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ANNO 2009

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Stunning Seaside Strongholds in Charente Maritime
Da trifter.com del 21 agosto 2009

Fort Lupin (1683-86) by Vauban.

The To protect Rochefort naval arsenal, at the mouth of the Charente River, forts were built with an unrivalled art.

Today, those fabulous edifices overlooking the ocean can be visited.

In 1666, Colbert decided to build, ex nihilo, a naval arsenal in Rochefort on the Charente River.

To protect the mouth of the Charente, a number of strongholds was erected along the coast and river. These edifices are accessible to the public.

Fort and Fountain Lupin

Fountain Lupin

The fort was built at the end of the XVIIIth century in order to ensure the protection of the mouth of the Charente, as well as the Royal Fountain.

This fountain was erected in 1671 to supply the King’s ships in potable water from a source underneath the river. With those of Brest and Belle-Ile, the Fontaine Lupin remains one of the last three ships watering places of France.

The ships built in the Rochefort arsenal all stopped here.

The frigate L’Hermione, on which LaFayette set sail to America to help the Insurgents, was also fed here. The fort was built from 1683 to 1686 by the great engineer Vauban (1633-1707)and was listed in 1950.


Fort Louvois

Located close to the bridge to the Isle of Oléron, the fort was initiated in 1690 by Marquis de Louvois, then War Minister of Louis XIV.

The stonghold aimed at crossing the gunfire with the Citadel of Oléron, and protecting the access to Rochefort naval arsenal.

It is possible to reach Fort Louvois at low tide thanks to a path connecting it to the mainland. The works ended in 1694. These are the last coastal fortifications ordered by Louis XIV. When Louvois died, Vauban reduced the project and gave the fort its final shape: a horseshoe.

It was listed in 1929, shelled in 1944 and entirely restored in 1960. A museum installed in the fort enables to discover the oyster industry and a permanent exhibition displays the history of the edifice.

Fort Enet

This stronghold was constructed upon order of Napoleon 1st, immediately after the terrible Battle of the Basque Roads (”Affaire des Brûlots” in French) when the British devastated the French Rochefort fleet in 1809.

The role played by Fort Enet was at first to protect the Isle of Aix roadstead.

The fort can be accessed and visited at low tide from the “Pointe de la Fumée” in Fouras. It was mainly used as a transit prison for convicts.


Fort Liédot

In 1808, Napoleon 1st, visiting the Isle of Aix, observes the ruins of the Fort de la Rade, destroyed after the place was sacked in 1757.

The Emperor gives the drawings for new fortifications that will be built from 1810 to 1834.



Fort Liédot

The fort was intended to prevent any enemy landing.

The fort consists of stone from Crazannes, a famous stone quarry in the region.

The same quality of stone was used for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York.

The fort was mainly used as a jail.


Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, military engineer, architect and politician (1633-1707).

Pastel by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1703.


The nuclear-weapons prospect
Da printfriendly.com del 9 agosto 2009

 North Korea's nuclear-weapon test on 25 May 2009 has produced strong condemnation across a range of states and world leaders, though (so far at least) little action. In part, this is because the circumstances of Pyongyang's decision to conduct the test were unusual even for this particularly unpredictable state. It was accompanied by other missile-tests, disputed claims over the status of the ceasefire in the Korean war (1950-53), threats against South Korea should it join international counter- roliferation initiatives, and vocal antagonism to the long-established six-party talks. Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001

North Korea's initiative and harsh rhetoric may be part of a bid for international attention as a lever to gain more economic aid; or of a political-transition struggle where harder-line elements aspire to internal power. The difficulty of reading the Kim Jong-il regime's intentions makes it even harder for the Barack Obama administration and its allies in Europe and east Asia to formulate an effective response. But the test also highlights the issue of nuclear proliferation - and notwithstanding the understandable unease over a "maverick" state's calculations, there are grounds for optimism in the larger picture.

The danger

Pyongyang's test raises or reconfirms three serious concerns. The first is that if North Korea goes on to resist every pressure and develop a nuclear arsenal, pro-nuclear factions in Japan and South Korea may press hard for the same in response. This would be worrying enough for the Chinese, who regard their regional nuclear monopoly as necessary for their security; the regional tensions could then rise much higher if Taiwan (which researched many of the relevant technologies in the 1970s) took the nuclear-weapons route.

The second is that if Iran appears to make further progress in its own nuclear activities, a comparable regional rivalry could develop in the middle east. The presidential election on 12 June 2009 may be crucial in this regard; if a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad administration continues in power, significant elements of the leadership in Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia will call for programmes of nuclear-weapons research.

The third concern links both the above factors. This is North Korea's now undoubted capacity to spread nuclear-weapons technologies and knowledge, if it should so choose. The focus herecould well be on countries in the middle east, supplementing Pyongyang's existing missileexport activities.

The context

The era of nuclear proliferation started in the mid-1940s when the Soviet Union - conscious of the Manhattan Project that was nearing completion in the United States - began to plan a nuclear programme. The first Soviet test followed in 1949. A crucial year for the process was  1946, when the McMahon Energy Act passed the United States congress; this denied the US's wartime allies any further access by to its nuclear technology, even though Britain had been integral to the project. In addition to his weekly openDemocracy column, Paul Rogers writes an international security monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group; 

Paul Rogers's books include Why We're Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007) - an analysis of the strategic misjudgments of the post-9/11 era and why a new security paradigm is needed. A third edition of his Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 2009) is forthcoming

That decision alone helped set Britain on the path to developing its own nuclear weapons, a drive fuelled by the British political elite's belief that it was at the helm of one of three superpowers. Britain became a nuclear power by the mid-1950s; France, with its own imperial status and pretensions to grandeur, followed in 1960. Then came China in 1964 and Israel in the late 1960s.

The early 1970s saw nuclear ambitions spread to south Asia. India tested a so-called "peaceful" device in 1974 without declaring any intention to build an arsenal of weapons: the capability was apparently enough. But this very act provoked a demand among the Pakistani elite - still smarting from its clear military defeat by India in the East Pakistan/Bangladesh war of 1971 - to gain a nuclear capability at all costs. The strategic concern was both to compensate for India's huge conventional forces and to prevent an Indian nuclear monopoly in the region.

Both countries tested nuclear weapons in May 1998, and each retains a significant nuclear arsenal; India probably has around ninety weapons and Pakistan rather fewer (estimates vary, and there are indications that Pakistan - which has built additional reactors for producing plutonium - is adding to its stockpile). In one sense, however, India and Pakistan can be seen as a "closed couple", in the sense that their nuclear rivalry has (with the possible exception of Iran) little impact on the nuclear ambitions of neighbouring countries.

It is worth remembering too that some efforts to curb nuclear-proliferation have been successful. Argentina and Brazil seemed locked in a race to develop nuclear weapons in the early 1980s, with many analysts believing that they would achieve this within a decade (and that Chile was likely in that case to follow); but, helped partly by the move from military to civil rule, they agreed in 1990 to abandon the nuclear path. In the early 1990s, with the fall of the apartheid system imminent, the minority white government in South Africa dismantled its six nuclear weapons. The end of the cold war also led Russia to withdraw the nuclear weapons deployed by the Soviet system in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The trend

The bleaker projections raised by North Korea's test need to be seen in this broader context. Indeed, it is the very fear of renewed proliferation and dangerous competition that have inspired even such establishment figures as Henry Kissinger and George Schultz to call for progress towards a nuclear-free world. The next five-year review of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), in 2010, will provide a major focus for this argument.

Any movement in this direction will have to overcome the "do as I say, not as I do" attitude ofthe main existing nuclear powers, which signed the treaty but have always been tardy in complying with its Article 6 - which requires them to take steps towards nuclear disarmament.  But again, some progress has been made and there is the prospect of more. The extensive coldwar arsenals (amounting to well over 60,000 nuclear weapons) have been greatly reduced; President Obama seems genuine in wanting to engage with Russia in negotiating further cuts (amounting to perhaps a half) from the current levels of around 5,000 on each side; and the United States could finally ratify the comprehensive test-ban treaty (CTBT).

None of this amounts to a definite downwards trend to minimum forces, let alone a clear commitment to create a nuclear-free world anytime soon. Meanwhile, a number of countries - Britain, France and China - are all modernising their nuclear arsenals, albeit at levels below their cold-war peaks.

The hope

But further countervailing forces to proliferation are beginning to operate, most prominently the worldwide economic crisis. Britain is the country to watch here. Whatever the outcome of the current political turmoil in the country and of the next general election (which must be held by early June 2010), persisting financial constraints will make inevitable a major defence review.

The forces' demands continue. The British army is desperate for new investment; the navy wants two new super-carriers; the nuclear lobby is seeking to replace the existing Trident nuclear force with another fleet of ballistic-missile submarines. But something will have to give.

The carriers will almost certainly be cancelled, to be replaced by much smaller, cheaper and more versatile ships; and there are strong arguments too to delay Trident replacement or even cancel the hugely expensive submarines. This would involve opting for a much smaller system, possibly based on cruise-missiles carried on existing attack-submarines.

The discussion of this possibility was until recently confined to the political margins (see "Two steps to zero", 17 July 2008). The ground is shifting, however; even former statesmen (including members of the Conservative Party) are talking about the need to abolish nuclear weapons or preserve only a minimum nuclear force (i.e. one far below current levels).

In global terms the situation is poised, with the 2010-12 period looking crucial. If, in that time, the United States and Russia negotiate major and verifiable cuts in their arsenals; and if at least one middle-ranking power reduces its stock to a handful of weapons - then the international climate would change, and nuclear weapons start to lose their attraction.

What always needs to be remembered is that twenty and even more countries could have developed nuclear weapons at any time since the late 1960s, but all have chosen not to do so. Non-nuclear status is actually the global norm, not the exception; it is the nuclear states that are the exception.

That at least provides some room for hope. It is just possible that the North Korean test becomes one more factor that pushes these "mavericks" to rethink their nuclear postures.


“The Buzzer” (UVB-76)
Da googlesightseeing.com del 21 luglio 2009
Around 25 times a minute, 24 hours a day, this Russian shortwave radio station emits a short, monotonous buzz tone1 on the AM frequency at 4625 kHz.
The station’s callsign is “UVB-76”, but is known amongst enthusiasts as “The Buzzer”, and the sound it transmits has been on an almost continuous loop since it was first observed in 1982.

No one knows for sure what the purpose of the signal is, and in 27 years the buzzing has only been interrupted on 3 occasions.

At 21:58 GMT on Christmas Eve 1997, 15 years after it was first observed, the buzzing abruptly stopped; to be replaced by a short series of beeps, followed by a male voice speaking Russian who repeated the following message several times:

“Ya — UVB-76. 18008. BROMAL: Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Larisa. 742, 799, 14”.

On September 12th 2002 another voice was heard, this time so distorted that only part of the message could be recognised:

“UVB-76, UVB-76. 62691 Izafet 3693 8270”.

Finally, on February 21st 2006, a third message2 was transmitted which said:

“75-59-75-59. 39-52-53-58. 5-5-2-5. Konstantin-1-9-0-9-0-8-9-8-Tatiana-Oksana-Anna-Elena-Pavel-Schuka. Konstantin 8-4. 9-7-5-5-9-Tatiana. Anna Larisa Uliyana-9-4-1-4-3-4-8.”

The names used in the message are used in some Russian spelling alphabets, and although some people speculate that UVB-76 is a specialised Numbers Station, used to transmit encoded messages to spies, the messages have never been decoded, and the actual purpose of this station remains unknown.