The tragic Malaysian MH17 flight crash must not be politicised and the international experts on the scene should be able to carry out their work in complete safety, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
“There are already representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk working there, as well as representatives of the emergencies ministry of Ukraine and others. But this is not enough,” Putin said officially commenting on the tragic event on Sunday.
“This task force is not enough,” Putin emphasized. “We need more, we need a fully representative group of experts to be working at the site under the guidance of ICAO, the relevant international commission.”
“We must do everything to provide security for the international experts on the site of the tragedy,” Putin stressed, adding that Russia will also do everything in its power to help shift the Ukrainian conflict from a military phase into a political discussion.
“We need to do everything to provide its [ICAO commission’s] safety, to provide the humanitarian corridors necessary for its work,” Putin added.
“In the meantime, nobody should and has no right to use this tragedy to achieve their ‘narrowly selfish’ political goals,” Putin stated.
“We repeatedly called upon all conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed immediately and sit down at the negotiating table,” the President reminded. “I can say with confidence that if military operations were not resumed on June 28 in eastern Ukraine, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”
In the meantime, Russia has introduced its own draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an impartial investigation of Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash in Ukraine, Russia’s ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin said.
‘Yes, we did it,” Churkin told reported answering the question about Russia’s draft. “Just to show what we are talking about. The difference is that in our draft it is absolutely clear it is indeed an impartial international investigation under the under the guidance of ICAO.”
According to the latest figures from the Donetsk authorities, 247 out of 298 bodies have been recovered from the crash site. OSCE confirmed that a train with bodies of the victims is being stationed at a railway station in Torez and is set to depart for Donetsk. The bodies are being kept in especially refrigerated cars.
A team of ISCE experts and four Ukrainian forensics analysts are the only experts who have so far reached the area and are working on the investigation. A team of 12 Malaysian experts is yet to arrive at the crash site. Experts from other European nations, including the Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK are en route to Donetsk.
The OSCE team has claimed that the black boxes have not been recovered, yet Aleksandr Boroday, the republic’s prime minister, told reporters that DPR might potentially be in possession of the MH17 black boxes. “What we have is just some components of the plane. We are not experts; we think that they may be black boxes but we’re not sure.”
Despite doubts within the U.S. intelligence community, the Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. news media are charging off toward another rush to judgment blaming Ukrainian rebels and the Russian government for the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines plane, much as occurred last summer regarding a still-mysterious sarin gas attack in Syria.
In both cases, rather than let independent investigators sort out the facts, President Barack Obama’s ever-aggressive State Department and the major U.S. media simply accepted that the designated villains of those two crises – Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine – were the guilty parties. Yet, some U.S. intelligence analysts dissented from both snap conventional wisdoms.
Regarding the shoot-down of the Malaysian jetliner on Thursday, I’m told that some CIA analysts cite U.S. satellite reconnaissance photos suggesting that the anti-aircraft missile that brought down Flight 17 was fired by Ukrainian troops from a government battery, not by ethnic Russian rebels who have been resisting the regime in Kiev since elected President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown on Feb. 22.
According to a source briefed on the tentative findings, the soldiers manning the battery appeared to be wearing Ukrainian uniforms and may have been drinking, since what looked like beer bottles were scattered around the site. But the source added that the information was still incomplete and the analysts did not rule out the possibility of rebel responsibility.
A contrary emphasis has been given to the Washington Post and other mainstream U.S. outlets. On Saturday, the Post reported that “on Friday, U.S. officials said a preliminary intelligence assessment indicated the airliner was blown up by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by the separatists.” But the objectivity of the Obama administration, which has staunchly supported the coup regime, is in question as are the precise reasons for its judgments.
Even before the Feb. 22 coup, senior administration officials, including Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, were openly encouraging protesters seeking the overthrow of Yanukovych. Nuland went so far as to pass out cookies to the demonstrators and discuss with Pyatt who should be appointed once Yanukovych was removed.
After Yanukovych and his officials were forced to flee in the face of mass protests and violent attacks by neo-Nazi militias, the State Department was quick to declare the new government “legitimate” and welcomed Nuland’s favorite, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as the new prime minister.
As events have unfolded since then, including Crimea’s secession to join Russia and bloody attacks directed at ethnic Russians in Odessa and elsewhere, the Obama administration has consistently taken the side of the Kiev regime and bashed Moscow.
And, since Thursday, when the Malaysian plane was shot down killing 298 people, the Ukrainian government and the Obama administration have pointed the finger of blame at the rebels and the Russian government, albeit without the benefit of a serious investigation that is only now beginning.
One of the administration’s points has been that the Buk anti-aircraft missile system, which was apparently used to shoot down the plane, was “Russian made.” But the point is rather silly since nearly all Ukrainian military weaponry is “Russian made.” Ukraine, after all, was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 and has continued to use mostly Russian military equipment.
It’s also not clear how the U.S. government ascertained that the missile was an SA-11 as opposed to other versions of the Buk missile system.
Slanting the Case
Virtually everything that U.S. officials have said appears designed to tilt suspicions toward the Russians and the rebels – and away from government forces. Referring ominously to the sophistication of the SA-11, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power declared, “We cannot rule out Russian technical assistance.” But that phrasing supposedly means that the administration can’t rule it in either.
Still, in reading between the lines of the mainstream U.S. press accounts, it’s possible to see where some of the gaps are regarding the supposed Russian hand in Thursday’s tragedy. For instance, the Post’s Craig Whitlock reported that Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, U.S. commander of NATO forces in Europe, said last month that “We have not seen any of the [Russian] air-defense vehicles across the border yet.”
Since these Buk missile systems are large and must be transported on trucks, it would be difficult to conceal their presence from U.S. aerial surveillance which has been concentrating intensely on the Ukraine-Russia border in recent months.
The Post also reported that “Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said defense officials could not point to specific evidence that an SA-11 surface-to-air missile system had been transported from Russia into eastern Ukraine.”
In other words, the mystery is still not solved. It may be that the rebels – facing heavy bombardment from the Ukrainian air force – convinced the Russians to provide more advanced anti-aircraft weapons than the shoulder-fired missiles that the rebels have used to bring down some Ukrainian military planes.
It’s possible, too, that a rebel detachment mistook the civilian airliner for a military plane or even that someone in the Russian military launched the fateful rocket at the plane heading toward Russian airspace.
But both the Russian government and the rebels dispute those scenarios. The rebels say they don’t have missiles that can reach the 33,000-foot altitude of the Malaysian airliner. Besides denying a hand in the tragedy, the Russians claim that the Ukrainian military did have Buk anti-aircraft systems in eastern Ukraine and that the radar of one battery was active on the day of the crash.
The Russian Defense Ministry stated that “The Russian equipment detected throughout July 17 the activity of a Kupol radar, deployed as part of a Buk-M1 battery near Styla [a village some 30 kilometers south of Donetsk],” according to an RT report.
So, the other alternative remains in play, that a Ukrainian military unit – possibly a poorly supervised bunch – fired the missile intentionally or by accident. Why the Ukrainian military would intentionally have aimed at a plane flying eastward toward Russia is hard to comprehend, however.
A Propaganda Replay?
But perhaps the larger point is that both the Obama administration and the U.S. press corps should stop this pattern of rushing to judgments. It’s as if they’re obsessed with waging “information warfare” – i.e., justifying hostilities toward some adversarial nation – rather than responsibly informing the American people.
We saw this phenomenon in 2002-03 as nearly the entire Washington press corps clambered onboard President George W. Bush’s propaganda bandwagon into an aggressive war against Iraq. That pattern almost repeated itself last summer when a similar rush to judgment occurred around a sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, on Aug. 21.
Though the evidence was murky, there was a stampede to assume that the Assad government was behind the attack. While blaming the Syrian army, the U.S. press ignored the possibility that the attack was a provocation committed by radical jihadist rebels who were hoping that U.S. air power could turn the tide of the war in their favor.
Rather than carefully weigh the complex evidence, the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry tried to spur President Obama into a quick decision to bomb Syrian government targets. Kerry delivered a belligerent speech on Aug. 30 and the administration released what it called a “Government Assessment” supposedly proving the case.
But this four-page white paper contained no verifiable evidence supporting its accusations and it soon became clear that the report had excluded dissents that some U.S. intelligence analysts would have attached to a more formal paper prepared by the intelligence community.
Despite the war hysteria then gripping Official Washington, President Obama rejected war at the last moment and – with the help of Russian President Putin – was able to negotiate a resolution of the crisis in which Assad surrendered Syria’s chemical weapons while still denying a hand in the sarin gas attack.
The mainstream U.S. press, especially the New York Times, and some non-governmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, continued pushing the theme of the Syrian government’s guilt. HRW and the Times teamed up for a major story that purported to show the flight paths of two sarin-laden missiles vectoring back to a Syrian military base 9.5 kilometers away.
For a time, this report was treated as the slam-dunk evidence proving the case against Assad, until it turned out that only one of the rockets carried sarin and the maximum range of the one that did have sarin was only about two kilometers.
Despite knowing these weaknesses in the case, President Obama stood by his State Department hawks by reading a speech to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24 in which he declared: “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.”
In watching Obama’s address, I was struck by how casually he lied. He knew better than almost anyone that some of his senior intelligence analysts were among those doubting the Syrian government’s guilt. Yet, he suggested that anyone who wasn’t onboard the propaganda train was crazy.
Since then, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed other evidence indicating that the sarin attack may indeed have been a rebel provocation meant to push Obama over the “red line” that he had drawn about not tolerating chemical weapons use.
Now, we are seeing a repeat performance in which Obama understands the doubts about the identity of who fired the missile that brought down the Malaysian airliner but is pushing the suspicions in a way designed to whip up animosity toward Russia and President Putin.
Obama may think this is a smart play because he can posture as tough when many of his political enemies portray him as weak. He also buys himself some P.R. protection in case it turns out that the ethnic Russian rebels and/or the Russian military do share the blame for the tragedy. He can claim to have been out front in making the accusations.
But there is a dangerous downside to creating a public hysteria about nuclear-armed Russia. As we have seen already in Ukraine, events can spiral out of control in unpredictable ways.
Assistant Secretary Nuland and other State Department hawks probably thought they were building their careers when they encouraged the Feb. 22 coup – and they may well be right about advancing their status in Official Washington at least. But they also thawed out long-frozen animosities between the “ethnically pure” Ukrainians in the west and the ethnic Russians in the east.
Those tensions – many dating back to World War II and before – have now become searing hatreds with hundreds of dead on both sides. The nasty, little Ukrainian civil war also made Thursday’s horror possible.
But even greater calamities could lie ahead if the State Department’s “anti-diplomats” succeed in reigniting the Cold War. The crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 should be a warning about the dangers of international brinkmanship.
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 crash of a Malaysian Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine must be investigated thoroughly and objectively, Russian President Putin said in a statement. The tragedy underlines the urgent need for a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict in Ukraine.
Putin’s statement came after he contacted Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to express condolences over the deaths of his fellow citizens in the disaster.
The majority of the passengers of the ill-fated flight, which was apparently shot down over the war zone in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, were from the Netherlands.
Earlier the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), a Russia-based international body tasked with investigation of all civil aircraft incidents in most former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, called for the formation of an international investigative group under the aegis of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN body, to investigate the incident.
The IAC said such a group should be handed over MH17 flight recorders, which are currently being recovered in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region.
So far two flight recorders from the plane have been reportedly recovered in the region currently controlled by the militia forces. Some militia officials said they intended to hand them over to Moscow because they didn’t trust Kiev to properly investigate the incident.
The probe into the loss of the Boeing-777 is bound to be a politically loaded one. There was no official confirmation that the plane was shot down rather than crashed from a different cause, but the parties involved are already trading blame for the tragedy.
Both the Ukrainian military and the militias fighting against Kiev denied shooting at the plane and stated that they had no capability to take down an aircraft flying 10,000 meters high.
Some politicians and Western media are pointing fingers at Russia, alleging that it is responsible for the Malaysia Airlines plane’s loss. They claim Moscow could have provided a missile launcher, which the Ukrainian militia used to take down the plane.
Kiev in the past few days accused the Russian military of several direct attacks in its territory, including an airstrike, which militia reported as conducted by the Ukrainian military, and a downing of a Ukrainian military plane, which militia claimed was their doing. The Russian military called the accusations absurd.
Hours after the crash of the Boeing 777 was reported, Kiev published what it called intercepted communications between militia officers and their Russian handler to apparently discuss the take-down of a civilian aircraft by the militia. The militia labeled the recording “an amateurish fake.”
There were almost 300 people on board Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, including 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers. In addition to Dutch travelers and Malaysian crew, there were Australians, Indonesians and citizens of several other countries. Nobody survived the crash.
Fortaleza, Brazil – After some tough rounds of negotiations, BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have created not only a new $100 billion Development Bank, but also a $100 billion foreign currency reserves pool.
The announcement was made after a plenary meet of the five BRICS heads of state in Fortaleza on Tuesday.
Shanghai finally won the bid to host the Bank while India will get the presidency of the Bank for the first six years. The Bank will have a rotating chair. The Bank will also have a regional office in Johannesburg, South Africa. All the five countries will have equal shareholding in the BRICS Bank.
The five Finance Ministers will constitute the Bank’s board which will be chaired by Brazil.
The Bank will initially be involved in infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations.
The authorized, dedicated and paid in capital will amount to $100 billion, $50 billion and $10 billion respectively.
The idea of the BRICS Bank was proposed by India during the 2012 Summit in New Delhi.
BRICS have long alleged that the IMF and World Bank impose belt-tightening policies in exchange for loans while giving them little say in deciding terms. Total trade between the countries is $6.14 trillion, or nearly 17 percent of the world’s total. The last decade saw the BRICS combined GDP grow more than 300 per cent, while that of the developed word grew 60 per cent.
Apart from the new development Bank, the group of five leading emerging economies also created a Contingency Reserve Arrangement on Tuesday.
BRICS central banks will keep their reserves in gold and foreign currencies.
China will fund $41 billion, Brazil, India and Russia $18 billion each and South Africa with $5 billion. The funds will be provided according to a multiple. China’s multiple is 0.5, which means that if needed, the country will get half of $41 billion. The multiple is 2 for South Africa and 1 for the rest.
BRICS Finance ministers or central banks’ governors will form a governing body to manage the CRA while it will be presided over by the BRICS President.
The BRICS CRA will not be open to outsiders.
Meanwhile, at the Summit in Fortaleza, Russian President Vladimir Putin said BRICS must form an energy alliance.
“We propose the establishment of the Energy Association of BRICS. Under this ‘umbrella’, a Fuel Reserve Bank and BRICS Energy Policy Institute could be set up,” Putin said on Tuesday.
France, Germany, and Italy are among EU members who don’t want to follow the US lead and impose trade sanctions on Russia. US sanctions are seen as a push to promote its own multibillion free-trade pact with Europe.
“France, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, and EU President Italy see no reason in the current environment for the introduction of sectorial trade and economic sanctions against Russia and at the summit, will block the measure,” a diplomatic source told ITAR-TASS.
In order for a new wave of sanctions to pass, all 28 EU members must unanimously vote in favor. EU ministers plan to discuss new sanctions against Russia at their summit in Brussels on Wednesday, July 16. Even if only one country vetoed, sanctions would not be imposed. With heavyweights like France and Germany opposed to more sanctions the measure will likely again be stalled, the source said.
According to the source, the US sees slapping Russia with sanctions as a way to promote its own trade agenda with Europe, a side rarely explored in mainstream media. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and Europe would create the world’s largest free trade zone, but some worry it could balloon into an “economic NATO” or could end up putting corporate interests above national.
“Last year the EU and the US started difficult negotiations on a free trade agreement, which would force the EU into serious concessions, in particular, agricultural quality standards and regulation on genetically modified products. In this circumstance, restrictions against Russia will force EU countries to expand trade with the US,” the source said, citing shale gas as an example.
On June 20, Czech President Milos Zeman came out against sanctioning Russia, saying there is “no reason” to further “isolate” the country.
America was successful in getting Europe to toe its sanctions agenda at the height of the Ukraine crisis, but now Russia has removed its troops from the Ukraine border and promised peace in the region, Europe isn’t interested in further sanctions.
The EU initially followed the US cue when it imposed sanctions on Russia after the reunification of Crimea in March, but these measures were limited to politicians and businessmen. The EU unleashed a second round which expanded the list to over 72 individuals, who cannot enter the EU or access any assets there.
Russian officials maintain that sanctions are counterproductive, and will end up hurting the West more than they will Russia.
Another reason EU countries are wary of slapping Russia with economic sanctions is the possible spillover effect. Unlike the US, European countries rely heavily on Russia as a trading partner, especially for natural gas. The World Bank estimates that if sanctions escalate European gas prices could jump 50 percent.
Europe clearly has much more to lose by punishing its neighbor, with annual trade in goods and services worth $330 billion. American trade with Russia, by contrast is just a tenth of that at $38.1 billion.
Deals with UK-based BP, US-based Weatherford International, and ExxonMobil, continue to show that most countries continue to do business with Russia, politics aside.
Italy was the first country to speak out against Russian sanctions. Rosneft, the world’s largest listed oil company, recently acquired a 26.2 percent stake in Italian tire company Pirelli. Igor Sechin, boss of Rosneft and on the US sanctions list, joined the board of the Milan-based company. Three other Rosneft representatives, as well as the CEO of Russia’s second largest bank, VTB, sit on the board.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a call by his Argentinean counterpart Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to curb Western dominance in international politics.
Putin gave his support during a meeting with Kirchner in the Argentinean capital, Buenos Aires, on Saturday.
The Russian leader also said Moscow and Buenos Aires share a close view on international relations.
During the meeting, Kirchner emphasized that global institutions must be overhauled and made more multilateral, adding, “We firmly believe in multipolarity, in multilateralism, in a world where countries don’t have a double standard.”
In addition, the two leaders discussed military cooperation and oversaw their delegations signing a series of bilateral deals, including one on nuclear energy.
Putin’s visit to Argentina is part of his six-day tour of Latin America aimed at boosting trade and ties in the region, according to Russian state media.
The Russian leader’s trip will next take him to Brazil, where he is scheduled to attend the gathering of the economic alliance, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), in Brazil on July 15 and 16.
Putin’s Latin American tour began on July 11 in Cuba, where he met with President Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel Castro. During his stay in the capital, Havana, Putin signed a law writing off 90 percent of Cuba’s USD 35-billion Soviet-era debt.
Following his visit to Cuba, Putin made a surprise visit to Nicaragua, where he held talks with President Daniel Ortega.
Serbia has signed a 2.1 billion euro contract with Gazprom subsidiary Centrgaz to construct the South Stream pipeline across its territory. There is increasing pressure from the EU to suspend the project because it claims it breaks competition law.
Centrgaz will be involved in the design, procurement, construction and installation activities, personnel training and commissioning, while Serbian subcontractors will carrying out some of the work, according to South Stream.
The signing ceremony was held in Serbia on Tuesday between South Stream Serbia and Centrgaz.
There has been mounting pressure from the EU to put the project on hold, as it is seen to breach European law.
Most of the participating countries have confirmed their commitment to South Stream construction.
On Wednesday Russia and Italy said they would continue work on South Stream and were ready “to settle all of the issues, including those that concern dialog with the European Commission,” according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
On Tuesday, Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec said the country wanted “South Stream to pass through our territory.”
Further support for the Russian-led project came from Bulgaria on Monday, when the Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said it was one of the country’s priority projects. The comment was made after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sofia. “I believe that we have enough arguments to continue the project,” Oresharski said, adding that the government will work as hard as it can to continue it within the European legislation.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the deal on the Serbian part of South Stream would “… mean the transition of our relations with Serbia to a new phase.”
South Stream is a Gazprom project expected to deliver 63 billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually to Europe bypassing Ukraine, which has proved unreliable as a transit partner. The on land part of South Stream goes through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria.
All internet companies collecting personal information from Russian citizens are obliged to store that data inside the country, according to a new law. Its supporters cite security reasons, while opponents see it as an infringement of freedoms.
The law, passed Friday by the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, would come into force Sept. 1, 2016. The authors of the legislation believe that it gives both foreign and domestic internet companies enough time to create data-storage facilities in Russia.
The bill was proposed after some Russian MPs deemed it unwise that the bulk of Russians’ online personal data is held on foreign servers, mostly in the US.
“In this way foreign states possess full information, correspondence, photographs of not only our individuals, but companies as well,” one of the authors of the bill, Vadim Dengin of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) told Itar-Tass. “All of the [internet] companies, including the foreign ones, you are welcome to store that information, but please create data centers in Russia so that it can be controlled by Roscomnadzor (the Federal Communications Supervisory Service) and there would be a guarantee from the state that [the data] isn’t going anywhere.”
Russian MPs believe the new law is in tune with the current European policy of trying to legally protect online personal data. Deputy chairman of the Duma’s committee on information policy, Leonid Levin, said the Russian law serves goals similar to those of the recent decision by European Court of Justice, which endorsed the so-called “right to be forgotten,” obliging Google to remove upon request links to personal data.
“The security of Russians’ personal data is one of the basic rights that should be protected, legally and otherwise,” Levin said, Russian Forbes reported.
Websites that don’t comply with the law will find themselves blacklisted by Roscomnadzor, which will then have the right to limit access to them.
Critics of the law believe it could be used by authorities for censorship, however.
“The aim of this law is to create … [another] quasi-legal pretext to close Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all other services,” Internet expert and blogger Anton Nossik told Reuters.
Some are afraid two years could be not enough for certain companies to have their online data storage organized in Russia. Particular concern has been voiced in relation to online hotel and plane ticket booking services.
Leading Russian airlines Aeroflot and Transaero, for example, use the same GDS system for online ticket sales as most of the other airlines in the world. Developing the Russian system might take longer than the law allows.
“If the law is passed in its current version, then Russians won’t be able to take a plane not only to Europe, they won’t even be able to by an online ticket from Moscow to St Petersburg,” director general of internet payment provider ChronoPay, Aleksey Kovyrshin, said previously to RBC.
The Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC), an NGO focused on Russian internet issues, has warned of the potential economic losses the law might entail.
“The law puts under question cross-border transmission of personal data,” RAEC said in a statement. “Passing similar laws on the localization of personal data in other countries has led to withdrawal of global services and substantial economic losses.”
NATO’s newest Eastern European members are handing over their Soviet arms stockpiles to the Ukrainian army, Russia’s Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin says, adding that the alliance is in danger of pouring gasoline on the flames of that country’s civil war.
Rogozin, who supervises the Russian military industry, has tweeted that NATO is asking its newest members to get rid of operable Soviet military equipment and send it to Ukraine, to aid the miserable state of the country’s military hardware.
“In turn, the US is ready to compensate for the “losses” of the newly co-opted NATO member states. The American military-industrial complex must be happy,” Rogozin wrote in his Twitter account.
“By the way, this is NATO’s commonplace to put out civil wars’ fire with aviation kerosene,” Rogozin added.
Over the months of Ukraine’s hot political crisis, NATO member states, primarily the US, announced they are planning non-lethal aid to Ukrainian troops, supplying uniforms and tents, and even promising to deploy a number of military instructors to train the Ukrainian army to fight the adherents of federalization of the country in Eastern Ukraine.
Political commentator Mikhail Rostovsky told RIA Novosti news agency that the “US and EU are thinking not about Ukraine but about the neutralization of Russia.”
Rostovsky compared the current policies of the European and American leaders with that of British PM Margaret Thatcher and French President François Mitterrand towards the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990.
Speaking loudly about “the European choice for Ukraine,” the EU and US politicians are essentially seeking ways to drive a wedge between Moscow and Kiev to neutralize what they regard as Russia’s possible “imperial ambitions,” Rostovsky said. “We’re dealing with politics dictated by fear: God forbid the Kremlin’s imperial instincts got awakened! This is a matter of principle to deny the Kremlin such an opportunity and break Ukraine away from Russia.”
Rostovsky said he fully agreed with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who told Der Spiegel in late April that Europe has slid “into the worst crisis since the end of the Cold War.”
“Those who can remember the fall of the Berlin Wall know what we’ve accomplished over the past 25 years. The gains we’ve made almost everywhere in Europe in terms of peace, freedom and prosperity are now at risk,” Steinmeier said, adding that that it was important to take “every measure to prevent things [in Ukraine] from getting worse.”
Russia’s president has blamed the turmoil in Ukraine on the country’s newly-elected leader Petro Poroshenko. Vladimir Putin also criticized the West for its intention to turn the planet into a “global barracks.”
Russia’s president has laid the blame for the ongoing turmoil between Kiev and south-eastern regions squarely at the feet of Petro Poroshenko, after the Ukrainian leader terminated the ceasefire.
He has stressed that Russia and European partners could not convince Poroshenko to not take the path of violence, which can’t lead to peace.
“Unfortunately, President Poroshenko has made the decision to resume military actions, and we – meaning myself and my colleagues in Europe – could not convince him that the way to reliable, firm and long-term peace can’t lie through war,” Putin said. “So far, Petro Poroshenko had no direct relation to orders to take military action. Now he has taken on this responsibility in full. Not only military, but also political, more importantly.”
On Monday, the leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine held a phone call in which Putin stressed the need to prolong the ceasefire and the creation of “a reliable mechanism for monitoring compliance with it and the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] should play an active role.”
Russia offered that checkpoints on the Russian side should be monitored by representatives of the Ukrainian Border service as well as OSCE observers for “the joint control of the border.”
As the violent conflict continues in the east of Ukraine and the number of refugees fleeing to Russia grows, Putin vowed to provide help to everyone who needs it.
“Everything that’s going on in Ukraine is of course the internal business of Ukrainian government, but we are painfully sorry that people die, civilians,” Putin said. He added that the killing of journalists was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“In my opinion, there is a deliberate attempt to eliminate representatives of the press going on. It concerns both Russian and foreign journalists,” the president said.
Speaking in front of ambassadors on Tuesday, Putin expressed hope that Western partners will stop imposing their principles on other countries.
“I hope pragmatism will still prevail. The West will get rid of ambitions, pursuits to establish a ‘world barracks’ – to arrange all according to ranks, to impose uniform rules of behavior and life of society,” Putin said.
“I hope the West will start building relations based on equal rights, mutual respect and mutual consideration of interests.”
Putin recalled the situation with France and the delivery of the Mistral-class ships that was agreed between Moscow and Paris, but was jeopardized in March.
“We know about the pressure that our American partners put on the French so that they would not deliver the Mistral [ships] to Russia,” Putin said. “And we know that [they] hinted that if the French don’t deliver Mistral, sanctions on banks will be gradually removed, or at least minimized. What is this, if not blackmail?”
Russia is ready to have dialogue with the US only on the basis of equality, Putin added.
“We are not going to stop our relations with the US. The bilateral relations are not in the best shape, that is true. But this – and I want to emphasize – is not Russia’s fault,” he told diplomats.
Speaking about international relations, Putin stressed that Russia always tried to be “predictable, to do business on an equal basis”, however, in return, its interests were quite often ignored.
On Wednesday, June 25th, the Financial Times published an essay by Francis Fukuyama. He is the famed US political scientist, a “neoconservative” apostate and author of The End of History and the Last Man in 1992. The title of his op-ed is “ISIS risks distracting US from more menacing foes”. I first read it in the middle of the night on my “smartphone” and found it confusing. What was the writer getting at? I did not notice the byline. Then I did, and was less confused. Fukuyama is conflicted and his ideas are sometimes contradictory. So you factor that in. No problem. He has had a checkered past, but haven’t we all?
Fukuyama started out as a “neoconservative” during the Reagan Presidency, working alongside such disturbing characters as Paul Wolfowitz and I. Scooter Libby, who were later to become famous, wild-eyed propagandists in the G.W. Bush Administration, aka the Cheney Regency. In the aftermath of 9/11, Fukuyama–like all true blue Neocons and “liberal interventionists”–promoted the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq on bogus grounds. The purported aim was to depose Saddam Hussein and install “democracy” in his place.
You may recall that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and possessed no WMD at the time of those attacks. There were no al-Qaeda, no terrorism, and no terrorists inside Iraq prior to “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Later, when the occupational phase of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” became an instant fiasco–and the whole rotten enterprise was revealed to be a scam based upon breathtaking lies emanating from the very top–Fukuyama broke with his fellow Neocons. He became a critic of the Regency and the Neocons, and has since then taken a more nuanced approach to world affairs.
Although he no longer communicates with Dr. Paul “Mass Destruction” Wolfowitz, Fukuyama was on the steering committee of the legal defense fund for I. Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff and top “national security” adviser, when Libby got mixed up in the Regent’s campaign to smear Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the husband of CIA agent Valerie Plame whose undercover assignment was WMD. Wilson had the temerity to point out in a July 2003 New York Times op-ed that Iraq had not, in fact, imported “yellow cake” uranium from Niger to build an A-bomb. Ergo, there was no mushroom cloud on the horizon. Ergo, Dick Cheney’s biggest WMD whopper was clarified and exposed to the light of day. At that point Fukuyama must have figured that his friend Libby, the factotum, was falling on his sword for his all-powerful boss, and deserved a break.
Like most big-picture essays, especially those aimed at the general public, Fukuyama’s present effort in the FT is predicated upon hallowed and widely accepted assumptions about American history and America’s place in the world. Many of these assumptions are dubious, fictive and, in some cases, ridiculous. Accordingly, Fukuyama’s conclusions are necessarily suspect. Since he is a savant, he should know better. Perhaps he does know better, but has not the time nor the inclination to correct the authorized version of history and current events. It might upset certain people or further confuse them. Better to embrace the received, conventional wisdom, and use it whenever possible to advance one’s own ideas.
Fukuyama’s first mistake, in my view, is taking the foreign policy pronouncements of Barack Obama seriously, at face value, and worthy of analysis. Certainly at this stage, it does not matter what Obama says. In truth, it never has. Yes, I realize that Obama presides over the lone surviving superpower, but this outlandish circumstance by itself is a red flag and requires that all issues relating to US foreign policy be considered with a jaundiced eye. White House credibility in world affairs is shot, and has been shot for decades. Dishonesty and wholesale deception did not start with Barack Obama. He has simply continued the trend, and taken it to the next level, like G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton did before him.
What the current occupant of the White House brings to the table is salesmanship and fantasies. Obama is a master at speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Whatever sounds good, go with it. He’s a talker. I recall in particular his 2008 US presidential campaign sortie through Israel and Europe, and especially his enraptured, grandiose speech at Tiergarten Park Berlin on July 24th of that year. That speech boils down to flapdoodle, and its messianic quality is all the more remarkable, because Obama was still a private citizen. The day before, his idealism ran in a different direction. He was shamelessly pandering to Ariel Sharon’s successor, PM Ehud Olmert, in Tel Aviv, while giving the Palestinians short shrift and the shaft. John McCain had performed a similar routine four months previously.
In the article in question, Fukuyama critiques Obama’s recent commencement address at West Point on May 28th. The White House hyped it as a major foreign policy speech. It fell flat with Fukuyama. He calls Obama’s approach “wrong-headed”. Too much concern about terrorism and the Middle East and not enough focus on the authentic “menacing foes”–Russia and China. He states, “The extremism of ISIS will in the end prove self-defeating. By contrast, allies the US is sworn to defend are now threatened by industrialized nations with sophisticated militaries.” Say what?!
Fukuyama appears to imply that America needs real enemies to confront, not phantoms. Yet it was a phantom threat that he and his cohorts were hot to confront when it came to Saddam Hussein. The blowback from that misadventure is incalculable. Fukuyama goes on to conclude, “The poles established by the neoconservatives on the one hand and isolationists on the other present false choices. Real strategy always has to lie somewhere in between.” In sum, Fukuyama does not want Washington to get sidetracked. Hmm. May I humbly suggest that the US has been hopelessly sidetracked for at least a century.
Fukuyama begins by paying homage to World War II, which global bloodbath remains the primary justification for all US foreign policy initiatives since 1945. It is the holy grail for the Neocons, along with their flamboyant hero, Winston Churchill. It is key to the modern-day, bipartisan attitude of American exceptionalism. Colonel Andrew Bacevich makes the central importance of the Second World War clear in a recent fascinating interview with Bill Moyers.
Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power, does not fault America’s entry and success in the Second World War, but he does deplore the use to which it has been put to empower a host of ill-advised US foreign policy adventures in the aftermath. My problem, on the other hand, is with the Second World War itself and with its progenitor, the Great War of 1914-18. If we accept them as sacrosanct, legitimate undertakings by Washington, then we lend credence to the myth of American exceptionalism, which has turned out to be a dangerous, self-destructive idea.
Consider an alternative narrative in which America’s entry into both world wars was unnecessary, ill-advised, and brought about by chicanery in service to a private agenda. The idea of American exceptionalism began with Woodrow Wilson, not with creepy neoconservative ideologues. Wilson ran for a second term in 1916 on the slogan, “He kept us out of war!” Yet, Wilson appears to have already decided to join England on the western front in France. Washington’s official neutrality was a sham from the start. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigned in protest to Wilson’s hypocrisy in June 1915.
In the background, English propaganda was beating the drums to drag America into the war. America’s official entry into the Great War in April 1917 meant that the British Empire was saved from near-certain defeat at the hands of the German army and the Central Powers. It meant the rise of fascism and the success of communism in Russia. It meant the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and the execution of the Balfour Declaration in Palestine. It meant, inevitably, a second European conflict on a grander scale, caused by the injustices of the first conflict, as embodied in the Paris peace treaty. In short, it was a ghastly blunder.
Did Wilson make the right decision? In hindsight, absolutely not. He deceived the American people in 1916, and was then taken to the cleaners by Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau at the Paris peace conference in 1919. He then suffered a nervous breakdown, then a stroke, and died a broken man. Did Franklin Roosevelt act wisely when he hectored England, France and Poland in the summer of 1939 not to negotiate with Germany over Danzig, thereby assuring the outbreak of a European war? Probably not. He acted recklessly. Did Roosevelt do the right thing by provoking the Empire of Japan to attack US armed forces in the Pacific in 1941 so that he could jump into the war in Europe, a war he felt responsible for instigating behind the scenes? Again, no. His conduct can easily be regarded as treason. It was certainly deceitful.
We can’t unwind history, of course, but we can see its consequences, set the record straight, and not live in a dream world. Contrary to what you may have learned in school, these were not unselfish wars to make the world safe for democracy. That was a cover story. These were wars for economic advantage on the part of Washington and London, and were fought to maintain the prestige of the near-bankrupt British Empire–and then replace it with the American empire. They were at variance with the dictum delivered by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1821 that America, “… goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
Fukuyama assumes, instead, that both global wars of the twentieth century were non-fraudulent and for a good cause, on which foundation Washington has built a better world. This is the conventional view. He believes the struggle to improve humanity should continue in the aftermath of the Cold War. He takes it for granted that the US is entitled–as the indispensable and exceptional nation–to intervene everywhere on earth at its discretion, and has a responsibility plus the resources to do so. To imagine otherwise is isolationism. This vagary constitutes in large measure the mindset of Washington’s foreign policy establishment. It is delusional and grounded in hubris.
Overlaying this Wilsonian mistake is the self-evident, post Cold War fact that Washington–the White House, the Senate, the Congress and both political parties–have, for all intents and purposes, been hijacked by agents of the Israel Lobby, to wit, the Neocons and their “liberal interventionist” fellow travelers. It is a perfect storm. We are witnessing the bloody results today in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and the Ukraine. The fake nuclear crisis with Iran is another dangerous byproduct. Humanity has not profited thereby. Now Fukuyama proposes what amounts to a new crusade against Russia and China, leaving the “war on terror” behind. Alas, he appears not to be joking.
PATRICK FOY is an essayist and short story writer. He graduated from Columbia University, where he studied English literature, European history and American diplomatic history. His work can be found at www.PatrickFoyDossier.com.
Copyright 2014 Patrick Foy.
It is enlightening to see how pugnacious the U.S. establishment, led by the Peace Laureate, has been in dealing with the Ukraine crisis. The crisis arguably began when the Yanukovich government rejected an EU bailout program in favor of one offered by Russia. The mainstream media (MSM) have virtually suppressed the fact that the EU proposal was not only less generous than the one offered by Russia, but that whereas the Russian plan did not preclude further Ukrainian deals with the EU the EU plan would have required a cut-off of further Russian arrangements. And whereas the Russian deal had no military clauses, that of the EU required that Ukraine affiliate with NATO. Insofar as the MSM dealt with this set of offers they not only suppressed the exclusionary and militarized character of the EU offer, they tended to view the Russian deal as an improper use of economic leverage, “bludgeoning,” but the EU proposal was “constructive and reasonable” (Ed., NYT, Nov. 20, 2014). Double standards seem to be fully internalized within the U.S. establishment.
The protests that ensued in Ukraine were surely based in part on real grievances against a corrupt government, but they were also pushed along by rightwing groups and by U.S. and allied encouragement and support that increasingly had an anti-Russian and pro-accelerated-regime-change flavor. They also increased in level of violence. The sniper killings of police and protesters in Maidan on February 21, 2014 brought the crisis to a new head. This violence overlapped with and eventually terminated a negotiated settlement of the struggle brokered by EU members that would have ended the violence, created an interim government and required elections by December. The accelerated violence ended this transitional plan, which was replaced by a coup takeover, along with the forced flight of Victor Yanukovich.
There is credible evidence that the sniper shootings of both protesters and police were carried out by a segment of the protesters in a false-flag operation that worked exceedingly well, “government” violence serving as one ground for the ouster of Yanukovich. Most telling was the intercepted phone message between Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Upton in which Paet regretfully reported compelling evidence that the shots killing both police and protesters came from a segment of the protesters. This account was almost entirely suppressed in the MSM; for example, the New York Times never mentioned it once through the following two months. It is also enlightening that the protesters at Maidan were never called “militants” in the MSM, although a major and effective segment was armed and violent—that term was reserved for protesters in Eastern Ukraine, who were commonly designated “pro-Russian” as well as militants.
There is also every reason to believe that the coup and establishment of a right wing and anti-Russian government were encouraged and actively supported by U.S. officials. Victoria Nuland’s intercepted “fuck the EU” words express her hostility to a group that, while generally compliant and subservient, departed from neocon plans for a proper government in Kiev headed by somebody like “Yats.” So she would surely have been pleased when the EU-supported February compromise plan was ended by the violence and coup. The U.S. support of the coup government has been enthusiastic and unqualified, and whereas Kerry and company delayed recognition of the elected government of Maduro in Venezuela, and have strongly urged him to dialogue and negotiate with the Venezuelan protesters—in fact, threatening him if he doesn’t — Kerry and company have not done the same in Ukraine where the Kiev government forces have slowly escalated their attacks on the Eastern Ukraine, but not on “protesters,” only on “militants!”
The Kiev government’s military is now using jets and helicopters to bomb targets in the East and heavy artillery and mortars in its ground operations. Its targets have included hospitals and schools, and as of June 8 civilian casualties have been in the hundreds. A dramatic massacre of 40 or more pro-Russian protesters in Odessa on May 2 by a well-organized cadre of neo-Nazi supporters, possibly agents of the Kiev government, was an early high point in this pacification campaign. No investigation of this slaughter has been mounted by the Kiev government or “international community” and it has not interfered in the slightest with Western support of Kiev. In parallel the MSM have treated it in very low key. (The New York Times buried this incident in a back page continuation of a story on “Deadly Clashes Erupt in Ukraine,” May 5, which succeeds in covering up the affiliation of the killers.) Kerry has been silent, though we may imagine his certain frenzy if Maduro’s agents had carried out a similar action in Venezuela. Recall the “Racak massacre,” where the deaths of 40 alleged victims of the Serb military created an international frenzy; but in that case the United States needed a casus belli, whereas in the Odessa case there is a pacification war already in process by a U.S. client, so MSM silence is in order.
It is an interesting feature of media coverage of the Ukraine crisis that there is a regular focus on alleged or possible Russian aid, control of and participation in the actions of the protesters/militants/insurgents in Eastern Ukraine. This was evident in the Times’s gullible acceptance of a claim that photos of insurgents included a Russian pictured in Russia, later acknowledged to be problematic (Andrew Higgins, Michael Gordon and Andrew Kramer, “Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia,” NYT, April 20, 2014); and in another lead article which was almost entirely speculation (Sabrina Tavernise, “In Ukraine Kremlin Leaves No Fingerprints,” NYT, June 1, 2014.). But this interest in foreign intrusion in Ukraine affairs, with the implication of wrong-doing, does not extend to evidence of U.S. and other NATO power aid and control. Visits by Biden, Cain, Nuland and intelligence and Pentagon figures are sometimes mentioned, but the scope and character of aid and advice, of U.S. “fingerprints,” is not discussed and seems to be of little interest. It is, in fact, normalized, so that as with the aid plans in which Russian proposals are “bludgeons” but U.S.-EU plans are “constructive and reasonable” the double standard is in good working order here as well.
Isn’t there a danger that Russia will enter this war on behalf of the pro-Russian majority of the eastern part of Ukraine now under assault? Possibly, but not likely, as Putin is well aware that the Obama-neocon-military-industrial complex crowd would welcome this and would use it, at minimum, as a means of further dividing Russia from the EU powers, further militarizing U.S. clients and allies, and firming up the MIC’s command of the U.S. national budget. Certainly there are important forces in this country that would love to see a war with Russia, and it is notable how common are political comments, criticisms and regrets at Obama’s weak response to Russian “aggression” (e.g., David Sanger, “Obama Policy Is put to Test: Global Crises Challenge a Strategy of Caution,” NYT, March 17, 2014). But so far Putin refuses to bite.
In response to this pressure from the powerful war-loving and war-making U.S. constituencies, Obama has been furiously denouncing Russia and has hastened to exclude it from the G-8, impose sanctions and penalties on the villain state, increase U.S. troops and press military aid on the near-Russia states allegedly terrified at the Russian threat, carry out training exercises and maneuvers with these allies and clients, assure them of the sacredness of our commitment to their security, and press these states and major allies to increase their military budgets. One thing he hasn’t done is to restrain his Kiev client in dealing with the insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Another is engaging Putin in an attempt at a settlement. Putin has stressed the importance of a constitutional formation of a Ukraine federation in which a still intact Ukraine would allow significant autonomy to the Eastern provinces. There was a Geneva meeting and joint statement on April 17 in which all sides pledged a de-escalation effort, disarming irregulars, and constitutional reform. But it was weak, without enforcement mechanisms, and had no effect. The most important requirement for de-escalation would be the termination of what is clearly a Kiev pacification program for Eastern Ukraine. That is not happening, because Obama doesn’t want it to happen. In fact, he takes the position that it is up to Russia to curb the separatists in East Ukraine, and he has gotten his G-7 puppies to agree to give Russia a deadline to do this, or face more severe penalties.
This situation calls to mind Gareth Porter’s analysis of the “perils of dominance,” where he argued that the Vietnam war occurred and became a very large one because U.S. officials thought that with their overwhelming military superiority North Vietnam and its allies in the south would surrender and accept U.S. terms—most importantly a U.S. controlled South Vietnam—as military escalation took place and a growing toll was imposed on the Vietnamese (see his Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam). It didn’t work. In the Ukraine context the United States once again has a militarily dominant position. On its own and through its NATO arm it has encircled Russia with satellites established in violation of the 1990 promise of James Baker and Hans-Dietrch Genscher to Mikhail Gorbachev to not move eastward “one inch,” and it has placed anti-missile weapons right on Russia’s borders. And now it has engineered a coup in Ukraine that empowered a government openly hostile to Russia and threatening both the well-being of Russian-speaking Ukrainians and the control of the major Russian naval base in Crimea. Putin’s action in reincorporating Crimea into Russia was an inevitable defensive reaction to a serious threat to Russian national security. But it may have surprised the Obama team, just as the Vietnamese refusal to accept surrender terms may have surprised the Johnson administration. Continuing to push the Vietnamese by escalation didn’t work, although it did kill and injure millions and ended the Vietnamese alternative way. Continuing and escalating actions against Russia in 2014 may involve a higher risk for the real aggressor and for the world, but there are real spinoff benefits to Lockheed and other members of the MIC.