Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 31, 2014

How Foreign Policy Demeans Democracy At Home

Nothing by me but you should read and discuss this essay in Spiked Its conclusion:

The EU and the US act as if they bear no responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine and in Western-Russian relations. Possibly the West has deluded itself about global affairs to such an extent that it is oblivious to its own complicity in the current crisis. Such delusions mean that the normal rules that inform international relations have given way to shallow posturing and empty moralising, always with an eye to making an impact with the media. This corrosion of Western diplomacy represents a real danger to global stability. It also undermines the moral authority of democracy. At a certain point, the politics of double standards in foreign affairs will demean democratic ideals so much that even the integrity of democratic institutions at home will come to be undermined.

To some point this is, I believe, already happening.

Posted by b on March 31, 2014 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (141)

March 30, 2014

Ukraine - New Propaganda Meme: Fascists Are Russian Tools

The Right Sektor, the Ukrainian fascist paramilitary group, was the main organization which brutally fought against the riot police on Maidan square. On February 20, after an agreement was signed between president Janukovich and three opposition leaders, the police withdrew. But the Right Sektor did not want to stick to the agreement:

A deal aimed at ending a lethal spiral of violence in Ukraine began to show serious strains late Friday just hours after it had been signed, with angry protesters shouting down opposition members of Parliament who negotiated the accord and a militant leader threatening armed attacks if President Viktor F. Yanukovych did not step down by morning.
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 brutes immediately marched to the parliament, broke in and physically pressed the parliamentarians, those who had not fled, to replace the president.

Yanukovich, members of his party of regions and parliamentarians of the communist party had to flee. The headquarter of the communist party was stormed by the Right Sektor and turned into their headquarter. As the Estonian foreign minister reported to the EU high representative Ashton parliamentarians were beaten right in front of the building. A rump parliament voted to impeach Yanukovich but did not have the required 3/4th of all votes. An illegal government was installed. The U.S. and the EU immediately recognized it even though it had come to pass disregarding the constitution and under physical pressure from the fascist.

Anyone who pointed out that this fascist led coup was illegal and a dangerous precedence was denigrated as a Russian propagandist.

A month later special police force killed one of the Right Sektor leaders, the wanted criminal Oleksandr Muzychko. Right Sektor fighters responded by laying siege on the parliament demanding that the interior minister step down. Now the EU is suddenly concerned and Ashton released a statement:

I strongly condemn the pressure by activists of the Right Sector who have surrounded the building of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Such an intimidation of the parliament is against the democratic principles and rule of law.

Isn't Ashton a fine hypocrite? A month ago these people were driving the putsch and the U.S. and the EU lauded the violence they used as "peaceful" while condemning the rather passive police force. Now such violence is suddenly against the "rule of law". What a joke.

But even worse. Now the Right Sektor fascists are revealed to be Russian agents:

At a parliament session on Friday, Mr Turchynov, called the Right Sector rally outside parliament "an attempt to destabilise the situation in Ukraine, in the very heart of Ukraine - Kiev. That is precisely the task that the Russian Federation's political leadership is giving to its special services".

The propagandists in Washington agree. The head of the Brookings institute, Strobe Talbot, joined the conspiracy theorists:

.@billmon1 - some of those thugs are funded by Russia for sure, but as you say, they wouldn't want their cover blown.

Now, after over 70 years of cooperation between the U.S. government and eastern European fascists to further U.S. imperial goals, Washington DC insiders believe that those are Russian tools? These folks certainly smoke some rather strong stuff.

Meanwhile the Russian foreign minister Lavrov is meeting U.S. secretary of state Kerry today. In a recent TV interview Lavrov again explained that decentralization and federalization of Ukraine is the only possible solution for the country. Two weeks ago Kerry had already agreed to the need of decentralization and constitutional changes but the implementation was delayed over U.S. grandstanding about the reunion of Crimea and Russia. But that has now been somewhat accepted as inevitable. U.S. propaganda about alleged Russian troop concentrations on the Ukrainian border turned out to be nonsense. There are no more troops there than normally stationed on the Crimea and along the long Russian Ukrainian border.

The Russian solution for the Ukraine is now back on the table and one can hope that the U.S. will now help to implemented it. This might be a bit more difficult now as the leading contender for presidential elections, chocolate oligarch Petro Olekseyevich Poroshenko, rejects federalization:

Mr. Poroshenko, for all his moderate leanings, flatly rejected Russia’s proposal for the federalization of Ukraine as allowing “somebody in the Russian government trying to tell us what type of governmental system we should have.”

If the U.S. wants to it can surely pressure Poroshenko to get its will implemented. Ignoring the Russian opinion on Ukraine will not solve any problem but would rather lead to new upheavals.

Posted by b on March 30, 2014 at 04:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (175)

March 29, 2014

Open Thread 2014-08

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 29, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Permalink | 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:

The Obama administration, stung by reversals in Ukraine and Syria, appears to have decided to expand its covert program of training and assistance for the Syrian opposition, deepening U.S. involvement in that brutal and stalemated civil war.
Details of the plan were still being debated Thursday, but its likely outlines were described by knowledgeable officials: ...

It follows the list of issues that have been discussed on and on over the last three years, more CIA training for insurgents in Jordan, more weapons, maybe some MANPADs. Ignatius source is here seems to be the CIA friends in the Syrian opposition:

The expanded program would “send a clear message to the Assad regime that there is no military solution to the struggle,” according to a March memo to the White House from the opposition. Assad “has no incentive to talk” now, the memo argued, because he thinks he is winning.

The rationale, bluntly stated, is that to reach an eventual diplomatic settlement in Syria, it is necessary now to escalate the conflict militarily. This has been a hard pill for Obama to swallow, but prodded by the Saudis, he seems to have reached that point.

There are so many caveats in here - "appears to have decided", 2still being debated", "seems to have reached that point" - that I do not believe a word of it. The loudly announced, by Ignatius and others, attack on south Syria has yet to appear and the halfhearted attack by the Turkish supported Jihadists in the north seems to be stuck.

I do not anticipate any bigger action by Turkey or the U.S. especially as the such action right now would likely lead to harsher reaction by Russia.

Posted by b on March 28, 2014 at 06:34 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 26, 2014 at 09:14 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 25, 2014 at 06:23 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 24, 2014 at 06:14 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 23, 2014 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 22, 2014 at 01:40 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 21, 2014 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 21, 2014 at 08:14 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 20, 2014 at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (186)

March 19, 2014

Open (Not-Ukraine) Thread 2014-07

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

Posted by b on March 19, 2014 at 02:16 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 19, 2014 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | 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):

An officer in the Ukrainian military describes the violence at the military base in Simferopol to Ukrainian television: "One observer was on a rooftop monitoring the situation; he sustained glancing wounds to the neck and shoulder. They say he is being operated on now. Our second observer was on the car park tower. He was shot dead. I personally did not see him. They say his body is still there. Representatives of the Russian Federation and of the Crimean self-defence state that they also have one fatality and one wounded. We did not return fire. We did not fire."

From Russia Today:

The Kryminform news agency, citing an unnamed local police source, reports shooting came from a house under construction opposite the center and targeted Crimean self-defense units as well the military center itself. “Earlier today self-defense units were informed that a group of armed men had been discovered in a partially inhabited building,” a source from the ministry said. “As they were taking measures to check, self-defense units came under fire. One man was killed, one wounded,” the source explained, adding that shooting came “in two directions from one spot”.

The Kryminform source claimed another man from the military center was wounded.

RT’s producer contacted staff inside the military center, who confirmed that the shooting did take place and came from a nearby house under construction. At the same time, the man had no information on the casualties.

Such provocations could start a serious incident. The Ukrainian and the Russian side should ask their soldiers to hold back form violence against each other. At the same time any sign of a third force must be followed up upon immediately and be hunted down.

The biggest and most difficult task now for the "western" foreign policy apprentices who sponsored the coup against the Ukrainian government is to get control over the fascist spirits that they called to help them with the coup. These spirits are likely to use extreme brutality against any perceived enemy. Should they make further trouble in southern or eastern Ukraine Russia will have to intervene against them.

Posted by b on March 18, 2014 at 03:29 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 18, 2014 at 12:17 PM | Permalink | 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.

Russia could also easily escalate and help the eastern and southern regions of the Ukraine to create their own state independent of Kiev or the seek, like the Crimea, incorporation into the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian government is right to call the Russian demand an ultimatum. It is exactly that and it will have to submit to it.

But that is not yet understood. The Ukrainian parliament, those now 300+ left from 450 original lawmakers after the others fled under threats of violence, decided to mobilize the Ukrainian military and moved a whooping 12% of its total budget into reestablishing some military force. But the Ukrainian military has been neglected for over 20 years:

“It is absolutely not a combat ready force. It’s sharply underfunded, and they don’t have any real air or surface to air or capacity compared to what Russia can deploy — even though Russia is no paragon of military readiness either,” Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told

The Ukrainian troops are still mostly conscripts and the professionals are paid only half of the average Ukrainian wage. How loyal this military will be to the coup-government is yet to be seen. I do not expect it to play any significant role.

Meanwhile the U.S. as well as the EU introduced some sanctions on some Russian and Ukrainian individuals though the White House "Fact Sheet" does not even say what those sanctions are:

In response to the Russian government’s actions contributing to the crisis in Ukraine, this new E.O. lists seven Russian government officials who are being designated for sanctions. These individuals are Vladislav Surkov, Sergey Glazyev, Leonid Slutsky, Andrei Klishas, Valentina Matviyenko, Dmitry Rogozin, and Yelena Mizulina.

There seems to be no real idea why (and with what) these individuals would be sanctioned. Does it make sense to sanction people because of their "status"?

  • Valentina Matviyenko: Matviyenko is being sanctioned for her status as Head of the Federation Council
  • Dmitry Rogozin: Rogozin is being sanctioned for his status as the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.
  • Yelena Mizulina: Mizulina is being sanctioned for her status as a State Duma Deputy.
  • ...

The sanctioned Russian people are all officials who are not even allowed to hold foreign assets. What is the U.S. going to do about them?

One paragraph in the "Fact Sheet" is a threat to Russian businessman and oligarchs:

The United States also will seek to hold accountable individuals who use their resources or influence to support or act on behalf of senior Russian government officials. We recognize that the Russian leadership derives significant support from, and takes action through, individuals who do not themselves serve in any official capacity. Our current focus is to identify these individuals and target their personal assets, but not companies that they may manage on behalf of the Russian state.

Whatever. Putin has some 70% of the Russians in favor of him. He does not have to be considerate of this or that oligarch. The Russians are laughing off this wet noodle assault. None of these sanctions will influence their decision making. They will publish a retaliatory list and equally meaningless sanction some U.S. and EU officials and that will be it.

The U.S. now has the unpleasant task to silence the blowhards and fascists in the Ukrainian puppet government and to push them to accept some meaningful constitution creating process. The Russian government will keep all options open in eastern and southern Ukraine until a new acceptable Ukrainian constitution is done and in place. It can for now sit back and amuse itself about the empty blustering coming out of Brussels and Washington DC.

Posted by b on March 17, 2014 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | 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:

Secretary of State John Kerry called on Moscow to return its troops in Crimea to their bases, pull back forces from the Ukraine border, halt incitement in eastern Ukraine and support the political reforms in Ukraine that would protect ethnic Russians, Russian speakers and others in the former Soviet Republic that Russia says it is concerned about.

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.

Obama has given up. His empty threats had now worked and he now has largely accepted the Russian conditions for the way out of the crisis.

The U.S. plot to snatch the Ukraine from Russia and to integrate it into NATO and the EU seems to have failed. Russia taking Crimea and having 93% of the voters there agree to join Russia has made the main objective of the U.S. plans, to kick the Russians out of Sevastopol and thereby out of the Middle East, impossible.

The Russian (non public) threat to also immediately take the eastern and southern provinces from the Ukraine has pushed the U.S. into agreeing to the Russian conditions mentioned above. The only alternative to that would be a military confrontation which the U.S. and Europeans are not willing to risk. Despite the anti-Russian campaign in the media a majority of U.S. people as well as EU folks are against any such confrontation. In the end the U.S. never held the cards it needed to win this game.

Should all go well and a new Ukrainian constitution fit the Russian conditions the "west" may in the future well be allowed to pay for the monthly bills Gazprom will keep sending to Kiev.

It will take some time to implement all of this. What dirty tricks will the neocons in Washington now try to prevent this peaceful outcome?

Posted by b on March 16, 2014 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 16, 2014 at 10:10 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 16, 2014 at 07:45 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 15, 2014 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 15, 2014 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | 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.
However, the approach to getting your point across seems very much in the spirit of the post-revolutionary times where there is an evident degree of mob rule and rule by force. The problem is somewhat compounded by the local press which happily write that these activists speak, as the above-linked report wrote, ‘in the name of the city community’, becoming a local echo of Right Sector’s claims to speak ‘for the Ukrainian people’. An ex-student I encountered today outside the police HQ as she passed by from university on her way home said to me that “they don’t speak for us”, referring to Right Sector. While the issue of the police head was not something she had contemplated, she expressed great concern with the way local democracy was functioning. There is a clear contrast with the rather impressive local council meeting of 26 November 2013 when the still-functioning council took important decisions and voted in the open air, in front of a more representative group of the local community. However, now there is clearly a growing vacuum in local power structures, it seems that it is possible to seek to impose by force or by threats – the blockaders of the regional governor’s office have threatened to block major road routes in Ivano-Frankivsk region on Friday if their demands are not heard – decisions upon a weak, nascent administration.

This all shows a dangerous development. A state that now lacks the will and capacity, and soon also the money, to assert itself against unwieldy minorities. When (not if) this state falls apart, the "west" would itself lucky if Russa were to take responsible for the eastern parts.

Posted by b on March 14, 2014 at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (182)

March 12, 2014

Open Thread 2014-05

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 12, 2014 at 03:02 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 12, 2014 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 11, 2014 at 02:24 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 11, 2014 at 10:29 AM | Permalink | 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:

“This is our land,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a crowd gathered at the Kyiv statue to writer and nationalist Taras Shevchenko. “Our fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land. And we won’t budge a single centimetre from Ukrainian land. Let Russia and its president know this.”

Earlier Yatsenyuk had already conceded that the Crimea should get more autonomy:

Yatsenyuk said Crimea must remain part of Ukraine, but may be granted more local powers. He said was in favor of establishing a special task force "to consider what kind of additional autonomy the Crimean Republic could get."

The White House and its "western" allies have also insisted that Crimea stays with Ukraine. There is no way now that the puppet Yatsenyuk and his puppeteers can take that back. If they want Crimea why not make them take it (while adding some hefty conditions to it)?

And here comes the trick in the Russian plan. This is what voters in Crimea must decide on this Sunday:

The questions on the ballot, as released by the Crimean parliament on its website, will be: “Do you support reuniting Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation?” and “Do you support restoring the Crimean Republic’s 1992 Constitution and status within Ukraine?” The second option refers to a law that gives the region the right to determine how much authority to delegate to Kiev.

Those binary questions were certainly agreed upon in Moscow. What happens if the majority (as counted :-)) goes for option two: "Restoring the Crimean Republic’s 1992 Constitution and status within Ukraine". This would, if strongly negotiated with Kiev, give the Crimea back all the strong autonomy that was unilaterally taken away by Kiev during several constitutional revisions since 1992. What can the U.S., always preaching "democracy", say against a highly visible free vote if the result looks, on a cursory view, like its preferred outcome? Would it then call the vote illegitimate or illegal?

Such a Crimea, with additional autonomy that the puppet already somewhat conceded, could likely be able block a NATO membership for Ukraine. It could probably block the EU association agreement. It could hinder many overt moves the government in Kiev could otherwise take against Russian interests. Crimea  could make, autonomously, a new agreement for the Russian military bases and Russia would keep its troops on the ground.

For other issues, like influence over a new Ukrainian government, Russia has still many other cards to play - from gas (non-)deliveries and prices to a possible intervention to "save Russian compatriots" in eastern Ukraine.

So is the whole bluster about the Crimea from the Russian side the judoka's ruse to further, and for the longterm, bind the Ukraine to Russia via the even deeper hook that a more autonomous Crimea within Ukraine would be?

Posted by b on March 10, 2014 at 01:20 PM | Permalink | 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:

Nuns Released by Syrians After Three-Month Ordeal.

Released by "Syrians"? Are we sure that the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters who held those nuns are even from Syria? How does Anne Barnard know?

Then follows an opening paragraph with a classic obfuscating "A said, B said" without acknowledging that what A says is known to be a lie while what B said is certainly true:

Syrian insurgents released 13 nuns and three attendants who disappeared three months ago from their monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Lebanese and Syrian officials said early Monday, ending a drama in which rebels said they were protecting the women from government shelling and Syrian officials said they were abducted in an act of intimidation against Christians.

Only nine paragraphs alter do we get a fact that makes clear that the kidnapping was indeed not for "protection":

Two rebel leaders from Yabroud, who identified themselves only as Abu al-Majd and Khaled, said that Qatar had offered to pay $4 million for the nuns’ release, but that Nusra had demanded $50 million. Abu al-Majd said the insurgents had also demanded the release of more than 100 people detained by the government, including women.

Does the NYT really believe that demanding millions and a prisoner release from a government for the release of people held by armed fighters is a sure sign of "protection" of the people held? Of course not. It is bullshit propaganda not worthy the electrons it is transported on.

Posted by b on March 10, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 9, 2014 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 8, 2014 at 12:08 PM | Permalink | 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 on March 7, 2014 at 10:46 AM | Permalink | 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.

The parliament of the Crimea has voted to apply for membership in the Russian Federation. A public vote about the issue is now planned for March 16. That is quite early, too early indeed, but puts more pressure on the illegitimate new government in Kiev to find a way to some compromise.

Cringe-worthy as it is, I agree with Henry Kissinger on how such a compromise should look:

Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding U.S. values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of U.S. policymakers.

Leaders of all sides should return to examining outcomes, not compete in posturing. Here is my notion of an outcome compatible with the values and security interests of all sides:

1. Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.

2. Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, when it last came up.

3. Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. Internationally, they should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia.

Kissinger calls for the Crimea to stay with the Ukraine but with some autonomy and secured basing rights for the Russian Black Sea fleet.

That fleet continued its isolation of the Ukrainian navy by sinking an old cruiser at the entrance to an Ukrainian navy harbor area on the Crimean coast.

U.S. president Obama just declared the crisis in Ukraine to be a an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the U.S. which gives him additional powers to wage financial wars via sanctions. This is another escalation after yesterdays news that the U.S. air-force would station additional fighter jets into the Baltic states. This climbing escalation is one reason why some commentators believe that there will be war in Ukraine.

Posted by b on March 6, 2014 at 07:46 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 6, 2014 at 06:56 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 5, 2014 at 08:57 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 5, 2014 at 06:27 AM | Permalink | 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 on March 5, 2014 at 05:50 AM | Permalink | 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:

British operations through Bandera expanded. An early 1954 MI6 summary noted that, “the operational aspect of this [British] collaboration [with Bandera] was developing satisfactorily. Gradually a more complete control was obtained over infiltration operations and although the intelligence dividend was low it was considered worthwhile to proceed....”
Bandera was, according to his handlers, “a professional underground worker with a terrorist background and ruthless notions about the rules of the game.... A bandit type if you like, with a burning patriotism, which provides an ethical background and a justification for his banditry. No better and no worse than others of his kind...
In April 1959 Bandera again asked West German intelligence for support and this time Gehlen was interested. The CIA noted that, “It [is] apparent that Bandera [is] seeking support for illegal ops into Ukraine.” The West Germans agreed to support at least one such mission based on the “fact [that] Bandera and group no longer the cut throats they were” and because Bandera “supplied proof [of] existing contact with inside assets.” A team trained and funded by the BND crossed from Czechoslovakia in late July, and the BND promised Bandera support for future operations if this one were to be even “moderately successful.”
In June 1985 the General Accounting Office mentioned Lebed’s name in a public report on Nazis and collaborators who settled in the United States with help from U.S. intelligence agencies. The Office of Special Investigations (OSI) in the Department of Justice began investigating Lebed that year. The CIA worried that public scrutiny of Lebed would compromise QRPLUMB and that failure to protect Lebed would trigger outrage in the Ukrainian émigré community. It thus shielded Lebed by denying any connection between Lebed and the Nazis and by arguing that he was a Ukrainian freedom fighter. The truth, of course, was more complicated. As late as 1991 the CIA tried to dissuade OSI from approaching the German, Polish, and Soviet governments for war-related records related to the OUN. OSI eventually gave up the case, unable to procure definitive documents on Lebed. Mykola Lebed, Bandera’s wartime chief in Ukraine, died in 1998. He is buried in New Jersey, and his papers are located at the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University.

There is little doubt that U.S. secret services and certain neo-con politicians are still pulling the strings of the fascist movements in the Ukraine. Who else would have trained them, as Putin alleges, in neighboring countries. It is their russophobia that is now threatening European peace.

Posted by b on March 4, 2014 at 05:11 AM | Permalink | 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:

The stock market has been absolutely pummeled: as of the time that this piece was written (around 7:30 am on Monday the 3rd) the MICEX was down by 11.2% and the RTS was down by 12.8%. As the Financial Times noted, the sell-off did not spare the companies that function as bastions of the Russian state: Gazprom was down 10.7% and Sberbank was down by 9.8%.

The activity in the currency market might have been even worse. The ruble reached all-time lows against both the dollar and the euro, falling by 2.5% and 1.5% respectively.

First: Unlike the U.S. government the Russian government simply does not care about stock market numbers. There is a lot of volatility now because a lot of people want to make money out of it. But the stock prices will recover soon especially as oil prices, and thereby the profits of many big Russian companies, have risen. Besides that all stock markets in Europe are down 2-3% today. So what? Second: The Russian government and its central bank were already following a policy of devaluation of the ruble to help the local industry towards more exports. From late January:

Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev sounded an upbeat note about the decline that is likely only to spur ruble selling.

"I am not a proponent of stimulating the economy through an artificial weakening of the ruble," Ulyukayev told Moscow's Prime business news agency.

"But since what we have now is not an artificial but a natural weakening ... then why not enjoy its positive effects?" he asked.

"This will help improve the competitiveness of a range of industries," the economy minister stressed.

Today's downward move of the ruble will make the Kremlin more happy than concerned. "Western" analysts seem to not understand that ant are just following the anti-Russian propaganda line.

4. The very smart coup government in Kiev is doing what everyone on the Maidan demanded (not):

The office of President Oleksandr V. Turchynov announced the two appointments on Sunday of two billionaires — Sergei Taruta in Donetsk and Ihor Kolomoysky in Dnipropetrovsk — and more were reportedly under consideration for positions in the eastern regions.

The people in eastern Ukraine, who may already be inclined to rather go with Russia, will be very happy to now have Kiev friendly oligarchs ruling over them (not). This idiotic move plays right into the hand of the Russian strategy as announced by Medvedev today:

"Yes, the prestige of President (Viktor) Yanukovich is almost negligible but this does not nullify the fact that under the Constitution of Ukraine he is (still) the legitimate Head of State. If he is guilty before Ukraine carry out a procedure of impeachment in accordance with Ukraine's Constitution (Article 111) and put him on trial. All the rest is arbitrariness. A seizure of power. And this means that such a procedure will be utterly unstable and will end with a new coup, and a new bloodshed," Medvedev maintains.

Both sides can play the coup game. There are pro-Russian demonstrations all over the eastern and southern Ukraine and there will soon be more of them. Occupation of government buildings will follow. The coup government dissolved the Berkut riot police and as now nothing to put up against demonstrators but some fascists gangs. Should those threaten Russia friendly demonstrators in eastern Ukraine Russia would have a good reason to intervene. But that again could ignite a bigger war:

The real and urgent issue now is what happens across the eastern and southern Ukraine, and it is essential that neither side initiates the use of force there. Any move by the new Ukrainian government or nationalist militias to overthrow elected local authorities and suppress anti-government demonstrations in these regions is likely to provoke a Russian military intervention. Any Russian military intervention in turn will compel the Ukrainian government and army (or at least its more nationalist factions) to fight.

The West must therefore urge restraint—not only from Moscow, but from Kiev as well. [...] In the longer run, the only way to keep Ukraine together may be the introduction of a new federal constitution with much greater powers for the different regions.

Russia would win any fight against the coup government in Kiev and its military. The Ukrainian armed forces are not loyal to the government and anyway ill prepared for war. They are easy targets to hit. But fighting against fascist gangs would escalate into a guerrilla war. Russia could win that too but only at high costs. It should keep the Crimea and should try to find an agreement with the "west" that will keep the Ukraine, along these lines, mostly finlandized and neutral between two somewhat competing economic blocs.

Posted by b on March 3, 2014 at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (149)

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.


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 A group of twenty armed as professional men shot Saturday on the government building in Simferopol in Crimea. "It was weapons of professionals," says special envoy BFMTV Patrick Sauce. Russian soldiers who protect the site did not respond. The attackers withdrew in a bus a few minutes later.


The video shows a group of some 30+ armed men - again soldier like, well armed but not full professionals - in daylight trying to storm some building. They retreat to a civilian bus and seem to depart. The men are again marked with white ribbons on their left arms. What was this about?

Here is another snippet (at 1:20) of the situation from a different perspective by a Russian TV station.

Someone has done a photo analysis of hand weapons Russian troops in the Crimea carry. But the second photo is not of Russian soldiers but is from the same scene than the video above. It shows armed men with white ribbons and in partly civilian cloth. One of their weapons is identified as a Russian grenade launcher but with a U.S. made holographic sight.


Unfortunately no "western" media have yet asked who these white-ribbon guys are and what they are doing. To me it seems possible that they are some kind of half trained gang send from Kiev to takeover government buildings in the Crimea. The presences of these groups, starting early on February 27, could be the reason why Russia decided it needed to take control of the Crimea. Fear that these groups would receive reinforcement through other groups arriving by plane led to the temporary guarding of the Crimean airports by (unmarked) Russian troops.

Please let me know of other media occurrences of such white-ribbon marked persons and of their background.

Posted by b on March 2, 2014 at 11:12 AM | Permalink | 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: 
  2. billmon@billmon1
    Former Bush deputy NSA: “There’s nothing we can do to save Ukraine at this point." 
  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."  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 on March 2, 2014 at 07:32 AM | Permalink | 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:

In Crimea, fistfights broke out between rival demonstrators in the regional capital of Simferopol when some 20,000 Muslim Tatars rallying in support of Ukraine's interim leaders clashed with a smaller pro-Russian rally.

The protesters shouted and attacked each other with stones, bottles and punches, as police and leaders of both rallies struggled to keep the two groups apart.

One health official said at least 20 people were injured, while the local health ministry said one person died from an apparent heart attack. Tatar leaders said there was a second fatality when a woman was trampled to death by the crowd. Authorities did not confirm that.

Voice of Russia reports about an alleged Anonymous hack of emails between the coup plotters in Kiev and a Tatar leader:

[H]ackers posted a quote from one of the emails:

"Everything is going according to the plan. We are ready to proceed with the second part of the play. As agreed earlier last week, my guys together with people from the "Karpatskaya Sech" and UNA-UNSO will arrive wherever is needed and with the necessary weapons. You only need to let us know the addresses of the warehouses in Simferopol, Sevastopol, Kerch, Feodosia and Yalta, and the time of the meeting...Don't worry about the money, everything will be fine, just a little bit later. In the end, you know that if we succeed, you will get a lot more."

According to the text, the neo-Nazi organization "Trizub imeni Stepan Bandera" along with "Karpatskaya Sech " and UNA-UNSO are ready to fulfill all the dirty work: to kill, burn and banish all the opponents of Maidan from Crimea. Crimean Tatars should "only" provide them with "instruments", ie weapons and store them in the most important cities of the Crimea.

A lot of people might consider that the Ukrainian nationalists and Crimean Tatars pursue different goals, and their union at first glance looks quite unnatural. However, they have one aim in common, which is to eliminate the Russian-speaking population from the Crimean region and for that their «union» is neccessary in pursuing the common strategic objective.

It is also important to note that Aslan Omer Kyrymly is the founder of several companies and president of the board of the Crimean International Business Association (CIBA). He controls serious financial flows associated with various business projects, both in Ukraine and abroad. It is believed that Aslan Omer Kyrymly is a true leader of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars.

Anonymous (or Russian intelligence) earlier published emails between coup-plotter Klitschko and the Lithuanian government.

On February 27 Russian forces stationed in the Crimea and supported by allegedly local paramilitary took over security at two airports and of some government buildings in Crimean cities. A Turkish flight to Simferopol airport was called back and further Turkish fights to Crimea were canceled. The Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu announced that he would today visit the coup-government in Kiev:

"Crimea is important in Ukraine due to its strategic location, multi-ethnic and multi-faith formation. It is difficult to maintain peace in Eurasia unless it is secured in Ukraine. Likewise, maintaining peace in the Black Sea is difficult unless it is secured in Crimea," [Davutoglu] added.
The status of Crimea amid the Ukraine crisis cannot be determined without Turkey playing a role, a deputy from Turkey’s ruling AK Party said Friday.

"Turkish Foreign Minister [Ahmet] Davutoglu's visit to Ukraine is an indication of Turkey's intention to be proactive in developments in Crimea," Samil Tayyar told the Anadolu Agency.
Two Turkish Airlines flights from Istanbul to the Crimean capital of Simferopol on Friday night have been canceled amid escalating tension on the peninsula.
Early Friday, another Turkish airline, Atlasjet, cancelled a flight to Simferopol after media reports that Simferopol International Airport had been seized by armed groups.

An alleged attempt by coup forces to seize the interior ministry of the Crimea tonight was repelled. In Kiev anti-Russian Tatars call for more trouble:

Meanwhile, Tatar lawmaker Mustafa Dzhemilev of Batkivshchyna has asked acting President Oleksandr Turchynov to deploy the entire Ukrainian army to Crimea.

“I spoke with Turchynov that all of our military might should be deployed to Crimea. There are no threats in other oblasts yet. Call a state of emergency and take control,” said Dzhemilev cited by RBK-Ukraine.

The picture emerging from the above seems to show that:

  • Turkish intelligence helped with training Tatars in support of a local Crimea anti-Russian coup
  • Russian intelligence has thoroughly penetrated the coup-plotters communications (see Nuland tape) and knew what was coming
  • Russian aligned forces secured the Crimea and prevented infiltration of more Tataric units from Turkey
  • On the Crimea, as well as in other Russian aligned areas in east Ukraine (Donetsk, Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk), counter coups are establishing separate regions which will ask for Russian support and eventual incorporation into the Russian Federation
  • If all this goes well for the Russians the "western" coup in Kiev will have resulted in the "west" acquiring a bankrupt, dirt poor west Ukraine while Russia will acquire the industry and resource rich east Ukraine and will keep the Crimea as its strategic asset
  • In the context of the war of Syria the coup in the Ukraine was a countermeasure to Russian support for Syria. Unless the Crimea falls to coup forces that countermeasure will have failed.

There is little the U.S. can say against Russian troops in Crimea. According to the status of force agreement Russia can post up to 30,000 soldiers there. The normal size of its forces there is just half of that. If Russia wants to reinforce those it can do so without breaking any national or international agreement.

Today the government of Crimea brought forward a referendum on the region's status to March 30 and called for Russian help. What is the "west" going to say against that? If self-determination applies to Kosovo it surely also applies to the Crimea as well as to other east Ukrainian areas.

Posted by b on March 1, 2014 at 07:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (226)