Australia's human rights commission president, Gillian Triggs, has called for the government to move all asylum seeker children and families in immigration detention on Christmas Island to the Australian mainland, following a recent inspection visit, which revealed the ongoing “despair and helplessness” among the detainee population who continue to experience a spike in levels of self-harm and depression.
The commission visit, which formed part of the ongoing inquiry into children in immigration detention, took place on 14 July, when the delegation verified that 10 women were placed on 24-hour watch for self-harm and suicide and a total of 13 considered high risk. Guardian Australia was told by Christmas Island sources on Wednesday that there are currently six women on constant watch – meaning a guard sits outside their room with the door open at all times – and four men at the Northwest Point centre that had self-harmed.
Earlier in the month prime minister Tony Abbott said that asylum seekers who self-harmed were attempting to hold the government over a “moral barrel”, following reports that at least one woman had attempted suicide on Christmas Island and a number of mothers had been placed on 24-hour watch. The government argued these reports were exaggerated.
Apparently our own Julie Bishop, minister for foreign objects and champion stare-gazer, wants to go and visit the crash site of MH17, herself, possibly with Aussie troops or police... I hope she wears a clown suit as to distinguish her from being a Ukrainian spy. I believe either she is search of glory in what is still a war zone, unless she has hidden the fact she has been an air crash investigator all her life... We wish her well.
May be, she should visit Gaza instead...
Dutch frustration with Russia in the wake of the MH17 crash is taking on an increasingly personal note, as some called for Vladimir Putin's daughter to be deported from the Netherlands.
Pieter Broertjes, the mayor of the city of Hilversum, used a radio interview on Wednesday morning to call for 29-year-old Maria Putin, who is said to live in Voorschoten with her Dutch boyfriend, to be thrown out of the country.
More than half of the 298 people killed when the Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in eastern Ukraine last week were Dutch.
Broertjes later apologised for his remarks via Twitter, saying they were "not wise", but adding that "they stemmed from a feeling of helplessness that many will recognise".
A plane carrying the first 50 victims of the crash is expected to arrive this afternoon at Eindhoven airport, from where they will be transported to army barracks in Hilversum. The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning and will mark the bodies' arrival with a minute's silence across the country.
Should I be Putin's daughter (which I am not) I would get out of the Netherlands as soon as possible. There are enough crackpots in the world to create trouble like highjacking and ransom demands... Don't worry I am not planting ideas in the mind of people... These ideas are already there amongst us as "we" (our neo-fascist masters) try to find ways to "punish" Putin...
Fifty Australian federal police have been deployed to London, ready to go into Ukraine if agreement is secured to send in an international team to secure the crash site for the investigation of flight MH17.
Tony Abbott spoke to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, about the decision to deploy police for a multinational force to Ukraine.
The prime minister said he wanted to deploy a team to Ukraine “as quickly as possible” but the details of the multinational force – including whether they would be armed – were still being worked out.
“Obviously I would be very careful about putting any Australian personnel seriously into harm’s way without any protection, but given a reasonably permissive environment which seems to have developed over the last few days, given that Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] officials have been allowed to visit the site, it seems unmolested, in the last few days, I am optimistic these police could be allowed on site,” he said.
read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/24/australia-has-federal-police-ready-to-enter-ukraine-and-secure-mh17-site#start-of-comments
Meanwhile Gus invites the Russians with a gun ship to investigate what's happening in the high seas where an Australian ship is holding quite a lot of asylum seekers while denying them "duty of care"....
Most people think that Tony Abbott's mission is idiotic... He is an idiot but he might pull it off... Idiots often get strange breaks. He got elected, didn't he?
Please, Vladimir, note that our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is more of a bully and a sneaky psycho than you are. You've been warned...
The prime minister of Ukraine has stood himself down... You've seen this first on YD...
"Ukrainian Prime Minister resigns
The collapse of the coalition government may tip the country into a serious political crisis, in addition to economic difficulties and the bloody conflict with the pro-Russian separatists."
KIEV, Ukraine — Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, a pro-Western technocrat who has guided the Ukrainian government through the tumultuous months since the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovyvch, resigned abruptly on Thursday, after the governing coalition of Parliament collapsed.
“I declare my resignation in connection with the collapse of the coalition and blocking of government initiatives,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said from the rostrum of Parliament.
Earlier in the day, two major parties announced they were leaving the governing coalition, a step that would allow President Petro O. Poroshenko to dissolve Parliament and call elections for the fall.
That announcement followed weeks of negotiations between the parties, but the move was not supported by Mr. Yatsenyuk’s Fatherland Party, which is led by the former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who had challenged Mr. Poroshenko for the presidency.
Why does foreign policy default to stupid? From the moment that we heard of the Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine it was clearly an accident. Whoever’s finger was on the trigger, the tragedy cannot have been meant. This was not another 9/11. It was cock-up, not conspiracy.
Yet foreign policy craves conspiracy. Vladimir Putin blamed the Ukrainian government. Ukraine blamed the pro-Russian rebels. America’s UN ambassador, Samantha Power, “cannot rule out” Moscow’s responsibility. London howled blue murder all round. There had been blood. There had to be blame.
What happened was a ghastly mess in bandit country, meriting the swiftest possible restoration of dignity for the victims. Yet before even the bodies had been collected, politicians vied with each other fortightening sanctions, ending trade, expelling oligarchs and freezing bank accounts. Soon they were fighting like rats in a sack. Barack Obama was a wimp. François Hollande was an appeaser. David Cameron was a hypocrite. The philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy hurled down thunderbolts on everyone, “This is the spirit of Munich – appeasement. And it is a disgrace.”
These moments are dangerous. In 1914, the Austrian government declared the madcap shooting of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand a “Serbian government plot” and went to war. In 1983, the Russians shot down a Korean airliner that had strayed over Siberia, killing all 269 people on board. It was clearly an accident, the fighter pilots’ ground control being drunk and panicking. This intelligence was suppressed and the incident exploited to precipitate one of the most scary confrontations of the cold war.
Five years later it was America’s turn, when a US cruiser shot down an Iranian civilian Airbus A300 in Iranian airspace. The US navy wriggled and excused itself, while Iran seized on it as a crime of wanton aggression, aided by America rewarding its sailors with medals. Washington refused to admit legal liability, and took eight years to pay $62m in compensation to bereaved families.
What is terrifying is how such incidents are distorted to suit the interests of revenge. Clearly Putin has been reckless along Russia’s western frontier, backing Ukrainian rebels with enough weaponry to make accidents more likely to happen. Yet the idea that he willed the tragedy is as absurd as that Konstantin Chernenko willed the Korean massacre or Ronald Reagan the downing of an Iranian plane.
Putin must have been as appalled as anyone at the fate of the airliner. It also sabotaged his delicate power play in the region and threw him on the defensive. Intelligence from Moscow suggests that he is bruised and angry, retreating into his circle of hawkish advisers and their nationalist rhetoric. This is the moment Confucius advises us to give the enemy a bridge over which to retreat. Instead, the west’s hawks are having a field day, deriding Putin’s paranoia as if to goad him into doing something worse.
read more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/25/mock-putin-pride-paranoia-mh17-excuse-punish-russia
Trying to deploy Australian personnel to the Ukrainian warzone - let alone armed ones - shows a dangerous lack of respect for the very real conflict taking place in eastern Europe, writes Matthew Dal Santo.
Generous commentators discern a wider strategy in Australia's mission to the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine - a heartening sign of the government's willingness to engage, hard-headed, with the world, wherever Australia's interests demand it.
Today, though, the AFP's Ukraine Operation is looking more and more like the charge of the light brigade: gallant, but not bright.
For the third day running, the AFP has failed to reach the crash site. The Federal Government has said they could wait for up to three weeks on the outskirts of Donetsk, in the middle of a civil war whose deeper geopolitical issues the Government has by its own admission little interest in.
This isn't the AFP's fault. But those who sent them there appear to have been misled about the conditions they would find.
In place of the ceasefire supposedly provided for by last week's Australian-sponsored Security Council Resolution 2166, the crash site is a battleground as the Ukrainian army attempts to drive a wedge between the rebels and the Russian border. (See, for instance, this New York Times report.)
Indeed, the AFP's Ukrainian hosts stand in breach of a cardinal provision of SC/2166, "that all military activities, including by armed groups, be immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation".
This puts Bishop, now back in Kiev, and Australia in an awkward situation. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has every right to feel put upon by Australia's SC/2166: though welcome when it comes to the rebels, it's an obvious burden when it curtails the army's ability to suppress a rebellion on national territory. Certainly, it's a concession of sovereign rights it's hard to imagine any Australian government being prepared to make.
To fix the situation but in reality probably making it worse, Bishop wants Ukraine's parliament (which has not yet approved the Dutch-Australian mission) to approve the arming of the policemen Australia has deployed on its territory.
Yet the only thing worse than having unarmed personnel deployed in this particular warzone on the other side of the world is armed ones.
There are two simple reasons.
First, the Netherlands is a NATO country. Second, Australia is an American treaty ally.
Bishop will have to be very confident that both the Kremlin and the rebels will distinguish the inoffensive purposes of armed Australian personnel as clearly as we do.
That can't be taken for granted.
On Tuesday, the rebels accused the OSCE - the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe, under whose auspices the mission has been arranged - of serving as a vehicle for American interests.
And from Russia's perspective, the whole point of this conflict is to stop the eastward expansion of Western-led organisations, such as NATO and the EU, which it perceives as a cover for spreading America's sphere of influence over the territories of the former Soviet Union.
read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-30/dal-santo-mh17-australias-shallow-foreign-policy-revealed/5634810
It can frustrating for families of those who got killed in the accidental shooting of MH17 not to get all the bits that belonged to their loved ones... But it's unrealistic to expect an exclusion zone of war around MH17 debris. Already there are suggestion that the site has been land-mined by the rebels... Nothing to do with them being hard-hearted, but seeing an ARMED police force from NATO and Australian lackeys of the US trampling the sunflower fields could be seen as a geo-political action rather than a "humanitarian" venture.
And we still don't know who shot MH17... Ukrainian forces or rebels?... And there is nothing "humanitarian" to be found there. Only sad and innocuous remnant of people existence.
Peace in your hearts.
Meanwhile we are still searching for MH370... see
is this a fake document?...
From the American Conservative
The downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17 was a great tragedy, and the world wants to make sure that such an event never happens again. People all over the globe, not least Australians and the Dutch who have lost more than 230 civilians, have been understandably angry about the failure of the Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine to respond satisfactorily to this calamity.
But it is imperative that we think clearly and, if necessary, coldly, about the underlying cause of the Russia-Ukraine standoff, which sparked the military blunder. If we fail to do so, we’ll have little hope of trying to solve it. Alas, there is a real danger that the West’s response—more sanctions against Russia, diplomatic isolation of Vladimir Putin, increased military support to Ukraine—could exacerbate tensions.
The conventional wisdom in the West blames the turmoil on Putin’s goal to recreate the former Soviet Empire. The Bear is on the prowl again, we’re told, and it must be put back in its cage.
But the United States and the European Union are hardly blameless. As John Mearsheimer, one of America’s leading experts on international relations, points out in a forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs, it was the West’s efforts to pull Ukraine away from Russia’s strategic orbit that was guaranteed to cause big trouble.
By expanding NATO up to Russia’s borders in the Clinton and George W. Bush eras, and by helping bring down a democratically elected, pro-Moscow—albeit corrupt and thuggish—government in Kiev last February, the West has poked at the Bear and failed to see how those decisions look from its perspective.
It has repudiated the implicit agreement between president George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990-91 that the Atlantic alliance would not extend into Eastern Europe and the Baltics, a region that Russia has viewed as a necessary zone of protection long before Stalin appeared on the scene. In so doing, the West has taken no account at all for Russian susceptibilities and interests.
The United States has allowed Israel, waging an offensive in the Gaza Strip, to tap a local US arms stockpile in the past week to resupply it with grenades and mortar rounds, Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary, has said.The munitions were located inside Israel as part of a programme managed by the US military and called War Reserves Stock Allies-Israel (WRSA-I), which stores munitions locally for US use that Israel can also access in emergency situations.
Israel, however, did not cite an emergency when it made its latest request about 10 days ago, a defence official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
On Sunday, Barack Obama, the US president, called for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza.
Washington allowed Israel to access the strategic stockpile to resupply itself with 40mm grenades and 120mm mortar rounds to deplete older stocks that would eventually need to be refreshed.
In a statement, Kirby said: "Both munitions had been in WRSA-I stock for a few years, well before the current crisis.
"All stocks in WRSA-I, as required by law, are 'in excess to US requirements'.
read more: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/us-supplies-israel-with-bombs-amid-gaza-blitz-2014730233016747143.html
So why would not Putin be able to supply armament to the "Rebels" in East Ukraine?
Ukraine says at least 300 troops and border guards were forced to enter Russia during fighting with separatists and heavy mortar bombardment along the border.
Ukrainian defense spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists on Monday that the forces crossed into Russia for safety reasons, after they became trapped between the rebels and the border. However, Russian authorities insist the troops were seeking refuge.
Much of the fighting is currently concentrated in the region along the frontier. Lysenko said diplomatic negotiations were now underway with Moscow to secure the soldiers' return, adding that Ukrainian troops were close to cutting off rebels in Donetsk from the Russian border and their comrades in Luhansk.
Russia's security service said border guards had allowed 438 Ukrainians to cross at Gukovo, between the Ukrainian Luhansk and the Russian Rostov region, after they agreed to give up their weapons.
"They were tired of the war and wanted no further part in it," Russian border guard spokesman Vasily Malayev told Reuters. He added that 180 of the group were taken by bus back to Ukraine later on Monday, and that the remaining soldiers were being kept in a camp on Russian territory.
Speaking on Russian television, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would help facilitate the return of the soldiers, but he suggested they had defected.
"I expect Ukrainian authorities to understand that it is absolutely unacceptable, when Ukrainians ... are forced to fight with their own people, to treat those who refuse to do so as traitors to the motherland," said Lavrov.
Responding to Russia's retaliation on Thursday (07.08.2014), the European Commission was self-assured and relaxed. The European Union, a spokesman said, is "prepared to act" regarding the Russian import ban on food from EU member states.
"We reserve the right to take action as appropriate," said the spokesman, who said the ban was clearly politically motivated. He declined, however, to give details of possible retaliatory measures.
The agriculture and food embargo is set to last a year and includes meat, fish, poultry, milk products, vegetables and fruit from the EU and the US. Australia, Canada and Norway are also affected.
The Kremlin has already shown it can pinpoint specific countries. Immediately after the EU imposed encompassing economic sanctions against Russia on July 31, Moscow stopped the import of fruit and vegetables from Poland, allegedly due to health risks. Poland has always been at the forefront when it comes to taking a hard stance against Moscow.
Russia threatens further steps
Food imports involve large sums of money: According to the Commission, EU food exports to Russia were worth almost 12 billion euros ($16 billion) in 2013. For the most part, this trade will now likely cease to exist. Local Russian producers are expected to fill the gap, though their efforts are likely to fall short. Imports of Brazilian meat and cheese from New Zealand are expected to fill some of the gaps.
The ban is clearly "politically" motivated? What about the sanctions against Russia?... Get a life... We're ruled by hypocritical idiots... At least the Neo Zealanders have not climbed on their stupid soapboxes to satisfy their sorrows at the same time as their neo-fascist views... The mix of sorrows and neo-fascist capitalism is ugly...
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has cancelled a visit to Turkey, citing "Russian troop deployments" in the east of the country.
His announcement came as pro-Russia rebels took the coast town of Novoazovsk and threatened the strategic port city of Mariupol.
Russia said no forces were crossing Ukraine's border "at any point".
At least 2,119 people have been killed since fighting erupted in April between Ukrainian forces and separatists.
According to my very reliable sources on the Russian border, there are NO Russian troops in Ukraine... This is just a stir by the president of Ukraine to get world media attention...
World powers have called a succession of emergency meetings to step up the international response to Russia after Kiev accused Moscow of a de facto invasion and of opening up a second front in the conflict in eastern Europe.
The UN security council was meeting in emergency session, and Natoand EU leaders will consider a response on Friday, amid signs that hundreds of Russian soldiers are actively involved in the insurrection against Kiev's rule.
Russia denies that any of its troops are in eastern Ukraine. But on Thursday Nato said it estimated there were now more than 1,000 Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. The organisation released satellite images that it said showed Russian armoured vehicles and artillery had been crossing into Ukraine for at least a week.
According to my very reliable sources on the Russian border, there are NO Russian troops in Ukraine... This is just a stir by NATO...
The research group Bellingcat has accused Russia of manipulating satellite images from the MH17 disaster. But German image forensics expert Jens Kriese has criticized the analysis. He says it is impossible to say with any certainty whether Moscow is lying.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Bellingcat made headlines around the world this week when it claimed on Sunday night it had proven that Russia's Defense Ministryconducted forensic manipulations. The allegation is focused on images of the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flt. MH17 in eastern Ukraine last spring.
Kriese: The term "forensic analysis" is not a protected one. From the perspective of forensics, the Bellingcat approach is not very robust. The core of what they are doing is based on so-called Error Level Analysis (ELA). The method is subjective and not based entirely on science. This is why there is not a single scientific paper that addresses it.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What's the hitch?
Kriese: Forensic scientists use computer procedures that allow for the clearest possible conclusions: Has it been manipulated -- yes or no? Contrary to what Bellingcat claims, Error Level Analysis does not provide clear results. The conclusion is always based on the perspective of humans, on their interpretation.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What does the method entail?
Kriese: It attempts to determine compression artifacts. Those are the small deviations created when a photo is saved in JPG format -- differences from the original. It is possible to depict them in color. But: The final decision on whether a manipulation has occured or not is then still a personal decision made by the viewer. One has to decide whether variations should be attributed to manipulations or are they normal and could be attributed to clouds, for example?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you consider the Russian satellite images to have been manipulation?
Kriese: That's not the right question. We are not talking about satellite images here. We only know the version published by Moscow. That is a satellite image that has been prepared for use in a presentation.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Bellingcat has come to the conclusion that they were edited using Photoshop.
Kriese: That's an erroneous interpretation. They claim that the metadata shows that the images were processed using Photoshop. Based on that they are concluding it was the clouds that were likely added in order to conceal something. The truth is that the indication of Photoshop in the metadata doesn't prove anything. Of course the Russians had to use some sort of program in order to process the satellite image for the presentation. They added frames and text blocks in order to explain it to the public. The artifacts which have been identified could be a product of that -- or also a product of saving multiple times in JPG format.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Bellingcat says its findings are based on the use of the analysis tool FotoForensic.com, a website.
Kriese: And its founder Neal Krawetz also distanced himself from Bellingcat's conclusions on Twitter. He described it as a good example of "how to not do image analysis." What Bellingcat is doing is nothing more than reading tea leaves. Error Level Analysis is a method used by hobbyists.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How could one really test whether the satellite images have in fact actually been manipulated?
Kriese: That is very difficult. Ideally it would require the original documents, the satellite images themselves or perhaps even the raw data. The Russians have them.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Can't raw data also be manipulated?
Kriese: That is laborious. Other methods are more effective. There's an entire discipline exploring how image manipulation can be concealed. It is called anti-forensics. It allows photos to be sharpened after they are taken or to be edited with blur filters. Ninety percent of the time, ambitious bloggers like Bellingcat get nowhere.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So how is it even possible to uncover falsifications?
Kriese: Most are created under time pressure, which leads to small mistakes. But no one would be reckless enough to use Photoshop of all things and then not clean up the metadata. There are very different variants, and I think the intelligence services know a few of them.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Satellite images are often used as proof of events in the Ukraine crisis, even by NATO. Are they even meaningful?
Kriese: It is easy to claim to amateurs that one can see this or that. But just think about the US images of the alleged poison gas facilities in the Middle East. There's a similar point at Bellingcat: In one of the photos, a growing spot can be seen. It's allegedly an oil puddle next to a vehicle. But does one consider that to be plausible? I think it depends on whether a person wants to believe it or not.
Believe it or not, as an expert in photo-retouching, Gus knows that one can fool nearly everyone, especially a computer program. But THERE ARE MORE REASONS to believe that the Russians are showing the truth... We know that the Yanks have used dubious images to go to war against Iraq — images that the French and the Germans also had from their own spy satellites. But the French and the Germans did not want war, while the US did. Hence the different interpretation of the same thing which proved the US completely wrong — and they knew that, BUT THE USA, under George W Bush, WANTED WAR and war we got.
Dialogue with Russia?
Lesley Chamberlain claimed that Russia is not a puzzle. In fact that is precisely what it is. As should be clear even from the above very partial survey, Russian conservatism, like Russia itself, embraces a contradictory collection of flaws and virtues. Both the flaws and the virtues are large.
Among Russia’s virtues, it must be emphasized, is a far greater freedom of speech than it is typically given credit for. Russian participants in the Kaliningrad conference demonstrated a boldness of imagination, a variety and depth of thought on alternate futures for their country that is by no means always evident in political speech even in the United States.
For Western liberals, it is tempting to present Russian conservatism as always intrinsically dangerous. But I believe the loss is ours. Russian conservatism—or at any rate important elements of it—contains something potentially valuable to the West as it seeks to forge a strategy for dealing with the growing disorder in the world. What justifies engagement with Russia is before all else its ability to contribute to solving the problem that all of us face: how to devise a softer version of western modernity, one which allows for the preservation of tradition while simultaneously retaining what is most valuable in the liberal tradition.
The author would like to thank Dr. Adrian Walker, Matthew Cooper and especially Dr. Matthew Dal Santo for their valuable suggestions and comments on an earlier draft.
read more http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-varieties-of-russian-conservatism/
See toon at top...
The Ukrainian crisis may have seen a flickering light at the end of the tunnel, as politicians from the great powers collided over the former Soviet state are now bringing up the idea of having four-sided talks between the US, EU, Russia and Ukraine itself. But with the east of the Ukraine boiling with new wave of protests, and Kiev’s government being fed with unreasonable promises from Washington – whatwill tomorrow hold for the Ukrainians themselves? Are talks a real possibility? Will there be any use of them? To find this out, Sophie talks to Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst turned whistleblower.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst, whistleblower, political activist, it’s really great to have you on our show today. So, we’re going to talk about Ukraine as usual. Just recently the US, Russia and the EU have agreed to sit down with Ukraine, in an attempt to resolve this crisis. But, is this a problem to be solved internationally, or is it an internal Ukrainian issue? As a matter of fact, was it ever Ukraine’s internal problem?
Ray McGovern: Well, Ukraine, obviously needs to be involved intimately. We can’t have the EU and the US and Russia deciding the future of Ukraine, so the answer is Ukraine needs to be involved intimately, but all of them, East and West, and I’m really glad that the adults have taken over now, and what should have happened several weeks ago is happening now. People getting together to figure out how to do this, when no one’s security is endangered.
SS: But, like you’ve said, all these “adults” have different goals, and it seems like finding common ground isn’t really among them…What’s the real point of these talks?
RM: Well, if this was a matter of security for the USA that would be true. It is not a matter of national security, it’s a matter to living up to a promise that was made to Gorbachev, and your grandfather Shevardnadze in 1990, when James Backer said “the US and NATO would not leap-frog over Germany, would not move NATO one inch eastward.” That was a solemn promise, and unfortunately it wasn’t written down, but when your leaders, Russian leaders saw, that NATO started infringing, started going eastward, and then of course, when NATO leaders decided 6 years ago in Bucharest that Georgia and Ukraine would become members of NATO, that was sort of the last straw until the provocations that happened on Maidan in Kiev.
SS: I think NATO is a point that Russia will never negotiate on. So, if all sides are not willing to compromise, could talks eventually make things worse? Because from what I understand, there are some un-negotiable points…
RM: Yes, Russia has un-negotiable point: NATO will not subsume Ukraine under NATO’s wing – that is entirely understandable. As Helmut Schmidt, the former German Bundeskanzler said, it is “du haus verständlich” - “it is thoroughly understandable”, that Russia is not going to let Ukraine became part of NATO, and I think what the Administration here in Washington decided, was “we will try it anyway” and they got a bloody nose. So I think there are no security interests of any importance on the US side. Finally, Obama, is able to say, “yes, we will talk, we will negotiate, we will include, of course the Ukrainians, but EU, Russia, we and the Ukrainians will figure it all out” – it’s not difficult to figure out, unless you want to make regime change in Ukraine, and that was of course the casus belli, so to speak, when our Assistant Secretary of State made it clear in that intercepted telephone conversation that “Yatz” is our guy and that he used to be, or still is, the head of the central Bank, he knows about austerity, he’ll know what needs to happen for the IMF…” the whole business about subsuming Ukraine into the EU or its economic umbrella – you know, they would end up just like workers in Greece: cheap labor with incredible debt to have to pay off. So, I think, people are sort of calming down now, I really fear for what Putin called the “neo-nazis” and the “Banderan” groups – they are still around so we need to make sure that jointly we don’t let them disrupt whatever peace negotiations transpire.
SS: Right. So, you’ve touched upon couple of different points that are involved in the Ukrainian crisis. Let’s start from the financial problem. The Western financial help comes with conditions, like you’ve said, and they are likely to hurt average Ukrainian, at least, in the nearest future. Do you see a danger of another social explosion after austerity starts?
RM: If things go through, I’m not at all sure that this interim government is going to last very long. But, if Russia sits back and says “alright, well, no more discounts on our natural gas, and if the West wants to come through with 18 bln dollars to bail out Ukraine – that’s fine with us” – the Russians, your people, still have incredible power that comes of the economic leverage, that comes from the natural gas and oil, and the very close ties between Russia and, for example, Germany, that are new; and if the US thinks that they can leverage these things, I think the US is in for said awakening.
SS: Since you’ve touched upon the gas, the US is actually telling Ukraine that it can make that country independent from Russia in terms of gas. But the US shale gas project is something still to come in the future, it’s not there yet. Do you feel like they are giving them empty promises?
RM: Well, this not going to happen anytime soon. The idea there is that “you, Ukrainians, get extra blankets now, and if you could just last for a couple of years with extra blankets, we’ll get this liquefied natural gas ships built, and we will get the shale oil going, and you’ll be alright, just wait a couple of years” – it’s ridiculous on its face. Russia has the high cards here, the Ukrainians have to know that, so does the EU, the rest of Europe.
SS: So you don’t think that America can actually follow through its promise to make Ukraine independent from Russian gas?
RM: It’s physically impossible for the next few years.
SS:Here’s another thing – only one out of six Americans can actually point Ukraine on the map. Some even think they live in Ukraine, according to recent Washington Post survey. So why would someone take action in place they know nothing about?
RM: Well, that’s very simply. It’s the media in our country which is beating the drums for the hostile attitude towards Russia. Now, the background of that, of course, is that the people who control the media are the ones who profiteer from arms manufacturing and sales, and also the people who do not want decent relations between Russia and the US, Victoria Nuland, for example. The cardinal sin that Vladimir Putin made was to help the US out of a very difficult situation with respect to Syria. The point is, Putin bailed out the president, and the people who wanted the war to continue in Syria, the neo-cons, were destroyed about that, and so they don’t like Putin one bit, and they want to cause a hostile relationship between Russia and the US, but Obama and Putin do have a relationship, and I can see that working out for the better, as people sit down as adults and negotiate this crisis.
SS: But, it’s funny that you’ve mentioned the neo-cons, because I was talking to Ron Paul recently and he also told me kind of a same thing, he said it’s the hardliners at home who are influencing Obama, and they are the ones who want heavy American involvement in Ukraine. But why would they want that?
RM: Well, for two reasons. One is, because they want to create this hostile environment between Moscow and Washington: that helps arms sales to the former East European countries, it helps to stir up the kind of spirit that makes defense expenditures even more. The other reason is they do not like to have the relationship where Vladimir Putin and our president, Barak Obama, are able to negotiate behind the back of their favorite neo-con, and their favorite neo-con is the fellow I mentioned before – John Kerry, who has the neo-con attitude, where they think that the strategic interest of Israel on the one side are identical with the strategic interests of the US on the other side. Now, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I just don’t think those kinds of people should be running US policy, and I think, the president Obama should fire John Kerry, now that it’s very clear that he lied 35 times on August 30th, by saying that Bashar Assad was responsible for those chemical attacks. That was a lie. Vladimir Putin had it right.
SS:Do you think that American politicians now dealing with the Ukrainian crisis are fully aware of how divided the nation is?
RM: No, of course they aren’t. To the degree they take any interest. Now, your allusion to the recent poll which shows that the very few Americans can identify where Ukraine is on the map – it was very interesting, not only does that go for American citizens, it goes for our Congress people as well, and there was a direct correlation: those who thought the Ukraine was perhaps in Asia or in the Middle of the Sea, thought that yes, we should take a very strong attitude and maybe even consider military action against it. But those who knew, where the Ukraine is, right in the shadow of Russia, were much more judicious, much more enlightened and saw that we have no need to mess around, to cause regime change in Kiev, and so they are much less in favor of a strong military-type response.
SS: There is five billion dollars that’s been invested in Ukraine through the National Endowment for Democracy over the years – do you believe Washington has the result it was actually looking for?
RM: It was a good try. In other words, Victoria Nuland, the Assitant Secretary of State apparently thought that if she gave chocolate-chip cookies on Maidan then everything would turn out alright with the “Yatz” coming in as the interim prime-minister. Now, Yatz did become an interim prime-minister, but not everything turned out alright, and she should have known better. And, I think she did know better, that’s why I keep saying that her ultimate intention was to create a very hostile environment between Moscow and Washington.
SS:But, I think you are referring to the conversation that we’ve all heard between Victoria Nuland, when she was actually laying out the plan of how the Ukrainian government should look. It does seem like, it looks a lot like what she wanted it to look, no? Or is it a coincidence?
RM: Well, it does for the time being. One would have thought that once this conversation which shows direct American meddling in Ukrainian affairs, once that was on YouTube, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind would have prevented Yatsenuk from becoming prime minister –but it didn’t. That’s how blatant it was. And that’s why I say that it’s just as much an effort to create enmity between our two countries.
SS:Establishing legitimacy is Kiev’s greatest challenge now at home and abroad, especially in Moscow, but how can it achieve that – keeping in mind the striking similarity of the government line-up with Mrs. Nuland’s instructions?
RM: I don’t think Mrs. Nuland is going to have a final say here. I think everybody’s interests need to be respected, and that’s why I welcome so much the idea of Russia, the US, the EU and the Ukrainians sitting down at the table to work it out. It’s not terribly complicated once US gives up the idea of regime change. My favorite outcome is to make the Ukraine something like Finland, where it could be neutral and a threat to no one, where NATO wouldn’t go near the Ukraine – I think Russia will be satisfied with that.
SS:Victoria Nuland was also heard to dismiss EU’s role in this whole crisis – has Ukraine caused a rift between European NATO members and Washington?
RM: She used a very vulgar term, which I won’t repeat on air here… But, you know, what surprises me still, and I’ve been watching this for over half-a-century, is how servile are the West Europeans and the East Europeans are to Washington’s demands. I think that’s a transitory thing now, and I think this crisis will make the West Europeans, particularly the Germans think twice about whether they should always say “how high you want me to jump” when Washington says “jump”.
SS: NATO’s Secretary General has also warned Russia against the “historic mistake” in Ukraine, threatening to further isolate Russia internationally – but what more can be done? I mean, they already suspended all cooperation..
RM: On neseryezni chelovek (Он несерьезный человек) – that fellow, Fogh Rasmussen, is not a serious person. He was that the guy that said on March 18th, one day before the invasion in Iraq, “we don’t believe there are weapons of mass destruction there – we know they are there!” He was at that point the prime-minister of Denmark. He is not a serious person, don’t pay any attention to him.
SS: He may change in the years to come, and another head of NATO will arise – but do you think it’s still in NATO’s plans to actually eventually take Ukraine in as a member state?
RM: I think that what’s just happened over the last couple of months should spell the death now to NATO’s plans to incorporate Ukraine. It may take a little while to that to sink in, but that’s clearly the outcome of all this, and whether they will reverse their Bucharest declaration of 6 years ago or not on paper – is another question, but I think sober-minded people in Europe, if not in the US, have realized that this was a bridge too far, this was one regime change too many, and that the Russians are not going to permit, certainly not going to permit Ukraine to become part of NATO.
SS: What about this whole sanctions business – there is a lot of talk about who it’s going to hurt more, is it worth introducing sanctions when you consider the likelihood of boomerang effect?
RM: Boomerang…well, you know, this is a real consideration. Here, in my view, the Russians have all the high cards, you’ve got the natural gas delivery not only trough the Ukraine and to the Ukraine, but to the rest of Europe. You’ve got oil, you’ve got lots of factors in play, the very close trade relationships that exist now, that didn’t exist 20 years ago; so these sanctions are, in many respects, laughable, and when they become – or if the US presses for more serious sanctions – they will meet very strong resistance from countries like Germany, countries that are very important in Europe.
SS: What about the political dialog, in general – can the West afford to stop political dialog with Russia?
RM: There is the outward dialog between Kerry and Sergey Lavrov; Kerry is fulminating, he’s acting like a senator that has all kinds of power – but he doesn’t have a lot of power, and just as what happened in Syria, Obama and Putin – thank goodness, slava Bogu! (Слава Богу!) - have a personal relationship, and as with Syria, Obama can go behind Kerry’s back, deal directly with Vladimir Putin, and I see great hope in that.
SS: And, if we get back to sanctions, just a little bit – you’ve called them laughable, and some would say that there is only been a token effort to introduce them, so does this all mean it is just a hot air to impress voters?
RM: Yes. I’d say “bolshoi shum (большой шум)” – a lot of hot air. This is playing to domestic constituencies. Obama wants to appear like he’s taking a strong stand here. But the more he resorts to these token sanctions, the more transparent it is that he really doesn’t have a lot of leverage here, and he should have known that going in. He was in a large sense mouse-trapped by the neo-cons, as they almost mouse-trapped him into the war with Syria.
SS: We’re really impressed by your knowledge of Russian. Our foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov – Russia’s foreign minister says American mercenaries are now acting on the ground in the Eastern Ukraine, something US saying it cannot confirm. Would this surprise you?
RM: It wouldn’t surprise me. I guess what surprised me is that Lavrov most recently said that he accepts the assurances of Kerry that this is not the case. If it is the case, this would be “sumashedshi (сумасшедший)”, it would be crazy on the part of Americans. One thing I would point out here is that the press is ridiculous on our side of the ocean here: they talk, for example, about the pro-Russian Ukrainians singing “Katuysha, katuysha” from World War Two, and everybody in the US said “oh, those are those rockets!”… But they don’t know it’s a love song! “Rascvetali yabloni I grushi, proplili tumani nad rekoi… (Расцветали яблони и груши, проплыли туманы над рекой…) – you know the rest of it.
SS: Yeah, I know the rest. Not only you know the Russian, you also sing well..
RM: Well, thank you. I’ll sing the rest of it later, if you wish.
SS:Okay, if we get back to Ukraine, do you feel like Ukraine’s forces need help in containing protests in the East, or can they handle it on their own?
RM: I think they can. I think that there is probably some reason to believe that what Kerry and White House spokesman are saying is that the Russians have a great deal of assets, a great deal of influence of what happens in the eastern Ukraine, and I would think that if people sit down at the table, this would be one of the cards in play: “We will not stir up problems or trouble in the Eastern Ukraine, and you will not put Blackwater or whatever they call themselves these days in the Western Ukraine” – it is all imminently work-outable, it just has to involve mature, adult negotiators, which are rather premium, at least on our side.
SS: And what are your thoughts about US Navy deployments in the Black Sea?
RM: We talk about pre-planned appointments, and as you know, the treaty of Montreaux allows these kinds of things; so, I think this is another gesture where Kerry can say “Oh we have some warships right there in the Black Sea” – I don’t take it very seriously, I would be surprised if the US Navy were not ordered to show the flag at the Black Sea at this point.
SS:2013 has actually been a really good year in US-Russia relations. If you think about it, because, you know, they had this accord on Iran movement, also you’ve mentioned Syria – Presidents Obama and Putin were able to come to an agreement, a common deal. Do you think that all has just ruined right now?
RM: I think there is a great incentive on a part of the so-called neo-cons in our government to wreck that. But I don’t think they are going to succeed, there is going to be a period of less-cordial relationships, but now there that we’re sitting down at the table, I see that this will come back into proper focus, and I don’t think Obama is so dumb that he will jettison the relationship that he has with Vladimir Putin, which Putin as said in September last year, was marked by, quote “growing trust”, end of quote. I think there is a modicum of trust there, and I think Obama realizes by this point that he probably more trust eastward that in the neo-cons that want to get him on to a pack of trouble, in Syria and elsewhere.
SS:All right, thank you very much for this great insight. Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst turned whistleblower. We were talking about Ukraine, whether it’s an internal or external problem, and also will President Obama and Putin continue to collaborate on certain issues. It’s been great having you with us today. That’s it for this edition of Sophie&Co, we’ll see you next time.
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