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Much-hyped US-made Javelin missile FAILS during Ukrainian military drill attended by President Zelensky

RT | September 24, 2020

After all the ballyhoo about their supply to Kiev you think they’d at least work? A US-made Javelin anti-tank missile has malfunctioned during a major military exercise, in the presence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Northern Command, Major General Valery Zaluzhny, confirmed the incident to local media on Wednesday.

“The Javelin didn’t work. The missile didn’t fly out. Maybe, it was a mistake by the operator. Maybe, it was something else. We have to figure it out,” Zaluzhny said.

President Zelensky attended the ongoing ‘Joint Efforts 2020’ drill in the country’s Nikolaev region. Around 12,000 service personnel are participating in the exercise from September 22-25.

The drill was described by Zelensky’s website as “the first exercise conducted in accordance with the standards of NATO after Ukraine had received NATO’s Enhanced Opportunities Partner status.”

Ukraine received the first batch of Javelin missiles in June 2020. The second shipment is expected in 2021-22.

September 25, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

CIA releases new fiction on Putin

Press TV – September 22, 2020

The US Democratic Party and their media sycophants along with elements of the CIA are trying to make Americans believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is directing a campaign to help Donald Trump win re-election in November, Charles Dunaway has said.

Dunaway, an American political commentator who’s based in Oregon, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Tuesday while commenting on a report which said US intelligence agencies believe President Putin is behind a disinformation campaign targeting Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

According to a CIA assessment, Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach is engaged in peddling “disparaging information about Biden inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president,” two sources with knowledge of the report told The Washington Post.

“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the document reportedly reads.

Why admit fault when you can blame Putin?

Commenting on this, Dunaway said, “Once again the US mainstream media is publishing stories intentionally leaked by the CIA without independent fact checking or investigation. In essence a Ukrainian lawmaker, who the CIA ‘believes’ to be a Russian agent (no evidence), met with Rudy Giuliani last year and appeared once on a pro-Trump TV network peddling some audio recordings between then Vice President Biden and then Ukraine President Poroshenko. Those tapes allegedly proved there was a connection between the delivery of US aid to Ukraine and the investigation of Burisma.”

“As a raw first source for a story, this sounds interesting but there are so many facts alleged that a responsible journalist would need to find external corroboration for them. The Ukranian MP, Andriy Derkach, was a supporter of former President Yanukovych who was overthrown in a coup supported by the Obama-Biden Administration. In October 2019, Derkach alleged that Biden had been involved in an international money-laundering scheme with Burisma Holdings and the US-based investment firm headed by Biden’s son Hunter,” he added.

“The very curious fact that Biden threatened to withhold US aid to the Poroshenko regime unless they fired the prosecutor investigating Burisma Holdings should be well known to the US public since video of Biden bragging about it surfaced on the internet months ago. The same media outlets that are printing the recent CIA allegations as fact didn’t spend any time at all looking into the very suspicious activities of Biden in the Ukraine or the fact that Poroshenko would not have been President had it not been for a coup engineered by the US,” he stated.

“Now the Democratic Party and their media sycophants along with elements of the CIA are trying to make us believe that his member of the Ukraine parliament is being personally directed by Vladimir Putin in a campaign to help Trump win re-election. Trump’s Treasury Department issued sanctions on Derkach on September 10th, hardly much of a reward for his alleged service to the Trump campaign,” he said.

“A conscientious journalist would view this allegation in light of the many other unfounded accusations, many of which are purely fantasy, that are being made against the Russian government. The idea of blaming Putin and Russia for US election interference was born after the 2016 election when the US political elite, aghast at the prospect of a Trump presidency, decided to blame Russia for their defeat. Since the US elites see Russia as a threat to the US empire, they want to destroy it, or at least change its government into a subservient puppet of the US. They also want to get rid of Trump,” he said.

“From a few ineffective Facebook ads and some news and analysis on Russian media outlets, they invented the first Russian interference story. When it petered out with the failed Mueller report, they raised the specter of Trump threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless they investigated Biden. That ploy amplified into an impeachment trial failed as well. But it did uncover the Biden-Ukraine connection and that must be thoroughly discredited now to get rid of Trump,” he noted.

“It’s time the US media did their job and treat the US government, especially the CIA, as no more trustworthy than a man in a trench coat approaching them in a parking garage. Instead they should spend their time investigating US interference in Ukraine, Belarus, Thailand, Russia, Iran, Syria, Libya and China. We should remove the beam from our own eye rather than trying to find motes the eyes of others,” he concluded.

September 22, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

US sanctions Ukrainian lawmaker who published Biden-Poroshenko tapes for ‘Russian influence’ in presidential election

RT | September 10, 2020

Ukrainian parliamentarian Andrii Derkach has been sanctioned by the US, and his publication of alleged phone calls between the Ukrainian president and the US vice president declared ‘Russian interference’ in the US election.

Derkach “has been an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services,” the US Treasury Department declared on Thursday, sanctioning the member of parliament for “foreign interference in an attempt to undermine” the upcoming presidential elections. In addition, three alleged employees of the Internet Research Agency, also referred to as the St. Petersburg ‘troll factory,’ were placed on the sanctions list.

The move against “four Kremlin-linked officials” was hailed by the State Department as “a clear signal that the United States will not tolerate interference or influence” in the upcoming vote.

No evidence was offered for the allegation that either Derkach, or the IRA trio – identified as Artem Lifshits, Anton Andreyev and Darya Aslanova – were actually in any way connected to the Russian government.

Instead, the Treasury claimed that Derkach had “waged a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning US officials.” Between May and July this year, he released “edited audio tapes and other unsupported information with the intent to discredit” US officials, they allege.

Derkach released several hours worth of audio tapes purporting to be conversations between former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and former US Vice President Joe Biden from 2014-2016, including references to investigations of the gas company Burisma, which had given Biden’s son Hunter a lavishly compensated seat on its board.

Poroshenko has denounced the revelations as “fabrications” and “part of a large-scale hybrid war” by Russia, and it appears the US Treasury has taken his word at face value. There was no indication any of Derkach’s claims, the tapes, or the documents he offered to the press have been investigated; instead, the Treasury simply asserts that everything he said was “unsubstantiated.”

Similarly, Derkach’s “reliance on US platforms” is taken as proof that he “almost certainly targeted the US voting populace, prominent US persons, and members of the US government.”

The Treasury’s explanation of why Derkach was sanctioned basically claims that any effort to investigate Biden – now the Democratic presidential nominee – or his son amounts to “interference” in US elections, which was the main premise of the Democrat-led effort to impeach President Donald Trump back in September 2019.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

The 2014 American Coup in Ukraine

Tales of the American Empire | August 21, 2020

The end of the Cold war brought peace to Europe and armies began to demobilize. The American empire exploited this trust and ignored promises made to the Russians to expand NATO and absorb former Warsaw Pact nations and even former Soviet Republics. Efforts then focused on conquering the large former Soviet Republic of Ukraine. The Russians had found Ukraine unproductive, corrupt, and troublesome so granted it independence in 1991. The American empire plotted to absorb Ukraine into NATO and sent military units to Ukraine to bolster the Ukrainian army with plans for building American military bases. An American instigated coup in Ukraine led to bloody fighting and major economic disruptions.

______________________________________

“Did the U.S. Carry Out a Ukrainian Coup?”; The Real News; March 3, 2014; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p84Kz…

Related Tale: “The NATO Conquest of Eastern Europe”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2lam…

Related Tale: “The 2003 Conquest of the Republic of Georgia”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC-xL… “Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt phone call”; Ukraine on Fire; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGq_X…

“McCain’s Ukraine Rapid Eye Blinking Video”; Professor Michel Chossudovsky; Global Research TV; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHqEx…

“The Independent Ukraine’s Painful Journey Through the Five Stages of Grief”; explains Ukraine’s current status; The Saker; Unz.com; https://www.unz.com/tsaker/the-indepe…

The US Army’s huge effort to secure Ukraine can be seen in the 349 articles posted at its website just over the past five years: https://search.usa.gov/search/news?af…

The United States provided Ukraine with $1.5 billion in military aid since 2014, to include $250 million in 2019. The purpose of these weapons is to kill Russians. https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Rele…

August 22, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Senate chairman subpoenas FBI Director, ex-State official as Russia-Ukraine probe intensifies

John Solomon Reports | August 17, 2020

A powerful Senate committee chairman has subpoenaed FBI Director Chris Wray and a former State Department official in an intensifying investigation into possible U.S. corruption in Russia and Ukraine and declared there is evidence Joe Biden’s family engaged in a “glaring conflict of interest.”

