat patients of mass casualty events in the region…. Who stands with the people of Afghanistan. Currently the world’s largest humanitarian emergency, Afghanistan is contending not only with COVID-19, but also acute watery diarrhea (AWK), dengue, measles, polio and malaria.”
None of this aid reaches the scale required, nor does it involve concerted action among the major powers, which is sorely needed. Nevertheless, both the aid, and the UNSC unanimous vote yesterday, count a great deal right now, in terms of forward motion.
On Monday, the UNSC turned down the prior draft version of the Resolution, when China and Russia voted against it, because the measure called for case-by-case judgment of each aid initiative on whether it could have a waiver from the sanctions. This would be an unworkable accommodation to sanctions that should not be there in the first place. A new text was drafted, which passed on Wednesday. Moreover, the U.S. Treasury Department then issued a statement yesterday, confirming that it will honor and apply the new UNSC measure (with provisional language), which gives some assurance that aid and related commercial activity (e.g., shipping of grain, water chemicals, etc.) can go on without U.S. retaliation. The Treasury unit, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is an economic hit squad, issued guidelines on how they will follow the UN Resolution. This adds some confidence, since otherwise, the word of the U.S. is no longer trusted.
The moral necessity for action to save Afghanistan was strongly set at the Dec. 19 extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, overriding several internal contradictions. The follow-on developments include a meeting earlier this week between Uzbek leaders and Afghan acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, in which the tri-country rail project connecting Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan was discussed. It is notable that the OIC Council of Ministers has welcomed Uzbekistan’s offer that the city of Termez would become a new hub for transport of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
The breakthrough required, is for the $9.5 billion in Afghan funds to be released from wrongful withholding by U.S. and European authorities and go towards stabilizing national functioning and development by Afghan institutions. The “Operation Ibn Sina” called for by Schiller Institute President Helga Zepp-LaRouche, lays out the road map for what must be done to construct a modern health system and build up the infrastructure platform to sustain it. The new 4-minute video issued by the Schiller Institute makes the point clearly, and adds to the worldwide campaign. It is titled, “Will You Allow Genocide Against the People in Afghanistan? Unfreeze the Funds.”
This Christmas and holiday period is exactly the right time to get active; be a force for the good!