POLAND – Poland kicks off unprecedented military spending spree
WARSAW | Looking east to the bloody conflict gripping Ukraine, NATO-member Poland has kicked off an unprecedented military spending spree worth billions to overhaul its forces as Warsaw believes peace in Europe is no longer a given.
The escalation of tensions with Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and subsequent role in the crisis in that country’s east has sounded the alarm on NATO’s eastern flank in countries that were under Moscow’s thumb during the Cold War.
Russia has also rattled its neighbors by repeatedly testing their air defenses. NATO intercepted nuclear-capable Russian bombers and other warplanes in European airspace on more than 100 occasions last year, three times more than in 2013.
Even though a Ukraine ceasefire deal was hammered out this past week in Minsk by Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Kiev, the risk of the conflict heating up remains, Polish officials believe.
“The key to a political and military solution lies in Moscow,” Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski told reporters Thursday in Warsaw. “The possibility of a lasting peace still isn’t close,” he said, insisting that the previous Minsk accord failed due to the “Russian separatists in Donbas.”
Poland has earmarked 33.6 billion euros ($42 billion) on the upgrade over a decade, which includes a missile shield and anti-aircraft systems, armored personnel carriers and submarines as well as combat drones.
The plans bring Warsaw in line with NATO’s recommended defense spending level of 2.0 percent of gross domestic product. …..
TURKEY – Turkish parliament in second brawl this week over controversial anti-protest bill
Fisticuffs broke out in the Turkish parliament on Thursday night between members of the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP party and Kurdish opposition deputies. The altercation was over a bill they say will turn the country into an “authoritarian state.”
The fight broke out after an increasingly fraught three-hour discussion of the mooted Homeland Security Reform, advocated by President Erdogan and his AKP party.
According to the local Hurriyet newspaper, tensions spilled over in Ankara when AKP’s deputy speaker Sadık Yakut began, seemingly on purpose, to mispronounce the name of Adil Zozani, a member of the Kurdish-dominated Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Kurds say they will be the main casualties of the reform, which has been introduced ostensibly in response to violent pro-Kurdish protests last October.
In response, Zozani accused Yakut of being too “incapacitated” to perform his duties, setting off a mass slanging match, in which deputies alternately accused each other of “playing doctor” and being “mentally ill.”
One of the AKP deputies then bull-rushed a member of the CHP (Republican People’s Party), enraging the entire group, who threw punches, and tried to separate and protect their own party members. One CHP deputy was injured after falling down an internal staircase, but refused to leave the scene of the brawl to be attended to by a doctor, loudly vowing to “continue the fight.” The entire incident lasted around 10 minutes.
Unlike the previous scuffle between the same parties last Tuesday (Feb. 17), in which five people were injured after a ceremonial gavel and a chair were wielded as offensive weapons, no props came to hand in Thursday’s mass brawl.
The proposed legislation expands police powers, while reducing the need for judicial approval of a whole host of actions against protesters.
If passed, potential dissenters could have their homes searched by the police without an order, and be detained for up to 48 hours without a court decision, at the behest of a regional governor. Opposition activists say this will allow the ruling politicians to sabotage any political protests by ordering arrests of key leaders.
During any actual demonstration, police would be entitled to fire live weapons against demonstrators, while anyone in the crowd wearing a mask, a common tactic to avoid criminal charges, could face up to four years in jail.
Critics of the regime say this is not just a means of cracking down on the restive Kurdish regions, but a means of stifling political dissent similar to the massive 2013 Gezi Park and Taksim Square protests.
The government-driven bill has been notably criticized by outside organizations, such as Reporters without Borders, who said that it would be used against independent journalists, and by former President Abdullah Gul, who said the measure would threaten “checks and balances” within the Turkish political system.
Although opposition parties have no means of challenging the AKP majority in parliament, they have promised to resort to filibusters to delay the passing of the reform.
ARGENTINA – More than 400,000 rally in Buenos Aires over prosecutor’s death
More than 400,000 people demanding justice marched in symbolic silence Wednesday in Buenos Aires to mark a month since the suspicious death of a prosecutor who was ready to accuse Argentine president Cristina Kirchner of a massive cover-up.
