Ukraine: No Obama, It Is Not A Personal Issue
The United States and its appendixes seems to believe that the "isolation" of Russia with regards to Crimea is:
- feasible and
- can get Russia to withdraw from Crimea.
Both believes are obviously wrong.
It may be possible to somewhat "isolate" Iran or North Korea. But Russia is a veto wielding member of the UN Security Council and has lots of strategic nuclear weapon capabilities. The two biggest countries of the world, China as well as India, have already taken Russia's side. Economic pressure on Russia would hurt Europe and others more than it would hurt Russia.
Obama seems to see this as a personal conflict with Putin. Only an extraordinary narcissist could have such idea. It is not "Putin" who is taking back Crimea, it is Russia. No Russian president could have acted different without losing legitimacy in the eyes of his people. The White House thinking, as explained in this weeks Swoop, is therefore simply crazy:
[T]he perception is rising in the White House that, rightly or wrongly, the crisis has become a personal contest which can only be settled between Obama and President Putin. NSC officials tell us that this is both an advantage in that it lends weight to the exchanges between the two men and a drawback in that it involves Obama more intensively in the management of the crisis than he would otherwise wish.
As an NSC official commented to us: “Against all the odds, Obama continues to believe that he can do a deal with Putin. His telephone exchanges lead him to conclude that Putin is intent on building a position of strength from which he will then negotiate.” From talking to other high-level contacts in Washington, our sense is that Obama’s conviction that a deal is doable is not widely shared. Even in the State Department there are senior officials who are much less optimistic that Putin is interested in negotiating. The Pentagon is also skeptical ...
Obama is very wrong in this.
Yes, Russia would make a deal. It has offered it several times but it seems that no one is listening. Russia wants a return to the paper signed on February 21 by Yanukovich, opposition leaders and three EU foreign ministers. That paper sets out a national unity government and a continued presidency for Yanukovich until new presidential elections this fall. Go back to that paper and Crimea may be allowed to stay as an autonomous federal entity within the Ukraine. Without any fulfillment of the Feb 21 deal the Crimea will soon be part of the Russian Federation.
Unfortunately no one has taken up Russia's offer and Obama, by threatening Russia, has already taken away his own ability to go back to that deal. The Republicans and Democratic Russiaphobes would eat him alive if he would try that now. Instead clumsy efforts are made to put "pressure" on Russia. The Kremlin will just laugh off sanctions and such. Take THIS deal or the Crimea is gone. If you can't take THIS deal, well, then the Crimea is gone.
According to this (translated from Kommersant) Putin himself had a hand in making the Feb 21 deal:
A Russian diplomatic source confirmed the statement by Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski that it was Vladimir Putin who, during a telephone conversation on February the 21st, convinced Yanukovich to make concessions to the opposition. According to this source, Vladimir Putin urged Yanukovich to abandon plans for a state of emergency and begin negotiations with the opposition to stop the bloodshed.
According to the source, President Barrack Obama and the leaders of Germany, France and Poland, requested Putin to influence Yanukovich on this matter. In return, these countries promised the Kremlin that they would ensure that the Ukrainian opposition would hold up their end of the agreement of February the 21st, which included the creation of a government of `National Unity`, constitutional reforms, early elections and surrendering the illegally acquired weapons. `Yanukovich completely fulfilled his side of the agreement but the opposition did not comply with anything`, the source said. `Now the EU and US wants us to behave like there was no agreement in the first place and `look ahead` but we will not do this.
If this is correct, and I believe it is, then the blowing up of the February 21 deal and the recognition of the coup government by the United States and the EU is another case of showing Putin and thereby Russia the dirty finger. But Russia is back. It will no longer accept such insults.
It is completely wrong by Obama to personalize the conflict. This is not about Putin or Obama at all. It is not a pissing contest and not about dick lengths. Ukraine is very near to Russia's national interest and very far away from the United States. Obama should accept that and let Russia, for once, have its interests acknowledged. Instead he is taking another step on the escalation ladder where each step up makes it much more difficult to come down again to sane grounds.
Ukraine, March 8
Nothing new by me but a pointer to a somewhat decent (wrong conclusion at the end) piece by the Globe & Mail's Mark Mackinnon: How the West lost Putin: it didn’t have to be this way:
In Ukraine, it’s Mr. Putin who is bending the rules and distorting the facts in the same way he has accused the West of doing elsewhere. But the battle for Ukraine is existential for him. Ukraine is central to Russian history and culture, and crucial to Mr. Putin’s ambition of restoring a sphere of influence over Moscow’s post-Soviet neighbours. He’s almost certainly not going to back down, whatever the cost. There “will be mutual damage,” Mr. Putin said when asked about the possibility of Western sanctions over Crimea.
