Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reports on Russian Military Casualties in Ukraine ‘Nonsense’: Russian Ministry of Defense

MOSCOW, September 11 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Ministry of Defense has denied the claims about Russian military casualties in Ukraine, reported by a Ukrainian official, the ministry's spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told the press Thursday.
"Russian military agency has called the statement by the herald of [Ukraine's] National Security and Defense Council Andriy Lysenko, who announced, with reference to the data of 'operational intelligence', the death of thousands Russian servicemen on the Ukrainian territory, 'nonsense' ," the official said.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian media reported that Andriy Lysenko, the spokesperson for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said at a press briefing that around 2,000 Russian troops were killed and 8,000 wounded on the Ukrainian territory.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

German TV Shows Nazi Symbols on Helmets of Ukraine Soldiers

(NBC)  Germans were confronted with images of their country’s dark past on Monday night, when German public broadcaster ZDF showed video of Ukrainian soldiers with Nazi symbols on their helmets in its evening newscast.
The video was shot last week in Ukraine by a camera team from Norwegian broadcaster TV2. “We were filming a report about Ukraine’s AZOV battalion in the eastern city of Urzuf, when we came across these soldiers,” Oysten Bogen, a correspondent for the private television station, told NBC News. Minutes before the images were taped, Bogen said he had asked a spokesperson whether the battalion had fascist tendencies. “The reply was: absolutely not, we are just Ukrainian nationalists,” Bogen said.
Time to end the bloody Ukraine conflict

(Washington Post)  If the United States and Europe were thinking rationally, the NATO summit in Wales last week would have been an opportunity to discuss a lasting resolution to the violent crisis in Ukraine, which has claimed thousands of lives and crippled the country’s economy. Instead, amid a fragile cease-fire agreement between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels in the east, the assembled world leaders used the summit for more belligerent talk and reckless saber-rattling, with their ultimate goal increasingly unclear. The goal seemed more preparing the NATO alliance for a new Cold War with Russia than exploring how to make peace, even as Moscow was helping to bring about the cease-fire agreement.

The meeting was just the most recent disturbing example of how cavalierly and cynically the NATO leaders — including President Obama — have escalated tensions, while dismissing opportunities to bring the conflict to a reasonable conclusion quickly. Absent from the discussion in Wales, among other things, was any recognition of NATO members’ own roles in triggering the crisis. Despite the dominant narrative that Russia is to blame for Ukraine’s uncertain future, history tells a different story — one in which the West’s provocative behavior has had predictable repercussions.

There would have been no civil war if the European Union’s leadership had not insisted on an exclusive association agreement that prejudiced Ukrainian industry in the east and trade with Russia, or if the United States and European nations had used their influence with the demonstrators to abide by the Feb. 21 agreement then-President Viktor Yanukovych signed, which would have handed more power to parliament and called for elections in December, or if the United States and Europe had been willing to work with Russia to restore the Feb. 21 agreement and calm worries in Crimea and the east about the rights of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

Instead the U.S. and E.U. have encouraged the most radical elements in the Kiev government in their campaign to subjugate the east with military force — to seek a military solution to what is essentially a political problem in a deeply divided and economically fragile Ukraine.
In this sense, NATO expansion is not a consequence of tension with Russia; it is the cause. As George Kennan, known as the “father of containment,” warned some 16 years ago, NATO’s willful expansion would create lasting tension. “I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” Kennan said in a 1998 interview with Thomas Friedman, reacting to the alliance’s pending additions of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake.”

Back in the USSR

In a rather amazing turn of events, Moscow has apparently decided to resume prosecution of Lithuanians who "deserted" the Soviet Army after March, 1990, when Lithuania declared independence. Lithuania was admitted into the United Nations October, 1991.   Some 1400 Lithuanians could face charges if apprehended while traveling through Russia and other non-EU, non-NATO countries, according to this press report, as they left the Soviet army during that roughly one-and-a-half year period.  Last year, Lithuania paid compensation to those who had refused to stay in the Soviet army during that period.

While this appears to be a punitive move on the part of Moscow, it raises the serious concern that Russia is regressing back to the Soviet era, if it would even consider pressing such charges in this day and age.  Putin recently revived the Soviet-era sports program, Ready for Labor and Defense, using leftover funds frm the Sochi Olympics.  Putin shared a photo-op with action figure, Stephen Seagal, back in March.  Since then he seems to have recruited Mickey Rourke as well, adding to his list of celebrity endorsements.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The 2014 NATO Summit: Giving War a Chance 

(The Nation)  The 2014 NATO Summit closed on Friday with one main accomplishment: the increased militarization and institutionalization of a new Cold War.

Released on Friday at the close of the 2014 NATO Summit, the Wales Summit Declaration is an eye-glazing mishmash of bureaucratic boilerplate interspersed with several reckless provocations aimed in the direction of Russia, including an account of the Ukrainian crisis that is both disingenuous and selective. According to NATO “the violence and insecurity in the region caused by Russia and the Russian-backed separatists are resulting in a deteriorating humanitarian situation and material destruction in eastern Ukraine.” The declaration goes on to praise the work of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) yet, perhaps not unintentionally, neglects to cite the contents of any of the SMM’s reports, because doing so would simply upend NATO’s preferred narrative—which is that Russia is solely to blame for the violence in eastern Ukraine. No mention was made of Kiev’s deployment of notoriously indiscriminate GRAD rockets, of its continuous shelling of civilian population centers and hospitals or of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s employment of foreign-born neo-fascists (some of whom have come as far afield as Sweden, Italy and Ireland) whom have flocked to eastern Ukraine to fight the Russian-backed rebels. Indeed, according to the declaration, the alliance seeks to “encourage the Ukrainian armed forces and security forces to continue to exercise the utmost restraint in their ongoing operation so as to avoid civilian casualties among the local civilian population.” (Emphasis mine.) A cursory glance at any of the aforementioned SMM reports would reveal that such “restraint” has not been a particularly pervasive feature of Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation.”
Long ago, Edmund Burke wrote that “The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.” It is blindingly obvious that the circumstances in which we find ourselves today—in which a tenuous cease-fire has taken hold between the rebels and Kiev; in which a species of militant Islam poses a significant threat to both Russia and the West; in which large swaths of Ukraine lay in ruin and over a million of its people have fled; in which a new Cold War threatens to upend the arrangements that have given rise to a peaceful, prosperous Europe—most emphatically do not lend themselves to NATO’s plans to further embrace Ukraine at the expense of a confrontation with Russia. But that, sadly, seems to be the direction in which NATO seems intent on heading.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Beware Perpetuating NATO by Fanning Flames with Russia (Le Figaro, France)

(Moderate Voice)  With heavy weapons crassly strewn across the NATO Summit golf course apparently ready for immediate delivery and the largest assembly of world leaders ever to appear at one time on British soil, is the NATO Alliance over-hyping the threat posed by Russia to justify its existence and mask it’s lack of a strategy to deal with the Islamic State? For France’s Le Figaro, world affairs columnist Pierre Rousselin warns that the absence of a Middle East strategy ‘must not lead the Alliance to exacerbate the conflict with Russia for the sole purpose of perpetuating itself.’

For Le Figaro, Rousselin doesn’t think much of the creation of a ’4,000 man rapid reaction force’ as a way of calming nerves in east Europe and bringing a positive conclusion to the Ukraine crisis:

Like the sanctions imposed on Russia, the creation of a rapid reaction force will not resolve the core issue of finding a compromise acceptable to both Kiev and Moscow, which would contribute to preventing the definitive partition of Ukraine and prevent a sustained armed conflict in Europe from taking root. Without a clearly defined strategy to achieve this goal, NATO seriously risks failing in its essential mission and showing itself incapable of preventing chaos from taking hold within its borders.

The failure of the Ukrainian military offensive against the pro-Russian rebels should encourage Western governments to put pressure on Kiev with a view to a ceasefire and a real negotiation with Moscow. In the absence of an agreement giving Ukraine a special status of neutrality between NATO and Russia, a new “iron curtain” will come crashing down before our eyes and divide the continent.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Looks like Channel One punked itself:

The network reportedly aired a documentary that focused, in part, on what it called U.S. propaganda from the first World War. Among the items featured was a particularly horrific poster of a man in uniform about to gobble up an infant with the caption: "Soldiers Eat Babies. That's a Fact."
The problem? The poster is based on the 2007 multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2, and it's actually only a few years old.
Ukraine Deal Imposes Truce Putin Devised

(NYT)  Previous attempts to stop the fighting have failed. But the prime difference this time was that the main thrust of the plan was not just endorsed, but laid out, by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom Western leaders accuse of stoking unrest to prevent Ukraine from slipping out of Russia’s orbit.
The 14-point peace plan includes some references to the cease-fire itself, some practical steps toward returning government control to the southeast Donbass region and some nods toward future political changes, according to a summary published by the Ukrainian national information agency.

The agreement resembles, almost verbatim, a proposal for a truce issued by President Petro O. Poroshenko in June.

It includes amnesty for those who disarm and who did not commit serious crimes, and the exchange of all prisoners. Militias will be disbanded, and a 10-kilometer buffer zone — about six miles — will be established along the Russian-Ukrainian border. The area will be subject to joint patrols. The separatists have agreed to leave the administrative buildings they control and to allow broadcasts from Ukraine to resume on local television.

It was unclear how “disarmament” would be defined, and it emerged as a potential stumbling block. The separatists have demanded that Ukrainian forces withdraw completely from the area, a condition that Kiev considers a nonstarter. The militias will also be unlikely to abandon their weapons.

For the future, the agreement says power will be decentralized and the Russian language protected. An early, failed attempt by more extreme members of the Ukrainian Parliament to ban Russian as an official language was one element that spawned the uprising.

The agreement says the executive in control of each region, the equivalent of a governor, will be appointed after consultations with each region. It also promises early elections and a job-creation program.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Surreal Landscape of the NATO Summit

It is a truly surreal landscape with the military hardware spread out for viewing on the manicured golf course in Wales, but perhaps it is also the picture that speaks a thousand words about NATO.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

When Nato learns the lessons of previous wars, we will stop protesting

(Guardian)  Sixty world leaders will swig champagne and work their way through several banquets. But the purpose of the summit is deadly serious and dangerous. Its stated aim is to increase the amount that each Nato country spends on defence to at least 2% of every country’s GDP. It will also agree further military operations in eastern Europe and in the Middle East. Billed months ago as a summit to manage the withdrawal of (some) Nato troops from Afghanistan, that issue has been consigned almost to a footnote.

The assassination of a US general there last month, and the return of the Taliban to the Sangin province, will be little remarked upon. Nor will the disastrous state of Libya, three years after Nato’s supposedly successful intervention there. Instead, talk will focus on two areas: further intervention in Iraq and possibly Syria to halt Islamic State, and further expansion of Nato in eastern Europe.
Nato was a creature of the cold war. When that ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, Nato’s east European counterpart – the Warsaw pact – was disbanded. Nato instead embarked on a series of “out of area” operations from Kosovo to Afghanistan. Assurances were given that Nato would not expand eastwards beyond the now reunified Germany, and that there would not be significant numbers of Nato troops stationed in eastern Europe.
The determination to pursue policies which have so obviously failed in the past is an unfortunate hallmark of the Nato leaders. They describe Isis as barbaric, which is true, but are silent on their own barbarism in Iraq, where hundreds of thousands died.
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