Who’s Winning This Escalating Geopolitical Struggle Between

Those old enough to remember when President Clinton's penis was a big news item will also remember the "Peace Dividend," that the world was going to be able to cash now that that nasty cold war was over. But guess what? Those spies didn't want to come in from the Cold, so while the planet is heating up, the political environment is dropping to sub-zero temperatures. It's deja vu all over again.

Re: Who’s Winning This Escalating Geopolitical Struggle Betw

Postby admin » Tue Dec 29, 2015 8:34 am

Ukraine crisis: the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists
Kiev throws paramilitaries – some openly neo-Nazi - into the front of the battle with rebels
By Tom Parfitt
The Telegraph
11 Aug 2014

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Phantom, 23, a fighter in the Azov battalion, outside its HQ in the Ukrainian seaside town of Urzuf Photo: Tom Parfitt

The fighters of the Azov battalion lined up in single file to say farewell to their fallen comrade. His pallid corpse lay under the sun in an open casket trimmed with blue velvet.

Some of the men placed carnations by the body, others roses. Many struck their chests with a closed fist before touching their dead friend’s arm. One fighter had an SS tattoo on his neck.

Sergiy Grek, 22, lost a leg and died from massive blood loss after a radio-controlled anti-tank mine exploded near to him.
As Ukraine’s armed forces tighten the noose around pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, the western-backed government in Kiev is throwing militia groups – some openly neo-Nazi - into the front of the battle.

The Azov battalion has the most chilling reputation of all. Last week, it came to the fore as it mounted a bold attack on the rebel redoubt of Donetsk, striking deep into the suburbs of a city under siege.

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Andriy Biletsky, in black T-shirt, commander of Ukraine's Azov battalion (Tom Parfitt)

In Marinka, on the western outskirts, the battalion was sent forward ahead of tanks and armoured vehicles of the Ukrainian army’s 51st Mechanised Brigade. A ferocious close-quarters fight ensued as they got caught in an ambush laid by well-trained separatists, who shot from 30 yards away. The Azov irregulars replied with a squall of fire, fending off the attack and seizing a rebel checkpoint.

Mr Grek, also known as “Balagan”, died in the battle and 14 others were wounded. Speaking after the ceremony Andriy Biletsky, the battalion’s commander, told the Telegraph the operation had been a “100% success”. “The battalion is a family and every death is painful to us but these were minimal losses,” he said. “Most important of all, we established a bridgehead for the attack on Donetsk. And when that comes we will be leading the way.”

The military achievement is hard to dispute. By securing Marinka the battalion “widened the front and tightened the circle”, around the rebels’ capital, as another fighter put it. While Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, prevaricates about sending an invasion force into Ukraine, the rebels he backs are losing ground fast.

But Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, proclaimed in eastern Ukraine in March, should send a shiver down Europe’s spine. Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming.

The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.


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The Azov battalion uses the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf''s Hook) symbol on its banner (Tom Parfitt)

“Personally, I’m a Nazi,” said “Phantom”, a 23-year-old former lawyer at the ceremony wearing camouflage and holding a Kalashnikov. “I don’t hate any other nationalities but I believe each nation should have its own country.” He added: “We have one idea: to liberate our land from terrorists.”

The Telegraph was invited to see some 300 Azov fighters pay respects to Mr Grek, their first comrade to die since the battalion was formed in May. An honour guard fired volleys into the air at the battalion’s headquarters on the edge of Urzuf, a small beach resort on Ukraine’s Azov Sea coast. Two more militiamen died on Sunday fighting north of Donetsk. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, called one of them a hero.

Each new recruit receives only a couple of weeks of training before joining the battalion. The interior ministry and private donors provide weapons.

The HQ is a seaside dacha compound dotted with pines that once belonged to the ousted president of Ukraine, Vladimir Yanukovich, when he was governor of this region. Families in swimsuits with towels and inflatable rings walk past gate-guards toting automatic rifles.

Parked inside among wooden gazebos overlooking the sea are the tools of Azov’s trade – two armoured personnel carriers, a converted truck with retractable steel shutters to cover its windows, and several Nissan pick-ups fitted with machine-gun mounts.

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A converted truck with steel shutters used by the Azov battalion and known to the fighters as 'the Lump of Iron' (Tom Parfitt)

Mr Biletsky, a muscular man in a black T-shirt and camouflage trousers, said the battalion was a light infantry unit, ideal for the urban warfare needed to take cities like Donetsk.

The 35-year old commander began creating the battalion after he was released from pre-trial detention in February in the wake of pro-western protests in Kiev. He had denied a charge of attempted murder, claiming it was politically motivated.

A former history student and amateur boxer, Mr Biletsky is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly. “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival,” he wrote in a recent commentary. “A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

The battalion itself is founded on right wing views, the commander said in Urzuf, and no Nazi convictions could exclude a recruit. “The most important thing is being a good fighter and a good brother so that we can trust each other,” he said.

Interestingly, many of the men in the battalion are Russians from eastern Ukraine who wear masks because they fear their relatives in rebel-controlled areas could be persecuted if their identities are revealed.

Phantom said he was such a Russian but that he was opposed to Moscow supporting “terrorists” in his homeland: “I volunteered and all I demanded was a gun and the possibility to defend my country.”

Asked about his Nazi sympathies, he said: “After the First World World War, Germany was a total mess and Hitler rebuilt it: he built houses and roads, put in telephone lines, and created jobs. I respect that.” Homosexuality is a mental illness and the scale of the Holocaust “is a big question”, he added.

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Fighters of the Azov battalion say farewell to their first comrade to die in the war against Russia-backed rebels (Tom Parfitt)

Stepan, 23, another fighter, said that if leaders of the pro-Russian separatists were captured they should be executed after a military tribunal.

Such notions seem a far cry from the spirit of the “Maidan” protests that peaked in Kiev in February with the ousting of Mr Yanukovich, who had refused to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. Young liberals led the way but the uprising, which ended with the president fleeing to Russia, provoked a huge patriotic awakening that sucked in hardline groups.

Azov’s extremist profile and slick English–language pages on social media have even attracted foreign fighters. Mr Biletsky says he has men from Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scandinavia. At the base in Urzuf, Mikael Skillt, 37, a former sniper with the Swedish Army and National Guard, leads and trains a reconnaissance unit.

“When I saw the Maidan protests I recognised bravery and suffering,” he told the Telegraph. “A warrior soul was awakened. But you can only do so much, going against the enemy with sticks and stones. I had some experience and I though maybe I could help.”

Mr Skillt says he called himself a National Socialist as a young man and more recently he was active in the extreme right wing Party of the Swedes. “Now I’m fighting for the freedom of Ukraine against Putin’s imperialist front,” he said.

His unit is improving fast under his tutelage. “What they lack in experience, they make up in balls,” he said. Once he is done with Azov –where he claimed he receives a nominal GBP100 a month – Mr Skillt plans to go to Syria to fight for President Bashar al-Assad as a hired gun earning “very good money”.

Such characters under Kiev’s control play straight into the hands of Russian and separatist propaganda that portrays Ukraine’s government as a “fascist junta” manipulated by the West.

“These battalions are made up of mercenaries, not volunteers,” said Sergei Kavtaradze, a representative of the rebel authorities in Donetsk. “They are real fascists who kill and rape civilians.” Mr Kavtaradze could not cite evidence of his claim and the battalion says it has not harmed a single civilian.

Ukraine’s government is unrepentant about using the neo-Nazis. “The most important thing is their spirit and their desire to make Ukraine free and independent,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Arsen Avakov, the interior minister. “A person who takes a weapon in his hands and goes to defend his motherland is a hero. And his political views are his own affair.”

Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian and Ukrainian security affairs at New York University, fears battalions like Azov are becoming “magnets to attract violent fringe elements from across Ukraine and beyond”. “The danger is that this is part of the building up of a toxic legacy for when the war ends,” he said.

Extremist paramilitary groups who have built up “their own little Freikorps” and who are fundamentally opposed to finding consensus may demand a part in public life as victors in the conflict, Mr Galeotti added. “And what do you do when the war is over and you get veterans from Azov swaggering down your high street, and in your own lives?”
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Re: Who’s Winning This Escalating Geopolitical Struggle Betw

Postby admin » Tue Dec 29, 2015 8:48 am

Warning Merkel on Russian ‘Invasion’ Intel
by Consortiumnews.com
September 1, 2014

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Alarmed at the anti-Russian hysteria sweeping Official Washington – and the specter of a new Cold War – U.S. intelligence veterans took the unusual step of sending this Aug. 30 memo to German Chancellor Merkel challenging the reliability of Ukrainian and U.S. media claims about a Russian “invasion.”

***

MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Ukraine and NATO

We the undersigned are long-time veterans of U.S. intelligence. We take the unusual step of writing this open letter to you to ensure that you have an opportunity to be briefed on our views prior to the NATO summit on Sept. 4-5.

You need to know, for example, that accusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Photo credit: א (Aleph))

We saw no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq then; we see no credible evidence of a Russian invasion now. Twelve years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mindful of the flimsiness of the evidence on Iraqi WMD, refused to join in the attack on Iraq. In our view, you should be appropriately suspicious of charges made by the U.S. State Department and NATO officials alleging a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

President Barack Obama tried on Aug. 29 to cool the rhetoric of his own senior diplomats and the corporate media, when he publicly described recent activity in the Ukraine, as “a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now … it’s not really a shift.”

Obama, however, has only tenuous control over the policymakers in his administration – who, sadly, lack much sense of history, know little of war, and substitute anti-Russian invective for a policy. One year ago, hawkish State Department officials and their friends in the media very nearly got Mr. Obama to launch a major attack on Syria based, once again, on “intelligence” that was dubious, at best.

Largely because of the growing prominence of, and apparent reliance on, intelligence we believe to be spurious, we think the possibility of hostilities escalating beyond the borders of Ukraine has increased significantly over the past several days. More important, we believe that this likelihood can be avoided, depending on the degree of judicious skepticism you and other European leaders bring to the NATO summit next week.

Experience With Untruth

Hopefully, your advisers have reminded you of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s checkered record for credibility. It appears to us that Rasmussen’s speeches continue to be drafted by Washington. This was abundantly clear on the day before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq when, as Danish Prime Minister, he told his Parliament: “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This is not something we just believe. We know.”

Photos can be worth a thousand words; they can also deceive. We have considerable experience collecting, analyzing, and reporting on all kinds of satellite and other imagery, as well as other kinds of intelligence. Suffice it to say that the images released by NATO on Aug. 28 provide a very flimsy basis on which to charge Russia with invading Ukraine. Sadly, they bear a strong resemblance to the images shown by Colin Powell at the UN on Feb. 5, 2003, that, likewise, proved nothing.

That same day, we warned President Bush that our former colleague analysts were “increasingly distressed at the politicization of intelligence” and told him flatly, “Powell’s presentation does not come close” to justifying war. We urged Mr. Bush to “widen the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

Consider Iraq today. Worse than catastrophic.

Although President Vladimir Putin has until now showed considerable reserve on the conflict in the Ukraine, it behooves us to remember that Russia, too, can “shock and awe.” In our view, if there is the slightest chance of that kind of thing eventually happening to Europe because of Ukraine, sober-minded leaders need to think this through very carefully.

If the photos that NATO and the U.S. have released represent the best available “proof” of an invasion from Russia, our suspicions increase that a major effort is under way to fortify arguments for the NATO summit to approve actions that Russia is sure to regard as provocative. Caveat emptor is an expression with which you are no doubt familiar. Suffice it to add that one should be very cautious regarding what Mr. Rasmussen, or even Secretary of State John Kerry, are peddling.

We trust that your advisers have kept you informed regarding the crisis in Ukraine from the beginning of 2014, and how the possibility that Ukraine would become a member of NATO is anathema to the Kremlin. According to a Feb. 1, 2008 cable (published by WikiLeaks) from the U.S. embassy in Moscow to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, U.S. Ambassador William Burns was called in by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who explained Russia’s strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine.

Lavrov warned pointedly of “fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.” Burns gave his cable the unusual title, “NYET MEANS NYET: RUSSIA’S NATO ENLARGEMENT REDLINES,” and sent it off to Washington with IMMEDIATE precedence. Two months later, at their summit in Bucharest NATO leaders issued a formal declaration that “Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO.”


On Aug. 29, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk used his Facebook page to claim that, with the approval of Parliament that he has requested, the path to NATO membership is open. Yatsenyuk, of course, was Washington’s favorite pick to become prime minister after the Feb. 22 coup d’etat in Kiev.

“Yats is the guy,” said Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland a few weeks before the coup, in an intercepted telephone conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. You may recall that this is the same conversation in which Nuland said, “Fuck the EU.”

Timing of the Russian “Invasion”

The conventional wisdom promoted by Kiev just a few weeks ago was that Ukrainian forces had the upper hand in fighting the anti-coup federalists in southeastern Ukraine, in what was largely portrayed as a mop-up operation. But that picture of the offensive originated almost solely from official government sources in Kiev. There were very few reports coming from the ground in southeastern Ukraine. There was one, however, quoting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, that raised doubt about the reliability of the government’s portrayal.

According to the “press service of the President of Ukraine” on Aug. 18, Poroshenko called for a “regrouping of Ukrainian military units involved in the operation of power in the East of the country. … Today we need to do the rearrangement of forces that will defend our territory and continued army offensives,” said Poroshenko, adding, “we need to consider a new military operation in the new circumstances.”

If the “new circumstances” meant successful advances by Ukrainian government forces, why would it be necessary to “regroup,” to “rearrange” the forces? At about this time, sources on the ground began to report a string of successful attacks by the anti-coup federalists against government forces. According to these sources, it was the government army that was starting to take heavy casualties and lose ground, largely because of ineptitude and poor leadership.

Ten days later, as they became encircled and/or retreated, a ready-made excuse for this was to be found in the “Russian invasion.” That is precisely when the fuzzy photos were released by NATO and reporters like the New York Times’ Michael Gordon were set loose to spread the word that “the Russians are coming.” (Michael Gordon was one of the most egregious propagandists promoting the war on Iraq.)

No Invasion – But Plenty Other Russian Support

The anti-coup federalists in southeastern Ukraine enjoy considerable local support, partly as a result of government artillery strikes on major population centers. And we believe that Russian support probably has been pouring across the border and includes, significantly, excellent battlefield intelligence. But it is far from clear that this support includes tanks and artillery at this point – mostly because the federalists have been better led and surprisingly successful in pinning down government forces.

At the same time, we have little doubt that, if and when the federalists need them, the Russian tanks will come.

This is precisely why the situation demands a concerted effort for a ceasefire, which you know Kiev has so far been delaying. What is to be done at this point? In our view, Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk need to be told flat-out that membership in NATO is not in the cards – and that NATO has no intention of waging a proxy war with Russia – and especially not in support of the rag-tag army of Ukraine. Other members of NATO need to be told the same thing.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Larry Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (Ret.)

Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)

Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)
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