Aletho News


‘Silenced’? Ukrainian Military Pilot Accused of Attack on Boeing MH17 Found Dead

Sputnik | March 19, 2018

Vladislav Voloshin, the Ukrainian combat pilot which some Russian investigative journalists have accused of responsibility for the MH17 disaster, allegedly shot himself Sunday at his home.

According to a press release by police in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, the 29-year-old pilot’s wife heard the gunshot and called the emergency services. Voloshin succumbed to his wounds on route to hospital. According to the police, the pilot was shot by a Makarov pistol, a standard issue military and police side arm in Ukraine. The weapon has been sent for examination. Police have opened a criminal investigation.

Relatives told police that Voloshin had been in a depressed state, and had voiced suicidal thoughts. Friends and family told local media that he was suffering from problems associated with the reconstruction of Mykolaiv’s airport, where he was acting director.

Voloshin’s name came to be associated with independent investigations into the destruction of Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. In late 2014, a Ukrainian army aircraft mechanic told Russian media that the passenger airliner may have been downed by a Su-25 close air support aircraft flown by Voloshin. The Ukrainian side confirmed that the pilot was in the military at the time, but denied that he flew on the day the Malaysian airliner was brought down.

Speaking to Sputnik about Voloshin’s suspected suicide, Ukrainian politics expert Bogdan Bezpalko said that Kiev’s version aside, “one cannot help but think that the other side may have eliminated him as a dangerous witness who could have lifted the veil of secrecy over the downing of MH17, which would subsequently strengthen Russia’s position.” According to the political scientist, “it’s quite obvious that it was not in Russia’s interest to shoot down this plane, and that all this was a provocation directed against our country.”

In Bezpalko’s view, Kiev and its Western power will continue to do everything they can to see that the truth about the tragedy of flight MH17 does not surface anytime soon. “It’s possible that others who could shed light on this matter will be ‘silenced’ in one way or another. So I don’t think we will learn the truth any time soon. I would like to recall, for example, that all matters related to the flight of Rudolf Hess to Britain [in 1941] remain classified to the British people for 100 years. And I think that the circumstances of the airliner will be made known only when the urgency of the matter disappears,” the observer said.

On July 17, 2014, a Malasyia Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed outside the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard.

Kiev blamed the crash on the Donbass independence fighters, who countered by saying they did not have the means to bring down an aircraft flying at such a high altitude. An inquiry by Dutch investigators concluded that the Boeing was shot down by a Buk missile system, which it alleged was delivered to the militia from Russia and then sent back. Moscow slammed the inquiry’s bias, saying that the investigators’ conclusions were based exclusively on information received from the Ukrainian side. A separate investigation by Almaz-Antei, maker of the Buk system, concluded that the Boeing was shot down from territory controlled by the Ukrainian military.

March 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , | 2 Comments

US State Dept approves sale of $47mn worth of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine

RT | March 1, 2018

The US Department of State has signed off on the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to the government of Ukraine, the Pentagon has confirmed. The deal is valued at $47 million and needs congressional approval next.

If approved by Congress, the deal would involve the sale of 210 missiles and 37 command units, Defense News reported, citing Pentagon sources. The Pentagon claims it will not affect the military balance in the region, where the Kiev government is locked in conflict with two regions in the east of the country. Kiev has been accusing Moscow of backing the rebels, to the point of officially designating Russia an “aggressor” state.

“The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was expecting the first lethal weapons deliveries from the US to take place “in a very few weeks,” without specifying what weapons Kiev is supposed to receive. The Pentagon, however, was more careful about the timeline. “On weapons delivery, it is premature to speculate on when that will happen,” US Department of Defense spokesperson Sheryll Klinkel told Sputnik.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved increased US military aid to Kiev, including lethal weapons. Until now, the US has assisted Ukraine’s military with logistics, intelligence, training and other types of support.

Washington has accused Russia of invading Ukraine since 2014, when armed activists backed by the US seized power in Kiev. Residents of several regions, including Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea, refused to accept the new government’s policies.

Crimea voted to rejoin Russia, which it was separated from in 1954 by a decree of the Soviet leadership. Donetsk and Lugansk declared independence and have since been fighting off attempts by Ukraine’s military to “reintegrate” them by force.

Moscow denies involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, of which no consistent proof has been produced to date. It has repeatedly warned Washington against allowing lethal arms exports to Ukraine, saying it will stoke the military conflict and embolden Kiev’s offensive in the east of the country, further endangering the civilians that are already suffering there.

Read more:

Jumping the gun: Poroshenko expects US arms in ‘a few weeks,’ Pentagon says ‘too early’ to set date

March 2, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

‘Now Is the Moment’: Russia Urges US to Resume Dialogue on Missile Defense

Sputnik – February 5, 2018

MOSCOW – Russia and the United States should resume their dialogue on missile defense in light of the growing relevance of the subject, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

“I would like to emphasize the growing relevance of the missile defense topic. Let me remind you that an indestructible connection between strategic offensive arms and missile defense is noted in the preamble of the current Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty. There has been no substantial dialogue with the Americans on this matter for a long time. Now is the moment when it should be resumed,” Ryabkov said in an interview with the newspaper Izvestia.

The Russian diplomat stressed that in order to overcome the impasse in Russian-US relations, it was necessary to cooperate in a number of areas, including economic and regional crises.

“This agenda, in our opinion, includes issues of maintaining and ensuring of strategic stability… It also considers the work on regional crises… as well as economic interaction,” Ryabkov noted.

At the same time, the Russian minister stressed that the Russian-US talks on the crisis in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region had not achieved workable solutions so far. Yet, Ryabkov expressed hope that both sides would find a “scheme” that would be acceptable for both Kiev and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Republics.

On Friday, the US Defense Department published the country’s new Nuclear Posture Review, which devoted great attention to the development of Russia’s nuclear capability.

In 2014, relations between Russia and the United States deteriorated over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict and Crimea’s reunification with Russia in 2014 following a referendum.

The United States, as well as the European Union, has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia’s energy, banking, defense and other sectors, as well as on a number of Russian officials. Moscow has responded with countermeasures against the Western countries that targeted it with sanctions.