“I am here because I want to see justice done for someone who gave his life for the truth,” said teacher Marta Canepa, 65, among those walking the mile under the banner “Homage for Prosecutor Alberto Nisman.”
Drenched in driving rain and led by prosecutors and opposition figures, the rally is the first major public show of defiance in a murky case that has ignited a political firestorm in Argentina and piled the pressure on President Kirchner, 61, in her last year in office.
Among those who braved the deluge were Nisman’s two young daughters and his ex-wife, Judge Sandra Arroyo Delgado. …
Nisman was found in his Buenos Aires apartment with a bullet through his head on January 18, the day before he was to go before a congressional hearing to air his finding that Kirchner and her foreign minister plotted to shield Iranian officials implicated in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish-Argentine charity federation.
Eighty-five people were killed and more than 300 injured in the attack, the deadliest in Argentina’s history – and one that has yet to be solved 21 years later. …..
Investigators initially said the death of the 51-year-old Nisman appeared to be suicide, but homicide has not been ruled out.
Nisman was found sprawled in his bathroom, with his back blocking the door and a .22-caliber pistol next to him. He was killed with a single shot to his temple.
In Argentina, the suicide theory is widely disbelieved – even by Kirchner, who has suggested that he was killed by former intelligence agents in an elaborate plot to smear her.
Nisman had accused Kirchner four days before his death of obstructing his investigation by cutting a secret deal with Iran in exchange for oil.
In 2006, with the support of former president Nestor Kirchner, the current president’s late husband, Nisman charged that the bombing was carried out by Hezbollah with the involvement of top Iranian officials, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
In 2013, Cristina Kirchner reached a deal with Iran that would have allowed Iranian suspects to be questioned at home, but that agreement never materialized.
Nisman and Argentina’s large Jewish community were vehemently opposed, arguing that Tehran could not be trusted.
In his accusation against Kirchner, which was reaffirmed on Friday by his replacement, Gerardo Pollicita, Nisman said the Argentine leader was working behind the scenes to protect the Iranians in return for oil, at a time when the South American country was in the midst of an energy crisis.
He also alleged that Kirchner asked Interpol to lift outstanding “red notices” against the Iranians – a request that Interpol’s former director denied had been made.
(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at YahooNews on Feb. 15, RussiaToday [RT .com] on Feb. 20 and London’s Daily Telegraph on Feb. 19.)
1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
b) location/the countries that share its borders:
c) the religious breakdown of the population:
d) the type of government:
e) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]:
f) the population:
NOTE: Before answering the questions below, read the info under “Background” and watch the videos under “Resources.”
2. For POLAND:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What action has Russia taken that has caused Poland to greatly increase its military spending to build up its military capabilities?
c) What is NATO? What is its purpose?
d) Ask a grandparent: do you think NATO would have the will/ability to protect Poland from Russia? (or Ukraine, which is not a member, or the Baltic states [Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania], which are members)?
3. For TURKEY:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What would the legislation proposed by President Erdogan’s AKP party do? What power would it give the government/police? What would it prevent anyone who opposes the president from doing?
c) What do critics say is the real motive for the legislation?
d) How do the HDP and CHP opposition parties plan to delay the proposed legislation?
4. For ARGENTINA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What motive would President Kirchner have for covering up information on Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death?
c) Read the “Background” on Argentina below. Watch the video under “Resources.” Do you think Mr. Nisman’s death could have been murder? Explain your answer.
POLAND – ON NATO:
From the NATO website nato.int:
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an alliance of 28 countries from North America and Europe committed to fulfilling the goals of the North Atlantic Treaty signed on April 4, 1949. In accordance with the Treaty, the fundamental role of NATO is to safeguard the freedom and security of its member countries by political and military means. NATO is playing an increasingly important role in crisis management and peacekeeping.
POLITICAL – NATO promotes democratic values and encourages consultation and cooperation on defence and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.
MILITARY – NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military capacity needed to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty – NATO’s founding treaty – or under a UN mandate, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organizations.
For information on member countries, go to: nato.int/cps/en/natolive/nato_countries.htm
On prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death and his investigation into the Iranian bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires:
POLAND – Watch a news report:
TURKEY – Watch a video of the officials fighting in Turkey’s parliament:
ARGENTINA – Watch a news report from CNN: