Monthly Archives: June 2010

>Communist Bloc Military Updates: Russia starts large-scale war game in Siberia, Far East; PRC stages live-fire naval drill in E. China Sea

>This week the Moscow-Beijing Axis is staging two large-scale military maneuvers in northeast Asia. Between June 29 and July 8, the Russian Armed Forces will carry out Vostok (East) 2010, a counterpart to last September’s Russian-Belarusian war game Zapad (West) 2009, which simulated a nuclear attack against Poland. Under the command of General Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, tens of thousands of troops, Su-24M mid-range bombers, Su-34 fighter-bombers, and Pacific Fleet warships will conduct anti-aircraft drills, parachute drops, and marine landings. The Black Sea Fleet’s missile cruiser Moskva and the Northern Fleet’s nuclear-powered Peter the Great missile cruiser will join the war game.

Army units, explains state-run Xinhua, will collaborate with emergency brigades and divisions of the Civil Defense and Emergency Situations Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Federal Border Service, which is under the control of the Federal Security Service (FSB/KGB), and “other militarized units.” In preparation for Vostok 2010, Voice of Russia reported on June 23 that Su-34 fighter-bombers successfully accomplished a non-stop 6,000-kilometre test flight, complete with aerial re-fueling, from the Moscow region to Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East.

General Marakov explained the purpose behind Vostok 2010: “The task of the war game is to guard Russia’s sea borders, prevent poaching, and counter piracy.” Prevent poaching? With tens of thousands of troops and two missile cruisers? Sure, comrade, whatever you say. I can’t imagine any poacher wanting to bag a Siberian tiger in the face of that scale of firepower. During the 1980s Makarov was a battalion commander in the Soviet Group of Forces in the German Democratic Republic, which merged with the Federal Republic of Germany 20 years ago. Incidentally, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was posted as a KGB agent to East Germany during the same period.

Intriguingly, Ukrainian Defense Minister Mikhail Yezhel was invited to observe Vostok 2010. Earlier this year, pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovich won the Ukrainian presidential election, pledging to reverse the pro-Western orientation of predecessor Viktor Yushchenko. Ukraine is not presently a member of the post-Soviet Collective Security Treaty Organization. However, during a post-election visit to Kiev, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged “ex”-CPSU cadre Yanukovich to lead Ukraine into the military alliance. Within hours of Yanukovich’s victory the Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russia and Ukraine would hold joint air force drills by year’s end.

In the same region of the world, that is, near the heavily armed flashpoint known as the Korean Peninsula, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will stage a live-fire exercise in the East China Sea between June 30 and July 5. According to Hong Kong’s Ming Pao daily, the exercise, which will take place 700 kilometres south of the Republic of Korea, is supposed to send a political message to South Korea and the USA, which intend to shortly hold a joint naval drill in the same body of water. Although it is an annual event, the PLAN drill was bumped ahead 10 days this year. As of June 24 the People’s Republic of China has banned commercial ships from entering the waters where its warships will be operating. The US Navy intends to send the 97,000-ton-class carrier USS George Washington to the Korean Peninsula.

With its usual histrionics, the propaganda arm of North Korea’s communist regime, Minju Josun, railed against the planned US-South Korean military exercise: “It is as clear as day that a small accident that might occur during the joint military exercise would easily spread to an armed clash and, eventually, to an all-out war. If the US imperialists, gripped by their pipe dream of invading the North, ignite a new war on the Korean peninsula, our military and the people will wipe out not only the invaders, but their strongholds as well and achieve a final triumph.” Bring it on, Kimmy. Talk is cheap.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea denies that its submarines torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan on March 26. Unimpressed, in mid-June South Korean Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Kim Sung-chan and US 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral John Bird announced that the two navies intend to “forger closer cooperation” in monitoring and countering the movements of North Korean subs.

Together Russia, Red China and their Central Asian allies in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have carried out four combined military drills: Peace Mission 2005, Peace Mission 2007, Norak Anti-Terror 2009, and Peace Mission 2009. This August the two communist superpowers will hold Peace Mission 2010 in Kazakhstan. During the bogus Sino-Soviet split of the Cold War, cooperation between Moscow and Beijing was not only unthinkable, but also would have forced NATO to the edge of its seat. In 1984, though, KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn accurately predicted that after the Soviet Union feigned its demise, the Russians would establish an open strategic partnership with the Chinese Communists, or “one clenched fist,” which would be used to crush the capitalist nations. This came to pass in 2001.

The Hunt for Red October: Medvedev Inaugurates First Graney-Class Attack Submarine, Severodvinsk Comparable to US Navy’s Virginia-Class Subs

Since the early 1990s, after the disingenuous collapse of Soviet communism, Russia has joined minor military maneuvers with various NATO states under the Partnership for Peace program. By promoting superficial cooperation with NATO, the Soviet strategists have effectively erased the image of Russia as the West’s chief enemy.

For example, in early June, the Barents Observer reported that the Russian anti-submarine destroyer Severomorsk arrived at Norway’s main naval base, Haakonsvern, near Bergen, to hold the first joint Russian-Norwegian military exercise since 1994. The drill was known as Pomor 2010. The Russian warship was accompanied by one Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft, Su-33 fighter jets, and Ka-27 rescue helicopters. The Norwegian military contributed the Otto Sverdrup frigate, KV Nordkapp coast guard vessel, one Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, F-16 fighter jets, and Lynx helicopters.

After holding joint live-fire drills with the Russian Navy, General Bernt Brovold, Commander of Norway’s National Joint Headquarters, travelled to Severomorsk, Russia, where he conferred with Admiral Nikolai Maksimo, head of the Northern Fleet, the Russian Navy’s most powerful. This is, in fact, an annual meeting between Russia and Norway’s top brass.

The Moscow Leninists are also entering negotiations with NATO countries to purchase Western military technology to fast-track the modernization of the Russian Armed Forces. For example, state-run Novosti reports that Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has formally begun contract talks with the French government to purchase one Mistral-class helicopter carrier and build three under license with French naval shipbuilder DCNS. The Mistral is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, 70 armored vehicles including 13 main battle tanks, and 450 personnel.

Purchasing armament from careless NATO states is only one way the Russian Navy is modernizing its fleet. Producing a new generation of nuclear-powered attack/missile submarines is top priority for the Soviet strategists. On June 15 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev travelled to Arctic Russia’s Sevmash shipyard, where he officially inaugurated the first Graney-class submarine, Severodvinsk, named after the nearby city. The Severodvinsk, which will enter service in 2011, can launch 24 long-range cruise missiles and attack enemy subs, surface warships, and land-based targets. This sub was 17 years in the making.

Last February Russia unveiled its new fifth-generation fighter jet, dubbed the PAKFA T-50, during a maiden flight near the plane’s design plant in the Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk. The Kremlin plans to begin mass production of its stealth fighter in 2015, with some units produced in collaboration with strategic partner India. The Russians are not hiding the fact that the Sukhoi T-50 was built to rival the only other stealth fighter in the world, the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, whose production was halted last year due to Obama Admin budget cuts.

On June17 Russia’s KGB-communist dictator, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, climbed into the cockpit of the T-50 prototype after watching a test flight of the plane near Moscow. “This machine will be superior to our main competitor, the F-22, in terms of maneuverability, weaponry and range,” Putin boasted, adding: “It will cost up to three times less than similar aircraft in the West and can remain in service for 30 to 35 years with upgrades.”

Finally, SatNews Daily has published photos of the Russian Federal Space Agency’s launch pad and mobile gantry at Kourou, French Guiana. The Russian spaceport has entered its “final phase” of construction, reports SatNews:

The gantry is one of the most visible differences at the spaceport’s launch infrastructure from the long-operating Soyuz facilities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk Cosomdrome in northern Russia. It allows payloads to be installed on the launcher in the vertical position, as is performed with Ariane 5 and many other Western launch vehicles, compared to the traditional horizontal integration performed with Russian launchers.

Originally slated for April, the first lift-off of a Russian Soyuz rocket from South America will take place by December 2010, announced the Kremlin’s top space officials during a recent inspection of the spaceport.

>USA File: FBI intercepts coded message from Moscow, busts 10 deep-cover Russian SVR agents, ring leader escapes; 4 defendants stole Canadian IDs

>– FBI Probe Sheds Light on Soviet Strategic Deception as Former FSB Chief Insinuates US Right Concocted Spy Scandal to Discredit Obama

– Russian Spies Possibly Infiltrated USA Before Collapse of Soviet Union, Just as FBI Turncoat Robert Hanssen Began His Career of Treason in 1979 until Arrested in 2001

On June 22 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Russian missile cruiser Varyag, the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, docked on the Embarcadero after a two-week voyage from Vladivostok. The arrival of the Russian Navy in San Francisco was a gesture of post-Cold War friendship, as well as a commemoration of the occasion when Czar Alexander II sent Russian warships to San Francisco and New York in 1863 during the US Civil War, in a show of support for the Union. The Varyag headed for home on June 25, after Rear Admiral Vladimir Kostanov issued some obligatory platitudes regarding international cooperation against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Over the weekend, too, Dmitry Medvedev and his US counterpart Barack Hussein Obama, whom the Russian president addressed as “comrade” last year, met in Washington on the sidelines of the G-8 Summit in Canada, to “reset” relations between Russia and the USA. Barely hours after the two leaders flew to Toronto, however, the real nature of Russia’s “friendship” with the USA was made manifest when the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the arrest of 11 secret agents in the employ of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), which evolved from the foreign intelligence directorate of the Soviet KGB.

Pictured above: Five Russian spy suspects in New York court room.

Four of the accused Russian nationals had stolen Canadian identities, including that of Donald Howard Heathfield, an infant who died in the 1960s. In 2006 the Canadian Security Intelligence Service accused a Russian agent calling himself Paul William Hampel of using a fake Ontario birth certificate to obtain passports. Coincidentally, last week Canada’s spy boss revealed in an interview with state-run television that two provincial governments and a number of municipal politicians in British Columbia are “under the control of foreign governments.” Upon further questioning, it became apparent that Red China was one of those foreign governments.

The Russian national who coordinated the spy ring had assumed the identity of Christopher Metsos, a Canadian. “Mr. Metsos” travelled to the USA, where he would provide his agents with money and instructions. The spy who claimed to be Heathfield was married to “Tracey Lee Ann Foley,” another spy who purported to be a naturalized US citizen born in Canada. Yet another purported Canadian, Patricia Mills, was one of a pair of spies living as a married couple in New Jersey. Mills and her “husband” are reported to have dug up a bag buried by Mr. Metsos and containing tens of thousands of dollars to fund the operation. The mysterious “Mr. Metsos” remains at large, while the other 10 were arrested in raids in Boston, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia.

FBI counter-intelligence agents specifically exposed the cover of “Richard” and “Cynthia Murphy” by intercepting a coded message sent from SVR headquarters in Moscow to the defendants. The deciphered message from Moscow stated: “You were sent to the USA for a long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house, etc.—all of these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e., to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in the USA and send intels to C[enter].” A handful of intercepted messages included in the court filings reveal that the agents were to obtain information on a new generation of top-secret nuclear warheads, and attempt to learn US arms control negotiating positions.

According to FBI court files the SVR agents were “carefully selected Russians trained in foreign languages; agent-to-agent communications, including the use of brush-passes; short-wave radio operation and invisible writing; the use of codes and ciphers, including the use of encrypted Morse code messages; the creation and use of a cover profession; counter-surveillance measures.” In addition to short-wave radio, the agents communicated with SVR headquarters via steganography, or secret data in an image that can be posted on a publicly available website but is undetectable to the untrained, naked eye. It is unclear, however, as to whether Vladimir Putin’s spies actually stole any secrets of any importance.

Significantly, the FBI contends that some members of the spy ring had been operating for as long as 20 years–placing their insertion into the USA a year or more before the “collapse” of the Soviet Union. In this case, their situation is similar to that of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was convicted in 2001 of spying for Russia, even though he began sending classified government information to Moscow in the mid-1980s. In spite of the stage-managed fall of Soviet communism, the Kremlin still expected Hanssen to submit information to his KGB handlers.

Moscow was clearly irritated by the FBI announcement and its timing with the G-8 summit, but refused to make any admission. “The choice of timing was particularly graceful,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded facetiously. “I hope the US will explain what they are talking about.” There has been no denial from the Russian government that those arrested were working for Moscow, but Mikhail Margelov, head of the State Duma International Relations Committee, obfuscated: “Very contradictory information is coming out, and no conclusions can be drawn from it.”

Nikolai Kovalyov, a former director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), attributed the spy scandal to certain political circles in the USA who are opposed to President Obama’s policy of “resetting” US-Russian relations.” In other words, Comrade Kovalyov is hinting that the US Right is “wishing” the Soviet Union and the Cold War back into existence. Kovalyov insinuated:

I think that certain ‘technicians’ are trying to infect the U.S. president’s ‘reset’ program with some destructive virus. Certainly, it cannot be a simple coincidence that this group of ‘exposed Russian spies’ was arrested immediately after the visit of President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev to the U.S. This scandal will deliver a serious blow primarily to the positions of President Obama himself.

He then poured water over the exposure of the Russian spy ring:

A situation where illegal agents launder money, use fake documents and keep their money in a glass jar buried underground is total nonsense and a cheap detective story. There are thousands of safe means to transfer money. I would like to confirm that the people exposed in the U.S. are not Russian diplomats or even ordinary Russian citizens. They are citizens of the U.S.

Kovalyov presently heads the Duma’s veterans committee.

>Latin America File: Cancun mayor, wife employ ex-Cuban security, military figures; PRD candidate Sanchez smuggled US-bound Cubans, Chinese, Russians

>– Long-Standing Gentleman’s Agreement between Mexico City and Havana Permitted Cuban Intelligence to Openly Operate out of Embassy, Target US Interests

– Cuba’s Continuing Role in Red Cocaine Plot Exposed: “Ex”-FAR Soldier on Cancun Mayor’s Payroll Assassinated Resort City’s Counter-Narcotics Chief in 2009

Students of international communism have long known of Cuba’s large intelligence-gathering hub in Mexico City, facilitated by a long-standing gentleman’s agreement between the Mexican and Cuban governments. “Prior to [President Vicente] Fox,” the Miami Herald reports, “the two nations had a gentleman’s agreement that Havana intelligence could operate in Mexico, largely against U.S. targets, as long as Havana did not meddle in Mexico’s internal affairs. But after one particularly strong clash in 2004, Mexico quietly expelled Cuba’s top intelligence man in Mexico City.” Although Cuba’s spy chief in Mexico was deported, the spying continues.

In May 2010 Gregorio Sánchez (pictured above), a former mayor of Cancún and disgraced gubernatorial candidate, was arrested on charges of laundering bribes he allegedly received for protecting drug cartels in the Caribbean resort, a key arrival point for illicit drugs flowing from South America to the USA. El Financiero journalist Raymundo Riva Palacio notes the geopolitical strategic significance of Sanchez’s arrest: “The case opened a surprise window — Cuban intelligence’s penetration of Cancún. Cuba has long maintained a large intelligence operation in Mexico City. But the Cancún presence is new, and therefore worrisome.” Sanchez is also under investigation for allegations that include smuggling US-bound Cubans, Chinese and Russians into Mexico and eavesdropping on rival politicians and journalists.

Sánchez’s Cuban-born wife, Niurka Sáliva, protests that the charges are false and were fabricated to sink his run for the governorship of the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located. His political coalition, headed by the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), has in fact replaced him as its candidate in the July 4 state election. In 2008 Sanchez was elected mayor of the Benito Juarez municipality, which includes Cancún. The PRD, which contains various communist factions, is the left-most of Mexico’s three major parties. The others are President Felipe Calderon’s center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the mildly center-left Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which previously controlled the Mexican presidency between 1930 and 2000.

During his short stint as Cancun mayor, Sanchez and spouse Saliva cultivated murky connections with Cuba’s military and Intelligence Directorate (DI). Indeed, Sanchez retained about 150 Cubans on the municipal payroll, including 80 in a social services agency headed by Sáliva when she was Cancún’s first lady. Acting Mayor Latifa Muza told reporters she was unable to confirm exactly how many Cubans were on the payroll but added, “They are a lot … that much is evident.’”

Mexican authorities opened a file on Sánchez in 2009, when gunmen assassinated retired army General Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñones, one month after federal authorities sent him to Cancun to crack down on drug trafficking on the Yucatan Peninsula. Arrested in the general’s murder was Boris del Valle, a Cuban who earned US$3,330 per month on Sánchez’s payroll as a “security advisor.” Mexican court records show del Valle served in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (FAR) from 1975 to 1991. Del Valle is a nephew of Sergio del Valle, who served as Cuba’s interior minister from 1968 to 1979 and as health minister from 1979 to 1986. Del Valle’s uncle died in 2007.

The assassination of an important Mexican counter-narcotics chief by an “ex”-FAR soldier certainly goes some distance to prove Cuban and Communist Bloc complicity in the narco-subversion of the West. “The Castro government,” explains the Miami Herald, “regularly trusts Cubans with security experience to leave the country, establish businesses abroad and remain loyal to the revolution.” Terrorism and security expert Joseph Douglass exposed the Soviet Union’s role in the international drug trade 20 years ago in Red Cocaine: The Drugging of the West. The Russian Mafia, which is also well-entrenched in Cancun, supplies Mexico’s powerful drug cartels with a sizable chunk of its impressive firepower.

Niurka boasts even more direct links to the Castro regime. Her father, José Angel Sáliva, is a retired colonel in Cuba’s Interior Ministry (MININT) who held several low-profile administrative posts, but is known to be close to Cuban President Raúl Castro and to rub elbows with the island’s communist hierarchs. Residing in Quintana Roo, as well, are Niurka’s half-brothers: Javier Molina, described by Mexican authorities as a former captain or major in MININT’s domestic State Security agency; and Alfredo Molina, a Cuban engineer who became a Mexican citizen.

In April 2010, in a related story, federal investigators raiding a Cancún home found a sophisticated eavesdropping center headed by Manuel Vera Salinas, a former Mexican military officer also listed in municipal payrolls as another Sánchez “security advisor.” Salinas has disappeared, but investigators believe Boris del Valle was also involved in the spying center, which maintained dossiers on politicians and reporters, including photos and activity logs. Cesar Muñoz, news director of Cancun’s Novedades newspaper, claims he was one of the journalists Sanchez’s henchmen targeted.

Cancun is not only a key arrival point for illicit drugs flowing from South America to the USA, but also a key arrival point for Cuban migrants heading to the US-Mexico border. The Cuban presence here surged as a direct result of Sánchez’s personal links to the communist regime. He made frequent trips to Havana, where he met and married Sáliva, until she moved to Cancún in 2004. Four years later, after his election, Sánchez signed a “cultural exchange” agreement with Havana that allowed his municipality and private Cancún firms to contract Cuban artists, academics, technicians, and others to work at the famous resort. Today, more than 6,000 Cubans are registered residents of Quintana Roo.

Palacio and other Mexican security analysts are puzzled by the large Cuban intelligence presence in Cancun, considering the well-entrenched spy base in Mexico City. They speculate, though, that long-standing business and cultural relations link Cancun and Cuba, another resort destination 140 miles to the east. In any event, Sánchez is not the first Quintana Roo official with strong links to Cuba. Mario Villanueva, governor of the state in the 1990s, was extradited to the USA on May 8 to face charges he accepted US$500,000 bribes for each large drug shipment passing through his turf, allegedly 200 tons in all. Villanueva was a close friend of Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina, fired in 1999 after he admitted accepting US$25,000 from the Mexican governor to remodel the ministry’s offices in Havana.