February 5, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Uncle Sam Dumps the Kurds (Yet Again)

The Saker • Unz Review • January 26, 2018

The drama which is unfolding in northern Syria is truly an almost ideal case to fully assess how weak and totally dysfunctional the AngloZionist Empire has really become. Let’s begin with a quick reminder.

The US-Israeli goals in Syria were really very simple. As I have already mentioned in a past article, the initial AngloZionist plan was to overthrow Assad and replace him with the Takfiri crazies (Daesh, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, ISIS – call them whatever you want). Doing this would achieve the following goals:

  1. Bring down a strong secular Arab state along with its political structure, armed forces and security services.
  2. Create total chaos and horror in Syria justifying the creation of a “security zone” by Israel not only in the Golan, but further north.
  3. Trigger a civil war in Lebanon by unleashing the Takfiri crazies against Hezbollah.
  4. Let the Takfiris and Hezbollah bleed each other to death, then create a “security zone”, but this time in Lebanon.
  5. Prevent the creation of a Shia axis Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon.
  6. Breakup Syria along ethnic and religious lines.
  7. Create a Kurdistan which could then be used against Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
  8. Make it possible for Israel to become the uncontested power broker in the Middle-East and forces the KSA, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and all others to have to go to Israel for any gas or oil pipeline project.
  9. Gradually isolate, threaten, subvert and eventually attack Iran with a wide regional coalition of forces.
  10. Eliminate all center of Shia power in the Middle-East.

With the joint Russian-Iranian military intervention, this plan completely collapsed. For a while, the USA tried to break up Syria under various scenarios, but the way the Russian Aerospace forces hammered all the “good terrorists” eventually convinced the AngloZionists that this would not work.

The single biggest problem for the Empire is that while it has plenty of firepower in the region (and worldwide), it cannot deploy any “boots on the ground”. Being the Empire’s boots on the ground was, in fact, the role the AngloZionists had assigned to the Takfiri crazies (aka Daesh/IS/ISIS/al-Qaeda/al-Nusra/etc/), but that plan failed. The only US allies left in the region are Israel and Saudi Arabia. The problem with them is that, just like the USA themselves, these countries do not have ground forces capable of actually deploying inside Syria and taking on not only the Syrian military, but the much more capable Iranian and Hezbollah forces. Murdering civilians is really the only thing the Israelis and Saudis are expert in, at least on the ground (in the skies the Israeli Air Force is a very good one). Enter the Kurds.

The AngloZionist wanted to use the Kurds just like NATO had used the KLA in Kosovo: as a ground force which could be supported by US/NATO and maybe even Israeli airpower. Unlike the Israelis and Saudis, the Kurds are a relatively competent ground force (albeit not one able to take on, say, Turkey or Iran).

The folks at the Pentagon had already tried something similar last year when they attempted to create a sovereign Kurdistan in Iraq by means of a referendum. The Iraqis, with some likely help from Iran, immediately put an end to this nonsense and the entire exercise was a pathetic “flop”.

Which immediately begs the obvious question: are the Americans even capable of learning from their mistakes? What in the world were they thinking when they announced the creation of 30,000 strong Syrian Border Security Force (BSF) (so called to give the illusion that protecting Syria’s border was the plan, not the partition Syria)? The real goal was, as always, to put pressure on Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia while grabbing a lot of oil. As always with Uncle Shmuel, the entire plan had no UNSC authorization was thus totally illegal under international law (as is the presence of the USA in the Syria’s airspace and territory, but nobody cares any more) .

Did Trump and his generals really think that Turkey, Iran, Syria and Russia would accept a US protectorate in Syria masquerading as an “independent Kurdistan” and do nothing about it? Yet again, and I know this sounds hard to believe, but I think that this is yet another strong indication that the Empire is run by stupid and ignorant people whose brain and education simply do not allow them to grasp even the basic dynamics in the region of our planet they are interfering with.

Whatever may be the case the Turks reacted exactly as everybody thought: the Turkish Chief of Staff jumped into an airplane, flew to Moscow, met with top Russian generals (including Minister of Defense Shoigu) and clearly got a “go ahead” from Moscow: not only were the Turkish airplanes flying over Syria’s Afrin province not challenged by Russian air defense systems (which have ample coverage in this region), but the Russians also helpfully withdrew their military personnel from the region lest any Russian get hurt. Sergei Lavrov deplored it all, as he had to, but it was clear to all that Turkey had the Russian backing for this operation. I would add that I am pretty sure that the Iranians were also consulted (maybe at the same meeting in Moscow?) to avoid any misunderstandings as there is little love lost between Ankara and Tehran.

What about the Kurds? Well, how do I say that nicely? Let’s just say that what they did was not very smart. That’s putting it very, very mildly. The Russians gave them a golden deal: accept large autonomy in Syria, come to the National Dialog Congress to take place in Sochi, we will make your case before the (always reluctant) Syrians, Iranians and Turks and we will even give you money to help you develop your oil production. But no, the Kurds chose to believe in the hot air coming from Washington and when the Turks attacked that is all the Kurds got from Washington: hot air.

In fact, it is pretty clear that the US Americans have, yet again, betrayed an ally: Tillerson has now “greenlighted” a 30km safe zone in Syria (as if anybody was asking for his opinion, nevermind permission!). Take a look any map of the Afrin region and look what 50 miles (about 80km) look like. You can immediately see that this 30km “safe zone” means: the end of any Kurdish aspirations to create a little independent Kurdistan in northern Syria.

To say that all these developments make the Russians really happy is not an exaggeration. It is especially sweet for the Russians to see that they did not even have to do much, that this ugly mess of a disaster for the USA was entirely self-inflicted. What can be sweeter than that?

Let’ look at it all from the Russian point of view:

First, this situation further puts Turkey (a US ally and NATO member) on a collision course with the US/NATO/EU. And Turkey is not ‘just’ a NATO ally, like Denmark or Italy. Turkey is the key to the eastern Mediterranean and the entire Middle-East (well, one of them at least). Also, Turkey has a huge potential to be a painful thorn in the southern ‘belly’ of Russia so it is really crucial for Russia to keep Uncle Sam and the Israelis as far away from Turkey as possible. Having said that, nobody in Russia harbors *any* illusions about Turkey and/or Erdogan. Turkey will always be a problematic neighbor for Russia (the two countries already fought 12 wars!!!). But there is a big difference between “bad” and “worse”. Considering that in a not too distant past Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft over Syria, financed, trained and supported “good terrorists” in Syria, was deeply involved in the Tatar separatist movement in Crimea, and was the main rear base for the Wahabi terrorists in Chechnia for well over a decade, “worse” in the case of Turkey can be much, much worse than “bad” is today.

