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The Corporate Takeover of Ukrainian Agriculture

By Frédéric Mousseau | IPS | January 27, 2015

OAKLAND, CA – At the same time as the United States, Canada and the European Union announced a set of new sanctions against Russia in mid-December last year, Ukraine received 350 million dollars in U.S. military aid, coming on top of a one billion dollar aid package approved by the U.S. Congress in March 2014. 

Western governments’ further involvement in the Ukraine conflict signals their confidence in the cabinet appointed by the new government earlier in December 2014. This new government is unique given that three of its most important ministries were granted to foreign-born individuals who received Ukrainian citizenship just hours before their appointment.

The Ministry of Finance went to Natalie Jaresko, a U.S.-born and educated businesswoman who has been working in Ukraine since the mid-1990s, overseeing a private equity fund established by the U.S. government to invest in the country. Jaresko is also the CEO of Horizon Capital, an investment firm that administers various Western investments in the country.

As unusual as it may seem, this appointment is consistent with what looks more like a takeover of the Ukrainian economy by Western interests. In two reports – The Corporate Takeover of Ukrainian Agriculture and Walking on the West Side: The World Bank and the IMF in the Ukraine Conflict – the Oakland Institute has documented this takeover, particularly in the agricultural sector.

A major factor in the crisis that led to deadly protests and eventually to president Viktor Yanukovych’s removal from office in February 2014 was his rejection of a European Union (EU) Association agreement aimed at expanding trade and integrating Ukraine with the EU – an agreement that was tied to a 17 billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

After the president’s departure and the installation of a pro-Western government, the IMF initiated a reform programme that was a condition of its loan with the goal of increasing private investment in the country.

The package of measures includes reforming the public provision of water and energy, and, more important, attempts to address what the World Bank identified as the “structural roots” of the current economic crisis in Ukraine, notably the high cost of doing business in the country.

The Ukrainian agricultural sector has been a prime target for foreign private investment and is logically seen by the IMF and World Bank as a priority sector for reform. Both institutions praise the new government’s readiness to follow their advice.

For example, the foreign-driven agricultural reform roadmap provided to Ukraine includes facilitating the acquisition of agricultural land, cutting food and plant regulations and controls, and reducing corporate taxes and custom duties.

The stakes around Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector – the world’s third largest exporter of corn and fifth largest exporter of wheat – could not be higher. Ukraine is known for its ample fields of rich black soil, and the country boasts more than 32 million hectares of fertile, arable land – the equivalent of one-third of the entire arable land in the European Union.

The manoeuvring for control over the country’s agricultural system is a pivotal factor in the struggle that has been taking place over the last year in the greatest East-West confrontation since the Cold War.

The presence of foreign corporations in Ukrainian agriculture is growing quickly, with more than 1.6 million hectares signed over to foreign companies for agricultural purposes in recent years. While Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont have been in Ukraine for quite some time, their investments in the country have grown significantly over the past few years.

Cargill is involved in the sale of pesticides, seeds and fertilisers and has recently expanded its agricultural investments to include grain storage, animal nutrition and a stake in UkrLandFarming, the largest agribusiness in the country.

Similarly, Monsanto has been in Ukraine for years but has doubled the size of its team over the last three years. In March 2014, just weeks after Yanukovych was deposed, the company invested 140 million dollars in building a new seed plant in Ukraine.

DuPont has also expanded its investments and announced in June 2013 that it too would be investing in a new seed plant in the country.

Western corporations have not just taken control of certain profitable agribusinesses and agricultural activities, they have now initiated a vertical integration of the agricultural sector and extended their grip on infrastructure and shipping.

For instance, Cargill now owns at least four grain elevators and two sunflower seed processing plants used for the production of sunflower oil. In December 2013, the company bought a “25% +1 share” in a grain terminal at the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk with a capacity of 3.5 million tons of grain per year.

All aspects of Ukraine’s agricultural supply chain – from the production of seeds and other agricultural inputs to the actual shipment of commodities out of the country – are thus increasingly controlled by Western firms.

European institutions and the U.S. government have actively promoted this expansion. It started with the push for a change of government at a time when president Yanukovych was seen as pro-Russian interests. This was further pushed, starting in February 2014, through the promotion of a “pro-business” reform agenda, as described by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker when she met with Prime Minister Arsenly Yatsenyuk in October 2014.

The European Union and the United States are working hand in hand in the takeover of Ukrainian agriculture. Although Ukraine does not allow the production of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, which ignited the conflict that ousted Yanukovych, includes a clause (Article 404) that commits both parties to cooperate to “extend the use of biotechnologies” within the country.

This clause is surprising given that most European consumers reject GM crops. However, it creates an opening to bring GM products into Europe, an opportunity sought after by large agro-seed companies such as Monsanto.

Opening up Ukraine to the cultivation of GM crops would go against the will of European citizens, and it is unclear how the change would benefit Ukrainians.

It is similarly unclear how Ukrainians will benefit from this wave of foreign investment in their agriculture, and what impact these investments will have on the seven million local farmers.

Once they eventually look away from the conflict in the Eastern “pro-Russian” part of the country, Ukrainians may wonder what remains of their country’s ability to control its food supply and manage the economy to their own benefit.

As for U.S. and European citizens, will they eventually awaken from the headlines and grand rhetoric about Russian aggression and human rights abuses and question their governments’ involvement in the Ukraine conflict?

Frédéric Mousseau is the Policy Director at the Oakland Institute.

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Chilean Ex-General Arrested for Caravan of Death

teleSUR | February 7, 2015

A judge in Chile ordered the arrest of four Pinochet-era military officials Thursday, including a retired general.

The retired general and former junta member Santiago Sinclair is among those arrested for alleged involvement in 12 killings related to the so-called “Caravan of Death” – a military death squad that scoured Chile from south to north for political dissidents in 1973. The death squad executed dozens of Chileans suspected of being disloyal to Augusto Pinochet – who seized power in a military coup earlier that year. The heavily armed death squad moved from town to town by helicopter at the order of Pinochet. Many of the victims were shot by firing squad. The “Caravan” has become known in Chilean culture as one of the first major acts of repression carried out under Pinochet. The regime would go on to execute over 2000 Chileans and torture more than 30,000. Among the victims were leftists, human rights campaigners and cultural icons like musicians that were perceived by the regime as critical.

The four officials are the latest in a series of arrests in relation to the “Caravan.” Arrest warrants for five other former military personnel were issued in 1999, and 13 more in 2006. In December 2013, eight former personnel were found guilty of participating in the death squad, and were sentenced to between three and 15 years imprisonment.

Pinochet himself has faced charges in court for allegations of being an accomplice to the “Caravan” killings, but was never found guilty due to health reasons. He died in late 2006 without being prosecuted.

Last month, Pinochet’s secret police head was sentenced to 400 years in prison for human rights abuses under the military regime.

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

‘Patriotic’ Folly

By Brandon Martinez | Non-Aligned Media | February 6, 2015

Capitalizing on the recent Charlie Hebdo killings in France, many European nationalists have been exploiting the tragedy to bolster sentiment towards their cause.

While the cause of European nationalists is as legitimate as any other nationalist cause, and their misgivings about mass immigration merits reflection, the way in which many of them have gone about promoting their agenda by taking advantage of what appears to be a ‘let it happen’ if not a full blown false flag provocation in Paris last month warrants criticism.

