Conceding the EU’s shortcomings, as individuals and as a nation we have much to gain from continued membership

June 16, 2016

A clear and persuasive article in the Friend, 17 June 2016


Over the years my wife and I have been to Vienna, Strasbourg, Prague, Amsterdam and Florence and walked across a Rhine footbridge into Germany into the small German town of Kehl. In all these places we were genuinely welcomed and felt a real sense of being Europeans.

While conceding that the EU has its shortcomings, we believe that as individuals and as a nation we have much to learn and to gain from continued membership. This view is shared by many financial, medical, cultural, trade and human rights organisations with a much greater insight than we can claim.

We would be deeply concerned if, in event of Brexit, the UK became even more dependent on the expansionist foreign and military policy of the United States, which, I believe, has a long record of ousting elected democracies by force.

The US accounts for almost half of all global spending on weapons; it sells to the UK the missiles needed for our Trident weapons of mass destruction, and it provides huge military support to Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries that, arguably, have fomented instability in the Middle East.

We believe it would be much harder to solve problems diplomatically if the UK were to leave the EU, and that such an exit would itself trigger serious political/financial instability within Europe, to the great cost of ordinary people.

The EU can do much to improve employment conditions and human rights, which could be greatly furthered by further international research and development collaboration, projects in transport, education and climate change prevention.

Ken and Kay Veitch

Cheshire East Area Meeting


Reconciling Turkey, Cyprus – and Israel . . .

February 25, 2014

‘Quiet diplomacy’ by the US


Greek &Turkish Cypriot leaders

Financial Times reporters from Cyprus, Athens and Turkey predict that Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader and Dervis Eroglou, his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, will announce a fresh initiative to reunify the Mediterranean island following months of quiet diplomacy by the US. With the two biggest Greek Cypriot political parties backing the new initiative, there was optimism in Nicosia that an end to the island’s 40-year division could be within reach.

– fuelled by the prospects of constructing a gas pipeline

Large offshore gas deposits, recently discovered between Cyprus and Israel, could be channelled to European markets by a pipeline through Turkey, but 14 of Turkey’s 35 ‘negotiating chapters’ with the EU are blocked because of tensions between Ankara and Nicosia, Turkey has signalled its interest in gas purchases from Israel and an Israeli-Turkish gas pipeline could go through Cypriot waters and link up with Cyprus’ existing gas production facilities.

Adding to the ‘new energy map’ of the Eastern Mediterranean

‘Breaking news’: The key stakeholders in Israel’s Leviathan offshore natural gas field are to discuss laying an undersea pipeline from the Mediterranean site to the southern Turkish coast, according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet.

Turkey and Israel are negotiating the terms of compensation for the deaths of nine Mavi Marmora Turkish activists killed by the Israel Defence Forces in 2010. An agreement would increase prospects for Turkish-Israeli energy co-operation.

This news is listed in the website’s peace through trade category and will be welcomed as such, though many readers would infinitely prefer news of a focus on the lavish solar resources of the region.


Buchanan: “America needs a new foreign policy rooted in today’s reality

November 26, 2013


“America needs a new foreign policy rooted in today’s reality, not in yesterday’s cold war or in tomorrow’s dream of global democracy”.

pat buchananThese are the words of controversial journalist Pat Buchanan. This political commentator, who stood twice for a US presidential nomination, has consistently called for an end to US military intervention where no vital interest was imperilled.

In the Financial Times he described presidential campaigns in which his team advocated a foreign policy of peaceful commerce with all nations but entangling alliances with none.

The US cannot afford any more neo-imperial nonsense

This phrase has been widely quoted and often accompanied by Buchanan’s explanation:

“We cannot afford any more neo-imperial nonsense. With trillion-dollar deficits, a soaring national debt, and 10,000 baby boomers reaching eligibility for Social Security and Medicare every day, the US is beginning to break under the strain of its commitments . . .

“A biblical hubris took hold of our republic. By pushing Nato into Russia’s front yard, planting bases in central Asia, dispatching democracy crusaders to subvert regimes in Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia, we undid the good work of Reagan and drove Moscow back into alliance with Beijing.

“US influence in the Middle East is at a nadir. Our alliances with Turkey and Saudi Arabia are frayed. Pakistan bristles. Israel impatiently dismisses our pathetic pleas for it to stop building settlements. And as the Muslim Brotherhood rose when Hosni Mubarak fell in Cairo, so it looks likely to rise again when Bashar al-Assad falls in Damascus.

His policies

He asks what US soldiers are still doing in the Korean demilitarised zone and advocates:

  • ending the war in Afghanistan,
  • closing US bases in central Asia,
  • telling Ukraine and Georgia that Nato membership is closed,
  • telling Putin that if he stays out of our yard, we will stay out of his,
  • a foreign policy of peaceful commerce with all nations.

With regard to conflict in China, India, Japan and Russia, he advises: “Let the neighbours do the containment.”

american hubris2

Paul Craig Roberts is an American economist who was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He now writes for the successful independent Creators Syndicate, making a similar analysis here – with the grim cartoon above.

However he offers no positive recommendations there so we end with Buchanan:

Let us cease our interventions and call a halt to our endless hectoring. How other nations rule themselves is not really the US’s business. If there is nation-building to be done, let it begin here.


Russia’s foreign policy: ‘back in the diplomatic big league’ or ‘nearing complete failure’?

November 6, 2013


Japanese Russian ministers meet 11.13

Reuters’ Kiyoshi Takenaka reported on November 1st that foreign ministers from Japan and Russia have agreed to hold a vice ministerial-level meeting early next year to work towards resolving conflicting claims over certain islands – the Southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan – and towards signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War Two hostilities.


The foreign ministers of both countries said the meeting helped “build trust” between Russia and Japan.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and noted: “Ever since Prime Minster Abe visited Russia in April, bilateral cooperation has been progressing in many fields such as economy, security and human exchanges”.

On 2nd November 2013, the BBC reported that Japan and Russia have agreed to hold joint military exercises and combine forces over cyber security. A video may be accessed from its site. Russia Today notes that during their joint conference the  ministers discussed international security and bilateral relations, as well as plans to hold joint navy exercises to combat terrorism and piracy.


The deployment of elements of a US missile defense network in Japan is causing Russia ‘grave concern’

Moscow suggested holding another meeting with Tokyo about Washington’s move to deploy missile defenses around the arc of the South China Sea, including a new missile defense radar in western Japan to join an existing radar in the northern Aomori prefecture. Sergei Lavrov said: “We made no secret of the fact that the creation by the US of a global missile defense system, including a Japanese element, is causing us grave concern, primarily over the possible destruction of the strategic balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region”.

This is confirmed by an item in the Nato Watch bulletin : “Putin Dissolves Task Force for Missile Defense Cooperation with NATO”, Source: Global Security Newswire, 31 October 2013.


stephen sestanovitchProfessor Stephen Sestanovich (right), who has served the American state all his working life, notably as former ambassador and special adviser to US secretary Madeleine Albright, comments:

“It seems only yesterday that President Vladimir Putin seized the world’s attention with his proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. To many, the fancy footwork had a clear message: Russia was back in the diplomatic big league at last. . .

“Some experts point out that Mr Putin has at least improved ties with China. . . When you have good relations only with China, you have nowhere else to turn. Russians are as uneasy about China’s rise as Americans – maybe more so. But they are facing it alone. . .

“Many think they can stand up to Moscow because its leverage is declining. Upheaval in global energy markets – especially the shale gas revolution – is one reason. The dramatic drop in Russian economic growth this year further saps Russian influence . . .”


Is Sestanovich giving good advice?

“What Russian policy makers and experts alike should hear from Europe and the US – a message delivered more in sorrow than in anger – is that their foreign policy has gone way off track. Until it rights itself, Russia will have less and less global influence.


Or is he ‘off track’?



Panmunjon meeting is under way

June 9, 2013


The BBC World Service reports that a meeting at Freedom House on the South Korean side of the joint security area, is under way today in Panmunjom, where the truce ending the 1950-53 Korean War was signed – the first meeting of its kind on the Korean Peninsula in more than two years.

SK delegate meets K. Song-hyeSouth Korean delegate Chun Hae-sung (right) meets Kim Song-hye, North Korea’s representative 

A few days ago CHOE SANG-HUN, writing for the New York Times from SEOUL, South Korea, reported that North and South Korea had agreed to hold this dialogue, easing the tensions after the North’s nuclear program this year escalated into one of the divided peninsula’s worst crises.

North Korea made a surprise overture on Thursday, proposing official negotiations with the South on reopening two shuttered joint economic projects, including the recently closed Kaesong industrial park, as well as humanitarian programs. South Korea quickly accepted the offer, proposing a cabinet minister-level meeting in the South Korean capital, Seoul, next Wednesday.

North Korea on Friday welcomed the response from the South and proposed to begin with working-level talks in Kaesong on Sunday to prepare for the proposed cabinet-level meeting. It also announced that it was restoring the cross-border communications lines it had cut off earlier this year, following joint United States-South Korean military drills.

Diplomatic and economic factors

Ms Sang-Hun notes that this overture came a day before President Obama’s meeting in California with President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea’s main ally, when the North’s recent threats of nuclear attacks if provoked was expected to be a main topic of discussion.

Another motive for trying to reopen the joint ventures with South Korea is the need to generate badly needed revenue. Kaesong’s factories, which paired 53,000 North Korean workers with South Korean capital and management, generated $90 million in hard currency each year.

North Korea also proposed resuming cross-border tours from South Korea to a North Korean mountain resort that were suspended after North Korean soldiers fatally shot a tourist from the South in 2008, and reviving programs for arranging the temporary reunions of Korean families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said, “Our position has been consistent for promoting the reconciliation and solidarity of the nation and achieving reunification and peaceful prosperity.” The South’s Unification Ministry also issued a statement: “We hope the government-to-government talks will become an opportunity to build trust between the South and North”.


Student day of action in Sheffield against the presence of drone manufacturer Thales

April 30, 2013

sheffield careers fair

The Campaign against the Arms Trade reports that Sheffield students have protested against the University’s continued liaison with arms companies such as Thales, who are still invited to careers fairs despite the referendum that was passed by the votes of students in October last year, to implement a policy that states unilateral opposition to the involvement of the arms trade in the Union and University.

Carlotta’s blog explains that this engineering company manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. They are currently looking for up to 130 graduates to join them in engineering or business management roles.

sheffield students thales careers fair

Sheffield students staged a sit-in – then a die-in – in front of the Thales recruitment stall at their careers fair and read out a list of names of drones victims. They were met with a heavy-handed security response.

From their statement: “The University prides itself on being a values-led organisation; however, its continued liaison with arms companies responsible for the murder of innocents around the world throws this claim into serious disrepute.” 


They might appreciate the input from SGR’s Ethical Careers Project. SGR has published ten booklets or briefings as part of its project work on ethical careers in science, design and technology.

The full statement by Fund Education, Not War on the protest can be seen here

East China Sea flashpoint: seldom reported positive signs

August 30, 2012


Japan and China are claiming sovereignty over three islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Both countries cite historical support for their claim. A Japanese businessman, Kunioki Kurihara, is said to have bought the islands forty years ago from a man who inherited them from ancestors holding them since the 19th Century. The Japanese government currently rents and administers Mr Kurihara’s three islands and a fourth owned by another member of his family. The fifth is already the property of the state.

In the 70s, proposals were made to develop petroleum resources on the continental shelf of the East China Sea and the Governments of China and Taiwan began to claim sovereignty over the islands. There have been a number of incidents which have increased tension between the three countries.

Positive signs

The central government currently bans landings on the uninhabited islands in order to avoid friction with Beijing and two days after Japan was struck by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Beijing sent a rescue team of 15 people to help its stricken neighbour. It was the first time Tokyo had accepted such a mission from China.

The Central Bank of China and the Japanese Ministry of Finance have announced that from June 1st they will allow a direct trade between the two countries using the yuan and yen, surpassing the use of the U.S. dollar as the main currency.

On Tuesday Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, US Professor of Political Science, wrote to the Financial Times advocating that the US should ‘calm the waters’ by declaring that it opposes any use of force or unilateral provocative acts and encourages all good regional proposals for managing or resolving this dispute.

One such, he writes, is the recent proposal by Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou for an “East Sea peace initiative”, which calls for mutual restraint, shelving disputes and joint exploration.