Second, these developments have clearly brought Turkey into an even closer cooperative dynamic with Russia and Iran, something which Russia very much desires. Turkey by itself is much more of a potential problem than a Turkey which partners up with Russia and Iran (ideally with Syria too, but considering the animosity between the two countries and their leaders that is something for the distant future, at least for the time being). What is shaping up is an informal (but very real) Russian-Turkish-Iranian regional alliance against the Axis of Kindness: USA-Israel-KSA. If that is what happens then the latter does not stand a chance to prevail.

Third, even though the Kurds are outraged and are now whining about the Russian “betrayal” – they will come to realize that they did it to themselves and that their best chance for freedom and prosperity is to work with the Russians. That means that the Russians will be able to achieve with, and for, the Kurds what the USA could not. Yet another very nice side-benefit for Russia.

Fourth, Syria, Iran and Turkey now realize a simple thing: only Russia stands between the crazy US-Israeli plans for the region and them. Absent Russia, there is nothing stopping the AngloZionists from re-igniting the “good terrorists” and the Kurds and use them against every one of them.

Be it as it may, having the USA and Israel shoot themselves in the leg and watch them bleed is not enough. To really capitalize on this situation the Russians need to also achieve a number of goals:

First, they need to stop the Turks before this all turns into a major and protracted conflict. Since Tillerson “greenlighted” a 30km “safe zone”, this is probably what Erdogan told Trump over the phone and that, in turn, is probably what the Russians and the Turks agreed upon. So, hopefully, this should not be too hard to achieve.

Second, the Russians need to talk to the Kurds and offer them the same deal again: large autonomy inside Syria in exchange for peace and prosperity. The Kurds are not exactly the easiest people to talk to, but since there is really no other option, my guess is that as soon as they stop hallucinating about the US going to war with Turkey on their behalf they will have to sit down and negotiate the deal. Likewise, the Russians will have to sell the very same deal to Damascus which, frankly, is in no position to reject it.

Third, Russia has neither the desire nor the means to constantly deal with violent flare-ups in the Middle-East. If the Empire desperately needs wars to survive, Russia desperately needs peace. In practical terms this means that the Russians must work with the Iranians, the Turks, the Syrians to secure a regional security framework which would be guaranteed and, if needed, enforced by all parties. And yes, the next logical step will be to approach Israel and the KSA and give them security guarantees in exchange for their assurances to stop creating chaos and wars on behalf of the USA. I know, I will get a lot of flak for saying this, but there *are* people in Israel and, possibly, Saudi Arabia who also understand the difference between “bad” and “worse”. Heed my words: as soon as the Israelis and the Saudis realize that Uncle Sam can’t do much for them either, they will suddenly become much more open to meaningful negotiations. Still, whether these rational minds will be sufficient to deal with the rabid ideologues I frankly don’t know. But it is worth trying for sure.


The Trump Administration’s “strategy” (I am being very kind here) is to stir up as many conflicts in as many places of our planet as possible. The Empire thrives only on chaos and violence. The Russian response is the exact opposite: to try as best to stop wars, defuse conflicts and create, if not peace, at least a situation of non-violence. Simply put: peace anywhere is the biggest danger to the AngloZionist Empire whose entire structure is predicated on eternal wars. The total and abject failure of all US plans for Syria (depending on how you count we are at “plan C” or even “plan D”) is a strong indicator of how weak and totally dysfunctional the AngloZionist Empire has become. But ‘weak’ is a relative term while ‘dysfunctional’ does not imply ‘harmless’. The current lack of brains at the top, while very good in some ways, is also potentially very dangerous. I am in particular worried about what appears to be a total absence of real military men (officers in touch with reality) around the President. Remember how Admiral Fallon once referred to General Petraeus as “an ass-kissing little chickenshit“? This also fully applies to the entire gang of generals around Trump – all of them are the kind of men real officers like Fallon would, in this words, “hate”. As for State, I will just say this: I don’t expect much from a man who could not even handle Nikki Haley, never mind Erdogan.

Remember how the USA ignited the Ukraine to punish the Russians for their thwarting of the planned US attack on Syria? Well, the very same Ukraine has recently passed a law abolishing the “anti-terrorist operation” in the Donbass and declaring the Donbass “occupied territory”. Under Ukie law, Russia is now officially an “aggressor state”. This means that the Ukronazis have now basically rejected the Minsk Agreements and are in a quasi-open state of war with Russia. The chances of a full-scale Ukronazi attack on the Donbass are now even higher than before, especially before or during the soccer World Cup in Moscow this summer (remember Saakashvili?). Having been ridiculed (again) with their Border Security Force in Syria, the US Americans will now seek a place to take revenge on the evil Russkies and this place will most likely be the Ukraine. And we can always count on the Israelis to find a pretext to continue to murder Palestinians and bomb Syria. As for the Saudis, they appear to be temporarily busy fighting each other. So unless the Empire does something really crazy, the only place it can lash out with little to lose (for itself) is the eastern Ukraine. The Novorussians understand that. May God help them.

January 26, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Son of b***h got fired’: Joe Biden forced Ukraine to sack prosecutor general ‘in six hours’

RT | January 24, 2018

Former US vice president Joe Biden boasted that he had a word to say in another state’s internal affairs, admitting to have pressured the Ukrainian government into sacking a prosecutor general in just a few hours.

“I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Biden said during a meeting of the US Council on Foreign Relations. He was referring to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and former Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk. Biden added that the prosecutor was then fired.

“Well, son of a b***h. (Laughter.) He got fired.”

The incident that Biden referred to dates back to late March 2016. At that time, the then-US vice president met Ukrainian government officials to discuss the situation in Ukraine as well as US financial assistance to Kiev. Biden apparently used US guarantees of a third loan worth $1 billion as a means of applying pressure on Kiev. “I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars,’” he said at the meeting on Tuesday, recalling on the incident.

The then-Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin was indeed removed from his post by the Ukrainian parliament on March 29, 2016. Two days later, Kiev announced that Biden had met with Poroshenko and “informed him about the US decision to provide [an] additional $335 million for reforms of the security sector of Ukraine.” It also said that “possibilities for providing the third loan guarantee of $1 billion” were “open.” Poroshenko officially dismissed Shokin on April 3, 2016.

Earlier, Biden also boasted of other cases of US interference in Ukrainian internal affairs. In a book titled ‘Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose,’ which was published in November, the former vice president said that he openly demanded that former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich resign back in 2014.

He also claimed that he had to direct almost every step of the Poroshenko administration after it came to power, following a chain of events that started with a coup that ousted ex-leader Viktor Yanukovich and gave rise to the Ukrainian crisis. Biden also admitted that he “had been on [the] phone with either Poroshenko or… Yatsenyuk, or both, almost every week” for months.

However, Ukraine was far from the only country pressured by Washington at that time. During the Tuesday meeting, Biden also revealed that the US administration “spent so much time on the phone making sure that everyone from… [former French president Francois] Hollande to [former Italian prime minister Matteo] Renzi wouldn’t walk away” from anti-Russian sanctions.

Europe initially sought to avoid the sanctions campaign against Moscow, the former US vice president said. He also added that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was almost the only major European leader who “was strong enough to… stand with” the US on this issue, even though she “did not like it” and supported Washington only “reluctantly.”

January 24, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , | 3 Comments

A Coming Russia-Ukraine War?

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | January 21, 2018

While much of America’s – and the world’s – attention focused this weekend reflecting on Donald Trump’s first year in the Oval Office, holding one-year anniversary events for the historic Women’s March and drawing up balance sheets of his promises and achievements, Russia has had a rather different issue on the front-burner: a possible war with Ukraine.

The situation in the Donbass region of south-eastern Ukraine has been a feature of Russia’s political talk shows for the past couple years, along with the military campaign in Syria and more recently the stages in the preparation for presidential elections on March 18.

Focus on the Donbass conflict increased in the closing weeks of 2017 as military action on the front lines separating the forces of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk enjoying Russian support from Ukrainian militias and armed forces reached an intensity not seen for more than a year. This is despite the heralded exchange of military prisoners by both sides before New Year’s under talks supervised by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill.

Then, this past Thursday came a wholly new development – a draft law passed by the Ukrainian Parliament that could effectively end Kiev’s participation in the conflict resolution process known as the Minsk Accords. Although observers in the United States and Western Europe may have missed it, many Russians believe this development amounts to a declaration of war.

Dmitri Kiselyov, head of all Russian television and radio news services, offered a sober analysis of the emotionally charged development on his Sunday evening news wrap-up today.

According to Kiselyov, the new law, which awaits Poroshenko’s signature, makes preparations for war and includes language indicating a bellicose new approach to the conflict. The mission in Donbass is no longer described as an “anti-terrorist operation.” Rather, the mission now is to send armed forces against “military formations of the Russian Federation” in Donbass.

Military headquarters are established to coordinate the operation to be waged in Donbass. While up until now the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk were considered under the Minsk Accords as negotiating parties, now there are only “occupation administrations” of the Russian Federation on these territories, with Russia identified as an “aggressor.”

“This makes it all the more convenient for Ukraine to start a war,” Kiselyov says, noting that it could have the added benefit of enabling Ukraine not to pay its foreign debts and to ensure Poroshenko’s continued grip on power.

A Vesti reporter on the ground in Donetsk confirmed with local residents their view that the law means war. They see the current moment on the front line as “the calm before the storm.” Donetsk soldiers at their trenches say they are fully ready to engage with the enemy.

While Kiselyov acknowledges that the draft law might not ultimately be implemented, it nevertheless reveals a growing mood in the Ukrainian capital in favor of escalation. The facts speak for themselves, Kiselyov says, with Poroshenko failing to adhere to the Minsk Accords – for example by organizing local elections in Donbass – or to observe ceasefires along the lines of contact. There are attacks and deaths every day and only counter force has pushed back recent Ukrainian attempts to gain territory.

Kiev has seemingly written off the population of the two self-proclaimed republics – cutting off all transport and telecoms links and failing to pay pensions and assistance to the needy. It closed the banking system and there are no commercial ties. For Kiev the two provinces are merely territory to take back from the occupiers, with the wellbeing of the local populations at best a secondary concern.

On the economic front, the European Union has refused to extend 600 million euros of credit to Ukraine due to corruption. The International Monetary Fund recently refused a tranche of $800 million over failure to introduce reforms. Meanwhile, in 2019 Ukraine is due to start repaying earlier loans. This will come to $14 billion a year, which amounts to half the state budget of Ukraine.

Due to dire economic conditions, Poroshenko and other government officials in Kiev have become deeply unpopular, and with diminished chances for electoral success may see war as politically advantageous.

And although there are indications that some Western leaders are fed up with Kiev, the United States has doubled down in its support for a military solution to the conflict. With military trainers now on the ground and the U.S. budgeting $350 million for security assistance to Ukraine, Washington has also recently started delivering lethal weapons including the Javelin anti-tank missile system free of charge to Kiev.

In contrast to the image of Trump administration policies being dictated by Moscow, as portrayed by proponents of Russia-gate conspiracy theories, the United States is instead moving towards deeper confrontation with the Kremlin in the geopolitical hotspot of Ukraine.

For its part, the Kremlin has very little to gain and a great deal to lose economically and diplomatically from a campaign now against Kiev. If successful, as likely would be the case given the vast disparity in military potential of the two sides, it could easily become a Pyrrhic victory.

But notwithstanding Kiselyov’s reassuring words on his Sunday evening news wrap-up, it may well be the case that Moscow feels it has no choice. Moves by Kiev to exacerbate the conflict must be quickly countered to prevent deeper intervention by the United States and its NATO allies and prevent the conditions for WWIII from taking hold.

Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was published in October 2017.

