Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Media, War, Imperialism, Russia, Russia, Ukraine.
Tags: roger hollander, toronto star, Media, putin, ukraine, ukraine coup, roger annis, nato aggression, ukraine neo-nazi, globe and mail, ukraine rightists, canada media
Roger’s note: it borders on the surrealistic. The mainstream corporate media, not to mention Goebbels like US government propaganda, have flooded our brains with a narrative that describes the Ukraine conflict is a matter of Putin led Russian aggression. This, of course, ignores the reality of the US assisted right wing coup against an elected, albeit corrupt, Ukraine government and NATO’s push up against the very Russian border. Putin, of course, is no saint; he is corrupt and dictatorial, and this only feeds into the US ability to demonize him. However, it is not Russian corruption that bothers the US government lackeys, rather Putin as a defender of Russian sovereignty. It is all about the expansion of the US led western empire. And, with the growing influence of right wing eschatological nutcase Republicans in the United States government, not to mention macho uberhawk Hillary Clinton, there is the real possibility it will escalate into a nuclear conflagration.
Canada’s Toronto Star and Globe and Mail Join In
Writers at the largest national daily newspaper in Canada, the Globe and Mail, have lately joined writers at the Toronto Star in publishing articles extolling the fundraising efforts in Canada of Ukraine’s extreme-right.
This comes in the form of two recent news articles in the Globe, including one by its long-standing correspondent in Europe, Mark MacKinnon.
MacKinnon reported on Feb. 27 in the Globe and Mail from the warehouse in Kyiv where ‘Army SOS’ gathers the military supplies that it purchases or receives and then provides to the extreme-right battalions fighting Ukraine’s war against its citizens in the east of the country.
As an article by me on Feb. 20 reported, writers at the Toronto Star have also been promoting ‘Army SOS’. The military equipment provided by financial or direct donations has included technology for improving the accuracy of Ukrainian rocket and artillery attacks against the towns and cities of eastern Ukraine.
MacKinnon describes ‘Army SOS’ as “a volunteer organization that aids Ukraine’s warriors in the field”. He writes, “Ukraine’s myriad volunteer battalions are famed for their bravery, as well as for their sometimes-extreme nationalism. Along the front line, they are often the ones engaged in the toughest fighting against the rebel army that Kiev and NATO say is armed by Moscow.”
Actually, MacKinnon’s “warriors” are mostly “famed” for their extreme-right or neo-Nazi views. The most well-known among them, including the ‘Donbass’, ‘Aidar’, Azov and Dniper battalions, have been cited by journalists and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, for kidnappings, torture and executions. They have been condemned for blockading humanitarian shipments into eastern Ukraine.
The rightists do not limit their crimes to warmaking in Ukraine’s east. They are also organized politically, including as members of Ukraine’s Parliament (Rada). Some are represented through their own political parties, such as the openly fascist ‘Right Sector’, while others have entrenched themselves in the ‘parties’ (actually, electoral machines) of President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Across Ukraine today, free expression is severely curtained. The extreme right conducts vigilante attacks against public expressions of concern about the war or the disastrous state of Ukraine’s economy and national finances. The rightists are at the forefront of advocating draconian laws and pushing them through the Rada. These laws have closed down newspaper and television stations and allow the government to control internet publishing. A law currently before the Rada would authorize lengthy jailing of those protesting the government’s war in the east or its economic policies.
The violence and crackdown in Ukraine is couched in the language of fighting “separatism” and “pro-Russian separatism”. To close down an uncomfortable idea in Ukraine, it is enough to shout “separatism” loudly enough. The word refers to the demands of Russian-speaking and other nationally-distinct Ukrainians who want a voice in their political and economic destiny.
Fundraising in Toronto for Ukrainian rightists
A second Globe and Mail article along the same lines as that of MacKinnon was published on March 2 by commissioned writer Sahar Fatima. She reported on a fundraising dinner for ‘Army SOS’ in Toronto on February 28 that raised $52,000.
The young journalist wrote, “Throughout Saturday’s event, speakers and organizers tried to drill home the message that Ukraine is a David fighting a malicious Goliath, Russia, bent on snatching its freedom and autonomy. The only way Ukraine stands a chance is if organizations such as Army SOS help level the playing field using donations from the public, attendees heard.”
A keynote speaker at the event was Ihor Kozak, a “defence and security expert” and a retired Canadian military officer. He wants the NATO confrontation with Russia to be escalated, the Globe article reports, including by providing more advanced weapons to Ukraine, extending the economic sanctions in place against Russia, and more bankrolling of the Ukrainian government and its military.
The ‘all-out war’ theme was also cited by MacKinnon when he quoted Lenna Koszarny. She is the head of the Kiev arm of the extremist Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC). He reported:
“Is the [Ukrainian] diaspora at war with Russia? Absolutely,” says Ms. Koszarny, 45. “The diaspora is helping Ukraine defend itself. How do we do that? In any which way we can.”
MacKinnon neglected to mention an interesting fact about Koszarny. She is Chief Executive Officer and a founding partner in 2006 of the Horizon Capital investment firm in Ukraine. Another of the founding partners is none other than Natalie Jaresko, the U.S. citizen who was appointed late last year to be Ukraine’s minister of finance.
Jaresko is currently embroiled in legal battles for her handling of an investment fund that was created in 1994 with $150 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The fund was earmarked for spurring capitalist business activity in Ukraine. Horizon Capital took over the managing of it when the firm was created.
Another of the rightist fundraising efforts in Canada mentioned in both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star is ‘Patriot Defense’.
A prominent player in the rightist fundraising efforts and in the pages of the Globe and Star, is the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Recently, the organization co-organized and sponsored a speaking tour to Canada and the United States of one of the extremist members of the Ukrainian Rada, Andriy Paruiby.
Parubiy was feted by the Conservative Party government in Ottawa on February 23. He met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Nicholson and with members of Parliament. His message to the government, reported in the Globe and Mail, is that he wants Canada to use its influence in Washington to convince the U.S. government to provide more lethal and advanced weaponry to Ukraine.
Parubiy is one of the founders of modern-day, extreme-right politics in Ukraine. He founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU) in 1991. It went on to spawn other fascist or extreme-right formations, including the large, present-day Svoboda Party. Svoboda’s leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, was a founder with Parubiy of the SNPU.
Parubiy has sought to moderate his image in recent years, but he wrote in 2008: “I was one of the founders of SNPU and since that time, my political views and ideology haven’t changed.” During the EuroMaidan protest movement in 2013/early 2014, he was a commander of the extreme-right shock troops that battled police and closed off Maidan Square to political forces with less extreme, pro-Europe views.
In a briefing note to the Canadian government on Feb. 9, 2015, the UCC listed four things it wants the government to do “in order to assist the people of Ukraine as they fight bravely to protect their country from foreign aggression”:
1. Provide lethal, defensive military weapons, intelligence, equipment and military advisors.
2. Enact decisive sectoral economic sanctions against the Russian Federation’s military.
3. Ensure the political isolation of the Putin regime.
4. Declare the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “Peoples’ Republics” as terrorist organizations, and designate the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The UCC note says, “Thousands of regular and irregular Russian troops are in Ukraine along with tanks, missiles, heavy artillery, and are directly engaged in an invasion of sovereign Ukrainian territory”.
This paranoid, detached-from-reality description is also sounded in a lobbying document in early 2015 co-authored by the very influential, neo-conservative and pro-NATO Atlantic Council, in the United States. The document is titled ‘ Preserving Ukraine’s independence, resisting Russian aggression: What the United States and NATO must do’. It argues vigorously in favour of arming Ukraine to the teeth. “The West has the capacity to stop Russia. The question is whether it has the will.”
The ceasefire which Kyiv and its backers were obliged to accept last month should be serving as a time to address the underlying political issues in the conflict in Ukraine, notably the demands of the people in eastern Ukraine and other regions of the country for a real say in the running of the country–or even for the right to a future independent of Ukraine, should they so choose.
Instead, there is the danger that the pause in fighting may serve merely as an occasion for Ukraine’s government and extremist paramilitaries to regroup and re-arm, while NATO presses ahead with its sanctions and other threats against Russia. Unfortunately, that’s the message coming from the ‘war parties’ in NATO capitals.
It is disturbing, to say the least, to see the extreme right in Ukraine being extolled in the pages of the leading newspapers of Canada. And if anyone in the Parliament in Ottawa is opposed to the drive for war against Russia and the feting of extremists, they are not making their voices heard. Progressive-minded Canadians need to push back against all this. Encouragingly, the torrent of critical commentary by readers of the Globe and Mail in response to the articles it published soft-pedaling Ukraine’s extreme-right is a strong indicator that Canadians are wanting to do just that.
Roger Annis is an editor of the website ‘The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond‘.
Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Russia, Ukraine, War.
Tags: apec, eastern ukraine, finian cunningham, foreign policy, g-20, NATO, putin, roger hollander, russia, russian bombers, ukraine, ukraine coup
Roger’s note: One of the overwhelming disadvantages of obtaining information from only the U.S. corporate mass media is that what you are getting is the government’s justification for its actions shrouded in its own world view populated with half truths and outright lies. A sort of political ethno-centrism. This is true especially with respect to political hot spots like Venezuela, the Middle East, North Korea, etc. The picture of the Ukraine situation projected by western governments and mass media shows Russia as a blatant aggressor when the reality is provocative US/NATO expansionism in eastern Europe; that is a stark example of this phenomenon. This article provides an antidote.
Let me add that I am no fan of or apologist for Putin or Russian foreign policy. But fair is fair.
By Finian Cunningham, http://www.informationclearinghouse
November 15, 2014 “ICH” –
“Press TV“- Has Russia reached the limit of its diplomatic tolerance of the US and its NATO allies? The announcement this week that Moscow is to begin deploying long-range bombers in the Gulf of Mexico – America’s own backyard – suggests so.
The move may seem like a reckless ratcheting up of tensions between the old Cold War rivals. The Tupolev Russian strategic bombers in question are nuclear-capable, and as expected the decision to patrol the Caribbean seas sparked a stern response from Washington, warning Moscow of risks.
But the first point to note is that Russia is not doing anything illegal. It has a legal right to fly its warplanes in any international airspace it chooses, as do all nations, to perform training maneuvers.
Even Washington officials have begrudgingly acknowledged Russia’s legal right to do so. The Christian Science Monitor quoted Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren as saying, “Russia has a right to fly in international airspace”.
However, we can be sure that the hawks in Washington will be fuming at what they see as Vladimir Putin’s “audacity” to order warplanes within striking distance of the US. For the de facto American War Party of Republicans and Democrats, the latest Russian move confirms their accusations that President Putin is trying to flex “Soviet-era muscles”. Or, as American NATO commander General Philip Breedlove put it, Russia “is messaging us that they are a great power”.
That’s typical arrogant mis-reading by Washington of the situation. This is not Putin trying to be provocative or flaunting expansionist ambitions. It is simply Russia giving a taste of American medicine back and in language that the arrogant warmongers in Washington will understand.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US-led NATO military alliance has embarked on a relentless campaign of encircling Russia. In complete defiance of binding agreements, such as the 1997 Founding Act between NATO and Russia, the American military alliance has encroached on Russian borders with warplanes, warships, missiles and troops. It is Washington that is on an expansionist threatening drive, not Russia.
The destabilization earlier this year of former Soviet republic Ukraine to install an illegal, anti-Russian regime that is massacring the ethnic Russian population in the east of that country – in spite of a putative ceasefire – is seen by Moscow as a red line.
Washington has sent military aid to the regime in Kiev and is to step up its training of neo-Nazi brigades that have been involved in crimes against humanity on the people of Donetsk and Luhansk; simply because these people refuse to recognize the illegal regime-change operation in their country.
Latest reports this week say that the Kiev regime is preparing to escalate its military assault on the eastern regions in violation of a ceasefire it signed up to on September 5. Last week, its forces deliberately shelled a school in Donetsk city killing two teenage students. This was just the latest in a long list of such crimes committed by the Western-backed regime since it launched its offensive back in April.
That offensive followed days after CIA director John Brennan secretly visited Kiev and had behind-closed-door meetings with the regime’s leadership, including the so-called Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Yatsenyuk has referred to the Russian-speaking population in the eastern regions as “sub-humans” who need to be “cleansed”. After nearly seven months of Western-backed state terrorism by Kiev forces, more than 4,000 people have been killed and up to one million turned into refugees.
Yet in the face of this aggression, Washington and its NATO allies in Europe continually turn reality on its head and accuse Russia of fueling the conflict, slapping on punitive trade sanctions to boot.
With the servile help of the Western corporate news media, Washington, its European lackeys and their stooge regime in Kiev shamelessly invent stories of Russian military forces invading Ukraine. Images of army convoys are played over and over again without verifiable dates or locations. Based on NATO say-so and outrageous double think, Russia has allegedly violated Ukrainian sovereignty.
This week, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich again reiterated Moscow’s denial that it has sent troops or military equipment into eastern Ukraine. He said of the latest NATO claims: “Instead of giving the facts, all they have to present is unfounded accusations. It would be far better to ask the [Western] officials who make such statements in order to fan tensions and justify their actions.”
Russian ministry of defence spokesman Igor Konashenkov was even more blunt. He said: “We have already stopped paying attention to unfounded statements by NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Philip Breedlove about his ‘seeing’ Russian military columns that are allegedly invading Ukraine.”
It seems as if Moscow has finally got tired of dealing with idiotic Americans and their European puppets through normal diplomatic discourse. Putin may have met Obama briefly at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last week and during the G20 gathering this weekend in Australia, but it has been reported that the Russian leader no longer takes phone calls from his counterpart in the White House – much to Obama’s chagrin.
When up against an irrational, arrogant bully, the only language he understands is in-your-face force.
Russia is right to put warplanes on patrol near US airspace. After all, American warplanes have been doing just the same towards Russia or years. Only the arrogant, exceptional nation thinks it has the right to do so without consequences. And no amount of diplomatic reasoning will ever prevail on such an arrogant monster.
Put it another way, to keep pandering with futile diplomacy and to not reciprocate the show of force with Washington and its minions would be the really reckless option. You don’t encourage a bully. Instead, you have to square up and push back.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.
Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Russia, Ukraine.
Tags: buk, craig roberts, finian cunningham.roger hollander, john kerry, malaysian airliner, mh-17, natasha culzac, putin, russia, russian military, ukraine, ukraine coup, ukraine separatists, ukrainian separatists, ukrine crisis, us satellite
ROGER’S NOTE: MORE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY.
Cross-posted from Paul Craig Roberts
As U.S. officials blame pro-Russian separatists and their sponsors in Moscow, Russia is deflecting responsibility for the deadly MH 17 shoot down.
(image by YouTube)
Why hasn’t Washington joined Russian President Putin in calling for an objective, non-politicized international investigation by experts of the case of the Malaysian jetliner?
The Russian government continues to release facts, including satellite photos showing the presence of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missiles in locations from which the airliner could have been brought down by the missile system and documentation that a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet rapidly approached the Malaysian airliner prior to its downing. The head of the Operations Directorate of Russian military headquarters said at a Moscow press conference today (July 21) that the presence of the Ukrainian military jet is confirmed by the Rostov monitoring center.
The Russian Defense Ministry pointed out that at the moment of destruction of MH-17 an American satellite was flying over the area. The Russian government urges Washington to make available the photos and data captured by the satellite.
President Putin has repeatedly stressed that the investigation of MH-17 requires “a fully representative group of experts to be working at the site under the guidance of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).” Putin’s call for an independent expert examination by ICAO does not sound like a person with anything to hide.
Turning to Washington Putin stated: “In the meantime, no one [not even the “exceptional nation”] has the right to use this tragedy to achieve their narrowly selfish political goals.”
Putin reminded Washington: “We repeatedly called upon all conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed immediately and to sit down at the negotiating table. I can say with confidence that if military operations were not resumed [by Kiev] on June 28 in eastern Ukraine, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”
What is the American response?
Lies and insinuations.
Yesterday (July 20) the US Secretary of State, John Kerry confirmed that pro-Russian separatists were involved in the downing of the Malaysian airliner and said that it was “pretty clear” that Russia was involved. Here are Kerry’s words:
“It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists. We know with confidence, with confidence, that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point and time, so it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.”
Kerry’s statement is just another of the endless lies told by US secretaries of state in the 21st century. Who can forget Colin Powell’s package of lies delivered to the UN about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” or Kerry’s lie repeated endlessly that Assad “used chemical weapons against his own people” or the endless lies about “Iranian nukes”?
Remember that Kerry on a number of occasions stated that the US had proof that Assad crossed the “red line” by using chemical weapons. However, Kerry was never able to back up his statements with evidence. The US had no evidence to give the British prime minister whose effort to have Parliament approve Britain’s participation with Washington in a military attack on Syria was voted down. Parliament told the prime minister, “no evidence, no war.”
Again here is Kerry declaring “confidence” in statements that are directly contradicted by the Russian satellite photos and endless eye witnesses on the ground.
Why doesn’t Washington release its photos from its satellite?
The answer is for the same reason that Washington will not release all the videos it confiscated and that it claims prove that a hijacked 9/11 airliner hit the Pentagon. The videos do not support Washington’s claim, and the US satellite photos do not support Kerry’s claim.
The UN weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq reported that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. However, the fact did not support Washington’s propaganda and was ignored. Washington started a highly destructive war based on nothing but Washington’s intentional lie.
The International Atomic Energy Commission’s inspectors on the ground in Iran and all 16 US intelligence agencies reported that Iran had no nuclear weapons program. However, the fact was inconsistent with Washington’s agenda and was ignored by both the US government and the presstitute media.
We are witnessing the same thing right now with the assertions in the absence of evidence that Russia is responsible for the downing of the Malaysian airliner.
Not every member of the US government is as reckless as Kerry and John McCain. In place of direct lies, many US officials use insinuations.
US Senator Diane Feinstein is the perfect example. Interviewed on the presstitute TV station CNN, Feinstein said: “The issue is where is Putin? I would say, ‘Putin, you have to man up. You should talk to the world. You should say, if this is a mistake, which I hope it was, say it.'”
Putin has been talking to the world nonstop calling for an expert non-politicized investigation, and Feinstein is asking Putin why he is hiding behind silence. We know you did it, Feinstein insinuates, so just tell us whether you meant to or whether it was an accident.
The way the entire Western news cycle was orchestrated with blame instantly being placed on Russia long in advance of real information suggests that the downing of the airliner was a Washington operation. It is, of course, possible that the well-trained presstitute media needed no orchestration from Washington in order to lay the blame on Russia. On the other hand, some of the news performances seem too scripted not to have been prepared in advance.
We also have the advanced preparation of the youtube video that purports to show a Russian general and Ukrainian separatists discussing having mistakenly downed a civilian airliner. As I pointed out earlier, this video is twice damned. It was ready in advance and by implicating the Russian military, it overlooked that the Russian military can tell the difference between a civilian airliner and a military airplane. The existence of the video itself implies that there was a plot to down the airliner and blame Russia.
I have seen reports that the Russian anti-aircraft missile system, as a safety device, is capable of contacting aircraft transponders in order to verify the type of aircraft. If the reports are correct and if the transponders from MH-17 are found, they might record the contact.
I have seen reports that Ukrainian air control changed the route of MH-17 and directed it to fly over the conflict area. The transponders should also indicate whether this is correct. If so, there clearly is at least circumstantial evidence that this was an intentional act on the part of Kiev, an act which would have required Washington’s blessing.
There are other reports that there is a divergence between the Ukrainian military and the unofficial militias formed by the right-wing Ukrainian extremists who apparently were the first to attack the separatists. It is possible that Washington used the extremists to plot the airliner’s destruction in order to blame Russia and use the accusations to pressure the EU to go along with Washington’s unilateral sanctions against Russia. We do know that Washington is desperate to break up the growing economic and political ties between Russia and Europe.
If it was a plot to down an airliner, any safety device on the missile system could have been turned off so as to give no warning or leave any telltale sign. That could be the reason a Ukrainian fighter was sent to inspect the airliner. Possibly the real target was Putin’s airliner and incompetence in implementing the plot resulted in the destruction of a civilian airliner.
As there are a number of possible explanations, let’s keep open minds and resist Washington’s propaganda until facts and evidence are in. In the very least Washington is guilty of using the incident to blame Russia in advance of the evidence. All Washington has shown us so far is accusations and insinuations. If that is all Washington continues to show us, we will know where the blame resides.
In the meantime, remember the story of the boy who cried “wolf!” He lied so many times that when the wolf did come, no one believed him. Will this be Washington’s ultimate fate?
Instead of declaring war on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Syria, why did Washington hide behind lies? If Washington wants war with Iran, Russia, and China, why not simply declare war? The reason that the US Constitution requires war to begin with a declaration of war by Congress is to prevent the executive branch from orchestrating wars in order to further hidden agendas. By abdicating its constitutional responsibility, the US Congress is complicit in the executive branch’s war crimes. By approving Israel’s premeditated murder of Palestinians, the US government is complicit in Israel’s war crimes.
Ask yourself this question: Would the world be a safer place with less death, destruction and displaced peoples and more truth and justice if the United States and Israel did not exist?
Downed Airliner: Fake Audio Tape Shows US-Backed Hit to Frame Russia
|Finian CUNNINGHAM | 21.07.2014 | 10:30
In a devastating twist to emerge over the weekend it now seems that the Malaysian civilian airliner downed over Ukraine was most probably brought down as a result of sabotage by the US-backed Kiev regime.
The purpose of this audacious act of mass murder – in which 298 lives were lost – was carried out with the intention of framing the Russian government. Washington, the chief sponsor of the Kiev regime, must have known about the plot, if not being fully complicit in it.
The key to this dramatic twist is the identification of incriminating audio tapes over the weekend as fake – tapes that were created initially to implicate Moscow, as part of a massive black operation involving the destruction of the civilian airliner and all those onboard.
Within hours of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashing into a wheat field in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine last Thursday, Western governments and media have gradually stoked a frenzy of accusations that Moscow had a hand in the disaster.
Nationals from more than 12 countries were onboard the doomed Boeing 777, most of them Dutch, Malaysian, Australian, as well as American, Canadian, British and several other European states.
Western fingers of blame began pointing at Russia the day following the crash when US President Barack Obama announced that unnamed American intelligence sources said that the suspected surface-to-air missile believed to have taken the jet down was fired from territory held by anti-Kiev self-defence militias. Or as Obama put it: «Russian-backed separatists».
The American president did not accuse Moscow outright then but he implied Russian involvement in the incident with the reasoning that Russia (allegedly) provided «technical assistance» in the firing of the sophisticated missile system, known as a Buk SA-11.
The missile system can fire warheads up to an altitude of 70,000 feet – well within range of civilian long-haul jumbo jets – with the armed projectile soaring at three times the speed of sound. The system is Soviet-era make, and is also used by the Ukrainian state forces.
Over the weekend the accusations against Russia from Western governments and media have steadily grown to a crescendo. In his usual round of Sunday television programmes, US Secretary of State John Kerry went as far as claiming that American intelligence was now certain that Russia had supplied the missile system to the militia in eastern Ukraine…
Kerry told CNN: «It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists».
Kerry added: «We know with confidence that the Ukrainians [that is, the Western-backed Kiev regime forces] did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time. So it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.» Kerry’s claim is contradicted by Russian intelligence, as we shall see.
The American press were also chiming in with the same story. The Wall Street Journal reported: «US officials believe the anti-aircraft systems were moved back across the border into Russia…»
The Sunday edition of the Washington Post headlined: «Russia supplied missile launchers to separatists, US official says».
So what began as a circumspect implication on Friday from President Obama soon snowballed into a full-blown grave accusation against Russia within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, Washington’s closest European ally, Britain, was also turning up the pressure on Russia over the downed airliner.
In an unusual Sunday Times article, British Prime Minister David Cameron laid the blame on Moscow for unleashing instability in Ukraine and called for tougher sanctions in response. Cameron said: «Tougher EU [European Union] sanctions against Russia will be needed if Moscow does not change its approach to the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine.»
Subordinate ministers went even further in their accusations. Britain’s new Defence Minister Michael Fallon told media that Russia was «sponsoring terrorism» in Ukraine, on the back of the stricken airliner incident.
However, it is clear from a closer reading of the media reports carried in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the British press that the alleged case for implicating Russia relies on a mixture of anonymous assertions by unidentified «US intelligence officials, fragments of unverified phone intercepts, and unverified video and photographs. The latter images purport to show a Buk launcher and its missiles being driven across the Ukrainian border into Russia. It is impossible to verify if the alleged location and time is accurate.
The second aspect of the «evidence» – anonymous, unspecified US intelligence – has no credibility whatsoever given the numerous times that such a formula has been invoked previously; and subsequently has been shown to be baseless or, worse, concocted, as in the Iraqi «weapons of mass destruction» that sparked off the US-led Gulf War in 2003, or in the allegations of chemical weapons allegedly used by the Syrian army last August against civilians, which also turned out to be false.
That leaves us with the third element – the alleged communication intercepts. Since the fatal crash of Flight MH17, the Western media have given prominence to audio files that purportedly relate to conversations between members of the anti-Kiev militia, in which individuals appear to acknowledge that militia units mistakenly hit a civilian airliner, thinking that it was a warplane belonging to the Kiev military forces.
The intercepts were supposed to be the central damning evidence of culpability against the pro-Russian militia, and by extension, Russia itself. The files, posted on the internet by the Kiev secret services, were referred to in all the major Western news media outlets as being «a smoking gun».
The Western media frenzy over the weekend based on all of the above «evidence» produced headlines such as: ‘Putin’s rebels blew up plane’ in Britain’s Daily Express; ‘Ukraine claims ‘compelling evidence’ of Russian involvement’ in the British Guardian; and ‘US sees evidence of Russian link to jet’s downing’ in the New York Times.
This political and media stampede to impugn Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin in particular is telling in itself of a premeditated black operation.
But then came this devastating twist. Russian audio recording experts revealed over the weekend that the intercepts invoked by Kiev and its Western supporters turn out to be fake.
Reputed digital sound analyst Nikolai Popov and his expert team examined the files made public by the Kiev intelligence services, and they found that the files had been doctored from separate and unrelated conversations.
On first hearing, the alleged conversations tend to implicate the self-defence militia in firing a missile at the passenger plane. But on closer examination, the digital fingerprints show that the files were fabricated, taken from separate recordings and spliced together to give the impression of integral conversations.
«This audio recording is not an integral file and is made up of several fragments,» Popov told Russian news agency Itar-Tass.
Moreover – and this is crucial – the sound analysis of digital data shows that the tapes were engineered the day
before Flight MH17 was seemingly hit by a missile and blown out of the sky.
This latest discovery makes for some incontrovertible and deeply unsettling conclusions: firstly, parties were involved in deliberately forging the files with the purpose of framing others – the self-defence militia and Moscow; secondly, and more disturbingly, the people who faked the files must have known that the airliner was going to be hit with a missile, or some other catastrophic external force, in order to bring it down with all the horrific loss of life entailed.
In all the maelstrom of Western innuendo against Russia over the doomed airliner, the obvious anomaly is that neither the Moscow nor the anti-Kiev rebels would have anything to remotely gain by carrying out such a dastardly act.
Furthermore, the eastern Ukraine self-defence militia have categorically denied possessing such weaponry and the skill to operate these radar-controlled systems.
But here is more potentially damning information on who the culprits are. Russia’s ministry of defence says that it has radar data showing that an anti-aircraft Buk missile launcher was operated by the Kiev forces in the vicinity of the doomed airliner and that these Kiev forces had the plane in their radar target sites. A digital recording could easily verify that claim.
In addition, there are several other troubling questions that the Kiev regime has so far refused to answer: why was Flight MH17 instructed by Kiev Air Traffic Control to fly on this unusual more northerly route on that fateful day, through a dangerous conflict zone? Also, why were the pilots of MH-17 instructed to fly at the lower altitude of 33,000 feet instead of 35,000 feet?
Taken all this into account, the finger of suspicion now points not at Moscow, but rather at the Kiev regime and its military forces.
More damningly, given the close dependence of the Kiev junta on American government sponsorship for its military operations, the ongoing deep involvement of the CIA in bringing this regime to power in the first place with the illegal coup back in February; and given the concerted way that Washington has sought to exploit the airliner disaster for geopolitical gains – all that strongly points to a deeply criminal collusion. A criminal collusion that involves the deliberate shooting down of a civilian flight and the killing of nearly 300 people.
Posted by rogerhollander in Russia, Ukraine, War.
Tags: andriy parubiy, anti-aircraft missile, buk missile, flight 17, malay airline, neo-nazis, paul craig roberts, putin, robert parry, russia, ukraine, ukraine coup, ukraine nationalists, ukraine separatists, Yanukovych
Roger’s note: here are a couple of antidotes to the Western corporate media’s gung-ho coldwar mongering coverage and analysis; both from credible sources.