Marine Le Pen, the incumbent leader of France’s ‘National Front’ political party, seized the opportunity to rally the French public behind her anti-Muslim platform. In the wake of the Paris shootings, Le Pen offered the militant language of neoconservatism in a New York Times column, stressing that France is being besieged by “Islamic fundamentalists” who need to be dealt with. Le Pen, like many rightist political leaders in Europe, has in recent years sought to ingratiate herself with the Jewish-Zionist community, hoping to curry favor with the power brokers of that persuasion who can help her into power.

What often goes unsaid in the rhetoric of European nationalists is the fundamental backwardness and duplicity of Western foreign policy. Like its counterparts in Britain and America, France has meted out plenty of violence upon other countries without just cause, but then cries foul when the chickens come home to roost. Canadian journalist Eric Margolis observed that France presently has troops conducting military operations in about a dozen countries, many of which have Muslim majorities, namely “Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, East Africa, Abu Dhabi, Iraq, Afghanistan (from where French troops have been withdrawing, as well as covert operations in Syria, Lebanon and Somalia.” Not to mention France’s leading role in the 2011 war against Libya and its unreserved support of the terrorist state of Israel.

Violence is for the most part counter-productive and shouldn’t be the first option of those seeking retribution for mistreatment, but it can still be said that if France wants to continue to pursue imperial escapades throughout the Muslim world, then it should not be surprised when some of that violence reaches their shores as well. As the mathematician Isaac Newton discovered, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Why shouldn’t that principle apply to the West’s foreign policy?

Anti-Muslim British ‘patriots’ constantly invoke the 2013 murder of Lee Rigby, a British soldier, by two disgruntled British Muslim men in London. “Look how violent Muslims are,” lowbrow English Defence League (EDL) and British National Party (BNP) activists shout in the streets. While the slaying of Rigby was certainly heinous and deplorable, it was predictable blowback for London’s lunatic neoconservative foreign policy. One of Rigby’s killers, Michael Adebolajo, made it clear that he acted in revenge for what he sees as anti-Muslim aggression on the part of the British government, most notably the invasion of both Iraq and Afghanistan alongside the Americans. Rigby’s attackers did not go after civilians, but rather targeted a soldier who represents the British military which has greatly contributed to the deaths of several million Muslims in the Middle East since 2001. Religious fanaticism was a negligible factor in the Rigby killing, but if the sub-par intellects of the EDL and BNP are to be believed religious ideology and a desire to enforce ‘Sharia Law’ in Britain was the sole motivation.

Ditto with Charlie Hebdo and other alleged acts of ‘Muslim’ violence in the West. Even if we were to accept the questionable ‘official stories’ of these events, instead of addressing the underlying causes of Muslim discontent, plastic ‘patriots’ promulgate the neocon folly of ‘they hate us for our freedoms and way of life,’ a rancid myth which doesn’t compute considering the flagrant lack of freedom in much of the West where there are surveillance cameras and cops on every street corner as well as laws on the books that relegate certain political and historical opinions outside the parameters of ‘acceptable’ discourse.

For many unsophisticated ‘patriots’ in Britain, France, America and elsewhere, state-sponsored acts of violence by ‘their side’ is defensible, even admirable, whereas violence in the opposite direction that pales in comparison to the former, and which is often committed in reprisal for perceived wrongs, is contemptible.

They can’t have it both ways.

Copyright 2015 Brandon Martinez

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Islamophobia | , | Leave a comment

The UK Nuclear Nightmare – An Awakening

By Jim McCluskey | Dissident Voice | February 6, 2015

At last the Armageddon nightmare which is the existence of nuclear arsenals is exploding into the  UK’s political consciousness. At last the magical word ‘deterrent’ which is supposed to automatically kill dissent is being examined and unmasked as the delusion by which the paranoid silence that still small voice, the voice which says it is a crime against humanity to prepare to incinerate a large part of the world’s population and risk triggering a global nuclear war.

It started with the Scottish Independence movement and now the abhorrence of these vile instruments of genocide is manifesting in Wales. In England the reckless imperial posture in the Westminster bubble has not yet been overthrown.  Both Conservatives and Labour want a like-for-like replacement when the existing nuclear fleet ends its working life in the late 2020s, while the Liberal Democrats want to downsize to three submarines! But more and more of the public have other ideas. They want a world ban as has been achieved for the other weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological.

Scotland

On September 18th, 2014 the Scottish people voted on whether to remain as part of the United Kingdom of Britain. The prospect of Scotland going its own way caused a panic among the power elites of Westminster. A prime driving force in Scotland was the people’s loathing of nuclear weapons and their anger at having the Westminster government’s nuclear submarines dumped in the river Clyde near Glasgow. The Scottish government  has pledged to remove and permanently ban nuclear weapons from Scottish territory within the first term of an independent parliament.

The Ministry of Defence had no backup plan and removing the submarines to England would be a financial and logistical nightmare. Even if it were possible to move them to the estuary of the Mersey, Tyne or Wear it seems unlikely that the local English people would greet them with open arms. The prospect of the Scottish people ridding themselves of this ‘Sword of Damocles’1 caused panic in other establishment quarters besides the political. Vice-Admiral McAnally, a former commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies, said there is “every possibility” Britain could be forced into unilateral nuclear disarmament. Good! The UK would then be honouring its commitment under the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty and become an example to the nuclear states of the world. Although the Admiral did not see it this way!

On this occasion the majority of the people of Scotland decided not to split with England. However, since then the membership of the Scottish National Party has massively increased. The matter of a split with England will be back. There is a limit to what people will tolerate, and it is intolerable that the Scottish people have these foul instruments of Armageddon dumped in their territory by a fearful and deluded elite in Westminster.

 Wales

It was rumoured that the Westminster nuclear government will get themselves off the hook by moving their arsenal from Scotland to Wales. They got a rude awakening. Speaking the day after the world marked 70 years since the end of the holocaust, a senior peer in the Welsh Plaid Cymru government, Lord Wigley, declared that the Welsh government would be ‘tremendously opposed’ to shifting Westminster’s nuclear arsenal from Faslane in Scotland to Pembrokeshire in Wales. In an effort to emphasise the horror of what was being proposed, he compared the effects of a Trident submarine to those of a Nazi death camp. When it was suggested that the move would have the benefit of bringing jobs to Wales he pointed out that “No doubt there were many jobs provided at Auschwitz’ but ‘..you have to consider the nature of the work and not just that a job exists.” Quite so.  There are 5000 people employed at the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston. Surely they would be happier building machines for sustainable energy than for Armageddon. He was unequivocal about the Welsh position saying, “We believe that Trident shouldn’t be renewed and we most certainly don’t want that renewal to happen in …Wales’.

England

A vast number of citizens in England as well as in Scotland and Wales want no truck with threatening the world with genocidal weapons if our ‘vital interests’ are threatened. And in England, too, many are organising to ensure that finally sanity will prevail.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Action AWE organised the knitting of a seven miles long peace scarf which was first stretched between Aldermaston and Burghfield, the government’s two nuclear weapons-building factories then used to wrap the Ministry of Defense building in London.

In spite of the vast resistance to spending 100 billion pounds of citizens money on the instruments of Armageddon, the House of Commons (containing the purported ‘Representatives of the people’), on January 20th, 2015, in its Pied Piper, follow the leader,  whip-obeying habit, voted 364 to 37 to obey their power elite bosses and replace the UK government’s nuclear arsenal (250 MPs, including the Labour leader Mr Milliband, abstained).