January 22, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

2018 hotspots are in Eurasia and the Middle East

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 29, 2017

The leitmotif of the US foreign policy in 2018 is going to be a last-ditch attempt to “contain” Russia’s resurgence on the world stage. The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “yearender” in the New York Times on Wednesday makes this abundantly clear. Tillerson singled out China, Russia and Iran but had the harshest words reserved for Russia. This is what he wrote:

  • On Russia, we have no illusions about the regime we are dealing with. The United States today has a poor relationship with a resurgent Russia that has invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine in the last decade and undermined the sovereignty of Western nations by meddling in our election and others’. The appointment of Kurt Volker, a former NATO ambassador, as special representative for Ukraine reflects our commitment to restoring the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Absent a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine situation, which must begin with Russia’s adherence to the Minsk Agreements, there cannot be business as usual with Russia.

Tillerson was surprisingly laid-back regarding China. He mentioned the key issues – Beijing’s leverage on North Korea, trade, intellectual property rights, and “troubling military activities in the South China Sea and elsewhere”. But he viewed China’s rise from a long-term perspective, “carefully” managing the relationship “for the next 50 years.” In Tillerson’s words,

  • A central component of our North Korea strategy is persuading China to exert its decisive economic leverage on Pyongyang. China has applied certain import bans and sanctions, but it could and should do more. We will also continue to pursue American interests in other areas of our relationship, including trade imbalances, intellectual property theft and China’s troubling military activities in the South China Sea and elsewhere. China’s rise as an economic and military power requires Washington and Beijing to consider carefully how to manage our relationship for the next 50 years.

Of course, Beijing reacted nicely:

“China and the US share a wide range of common interests in spite of some differences. However, our common interests far outweigh our differences. China-US cooperation conforms to the fundamental interests of both countries and the world at large, and cooperation is the only right choice for us. When it comes to disagreements, we shall strive to resolve them in a constructive way on the basis of mutual respect so as to avoid disrupting the long-term development of bilateral relations. We hope that the US could work with China to focus on cooperation and manage differences on the basis of mutual respect so that bilateral relations can move forward in a sound and steady way.”

Ukraine will be the “hotspot” in US-Russia relations next year. 2017 is ending with the Trump administration removing restrictions on supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine. The Rubicon has been crossed. Russia will be closely watching how the US military aid to Kiev develops. Russia will resist any US attempt to shift the military balance in Donbass.

Meanwhile, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the US might impose punitive sanctions against Russia next year. Herman Gref, the chief executive of Sberbank and an influential voice among Moscow elites, told Financial Times newspaper this week that if such stricter sanctions – against Russian oligarchs and/or state-owned corporations – are imposed, it will “make the Cold War look like child’s play.”

In an interview with Interfax on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow relies on “pragmatic approaches and realistic assessments” vis-à-vis the US. “We do not entertain any illusions… We will respond to any hostile actions against Russia and our citizens in the way that is best for us… In fact, the sooner certain American politicians get rid of the illusions that Russia can be cowed by restrictive measures or a show of force, the better it will be for everyone, including themselves.”

The point is, the US has no leverage over Russia – or China and Iran for that matter. Tillerson’s essay conveys the impression of a ineffectual superpower. Even the reference to Pakistan betrayed weariness:

  • “Pakistan must contribute by combating terrorist groups on its own soil. We are prepared to partner with Pakistan to defeat terrorist organizations seeking safe havens, but Pakistan must demonstrate its desire to partner with us.”

The US has no credible road map. Indeed, the cool war with China will continue, but Indian pundits shouldn’t get excited that 2018 will be a “kinetic” year. The Trump administration has no control over shaping that cool war. Basically, the US has 3 options: contain China’s rise as a military power; roll back China’s economic influence through a US-led regional alliance such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; or, accept China’s rise and share the liberal international order with it as participant. But Washington has no identifiable strategy.

Suffice to say, it will be in the Eurasian and Middle East theatres – the two are inter-related too – where the US will get bogged down. Make no mistake, Russia is determined to push through a settlement in Syria in 2018. And it will be a bitter pill for the Beltway establishment to swallow. Moscow announced this week that the Tartus naval base and the Hmeimim airbase in Syria are being expanded as permanent bases with the capacity to deploy nuclear ships and aircraft. It signals a power projection far beyond anything that the Soviet Union achieved in the Middle East.

With a renewed 6-year term as president after the 18th March election in Russia, Vladimir Putin will be an alpha male. By the way, the election date itself is hugely symbolic, dripping with strategic defiance of the US – 18th March is the date Crimea rejoined Russia four years ago!

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Biden told ex-Ukraine President Yanukovich to resign, former VP reveals in memoirs

RT | December 26, 2017

Joe Biden bluntly demanded that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich resign back in 2014, the former US vice president revealed. He also confirmed the US was deeply involved in Kiev’s affairs during that year’s crisis.

From the very beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, the US sought to direct Yanukovich in his handling of the riots on Maidan Square that eventually led to a coup in Ukraine, Biden says in his new book titled “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship And Purpose,” which was published in November, but has now been brought into the media spotlight in connection with the US’s role in the crisis. Biden reveals that he repeatedly called the then-Ukrainian president, telling him what he should or should not do.

At some point, Biden outright demanded that Yanukovich, a legitimately-elected leader of a sovereign nation, resign because he had “lost the confidence of the Ukrainian people” from Washington’s point of view. “I was telling him [Yanukovich] it was over; time for him to call off his gunmen and walk away,” Biden writes in his book, referring to “the last of [his] urgent calls to Yanukovich in late February of 2014.”

The former US vice president also claims that it was Yanukovich and his loyal law enforcement forces who were responsible for the Kiev massacre back in 2014. In fact, the events, in which unknown snipers gunned down dozens of protesters and several police officers in central Kiev, remain largely unsolved nearly four years on. The investigation of the tragedy was de facto put on the back burner by the new Ukrainian authorities.

The probe initially managed to produce several suspects, with all of them being Berkut riot police members, even though it was known from the very beginning that sniper fire initially came from protester-controlled positions. Later, the head of an MP committee probing the mass killings mentioned “unidentified public organizations” as possible culprits, but no charges were known to have been placed. These facts, however, never stopped Biden from accusing Yanukovich of “loosing his riot police on the streets of Kiev… to murder demonstrators” and declaring the ousted president the main culprit behind the crisis.

