NATO member states have started supplying weapons to Ukraine, the country’s Defense Minister said on TV. His comments came a few days after a similar statement by a Ukrainian presidential aide sparked a diplomatic scandal and a rash of denials.
In an interview with Channel 5, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Geletey said that he had held verbal consultations with the defense ministers of the “leading countries of the world, those that can help us, and they heard us. We have the supply of arms under way.”
“This process has begun, and I feel that this is exactly the way we need to go,” the minister said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who attended the Sept. 4-5 NATO summit in Wales, announced that he had negotiated direct modern weapons supplies with a number of NATO member states.
Poroshenko claimed that some of the NATO member states said during bilateral consultations they are ready to supply Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal arms, including “high precision weapons,” as well as with medical equipment.
NATO has had repeatedly said that the alliance is not going to supply any weapons or military equipment to Ukraine. At the same time, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance would not interfere if member states made decisions of their own regarding arms supply to Ukraine.
When Poroshenko’s aide Yury Lutsenko wrote on his Facebook page that the US, along with France, Italy, Poland and Norway, would supply modern weapons to Ukraine, the news prompted all the countries mentioned in Lutsenko’s post to say they had no information about supplies.
Last Sunday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was the first to deny the arms delivery, saying he was not aware of a secret deal to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons.
Shortly afterward, Norway, Italy, and Poland also denied the report.
While the United States, United Kingdom and NATO are pushing for war with Russia, it behooves people and their governments around the world to take a clear stand for peace and against violence and war, no matter where it comes from. We are at a dangerous point in our history of the human family and it would be the greatest of tragedies for ourselves and our children if we simply allowed the war profiteers to take us into a third world war, resulting in the death of untold millions of people.
NATO’s decision at its summit in Wales (September 4-5) to create a new 4,000 strong rapid reaction force for initial deployment in the Baltics is a dangerous path for us all to be forced down, and could well lead to a third world war if not stopped. What is needed now are cool heads and people of wisdom and not more guns, more weapons, more war.
NATO is the leadership which has been causing the ongoing wars from the present conflict in the Ukraine, to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and others.
NATO’s latest move commits its 28 member states to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on the military, and to establish a series of three to five bases in Eastern Europe where equipment and supplies will be pre-positioned to help speed deployments, among other measures.
This decision by the United States/NATO to create a high readiness force with the alleged purpose of countering an alleged Russian threat reminds me of the war propaganda of lies, half-truths, insinuations and rumors to which we were all subjected in order to try to soften us all up for the Iraq war and subsequent horrific wars of terror which were carried out by NATO allied forces.
According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) observation team, NATO’s reports, including its satellite photos which show Russian combat forces engaged in military operations inside sovereign territory of Ukraine, were based on false evidence.
While NATO is busy announcing a counter-invasion to the non-existent Russian invasion of Ukraine, people in Ukraine are calling out for peace and negotiations, for political leadership which will bring them peace, not weapons and war.
This spearhead military force will be provided by allies in rotation and will involve also air, sea and special forces. We are also informed by a NATO spokesperson that this force will be trained to deal with unconventional actions, from the funding of separatist groups to the use of social media, intimidation and black propaganda.
No doubt the current Western media’s demonization of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people, by trying to inculcate fear and hatred of them, is part of the black propaganda campaign.
NATO’s latest proposals of 4,000 soldiers, and a separate force of 10,000 strong British-led joint expeditionary force also proposed, is a highly aggressive and totally irresponsible move by the United States, United Kingdom and NATO. It is breaches the 1997 agreement with Moscow under which NATO pledged not to base substantial numbers of soldiers in Eastern Europe on a permanent basis.
NATO should have been disbanded when the Warsaw Pact disintegrated but it was not and is now controlled by the United States for its own agenda. When speaking of NATO, one of President Bill Clinton’s officials said “America is NATO”. Today NATO, instead of being abolished, is re-inventing itself in re-arming and militarizing European states and justifying its new role by creating enemy images – be they Russians, IS (the Islamic State), and so on.
In an interdependent, interconnected world, struggling to build fraternity, economic cooperation and human security, there is no place for the Cold War policies of killing and threats to kill and policies of exceptionalism and superiority. The world has changed. People do not want to be divided and they want to see an end to violence, militarism and war.
The old consciousness is dysfunctional and a new consciousness based on an ethic of non-killing and respect and cooperation is spreading. It is time for NATO to recognize that its violent policies are counterproductive. The Ukraine crisis, groups such as the Islamic State, etc., will not be solved with guns, but with justice and through dialogue.
Above all, the world needs hope. It needs inspirational political leadership and this could be given if President Barack Obama and President Putin sat down together to solve the Ukraine conflict through dialogue and negotiation and in a non-violent way.
We live in dangerous times, but all things are possible, all things are changing … and peace is possible.
A military alliance in search of an identity: For over two decades NATO has had branding issues. To justify its existence, it absolutely needs an enemy. In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Russia now fits that bill.
CrossTalking with Mark Sleboda, Alexander Mercouris and Brian Becker.
Arms firms that provide core military components for drones deployed by the US to conduct covert strikes in violation of international law allegedly bought access to NATO’s summit in Wales last week, a British human rights charity says.
The defense companies concerned doled out up to £300,000 to ‘exhibit’ their military wares at the conference in Newport. Among the firms present were General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and MBDA, according to a British government press release.
General Dynamics manufacture Hellfire missiles utilized in most US drone strikes, while Raytheon make the targeting system for the Reaper drone deployed by the CIA and other actors to conduct strikes across the globe. Lockheed Martin operates as a contractor to provide select support services for both the Reaper and Predator, and MBDA is a European company that manufactures the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Brimstone – a variant of the Hellfire missile.
The US drone program has received widespread public criticism both at home and abroad. Critics say attacks carried out in foreign countries, including Yemen and Pakistan, are in violation of both international and US law.
Although US drone strikes have culminated in hundreds of civilian casualties, they are subject to little oversight, according to Reprieve. President Barack Obama has refused to formally acknowledge the program’s existence.
Reprieve’s Legal Director Kat Craig said it’s “deeply worrying” that a group of firms who potentially profit most from this breach of international law were able to buy access into an international global summit like NATO.
“It is unacceptable that the US’ drone campaign, and the UK’s support for it, has been allowed to remain in the shadows for so long”, he added.
“President Obama must be far more open about it – as must his European allies, especially the UK and Germany, about the support they provide.”
Craig suggested the drone manufacturers’ presence at NATO signaled their inherent capacity to buy political influence “behind closed doors,” highlighting the opaque, illicit and legally questionable nature of much of the global arms trade.
NATO has pledged some 15 million euros to Ukraine, with several of the bloc’s member states pledging separate bilateral support and military cooperation, involving medical supplies as well as lethal and nonlethal military equipment.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced a “comprehensive and tailored package of measures” including the donation of 15 million euros “through NATO” at a joint news conference with the Ukrainian president on Thursday on the first day of the NATO summit in Wales.
He said that this would be in addition to other measures such as advising Ukraine on defense reforms and further bilateral aid.
“This is about improvement of logistics, the improvement of command and control, the improvement of communications, and cyber defense,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said.
He added that bilateral aid would include the provision of “high precision weapons” as well as medical equipment.
Poroshenko made careful statements regarding Ukraine’s potential induction into NATO, saying that membership criteria need to be met first.
“The new parliamentary election will help us a lot to accelerate the reform process,” Poroshenko said, adding that the most significant reforms to be made would be to the economy, and ensuring the rule of law and anti-corruption.
He said that he had some optimism for Friday’s peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, after which a ceasefire is expected to commence.
Rasmussen expressed caution: “If recent statements from President Putin represent a genuine effort to find a political solution, I would welcome it,” Rasmussen told reporters. He said that recent offers had been a “smokescreen” for further destabilization on the ground.
A US Navy destroyer and, reportedly, a French frigate have entered the Black Sea, as NATO builds up its presence in the region while tensions remain high in Ukraine. Another two warships are expected to arrive in the area by the end of the week.
The US Navy 6th Fleet official command has confirmed on its official Twitter account that the destroyer USS Ross, (DDG 71), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is now in the Black Sea.
“USS Ross enters Black Sea, promoting peace and stability while working with NATO allies and partners,” a statement said.
The US Navy has stressed that “the Ross’ presence in the Black Sea serves to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to strengthening the collective security of NATO allies and partners in the region.”
“The US Navy maintains an enduring commitment to forward-presence throughout the region in order to have ready-forces available if a crisis were to occur,” the statement said.
Another NATO warship, France’s Commandant Birot, also arrived in Black Sea waters on Wednesday night, according to a military diplomatic source cited by the Itar-Tass news agency.
“Both ships have passed through the Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea between 21:00 and 22:00 Moscow time,” the source was quoted as saying.
Commandant Birot has joined another French warship, the Dupuy le Lome, a surveillance ship designed to collect signals and communications from beyond enemy lines. Up until September 4, the Dupuy le Lome was the only NATO ship in the region. The vessel is scheduled to leave the area on September 5.
A total of four NATO warships are expected to enter the Black Sea before September 7. The USS Ross and Commandant Birot will be joined by Canada’s HMCS Toronto, a Halifax-class frigate, and a Spanish frigate, the Almirante Juan de Borbon.
Under the Montreux Convention of 1936, warships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the Black Sea for no more than 21 days. It also stipulates that the maximum deadweight of a non-regional warship in the area should not exceed 45,000 tons.
NATO warships have been operating in the area since this spring, when tensions started escalating between Kiev forces and rebels in southeastern Ukraine.
Despite the three-week limit, the alliance has managed to secure its presence in the area by constantly rotating warships there.
Deployed to the region in mid-May, the Dupuy le Lome was preceded by the destroyer USS Donald Cook, sent to the Black Sea in early April.
In July this year, NATO deployed a total of nine vessels, setting a record for the post-Soviet period.
On August 7, the US missile cruiser Vella Gulf entered the Black Sea and left the region at the end of the month.
NATO has been discussing its “more visible” presence in Eastern Europe, referring to the three Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – as there has been little progress in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. The issue is now being discussed in Wales, where the military alliance is meeting on Thursday and Friday.
The US and the international community have accused Russia of supporting opposition forces in southeastern Ukraine, accusations that have been denied by Moscow.
Russia has condemned NATO’s activities in the Black Sea and branded them a provocation that hinders the normalization of the situation in Ukraine.
Media Myths and Distortions
Syria will be an important subject of discussion at this week’s NATO Summit meeting in Wales. The US and NATO powers will evaluate whether to expand air strikes against ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq & Syria) into Syria, whether to do it in cooperation with the Syrian government and whether to increase support to the “moderate” armed opposition. The US mainstream media and politicians have been beating the war drums with Republican Senator McCain calling for military escalation and Democratic Senator Feinstein criticising President Obama for being “too cautious”.
There has been little mention of the fact that it is one year since the highly publicized chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta outskirts of Damascus. The same elements who are pushing for “regime change” military action now were doing so one year ago. Since then, the case that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack has been effectively discredited. The diplomatically negotiated agreement to remove all Assad’s chemical weapons has been successfully implemented. One would think this would merit attention, but it has been widely ignored.
One good thing in the media this week is recognition that Libya is now in chaos. This is the country which was “liberated” by NATO bombing which led to the murder of President Ghadaffi and collapse of that government. Nine months ago a plurality of Libyans said they are worse off than before the regime change. It’s very likely that even more Libyans are unhappy with their externally imposed regime change today. Three years ago NATO members were congratulating themselves on the air war against Libya. Now they are hopefully more sober as it goes public that Libya is in chaos, the airport shut down, competing extremists fighting for dominance, with one faction enjoying themselves in the US Embassy swimming pool.
The Obama Administration is at another turning point where it may choose to escalate its aggression against Syria. Clearly Obama and team do not want to go solo. The dreams of a“New American Century” with unchallenged US dominance have been broken by reality in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. But the hounds of war and aggression are noisy and persistent.
As NATO begins to deliberate whether and how to escalate aggression against Syria, let’s review some recent and long standing myths and lies about the Syrian conflict.
Some articles and even the (current) Wikipedia entry for James Foley (journalist) claim that he was a prisoner of the Syrian military and that they turned him over to ISIS. This is in perfect keeping with the pervasive demonization of the Assad government. However it’s false. A serious investigation into the disappearance of Foley is in the May 2014 Vanity Fair. Foley was captured by Nusra Front (or allied rebels) in November 2012 and later transferred or sold to ISIS.
Both NY Times’ Anne Barnard and John McCain suggest or assert that the Syrian government has collaborated with ISIS. The “evidence” of this is that the Syrian Army did not actively attack ISIS in eastern Syria during the past year.
The reality is that Syrian Army needs to pick and choose its battles and priorities. They are weakened by over three years of intense conflict resulting in at least 65 THOUSAND Syrian army and militia deaths. For reference, the total US death count in Vietnam was 58 thousand and Syria today is one tenth the size of the US in the 1970’s. In the past year the Syrian military has focused on confronting armed opposition in Aleppo (the largest city), Homs, outer Damascus and the Lebanese border area. The Syrian military has gained ground in each of these areas along with implementing the national “reconciliation” policy.
In the past two months, ISIS has gone on the offensive in eastern Syria and is pressing towards Aleppo and central Syria with US equipment and weaponry captured in Iraq. The battles have taken a heavy toll on both ISIS and the Syrian military. According to rebel aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 346 ISIS fighters were killed in a four day assault on Tabqa Air Base near Raqqa. The fighting has been brutal with heavy losses on both sides.
Longtime Mideast journalist Patrick Cockburn writes, “A conspiracy theory, much favoured by the rest of the Syrian opposition and by Western diplomats, that Isis and Assad are in league, has been shown to be false.”
In contrast with the myth, ISIS has in fact been aided and abetted by US allies. This includes funds from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, ideology and recruitment by Saudi media, transportation and safe haven through Turkey.
It is usually claimed that the Syrian conflict is a civil war that started with peaceful protests in 2011. In reality the seeds of the conflict were planted much earlier. General Wesley Clark’s 2007 memoir described plans for “regime change” in Syria and other countries. Also in 2007 Seymour Hersh documented the US strategy of fomenting conflict in Syria (and Iran) by working with Sunni extremists:
“The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
When mass protests began in Syria they included violent attacks and murders of police from the beginning. The situation was the same in other regions. Jesuit priest Father Frans Van Der Lugt was widely respected by Sunni Muslims and Christians in the Old City of Homs. He described the start of the protests thus:
“From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”
The conflict in Syria has been primarily instigated and continued by some of the world’s wealthiest and powerful governments. They make no secret and call themselves, with Orwellian chutzpah, the “Friends of Syria”. Their division of labor including who pays the salaries of the rebel mercenaries, who supplies communication equipment, who does training and who supplies weapons. Thus the conflict in Syria is primarily a war of aggression using domestic and foreign mercenaries.
It is often suggested the “moderate opposition” is popular, democratic and secular.
President Obama has recently proposed giving $500 million to the “moderate opposition”.
Patrick Cockburn sums up the reality in the newly released book “The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising”:
“It is here that self-deception reigns, because the Syrian military opposition is dominated by ISIS and by Jabhat Al Nusra, the official Al Queda representative, in addition to other extreme jihadi groups. In reality there is no dividing wall between them and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.”
This siuation is not new. A NY Times article in summer 2012 discussed the hidden presence of Al Queda within the “Free Syrian Army”. When he read this, James Foley sent out a tweet linking to the article and pondering whether the photographed black flag was necessarily Al Queda. He did not recognize the flag and wondered whether it was “some misc jihadi group”. Ironically that was the unique flag of ISIS before it was widely recognized. The “misc jihadi” group is the one that would later murder him.
Foley’s last article documented the overall unpopularity of the rebels in Aleppo:
“Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups.”
Finally there is the myth that the Free Syrian Army and other “moderate opposition” groups were not supported. In reality, huge quantities of weapons and ammunition have flowed which is exactly what has allowed the terrorist organizations to continue the mayhem and bloodshed. Starting in November 2012 three thousand TONS of weapons and ammunition were flown from Zagreb to Turkey and then transferred to the Syrian rebels. In addition there were huge shipments from Benghazi Libya and more shipments paid by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
DO USA AND NATO REALLY WANT TO STOP ISIS?
One week after the Syrian Presidential election where 73% of the electorate turned out, ISIS made its advance through western Iraq to Mosul and other cities. There were virtually no battles. Iraqi military leadership simply departed and in the confusion troops fled or disbanded. Was this a military collapse or was it planned, with key Iraqi figures either bribed or otherwise in alliance with ISIS? Whichever is the truth,we can see the consequences and who has benefited: the campaign for greater autonomy in the oil rich Kurdish region has advanced; the split between Shia and Sunni has been exacerbated; and one of the world’s greatest overnight military arms transfers took place with ISIS effortlessly taking control of vehicles, humvees, tanks, lethal mortar launchers, high grade military equipment and tons of ammunition.
Did US military officers, who spent years and billions of dollars “training” the Iraqi military, have advance notice or knowledge of this seeming collusion between ISIS and Iraqi military officers? Did wealthy enemies of Syria simply bribe the Iraqi officers? Was it a “collapse” or is there much more behind this? How can a few hundred jihadi militants traveling in new Toyota pickup truck convoys surprise and overtake military checkpoints and bases without a fight unless there was collusion at the highest levels?
Actions reveal more than words. If the US and NATO really are worried about ISIS they can and will implement measures such as the following:
* shut down the Jihadi Highway through Turkey.
* shut down safe haven and supply routes of ISIS and other terrorist groups in Turkey
* provide useful information from surveillance flights to the Syrian army which is doing the main on-the-ground fighting
* demand and check that Saudi Arabia and Qatar stop broadcasting TV programs featuring hate speech which serve to recruit jihadis to join ISIS.
* demand and check that Saudi Arabia and Qatar implement measures to stop funding for ISIS through their banks and other financial operations.
Will the US and NATO take practical steps to counter ISIS or will they escalate their aggression against Syria, violating Syrian air space and looking for a pretext to impose a “no fly zone” as done in the disastrous aggressions against Iraq and Libya?
Will the US and NATO start a bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria which will ignite MORE support for the group in the Arab world?
Will they violate Syrian air space as a stepping stone to US bombing of Syrian army positions?
Or will the US and NATO resist the hounds of war and finally put aside the campaign of regime change against a secular, socialist inclined government that is supported by a big majority of its people?
Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be contacted at email@example.com
[Don't miss the second half]
Ukraine’s civil war has grounded in stalemate and the economy is crashing. This has created an opening for dialogue. Will all parties seize the moment or will Moscow continue to be blamed?
CrossTalking with Karel van Wolferen, Neil Clark and Gilbert Doctorow.
Amidst a slew of unverified allegations in recent weeks of Russian invasions, violations of Ukraine sovereignty and NATO’s current claim of Russian troops and Russian tanks fighting on the side of the federalist rebels, the upcoming annual NATO Heads of State Summit in Wales, threatens a widening violence and heightened military activity throughout eastern Europe.
Add to the equation that the tide of war appears to be turning against the US-imposed Kiev government as a successful offensive by the rebels captured the coastal town of Novoazovsk near Crimea opening a new front in the southeast and holding the line in Elenovka as rebel forces maintain their ground in Donetsk, the Kiev government needs to save face by claiming that Russian troops are aiding the out-manned, under-supplied rebels. Russia’s envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizhov added that the only Russian troops in Ukraine were the nine paratroopers who wandered across the border recently while on patrol.
It is worth noting that the largest gathering of international leaders to ever assemble in the UK, will include non NATO member Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko as part of a ‘special NATO meeting’ on Ukraine but will exclude Russian President Vladimir Putin. While that omission may be a sure sign that negotiating a political settlement regarding the US-sponsored fiasco in Ukraine is not a NATO or US priority, the subject of Ukraine will be front and center on the agenda as the EU/NATO/US alliance already know their plans with regard to NATO expansion and the future of Ukraine.
President Obama will attend the Summit after visiting the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania while ‘reaffirming’ the US commitment to the region. It did not used to be common for the US President to visit every little nickel and dime country (no offense intended) along the way but in this case such assurance along with a Presidential visit can mean only one thing: that those self-proclaimed ‘threatened’ strategically-located countries (with Estonia and Latvia on Russia’s border and Lithuania and Poland bordered by Russian-ally Belarus) need the President to personally shore them up for a new NATO missile defense system going further east than the former Iron Curtain, and in advance of any possible turbulence spillover within their borders.
On the eve of the Summit, outgoing Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen offered the following:
“We are at a crucial point in history, our peace and security are once again being tested. NATO support for the sovereignty and total integrity of Ukraine is unwavering. Our partnership is long-standing. NATO is working even more closely with Ukraine to reform its armed forces and defense institutions. NATO stands ready to support Ukraine with advisors and assistance. We are advising Ukraine on defense planning and defense reform and are ready to intensify this cooperation. As a sign of strong support and solidarity, we have decided to hold a ‘special meeting’ with Ukraine at the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales. We will continue to improve the ability of NATO and Ukraine soldiers to work together. It is the right of every country to choose its own foreign policy without foreign interference. NATO fully respects that right but today Ukraine’s freedom and future are under attack.”
In addition, in a series of recent interviews with European newspapers, when asked whether there would be permanent international deployments under a NATO flag in east Europe, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “The brief answer is yes ….’for as long as necessary.’ In addition, Rasmussen promised a readiness action plan to provide rapid reinforcements with ‘a more visible NATO presence in the east.”
In accordance with the promise made in Bucharest in 2008 that both Georgia and Ukraine would become members, it is doubtful whether the Summit will formally act given NATO’s inability to accept new members with borders in dispute but would rather allow each to function as proxy states. As every NATO member fully understands, membership approval of any of the encirclement countries can be expected to trigger Russia’s long time vehement opposition to a missile presence on its borders.
None of this is reassuring especially that the recent accusations have yet to establish whether NATO’s images are date and time stamped, accurate and reliable. Nevertheless, just as the unfounded accusations regarding MH 17 flight continue to fuel enmity toward Putin, the latest ‘invasion’ charge will be provocative enough, as US-dominated NATO members congregate, to escalate a war effort that has already claimed over 2,600 fatalities, according to the UN. It was, of course, the ouster of the democratically elected President Yanukovych and the imposition of a pro-EU, pro-NATO and a pro-IMF government in Kiev that sparked the revolt in east Ukraine.
One immediate flaw in NATO’s latest assertion is that, given its total dependence on creating military conflict, reliance on their version of anything should be subject to intense scrutiny. With an estimated 50,000 plus Ukrainian troops in action (not counting CIA and US mercenaries), the question is whether sending 1,000 Russian troops into Ukraine is worth the risk to Putin who has consistently followed a diplomatic path while US diplomacy has been dominated by threats and bullying.
What makes more sense is that if the situation in Ukraine reached the critical point of no-return, that Putin would send in a sufficient force the size of a field army accompanied by an impressive number of tank battalions, support convoys and enough heavy artillery to finish the job – and presumably there would be no doubt about whether or not the Russians had moved into Ukraine to protect the civilian population from continued merciless attacks. The other option is that the Russian air force could easily put an end to Ukraine’s shelling and bombing of defenseless citizens.
Perhaps the best response to the latest ‘invasion’ disinformation has come from Alexandre Zakharchenko, Chair of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk National Republic, given in a recent press briefing. When an English speaking reporter inquired whether Russian military units were fighting with the rebels, Zakharchenko replied that if ‘you think that Russia is sending its regular units here, then let me tell you something. If Russia was sending its regular troops here, ‘we would not be talking about the battle of Elenovka; we’d be talking about the battle of Kiev.” Zakharchenko, an attorney who made an impressive presentation, went on to remind the media that “A territory has the right of self-determination and separation after a referendum,” a referendum that was approved by Donbass voters in May.
What is not debatable is that for some weeks, a conservative estimate of 4,000 Russian volunteers (including some ‘off duty’ military and women) have crossed into Ukraine to fight on the side of the ‘rebels.’ That number may have also been augmented by volunteers sent by Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov whose “statements in support of the illegal annexation of Crimea and support of the armed insurgency in Ukraine,” were cited as reasons for his inclusion in a recent round of sanctions.
Obama’s Unprovoked Attack on Russia
In reaction to NATO’s invasion charge, President Obama, whose State Department was intimately involved in the February coup, spoke at the White House voicing the usual provocations:
“Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine. The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia. They are armed by Russia. They are funded by Russia. Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
“In Estonia, I will reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the defense of our NATO allies” and “At the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom, we’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the Alliance remains prepared for any challenge” and “There is no doubt that this is not a homegrown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine.”
In a stunning denial of self-reflection, the president has consistently failed to mention his own Administration’s role as sole cause of the violence, the $1 billion of Congressional support for Kiev, the $5 billion of US aid revealed by Secretary of State Victoria Nuland last spring or the NATO build up in Poland, the Baltic states and elsewhere in eastern Europe. There is never serious mention of the humanitarian catastrophe on a civilian population, no mention of the fatalities, no mention of a ceasefire, no mention of the withdrawal of all non-Ukraine factions from meddling and no mention of requiring the Kiev government’s direct negotiations with the federalist rebels to determine the future of their own country.
Putin Redefines Russia’s National Interests
After the Gorbachev – Yeltsin years overseeing the dissolution of the USSR in which much of its national interests were imprudently relinquished to a market economy, Putin addressed the Munich Conference on Security Policy in 2007. During that speech, he redefined contemporary Russia’s national interests and its geopolitical concerns as he established himself as an independent, critical thinker with an international perspective – and, therefore, a threat to US dominion. The speech is worth reading in its entirety and here are several excerpts:
Decrying a “greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. One state, first and foremost, the United States has overstepped its national borders in every way.”
In referring to “Russia’s peaceful transition to democracy. Why should we start bombing and shooting now at every available opportunity?”
In referring to an earlier speaker, “I understood that the use of force can only be legitimate when the decision is taken by NATO, the EU, or the UN. If he really does think so, then we have different points of view. The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN. And we do not need to substitute NATO or the EU for the UN.”
With regard to expanding NATO with missiles on Russia’s borders: “It turns out that NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. It represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”
And lastly, Putin quoted the “speech of NATO General Secretary Manfred Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: “the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee“.
Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth. in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor. Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.
Once again the headlines shout that Russia has invaded Ukraine. Once again NATO offers blurry satellite shots from a commercial service for evidence. Here are June’s “invasion” satellite photos. This month’s “invasion” satellite photos are here. Again from a commercial source, Digital Globe. Photo 1: some “Russian” SPGs in Ukraine (everybody uses “Russian” ie Soviet equipment and the rebels have captured quite a lot). Photo 2: Some deployed artillery in Ukraine (ludicrously explained as how “trained military professionals” would deploy it. Hasn’t anyone in NATO HQ realised that the east Ukrainian rebels are pretty competent?) Photo 3: A Russian base with stuff in it and without stuff in it (but aren’t we continually told about the Russian “buildup on the border”, always alarming, always threatening, whatever the numbers: “very, very sizable” in March, 40K in April, 12K in July, 20K in August. One should not be surprised that there’s some variance of equipment at a given base over time). Photo 4 and 5: Some guns in Russia pointing towards Ukraine (where, by the way, as NATO intelligence may know, there is a war going on with occasional firing into Russia. All military are trained to expect the worst.) And, by the way, if Russia did invade, don’t you think it would do it in strength rather than a couple of tanks here and a gun or two there? No wonder the Russians are laughing at this “evidence”; this isn’t evidence of anything except how gullible NATO thinks its taxpayers are.
Its time to consider what real evidence would look like. The United States has spent billions and billions of dollars on intelligence-gathering equipment; and supposedly has more assets than anyone else has ever had or dreamed of having. So, given this vast array of sophisticated devices which, one has to assume, have been watching Ukraine and western Russia for months, what would real evidence of a Russian invasion of Ukraine look like?
We would see a series of photographs, maybe even a continuous moving picture, perhaps backed up by intercepted communications, of Russian equipment forming up in a base. We would follow that column, photo by photo, moving towards Ukraine. We would watch that column, photo by photo, as it crossed the frontier and deployed. We should also have photos of Russian artillery actually firing – after all, the guns they show are right out in the open and artillery doesn’t fire single shots. If the Russians were actually firing across the border regularly, there would be real satellite evidence showing it. That is what real proof would look like and that is what these pathetic efforts are not. Although they are negative evidence: if NATO had real evidence, we’d see it 24/7; this paltry effort demonstrates that it does not.
It’s all reminiscent of the two British reporters who said they saw Russian armour head across the border into Ukraine a couple of weeks ago, My smart phone has a camera and it has GPS too and there’s lots of map software available (I recommend City Maps 2Go, download Rostov Oblast. I’m sure their newspapers would stand the $3 it costs). A real report would have said this is the time, this is where we are, this is what we saw, here’s photos. But oops, whaddaya know! they forgot to take their smart phones with them. Gee, so we have to trust them and take their word for it.
WELL, I DON’T TRUST THEM.
And I don’t trust NATO and its pitiful commercial images, I don’t trust reporters who “forget” to record things and I don’t trust Marie Harf and her “social media and common sense”.
As Paul Craig Roberts puts it: “The latest Washington lie, this one coming from NATO, is that Russia has invaded Ukraine with 1,000 troops and self-propelled artillery. How do we know that this is a lie? Is it because we have heard nothing but lies about Russia from NATO, from US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, from assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, from Obama and his entire regime of pathological liars, and from the British, German, and French governments along with the BBC and the entirety of the Western media?”
Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow.
If you wonder how the world could stumble into World War III – much as it did into World War I a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire U.S. political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats vs. black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.
The original lie behind Official Washington’s latest “group think” was that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis in Ukraine as part of some diabolical scheme to reclaim the territory of the defunct Soviet Union, including Estonia and other Baltic states. Though not a shred of U.S. intelligence supported this scenario, all the “smart people” of Washington just “knew” it to be true.
Yet, the once-acknowledged – though soon forgotten – reality was that the crisis was provoked last year by the European Union proposing an association agreement with Ukraine while U.S. neocons and other hawkish politicos and pundits envisioned using the Ukraine gambit as a way to undermine Putin inside Russia.
The plan was even announced by U.S. neocons such as National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman who took to the op-ed page of the Washington Post nearly a year ago to call Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step toward eventually toppling Putin in Russia.
Gershman, whose NED is funded by the U.S. Congress, wrote: “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.”
In other words, from the start, Putin was the target of the Ukraine initiative, not the instigator. But even if you choose to ignore Gershman’s clear intent, you would have to concoct a bizarre conspiracy theory to support the conventional wisdom about Putin’s grand plan.
To believe that Putin was indeed the mastermind of the crisis, you would have to think that he somehow arranged to have the EU offer the association agreement last year, then got the International Monetary Fund to attach such draconian “reforms” that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych backed away from the deal.
Then, Putin had to organize mass demonstrations at Kiev’s Maidan square against Yanukovych while readying neo-Nazi militias to act as the muscle to finally overthrow the elected president and replace him with a regime dominated by far-right Ukrainian nationalists and U.S.-favored technocrats. Next, Putin had to get the new government to take provocative actions against ethnic Russians in the east, including threatening to outlaw Russian as an official language.
And throw into this storyline that Putin – all the while – was acting like he was trying to help Yanukovych defuse the crisis and even acquiesced to Yanukovych agreeing on Feb. 21 to accept an agreement brokered by three European countries calling for early Ukrainian elections that could vote him out of office. Instead, Putin was supposedly ordering neo-Nazi militias to oust Yanukovych in a Feb. 22 putsch, all the better to create the current crisis.
While such a fanciful scenario would make the most extreme conspiracy theorist blush, this narrative was embraced by prominent U.S. politicians, including ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and “journalists” from the New York Times to CNN. They all agreed that Putin was a madman on a mission of unchecked aggression against his neighbors with the goal of reconstituting the Russian Empire. Clinton even compared him to Adolf Hitler.
This founding false narrative was then embroidered by a consistent pattern of distorted U.S. reporting as the crisis unfolded. Indeed, for the past eight months, we have seen arguably the most one-sided coverage of a major international crisis in memory, although there were other crazed MSM stampedes, such as Iraq’s non-existent WMD in 2002-03, Iran’s supposed nuclear bomb project for most of the past decade, Libya’s “humanitarian crisis” of 2011, and Syria’s sarin gas attack in 2013.
But the hysteria over Ukraine – with U.S. officials and editorialists now trying to rally a NATO military response to Russia’s alleged “invasion” of Ukraine – raises the prospect of a nuclear confrontation that could end all life on the planet.
The ‘Big Lie’ of the ‘Big Lie’
This madness reached new heights with a Sept. 1 editorial in the neoconservative Washington Post, which led many of the earlier misguided stampedes and was famously wrong in asserting that Iraq’s concealment of WMD was a “flat fact.” In its new editorial, the Post reprised many of the key elements of the false Ukraine narrative in the Orwellian context of accusing Russia of deceiving its own people.
The “through-the-looking-glass” quality of the Post’s editorial was to tell the “Big Lie” while accusing Putin of telling the “Big Lie.” The editorial began with the original myth about the aggression waged by Putin whose “bitter resentment at the Soviet empire’s collapse metastasized into seething Russian nationalism. …
“In prosecuting his widening war in Ukraine, he has also resurrected the tyranny of the Big Lie, using state-controlled media to twist the truth so grotesquely that most Russians are in the dark — or profoundly misinformed — about events in their neighbor to the west. …
“In support of those Russian-sponsored militias in eastern Ukraine, now backed by growing ranks of Russian troops and weapons, Moscow has created a fantasy that plays on Russian victimization. By this rendering, the forces backing Ukraine’s government in Kiev are fascists and neo-Nazis, a portrayal that Mr. Putin personally advanced on Friday, when he likened the Ukrainian army’s attempts to regain its own territory to the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War II, an appeal meant to inflame Russians’ already overheated nationalist emotions.”
The Post continued: “Against the extensive propaganda instruments available to Mr. Putin’s authoritarian regime, the West can promote a fair and factual version of events, but there’s little it can do to make ordinary Russians believe it. Even in a country with relatively unfettered access to the Internet, the monopolistic power of state-controlled media is a potent weapon in the hands of a tyrant.
“Mr. Putin’s Big Lie shows why it is important to support a free press where it still exists and outlets like Radio Free Europe that bring the truth to people who need it.”
Yet the truth is that the U.S. mainstream news media’s distortion of the Ukraine crisis is something that a real totalitarian could only dream about. Virtually absent from major U.S. news outlets – across the political spectrum – has been any significant effort to tell the other side of the story or to point out the many times when the West’s “fair and factual version of events” has been false or deceptive, starting with the issue of who started this crisis.
Blinded to Neo-Nazis
In another example, the Post and other mainstream U.S. outlets have ridiculed the idea that neo-Nazis played any significant role in the putsch that ousted Yanukovych on Feb. 22 or in the Kiev regime’s brutal offensive against the ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine.
However, occasionally, the inconvenient truth has slipped through. For instance, shortly after the February coup, the BBC described how the neo-Nazis spearheaded the violent seizure of government buildings to drive Yanukovych from power and were then rewarded with four ministries in the regime that was cobbled together in the coup’s aftermath.
When ethnic Russians in the south and east resisted the edicts from the new powers in Kiev, some neo-Nazi militias were incorporated into the National Guard and dispatched to the front lines as storm troopers eager to fight and kill people whom some considered “Untermenschen” or sub-human.
Even the New York Times, which has been among the most egregious violators of journalistic ethics in covering the Ukraine crisis, took note of Kiev’s neo-Nazi militias carrying Nazi banners while leading attacks on eastern cities – albeit with this embarrassing reality consigned to the last three paragraphs of a long Times story on a different topic. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Discovers Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis at War.”]
Later, the conservative London Telegraph wrote a much more detailed story about how the Kiev regime had consciously recruited these dedicated storm troopers, who carried the Wolfsangel symbol favored by Hitler’s SS, to lead street fighting in eastern cities that were first softened up by army artillery. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ignoring Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers.”]
You might think that unleashing Nazi storm troopers on a European population for the first time since World War II would be a big story – given how much coverage is given to far less significant eruptions of neo-Nazi sentiment in Europe – but this ugly reality in Ukraine disappeared quickly into the U.S. media’s memory hole. It didn’t fit the preferred good guy/bad guy narrative, with the Kiev regime the good guys and Putin the bad guy.
Now, the Washington Post has gone a step further dismissing Putin’s reference to the nasty violence inflicted by Kiev’s neo-Nazi battalions as part of Putin’s “Big Lie.” The Post is telling its readers that any reference to these neo-Nazis is just a “fantasy.”
Even more disturbing, the mainstream U.S. news media and Washington’s entire political class continue to ignore the Kiev government’s killing of thousands of ethnic Russians, including children and other non-combatants. The “responsibility to protect” crowd has suddenly lost its voice. Or, all the deaths are somehow blamed on Putin for supposedly having provoked the Ukraine crisis in the first place.
A Mysterious ‘Invasion’
And now there’s the curious case of Russia’s alleged “invasion” of Ukraine, another alarmist claim trumpeted by the Kiev regime and echoed by NATO hardliners and the MSM.
While I’m told that Russia did provide some light weapons to the rebels early in the struggle so they could defend themselves and their territory – and a number of Russian nationalists have crossed the border to join the fight – the claims of an overt “invasion” with tanks, artillery and truck convoys have been backed up by scant intelligence.
One former U.S. intelligence official who has examined the evidence said the intelligence to support the claims of a significant Russian invasion amounted to “virtually nothing.” Instead, it appears that the ethnic Russian rebels may have evolved into a more effective fighting force than many in the West thought. They are, after all, fighting on their home turf for their futures.
Concerned about the latest rush to judgment about the “invasion,” the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of former U.S. intelligence officials and analysts, took the unusual step of sending a memo to German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning her of a possible replay of the false claims that led to the Iraq War.
“You need to know,” the group wrote, “that accusations of a major Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the ‘intelligence’ seems to be of the same dubious, politically ‘fixed’ kind used 12 years ago to ‘justify’ the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.”
But these doubts and concerns are not reflected in the Post’s editorial or other MSM accounts of the dangerous Ukraine crisis. Indeed, Americans who rely on these powerful news outlets for their information are as sheltered from reality as anyone living in a totalitarian society.
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 and barnesandnoble.com).
The US and its allies are preparing to stage a military exercise in western Ukraine, close to the Polish border, in mid-September. The joint drill will involve over 1,000 troops from the US and Europe, as well as from Ukraine.
Initially planned for mid-July, the exercise – code-named ‘Rapid Trident’ – was halted due to a significant escalation in the conflict between Kiev and the southeastern regions of Ukraine.
Now, as the fighting between the two sides continues, the US Army’s European Command (EUCOM) plans to go ahead and stage the exercise on September 16-26.
“At the moment, we are still planning for [the exercise] to go ahead,” US Navy Captain Gregory Hicks, spokesman for EUCOM, announced on Tuesday.
The annual exercise will take place at Yavoriv training center in the city of Lvov, near Ukraine’s border with Poland.
Around 200 US personnel will be involved in the drill, as well as 1,100 others from Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Britain, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Spain, EUCOM said.
In addition to staging air force exercises, the United States is moving tanks and 600 troops to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for joint maneuvers in October, Reuters reports. The new deployment will replace a more lightly armed force of paratroopers.
Rapid Trident 2014 is designed to “promote regional stability and security, strengthen partnership capacity and foster trust while improving interoperability between the land forces of Ukraine, and NATO and partner nations,” according to the US Forces in Europe website.
The exercise will be mainly focused on command post drills, patrolling, and dealing with improvised explosive devices.
Despite the involvement of many NATO members, Rapid Trident is not formally a NATO drill.
The Ukrainian-American exercises have taken place in Lvov since 2006 under the framework of NATO’s broader ‘Partnership for Peace,’ which Ukraine is part of.
This year’s drill will mean the first significant deployment of US troops and other personnel to Ukraine since the crisis erupted.
Last year’s Rapid Trident, which focused on “airborne and air-mobile infantry operations,” according to a report on the Rapid Trident website, brought together 17 NATO countries for joint exercises.
The announcement comes just two days before the NATO 2014 summit is set to open in Wales. The alliance’s expansion to Eastern Europe is expected to become one of the main discussions and the 28-member bloc expects, despite internal opposition, to agree on the “more visible NATO presence in the East.”
The White House said the US and its allies are set to discuss plans to significantly increase the readiness of NATO response forces.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the meetings within the summit are expected to involve discussions on potential trainings, exercises, and other issues regarding infrastructure and other needs in Eastern Europe.
Back in June, US President Barack Obama pledged to invest $1 billion in stepping up America’s military presence in Eastern Europe amid the Ukraine crisis. Also that month, Washington vowed additional military help to Ukraine, as well as the potential training of its law enforcement and military personnel.