A sane "western" policy would try to keep the damage as small as possible. The chance for such a policy is currently low.
Where Is Obama's Off-Ramp In This Escalation Spiral?
Obama points to the "the path of de-escalation" in Ukraine by saying:
"Let international monitors into all of Ukraine, including Crimea, to to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians are being respected, including ethnic Russians. Begin consultations between the government of Russia and Ukraine, with the participation of the international community.
"Russia would maintain its basing rights in Crimea, provided that it abides by its agreements and that it respects Ukraine's sovereignty and territory integrity.
How please could a U.S. president guarantee a contract that Ukraine would have to agree upon? Obama values "self determination" and "democracy" of a country 10,000 miles away from his so much that he is dictating what that country would have to agree upon in this or that case? Russia would be nuts to take any "guarantee" from Obama.
Obama wishes de-escalation so much that he ordered sanctions on Russian individuals and their money and pressed on European countries to do the same. Russia will retaliate with similar measures. Obama sends additional fighter jets to Lithuania and Poland and send an additional destroyer into the Black Sea. Russia will beef up its western forces. The puppet the Obama administration installed in Kiev added to the "de-escalation"by inviting NATO to Kiev and by promising to sign parts of an EU association agreement even before new elections in the Ukraine can take place. Polls have shown that there is no Ukrainian majority for either. Countering the Russian parliament votes to accept the Crimea into its federation.
If Obama and his puppet "Yuk" stay on this "path of de-escalation" the U.S. will be at DEFCON-1 in just a few weeks.
Obama said he would offer Russia an "off-ramp". But that "off-ramp" includes his demand to Russia to recognize the unelected, illegitimate puppet government in Kiev. Russia will surely never agree to that. Tit for tat will thereby continue. Where is Obama's own off-ramp in this escalation spiral?
Ukraine: Yuck, I agree with Kissenger
As yesterday's thread keeps filling up here are some noteworthy items on the Ukraine to keep the discussion going.
The problem with stories like the one unfolding in Ukraine is that it is so easy to become a megaphone for propaganda, from all sides.
The current example of this is the New York Times' report posted online Sunday and in its Page 1 lead story on Monday purporting to know what German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Obama after her conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In that story, the Times quotes an identified Obama aide supposedly briefed on the conversation that Merkel described Putin as "in another world."
The quote was too good to ignore and became the reporting line for every talking head and commentator for the next several news cycles.
As McClatchy, like me, found out, the quote was incorrect and Merkel simply said that Putin had "a different view" than the U.S. president.
Among them, at least on the margins, are factions that many fellow Ukrainians regard as anti-Semitic and reactionary, including Right Sector, which commands Sotnya No. 23.
Artem Skoropadsky, the Right Sector’s press secretary, took pains to distinguish its members from the rest of the opposition. But he said they shared certain goals, including serving as a check against abuses or halfhearted overhauls by any new authorities.
“Now it is clear that we can influence the government and the government structures,” he said.
Yes, indeed. And that is extremely dangerous.
The new government already tried to prohibit the official use of the Russian language, to disband the communist party which in the last election had 13% of the votes (more than the Nazi Svoboda party) and it kicked the Russian language TV which most people watch off the cable networks. That is a culture war against half of the population of the Ukraine.
Make no mistake. The neo-nazis, now holding all major security relevant government posts, will not voluntarily allow unbiased elections that would likely kick them out again. Not ever.
Syria: Insurgents Attack Chemical Weapon Depot
Even as Syria is making steady progress in delivering, as promised, chemical weapon precursors to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the U.S. ambassador to the UN is foaming from her mouth about alleged Syrian stonewalling. Syria had explained certain delays in earlier deliveries with attacks by insurgent groups on chemical weapon sites and convoys. The U.S. certainly knows that such attacks happened and continue to happen.
Phil Sands has written several good stories about the attack on Syria for the UAE National. His latest is about an attack by insurgents, western supported ones including the Al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat al-Nusra, on a chemical weapons depot in Syria near the border to Jordan. The "western" insurgency command center in Jordan feared that the insurgents could seek those. It ordered the insurgents to stop and withheld weapons and ammunition to make them do so:
International military commanders based in Jordan were on the brink of ordering air strikes against a “strategic weapons” store in southern Syria, according to accounts of a dramatic incident last week.
With rebels closing in on the fortified bunker at the Tal Al Jabiyeh military complex in south-western Deraa, military and intelligence officers from the US, Europe and Arab states who staff a clandestine operations room in Amman, scrambled to make sure the weapons inside did not fall into the hands of Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels.
In a tense four-hour period on Tuesday night last week, rebels involved in the assault – including Jabhat Al Nusra – were warned by officials in the command centre that Israeli jets were on standby to bomb a bunker on which they were advancing, less than 8km from the border with Israel.
It is not surprising that the "western" led command center in Jordan is coordinating with the Israeli military. As Phil Sands reported earlier the Israeli military is paying large sums to some of the mercenary groups:
At least three rebel factions in southern Syria have been in regular contact with Israeli intelligence officials, and have each received more than one tranche of funding worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a well-connected rebel commander who is familiar with operations in the zone bordering Jordan and Israel.
“When they run out of cash, they contact the Israelis,” he said of fellow commanders in the area, a practice he said did not bother him.
The fighting in the south of Syria, coordinated largely by the United States from Jordan, does not only include Jabhat al-Nusra, but also the competing (former) al-Qaeda franchise ISIS:
The Syrian government and its Lebanese allies from the Hezbollah militant group announced last November that they’d launched an operation to clear the mountainous Qalamoun – including the key rebel-held city of Yabroud – in order to take control of the country’s main highway and break a key rebel supply route that links rebel strongholds in central Syria with the pro-rebel Lebanese city of Arsal.
But progress has been slow, as hundreds of ISIS fighters, as well as a unit of radical fighters from Saudi Arabia, have bolstered the rebel forces, according to Syrian activists who maintain close contact with radical groups that are fighting to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad.
In another development, little mentioned in "western" media, Jabhat al-Nusra broke the truce that had allowed the United Nations to distribute food in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus:
The peace agreement apparently has fallen apart. Nusra, according to some reports, has returned to the area, and pro-government forces are apparently fighting to prevent them from re-establishing themselves.
One can only speculate about why Nusra came back. Maybe its leaders realized that their pullout could be seen as a victory for the government. Maybe they simply couldn’t give up an area that is strategic to the control of southern Damascus. But whatever the reason, Nusra has returned, and the optimism that life could return to normal in Yarmouk appears to have vanished.
Other than the Yarmouk disaster little progress seems to have been made on either side of the fighting. The announced U.S. supported spring offensive by the insurgents in the South seems not have happened yet or is simply stuck while the Syrian army offensives in Qalamoun and in Aleppo are only slowly progressing.
Ukraine: Ashton Phonecall On Maidan Snipers
Someone recorded a phone call between the Estonian foreign minister Paet and the EU high representative Ashton.
Paet reports from his talks with somewhat neutral people on the Maidan, including some Olga that Ashton also knows, during a recent visit in Kiev:
- there is no trust of the people in the new government (2:35)
- all of them in the new government have a dirty past (2:50)
- the trust level (towards the new government) is absolutely low (3:20)
- enormous pressure against (party of the region) members of parliament (3:40)
- "uninvited visitors" enter in the night on party members (3:50)
- journalists who were with me saw during the day that one member of parliament was just beaten in front of the parliament (4:00)
- people will not leave the street before *real* reforms start, it is not enough that there is just change of government (4:20)
- the same Olga (from a civil society group) told me that people killed by snipers on both sides, among policemen and people on the street, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides, she showed me some photos and said she has a medical doctor and that it is the same handwriting and the same type of bullets and it is disturbing that the new coalition now don't want to investigate (8:25)
- There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovich but it was somebody from the new coalition. (8:55)
- it discredited itself from the very beginning this new coalition (9:20)
Ashton says "gosh" to the sniper revelation but then plays over it.
Note: This call does not prove that the snipers came from the new coalition site. But it is a hint that this must be investigated.
Using snipers in such fashion is not uncommon. Snipers shooting at both sides in a civil conflict have been documented during the coup attempt against Chavez, the during the red-shirt vs. yellow-shirt conflicts in Thailand and during protests in Syria.
Another U.S. Anti-Front Falls Apart
The United States has long tried to forge an anti-Iran front in the Arab countries at the Persian Gulf. The Gulf Cooperation Council, founded in 1981, included Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE. The military arm of the GCC, the peninsular shield, was formed under U.S. guidance and as a major boondoggle for U.S. military sales:
“We would like to expand our security cooperation with partners in the region by working in a coordinated way with the GCC, including through the sales of U.S. defense articles through the GCC as an organization,” [Secretary of Defense Hagel] said. “This is a natural next step in improving U.S.-GCC collaboration, and it will enable the GCC to acquire critical military capabilities, including items for ballistic missile defense, maritime security, and counterterrorism.”
He said that in the past 10 years, the sale of advanced military weapons from the US to GCC nations has shifted the military balance away from Iran.
Today the GCC broke up:
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Doha on Wednesday in protest at Qatar's interference in their internal affairs, they announced in a joint statement.
The three Gulf Arab states made the decision following what newspapers described as a "stormy" late Tuesday meeting of foreign ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh.
GCC countries "have exerted massive efforts to contact Qatar on all levels to agree on a unified policy... to ensure non-interference, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any member state," the statement said.
The nations have also asked Qatar, a backer of the Muslim Brotherhood movement that is banned in most Gulf states, "not to support any party aiming to threaten security and stability of any GCC member," it added, citing media campaigns against them in particular.
The statement stressed that despite the commitment of Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to these principles during a mini-summit held in Riyadh in November with Kuwait's emir and the Saudi monarch, his country has failed to comply.
Gulf investment in Qatari shares fell after the announcement but Qatar also has some leverage as it provides the UAE with natural gas. The GCC members Kuwait and Oman did not recall their ambassadors from Qatar.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been fighting over the lead on the "Syria file", over ideological Islam interpretations but also over the Saudi's fanatic anti-Iran posture. Oman is another country that does not adhere much to the U.S./Saudi led anti-Iran stand of the GCC.
The United States now has another major foreign policy problem at hand. Everywhere where it tries to unite its "allies" in U.S. driven anti-someone campaigns it seems to fail.
In Europe the U.S. "allies" are squabbling over possible sanctions on Russia and will not follow the U.S. preferred anti-Russian lead. In South East Asia the U.S. "allies" South Korea and Japan are banging heads with each other and will not unite in the U.S. driven anti-China campaign. With the GCC falling apart the U.S. driven anti-Iran campaign in the Gulf is likely to fall apart too.
The hegemonic aspirations of U.S. foreign policy are in trouble as its "allies" begin to more and more act in their own interests instead of following Washington's often lunatic lead. This historic fact has yet to be understood by the foreign policy actors in DC.
CIA Spies On Its Overseers - Subverts Democratic Oversight
One can reasonably predict that this will become a huge scandal and that John Brennan's half-life as CIA chief is now very limited. McClatchy reports:
The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.
The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.
The CIA spied on the Senate committee that oversees the CIA. I am not aware of a similar thing happening since the days of John Edgar Hoover at the FBI.
The Senate committee has been preparing a thick file on the CIA's use of torture after 9/11. The report, still secret, allegedly says that the torture program was inhumane and completely useless and that the CIA systematically lied about its usefulness. The CIA protested and claimed that the committee report was wrong. But an internal study done by the CIA itself confirmed the still secret Senate committee report. To find out how the Senate committee got it hands on the internal CIA study the CIA bugged the computer networks the committee was using for its investigation. That last step is likely to now break some CIA necks.
At the center of this scandal is CIA chief and drone killing promoter John Brennan who was in a leading CIA position when the torture happened. I find it likely that he is personally responsible for the coverup attempt just as he personally was responsible for the crime itself. The New York Times has some additional details:
The agency’s inspector general began the inquiry partly as a response to complaints from members of Congress that C.I.A. employees were improperly monitoring the work of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to government officials with knowledge of the investigation.
The committee has spent several years working on a voluminous report about the detention and interrogation program, and according to one official interviewed in recent days, C.I.A. officers went as far as gaining access to computer networks used by the committee to carry out its investigation.
[L]ast June, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, responded to the Senate report with a 122-page rebuttal challenging specific facts in the report as well as the investigation’s overarching conclusion — that the agency’s interrogation methods yielded little valuable intelligence.
Then, in December, Mr. Udall revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal C.I.A. study that he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report.”
It appears that Mr. Udall’s revelation is what set off the current fight, with C.I.A. officials accusing the Intelligence Committee of learning about the internal review by gaining unauthorized access to agency databases.
What chutzpah. The CIA claims that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence overseeing the intelligence community should not have access to intelligence reports that set the agencies in bad light.
The NYT also reveals that contracters(!) review all papers before the government employees of the Senate committee staff are allowed to see them.
Now, the intelligence committee is well know for usually being very protective of the spies, but I find it likely that it will react very harsh to being spied on itself.
Any pretense of a functioning democracy becomes incredible when the executive subverts the legislative arm overseeing it. To keep up the pretense will now necessitate a big purge at the CIA.
The EU U.S. Tug Over Ukraine Policy
Yesterday I doubted that a certain Obama administration "leak" to the New York Times was truthful:
While Merkel and other EU politicians seems to want to calm the situation down the White House feels domestic political pressure to do more of "something". That is likely why we see this "leak" in today's New York Times:Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. “In another world,” she said.This does not sound like typically Merkel but rather strange for her. I doubt that she said that the way the "people briefed on the call" told it to the Times stenographer. It is rather an attempt to discredit Merkel and to make it more difficult for her to find a solution with Russia outside of U.S. control.
The German government, through the conservative, Merkel supporting daily Die Welt, denied the correctness of that quote. Die Welt writes (my translation):
The chancellery is unhappy about the report in the New York Times. Merkel by no means meant to express that Putin behaved irrational. In fact she told Obama that Putin has a different perspective about the Crimea [than Obama has].
No, I am no supporter or defender of Merkel, but the tug over the Ukraine is as much between the EU and the United States as it is between the "west" and the "east". Yes, the EU screwed up its Ukraine strategy by giving an ultimatum to Yanukovich to sign an association agreement and, when he rejected, by instigating trouble in Kiev. But what the U.S. is doing is worse. It managed to sabotage the February 21 comprise three EU foreign minister had negotiated between Yanukovich and his opposition and ordered fascist storm troupers onto the Ukrainian parliament to press it to illegally "elect" its favorite candidate to head the Ukraine. Six members of the fascists Bandera follower party Svoboda are now part of the illegitimate Ukrainian government. Certain U.S. policymakers seem to want war with Russia. The Europeans have very different interests.
All favored comments below the Merkel piece in Die Welt are taking the Russian position in this conflict and point out the fascists in the Ukrainian government. This in a paper with a usually conservative and very pro-American readership. The German public, despite an anti-Russian propaganda campaign in most main-strem media, is certainly not on the side of the United States and its NATO interventionists.
There is a long "tradition" of using fascist nationalist groups against Russia. That country lost over 20 million people fighting fascism and for Russians to see fascists ruling in Kiev is therefore an incredible assault on their national identity. Russians know their history and they certainly know who is standing behind these fascists. That is likely what Merkel told Obama about Putin's perspective.
The Svoboda and the RightSector in the Ukraine see themselves in the tradition of Stepan Bandera, a Galician ultranationalist, brutal terrorist, fascist and later asset of many "western" secret services. An eyeopening book by the U.S. National Archives about Hitler's Shadows - Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence and the Cold War (pdf) includes a chapter on "Collaborators: Allied Intelligence and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists". Some excerpts:
Ukraine: More Thoughts and Comments
Some more thoughts on the Ukraine:
1. There are claims that there was a Russian "invasion" of the Crimea. I have yet to see any evidence that there are more Russian troops, other than those regularly stationed on the Crimea, involved. Sure the Kiev coup-government claimed that dozens of huge Russian transport planes landed but how come that there is not even one picture of them available? To me it seems that the troops usually stationed on Crimea, which include various Marine infantry and Marine special forces units ,who obviously also have the support of the population are quite sufficient to secure the island. No shots were fired and the Russian navy, one might argue, is simply securing the larger perimeters of its bases.
2. The Europeans, unlike the U.S. do not want make much hassle about the Russian move. Britain is against financial sanctions on Russian politicians and oligarchs because their money feeds the City of London. Forty percent of the oil and gas used in the EU is coming from Russia. No one will sanction that stream. For the German industry Russia is one of the biggest foreign markets. Other then some symbolic "We are miffed" sanction will not be done.
While Merkel and other EU politicians seems to want to calm the situation down the White House feels domestic political pressure to do more of "something". That is likely why we see this "leak" in today's New York Times:
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. “In another world,” she said.
This does not sound like typically Merkel but rather strange for her. I doubt that she said that the way the "people briefed on the call" told it to the Times stenographer. It is rather an attempt to discredit Merkel and to make it more difficult for her to find a solution with Russia outside of U.S. control. That interpretation would indeed fit with this bit from the same piece:
Working from the Oval Office over the weekend, wearing jeans and a scowl, [Obama] called several of his G-8 counterparts to “make sure everybody’s in lock step with what we’re doing and saying,” according to a top aide.
3. There is some hyperventilation about reactions in the Russian stock markets and the price of the ruble:
"White Ribbon" Armed Men Explain Russia's Crimea Reaction?
Secretary of State Kerry on Face the Nation:
Russia chose this brazen act aggression and moved in with its forces on a completely trumped set of pre-texts claiming that people were threatened ...
Kerry should watch the following videos.
This one is of interest. The (auto-translated from Russian) subtitle:
Compilation with video surveillance cameras installed in the building of the Council of Ministers of Crimea on 27.02.2014, during the capture.
The video shows a group of 20 to 30 armed people, soldier like, well armed but not full professionals, storming and then searching a building with the help of flash-bang grenades. The time marks in the the CCTV are between 0400 and 0700 on the 27th of February. The last pictures to be seen are when the intruders smash the CCTV cams one by one. To mark themselves the men wear white ribbons on their left arms. This is a longer CCTV video from only one camera uploaded by the same account, Редактор Новостей (newsmaker), on February 28. It shows the group storming and securing one of the entrances to the building.
This is a video uploaded on March 1 by a French TV station. The (auto-translated from French) subtitle:
Latest news on http://www.bfmtv.com/ A group of twenty armed as professional men shot Saturday on the government building in Simferopol in Crimea. "It was weapons of professionals," says special envoy BFMTV Patrick Sauce. Russian soldiers who protect the site did not respond. The attackers withdrew in a bus a few minutes later.
The video shows a group of some 30+ armed men - again soldier like, well armed but not full professionals - in daylight trying to storm some building. They retreat to a civilian bus and seem to depart. The men are again marked with white ribbons on their left arms. What was this about?
Billmon: The Ukrainian Grand Delusion
The patron saint of this blog, Billmon, provides us with a concise (though necessarily incomplete) history of meddling in the Ukraine:
U.S. and E.U. to pro-West Ukrainians: "You fucked up, guys. You trusted us."
The same happened with Hungary in 1956, Prague in 1968 and with the Shia in Iraq after the first Gulf war. The U.S. incited hope that it would come to help in revolutions only to then say that there is nothing it can do. What group will be the next one to be fooled like this?
The Crimean Anti-Coup Move
The U.S. and EU sponsored coup against the elected government and president of the Ukraine had several strategic implications and aims. One of them is the Black Sea base of the Russian Navy which is used to supply and defend Syria. A takeover of the government in Kiev was necessary but not sufficient to neutralize the base as a strategic Russian asset. To do that a takeover of the local government of the Crimea and all its powers would also have to take place. The Crimea is historically Russian and most of it inhabitants are Russians. There is also a rather small minority of Tatars of Muslim heritage.
There seem to have been plans in place to use that minority to help with a takeover of the Crimean government by the "western" sponsored coup-government in Kiev.
In mid December 2013(!) the Turkish website Aydinlik Daily reported:
According to news appearing in the French, Ukrainian and Russian press, Turkish Intelligence has a finger in the ongoing pro-EU protests in Ukraine. News stories from these three nations have claimed that the governmental intelligence organization of Turkey, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) organized the transfer of separatist, jihadist Tatars trained in Turkey to the Ukraine. According to French news site Egalite et Réconciliation, dozens of Crimean Tatar Jihadists were extracted from Syria by the MİT and transferred to Ukraine via Turkey on an İstanbul-Sevastopol flight of Turkish Airlines on the 22 November. According to information based on sources from the Security Service of Ukraine, (SBU), Crimean Tatars who attended the protests in Ukraine's capital Kiev on November 21 were charged with establishing the security of the square. The Crimean security staff who obtained the support of separatist "Azatlık" movement operating in Russian city of Kazan received political support from Nail Nabiullin, the current president of Tatar Youth League in Azatlık.
An February 26, shortly after the Kiev coup-government was installed, Tataric groups rioted in the Crimean capital:
Anne Applebaum's Dull Conspiracy Existence
The neocon demagogue Anne Applebaum asks:
No one has yet explained, for example, why Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych not only left Kiev last week after signing a treaty brokered by the European Union but also ordered security guards to abandon all government buildings as well. Was that an unsubtle invitation for the opposition to ransack the offices so that he could claim he had been chased out by a violent coup?
No, Mrs. Applebaum, it wasn't. The removal of the guards was a condition in the agreement (not "treaty") brokered by the European Union.
Both parties will undertake serious efforts for the normalisation of life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and unblocking streets, city parks and squares.
Yanukovych kept his promises but the agreement was immediately broken by the fascist Pravyi Sektor rioters:
Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector, a coalition of hard-line nationalist groups, reacted defiantly to news of the settlement, drawing more cheers from the crowd.
“The agreements that were reached do not correspond to our aspirations,” he said. “Right Sector will not lay down arms. Right Sector will not lift the blockade of a single administrative building until our main demand is met — the resignation of Yanukovych.”
The fascist then stormed government buildings and the parliament where beleaguered opposition politicians then illegally "impeached" the president.
Sure, Yanukovich made a big mistake in believing that the rioters would adher to any agreement. But to spin Yanukovych's adherence to the agreement he signed and the fascists breaking it as a KGB conspiracy is quite a feat.
The riot police has been dissolved and the fascist in the new coup government are now in control of each and every security department:
[T]he most questions about the new government's direction will be raised by several key appointments of ultra-nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) and Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) members to leading roles in the Defense Ministry, National Defense and Security Council, and the Prosecutor General's office.
These people, and the U.S. favorite Yatsenyuk, now have all the power of the state while the EU supported opposition UDAR party of former boxer Klitschko is not even part of the government. It too was nulanded. The new fascist monopoly of force will make sure things turn out well ... or not.
But should this go wrong as the pogroms start, as it is likely to happen, Anne Applebaum will certainly claim that this coup was a KGB conspiracy to begin with. To Mrs. Applebaum ANYTHING that is anti-Russian must be from the free will of the people while anything that might be turnout to be somewhat pro-Russian must be a KGB plot.
Isn't being such a one-trick-pony a rather dull existence?
Somewhere, a British spy is wanking to your last naked video chat:
The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains "undesirable nudity". Discussing efforts to make the interface "safer to use", it noted that current "naïve" pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people's faces as pornography.
How much "desirable nudity" do those GCHQ analysts look at?
There seems to be more concern at the GHCQ for "protecting" its staff from seeing some pornography-like pictures than there is for the privacy of millions of normal people. Is that the right balance?
Those who argue against these untargeted "collect it all" attempts by the spy agencies will soon be confronted with this counter-argument: "People who show "undesirable nudity" during their webchats are severely hindering the essential work NSA and GHCQ do. They are thereby objectively SUPPORTING THE TERRORISTS!"
Open Thread 2014-04
News & views ...
A Few Ukraine Coup Links
A collection of interesting reads on how the putsch in the Ukraine happened and the background behind it.
Max Blumenthal is looking at the historic background of the Nazi groups in the Ukraine and there relation with Ukrainian exile groups in the United States. The connections are deeper than one might have thought:
Many surviving OUN-B members fled to Western Europe and the United States – occasionally with CIA help – where they quietly forged political alliances with right-wing elements. “You have to understand, we are an underground organization. We have spent years quietly penetrating positions of influence,” one member told journalist Russ Bellant, who documented the group’s resurgence in the United States in his 1988 book, “Old Nazis, New Right, and the Republican Party.”
In Washington, the OUN-B reconstituted under the banner of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), an umbrella organization comprised of “complete OUN-B fronts,” according to Bellant. By the mid-1980’s, the Reagan administration was honeycombed with UCCA members, with the group’s chairman Lev Dobriansky, serving as ambassador to the Bahamas, and his daughter, Paula, sitting on the National Security Council. Reagan personally welcomed Stetsko, the Banderist leader who oversaw the massacre of 7000 Jews in Lviv, into the White House in 1983.
Paula Dobriansky was on of the neo-cons in the Bush administration:
According to her State Department biography, Dobriansky's background includes having "lectured and published articles, book chapters, and op-ed pieces on foreign affairs-related topics, ranging from U.S. human rights policy to East European foreign and defense policies, public diplomacy, democracy promotion strategies, Russia, and Ukraine.
The current lead on Eastern Europe in the State Department is "fuck the EU" neo-con Victoria Nuland. The coup in Kiev was a neo-con project.
Also this comment by markfromireland at Ian Welsh's blog:
To eliminate Russia as a threat to American hegemony you need to hive of The Ukraine and use it as a forward post against Russian resurgence.
This is why the Americans have been exerting massive pressure on the European Commission and on European governments to bring the Ukraine into the North American/North Western European economic sphere. With the UKraine in the “Western” camp they can stymie Russian efforts to drag the Baltic Republics back into orbit around Russia. Without it that becomes far more difficult.
There are allegations in the following piece that parts of the neo-nazis that attacked the police in Kiev have been trained in NATO countries. I have not verified this but it seems plausible: Ukraine: Neo-Nazi Criminal State Looming In Centre Of Europe – Analysis
A number of NATO-sponsored training centers for the Ukrainian ultranationalist militants were opened on the territory of the Baltic states immediately after they joined NATO in 2004. The detailed photo report on a Ukrainian group taking a course of subversive activities at a NATO training center in Estonia in 2006 is available here (texts in Russian).