>Communism with Canadian Characteristics: Ottawa’s spy boss risks rep ahead of G8/G20 summits, Hu arrival: politicians “under control of foreign govs"

>– Great Red North: Prime Minister Jean Chretien Quashed RCMP’s 1997 “Sidewinder Report” Exposing Communist China’s Infiltration of Canada’s Political Parties; Situation Still Festering 13 Years Later

On Tuesday, Ottawa’s spymaster, Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, risked his career by declaring in an interview with state-run television that cabinet ministers in two provinces and municipal politicians in British Columbia are “under the control of foreign governments.” Fadden did not specify the two provincial governments. However, B.C. and Alberta, Canada’s two westernmost provinces, have aggressively pursued trade relations with Red China. In his comments to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Fadden stated:

These politicians haven’t hidden their ties to foreign governments, and recently they’ve been shifting their policy decisions to reflect those relationships. I have discussed this with Canada’s Privy Council, how best to tell those provincial governments, that they may have been comprised. There is no evidence that any federal politicians have been infiltrated.

A number of countries take the view that if they can develop influence with people relatively early in their careers they’ll follow them through. Before you know it, a country’s providing them with money, some sort of covert guidance.

Fadden declined to name the elected officials or hostile countries involved, but when probed further whether the People’s Republic of China was complicit, the CSIS director acknowledged that recent media reports on the PRC’s economic espionage in Canada were not “entirely incorrect.” The CBC report added that “at least five countries, including China and Middle Eastern countries, are recruiting political prospects in universities.” The candor of Canada’s state-run broadcaster should alert inhabitants of the Great White North to the fact that agents of international communism and Islamic terrorism are seeking recruits at Canadian universities but, in the end, it will probably not.

Fadden’s unexpected bombshell provoked confused, angry responses from politicians and political pundits. Wesley Wark, who teaches history at the University of Toronto, insisted that Fadden’s revelations were an attempt by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to deflect criticism concerning the C$1 billion security budget for the G8 and G20 summits, slated to take place this weekend in Huntsville, Ontario and Toronto, respectively. Wark protested:

What on Earth is the CSIS director doing making this public? Why is he coming forward with this information? I think having aired the allegation CSIS [officials’] feet are going to be held to the fire to explain exactly what they mean and why they chose to make this allegation public— particularly in the context of the timing of it on the eve of the G8 and G20—when there has been a lot of concerns about the security budget. Is this an effort to steer Canadians’ attention away from the more pressing security issues?

If Harper goaded Fadden into dropping this bombshell along the scenario envisioned by Wark, then the prime minister’s spokesman Dimitri Soudas offered the spymaster little in the way of “solace or protection.” Soudas asserted the Prime Minister’s Office had “no knowledge of these matters,” even though Fadden admitted that he discussed this issue with the Privy Council, which includes Harper.

In either event, recognizing that his own cabinet ministers were the likely target of Fadden’s assertions, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell reacted angrily:

He’s provided neither the head of our public service, nor me, nor our solicitor general, nor our attorney general with any evidence of this whatsoever. Candidly, I think this really was not just unprecedented, but it is incredibly unprofessional, and I think it calls into question how this organization [CSIS] is working. We have to hear what justification there are for these kinds of doubts and aspersions being cast on people who are trying to serve the public. If there is direct evidence, if someone is under the influence of a foreign government, [then] that should be dealt with. Canadians deserve a complete, a thorough and a substantial explanation of those comments.

Scott Watson, an international security expert at the University of Victoria, demanded that Fadden provide evidence of his foreign influence allegations: “It’s the nature of [CSIS’s] work to not do it in public, but him raising this in public, then I think he brought it on himself, that he needs to provide public evidence of his claims.”

In the immediate wake of the CSIS insinuations that provincial and municipal politicians in Canada are in the backpocket of Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao (pictured above) arrived in Canada yesterday for a state visit that will include attendance at the G20 summit. For his part, Canada’s Conservative prime minister made his first visit to the PRC in late 2009, after nearly four years in office, during which stint he took Beijing to task for its deplorable human rights record. This weekend, energy is expected to be a key topic of discussion for Harper and Hu, since the PRC’s “market socialist” economy is a voracious consumer of Alberta coal.

The Chinese government has also invested in Alberta’s oil and gas sector, especially in the tar sand fields near the bustling boom city of Fort McMurray. Since Harper’s hometown is Calgary, in southern Alberta, his ability to aggressively pursue human rights issues with Communist China is seriously compromised.

This is not the first time that Canadian intelligence officials have identified Red China as a source of political and economic subversion. In June 1997 a secret Joint Review Committee co-chaired by CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police released a report titled “Chinese Intelligence Services and Triads Financial Links in Canada,” otherwise known as Sidewinder.

“In May 1996,” a copy of Sidewinder, published at Jeff Nyquist’s website, explains its own origins, “a joint project was initiated by the RCMP Criminal Analysis Branch and the CSIS Analysis and Production Branch to assess the extent of the threat posed by the acquisition and control of Canadian companies by members or associates of triads with affiliations to the Chinese Intelligence Services.” The report’s foreword continues: “At the moment, we estimate that over 200 Canadian companies are under the direct or indirect control of China. Although it was impossible to do all the research within the parameters initially given; however, sufficient details have been found to reveal the threat. It should be reiterated that this report presents concrete facts, not just ideas or speculation.”

In October 1999, then CSIS director Barry Denofsky ordered the destruction of all copies of Sidewinder and all other material associated with the file, such as emails, drafts, and notes. Obviously, not all copies were destroyed. Nevertheless, disturbed by the Liberal government’s suppression of the report, RCMP Corporal Robert Read fought to have the investigation reopened, appealing for help from higher-ups in the RCMP, Canada’s Public Complaints Commission, the federal auditor general, and, finally, the media in the form of Vancouver Province news editor Fabian Dawson. In response, the RCMP dismissed Read from his position.

The prime minister of Canada at the time was Jean Chretien who, not surprisingly, had cultivated close business ties with Beijing’s communist rulers in the late 1980s. In 2003 investigative reporter Ann Jane Gray uncovered these sordid linkages between Canada’s Liberal Party elite and Red Chinese frontmen. Gray’s findings are published at the Canadian website PrimeTimeCrime:

Jean Chretien’s employment by Gordon Capital from 1986-1990 was his first public association with individuals identified by the Sidewinder Report as a threat to Canada’s public security. Chretien’s position as an advisor was a lucrative one and left him a wealthy man. Chretien’s ties to Gordon Capital continue to this day, in the person of Marc Fung, son of Gordon Capital’s former vice-president during Chretien’s tenure, Robert Fung. Marc Fung travelled with the federal Liberals on Team Canada trips to Asia and was, as of May 2002, an aide in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Gordon Capital is one of the financial companies used in the Sidewinder Report as a case study on the links between China, Hong Kong billionaires and Canadian financial institutions that are “clearly worrying for Canada’s national security”. The RCMP’s concern arose over Li Ka-Shing, the father of the owner of the company, Richard Li.

Li Ka-Shing is a Hong Kong billionaire who, during the 1970s, was recruited by the Communist Party of China to teach capitalism to the ruling class. American defence departments have long known that Li’s business empire is a military and intelligence arm of China. Al Santoli, a national security” advisor to U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, has called Li a “stalker for the PRC (China) whose “close ties to the People’s Liberation Army intelligence (arm) are well known”.

In 1999 the Chinese Communists appointed Chretien’s son-in-law, Andre Desmarais, as a director of CITIC Pacific, a subsidiary of China International Trust Investment Company. The three founders of CITIC Pacific’s parent company, CITIC–Li Ka-Shing, Henry Fok, and Robert Kwok–are all suspected of ties to the People’s Liberation Army, Triad gangs, and the PRC’s past leader Deng Xiaoping. Conversely, Power Corporation, which is owned by Paul Desmarais, Andres’ father, boasts a portfolio of investments in Red China through its Hong Kong subsidiary, Power Pacific Corporation.

A direct quote from Sidewinder reveals: “Significant portions of some large Canadian urban centres are also owned by Chinese entrepreneurs. For example, it is estimated that Li Ka-shing owns with his son [Richard Li] at least one sixth to one third of downtown Vancouver.” Between 1987 and 1997, when Hong Kong’s status as a British crown colony ended and the city became a Special Administrative Region in Red China, nearly 500,000 Hong Kong Chinese had immigrated to Canada. Among these genuine immigrants, reported Sidewinder, were Triads who had already become effective tools of intelligence collection and subversion for the Communist Party of China.

Although the Chinese Communists no doubt view Canada as a “bourgeois” nation and, thus, part of the enemy camp, it should be obvious that the USA is Beijing’s main target. Canada serves as a useful base of operations to subvert the US political and economic system.

>Latin America File: Chavez funding Mexican guerrillas; son of former EPR hostage: “Huge international interest to change Mexico into communist state"

>– Anonymous US Military Source: Cuban Agents, FARC Guerrillas Have Infiltrated Mexico’s Epristas

– Owner of Venezuela’s Last Opposition TV Station Flees Country, Joins Globovision Director, Ex-Banker in Exile

– Ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela Organizes “Election Patrols” Ahead of September Ballot

– Nicaragua’s Ortega Rolls out “Red Carpet” for FARC Fugitive, Follows Asylum for Four Other FARC “Groupies” in 2008

Communism, we are told, is still dead in Russia and Eastern Europe. However, over in our neck of the woods—the Americas—the communist-infiltrated Democratic Party controls all three branches of the US government, while guerrillas, drug operatives, and the “ex”-KGB types who run the Russian Mafia are working hand in glove to destabilize Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s “bourgeois, neo-liberal” regime.

A June 1, 2010 article published in both the San Francisco Examiner and Washington Examiner reports that Venezuela’s self-avowed communist president, Hugo Chavez, is funding Mexico’s Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which first announced its presence to the world in 1996. For his part, former paratrooper and Castro disciple Chavez tried to seized power twice in 1992 but, after a short prison sentence, won Venezuela’s 1998 presidential election. Thereafter, he began using PDVSA revenues and his regime’s take from the region’s cocaine trade to finance leftist parties and guerrilla armies throughout Central and South America.

This is not the first time we have blogged about the nexus between Chavez and Mexico’s Marxist insurgents. Over the past decade, Venezuela has effectively replaced Cuba as the Western Hemisphere’s main hub for exporting communist revolution.

