Monday, September 1, 2014

Ukraine Using US Supplied Military Vehicles

This photo of an armored American Humvee being used in Ukraine by the government against rebels was just posted on VOA here.  These are vehicles that were used against ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, and are now being used against ethnic Russians.  I've juxtaposed a photo of the same type of vehicle with the KFOR markings before they were removed.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Missed opportunities 

(The Star)  The West has been reconstituted, consolidated and grown in size and strength since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. Its military arm in Nato has also grown, particularly in global ambition and reach.

So when Russia has a firm leader with a clear grasp of the national interest and an independent foreign policy, such as President Vladimir Putin, the West is prone to balk. Tension is accentuated when Moscow is averse to Nato’s expansionist plans right up to its doorstep.

Tension was already rife in mid-2008 when then President George W. Bush sought to expand Nato eastwards to include Georgia and Ukraine, besides stationing a US ballistic missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Although President Obama has cancelled those plans, the spirit of Western expansionism remains.

The Soviet bloc’s Warsaw Pact is gone, but the West’s equivalent military bloc Nato has instead grown. A parallel encirclement if not containment of China has been underway with strengthening US ties with India, Japan, the Philippines and Australia along with a strong US naval build-up in East Asian waters.
It is too easy to depict this as some kind of throwback to Cold War politicking, with hapless countries in the middle caught in a bipolar embrace. But the situation today is different in being much more unstable and dangerous.

The Cold War had seen Nato’s clear geographical reach and geopolitical focus, but those limits are now off. The Cold War also meant a bipolarity producing a military balance of sorts, but no sense of any balance remains now.

Internally, Europe is becoming less united owing to different or competing national interests relative to Russia. The US, as the dominant Nato power, has had trouble keeping a unified Europe behind it from West Asia and North Africa to the heart of Europe itself.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Russia minister plane 'barred from Poland airspace'

(BBC) A plane carrying the Russian defence minister was refused entry into Polish and Ukrainian airspace and forced to turn back to Slovakia, reports say.

Sergei Shoigu was attempting to fly back to Russia after attending a ceremony in Slovakia.
Mr Shoigu was in Slovakia attending an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising against Nazi Germany, Russian media reported.

Fact-Hiding' Distinctive Western Behavior in Regard to Events in Ukraine – Lavrov

MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) – “Fact-hiding” is a distinctive Western behavior in the events in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

“It seems to me that ‘fact-hiding’ is a characteristic feature of the position, first and foremost, by the US and a number of European countries in regard to everything that is happening in Ukraine, be it confirmations of our troops’ movements, or the direct participation of American Special Forces under the Ukrainian forces and them holding military operations, or the investigation of the Malaysian Boeing [passenger] plane crash, or investigating the tragedy on [Ukraine’s] Maidan Square of the so-called sniper deal, or the tragedy in Odesa on May 2,” Lavrov said during a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in Moscow.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Western Ukrainian fighters leave war, cite poor support

(Kyiv Post)  Soldiers from western Ukraine retreated from the war front near Amvrosiivka in Donetsk Oblast on Aug. 23 while, back home in Ivano-Frankivsk, desperate wives and mothers blocked roads demanding the return of their men.

It is yet another setback in a difficult week for Ukraine’s army leadership, as volunteer battalions stranded for 10 days in Ilovaisk, a city some 50 kilometers east of Donetsk, called for a picket of the General Staff military headquarters to demand reinforcements and better arms. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces withdrew from Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol, on Aug. 28 as Russian army soldiers advanced. The National Security and Defence Council said on Aug. 27 that several settlements around Amvrosiivka are now under the control of Russian forces.
According to Komar, his battalion was the last Ukrainian military force to leave the area, with regular army units from the 24th and 72nd brigades, as well as other units, having retreated earlier. His unit had two killed in action since July 5, and seven wounded
A March 17 presidential decree requires every region of Ukraine to raise a territorial defense battalion, where volunteers can join draftees like Olga’s husband, who received his call-up papers one midnight in May. According to Olga, the vast majority of soldiers in the 5th battalion are draftees who were initially told they would remain in Ivano-Frankivsk to defend strategic targets like gas pipelines.

Impoverished Ivano-Frankivsk region raised nearly seven million hryvnias for food and equipment for its battalion, including helmets and bulletproof vests.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Russians Are Coming! 
The Russians Are Coming! 

(Inquirer)  If there’s an upside to the crisis in the Ukraine -- and let’s face it, in the real world there isn’t – it’s that Hollywood has rediscovered its favorite bad guy: the Russians. A reliable film foe since the end of World War II, and a staple of Cold War espionage capers from Bond to Smiley, the Kremlin kingpins and covert operatives trolling Moscow’s hidden lairs – not to mention the Russian mob, busily pursuing their various, nefarious enterprise – have resurfaced with renewed vigor, and villainy. Never mind the North Koreans, Somali pirates, those jihadist terrorist cells. Give us Boris Badenov, updated, of course, for the new Millennium.

In the just-released Pierce Brosnan cloak-and-daggerer, The November Man, it’s a would-be Russian president with a secret war crimes past who triggers the action. In The Equalizer, coming Sept. 26, Denzel Washington faces off against a demonic Russian uber-pimp working Boston’s Back Bay. A group of angry Russians pose problems for Johnny Depp in the 2015 art thief caper, Mortdecai.

Steven Spielberg will be directing his Saving Private Ryan star, Tom Hanks, in an untitled Cold War espionage piece based on the true story of James Donovan, the American attorney enlisted by the CIA to secretly negotiate the 1962 release of Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot shot down over the Soviet Union. In The Bourne Betrayal, set to start production next year with Jeremy Renner in the lead, some of the hugger and mugger takes place in Odessa, and involves a drug lord whose name has a distinctly northeastern European ring (try Edor Vladovich Lemontov). Rooney Mara and David Fincher, star and director, respectively, of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, are reportedly circling Red Sparrow, a modern-day thriller about a Russian spy agency seductress and the CIA agent who comes under her spell. Based on the 2013 Jason Matthews bestseller, it’s being adapted by American Hustle screenwriter Eric Warren Singer. Vladimir Putin is a character in the book -- and not a sympathetic one.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ukraine President Dissolves Parliament, Calls for Early Elections in October

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has dissolved parliament and will hold elections October 26, the Associated Press has reported

         Poroshenko had warned of the move last week, telling news agency Interfax Ukraine his decision "will be made when there is a constitutional basis for it and that moment, as everyone knows, is on Independence Day (Aug. 24)." 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Russia's Humanitarian Aid Delivery to Ukraine 'Blatant Provocation' - White House

MOSCOW, August 24 (RIA Novosti) - US Vice President Joe Biden called Russia's humanitarian aid delivery to Ukraine's southeast a "blatant provocation and disregard of Ukraine’s sovereignty" in a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the White House said in a statement Saturday.

"President Poroshenko informed the Vice President that most of the Russian military trucks that had unlawfully entered Ukraine the previous day had returned to Russia, and the Vice President commended Ukrain rd of Ukraine’s sovereignty," said in the readout of the call.e’s restraint in the face of Russia’s blatant provocation and disregad
Latvia’s Tensions With Russians at Home Persist in Shadow of Ukraine Conflict

(NYT)  RIGA, Latvia — History has bequeathed this Baltic port capital much beauty, captured in elegant Art Nouveau buildings or the Gothic church steeples that stud the windswept skyline. But it has also left a nasty ethnic rift that has persisted despite Latvia’s absorption into NATO, the European Union and the euro currency, and which has now deepened with the crisis in Ukraine.

 In this nation of two million, about one-third of the residents speak only or primarily Russian. Many — but not all — are people whose families arrived during the decades of Soviet rule here. Ever since Latvia declared independence in 1991, many of these Russian speakers have been in limbo, as noncitizens squeezed out of political life, largely unable to vote, hold office or even serve in the fire brigade.

 Those who refuse to acquire proficient skill speaking Latvian do not get citizenship. In the coming October elections, unless the government decides to issue special voting cards, about 283,000 will, once again, not cast ballots.
As an ethnic Russian member of Latvia’s Parliament, Boriss Cilevics feels the daily crosscurrents created by the rift which, he stressed, is “not a problem of blood.” About 25 percent of marriages are mixed Latvian-Russian, he noted. “We work together, and spend time together.” Russian is widely heard, and Russian citizens make up about a third of the tourists who visit the country. But the dominant political consensus, Mr. Cilevics said, holds that “an absolute majority of ethnic Latvians must be ruled by ethnic Latvians only.”
For centuries, Russia and Germany have wielded influence here. Riga was an imperial port in czarist times. Russians have been a large minority here for more than 200 years. Today, as visitors drive in from the airport, the first commercial office is that of Siemens, the German engineering giant. The first gas station belongs to Russia’s Lukoil.
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