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson announced the actions Monday, strongly accusing Democrats of levying false allegations against him and other GOP investigators to distract from the evidence his committee has gathered about Joe and Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.

“We didn’t target Joe and Hunter Biden for investigation; their previous actions had put them in the middle of it,” Johnson wrote in a letter released Monday that provided a detailed timeline of Joe Biden’s Ukraine policy actions and his son’s hiring with the Ukraine natural gas company Burisma Holdings.

“Many in the media, in an ongoing attempt to provide cover for former Vice President Biden, continue to repeat the mantra that there is ‘no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity’ related to Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board,” the senator wrote. “I could not disagree more.”

Johnson noted evidence gathered by his committee showed Joe Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, in April 2014 and within a month the vice president then visited Ukraine and both his son Hunter and the business partner were put on the Burisma board as the firm faced multiple corruption investigations.

“Isn’t it obvious what message Hunter’s position on Burisma’s board sent to Ukrainian officials?” Johnson asked. “The answer: If you want U.S. support, don’t touch Burisma. It also raised a host of questions, including: 1) How could former Vice President Biden look any Ukrainian official (or any other world leader) in the face and demand action to fight corruption? 2) Did this glaring conflict of interest affect the work and efforts of other U.S. officials who worked on anti-corruption measures?”

You can read Johnson’s letter here:

File 2020-08-09 RHJ letter re Investigation history purpose goals 1805.pdf

Sources familiar with Johnson’s investigation say the committee has secured testimony from at least one State Department official who worked in Ukraine saying the Bidens’ conduct created the appearance of a conflict of interest and undercut U.S. efforts to fight corruption in Kiev.

Johnson also divulged that late last week he issued a formal subpoena to Wray demanding he immediately surrender records from the Russia collusion probe that the committee has been seeking for months.

The subpoena gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to comply and demands all records from the probe known as Crossfire Hurricane, including those provided for a damning report by the Justice Department inspector general.

You can view the subpoena here:

File FBI Subpoena 20200806.pdf

Johnson also announced his committee has prepared a subpoena for Jonathan Winer, a former Obama State Department official who had extensive contact with British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, the author of a flawed dossier that helped propel the FBI probe into now disproven Trump-Russia collusion.

“Mr Winers counsel has not responded since Thursday as to whether he would accept service of the subpoena,” Johnson said. “If he does not respond by tomorrow, we will be forced to effect service through the U.S. Marshals. More subpoenas can be expected to be issued in the coming days and weeks.”

Johnson and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley have been pursuing a two-track investigation for more than two years, examining both failures and corruption in the FBI’s Russia probe as well as the issue of the Bidens’ conflicts in Ukraine.

As the 2020 election draws nearer and the committee’s evidence mounts in the Biden portion of the probe, Democrats have repeatedly attacked Johnson and Grassley accusing them of accepting evidence with Ukrainian officials tied to Russia.

In his letter, Johnson adamantly denies he has talked with or received documents from the Russian-tied Ukrainians, accusing Democrats like Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut of knowingly fomenting disinformation.

“The only problem with their overblown handwringing is that they all knew full well that we have been briefed repeatedly, and we had already told them that we had NOT received the alleged Russian disinformation,” Johnson wrote. “The very transparent goal of their own disinformation campaign and feigned concern is to attack our character in order to marginalize the eventual findings of our investigation.”

Johnson’s letter identifies 14 questions he believes Joe Biden should answer and said the dealings documented by his committee — all from U.S. government documents — follow a larger pattern of family members appearing to cash in on the vice president’s policymaking.

“The appearance of family profiteering off of Vice President Biden’s official responsibilities is not unique to the circumstances involving Ukraine and Burisma,” the senator wrote. “Public reporting has also shown Hunter Biden following his father into China and coincidentally landing lucrative business deals and investments there.

“Additionally, the former vice president’s brothers and sister-in-law, Frank, James and Sara Biden, also are reported to have benefited financially from his work as well. We have not had the resources to devote investigatory time to these other allegations, but I point them out to underscore that Ukraine and Burisma seem more of a pattern of conduct than an aberration.”

Johnson’s announcement follows one day after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham released a document Sunday he says shows the FBI misled senators on the Intelligence Committee during the Russia probe by falsely suggesting Steele’s dossier was backed up by one of his key sources.

“Somebody needs to go to jail for this,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the panel’s chairman, told the Fox News program Sunday Futures with Maria Bartiromo. “This is a second lie. This is a second crime. They lied to the FISA court. They got rebuked, the FBI did, in 2019 by the FISA court, putting in doubt all FISA applications.”

The document in question contains the draft talking points the FBI used to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018, including an assessment that the primary sub-source of the information contained in the Steele dossier had backed up the former MI-6 agent’s reporting.

The primary sub-source “did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier to the extent he could identify it,” the FBI memo claimed. “… At minimum, our discussions with [the Primary Sub-source] confirm that the dossier was not fabricated by Steele.”

In fact, by the time the FBI provided senators the briefing, agents had already interviewed Steele’s primary sub-source, who disavowed much of what was attributed to him in the dossier as in “jest” or containing uncorroborated allegations.

You can read the FBI memo Graham released here:

File FBI SSCI Briefing Document 2018.pdf

August 18, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

The curious case of George Kent: State Department’s Belarus “Color Revolution” expert and “Never Trump” impeachment witness

revolver | August 16, 2020

One of the most frustrating features of the Trump Administration is its tendency to hire, and even promote, personnel who are either indifferent or actively opposed to President Trump and the America First agenda he ran on in 2016.

Although the Administration remains crawling with such subversives, saboteurs, and so-called “Never Trumpers,” one especially interesting case is State Department employee George Kent.

George Kent was a star witness at the Trump impeachment hearings, in which he described Trump’s actions in Ukraine and the United States as “injurious to the rule of law.”

Highlights of his testimony include defending fellow star impeachment witnesses Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, and Lt. Col. Vindman, and accusing the President’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, of conducting a “campaign of lies.” Perhaps most damningly, Kent directly attacked President Trump on precisely the issue at question in the impeachment trial when he gave a second-hand description of President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinsky.

Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was so unusual that a National Security Council official — Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, who also has testified for the inquiry — didn’t want to get into the details with Kent. That call is now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

“It was different than any read-out call that I had received,” Kent told investigators. “He felt — I could hear it in his voice and his hesitancy that he felt uncomfortable. He actually said that he could not share the majority of what was discussed because of the very sensitive nature of what was discussed.”

Kent told investigators that, based on his conversations with other senior American diplomats, Gordon Sondland relayed that Trump “wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone [sic] and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.” [Politico ]

Unlike his former boss and star impeachment witness Yovanovitch, or his fellow impeachment witnessses Lt. Colonel Vindman and William Taylor, George Kent was not fired from his position within the Trump Administration. Far from being fired, Kent was promoted within the Trump Administration’s State Department subsequent to his impeachment testimony against the President.

George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, testifying as an impeachment witness.

That Kent not only kept his job but was promoted after providing such impeachment testimony is a surprising and lamentable fact, especially given the President’s strong and largely successful commitment to clean house in the aftermath of impeachment proceedings in which many State Department officials connected with Ukraine and Eastern Europe testified as witnesses against the President.

That a key impeachment witness against the President not only remains within the Trump Administration, but was actually promoted, is remarkable enough. He should be removed from his position just like his colleagues and fellow impeachment witnesses Yovanovitch, Vindman, and Taylor.

But once one takes a look at what George Kent’s job actually is at the State Department, the story becomes far more suggestive—even explosive. Kent just happens to be Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau. This bureau is generally known as the State Department hub for so-called “Color Revolutions,” through which the State Department, together with covert agencies and a constellation of allied NGOs influence, and at times overturn, elections in foreign countries. Indeed, one former senior state department official has told Revolver News that Kent is a “color revolution expert” — a designation that has been corroborated to Revolver by two current senior State Department sources.

Prior to his current role, Kent served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv, Ukraine (2015-18), working directly under the ousted star-impeachment witness Ambassador Yovanovitch. Prior to this, Kent was working as a “deputy political counselor” in Ukraine during the infamous “Orange Revolution” — arguably the most famous of the State Department and NGO-facilitated “Color Revolutions.” In essence, the Orange Revolution refers to a continuous barrage of protests, mass demonstrations, and other acts of civil disobedience in Ukraine in response to the contested election of Russia aligned Viktor Yanukovych, who defeated the Western-backed Viktor Yushchenko.

