Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 29, 2014

Open Thread 2014-08

News & views ...

Posted by b at 11:31 AM | Comments (136)

March 28, 2014

Media Neglect Turkish False Flag Attack Leak And Its Implications

Some more thoughts on the leaked tape from a meeting in the Turkish foreign ministry which is only very selectively reported in "western" media. A video with recorded voices and English text is available as is the seemingly complete text in two parts.

The setting of the recording is this:

The voices of the illegal recording believed to belong to Davutoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Gürel. According to the information obtained from sources, the recording consists of a chat between four officials in Davutoğlu’s office before the commencement of the official meeting with the participation of more civil and military bureaucrats in another room at the Foreign Ministry.

It is not clear when exactly the meeting happened. It would fit the situation late last year or early 2014.

The major points from my view:

  • Turkey has delivered 2,000 trucks of weapons and ammunition to the insurgents in Syria.
  • There are plans for false flag attacks on Turkey or Turkish property to justify an attack from Turkey on Syria.
  • The Turkish military has great concerns going into and fighting Syria.
  • The general atmosphere between these deciders is one of indecisiveness. Everyone seems to be unclear what Erdogan wants and is waiting for clear orders from above.
  • U.S. military has shortly before the meeting presented fresh plans for a no-fly one over Syria.

Then there is the fact in itself that this tape and others leaked. Internal government communication in Turkey and personal communication of Turkish official has been thoroughly compromised. This will hinder future decision making and will erode any trust Turkish government allies may have in it.

It is somewhat astonishing how "western" media avoid the content of the leaked tape. An AP report on it makes a lot of the youtube blocking the Turkish government ordered in reaction to the tape. Of the recording itself the AP only mentions this:

The four are allegedly heard discussing a military intervention in neighboring Syria, a sensitive political issue in Turkey, although the context of the conversation is not clear.

The Washington Post filed that AP report under Technology. This is an incredible disservice to its readers.

The Guardian report based on Reuters is not any better:

The move by the TIB came hours after an anonymous YouTube account posted a leaked audio recording allegedly of a confidential conversation between Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, undersecretary of the foreign ministry Feridun Sinirlioglu and deputy chief of the general staff, Yasar Gürel, discussing possible military action in Syria.

There is no mentioning at all of the false flag attack. The Wall Street Journal comes somewhat nearer to the truth:

... a leaked recording published anonymously on the platform purported to reveal a conversation in which Turkey's foreign minister, spy chief and a top general appear to discuss how to create a pretext for a possible Turkish attack within Syria.

For once kudos to the NYT which at least touches one point but leaves out the other important ones:

... the officials were heard discussing a plot to establish a justification for military strikes in Syria. One option that is said to have been discussed was orchestrating an attack on the Tomb of Suleyman Shah ...

German media did not do any better.

A NATO ally is planning a false flag attack on its own territory which would implicate NATO Article 5 and other NATO countries' forces and the media do not even touch the issue? This is ludicrous.

Related to the Syria issue is another thinly sourced trial balloon, the tenth or so, by the unofficial CIA spokesperson David Ignatius in the Washington Post:

Cont. reading: Media Neglect Turkish False Flag Attack Leak And Its Implications

Posted by b at 06:34 AM | Comments (146)

March 27, 2014

Syria: Erdogan's False Flag Invasion Plans Reveled

Updated below.

An March 23 the AlQaeda affiliated groups Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al-Shams consiting of foreign men crossed the border from Turkey and attacked the western Syrian province of Latakia. The seized the Kasab border crossing and the Armenian town Kessab. People there fled as the Jihadist removed the crosses from the Armenian churches and replaced them with their black flag. The Jihadist groups were given artillery support and anti-air cover from Turkey. A Syrian jet on a bombing run against the Jihadists was shot down by the Turkish air-force.

The Jihadist managed to capture several hill sides before being stopped by reinforcing Syrian forces. After the plane was shot down Syrian anti-air radars painted any Turkish flight coming near its border ready to shot them down. Heavy artillery is used against the intruders and they are said to have high casualties. Their wounded get transported to the Turkish border and find help in Turkish hospitals. The Jihadist campaign is clearly in trouble and it may only take a few days until they will have to give up and retreat.

The Turkish prime minister Erdogan and his foreign minister Davutoglu have further plans. They allege that the Tomb of Süleyman Shah, a small place in Syria 25 kilometer from the Turkish border but under Turkish sovereignty, is threatened by Jihadist group Islamic State (ISIS). They say that Turkish troops are ready to go to protect it. This clearly is a threat of invasion under some attack on radio Gleiwitz reasoning. Today leaked tape recordings of two tapes of a conference (in Turkish, UPDATE: English transcript of first part) between Davutoglu, the chief of the Turkish intelligence MIT Hakan Fidan and others, seem to confirm that this is indeed the plot. According to a preliminary translations by Firat Gunay (for which I can not vouch):

  • Fidan offers Davutoglu to send men into Syria to fire missiles on Turkey.
  • After Davutoglu rejects that, Fidan offers to bomb the tomb of Süleyman Shah.
  • Talk about the needs of the Jihadists which is more about ammunition than guns.
  • Fidan states that they have delivered 2,000 truckloads of weapons to the insurgents.
  • Davutoglu says Kerry had asked if the Turks would invade Syria and had pressed for it to do so.
  • Davutoglu also says they have plans for a no-fly zone over Syria and have delivered such plans to NATO.
  • Davutoglu assures Fidan that Erdogan has agreed to all the plans.
  • Fidan says things do not go well for the insurgents and that Turkey has send a general to help them.

Shortly after the calls were leaked on Youtube Turkey blocked local Internet access to Youtube. It is now also available on Vimeo and elsewhere. The tape release, only the latest in a larger series, came after Turkish police raided a holding company related to the religious Gülen movement, an earlier ally of Erdogan which has become his fiercest enemy. A TV station related to Gülen was also taken down.

There are local elections on March 30 and Erdogan's AK Party may lose the mayor seats in Istanbul and/or Ankara. Erdogan seems to have not only his voice but also his mind. He is using a strategy of demonetization against everything - Twitter, Gülen, Israel, Syria, whatever - to play to his large base. This base though may no longer be big enough for electoral victories.

The Obama administration is also planting stories of new "worries" about Jihadists attacks on "western" interests from north or east Syria. Such an "attack" could easily be orchestrated and then used to "justify" "western" intervention and a renewed perspective of a no-fly zone over Syria.

The northern attack on Syria comes at a time where a long announced attack in the south fails to materialize. There have been sightings of new Chines anti-tank weapons in the south but there is no sign of a coordinated campaign. Indeed there are doubts that the announced Southern Front exists at all. The talk about it may have been a diversion for the attack in the north.

Turkey and the United States should be careful with their dreams of invading Syria. Two can play such games and there are Russian troops ready on the eastern Ukrainian border. A move in one place could result in a counter move elsewhere.

UPDATE: A link to the complete taped conference with English text. A link to the complete English text. (Again: I yet can not vouch for their correctness.)

Posted by b at 11:28 AM | Comments (126)

March 26, 2014

Popcorn Please While "Putin's Agitators" Rule in Kiev

While anything seems possible, the operating assumption among some American and European officials is that Mr. Putin will not overtly invade eastern Ukraine but instead opt for a murky middle plan, using local agitators and perhaps undercover special forces to stir even more unrest in largely Russian-speaking areas of the country.
U.S. Challenge Now Is to Stop Further Putin Moves, NYT

---

Putin is watching TV. Calls up his Chief of Intelligence: “Give Tyagnibok a medal for banning the use of Russian in Ukraine. What do you mean he isn't one of ours? Ok, give Yarosh a medal for the idea of blowing up Ukrainian gas transit lines. What do you mean, that's his own doing? How about that cretin Lyashko? How about those cretins from Svoboda—Miroshnichenko and others? So, DO WE HAVE ANY AGENTS ON THE GROUND IN UKRAINE AT ALL?! Where the hell are they? What the hell do you mean they bought a dump-truck of pop-corn and a tanker truck beer and are watching it like a movie?!!!” Hangs up in disgust. Calls again: “How could you let Muzychko get killed?”
via Cluborlov

Indeed Putin can just sit back and enjoy the popcorn. The putschists government is doing its very best to disgrace itself, to in-fight with its ideological friends and to push Russian speaking Ukrainians closer to Russia. Just notice today's decision to suspend even more Russian language TV services in Ukraine. How is that supposed to convince Russian speakers in Ukraine that their voices will be heard?

The fighting between the paramilitary rightwingers from the Pravyi Sektor and the Svoboda fascists has only started:

The Ukrainian radical group Right Sector demands Interior Minister Arsen Avakov's immediate dismissal and the arrest of members of the Sokil (Falcon) special task force involved in killing nationalist leader Oleksandr Muzychko nicknamed Sashko Bily in the Rivne region early on Tuesday.

The response from the Svoboda party minister:

Ukraine's Interior Ministry has started a sweep of arrests against the nationalist Right Sector organization, after its activists threatened revenge for the police killing of one of their leaders, Oleksandr Muzychko, a news report said.

Popcorn indeed.

According to Google news search no U.S. media picked up on the published Tymoshenko phone call in which she talks to her political ally Shufrych about mass killing Russians. Yahoo news carried an AFP agency text and a Washington Post blog entry tried to obfuscate the content of the talk. Except that there is nada in U.S. media while German papers were all over it. Of interest is not only the rather vulgar talk but the fact that it was held in Russian. This while the fake blond gas princess and her friends always uses Ukrainian in public speech to promote her fake nationalism. The leaked call will thereby not only alienate Russian speaker from Tymoshenko also the Ukrainian speakers which she tries to embezzle.

Why should Russia try to create unrest in eastern and southern Ukraine when the putsch government in Kiev is doing its very best to create such itself? To the growing unrest one can add the likely economic collapse that will come rather sooner than later. Any "western" help will be conditioned on austerity and impoverishing the people as well as on political reform that the oligarchs and the current politicians will not allow to happen. Under such condition further unrest is a given while Ukraine falls apart and there is no need at all for Russia to intervene to achieve such.

Russia will do nothing nefarious, it will do just nothing. Russia will not help, neither economically nor politically, unless Kiev and the "west" are willing to pay its price: A federalized Ukraine with strong regions and a weak central government.

Posted by b at 09:14 AM | Comments (222)

March 25, 2014

Ukraine: Purge Of The Fascists?

(There was no time yet to read through all your comments on yesterday's thread so I am not sure how much of this has been mentioned yet.)

The fascist defense minister Tenyukh, who wanted to start a war with Russia, is probably being dismissed today by the Ukrainian rump-parliament. The provisional president designated one Mykhailo Koval as acting minister of defense. But Reuters reports that Tenyukh himself asked to be dismissed and that the parliament lacked the votes to accept it. Other claims differ. I have not yet found the reasons for this move. Was it because Tenyukh wanted to start a war or because he did not manage to do so? Or was it the fact that about 80% of the Ukrainian troops on Crimea defied his orders and decided to move over to the Russian side?

In other news one of the most dangerous leaders of the Pravyh Sektor, the muscle paramilitary side of the fascists in Ukraine, was shot down and killed near the west-Ukrainian city of Rivne. It is unclear who killed him and why. According to the (anti-Putin) Moscow Times:

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Doniy said on his Facebook page that unknown assailants blocked off Muzychko's car, dragged him out of the vehicle, cuffed his hands behind his back, and shot him twice in the chest.

Vse and another Rivne website, ChaRivne, said that townspeople believed that Muzychko had been gunned down by a "Russian subversive group."
...
"Those who killed him made sure that he was not wearing a bulletproof vest and then shot him in the heart," Right Sector activist Yaroslav Hranitskiy said, ChaRivne reported.

Muzychko earlier this month accused the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office and police of planning to kill him or capture and hand him over to Russia.

"I am not afraid of death," he said in a YouTube video. He said his "friends, brothers, patriots" would "continue the battle."

Voice of Russia as well as Associated Press report that Oleksandr Muzychko was killed by Ukrainian police forces:

Ukraine's Interior Ministry says a prominent member of a radical nationalist movement in Ukraine that played a key role in recent anti-government demonstrations was killed during a police operation to detain him.
...
Police say Muzychko was sought for organized crime links, hooliganism and for threatening public officials.

The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that Muzychko was shot dead after opening fire on police.

Muzychko was an embarrassment for the government. The allegation that the February 21 coup in Kiev was executed by mostly fascist forces is based on the roles that Tenyukh, Muzychko and others played in it. Removing them now may be an attempt to clean the image of the putschists.

Posted by b at 06:23 AM | Comments (281)

March 24, 2014

Fascist Ukrainian Defense Minister's War Orders Defied

The fascist new defense minister of Ukraine ordered to start a war but was disobeyed. He says that is "regrettable."

Not found this in any English language news yet but several German media reports mention this (my translation from FAZ) :

Meanwhile it became clear that the commanders of Ukrainian warships on the Crimea defied orders from the provisional government in Kiev to use their arms. The Ukrainian minister of defense Ihor Tenyukh said on Sunday in Kiev, Russia managed "despite orders to all commanders to use weapons" to take over the ships. "Regrettably" the commanders decided themselves on how to proceed, he said.

Tenyugh is a member of the fascist Svoboda party that took part in the February 21 coup against the legitimate Ukrainian government. His legally dubious order to shoot at Russian troops in a rather hopeless situation could have easily started a larger war.

My deep gratitude to all those Ukrainian commanders who defied the lunatic order to start a hot war with Russia and allowed a peaceful handover of their equipment to Russian forces.

Posted by b at 06:14 AM | Comments (252)

March 23, 2014

George F. Kennan's Prediction On NATO Expansion Was Right

After the U.S./EU/NATO supported coup in Kiev Russia took steps to secure its vital seaport at Sevastopol on the Crimea. With their plans to use Sevastopol for themselves and to thereby blockade Russia from influence in the Mediterranean stopped by the Russian move various reactionaries immediately demand an expansion of NATO to somehow stop further "Russian aggression":

[T]he US should work with its allies in NATO to build consensus for an immediate announcement by the alliance that NATO membership will be extended to Montenegro and Macedonia and make the commitment to a Membership Action Plan for Georgia at the NATO summit in Cardiff.

These people invert cause and effect. Russia reacted like it did because of NATO's expansion since the late 1990. Such a reaction was utterly foreseeable and was foreseen when the very first NATO expansion towards the East happened.

George Kennan was the U.S. diplomat and Russia specialist who developed the cold war strategy of containment of the Soviet Union, though he later criticized its militaristic implementation. In 1998, when the Senate voted to extend NATO to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Kennan was asked to comment. He responded:

"I think it is the beginning of a new cold war," said Mr. Kennan from his Princeton home. "I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever."
...
"It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are -- but this is just wrong."

NATO expansion and the putsch in Kiev are, as Kennan predicted, the reason that Russia acts as decisive as it does. A harsh Russian reaction because of NATO extension is NOT a good reason to extend NATO further. The Russian (and Chinese) reaction to that would likely be even harsher. No one serious should wish back the times when nuclear war often looked imminent. Luckily neither the public in the U.S. nor in the EU is willing to go that way.

Posted by b at 01:12 PM | Comments (159)

March 22, 2014

Who Lost In Ukraine?

Who has lost in the tussle about the Ukraine?

Consider the money:

The EU has provided Ukraine with €13.8 billion ($19.1 billion) in grants and loans since 1991. Aid from the International Monetary Fund, and from individual governments that include the U.S., pushes the total well over $30 billion. On top of that, Ukraine has received massive aid from Russia in the form of discounted natural gas—a subsidy totaling $200 billion to $300 billion since 1991, says Emily Holland, a specialist on energy policy in the region

With unfriendly relations of the coup government with Russia the Russian subsidies are likely to stop. That is an extra $20-30 billion hole in an already deep in debt yearly budget. And no, shale gas will not save the Ukraine.

No one will be willing to fill the Ukrainian deficit. It will now have to default.

Then consider these questions about the outcome:

Is Ukraine more united? more democratic? richer? Is NATO stronger? more attractive? How about the EU? Does it look like a good bet for the future? Are Washington-EU relations stronger? Is Russia weaker? divided? poorer? Putin less popular? Do the people of Western countries think their leaders are smarter, more competent, more electable than they did a month ago? Do people believe their media outlets? [...] And they just keep digging their hole deeper.

The result of the neocon meddling in Ukraine has created, as usual, a terrible mess for the "west" and even more so for the Ukrainians. Is there any way to prevent a repeat of such misdeeds?

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (170)

March 21, 2014

Robert Kaplan Writes In Defense Of Slavery

Neocon Robert Kaplan is writing In Defense of Empire. Empire is good, he believes, even for those who a ruled by it without having any representation. The lunacy of his arguments can be show best when one substitute the object of his essay:

Throughout history, governance and relative safety have most often been provided by slavery, Western or Eastern. Anarchy reigned in the interregnums. To wit, the British may have failed in Baghdad, Palestine, and elsewhere, but the larger history of the British slaveholdership is one of providing a vast armature of stability, fostered by sea and rail communications, where before there had been demonstrably less stability.
...
But slavery is now seen by global elites as altogether evil, despite slaveholdership having offered the most benign form of order for thousands of years, keeping the anarchy of ethnic, tribal, and sectarian war bands to a reasonable minimum. Compared with slaveholdership, democracy is a new and uncertain phenomenon. Even the two most estimable democracies in modern history, the United States and Great Britain, were slaveholdership for long periods. “As both a dream and a fact the American slaveholdership was born before the United States,” writes the mid-20th-century historian of westward expansion Bernard DeVoto. Following their initial settlement, and before their incorporation as states, the western territories were nothing less than slaveholdership possessions of Washington, D.C. No surprise there: slaveholdership confers a loose and accepted form of sovereignty, occupying a middle ground between anarchy and full state control.
...
Rome, Parthia, and Hapsburg Austria were great precisely because they gave significant parts of the world a modicum of slavery order that they would not otherwise have enjoyed. America must presently do likewise, particularly in East Asia, the geographic heartland of the world economy and the home of American treaty allies.
...
That, I submit, would be a policy direction that internalizes both the drawbacks and the benefits of slaveholdership, not as it has been conventionally thought of, but as it has actually been practiced throughout history.

It is somewhat frightening that people believing such nonsense have influence in political circles.

Posted by b at 02:47 PM | Comments (212)

After Twitter Ban Erdo-gone

Yesterday the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan used a recent internet censorship law to ban the use of Twitter in Turkey. Communication through Twitter and other internet means was one way for the opposition in Turkey to organize protests against him. But such communication was also intensively used by his own supporters.

As usual the user's reacted by circumventing the ban and kept on tweeting. The ban was ignored not only by the 12 million Turkish net-citizens but also by high members of Erdogan's own party. The Turkish president Gül tweeted(!) "Shutdown of social media cannot be approved". Deputy Prime Minister Arınç and Ankara Mayor Gökçek, both high members of Erdogan's AK Party, also broke the ban. Ironically hardcore Erdogan supporters circumvented the blocking of twitter to justify Erdogan's blocking order in their tweets. The government controlled Anadolu news agency tweets about government speeches that justify the ban on tweets.

The EU and the United States condamned the move. If you pretend to be a democracy you are supposed to first talk about the dangers of pornography, pedophilia or terrorism before censuring the net. Erdogan missed that step.

His hard-core supporters may still hold on to Erdogan, despite all corruption allegations and autocratic tendencies. But those who were only slightly affiliated with him will now likely break away. How can anyone still want to associate himself with such a laughing stock?

Erdogan's economic success over the last decade, mostly credit fueled, is coming apart as interests rate rise and the Turkish currency is sinking. There will be local elections in Turkey on March 30 followed by two more elections later this year. Erdogan winning these is now in serious doubt. Yes, damning Twitter, the "interest lobby" and other bogeymen may help him with his base. But that base is by now also more literate, has better phones and can access alternative news. For the better of Turkey he may soon be called Erdo-gone.

Posted by b at 08:14 AM | Comments (53)

March 20, 2014

Ukraine: More On Federalization, Sanctions On Private Russians

The coup government of Ukraine has ordered its troop to leave Crimea. Many of these troops, especially officers, may not follow these orders. Russia is offering them a much better deal:

“The pay is five times that offered by Ukraine,” [the captain] said. “The pensions are five times better, and will be offered 20 years sooner. We are told we would serve on the same military base. Defend the same soil, the homeland of many at these bases. Families living quite nearby the bases will be able to remain in their same homes.”

Why would any officer, especially those native from Crimea, reject such a fantastic deal? The Russian president already signed a new executive order that will let those officers keep their ranks and will recognize their Ukrainian military education.

The U.S. today sanctioned some private businessmen who are on good standing with the Russian president. One wonders who will sanction all those oligarch donors who put hundreds of millions into Obama's reelection campaign. What by the way is the legal foundation of personally sanction private businessman for the policies of the country they happen to live in? Russia only sanctioned a few U.S. politicians so far in retaliation of a few sanction on Russian politicians. Should it now take a deeper look into some Soros or other Obama supporters business deals and confiscate this or that operation they are involved in?

