By Erick San Juan
Veteran strategic analyst George Friedman of Stratford wrote at the Businessmirror (6/29/14) about the US unfinished business in Ukraine and Iraq. He said that some of the international systems unfinished business has revealed itself. He believes that Ukraine’s fate is not yet settled. Neither is Russia’s relationship with the European peninsula. I agree. Friedman explained that geopolitical situation rarely resolve themselves neatly or permanently.
Among the written analysis about Ukraine that I’ve read, it was the Counter Punch’s in depth report written by Diana Johnstone that I realize was the most balanced and accurate reading of what really transpired in Ukraine entitled, “Tightening the US Grip on Western Europe: Washington’s Iron Curtain in Ukraine.” To quote:”NATO leaders are currently acting out a deliberate charade in Europe, designed to reconstruct an Iron Curtain between Russia and the West. Planned in advance, events that they deliberately triggered are being misrepresented as sudden, astonishing, unjustified Russian aggression.
The US and the European Union reportedly undertook an aggressive provocation in Ukraine to force Russia to react defensively. The US was allegedly manipulating political conflict in Ukraine to install a pro-Western government intent on joining NATO. It is a matter of life and death to the Russian navy and allegedly a grave national security threat on Russia’s border.
Johnstone said that it is a trap for Putin, allowing NATO to advance its hostile forces to an ideal attack position. She added that the West was ready for this, prepared to tell that Putin was the ‘New Hitler’, poised to overrun helpless Europe which could only be saved like the ‘Normandy’ by the Americans. But the overwhelming majority of Crimeans are Russian, having been Russian citizens since Khrushchev bestowed the territory on Ukraine in 1954.
The takeover of Ukraine was allegedly planned at Yalta in September 2013 when Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Viktor Pinchuk paid for an elite strategic conference on Ukraine’s future that was held in Yalta, Crimea. This was the same place where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill met to decide the future of Europe in 1945. Both President Viktor Yanukovych, which was ousted after five months and the recently elected successor Petro Poroshenko were present. Former US energy secretary Bill Richardson was there to talk about the shale gas revolution which the US hopes to use to weaken Russia by substituting fracking for Russia’s natural gas reserves. The prospect of Ukraine’s integration with the West was discussed and the possible break of Ukraine with Russia.
Sergei Glazyev, Putin’s adviser noted that Ukraine was running an enormous foreign accounts deficit, funded with foreign borrowing and the increase in Western imports could only swell the deficit.
Planning to incorporate Ukraine into the sphere of the west would entail serious problems with Russian speaking Ukrainians and to Russia. Instead of working for a compromise, Western leaders allegedly decided to forge ahead and blame Russia for whatever would go wrong. Yanukovych faced an economic collapse, outraged protests ensued which was rapidly exploited by the west.
During the time of Yanukovych, Ukraine was playing a double game, telling the EU that it was interested in signing a trade agreement DCFTA while telling the Russians that it was interested in joining the union. He could not make up his mind and trying to get the best deal out of both sides. He was reportedly not a ‘Moscow’s man’ and his downfall owes a lot to his role in playing the best of both worlds. It was perceived as a dangerous game of pitting big powers against each other.
According to Johnstone, the Russian position is not to split Ukraine because it could be a bridge between East and West. But the arrangement calls for Western readiness to cooperate with Russia which the US vetoed preferring to exploit the crisis.
A blatant provocation, using Ukraine political confusion against Russia has astonishingly succeeded in producing a total change. We are told that the ‘freedom-loving West’ is faced with the threat of Russian expansionism. The US allegedly needs an enemy to save the world and Europe. Washington policy makers seemed to be worried that President Barack Obama’s swing to Asia and neglect of Europe might weaken US control of its NATO allies. The May 25 European Parliament elections revealed a large measure of disaffection with the European Union.
Washington is even able to exploit the anti-communist, anti-Russian and even pro-Nazi nostalgia of Northeastern Europe in order to obstruct the growing economic partnership between the old EU, notably Germany and Russia.
To tighten the grip of US on Europe, the United States is using the artificial crisis to demand that its indebted allies spend more on defense, by purchasing weapons system. The situation in Ukraine is not only a chess game but chess combined with poker combined with Russian roulette, Johnstone concluded.
Pundits believe that the planting of the western values in Ukraine was carried out by NGO’s and non-profit organizations like the NED(National Endowment for democracy) founded in 1983 on the initiative of then US President Ronald Reagan which had been successful in dismantling the USSR. The official website of NED contains information about the organizations close ties with CIA. NED reportedly allocates $2.8 million dollars to implement around 50 projects in Ukraine aimed at the development of democracy and civil society. It also provides support to several youth associations, activists and journalists. This was the reason I wrote about the NGO’s in my previous article so that we will be aware of such lobby groups especially those funded by foreign governments. Most of its trained leaders are expert in propaganda and in destabilizing governments.
Bridging the Cultural Divide
Despite the stark distinction between Philippine and Norwegian cultures, Solem explained that this should not hamper growth and development. Solem said that to thrive in the sea of personal and cultural differences in a global organization, leaders must build cross cultural synergy through cultural knowledge.
The long-standing bilateral maritime cooperation between Norway and the Philippines is a prime example of cross cultural synergy according to Mr. Solem. With approximately 25,000 Filipino seafarers on board Norwegian vessels today, the Philippines has been Norway’s valuable partner in the maritime sector. The Norwegian involvement in the maritime industry in the Philippines does not rest on employment of seafarers alone. Norway has also been significantly involved in raising the quality of education and training of seafarers in the country.
Solem said Norway’s century-long involvement in the Philippine maritime sector has been strengthened by the country’s excellent human resources. “The Philippines has a big potential for growth,” he said. Because of this, the ambassador said that Norway has been eyeing on investing in more industries in the Philippines.
The Philippines and Norway have a long history of bilateral relations, owing mostly to cooperation in the maritime sector. Today, relations between our two countries have expanded to encompass not only the shipping industry, but also other business sectors, labor migration, and peace and reconciliation efforts.
There are approximately 18,000 Filipinos living in Norway. They are a very well-integrated minority group in the Norwegian society with a high level of participation in the work force. There is also a variety of active NGOs and interest groups working to promote Filipino culture in Norway. Every year the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day takes place in many communities around the country.
On the other hand, about 3,000 Norwegians are living in the Philippines. Some do business, some do charitable work, whilst others have established new families—or come to spend their retirement under the Philippine sun.
Trade and Economic Relations
Economic relations between our two countries comprise shipping, investments in industry, investments from the Norwegian government pension fund, and services, goods and commodities trade. The Philippines Norway Business Council (PNBC) unites the Norwegian business community in the Philippines and currently has more than 45 member companies and institutions. The Norwegian Embassy is a founding member and is permanently represented in the board of the council.
“The trade figures show a positive trend, cooperation, both multilaterally and bilaterally, is expanding, and the number of our respective nationals living in or visiting each other’s country increases year by year,” Solem said in a message on the embassy website. A lot of the business is still shipping related, but other sectors follow suit. There is also trade with services, goods and commodities. Chemical products are the main export commodity from Norway to the Philippines, followed by fish.
Conversely, electronics, machinery, transport equipment and miscellaneous manufactured articles account for about two thirds of the imports to Norway from the Philippines. Norwegian companies are showing an increased interest in the Philippines. Notably, investments in industrial enterprises have grown in recent years and have shown good profit margins. The energy sector shows promise, with the Philippines having significant potential in the development of hydropower plant and possibly large amounts of untapped natural gas and oil resources. Norway as an energy nation has decades of competence and experience in utilizing and managing such resources.
During the Nordic Ambassador’s Luncheon with Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ponciano Manalo last June Solem called for two-way development of commercial cooperation, where the focus is not only on how Nordic companies can tap into the Philippine markets, but where Philippine companies also realize the potential of the Nordic region as a market. Secondly, he raised the importance of public and private sector collaboration in promoting trade and investment opportunities.
EU Maritime Audit
A maritime audit conducted in April 2013 by a European Union (EU) team on the Philippines’ maritime education and training put the Filipino seafarers’ future in jeopardy, particularly those working on vessels registered in the European Union (EU) countries. Solem finds this condition most serious, but expressed hoped that the Philippines will comply with the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (SCTW) to which the Philippines is a party.
“We sincerely hope that the necessary improvements will be done, but time is limited, and the seriousness of the situation should not be underestimated. But, he continued, “do look at this also in the positive way; to make such improvements, to ensure the necessary quality, control mechanisms etc. is the best investment the Philippine government can make. Through compliance with the said convention international demand for Filipino seafarers will just continue to grow!” Solem said.
Another audit was scheduled last month and Solem said Norway will abide by an EU decision. Although not a member of the EU, Norway is associated with the Union through its membership with the European Economic Area (EEA). Norwegian shipping companies employ about 25 000 Filipino seafarers aboard their ships or in shipyards, accounting for one third of the total number of seafarers on Norwegian controlled vessels.
The Norwegian Training Center in Manila provides relevant training for Filipino seafarers serving on Norwegian ships. Maritime cooperation has remained one of the key elements of our bilateral relations. The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA/Sjøfartsdirektoratet) is currently assisting the Philippine Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in an attempt to ensure that maritime/seafarer education is in compliance with the STCW Convention. A number of Norwegian shipping companies have offices in the Philippines.
“Filipino seafarers are not only important to us, I dare say they constitute a cornerstone of our maritime industry.” In light of this, as well as of the urgency of the matter, we have already given technical assistance to MARINA. Both we and other governments are willing to give further assistance, but needless to stress, the final responsibility lies with Philippine authorities,” Solem said.
Norway established diplomatic relations with the Philippines in 1948. From 1952 to 1956, Norway was represented by a Consulate, later, by a Consulate General in Manila. The Embassy was opened in 1967. The Embassy has three sub-sections, the Maritime Section, the Consular Section and the Visa Section. Norway also has a Honorary Consulate in Cebu. Today, Norway is the only Nordic country to have an embassy in Manila.
The Philippine Embassy in Norway was established in 2008, when it moved from Stockholm due to increasing cooperation in energy and the maritime sector, as well as the increasing number of Filipinos living in Norway. Today the embassy covers all the five Nordic countries from Oslo.
Norway supports a number of Filipino development projects, as well as NGOs working for human rights and social development in the Philippines, through its Peace and Reconciliation Fund. Norway is the third-party facilitator of peace talks between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Communist movement, NDFP. In addition, Norway participates in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao related to the peace process between the Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
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