zaterdag 5 maart 2022

By using Ukraine to fight Russia, the US provoked Putin's war

 

By using Ukraine to fight Russia, the US provoked Putin's war


After backing a far-right coup in 2014, the US has fueled a proxy war in eastern Ukraine that has left 14,000 dead. Russia's invasion is an illegal and catastrophic response.

"The United States aids Ukraine and her people," Adam Schiff declared in January 2020, "so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here."

Schiff made this statement during the opening of Donald Trump's first impeachment trial, where the Democratic Party's bid to ensure unimpeded US weapons sales to Ukraine was presented, and widely accepted, as a valiant defense of US democracy and national security.

Two years later, the US use of Ukraine to "fight Russia over there" has reached its logical end-game: illegally, murderously, and catastrophically, Russia has invaded Ukraine to end the fight.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a violation of the UN Charter. Without UN authorization, states are allowed to use armed force only in cases of self-defense or to prevent an imminent attack. Although the US has used Ukraine as a proxy in its fight against Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels in the Donbas, that conflict is still within Ukraine's sovereign borders. Even if a case could be made that Russia has the right to defend besieged ethnic Russians, that argument is undercut by Russia's decision to attack far deeper into Ukrainian territory. If defending the Donbas was Russia's aim, then it could have pushed harder for an international peacekeeping force, or any number of non-military, diplomatic options.

Although Russia’s invasion cannot be excused, it also cannot be understood, and resolved, without acknowledging that the war in Ukraine did not start last month.

Putin has carried out a major escalation of a conflict that has raged for eight years, at the cost of more than 14,000 lives. It began with a US-backed, far-right-led 2014 coup that ousted Ukraine’s democratically elected government in Kiev. In its place came a regime chosen not by the Ukrainian people, but by Washington.

The coup government encouraged assaults on Ukraine's Russian-speaking population, who took up arms to defend themselves with Moscow's support. Rather than pressure its client in Kiev to implement a negotiated settlement under the 2015 Minsk Accords, the US has instead poured in weapons and military advisers to assist Ukraine's fascist-infused armed forces in the proxy war that it helped initiate. While now hailing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a national hero, the US has sided with far-right Ukrainian nationalists over the peace platform that Zelensky was elected on in 2019.

The US policy of using Ukraine as cannon fodder has accompanied a bid to incorporate it into NATO. Compounding the dangers of a hostile military alliance on Russia's borders, the US has also methodically dismantled the Cold War-era arms control treaties that limited the arsenals of the world's two top nuclear powers.

Since 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned that US policies in Ukraine and other former Soviet states were crossing Russian red lines, and would force a Russian reaction.

After years of US-driven escalation, Putin's warnings have been realized in the form of an illegal invasion that has placed the world in one of its most dangerous moments since the Second World War.

"Ukraine is the biggest prize"

In the United States, the Russian invasion is widely portrayed as a campaign by Putin to colonize Ukraine and subvert its effort to join the European Union. If that is indeed Putin's goal now, then he is doing so only after a years-long effort, led by the US, to force the deeply divided country into the Western orbit. By its own accounting, the US has spent $5 billion on this crusade since 1991, complemented with tens of millionsmore from the European Union.

The US agenda was made plain in September 2013, when Carl Gershman, head of the CIA-tied National Endowment for Democracy, declared that "Ukraine is the biggest prize." If Ukraine could be pulled into the US-led order, Gershman explained, "Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself." In short, in Washington's eyes, regime change in Kiev could redound to Moscow as well.

An opportunity to claim the prize arrived two months later with the outbreak of Ukraine's Maidan protests. The Maidan is commonly described in the US as a "democratic revolution." That is a fair term for its initial weeks, when tens of thousands of Ukrainians gathered in Kiev's Maidan square to protest rampant government corruption and to support European integration. But these protests were soon co-opted by Ukraine's far-right forces, who turned a people's movement into a violent campaign for regime change. Maidan culminated in what George Friedman, head of the US intelligence-tied firm Stratfor, reportedly described as "the most blatant coup in history."

The spark for the Maidan protests was a decision by President Viktor Yanukovych to back out of a trade deal offered by the European Union. The conventional narrative is that Yanukovych was bullied by his chief patron in Moscow. In reality, Yanukovych was hoping to develop ties to Europe, and "cajoled and bullied anyone who pushed for Ukraine to have closer ties to Russia," Reuters reported at the time. But the Ukrainian president got cold feet once he read the EU deal's fine print. Ukraine would not only have to curb its deep cultural and economic ties to Russia, but accept harsh austerity measures such as "increasing the retirement age and freezing pensions and wages." Far from improving the lives of average Ukrainians, these demands only would have ensured deprivation and Yanukovych's political demise.

Russia capitalized on Yanukovych's jitters by offering a more generous package of $15 billion and threatening to withhold payments if the EU's terms were accepted. Contrary to subsequent Western narratives, Russia did not demand "a commitment to join the [Russian-led] customs union or any other evident quid pro quo," according to the New York Times.

Unlike its Western counterparts, Russia also did not demand that Ukraine abandon its European ambitions. Yanukovich, the Times reported in December 2013, "has insisted that Ukraine would ultimately move toward Europe and even consider signing the accords at a later date." But there was one obstacle: "a senior European Union official has said those discussions have been cut off."

By that point, rather than help broker a compromise, the US had swung its weight behind far-right opposition figures who had taken command of the Maidan.

As far-right groups occupied government buildings across Ukraine, Washington's bipartisan Cold Warriors swept in to claim the prize. Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy visited the central protest encampment in Kiev and stood beside Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the far-right Svoboda party. Tyahnybok had once urged his supporters to fight the "Muscovite-Jewish mafia running Ukraine."

"Ukraine will make Europe better and Europe will make Ukraine better," McCain promised the crowd. Giving away the game, Murphy told CNN that the Senators' mission was to "bring about a peaceful transition here."

The Senators were joined in Kiev by senior State Department official Victoria Nuland, who now occupies a similar position under Biden. On February 4th, an intercepted phone call, presumably recorded and released by Russian or Ukrainian intelligence, exposed Nuland's plan for bringing the "transition" about. Speaking to Geoffrey Pyatt, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Nuland laid out how the US would back a new Ukrainian government, fronted by Maidan leaders and handpicked by Washington. The State Department responded to the leak by dismissing it as "Russian tradecraft."

Although Nuland had cavorted, along with McCain and Murphy, with Tyahnybok in Maidan square, the fascist leader was deemed unsuitable for office. The anti-Semitic Russophobe, Nuland worried, would be a "problem", and better "on the outside."

Also discussed was former boxer and opposition figure Vitaly Klitschko, but he was quickly ruled out. "I don’t think Klitsch should go into government," Nuland said. "I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea." One reason was Klitschko's proximity to the European Union. Despite McCain's warm words for the EU before the Maidan crowd, the Europeans had annoyed Washington by supporting a compromise proposal that would leave Yanukovych in power. As Nuland put it to Pyatt: "Fuck the EU."

The two US officials settled on technocrat Arseniy Yatsenyuk. "Yats is the guy," Nuland decreed. The only outstanding matter was securing the blessing of the then-Vice President, Joe Biden and his then-senior advisor, Jake Sullivan, "for an atta-boy and to get the deets [details] to stick."

The deets were realized days later. On February 20th, snipers fatally shot dozens of protesters in Maidan square. The massacre was blamed on Yanukovych's forces, setting off a new round of violence and threats on Yanukovych's life. In another intercepted phone call that emerged weeks later, Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet told EU foreign secretary Catherine Ashton that he suspected pro-Maidan forcesof culpability. In Kiev, Paet reported, "there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new [opposition]  coalition." 

The University of Ottawa's Ivan Katchanovski, who has conducted exhaustive research on the massacre, concurs with Paet's initial suspicion. The attack, he concludes, was "perpetrated principally by members of the Maidan opposition, specifically its far-right elements."

On February 21st, a European-brokered comprise agreement between Yanukovich and the opposition called for the formation of a new coalition government and early elections. Yanukovich's security forces immediately withdrew from the Maidan area. But the encampment's far-right base had no interest in compromise. "We don’t want to see Yanukovych in power," Maidan squadron leader Vladimir Parasyuk declared. "… And unless this morning you come up with a statement demanding that he steps down, then we will take arms and go, I swear." Yanukovich, no longer protected by his armed forces and under heavy threat, got the message and fled to Russia.

A new government was quickly formed, despite lacking the sufficient parliamentary majority. This violation of Ukrainian law was of little consequence: with the Nuland-anointed Yatsenyuk named Ukraine's new Prime Minister, the United States got their "guy."  

The centrality of fascist elements to the Maidan coup was recently trumpeted by one of its key figures. At a public event in Kiev last month, Yevhen Karas of the neo-Nazi C14 gang proclaimed that "Maidan was a victory for nationalist forces." Dismissing what he called the "LGBT and foreign embassies" who "say ‘there were not many Nazis at Maidan,'" Karas offered a correction: "If not for those eight percent [of neo-Nazis] the effectiveness [of the Maidan coup] would have dropped by 90 percent."

Without his far-right allies, Karas added, "that whole thing would have turned into a gay parade." He did not mention the critical backing of Washington bureaucrats, who deserve equal credit for avoiding the parade and ensuring a coup instead.

Overcoming "the main obstacle"

By backing a far-right coup in Kiev, the US overcame the inconvenient hurdle of Ukrainian popular opinion.

Summarizing contemporaneous polls days before the Februrary 2014 coup,  political scientists Keith Darden and Lucan Way observed in the Washington Post that "none show a significant majority of the population supporting the protest movement and several show a majority opposed." The most accurate survey "shows the population almost perfectly divided in its support for the protest: 48 percent in favor, 46 percent opposed." Despite being the target of the Maidan protests and deeply corrupt, Yanukovych "is still apparently the most popular political figure in the country," they added.

The Ukrainian population's division over the Maidan protests also extended to the issue that helped spark it: Yanukovych's rejection of a trade deal with the European Union. According to Darden and Way, "there is little evidence that a clear majority of Ukrainians support integration into the European Union," with most polls showing "around 40-45 percent support for European integration as compared to about 30 to 40 percent support for the [Russian-led] Customs Union – a plurality for Europe but hardly a clear mandate."

The same could be said for membership in NATO. "The main obstacle" to Ukraine's ascension to the alliance, F. Stephen Larrabee, a former Soviet specialist on the U.S. National Security Council wrote in 2011, "is not Russian opposition… but low public support for membership in Ukraine itself." Ukrainian support for joining NATO "is much lower in Ukraine in comparison to other states in Eastern Europe," he added, at just 22-25 percent overall.

Gallup poll released in March 2014 found that "[m]ore Ukrainians saw NATO as a threat than as offering protection." Although that trend has reversed since, Ukrainian support for NATO has increased to barely above 50% in polls that exclude the 3.8 million residents of rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukraine's unworthy victims

While hailed by the US as an expression of Ukraine's democratic aspirations, the post-coup Ukrainian government was dominated by the right-wing forces that had brought it to power. At least five key cabinet posts went to members of the far-right Svoboda and another right-wing party, Right Sector, including the national security, defense, and legal ministries. Andriy Parubiy, the far-right co-founder of Svoboda's origin party, was appointed the head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council. During the Maidan protests, Parubiy had served as the Maidan encampment's "commandant" and head of its security.

In the fall of 2014, the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion was formally incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard, making post-Maidan Ukraine "the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces," the Ukrainian-American journalist Lev Golinkin later observed

Yatsenyuk, the Nuland-chosen technocrat, meanwhile presided over what NPR dubbedUkraine's "Spring Of Austerity" and what the prime minister himself described as a "kamikaze mission", imposing the pension and heating subsidy cuts that the ousted Yanukovych had resisted.

Members of the Azov battalion.

While placating the "IMF Austerity Regime," the coup government also set its sights on Ukraine's ethnic Russian population, a major base of Yanukovych's support. One of the post-coup parliament's first votes was to rescind a law, long bitterly opposed by the far-right, granting regions the authority to declare a second official language.

The coup government's anti-Russian sentiment culminated in a gruesome massacre in the city of Odessa. On May 2nd, a right-wing mob assaulted an anti-Maidan emplacement there, forcing the protesters into a nearby trade union building. Trapped inside, the anti-Maidan protesters were burned alive. Those trying to escape the flames were brutally assaulted. The official state toll is 48 dead, but the actual number may be far higher. No credible investigation has ever been conducted. That might be related to the presence of Parubiy, who had traveled to Odessa to confront the anti-Maidan camp, with hundreds of Right Sector members in tow.

The Odessa massacre helped accelerate the then-growing insurgency in the Donbas region, the eastern Ukrainian region dominated by ethnic Russians. Unwilling to live under a US-installed coup government led by far-right nationalists, rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk took up arms in the spring of 2014 with Russia's limited support.

The US-backed government responded with both economic warfare and a Nazi-infused "Anti-Terrorist Operation." The US-backed Yatsenyuk, by then well-versed in Washington-friendly neoliberal austerity, decreed that all residents of rebel-held Donbas would lose their public sector payments and pensions. Among those fighting the rebels, the New York Times quietly acknowledged in July 2015, were the "openly neo-Nazi" Azov battalion, as well as "an assortment of right-wing and Islamic militias" summoned from Chechnya. According to Ukraine's interior ministry, Azov was among the first battalions to receive US military training for the war.

The war in Donbas has since left over 14,000 dead. According to UN figures, 81% of the civilian casualties since 2018 have occurred on the rebel-held, pro-Russian side.

These Russian-speaking Ukrainians, however, are what Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman described in "Manufacturing Consent" as "unworthy victims": foreign civilians killed with US support, and thus unworthy of our sympathy or even attention.

No matter how deeply entrenched in the United States establishment political and media, no amount of whitewashing surrounding the 2014 coup and its aftermath can negate the reality that for millions of people in the Donbas, the war in Ukraine did not start with Putin's invasion last month. This includes the use of illegal cluster munitions, allegedly by both Russia today and the Ukrainian military in 2014, to much different global reactions.

Rather than end the proxy war that it helped start in Ukraine, the US has only fueled it over the last eight years with billions in weapons, a drive to incorporate Ukraine into NATO, an expansion of US offensive weapons around Russia, and a rejection of diplomatic solutions, as we will turn to in the second part of this report.


Part two of this report will be published in the coming days. Also join me on Sunday, March 6 at 6pm ET / 3pm PT / 11pm GMT to discuss the Russian invasion on Callin.


https://mate.substack.com/p/by-using-ukraine-to-fight-russia?s=r



Who are Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi Azov regiment?

 

Profile: Who are Ukraine’s far-right Azov regiment?

The far-right neo-Nazi group has expanded to become part of Ukraine’s armed forces, a street militia and a political party.

A veteran of the Ukrainian National Guard Azov battalion conducts military exercises for civilians
A veteran of the Ukrainian national guard's Azov Battalion conducts military exercises for civilians in Kyiv, Ukraine on January 30, 2022 [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

West needs freedom to dissent

 

We need the freedom to dissent – and to campaign for peace

VLADIMIR PUTIN’S war is having a chilling effect on freedom of expression — and not just in Russia.

Though Western governments express grave concern over the crackdown on Russian TV and radio stations which have been critical of the invasion of Ukraine, they are engaged in analogous censorship under the banner of opposing Russian propaganda and “disinformation.”

A serious effort is under way to shut down critical thinking about the geopolitical causes of conflict.

Putin’s aggression is ascribed to psychological tics — opinion pieces speculate that he may be on steroids, or even that he has been unhinged by social distancing during Covid. Russia’s actions cannot be understood — it is simply mad, bad and dangerous to know.

That last point is leading to a frenetic rush to denounce and boycott all things Russian that sits uneasily with the simultaneous praise for Russian peace protesters. 

Russian cats are banned from a feline beauty contest; a Russian oak tree has been disqualified from European Tree of the Year. There are threats to a Soviet-built statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester, despite the great German revolutionary who lived and worked in this country having died in 1895 and Russia having been capitalist for more than three decades.

A concerted Establishment and media assault targets Britain’s peace movement, with attack pieces misrepresenting the Stop the War Coalition as pro-Putin and trying to discredit giants of international journalism such as John Pilger and the late Robert Fisk.

The Labour leadership’s crackdown on anti-war voices is far more draconian than anything under Tony Blair. But this reflects the residual paranoia of an Establishment that still comes out in a cold sweat at the thought that from 2015-19 a major political party was led by a man of peace, and that his forthright attack on Britain’s aggressive foreign policy went down well with the public when he voiced it in 2017. 

Democratic forces must take courage from the Establishment’s fear. It points to its knowledge that there is a solid base of scepticism in this country about foreign wars.

The crisis sparked by Russia’s attack on Ukraine has brought us dangerously close to nuclear war. Currently “official” politics can see no way through this — calls for de-escalation and sanity must come from below.

On the left, that means pushing for an end to war through talks. 

The “arm Ukraine” line being pushed in some quarters is understandably popular given Russia’s aggression. 

But Russia is much stronger militarily than Ukraine. It cannot be beaten on the battlefield, unless Nato gets involved, which would lead to all-out nuclear annihilation for all parties. 

The “arm Ukraine” argument rather rests on making the Russian invasion so costly in terms of attrition that Putin retreats or is overthrown. 

But these are remote prospects and bleeding Russia to the point where its morale collapses is a plan modelled on the US experiences in Vietnam or Afghanistan — defeats that took decades and imposed an appalling cost in human life and destruction. 

Nobody genuinely concerned about Ukrainians can see this as a reasonable option, though it would be ideal from the point of view of arms firms profiting from weapons supply. 

Instead we must push for what one leading peace campaigner has called an “off ramp” — a way to convince Russia to pull out of Ukraine. 

We know that Russia has made all kinds of security demands to the United States, such as a mutual reduction in missile deployments, that could be put on the table in return for a withdrawal. 

Warmongers will object that this is “rewarding” Russia for its violation of international law. 

But the reality is that the West cannot intimidate Russia into backing down — it has, after all, been trying to intimidate Russia for years. Nor have sanctions generally proved effective in undermining hostile governments. Only through talking can we hope to end this nightmare.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/we-need-freedom-dissent-–-and-campaign-peace



The "democratic" West has blacked out Russia's media outlets

 

Following the British playbook from World War I, the "democratic" West has blacked out Russia's media outlets

What are they afraid of, their cause being oh-so-just? Check out what Intel Slava is reporting.

In December of 2017, the BBC ran this article about a war begun over a century before:

How Britain pioneered cable-cutting 

in World War One

Gordon Carera

Published15 December 2017

Groups of men on the deck of a ship which laying telegraph cable at sea, with the image showing men looking over the side of the ship at a smaller vessel carrying the cable, circa 1900
IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES

The UK's most senior military officer has warned of a new threat posed by Russia to communications and internet cables that run under the sea.

But the reality is that an understanding of this threat is anything but new. And it is the UK which first pioneered the technique of cable-cutting just over a century ago.

At the outbreak of World War One, Britain had the most advanced undersea telegraph cable system. It wrapped around the world, due to the reach of the British Empire. The dominant position offered an opportunity and strategists were determined to make the most of it. But first, German cables had to be dealt with.

A telegram arrived at the port of Dover just past midnight on 5 August 1914, the day after Britain declared war on Germany. It was in code, so its meaning would have been lost on anyone apart from its intended recipient, an officer named Superintendent Bourdeaux.

World Map of telegram communications cables in 1903
IMAGE SOURCE,NORMAN B. LEVENTHAL MAP CENTER

Image caption,Britain dominated much of the world's undersea cable network in 1914

"We were taking a considerable risk," Bourdeaux recounted in his report. At 01:52 he was on board a ship, the Alert, as it set sail. The bulk of the crew didn't know what their mission involved as the Alert arrived at its first destination at 03:15, lowered its hook to the seabed and began to dredge.

Bourdeaux and the Alert were undertaking one of the first strategic acts of information warfare in the modern world. A few hours later, the Alert had cut off almost all of Germany's communications with the outside world. It had hit the kill switch.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42367551

That episode is not just ancient history, since what the British shrewdly did back then—wiping out the enemy’s capacity to tell their story to the world—the “democratic” nations of the West have now done to Russia, banishing RT and Sputnik (even Gettr has deleted them), and variously going after anyone who contradicts the black/white propaganda narrative exploding from “our free press” all across the board.

Yet contradict that narrative we must, because it’s patently untrue; and, even if it weren’t demonstrably a pack of lies, one always must know what the Other Side is saying.

Here, then, is a link to Intel Slava, a Russian news site: https://t.me/s/intelslava.

And here’s a link to an invaluable timeline to the Ukraine conflict, published by Off-Guardian, covering the period from 1990 to the US coup in 2014:

https://off-guardian.org/2022/02/24/timeline-euromaidan-the-original-ukraine-crisis/

(Off-Guardian will soon be publishing Part 2, to bring us up to date.)

https://markcrispinmiller.substack.com/p/following-the-british-playbook-from?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoxODEwNDEwOCwicG9zdF9pZCI6NDk3OTM1NjUsIl8iOiJldzRleiIsImlhdCI6MTY0NjUxODcwOCwiZXhwIjoxNjQ2NTIyMzA4LCJpc3MiOiJwdWItMzgzMDg1Iiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.uF4p4zjx-57aeIpCFAZJhcM7RoV9mW4_JMaYFgUNbBg&s=r


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