Abundant financial and human resources were directed to bolster the paramilitary units of the radical UNA-UNSO, Svoboda and other ultranationalist organizations in the Ukraine. Since 1990s these thugs were participating in the Chechen and Balkan wars on the side of radical Wahhabi (!) militants and committing war crimes against captured Russian and Serbian soldiers and civilian population. One of the notorious guerilla fighters of the Ukrainian origin in Chechnya, Olexander Muzychko (aka criminal leader Sasha Biliy) today is heading a brigade of “Pravyi Sector”, the radical militant driving force of the ongoing coup d’état in Kiev.
There have been reports, also mentioned in the above, from Russian sources that, allegedly, Israeli special forces were involved with the anti-semitic neo-Nazis in the Ukraine. That may sound implausible until you recognize that Israeli state policy is to move as many Jews as possible to Israel. To frighten those who still want to stay in their native country by promoting anti-semitic forces makes sense withing this (in itself anti-semitic) policy frame:
For the life of me, I don’t understand the Jews living in France. I don’t understand the Jews living in Poland. I don’t understand the one Jew living in Afghanistan (nor the one living in Eritrea) and I can’t believe there are still 100 Jews in Egypt, Algeria, Iraq or Botswana. I don’t understand the Jews living in the Ukraine and, to be honest, I don’t much understand the Jews living in America either.
But seriously — if you are a Jew living in the Ukraine today, why aren’t you packing your bags? If you are a Jew living in France, do you really expect it to get better? And, if you are a Jew living in the US, do you expect your grandchildren to still be Jewish?
Chinahand aka Peter Lee explains how the U.S., by threatening sanctions on one oligarch, managed to change the majority in the Ukrainian parliament against Yanukovich: Looks Like US Played Hardball in the Ukraine...and Against the EU:
So, by a less-than-generous view, it might be suspected that the United States encouraged demonstrators to break the truce, with the expectation that violence would occur and Yanukovich’s equivocal fat cat backers, such as Akhmetov, would jump ship because the US had already informed them that their assets in the West would be at risk under US and EU sanctions.
If this is the case, the EU perhaps has additional reason to feel sore and resentful at the US. By blowing up the truce and the transition deal, Nuland got Yanukovich out and “Yats”—the preferred US proxy, Arseniy Yatsenyuk—in, but at the cost of terminally alienating the Ukraine’s pro-Russian segment—a segment, it might be pointed out, was actually able to elect Yanukovich in a free and fair election a while back.
I do not expect any Russian move on the Ukraine. Putin will now sit back and let the "west" squabble about who will throw tons of money into the bottomless pit that Ukraine is going to become. No politician in Kiev who wants to be re-elected will dare to sign an IMF agreement that will send a generation of the Ukrainian people into deep poverty. Unless there are nazi-progroms in Russian affiliated parts of the Ukraine Putin now just has to wait for the apple to fall from the tree.
Ukraine: NSA "Leak" As A Threat To Merkel
The United States and the EU disagree about the Ukraine. The Europeans would prefer not to incite the Russians (hey, they deliver the gas that heats our homes) and would prefer some compromise outcome in the Ukraine. That was the very reason why the EU financial offer to the Ukraine was paltry to begin with and had to be rejected. The U.S. wants a confrontation with Russia and a totally compliant puppet regime in Ukraine. While Merkel would like to install her protege boxer Klitschko in the Ukraine she does not want to pay for it - at least not much. The U.S. dislikes Merkel's choice and wants to install its own oligarch. That the very reason why the neocon U.S. assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland said "fuck the EU".
Now the U.S. managed to take down the political structure in the Ukraine and it wants to take over the whole show. But it still wants Europe, especially Germany, to pay for the mess.
Because the offer was so weak, the door was open for Mr. Putin to sabotage it and for Mr. Yanukovych to reject it. Now the European Union needs to come back with a better offer — not just association, but membership.
Ms. Merkel must now show courage and strategic competence. If Eastern Europe becomes unstable, Germany will be affected too — and deeply so. Only Berlin has the necessary weight and connections to bring all key players on board to make significant change possible.
Interesting how the "west" is now reduced to Berlin paying up - and nothing else is meant here. And notice that little threat if "Eastern Europe becomes unstable, Germany will be affected too"? "Nice house you have there. Too bad if something would happen to it."
There was an additional reminder this weekend for Mrs Merkel that she better do what she is told:
The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has stepped up its surveillance of senior German government officials since being ordered by Barack Obama to halt its spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday.
Bild am Sonntag said its information stemmed from a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany and that those being spied on included Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a close confidant of Merkel.
A "high-ranking NSA employee in Germany" talking to Germany's most pro-U.S. broadsheet is not a whistle blower but an official issuing an authorized leak meant as a threat.
The notice to Merkel: Pay up and don't even think of brokering a deal with Putin behind our back.