I have no idea what those sanctions are supposed to effect. Those oligarchs will likely not care, nor will the Russian government. It has other possibility and means to show a cold shoulder for U.S. interference in its near abroad. Russia had, on U.S. request, put sanctions on Iran is is helpful with the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. That surely could end. Or how about leaving the U.S. dollar realm. Russia is the biggest oil and gas exporter in this world. It has new pipelines going east and no longer depends on European customers. Surely it could price and invoice its exports in ruble, yuan, euros, gold or whatever instead of in U.S. dollar. This could do wonders to the U.S. interest rates.

I understand that the White House wants to do some cosmetic sanctions if only to avoid more criticism from the domestic right. But by that measure today's escalation isn't necessary. Does the Obama administration really believe it can, together with a few European puddles, sanction Russia, which is supported by the BRICS and Non-alligned countries, into the ground? With about two-third of the people in the U.S. and Europe against any escalation with Russia and with Putin having domestic approval ratings of 75% which side is more likely to sustain in a sanctions war?

The Russian foreign minister Lavrov again emphasized that the Ukraine needs a federal political structure to be at least somewhat political viable. We had already concluded that such a constitutional change in the Ukraine was part of Russian and U.S. agreement for the way forward there.

It is therefore interesting to see an op-ed in today's New York Times that argues for such a federalized state. Currently the quite mighty governors of the Ukrainian regions are named by the ruling president in Kiev. They change every time a president change occurs. The op-ed authors argue that this creates bad local policies:

Because these governors are politically appointed bureaucrats rather than elected politicians, they have little incentive to cultivate reputations for doing what voters want; instead, they do what the president wants. And with that record, if they later run for national office, voters won’t trust them to govern effectively.

Presidential appointment of governors in a diverse country like Ukraine also stokes secessionist pressure.
...
[O]fficials in Ukraine have begun to consider alternatives to the current constitutional structure that could reflect such a commitment. Advocates of decentralization include Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, and Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv in western Ukraine. Ukraine’s Parliament, which would need to approve any constitutional change, has formed a working group on constitutional reform.

Some additional pressure from Washington and Brussels to federalize and finlandize the Ukraine could surely help to accelerate the move and thereby clean up the mess the U.S. sponsored coup created in Ukraine.

But are they really committed to clean up the mess or would they like to instigate more trouble?

Posted by b at 01:28 PM | Comments (186)

March 19, 2014

Open (Not-Ukraine) Thread 2014-07

News & views (other then around Ukraine) ...

Posted by b at 02:16 PM | Comments (175)

Ukraine: Just Some News Items II

It seems to dawn to some "western" governments that the spirits they called up for the coup against the elected Ukrainian government may be a problem.

Parliament members of the Svoboda (nazi) party used force against the head of the main Ukrainian TV station and forced the man to resign. The leader of the attacking gang was a member of the parliament committee on free speech. The "western" para-government organization Amnesty International is concerned and wants an investigation. Good luck with that. The new attorney general of Ukraine is also a member of Svoboda. The U.S. embassy in the Ukraine also feels a bit embarrassed and notes:

Over the past months, we have commented positively on Svoboda’s productive, indeed key, role during the Maidan protests and in the peaceful transition to a new, more transparent government.

At east they still admitt that.

The problem Amnesty and the Embassy have with the issue at hand is that the Svoboda folks filmed themselves (see at 4:00min) while doing their thuggish business. The embassy surely thinks they should not have done so as it confirms Russia's (true) narrative of a fascists coup.

But the fascists do need to make their intimidation campaign public because such reenforces the intimidation. It is their way to establish "street cred" and to suppress any resistance against them.

Even Foreign Policy now acknowledges Yes, There Are Bad Guys in the Ukrainian Government - It's time for a frank conversation about some of the unsavory characters in Kiev. But the author comes to this rather laughable conclusion:

So is Ukraine poised for a Nazi putsch? The good news is that opinion polls show Tyahnybok at just 5 percent approval, far behind Vitali Klitschko (the hulking, pro-Western former boxing champion) and the center-right ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

How do you think people will vote, or rather more important, the votes be counted, when Svoboda now has all Ukrainian security services under its control and engages in a campaign of public intimidation? Does anyone believe that these fascists will stick to democratic rules and will allow themselves to be voted out of office?

In other news the Ukrainian government has now ordered its troops in Crimea (Russia) to leave peacefully. This Russian "invasion" and "occupation" must be the least bloody the world has ever seen.

Posted by b at 02:14 PM | Comments (90)

March 18, 2014

Ukraine: Just Some News Items

The government of the Russian Federation continues to make fun about the sanctions the U.S. imposed because the people of the Crimea voted to reunite with Russia:

[Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry] Rogozin told journalists that the Russian government was not considering imposing sanctions against the U.S. and the European Union because it does not view the asset freezes and travel bans seriously.

Rogozin said the "search for accounts and property of people who cannot have them by definition is some angry joke," he said, referring to the ban on Russian state officials holding assets abroad, Interfax reported.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is even impersonating Secretary of State Kerry:

"The sanctions introduced by the United States and the European Union are absolutely unacceptable and will not be left without consequences," the Russian foreign ministry said Lavrov told Kerry during a phone call on Tuesday evening.

"Absolutely unacceptable" and "consequences" are the typical words used by Obama, Kerry and other "western" leaders to push Russia around. Well, not this time.

President Putin's speech on the association of the Crimea into the Russian Federation was very well received in Russia. I recommend to read it.

I read some claims today that Crimea is poor and Russia will have to pay a lot to update its infrastructure. That would be expensive and a bad deal for Russia. That it would be expensive may well be right but there is a points the people who make such claims fail to understand. The Black Sea around the Crimea has plenty of hydrocarbons and the government of Crimea has seized the Ukrainian companies that are involved in bringing those hydrocarbons to the markets. These gas fields will now be part of the already huge Russian reserves.

There was a something like a sniper attack at a military base used by Ukrainian soldiers in Simferopol. One Ukrainian soldier was allegedly killed and one wounded. On the other side one member of the Crimean self defense forces was killed. Both sides claim not to have shot at each other. This may well have been a provocation by an unknown third forces which snipped at both sides of a potential conflict. From the BBC Live text (18:42):

Cont. reading: Ukraine: Just Some News Items

Posted by b at 03:29 PM | Comments (172)

NSA's "Collect It All" Includes Your Phonecalls

Barton Gellman has a new scoop based on the Snowden files:

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary. ...

This NSA capability now exists for only one country (Afghanistan?), but will soon be implemented against at least five others.

If you believe:

  • that such a capability, though not necessarily under the NSA, will not be deployed for the domestic USA or any other "western" country ...
  • that such a capability will not be abuses for petty personal reasons ...
  • that such a capability will not be abuses for petty political reasons ...
  • that such a capability will not be abuses to gain and hold onto power ...
  • that such a capability will not diminish your freedom to think, speak or act ...

you are naive.

The only way we have to defend against the NSA's totalitarian "collect it all" is "encrypt it all". Not all tools for doing that are yet necessarily ready. But they will come. You can help to make this happen by actively preferring those products and services that have the highest level of encryption and privacy.

Posted by b at 12:17 PM | Comments (15)

March 17, 2014

Ukraine: Wet Noodle Sanctions And Pressure For Constitutional Reform

As documented yesterday the "leaked" Russian non-paper which demanded constitutional reform in the Ukraine and more autonomy for its regions was at least partially accepted by Secretary of State Kerry:

In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, their second since unsuccessful face-to-face talks on Friday in London, Kerry urged Russia "to support efforts by Ukrainians across the spectrum to address power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly inclusive and protects the rights of minorities," the State Department said.

That Kerry "urged Russia" is just a silly diversion. The idea of such changes in the Ukrainian constitution clearly came from the Russian side and were already part of the February 21 agreement which the U.S. supported coup government broke.

The Kerry call with Lavrov was followed by one between Putin and Obama. The White House readout of that call also mentions the constitution issue.

[President Obama] noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take concrete steps that would allow for the de-escalation of the crisis, particularly as it prepares for elections this Spring and undertakes constitutional reform, ...

Using that acknowledgement of the Russian plan the Kremlin increased the pressure and went public with its demands:

Moscow, meanwhile, called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way of resolving the polarization between Ukraine's western regions — which favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU — and its eastern areas, which have long ties to Russia.

In a statement Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine's parliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions. It also said country should adopt a "neutral political and military status," a demand reflecting Moscow's concern about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO.

Russia is also pushing for Russian to become Ukraine's state language.

In Kiev, Ukraine's new government dismissed Russia's proposal Monday as unacceptable, saying it "looks like an ultimatum."

The Ukrainian puppet government still has to learn the business. As Kerry and Obama already conceded "constitutional reform" in the Ukraine there will be no way for the puppet government to get around this. It urgently needs money and those who could possibly pay, the IMF, the U.S. and EU, will make their demands heard.

Cont. reading: Ukraine: Wet Noodle Sanctions And Pressure For Constitutional Reform

Posted by b at 11:25 AM | Comments (318)

March 16, 2014

Ukraine: U.S. Takes Off-Ramp, Agrees To Russian Demands

There was another phone call today between Secretary of State Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. The call came after a strategy meeting on Ukraine in the White House. During the call Kerry agreed to Russian demands for a federalization of the Ukraine in which the federal states will have a strong autonomy against a central government in a finlandized Ukraine. Putin had offered this "off-ramp" from the escalation and Obama has taken it.

The Russian announcement:

Lavrov, Kerry agree to work on constitutional reform in Ukraine: Russian ministry

(Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on Sunday to seek a solution to crisis in Ukraine by pushing for constitutional reforms there, the Russian foreign ministry said.

It did not go into details on the kind of reforms needed except to say they should come "in a generally acceptable form and while taking into the account the interests of all regions of Ukraine".
...
"Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov and John Kerry agreed to continue work to find a resolution on Ukraine through a speedy launch of constitutional reform with the support of international community," the ministry said in a statement.

The idea of "constitutional reform" and the "interests of all regions" is from the Russians as documented in this Russian" non-paper".

The non-paper describes the process of getting to a new Ukrainian constitution and sets some parameters for it. Russian will be again official language next to Ukraine, the regions will have high autonomy, there will be no interferences in church affairs and the Ukraine will stay politically and militarily neutral. Any autonomy decision by the Crimea would be accepted. This all would be guaranteed by a "Support Group for Ukraine" consisting of the US, EU and Russia and would be cemented in an UN Security Council resolution.

It seems that Kerry and Obama have largely accepted these parameters. They are now, of course, selling this solution as their own which is, as the "non-paper" proves, inconsistent with the reality.

Here is Kerry now suddenly "urging Russia" to accept the conditions Russia had demanded and which Kerry never mentioned before:

Cont. reading: Ukraine: U.S. Takes Off-Ramp, Agrees To Russian Demands

Posted by b at 02:34 PM | Comments (161)

Ukraine: Vitaly And Samantha

Samantha protesting Vitaly's booking for the joint Crimea vacation? I don't know.

How about some funny caption for the pic.

Posted by b at 10:10 AM | Comments (70)

Counterpunch Quotes MoA & Open Thread

To note: Mike Whitney at Counterpunch quotes our commentator bevin at length. It is nice to see that the comments here have reverberation even outside of this bar.

Use as open thread for your news & view (ex Ukraine, Syria) ...

Posted by b at 07:45 AM | Comments (75)

March 15, 2014

Ukraine: The Pissing Contest Continues

Finally a major U.S. paper is picking up on the problem of supporting a "revolution" that is driven by fascists: Ukraine's threat from within - Neofascists are as much a menace to Ukraine as Putin's actions in Crimea.

I for one do not consider "Putin's actions" in Crimea, i.e. the Russian Federation counter move to the "western" supported coup in Kiev, a "menace". But if claiming such makes it possible to talk about the biggest problem Ukraine will have for a while so be it.

Today Russia vetoed an UN resolution against the Crimea referendum. The U.S. ambassador called Russia "isolated". Well, how many times was the U.S. the only one voting no on a resolution against Israel? How "isolating" was that?

The U.S. has threatened further "consequences" should the referendum continue (which it will). But if the U.S. wants to step up the escalation ladder to keep its puppet coup government in Kiev in power Russia can do similar for its own purpose:

Russia has received numerous requests from Ukrainian civilians to protect them from radicals, including those from the Right Sector group, and has promised consider them, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement says.

Translation: "Dear Obama, do you really want us to move our troops in?"

Posted by b at 02:04 PM | Comments (218)

Syria: A "Stalemate" When One Side Is Advancing?

From an AFP story on Syria: Syria troops advance in rebel bastion as war enters year 4

[A]n insurgency became full-scale civil war after the regime bombed the central city of Homs in February 2012. Two years later, the war appears to have reached stalemate, with some predicting it could last another 10 or 15 years.
...
The regime is advancing on three fronts, south of Damascus, in the strategic Qalamun region and in Aleppo in the north.

How can this be a "stalemate" when one side is advancing on three important fronts?

Also this: Pro-regime Sunni fighters in Aleppo defy sectarian narrative

The piece talks about Sunnis fighting in local defense groups on the government side. Such reports were lacking in "western" media and that makes it welcome. But the writer still keeps up the "it is a sectarian fight" nonsense by neglecting that the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army, as well as the government, have been and are in their majority Sunnis.

Adding: Contrast the "stalemate" fairy tale to this from next week's Swoop:

Regarding Syria, US attention has dropped precipitately, with the result that US intelligence analysts are warning that Assad is making military gains that will be near impossible to reverse. One analyst commented to us: “Assad has as good as won.”

Posted by b at 01:25 PM | Comments (32)

March 14, 2014

Ukraine: A State Falling Apart?

A British lecturer, Paul Vickers, who (allegedly) has been living in Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in west Ukraine with some 200,000 inhabitants, for two plus years, writes about a recent march by the Right Sector fascists there and the general local news.

We find mob rule by competing militia, heavy pressure on politicians and bureaucrats and threats of "lustration" which means that anyone favoring the wrong parties will be thrown out of their public jobs. We remember how well things went in after de-baathification and after all the professional administrators and security folks were pushed from their jobs in Iraq.

This report states that initially today there were some fifty men all from Self-Defence (it also has better photos than me) blocking the street, while Right Sector also turned up in the early afternoon in smallish numbers before the big march around 16:00. Speaking to the press, the Self-Defence issued a statement stating that they do not want to have in a position of authority in the police a man who refuses for now to undergo lustration, i.e. a check on his past. Shortly afterwards, the new head of the regional administration agreed to make all administration workers undergo lustration and barred any ex-Party of Regions figures from taking up posts. Then a little bit later, the new head of the regional administration found that his office had been blockaded by Self-Defence and ‘local businessmen’, according to this report. Together they made a series of demands, including cancellation of certain taxes on wealth and various aspects of certification for motor vehicles and business-related issues. There was ‘Tax Maidan‘ in November 2010 which saw the small-and-medium-sized business community protest against a new tax code, so this protest in Ivano-Frankivsk could be seen in that context.

Cont. reading: Ukraine: A State Falling Apart?

Posted by b at 10:04 AM | Comments (182)

March 12, 2014

Open Thread 2014-05

News & views ...

Posted by b at 03:02 PM | Comments (186)

Ukraine: EU Parliament Warns Of Association With Svoboda Party

John McCain, Victoria "Fuck the EU" Nuland and several EU Foreign Ministers had themselves photographed near barricades in Kiev with Svoboda party leader Oleh Tyahnybok.

Someone should ask the members of the European Parliament what they think about those photo opportunities and meetings.

Only some 15 month ago the European Parliament adopted resolution 2012/2889(RSP) which had this to say about Tyahnybok and his party:

The European Parliament ... 8. Is concerned about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party, which, as a result, is one of the two new parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada; recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU's fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party;

Posted by b at 01:49 PM | Comments (65)

March 11, 2014

March 11 Update On Ukraine

The Crimean parliament has voted for Crimea to to become a state within the Russian Federation.

There was an attempt by "activists" from the "Automaidan" protests, which had earlier blocked streets in Kiev, to enter Crimea. The were taken into custody and later released and send back.

Violent fascist radicals from the Right Sector are arriving in Ukranian areas with Russian affiliated populations likely to enforce their point of view. The sympathetic to them NYT account:

With the city in play, street fighters from Independence Square in Kiev have arrived by bus in Odessa. Their eyes deep from the violence they had just seen, attired in body armor, they draw apprehensive stares, but their presence has also allowed supporters of the interim government to feel safe enough to stage several large rallies.

One wonders how they make their supporters to "feel safe" ...

A few days ago the coup government in Kiev had called for a mobilization of the military reserve. That failed. Obviously no one showed up. The coup government has now called to form a "National Guard" of volunteers. With all security and defense related top-jobs now in the hand of the fascists one can easily imagine who will be allowed to join. All Right Sector members have already gone through some (para-)military training as it is a condition for membership. They will revive memories about the 14th SS-Volunteer Division "Galician" which often used in anti-partisan action, i.e. to suppress local dissent:

The acting defence minister said Ukraine had not been prepared for military confrontation with Russia. Having mobilized its forces, he said the country had only 6,000 combat-ready infantry out of a nominal infantry force of 41,000 -compared to over 200,000 Russian troops on its eastern borders.
...
The National Guard, based on existing Interior Ministry forces, would "defend citizens from criminals and from internal or external aggression".

A partial mobilization would begin of volunteers drawn from those with previous military experience, he said.

The U.S. puppets in Kiev called for military intervention by the "west":

Parliament passed a resolution calling on the United States and Britain, co-signatories with Russia of that treaty to "fulfill their obligations ... and take all possible diplomatic, political, economic and military measures urgently to end the aggression and preserve the independence, sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine".

I do not yet believe that anyone is the "west" is willing to follow up on such an invitation.

Posted by b at 02:24 PM | Comments (116)

CIA Brennan To Be Fired In 3, 2, 1 ...

Six days ago I wrote about the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. At issue was a still secret report the committee wrote about the CIA's torture program. The CIA was going all out to prevent the report from becoming public:

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.
...
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.
...
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.

In a speech (added: video, transcript) held this morning in the Senate the committee chair Diana Feinstein, usually best friend of the spies, agreed. She summed up: "I have grave concerns that the CIA search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the US Constitution."

Feinstein alleged that the CIA had, without any basis in law, searched the committee's secure stand alone data network for evidence that the committee staff had copied a daming internal CIA report on torture the CIA did not want the staff to see. Feinstein explained that the staff had acquired that internal report from a shared network that was used to research through CIA material for the torture report. She said that the CIA later decided to remove inculpating documents from that shared network and after that accused the committee staff of illegally acquiring the documents it had earlier shared. Feinstein:

In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.

The CIA spied, without any legal base, against the committee that oversees it. This to cover up its torture history. It first provide and then removed some documents and accused Senate staff that made legal copies of criminally accessing the later removed stuff. This is surely a personal work of CIA chief John Brennan but there were more people involved. The CIA's general council had referred one Senate committee staffer to the justice department for allegedly stealing the internal report. That general council, Robert Eatinger, was also involved in illegally destroying videos of torture sessions. He is mention himself, according to Feinstein, over 1,600 times in the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report.

The whole scandal leaves a lot of egg on Obama's face. He had pressed for Brennan to become head of the CIA. I would be astonished if Brennan manages to survive in that role beyond Friday afternoon. It will be the coverup, not the crime, that will do him in.

Obama will likely use some assertiveness in foreign policies to distract from this scandal.

Posted by b at 10:29 AM | Comments (96)

March 10, 2014

Ukraine: Is The Crimea Referendum A Judoka's Ruse?

Yesterday I wrote:

Without any fulfillment of the Feb 21 deal the Crimea will soon be part of the Russian Federation. [...] Take THIS deal or the Crimea is gone. If you can't take THIS deal, well, then the Crimea is gone.

Thinking through that again it turns out that I may well have been wrong.

Putin has a black belt in judo and in several other martial arts. His demand for the "February 21 deal or the Crimea goes to Russia" may have been a ruse to set up the enemy for his winning throw.

Ukraine currently has a majority of Russian speakers. Without the Crimea they would likely be a minority. As Crimea is quite dry and poor the Ukraine subsidizes it with allegedly some $1 billion per year by delivering water, electricity and heavily subsidized gas. Whatever the exact sum it is certainly more than the $90 million Russia currently pays for the use of its Crimean bases. Getting the Crimea would cost Russia quite a chunk of money. Would it really be better for Russia to have the Crimea in its federation than to have it close by but as an autonomous area within the Ukraine?

Christopher Westdal, a former Canadian ambassador to the Ukraine and to Russia, argues that it would be better for Russia to let the Crimea in Ukraine as a "hook" to keep the Ukraine in its political realm:

Apart from the lease-secured Sevastopol base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Crimea would be quite a mixed blessing [for Russia] to receive. Sixty per cent of its people love Mother Russia, more or less – but forty per cent don’t, some decidedly, particularly the long-suffering Tatars, whom Stalin, recall, expelled and tormented. As well, it would cost a fortune to relieve the poor, arid peninsula’s natural dependence on the Ukrainian mainland for water, power and communications.

Why not instead, I’d ask the [Russian] president, keep uncontested control and the Fleet’s base, but let Kiev keep Crimea officially, in name alone – a chronic migraine for a weak neighbour?

Conversely Westdal argues that it would be better for the Ukraine and coup government in Kiev to let the Crimea go:

On the other hand, were I Ukrainian, advising President Arseniy Yatseniuk, I think I’d make the case that the country would be better off without Crimea, better off without its problems – and without its heavy hook. Ukraine without Crimea would still border Russia, of course, and would still have to eschew NATO, lest Moscow make use of its just-proven capacity to destabilize eastern regions and to make the economic and political life of the whole country miserable. Without Crimea, though, Ukrainians, protected by neutrality, would be freer to find their own way, to master more of their fate, to get on with their neighbours and their lives, to make them better, at last.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Russia would indeed be better off by letting the Crimea stay within Ukraine. The Ukraine would indeed be better off by letting the Crimea go.

But the Ukrainian government no longer has that choice. The coup prime minister and Victoria "fuck the EU" Nuland darling Arseniy Yatsenyuk has set the mark:

Cont. reading: Ukraine: Is The Crimea Referendum A Judoka's Ruse?

Posted by b at 01:20 PM | Comments (128)

Syrian Nuns Freed - Media Is Concealing the Villains

Some 100 days ago foreign paid insurgents in Syria abducted nuns form a monastery in Maaloula in Syria. They freed the nuns only after receiving a huge ransom payment and after the Syrian government promised to let some of its prisoners go.

As the U.S. supported insurgents can do no bad U.S. media followed the fairy tales the kidnappers were telling and portrait the kidnapping as a "rescuing" them from government forces. Because that narrative, despite the ransom payment, is not allowed to change we now find some rather ridiculous twisting in the reports about the nuns' release.

Thus headline of the Australian SBS [corrected] is deceiving as Syrian rebels free kidnapped nuns - Syrian rebels have freed 13 nuns who were kidnapped last December in the town of Maalula.

People just scanning that headline will not learn that the "rebels" were those who had kidnapped the nuns. Some casual readers may even believe that the rebels freed the nuns from the Syrian government.

The New York Times Anne Barnard's fudging of the issue is even worse:

Cont. reading: Syrian Nuns Freed - Media Is Concealing the Villains

Posted by b at 10:07 AM | Comments (27)

March 09, 2014

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:

  1. feasible and
  2. 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.

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (140)

March 08, 2014

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.

Posted by b at 12:08 PM | Comments (135)

March 07, 2014

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?

Posted by b at 10:46 AM | Comments (237)

March 06, 2014

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.

McClatchy also covers my story about the fake Merkel "Putin is unhinged" quote which the White House distributed through the New York Times. McClatchy:

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.

The BBC finally finds out (video) that the Neo-Nazis are a threat to Ukraine. Even the New York Times admits that these are dangerous people though it still plays down their numbers:

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.

Cont. reading: Ukraine: Yuck, I agree with Kissenger

Posted by b at 07:46 AM | Comments (214)

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.

Posted by b at 06:56 AM | Comments (11)

March 05, 2014

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.

Posted by b at 08:57 AM | Comments (145)

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.

Posted by b at 06:27 AM | Comments (14)

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.

Posted by b at 05:50 AM | Comments (10)

March 04, 2014

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:

Cont. reading: The EU U.S. Tug Over Ukraine Policy

Posted by b at 05:11 AM | Comments (175)

March 03, 2014

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:

Cont. reading: Ukraine: More Thoughts and Comments

Posted by b at 10:16 AM | Comments (150)

March 02, 2014

"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.


bigger

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.


bigger

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?

Cont. reading: "White Ribbon" Armed Men Explain Russia's Crimea Reaction?

Posted by b at 11:12 AM | Comments (157)

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."

  1. Fairly concise summary of why US/EU meddling in internal Ukrainian politics ended up being such a bad idea:  http://nyti.ms/1fS7wFD 
     
  2. billmon@billmon1
    Former Bush deputy NSA: “There’s nothing we can do to save Ukraine at this point."  http://nyti.ms/1fS7wFD 
     
  3. billmon@billmon1
    For more than a decade, US & EU elites encouraged Ukrainians 2 think their future was with the "West," despite clear Russian signals...(1)
     
  4. ...that any attempt to bring Ukraine into NATO would be deemed an attack on Russia's core security interests. (2)
     
  5. Ignoring Russia, the US/EU continued to speak (and act) as if Ukraine's eventual integration into the western alliance was inevitable. (3)
     
  6. Western allies offered the dream of EU membership (& EU living standards) & a false promise of generous economic aid...(4)
  7. billmon@billmon1
    ...on condition Ukraine reject Russian assistance. When offer wasn't accepted by Yanukovych, they encouraged pro-West Ukrainians 2 rebel (5)
     
  8. billmon@billmon1
    ..US & EU manipulated Ukranian political factions 2 get government they wanted - 1 that would impose neoliberal "reforms" and austerity. (6)
     
  9. billmon@billmon1
    But now, having raised the hopes & expectations of pro-West Ukranians & provoked an aggressive Russian reaction...(7)
     
  10. billmon@billmon1
    ...They say "there's nothing we can do to save Ukraine."  http://bit.ly/1fS9Tbv  Stupid, shameful, craven & destructive. Bastards.

b here:

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?

Posted by b at 07:32 AM | Comments (56)

March 01, 2014

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:

Cont. reading: The Crimean Anti-Coup Move

Posted by b at 07:35 AM | Comments (226)

February 28, 2014

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?

Posted by b at 02:42 AM | Comments (164)

February 27, 2014

GCHQ Wankers

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!"

Posted by b at 09:28 AM | Comments (24)

February 26, 2014

Open Thread 2014-04

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:40 PM | Comments (114)

February 25, 2014

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:

Is the U.S. Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine? - Exposing troubling ties in the U.S. to overt Nazi and fascist protesters in Ukraine.

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.

Posted by b at 10:50 AM | Comments (139)

February 24, 2014

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.

Thus this OpEd by a U.S. propagandist Ulrich Speck in today's NYT: What the West Must Do for Ukraine

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.

Posted by b at 12:45 PM | Comments (95)

February 23, 2014

Do Svidanya Sochi

The Russians delivered tremendous Olympic games with beautiful shows, interesting competitions and with humor and love.

The "western" media did their best to denigrate the games even before they started. The U.S. government put out ridiculous terror warnings to keep its citizens away from the games. U.S. journalists spitted about alleged double toilet bowl stalls which were obviously photographed during renovation works. Russia was portrayed as homophobic.

But the games were beautiful. There was no terror, no gay bashing and the organization was as perfect as it can be. Where things went wrong they were resolved with humor and good will.

That one Olympic ring that did not open correctly during the opening ceremony? It was reflected on in the closing ceremony when dancers humorously re-enacted that faulty ring opening with the faulty one eventually opening too. Make a mistakes, laugh about it and correct it. That's Russia!

The idea to use the floor of the Fisht stadium as a huge projection screen was great. The use of the stadium roof as a gigantic multiple crane runway for moving objects and people in a third stage level was brilliant. Projections, lightning, music and fireworks all were used to perfection.

The themes: Russian art, Russian ballet, Russian classic music, Russian literature, Russian history, Russian circuses. It was all about Russia the Great. And beautiful. The closing: a poetic invitation to self reflection in large levitating mirrors. The big bear mascot dropping a tear as the flame goes out. Hollywood can do no better.

There were also great tributes to all the athletes and their efforts, struggles and victories. The Wall Street Journal had predicted 27 medals for Russia, 6 of them gold. Russian athletes won 33 medals, 13 of them gold. Predicted for the United States 32(13), achieved 28(9). Take that you party-poopers.

The Russians will be very proud of these games. They will be grateful to their government and president for having delivered them. The internal and external message is understood: Russia has again found itself and it is stronger than ever.

The U.S. is ill informed about and underestimating Russia. Therein lies the possibility of serious miscalculations.

Posted by b at 01:29 PM | Comments (42)

Ukraine: Move To Replace The President Is Illegal

The Ukrainian opposition claims it wants to associate with the European Union because they desire the rule of law. Why do they then break the law and try to illegally remove the elected president from his office?

The parliament now says it has temporarily handed the president's powers to speaker Oleksandr Turchinov, a top ally of gas oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko. But that move certainly did not follow Article 111 (impeachment) of the Ukrainian constitution:

  • The President of Ukraine may be removed from office by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by the procedure of impeachment, in the event that he or she commits state treason or other crime.
  • The issue of the removal of the President of Ukraine from office by the procedure of impeachment is initiated by the majority of the constitutional composition of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
  • To conduct the investigation, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine establishes a special temporary investigatory commission whose composition includes a special procurator and special investigators.
  • The conclusions and proposals of the temporary investigatory commission are considered at a meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
  • For cause, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, by no less than two-thirds of its constitutional composition, adopts a decision on the accusation of the President of Ukraine.
  • The decision on the removal of the President of Ukraine from office by the procedure of impeachment is adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by no less than three-quarters of its constitutional composition, after the review of the case by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine and the receipt of its opinion on the observance of the constitutional procedure of investigation and consideration of the case of impeachment, and the receipt of the opinion of the Supreme Court of Ukraine to the effect that the acts, of which the President of Ukraine is accused, contain elements of state treason or other crime.

As far as I can tell none of the highlighted points have been met. Replacing the president through a simple vote is clearly illegal. It is also breaking the agreement achieved two days ago with the pressure from three EU ministers.

Instead of leaving the place as had been agreed the fascist groups on the Maidan are growing with more radicals arriving. In the east pro Russian Ukrainians are preparing self defense groups.

By each hour the situation is getting more and more out of control. The sorcerers apprentices, though not admitting it yet, are now helpless. Who will be the first to call up Moscow and to ask Putin for help?

Posted by b at 11:00 AM | Comments (78)

Syria: Fragmented Insurgents Can Not Win

The opposition situation in Syria is further fragmenting leaving the anti-Syrian forces with no real structure to work with.

The U.S. and the Orwellian named "friends of Syria" first supported Burhan Ghalioun as the head of the Syrian National Council. The next white men's hope was Moaz al Khatib. Then came one Ghassan Hitto. Then the Muslim Brotherhood organisation Syrian National Council was widened into the Syrian National Coalition and the Saudis installed Ahmad al-Jarba as its leader. The U.S. then promoted Salim Idriss and his Supreme Military Council as its favorite. Meanwhile the Syrian National Coalition kicked out the original exile opposition group Syrian National Council.

Last week Salim Idriss was kicked out as leader of the Supreme Military Council and replaced by the rather unknown Abdul-Ilah al Bashir. Idriss, together with nine of his commanders and their groups, is fighting back. Another insurgency leader who currently leads an outlet named Syrian Revolutionaries Front, Jamal Maarouf, is lobbying in Washington to become the new favorite U.S. assets.

The myriad fighting "brigades" are seemingly changing their allegiances by the day depending on who is willing to pay them or who offers the better loot. The three Al-Qaeda affiliates, ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham are fighting each other with ISIS today killing Ahrar al-Sham leader Abu Khalid al-Suri who was a personal acquaintance of Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Layth al-Libi.

The chaos within the opposition is predictably helping those who fight against them. In the north and east the Kurdish groups, at peace with the Syrian government, are winning ground. In the south and west the Syrian Arab Army is making steady progress. Local truces, in effect local surrender acknowledgements by insurgent groups, are now regular occurrences. An attempt by U.S. trained forces to take on Damascus, with Pakistani weapons delivered through the Saudis and coming from Jordan, was bombed into the ground before they could show any effect.

The fighting will continue for a while but I am more assured then ever before that the Syrian government will win against the insurrection and the assorted foreign payed mercenaries.

Posted by b at 10:19 AM | Comments (15)

February 22, 2014

Ukraine: "From the spirits that I called - Sir, deliver me!"

What a deluge! What a flood!
Lord and master, hear my call!
Ah, here comes the master!
I have need of Thee!
from the spirits that I called
Sir, deliver me!
J.W. Goethe - The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The opposition in the Ukraine and its paymasters in the U.S. and EU called up the spirits of the right, the fascist, to wage a coup against the elected president and to push their selfish objectives onto the Ukrainian public.

Now those spirits won't go away:

It was difficult to know how much of the fury voiced on Friday night in Independence Square was fiery bravado, a final cry of anger before the three-month-long protest movement winds down or the harbinger of yet more and possibly worse violence to come.

Vividly clear, however, was the wide gulf that had opened up between the opposition’s political leadership and a street movement that has radicalized and slipped far from the already tenuous control of politicians.
...
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.”

Even if Yanukovych resigns the demands of the fascist rioters will not end. Ukraine's chief rabbi tells Kiev's Jews to flee city and he has very good reasons to do so. Right Sector and the Svoboda party are well known for accute anti-semitism.

Yesterday sixty eight members of the ruling party of the regions changed over to the opposition which now has a majority in parliament. The parliament then changed the constitution to dismantle presidential powers, fired the interior minister who commanded the police force to defend government buildings and freed the corrupt gas-princess Tymoshenko from jail.

Putin will be smiling.

What the propagandists in the "west" always fail to mention is that Tymoshenko was jailed for a gas deal that favored Russia. She was in jail for agreeing to pay, allegedly, too high prices. Yanukovych, the man Putin hates and despises as a loser, is now out. Tymoshenko, the woman Putin loves signing lucrative trade deals with, is in. As the Ukrainian industry is not viable without access to Russian markets and the Ukrainian energy supply depends on Russian gas deliveries Moscow still has, and will continue to have, the upper hand over the Ukraine. At least half of the Ukrainian population is pro-Russian. No color revolution version 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0 and no IMF austerity loan will change those facts.

Parts of the Ukraine will soon show signs of anarchy with those that protested and rioted without having any real aim moving towards criminal activities. The opposition, which is now empowered and will have to deliver results, will soon squabble and will again fall apart. The fascist forces, euphemistically called "nationalists" in "western" media, will win more power.

The sorcerer's apprentices in Washington and Brussels will come to understand that they can not control the spirits they called upon. They will need to call the master to put the spirits they awoke back into their holes. The international number they will need to call starts with 007 495.

 

Posted by b at 09:19 AM | Comments (121)

 
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