Even though the new Ukrainian government, which came to power after the coup, was far more agreeable to US officials, it garnered no particular praise from the former US vice president. Biden calls former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk “a young patriot” and repeatedly draws attention to his efforts to support the “emerging Ukrainian democracy,” but at the same time complains about “bickering” within the Ukrainian elites and their reluctance to put “loyalty to country” over their personal interests.

“I had spent months exchanging phone calls with both [President Petro] Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, trying to convince them each, separately, to put loyalty to country over loyalty to political party,” Biden writes, referring to Ukrainian President Poroshenko alongside Yatsenyuk, who was eventually dismissed from the government in 2016. He also repeatedly mentions the two politicians’ “stubborn unwillingness to work together.”

Widespread corruption in Ukraine seems to be another issue that constantly irritated Biden. The former official admits that he had to be “hard on Poroshenko since his election” and to constantly urge him to “continue to fight the elements of corruption that were embedded in the political culture of Ukraine’s Soviet and post-Soviet governance,” particularly in the president’s own party.

Biden claims he went as far as to direct almost each step of the Ukrainian authorities. “Now you’ve got to put people in jail,” Biden says he told Yatsenyuk when the Ukrainian official came to the US. He also admits that he “had been on phone with either Poroshenko or… Yatsenyuk, or both, almost every week” for months.

However, Biden believes the present Ukrainian government “had exhibited a penchant for corruption, self-dealing and self-destructive behavior.” He also points out that Europe was in fact reluctant to support the idea of anti-Russian sanctions and he had to repeatedly remind Poroshenko “not to give the Europeans any excuse for walking away from the sanctions regime against Russia.” Indeed, anti-Russian sanctions appear to have been of particular importance for Biden, as he seemed much more concerned about keeping them in place than about Washington’s European allies.

Biden also admits that he had a low opinion of the Minsk Accords aimed at bringing about peace in Ukraine. However, he seemingly fails to understand their purpose, describing the initial 2014 deal as something that “did little to hold [Russian President Vladimir Putin] back.”

Biden believes that Russia – which is not even a party to the treaty – is not fulfilling its commitments under the agreements. The OSCE-brokered Minsk Agreements between representatives of Kiev and the breakaway rebel regions of eastern Ukraine were hammered out by Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, and formed the basis for a lasting ceasefire. However, the deal’s implementation has been largely stalled by Kiev’s refusal to uphold its part, including amnesty for rebel fighters and special autonomous status for the regions they control.

December 26, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

“The US Has Crossed The Line”: Russia Warns Trump Decision To Arm Ukraine Will “Lead To Bloodshed”

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | December 23, 2017

Russia has reacted fiercely to the end of week breaking news that President Trump plans to approve the legal sale of US antitank missiles and possibly other advanced systems to the Ukrainian government in a move that could change the battlefield calculus of the war between Ukrainian and Russian-aligned forces in the Donbass region along the Russian border. ABC News described the “total defense package of $47 million includes the sale of 210 anti-tank missiles and 35 launchers” which will be sure to harm Trump’s longtime stated goal of improving relations with Moscow.

Though Kiev has long had limited access to US lethal arms through private contracts with American and international arms producers, this represents a significant escalation involving the likelihood that advanced US systems would be used directly on Russian-aligned militias in the eastern Donbass region and potentially Russian forces along the border. Up until now, the White House has been reluctant to escalate the war so openly, as it did when it supplied anti-Assad fighters in Syria with sophisticated TOW anti-tank missiles.

While the US State Department claims the move is “defensive” in nature, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov charged the US with deliberately “crossing the line” and pushing the Ukrainian authorities “towards new bloodshed,” adding that “American weapons can lead to new victims”.

“Kiev revanchists are shooting at Donbass every day, they don’t want to conduct peace negotiations and dream of doing away with the disobedient population. And the United States has decided to give them weapons to do that,” Ryabkov said. He further slammed the US as an “accomplice in igniting a war” whose political leadership is “blinded by Russophobia and eagerly applaud the Ukrainian nationalist punitive battalions.”

Indeed a number of outspoken Russia hawks in Congress were enthusiastic over the possibility of heavier and direct arms flow to Ukraine, including John McCain, Bob Corker, and Tom Cotton – all supporters of the original Ukraine Freedom Support Act signed into law by President Obama in December 2014, though never fully enacted.

Cotton for example – recently rumored to be Trump’s pick for CIA Director – said of the new initiative for arms exports to Ukraine: “This is a break from failed Obama era policies to make Russia pay a cost for its aggression. With this decision, the Trump administration is reminding Vladimir Putin and his cronies that they lost the Cold War, and we won’t tolerate their bullying of our friend Ukraine.”

But Russian leaders have warned that through the decision the US may be dragged deeper into a quagmire which could result in direct confrontation with pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine’s east. Aleksey Pushkov, member of the Russian Senate security committee, told RT News that delivery of the more advanced systems like the Army’s M-148 Javelin Portable Anti-Tank Missile would require US military advisers on the ground, which could be targeted by separatist forces. 

Pushkov told RT, the US “has enough problems already to allow itself to be involved in adventures of the [Ukrainian] regime. And we know too well how adventurous Kiev may be.” This comes as authorities in Kiev are already requesting that Washington adds anti-aircraft missiles to its shopping list as well, according to multiple reports.

Meanwhile German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron issued a statement calling for “disengagement and the withdrawal of heavy weapons” in the Ukrainian conflict, a scenario now much further away from taking shape than ever. But after years of covert American involvement in the Ukrainian proxy and civil war which has raged since 2014 – and which a leaked recording confirmed was precipitated by the US State Department – it appears that hawks like McCain, Cotton, and Corker are finally getting their way.

December 24, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

War & No Peace: US Cuts Kiev Off From Preferential Trade, Gives Go-ahead on Arms

Sputnik – December 23, 2107

In a move that hardly seems coincidental, Washington made two announcements Friday which seem to outline its foreign policy priorities in Ukraine. Approving the supply of lethal weapons to the country, Washington threatened to partially suspend Kiev’s trade preferences with the US. Sputnik considers what may be behind the seemingly incoherent move.

Following months of internal debate, the State Department announced Friday that the US has “decided to provide Ukraine enhanced defensive capabilities” aimed at building up Kiev’s “defense capacity.” The move follows reports from earlier this week that the State Department had approved export licenses for the commercial sale of small parties of weapons to the instability-wracked country by US arms makers.

