The crisis has reached Germany, warns ECB president

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 8, 2012

Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), said Wednesday that the effects of the crisis are beginning to be felt in the German economy, which until now had remained largely untouched by the difficulties experienced by other European nations.

In a statement, Draghi said that Germany had remained somehow unaffected by the crisis and that many of the problems seen in other countries had not extended their tentacles to the country. The difficulties in the rest of the euro zone, especially in countries such as Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal have been more visible, while Germany was seen as the ‘untouched one’.

“But recent data suggest that these events are beginning to affect the German economy,” Draghi said in a speech in Frankfurt on the eve of the meeting on interest rates from the ECB.

In this respect, the Italian banker said that given Germany’s openness, it is not a surprise that the country is affected by the slowdown in the rest of the euro zone, especially when 40% of GDP comes from direct trade between Germany and the rest of the region. Additionally, about 65% of foreign direct investment in the country comes from other euro countries.

“The financial events in Germany are the mirror image of the financial situation in the rest of the euro zone and this means that measures to ensure the stability of the euro zone as a whole will also benefit Germany,” he added. Draghi sought to justify recent austerity measures imposed by the Euro bankers on nations that requested bailouts for their banking system or the governments themselves.

The ECB president reiterated his defense of the decisions taken by the institution, particularly in the case of the direct purchase of debt from countries that formally request it. He said that this move “sent a clear signal to the markets that fears about the euro zone are baseless”. Draghi miss the point — most likely intentionally — regarding the actions taken by the government in Brussels. That is, none of the measures adopted so far have visibly accomplished anything.

Under the current policies neither Europe nor any other region or country in the world will be able to come out of the debt hole. This is even more true when countries and their governments are guaranteed that financial rescues are waiting for them as long as they follow economic and financial policies crafted by the unelected European technocrats. As mentioned here before, the bankers actions are comparable to combating a raging fire by pouring fuel over it.

Draghi then tried to emphasized that the purchases of debt, although unlimited, are not random. “It is important to emphasize that unlimited does not mean uncontrolled,” he said. Later Draghi stressed the indispensable condition that countries request the intervention of the ECB and that they fully accept the conditions offered through the European Stability Mechanism plan which conditions the so-called financial rescue to the intervention of the International Monetary Fund.

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New ‘scary’ predictions for the Eurozone to justify loss of Sovereignty

‘Deep Depression’  is the new term used in main stream media to justify another bank bailout and the surrender of political and economic sovereignty.

AFP
November 29, 2011

Europe is reeling from warnings it faces a “deep depression” if the eurozone collapses and that every EU nation’s credit rating could be hit without firm action to resolve the debt crisis.

An updated growth report from the OECD on Monday said the crisis was now just one step away from plunging advanced economies into an abyss of recession and could trigger waves of bankruptcies.

And Moody’s, one of the three main ratings agencies, warned that even solid economies such as Germany might have to have their credit status revised — a move which would force them to pay higher borrowing costs.

Italy meanwhile, under pressure from Germany and France who have warned Rome that it could wreck the eurozone if it fails to master its debt problem, launched a patriotic drive to encourage people to buy bonds.

And while Belgium managed to raise 2.0 billion euros ($2.66 billion) in a bond auction, it had to agree to investor demands for a 5.65 percent return for benchmark 10-year bonds compared to 4.37 percent less than a month ago.

Meanwhile in Washington, US President Barack Obama told top European officials they must act now, with decisive force, to fix the debt crisis which threatens to damage the fragile US recovery.

“This is of huge importance to our own economy,” Obama said after hosting EU representatives at the White House.

“The United States stands ready to do our part to help them resolve this issue.”

Despite the bad news, European stocks and the euro rebounded sharply on Monday after days of sustained heavy losses. Investors reacted positively to a report saying Italy was to get an International Monetary Fund bailout — later flatly denied.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report forecast that the United States faced a period of slow growth, Japan’s economy would shrink 0.3 percent this year and developing nations would also see a slowdown.