Exclusive: The U.S. media’s Ukraine bias has been obvious, siding with the Kiev regime and bashing ethnic Russian rebels and Russia’s President Putin. But now – with the scramble to blame Putin for the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down – the shoddy journalism has grown truly dangerous, says Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
In the heat of the U.S. media’s latest war hysteria – rushing to pin blame for the crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin – there is the same absence of professional skepticism that has marked similar stampedes on Iraq, Syria and elsewhere – with key questions not being asked or answered.
The dog-not-barking question on the catastrophe over Ukraine is: what did the U.S. surveillance satellite imagery show? It’s hard to believe that – with the attention that U.S. intelligence has concentrated on eastern Ukraine for the past half year that the alleged trucking of several large Buk anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia to Ukraine and then back to Russia didn’t show up somewhere.
Yes, there are limitations to what U.S. spy satellites can see. But the Buk missiles are about 16 feet long and they are usually mounted on trucks or tanks. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 also went down during the afternoon, not at night, meaning the missile battery was not concealed by darkness.
So why hasn’t this question of U.S. spy-in-the-sky photos – and what they reveal – been pressed by the major U.S. news media? How can the Washington Post run front-page stories, such as the one on Sunday with the definitive title “U.S. official: Russia gave systems,” without demanding from these U.S. officials details about what the U.S. satellite images disclose?
Instead, the Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Karen DeYoung wrote from Kiev: “The United States has confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border after the Thursday shoot-down of a Malaysian jetliner, a U.S. official said Saturday.
“‘We do believe they were trying to move back into Russia at least three Buk [missile launch] systems,’ the official said. U.S. intelligence was ‘starting to get indications … a little more than a week ago’ that the Russian launchers had been moved into Ukraine, said the official” whose identity was withheld by the Post so the official would discuss intelligence matters.
But catch the curious vagueness of the official’s wording: “we do believe”; “starting to get indications.” Are we supposed to believe – and perhaps more relevant, do the Washington Post writers actually believe – that the U.S. government with the world’s premier intelligence services can’t track three lumbering trucks each carrying large mid-range missiles?
What I’ve been told by one source, who has provided accurate information on similar matters in the past, is that U.S. intelligence agencies do have detailed satellite images of the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile, but the battery appears to have been under the control of Ukrainian government troops dressed in what look like Ukrainian uniforms.
The source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said.
Instead of pressing for these kinds of details, the U.S. mainstream press has simply passed on the propaganda coming from the Ukrainian government and the U.S. State Department, including hyping the fact that the Buk system is “Russian-made,” a rather meaningless fact that gets endlessly repeated.
However, to use the “Russian-made” point to suggest that the Russians must have been involved in the shoot-down is misleading at best and clearly designed to influence ill-informed Americans. As the Post and other news outlets surely know, the Ukrainian military also operates Russian-made military systems, including Buk anti-aircraft batteries, so the manufacturing origin has no probative value here.
Relying on the Ukraine Regime
Much of the rest of the known case against Russia comes from claims made by the Ukrainian regime, which emerged from the unconstitutional coup d’etat against elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22. His overthrow followed months of mass protests, but the actual coup was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias that overran government buildings and forced Yanukovych’s officials to flee.
In recognition of the key role played by the neo-Nazis, who are ideological descendants of Ukrainian militias that collaborated with the Nazi SS in World War II, the new regime gave these far-right nationalists control of several ministries, including the office of national security which is under the command of longtime neo-Nazi activist Andriy Parubiy.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass.”]
It was this same Parubiy whom the Post writers turned to seeking more information condemning the eastern Ukrainian rebels and the Russians regarding the Malaysia Airlines catastrophe. Parubiy accused the rebels in the vicinity of the crash site of destroying evidence and conducting a cover-up, another theme that resonated through the MSM.
Without bothering to inform readers of Parubiy’s unsavory neo-Nazi background, the Post quoted him as a reliable witness declaring: “It will be hard to conduct a full investigation with some of the objects being taken away, but we will do our best.”
In contrast to Parubiy’s assurances, the Kiev regime actually has a terrible record of telling the truth or pursuing serious investigations of human rights crimes. Still left open are questions about the identity of snipers who on Feb. 20 fired on both police and protesters at the Maidan, touching off the violent escalation that led to Yanukovych’s ouster. Also, the Kiev regime has failed to ascertain the facts about the death-by-fire of scores of ethnic Russians in the Trade Union Building in Odessa on May 2. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Burning Ukraine’s Protesters Alive.”]
The Kiev regime also duped the New York Times (and apparently the U.S. State Department) when it disseminated photos that supposedly showed Russian military personnel inside Russia and then later inside Ukraine. After the State Department endorsed the “evidence,” the Times led its newspaper with this story on April 21, but it turned out that one of the key photos supposedly shot in Russia was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the story. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Ukraine Photo Scoop.”]
But here we are yet again with the MSM relying on unverified claims being made by the Kiev regime about something as sensitive as whether Russia provided sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles – capable of shooting down high-flying civilian aircraft – to poorly trained eastern Ukrainian rebels.
This charge is so serious that it could propel the world into a second Cold War and conceivably – if there are more such miscalculations – into a nuclear confrontation. These moments call for the utmost in journalistic professionalism, especially skepticism toward propaganda from biased parties.
Yet, what Americans have seen again is the major U.S. news outlets, led by the Washington Post and the New York Times, publishing the most inflammatory of articles based largely on unreliable Ukrainian officials and on the U.S. State Department which was a principal instigator of the Ukraine crisis.
In the recent past, this sort of sloppy American journalism has led to mass slaughters in Iraq – and has contributed to near U.S. wars on Syria and Iran – but now the stakes are much higher. As much fun as it is to heap contempt on a variety of “designated villains,” such as Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Ali Khamenei and now Vladimir Putin, this sort of recklessness is careening the world toward a very dangerous moment, conceivably its last.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon andbarnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.
What Happened to the Malaysian Airliner?
Paul Craig Roberts. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/ July 19, 2014
Washington’s propaganda machine is in such high gear that we are in danger of losing
the facts that we do have.
One fact is that the separatists do not have the expensive Buk anti-aircraft missile system or the trained personnel to operate it.
Another fact is that the separatists have no incentive to shoot down an airliner and neither does Russia. Anyone can tell the difference between low-flying attack aircraft and an airliner at 33,000 feet.
The Ukrainians do have Buk anti-aircraft missile systems, and a Buk battery was operational in the region and deployed at a site from which it could have fired a missile at the airliner.
Just as the separatists and the Russian government have no incentive to shoot down an airliner, neither does the Ukrainian government nor, one would think, even the crazed extreme Ukrainian nationalists who have formed militias to take the fight against the separatists that the Ukrainian army is not keen to undertake–unless there was a plan to frame Russia.
One Russian general familiar with the weapon system offered his opinion that it was a mistake made by the Ukrainian military untrained in the weapon’s use. The general said that although Ukraine has a few of the weapons, Ukrainians have had no training in their use in the 23 years since Ukraine separated from Russia. The general thinks it was an accident due to incompetence.
This explanation makes a certain amount of sense and far more sense than Washington’s propaganda. The problem with the general’s explanation is that it does not explain why the Buk anti-aircraft missile system was deployed near or in a separatist territory. The separatists have no aircraft. It seems odd for Ukraine to have an expensive missile system in an area in which it is of no military use and where the position could be overrun and captured by separatists.
As Washington, Kiev, and the presstitute media are committed to the propaganda that Putin did it, we are not going to get any reliable information from the US media. We will have to figure it out for ourselves.
One way to begin is to ask: Why was the missile system where it was? Why risk an expensive missile system by deploying it in a conflict environment in which it is of no use? Incompetence is one answer, and another is that the missile system did have an intended use.
What intended use? News reports and circumstantial evidence provide two answers. One is that the ultra-nationalist extremists intended to bring down Putin’s presidential airliner and confused the Malaysian airliner with the Russian airliner.
The Interfax news agency citing anonymous sources, apparently air traffic controllers, reported that the Malaysian airliner and Putin’s airliner were traveling almost the identical route within a few minutes of one another. Interfax quotes its source: “I can say that Putin’s plane and the Malaysian Boeing intersected at the same point and the same echelon. That was close to Warsaw on 330-m echelon at the height of 10,100 meters. The presidential jet was there at 16:21 Moscow time and the Malaysian aircraft at 15:44 Moscow time. The contours of the aircrafts are similar, linear dimensions are also very similar, as for the coloring, at a quite remote distance they are almost identical.”
I have not seen an official Russian denial, but according to news reports, the Russian government in response to the Interfax news report said that Putin’s presidential plane no longer flies the Ukraine route since the outbreak of hostilities.
Before we take the denial at face value, we need to be aware that the implication that Ukraine attempted to assassinate the president of Russia implies war, which Russia wants to avoid. It also implies Washington’s complicity as it is highly unlikely that Washington’s puppet in Kiev would risk such a dangerous act without Washington’s backing. The Russian government, being intelligent and rational, would obviously deny reports of an attempted assassination of the Russian president by Washington and its Kiev puppet. Otherwise, Russia has to do something about it, and that means war.
The second explanation is that the extremists who operate outside the official Ukrainian military, hatched a plot to down an airliner in order to cast the blame on Russia. If such a plot occurred, it likely originated with the CIA or some operative arm of Washington and was intended to force the EU to cease resisting Washington’s sanctions against Russia and to break off Europe’s valuable economic relationships with Russia. Washington is frustrated that its sanctions are unilateral, unsupported by its NATO puppets or any other countries in the world except possibly the lap-dog British PM.
There is considerable circumstantial evidence in support of this second explanation. There is the youtube video which purports to be a conversation between a Russian general and separatists who are discussing having mistakenly brought down a civilian airliner. According to reports, expert examination of the code in the video reveal that it was made the day before the airliner was hit.
Another problem with the video is that whereas we could say that separatists conceivably could confuse an airliner at 33,000 feet with a military attack plane, the Russian military would not. The only conclusion is that by involving the Russian military, the video doubly discredited itself.
The circumstantial evidence easiest for non-technical people to understand is the on cue news programs organized to put the blame on Russia prior to the knowledge of any facts.
In my previous article http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/07/17/sanctions-airliners-paul-craig-roberts/ I reported on the BBC news report which I heard and which was obviously primed to place all blame on Russia. The program ended with a BBC correspondent breathlessly reporting that he has just seen the youtube video and that the video is the smoking gun that proved Russia did it. There is no longer any doubt, he said. Somehow the information got on a video and on youtube before it reached the Ukrainian government or Washington.
The evidence that Putin did it is a video made prior to the attack on the airliner. The entire BBC report aired over National Public Radio was orchestrated for the sole purpose of establishing prior to any evidence that Russia was responsible.
Indeed the entire Western media spoke as one: Russia did it. And the presstitutes are still speaking the same way.
Possibly, this uniform opinion merely reflects the pavlovian training of the Western media to automatically line up with Washington. No media source wants to be subject to criticism for being unamerican or to find itself isolated by majority opinion, which carries the day, and earn black marks for being wrong. As a former journalist for, and contributor to, America’s most important news publications, I know how this works.
On the other hand, if we discount the pavlovian conditioning, the only conclusion is that the entire news cycle pertaining to the downing of the Malaysian airliner is orchestrated in order to lay the blame on Putin.
Romesh Ratnesar, deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, provides convincing evidence for orchestration in his own remarks of July 17. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-17/the-malaysia-airlines-shootdown-spells-disaster-for-putin?campaign_id=DN071814 Ratnesar’s opinion title is: “The Malaysia Airlines Shootdown Spells Disaster for Putin.” Ratnesar does not mean that Putin is being framed-up. He means that prior to Putin having the Malaysian airliner shot down, “to the vast majority of Americans, Russia’s meddling in Ukraine has largely seemed of peripheral importance to U.S. interests. That calculus has changed. . . . It may take months, even years, but Putin’s recklessness is bound to catch up to him. When it does, the downing of MH 17 may be seen as the beginning of his undoing.”
As a former Wall Street Journal editor, anyone who handed me a piece of shit like Ratnesar published would have been fired. Look at the insinuations when there is no evidence to support them. Look at the lie that Washington’s coup is “Russia’s meddling in Ukraine.” What we are witnessing is the total corruption of Western journalism by Washington’s imperial agenda. Journalists have to get on board with the lies or get run over.
Look around for still honest journalists. Who are they? Glenn Greenwald, who is under constant attack by his fellow journalists, all of whom are whores. Who else can you think of? Julian Assange, locked away in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London on Washington’s orders. The British puppet government won’t permit free transit to Assange to take up his asylum in Ecuador. The last country that did this was the Soviet Union, which required its Hungarian puppet to keep Cardinal Mindszenty interred in the US Embassy in Budapest for 15 years from 1956 until 1971. Mindszenty was granted political asylum by the United States, but Hungary, on Soviet orders, would not honor his asylum, just as Washington’s British puppet, on Washington’s orders, will not honor Assange’s asylum.
If we are honest and have the strength to face reality, we will realize that the Soviet Union did not collapse. It simply moved, along with Mao and Pol Pot, to Washington and London.
The flaw in Putin’s diplomacy is that Putin’s diplomacy relies on good will and on truth prevailing. However, the West has no good will, and Washington is not interested in truth prevailing but in Washington prevailing. What Putin confronts is not reasonable “partners,” but a propaganda ministry aimed at him.
I understand Putin’s strategy, which contrasts Russian reasonableness with Washington’s threats, but it is a risky bet. Europe has long been a part of Washington, and there are no Europeans in power who have the vision needed to separate Europe from Washington. Moreover, European leaders are paid large sums of money to serve Washington. One year out of office and Tony Blair was worth $50 million dollars.
After the disasters that Europeans have experienced, it is unlikely that European leaders think of anything other than a comfortable existence for themselves. That existence is best obtained by serving Washington. As the successful extortion of Greece by banks proves, European people are powerless.
Here is the official statement of the Russian Defense Ministry: http://www.globalresearch.ca/mh-17-crash-in-ukraine-official-statement-from-russian-defense-ministry/5392000
Washington’s propaganda assault against Russia is a double tragedy, because it has diverted attention from Israel’s latest atrocity against the Palestinians locked up in the Gaza Ghetto. Israel claims that its air attack and invasion of Gaza is merely Israel’s attempt to find and close the alleged tunnels through which Palestinian terrorists pour into Israel inflicting carnage. Of course there are no tunnels and no terrorist carnage in Israel.
One might think that at least one journalist somewhere in the American media would ask why bombing hospitals and civilian housing closes underground tunnels into Israel. But that is too much to ask of the whores that comprise the US media.
Expect even less from the US Congress. Both the House and Senate have passed resolutions supporting Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians. Two Republicans–the despicable Lindsey Graham and the disappointing Rand Paul–and two democrats–Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin–sponsored the Senate resolution backing Israel’s premeditated murder of Palestinian women and children. The resolution passed the “exceptional and indispensable” people’s Senate unanimously.
As a reward for its policy of genocide, the Obama regime is immediately transferring $429 million of US taxpayers’ money to Israel to pay for the slaughter.
Contrast the US government’s support for Israel’s war crimes with the propaganda onslaught against Russia based on lies. We are living all over again “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction,” “Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” “Iranian nukes.”
Washington has lied for so long that it can’t do anything else.
Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here. His latest book, How America Was Lost, has just been released and can be ordered here.
Posted by rogerhollander in Russia, Ukraine.
Tags: crimea, douglas feith, foreign policy, frederick kagan, hillary clinton, iran nuclear, kerry, ned, neocons, netanyahuy, Petraeus, president obama, putin, regime change, richard perle, robert parry, robet gagtes, roger hollander, syrain civil war, ukraine, ukraine crisis, victoria nuland, washington post, Yanukovych, Yatsenyuk
Roger’s note: This article lays out in detail the overall geopolitical strategy of the most reactionary hawkish elements within the Obama government, including Hillary Clinton; and puts the Ukraine crisis in a broader perspective. This situation is complex and has historical roots that get ignored in the main stream media which, for analysis, substitutes cheer leading for U.S. interests, which have absolutely nothing to do with democracy, not to mention the best interests of the Ukrainian, Russian or American people.
President Barack Obama has been trying, mostly in secret, to craft a new foreign policy that relies heavily on cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tamp down confrontations in hotspots such as Iran and Syria. But Obama’s timidity about publicly explaining this strategy has left it open to attack from powerful elements of Official Washington, including well-placed neocons and people in his own administration.
The gravest threat to this Obama-Putin collaboration has now emerged in Ukraine, where a coalition of U.S. neocon operatives and neocon holdovers within the State Department fanned the flames of unrest in Ukraine, contributing to the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and now to a military intervention by Russian troops in the Crimea, a regionin southern Ukraine that historically was part of Russia.
President Barack Obama discusses the crisis in Ukraine for 90 minutes on March 1, 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (White House photo/Pete Souza)
Though I’m told the Ukraine crisis caught Obama and Putin by surprise, the neocon determination to drive a wedge between the two leaders has been apparent for months, especially after Putin brokered a deal to head off U.S. military strikes against Syria last summer and helped get Iran to negotiate concessions on its nuclear program, both moves upsetting the neocons who had favored heightened confrontations.
Putin also is reported to have verbally dressed down Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan over what Putin considered their provocative actions regarding the Syrian civil war. So, by disrupting neocon plans and offending Netanyahu and Bandar, the Russian president found himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.
If not for Putin, the neocons – along with Israel and Saudi Arabia – had hoped that Obama would launch military strikes on Syria and Iran that could open the door to more “regime change” across the Middle East, a dream at the center of neocon geopolitical strategy since the 1990s. This neocon strategy took shape after the display of U.S. high-tech warfare against Iraq in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union later that year. U.S. neocons began believing in a new paradigm of a uni-polar world where U.S. edicts were law.
The neocons felt this paradigm shift also meant that Israel would no longer need to put up with frustrating negotiations with the Palestinians. Rather than haggling over a two-state solution, U.S. neocons simply pressed for “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries that were assisting the Palestinians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.
U.S. neocons working on Netanyahu’s campaign team in 1996, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, even formalized their bold new plan, which they outlined in a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper argued that only “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton refused to go along. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and after the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander in Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein — and a stunned and angry U.S. public could be easily persuaded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]
So, Bush invaded Iraq, ousting Hussein but failing to subdue the country. The U.S. death toll of nearly 4,500 soldiers and the staggering costs, estimated to exceed $1 trillion, made the American people and even Bush unwilling to fulfill the full-scale neocon vision, which was expressed in one of their favorite jokes of 2003 about where to attack next, Iran or Syria, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”
Though hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the neocon/Israeli case for having the U.S. military bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities – with the hope that the attacks also might spark a “regime change” in Tehran – Bush decided that he couldn’t risk the move, especially after the U.S. intelligence community assessed in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a bomb four years earlier.
The Rise of Obama
The neocons were dealt another setback in 2008 when Barack Obama defeated a neocon favorite, Sen. John McCain. But Obama then made one of the fateful decisions of his presidency, deciding to staff key foreign-policy positions with “a team of rivals,” i.e. keeping Republican operative Robert Gates at the Defense Department and recruiting Hillary Clinton, a neocon-lite, to head the State Department.
Obama also retained Bush’s high command, most significantly the media-darling Gen. David Petraeus. That meant that Obama didn’t take control over his own foreign policy.
Gates and Petraeus were themselves deeply influenced by the neocons, particularly Frederick Kagan, who had been a major advocate for the 2007 “surge” escalation in Iraq, which was hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as a great “success” but never achieved its principal goal of a unified Iraq. At the cost of nearly 1,000 U.S. dead, it only bought time for an orderly withdrawal that spared Bush and the neocons the embarrassment of an obvious defeat.
So, instead of a major personnel shakeup in the wake of the catastrophic Iraq War, Obama presided over what looked more like continuity with the Bush war policies, albeit with a firmer commitment to draw down troops in Iraq and eventually in Afghanistan.
From the start, however, Obama was opposed by key elements of his own administration, especially at State and Defense, and by the still-influential neocons of Official Washington. According to various accounts, including Gates’s new memoir Duty, Obama was maneuvered into supporting a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, as advocated by neocon Frederick Kagan and pushed by Gates, Petraeus and Clinton.
Gates wrote that Kagan persuaded him to recommend the Afghan “surge” and that Obama grudgingly went along although Gates concluded that Obama didn’t believe in the “mission” and wanted to reverse course more quickly than Gates, Petraeus and their side wanted.
Faced with this resistance from his own bureaucracy, Obama began to rely on a small inner circle built around Vice President Joe Biden and a few White House advisers with the analytical support of some CIA officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Obama also found a surprising ally in Putin after he regained the Russian presidency in 2012. A Putin adviser told me that the Russian president personally liked Obama and genuinely wanted to help him resolve dangerous disputes, especially crises with Iran and Syria.
In other words, what evolved out of Obama’s early “team of rivals” misjudgment was an extraordinary presidential foreign policy style, in which Obama developed and implemented much of his approach to the world outside the view of his secretaries of State and Defense (except when Panetta moved briefly to the Pentagon).
Even after the eventual departures of Gates in 2011, Petraeus as CIA director after a sex scandal in late 2012, and Clinton in early 2013, Obama’s peculiar approach didn’t particularly change. I’m told that he has a distant relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, who never joined Obama’s inner foreign policy circle.
Though Obama’s taciturn protectiveness of his “real” foreign policy may be understandable given the continued neocon “tough-guy-ism” that dominates Official Washington, Obama’s freelancing approach gave space to hawkish elements of his own administration.
For instance, Secretary of State Kerry came close to announcing a U.S. war against Syria in a bellicose speech on Aug. 30, 2013, only to see Obama pull the rug out from under him as the President worked with Putin to defuse the crisis sparked by a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How War on Syria Lost Its Way.”]
Similarly, Obama and Putin hammered out the structure for an interim deal with Iran on how to constrain its nuclear program. But when Kerry was sent to seal that agreement in Geneva, he instead inserted new demands from the French (who were carrying water for the Saudis) and nearly screwed it all up. After getting called on the carpet by the White House, Kerry returned to Geneva and finalized the arrangements.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Saudi-Israel Defeat on Iran Deal.”]
Unorthodox Foreign Policy
Obama’s unorthodox foreign policy – essentially working in tandem with the Russian president and sometimes at odds with his own foreign policy bureaucracy – has forced Obama into faux outrage when he’s faced with some perceived affront from Russia, such as its agreement to give temporary asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
For the record, Obama had to express strong disapproval of Snowden’s asylum, though in many ways Putin was doing Obama a favor by sparing Obama from having to prosecute Snowden with the attendant complications for U.S. national security and the damaging political repercussions from Obama’s liberal base.
Putin’s unforced errors also complicated the relationship, such as when he defended Russian hostility toward gays and cracked down on dissent before the Sochi Olympics. Putin became an easy target for U.S. commentators and comedians.
But Obama’s hesitancy to explain the degree of his strategic cooperation with Putin has enabled Official Washington’s still influential neocons, including holdovers within the State Department bureaucracy, to drive more substantive wedges between Obama and Putin. The neocons came to recognize that the Obama-Putin tandem had become a major impediment to their strategic vision.
Without doubt, the neocons’ most dramatic – and potentially most dangerous – counter-move has been Ukraine, where they have lent their political and financial support to opposition forces who sought to break Ukraine away from its Russian neighbor.
Though this crisis also stems from the historical division of Ukraine – between its more European-oriented west and the Russian-ethnic east and south – neocon operatives, with financing from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. sources, played key roles in destabilizing and overthrowing the democratically elected president.
NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting “journalists” and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting “democracy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow US Foreign Policy.”]
State Department neocons also put their shoulders into shoving Ukraine away from Russia. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan, advocated strenuously for Ukraine’s reorientation toward Europe.
Last December, Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that, to help Ukraine achieve “its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion.” She said the U.S. goal was to take “Ukraine into the future that it deserves,” by which she meant into the West’s orbit and away from Russia’s.
But President Yanukovych rejected a European Union plan that would have imposed harsh austerity on the already impoverished Ukraine. He accepted a more generous $15 billion loan from Russia, which also has propped up Ukraine’s economy with discounted natural gas. Yanukovych’s decision sparked anti-Russian street protests in Kiev, located in the country’s western and more pro-European region.
Nuland was soon at work planning for “regime change,” encouraging disruptive street protests by personally passing out cookies to the anti-government demonstrators. She didn’t seem to notice or mind that the protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square had hoisted a large banner honoring Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II and whose militias participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles.
By late January, Nuland was discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who should be allowed in the new government.
“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online. “He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know.” By “Yats,” Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister — and who was committed to harsh austerity.
As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain cheered the demonstrators on, the street protests turned violent. Police clashed with neo-Nazi bands, the ideological descendants of Bandera’s anti-Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II.
With the crisis escalating and scores of people killed in the street fighting, Yanukovych agreed to a E.U.-brokered deal that called for moving up scheduled elections and having the police stand down. The neo-Nazi storm troopers then seized the opening to occupy government buildings and force Yanukovych and many of his aides to flee for their lives.
With these neo-Nazis providing “security,” the remaining parliamentarians agreed in a series of unanimous or near unanimous votes to establish a new government and seek Yanukovych’s arrest for mass murder. Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, emerged as interim prime minister.
Yet, the violent ouster of Yanukovych provoked popular resistance to the coup from the Russian-ethnic south and east. After seeking refuge in Russia, Yanukovych appealed to Putin for help. Putin then dispatched Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea. [For more on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine.”]
Separating Obama from Putin
The Ukraine crisis has given Official Washington’s neocons another wedge to drive between Obama and Putin. For instance, the neocon flagship Washington Post editorialized on Saturday that Obama was responding “with phone calls” when something much more threatening than “condemnation” was needed.
It’s always stunning when the Post, which so energetically lobbied for the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of eliminating its (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, gets its ire up about another country acting in response to a genuine security threat on its own borders, not half a world away.
But the Post’s editors have never been deterred by their own hypocrisy. They wrote, “Mr. Putin’s likely objective was not difficult to figure. He appears to be responding to Ukraine’s overthrow of a pro-Kremlin government last week with an old and ugly Russian tactic: provoking a separatist rebellion in a neighboring state, using its own troops when necessary.”
The reality, however, appears to have been that neocon elements from within the U.S. government encouraged the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine via a coup spearheaded by neo-Nazi storm troopers who then terrorized lawmakers as the parliament passed draconian laws, including some intended to punish the Russian-oriented regions which favor Yanukovych.
Yet, besides baiting Obama over his tempered words about the crisis, the Post declared that “Mr. Obama and European leaders must act quickly to prevent Ukraine’s dismemberment. Missing from the president’s statement was a necessary first step: a demand that all Russian forces – regular and irregular – be withdrawn … and that Moscow recognize the authority of the new Kiev government. … If Mr. Putin does not comply, Western leaders should make clear that Russia will pay a heavy price.”
The Post editors are fond of calling for ultimatums against various countries, especially Syria and Iran, with the implication that if they don’t comply with some U.S. demand that harsh actions, including military reprisals, will follow.
But now the neocons, in their single-minded pursuit of endless “regime change” in countries that get in their way, have taken their ambitions to a dangerous new level, confronting nuclear-armed Russia with ultimatums.
By Sunday, the Post’s neocon editors were “spelling out the consequences” for Putin and Russia, essentially proposing a new Cold War. The Post mocked Obama for alleged softness toward Russia and suggested that the next “regime change” must come in Moscow.
“Many in the West did not believe Mr. Putin would dare attempt a military intervention in Ukraine because of the steep potential consequences,” the Post wrote. “That the Russian ruler plunged ahead shows that he doubts Western leaders will respond forcefully. If he does not quickly retreat, the United States must prove him wrong.”
The madness of the neocons has long been indicated by their extraordinary arrogance and their contempt for other nations’ interests. They assume that U.S. military might and other coercive means must be brought to bear on any nation that doesn’t bow before U.S. ultimatums or that resists U.S.-orchestrated coups.
Whenever the neocons meet resistance, they don’t rethink their strategy; they simply take it to the next level. Angered by Russia’s role in heading off U.S. military attacks against Syria and Iran, the neocons escalated their geopolitical conflict by taking it to Russia’s own border, by egging on the violent ouster of Ukraine’s elected president.
The idea was to give Putin an embarrassing black eye as punishment for his interference in the neocons’ dream of “regime change” across the Middle East. Now, with Putin’s countermove, his dispatch of Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea, the neocons want Obama to further escalate the crisis by going after Putin.
Some leading neocons even see ousting Putin as a crucial step toward reestablishing the preeminence of their agenda. NED president Carl Gershman wrote in the Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents. … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
At minimum, the neocons hope that they can neutralize Putin as Obama’s ally in trying to tamp down tensions with Syria and Iran – and thus put American military strikes against those two countries back under active consideration.
As events spin out of control, it appears way past time for President Obama to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world’s thorniest problems.
That, however, would require him to belatedly take control of his own administration, to purge the neocon holdovers who have worked to sabotage his actual foreign policy, and to put an end to neocon-controlled organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, that use U.S. taxpayers’ money to stir up trouble abroad. That would require real political courage.
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