What is relevant here is not whether Yanukovych rigged the election, or whether he would have been a better ruler for Ukraine. What is relevant is that the State Department’s preferred candidate did not win, and the State Department, with the help of its constellation of friendly NGOs, helped to facilitate the overthrow of Yanukovych by contesting the legitimacy of the election, organizing mass protests and acts of civil disobedience, and leveraging media contacts to ensure favorable coverage to their agenda in the Western press — all tactics eerily similar to those used against President Trump beginning the day after he was elected.

Of course, the principal figure associated with this Orange Revolution in the US Government is none other than Victoria Nuland, who served as President Obama’s point person on Russia during the Color Revolution in Ukraine.

Nuland was a year into her role as Obama’s assistant secretary for Europe. She had been in Kiev, frantically working behind the scenes to put in place a new governing coalition in Ukraine as it teetered on the brink of revolution against its Russia-backed leader, Viktor Yanukovych. [Politico ]

Nuland took the extraordinary step of personally speaking to the mass of protesters organized against the Russian-backed President Yanukovych.

Nuland’s highly symbolic appearance in the square came a day after Secretary of State John Kerry issued a strong statement, expressing the United States’ “disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest … with riot police…” [CBS News]

“Peaceful protest” sounds mighty familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because organizing mass demonstrations against a target government and criticizing and provoking that target government into cracking down on said protests is part and parcel of the Color Revolution playbook.

Careful observers of recent events will note that it is no coincidence that this is precisely the playbook being run right now in Belarus.

Indeed, the entire constellation of State Department-aligned and Atlanticist-aligned NGOs have been questioning in advance the legitimacy of the newly-elected Lukashenko, who won decisively with over 80 percent of the vote, compared to his rival, who received less than 10 percent.

These same State Department and NGO-aligned groups have been encouraging mass protests against Lukashenko. Perhaps most notably, they’ve referred to the demonstrators specifically as “peaceful protestors,” and used any attempts to control the riots as a pretext to further undermine the legitimacy of the target government. … Full article

August 17, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Looking back on the Maidan events and its consequences

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog | August 12, 2020

Victor Yanukovich was elected President of the Ukraine in 2010 narrowly defeating Yulia Timoshenko with 49% of votes cast to Timoshenko’s 45%. The Ukrainian Presidential term of office lasts for five years. Yanukovich’s Party, the Party of the Regions, together with its coalition partner the Communist Party of the Ukraine, also had a majority in the Ukrainian Parliament, with Mykola Azarov as Prime Minister. The membership of the EU was perhaps one of the more salient issues of the time and was the trigger for the ensuing upheavals.

Negotiations for Ukraine’s initial stage of eventual membership of the EU – the so-called Association Agreement – had been dragging on since 2011, but both Yanukovich and Azarov were favourably disposed to an eventual positive outcome, although the Communist part of the coalition were not.

This did not go down at all well in Moscow and Azarov attempted to assuage Russian misgivings by urging Russia ‘’to accept the reality of Ukraine signing the EU agreement’’. The commitment of Yanukovich was eventually tested to destruction since he was being pulled in two directions, by Russia on the one hand and by the EU on the other. For their part, the Russians offered the Ukraine a $15 billion loan, a discount on gas prices, and membership of the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. But the EU was having none of it. President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso stated that the EU will not tolerate ‘a veto of a third country’ (Russia) in their negotiations on closer integration with Ukraine. This being the case Yanukovich was forced into a choice which would be certain to alienate and anger one of the powerful interested parties on its borders.

Negotiations continued on into 2013. Yanukovich was invited to sign the Association Agreement, but there were a number of conditions. The most significant of these were those concerning an IMF loan. But anything involving the IMF should have set the alarm bells ringing with regard to the intentions of western institutions vis-à-vis the future of the Ukraine. The conditionality clauses were very much in the tradition of the IMF. Their ‘Structural Adjustment Programmes’ had always been the scourge of the developing world and this offer pact was enough to scupper the EU deal. Prime Minister Azarov at the time stating that ‘’the issue which blocked the signature of the EU deal were the conditions proposed by the IMF loan being negotiated at the same time as the budget cuts and 40% increase in gas prices’’. This for a country already verging on bankruptcy. In store for the Ukraine was the usual neoliberal austerity package. Compliments of the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) this would involve the following set of prescriptions:

1. Balance of payments deficit reductions through currency devaluation = SAP

2. Budget deficit reduction through higher taxes and lower government spending, aka austerity = SAP

3. Restructuring foreign debts

4. Monetary policy to finance government deficits (loans from central bank – with strings) = SAP

5. Raising food prices to cut the burden of subsidies = SAP

6. Raising the price of public services = SAP

7. Cutting wages = SAP

8. Reducing domestic credit = SAP

9. ‘Reforming’ pensions = SAP. Marvelous word ‘Reforming’

10. Deregulation of labour market. = SAP aka smashing labour unions

Longer-term ‘structural adjustment’ policies usually include:

1. Liberalization of markets to guarantee a price mechanism = SAP

2. Privatization, or divestiture, of all or part of state-owned enterprises = SAP

3. Creating new financial institutions. Hedge Funds, Shadow Banks, Private Equity = SAP

4. Improving governance and fighting corruption – ?

5. Enhancing the rights of foreign investors vis-à-vis national laws = SAP

6. Focusing economic output on direct export and resource extraction = SAP. That is to say, the creation of a peripheral economy a raw material exporter.

7. Increasing the stability of investment (by supplementing foreign direct investment with the opening of domestic stock markets). Financialization of the host economy = SAP

Just what the doctor ordered, no! These policies have been tried everywhere and have failed abysmally. Little wonder Yanukovich took the Russian offer instead.

However, what seemed like a straightforward business decision was greeted with howls of anguish and gnashing of teeth as the Europhiles in Independence Square felt that their future had been taken from them. This was indeed to happen in due course (see below) but this was the outcome of accepting rather than rejecting the IMF package.

THE BATTLE OF THE MAIDAN

Immediately these facts became known the mass protest in Kiev took place and was on the world’s TV screens, with demonstrators waiving Ukrainian and EU flags. (Where they got these EU flags is a mystery to this day.) This seemed to be a mass popular protest and the demonstrators were to set up camps in Independence Square. But the carnival atmosphere was not to last. Ultra-nationalist groups (inveterate fascists) in the shape of Right Sector and Svoboda (1) began to emerge from the shadows and appear among the genuine moderate majority and joined in pitched battles with the Berkut (riot Police) on a daily basis which the opposition forces finally won. This was, according to the Guardian ‘newspaper’ a victory for democracy and peoples’ power. Well it might have started like this but it transmuted into something very different. Nobody should be in any doubt about the political complexion of these ultra-nationalist groups who went on to hold 6 portfolios in the new ‘government’ based in Kiev. Nor should anyone be in any doubt about both the overt and covert roles played by both the US and EU officials in the formation of the future interim government.

Throughout this period the EU and high-ranking US officials were openly engaged in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The US Ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, and the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, were strolling around Independence Square reassuring the protestors that America stood behind them. Also basking in the political sunlight were US NGOs (such as the National Endowment for Democracy – NED – directly funded by the US Government) and (USAID). Also involved was the US Human Rights Watch (HRW) and not forgetting of course the ubiquitous Mr. Soros. Identified as GS in the leaked Open Society Foundation (OSF) documents, others involved in the Ukrainian coup in the planning, were the already named, US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, along with the following: David Meale (Economic Counsellor to Pyatt, Lenny Benardo (Open Society Foundation – OSF) Yevhen Bystry (Executive Director International Renaissance Foundation – IRF) Oleksandr Sushko (Board Chair, IRF) Ivan Krastev (Chairman Centre for Liberal Studies, a Soros and US government-influenced operation in Sofia, Bulgaria) and Deff Barton (Director, US Agency for International Development AID – USAID – Ukraine). USAID is a conduit for the CIA.

Even right-wing thinkers such as George Freidman at Stratfor described these events as being ‘the most blatant coup in history.’

The new ‘government’ in Kiev was represented by a hotch-potch of oligarchs Kolomoiski, Akhmetof, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, et al, and petty fuhrers including Parubiy, Yarosh, Biletsky, from the Western Ukraine with their violent armed squadristi units terrorizing their opponents. The ultra-right Svoboda Party had a presence in the Ukrainian parliament (Rada). It is a neo-nazi, ultra-right, anti-Semitic, Russo phobic party with its base of support in the western Ukraine. The most important governmental post was handed to its fuhrer Andriy Parubiy who was appointed as Secretary of the Security and National Defence Committee, which supervised the defence ministry and the armed forces. The Parubiy appointment to such an important post should, alone, be cause for international outrage. He led the masked Right-Sector thugs who battled riot police in the Maidan in Kiev.

Like Svoboda, Right-Sector led by their own tin-pot fuhrer Dmitry Yarosh is an openly fascist, anti-semitic and anti-Russian organization. Most of the snipers and bomb-throwers in the crowds were connected with this group. Right Sector members had been participating in military training camps for the last 2 years or more in preparation for street activity of the kind witnessed in the Ukraine during the events in Independence Square in 2013-14. The Right Sector as can be seen by the appointment of Parubiy, is not in a position to control major appointments to the provisional government but he has succeeded in achieving his long-term goal of legalizing discrimination against Russians.

This discrimination took the forms of mass murder in the southern Black Sea port of Odessa when pro-Yanukovich supporters were attacked by fascist mobs and chased into a nearby building, a trade union HQ. The building was then set on fire and its exits blocked, the unfortunate people trapped inside were either burnt to death or, jumped out of the windows only to be clubbed to death when they landed. The practices of the political heirs of Bandera had apparently not been forgotten by the present generation. There is a video of the incident, but frankly, it was so horrific that I could only watch it once. These barbarians were described by Luke Harding of the Guardian as being ‘’an eccentric group of people with unpleasant right-wing views.’’ Yes, they were really nice chaps who got a little carried away! One week later with the open support of Washington and its European allies, the regime installed by Washington and Berlin in February’s fascist-led putsch then began extending its reign of terror against all popular resistance in Ukraine. That was the significance of the events in the major eastern Ukrainian sea-port city of Mariupol less than a week after the Odessa outrage.

After tanks, armoured personnel carriers and heavily armed troops were unleashed on unarmed civilians in the city, the Kiev regime claimed to have killed some 20 people. The Obama administration immediately blamed the violent repression on “pro-Russian separatists.’’

Poroshenko, ex-Finance Minister in Yanukovich’s government, was elected as President on 29 May and duly announced that “My first presidential trip will be to Donbass where armed pro-Russian rebels had declared the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and control a large part of the region.’’ This was the beginning of the Anti-Terrorist Operation the ATO. However, things didn’t quite work out as planned. After 2 heavy defeats at Iloviask and Debaltsevo the Ukie army was stopped in its tracks and the situation has remained static to this day.

In the meantime the Ukraine has become the poorest nation in the whole of Europe. The economic and social ramifications of the 2014 coup were such that that the full weight of the neo-liberal economic policies were foisted on the Ukraine, courtesy of the IMF. This was already apparent in the early 80s, but the trend accelerated after the coup. The standard IMF/WTO Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) – see above – a package of ‘reforms’ and ‘fiscal consolidation’ (I just love these IMF euphemisms) consisted of cuts in government expenditure, accompanied by extensive liberalisation of product and labour markets, together with abandonment of exchange rate control and capital flows.

These policies along with political instability have had, among other things, a disastrous effect on population growth. Ukraine’s population was 52 million in 1992 and the decline started in that year. By 2016, this figure had fallen to 42.5 million, its 1960 figure, and was accelerated since the coup of 2014. The current Fertility rate stands at 1.3. Any figure less than 2 will mean a shrinking population. The death rate has also increased, along with mass migration with some 2 million Ukrainian guest workers decamping to Russia and Poland in search of work. This is a slow-motion demographic calamity.

This notwithstanding the largesse handed out by the Western powers through the instrumentality of the IMF as pointed out by Michael Hudson. ‘’The IMF in fact broke four of its rules by lending to Ukraine: These included (i) Not to lend to a country that has no visible means to pay back the loan (the “No More Argentinas” rule, adopted after the IMF’s disastrous 2001 loan to that country). (ii) Not to lend to a country that repudiates its debt to official creditors (the rule originally intended to enforce payment to U.S.-based institutions). (iii) Not to lend to a country at war – and indeed, destroying its export capacity and hence its balance-of-payments ability to pay back the loan. Finally (iv), not to lend to a country unlikely to impose the IMF’s austerity ‘conditionalities.’ Ukraine did agree to override democratic opposition and cut back pensions, but its junta proved too unstable to impose the austerity terms on which the IMF insisted.’’

Nothing better illustrated the monumental stupidity of a nation which subordinated economic common-sense to anti-Russian gestures and rhetorical bluster; this was visibly illustrated in the trade deal involving the import of European gas and South African coal to the exclusion of Russian gas and Donbass coal. In both cases, however, Ukraine was simply buying the same goods from Donbass and Russia but resold at a significantly higher price by South Africa and Europe simply acting as middle-men at a huge cost to the Ukrainian tax-payer. (2)

All of which illustrates the intractable political and economic debacle unfolding and goes some way to explaining the present impasse of a backward movement into under-development. Ukraine is becoming deindustrialised – not unlike the fate of many post-soviet nations – its trade with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan severed. This was formerly an exceptionally large and important export-import market, imports consisting of energy commodities coming from the EEU, and exports to the EEU consisting of Ukraine’s advanced industries in the east situated in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zhaporizyha and Nikolayev oblasts. These exports consisting of machinery, equipment, aircraft, vessels, nuclear reactors and boilers, railway, tramway rolling stocks and inorganic chemicals.

‘’… The machinery industry alone had an annual revenue of nearly US$20 billion and was responsible for employing 600,000 people in the southern and eastern oblasts. Not only would trade disruptions in the EEU devastate the southern and eastern economies, they would also lead to the deindustrialisation of the Ukraine, and this process has already started.’’ (3)

Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe. And once the process of deindustrialisation starts, charting a way back will be exceedingly difficult, even with the best will in the world and with the necessary manpower, skills, and expertise to carry out such a transformation. Moreover, this imbecility is compounded by military expenditures including the costs of an army of 250,000 that is doing nothing other than getting drunk and occasionally shelling towns and villages – against International Law it might be added – on the front line in the Donbass. Ukraine’s defence expenditure stands at 3.7% of GDP compared with NATO’s 2% and most NATO countries don’t even reach 2%. For the poorest country in Europe this is frankly bizarre. If you wanted to run a country and its economy into the ground this is the way to do it.

It has been suggested that nothing short of a huge ‘Marshall Plan’ to reconfigure Ukraine’s economic composition, requiring massive investment if it is to replace its post-Soviet industry – which seems especially so now that the industry heartlands of the Donbass have been severed from the Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, however, no-one is rushing to pick up the tab for this new ‘Marshall Plan’. Certainly not the EU, and even less so the Americans, who simply wanted yet another east European state (qua protectorate) to serve as a military base aimed at confronting Russia.

But now we may dispose of the customary patter of freedom and democracy together with the rest of the pseudo-rhetoric emanating from the usual sources. Fact: the entire Ukrainian imbroglio was essentially a matter of geopolitical realpolitik with the exalted rhetorical baggage being mere camouflage. US geopolitical strategy being predicated upon a hegemonic project to establish a system of dominance over the entire world. This desired outcome was nothing if not ambitious and is a common feature of all historically crackpot utopian schemes. This explains the US’s concurrent wars in the middle-east, the South China Sea, and in Europe – EUROCOM – with Ukraine as the spearhead. The object was initially to occupy western Europe through NATO and the EU, then spread this to eastern Europe, resulting in a de facto occupation and vassalisation of the European continent, with the role of the EU playing second string to its masters hegemonic requirements. This was the tawdry reality behind the initial euphoria of the short-lived settlement of 1991.

‘’It is pure hypocrisy to argue that the EU is now little more than an extended trading bloc after the Lisbon Treaty. It was institutionally now a core part of the Atlantic Security bloc (NATO) and had thus become geopolitical’’ (4)

In broader terms the Ukraine episode was part of a more general offensive against Putin in particular and Russia in general, and both were subjected to unrelenting demonization. With regard to Putin the venom was such that he was held personally responsible for the Skripal poisonings. That is to say a foreign head of a powerful state was accused of attempted murder of its citizens who resided in another state, the UK. Such unproven allegations between states seem unprecedented and alien to any type of mutual respect and diplomacy. For months the West has been demonizing Putin, it has almost become a national sport, with figures such as the Prince of Wales and Hilary Clinton comparing him with Hitler, oblivious to the fact that Putin had lost members of his own family during USSR’s Great Patriot war against Hitler’s legions. Such is the intellectual prowess, or more likely the lack of it, among the leading spokespersons of the West who combine ignorance in equal measure to arrogance. What set this crisis in motion were the recklessly provocative moves to absorb the Ukraine into the EU. Moreover, if the West’s offhand dismissal of Russia’s power concerns and the continued demonization of Putin continued, then Russia could well shift into a Cold War mode which would be a self-fulfilling prophecy come true.

Thus the contemporary decline of diplomacy reflects the didactic character of the liberal international order, which presumes that Russia is somehow an illegitimate interlocutor and parvenu and therefore its views can be discounted.

Coming full circle, the US relations with other states – particularly Russia and China – are best summarized in the Wolfowitz doctrine which bears repeating. As follows:

‘’Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defence strategy and requires that we endeavour to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.’’ (5)

Thus peaceful coexistence has never really been part of the US foreign policy, only world domination. Episodes like Ukraine, Syria and the middle-east, the South China Sea, Africa and Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and not to mention Latin America are all part of the playbook and have all followed a similar if not exact patterns of regime change and/or being dragooned into one-sided relationships, military, commercial or otherwise.

Whoever becomes the next US American President will not in any way mean a departure from the above geopolitical policies. If anything such policies will be even more rigorously pursued.

NOTES

(1) These fascist militias had for some time been made ready for civil conflict against the Ukraine’s elected authorities. In 2012 I was travelling with my wife from Donetsk to a holiday resort in the Khmelnytskyi Oblast in the Western Ukraine. The train stopped at Dnipropetrovsk a major city half-way between. The train was boarded by a large group of young men; they looked like an amateur football team. My wife got talking to them and they described themselves as students. The strange thing was that there were no women or girls among them. Perhaps there were no female students in Ukraine; this seemed unlikely. Then the coin dropped: Right Sector had its main training camp at Dnipropetrovsk and these ‘students’ were going back to the west for the summer vacation. Two years later they were in all probability engaged in ‘political activities’ in Independence Square.

(2) http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n17/keith-gessen-why-not-kill-them-all)

(3) countryeconomy.com

(4) Richard Sakwa – Frontline Ukraine – p.255)

(5) Paul Wolfowitz -Defence Planning Guidance for the 1994–99 fiscal years (dated February 18, 1992) published by US Under Secretary of Défense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz and his deputy Scooter Libby. Not intended for public release, it was leaked to the New York Times on March 7, 1992,  and sparked a public controversy about U.S. foreign and defence policy. The document was widely criticized as imperialist, as the document outlined a policy of unilateralism and pre-emptive military action to suppress potential threats from other nations and prevent ‘’dictatorships’’ from rising to superpower status.

August 14, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Lithuania’s alleged involvement in Maidan contradicts supposed European values

By Paul Antonopoulos |  August 4, 2020

New scandalous information about the 2014 Maidan coup d’état in Ukraine has emerged that implicates Lithuania’s important role in instigating the violent events. David Zhvania, a former Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, revealed on his YouTube channel that the seizure of power in Ukraine was financed in “several ways.”

“One of the external sources was the Lithuanian embassy, ​​through which money and weapons were transferred, and the internal channel was Diamantbank. I have documented evidence to support my words,” said the former ally of Petro Poroshenko, the previous president of Ukraine.

Zhvania called on Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova to initiate criminal proceedings and to summon him for questioning. According to the former MP, “Ukrainians should finally find out the truth” on who funded Maidan and who was bribed. He then admitted he was a member of a “criminal group that carried out a coup.”

“To help the conspirators, I used my political influence and my position as head of the State-Building Committee,” he said, adding that he would testify against himself, “but with one condition.”

“Please guarantee my security because I know who the people of Poroshenko are. They can easily order me to be removed,” he stressed.

Mass protests in Kiev began in November 2013 after preparations for the signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union were suspended. This set off mass anti-Russian hysteria and by the end of February 2014, a coup d’état took place in Ukraine, ousting President Viktor Yanukovych from power. This led to Petro Poroshenko becoming president and ultra-nationalists, including neo-Nazis, gained significant power in Ukraine and instigated a war with the Russian-speaking minority of Eastern Ukraine.

Although U.S. and Western European involvement in Maidan are well documented and known, Zhvania’s admissions are the first admittance of how a small Baltic country of under 3 million people played a key role in destabilizing Ukraine. Lithuania’s role was not only with financial support, but also with arms transfers. Although some may be sceptical that Lithuania played such a role, Zhvania is confident enough in his allegations that he announced he is willing to submit “documented evidence” to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine.

The question arises whether the Prosecutor’s Office will accept Zhvania’s testimony and evidence. Such a testimony and submission of evidence would further question the legitimacy of the Maidan events as a fight for freedom and democracy in Ukraine. If the legitimacy of Maidan is questioned, ultra-nationalists in Ukraine could become hysterical and instigate political destabilization to maintain and protect the powers they attained when Yanukovych was ousted. This is something the Prosecutor’s Office would be considering.

Lithuania was an active supporter of the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution that brought pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to power in Ukraine. Although Yushchenko was unconstitutionally brought to power, for Lithuania this was not a problem so long as Kiev had a pro-Western orientation. It is therefore not surprising that in 2014 it again supported reactionary forces in Ukraine. From the beginning of the conflict in Donbass, the eastern region of Ukraine where the majority of the Russian-speaking minority are, Lithuania started to provide official military support to Ukraine with armaments and advisers, and informally by recruiting and sending mercenaries.

As Lithuania has taken a pro-American position since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country’s leadership has aggressively served Washington’s ambitions of limiting Russian influence and expanding American interests in the post-Soviet space. It is for this reason that Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland created the “Lublin Triangle,” a trilateral platform for these three countries to counter supposed “ongoing Russian aggression” and show their “firm support” for Western institutions. In their joint declaration published online, the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the three countries condemned Russia’s “ongoing aggression” and its “attempted annexation” of Crimea, while welcoming Ukraine’s “European choice.” Effectively the trilateral platform is a pillar for the three countries to enact Washington’s main foreign policy priorities in the region, that they call “Central Europe” instead of Eastern Europe. Claiming that Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine are in Central Europe instead of the geographical reality that they are in Eastern Europe, is an awkward attempt by these countries to disassociate themselves from Western orientalization that the East is primitive and/or backwards.

If Zhvania’s statements that Lithuania’s role in Maidan are confirmed to be true, it would certainly not come as a surprise, but as mentioned, they delegitimize the initial claims that the movement was a struggle for democracy and Western European values in Ukraine. It would also confirm that Lithuania interfered in the internal affairs of another state and participated in an unconstitutional coup. Effectively, if proven true, the supposed values of Western Europe that Maidan struggled for would prove to be a sham as it was not achieved through the will of the people, but rather through foreign funds and weapons, including those from seemingly insignificant states like Lithuania.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

August 4, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

New ceasefire reached in Donbass, but for how long?

By Uriel Araujo | July 31, 2020

The war in Donbass (part of a broader Russo-Ukrainian conflict) is often called the “forgotten war” in Europe. It has killed over 13,000 people since 2014. The conflict has been described as “frozen” since Minsk II agreement (February 2015). Such did not put an end to war itself – periodic shelling and fighting along the line of contacts never stopped – but since then, the number of casualties decreased and no further territorial changes occurred.

There have been other ceasefires: 2017, for example, was a year of intense fighting and quite a few failed ceasefires. In 2019, an agreement (often described as the “Steinmeier formula” after its German proposer) was signed between the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, and both “rebel republics”: the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). It came of course after intense negotiation and it basically proposes that free election be held in the LPR and DPR territories – observed and verified by OSCE officials. Subsequently, these territories could be reintegrated into Ukraine with special “autonomous” status. Some Ukrainian and rebel troops did withdraw after this agreement.

Unfortunately the Coronavirus pandemic has caused the Donbass situation to go backward. However, on Sunday, a new ceasefire was decided by the Minsk Trilateral contact group (backed by Putin and Zelenskiy), starting on Monday and that has generated some hope. However, two breaches have already been claimed by the Ukraine military on Monday, minutes after midnight, involving grenades and machine guns (no casualties were reported). Besides, other issues still linger such as the situation of war prisoners.

It is indeed too early to speculate on what will be the outcome of it. For many Donbass residents, being once again a part of Ukraine became unthinkable. The Ukrainian government’s offensives did take a large toll on civilians in Donbass. Hospital, schools, the local energy company’s office and many other buildings in the city of Horlivka (Donetsk), for example, were destroyed or damaged by shelling (in 2014). Many struggled without electric power and water cut off. Such wounds take some time to heal. Furthermore, on February (2019), Ukrainian legislators repealed a bill which would have made it possible for people living in both rebel republics to get their pensions without needing to take difficult trips outside of the conflict zone and then back home.

On the other hand, experts have noted that after the hottest phase of the war, so far there have not been large-scale civilian atrocities. It could indicate neither side has an interest in further fomenting “ethnic” divisions for political gain: there have not been mass rapes, mutilations or other such type of civil war tactics.

According to a key Luhansk official, the main challenges of Donbass now are not of a humanitarian nature but rather mostly political. There is no hunger, but there are indeed economical problems, most of which would be at least ameliorated if it were not for the lack of recognition from the international community. Both rebel republics are currently recognised only by each other and by South Ossetia, which in its turn, is itself a partially-recognised state.

This being so, neither of the two republics have embassies abroad. However, some representation bureaus have been opened, in Russia, Italy, France and a few other European nations. Last year, the LNR opened its first bureau outside of Europe: a “Cultural Representation Office” in Congo. This was a “foreign policy” win for the LNR, which is increasing dialogue with Congo and seeking other potential interlocutors.

It is hard to tell whether either of the two republics would be “viable” (both are heavily dependent on Russia as of now) without gaining international recognition. And the Russian Federation in its turn shows no intent of integrating Donbass into its territory – Donbass is not Crimea.

Professor Jesse Driscoll at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego sees the conflict as a civil war and not merely as a proxy war between Russia and Ukraine. In his view, describing it as a “civil war” – thus emphasizing internal Ukrainian political problems – should not be confused with a “capitulation to Russia” of some sort. It is rather about recognizing some of the valid concerns of the Russian-speaking and pro-Russian Ukrainian population (this region after all has historical and cultural ties to Russia).

To further complicate things, one should not think of the Donbass war as an ethnic conflict plain and simple. Ukraine is of course a strongly bilingual society (both Russian and Ukrainian, with a high degree of intermarriage). Furthermore, many people may declare themselves ethnically as either Russian or Ukrainian, depending on context. In fact, many self-declared “ethnic Ukrainians” are Donbass separatists (“pro-Russian”) while there were and are “ethnic Russians” fighting on the Ukrainian side – on the Azov battalion, even. The truth is that one’s political stance is often a better predictor – regarding one’s attitude towards the conflict – than language or ethnicity. And the main dividing issue was and is of course Maidan. It is about 2 possible Ukraines: one is an European nation, closer the West and the US. The other is a natural ally of Russia and part of the “Russian world” (culturally) and is also proud of its Soviet heritage.

These are the two world-views currently clashing in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the plight of the civilian population of Donbass remains.

Uriel Araujo is a researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.

July 31, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

US Presidential Election And Prospects Of Kiev Advance In Eastern Ukraine

By South Front Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson | July 15, 2020 

For the past several years, the war between Ukraine and the breakaway and still-unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic has settled into a tense routine of attritional trench warfare, punctuated by sniping, clashes between patrols, small-scale raids, offensive minelaying, and ambushes using anti-tank guided missiles. There have been few operations by units larger than company. The front line has remained almost entirely unchanged. At the same time, both sides have been preparing for the possible next round of high-intensity warfare. What would happen if the fighting were to break out again?

That particular prediction is made more difficult by the very fact of the long lull in high-intensity fighting during which both sides have undergone a certain degree of transformation which remains relatively unknown to the other party. Both sides have seen certain material improvements, though apparently nothing dramatic. Ukraine’s armored vehicle fleet still relies on the same, but now even more worn out vehicles it went to war with in 2014. The planned re-equipment with the Oplot MBT never took place, and even the upgraded T-64BU Bulat was found to be flawed. Therefore the elderly T-64BV remains the main tank of Ukraine’s forces. Light armored vehicle fleet has seen some improvement thanks to domestic production and deliveries from former Warsaw Pact member states. If there is one area where Ukraine’s military may have made a major step forward, it is the artillery, using the large store of inactive weapons for Soviet-era reserve forces. However, artillery munition production continues to be a problem. While the number of Ukraine’s brigades has grown, the military experiences major problems with recruitment and retention, meaning that many of these brigades have the strength of a reinforced combined arms battalion.

On Novorossia’s side the situation is hardly different. DPR and LPR units continue to use the same types of equipment they used during the campaigns of five years ago. The numeric strength does not appear to have changed much, either, and here too recruitment and retention remains a problem.

The other factor making predictions difficult is the level of morale of these two forces that have been bogged down in an apparently endless war that is beyond their power to finish. The combination of trench warfare boredom and terror means it is debilitating to the units’ morale and proficiency if they are forced to remain in the trenches for too long. While the most offensive-capable forces are kept out of the trenches as mobile reserves, they too can only maintain their state of alert for so long before losing their edge.

Paradoxically, this state of affairs give an advantage to the side that intends to go on the offensive, because the preparations for the attack and associated training would imbue the troops with the hope that, after the next big push, the war will finally be over. At the same time, both sides know such an offensive would be an exceedingly risky proposition, because if it fails, it will grind down the attacking side’s most effective units and render the army vulnerable to a counteroffensive to which it would not be able to respond.

Therefore the likelihood of renewed fighting also heavily depends on who actually makes the decision. While local leaders may be cautious enough, foreign ones in distant capitals may have different considerations in mind.

A big unknown hanging over the future of the Donbass is the position of Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee and the potential winner of the November elections. Biden has already played a highly destructive role in the politics of Ukraine and the US-Russia relations. It is Biden that blackmailed Poroshenko into firing the Chief Prosecutor Shokin due to his interest in the corrupt dealings of the Burisma energy company which infamously had Joe’s son Hunter on its board of directors. It is also Biden who held a lengthy, 30-45 minute telephone conversation with Poroshenko on the day MH17 was shot down and promptly came out blaming Russia for it, even as the wreckage was still smoking where it fell. Biden identified himself as a Russia foe much earlier, during the 2012 vice-presidential debates where he positioned himself as being “hard on Putin”, which in retrospect proved to be an early indicator of where the second-term Obama administration foreign policy would go. It also goes without saying Biden is an ardent promoter of the “RussiaGate” effort to paint Donald Trump as a Russian agent/stooge/fellow traveler/useful idiot.

At the same time, Biden’s line against China has hardened as well, which may have implications for US-Russia relations during the probable Biden presidency. As late as May 2019, Biden would describe People’s Republic of China as “they are not bad folks”, adding that “they are not competition to us”, comments that may yet come to haunt him on the campaign trail. However, once the COVID-19 broke out of control in the United States, Biden sought to out-do Trump in his accusations the high US death toll was due to China misleading the United States on the nature of the virus and not allowing US public health officials access to Wuhan and China’s epidemiology labs. Even before that, Hunter Biden resigned from boards of directors of China-based firms. While that might have been motivated by his, and his dad’s, desire to keep a low profile due to the scrutiny Hunter’s business dealings have attracted during Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings, it may also have been preparation for Joe Biden’s anti-China pivot.

The emergence of PRC as Biden’s perceived number one international adversary may mean a desire to improve relations with Russia in the way that Trump, compromised from the start by RussiaGate and without a history of own anti-Russia rhetoric to fall back on, could never deliver. Biden, however, is in the same position as Nixon was in the late 1960s. His earlier anti-Russian rhetoric and actions now make him nearly immune from the same sort of accusations which, even though false, nevertheless effectively stuck to Trump. Nixon’s own enthusiastic participation in McCarthyite witch hunts made it possible for him to do what his Democratic Party predecessor Lyndon Johnson could not: end Vietnam War, engage in arms control treaties with USSR and “go to China” in order to exploit the growing divide between the two main Communist powers. Biden has the political capital necessary to repeat the process: end the war in Afghanistan (something he had proposed already as vice president), enter into arms control treaties with China and…go to Moscow, which is currently seen in Washington in the same way that Beijing was in the 1970s, namely the secondary challenger which needs to be peeled away from the primary one. Moreover, just as in the early 1970s, United States of the 2020s is wracked by a massive internal crisis requiring international retrenchment in order to focus on internal reforms.

But that optimistic scenario remains less likely than the prospect of renewed escalation. Nixon-era United States was not suffering from the hubris of American Exceptionalism. On the contrary, it was a country full of self-doubt and under no illusion concerning the limits of its power. It entered into arms control treaties because it did not feel it could win them. Disasters abroad and at home notwithstanding, the US elite still has not been shaken out of its complacency, and it does appear to sincerely believe it can win a strategic and conventional arms race against both China and Russia. We have not seen any indications so far that Biden intends any moderation in the area of foreign policy or returning to a policy of cooperation with Russia. One should expect that, in the event of Biden victory, Ukraine will launch an offensive against the Donbass shortly after the inauguration, in other words, in February or March of 2020. This offensive would accomplish two objectives for Biden. One, it would establish his hawkish, “patriotic” bona fides, make him look “presidential” in the eyes of the mainstream media and the national security establishment. Secondly, it would allow the US to exert even more pressure on Germany and other EU member states concerning North Stream and other areas of cooperation with Russia.

In order to achieve these goals, particularly the second one, the offensive would not need to overrun the Donbass, in fact, that would not be the aim at all. Rather, the goal would be to force Russian forces to intervene directly in support of the Lugansk and Donetsk republics to justify depicting Russia as the aggressor in the matter. And even if the republics’ militaries can cope with the UAF assault on their own, the sheer level of violence will still make enough headlines to satisfy Biden’s requirements. Whether Zelensky wants that kind of escalation for his country is almost irrelevant. Both he and Biden know very well what the balance of power in that relationship is. Ukraine is a failing state seriously dependent on foreign financial assistance in the form of continual IMF loans, debt rescheduling, favorable trade deals, etc. Biden knew how to use these levers to achieve an important change in Ukraine’s politics that benefited him personally, he will not hesitate to use them again.

Moreover, even if Biden were driven by the Nixonian motives described above, it’s doubtful the foreign policy Deep State would allow him to do that. Biden’s own conversations with Poroshenko no doubt contain a great many embarrassing moments whose release would instantly embroil him in a massive scandal. The fact that Donald Trump was impeached solely due to the desire of national security apparatchiks to continue their pet war in Ukraine is indicative of their power to make foreign policy quite independently of their supposed civilian bosses.

The situation is further complicated by the widening rift between the Western neo-liberal world and conservative societies of eastern European countries. This includes a large part of the Ukrainian population which is committed to traditional values. The rapidly deteriorating social and economic situation in Ukraine contributes to a further antagonism of this part of the society towards the forcefully imposed Western ideology and its local agents. Another point of tension is the existing contradictions between the Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchy) and the artificially assembled pseudo-church organizations in Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchy is returning to its former position among the Ukrainian faithful. In the event of a further dissatisfaction of the society by the declared pseudo-Western way of development, positions of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchy will strengthen even more.

While a Ukrainian offensive is relatively unlikely in 2020, its probability increases considerably in 2021, particularly in the event of a Biden victory. The conflict in Ukraine has lasted this long mainly because Ukraine’s current sponsors in the West are not interested in ending it, irrespective of what the will of the Ukrainian people might be. The situation will get even worse should the US presidency be taken over by someone with a well-established hostility toward Russia who believes his aims would be better served by another bloody campaign on the Donbass.

The next US administration will employ every option that it has in order to prevent the return of Russian influence in the country. Besides furthering the conflict in eastern Ukraine, it will expand efforts against it in the ideological sphere as well, likely including direct provocations.

July 17, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Dutch MH17 trial: Court to consider report from Russian missile producer that points to Ukraine as culprit

RT | July 4, 2020

A Dutch court investigating the downing of MH17 has agreed to hear from Almaz-Antey, a Russian arms manufacturer, which argues that the prevailing Western narrative – that rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down the plane – is false.

The hearing in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands says it will explore alternative scenarios in the high-profile trial, in which four anti-Kiev fighters stand accused of using a Russian anti-aircraft missile to destroy the civilian plane, killing 283 passengers – mostly Dutch – and 15 crew on board.

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was downed over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. It was crossing airspace which had not been closed despite the Ukrainian civil war raging below.

At the time, self-proclaimed republics in the region were involved in an armed conflict with the new Kiev government following the violent, Western-backed ‘Maidan’ which had brought it to power earlier that year. In the weeks preceding the downing of MH17, the Ukrainian military had lost several of its aircraft to its opponents, who had captured shoulder-launched missiles and anti-aircraft guns from Ukrainian arsenals.

Following the tragedy, Kiev and the republics blamed each other for the incident, while almost immediately the US government claimed – without presenting any evidence – that Russia had provided the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DPR) militia with the missile used to down the aircraft.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis accepted a defense request to call more witnesses, including a representative of Almaz-Antey, the Russian producer of Buk air defense systems. A Buk missile is alleged to have caused the downing of MH17 in July 2014, but the model and origin of the projectile are in dispute.

The prosecution maintains that the civilian plane was shot down over the Donbas by rebel forces, which at the time were fighting against the Ukrainian military. The crime was pinned on four men, who they assert obtained the missile system from a Russian military unit and transported it to the rebel-controlled territory to be used for defense against Ukrainian warplanes.

In 2015, Almaz-Antey reported on experiments it conducted when investigating the tragedy. It concluded that the plane was downed with an older variant of the missile that can be fired by Buk systems. This outdated model is no longer in use by the Russian Armed Forces, but Ukraine has plenty of them, having inherited the weapons when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The arms producer also believes that, in order to inflict the kind of damage seen on the debris of the downed aircraft, it had to have been launched from territory controlled by forces loyal to Kiev at the time.

During Friday’s hearing, Steenhuis agreed that Almaz-Antey’s conclusions should be considered. The judge also said an expert witness from the manufacturer can be called to give evidence.

The Dutch court also said it was reasonable to seek disclosure of satellite photos of the area, taken by the US military on the day MH17 was shot down. The Americans have refused to declassify them, citing national security considerations, offering investigators a memo instead. A senior Dutch investigator was allowed to inspect the images but has not yet been questioned during the trial.

The proceedings in the Netherlands are being held without the presence of the defendants. Of the four individuals concerned, only one – Russian citizen Oleg Pulatov – has agreed to engage with the defense team, while the other three have no representation whatsoever.

The trial of the rebel fighters comes after a lengthy probe by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which Russia considers politically biased. The JIT excluded Russia but included Ukraine despite the country’s involvement in the armed conflict and its possible role in the downing of MH17.

Kiev is the source of some key evidence, such as alleged intercepts of phone calls by rebel commanders, which are considered important to the trial. Moscow has made numerous offers to assist in the investigation but has been rebuffed.

Other data that could be crucial in establishing the truth about what had happened to the Malaysian plane is notably absent in the case.

This includes primary radar data from Ukraine, which Kiev claims it’s unable to provide because neither civilian nor military stations were operational on the day of the tragedy. “Ukraine has effectively not presented any primary radar data. Ukraine has told the Dutch Safety Board that no primary radar data was registered, as the radar was not operating at that moment,” Dutch prosecutor Thijs Berge said last month.

Russia has also criticized the JIT for relying on so-called ‘open-source evidence’ like videos published on social media, saying that this can be misrepresented or manipulated.

The JIT’s conclusions seem to be closely aligned with those of Bellingcat, a UK-based group of so-called “civilian investigators” with a track record of using open-source materials to pin the blame for various misdeeds on Russia.

Notably, Bellingcat is funded by both the US and Dutch governments. This important point is rarely, if ever, discussed when the outfit’s work on MH17 is reported, or discussed, in the West.

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Impeachment Reminder of Our Toxic Foreign Aid

By James Bovard | Ron Paul Institute | Monday June 29, 2020

Foreign aid to Ukraine helped spur the Democrats’ effort to impeach and remove President Trump earlier this year. Ukraine was supposed to be on the verge of great progress until Trump pulled the rug out from under the heroic salvation effort by US government bureaucrats. Unfortunately, Congress has devoted a hundred times more attention to the timing of aid to Ukraine than to its effectiveness. And most of the media coverage pretended that US handouts abroad are as generous and uplifting as congressmen claim.

US foreign aid has long fueled the poxes it promised to eradicate — especially kleptocracy, or government by thieves. A 2002 American Economic Review analysis concluded that “increases in [foreign] aid are associated with contemporaneous increases in corruption” and that “corruption is positively correlated with aid received from the United States.” Windfalls of foreign aid can make politicians more rapacious, which economists have dubbed the “voracity effect.”

Early in his presidency, George W. Bush promised to reform foreign aid, declaring, “I think it makes no sense to give aid money to countries that are corrupt.” Regardless, the Bush administration continued delivering billions of dollars in handouts to many of the world’s most corrupt regimes.

Barack Obama proclaimed at the United Nations in 2010 that the US government was “leading a global effort to combat corruption.” The Los Angeles Times noted that Obama’s “aides said the United States in the past has often seemed to just throw money at problems,” while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that “a lot of these aid programs don’t work” and lamented their “heartbreaking” failures. But Obama promised during his 2008 campaign to double foreign-aid spending, which obliterated efforts to reform failed programs. In 2011, congressional Republicans sought to restrict foreign aid going to fraud-ridden foreign regimes. Secretary of State Clinton wailed that restricting handouts to nations that fail anti-corruption tests “has the potential to affect a staggering number of needy aid recipients.”

Regardless, the Obama administration continued pouring tens of billions of US tax dollars into sinkholes such as Afghanistan, which even its president, Ashraf Ghani, admitted in 2016 was “one of the most corrupt countries on earth.” The governor of Kandahar denounced his own government officials and police officers as “looters and kidnappers.” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), declared that “US policies and practices unintentionally aided and abetted corruption” in Afghanistan.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, the United States has provided more than $6 billion in aid to Ukraine. At the House impeachment hearings late last year, a key anti-Trump witness was acting US ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. The Washington Post hailed Taylor as someone who “spent much of the 1990s telling Ukrainian politicians that nothing was more critical to their long-term prosperity than rooting out corruption and bolstering the rule of law, in his role as the head of US development assistance for post-Soviet countries.” A New York Times editorial lauded Taylor and State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent as witnesses who “came across not as angry Democrats or Deep State conspirators, but as men who have devoted their lives to serving their country.”

Their testimony spurred Eric Rubin, president of the American Foreign Service Association, to bewail that “this is the most fraught time and the most difficult time for our members” since Sen. Joe McCarthy’s accusations of communism in the 1950s. A Washington Post headline echoed him: “The diplomatic corps has been wounded. The State Department needs to heal.” But not nearly as much as the foreigners supposedly rescued by US bureaucrats.

The Wall Street Journal reported on October 31 that the International Monetary Fund, which has provided more than $20 billion in loans to Ukraine, “remains skeptical after a history of broken promises [from the Ukrainian government]. Kiev hasn’t successfully completed any of a series of IMF bailout packages over the past two decades, with systemic corruption at the heart of much of that failure.” The IMF concluded that Ukraine continued to be vexed by “shortcomings in the legal framework, pervasive corruption, and large parts of the economy dominated by inefficient state-owned enterprises or by oligarchs.” That last item is damning for US benevolent pretensions. If a former Soviet republic cannot even terminate its government-owned boondoggles, then why was the US government bankrolling them? While many members of Congress could not find Ukraine on a map, far fewer could have offered any coherent explanation of what US aid bought in Ukraine.

Transparency International, which publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index, shows that corruption surged in Ukraine in the late 1990s (after the United States decided to rescue that country) and remains at abysmal levels. Ukraine now ranks in the bottom tier on the list of most corrupt nations, with a worse rating than Egypt and Pakistan, two other major US aid recipients notorious for corruption.

Actually, the best gauge of Ukrainian corruption is the near-total collapse of its citizens’ trust in government or in their own future. Since 1991, the nation has lost almost 20 percent of its population as citizens flee abroad like passengers leaping off a sinking ship. But as long as Kiev was not completely depopulated, US bureaucrats could continue claiming to be on the verge of achieving great things.

The House impeachment hearings and much of the media gushed over those career US government officials despite their strikeouts. It was akin to a congressional committee’s resurrecting Col. George Custer in 1877 and fawning as he offered personal insights in dealing with uprisings by Sioux Indians (while carefully avoiding awkward questions about the previous year at the Little Bighorn).

Foreign aid is virtue-signaling with other people’s money. As long the aid spawns press releases and photo opportunities for presidents and members of Congress and campaign donations from corporate and other beneficiaries, little else matters. Congress almost never conducts thorough investigations into the failure of aid programs despite their legendary pratfalls. As the Christian Science Monitor noted in 2010, AID “created an atmosphere of frantic urgency about the ‘burn rate’ — a measure of how quickly money is spent. Emphasis gets put on spending fast to make room for the next batch from Congress.” Martine van Bijlert of the nonprofit Afghanistan Analysts Network commented, “As long as you spend money and you can provide a paper trail, that’s a job well done. It’s a perverse system, and there seems to be no intention to change it.” The “burn rate” fixation produced endless absurdities, including collapsing school buildings, impassable roads, failed electrification projects, and phantom health clinics. SIGAR’s John Sopko “found a USAID lessons-learned report from 1980s on Afghan reconstruction but nobody at AID had read it.”

Perverse incentives

“Fail and repeat” was also AID’s motto in Iraq. After the 2003 invasion, AID and the Pentagon paired up to spend $60 billion to rebuild Iraq. As long as projects looked vaguely impressive at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, AID declared victory. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), listed some of the agency’s farcical Iraq success claims at a 2011 hearing: “262,482 individuals reportedly benefited from medical supplies that were purchased to treat only 100 victims of a specific attack; 22 individuals attended a five-day mental-health course, yet 1.5 million were reported as beneficiaries; … and 280,000 were reported as benefitting from $14,246 spent to rehabilitate a morgue.” Ali Ghalib Baban, Iraq’s minister of planning, denied in 2009 that US aid for relief and reconstruction had benefitted his country: “Maybe they spent it, but Iraq doesn’t feel it.” An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity noted that, according to top Iraqi officials, the biggest impact of US aid was “more corruption and widespread money-laundering.”

After driving around the world, investment guru Jim Rogers declared, “Most foreign aid winds up with outside consultants, the local military, corrupt bureaucrats, the new NGO [nongovernmental organizations] administrators, and Mercedes dealers.” Mercedes-Benz automobiles became so popular among African government officials that a new Swahili word was coined: wabenzi — “men of the Mercedes-Benz.” After the Obama administration promised massive aid to Ukraine in 2014, Hunter Biden, the vice president’s son, jumped on the gravy train — as did legions of well-connected Washingtonians and other hustlers around the nation. Similar largesse ensures that there will never be a shortage of overpaid people and hired think tanks ready to write op-eds or letters to the editor of the Washington Post whooping up the moral greatness of foreign aid or some such hokum.

Bribing foreign politicians to encourage honest government makes as much sense as distributing free condoms to encourage abstinence. Rather than encouraging good governance practices, foreign aid is more likely to produce kleptocracies. As a Brookings Institution analysis observed, “The history of US assistance is littered with tales of corrupt foreign officials using aid to line their own pockets, support military buildups, and pursue vanity projects.” Both US politicians and US bureaucrats are prone to want to continue the aid gravy train regardless of how foreign regimes waste the money or use it to repress their own citizens.

US government leaders are far more concerned with buying influence than with safeguarding purity. Foreign aid is often little more than a bribe for a foreign regime to behave in ways that please the US government. One large bribe naturally spawns hundreds or thousands of smaller bribes, and thereby corrupts an entire country. The impeachment of Trump was driven by the specific favor that Democrats claimed he had requested from the Ukrainian president, not from seeking favors per se.

When it comes to the failure of US aid to Ukraine, almost all of Trump’s congressional critics are like the “dog that didn’t bark” in the Sherlock Holmes story. The real outrage is that Trump and prior presidents, with Congress cheering all the way, delivered so many US tax dollars to Kiev that any reasonable person knew would be wasted.

Foreign aid will continue to be toxic as long as politicians continue to be politicians. There is no bureaucratic cure for the perverse incentives created by flooding foreign nations with US tax dollars. If Washington truly wants to curtail foreign corruption, ending US government handouts aid is the best first step. Counting on foreign aid to reduce corruption is like expecting whiskey to cure alcoholism.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment