March 5, 2018

News Briefs – March 5, 2018

Iran says will negotiate if West dismantles nuclear arsenal

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency is reporting that a top military commander says Iran will negotiate over its missile program if the U.S. and Europe dismantle their nuclear programs.

The March 3 report quotes armed forces spokesman Gen.Masoud Jazayeri as saying “The precondition for negotiation over Iran’s missiles is the dismantling of the U.S. and Europe’s nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.”

It is the first time that Iran has made the remarks. Iran says its missile program is a conventional one aimed at deterrence and self-defense and is not negotiable.

The Trump administration has been trying to persuade the European nations that negotiated the landmark nuclear deal with the Obama administration to accept side deals under which they would join the U.S. in re-imposing sanctions over Iran’s missile programs. AP

Veterans with mental illnesses sue Navy over discharges

Navy and Marine Corps veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems have accused the Navy of offering them less-than-honorable discharges that prevent them from getting Veterans Affairs benefits.

The lawsuit filed March 2 in federal court in Connecticut seeks class-action status for thousands of Navy and Marine Corps veterans. The veterans are represented by students from Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic, which filed a similar lawsuit against the Army last year.

Navy officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment March 2.

The veterans say they were given less-than-honorable discharges for minor infractions linked to untreated mental health problems.

They also say the Naval Discharge Review Board has unlawfully denied their applications to change their discharge characterization. AP

Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine decry Russian presence

Pro-EU leaders from Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia said Friday that the continued presence of Russian military in their countries was destabilizing.

The parliamentary speakers from the three countries issued a joint statement at the end of a one-day security conference in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, voicing their worries about the Russian military presence in the three ex-Soviet republics.

They said they were “profoundly concerned about Russian troops” in Moldova, “and Russian occupation and other forms of military intervention” in parts of Georgia and Ukraine.

In the statement, they also expressed displeasure at what they claim is Russia’s “coordinated foreign support for separatist movements,” and social media “operations” to discredit pro-European governments.

“After 26 years Moldova still has an occupied territory,” the country’s speaker, Andrian Candu said. “The same reality is faced by Georgia and Ukraine.”

Russia has 1,000 troops and 500 peacekeepers stationed in the pro-Russian breakaway republic of Trans-Dniester, a sliver of land in in eastern Moldova.

Russian officials say they need to stay there to protect peace and to protect huge Soviet-era ammunition depots located in the area.

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008, which led to two breakaway Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, declaring independence. Russia has since been supporting the regions financially and militarily.

Ukraine has been in a simmering conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 since April 2014.

Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia all signed association agreements with the European Union in 2014, in the face of criticism from Russia.

On March 2, they reasserted their commitment to the EU calling it “the most efficient instrument to ensure prosperity, security and stable and democratic development in the long-term for our countries.”

The agreements facilitate trade and political cooperation and allow nationals visa-free travel to the bloc. AP

NATO rejects Putin’s ‘unacceptable’ threats to target allies

NATO says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to target its members are unacceptable and that the military alliance will continue using its armed forces to deter aggression.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said March 2 that “Russian statements threatening to target allies are unacceptable and counterproductive.”

Putin said March 1 that Moscow has tested an array of new strategic nuclear weapons that can’t be intercepted, telling the West: “You have failed to contain Russia.”

Lungescu said NATO’s missile defense system is built to respond to attacks from outside Europe and North America and not directed against Russia.

Noting Russia’s “aggressive actions” in Ukraine and military buildup around Europe, she said: “NATO is pursuing a twin-track approach to Russia: strong deterrence and defense, combined with meaningful dialogue. AP

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