Also Friday, the US Trade Representative’s Office announced that President Trump would partially suspend Ukraine’s benefits under a US preferential trade program in 120 days unless the country makes major steps to better protect intellectual property rights. Kiev, according to the US trade office, has “failed” to adequately protect intellectual property, “despite years of encouragement and assistance from the US government.”

Trade officials did not clarify which part of the US Generalized System of Preferences agreement Ukraine would be nixed from, but the tendency seems clear: Washington is cutting out its economic support for Kiev, all the while upping its military assistance to the country, as tensions in the frozen Donbass conflict continue to smolder.

Economic Nationalism vs. Neoconservative Foreign Policy

President Trump’s economic nationalist approach to foreign policy hit Kiev particularly hard. Earlier this year, administration plans on US foreign aid for fiscal year 2018 leaked to US media outlined a whopping 68.8% cut in assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine’s Embassy in Washington quibbled over the scale of the cut, saying the proposal is really “around 30%.” At the same time, the Trump administration enthusiastically approved Kiev’s decision to buy US thermal coal, despite its price being almost double that which Ukraine would pay for the heating source from nearby Donbass or Russia.

At the same time, the US president has had considerably more difficulty challenging the neoconservative agenda on US Ukraine policy. Trump’s campaign promises of curbing US involvement overseas and trying to work together with Moscow on global issues, including the Ukraine conflict, haven’t panned out. Possibly under pressure from Congress and the US bureaucratic apparatus, Trump appointed John McCain ally Kurt Volker as the US’s special envoy to Ukraine. Making several trips to the country, Volker immediately began accusing Russia of engaging in ‘hybrid warfare’ in Ukraine’s breakaway Donbass region, and has pushed aggressively for a more active US policy vis-à-vis Kiev, including through the supply of lethal weapons to the country.

This past week, Volker warned that the situation in eastern Ukraine has significantly deteriorated, and even suggested that 2017 has become the “deadliest year” since the civil war began in 2014. Volker accused ‘Russian-backed forces’ of escalating the conflict.

Volker’s comments were echoed by the State Department on Tuesday, with spokesperson Heather Nauert openly accusing “Russia and its proxies” of being “the source of violence in eastern Ukraine,” and alleging that Moscow “continues to perpetuate an active conflict and humanitarian crisis” in the region. Nauert denied any possibility that the Donbass militia were “organic” entities which sprang up to resist Kiev in the months following the Maidan coup d’état in the Ukrainian capital in February 2014.Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met to discuss global hot spots, including Ukraine. Lavrov stuck firmly to the position Moscow has held since the signing of the Minsk accords in February 2015, stressing that the accords must be implemented, and arguing that Kiev has played the key role in stalling this process.

Cause for Dangerous Escalation

As far as US arms deliveries to Ukraine are concerned, Russia has vocally objected to the idea, and cautioned that the move would only threaten escalate the conflict. Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin stressed that although the delivery of lethal weapons was a “sovereign decision of the United States” which Moscow could not stop, “the supply of weapons to the conflict zone is not beneficial to the peacekeeping process, and only exacerbates the situation. If this occurs, this action will not change the [strategic] situation… But the number of victims may certainly increase.”

With these issues in mind, the reaction from Moscow over Washington’s Friday announcement has been highly critical. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RIA Novosti that the arms deliveries threaten to disrupt the peace process and hamper the implementation of the Minsk accords. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov echoed his colleague, saying that in the present situation the US in Ukraine looks “less like an intermediary and more like an accomplice in fueling the war.” Finally, Senator Franz Klintsevich, a senior member of the Senate’s security committee, warned that US weapons will encourage Kiev to use force. “The Americans, in essence, are directly pushing Ukraine’s military toward war,” he said.

With Ukraine recently approving a whopping 14.8% increase in its defense spending for the 2018 fiscal year, Washington’s decision to provide the country with lethal weapons is a worrying development. However, facing growing political instability at home, including a slew of street protests in the capital and more and more calls for the country’s government to resign, it’s unclear whether Kiev will dare to try to fulfill its dream of pacifying the Donbass by force.

December 23, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

India stands by Russia as US crosses ‘red line’ in Ukraine

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 21, 2017

In a highly significant diplomatic gesture, India showed solidarity with Russia in the UN General Assembly vote on Tuesday, which condemned the human rights situation in Crimea and Sevastopol. The resolution, which was proposed by Ukraine and backed by the western powers was passed by 70 votes, with 76 countries abstaining and 26 opposing.

Interestingly, India was the only country from South Asia to oppose the resolution – Pakistan and Sri Lanka abstained – and one of just three from Asia-Pacific to do so – the others being China and Myanmar. The line-up of voting had the ominous look of an epic ‘East-West’ battle of a bygone era. There is no issue that can be more important for Russian foreign policy today than Ukraine. And US pressure is building up on Russia lately. From the US perspective, there is no better way to whip up the enemy image of Russia and shepherd dispirited European allies behind its transatlantic leadership than by rekindling the embers in eastern Ukraine. (Read my earlier blog US-EU-Russia tensions spill over the Ukraine.)

This has been, therefore, a brilliant assertion of India’s independent foreign policies. Simply put, the Modi government took a deliberate decision to stand up and be counted as Russia’s friend – although President Trump had just the previous day issued a birth certificate to India as ‘global power’. This would have been a decision taken at a political level – probably even at the highest level — because these are extraordinary times when Nikki Haley keeps a note pad to jot down where individual countries stood on issues of vital interest to the American foreign policy and, presumably, she is under instruction to  report directly to the boss. (BBC)

India has traditionally taken a dim view of the intrusive western attempts to use the pretext of human rights to politicize regional issues. But then, this is not like any other issue. Nothing brings it home [more] than the curious coincidence that even as the UN General Assembly vote on Crimea got under way, the US state department disclosed in Washington that the Trump administration has decided to cross the ‘red line’ in Ukraine. (Canada, which usually does the foreplay for the US, took a similar decision last week.) Moscow has repeatedly warned Washington against precipitating a flare-up in Ukraine by arming the forces of ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis who double as the ‘army’ in Kiev.