But its starkest warning was reserved for the 17-nation eurozone, which it said was set for growth of 1.6 percent and next year just 0.2 percent.

The OECD said there was still time for decisive action by policymakers to avert a far worse outlook, urging the European Central Bank to buy up devalued government debt bonds in huge quantities.

But Germany has been holding out against that idea, arguing that the priority is for countries in trouble to reform their economies.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski nevertheless on Monday called on Germany to do more, saying the eurozone’s collapse would result in an “apocalyptic” crisis.

The OECD spoke also broached the possibility of a eurozone break-up.

An exit by one or more countries “would most likely result in a deep depression in both the exiting and remaining euro area countries as well as in the world economy,” it said.

“The euro area crisis represents the key risk to the world economy at present,” it said. “A large negative event would… most likely send the OECD area as a whole into recession.”

Moody’s considered the same scenario, saying “the probability of multiple defaults… is no longer negligible” and that would “significantly increase” the likelihood of one or more members dumping the currency.

“Moody’s believes that any multiple-exit scenario — in other words, a fragmentation of the euro — would have negative repercussions for the credit standing of all euro area and EU sovereigns,” the ratings agency added.

“The continued rapid escalation of the euro area sovereign and banking credit crisis is threatening the credit standing of all European sovereigns.”

The European Union’s three biggest economies — Germany, France and Britain — have so far maintained their triple A credit rating.

But countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and most recently Belgium have all suffered rating downgrades that have accelerated unsustainable rises in their borrowing costs over the past two years.

A report on the website of the French paper La Tribune, citing several sources, suggested Standard & Poor’s might downgrade France in the next few days. A spokesman for the ratings agency refused to comment.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde also dismissed a report in La Stampa that suggested the International Monetary Fund was preparing a bailout package for Italy worth up to 600 billion euros.

La Stampa said the IMF would guarantee rates of 4.0 percent or 5.0 percent on the loan — far better than the borrowing costs on commercial markets.

But Lagarde said Monday: “The IMF does not invest, the IMF lends. And it lends when it is requested by a country that needs assistance.

“At this point in time, we have not received any request from Italy, nor are we negotiating with either Italy or Spain.”

Italy’s 1.9-trillion euro public debt and low growth rate have spooked the markets in recent weeks.

But analysts said the markets were unconvinced by the denial.

Greece, Portugal and Ireland have all received bailouts but a rescue of Italy, the eurozone’s third-biggest economy, would be on a totally different scale.

The Next Stage of the European Debt Crisis; Towards Global Financial Collapse?

Bob Chapman
International Forecaster
November 3, 2011

Those who believe the European crisis is over are mistaken. The dislocation will continue as their economies slow and political, social and economic events converge into further crisis. The most glaring problem is the banks only taking a 50% loss on Greek bonds. The loss should have been 75% or even 80%. There is absolutely no way Greece can overcome that burden in a slowing European economy and an enraged population. They are still striking and demonstrating and they will continue even under a new government.

Some of the best economists in the world have been saying for almost as long as we have been saying that the weaker and smaller countries have to leave the euro at least temporarily. In our eyes that really means permanently. If Italy falls out it will take France with it and the euro edifice will fall. Very quickly it will be found that Greece cannot and will not recover. It is one thing to set recovery in motion in good times, but it is another to attempt to do so under austerity. These politicians in Europe have been self-serving. They are quickly going to find what they have done is not going to work. Greece should have never been saved, as we said from the beginning. They will need more and more money just to exist and you cannot have perpetual funding. Then you have the overriding social factor. It is simply impossible and once Greece goes, the other 5 will have to cut loose as well. Again, it will be called temporary, but their exists will be permanent. It simply cannot be any other way. Political hot air is not going to change anything. We have no details and bankers who refuse to face the music, and what is attempted to be achieved is impossible.