Journalist Sara Carter quotes an anonymous Mexican official as saying: “The Ejercito Popular Revolucionario (EPR) is a terrorist organization bent on destabilizing Mexico. Splinters of the group are also adding to the problem.” Carter also quotes a US official as saying: “Chavez has been funding groups like these in Mexico and throughout Latin America. These groups are nothing more than terrorist organizations and members have connected to other narco-trafficking organizations in Mexico, creating a very dangerous matrix.”

A US military official observes: “EPR has members that are former Cuban agents, Colombians, as well as others with an agenda to see a shift to the left in Mexico.” In referring to “Colombians,” this source is presumably implying that guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are fighting side by side with the Epristas.

According to all of these officials, EPR receives funding not only from the Venezuelan government, but also Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.

The EPR claimed responsibility for the 2007 bombings of the state-owned Pemex oil pipelines, along with several other bombing attempts of a bank and Sears department stores in cities throughout Mexico. Mexico’s intelligence services, according to Carter, have a “poor track record” of predicting the group’s operations.

Although the Epristas disavow kidnapping former presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, the guerrillas, in collaboration with narco-mercenaries, are suspected of perpetrating the disappearance. Fernandez is a member of the ruling conservative National Action Party (PAN) and a personal friend of President Calderon. On May 14, 2010 Fernandez’s vehicle was found near his ranch in the central state of Queretaro. Mexican officials say they detected signs of a struggle.

“His kidnappers are snubbing both the Mexican and U.S. government–showing both nations that it is Mexico’s criminal enterprise that is in charge,” commented Eduardo Garcia Valseca, the son of a Mexican newspaper magnate who was kidnapped by Epristas in 2008 and held for nearly eight months in a box before being ransomed. Valseca believes the similarities between his father’s kidnapping and that of Fernandez are too obvious to overlook. Valesca, who now lives with his family in self-imposed exile, elaborates:

Members of the U.S. administration don’t understand what’s been brewing in Mexico for a while, and this very powerful leftist movement has grown in Mexico. There is huge international interest to change Mexico into a socialist, communist state. When you listen to the narco-terrorists or the EPR, you hear them say how they hate capitalists and pretend to be like Robin Hoods. I lived through their horror. I know their hate.

The Mexican government is ignoring the warning signs and continues to cover up, hiding behind lies.

Attacks on members of Mexico’s politicians and media owners can be seen as a “sign” that Mexico is “slowly losing control from within,” the US officials quoted by Carter insist. In late May 2010 gunmen killed a mayoral candidate running on the PAN ticket in Valle Hermoso, a town near Brownsville, Texas, and an area known for cross-border drug trafficking. “These groups don’t want to see the PAN party succeed, and so with the backing of dictators like Chavez they will continue to try to destabilize Mexico,” commented another anonymous Mexican official who feared for his safety. “They’ve infiltrated our own government.” Next month, 10 Mexican states will prepare for elections, prompting politicians to express concerns about intimidation from “outside criminal forces.”

Meanwhile, in Venezuela the principal owner of the country’s last remaining opposition television station, Globovision, has fled the country, reports the Wall Street Journal on June 17, as Chavez applies more pressure to his opponents ahead of this September’s National Assembly election. Guillermo Zuloaga fled his homeland to an unknown destination after a warrant for his arrest was issued at least two weeks ago. The Chavezista regime accuses Zuloaga of hoarding cars at a family-owned dealership. Such hoarding is illegal in “Bolivarian” Venezuela.

In a telephone call to Globovision, Zuloaga insisted that the government’s accusations against him were trumped up to shut down freedom of expression. In March Zuloaga was briefly arrested for making similar comments. The same month former state governor Oswaldo Alvarez Paz was arrested after accusing Chavez of transforming Venezuela into a haven for drug traffickers.

Globovision director Nelson Mezerhane has also fled the country. Mezerhane doubles as president of the mid-sized Banco Federal, which on June 14 the Chavezista regime seized on charges of not meeting liquidity requirements. “This is part of a political agenda,” Mezerhane protested in an interview, adding: “The president wants to bend Globovision to its will and put it at the service of the state.” Taking to the airwaves, Chavez taunted his opponents: “They are running for some reason. . . . He who hasn’t done anything wrong, doesn’t fear anything.”

Alberto Federico Ravell, a shareholder and former editor in chief at Globovision, was forced to step down from his post earlier his year. Ravell opines: “I don’t think the president wants to shut down the channel. He just wants to strangle it with measures against its owners, tax audits, and other regulatory measures.”

In 2007 Chavez ordered another private broadcaster, RCTV, off the air, refusing to renew its license. Some political analysts believe the Venezuelan president is persecuting his critics in order to distract the population’s attention from serious domestic issues and scandals, such as 30% inflation and thousands of tons of imported food rotting in the country’s main port.

Chavez is anxious to perpetuate “21st century socialism” in his homeland. For this reason, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is ramping up for the September 26 election under the campaign banner “Batalla Bolivar 200,” named after nineteenth-century South American liberation leader Simon Bolivar. In order to secure victory, the PSUV is organizing 36,600 “election patrols” consisting of 50 party members each to “monitor” polling stations and obtain at least 10 voters in every community. The PSUV boasts 7.3 million registered members.

“September 26 must be an admirable day,” Chavez declared on June 12, adding: “The result should be admirable . . . the National Assembly has to continue being revolutionary. We can’t allow a result of less than two thirds of [seats] in the Assembly.” Chavez’s intentions are clear: The PSUV and its allies in the Communist Party of Venezuela will implement every trick in the book to intimidate the opposition and steal a majority in the Venezuelan parliament. By contrast, Venezuela’s disorganized rightist opposition, which boycotted the last National Assembly election in 2005, mustered candidates in only 15 of the 87 electoral circuits.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Nicaragua’s TV Channel 4 reports that Ruben Dario Granda, brother of Rodrigo, “foreign minister” of FARC, and his family arrived in Managua on June 17, after spending nearly two weeks in Nicaragua’s Bogota embassy. Past/present Marxist dictator Daniel Ortega is a long-time supporter of Colombia’s red insurgents. “There are members of the Farc, of its high command, here in Nicaragua today,” claimed Victor Boitano, a former colonel in the Nicaraguan military, to The Times in a May 2010 interview.

Since re-emerging from 16 years of hibernation, the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front has refurbished the 3,000-meter military runway at Punta Huete, originally built with the help of Soviet and Cuban engineers in the 1980s. Panchito Aerodrome is pictured above in a recent photo. Note the new control tower in the image’s upper right. In late 2008 and again earlier this year the Russians have expressed an interest in using the airbase. Earlier this month, the long-dormant Russia-Nicaragua Intergovernmental Commission restored twice-weekly “commercial” flights between Moscow and Managua via Havana.

Thus, it may be only a matter of time before the Kremlin’s Tu-160 supersonic bombers once again touch down in Venezuela, as they did in September 2008, before speeding over the Caribbean Sea to land in Nicaragua. If the world’s largest combat aircraft arrives in Central America, this event will be a “first” for Soviet/Russian strategic aviation both during and after the Cold War.

>Red Dawn Alert: Russia, Nicaragua to reactivate Punta Huete; Soviets built strategic bomber-capable runway in 1987, MiG-21s expected but never arrived

>– Nicaraguan Air Force Commander: Special Military Brigade to Man New Control Tower at Punta Huete

– Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Holds Consultations with Red Regimes in Managua and San Salvador

– Ortega Coddles Alleged FARC Funder as Moskito Indians Occupy Regional Airport, Defy Sandinistas

– Happy Customer Hugo Chavez Orders 18 More Chinese-Built Trainer/Light Attack Jets

Punta Huete, with its new equipment, is ready.
— Brigadier General Jorge Alberto Miranda, Commander of Nicaraguan Air Force, interviewed by La Prensa (Managua), May 21, 2010

In late 2008 we reported on one of Igor Sechin’s official visits to Nicaragua. Sechin is Deputy Prime Minister of Russia but, in an earlier incarnation, was the GRU’s pointman in Latin America, coordinating the supply of arms to the region’s communist insurgents. The GRU refers to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Soviet/Russian Armed Forces. At the time the Nicaraguan media noted that Moscow and Managua were considering the possibility of rehabilitating Punta Huete, a military runway north of Lake Managua that the Soviets and Cubans built between 1982 and 1987. The air base is also known as Panchito Aerodrome.

During the first Sandinista regime, President Daniel Ortega intended to purchase a number of MiG-21 fighter jets from the Soviet Union or Cuba, ostensibly to “export” red revolution throughout the region. In 1984 the White House formally warned the Soviets that it would not permit Moscow to base aircraft in Nicaragua, in particular, maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine planes. In the July 26, 1987 edition of the New York Times Bernard E. Trainor discussed Nicaragua’s importance to Soviet strategic aviation:

Most experts who have followed the construction of Punta Huete say they believe the airfield will be completed but will not be used to its full potential unless Nicaragua and the Soviet Union judge they can do so without unduly provoking the United States. Even so, it is generally believed that Moscow will not try to base tactical aircraft like MiGs there.

More likely, experts say, Punta Huete may be eventually used as a landing and refuelling base for Soviet maritime aircraft. That would make it possible for the Russians to fly long-range reconnaissance and electronic eavesdropping flights along the west coast of Alaska and North America from bases in Soviet Asia.

During 1986-1987 testimony in the Congressional Iran-Contra hearings, US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North “specifically cited the air base at Punta Huete and two small ports as potentially useful to the Russians as based in the Western Hemisphere.” The ports to which North referred more than two decades ago were probably Corinto on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast and Monkey Point on the Caribbean coast. Two years ago, in connection with Punta Huete, we noted that the Russians are in fact interested in helping Ortega transform Monkey Point into a deep-water port. Incidentally, North briefly re-emerged from retirement in 2006 to campaign against Ortega’s re-election bid. North’s personal website can be found here.

In December 1986 US citizen Sam Nesley Hall was arrested outside the Punta Huete air base and charged with spying. Hall was released the following January after the Nicaraguans deemed him mentally unstable. In 1990, after Ortega lost the presidency, everyone forgot about the Sandinistas and Panchito fell into disrepair.

