NATO, Russia fail to agree over missile breach, US to quit treaty

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Foreign military attaches and journalists attend a briefing by the Russian Defense Ministry as the 9M729 land-based cruise missile, right, in Kubinka outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP)
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Russian military officers stand by as the 9M729, center, its launcher, left, and the 9M728, right, land-based cruise missiles are displayed in Kubinka outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP)
Updated 25 January 2019
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NATO, Russia fail to agree over missile breach, US to quit treaty

  • At a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, envoys from NATO’s 29 members renewed their call on Moscow’s deputy foreign minister to destroy a nuclear-capable cruise missile system before a Feb. 2 deadline
  • Russia denies violating the terms of the treaty

BRUSSELS/MOSCOW: NATO and Russia failed on Friday to resolve a dispute over a new Russian missile that Western allies say is a threat to Europe, bringing closer Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark arms control treaty.
At a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, envoys from NATO’s 29 members renewed their call on Moscow’s deputy foreign minister to destroy a nuclear-capable cruise missile system before a Feb. 2 deadline.
Without a breakthrough, the United States is set to start the six-month process of pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), having notified it would do so in early December and accusing Moscow of breaching it.
Russia denies violating the terms of the treaty, which eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.
“The treaty is in real jeopardy,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “The sooner Russia comes back into compliance, the better. The treaty has no value if it is not respected, the problem are the Russian missiles in Europe,” he told a news conference after the meeting.
One NATO diplomat said the US ambassador to the alliance told the assembled diplomats and officials that Washington would start the pull-out process from the INF on Feb. 2. The US embassy was not immediately available for comment.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the closed-door meeting that it was the United States that was breaching the treaty, alliance diplomats said.
Ryabkov, who spoke in both Russian and English, cited the US-built NATO missile defense system in Romania as a treaty breach. NATO says the shield is designed to shoot down rockets from Iran, not from Russia.
Separately, the Russian foreign ministry also accused the United States of reviving a Cold War-era plan to deploy a missile defense system in space.
While NATO diplomats described Friday’s meeting as calm and professional, Stoltenberg said Russia had shown no willingness to compromise. But he and some European nations such as Germany held out hope for diplomatic progress during the six-month withdrawal process.


Thailand says US man’s seasteading home violates sovereignty

Updated 33 min 57 sec ago
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Thailand says US man’s seasteading home violates sovereignty

BANGKOK: Thai authorities have raided a floating home in the Andaman Sea belonging to an American man and his Thai partner who sought to be pioneers in the “seasteading” movement, which promotes living in international waters to be free of any nation’s laws.
Thailand’s navy said Chad Elwartowski and Supranee Thepdet endangered national sovereignty, an offense punishable by life imprisonment or death.
It filed a complaint against them with police on the southern resort island of Phuket. Thai authorities said they have revoked Elwartowski’s visa.
Elwartowski said in an email Thursday that he believes he and Supranee — also known as Nadia Summergirl — did nothing wrong.
“This is ridiculous,” he said in an earlier statement posted online. “We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed.”
The couple, who have gone into hiding, had been living part-time on a small structure they said was anchored outside Thailand’s territorial waters, just over 12 nautical miles from shore. They were not there when the navy carried out their raid on Saturday.
The Thai deputy naval commander responsible for the area said the project was a challenge to the country’s authorities.
“This affects our national security and cannot be allowed,” Rear Adm. Wintharat Kotchaseni told Thai media on Tuesday. He said the floating house also posed a safety threat to navigation if it broke loose because the area is considered a shipping lane.
Seasteading has had a revival in recent years as libertarian ideas of living free from state interference — such as by using crypto-currency including Bitcoin — have become more popular, including among influential Silicon Valley figures such as entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Elwartowski, an IT specialist, has been involved in Bitcoin since 2010.
Several larger-scale projects are under development, but some in the seasteading community have credited the Andaman Sea house with being the first modern implementation of seasteading.
“The first thing to do is whatever I can to help Chad & Nadia, because living on a weird self-built structure and dreaming of future sovereignty should be considered harmless eccentricities, not major crimes,” Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who heads The Seasteading Institute, said on his Facebook page.
The floating two-story octagonal house at the center of the controversy had been profiled and promoted online by a group called Ocean Builders, which touted it as a pilot project and sought to sell additional units.
The group describes itself as “a team of engineering focused entrepreneurs who have a passion for seasteading and are willing to put the hard work and effort forward to see that it happens.”
In online statements, both Elwartowski and Ocean Builders said the couple merely promoted and lived on the structure, and did not fund, design, build or set the location for it.
“I was volunteering for the project promoting it with the desire to be able to be the first seasteader and continue promoting it while living on the platform,” Elwartowski told The Associated Press.
“Being a foreigner in a foreign land, seeing the news that they want to give me the death penalty for just living on a floating house had me quite scared,” Elwartowski said. “We are still quite scared for our lives. We seriously did not think we were doing anything wrong and thought this would be a huge benefit for Thailand in so many ways.”
Asked his next step, he was more optimistic.
“I believe my lawyer can come to an amicable agreement with the Thai government,” he said.