Information About Ukraine

Ukraine for Dummies

At Wednesday’s debut of the impeachment hearings there was one issue upon which both sides of the aisle seemed to agree, and it was a comic-book caricature of reality.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff led off the proceedings with this: “In 2014, Russia invaded a United States ally, Ukraine, to reverse that nation’s embrace of the West, and to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s desire to rebuild a Russian empire…”

Five years ago, when Ukraine first came into the news, those Americans who thought Ukraine was an island in the Pacific can perhaps be forgiven. That members of the House Intelligence Committee don’t know – or pretend not to know – more accurate information about Ukraine is a scandal, and a consequential one.

As Professor Stephen Cohen has warned, if the impeachment process does not deal in objective fact, already high tensions with Russia are likely to become even more dangerous.

So here is a kind of primer for those who might be interested in some Ukraine history:

    • Late 1700s: Catherine the Great consolidated her rule; established Russia’s first and only warm-water naval base in Crimea.
    • In 1919, after the Bolshevik Revolution, Moscow defeated resistance in Ukraine and the country becomes one of 15 Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
    • In 1954, after Stalin’s death the year before, Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian, assumed power. Pandering to Ukrainian supporters, he unilaterally decreed that henceforth Crimea would be part of the Ukrainian SSR, not the Russian SSR. Since all 15 Republics of the USSR were under tight rule from Moscow, the switch was a distinction without much of a difference – until later, when the USSR fell apart.
Khrushchev: Gave Ukraine away.
  • Nov. 1989: Berlin wall down.
  • Dec. 2-3, 1989: President George H. W. Bush invites Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to summit talks in Malta; reassures him “the U.S. will not take advantage” of Soviet troubles in Eastern Europe. Bush had already been pushing the idea of a Europe whole and free, from Portugal to Vladivostok.

A Consequential Quid Pro Quo

    • Feb. 7-10, 1990: Secretary of State James Baker negotiates a quid pro quo; Soviet acceptance of the bitter pill of a reunited Germany (inside NATO), in return for an oral US promise not to enlarge NATO “one inch more” to the East.

  • Dec. 1991: the USSR falls apart. Suddenly it does matter that Khrushchev gave Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR; Moscow and Kyiv work out long-term arrangements for the Soviet navy to use the naval base at Sevastopol.
  • The quid pro quo began to unravel in October 1996 during the last weeks of President Bill Clinton’s campaign when he said he would welcome Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO – the earlier promise to Moscow notwithstanding. Former US Ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock, who took part in both the Bush-Gorbachev early-December 1989 summit in Malta and the Baker-Gorbachev discussions in early February 1990, has said, “The language used was absolute, including no ‘taking advantage’ by the US… I don’t see how anybody could view the subsequent expansion of NATO as anything but ‘taking advantage,’ particularly since, by then, Russia was hardly a credible threat.” (From 16 members in 1990, NATO has grown to 29 member states – the additional 13 all lie east of Germany.)
  • Feb. 1, 2008: Amid rumors of NATO planning to offer membership to Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warns US Ambassador William Burns that “Nyet Means Nyet.” Russia will react strongly to any move to bring Ukraine or Georgia into NATO. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we have Burns’s original cable from embassy in Moscow.
  • April 3, 2008: Included in Final Declaration from NATO summit in Bucharest: “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.”
  • Early September 2013: Putin helps Obama resist neocon demands to do “shock and awe” on Syria; Russians persuade President Bashar al-Assad to give up Syrian army chemical weapons for destruction on a US ship outfitted for chemical weapons destruction. Neocons are outraged over failing to mousetrap Obama into attacking Syria.

Meanwhile in Ukraine

  • Dec. 2013: In a speech to the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland says: “The United States has supported Ukraine’s European aspirations. … We have invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.”
  • Feb. 4, 2014: Amid rioting on the Maidan in Kiev, YouTube carries Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s last minute instructions to US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt regarding the US pick for new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (aka “Yats”) and other plans for the imminent coup d’etat in Kiev. (See: ) When Pyatt expresses concern about EU misgivings about mounting a coup, Nuland says “Fuck the EU.” She then apologizes to the EU a day or two later – for the profanity, not for the coup. She also says that Vice President Joe Biden will help “glue this thing together”, meaning the coup.
  • Feb. 22, 2014: Coup d’etat in Kyiv; appropriately labeled “the most blatant coup in history” by George Friedman, then President of the widely respected think-tank STRATFOR.
  • Feb. 23, 2014: The date that NATO, Western diplomats, and the corporate media have chosen – disingenuously – as the beginning of recent European history, with silence about the coup orchestrated in Kyiv the day before. President Vladimir Putin returns to Moscow from the winter Olympics in Sochi; confers with advisers about Crimea, deciding – unlike Khrushchev in 1954 – to arrange a plebiscite to let the people of Crimea, most of whom strongly opposed the coup regime, decide their own future.
  • March 16, 2014: The official result from the voters in Crimea voted overwhelmingly for independence from Ukraine and to join Russia. Following the referendum, Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and asked to join the Russian Federation. On March 18, the Russian Federal Assembly ratified the incorporation of Crimea into Russia.
  • In the following days, Putin made it immediately (and publicly) clear that Yatsenyuk’s early statement about Ukraine joining NATO and – even more important – the US/NATO plans to deploy ABM systems around Russia’s western periphery and in the Black Sea, were the prime motivating forces behind the post-referendum re-incorporation of Crimea into Russia.
  • No one with rudimentary knowledge of Russian history should have been surprised that Moscow would take no chances of letting NATO grab Crimea and Russia’s only warm-water naval base. The Nuland neocons seized on the opportunity to accuse Russia of aggression and told obedient European governments to follow suit. Washington could not persuade its European allies to impose stringent sanctions on Russia, though, until the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 over Ukraine.

Airplane Downed; 298 Killed

  • July 17, 2014: MH17 shot down
  • July 20, 2014: Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC’s David Gregory, “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.” The US, however, has not shared any evidence of this.
  • Given the way US intelligence collectors had been focused, laser-like, on that part of the Ukrainian-Russian border at that time, it is a near certainty that the US has highly relevant intelligence regarding what actually happened and who was most likely responsible. If that intelligence supported the accusations made by Kerry, it would almost certainly have been publicized.
  • Less than two weeks after the shoot-down, the Europeans were persuaded to impose sanctions that hurt their own businesses and economies about as much as they hurt Russia’s – and far more than they hurt the US There is no sign that, in succumbing to US pressure, the Europeans mustered the courage to ask for a peek at the “intelligence” Kerry bragged about on NBC TV.
  • Oct. 27, 2016: Putin speaks at the Valdai International Discussion Club.

How did the “growing trust” that Russian President Putin wrote about in his September 11, 2013 New York Times op-ed evaporate?

How did what Putin called his close “working and personal relationship with President Obama” change into today’s deep distrust and saber-rattling? A short three years later after the close collaboration to resolve the Syrian problem peacefully, Putin spoke of the “feverish” state of international relations and lamented: “My personal agreements with the President of the United States have not produced results.” And things have gone downhill from there.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). This originally appeared at Consortium News.

Author: Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In the Sixties he served as an infantry/intelligence officer and then became a CIA analyst for the next 27 years. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). 

Journalists in Jail

Max Blumenthal Arrest Exposes Hypocrisy of Western Media and ‘Human Rights’ NGOs

USA v Max Blumenthal: court papers (image: Grayzone)

by Joe Emersberger

Grayzone: ‘This charge is 100% false’: Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal arrested months after reporting on Venezuelan opposition violence

Grayzone (10/28/19) reported that its editor, Max Blumenthal, had been arrested on “fabricated charge related to the siege of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC.”

Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal, a prominent journalistic critic of US policy toward Venezuela,  was arrested by DC police on Friday, October 25, in connection with a protest at the Venezuelan embassy, and held incommunicado. But if you rely on corporate media, or even leading “press freedom” groups, you haven’t heard about this troubling encroachment on freedom of the press.

Blumenthal is a bestselling author whose work has appeared in such publications as the New York TimesCJRThe Nationand Salon. DC police arrested him at his home on a five-month-old arrest warrant, charging him with simple assault for his attempt to deliver food to the besieged Venezuelan embassy; he was held for two days, and for the first 36 hours was not allowed to speak with a lawyer. (In an interview with FAIR, Blumenthal noted that keeping arrestees—generally poor and African-American—from speaking with lawyers or family is par for the course in the DC criminal justice system.) As of this writing, there has been no mention of Blumenthal’s arrest in outlets like the New York TimesWashington Post and Reuters that constantly publish Venezuela-related content, or by the big “press freedom” NGOs.

When freelance US journalist Cody Weddle was detained in Venezuela for 12 hours, it made headlines in the New York Times (3/6/19), Washington Post(3/6/19),  Miami Herald (3/6/19), USA Today (3/6/19), Guardian (3/6/19), UK Telegraph(3/6/19),  NPR (3/10/19), ABC (3/9/19) and Reuters (3/7/19). That’s not exhaustive, but you get the picture.

In Weddle’s case, the human rights industry also responded immediately. Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch tweeted about Cody Weddle’s detention, as did Reporters without Borders (RSF). The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also put out a statementimmediately (3/6/19). There has been nothing from them about Blumenthal.

The two-hour detention of Univision’s Jorge Ramos in Venezuela was likewise big news. In fact, RSF was outraged that Cody Weddle’s detention happened “barely a week” after the Ramos incident.

Nobody should have a problem with Weddle’s arrest or Ramos’ detention getting the widespread attention they did. (The content in the reports about Venezuela is a separate issue.) What should anger anybody who isn’t consumed with hypocrisy is the point Ben Norton, writing in Grayzone (10/28/19), made about Blumenthal’s arrest:

If this had happened to a journalist in Venezuela, every Western human rights NGO and news wire would be howling about Maduro’s authoritarianism. It will be revealing to see how these same elements react to a clear-cut case of political repression in their own backyard.

Blumenthal’s arrest is another example of the legal harassment of US government critics, including  WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning–whose plights have similarly been neglected by Western media and NGOs that claim to support press freedom (FAIR.org11/3/184/1/19).

Several months ago, activists invited by the Venezuela government stayed in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, for over a month until they were finally evicted by police on May 24. The presence of the activists delayed a takeover of the embassy by representatives of the Trump-appointed Venezuelan government-in-exile led by Juan Guaidó. The majority of the world’s governments do not recognize Guaidó; that was dramatically highlighted on October 17 when Venezuela’s was voted onto the UN Human Rights Council despite US “lobbying” (i.e., bribes and threats).

Nevertheless, Trump’s recognition of Guaidó in January 2019 was the excuse for intensifying economic sanctions that had already killed thousands of people by the end of 2018. (Incidentally, Jorge Ramos’ two-hour “detention” also received more Western media attention than the study showing the already-lethal impact of Trump’s sanctions—FAIR.org6/14/19).

DN: Journalist Max Blumenthal Says He Was Arrested on False Charges

Democracy Now! (10/30/19) was one of the few US outlets to report on Blumenthal’s arrest.

With the complicity of DC police, Guaidó supporters tried to block food from being delivered to the embassy during the standoff with the activists. At one point, 78-year-old Jesse Jackson Sr. had to scuffle with Guaidó supporters to deliver food. The DC police were clearly intent on doing as little as possible, even with an elderly, high-profile visitor trying to make a delivery.  Former Green Party candidate Ajamu Baraka (age 66) was forced to act as Jackson’s bodyguard, thanks to the aggression of Guaidó supporters and the inaction of DC police.

Norton reported:

Court documents indicate the false charge of simple assault stems from Blumenthal’s participation in a delivery of food and sanitary supplies to peace activists and journalists inside the Venezuelan embassy on May 8, 2019.

Others attempting to deliver food were hit with charges months ago. Activist Ben Rubenstein and Veterans for Peace president Gary Condon (age 72) were beaten by police during the standoff for trying to toss a cucumber to activists inside the embassy. In fact, the warrant against Blumenthal was months old, and apparently initially rejected. Blumenthal explained:

If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arraignment…. Instead, the federal government essentially enlisted the DC police to SWAT me, ensuring that I would be subjected to an early morning raid and then languish in prison for days without even the ability to call an attorney.

The lack of coverage of his arrest “is totally consistent with media coverage of the siege of the Venezuelan embassy,” Blumenthal told FAIR. “The violence, racism, sexism of the Venezuelan opposition—none of it was reported in the mainstream US press.” Aside from alternative outlets like Democracy Now! (10/30/19) and the World Socialist Website (10/30/19), one had to turn to Russian state media to find coverage of Blumenthal’s arrest. A Sputnik article (10/30/19) about the case cited damaging exposés Grayzone has published about Guaidó inner circle, one of which recently led to the resignation of right-wing economist Ricardo Hausmann from Guaidó’s shadow administration.

Here’s an idea for media outlets and NGOs concerned about the appeal of Russian public relations efforts: start doing your jobs by holding your own authoritarian politicians and politicized police forces to account.

 

Back to Izmir (India Blog 30)

Back to Izmir (India Blog 30)

Sunday December 16. 5:40 afternoon. Izmir, Turkey

Just got back to Izmir a short while ago. It was raining all the way from the airport. I took thirteen rolls of black and white film and ten rolls of color film.

More than 800 pictures on my cell phone. Most of these are not of much use to me.

I will develop and scan the film in my own dark room.

It was a pretty good trip back from Delhi, except that they did not give me an aisle seat. Most Indians are pretty pushy when it comes to that and the plane had mostly Indians aboard. Good that I got back with my cameras and film. I didn’t lose anything on the trip.

The plane from Delhi was full. The young Indian guy next to me was from San Francisco. I had a good conversation with him and told him about some of the things that had gone on in Turkey recently.

Most of the time of the flight, the shades on the windows of the plane were closed. And I slept part of the way for the six hour flight. We flew over Afghanistan. Sunny weather. The mountains were beautiful.

The USA is still bombing the shit out of them.

In Istanbul, there was no spare time after getting through customs and to the flight to Izmir. I had my seat number, but they guy changed it and stuck me in the back. I should have challenged it, but was too tired to do so, I guess. Hardly worth it. But somebody on Turkish Airlines screwed me over. A short flight, anyway. Just time to eat a tost and then the plane landed.

It was raining. So I got a taxi and came.

I sort of got updated to some extent on what is going on in India. There were no real mishaps, so everything worked out pretty well.

Now to develop my film.

(The End)