UN Calling Humanitarian Disaster In Syria A “Situation”

 

UN: Humanitarian situation in Syria dramatically worsened

daily sabah
Istanbul
UN: Humanitarian situation in Syria dramatically worsened

The United Nations has more than doubled its estimate of Syrians who are living in besieged areas, who risk death by starvation, dehydration and a lack of medical care, to roughly 440,000. The U.N.’s top humanitarian official said that the life expectancy of a Syrian is expected to be 20 years lower than when the conflict started. The U.N. also said that the war, which has recently entered its fifth year, has killed more than 220,000 people. It was also claimed that at least $8.5 billion is needed this year to meet the needs of Syrians.

The Arab uprisings, which euphorically swept across the Middle East and North Africa, attracted Syrians who had lived under the dictatorship of the Assad family since 1970, when Bashar’s father Hafiz Assad seized power. Since then the majority Sunnis were forced to live in a police state that tried to control every movement, organization or business through the use a wide-ranging intelligence service. In March of 2011, Syrians were emboldened enough to raise their voices against the dictatorship. However, the regime’s response was not as peaceful as the protests. And the country was subsequently dragged into a deadly civil war after opposition groups took up arms against the government. The opposition groups have also been divided internally. While moderate opposition groups like the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) were struggling for a democratic Syria where all religious and political groups would be free to exist, radical elements like al-Qaida’s Syrian branch Nusra Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) aimed to establish a new Syria, ruled by an extremist religious jurisprudence.

The fate of the country was changed since the war started. United Nations’ top humanitarian official said that the inability of the international community to stop the war means millions of Syrians will continue to suffer. Valerie Amos said the situation has “dramatically worsened.” In just the past month, she noted that the number of Syrians living in what are considered “besieged” areas has doubled, from 212,000 to 440,000. Nearly 5 million Syrians live in hard-to-reach areas. “The inability of this Council, and countries with influence over the different parties at war in Syria, to agree on the elements for a political solution in the country means that the humanitarian consequences will continue to be dire for millions of Syrians,” said Amos. As the world has taken stock this month of Syria on the anniversary of the conflict, Amos pointed out some of the more grim findings: “Today, a Syrian’s life expectancy is estimated to be 20 years less than when the conflict started,” she said. “Unemployment is around 58 percent, up from around 10 percent in 2010; nearly two-thirds of all Syrians are now estimated to be living in extreme poverty.” Amos later told reporters that $8.5 billion is needed this year to address the crisis both in and outside Syria, whose neighbors say they are overwhelmed by millions of refugees. Many aid groups and others in the international community say the divided council has failed the Syrian people on this and other issues. Russia, Syria’s ally, has blocked actions such as an attempted referral of the country’s situation to the International Criminal Court, though some diplomats say they’d like to try again for a referral.

Doing To The Entire Islamic World What We Have Done To Iraq

Instability in the Islamic world

The Hindu

G PARTHASARATHY

Three major developments require careful attention. These are the emergence of the ISIS, the growing Persian-Arab and sectarian Shia-Sunni tensions, and the possibility of a negotiated end to the Iranian nuclear impasse. All this is occurring amidst the fall in global oil and gas prices, which is imposing a strain on the economies of countries in the Persian Gulf.

American subversion

The entire polity of what is known as the ‘Greater Middle East’ (extending from Pakistan to Turkey) has been destabilised by American-led subversion and invasions in Iraq, Syria and Libya, to oust secular but authoritarian governments, without having viable alternatives in sight. In Syria, American-supported destabilisation efforts have led to millions fleeing their homes and the emergence of diverse groups embroiled in a seemingly neverending civil war. The invasion of Iraq has led to Shia-Sunni bloodletting that has spread across the entire region. Libya has been fragmented by similar intervention and has emerged as another centre of Shia-Sunni conflict. More importantly, the intervention in Syria has led to the emergence of the Islamic State of Levant (ISIS). It now controls large parts of Syria and northern Iraq and has made inroads in Libya while establishing links with religious extremists in Nigeria, Somalia and elsewhere.

The world has seldom, if ever, seen a group as fanatical, revivalist and ruthless as the ISIS, which has drawn thousands of armed cadres, not just from Arab and Islamic countries but from across Europe and America. Its practices include arbitrary killing of non-Muslims and Shias. It forcibly takes non-Muslim women as slaves, extorts payment of jiziya tax by non-Muslims, and practises beheading and crucifixion. The only other recent case of similar behaviour was by the Afghan Taliban which persecuted Shias and required Hindus to display their identity by sporting yellow scarves/armbands.

Another barbaric trait the two share is the destruction of ancient shrines, artefacts, statues and art. If the Taliban vandalised and dynamited the historic Bamiyan Buddha statues, the ISIS destroyed or sold the priceless ancient treasures of Nimrud, Tikrit and Mosul.

The Sunni Arab alliance

The escalating tensions in the Greater Middle East have resulted in a Sunni Arab Alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, facing off a Shia, Iranian-led grouping, including Iraq and Syria. We also have the strange situation of Iran and the US making common cause, to assist Iraqi security forces to drive out the ISIS from the Sunni majority Tikrit, Mosul and across the Anbar province. The US provides the air power, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guards train, arm, equip and fight alongside the Iraqi Shia militia.

Yet another strange meeting of minds is that of Israel and the Sunni Arab leadership from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. While the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the US congress in Washington to voice his opposition to an agreement being negotiated between the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany, on the one hand, and Iran on the other, to end sanctions against Iran, the Sunni Arab countries launched a diplomatic offensive to get the US to scuttle the proposed deal.

Quite obviously chary of an Iranian ‘Shia bomb’, Saudi Arabia and its Arab Gulf partners held discussions with the US Secretary of State John Kerry on March 4 and voiced their reservations about a prospective US-led Iranian nuclear deal. The Saudis simultaneously fear not only an American-Iranian rapprochement, but also the prospects of the growing ISIS presence along their borders and in the Arab world. They know that the US is no longer dependent on them for oil supplies. The Americans, in fact, now have oil and gas reserves to meet current levels of demand for 85 years. Saudi Arabian oil is no longer vital for meeting the US’ energy needs.

It is in these circumstances that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was received at Riyadh airport on March 3 by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Crown Prince Mukri and the entire Saudi cabinet. This was a rare honour for a head of government, especially from a bankrupt country that has survived on Saudi and American doles for decades. Interestingly, barely a month earlier, the chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff committee Gen Rashad Mahmoud, the seniormost military officer in Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority which has operational command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, visited Saudi Arabia.

Old ties

Pak-Saudi nuclear links go back to the 1990s when AQ Khan paid visits to Saudi Arabia, following a visit to the Kahuta nuclear and missile facilities by the Saudi defence minister, Prince Salman. Interestingly, Pakistan tested, for the first time, a nuclear capable missile, Shaheen 3, with a range of 2,750 km, capable of striking targets beyond India, just after Sharif’s visit to Riyadh. This missile could be an asset to target Iran from Saudi Arabia. The already complicated situation in the Greater Middle East could become more tense if Pakistan agrees to send troops to guard Saudi Arabia’s frontiers, or provides the desert kingdom a ‘Sunni nuclear shield’ to counter Iran. Given the tensions on its borders with India, Afghanistan and Iran, it remains to be seen how Pakistan responds to Saudi requests for military assistance, conventional and nuclear.

New Delhi has just gone through a significant effort in building viable security architecture with neighbouring Indian Ocean island-states. There is now need for careful consideration of the impact of recent developments across the Islamic world on India’s security, and the welfare of its nationals in the Arab Gulf states.

The author is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan

Qatari Emir Warns Arab Coalition To Stay Away From Africa–Bombing Yemen Is OK

Qatari emir rejects military solution in Libya

ahram online

Speaking at the Arab League summit, Qatar’s emir backs military offensive against Yemen but warns against intervention in Libya

Hana Afifi

Qatar

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, right, attends a meeting of Arab heads of state, in Sharm el Sheik, South Sinai, Egypt, Saturday, March 28, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani told the Arab League summit on Saturday that his country believes “there is no military solution” in war-torn Libya.

Tamim called for a political solution to the Libyan crisis through the participation of all political forces.

Libya is currently divided between an internationally recognised government in the east and Islamist-oriented rebels that control the capital Tripoli and other parts of the country.

Addressing the ongoing crisis in Yemen, where a Saudi-led military offensive has been targeting Houthi rebel sites with airstrikes since Thursday, the emir called for respect for the country’s legitimate regime.

He called on the rebel militias to stand down in order to allow for the completion of a political solution that would gurantee security and stability for the Yemeni population.

He said that Qatar is ready to offer any needed support to achieve these ends.

The emir said that both the Houthi rebels, who are Shia Muslims, and Houthi ally and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, violated the process of the search for a political solution and the legitimacy of the regime of President Hadi.

This led, according to the emir, to to the rise of phenomenon that had not been present before in Yemen: “sectarian politics.”

The Qatari head of state stressed the importance of good relations with neighbour Iran, which some critics accuse of arming the Houthi rebels.

Tamim said Iran is part of the Islamic umma, calling on Tehran to respect neighbouring countries’ sovereignty.

“The multiplicity of sects and doctrines is part of our Arab identity, and should not be used as a reason for intervention in our internal affairs,” he said.

No room for Assad in Syria resolution

The Qatari leader also expressed his opposition to allowing the regime of Bashar Al-Assad to be part of the political solution to the Syrian crisis.

“A political solution means that the people make their own choices,” he stated.

He said the Syrian regime had wreaked havoc in the embattled country, accusing it of carrying out “the most brutal forms of savage killings.”

“When will we move, us Arabs, to end this tragedy?” he said.

The Syrian conflict has claimed at least 215,000 lives and displaced half of the country’s population since 2011.

The Qatari emir also said that the Palestinian issue is at the forefront of the challenges in the region.

“Reaching a fair and comprehensive settlement” is a must for peace and security, he said, calling for the implementation of the two-state solution.

“Israel is continuing its aggression against the Palestinian people,” said the emir.

He called on the UN Security Council to “carry out its ethical and legal responsibility to end the Israeli occupation.

He also called on Arab countries and the international community to pressure Israel to achieve that goal.

The Qatari ruler also said that solidarity with Iraq is an Arab responsibility , calling for a comprehensive political solution to resolve the region’s sectarian troubles.

How the CIA made Google

How the CIA made Google

Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet— part 1

Medium .net Medium News

By Nafeez Ahmed

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’

The origins of this ingenious strategy trace back to a secret Pentagon-sponsored group, that for the last two decades has functioned as a bridge between the US government and elites across the business, industry, finance, corporate, and media sectors. The group has allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world. The results have been catastrophic: NSA mass surveillance, a permanent state of global war, and a new initiative to transform the US military into Skynet.

THIS IS PART ONE. READ PART TWO HERE.


This exclusive is being released for free in the public interest, and was enabled by crowdfunding. I’d like to thank my amazing community of patrons for their support, which gave me the opportunity to work on this in-depth investigation. Please support independent, investigative journalism for the global commons.


In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, western governments are moving fast to legitimize expanded powers of mass surveillance and controls on the internet, all in the name of fighting terrorism.

US and European politicians have called to protect NSA-style snooping, and to advance the capacity to intrude on internet privacy by outlawing encryption. One idea is to establish a telecoms partnership that would unilaterally delete content deemed to “fuel hatred and violence” in situations considered “appropriate.” Heated discussions are going on at government and parliamentary level to explore cracking down on lawyer-client confidentiality.

What any of this would have done to prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains a mystery, especially given that we already know the terrorists were on the radar of French intelligence for up to a decade.

There is little new in this story. The 9/11 atrocity was the first of many terrorist attacks, each succeeded by the dramatic extension of draconian state powers at the expense of civil liberties, backed up with the projection of military force in regions identified as hotspots harbouring terrorists. Yet there is little indication that this tried and tested formula has done anything to reduce the danger. If anything, we appear to be locked into a deepening cycle of violence with no clear end in sight.

As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.

The shadow network

For the last two decades, US foreign and intelligence strategies have resulted in a global ‘war on terror’ consisting of prolonged military invasions in the Muslim world and comprehensive surveillance of civilian populations. These strategies have been incubated, if not dictated, by a secret network inside and beyond the Pentagon.

Established under the Clinton administration, consolidated under Bush, and firmly entrenched under Obama, this bipartisan network of mostly neoconservative ideologues sealed its dominion inside the US Department of Defense (DoD) by the dawn of 2015, through the operation of an obscure corporate entity outside the Pentagon, but run by the Pentagon.

In 1999, the CIA created its own venture capital investment firm, In-Q-Tel, to fund promising start-ups that might create technologies useful for intelligence agencies. But the inspiration for In-Q-Tel came earlier, when the Pentagon set up its own private sector outfit.

Known as the ‘Highlands Forum,’ this private network has operated as a bridge between the Pentagon and powerful American elites outside the military since the mid-1990s. Despite changes in civilian administrations, the network around the Highlands Forum has become increasingly successful in dominating US defense policy.

Giant defense contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton and Science Applications International Corporation are sometimes referred to as the ‘shadow intelligence community’ due to the revolving doors between them and government, and their capacity to simultaneously influence and profit from defense policy. But while these contractors compete for power and money, they also collaborate where it counts. The Highlands Forum has for 20 years provided an off the record space for some of the most prominent members of the shadow intelligence community to convene with senior US government officials, alongside other leaders in relevant industries.

I first stumbled upon the existence of this network in November 2014, when I reported for VICE’s Motherboard that US defense secretary Chuck Hagel’s newly announced ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’ was really about building Skynet — or something like it, essentially to dominate an emerging era of automated robotic warfare.

Read PART 1 and PART 2 HERE

Obama’s “al-CIA-da” Strategy–Fight ISIS To Give Al-Nusra Time To Grow Strong

[Al Golani is a creation of the intelligence agencies (SEE: The layers of fiction surrounding Al Nusra chief Abu Mohammed Al Jolani).  He is credited with leading one of the currents generated by the break-up of Al-Qaida In Iraq, the same terrorist outfit which has been holding Lebanese soldiers hostage, after beheading 4 of them.  Nusra is fighting a holding action on the Leb. Army, giving ISIS time to lay in supplies the mountains of the east, preparing for an anticipated major assault upon Lebanon from Qalamoun in Syria.  Lebanon is expected to join a US anti-ISIS coalition, while it fights al-Nusra without proper weapons. 

Truth be told, Lebanon is expected to fold-up and play dead in the face of a sustained assault by the offspring of al-Q In Iraq.  Both ISIS  and al-Nusra are “al-CIA-da.”]

Nusra Front Quietly Rises in Syria as Islamic State Targeted

daily star LEB

W460

The Nusra Front, Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate, is consolidating power in territory stretching from the Turkish border to central and southern Syria, crushing moderate opponents and forcibly converting minorities using tactics akin to its ultraconservative rival, the Islamic State group.

But while the Islamic State group gets most of the attention largely because its penchant for gruesome propaganda, the Nusra Front quietly has become one of the key players in the four-year civil war, compromising other rebel groups the West may try to work with while increasingly enforcing its own brutal version of Islamic law.

Its scope of influence now abuts the Golan Heights bordering Israel, and its membership largely composed of Syrian nationals refuse any negotiations with the government of embattled President Bashar Assad, further complicating the brutal conflict.

“The Nusra Front will most likely outlast ISIS in Syria, and will represent a severe and existential threat to the aspirations of the Syrian people in terms of a pluralistic, democratic society,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.

The Islamic State group helped create the Nusra Front, providing financing, manpower and military hardware in 2012. But the group and its patron eventually had a falling out in 2013 for ideological as well as strategic reasons. The Nusra Front, while loyal to al-Qaida, has cooperated with other Syrian rebel factions in the fight to oust Assad.

In recent months, the group has overrun rebel strongholds in Syria’s Idlib province, trouncing two prominent, U.S.-backed rebel factions, Harakat Hazm and the Syria Revolutionaries Front. Following the deadly clashes, SRF leader Jamal Maarouf fled to Turkey and Hazm announced it was dissolving.

A Middle East-based Western diplomat said the Nusra Front began its attacks on moderate, U.S.-backed rebel factions after the American-led coalition began airstrikes in September targeting both the Islamic State group and the Khorasan group, which Washington says is a special cell within Nusra plotting attacks against Western interests. U.S. officials last week said airstrikes have hit as many as 17 separate targets connected to the Khorasan group.

The Nusra Front responded with a series of spectacular attacks targeting moderate rebel groups and forces loyal to Assad in northwestern Syria, the diplomat said.

It “has now created coherent control of a strategic area between Idlib and Hama (provinces) in northwestern and central Syria,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists.

At the same time, the group has become increasingly aggressive toward local populations. In January, members of the group reportedly shot a woman dead in front of a crowd in Idlib after they accused her of being a prostitute. The group also has carried out public lashings, crucifixions and kidnappings — though it has not publicized the atrocities like the Islamic State group.

Activists in southern Syria say the Nusra Front was behind the January bombing that destroyed the shrine of a 13th century Muslim scholar. The Nusra Front issued a statement denying it was involved but activists say its members were seen placing the bombs.

“They’re trying to come across as rational, moderate, more dynamic,” Gerges said. “They don’t celebrate savagery in the same way like the Islamic State group.”

Residents say among the group’s most worrisome action so far is forcing members of the minority Druze sect living in Idlib’s Jabal al-Summaq region to convert to Sunni Islam.

The Druze, a 10th century offshoot of Shiite Islam, made up about 5 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million people. In addition to Syria, Lebanon and Israel have large Druze communities.

“The Druze in Idlib are being subjected today to religious persecution. The Nusra Front carried out shameful acts. They have dug graves and damaged shrines,” said former Lebanese Cabinet minister Wiam Wahhab, a Druze politician with close ties to the community in Syria.

Activists estimate several hundred Druze have been forced to convert. A purported Nusra Front document, posted online and dated Feb. 1, outlined an agreement that saw Druze in 14 villages in Idlib convert. Under the deal, the Druze will implement Islamic laws, destroy tombs, impose Islamic dress on women and stop having mixed-sex schools. Idlib-based activist Asaad Kanjo said many Druze there have fled.

“You are likely to see this sort of behavior from Nusra in Idlib province because they are increasingly the dominant party in this part of Syria, and are in the midst of a concerted effort to eliminate rivals there,” said Faysal Itani, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. “Nusra ultimately wants to rule Syria.”

An opposition activist in Kafranbel, a town in Idlib, said the group has established an elaborate network of social services and Shariah courts and rules uncontested. Remaining rebel groups in the province operate only with Nusra’s approval, he said.

However, the group’s increasingly belligerent approach toward other rebel groups is starting to alienate former allies, said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The main Western-backed Syrian group, the Syrian National Coalition, which in the past has been wary not to criticize Nusra, has changed its tune.

“We are concerned over Al Nusra’s latest actions and abuses against civilians and (Free Syrian Army) fighters,” said spokesman Salem al-Meslet, adding that the abuses were akin to the Islamic State group and Syrian government forces’ “criminal behavior.”

The criticism has led the Nusra Front to issue a rare statement defending itself, saying its target are only those proven to have committed “crimes” against Muslims and fighters.

“It was not our intention on any day to spread influence and expand and control the worshippers and the country,” the statement from its Al-Manara Al-Bayda media arm said. “Rather, our goal and aim is to lift injustice from the oppressed, and push away every enemy that attacks the honor, religion, and sanctities of the Muslims.”

(UPDATED)Brits Now On the Ground Preparing Ukrainians To Kill Russians, Pentagon Troops To Follow

[A funny thing happened on the way to this article’s posting yesterday…NOT REALLY…I was cyber-attacked while on the Russia Today site obtaining this post.  My new computer (courtesy of my computer guru) seized-up and became inoperable.  After the second try at a “hard boot,” I managed to get things working well enough to post the post.  The rest of the day, was marked by several more seizures, before retiring.  Today, the computer will not boot-up, period.  My daughter guru managed to get it functioning somewhat after a complete restart and wipe of the computer.  It is trying to recompile itself now, standing at 15%, after an hour at it.  Whoever planted the virus or trojan, wanted to disable my computer completely and they did that…but this is not the first time that this has happened, nor is it the same computer…computer #3 for this scenario.  Two older XPs could not be recovered.  This latest one is Vista 8.1.

Considering the article subject, UK TROOPS, then I can only assume that this latest breech of my right to occupy Internet space was by the British Government, or by their CIA masters.

FUCK THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT.]

UK troops start training Ukraine’s army, US confirms own mission

Russia-Today
British Prime Minister David Cameron poses with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R).(Reuters / Eric Vidal)

British Prime Minister David Cameron poses with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R).(Reuters / Eric Vidal)

UK military personnel have arrived in Ukraine and are beginning their training mission there, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has announced. Meanwhile the US will send nearly 300 paratroopers to start training the country’s national guard next month.

The deployment of foreign troops has started amid a barely holding cease-fire in the country’s east.

With the aim of helping Kiev’s army to fight anti-government forces, according to the UK MoD, its training mission is now operating in Ukraine, with the numbers of involved personnel “depending on the schedule.”

“The first elements of the training package began in March…we have got troops out there training,” a ministry spokeswoman told AP. According to the BBC, 35 personnel are now in the country’s south, deployed as part of a two-month mission.

Last month, British ministers announced that up to 75 troops at a time would be involved in a six-month-long mission, training Kiev’s military “to strengthen the defensive capability of the Ukrainian armed forces and build the resilience that they need.”

The UK also announced plans to send a “gift” of non-lethal equipment to support president Poroshenko’s forces, but has ruled out any lethal aid supplies to the country.

Russia has expressed its concerns over the military training missions, saying such actions do not support the conflict settlement in eastern Ukraine.

“[The move] certainly does not contribute neither to strengthening of trust, nor to de-escalation of tensions in the conflict,” Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Russian president, said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.

US training mission to begin ‘late April’

The US also plans to launch military training mission in Ukraine soon. American vice-president Joe Biden has spoken to Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko over the phone and informed him about the start of such a mission in the near future, the Ukrainian presidential press service announced. According to the statement, Biden informed Poroshenko of President Obama’s decision to train 780 Ukrainian military by US specialists.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez confirmed on Thursday that US soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vincenza, Italy, will travel to western Ukraine sometime in late April.

“This assistance is part of our ongoing efforts to help sustain Ukraine’s defense and internal security operations,” Lainez said as quoted by the Hill. An exact date for the US training mission initially announced last year has not yet been finalized.

After a final review of the mission, it now includes 290 American military trainers, according to Lainez. The training will take place in the western town of Yavoriv, near the Polish border.

The training will include six Ukrainian national guard units, “with a focus on internal security and territorial defense,” Lainez added, according to AFP.

Last week Washington announced an additional $75 million worth of non-lethal military aid which includes armored and unarmored Humvees, Raven drones, anti-mortar radars and night vision goggles.

Pushing Putin Into An Existential Confrontation

Putin

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends the World Health Organisation meeting on healthy lifestyle in Moscow, April 28, 2011.

Vladimir Putin sees Russia and the West as being locked in “an existential struggle,” reports USNI News, citing an expert at a Heritage Foundation event on Tuesday.

Eugene Rumer, the director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Russia and Eurasia Program, told the audience at the event that the rising tensions between Russia and the NATO-orientated West was a cause for concern. Particularly at stake in any ramping up of hostilities are the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

Both Latvia and Estonia have large ethnic Russian populations which Rumer believes Putin “is not adverse to using … to make domestic trouble.”

If Putin starts using ethnic Russians to stir up trouble in those countries as he has done in Ukraine, then war just may be NATO’s only possible response, predicted Rumer. As Moscow becomes more assertive, this likelihood increases.

Russia “is more prone than before to look less kindly on engagement with the West,” Rumer said at the event.

This is especially true given the Russian military’s new doctrine. Signed into practice on December 26, 2014, it lists the expansion of NATO as the main external threat facing the stability and territorial integrity of Russia.

In a translation of the doctrine by Defence News, Russia states that NATO is “undermining global stability and violating the balance of power in the nuclear-missile sphere.”

To counter NATO’s influence, Russia’s military doctrine envisions the expansion of bilateral alliances between Moscow and potentially friendly countries such as China and Brazil, as well as the military reinforcement of three areas that Russia sees as geopolitical front lines — the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, the Crimean peninsula, and the Arctic.

Russian soldiers in CrimeaA Russian soldier hold his weapon at Belbek airport in the Crimea region March 4, 2014.

Each of these regions can serve as a buffer against what Russia portrays as NATO’s aggressive expansion, while also functioning as a potential launching pad for Moscow-directed military excursions. NATO’s supreme commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, warned at the beginning of March that Russia was already in the process of turning Crimea into a forward operating base against the alliance.

Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, Russia has been holding snap military drills along its borders with the Baltic States at an increasing pace raising concerns that the exercises could one day be used as a cover to launch a quick invasion of the Baltics.

The Telegraph reported on February 20 that General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of NATO forces in Europe and one of Britain’s most senior generals, warned that Russian snap exercises could lead to a possible invasion of NATO territory.

Bradshaw warned that the drills could be used “not only for intimidation and coercion but potentially to seize NATO territory, after which the threat of escalation might be used to prevent re-establishment of territorial integrity.”

If such an invasion were to occur, NATO would either be forced to respond — leading to an unpredictable military conflict in Europe — or the alliance would not respond and NATO would cease to function as a treaty-bound entity.