Meanwhile, Latin America’s guerrillas traded in their machine guns for suit jackets, democratically assuming power in countries like Venezuela (1999), Bolivia (2005), Uruguay (2009), and El Salvador (2009). The USA also changed after the Cold War, especially in terms of threat perceptions. Communism was no longer viewed as the main enemy of freedom, hence Barack Hussein Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008. With the return to open power of the Sandinistas in January 2007 and in view of President Obama’s commitment to strip the USA of its nuclear deterrent, it appears that the time has arrived where Washington will not be “unduly provoked” by the presence of Russian strategic aviation in Central America.

Pictured here: New control tower at Punta Huete.

Last week in Managua the Russia-Nicaragua Intergovernmental Commission convened for the first time in 18 years. Co-chairing the commission for the Nicaraguans and Russians were Deputy Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel Kautz and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov, respectively. Accompanying Riabkov were 37 high-ranking Russian “civil servants and industrialists.” On the agenda were bilateral relations in the areas of energy production, technology, tourism, transportation, construction, fishing, and education. More ominously, on June 1, 2010 El Nuevo Diario reported:

The Russians are interested in helping the government of Ortega finish the rehabilitation of the airport in the locality of Punta Huete—next to Lake Xolotan, 50 kilometers northeast of Managua—that the Sandinistas began to construct during their first government (1979-1990).

The relations between Nicaragua and Russia were established in 1979 with the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution, which received the economic and political support of Moscow during the Cold War. These relations were suspended between 1990 and 2006, during the right-wing governments of the time, but were started again in 2007 with the return to power of Ortega.

The purpose of Panchito, as publicized by the current Sandinista regime, is to handle aircraft during “emergencies” and “natural disasters,” as well as large aircraft that cannot be adequately serviced at Augusto Sandino International Airport in Managua. This includes commercial aircraft such as Boeing 747s and cargo planes such as the Russian-built AN-124 and US-built C-5 Galaxy.

Not insignificantly, the 3,000-meter runway at Punta Huete is the only landing strip in Central America that can accommodate Soviet/Russian strategic bombers, such as the Tu-160 Blackjack. From Nicaragua, this airborne cruise missile platform can approach the coasts of California and Texas in about 60 minutes and fire its lethal load. Nicaragua’s small, Soviet-equipped air force has never had any requirement for such a large runway.

In the May 21, 2010 edition of Managua’s La Prensa Nicaragua’s air force commander, Brigadier General Jorge Alberto Miranda (pictured here), related the current status of Punta Huete, which boasts a new control tower with modern communications and air navigation systems.

The runway was constructed with military aims, as a place where Russian-built MiG-21 airplanes could land.

President Daniel Ortega was disposed to coordinate the rehabilitation of the airport.

There is a special brigade that can be immediately transferred to the airport’s control tower. These personnel are ready to enter and operate the control tower when necessary. The Nicaraguan Army is able to use contingency equipment there in case of emergencies.

The approach to Punta Huete is safe, whether by land or air. We are speaking of an eight-kilometer land access that can be crossed perfectly, without problems. There is no possibility of flooding in or around the runway. It is for that reason that Punta Huete’s qualifications are very positive. The geographic location of the aerodrome is very suitable.

This runway can operate by day or night following a contingency plan prepared by the army.

After some preparation the runway will be ready to receive aircraft in case Sandino Airport is disqualified. The International Civil Aviation Organization approved of the runway’s rehabilitation.

Punta Huete, with its new equipment, is ready.

Captain Carlos Salazar, director of the Nicaraguan Civil Aeronautical Institute, explained that “We are assuring that the main airport [in Managua] has an effective contingency plan that includes an alternative runway, to avoid any tragic event. Our main objective [at Punta Huete], first of all, is to watch and supervise [all?] air operations in Nicaragua.” Writing for La Prensa, journalist Roberto Morales reveals that the Central American Corporation of Airplane Navigation Services (Cocesna) donated US$5 million to renovate Punta Huete.

Following last week’s meeting of the Russia-Nicaragua Intergovernmental Commission, Moscow extended a US$10 million loan to help Central America’s most impoverished country. Ortega also relies heavily on petrodollars from Venezuelan comrade Hugo Chavez—funnelled through front companies controlled by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas—to re-consolidate his grip on Nicaragua.

Pictured here: In this undated but apparently recent photograph, the runway at Punta Huete appears to be in good shape. The Russians want to help the Sandinistas finish “rehabilitating” this Soviet-built air base.

In a related story, the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s decades-old alliance with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was once again exposed this week when Managua granted political asylum to Ruben Dario Granda. Ruben is the brother of Rodrigo Granda, who is known as FARC’s “foreign minister.” Ruben was detained by Colombian authorities in April on suspicion of allegedly securing funds for FARC, but released for lack of evidence. He sought refuge in the Nicaraguan embassy in Bogota on May 31. The neo-Sandinista regime previously gave refuge to four survivors of the March 2008 Colombian military raid in Ecuador that killed FARC commander Raul Reyes and 24 others.

While Ortega huddles with his Moscow masters and coddles putative FARC terrorists, the second FSLN regime faces serious domestic challenges to its continuity from the main opposition group, the Constitutionalist Liberal Party, which last month declared a “general rebellion” against Ortega’s government. Nicaragua’s indigenous groups along the Caribbean coast are also defying the Sandinistas, including the Moskito Indians, who nominally seceded from the country last year.

Last Friday, Moskitos allied under the banner of the YATAMA political party occupied an airport in northern Nicaragua, demanding fulfillment of an agreement that indigenous leaders signed with the Sandinistas a week ago. Among other things, Ortega promised to provide the Moskitos with loans, houses, and jobs. YATAMA leader Hector Poveda warned Managua that his followers would occupy other government buildings in Bilwi if the Sandinistas did not fulfill their obligations. The occupation of Rigoberto Cabezas Airport prompted the suspension of flights to the capital. The native Nicaraguans also blocked the road between Minas and Waspan municipalities. During the 1980s the Moskitos joined the US-backed Contras in trying to dislodge the first Sandinista regime. Poveda claims to lead nearly 4,000 former Moskito combatants.

More than a year after peacefully assuming power in El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) is deepening relations between the Central American country and Russia. On June 3, fresh from co-chairing the Russia-Nicaragua Intergovernmental Commission, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Riabkov flew to San Salvador (pictured here). There he conferred with counterpart Carlos Castañeda, to analyze the possibility of boosting collaboration in the areas of sports, tourism, science, and technology.

“We have already had many achievements with other Central American and Latin American countries and I am glad to have found such a positive attitude here,” Riabkov told a news conference. For his part, Castañeda announced Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez’s visit to Moscow during the second half of October 2010 to sign several cooperation agreements.

During the 1980s, while the FMLN operated as a guerrilla army, the military-backed center-right governments that ruled El Salvador did not have diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. This was probably due to the fact that El Salvador’s communist insurgents received ideological, logistical, and weapons support from the Soviets, Cubans, and Nicaraguans. In 1992, after the end of the civil war, El Salvador established diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation, but only via its embassy in Berlin, while Russia’s ambassador in Nicaragua also covered Russian-Salvadoran relations. Now the Salvadorans and Russians are contemplating establishing embassies in the other’s capital.

Last year, after center-left frontman and ex-TV journalist Mauricio Funes was elected president, the FMLN Politburo dispatched the real ruler of El Salvador, Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, to Havana where he consorted with his Cuban mentors. The FMLN’s former battlefield commander, Sanchez Ceren is known as a “doctrinaire Leninist” and, according to more cynical Salvadorans, is only one bullet away from assuming Funes’ position.

Finally, on June 5 Venezuela’s red dictator Hugo Chavez announced that his regime will spend another US$82 million to buy a second shipment of 18 Chinese-made K-8 trainer/light attack jets. Venezuela received an initial shipment of six K-8 planes earlier this year. Chavez also acknowledged that Venezuela plans to buy “large amounts” of appliances from the People’s Republic of China, including refrigerators, washing machines, and television sets. In addition to its commercial relations with Red China, Venezuela has also purchased US$4 billion of Russian military equipment and weapons since Chavez established his strategic partnership with Moscow in 2001.

>Middle East File: Israeli troops board Irish-flagged Free Gaza aid ship, divert to Ashdod; Erdogan denies Hamas terrorist organization

>– Turkish Media Beats War Drum against Israel, Hurriyet Sees Hand of Mossad behind Kurdistan Workers’ Party Terror Attack (source)

According to the June 5 edition of the Times Online, “The Israeli Navy has boarded and seized an Irish-owned aid ship bound for Gaza, just five days after killing nine passengers in a bloody raid on a previous convoy. Israeli vessels surrounded the 1,200-ton MV Rachel Corrie shortly after dawn today as it carried aid towards the Hamas-ruled territory. The ship, which had originally been scheduled to travel with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla earlier this week, ignored four warnings to divert to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod for inspection of its contents.” The 20 passengers offered no resistance.

Yossi Gal, the director of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, explained that if the crew willingly diverted the ship to Ashdod, all cargo with the exception of weapons or weapons components would be transferred to Gaza. The Rachel Corrie is named after a pro-Palestinian US student, crushed to death by a bulldozer in 2003 while protesting IDF house demolitions in Gaza. Meanwhile, Ismail Haniyeh, a top leader of Hamas and de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, denounced the interception of the Rachel Corrie, declaring: “We are not seeking to fill our [bellies], we are looking to break the Israeli siege on Gaza.”

In spite of previous news reports, Turkish warships do not yet appear to be escorting aid ships en route to the Gaza Strip as there was no confrontation between the Turkish and Israeli navies during the Rachel Corrie interception. However, this possibility should not be ruled out in the future. Israel has ordered the families of its diplomats to leave Turkey in anticipation of a complete severing of ties with Turkey. Although the Turkish government has withdrawn its ambassador from Israel, the Israeli government has merely closed its embassy in Ankara.

Yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who lashed out against Israel over the IDF’s commando raid against the Free Gaza flotilla, denied that Hamas was a terrorist organization. Instead, he effectively views Hamas as a “national liberation” organization. The Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying: “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization. I said the same thing to the United States. I am still of the same opinion. They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.” Last Monday at least four Turkish “peace activists” were killed by Israeli soldiers who stormed the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara ferry.

>End Times File: Erdogan denounces Israel for attacking Free Gaza flotilla, Turkish warships reportedly escorting Irish aid ship, Netanyahu defiant

> – Israeli Defense Forces Discover Weapons Cache Aboard Turkish-Flagged Ferry Mavi Marmara, Now Impounded at Port of Ashdod

– Russia and Arab League Condemn IDF Commando Raid against Free Gaza Flotilla (Invasion Force?), United Nations Calls for Easing of Gaza Blockade

– Syrian and Lebanese Presidents Issue Joint Statement Implying Israel’s Actions against “Humanitarian Mission” Will Lead to World War

– Indications Turkey Beefing Up Naval Deployments in Eastern Mediterranean

– Turkish Computer Hackers Disrupt Pro-Likud Party Website, Post Anti-Israel Pics and Slogans

– Hezbollah’s Scud Missile Bases in Syria Provoke Israeli Strike Threat

Israel is a damned, terrorist and murderous country. Long live the Palestinian people!
— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, televised statement, June 2, 2010

Pictured above: Dagger-wielding Free Gaza “peace activist” aboard Turkish-flagged cruise ship Mavi Marmara. Photo presumably snapped by Israeli soldier.

In a story that has considerable bearing on the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s end-times prophecies and even merits a “RAPTURE ALERT” tag, all of the countries that will invade Israel at the beginning of the tribulation—Russia, Turkey, and the Arab League—have condemned the Jewish state for its May 31 commando operation against the Turkish-flagged Free Gaza flotilla. Syria, which is the subject of a related prophecy concerning the destruction of Damascus, recorded in the book of Isaiah, has also condemned the killing of at least 15 Free Gaza “peace activists.” In response to the Israeli raid, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was barely able to contain his outrage and vowed to end Turkey’s friendship with Israel:

The time has come for the international community to say ‘enough.’ This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse. Nothing will be the same again.

The Israeli raid proves how good they are at killing people. Israel in no way can legitimize this murder. It cannot wash its hands of this blood. We will not turn our back on Palestine, Palestinians, and Gaza. No one should test Turkey’s patience. Turkey’s hostility is as strong as its friendship is valuable.

Addressing the Israeli people, Erdogan continued: “It is damaging your country’s image by conducting banditry and piracy. It is damaging the interests of Israel and your peace and safety. It is the Israeli people who must stop the Israeli government in the first place. Israel cannot ensure its security by drawing the hatred of the entire world.” Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and terminated all defense cooperation programs with Israel.

In the wake of the raid, anti-Israel protests erupted in Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt. A cabal of Turkish computer hackers, 1923 Turk Grup, which specializes in hacking Israeli websites, disrupted the unofficial homepage of the ruling Likud Party by posting anti-Israeli pictures and slogans.

Latin America’s communist leaders were swift to both denounce the Israeli raid against the Free Gaza flotilla and defend the Palestinians. Cuba condemned the IDF military operation as a “criminal attack,” while Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez lashed out against the Israelis: “Israel is a damned, terrorist and murderous country. Long live the Palestinian people!” Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega has severed diplomatic relations with Israel, while Ecuador’s Rafael Correa has recalled his country’s envoy from the Jewish state.

There is some indication that Turkey may be deploying naval assets in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in response to the raid. The independent Iranian news source Hamsayeh reports that Turkish warships are escorting the Irish-flagged MV Rachel Corrie cargo vessel with its Irish and Malaysian “peace activists” to the Gaza Strip. The Irish Central, quoting Turkish Colonel Itzik Turgeman, reports that Israeli military intelligence sabotaged the Rachel Corrie and other Free Gaza aid ships, but refrained from or failed to damage the Turkish-flagged Mavi Mamara cruise ship, which sustained the brunt of last Monday’s IDF raid. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen warns of serious consequences if the Rachel Corrie’s Irish passengers are harmed.

According to a post at defense-related forum, citing Stratfor, a Turkish patrol ship is presently navigating the waters near the Gaza Strip, but remaining outside Israeli territorial waters. Moreover, a Turkish naval commander, speaking to the Spanish media on June 1, indicated that four frigates that recently arrived in CartagenaTCG Kemalreis, TCG Gaziantep, TCG Turgutreis, and TCG Giresun—will sail immediately for the eastern Mediterranean. “We are following very closely the events and will act accordingly,” stated Mucahit Sislioglu, who commands the task force. Finally, the Bulgarian media reports that Albania’s president Bamir Topi has approved the deployment of Turkish armed forces in his country. A Turkish naval squadron consisting of five warships with 1,125 servicemen are expected to arrive at the Albanian port of Durres on June 2. Bulgarian news agency BTA reported that “the purpose of this visit remains unclear.”

Turkey is a NATO member. Thus, should the Turkish and Israeli navies clash there is the potential that the whole North Atlantic alliance could be pulled into a conflict with Israel, a prospect that would no doubt please both Russia and its Islamic allies, which solidly support the Palestinian Arabs.

Last Sunday the flotilla of six ships, including three flying the Turkish flag, set sail from Cypriot waters to deliver an alleged cargo of food and medicine to the Gaza Strip on behalf of the Turkish government, a radical Islamic organization based in Turkey, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and pro-Palestinian groups working under the banner of the Free Gaza movement. Before dawn on Monday, two hundred kilometres from the Gaza Strip, three Israeli naval vessels from Haifa intercepted the Mavi Marmara and its companions. Hundreds of Israeli commandos stormed and boarded the ferry. There, according to the Israeli internal security minister, Yitshak Aharonovitch, special forces encountered violent “peace activists” armed with batons and knives. Some militants grabbed guns from the Israeli soldiers and shot them, seriously wounding two marine commandos. Some soldiers reported the sound of gunfire below deck.

After pacifying the Free Gaza “peace activists,” the Israeli navy escorted the flotilla to the port of Ashdod. There nearly 700 foreign nationals from Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Sweden, and the USA received deportation notices. The Israeli government reported that it would continue to detain 50 Free Gaza supporters on suspicion of attempting to smuggle weapons and “large quantities” of cash in to the Palestinian enclave. It also pledged to prevent additional naval convoys from penetrating the blockade. These revelations suggest that the sea-borne “peace activists” were either an invasion force that intended to “liberate” the Palestinians, or provoke Israel into a response that would justify diplomatic and military action against the Jewish state.

After a pre-planned meeting on Monday in Damascus, the presidents of Syria and Lebanon, Bashar al-Assad and Saad Hariri, implied that Israel’s attack on the flotilla could lead to world war. In a joint statement, they declared: “We condemn the heinous crime committed by Israel through the brutal attacks on unarmed civilians on board the Freedom Flotilla. Israel’s violation of basic humanitarian norms and international laws threatens to plunge the Middle East into a war which will not only affect the region.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Israel and Egypt to lift the blockade around Gaza Strip. In response to the international condemnation, the two countries indicated that they would temporarily ease the land blockade around the Gaza Strip.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade around Gaza since 2007, when the terrorist organization Hamas seized power in the tiny enclave, which was controlled by Egypt until the Six-Day War in 1967, but became part of the Palestinian National Authority in 1993. The Israeli government denies that Gazans are facing a humanitarian crisis but, instead, maintains that it is permitting adequate supplies of food and medicine to enter Gaza via controlled land routes.

In another story that bodes ill for Israel, The Times of London reported on May 28 that satellite photos, presumably of US or Israeli origin, show that Hezbollah has established Scud missile bases and barracks in Syria, near Damascus. Syria denies Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that the bases are operated by Hezbollah. Instead, asserts Damascus, the facilities are for Syrian military use only. At the beginning of April, Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper reported that Syria had transferred operational control of the surface-to-surface missiles to the Lebanese political party/guerrilla army. Israel subsequently issued a stern warning that it might attack both Syrian and Lebanese targets in response to a Scud barrage against its territory.

Last month, US Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein asserted that Hezbollah had acquired Scuds and improved the missile’s capabilities. “There are rockets and missiles in Lebanon in greater quantities and levels of sophistication and this point endangers Israel,” Feinstein informed the AFP news agency.

>Red Terror File: FSB chief Bortnikov: "Terrorists" seeking access to nuclear materials across "former" Soviet Union

>In what could be a case of “plausible deniability” ahead of Moscow-orchestrated nuclear terrorism in the West, the chief of Russia’s Federal Security Service issued the following alert today: “We have information which indicates that terrorists are continuing to attempt to get access to nuclear materials (and) biological and chemical components.” Career Chekist Alexander Bortnikov refused to offer additional details, saying only that the terrorists were combing their way across the “former” Soviet Union to locate components for a nuclear device.

>Latin America File: Santos victorious in Colombian election, Ecuador’s “people’s revolution” praises Fidel, Venezuelans face prospect of “Cubazuela”

>– FARC Funder Finds Friends in Nicaragua’s Bogota Embassy, Awaits Decision from Comandante Ortega

– Russian-Nicaraguan Intergovernmental Commission Meets in Managua for First Time in 18 Years, Promotes Revitalized Strategic Partnership

Pictured above: Whole lotta Ladas: Itar-Tass reports that Russia will ship 500 Lada Kalina cars to Nicaragua before the end of July. This decision was announced by the Russian-Nicaraguan Intergovernmental Commission on Wednesday. Future shipments will depend on domestic demand among Nicaraguan motorists.

In Colombia’s presidential election this past Sunday center-right candidate Juan Manuel Santos, representing the ruling Social Party of National Unity, delivered a crushing blow to his center-left Green Party rival, Antanas Mockus. Although a run-off vote will be required on June 20, Colombian bond and currency markets rallied upon learning of Santos’ victory. In the last several weeks before the election, public opinion surveys indicated that Mockus was running neck-and-neck with Santos. However, as it turned out, the former defense minister secured 47 percent of the vote to the mathematician’s 21 percent.

Santos has pledged to continue outgoing President Alvaro Uribe’s pro-business policies and hardline stance against the country’s communist insurgents, which entails a close military-financial relationship with the USA. Addressing supporters in Bogota, Santos declared: “With me Colombians can sleep soundly. We won’t retreat from what has been achieved these past eight years.” Santos is the cousin of the current vice president and belongs to the family that founded Colombia’s largest newspaper, Bogota’s El Tiempo.

In spite of widespread concern that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the smaller National Liberation Army might stage attacks during the presidential poll, only two soldiers were killed in encounters with the rebels on election day. Voter turnout was the largest since 1998.

As head of the defense ministry between 2006 and 2009, Santos approved the military’s March 2008 raid into Ecuador that killed FARC’s No. 2 commander, Raul Reyes. This operation provoked a hostile response from Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez and his sidekick Rafael Correa, the socialist president of Ecuador. Both countries deployed troops and tanks to their respective border with Colombia in a week-long showdown that was finally peacefully diffused.

An Ecuadorean judge has demanded Santos’ arrest for this incursion. Ecuador also presently holds the presidency of the Union of South American Nations. These facts could further upset Ecuadorean-Colombian relations, which were restored at a low diplomatic level last November. The election of Uribe’s anointed successor will certainly enrage revolutionary hothead Chavez, who has warned of war between the two countries if Santos is elected. However, the triumph of Colombia’s Uribists in a third consecutive election is part of a wider, promising resurgence of the democratic right in Latin America, including Honduras, Panama, and Chile.

Incidentally, President Correa’s commitment to communizing Ecuador was once again exposed when on May 27 a delegation from Quito arrived in Havana to bestow upon retired red dictator Fidel Castro the Ecuadorean parliament’s highest award. Cuban First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado received the General Eloy Alfaro Delgado Decoration on behalf of Comrade Fidel from the hands of Fernando Cordero Cueva, president of the Ecuadorean parliament. For his part, Cordero Cueva enthused:

The people’s revolution in Ecuador and all the ongoing process of changes and integration that we are experiencing in Latin American could hardly be conceived without Fidel and Cuba. This is his greatest legacy: the merit of a man who taught us to never surrender, to never give up the fight, regardless of how adverse the circumstances or how powerful the enemy might be. This award, small compared to the colossal dimension of this man, is accompanied by an embrace from 14 million Ecuadoreans, from a grateful people that share the same principles and ideas of Cuba.

In response to the Ecuadorean government’s praise for the Cuban Revolution and its instigator, Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban National Assembly, noted that “This award is a clear expression of the friendship and solidarity bonds between both nations.” This “solidarity,” by the way, clearly places Ecuador within the Communist Bloc.

In numerous past posts we have documented the “joined at the head, heart, and hip” relationship between Cuba and Venezuela, an 11-year strategic partnership between two communist states that has evolved into something more than just an alliance. In past bilateral meetings, Cuban dictator Raul Castro has referred to “Venecuba,” while Chavez waxes eloquent about the two countries being “one homeland.” When Venezuela’s National Land Institute took over the ranch of Venezuela’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Diego Arria, he contested the seizure by delivering his title deed to the Cuban embassy, insisting that the Cubans control his country and are “much more organized than the Venezuelan regime.”

Last month Venezuelan brigadier general Antonio Rivero resigned, renounced his personal allegiance to Chavez, and held several well-publicized television interviews that exposed the unholy alliance between the Communist Party of Cuba and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. “Cubans are involved in Venezuelan defense and communications systems to the point that they would know how to run both in a crisis,” he warned, adding:

They’ve crossed a line. They’ve gone beyond what should be permitted and what an alliance should be. If Chavez were to lose elections in 2012 or be forced out of office — like he was during a brief 2002 coup—it’s even feasible the Cubans could become part of a guerrilla force. They know where our weapons are, they know where our command offices are, they know where our vital areas of communications are.

Now Havana and Caracas will be literally attached with an umbilical cord in the form of a submarine communication cable that will extend from Caracas to Santiago de Cuba via Jamaica. “Geocuba specialists are participating in this effort for the exploration of shallow waters, which will use high-tech equipment, ships, and many hours of work in marine research,” announced Waldo Reboredo Arroyo. Waldo is vice president of the Cuban-Venezuelan Telecommunicaciones Gran Caribe Company, formed in 2008.

This past Sunday the home of the chief of Nicaragua’s national police force, Commissioner Aminta Granera, was the target of a drive-by shooting in an exclusive Managua neighbourhood. No one was injured and the number and identity of the gunmen have not been identified, although drug gangs are suspected. In February 2007, the commissioner reported death threats from international criminal cartels because of several drug busts that had taken place in Nicaragua. Police have tightened security around Granera’s residence.

Granera, a former nun and Sandinista guerrilla, has also been the target of criticism for her refusal to take decisive action against supporters of the government of fellow Sandinista, President Daniel Ortega. Since their return to open power in January 2007, FSLN cadres have regularly used homemade mortars against anti-government demonstrators. Granera was one of the founders of the Nicaraguan National Police in 1979, two months after the Sandinista National Liberation Front toppled US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza. In 2008 La Voz del Sandinismo reported that Nicaraguan police would receive training in Russia under the aegis of Moscow’s Interior Ministry.

The Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s oldest and largest drug cartel, employs Nicaragua as a corridor to ship drugs from South America, Nicaraguan officials have acknowledged. At one point, the cartel bought a farm 42 miles north of Managua, where they built a clandestine landing strip to refuel drug planes. The army later dynamited the covert runway. Although the neo-Sandinista regime appears to be cracking down on the international drug trade, it is a well-documented fact that Ortega and his aging comrade, Tomas Borge, then interior minister and now ambassador to Peru, allowed Colombian druglord Pablo Escobar to use Nicaragua as a haven in the 1980s. We suspect that Ortega’s hands are once again covered with “red cocaine.”

In a related story, this Monday Ruben Dario Granda, brother of fugitive FARC “foreign minister” Rodrigo Granda, sought asylum along with his wife and son, at Nicaragua’s embassy in Bogota. Dario Granda will remain there until he receives a decision from President Ortega’s government, which granted asylum to two FARC hangers-on after the Andean Crisis in 2008. In April Dario Granda was arrested by Colombian police on charges of financing FARC, but was released after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to link him to guerrilla activities.

The Soviet strategists have not overlooked Nicaragua as they re-project their Cold War-era influence south of the US-Mexico border. On Monday the Russian ambassador in Managua announced that “The Russian-Nicaraguan intergovernmental commission will meet Tuesday in the Nicaraguan capital Managua for the first time in 18 years.” Igor Kondrashev elaborated:

The resumption of the commission’s activity testifies to the countries reaching a new level of bilateral ties. The countries have a number of strategic projects that need consideration and coordination, which is impossible without the commission’s work. The projects concern the energy sphere and state of the art technology, health care, transport, fishery and agriculture.

Kondrashev noted that a fourth-generation, wireless information network, installed by Kremlin-owned company Yota last fall, will be launched for commercial operation on July 1. “Nicaragua will be the first country in Latin America to obtain a state of the art telecommunications network,” he intoned.

In February Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, then visiting Managua, announced that Russia and Nicaragua will hold joint military exercises at an unspecified date. Along the same theme, we still await news of the arrival of Russian engineers in Nicaragua to renovate the never-used military runway that the Soviets and Cubans built at Punta Huete in 1987.

>Communist Bloc Military Updates: Medvedev: 30% of weapons to be modernized by 2015; NATO aiding its own demise by licensing arms production to Kremlin

>– Russia’s Civil Defense Czar Hosts Cuban Counterpart at CSTO Emergency Situations Exercise, Cubans Hold Civil Defense Drill Meteoro 2010

We are so far behind the West that it is cheaper to buy technology [abroad] than to invent our own.
— Independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer

Pictured above: Road-mobile Topol ICBM rumbles through Red Square during Russia’s Victory Day celebration, on May 9, 2010.

As part of its drive to modernize the Russian military, President Dmitry Medvedev announced on May 24 that the proportion of advanced weaponry used by the country’s various armed services must be 30 percent by 2015. “By 2015 the share of advanced weaponry in permanent readiness units must reach at least 30%,” Medvedev demanded at a meeting on the budget for Russian military and security agencies. He added: “We must make investments in the modernization of the Armed Forces a priority.” The president pointed out that if Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) grows as predicted by three to six percent annually, beginning in 2011, then the Kremlin could allocate a set percentage of GDP every year to finance military modernization.

In compliance with ongoing military reforms, the Russian Armed Forces will be downsized by 2016 to one million personnel, a figure that includes 150,000 officers and about 745,000 soldiers. “The organizational structure of the military will be streamlined to meet the standards of modern warfare,” relates state-run Novosti, “based on mobility and the use of advanced weaponry.”

As independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer explains, the only way Russia can quickly modernize its armed forces is to dip into its natural resource-based revenue funds and start licensed production of foreign military equipment. “We are so far behind the West that it is cheaper to buy technology [abroad] than to invent our own,” Felgenhauer admitted. He continued:

The Soviet Union bought tool-making equipment and whole assembly lines in the United States in the 1930s, Peter the Great brought technologies from Holland. Even the Kremlin, as we know, was built by Italians. The turn to licensed production was a logical and necessary move, as Russia has always developed its industry by borrowing technologies from the West.

“According to experts,” Novosti acknowledges in another article, “Russia is lagging 20-30 years behind the West in many areas of technological progress and is attempting to close the gap by purchasing production licenses abroad.” In all honesty, it should be confessed that even Japan, both before and after the Second World War, appropriated Western technologies to compete with its former adversaries.

Ironically and disturbingly, these contracts for the most part will be made with NATO states. For example, beginning in July 2010 Russia will launch the licensed production of French-designed thermal imagers for T-90 main battle tanks in service with the Russian Ground Forces. A manufacturing plant in Vologda, in central Russia, will assembly the thermal imaging cameras. “It is not a simple knock down assembly. We use Russian-made components to assemble the control system. After 2012 we will start using Russian optics and mechanics on these devices,” the Gazeta newspaper quoted the plant’s general director Alexander Korshunov as saying.

Russia is also negotiating the licensed production of Italian Beretta handguns, Israeli aerial spy drones, and French Mistral-class helicopter carriers. On May 24 Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov acknowledged that Moscow has reached the final stage of talks with Paris on the purchase of four such helicopter carriers. “At the moment we are in pre-contract talks on the warships with three states: Spain, the Netherlands and France. We plan to sign a contract for four of these ships,” Serdyukov explained. He elaborated by saying that one vessel will most likely be built in collaboration with French naval shipbuilder DCNS and the other three with the help of Russian shipbuilders. Construction of the fourth vessel will take place entirely in Russia. Each Mistral costs between US$530 to 660 million.

The amphibious assault ships will be deployed with the Russian Navy’s Northern and Pacific Fleets. If Serdyukov is being honest (which is debatable), then these deployments should ease the fears of re-invasion entertained by “former” Soviet republics with coasts along the Baltic and Black Seas.

In order to accommodate its yet-to-be-built amphibious assault ships, explains Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin, Russia will have to build suitable port facilities. “We do not have port infrastructure for aircraft carriers, but we plan to build it,” Popovkin stated, adding: “If we reach an agreement [with France], we’ll do everything, if not, we won’t. Kamov helicopters (Ka-52, Ka-226) will be based on the Mistral ships, if we decide to go ahead with the purchase.”

Popovkin rejects the contention that the Russian Navy has no need for the Mistral: “Russia has at least four islands in the Pacific Ocean which are still disputed with Japan as well as the Kaliningrad exclave surrounded by NATO countries. If these regions come under threat, Mistrals could be used to transfer military forces to the conflict zones.” Incidentally, in order to defend Kaliningrad, one or more Mistrals would have to be deployed with the Baltic Fleet, which contradicts Serdyukov’s assurances above.

On Wednesday Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, commented that the future of the Moscow-Paris Mistral deal is “unclear” because “France is unlikely to agree to transferring sensitive technology that Russia could use in potential conflicts with NATO and its allies.” Specifically, Pukhov pointed out that France would never sell the Mistral with its naval tactical data system because “SENIT 9” provides links to NATO data exchange formats. “This system could not be sold because it contains software which allows the control of NATO military forces,” opined Pukhov. “Russia will most likely have to install its own electronic equipment on the Mistral ships.”

Finally, as we suspected when we first reported on the new agreement between Moscow and Kiev to finish building the Slava-class missile cruiser Ukraina, the Russian government may indeed be considering buying back the Soviet-era warship. Novosti urges the Kremlin to take this route:

Most importantly, considering Russia’s serious need for large modern warships, it could actually buy the cruiser Ukraina (and possibly rename it again). A modernized cruiser armed with a modern combat command and control system, a multipurpose shipboard fire-control system and sonar equipment would be among the world’s most powerful and effective warships, if supported by the new-generation corvettes and frigates that are being built for the Russian navy, against any enemy. And if the modernization of the cruiser Ukraina proves a success, it could also be used on the other Project 1164 ships–Moskva, Marshal Ustinov and Varyag.

The Ukraina’s keel was first laid down in 1984 and was 95 percent completed when the Soviet Union collapsed, at which point construction stalled.

Meanwhile, Moscow continued to revitalize its Cold War-era relationship with Cuba on May 21 by hosting Major General Ramon Pardo Guerra, head of Cuba’s Civil Defense Ministry, at a demonstration of security techniques at the Russian city of Noguinsk. Pardo Guerra and his Cuban comrades witnessed exercises that entailed combating toxic disasters, evacuating civilians, rescuing hostages, and neutralizing terrorists. The exercise involved the combined forces of Russia’s Emergency Situations and Interior Ministries, and special troops attached to the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

After the maneuvers, Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Emergency Situations Minister, held a brief meeting with Pardo Guerra, discussing aspects of cooperation between his agency and Pardo Guerra’s for the period until 2012. This cooperation will entail the preparation of Cuban civil defense “cadres” in the Russian Federation and the opening of a firefighters school in Cuba, assisted by Russian experts. Between June 14 and 18 a Russian delegation will travel to Havana, where they will attend the VIII Congress on Natural Disasters. Incidentally, “ex”-CPSU cadre Shoigu is related by marriage to Oleg Shenin, the mastermind behind the potemkin anti-Gorbachevist coup of August 1991. Shenin died last year.

Between May 21 and 23 Communist Cuba completed the first stage of the Meteoro 2010 drill and will carry out a second stage on June 25 and 26. Meteoro is a national civil defense exercise that aims at improving the people’s readiness to face “the consequences of technological or natural disasters.” The first stage, explained Lieutenant Commander Rolando Alvarez, is dedicated to “reducing vulnerabilities linked to hurricanes, droughts and epidemic-related disasters.” Alvarez added that another objective of the drill is to train military troops to protect the population and economic resources. In June participants in the exercise will learn how to cope with “high intensity earthquakes and seaquakes.”

Civil defense drills in Cuba and any communist country, for that matter, should always be viewed with suspicion since they could portend preemptive strikes against the West.

On May 22 the Cuban media reported that a Russian freighter docked at the port of Cienfuegos had unloaded 75,000 tons of wheat, which is part of a 100,000-ton donation made to the island state. The organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, Granma, enthused that “these free shipments show the solidarity of the Russian Federation to the Cuban people.” At the beginning of the year a Russian freighter with 22,500 tons of wheat unloaded its cargo in Cuba, while a fourth Russian ship is underway to complete the agreement. Moscow made this commitment to Havana in 2008, after Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, and Paloma devastated the island.

>WW4 File: US troops, Patriot missile battery arrive in Poland, Kremlin perturbed; NATO comsat codes compromised in crash of Polish president’s jet

>How to Annoy the Soviet Bear: Park US Anti-Missile Battery 40 Miles from Russian Border

A little more than a week ago, a battery of US surface-to-air missiles arrived at a military base in Morag, Poland, home of the 16th Mechanized Battalion of the Polish Land Forces. Accompanying the Patriot battery are 100 to 150 US troops from the 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, who will unload 37 train cars shipped in from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where the troops were originally stationed. Morag is located 150 miles north of Warsaw and just 40 miles from the border with Kaliningrad, Russia’s Baltic exclave. This is the first-ever such deployment in Poland, which was a Warsaw Pact state until 1991.

The Bush Administration was committed to installing a long-range anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic, ostensibly to ward off Iranian ballistic missiles lobbed at Europe. However, in order to appease the Soviets, er, Russians, the Obama Administration scrubbed this element of National Missile Defense, promising to deploy air defense systems capable only of fending off short- and medium-range missiles. However, it is very evident that Iran cannot strike Europe with short- and medium-range missiles. The Soviets know this and are therefore also unhappy about the presence of Patriot units in the “former” communist state of Poland. The Patriots serve one purpose: defending Poland from tactical nukes.

During last September’s Zapad-2009 exercise, the Russian and Belarusian armed forces simulated nuclear strikes against Polish targets. Warsaw insists that the deployment a Patriot anti-missile unit at Morag has no political undertones or strategic intent. Rather, the base simply has “good infrastructure,” which may be true but don’t expect Moscow to be mollified.

Last Saturday, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski asserted that, as a NATO member state, Poland had every right to host the Patriot anti-missile batteries. Furthermore, the Russian military had already stationed S-300 air defense systems near Poland’s border, presumably in Kaliningrad Oblast. Therefore, Sikorski insisted, Poland will not apologize to Russia.

Not surprisingly, Moscow grumbled about the Patriot deployment. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded an explanation for the Patriot deployment. Boris Gryzlov, who is speaker of the Russian State Duma, remarked: “I would not like the situation to develop. [Military] reinforcement in Kaliningrad Province as a response has been discussed. There is no doubt that this issue will be discussed in the Duma.” The Russian parliament is presently considering ratification of the new US-Russian strategic arms reduction treaty.

In a related story, Bill Gertz, who produces a regular column at the Washington Times, stated on May 13 that NATO codes for secure satellite communications were compromised in the crash of Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s jet. The Polish Air Force Tu-154 was carrying the head of state and all of his top generals to a ceremony at Katyn Forest, commemorating the massacre of more than 20,000 Polish military officers by the Soviet NKVD in 1940. Kaczynski’s plane clipped a tree and crashed near the fog-shrouded airport at Smolensk in western Russia.

Gertz reports that the two service chiefs, key military aides, and several national security officials were carrying computers and memory sticks with “sensitive NATO data.” He rightly points out that even if Russian authorities acquired the top-secret data, “new NATO codes almost certainly were issued to allied militaries immediately after the crash.” Still, if the Russian signals intelligence service, known as the Federal Agency of Government Communications and Information, recovered the communication key code from the wreckage of Kaczynski’s plane then, suggests Gertz, Moscow will be able to decode months or even years worth of scrambled communications.

In an open letter to the Polish government, published on May 25, former Soviet dissidents rebuke Polish authorities for displaying naivete with respect to Russian intentions and for not insisting that the Russians answer some hard questions concerning the demise of Kazcynski and his top generals. The letter reads in part:

There’s an impression the Russian authorities are not interested in clarifying all reasons behind the catastrophe, while the Polish authorities repeat the assurances of ‘complete openness’ they get from the Russian side, not making any demands from it and only waiting patiently until the long-promised materials arrive from Moscow. It seems that the Polish friends are demonstrating some naivete, forgetting that the interests of the current Kremlin leadership and those of the nations of Russia’s neighbors do not converge.

The missive was signed by Alexander Bondarev; Viktor Feinberg; Natalya Gorbanevskaya; Vladimir Bukovsky, who calls the European Union a joint project between Moscow and Europe’s leftist parties; and Andrei Illarionov, Putin’s former economic advisor. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a rightist like the deceased Kaczynski, dismissed the criticism out of hand.

On May 31 Russian investigators finally and formally transferred to Polish representatives copies of the cockpit-voice and flight-data recordings. The Interstate Aviation Committee confirmed that the handover included authenticated CD copies of information from the “black boxes,” while original records were placed in safe deposit boxes. Both sides signed a protocol ratifying the transfer. In spite of all these niceties, it is very likely that Russian crash investigators, who operated under the direct supervision of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, tampered with the data.