The concept of a tighter union with a new constitution won’t work either. We can go back to 1991 when these issues came forth and we stated the Europeans are doing this backwards. You need a strong constitution first, only nations involved that can meet the criteria of public debt of 3% GDP. Smaller nations cannot be allowed to falsify their balance sheets and above all you cannot use one interest rate for all. Just about everything that has been done has been done incorrectly. Unfortunately, the US and world economy hang in the balance as well. This euro, European and UK problem is not going to go away. By February it will again be front page news. There is an 80% chance that Greece will leave the euro in the next six months.

If Ireland and Portugal do not receive equal treatment, followed by Belgium, Spain and Italy, then they will all be forced to leave the euro. If you think for one minute that these nations can stand more than a year or two of austerity you are mistaken. The whole approach is wrong. They should all be allowed to leave the euro. The only reason Greece has been temporarily saved is to keep Greece in the euro. These one-worlders cannot bear to see their dream of world government fail. It has already failed. Do you really think Germans are going to give up their sovereignty? Wait for the next German election. You are going to see a house cleaning in the Bundestag that will be staggering. The German people are outraged at what these politicians have done to them. If anything the move in the EU’s strongest economy will be away from further consolidation, not toward it.

The magic number to keep the euro from collapsing over the next two years is $6 trillion that solvent European countries do not have, and using derivatives in place of cash is a prescription for disaster. Debt may be addressed, but the core economic and financial problems that were responsible for these problems are still not being addressed. That is a glaring lack of economic progress. Where is the capital needed for growth? Countries in the EU are going to have to increase money and credit and suffer the incumbent inflation; that is if they can even raise those funds and rollover old debt. Either that or China will lend $3 to $500 billion and we don’t think they are willing to do that. If China prints the money to lend, the value of the yuan will fall, the Chinese will take more market share and there will be more inflation. Their goods sold to Europe, the US and elsewhere will rise in cost as well. The Chinese will have to use cash euros or sell euro bonds. Such moves could be really upsetting to China. If aid comes it will be in much smaller amounts.

This past week the swaps association said the failure on 50% of Greek debt does not constitute failure, because it was voluntary, so the NYC legacy banks do not have to pay up on their derivative bet. That could all change, because Fitch says it does constitute default. We will now have to await the decisions of S&P and Moody’s.

What Europe has done is pull a page from US bailouts, which reduce debt starting in a few years, which would extend over 10 or 20 years. It reminds us of the two sets of books banks are currently keeping. They intend to write off bad debt over 50 years, like it really didn’t exist. This plan allows further current increases in debt over the short term. That is no solution at all. Again, it only throws the debt and service into a future that could include deflationary depression. Recovery is not a given.

Fitch has really opened a large can of worms in calling a 50% debt default a payable derivative event. We are talking about hundreds of billions of CD’s, credit default swaps OTC derivatives, which just happens to be an unregulated market. Our view is Fitch is correct and the ISDA, the derivatives information agency is wrong. What isn’t made an issue of is that banks have been asked to raise $150 billion they are offside on this issue. We projected this number long ago. The official number is $3.7 billion, which is laughable. About a month ago the players admitted to $75 billion, so we are making progress toward truth and reality. We wonder what the French bankers are saying, who bought the insurance? If NYC banks do not pay off the ECB will have to create the $150 billion and lend it to the banks in France, so they can survive. Could this be a renege? We think so, and that would ultimately allow citizens of the EU to pay the debt. These bankers are crafty buggers they are.

We also question why banks are writing off 50% of their debt and the sovereigns are not. Isn’t this strange? Why are they not writing off 50%? Could it be that if they did they would be insolvent? Could it be to deceive their taxpaying citizens and pop the question several years from now? Could this be they are just trying to extend the timeline into the future? Time has a way of revealing everything. Incidentally, none of that Greek debt will probably ever be paid off. It should also be noted that of the $140 billion lent by the IMF, US taxpayers are on the hook for about 30%, or $42 billion. We are sure that will make Americans very happy.

The difference between $516 billion allocated by EU members, half of which comes from Germany, and $1.4 trillion will come from the sale of bonds by the EFSF, the European Financial Stabilization Fund. The question is who is going to buy this tranche of some $900 billion in bonds? Nations will receive greater taxes from a phantom recovery and buy the bonds. How can this be when those economies barely have even GDP growth? All this in the midst of austerity. We do not get it. We must be missing something. Does Italy really believe that raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 is going to bring any real immediate relief? As you can see the case is terminal.

The whole plan is absurd, stupid and unworkable. These problems are going to last for years as Europe, the UK and US wallow in negative growth and eventually in deflationary depression. Greece will collapse; it is only a question of when. The ECB will continue to create money and credit, just as the US and UK are doing. It won’t take long for investors to figure out they have been bamboozled again. They will flee stock markets probably just after the Fed’s latest QE 3 is announced. Some will buy US Treasuries and lose about 10% of their purchasing power annually. Some will flee to commodities and many will use the flight to quality to purchase gold and silver coins, bullion and shares. Modes of investments are going to change dramatically, so you had best participate, or you may end up losing most of your wealth.

What you are witnessing is financial chicanery at its best. Wait until the citizens of Europe discover they are going to have to pay all these bills, just so they can be enslaved in a one-world government. They are not going to be happy.

We always tend to be ahead of the curve and the crowd. This time the time frame for discovery may be very short, because once investors understand what we have written here they will want to get out. Gold, silver and commodities will rise for different reasons, along with the flight to quality. Incidentally, this time the gold and silver mining shares will soar.

Reflecting back on our comments the second Greek bailout does not solve the EMU’s fundamental problem, which is the 30% competitiveness gap between the northern and southern countries and Germany’s giant-EMU trade surplus at the expense of the south. Unless a way can be found to rectify that there cannot be a recovery. The south has been forced into austerity, which limits their chances of being competitive. As we pointed out over and over again the end product will be a deflationary spiral and eventually deflationary depression. What the IMF and EU members are imposing on the six countries is very destructive.

A fiscal union would perhaps work, but that means the end of individual country sovereignty, which would eventually lead to authoritarianism, which would not like to see. The entire union is unnatural and should be ended. It has been a failure and just leave it at that.

All this program is going to do is buy time. It is not a long-term solution. Current debt holders are going to be incensed, as they will be forced in before sovereigns, but will banks really take a 50% haircut? We don’t really know. Is this really a fig leaf, a wholly inadequate alternative to the ECB, which cannot provide endless liquidity?

This rescue effort is really too dependent on high-risk deals, such as what caused this crisis. Four times leverage is outrageous. In the end the European public could get caught holding the bag.
At the same time we are seeing monetary contraction in Portugal, which mirrors that of Greece as it spiraled out of control. Bank deposits are off 21% over the past six months and that could well be a precursor of a weak economy and monetary trouble.

Another question that arises is due to the treatment accorded to NYC legacy, money center banks. Will those using credit default swaps continue to do so. There is a default and because it was voluntary the derivative writers do not have to pay off. Give us a break. It looks like contract law no longer exists.
In very late breaking news we find something we warned about is happening. The German High Court, the Bundesgerichtshof, has issued an express order that the nine-member committee dealing with dispersing the rescue funds is not allowed to do so. The plug has been pulled on the EU and German politicians on money releases. If the Germans and the EU are lucky they’ll have a constitutional decision by Christmas. We predicted this would happen.

Uncertainty revolves around the deal reached with Greek bondholders to face a 50% haircut on the face value of their bonds. This has not been negotiated as yet.

At the same time France needs to raise $11.2 billion to keep its AAA rating. Sarkozy says 2012 GDP growth will be about 1%, about the same as Germany, but no one mentions it would be -2% with inflation.

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for International Financial Matters said the Swiss were interested in investing in a special investment vehicle proposed by the euro zone bailout fund, but we see a real fight brewing. The Swiss People’s Party, which was against franc devaluation and the sale of Swiss gold, will be after this move by the Swiss government. They do not want closer ties to the EU.

This past summer we warned that European banks would have to increase their reserve position to 9%, because both the BIS and IMF said it was absolutely necessary. You might call the EU’s laxity of not forcing Greece to implement its austerity agreement as part of a socialist mindset. There was no way to move Greece into line. For not living up to their commitment they could have cut Greece off, because then they would default and leave the euro. Thus, they continued to fund Greece. The truth is they have to do so irrespective of what Greece does or doesn’t do.

The heart of the problem was banking incompetence followed by sovereign stupidity. Banks and solvent sovereigns never should have made the loans in the first place. All the greedy bankers, politicians and bureaucrats could think of was the euro zone and the euro being the template for one-world government. The interconnectivity of banks within nations with banks of other nations is the lynchpin that will eventually take all of them down. It’s caused by central control such as that embodied in the European Central Bank. The bottom line is if a state like Greece, partially defaults, then the banks within Greece default as well because these banks are holding large amounts of federal bonds and loans. Thus, the edifice collapses. This relationship exists all over Europe and as we are seeing six countries are in trouble and if the European economy continues to slip into recession or depression other countries will join the six. In addition in many countries supervision is all but non-existent. A perfect example of such a relationship was with France, Belgium, and the Dexia bank, which they created. As a result the taxpayers of Belgium and France have acquired all the bad assets of Dexia.

Adding to such problems is that usually half of the debt of any country is held by foreign banks and sovereigns, which means failure becomes contagion. France’s holding of 8.5% of GDP of debt from these six countries will eventually cause France to lose its AAA rating. If that is the case we venture to ask how can France be party to a commitment to bail out Greece or anyone else? They simply cannot and they are the number 2 player. You would think French citizens would elect someone who was not involved in such stupidities, such as Marine LePen of the National Party. The banks and business interests, such as the Rothschilds, couldn’t have that – could they? If France financially fails we could see 1789 all over again. This sovereign debt is widely held by other nations including the US, UK and Japan. European banks have controlled European society for a long, long time and they are the catalyst for the new world order.

We hear over and over again there will be recovery, we will grow our way out of it. That won’t be possible for Europe, the UK and the US. The number of young people who do the largest part of consumer spending in their 20s and 30s today have a hard time making ends meet, never mind spending. On top of that many are unemployed and may be for some time to come. If you have noticed unemployment has risen or stayed the same in the regions we have spoken of. Accumulation has only occurred among the upper-middle class and the wealthy. This also means borrowing has fallen and the ability to access loans and capital are limited, because so many prime age borrowers do not qualify.

One of the reasons Germany does as well as it does is because they have an abundancy of inexpensive capital available for loans and credit, which allows expansion, creates jobs and brings profits. The cost of labor is low or in the form of growing productivity and people pay their bills.

One interest rate fits all became a disaster. The weak participants borrowed at 4% instead of 8% and the result was an orgy of spending that ended up in today’s insolvencies. We said 12 years ago this would destroy the euro zone and it has. These low rates also allowed a massive influx of imports into the six problem countries, which caused major balance of trade deficits. This also brought about borrowing in foreign currencies, which turned into a nightmare, particularly in Eastern Europe.

European banking and politics are very closely intertwined. In other words the banks overtly run these countries. The same is true in the UK, but in the US it has been subtler due to ignorance of how the banking system works and that has been deliberate. In Europe the stress test used 5% as a guideline, instead of the normal 10%. This shows you the power and control banking has over EU government making the margin for error extremely thin. Considering the exposure cash reserves were increased to 9%. This means capital has to be raised and that is not easy in today’s recessionary environment. Two-thirds of European banks are currently under 9%. The worst exposed are RBS, Deutsche Bank, Unicredit, Bank Paribas, Barclays and Societ General. Hundreds of billions of euros are needed and the question is where will they come from? In addition how many banks are shuffling assets between trading, deposit, and banking sectors, such as Dexia had been doing until they had to be taken over by the French and Belgium governments? The banks need $270 billion that is readily available. If funds are not available then that means governments will have to supply the capital from out of thin air, which is very inflationary.

The EFSF, the European Financial Stability Facility, which was set up to aid Greece, Ireland and Portugal, now aids banks and European governments, such as the Fed does. An EFSF if allowed to dispense $1.4 trillion based on a $900 billion derivative structure would take months to move into action. Then there is the question will the German High court allow leveraging. We do not think so. The Court had already told the Bundestage you cannot do that, but they did it anyway.

As we can say is stay tuned for the next episode in this saga. It could end up taking down the entire world’s financial system.

Libyan War is a training ground for Global War Template

by Rick Rozoff
June 19, 2011

As the West’s war against Libya has entered its fourth month and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has flown more than 11,000 missions, including 4,300 strike sorties, over the small nation, the world’s only military bloc is already integrating lessons learned from the conflict into its international model of military intervention based on earlier wars in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.

What NATO refers to as Operation Unified Protector has provided the Alliance the framework in which to continue recruiting Partnership for Peace adjuncts like Sweden and Malta, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative affiliates Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and Mediterranean Dialogue partnership members Jordan and Morocco into the bloc’s worldwide warfighting network. Sweden, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates also have military personnel assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in the nearly ten-year-long war in Afghanistan. In the first case, troops from the Scandinavian nation has been engaged in their first combat role, killing and being killed, in two centuries in Afghanistan and has provided eight warplanes for the attack on Libya, with marine forces to soon follow.

The military conflicts waged and other interventions conducted by the United States and its NATO allies over the past twelve years – in and against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Macedonia, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Libya – have contributed to the American military budget more than doubling in the past decade and U.S. arms exports almost quintupling in the same period.

The Pentagon and NATO are currently concluding the Sea Breeze 2011 naval exercise in the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine, near the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet based in Sebastopol. Participants include the U.S., Britain, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Macedonia, Moldova, Sweden, Turkey and host nation Ukraine. All but Algeria and Moldova are Troop Contributing Nations for NATO’s Afghan war. The once-annual maneuvers resumed again last year after the Ukrainian parliament banned them in 2009. This year’s exercise was arranged on the initiative of chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen. Last year’s Sea Breeze drills, the largest in the Black Sea, included 20 naval vessels, 13 aircraft and more than 1,600 military personnel from the U.S., Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Moldova, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine.

This year the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey joined the exercise. The warship is the first deployed to the Mediterranean, and now the Black, Sea for the Pentagon’s Phased Adaptive Approach interceptor missile program, one which in upcoming years will include at least 40 Standard Missile-3 interceptors in Poland and Romania and on Aegis class destroyers and cruisers in the Mediterranean, Black and Baltic Seas. Upgraded versions of the missile, the Block IB, Block IIA and Block IIB, are seen by Russian political analysts and military commanders as threats to Russia’s long-range missiles and as such to the nation’s strategic potential.

As former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar wrote in a recent column:

“Without doubt, the US is stepping up pressure on Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The US’s provocation is taking place against the backdrop of the turmoil in Syria. Russia is stubbornly blocking US attempts to drum up a case for Libya-style intervention in Syria. Moscow understands that a major reason for the US to push for regime change in Syria is to get the Russian naval base in that country wound up.

“The Syrian base is the only toehold Russia has in the Mediterranean region. The Black Sea Fleet counts on the Syrian base for sustaining any effective Mediterranean presence by the Russian navy. With the establishment of US military bases in Romania and the appearance of the US warship in the Black Sea region, the arc of encirclement is tightening.”

USS Monterey, whose presence in the Black Sea has been criticized as a violation of the 1936 Montreux Convention, will return to the Mediterranean where the U.S.’s newest nuclear supercarrier, USS George H.W. Bush, and its carrier strike group with 9,000 service members and an air wing of 70 aircraft is also present, having recently visited U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa and Sixth Fleet headquarters in Naples, Italy, due north of Libya.

Last week the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan engaged in a certification exercise with its French counterpart FS Tonnerre in the Mediterranean. The U.S. Navy website stated that the certification “will provide Tonnerre with additional flexibility during their support to NATO-led Operation Unified Protector,” the codename for the Alliance’s war against Libya. The USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group includes an estimated 2,000 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and dozens of warplanes and attack and other helicopters, and is poised for action in Libya and, if the pattern holds, Syria.

The U.S. and NATO allies and partners – Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey – conducted the Phoenix Express 2011 maritime exercise in the Eastern and Central Mediterranean from June 1-15, which included maneuvers in support of the U.S.’s global Proliferation Security Initiative.

Also earlier this month NATO held this year’s Northern Viking air and naval exercise, the latest in a series of biennial drills under that name, in Iceland with 450 NATO military members from the U.S., Denmark, Iceland, Italy and Norway. The United States European Command website cited the Norwegian detachment commander saying, “exercises like [Northern Viking 2011] allowed the pilots to prepare for real-world scenarios, like Operation Odyssey Dawn,” the name for the Western military campaign in Libya from March 19-30.

This week NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Britain and Spain, meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague in the first country and Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez and Defence Minister Carme Chacon in the second.

While in London Rasmussen focused on the wars in Libyan and Afghanistan, both under NATO command, and promoted the implementation of the European wing of the U.S. international interceptor missile system.

Perhaps in part responding to the dressing down NATO member states had recently received by the person Rasmussen truly, if unofficially, has to account to – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates – he boasted:

“NATO is more needed and wanted than ever, from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from the coast of Somalia to Libya. We are busier than ever before.”

In Spain he addressed the nation’s upper house of parliament in a speech titled “NATO and the Mediterranean: the changes ahead” and, according to the bloc’s website, emphasized “NATO’s changing role in the Mediterranean, particularly focusing on Operation Unified Protector and NATO’s future role in the region.” He also pledged that “we can help the Arab Spring well and truly blossom.” Libya and Syria, tomorrow Algeria and Lebanon, come to mind as the objects of NATO’s false solicitude, and Egypt and Tunisia too, as Rasmussen has already mentioned, in regard to NATO training their militaries and rebuilding their command structures in accordance with Alliance standards, as is being done in Iraq.

The war against Libya, NATO’s first armed conflict in the Mediterranean and on the African continent, is solidifying control of the Mediterranean already established by the ongoing Operation Active Endeavor surveillance and interdiction mission launched in 2001 under NATO’s Article 5 collective military assistance provision.

While Rasmussen was in Britain, Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin said that the Atlantic Alliance “is being drawn into a ground operation,” and asserted “The war in Libya means…the beginning of its expansion south.”

Two days before, the U.S. and NATO completed Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2011, which included 20 ships from eleven European nations and the flagship of the Mediterranean-based U.S. Sixth Fleet, USS Mount Whitney, other American warships and Commander, Carrier Strike Group 8.

Concurrently in the Baltic Sea, the 11-day Amber Hope 2011 exercise was launched in Lithuania on June 13 with the participation of 2,000 military personnel from NATO members the U.S., Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Poland and Partnership for Peace members Georgia and Finland. Former Soviet republics and Partnership for Peace affiliates Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Ukraine are attending as observers.

The second phase of the exercise will begin on June 19 and, according to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry, “troops will follow an established scenario based on lessons learnt by Lithuanian and foreign states in Afghanistan, Iraq and off the Somali coast,” in the last case an allusion to NATO’s ongoing Operation Ocean Shield. The bloc has also airlifted thousands of Ugandan and Burundian troops into Somalia for fighting in the capital of Mogadishu.

Earlier this week NATO also held a conference with the defense chiefs of 60 member and partner states in Belgrade, Serbia, which was bombed repeatedly by NATO warplanes 12 years ago, also focusing on the bloc’s current three-month-long war in Libya.

The Strategic Military Partner Conference was addressed by, inter alia, French General Stephane Abrial, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation based in Norfolk, Virginia, who said, “I’m convinced that the operation in Libya will be successful,” though conceding that the hostilities may be prolonged well into the future in his opening statement.

The Black Sea Rotational Force, a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, followed military training exercises in Romania with a two-week exercise in Bulgaria on June 13 with troops from the host nation and, for the first time, Serbia on one of the four air and infantry bases in the country the Pentagon has moved into since 2006. The earlier training in Romania was at one of another four bases acquired in that nation.

The local press reported that most of the U.S. Marines involved arrived at the Novo Selo Range “straight from Afghanistan” on Hercules-C-130 transport aircraft.

Lieutenant Colonel Nelson Cardella of the U.S. Marine Corps said of the drills, “Our troops will be trained to improve the interoperability of our staffs” for the Afghan and future wars.

Bulgaria’s Standart News announced that “next year the Black Sea Rotational Force exercise will take place in Serbia.”

The mission of the Black Sea Rotational Force, formed last year, is to integrate the armed forces of twelve nations in the Balkans, Black Sea region and Caucasus – Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine – through NATO for deployment to Afghanistan and other war zones and post-conflict situations.

Each of the wars the U.S. and its NATO allies have waged since 1999 has gained the Pentagon and the Alliance new military bases and expeditionary contingents in subjugated and adjoining nations in Southeastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, and South and Central Asia.

Just as the Yugoslav, Afghan and Iraqi wars contributed to developing a U.S.-led NATO international military intervention capability for use against Libya today, so the Libyan experience is being employed for future conflicts.

244,000 Germans say ‘no’ to Google’s Street View

AP

Internet giant Google says more than 244,000 Germans have asked that their homes be made unrecognizable in its Street View program, scheduled to launch in Germany next month.

Google estimated in a statement released Thursday that the requests amount to about 3 percent of the total number of households in Germany’s 20 largest cities, images of which are to go online as part of the company’s mapping program.

“The high number of objections to Google Street View shows that citizens want to decide which data about themselves is published on the Internet,” said Peter Schaar, the head of Germany’s data protection watchdog.

German authorities had demanded that Google allow citizens to request the homes not be pictured in Street View, insisting that posting images of private residences on the Internet violated individual privacy.

Street View is currently available in 23 countries. Germany is the only one where citizens could request their homes be removed before the program went online. But the service has also been disputed in South Korea and elsewhere amid fears that people — filmed without their consent — could be seen on the footage doing things they didn’t want to be seen doing or in places where they didn’t want to be seen.

The California-based company lost the trust of many in Europe this spring when it had to acknowledge that the technology used by its Street View cars had also vacuumed up fragments of people’s online activities broadcast over public Wi-Fi networks for the past four years.

Authorities in Spain, meanwhile, said Thursday that Google faces two probes there over Street View, after the country’s data protection agency said it had found evidence that the company may have committed five offenses by capturing and storing data from users connected to Wi-Fi networks while it collected material for its mapping feature, and transferred this data to the United States.

If found guilty, the company could be fined up to euro2.4 million ($3.33 million).

The body said, however, the probe would be suspended temporarily until a Madrid court rules on another similar complaint made against Google in June by a private Spanish Internet watchdog and technology consultancy group called APEDANICA.

No one from Google in Spain was available for comment on the two cases.

In Germany, Google warned that while it was taking care to make sure that all requests are honored, “it cannot be guaranteed that every application that we have received can be fully processed. For example in cases where the address given is not clear.”

Google will also provide a tool for anyone requesting to have images captured in Street View to be made unrecognizable. The tool will be made available when the service goes online.