Romania's government on Feb. 4 capitulated in the face of a sustained protest campaign and repealed a decree that had decriminalized corruption offenses. Tens of thousands of flag-waving protesters in central Bucharest cheered the announcement. The decree, removing criminal penalties for official misconduct in which the damages are less than €44,000, was enacted Jan. 31—sparking the largest demonstrations in Romania since the fall of communism in 1989. After three days of mounting protests, an estimated 600,000 Romanians marched in Bucharest and other cities the day before the government blinked. Protests have continued since then, demanding the resignation of the government.
We know we're going to be accused of alarmism, but please follow the logic. First, however self-serving it may be, the accusation of a Russian intelligence hand in the WikiLeaks dump of hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee is plausible. Famously, the e-mails reveal DNC staffers pulling for Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, prompting the resignation of the supposedly neutral body's chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The DNC had apparently been hit by Russian hackers, and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook is now openly charging that Moscow is trying to boost Donald Trump.
The US Aegis anti-missile station at Deveselu, Romania, was officially activated this week—to harsh protests from Moscow, despite Washington's claim that the system is intended to intercept missiles fired from the Middle East. Together with an installation in Poland, the Deveselu facility forms the long-delayed "missile shield" first conceived under the George Bush administration. (BBC News, AFP, RT, May 12) Moscow's claim that the "missile shield" is actually aimed at encircling Russia is mirrored by Washington's charge that Russia is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, having deployed cruise missiles in contravention of the 1987 pact. (Arms Control Association, May 2016)
The US Defense Department is dispatching a naval vessel to the Black Sea to conduct military exercises with allies in the region, as well as deploying additional Marines to enlarge a "rotational crisis response force" in Romania, the Pentagon announced April 3. The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response Force, based at Moron Air Base in Spain, is being increased from 500 to 675 and deployed to Romania "to allow greater flexibility." The Pentagon denied that the decision to send the additional Marines to Romania is related to developments in Ukraine. (American Forces Press Service, April 3)
In a case of very disturbing bluster (but, we hope, still just bluster) Ukrainian parliamentarian Pavlo Rizanenko told the Western media that Ukraine may have to arm with nuclear weapons if the US and other world powers refuse to enforce a security pact that he said obliges them to act against Moscow's takeover of Crimea. "We gave up nuclear weapons because of this agreement," said Rizanenko of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR). "Now there's a strong sentiment in Ukraine that we made a big mistake." (KSDK, March 10) Rizanenko was refering to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Late last month, Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, formally invoked the Memorandum. In their statement, lawmakers said: "Ukraine received guarantees of country's security in the 1994 Budapest memorandum on security assurances over Ukraine's accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." (ITAR-TASS, Feb. 28)
Some 20,000 Romanians marched and formed a human chain around the parliament building in Bucharest Sept. 21 to protest plans by Canadian firm Gabriel Resources to establish Europe's biggest open-pit gold mine at Rosia Montana in the Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania. Bucharest has seen daily protests against the project for two weeks, organized by the campaign Salvati Rosia Montana, with thousands more taking to the streets in other Romanian cities. The protests began after the government proposed a law Aug. 27 to give extraordinary powers to Gabriel Resources' local partner, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, allowing the company to relocate people whose homes are on the perimeter of the mine site, and guaranteeing all necessary permits within set deadlines, regardless of court rulings or public participation requirements. The operation would involve the destruction of three villages and four mountains. (EuroNews, Sept. 22; MondoNews.ro, Sept. 21; The Guardian, Mining.com, Sept. 17; BBC News, Sept. 9)
Lawyers for Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah on Jan. 28 asked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to rule on whether Poland violated their client's rights by aiding the US in detaining and allegedly torturing Zubaydah in a secret CIA prison. Zubaydah, a top al-Qaeda suspect, alleges that he was transferred to Poland and subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques." An investigation into the prison has been ongoing in Poland since 2008, but Zubaydah's lawyers argued that it has made no noticeable effort to bring any perpetrators to justice. The letter is notice that an application for a hearing will be filed.