But Russia apparently anticipated the US move. In fact, there were far too many tell-tale signs that couldn’t be overlooked. Reports have been appearing of Ukrainian troop movements on the Donbas front. The Russian monitors within the OSCE group were being prevented from physically accessing the frontline. At a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on December 14, the Russian ambassador detailed the violations of the Minsk agreement protocol by the Ukrainian forces. (Transcript) On December 19, Moscow announced that it was withdrawing the Russian officers in the monitoring group, since “further work of the Russian Armed Forces’ mission at the Centre has become impossible.” (MFA)

A concerted attempt seems to have begun to ‘activate’ the front in Eastern Ukraine. Smarting under the humiliating defeat in the project to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, Washington is blackmailing Moscow.

The US National Security Advisor HR McMaster recently hinted at a new doctrine of ‘competitive engagement’ of Russia. Possibly, the generals in the Trump administration see the situation in Ukraine through the Cold War prism with a zero sum mindset. That will be a catastrophic mistake. Putin recently warned of massacres worse than Srebrenica if violence flares up again in Ukraine. But then, if there is another refugee problem, it will be after all Germany’s headache – not Trump’s.

Now, what could be the Russian counter-move? For sure, President Vladimir Putin would have thought through a long time ago already what should be the next step and the step thereafter and the step even thereafter if Trump refuels the conflict in Ukraine.

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s approval of lethal arms to Ukraine is a sideways move to nowhere

By Jim Jatras | RT | December 21, 2017

The Washington Post reports President Donald Trump has approved providing lethal weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces.

Specifically, according to the report, the decision opens the door for delivery of items like Model M107A1 sniper systems and ammunition, plus associated parts and equipment, with a value of $41.5 million. At the same time, presidential approval is reportedly still being withheld from providing Javelin man-held anti-tank missiles, which Kiev also wants.

The decision to provide lethal “defensive” weapons comports with repeated Congressional authorizations, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support since 2014. While former President Barack Obama declined to act on those authorities, President Trump evidently has now done so.

With regard to the domestic political purposes of the decision, it seems to be another Trump effort to appear wisely Solomonic by “splitting the baby”: look “strong” by making a muscular judgment but don’t go all the way. It’s the same ploy he used in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (but not yet moving the US embassy, which he could easily do by switching the plaques of the US Consulate General in West Jerusalem with the current embassy in Tel Aviv) and by “de-certifying” the Iran deal (but not pulling the US out of it, yet).

For arming Ukraine, we can be sure Trump will be heaped with praise from the same domestic sectors that for more than a year have been denouncing him as “Putin’s puppet.” While there will be objections from antiwar dissidents – whose opinions don’t count – the only point of criticism from the establishment will be that he hasn’t yet gone far enough (the Javelins).

This has already begun, with Michael Carpenter, Barack Obama’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, the Balkans, and conventional arms control, tweeting his approval of Secretary of Defense James Mattis for his role in the decision.

It’s reminiscent of the plaudits Trump received in April following his order to hit a Syrian airbase with cruise missiles in retaliation for a chemical attack that almost certainly was not committed by Syrian government forces. For example, at that time, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, up to then uniformly a harsh critic who had derided Mr. Trump’s “rocking horse presidency” as a “circus,” intoned the next day: “I think Donald Trump became President of the United States last night.” Expect more of such hosannas in the coming days.

Carpenter’s mention of Mattis is significant. According to the Post report, Trump approved sending the arms to Ukraine by signing off on a decision memorandum presented by Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (It is certain that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster also concurred, or the memo would not have been given to the President.) As Carpenter would know (and as I would know, having had a hand in drafting State Department decision memoranda), the principal almost always signs off on the decision option preferred by the subordinates who drafted the memo. While Trump no doubt understands the gravity of the decision, his grasp of the details would be no more than what his underlings wanted him to know to point him to their favored outcome.

The Ukraine decision comes two days after the release of a US National Security Strategy (NSS) that could be best called confused. Pillar I (defense of American borders and tightening immigration controls to keep dangerous people out) and Pillar II (ending unfair trade practices and restoring America’s industrial base) are solid “America First” principles from Trump’s campaign and a repudiation of the Democratic and Republican establishments.

But Pillar III could have been drafted by any group of George W. Bush retreads – and no doubt was – or for that matter by Obama holdovers. It is little more than a rehash of the usual litany of “threats” from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, etc. Still, in his speech unveiling the NSS Trump made a point of acknowledging Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thank you call for reportedly providing intelligence information from the CIA to thwart a terrorist attack on St. Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral. (One can’t help but wonder if the whole story was intended as a cover for some backroom effort to improve Washington-Moscow ties. After all, since the American side would never abide “thanking the Russians” for anything, having the Russians thank the US for something would be a sensible approach.)

In short, as with his Jerusalem and Iran nuclear moves, Trump’s Ukraine decision was mainly calculated for domestic political effect in the United States. Read most optimistically, it could be intended as political “protection” for some kind of positive move concerning Russia. But in the meantime, it could have consequences. How serious they might be remains to be seen.

First, the very notion of “defensive” weapons is a myth. Weapons kill. The units approved for sale to Ukraine are designed for use as anti-materiel rifles, but they can also be used as anti-personnel weapons. Their very nature is offensive, though their tactical use can be either offensive or defensive. Trump’s decision to supply the sniper systems to Kiev will not have any impact on the strategic situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine. Its only likely consequence is that more people will die, as Ukrainian forces use their new equipment to probe for vulnerabilities on the line of control. Forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics will respond in kind.

Second, the decision will have no positive influence on the political stalemate over the Donbas. With no effort from Kiev to implement the political aspects of the Minsk 2 agreement and with sporadic killing continuing – and now possibly being stepped up – along the front line, a political solution will be farther away as ever. Instability in Kiev, fed by the antics of the clownish former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in his effort to topple the unpopular President Petro Poroshenko, makes serious political engagement all but impossible. Inside Ukraine, the only direct political consequence of Trump’s action will be to convince the Donbas even more – if that is possible – that no rapprochement with Kiev is possible.

Jim Jatras is a former US diplomat (with service in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs during the Reagan administration) and was for many years a senior foreign policy adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.

December 21, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment