Western Financial System Is Driving It to War

Western Financial System Is Driving It to War

russia insider

Leading Russian intellectual Starikov believes the unsustainable nature of amoral finance capitalism is driving western countries to a catastrophic war, which he sees as an existential threat to peace for Russia and the rest of the world

To Russian eyes the west is on a war footing
In the course of life today, we’ve grown accustomed to using terms whose meaning we might not fully understand. We throw them around casually, not realizing that they lose their meaning and sometimes even come around to stand for their exact opposite. This is precisely why the sense has arisen today in society that there is a need to determine in a clear and understandable manner exactly what is happening on the global chessboard in front of all of our eyes – the Big Story, written online.

Even those people the very furthest from politics are feeling the need for understanding and explaining to themselves the reasons for the things they encounter even just moving through their own lives. Why have prices in stores started to go up? What’s the reason for the fact that, quietly and nearly unnoticed, belief in a brighter tomorrow is slipping? When and why did talk about a possible war stop being speculative and distant? These and dozens of other questions have driven millions of yesterday-apolitical citizens to seek answers. They feel the need to find those answers and to construct a new worldview in which what-comes-tomorrow is not simply a lottery ticket, but a predictable and logical continuation of today. Predictable and, hopefully, not frightening.

This atmosphere, unfortunately, is a breeding grounds for attempts to brainwash our citizens and to stuff their heads with ideas which will be devastating to them personally. But this devastation will come hidden within banal attempts stubbornly do good. So let’s try to dissect the methods and means of manipulating the people’s conscience which we have already started to encounter. And, which will grow in direct proportion to the problems being encountered by our geopolitical opponents.

1. THE ROOTS AND SOURCE OF TODAY’S ECONOMIC AND GEOPOLITICAL CRISIS.

Today, the world is in a situation that can be characterized as a dead end that the liberal financial-oriented world economy drove itself into after remaining the dominant economic system following the collapse of the USSR. Not going into much more detail on that theme, since doing so would require a whole other in-depth discussion, I will simply point out that, as historical experience and logical consideration confirm, this economic system cannot work without theft. On its own, without infusions from outside, it is not able to sustain itself, therefore a long period in which no one goes to war and no one is robbed, for countries sitting at the top of the liberal “food chain”, will always mean a crisis of the economic system itself. The need for war or theft is a matter of life and death for many (if not for all) countries of the West. The danger for the West today is that “potential victims” are nowhere to be found. In the world of today, the approximate parity of strength is like it was before two world wars, which itself increases many times over the risk of a new world conflict. A classical conflict, as during the previous two world wars, or as a hybrid, hidden beneath a large number of local conflicts (the main goal of which will be not to allow the nuclear weapons deterrent to be used!) together with informational and economic aggression.

What goals are the wars’ organizers aiming for? 

First and foremost is a breaking of established economic ties, a deepening everywhere of the economic slide, except for in agreed-upon “economic growth spots”. In the First and Second World Wars this zone was the USA and once again they are trying to repeat this scenario. In addition, a goal of starting wars is the nullification or depreciation of “pre-war” debts and a restart of the world economy. An analysis of the upcoming conflict’s probable zones of destruction and (or) thievery which will permit the world economy to be restarted while preserving the existing economic model and the currently-constituted “economic food chain” for the existing financial elites shows that the level of accumulated contradictions can only be resolved at the expense of Russia and her demolition. The situation in the disparate and ailing enclaves of Europe and Asia, surrounded by the raging chaos that will come from the destruction of our country, will allow the United States to retain for itself the role of regulator of the world’s economy, island of stability, and the source point for new growth. Growth for itself, for Europe, and for Asia under the USAs security guarantees, paid for by the robbery of our country and our people.

How do the interests balance in the quadrilateral: USA, Europe, Russia, and China? 

The USA and Russia in this are antagonists. Why? Because retaining the privileged role of the USA is only possible at the expense of Russia, and under the circumstances of a weakened China and Europe. That being the case, such aspirations make it very unlikely that there will be an “amicable” consensus between Russia and the USA without a change (or a solidifying via Russia’s defeat) in the established order of things. That means that in the absence of a “Neo-Gorbachevism” we will inevitably be forced to stand against the States — just to be able to survive and retain ourselves. This is unavoidable. Europe in this case is the sole ally of the United States. Today’s “European submissiveness” to the will of the USA is the result of deeper causes, and unlikely solely due to “bought and blackmailed” leadership. Europe, lacking its own combat-capable armed forces and its own independent financial system capable of providing a sufficient level of financial sovereignty, is forced to follow in America’s wake. Which, for better or worse, is providing her both the first and the second.

Is this situation final and irrevocable? It seems to me that it isn’t. Europe will cry, but will eat the cactuses like the mice in the joke, for just as long as the USA is able to guarantee her safety and economic stability (though maybe in lesser amounts). The threat of losing all of this can flip Europe from the USA’s side in search of new guarantors of its separate and privileged position. In the event of a “fall of Russia”, Europe will become “frontline” territory at whose borders there will be aggressive instability. Europe will be most satisfied with Russia in a “USSR variant”, where the state, in “Gorbachev’s manner”, withdraws and enthusiastically permits itself to be robbed like a masochist. But the variant where Russia resists, and from this the country springs up as, not a “zone of robbery”, but a “zone exporting aggressive instability” (like today in the former Ukraine) will not please Europe. In sum, we will have a situation where Europe supported the USA in its attempted “blitzkrieg” against Russia as the better of its available courses. However, continuing Russian resistance changes the situation and in the future will inevitably lead to Europe, though with numerous reservations and attempts to negotiate preferential treatment, having to distance itself from the American policies directed towards the destruction of Russia. China in this quadrilateral (USA-Europe-Russia-China) is our natural and situational ally in its own opposition to the collective West. After all, today it is becoming a competitor to China in the economic as well as the political sphere. Any kind of strengthening of Russia will automatically result in a weakening of the West as a competitor to China. Therefore, so long as China can trust that it will no longer have to run up against Khrushchev-Gorbachev-Yeltsin-type “wiggly” unpredictable policies from Moscow, we can count on the economic and political support of China. Let’s sum it up. We are dealing with opposition between the USA and Russia, in which Europe and China play the part of tactical (within certain bounds) allies of the battling sides as they pursue their own goals in the confrontation. Therefore, neither Europe nor China is interested – unlike the USA – in the total destruction of Russia. After all, in that event both Europe and China would be weakened and would stand alone against a strengthened USA, as well as surrounded territorially by Eurasian chaos.

The USA needs Russia to die quickly. Europe was ready for a blitzkrieg under the management of the USA, but Europe is not ready for a drawn-out, long, and “expensive” conflict. China is prepared for a “game of debts” and is prepared to weaken both the USA and Europe in economical and political support of Russia, but is not prepared in this conflict to “take the bit between their teeth”, since it is still not ready to throw its entire weight into opposition, burdened as it is with its own problems and a worries due to the “Gorbachev effect”.

Given the shortage of time, the only path to survival for the USA is to demolish Russia from within and have her collapse. Either that, or a radical change of power in Russia which would abruptly turn the country’s ship of state around and permit the subsequent chaos and war. This would, in turn, give the States the necessary conditions for breaking the financial and economic channels of interaction in Eurasia and the weakening of both Europe and China, but at the “fault” of the new Russian government. We have a situation where the organization of an internal explosion in Russia displacing the legal government is for the USA a question of its own survival.

2. INFORMATION WARFARE IN RUSSIA – A QUESTION OF SURVIVAL FOR THE USA.

In the beginning of the article I mentioned that the current situation is forcing Russian citizens to actively seek answers to many questions. This pursuit of information, this struggle between various points of view, opinions and ideas opens a “window of opportunity” for those attempting to influence foreign policies of the country by influencing internal political situation. Chaos and war are once again becoming the one and only weapon of choice for the dollar. Russia, despite being subject to Western economic and information aggression, still:

  • continues to strengthen its economy;
  • continues its shift towards East;
  • retains the role of an economic and political bridge between Europe and Asia;
  • preserves its leading military and political position on the continent;
  • possesses decisive energy, scientific and manufacturing potential;
  • continues to adapt to hostile economic and political relations with a certain part of the world;

Such Russia is not in the interests of the USA. Stronger Russia will play a stronger stabilizing role in the world. Not only it is not going to become the source of chaos and war in Eurasia, it also has a high potential to distance Europe from the “leading and directing” role of the USA, which is totally unacceptable for America. Hence the question – what can US do in this situation?

First, US needs to instill chaos and war in the minds of Russian citizens, to have this chaos reach the “critical mass” needed to enable them to either influence the actions of the government on international stage or, which would be even “better”, tear down the government altogether, similar to how it was done in February of 1917 or August of 1991. Today, citizens of Russia have many questions, which is a great opportunity to provide answers which will lead them to actions that would ultimately be in US interests.

And such “answers” have already been prepared by the all-knowing well-wishers…

3. CAUTION: MANIPULATION!

Let’s reiterate that this is very important. In order to survive and preserve its leading role on international stage, US desperately needs to plunge Eurasia into chaos, to cut economic ties between Europe and APR (Asia-Pacific Region). The States need to turn the territory that lies between them (Russia, Central Asia, Middle East) into a zone with local armed conflicts, falling economies, deficient governments and general instability. Middle East is already very close to a state of total chaos, US-created ISIL is working to further complicate the situation in that region. Central Asia is a potentially very unstable region and it has been “farmed out” to the revived Taliban, but so far it has kept the appearance of stability. Russia is the only territory within this potential zone of instability that is capable of resistance. It is the only state that is ready to confront the Americans. Undermining Russia’s political will for resistance, shifting its foreign policy – is a vitally important task for America.

How can this be achieved given that the will of the President of Russia can be clearly defined as anti-American and the ability to realize this will is as strong as ever, thanks to the stability of the ruling establishment? The only way to achieve this is to drag the leadership of the country into a long and debilitating stand-off with its own people.

Liberal scenario (ineffective) 

In the long term, the unity of Russian people and their leadership can be broken by providing liberal answers to questions that are important for the apolitical majority. To achieve this, long forgotten “weathered soldiers” of ideological battles, who were not part of the events of 2011-12, have been brought out of nonexistence (Stankevich, Nadezhin and others). They are working to convince the Russian society that today’s Russia is “in over its head”. In other words, Russia, by protecting its geopolitical interests and by breaking every imaginable international rule, is behaving in a way that is unacceptable for a “gas station” country. Therefore, not having the required economic potential and sufficient international weight, Russia is bound to end up in international economic and political isolation. This will impact the lives of average citizens by significantly lowering their standard of living, the government will lose control over the state affairs and, ultimately, the state itself will be torn apart. Of course the proposed remedy for all these ailments is this: “fold” to US, recognize the leading role of US in the world and generally follow in the footsteps of American policies. This means that Russia must give up its national geopolitical interests, return Crimea, take on the burden of supporting Ukraine and then, just like in the 90’s, follow directions of Western advisors who will determine the path of political and economic development of the country.

Today, the level of “immunity” of Russian society against this liberal scenario is quite high. The nineties and the “liberal shift” attempt in 2011-12 served well to create a stable “anti-liberal” sentiment within Russian society. That’s why realization of this scenario is not possible in the short term, but our Anglo-Saxon enemies always plan well ahead. This liberal point of view will be kept alive and will be cultivated among a certain type of urban intellectuals who are traditionally aligned with Western values. And, in case society becomes fed up with patriotism, these intellectuals will be the ones to present Russian society with a point of view that will be in line with Western interests.

Patriotic scenario (main) 

The States don’t really care what particular scenario will sink the territory of Eurasia (Russia – Customs Union) into chaos or what will cut the strong economic ties along the EU-Russia-Customs Union-China line. Whether Russia follows the liberal scenario described above, dissolves the way USSR did or willingly plunges into chaos and localized armed conflicts – makes no difference to US. If Russia starts throwing its weight around and using force to assert its own views and interpretations of international rules of co-existence, the US will just as well reach its intended goals. The important expression here is “using force”. That will result in chaos and war in Eurasia, which is all US needs.

Russian society has overcome the virus of liberalism and is not ready to become infected with it again, and that is exactly why instead of the “liberal scenario of voluntary dissolution” they are being offered the “patriotic scenario” that instills in their minds an arrogant faith in success. In practice, this translates into certain public figures, who are consistently viewed as being patriotic, persistently offering… scenarios which require use of force in future developments in Eurasia. They are also interpreting past events using assumptions that every event was dealt with from the position of force, position of power. These interpretations are exactly what US needs. As a matter of fact, these interpretations, and the part of Russian society that is behind them, are so closely aligned with US interests that Western political and public figures have been focusing solely on this particular part of Russian society, using them in propaganda and diplomatic efforts directed against the current leadership of the President in the Russian Federation. It is possible to assert that a certain part of those who consider themselves to be patriots of Russia willingly or unwillingly are working in the interests of Western aggressors. Interpreting the events of 2014 as “Russia using force to apply pressure on Ukraine”, calling for a wider and more profound use of force in Ukraine in the future and accusing Russian leadership of not providing sufficient military and technical support for Donbass militia, they are allowing Western diplomats to interpret all their statements as “proof of Russian aggression”. And a very valuable proof at that, because, according to Western views and practice of legal precedents, a witness account of Russian use of force in Ukraine, coming from those who took part in the events (Strelkov-Girkin), is an indisputable and necessary proof that the USA and the collective West are acting appropriately against “aggressor Russia”. This is a case of remedy being more dangerous than the ailment. This “proof of Russian aggression” is allowing Washington to justify sanctions and cutting relations with Moscow. The logic of confrontation with Russia includes mechanisms designed to rupture Eurasian economic ties, which will inevitably lead to chaos across the entire Eurasian continent. And that is exactly what the US is trying to achieve.

Russian “patriots”, who are, in reality, defending US interests (regardless of what they themselves think), in fact… are probing the Russian society to figure out just how possible it is to organize mass protests in the country. With today’s strong leadership that is stirring Russia towards absolute sovereignty, this task seems nearly impossible. But if their point of view starts affecting the mindset of the majority of Russian citizens, an attempt to use “street democracy” to push Russia towards “use of force” scenario in Ukraine can be made. And that will be a 100% American victory over Europe and China. Therefore, we can safely conclude that “street democracy” using popular “patriotic” slogans instead of the unpopular liberal ones is the most desired development within Russia for the USA. So desirable that the States will nurture and support (financially, using media and PR) those “patriotic” Russian figures who, willingly or unwillingly, are acting in line with American interests. Impartial analysis of information and media shows that this is exactly how events are unfolding in Russia.

How can this be fought and how can the ill-fated path of 1914-style “destructive patriotism” be averted? The victory over the minds and hearts of Russian citizens can only be achieved by spreading the truth and disclosing the methods of manipulation used by Russian “patriots” who are currently helping our eternal enemies in their information war against Russia.

Some Examples of Manipulation. 

The mass manipulation of consciousness, in the first-order is the implicit substitution of desires from genuine goals to manufactured goals. Any conscious ‘exposure’ of this process, even though it identifies these first-order manufactured goals, is itself manufactured (‘second order’) on the very basis of this ‘exposure’. The methodolical manufacture of this second order phenomenon logically enables a pure inversion of genuine desires and thus by direct implication, reality.

For example, those ‘ultra-patriotic’ chaps working, doubtlessly part-time, for the U.S. State Department will state that ‘We should militarily intervene in the Ukraine. Working on an emotional level (the most commonly applied method of ‘softening up’ for manipulation) they will tell us of the unspeakable ordeals endured by the people of the Donbass. It is surely the healthy reaction of any human being to wish to give assistance and support. An example would be the incursion of Russian troops into the Ukraine with the aim of averting a humanitarian catastrophe and putting a halt to the genocide of the Russian population. Moreover, we can confirm that this incursion cannot be dangerous for Russia insofar as Russia is already under the most onerous sanction regime imaginable which the Russian people bear unjustly. Simultaneously the public is ‘calmed’ by the belief that NATO will under no circumstances allow itself to be drawn into armed conflict with Russia, in possession of nuclear weapons which can be used as a ‘trump card’ in any negotiations. Strelkov-Girkin has developed the knack of projecting a statesmanly wisdom. He endlessly affirms that those speaking of peace are in denial about the ongoing war scares Russians with the spectre of NATO forces. These self-same NATO forces, in turn, simply swallow any half-baked statements and perceive any movement of Russian forces as having the goal of overthrowing the regime in Kiev. Why? Because it allegedly can’t directly oppose Russia because of her well supplied army and her nuclear forces.

So how do we apply, to the current situation, the concept of the implicit substitution of desires to manufactured goals? Well the point is that instead of the actual escalating Hybrid war, being fought with the aim of exhausting the enemy, using the full spectrum of potential threats with the exception of Nuclear weapons, we see that the public is presented with the traditional threat of a second world war confrontation (replete with Nazis and Swastikas).

Such wars can be characterized by opponents openly trying to destroy each other mainly by military confrontation. In such conflicts, the aim is simply to destroy or take control of the opposition center of political decision making by military means. This was sufficient as it destroyed the ‘brain’ of the enemy. In modern hybrid war the political decisions will be taken in the Western Centers remote from the military conflict (Brussels, Washington). The military conflicts will be delegated to peripheral centers (the Kievan ‘Junta’; the Donbass ‘Novorossiya’; ISIS (Islamic State) active in the North Caucasus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, perpetrating terrorist activities in the Volga region; the Taliban active in Central Asia, the Urals and the far east of Russia). Correspondingly, economic aggression will be applied from the financial bloc controlled by the West. Engaging militarily in the Donbass, Russia in the short term will be on the receiving end of a series of strikes in the above regions and in its urban centers. Countering these blows (dependent on the scale of the territory destabilized) will demand the dramatic strengthening of the Russian military including the special services and the transformation of the economy as well as everyday life onto a war footing, which of course is neglected in the patriotic narrative projected by the ‘manipulators’. Such ‘surprises’ for the Russian society, who are simply geared up for a “small victorious war in the Donbas” under the current patriotic narrative will incline public opinion towards direction the liberal activists, those supporters of the “peaceful dissolution” of Russia. Such appeals will sound repeatedly to “rest under the wing” under the American world order and the popularity of such ideas will dramatically grow. In summary, we witness the re-emergence of the provocateurs of the sort we had in 1914, these ‘Hurray Patriots’ who paved the way for the provocateurs of February 1917.

These same liberal capitalists are ready for the widest possible cooperation with the West on its terms in the ordering of Russian life. However, even if against the odds, Russia will pull off another “Russian miracle” and be able resolve, through military means, the numerous military conflicts both along its borders and within its territory, even this great victory will not destroy the Western center of decision-making. Washington and Brussels will remain out of reach of the Russian army, as they are not directly participating in any of these conflicts.

While Russia will face outside the military and terrorist aggression forming an existential threat to the state, Europe without an efficient army, dogged by controversy and lack of a single center of decision-making will be in no better straites. Europe will be forced, against the background of a Russia “which is on fire,” to simply forget about their own geopolitical interests and stand in line with the Americans. At the same time, Europeans will be forced to acquiesce to a significant decline in their living standards, and be subordinated to all the other American adventures. As a direct consequence, economic cooperation through Europe – Russia – Trans-Siberian will decline to an absolute minimum, if it survives at all.

China, similarly faced with instability in its own underbelly in Central Asia and facing growing aggression from NATO allies in Taiwan and Japan, will be forced to limit its military, political and economic support to Russia, awaiting the outcome of the confrontation and eventually breaking its ties with the United States. As a result, we see the realization of the US plan: economic cooperation between Europe – Russia – TC – China, minimized or neutralized, and the existence between China and Europe of zone of global instability and local wars. Russia will have to exert all its strength to survive, which will eliminate its opportunities for political maneuver and peace-building and economic development.

4. WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

Firstly, we need to look objectively, without emotions at the root cause of the issue. Collectively, the West enslaved by its ineffective liberal, finance oriented economic model, will inevitably be forced to engage in local or planetary plunder to fulfil its own dynamic requirements for existence. A suitable metaphor would be a car running out of fuel with the engine running. Any delay will dramatically increase the chances of the engine ‘seizing up’ which will render further motion impossible. The driver of the car facing such threats is prone to panic and make mistaken decisions when trying to refuel. Assuming that one is not inclined to help the driver the natural course of action would be to let the driver make all these mistakes and for the engine to be allowed to seize up.

Russia’s actions in the contemporary situation should be based on several principles: 

First, we must understand that every day we delay the onset of full scale hybrid war strengthens us and weaken our enemies. Each day of delay – allows us to establish economic ties to the Eurasian space, making Russia less vulnerable. Each day of delay – it is an additional burden on the “western car” and its fuel consumption.

Today, the West and the United States are incurring significant costs maintaining its hybrid “War Infrastructure” (the junta in Kiev, Islamic State, the Taliban, 5th Columns inside China and Russia), but it is still investing without accruing dividends. Each day of delay signifies a new weapon for the Russian army, new production in Russia and an increase in readiness for difficult times.

Secondly, using the tactics of “viscous defense” when every new step on the occupied territory carries obvious loss for the occupier, Russia increases the chance of a split in the “Euro-Atlantic Coalition” The weak point of the West is that it is not monolithic. I.e. the “slaves” are always ready to betray the “masters” if the cost / risk associated with coalition leads to an unjustified increase in the level of risk. Today, the West is stuck in Ukraine. “Blitzkrieg” failed. The original plan to separate the Ukraine from Russia, reorientation its markets to Europe, while maintaining the previous level of Russian economic support for Ukraine, is now firmly in the past. For the US the Ukraine forms and outstanding catalyst for Eurasian Chaos. However for Europe, Ukraine is a “White Elephant” with severe and infectious behavioral issues which has kindly donated by the Americans to them. For the sake of countering “Russian Aggression” Europe is ready to consolidate and bear hardships, but to preserver Poroshenko and Co., still less, for the sake of geopolitical dispute between Russia and the United States, the willingness to bear hardships becomes a lot less.

Thirdly, we must remember that the advantage in war is to those who choose their time and terrain. This is critical. Start a war when we see the result will not be to win these peripheral conflicts i.e. the Kievan ‘Junta’, the Islamic state or the Taliban, but rather to achieve victory over the “center of real political decision making” in Washington. A war should be fought for this goal and none other.

On the basis of the above, we can see that every victory of Assad in Syria, and every victory of the militia of the Donbass and Lugansk Republics saves lives of Russian soldiers and Russian territory from ruin. We see a unique situation, the first time in Russian history, when the forces of aggression against Russia are based on the distant outskirts of our country. Russia is obliged, according to her own interests, to furnish every assistance and support, to weaken the Western Coalition, thus expanding the cracks of various interests in the allegedly monolithic Euro-American unity.

5. CONCERNING “PATRIOTIC” MANIPULATORS.

On January 28, 2015 in St. Petersburg, the Russian party “Great Society” organized a cultural gathering with the writer, essayist and translator Dmitry Y. Puchkov as keynote speaker. Dmitry Y. was predictably humble, consumed by his own thoughts and interests, which were genuinely, without excessive sophistication, quite profound. I was unfortunately unable to attend this meeting, as due to a business trip in Nizhny Novgorod.

However, when I watched recordings of the proceedings, I was immediately struck by the savage accuracy of the metaphor of the Russian intelligentsia, worshiping the West, with the liberal intelligencia playing the role of “Evil Shepherds”, leading their flock of sheep to the slaughter. The allegory is devastatingly accurate. The West have maintained their dominance by the means of murder and robbery on a planetary scale. They “manufacture their image” in the eyes of future victims, using these “evil shepherds” from the intelligentsia. Without these “Evil Shepherds”, any potential victim from the Soviet Union to Ukraine today, could be saved from plunder and mobilize their own self-preservation instinct. It is only the conscious and pro-active manipulation that these, “intellectuals” practice, performing the role of administrators of “spiritual chloroform”, which has allowed public opinion to be so manipulated.

Events of the last year and especially the last few months have unfortunately led me to be convinced that that the existence of the “Evil Shepherds” may not only be among those enthralled by the west, but also among those administrating “patriotic” rhetoric to the public.

However, I am deeply convinced that our Russian society, representatives of all the peoples of our country have a sufficient high level of consciousness to counter this pseudo-patriotic manipulation which works for the benefit of the United States. After all, our people were able to emerge from the liberal manipulation of a few years earlier. The memory “of Greeks bearing gifts” battered us in the 90s, battered us until our pores wept sweat and blood.  As for me, I will, to the best of my ability, resist these new attempts to deceive our society under the renewed and pseudo-patriotic slogans.

 

Nikolai Starikov is Russian writer, political activist and influential public intellectual. For a wider introduction see here.

Right or wrong, he is an indicator of what thousands or millions of Russians believe.

This article originally appeared at the author’s blog. It was translated by: DzhMM, Mikhael and Gideon at The Vineyard of the Saker 

Heavily-Armed Venezuelan Civilian Militias Prepare For Potential US Invasion

“I can’t imagine why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s,” Rumsfeld told reporters

“In 2012…equipment acquired by Caracas from the Russian defense industry at $4.4 billion…includes…100,000 AK-103 machine guns…and 5,000 SVD sniper rifles.”

Massive military drills in Venezuela as govt stands up to perceived US threat (VIDEO)

Russia-Today

Executive Order – Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela

white house

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –

BLOCKING PROPERTY AND SUSPENDING ENTRY OF CERTAIN PERSONS CONTRIBUTING TO THE SITUATION IN VENEZUELA

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-278) (the “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights Act”) (the “Act”), section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)) (INA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the situation in Venezuela, including the Government of Venezuela’s erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant public corruption, constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:

(i) the persons listed in the Annex to this order; and

(ii) any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(A) to be responsible for or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, or to have participated in, directly or indirectly, any of the following in or in relation to Venezuela:

(1) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions; 2

(2) significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014;

(3) actions that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or peaceful assembly; or

(4) public corruption by senior officials within the Government of Venezuela;

(B) to be a current or former leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in any activity described in subsection (a)(ii)(A) of this section or of an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;

(C) to be a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela;

(D) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of:

(1) a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(2) an activity described in subsection (a)(ii)(A) of this section; or

(E) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order.

Sec. 2. I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in subsection 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons, except where the Secretary of State determines that the person’s entry is in the national interest of the United States. This section shall not apply to an alien if admitting the alien into the United States is necessary to permit the United States to comply with the Agreement Regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations, signed at Lake Success June 26, 1947, and entered into force November 21, 1947, or other applicable international obligations. 3

Sec. 3. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to section 1 of this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in this order, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

Sec. 4. The prohibitions in section 1 of this order include but are not limited to:

(a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and

(b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 5. (a) Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 6. For the purposes of this order:

(a) the term “person” means an individual or entity;

(b) the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization;

(c) the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States;

(d) the term “Government of Venezuela” means the Government of Venezuela, any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including the Central Bank of Venezuela, and any person owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, the Government of Venezuela.

Sec. 7. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in this order, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order.

Sec. 8. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA and 4

section 5 of the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights Act, other than the authorities contained in sections 5(b)(1)(B) and 5(c) of that Act, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order, with the exception of section 2 of this order, and the relevant provisions of section 5 of that Act. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.

Sec. 9. The Secretary of State is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA, the INA, and section 5 of the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights Act, including the authorities set forth in sections 5(b)(1)(B), 5(c), and 5(d) of that Act, as may be necessary to carry out section 2 of this order and the relevant provisions of section 5 of that Act. The Secretary of State may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law.

Sec. 10. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to determine that circumstances no longer warrant the blocking of the property and interests in property of a person listed in the Annex to this order, and to take necessary action to give effect to that determination.

Sec. 11. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to submit the recurring and final reports to the Congress on the national emergency declared in this order, consistent with section 401(c) of the NEA (50 U.S.C. 1641(c)) and section 204(c) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1703(c)).

Sec. 12. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 13. This order is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on March 9, 2015.

BARACK OBAMA

POLL–US Trust In Government and Its Lapdog Media Flatline

[There is a simple explanation for this trend…Most Americans have learned the hard way that government and US media only deal in lies. Government officials spoon-feed us the lies in “soundbite” format, while media expands upon govt. lies, fleshing-out the fabricated details of the latest “news” that they want us to believe. Neither can be trusted, yet the govt. keeps on making even bigger mistakes on our behalf, while the media creates the false narrative that is used to steer us all away from any real truth. We need citizens investigative committees to out the liars and correct the false “history” that they have been able to construct.]

US trust in govt, media at record low – poll

Russia-Today
Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

Americans are less confident in the government than ever before and consider it a bigger problem than the economy and unemployment, according to a comprehensive social survey for 2014 and a just-released Gallup poll.

Only 10 percent of Americans consider the nation’s job situation to be the top problem. Eleven percent are most worried about the economy, according to a Gallup poll published Thursday. Meanwhile, 18 percent say the government is the biggest problem the country is facing.

‘Analysis of the General Social Survey for 2014,’ published Wednesday by the Associated Press, indicates that confidence in the government is at an all-time low. Only 11 percent of adult Americans interviewed had high confidence in the executive branch, and a record-high 44 percent said they had “hardly any confidence at all.”

AP-NORC Center and GSS

AP-NORC Center and GSS

Confidence in the US Supreme Court is at 23 percent, while only five percent are confident in Congress. Both are historical lows since the GSS survey was first conducted in 1972 by the NORC Center for Public Affairs at the University of Chicago.

While confidence in the White House tends to vary depending on party affiliation, the new survey reveals that confidence among Democrats decreased from 25 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2014.

Over half of Americans express hardly any confidence at all, while only 7 percent of Democrats, 5 percent of independents and 3 percent of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in Congress,” said the analysis by AP and NORC.

Though confidence in the US military is dropping, it remains above 50 percent.

AP-NORC Center and GSS

AP-NORC Center and GSS

Trust in the media is low as well. Only seven percent of Americans polled have a large amount of confidence, while 44 percent have hardly any at all. Only three percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats have a lot of confidence in the press. Only one in 10 Americans has a lot of confidence in television.

While only 10 percent are confident in organized labor, more Americans trust banks and financial institutions than before – 15 percent now, up from an all-time low of 11 percent in 2010. Only 10 percent have a lot of confidence in organized labor.

Not everything seems bleak, however. Thursday’s Gallup poll showed that 31 percent of Americans are satisfied with the country’s direction – a small drop from 33 percent during the 2012 presidential campaign. The all-time low was seven percent during the financial crisis in 2008, and the all-time high was in February 1999, during the dot-com boom.

Gallup polled 1,025 adults between March 5-8. The General Social Survey was based on interviews with a representative sample of 2,538 adults, conducted between March and October 2014.

Bemoaning the Human Tragedy of Syria, Without Blaming Obama For It

[The US military has created so many new wars throughout the region that it should have fully absorbed the lessons of those wars by now, in particular, the grieveous human cost of ill-advised, or outright foolish military adventurism. Unleashing tnunamis of war refugees is a bi-product of all war, contingencies should have been prepared years ago (before starting new wars) to humanely deal with the refugees in surrounding countries. Blaming any of this upon ISIS should be unacceptable since it was the US/Saudi sponsorship of Islamists within Syria that created the monster in the first place. The ISIS/refugee problems which arose offer proof that the Pentagon either suffers from a total lack of foresight or the slightest degree human compassion. It is no wonder that so many returning war vets suffer from PTSD. Any legislation passed to deal with the refugee crisis now, should have already been enacted after the first regime-change disaster in Iraq, or before the consecutive disasters in Libya, Syria, Yeman, and Ukraine (?).]

npr
Syrian girls, carrying school bags provided by UNICEF, walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings on their way home from school on March 7 in the rebel-held al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. So many people have fled the city and so much of its infrastructure has been destroyed that nighttime satellite images show 97 percent less light compared to four years ago.

Syrian girls, carrying school bags provided by UNICEF, walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings on their way home from school on March 7 in the rebel-held al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. So many people have fled the city and so much of its infrastructure has been destroyed that nighttime satellite images show 97 percent less light compared to four years ago.  Zein al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images

 

The conflict in Syria is entering its fifth year, and two new reports suggest it just keeps getting worse for civilians there.

One United Nations agency says life expectancy has plummeted by 20 years in the once-developed nation, while another new study based on nighttime satellite imagery finds that, in the past four years, 83 percent of the country’s lights have gone off.

And that’s just the average, says Michael Klosson, vice president for policy at aid group Save the Children. In areas like Aleppo, where much of the populace has fled and infrastructure has been pulverized, researchers found that light has been reduced as much as 97 percent.

Klosson says he thinks the satellite images illustrate that the hopes for Syria’s children — his aid group’s focus — are darkening.

“You’ve got 5.5 million kids who need humanitarian assistance — that’s equivalent to the population of the entire state of Maryland,” he says. “That’s a lot of kids in need.”

Meanwhile the U.N. report says life expectancy has fallen from nearly 76 years to under 56 in Syria, that the nation’s education system has collapsed and that the country is descending into poverty.All that despite a UN Security Council resolution passed last year to open up aid routes. Activists say it’s had little impact.

“The U.N. and the world have failed, and things have gotten worse for civilians,” says Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research at Oxfam America. “Our ability to provide assistance has been limited, and there are more people in places that are hard to reach now, than there were before the U.N. took action.”

Aid groups can’t get to about 4.8 million people in Syria, Kripke says, 2.5 percent higher than in 2013. The rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State certainly plays a role, but Kripke says Washington has been too focused on that.

“We’re spending a lot of time, money and resources focusing on parts of the problem — like ISIS — but it’s not a comprehensive solution to the conflict,” he says. “And it’s ignoring the suffering that’s going on.”

The problem is so enormous — former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Wednesday said, “What is happening on the ground in Syria is a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe of the first order” — that some worry people may decide it’s a lost cause.

“It has the danger of people switching off, because it’s hard to imagine what can be done,” says Nigel Pont, who is stationed in Beirut for Mercy Corps. “While we are not able to put an end to this war, and while we can’t alleviate everyone’s suffering, we are able to help millions of people a year.”

Save the Children’s Klosson also worries that the world’s attention is shifting away, and is urging the U.S. and other world powers to step up humanitarian assistance and work harder to find a solution the conflict.

“That’s how you get the lights back on,” he says.

Dumb-Ass Republican Leadership Frothing At the Mouth For MORE WAR!

[SEE:  Half of the US Senate Publicly Undermines and Embarasses the President of the United States (Cotton and 46 Fellow Senators to Send Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran)]

GOP’s New Foreign Policy Hero Is a Surveillance-Loving Interventionist Nightmare

reason

In soviet America, Cotton picks you! |||
Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton wants to invade Iran and Syria, jail journalists and whistleblowers, eavesdrop on Americans, and keep the ‘savages’ locked up in Gitmo.

Matt Welch

He’s “the star of the 2014 Senate class,” proclaims The Washington Post. A “conservative superstar,” deems The Atlantic. The “leading GOP national security hawk,” says The Washington Post again. Even a “dark horse” 2016 candidate for president, says The New Republic. So just who exactly is the new letter-writing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee, and what does his prominence say about the contemporary GOP?

Beyond being a Harvard-educated Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol’s biggest new political protégé, and also a target of sustained affection from National Review, Cotton is a politician who has already taken plenty of policy positions. Among them:

* That the U.S. should pre-emptively invade Iran, topple the mullahs, and ensure “replacement with [a] pro-western regime.”

* That “we should be proud for the way we treated these savages at Guantanamo Bay,” and that “the only problem with Guantanamo Bay is that there are too many empty beds.”

* That we should keep at least 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the forseeable future to finally get the job done there.

* That the U.S. should deploy ground troops against ISIS.

* That President Barack Obama should have taken “decisive, effective military action” against Syria after the regime crossed the administration’s “red line” in 2013.

* That the National Security Agency needs to be able to collect bulk metadata on unsuspecting Americans, because “Folks, we are at war. You may not like that truth … Do not take this tool away from our warriors on the front lines.”

* That Edward Snowden is a “traitor.”

* That defense spending needs to be jacked up: “We need to restore money not only cut by the sequester but the $1 trillion [reduced before that].”

* That, “Far from restraining the use of drones […] through unwise and unconstitutional mechanisms, we should continue and probably expand their use in our war against radical Islam.”

* That Iraq was a “just and noble war.”

* That, concerning pre-emptive military intervention, “George Bush largely did have it right, that we can’t wait for dangers to gather on the horizon, that we can’t let the world’s most dangerous people get the world’s most dangerous weapons, and that we have to be willing to defend our interests and the safety of our citizens abroad even if we don’t get the approval of the United Nations.”

* That ending President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran “is very much an intended consequence” of Cotton’s efforts in the Senate; “a feature, not a bug.”

* That, concerning the Obama administration’s November 2013 agreement with Iran in Geneva, “I fear that future generations may view what happened in Geneva as we have viewed Munich for 75 years. What makes this moment worse is that the West appeased Hitler at Munich out of fear and weakness. President Obama capitulated at Geneva even though we were in a position of strength given the sanctions regime. One can only imagine the thinking behind this grievous, historic mistake.”

Cotton first came to prominence as an Army lieutenant in Iraq in 2006, when he wrote a soon-to-be-viral open letter to then-New York Times executive editor Bill Keller and reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau criticizing the paper’s investigative piece about administration efforts to disrupt terrorist financing. The letter closes with a desire to see the journalists deprived of their freedom:

And, by the way, having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others — laws you have plainly violated. I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.

It is no wonder that neoconservatives such as Washington Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb wish “there were 20 Tom Cottons.” The open question, as it pertains to the new GOP majority, is whether Goldfarb is correct in his assessment that “At the end of the day, the Republican base is for bombing bad people.”

 

2009 German Analysis Documenting US Plan To Unleash Civil War In Ukraine

Imperial Geopolitics: Ukraine, Georgia and the New Cold War between NATO and Russia

IMI german

von: Martin Hantke | Veröffentlicht am:

1. Januar 2009

Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand current and future U.S., EU and NATO policy. Over ten years ago the former National Security Advisor gave a graphic description of the imperatives of imperial geopolitics. He argued that the U.S.A.’s position of supremacy should be preserved under all circumstances. To this end NATO, acting as a “bridgehead” of the U.S.A., should expand into Eurasia and take control of geostrategically important regions so as to prevent Russia’s resurgence as a powerful political force.

Brzezinski had in mind two countries or regions in particular: “Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state, more likely to be drawn into debilitating conflicts with aroused Central Asians, who would then be supported by their fellow Islamic states to the south.” […] “However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”1 Brzezinski argued further that there was an imperative need to gain control of the southern Caucasus, i.e. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, on Russia’s southern flank. The past master of U.S. geopolitics set out the aim and purpose of NATO policy with impressive clarity: “The United States and the NATO countries – while sparing Russia’s self-esteem to the extent possible, but nevertheless firmly and consistently – are destroying the geopolitical foundations which could, at least in theory, allow Russia to hope to acquire the status as the number two power in world politics that belonged to the Soviet Union.”2

In the years that followed, these words were systematically put into political practice with NATO taking its eastward expansion right up to Moscow’s borders. Furthermore, active Western support for the “colourful revolutions” in Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004) led to the sitting pro-Russian or neutral governments and presidents being ousted by pro-Western candidates.3 Russia regarded NATO’s policy as crossing the “red line”. As the war between Russia and Georgia in the summer of 2008 showed, Russia is no longer prepared to stand idly by in the face of further attempts at expansion. Nevertheless, the Western military alliance is doggedly pursuing its escalation policy, in which Ukraine and Georgia are now being offered NATO membership as a means of safeguarding the “successes” that have been scored. U.S. President Barack Obama is also in favour of these two countries joining NATO.4 The announcement that Michael McFaul, a hardliner on policy towards Moscow, is to be appointed senior director for Russian affairs at the National Security Council gives little cause for hope that Washington under its new president will abandon its aggressive, anti-Russian policy. This amounts to tacit acceptance that the New Cold War between NATO and Russia, invoked so frequently of late, will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ukraine: “On someone else’s arse”

Even now, the approach to Ukraine is evidently still determined by Brzezinski’s recipes from the devil’s workshop of geopolitics. NATO accession and Europe’s energy supply are issues that are closely intertwined. Writing in Handelsblatt, Peter Zeihan from Strategic Forecast, the think-tank often referred to as the “shadow CIA”, described the complex geopolitical situation as follows: “On the one hand, the ‘orange’ revolution of 2004 led to the installation of a Ukrainian government hostile to Russia’s objectives. President Viktor Yushchenko would like to integrate his country into the European Union and NATO. For Russia that would be the kiss of death. Most of the infrastructure linking Russia with Europe – from pipelines to railway lines and high-voltage cables – is located in Ukraine. Industry and agriculture in both countries are closely interlinked. There are more Russians living in eastern Ukraine than anywhere else in the world outside Russia. The Russian Black Sea fleet is stationed in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol because there are no reasonable alternatives. Ukraine stretches so far into southern Russia that a hostile power in the country could pose a threat to Moscow. Moreover, the country stretches so far eastwards that an antagonistic government there could even threaten Russia’s connections with the Caucasus. In a nutshell, if Ukraine slips out of Russia’s sphere of influence Russia will be forced completely onto the defensive in strategic terms. Vice versa, if Russia regains control in Kiev, the country could set itself up as a regional – and perhaps even a global – power.”5 It was to obviate such a scenario that Washington engaged in a further round of frenzied activity shortly before the end of U.S. President George W. Bush’s period in office. This activity was aimed at advancing Ukraine’s future membership of NATO. Martin Luther’s words to the effect that “Riding through a fire is easy on someone else’s arse” might perhaps have flashed through the mind of the then U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, as she walked up with Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Volodymyr Ohryzko, to sign the United States-Ukraine Charta on Strategic Partnership on 19 December 2008. Rice said: “The United States supports Ukraine’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures. And in that regard, I want to assure you that the declaration at Bucharest which foresees that Ukraine will be a member of NATO when it can meet those standards is very much at the center of our policy.” The Ukrainian Foreign Minister set great store by a strengthening of the presence of the United States in Ukraine, in particular through a diplomatic mission on the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea.6

In addition to a programme of enhanced security cooperation intended to strengthen Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO membership, agreement was reached on close collaboration on energy issues. It was resolved inter alia that “In recognition of the importance of a well functioning energy sector, the parties intend to work closely together on rehabilitating and modernizing the capacity of Ukraine’s gas transit infrastructure.”7 This Charter on Strategic Partnership was signed against the backdrop of the gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia. Given Ukraine’s failure to pay its debts and the lack of any new agreement on deliveries of gas to Ukraine, supplies of Russian gas to Ukraine were stopped as of 1 January 2009. Within a few days the dispute began to have an effect on energy supplies throughout Europe. On 6 January 2009, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia reported that deliveries through the Ukrainian transit pipelines had come to a halt. Supplies to Austria fell by 90%. There are a number of indications that Ukraine’s actions can only be explained by reference to the support it received from the U.S.A. That was the Russian view too: “The Russian gas company Gazprom has pinned responsibility for the gas dispute with Ukraine on the U.S.A. Gazprom declared on Tuesday that Ukraine’s actions are being directed by the U.S. government. Despite the deployment of EU observers the Ukraine is again removing gas from the transit pipelines. Russia is therefore unable to deliver supplies to the EU countries. Alexander Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Russian energy giant, has accused the U.S.A. of fuelling the conflict.”8

In the case of both Georgia and Ukraine there is a close link between the gas dispute and support for their admission to NATO. In April 2008 the Bertelsmann Foundation concluded that Ukraine and Georgia were already closely integrated into “NATO’s working processes”. “Ever since it was founded in 1994, both countries have been part of the Partnership for Peace programme of the North Atlantic Alliance which is intended to promote individual cooperation between NATO and non-NATO countries. Cooperation has subsequently been extended. […] In their bilateral cooperation agreements with NATO both countries see far-reaching domestic reforms as a means of moving closer to the defence alliance. Such reforms principally concern the consolidation of internal democratic structures, but priority is also given to the fight against global terrorism and support for the operations and missions of the North Atlantic Alliance. The latter was one reason why U.S. President George W. Bush emphasized his efforts to have Ukraine and Georgia included in the Membership Action Plan. The progress made in integration into NATO’s defence structures puts into perspective the question that arose at the Bucharest summit about the steps Ukraine and Georgia will take after the provisional ‘no’ to their admission to the Membership Action Plan. Their path will inevitably take them into NATO.”9

Germany is playing a double role here. On the one hand it has joined France in rejecting an accelerated accession procedure for Ukraine, which the U.S.A. favoured; on the other hand it is playing a risky game by not placing any obstacles in the path of fundamental approval of Ukraine’s accession to NATO. The German Foreign Office has itself provided an apt description of this double role: “At the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008 Ukraine was in principle given the prospect of membership (‘We agreed today that these countries (i.e. Ukraine and Georgia) will become members of NATO’). Ukraine was not granted a Membership Action Plan (MAP); instead, a comprehensive review process was initiated.”10 This granting of prospective membership to Ukraine for the first time, combined with Georgia’s aggression shortly afterwards against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, proved the last straw for Moscow.

Georgia: a geopolitical prize

A look at the map quickly makes it clear why the Southern Caucasus is so important. Georgia provides the only opportunity of supplying Europe with gas and oil from the resource-rich countries of Central Asia and of transporting goods and products to Europe by land from China and Kazakhstan. The Nabucco pipeline project is intended to help reduce Europe’s “dependence” on Russian gas imports, which currently account for 40% of its supplies and are expected to climb to even higher levels. According to the European press service EurActiv, “The US has long been pushing for the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines from the Caspian basin that would bypass Russia, especially via Georgia.”11 The project is a top priority for the European Union, too. During his period as representative of the EU Council President in 2006 the Austrian Minister of Economics Martin Bartenstein said: “[The] Nabucco pipeline is Europe’s most important energy project.”12

For both the EU Member States and the NATO countries Georgia provides the geographical terrain that is essential to cutting Russia off from the purchasers of its energy exports. Russia’s countermeasures include three pipeline projects – Nord Stream (Baltic Sea pipeline), South Stream (Russian-Italian gas pipeline through the Black Sea via Varna in Bulgaria) and Blue Stream (from Russia through the Black Sea into Turkey) – as well as the building of direct energy lines to western and southern Europe to ensure the unobstructed export of energy free from any checks or controls by former Eastern Bloc states very favourably disposed to the U.S.A. This was why the U.S.A., in particular, played the Georgian card in the hope of containing Russia’s political influence in Europe and preventing its rise to the status of an industrial power.

Western support for the war

Germany continues to play a significant part in the arming of Georgia. The Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) mostly train Georgian officers as part of the general staff training course which includes participants from other countries. Over the past few years the Bundeswehr has been host to a steady stream of high-ranking military delegations from Georgia. In addition, G 36 rifles manufactured by Heckler & Koch have been delivered to Georgia. The bulk of the training has been carried out by the U.S.A., however. The U.S. Army has trained Georgian soldiers “to bring the armed forces of Georgia, a loyal ally of Washington, up to NATO standards as an outpost in the Caucasus.”13 In 2006 alone, says the German news magazine Der Spiegel, the U.S.A. supported Georgia to the tune of 80 million U.S. dollars, 13 million of which went on the payment of “military supplies and services” as well as the training of soldiers. In addition the U.S.A. has helped Georgia by regularly modernising its fleet and delivering helicopters free of charge.14 The considerable extent of U.S. military assistance, which has “enabled the Pentagon to overhaul Georgia’s forces from bottom to top”, is described by the New York Times as follows: “At senior levels, the United States helped rewrite Georgian military doctrine and train its commanders and staff officers. At the squad level, American marines and soldiers trained Georgian soldiers in the fundamentals of battle.”15
All told, therefore, the Georgian armed forces have over five infantry brigades each numbering 2,000 men. In addition there are the reservist units whose level of training is far inferior. The Georgian government talks officially of 37,000 soldiers and 100,000 reservists. Since Mikhail Saakashvili took office, Georgia’s military spending has increased significantly: “In 2003 it amounted to 52 million lari (24 million U.S. dollars), whereas in 2006 that figure had tripled to 139 million lari (78 million U.S. dollars). Real expenditure is much higher, however. Anyone liable to be called up for military service, for example, can buy themselves out of the army – four-fifths of the money goes straight to the ministry.”16

There is also brisk cooperation between Georgia and NATO. In July 2008, a joint manoeuvre was held as part of the Partnership for Peace Programme in which a total of 1,630 military personnel, including 1,000 Americans and 600 Georgians, took part.17 In addition, the Georgian army has been – and still is – prominently involved in the war in Iraq, which is in contravention of international law, as well as in Afghanistan and Kosovo. In 2008, Georgia had 2,000 solders in Iraq, the third-largest contingent of the “Coalition of the Willing”. However, after the Georgian army had been repulsed in South Ossetia in August 2008, the U.S. Air Force flew the Georgian units stationed in Iraq back to the home front to provide help while the fighting was still in progress. Given the massive campaign undertaken by the U.S.A. and its allies to build up the country’s military, it is barely credible that, while the U.S.A. might not actually have given the green light, it was not fully informed of the pending attack and subsequently kept silent about it.

At any rate, the Russians are certain that the attack took place with support from Washington. The Russian ambassador to NATO, Dimitri Rogozin, made a statement to the effect that Saakashvili agreed the attack with his “backers”. It is clear to whom he was referring.18 Vladimir Vasilyev, Chairman of the Duma Security Committee, summed up the Russian point of view as follows: “The longer the matter goes on, the better the world will come to understand that Georgia would never have been capable of it [the attack on South Ossetia] without the United States”.19 In an interview for the German TV station ARD the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made his views of the U.S.A.’s behaviour perfectly clear: “One cannot help thinking that the American leadership knew of the planned action and, indeed, participated in it […] in order to organise a small-scale but successful war. And, if things went wrong, to force Russia into the role of the enemy.”20

Russia’s counter-attack

It is, indeed, hard to believe that the Georgian attack took place without any prior consultation with the U.S.A. Yet it must have been clear to the U.S. government that the Georgian army would be crushed in battle, which was precisely what happened. The question arises, therefore, as to Washington’s motives. Did it simply miscalculate in assuming that Russia would quietly accept the Georgian advance? It is hard to imagine but conceivable nonetheless. The other explanation is that the primary objective was to stir up a conflict with Russia so as to make the European Union toe an even more anti-Russian line and that Saakashvili came in handy here in the role of useful idiot, albeit at the expense of the people in the region. The matter cannot be clarified with any degree of certainty, although the latter explanation would appear more plausible.

At all events, the calculation backfired, because Russia seized the opportunity provided by the Georgian attack to improve its own position in the Caucasus. It is also very hard to imagine that Moscow was not informed of Georgia’s invasion plans. It was evidently well prepared for such an eventuality. In July, 8,000 Russian soldiers carried out an exercise simulating the repulsion of a Georgian attack. That might also explain why the Georgian troops were halted within 24 hours and the Russian troops gained the upper hand relatively quickly. Hence to describe Georgia’s war of aggression as the result of President Saakashvili stumbling into a Russian trap is not very convincing. Whether the Russians were well prepared or not, the fact of the matter is that Georgia engaged in a war of aggression.

In the course of the conflict Russia succeeded in shattering confidence in Georgia’s reliability as a transit country for future Caspian energy supplies. Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili himself said that “one of the main reasons for the Russian attack was that Georgia already has the Baku-Tblissi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC), which has been laid one metre underground from end to end. This is intended to circumvent Russia.”21 That suspicion is not as mistaken as it might seem. After all, the opening of the BTC pipeline in May 2006, over which Washington and Moscow had wrangled bitterly for almost a decade, was one of the biggest geopolitical successes in the U.S.A.’s plans to roll back Russian influence in the region. “The Georgian security adviser, Alexander Lomaia, says that the Russians dropped six bombs but failed to hit the pipeline. If that is true, it would indicate that Russia’s military action was conducted in pursuit of other, more far-reaching strategic goals than merely preventing a humanitarian crisis in South Ossetia.”22

The Nabucco project was also dealt a heavy blow. According to Ed Chow from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Russia has raised serious doubts in the minds of Western lenders and investors […] as to whether a pipeline through Georgia is safe from attacks or beyond the control of the Kremlin.”23 Nevertheless, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs attempted to give an assurance that the EU was sticking to its plan to build the Nabucco pipeline through Georgia despite the Caucasus conflict: “This infrastructure is needed”, Piebalgs said.24

For the first time since the end of the (old) Cold War Russia has thus ended a Western attempt at expansion by military means. That alone is sufficient to underline the dimensions of the Russian-Georgian war. At the same time the invasion of Georgia is a clear signal to the West that in future Russia will once again have to be taken into account in international power politics. A Strategic Forecast analysis says: “Russia has demonstrated three things with its operation in South Ossetia. Firstly, its army can carry out successful operations, which foreign observers have doubted. Secondly, the Russians can defeat forces trained by U.S. military instructors. Thirdly, Russia has shown that the U.S.A. and NATO are not in a position that would enable them to intervene militarily in this conflict.”25

Astonishing one-sidedness

It is hardly surprising that the Russian response to the Georgian invasion was fiercely criticised by the U.S., which almost unreservedly took Georgia’s side. Zbigniew Brzezinski was vociferous in his response, comparing Putin’s actions with those of Hitler. He went on to say that Moscow’s behaviour “can lead to exclusion and economic and financial sanctions. If Russia continues down this road it must ultimately be isolated within the community of states.”26
The European Union adopted an equally one-sided stance: “The European Council is gravely concerned by the open conflict which has broken out in Georgia, by the resulting violence and by the disproportionate reaction of Russia.”27 These were the words used by the European heads of state and government on 1 September in commenting on the events in the Caucasus. They failed to mention, let alone criticise, the fact that Georgia’s aggression was clearly what had unleashed the war. The statement continues by severely criticising Russia alone. Thus the heads of state and government “strongly condemn Russia’s unilateral decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” In stark contrast to the policy of recognizing Kosovo that was pursued by the vast majority of EU Member States, the European Council “recalls that a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict in Georgia must be based on full respect for the principles of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity recognised by international law, the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and United Nations Security Council resolutions.”27

There were occasional vehement demands for even more drastic action against Russia. The Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (EPP), advocated an EU position that is “tougher than that of NATO.”28 The fact that the hardliners were not able to have their way entirely has to do with the specific constellation of interests that have made this appear inopportune, particularly from a German perspective. On the one hand there is a desire to show Moscow who is in charge in Europe but, on the other, there is a wish not to spoil things completely with Russia, because business there is simply too profitable.29 Nevertheless, Germany is in almost full accord with NATO’s escalation policy.

(Energy) NATO is put into position

In November 2006 U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, a leading NATO strategist, literally went on the offensive. On the fringes of the NATO summit in Riga he criticised Moscow for its attempts to use oil as a “weapon” against the West and proposed the setting up of an “Energy NATO”. The underlying idea is that in future NATO should treat any interruption of oil and gas supplies as it would a military attack (see article by Tobias Pflüger).

In January 2008, five high-ranking NATO generals published a position paper that was specifically introduced into the debate in the form of a catalogue of requirements for the forthcoming updating of NATO’s strategic concept, the idea being that it could serve as a blueprint for the NATO summit on 3/4 April 2009: “ There will be an increase in global competition for scarce resources, and this will certainly be the case for fossil fuel, which will swell the possibility of suppliers abusing their position and their leverage.. […]Dependency on oil and gas is a vulnerability that some governments will seek to exploit – the Gazprom crisis demonstrated how easily demand can be manipulated. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is – and is likely to remain – a mechanism for keeping the price of oil artificially high, and recently Russia and the United Arab Emirates have been exploring the idea of setting up a ‘Gas OPEC’. […] For this reason, it might well be worth considering using NATO as an instrument of energy security.”30

Shortly afterwards, in June 2008, Richard Lugar, who for a time was under discussion as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State for Defense, repeated his threats against Russia at a hearing of the Senate and vigorously advocated the building of the Nabucco pipeline.31 At the same hearing the new U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden expressly praised Lugar’s work on energy policy and emphasised the importance of the conflicts in the Caspian region: “The stakes involve hundreds of billions of dollars in oil and infrastructure, the resurgence of Russia, and the energy security of Europe.. […] Russians love chess. Our strategic response on the chess board of Central Asia must be to establish a presence on parts of the board they do not yet control. That means laying down new pipelines that add alternatives […] to the monopoly Russia has enjoyed.”32

Biden is therefore likely to have welcomed one of the last major security policy initiatives launched by the Bush administration which aimed at drawing Georgia further into the Western orbit by means of a joint declaration on partnership: “The United States and Georgia officially became “strategic partners” under a charter signed by the two governments on January 9 [2009]. […] Few details have been publicized about the charter, which was signed four months after Georgia’s disastrous war with Russia. It has been widely reported, however, that the Georgian pact resembles a strategic partnership charter signed by the United States and Ukraine in December.”33 Like the United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership the agreement with Georgia is likely to comprise intensified military cooperation and measures to expedite Ukraine’s membership of NATO. On 15 September 2008 NATO resolved to set up a commission to deepen relations with Georgia. This is intended “to coordinate Alliance efforts to assist Georgia in recovering from the recent conflict”.34

Cold War as a self-fulfilling prophecy

The aim of the policy pursued by the U.S.A. in Ukraine and Georgia is to wage a new Cold War against Russia. Russia is to be challenged by a policy of pinpricks involving “colourful revolutions”, energy blockades, NATO expansion and the stationing of missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. By disrupting economic relations with Western Europe Washington aims to contain Russia’s global political influence and thwart its advance as a new industrial power. Should this scenario turn out to be a success, it would simultaneously ensure that the NATO allies in Western Europe are tied into a joint strategy of escalation and have to become even more heavily involved in projects designed to secure energy supplies.
Since this strategy has thus far proved successful and it cannot, unfortunately, be assumed that there will be a move away from a policy of U.S. confrontation under President Obama, there is a renewed threat of bloc confrontation. At the height of the Georgian war Russian President Dmitri Medvedev sent out a clear message to the West: “We are not afraid of anything, not even the prospect of a Cold War.”35 The anti-war movement will have to adjust to the realities of the New Cold War. The strategy of imperialism pursued by NATO and the EU must be opposed here and now in a calm and collected fashion.

Endnotes

1 Brzezinski, Zbigniew: The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, New York 1997, p. 24 (Seitenangabe in der englischen Fassung unsicher)
2 ibid., p.27 (s.o.)
3 On Western support for the “colourful revolutions” cf. Chauvier, Jean-Marc: Westlich werden und östlich bleiben, Le Monde diplomatique, 14 January 2005
4 Carpenter, Ted: Worse than Bush? National Interest Online, 11 July 2008
5 Zeihan, Peter: Moskau wird Kiew nie dem Westen überlassen [Moscow will never leave Kiev to the West], Handelsblatt, 20 January 2009
6 United States, Ukraine Sign Security Charter, America.gov, 19 December 2008
7 United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, 22 December 2008, URL: http://tinyurl.com/agqc4k
8 Befeuern die USA den Gasstreit? [Is the U.S. fuelling the gas dispute?], heute.de, 13 January 2009
9 Isic, Mirela: Ein „Vielleicht” für die Ukraine und Georgien [A “maybe” for Ukraine and Georgia], Center for Applied Policy Research, CAP News, 10 April 2008
10 Auswärtiges Amt [German Foreign Office]: Ukraine, Stand: Oktober 2008 [Ukraine, status as of October 2008], URL: http://tinyurl.com/b3gvbg
11 Nabucco: ‘Pie in the sky’ after Georgia crisis?, EurActiv, 25 August 2008
12 ibid.
13 Friedmann, Matti: Sie waren nicht bereit für den Krieg mit Russland [They weren’t prepared for war with Russia], AP, 19 August 2008
14 Schröder gibt Saakaschwili die Schuld [Schröder puts the blame on Saakashvili], Der Spiegel 16 August 2008
15 Grey, Barry: Bush escalates confrontation with Russia over Georgia, World Socialist Web Site, 13 August 2008
16 Der Spiegel 16 August 2008
17 Georgien stockt Armee mit Blick auf NATO-Beitritt deutlich auf [Georgia boosts its army with a view to NATO membership], russland.ru, 16 July 2008
18 Nuclear Nightmares: The Return of M.A.D., Huffington Post, 19 August 2008
19 Chin, Larry: South Ossetia: superpower oil war, Online Journal, 13 August 2008
20 This and many other critical remarks made by Putin were cut out of the ARD broadcast. A full transcript of the interview can be found at http://www.spiegelfechter.com/wordpress/392/das-interview
21 EurActiv, 25 August 2008
22 Rosenbaum, Kaspar: Südossetien: Der Westen in der Propagandaschlacht [South Ossetia: The West in a propaganda battle], ef-online, 11 August 2008
23 EurActiv, 25 August 2008
24 Energie-Agentur sagt wachsende EU-Abhängigkeit von Importen voraus [Energy agency predicts growing EU dependence on imports], Yahoo News Finanzen, 4 September 2008
25 Stratfor: Russland hat Stärke gezeigt und wird nur auf Stärke hören [Russia has shown its strength and will only respond to strength], RIA Novosti, 11 August 2008
26 “Russlands Vorgehen ähnelt dem von Hitler” [Russia’s actions resemble those of Hitler], Die Welt, 11 August 2008
27 Extraordinary European Council, Brussels, 1 September 2008, 12594/08
28 Pflüger, Tobias: EU eskaliert den Konflikt mit Russland weiter [EU escalates the conflict with Russia], IMI-Standpunkt 2008/052
29 On Germany’s role cf. Hantke, Martin: The Georgian War and Imperial Geopolitics, in: AUSDRUCK (October 2008).
30 Naumann, Klaus et al.: Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership, URL: http://tinyurl. com/5buj19, p. 47 et seq.
31 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Richard G. Lugar Opening Statement for Hearing on Oil, Oligarchs and Opportunity: Energy from Central Asia to Europe, 12 June 2008, URL: http://tinyurl.com/df7tg8
32 BIDEN: We Need to Confront Russia’s Oil Dominance with Aggressive, High Level Diplomacy, 12 June 2008, URL: http://tinyurl.com/crjhol
33 Corso, Molly: Georgia: Washington and Tbilisi sign Strategic Pact sure to irk the Kremlin, Eurasia Insight, 9 January 2009
34 Framework document on the establishment of the NATO-Georgia Commission, Tbilisi, 15 September 2008
35 Dimitri Medvedev raises spectre of new Cold War, The Times Online, 26 August 2008

Gen.”Strange”-love (Breedlove) Sabotaging Minsk Deal With “false claims and exaggerated accounts”

Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine

der spiegel

By SPIEGEL Staff

Top NATO commander General Philip Breedlove has raised hackles in Germany with his public statements about the Ukraine crisis.Top NATO commander General Philip Breedlove has raised hackles in Germany with his public statements about the Ukraine crisis.

 

US President Obama supports Chancellor Merkel’s efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. But hawks in Washington seem determined to torpedo Berlin’s approach. And NATO’s top commander in Europe hasn’t been helping either.

It was quiet in eastern Ukraine last Wednesday. Indeed, it was another quiet day in an extended stretch of relative calm. The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn’t holding perfectly, but it was holding.

On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine — with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” having been sent to the Donbass. “What is clear,” Breedlove said, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The pattern has become a familiar one. For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove’s numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America’s NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.

The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove’s comments as “dangerous propaganda.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove’s comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

The ‘Super Hawk’

But Breedlove hasn’t been the only source of friction. Europeans have also begun to see others as hindrances in their search for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. First and foremost among them is Victoria Nuland, head of European affairs at the US State Department. She and others would like to see Washington deliver arms to Ukraine and are supported by Congressional Republicans as well as many powerful Democrats.

Indeed, US President Barack Obama seems almost isolated. He has thrown his support behind Merkel’s diplomatic efforts for the time being, but he has also done little to quiet those who would seek to increase tensions with Russia and deliver weapons to Ukraine. Sources in Washington say that Breedlove’s bellicose comments are first cleared with the White House and the Pentagon. The general, they say, has the role of the “super hawk,” whose role is that of increasing the pressure on America’s more reserved trans-Atlantic partners.

A mixture of political argumentation and military propaganda is necessary. But for months now, many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads each time NATO, under Breedlove’s leadership, goes public with striking announcements about Russian troop or tank movements. To be sure, neither Berlin’s Russia experts nor BND intelligence analysts doubt that Moscow is supporting the pro-Russian separatists. The BND even has proof of such support.But it is the tone of Breedlove’s announcements that makes Berlin uneasy. False claims and exaggerated accounts, warned a top German official during a recent meeting on Ukraine, have put NATO — and by extension, the entire West — in danger of losing its credibility.

There are plenty of examples. Just over three weeks ago, during the cease-fire talks in Minsk, the Ukrainian military warned that the Russians — even as the diplomatic marathon was ongoing — had moved 50 tanks and dozens of rockets across the border into Luhansk. Just one day earlier, US Lieutenant General Ben Hodges had announced “direct Russian military intervention.”

Senior officials in Berlin immediately asked the BND for an assessment, but the intelligence agency’s satellite images showed just a few armored vehicles. Even those American intelligence officials who supply the BND with daily situation reports were much more reserved about the incident than Hodges was in his public statements. One intelligence agent says it “remains a riddle until today” how the general reached his conclusions.

Much More Cautious

“The German intelligence services generally appraise the threat level much more cautiously than the Americans do,” an international military expert in Kiev confirmed.

At the beginning of the crisis, General Breedlove announced that the Russians had assembled 40,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and warned that an invasion could take place at any moment. The situation, he said, was “incredibly concerning.” But intelligence officials from NATO member states had already excluded the possibility of a Russian invasion. They believed that neither the composition nor the equipment of the troops was consistent with an imminent invasion.

The experts contradicted Breedlove’s view in almost every respect. There weren’t 40,000 soldiers on the border, they believed, rather there were much less than 30,000 and perhaps even fewer than 20,000. Furthermore, most of the military equipment had not been brought to the border for a possible invasion, but had already been there prior to the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, there was no evidence of logistical preparation for an invasion, such as a field headquarters.

Breedlove, though, repeatedly made inexact, contradictory or even flat-out inaccurate statements. On Nov. 18, 2014, he told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that there were “regular Russian army units in eastern Ukraine.” One day later, he told the website of the German newsmagazine Stern that they weren’t fighting units, but “mostly trainers and advisors.”

He initially said there were “between 250 and 300″ of them, and then “between 300 and 500.” For a time, NATO was even saying there were 1,000 of them.

The fact that NATO has no intelligence agency of its own plays into Breedlove’s hands. The alliance relies on intelligence gathered by agents from the US, Britain, Germany and other member states. As such, SACEUR has a wide range of information to choose from.

Influencing Breedlove

On Nov. 12, during a visit to Sofia, Bulgaria, Breedlove reported that “we have seen columns of Russian equipment — primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops — entering into Ukraine.” It was, he noted, “the same thing that OSCE is reporting.” But the OSCE had only observed military convoys within eastern Ukraine. OSCE observers had said nothing about troops marching in from Russia.

Breedlove sees no reason to revise his approach. “I stand by all the public statements I have made during the Ukraine crisis,” he wrote to SPIEGEL in response to a request for a statement accompanied by a list of his controversial claims. He wrote that it was to be expected that assessments of NATO’s intelligence center, which receives information from all 33 alliance members in addition to partner states, doesn’t always match assessments made by individual nations. “It is normal that not everyone agrees with the assessments that I provide,” he wrote.

He says that NATO’s strategy is to “release clear, accurate and timely information regarding ongoing events.” He also wrote that: “As an alliance based on the fundamental values of freedom and democracy, our response to propaganda cannot be more propaganda. It can only be the truth.”

The German government, meanwhile, is doing what it can to influence Breedlove. Sources in Berlin say that conversations to this end have taken place in recent weeks. But there are many at NATO headquarters in Brussels who are likewise concerned about Breedlove’s statements. On Tuesday of last week, Breedlove’s public appearances were an official item on the agenda of the North Atlantic Council’s weekly lunch meeting. Several ambassadors present criticized Breedlove and expressed their incredulity at some of the commander’s statements.

The government in Berlin is concerned that Breedlove’s statements could harm the West’s credibility. The West can’t counter Russian propaganda with its own propaganda, “rather it must use arguments that are worthy of a constitutional state.” Berlin sources also say that it has become conspicuous that Breedlove’s controversial statements are often made just as a step forward has been made in the difficult negotiations aimed at a political resolution. Berlin sources say that Germany should be able to depend on its allies to support its efforts at peace.

Pressure on Obama

German foreign policy experts are united in their view of Breedlove as a hawk. “I would prefer that Breedlove’s comments on political questions be intelligent and reserved,” says Social Democrat parliamentarian Niels Annen, for example. “Instead, NATO in the past has always announced a new Russian offensive just as, from our point of view, the time had come for cautious optimism.” Annen, who has long specialized in foreign policy, has also been frequently dissatisfied with the information provided by NATO headquarters. “We parliamentarians were often confused by information regarding alleged troop movements that were inconsistent with the information we had,” he says.

The pressure on Obama from the Republicans, but also from his own political camp, is intense. Should the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine not hold, it will likely be difficult to continue refusing Kiev’s requests for shipments of so-called “defensive weapons.” And that would represent a dramatic escalation of the crisis. Moscow has already begun issuing threats in anticipation of such deliveries. “Any weapons deliveries to Kiev will escalate the tensions and would unhinge European security,” Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s national security council, told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on Wednesday.

Although President Obama has decided for the time being to give European diplomacy a chance, hawks like Breedlove or Victoria Nuland are doing what they can to pave the way for weapons deliveries. “We can fight against the Europeans, fight against them rhetorically,” Nuland said during a private meeting of American officials on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference at the beginning of February.

In reporting on the meeting later, the German tabloid Bild reported that Nuland referred to the chancellor’s early February trip to Moscow for talks with Putin as “Merkel’s Moscow stuff.” No wonder, then, that people in Berlin have the impression that important power brokers in Washington are working against the Europeans. Berlin officials have noticed that, following the visit of American politicians or military leaders in Kiev, Ukrainian officials are much more bellicose and optimistic about the Ukrainian military’s ability to win the conflict on the battlefield. “We then have to laboriously bring the Ukrainians back onto the course of negotiations,” said one Berlin official.Nuland Diplomacy

Nuland, who is seen as a possible secretary of state should the Republicans win back the White House in next year’s presidential election, is an important voice in US policy concerning Ukraine and Russia. She has never sought to hide her emotional bond to Russia, even saying “I love Russia.” Her grandparents immigrated to the US from Bessarabia, which belonged to the Russian empire at the time. Nuland speaks Russian fluently.

She is also very direct. She can be very keen and entertaining, but has been known to take on an undiplomatic tone — and has not always been wrong to do so. Mykola Asarov, who was prime minister under toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, recalls that Nuland basically blackmailed Yanukovych in order to prevent greater bloodshed in Kiev during the Maidan protests. “No violence against the protesters or you’ll fall,” Nuland told him according to Asarov. She also, he said, threatened tough economic and political sanctions against both Ukraine and the country’s leaders. According to Asarov, Nuland said that, were violence used against the protesters on Maidan Square, information about the money he and his cronies had taken out of the country would be made public.

Nuland has also been open — at least internally — about her contempt for European weakness and is famous for having said “Fuck the EU” during the initial days of the Ukraine crisis in February of 2014. Her husband, the neo-conservative Robert Kagan, is, after all, the originator of the idea that Americans are from Mars and Europeans, unwilling as they are to realize that true security depends on military power, are from Venus.

When it comes to the goal of delivering weapons to Ukraine, Nuland and Breedlove work hand-in-hand. On the first day of the Munich Security Conference, the two gathered the US delegation behind closed doors to discuss their strategy for breaking Europe’s resistance to arming Ukraine.

On the seventh floor of the Bayerischer Hof hotel in the heart of Munich, it was Nuland who began coaching. “While talking to the Europeans this weekend, you need to make the case that Russia is putting in more and more offensive stuff while we want to help the Ukrainians defend against these systems,” Nuland said. “It is defensive in nature although some of it has lethality.”

Training Troops?

Breedlove complemented that with the military details, saying that moderate weapons aid was inevitable — otherwise neither sanctions nor diplomatic pressure would have any effect. “If we can increase the cost for Russia on the battlefield, the other tools will become more effective,” he said. “That’s what we should do here.”

In Berlin, top politicians have always considered a common position vis-a-vis Russia as a necessary prerequisite for success in peace efforts. For the time being, that common front is still holding, but the dispute is a fundamental one — and hinges on the question of whether diplomacy can be successful without the threat of military action. Additionally, the trans-Atlantic partners also have differing goals. Whereas the aim of the Franco-German initiative is to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, it is Russia that concerns hawks within the US administration. They want to drive back Moscow’s influence in the region and destabilize Putin’s power. For them, the dream outcome would be regime change in Moscow.

A massive troop training range is located in Yavoriv in western Ukraine near the Polish border. During Soviet times, it served as the westernmost military district in the Soviet Union. Since 1998, though, it has been used for joint exercises by Ukrainian forces together with the United States and NATO. Yavoriv is also the site where US soldiers want to train members of the Ukrainian National Guard for their future battle against the separatists. According to the Pentagon’s plans, American officers would train the Ukrainians on how to use American artillery-locating radar devices. At least that’s what US Army in Europe commander Lt. Gen. Hodges announced in January.

The training was actually supposed to start at the beginning of March. Before it began, however, President Obama temporarily put it on hold in order to give the ceasefire agreement reached in Minsk a chance. Still, the hawks remain confident that they will soon come a step closer to their goal. On Tuesday, Hodges said during an appearance in Berlin that he expects the training will still begin at some point this month.

By Matthias Gebauer, Christiane Hoffmann, Marc Hujer, Gordon Repinski, Matthias Schepp, Christoph Schult, Holger Stark and Klaus Wiegrefe