Trident renewal will be a big issue at the forthcoming election in May. Citizens are sick of being told there is not enough money for the National Health Service, schools, decent housing, and social services when the Westminster  bubble is spending 36 billion pounds a year on the arms services, building billion pound aircraft carries and already spending billions of the 100 billion they will spend for Trident in spite of the fact that the final go-ahead is not to be given till 2016. At the same time The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist has just moved the hands of the ‘doomsday clock’ to 3 minutes to midnight. Only three minutes left of 24 hours to step back from the nuclear brink.

The Churches

On July 7th, 2014, the World Council of Churches issued a ‘Statement towards a Nuclear-Free World’. Included in the statement are the following paragraphs:

Nuclear weapons cannot … be reconciled with real peace. They inflict unspeakable suffering with blast, heat and radiation…. Their power is indiscriminate ….As long as nuclear weapons exist, they pose a threat to humanity.

Nuclear strategy… demands an unequivocal commitment to use the weapons and nuclear history is rife with accidents, miscalculations and near-disasters…. even one nuclear detonation would overwhelm the emergency services of any country in the world. The only way to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again is to eliminate the weapons themselves.

The pope sent a message to a recent conference in Vienna, attended by more than 150 governments. The purpose of the conference was to advance public understanding of what is now called the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of any use of the 16,300 nuclear weapons possessed by nine countries. Pope Francis declared: “Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence.” He called for a worldwide dialogue, “to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all to the benefit of our common home.”

The pope’s stand was supported by a remarkable Vatican document, “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition”.

On May 2010, The Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group, published its Defence investment policy. Its recommendations included that national investing bodies should exclude from their investments:

Any company involved in the production or supply of indiscriminate weaponry (defined as nuclear weapons, anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions, chemical weapons or biological weapons),..

Any company involved in the production, processing, supply or storage of weapons-grade nuclear fissile materials, with no turnover threshold to be applied.

In September 2014, Baptists Together, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, reiterated their call for the abolition of Trident.

The Quakers have always opposed Trident. They urge citizens to persuade the government to abandon the replacement of Trident and promote a nuclear weapons-free UK.

The Quaker position was made clear at their Meeting for Sufferings, 1955, “Quaker faith and practice” as follows:

We believe that no one has the right to use [nuclear] weapons in his defence or to ask another person to use them on his behalf. To rely on the possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent is faithless; to use them is a sin.

The Way Ahead

As ever more citizens wake up to the way they are disempowered by the present power elite system the more they will realise that our democracy needs to be, and can be, updated from 19th century thinking to 21st century possibilities. We vote about every four years and thereafter we are in the hands of a small group of individuals for the decisions which govern our life. With modern technology every citizen could be given an electronic vote on every important issue and decision. This is the way forward. The software has already been developed (See Democracy OS). It only remains for citizens to ensure it is adopted. Democracy means rule by the people. With each citizen given the opportunity to vote on each vital issue democracy will truly have arrived.

In the meantime to rid ourselves of this curse, each of us can work alone by lobbying government and helping to inform the public, join one of the very many open membership organisations like the Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (CND), or express our support for such think tanks as The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) whose primary aim is identifying opportunities for all states to take credible, stabilizing steps towards sustainable nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Do not be discouraged by the power of vested interests and governments with their own agenda. The American anthropologist Margaret Mead famously declared:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

President JF Kennedy declared “Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles…’

~

Jim McCluskey is the author of The Nuclear Threat.

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Keyhan Kalhor: Iranian music maestro to perform in the US and Canada

Iranian musician and Kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor along with Indian sitar maestro Shujaat Husain Khan is slated to perform in New York, Boston and Irvine

The duo is planning to present their program accompanied by Ghazal Ensemble in the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University on March 22, 2015.

Ghazal (with Shujaat Hussein Khan and Sandeep Das) March 2015 events are:
13 Mar: Kay Meek Theater, Vancouver, Canada
15 Mar: Skirball Center, Los Anegeles, CA
17 Mar: Irvine Barclay Theater, Irvine, CA
19 Mar: Freer Gallery, Washington, DC
21 Mar: Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA
22 Mar: Schimmel Center at Pace University, NY
25-28 Mar: Agha Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada
29 Mar: Asia Society Texas Center, Houston, TX

Other Kayhan Kalhor early 2015 events (Europe, US): www.facebook.com/kalhor.kayhan

Ghazal Ensemble, formed in 1997 by Kalhor and Husain Khan, has been touring the world and it is acclaimed for performing Indo-Persian music.

Described by the Los Angeles Times as “utterly captivating… an irresistible expression of creative musical passion,” Ghazal’s performances and recordings have garnered critical acclaim as well as a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Traditional World Music Album for their 2003 live album The Rain. Amazon named Ghazal’s first CD, Lost Songs of the Silk Road, to its list of the best 100 world music albums ever recorded.

Kalhor is known for his brilliant performances on the traditional instrument Kamancheh and creating a unique mixture of classical Persian music with folk tunes of the Kurdistan region.

He held many concerts along with the world-renowned musicians and ensembles such as the string quartet, Brooklyn Rider ensemble, in Minneapolis, United States, in 2012.

Kalhor also presented joint programs with the veteran Turkish Baglama player Erdal Erzincan in New York’s GlobalFest held at the Marlin Room on January 13, 2013.

He also performed introspective performances with a number of world-class Asian musicians at BT River of Music in London.

Shujaat Husain Khan is one of today’s greatest North Indian artists, who represent the seventh generation of illustrious musicians, which includes his father, the great sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan.

BIOGRAPHY – KAYHAN KALHOR

Kayhan Kalhor is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso on the kamancheh (Persian spiked fiddle). His performances of Persian music and his many collaborations have attracted audiences around the globe.

Born in Tehran, Iran, he began his musical studies at the age of seven. At thirteen, he was invited to work with the National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran, where he performed for five years. When he was seventeen he began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, the most prestigious arts organization in Iran at the time. At a musical conservatory in Tehran around age 20 Kalhor worked under the directorship of Mohammad-Reza Lotfi who is from Northern Khorasan. He has traveled extensively throughout Iran, studying the music of its many regions, in particular those of Khorason and Kordestan. … http://theotheriran.com/2015/02/03/keyhan-kalhor-iranian-music-maestro-and-former-grammy-awards-nominee-to-perform-in-the-us-and-canada/

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Video | , , | 1 Comment

Iran slams UN Security Council indifference to Israel’s airstrike on Golan

Press TV – February 7, 2015

Iran has criticized the United Nations Security Council for failing to take action against the Israeli regime over its recent deadly airstrike on the occupied Golan Heights in Syria, Press TV reports.

“The Security Council remains indifferent in making any position on condemning the aggressor while it was a clear violation of international law,” Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Gholam Hossein Dehqani told Press TV.

“Once again the Security Council allowed that regime to get away with the crime it committed and failed to condemn the aggression which was done by Israel,” he added.

The Iranian envoy said the Israeli regime’s impunity does not serve peace and security in the world and would lead to the deaths of more innocent people.

Dehqani’s comments come in the wake of an Israeli airstrike in Syria on January 18 that claimed the lives of six Hezbollah members, including 25-year-old Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of slain top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, and a general of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Media reports that Israel carried out the terror attack in the strategic southwestern city of Quneitra in Golan Heights with the help of Takfiri terrorists, particularly the al-Nusra Front.

Israel has carried out numerous airstrikes in Syria over the past couple of years. The Syrian army has repeatedly seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside Syria.

However, the UN has so far failed to take any action over the attacks, which have been condemned by Damascus as violation of its sovereignty.

The Golan Heights have been under the Israeli occupation since the 1960s. The Tel Aviv regime captured the Syrian territory during the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed the region in 1981.

February 7, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

When Ukrainians Choose Not to Die in a War

By DMITRY KOLESNIK | CounterPunch | February 6, 2015

“Imagine all the people, living life in peace.” Maybe John Lennon’s famous musical lyric can be called naive, but it’s a hopeful vision all the same. Antiwar protests, mass soldier desertions, refusal to serve and fight in defiance of government orders and repression—these have stopped many wars once people decide there is nothing righteous in killing their fellow humans.

The current war situation in eastern Ukraine and the decision of the government in Kyiv to begin a new, fourth wave of military conscription and mobilization is unleashing a firestorm of mass opposition and refusal to fight. Protest is rising in all the regions of the country. For sure, there are still nationalist fanatics and far-right militarists exercising violence and intimidation against antiwar protests, but their capacity to stamp out protest is diminishing.

Ukraine is historically a peaceful nation. For some time now, it has avoided military conflicts like those that have flared elsewhere in eastern Europe—Yugoslavia, Georgia, etc. That came to a crashing end last year when the Kyiv government launched its ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against the people in the east of the country. But from the beginning of the conflict, Ukraine has seen refusals by soldiers to fire on their fellow citizens, desertions from the army and refusals to show up for conscription. Women—the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of military conscripts—have held protests and even riots against the war or against force military service.

The protests have been sparked, first of all, by the fact that many Ukrainians do not accept the interpretation of the war as offered by the government. They don’t necessarily see foreign (ie Russian) aggression. They only know that when a Ukrainian soldier lifts his gun or artillery barrel, it is a compatriot, a fellow Ukrainian, who appears in the gunsight.

Secondly, many people don’t want to die for the current government which they view as composed of extreme nationalists and neoliberals. They are unwilling to be cannon fodder dying for the interests of Ukrainian oligarchs whose only apparent interest is to pursue a civil war, siphon Western financial aid and suppress opposition to their rule. A young woman recently voiced this sentiment searingly at a rally held in her village in south-central Ukraine.

Last but not least, many ordinary workers and farmers, (contrary to middle-class, urban dwellers), preserve entrenched, regional identities. They consider their homeland to be a region such as Donbas, Bukovyna, Transkarpathia or Volhynia as much as, or perhaps even more importantly, it is the entity called ‘Ukraine’. It is harder to sell to such people the war’s patriotic, pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia message.

The astonishing fact that almost no one is coming voluntarily to the military recruitment offices in this fourth, latest round of conscription is causing panic in the government and top army command of Ukraine. They are appealing, as always, to patriotic and nationalist sentiments, but this is falling increasingly on deaf ears.

Men of conscription age are fleeing in the thousands, crossing Ukraine’s borders in all directions, or taking cover internally, to escape the clutches of the military recruiters. President Poroshenko has been obliged to order that, henceforth, only those men of military age with papers confirming they are duly registered with their military registration office will be permitted to leave the country.

“Each day, new facts about mass, draft evasion are emerging” reports the Ukrainian daily Korrespondent. It writes, “In the first wave of military mobilization in 2014, 20 per cent of those who showed up for the conscription call did so voluntarily. In the second wave the same year, it was ten per cent.

“This year, only six per cent of those conscripts showing up for the call to service have done so voluntarily“.

In the Trancarpathia region in western Ukraine, entire villages have scattered across various borders to escape conscription of their menfolk. The head of the village council of Kosiv district in Ivano-Frankivsk region reports that the entire population of the village booked buses and have moved to Russia to wait out the war.

In the village of Colchino, authorities could find only three of the 105 eligible males to whom to serve papers.

Chief Recruitment Officer for Trancarpathia, O.Boyko, told Korrespondent, “It may seem a paradox, but from the western Ukrainian region of Ternopyl, people have fled to Russia in order to escape army conscription.

Many people are selecting east European countries as temporary refuges. Yuri Biryukov,an adviser to the Ukrainian president, has admitted, “In the last 30 days, 17 per cent of the total number of reservists of the entire region of Chernivtsy (western Ukraine) have crossed borders into other countries”.

According to unofficial sources, the hostels and motels in the border area of neighboring Romania are overcrowded with Ukrainian draft evaders.

In the Volhynya region of western Ukraine, villagers have blocked the attempts by authorities to distribute call-up papers. A news report by 112.ua explained, “On January 24, the residents of the villages of Melniki, Zatishye and Pishcha in Shatsky district of Volhynya region blocked cars of the district administration as they arrived. Inside the vehicles were representatives of the local administration and the military recruitment office, arriving to deliver call-up papers for the military mobilization.

Protesters forced the authorities to tear up the papers. They were then allowed to leave and the people went at home.

Authorities in that case struck back. “Three criminal proceedings have been opened under Article 336 of the Criminal Code (evasion of conscription)”, reported a local police official.

The Odessa publication Timer reports that on January 23 in the village of Kulevchi in Saratsky district of Odessa region, the local population revolted against the military mobilization and kicked representatives out of the local recruitment office.

The population learned that 240 call-up papers were en route to be served in their village. Within minutes, Timer explained, some 500 people gathered on the village square. Six officers of the recruitment office arrived with the papers but they found a less than welcome reception among the local people. When officials declared that refusal of conscription is punishable by criminal prosecution, the people began to shout “No war” and “We want peace”. They reminded the officers that Ukraine has not declared martial law and that the Minsk ceasefire agreement of last September has not been formally renounced by the Ukraine government. They called the new wave of military mobilization illegal and the recruiting officers were forced to leave the village.

O1.ua news outlet in Odessa city reports, “In the village of Limansky (Reni district), a representative of the military recruitment office arrived with call-up papers accompanied by two armed gunmen. It nearly cost them their lives. The peasant villagers almost lynched the three.

Before the trip to the village, the military commissar of the district, Igor Skrypnik, was aware of the hostile attitude of the civilian population toward the mobilisation process. So he asked for protection while distributing mobilization papers. Two policemen armed with weapons were assigned. But it produced the opposite result.

“When two gunmen in camouflage appeared in the village, it immediately attracted people’s attention and caused a spontaneous riot,” said the acting chairman of the local state administration, Sergey Barinov. “About 200 residents of Limansky village surrounded the representative of the military and the armed police officers and threatened to punish them.
Deputy Chairman Ivan Stadnikov of the Reni district state administration and Military Commissar Igor Skrypnik immediately went to the village. After difficult negotiations, a compromise was reached. But then the local residents seized the call-up papers, defiantly poured gasoline on them and set them alight – right before the eyes of the officials who had brought the papers to the village.”

In some villages in Ternopil region, the heads of local councils did not even participate in the distribution of call-up papers. Even more, when representatives of military recruitment offices were due to arrive, some local authorities in the region tipped off residents in order to give them the opportunity to avoid conscription.

The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reports on January 27, “Ukraine’s male population has massively started leaving abroad in search of jobs to dodge the current mobilization campaign.

“Entire villages are booking buses to dispatch their men as far as possible. Military committees are handing over the lists of fugitives to law enforcers to try and restrict the movement of men subject to conscription outside their native districts and areas”, TASS says.

Citing the Ukrainian Vesti news agency, TASS reported, “Natalya from Zaporizhia (south-eastern Ukraine) dispatched her son to Russia several months ago. The woman told Vesti on condition of anonymity that she had also sent her husband away (also to Russia) one week earlier. Men from western regions are leaving for Poland and Hungary. The city military committee in Ukraine’s capital Kiev is also complaining about draft dodgers.”

Anti-war protests are continuing in the areas of the Donbas region that are controlled by Ukrainian troops. In the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk region, women staged a spontaneous rally in late January chanting No war!” In a video of the protest, at the 1’45” mark, we get a glimpse at how desperate the recruitment tactics of the authorities have become. A woman asks the military officer present, “Why are they beating on our doors at night and taking our men away to the army?”

In recent weeks, the neighbouring, small city of Debaltsevo has become the epicenter of the military clash between Donbas self-defense forces and the Ukraine army and militias. Thousands of Ukrainian troops are at risk of encirclement and capture. Most of the town’s residents have fled. There are only some 6,000-8,000 residents who are left, and they are living without electricity, heating and water supply. They are reduced to cooking their food over open fires.

The online Ukrainian media outlet Expres.ua reports that the mayor of Debaltseve was recently arrested by the Ukrainian Secret Service, accused of having sympathies with the pro-autonomy forces of Donbas. In the face of all this, the people rallied at the end of January, blaming the Ukrainian troops for their plight and demanding that they leave.

A protest of mothers and wives of conscripts was recently held in the village of Belovodsk in a government-controlled part of Luhansk region. The authorities arrived under the protection of machine guns to explain the conscription policy. The villagers answered that they did not vote for President Petro Poroshenko and they had no interest in sacrificing themselves for the interests of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky (a well-know Ukrainian billionaire and advocate of war).

Social networks are responding to the mobilization by creating memes with titles such as the “Elusive Battalion”. The message is that it’s only in make-believe worlds that the children of high-ranking officials, parliamentary deputies, politicians and businessmen are serving in the military.

Writing in the Ukrainian web journal Liva, journalist Roman Lyubar explains, “Due to conscription, Ukrainian authorities have managed to unite the citizens of the country who are everywhere joining to boycott the military draft and increasingly protest against it. This despite the threat of criminal prosecution and militarist propaganda…

Now Ukrainians see more clearly than ever that the poorest citizens face being cannon fodder and dying in a war while government officials and rich capitalists escape such a fate.

Yevgeny Kopatko, a Ukrainian analyst and founder of the Research and Branding Group, told TASS, “More and more statements are heard in Ukrainian society about a readiness [by ordinary people] to sit in prison instead of going to fight. In this situation, the decision on more military mobilizations is another test for the Ukrainian authorities.

Sergei Kirichuk, a leader of Ukrainian left organization Borotba, writes in a January 29 commentary, “Even pro-government politicians and analysts are saying that the current mobilization has failed. Some people will not come to the draft board, and others desert after they are signed up. Thus are ever more drops added to the cauldron of popular discontent.

Under such circumstances, the Kiev government may resort to the policy of mass terror (with the help of Ukrainian far-right paramilitary organizations), forcing people to go to war at the point of a gun and murdering antiwar activists. But based on the experience of revolts and revolutions in Europe in 1917-18 during World War One, we know where such policy can lead. When people are armed and forced to fight against their will, when they are indignant, facing dire economic circumstances and demanding peace and yet their will is ignored, then the prospects of governments and private capitalist interests deemed responsible for the mess are not very bright.

Dmitry Kolesnik is a Ukrainian journalist, left-wing activist and editor of the web journal Liva.com (‘The Left’). The journal has an English-language page where it translates and publishes some of its original articles from Ukrainian and Russian languages.

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | | 1 Comment

Nuclear War and Clashing Ukraine Narratives

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | February 6, 2015

The U.S. government and mainstream media are swaggering toward a possible nuclear confrontation with Russia over Ukraine without any of the seriousness that has informed this sort of decision-making throughout the nuclear age. Instead, Official Washington seems possessed by a self-righteous goofiness that could be the prelude to the end of life on this planet.

Nearly across the U.S. political spectrum, there is a pugnacious “group think” which has transformed what should have been a manageable political dispute in Ukraine into some morality play where U.S. politicians and pundits blather on about how the nearly year-old coup regime in Kiev “shares our values” and how America must be prepared to defend this regime militarily.

Janika Merilo, an Estonian brought into the Ukrainian government to oversee foreign investments. (From her Facebook page via Zero Hedge)

Jaanika Merilo, an Estonian brought into the Ukrainian government to oversee foreign investments. (A photo released on the Internet by Merilo via DanceswithBears)

Though I’m told that President Barack Obama personally recognizes how foolhardy this attitude is, he has made no significant move to head off the craziness and, indeed, has tolerated provocative actions by his underlings, such as neocon Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s scheming with coup plotters to overthrow Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February.

Obama also has withheld from the American people intelligence information that undercuts some of the more extreme claims that his administration has made. For instance, I’m told that he has detailed intelligence reporting on both the mysterious sniper attack that preceded the putsch nearly a year ago and the shoot-down of the Malaysia Airlines Flights 17 that deepened the crisis last summer. But he won’t release the findings.

More broadly over the last year, Obama’s behavior – ranging from his initial neglect of the Ukraine issue, as Nuland’s coup plotting unfolded, to his own participation in the tough talk, such as boasting during his State of the Union address that he had helped put the Russian economy “in tatters” – ranks as one of the most irresponsible performances by a U.S. president.

Given the potential stakes of nuclear war, none of the post-World War II presidents behaved as recklessly as Obama has, which now includes allowing his administration officials to talk loosely about sending military support to an unstable regime in Kiev that includes neo-Nazis who have undertaken death-squad operations against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove, who is commander of NATO, declared last November that – regarding supplying military support for the Kiev government – “nothing at this time is off the table.” Breedlove is now pushing actively to send lethal U.S. military equipment to fend off an offensive by ethnic Russian rebels in the east.

I’m told that the Russians fear that U.S. officials are contemplating placing Cruise missiles in Ukraine or otherwise introducing advanced weaponry that Moscow regards as a direct threat to its national security. Whether or not the Russians are being alarmist, these fears are affecting their own decision-making.

None of the nuclear-age presidents – not Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush – would have engaged in such provocative actions on Russia’s borders, though some surely behaved aggressively in overthrowing governments and starting wars farther away.

Even Ronald Reagan, an aggressive Cold Warrior, kept his challenges to the Soviet Union in areas that were far less sensitive to its national security than Ukraine. He may have supported the slaughter of leftists in Central America and Africa or armed Islamic fundamentalists fighting a Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, but he recognized the insanity of a military showdown with Moscow in Eastern Europe.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, U.S. presidents became more assertive, pushing NATO into the former Warsaw Pact nations and, under President Clinton, bombing a Russian ally in Serbia, but that came at a time when Russia was essentially flat on its back geopolitically.

Perhaps the triumphalism of that period is still alive especially among neocons who reject President Vladimir Putin’s reassertion of Russia’s national pride. These Washington hardliners still feel that they can treat Moscow with disdain, ignoring the fact that Russia maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal and is not willing to return to the supine position of the 1990s.

In 2008, President George W. Bush – arguably one of the most reckless presidents of the era – backed away from a confrontation with Russia when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a neocon favorite, drew the Russians into a border conflict over South Ossetia. Despite some war talk from the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain, President Bush showed relative restraint.

Imbalanced Narrative

But Obama has failed to rein in his administration’s war hawks and has done nothing to correct the biased narrative that his State Department has fed to the equally irresponsible mainstream U.S. news media. Since the Ukraine crisis began in fall of 2013, the New York Times and other major U.S. news outlets have provided only one side of the story, openly supporting the interests of the pro-European western Ukrainians over the ethnic Russian eastern Ukrainians.

The bias is so strong that the mainstream media has largely ignored the remarkable story of the Kiev regime willfully dispatching Nazi storm troopers to kill ethnic Russians in the east, something that hasn’t happened in Europe since World War II.

For Western news organizations that are quick to note the slightest uptick in neo-Nazism in Europe, there has been a willful blindness to Kiev’s premeditated use of what amount to Nazi death squads undertaking house-to-house killings in eastern Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’sSeeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine.”]

The Russian government has repeatedly protested these death-squad operations and other crimes committed by the Kiev regime, but the U.S. mainstream media is so in the tank for the western Ukrainians that it has suppressed this aspect of the crisis, typically burying references to the neo-Nazi militias at the end of stories or dismissing these accounts as “Russian propaganda.”

With this ugly reality hidden from the U.S. public, Obama’s State Department has been able to present a white-hat-vs.-black-hat narrative to the crisis. So, while Russians saw a constitutionally elected government on their border overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup last February – and then human rights atrocities inflicted on ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine – the American people heard only about wonderful pro-American “reformers” in Kiev and the evil pro-Russian “minions” trying to destroy “democracy” at Putin’s bidding.

This distorted American narrative has represented one of the most unprofessional and dangerous performances in the history of modern U.S. journalism, rivaling the false conventional wisdom about Iraq’s WMD except in this case the media propaganda is aimed at a country that really does have weapons of mass destruction.

The Russians also have noted the arrival of financially self-interested Americans, including Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and Ukraine’s new Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, reminding the Russians of the American financial experts who descended on Moscow with their “shock therapy” in the 1990s, “reforms” that enriched a few well-connected oligarchs but impoverished millions of average Russians.

Ukraine's Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko.

Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko.

Jaresko, a former U.S. diplomat who took Ukrainian citizenship in December 2014 to become Finance Minister, had been in charge of a U.S.-taxpayer-financed $150 million Ukrainian investment fund which involved substantial insider dealings, including paying a management firm that Jaresko created more than $1 million a year in fees, even as the $150 million apparently dwindled to less than $100 million.

Jaresko also has been involved in a two-year-long legal battle with her ex-husband to gag him from releasing information about apparent irregularities in the handling of the U.S. money. Jaresko went into Chancery Court in Delaware to enforce a non-disclosure clause against her ex-husband, Ihor Figlus, and got a court order to silence him.

This week, when I contacted George Pazuniak, Figlus’s lawyer about Jaresko’s aggressive enforcement of the non-disclosure agreement, he told me that “at this point, it’s very difficult for me to say very much without having a detrimental effect on my client.”

With Jaresko now being hailed as a Ukrainian “reformer” who – in the words of New York Times’ columnist Thomas L. Friedman – “shares our values,” one has to wonder why she has fought so hard to shut up her ex-husband regarding possible revelations about improper handling of U.S. taxpayer money. [See Consortiumnews.com’sUkraine’s Made-in-USA Finance Minister.”]

More Interested Parties

The Russians also looked askance at the appointment of Estonian Jaanika Merilo as the latest foreigner to be brought inside the Ukrainian government as a “reformer.” Merilo, a Jaresko associate, is being put in charge of attracting foreign investments but her photo spreads look more like someone interested in some rather kinky partying.

Janika Merilo, the Estonian being put in charge of arranging foreign investments into Ukraine. (From her Facebook page via Zero Hedge)

Jaanika Merilo, the Estonian being put in charge of arranging foreign investments in Ukraine. (A photo released by Merilo on the Internet via DanceswithBears)

The Russians are aware, too, of prominent Americans circling around the potential plunder of Ukraine. For instance, Hunter Biden was named to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, which is a shadowy Cyprus-based company linked to Privat Bank.

Privat Bank is controlled by the thuggish billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky, who was appointed by the Kiev regime to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a south-central province of Ukraine. Kolomoysky has helped finance the paramilitary forces killing ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

And, Burisma has been lining up well-connected lobbyists, some with ties to Secretary of State John Kerry, including Kerry’s former Senate chief of staff David Leiter, according to lobbying disclosures. As Time magazine reported, “Leiter’s involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry’s son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company.” [See Consortiumnews.com’sThe Whys Behind the Ukraine Crisis.”]

So, the Russians have a decidedly different view of the Ukrainian “reforms” than much of the U.S. media does. But I’m told that the Russians would be willing to tolerate these well-connected Americans enriching themselves in Ukraine and even having Ukraine expand its economic relations with the European Union.

But the Russians have drawn a red line at the prospect for the expansion of NATO forces into Ukraine and the continued killing of ethnic Russians at the hands of neo-Nazi death squads. Putin is demanding that those paramilitary forces be disarmed.

Besides unleashing these right-wing militias on the ethnic Russians, the Kiev government has moved to punish the people living in the eastern sectors by cutting off access to banks and other financial services. It also has become harder and more dangerous for ethnic Russians to cross into territory controlled by the Kiev authorities. Many are turned back and those who do get through face the risk of being taken and killed by the neo-Nazi militias.

These conditions have left the people in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas – the so-called Donbass region on Russia’s border – dependent on relief supplies from Russia. Meanwhile, the Kiev regime — pumped up by prospects of weapons from Washington as well as more money — has toughened its tone with vows to crush the eastern rebellion once and for all.

Russia’s Hardening Line

The worsening situation in the east and the fear of U.S. military weapons arriving in the west have prompted a shift in Moscow’s view of the Ukraine crisis, including a readiness to resupply the ethnic Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and even provide military advisers.

These developments have alarmed European leaders who find themselves caught in the middle of a possible conflict between the United States and Russia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande rushed to Kiev and then Moscow this week to discuss possible ways to defuse the crisis.

The hardening Russian position now seeks, in effect, a division of Ukraine into two autonomous zones, the east and the west with a central government that maintains the currency and handles other national concerns. But I’m told that Moscow might still accept the earlier idea of a federated Ukraine with greater self-governance by the different regions.

Putin also does not object to Ukraine building closer economic ties to Europe and he offered a new referendum in Crimea on whether the voters still want to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, said a source familiar with the Kremlin’s thinking. But Putin’s red lines include no NATO expansion into Ukraine and protection for ethnic Russians by disarming the neo-Nazi militias, the source said.

If such an arrangement or something similar isn’t acceptable and if the killing of ethnic Russians continues, the Kremlin would support a large-scale military offensive from the east that would involve “taking Kiev,” according to the source.

A Russian escalation of that magnitude would likely invite a vigorous U.S. response, with leading American politicians and pundits sure to ratchet up demands for a military counterstrike against Russia. If Obama were to acquiesce to such bellicosity – to avoid being called “weak” – the world could be pushed to the brink of nuclear war.

Who’s to Blame?

Though the State Department and the mainstream U.S. media continue to put all the blame on Russia, the fact that the Ukraine crisis has reach such a dangerous crossroads reveals how reckless the behavior of Official Washington has been over the past year.

Nuland and other U.S. officials took an internal Ukrainian disagreement over how quickly it should expand ties to Europe – while seeking to retain its historic relations with Russia – and turned that fairly pedestrian political dispute into a possible flashpoint for a nuclear war.

At no time, as this crisis has evolved over the past year, did anyone of significance in Official Washington, whether in government or media, stop and contemplate whether this issue was worth risking the end of life on the planet. Instead, all the American people have been given is a steady diet of anti-Yanukovych and anti-Putin propaganda.

Though constitutionally elected, Yanukovych was depicted as a corrupt tyrant who had a pricy sauna in his official mansion. Though Putin had just staged the Winter Olympics in Sochi, signaling his desire for Russia to integrate more with the West, he was portrayed as either a new-age imperial czar or the second coming of Hitler – if not worse because he occasionally would ride on a horse while not wearing a shirt.

Further, the U.S. news media refused to conduct a serious investigation into the evidence that Nuland and other U.S. officials had helped destabilize Yanukovych’s government with the goal of achieving another neocon “regime change.”

Nuland, who personally urged on anti-Yanukovych protests in Kiev, discussed with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in early February 2014 who should lead the new government – “Yats is the guy,” she said, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk – and how to “glue this thing.”

After weeks of mounting tensions and worsening violence, the coup occurred on Feb. 22, 2014, when well-organized neo-Nazi and other right-wing militias from western Ukraine overran presidential buildings forcing officials to flee for their lives. With Yanukovych ousted, Yatsenyuk soon became Prime Minister. [See Consortiumnews.com’sWhen Is a Putsch a Putsch.” ]

Many ethnic Russians in southern and eastern Ukraine, who had strongly supported Yanukovych, refused to accept the new U.S.-backed order in Kiev. Crimean officials and voters moved to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a move that Putin accepted because of Crimea’s historic ties to Russia and his fear that the Russian naval base at Sevastopol might be handed to NATO.

The resistance spread to eastern Ukraine where other ethnic Russians took up arms against the coup regime in Kiev, which responded with that it called an “anti-terrorist operation” against the east. To bolster the weak Ukrainian army, Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov dispatched neo-Nazi and other “volunteer” militias to spearhead the attacks.

After the deaths of more than 5,000 people, a shaky cease-fire was announced in September, but — amid complaints about neo-Nazi death squads operating in government-controlled areas and with life deteriorating in rebel-controlled towns and cities — the ethnic Russians launched an offensive in January, using Russian-supplied weapons to expand their control of territory.

In reaction, U.S. pundits, including columnists and editors of the New York Times and the Washington Post, called for dispatching U.S. aid to the Kiev forces, including proposals for lethal weaponry to deter Putin’s “aggression.” Members of Congress and members of the Obama administration have joined the chorus.

On Feb. 2, the New York Times reported “With Russian-backed separatists pressing their attacks in Ukraine, NATO’s military commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, now supports providing defensive weapons and equipment to Kiev’s beleaguered forces, and an array of administration and military officials appear to be edging toward that position, American officials said. … President Obama has made no decisions on providing such lethal assistance.”

That same day, the lead Times editorial was entitled “Mr. Putin Resumes His War” and continued with the theme about “Russian aggression” and the need “to increase the cost” if Russia demands “a permanent rebel-held enclave.”

On Feb. 3, the Washington Post ran an editorial entitled “Help for Ukraine. Defensive weapons could deter Russia in a way sanctions won’t.” The editorial concluded that Putin “will stop only if the cost to his regime is sharply raised – and quickly.”

A new war fever gripped Washington and no one wanted to be viewed as “soft” or to be denounced as a “Putin apologist.” Amid this combination of propaganda, confusion and tough-guy-ism – and lacking the tempering wisdom about war and nuclear weapons that restrained earlier U.S. presidents – a momentum lurched toward a nuclear showdown over Ukraine that could put all life on earth in jeopardy.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

 

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment

Lavrov: US escalated Ukraine crisis at every stage & blamed Russia

RT | February 7, 2015

At every stage of the Ukrainian crisis Washington has been taking steps that “only promoted further aggravation of the situation,” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said at the Munich Security Conference.

The West connives to justify Kiev’s military operation in eastern Ukraine, which involves the use of internationally prohibited munitions, such as cluster weapons, the head of the Russian delegation in Munich pointed out.

“We cannot understand why in Afghanistan, Yemen and Mali the West is calling on the governments to hold talks with the opposition, in some cases even with extremists, whereas in regard to the Ukrainian crisis, the West is indulging Kiev in its military operation,” Lavrov said.

However, there is every chance the peace talks in Moscow could unravel the conflict in Ukraine, he added, saying that Russia will persist in pursuing the peace process.

“Russia is set to promote the peace process in Ukraine.We consistently stand against further warring, we advocate withdrawal of heavy weapons and initiating direct talks between Kiev and the militia in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions,” Russia’s Foreign Minister stressed.

Russia, Germany and France are ready to become guarantors of the agreements that could be achieved between the protagonists in the Ukraine crisis, Sergey Lavrov believes.

“If the main participants of the Minsk peace process, the Ukrainian authorities and the representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, come to an understanding on every article of the Minsk agreements, I’m absolutely sure that Russia will be there to secure the guarantees of these agreements,” he said.

“No matter where: in the OSCE or the UN Security Council, I’m certain that both Germany and France are also ready to provide such guarantees, too.”

The Russian Foreign Minister once again stressed there is no military solution to the Ukrainian crisis.

“This was proved last summer when the situation on the battlefield forced [Kiev] to sign the Minsk agreement. It is being proved now that another attempt to gain a military victory is withering away.”

Moscow needs a normal relationship with the EU and the US, yet the strategic partnership with EU has “failed the test of durability,” Lavrov stated. In turn, the US is “always trying to shoulder the blame on Russia in complicated situations created by themselves.”

Sergey Lavrov told the 51st Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Moscow is well aware of the US’s real role in the Ukrainian crisis.

“The US made it public it brokered the transit of power in Ukraine. But we know perfectly well what exactly happened, who discussed candidates for the future Ukrainian government on the phone, who was at Maidan, and what is going on (in Ukraine) right now,” Lavrov said.

No Russian military or other experts participated in those events, Lavrov said, noting that Moscow would like to see “the people of Ukraine restoring unity on the basis of national dialogue.”

As for the re-unification of the Crimea Peninsula with Russia, Lavrov pointed out that this happened through the self-determination of the Crimean population.

“In Crimea what happened complies with the UN Charter on self-determination,” the minister said. “The UN Charter has several principles, and the right of a nation for self-determination has a key position.”

The structure of European security has been undermined by the actions of the US and its allies, the head of Russian diplomacy said.

“European security is based on the UN Charter and Helsinki Declaration principles, long sabotaged by the actions of the US and its allies.”

He added that the US and Europe should answer a question whether they are they going to maintain European security with Russia or without it.

READ MORE: Split or solidarity? Crisis in E. Ukraine tops Munich Security Conference agenda

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , | 3 Comments

German-Russian-French-Ukrainian joint document in the works

The BRICS Post | February 7, 2015

Even as the US moves towards arming the Ukrainian military, Moscow on Saturday said Germany, Russia and France are working on the draft of a likely joint document for the implementation of the Minsk Accords to resolve the Ukraine conflict that has killed more than 5,000 people.

A tripartite meeting on the Ukraine crisis involving Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended in Moscow early Saturday with a commitment to work towards a joint document.

“Joint work is underway to prepare a text for a possible joint document on implementing the Minsk Agreements based on the suggestions formulated by the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany. The document will include proposals from the President of Ukraine, as well as suggestions drawn up during today’s meeting and added by the President of Russia,” said a Kremlin statement.

The Minsk agreements were aimed at committing the Kiev government and the pro-independence militants to an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, but failed when the two sides broke the five-month truce in January.

On Sunday the troika and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko would summarize the results of discussions through a telephone conversation.

Kremlin press-secretary Dmitry Peskov said this was being done “for presenting this text and these proposals for approval to all parties to the conflict.”

“The work will go on and its preliminary results will be summarized next Sunday, in a Normandy format telephone conversation at the summit level,” added the statement.

He described the just-ended talks as “meaningful and substantive”.

Putin, Hollande and Merkel held closed-door talks for about five hours on Friday night to try and find a way out of the crisis.

Earlier, Merkel and Hollande paid a brief visit to Kiev for a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Meanwhile Washington has begun openly hinting it could arm Ukraine’s military.

US General Philip Breedlove, the top military commander in NATO, implied that he favored sending weapons, telling a security conference in Munich that the West should use “all the tools in the toolbag”.

 

TBP and Agencies

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Why Is Henry Kissinger Walking Around Free?

By ANDY PIASCIK | CounterPunch | February 6, 2015

On September 11, 2013, hundreds of thousands of Chileans solemnly marked the 40th anniversary of their nation’s 9/11 terrorist event. It was on that date in 1973 that the Chilean military, armed with a generous supply of funds and weapons from the United States, and assisted by the CIA and other operatives, overthrew the democratically-elected government of the moderate socialist Salvador Allende. Sixteen years of repression, torture and death followed under the fascist Augusto Pinochet, while the flow of hefty profits to US multinationals – IT&T, Anaconda Copper and the like – resumed. Profits, along with concern that people in other nations might get ideas about independence, were the very reason for the coup and even the partial moves toward nationalization instituted by Allende could not be tolerated by the US business class.

Henry Kissinger was national security advisor and one of the principal architects – perhaps the principal architect – of the coup in Chile. US-instigated coups were nothing new in 1973, certainly not in Latin America, and Kissinger and his boss Richard Nixon were carrying on a violent tradition that spanned the breadth of the 20th century and continues in the 21st – see, for example, Venezuela in 2002 (failed) and Honduras in 2009 (successful). Where possible, such as in Guatemala in 1954 and Brazil in 1964, coups were the preferred method for dealing with popular insurgencies. In other instances, direct invasion by US forces such as happened on numerous occasions in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and many other places, was the fallback option.

The coup in Santiago occurred as US aggression in Indochina was finally winding down after more than a decade. From 1969 through 1973, it was Kissinger again, along with Nixon, who oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It is impossible to know with precision how many were killed during those four years; all the victims were considered enemies, including the vast majority who were non-combatants, and the US has never been much interested in calculating the deaths of enemies. Estimates of Indochinese killed by the US for the war as a whole start at four million and are likely more, perhaps far more. It can thus be reasonably extrapolated that probably more than a million, and certainly hundreds of thousands, were killed while Kissinger and Nixon were in power.

In addition, countless thousands of Indochinese have died in the years since from the affects of the massive doses of Agent Orange and other Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction unleashed by the US. Many of us here know (or, sadly, knew) soldiers who suffered from exposure to such chemicals; multiply their numbers by 1,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 – again, it’s impossible to know with accuracy – and we can begin to understand the impact on those who live in and on the land that was so thoroughly poisoned as a matter of US policy.

Studies by a variety of organizations including the United Nations also indicate that at least 25,000 people have died in Indochina since war’s end from unexploded US bombs that pocket the countryside, with an equivalent number maimed. As with Agent Orange, deaths and ruined lives from such explosions continue to this day. So 40 years on, the war quite literally goes on for the people of Indochina, and it is likely it will go on for decades more.

Near the end of his time in office, Kissinger and his new boss Gerald Ford pre-approved the Indonesian dictator Suharto’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, an illegal act of aggression again carried out with weapons made in and furnished by the US. Suharto had a long history as a bagman for US business interests; he ascended to power in a 1965 coup, also with decisive support and weapons from Washington, and undertook a year-long reign of terror in which security forces and the army killed more than a million people (Amnesty International, which rarely has much to say about the crimes of US imperialism, put the number at 1.5 million).

In addition to providing the essential on-the-ground support, Kissinger and Ford blocked efforts by the global community to stop the bloodshed when the terrible scale of Indonesian violence became known, something UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan openly bragged about. Again, the guiding principle of empire, one that Kissinger and his kind accept as naturally as breathing, is that independence cannot be allowed. That’s true even in a country as small as East Timor where investment opportunities are slight, for independence is contagious and can spread to places where far more is at stake, like resource-rich Indonesia. By the time the Indonesian occupation finally ended in 1999, 200,000 Timorese – 30 percent of the population – had been wiped out. Such is Kissinger’s legacy and it is a legacy well understood by residents of the global South no matter the denial, ignorance or obfuscation of the intelligentsia here.

If the United States is ever to become a democratic society, and if we are ever to enter the international community as a responsible party willing to wage peace instead of war, to foster cooperation and mutual aid rather than domination, we will have to account for the crimes of those who claim to act in our names like Kissinger. Our outrage at the crimes of murderous thugs who are official enemies like Pol Pot is not enough. A cabal of American mis-leaders from Kennedy on caused far more Indochinese deaths than the Khmer Rouge, after all, and those responsible should be judged and treated accordingly.

The urgency of the task is underscored as US aggression proliferates at an alarming rate. Millions of people around the world, most notably in an invigorated Latin America, are working to end the “might makes right” ethos the US has lived by since its inception. The 99 percent of us here who have no vested interest in empire would do well to join them.

There are recent encouraging signs along those lines, with the successful prevention of a US attack on Syria particularly noteworthy. In addition, individuals from various levels of empire have had their lives disrupted to varying degrees. David Petraeus, for example, has been hounded by demonstrators since being hired by CUNY earlier this year to teach an honors course; in 2010, Dick Cheney had to cancel a planned trip to Canada because the clamor for his arrest had grown quite loud; long after his reign ended, Pinochet was arrested by order of a Spanish magistrate for human right violations and held in England for 18 months before being released because of health problems; and earlier this year, Efrain Rios Montt, one of Washington’s past henchmen in Guatemala, was convicted of genocide, though accomplices of his still in power have since intervened on his behalf to obstruct justice. And Condoleeza Rice was forced to cancel her commencement appearance at Rutgers this past spring because of student outrage over her involvement in war crimes.

More pressure is needed, and allies of the US engaged in war crimes like Paul Kagame should be dealt with as Pinochet was. More important perhaps for those of us in the US is that we hound Rumsfeld, both Clintons, Rice, Albright and Powell, to name a few, for their crimes against humanity every time they show themselves in public just as Petraeus has been. That holds especially for our two most recent War-Criminals-in-Chief, Barack Bush and George W. Obama.

Andy Piascik can be reached at andypiascik@yahoo.com.

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 2 Comments