The deal was reached during the two leaders’ meeting in Hamburg on Friday on the sidelines of the G20 summit of industrialized and developing nations.
“Russian, American and Jordanian experts … agreed on a memorandum of understanding to create a de-escalation zone”in the regions of Deraa, Quneitra and Suweida, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
“There will be a ceasefire in this zone from midday Damascus time [9:00 GMT] on July 9,” he added.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed the agreement, saying that it showed that the US and Russia were able to work together in Syria and that they would continue to do so.
“We had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria that we can continue to work together on to de-escalate the areas and the violence, once we defeat ISIS,”he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
‘Resident feel unsafe’
Previous ceasefires in Syria have collapsed or failed to reduce violence for long, and it was unclear whether this deal would fare any better.
Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Gaziantep, Turkey, said that despite such announcements of ceasefires, fighting continues and residents feel unsafe.
“This week there were peace talks in Astana and ahead of those talks, a ceasefire was announced, but in the west of the country, rebels are in a fierce battle with the Syrian forces who are trying to regain control,” she said.
“Along the southern border there is sporadic fighting going on. The Syrian opposition is in control for the most part along the border with Jordan, but clearly fighting continues despite these ceasefires.
“We have spoken to residents in the southwest portion of Syria and they say that despite a ceasefire, they don’t feel safe and humanitarian aid doesn’t reach them.”
The United Nations welcomed the agreement between the US and Russia, saying it would enable upcoming peace talks.
The UN’s deputy special envoy to Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy said the agreement was a “positive development.”
He said he hopes other areas in Syria will see similar agreements to reduce violence.
Ramzy is in Damascus ahead of a new round of UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva on Monday.
The Syrian conflict has killed nearly half a million people, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and forced millions of others to flee the country.
Russia is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s most important backers and the survival of his regime is critical to maintaining Russian interests there. The US has argued that Assad’s regime must be toppled and backs “moderate” rebels fighting Syria government forces.
President Bashar al-Assad Gives First Interview Since Syria Airstrikes
One president is pushing NATO to get its act together on defense spending. But that president sits in Moscow, not Washington.
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced non-U.S. NATO members will boost their defense spending by 4.3 percent this year as it seeks to counter Russian aggression and confront terrorist threats from the Middle East.
“To keep our nations safe, we need to keep working to increase defense spending and fairer burden-sharing across our alliance,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday. “We have really shifted gears. The trend is up, and we intend to keep it up.”
Stoltenberg announced non-U.S. NATO members will collectively increase spending on defense by 4.3 percent in 2017 — a $12 billion boost from 2016 levels. He said the money would be funneled into new military exercises and equipment to help NATO troops deploy quickly in case of emergency. Portions of the new funds would also go to troops’ salaries and pensions.
Burden sharing has long been a sore spot in U.S.-NATO relations. Washington, by far NATO’s largest defense spender, has pushed allies to pay their fair share for years. But Trump upped the ante by railing against allies for “owing” the United States backpay on spending gaps (though according to former U.S. ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, that’s not how NATO defense spending works) and even hinting Washington wouldn’t come to the aid of allies who don’t spend enough on defense — moves that inflamed tensions with European capitals.
Currently, only five of NATO’s 29 allies meet the alliance’s commitment to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense — the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia, and Greece. Romania is expected to reach the threshold this year, with Latvia and Lithuania following next year.
Trump has also taken credit for NATO’s defense spending boost, but top NATO and European officials insist the wake-up call came from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and not the man in the Oval Office.
In the wake of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, which caught Washington and its allies flat-footed, NATO members pledged to reach collectively the 2 percent threshold by 2024 through incremental spending increases. NATO defense spending grew 1.8 percent in 2015 and 3.3 percent in 2016. Many national governments hashed out these increases before Trump’s surprise presidential victory last November.
But regardless of who takes credit for what, Stoltenberg said Trump was on the right track. “I welcome the strong focus of President Trump on defense spending and burden sharing, because it is important that we deliver,” he said Wednesday. “European allies should invest more in defense not only to please the United States, but they should invest more in defense because it is in their own interests.”
On Thursday, Stoltenberg will convene NATO defense ministers to discuss combating terrorism and burden-sharing issues in a semi-regular meeting in Brussels.
Trump’s past comments may have cast doubt on U.S. guarantees to NATO, but he isn’t shorting the alliance when it comes to money. The Trump administration committed $4.8 billion in its 2018 defense budget to expanding its military footprint and activities in Europe.
“Beyond any words in the newspapers, you can judge America by such actions,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Wednesday, speaking in Garmisch, Germany.
“The reason U.S. forces are in Europe is not out of charity to the Europeans,” he said. “The security of the U.S. would be directly affected if Europe came under the domination of an unfriendly power.”
Congress also wants NATO to know it has its back. On Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly voted for a resolution endorsing NATO’s mutual defense clause — something Trump failed to do in his gaffe-filled visit to Brussels last month.
“NATO is absolutely essential to our national security and global stability,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said in a statement Tuesday, in what appeared to be a signal to both nervous allies and some NATO-skeptics in the White House. “The United States must remain the world’s leading force for good, but we cannot confront the challenges of the 21st century alone.”
Trump earlier this month finally endorsed NATO’s mutual defense clause in response to a question from a journalist during a joint press conference with the Romanian President in Washington. “I’m committing the United States to Article 5,” he said.
NATO’s mutual defense clause, known as Article 5, has been the linchpin of transatlantic security since NATO’s inception in 1949. It was only ever invoked once, in support of the United States after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
“What’s the difference between the FBI director and Mr.Snowden?“Russian President Vladimir Putin asked Thursday during his yearly live call-in show, saying that he would offer political asylum to fired FBI head James Comey in the same way Russia has sheltered former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
By phrasing a question uniquely constructed for these unusual times, Putin put a new spin on the ongoing saga over Russia’s alleged tampering in the U.S. election, links between President Trump’s inner circle and Russia, and allegations that the president tried to stop at least one line of inquiry.
Comey recently testified that Trump fired him after asking him to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — a request that Comey says he memorialized in personal notes that he allowed to be leaked to the media.
“Comey said he’d written down his conversation with President Trump and handed it to the media through a friend of his,” Putin said, according to a translation by Radio Free Europe. “This does sound and look odd: the director of a security service making records of his talks with the supreme commander and handing it over to the media through a friend of his.”
– Russian President Vladimir Putin answers questions from a studio audience and citizens calling in, at his annual Direct Line session on Thursday.
Russian Presidential Press and Information Office
Comparing Comey to Snowden, Putin said, “It makes him not a security service director, but a civil activist advocating a certain belief.”
He added, “By the way, if he faces any kind of prosecution in this regard, we will provide political asylum in Russia for him as well. He should be aware of that.”
As wide smiles broke out among the studio audience at that last remark, Putin pivoted in his chair, signaling that the question had been dealt with.
This year, the Kremlin says, the call center that funnels the public’s curiosity received some 2 million messages, including 1.3 million phone calls.
The Kremlin says most of the calls at this year’s question-and-answer session dealt with Russia’s future. Many of the topics centered on wages, inflation and the economy.
– Operators take live calls from across Russia. The call center received some 2 million messages, including 1.3 million phone calls.
Russian Presidential Press and Information Office
Noting that the U.S. Senate has moved to impose new sanctions on Russia and to prevent the Trump administration from rolling back the sanctions without congressional approval, Putin said, “Whatever the case, I believe this is utterly groundless.”
President Vladimir Putin On Russian Alleged Election Interference (Full Exclusive) | Megyn Kelly | NBC News
– “With Tillerson’s confirmation, Exxon just annexed the United States,” –anonymous blogger.
‘Now the human drama watch begins; will Putin cave in to the demands of the West to renounce his allies in exchange for the improved relation and the dropping of sanctions?’
Eh, no! If you’re silly enough to ask that question, you’ve no idea what’s going on! Russia and China are forcing the US out of the Middle East altogether.
To many observers, the appointment of Rex Tillerson to the helm the State Dept signaled the Administration’s priority of supporting the oil industry, which in recent years has been under severe pressure from OPEC’s campaign of over-production that forced prices down to a post-recession low.
Seen from a different angle, the move also signals Exxon, the oil giant, establishing a strong connection with the Administration. As the former CEO of Exxon, and a member of the Board of Directors of the company that was the core of the original Rockefeller Family’s Standard Oil monopoly, Tillerson also brings direct contact with the Rockefeller Family, whose members remain on the Exxon Board.
Former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice,on the BoD, who also sits on the BoD, along with Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, both listed as an Exxon consultant, also were strong backers of Tillerson to Trump.
It’s hardly a coincidence that Henry Kissinger, for decades, the Rockefeller Family’s chief foreign policy advisor, with strong personal connections to Russian President Putin, has emerged as a chief foreign policy advisor to the Trump Administration.
Nor is it surprising that published reports of Kissinger’s advice to Trump is to seek to normalize US/Russian relations, diametrically opposed to the Obama/Clinton policies of confrontation with Russia.
It is also part of a broader strategy to tempt Russia towards closer relations with the US/EU while sacrificing its growing close relations with China, viewed by Trump, as it was by Obama and Clinton, as the chief obstacle to the U.S. dominant global leadership. As a critical part of the deal, Russia is expected to accede to sacrifice its budding alliance with Iran.
Now the human drama watch begins; will Putin cave in to the demands of the West to renounce his allies in exchange for the improved relation and the dropping of sanctions?
The West has in hand some very powerful means of persuasion, including increased Russian access to the huge European energy market, restored western financial credit, access to Western technology, and a seat at the global decision-making table, all of which Russia badly needs and wants. Consider that three Russian proposed natural gas pipelines to Europe have been stalled since sanctions were imposed over Ukraine, leaving billions of dollars on the table.
Foreshadowing all of this was a news leak late last year in Germany’s Bild Zeitung, that Kissinger has drafted a plan to officially recognize Crimea as part of Russia and lift the Obama administration’s economic sanctions.
Putin’ supporters refuse to believe that the strong-minded autocrat will turn against his EurAsian friends, particularly China given the signed momentous multi-billion dollar energy deals with Russia, as well as Russia’s central position in the roll-out of the China’s enormous Silk Road project.
The problem for Russia is that the opportunities for participation in Chinese Silk Road ventures require heavy upfront investment with profits only linked to a distant future, while the Russian government budget is in dire need now. Instead, the Western promises, for example, such as pipelines, can be built in one year on already existing and ongoing projects with the EU, with guaranteed financing and payoffs.
Russia’s also understands that despite its emerging friendship with Iran, Iran is also the single strongest competitor to Russia for the European and Asian energy markets.
What are the signs that Putin may accede to the new deal? No doubt the signs will become clear first in Syria, where Trump has announced his intent to seek closer coordination with Russian military forces, as revealed in the recent Trump/Putin phone conversation.
According to depka.com, often referred to as the voice of Israeli intelligence, Putin has already reached an agreement with the US, Russia, and Turkey to develop separate safe haven zones in Syria that clearly exclude Iran and Hizbollah. Whether this report is wish-fulfillment or accurate is yet to be determined.
This small lithium company is on the verge of becoming the next big thing in the resource space. With incredible assets and a management dream team – this company should be on all investors radar.
If this plan has really been approved by the US and Russia, as the Israeli site contends, then it’s clear that Iran and Hezbollah have been excluded, as per the strong demands of Israel and the Gulf Kingdoms, aimed at staunching the Iran crescent from extending through Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. It also would mean that the deal has been struck and Putin caved.
But that’s only one part of the Western plan, with much more to come. Unlike the more diplomatic Obama, Trump is on record stating that he believed that while the US military presence was at its height in Iraq, “we should have taken the oil,” and more critically, “…that we still can and should do it.” What the West wants is no less than a new deal that opens up Eurasia oil to US foreign investment. And that may be happening.
Consider that with the news of an improving energy market, due in large part to Saudi and Russian collaborative efforts, Russia announced a blockbuster deal for the sale of nearly 20% of state-owned Rosneft stock to a partnership of Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign fund.
Significantly, the deal shows Russia joining mid-eastern oil economies privatizing, or opening itself for world business, as the Saudis attempt another block-buster deal, privatizing some of their major assets in their government controlled oil company, Aramco, the largest oil company in the world.
This was closely followed by Kuwait announcement of its own major asset sale, Mexico’s announcement of its intentions to change its constitution to enable foreign investment in its energy industry that has been illegal since the 1930’s.
Most of these countries have very practical reasons for opening their energy assets to foreign investment, the most obvious is that a major enemy, ISIS, is at their gates, and they are in bad need of protection. This is happening at a time when the US President elect has recently announced to NATO allies that the price of US military protection is going up.
At a time when Mid-Eastern oil producing countries feel most threatened, they may also expect a rise in costs of their NATO“insurance policy.” Only this time, the cost may be paid by allowing participation of Western producers in Mid-Eastern energy. On top of this, the BBC reports that the Saudi Minister of Energy just announced the prospect of increased financial investments in the US energy industry, where it already has billions invested in US refining and distribution.
It’s also important to note that the neither the Obama or Trump government have been eager to become the primary protectors of Middle Eastern governments. Western allies have complained bitterly about Obama’s reluctance to do more than “lead from behind.” If Trumps comments are to be believed, he also has little interest in raising US stakes in the region.
Instead, the Middle Eastern wars are being outsourced to the European members of NATO, where the absence of the US leaves a major strategic gap that some NATO members hope to plug with an alliance with Russia. To Europeans, a NATO military alliance with Russia against ISIS, and radical Islam, blessed by the new US Administration, automatically means that Russian sanctions must be eased, while the EU agrees to move the Crimea issue to the back burner.
There are also solid economic reasons for the Eurasian oil producing countries to open their energy markets to the world. For the last two and a half years, the oil markets been suffering from the Saudi engineered glut. The oil business is also threatened long term by climate change and the rising alternative energy competitors. For many of the Middle Eastern oil producers, it may be a good time to take some profit and share some of the risks.
What that means is that the starting gun has gone off. The oil market is once again open for business, with Exxon likely to be leading the way. The major difference though is that for the first time in many years, highly restricted regions, particularly in the Middle Eastern kingdoms, that have for decades been shut off to most of the world, are once more opening themselves for business, a reversal of historical dimensions.
How far they’re willing to open is unknown, but even Iraq and Iran, countries that been hard-nosed in negotiating with foreign oil industries, are suddenly being far more flexible in offering contracts much more favorable to oil companies. These new contracts include provisions that oil producers have long lobbied for, enabling producers to book oil as part of their reserves, a crucial element in determining their market share price.
As long as the threat from “jihadists” continues, the movement to cash out or at least share risk is likely to continue. In other words, they have little choice: it’s their money or their lives, a hold-up of biblical proportions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at an awarding ceremony for military personnel who participate in operations in Syria on March 17, 2016. (Kremlin photo)
MOSCOW, March 17 (Xinhua) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday promised further support for the legitimate government of Syria.
“The support is comprehensive: financial assistance, supplies of weapons and armaments, intelligence support, and staff assistance in planning operations,”Putin said.
He added that the “Russian troops stay in Syria would be enough to cope with the tasks set to them.”
Praising Russian soldiers for “opening the road to peace,” Putin said the Russian side managed to establish constructive cooperation with the U.S. and moderate Syrian opposition forces.
“We have created conditions for the beginning of the peace process,” Putin was quoted by a Kremlin transcript.
The president also hailed his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad’s “restraint, sincere striving for peace and readiness for compromise and dialogue.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stressed later in the day that requests for Assad’s resignation were “outside any internal legislative provisions or Syria’s domestic legislation.”
Zakharova reiterated Russia’s call for Syrian Kurds to join the Geneva talks.
With regard to recent move of the Kurds planning to declare a federal system in northern Syria, Zakharova said Syria’s state structure should be decided through inclusive political dialogues and negotiations over the country’s constitution.
“We see Syria’s future as of a secular democratic state but it’s certainly the task of the Syrian people who should draw the state’s concrete contours,”Zakharova said.
She also urged all related parties, regional and international, to try the best and contribute to the success of the ongoing intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.
Russia and western countries have been at odds over several Syrian issues including whether Assad is to remain in power in the future and the participation of Syrian Kurds in the political process, which was firmly opposed by Turkey as it sees advances by autonomy-seeking Kurds led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Turkey sees the PYD as an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has been angered by the Kurds’ consolidation along its southern border.
The new law, signed on Tuesday (Dec. 16) by president Vladimir Putin, enables Russia’s constitutional court to decide whether to adhere to a verdict of an international court. The law also enables the Russian court to overturn decisions of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights if it deems them unconstitutional.
The law makes it clear that Russia’s constitution takes precedence over international law. However, critics insist that it’s patently illegal, starting with its premise that the Russian Constitution takes precedence over international law—when the Russian Constitution itself, in Article 15.4, explicitly states the opposite. Putin’s measure also violates Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which stipulates that member states “undertake to abide by the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties.” Thus, any ECHR decision ruled “non-executable” under this measure would still be legally binding on the Russian Federation, and would have to be implemented by any future post-Putin government.
The new law will bring “much uncertainty and opacity to the domestic legal system, further hinder Russia’s relations with its international partners,” HRW said.
The Russian court ruled its Constitution trumps the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
“Russia’s participation in the international agreement does not signify rejection of state sovereignty,” said the ruling by head of the constitutional court, Valery Zorkin.
“The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the ECHR’s legal positions based on it cannot annul the precedence of the Constitution.”
Zorkin, recently called for “transforming the legal system in the direction of military harshness”—the right to ignore rulings by the European Court of Human Rights by declaring them “non-executable.”
If any decision of Europe’s top human rights court is found to be in violation of Russian law, Moscow should not follow that ruling “to the letter,”Zorkin said.
All countries joining the Council of Europe (CoE) are obliged to comply with definitive rulings from the EHCR, said Thornbjørn Jagland, CoE’s Secretary-General. “Russia’s Constitutional Court will need to ensure their compliance with the Convention (on Human Rights) when it has to implement new provisions.The CoE can only make a judgement on Russia’s implementation of its commitments as and when it is presented with a specific case. Apparently, a number of CoE Member States have looked at the compatibility of Strasbourg Court rulings with their own State constitutions. So far, countries have always managed to find solutions that are consistent with the provisions of the Convention. This too should be possible in Russia,” he said.
At a meeting with Vladimir Putin, Valery Zorkin, stated that the Court wanted to resolve potential difficulties with the EHCR through dialogue. “We’re not living in a vacuum cut off from everyone else. We work extremely closely with our colleagues abroad. The Court is a member of a world body of constitutional courts which have been operating for several years, as well as collaborating with the European Association of Constitutional Courts and its Asian equivalent. In Europe, the institution we cooperate with most is the Strasbourg Court”, he added.
Putin said at the G20 summit that Russia has presented examples of terrorism financing by individual businessmen from 40 countries, including from member states of the G20.
“I provided examples related to our data on the financing of ‘Islamic State’ units by natural persons in various countries. The financing comes from 40 countries, as we established, including some G20 members,” Putin told reporters following the summit.
The fight against terrorism was a key topic at the summit, according to the Russian leader.
“This topic (the war on the terror) was crucial. Especially after the Paris tragedy, we all understand that the means of financing terrorism should be severed,”the Russian president said.
Russia has also presented satellite images and aerial photos showing the true scale of the ‘Islamic State’ oil trade.
“I’ve demonstrated the pictures from space to our colleagues, which clearly show the true size of the illegal trade of oil and petroleum products market. Car convoys stretching for dozens of kilometers, going beyond the horizon when seen from a height of four-five thousand meters,”Putin told reporters after the G20 summit.
The Russian president also said that Syrian opposition is ready to launch an anti-ISIL operation if Russia provides air support.
“A part of the Syrian opposition considers it possible to begin military actions against ISIL with the assistance of the Russian air forces, and we are ready to provide that assistance,” the Russian president said.
Cooperation With the US
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that the United States has shown a certain willingness to resume cooperation with Russia in several areas.
“It seemed to me that, at least at an expert level, at the level of discussing problems, there was, indeed, a clear interest in resuming work in many areas, including the economy, politics, and the security sphere,” Putin told reporters.
Vladimir Putin said that Russia needs support from the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the fight against terrorism.
“It’s not the time to debate who is more effective in the fight against ISIL, what we need to do is consolidate our efforts,” president Putin added.
The Russian president hopes that the work with the G20 colleagues in the fight against terrorism will continue.
“I think that cooperation in fighting terrorism is very important,” Vladimir Putin told reporters.
The work to create the list of terrorist organizations in Syria is being carried out on the level of foreign ministers, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.
“With regard to Syria, here we should, first of all, decide, and now the foreign ministers are working on this, what groups we consider to be terrorist organizations, and which can be attributed to the armed, but still ‘healthy’ part of the Syrian opposition,”Putin told reporters following the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey.
Immediately after news of the first Russian strike the U.S. payed “Syrian Civil Defense” organization “White Helmets” posted propaganda claims of killed children. The picture it used to prove its claims had also been used on September 25, before the Russians started to bomb.
Next came claims that the Russian had hit “moderate rebels” which the U.S. says are its “good guys.”
The US couldn’t find “moderate” rebels in 3 years. Apparently the Russians did in 24 hours
Indeed. Even back in 2012 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency found:
THE SALAFIST, THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.
“Moderates”- my ass!
The anti-Putin, Russophobe whine-fest is about to reach a new peak of absurdity as the US accuses Russia of bombing the moderate Syrian rebels instead of ISIS – the problem is that there has never been a “moderate” opposition in Syria distinguishable from ISIS.
This is why more than a year of American “attacks” on ISIS have yielded no results. The US has been supporting and funding the “moderate” opposition to Assad while supposedly attacking ISIS, only to find that it’s U.S. weapons end up in the hands of ISIS!
And now, Russia is going after all of them, whatever they may call themselves: ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh, Nusra, al Qaeda, the moderate Syrian rebels, the Free Syria Army, the moderate Syrian ISIS terrorists…
So now, the message Russia is getting from Washington is: stop bombing the Nusra branch of al Qaeda and bomb the ISIS branch of al Qaeda! But since they all work together to overthrow President Assad, they are all on the same side and completely indistinguishable from each other.
The US government and military-industrial complex, and Barack Obama are furious at Vladimir Putin for coming to the UNGA in New York and trolling everyone by offering to help America in the fight against ISIS, because the sad truth is, America has not been fighting ISIS – they have, along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, been trying to remove Assad from power at all costs. Putin (displaying the skills of both master statesman and expert troll) called everyone on this bluff and left the “international community” with a question which will echo down through the years as the iconic quote of the age of the War on Terror: DO YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU’VE DONE?
So let the next round of hysterical Russia-bashing begin!
WALL STREET JOURNAL: Russian Airstrike in Syria Targeted CIA-Backed Rebels, U.S. Officials Say
Russia launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, catching U.S. and Western officials off guard and drawing new condemnation as evidence suggested Moscow wasn’t targeting extremist group Islamic State, but rather other opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. One of the airstrikes hit an area primarily held by rebels backed by the Central Intelligence Agency and allied spy services, U.S. officials said, catapulting the Syrian crisis to a new level of danger and uncertainty. Moscow’s entry means the world’s most powerful militaries—including the U.S., Britain and France—now are flying uncoordinated combat missions, heightening the risk of conflict in the skies over Syria. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia’s approach to the Syrian war—defending Mr. Assad while ostensibly targeting extremists—was tantamount to “pouring gasoline on the fire.” “I have been dealing with them for a long time. And this is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from the Russian military,” Mr. Carter said at a Pentagon news conference. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said he raised U.S. concerns about attacks that target regime opponents other than Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In Syria’s multi-sided war, Mr. Assad’s military—aided by Iran and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah—is fighting both Islamic State and opposition rebel groups, some of which are supported by the U.S. and its allies.
Wow! CIA-backed rebels? I thought that was a conspiracy theory!
Don’t expect a lot of thanks from the US, Russia, but maybe the Europeans will at least give you a tip of the hat for doing something constructive to address the refugee crisis!
Webster G. Tarpley:After a year of phony war vs ISIS, US whines that Russia is hitting al Qaeda-Nusra, not al Qaeda-ISIS.
Jeffrey Laubach:“Enough is enough. Mainstream media are now reporting that Russian airstrikes targeted “Western-backed moderate” rebel forces, rather than ISIS. Please keep in mind that the U.S. just cancelled a failed program to train and arm “moderate” rebel forces that spent $500 million and yielded only a few dozen fighters who are now either dead or have defected to al-Qaeda.
So now who is this magical army of moderate freedom fighters that the Western governments are supposedly backing that the Russians have just hit? The FSA? The same second rate mafia made up of thieves and brigands who have made absolutely no secret of their alliance with al-Qaeda? Or is it the Islamic Front? The so-called “moderate” Islamists backed by Saudi Arabia whose leader, Zahran Alloush (who’s known to carry a Hello Kitty notebook) has openly called for the extermination of all of Syria’s Alawis and Shias? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
This Is How Russia Handles Terrorists: Moscow Releases Video Of Syria Strikes
Now that Russia has officially begun conducting airstrikes on anti-regime forces operating in Syria, commentators, pundits, and analysts around the world will be keen to compare and contrast the results of Moscow’s efforts with the year-old US-led air campaign against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Clearly, Russia has a very real incentive to ensure that its airstrikes are effective. Preserving the global balance of power means preserving the Assad regime and, by extension, ensuring that Iran maintains its regional influence. On the other hand, the US and its regional allies actually have an incentive to ensure that their airstrikes are minimally effective. That is, for the US, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, the idea is not to kill Frankenstein, but rather to ensure that he doesn’t escape the lab.
Vladimir Putin:The only real way to fight international terrorism is to take the initiative and fight and destroy the terrorists in the territory they have already captured rather than waiting for them to arrive on our soil.
There is no difference between McCain’s “moderate” terrorist friends and ISIS – none! McCain is very much part of the problem. This is why Russia has to clean this mess up, because after the US enables ISIS to take over Syria, they will be in Russia! Thank God McCain is not President!
Some media talking heads have compared Russia’s involvement in Syria to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This is a shallow comparison. The government of Syria has invited Russia to help in the fight against what are essentially gangs of terrorists, enemies of civilization who have been propped up by the West (including Great Britain to a great extent) to overthrow the democratically elected government of Syria.
The role of Russia in the fight against ISIS in Syria perfectly mirrors Russia’s role in the American Civil War.
Most people wouldn’t understand this because they have no idea that Russia even played a role in the American Civil War.
This lecture by Webster Tarpley on the Russian Baltic Fleet of 1863 is essential and provides a great comparison to current events in the Middle East:
ISIS is a creation of the West. The vast majority of Syrians are aware of this.
One of the leading figures in setting up ISIS to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria has been Obama’s ISIS Czar General John Allen. Perhaps he misunderstood the title “ISIS Czar” when he was appointed? Along with the likes of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, Gen. John Allen has been a key figure in the rise of ISIS, and the US phoney war against ISIS. After the announcement of increased and more direct Russian involvement in the fight against ISIS, Gen. John Allen stepped down from his position. This is an excellent sign that the tide is turning against ISIS and that more rational thinking is prevailing in Washington, DC and among Obama’s inner circle.
The removal of ISIS Czar Allen from the scene is thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of Webster Tarpley and the Tax Wall Street Party.
As Tax Wall Street Party chair Daniela Walls points out:
The Tax Wall Street Party has played a decisive role in focusing public and elite attention on the crimes and sabotage by ISIS Czar Gen John Allen. Who else in the world conducted a multi-year sustained implacable campaign of exposure with the demand #FireAllen4ISIS? Only the Tax Wall Street Party! The Tax Wall Street Party thanks all persons of good will worldwide who contributed in any way to this magnificent and victorious effort. Special honors and recognition go to the members of the Tax Wall Street Party and United Front Against Austerity (UFAA) who waged this battle for civilization and humanity in the face of indifference and scorn from mushheads, Libertarians, humanitarian bombers and neocons.
Webster Tarpley: “When our own government was about to go for a lunatic, catastrophic general war in the Middle East by bombing Syria, this is the guy (Putin) who stepped up and saved YOUR kid from being dragged into that maelstrom and vortex of insanity!”
When Putin comes to New York to speak at the UN General Assembly, he should be met with expressions of thanks – or did you WANT another Iraq war? Think long and hard on that question before the next barrage of mush-head hysteria begins!
Netanyahu in Moscow (One nuclear power to another)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jetted in to Moscow on Monday with his army and intelligence chiefs to seek reassurance from Moscow over the deployment of forces. “It was very important to come here in order to clarify our position and to do everything to avoid any misunderstandings between our forces,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting.
“We in Russia, and me personally a few years ago, said it straight that pervasive problems would emerge, if our so-called Western partners continue maintaining their flawed … foreign policy, especially in the regions of the Muslim world, Middle East, North Africa, which they pursue to date… I think the crisis was absolutely expected.”
“… if we act unilaterally and argue about the quasi-democratic principles and procedures for certain areas, that will lead us to an even greater impasse.”
Remember that it was Vladimir Putin who warned the US to back off the planned humanitarian (regime change) invasion of Syria in 2013 with his historic New York Times op ed:
A Plea for Caution From Russia:
Putin: The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance. Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.
Putin – People flee from Syria because of ISIS, not Assad regime:
“Of course, we know that there are different approaches to Syria. By the way, people are running away not from the regime of Bashar Assad, but from Islamic State, which seized large areas in Syria and Iraq, and are committing atrocities there. That is what they are escaping from,” RIA Novosti quoted Vladimir Putin as saying on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.
Russia Was Right About How to Deal with Syrian Crisis:
Russia’s assistance might’ve helped the Syrian crisis long ago if only the West would’ve listened, according to Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö.
According to (Finland’s former president Martti) Ahtisaari, Russia had been willing to cooperate with the West since 2012, but the US and the UK were only interested in removing Assad. “Ahtisaari was right,” Niinistö told Nykypäivä ja Verkkouutiset.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said everything you ever really needed to know about the refugee crisis… in August 2013! (while former British Secretary of State William Hague also took the opportunity at the time to demonstrate that he’s a hopeless scoundrel).
Russia warns West over ‘illegal’ Syria intervention:
“Lavrov warned that in any case Western intervention on the side of the opposition forces would be a “grave mistake” and scupper any hopes of convening a peace conference to resolve the conflict. “If anyone thinks that destroying Syria’s military infrastructure and leaving the battleground open for the opposition to take victory would be the end of it, that is an illusion,” said Lavrov. Speaking at a hastily convened news conference, he (Lavrov) added that the West was currently moving towards “a very dangerous path, a very slippery path”.
His comments came after William Hague today refused to rule out bombing Assad regime targets within days, warning that the Syrian regime could not be allowed to use chemical weapons against its own people “with impunity”, following an alleged attack last week in which at least 355 people were killed and 3,600 injured.”
Hague said the UK did not rule out anything for the future as the situation in Syria was unpredictable and may get even worse. He reiterated that to date, the help the UK was giving the Syrian opposition was largely made up of a humanitarian nature and was designed to save lives.
The Syrian “opposition” as Hague called them, also described as the “moderate Syrian rebels”, has never been anything other than ISIS! The entire point of the Anglo-American-EU outrage over the situation in Syria from day one has been the removal of Assad from power and the continuation of the destabilization of the Middle East. Control over resources and pipeline routes is one of the main motives, as most people are able to deduce, but it must also be kept in mind that Syria is more or less within the Russian sphere of influence, and Assad is a key ally to Russia. Those who are unable to connect the dots regarding Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Russia, the EU, and the US (as well as US allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey) are likely to be led astray by mainstream media talking heads who tend to separate these matters in order to more easily demonize Putin and Assad.
Studying the works of key Western insiders like Zbigniew Brzezinski helps to clear away the fog of confusion which currently prevails in Europe and the Anglo-American world.
Brzezinski Mapped Out the Battle for Ukraine in 1997:
Erdogan is one of the biggest problems in the Middle East right now. Everyone who is freaking out over Iran needs to shift the focus of their hysteria to this guy. Turkey claims to be fighting ISIS, while in reality continuing to bomb the Kurds – the people who are actually fighting ISIS and doing so successfully. All that Erdogan’s pathetic bombing campaigns against ISIS are doing is driving them closer to Iran and Russia. He’s using the Syrian civil war as an excuse to attack Assad, thinking some day he can carve off a few slices of Syria for his neo-Ottoman empire.
Anyone who is attacking Assad right now is out of their mind!
The myth that Assad gassed his own supporters (in the vicinity of the UN building the day before the weapons inspectors were due to arrive) has been conclusively debunked by numerous investigative journalists. Here is my contribution from those deeply Orwellian days of 2013:
Did Assad gas his own people, or is this a false flag attack by the opposition?
The cynicism and hypocrisy of the neocons and “humanitarian” neolibs knows no bounds – blaming the refugee crisis on Assad and using this as an excuse to bomb Syria! When you think about the Syrian boy lying face down on the beach, remember the neocon lunatics who see this as an opportunity for regime change in Syria. Erdogan is also posturing over this picture – yes, the ISIS caliph himself! The man who could allow these refugees to pass to Europe over land, BUT DOESN’T! That boy’s blood is on Erdogan’s hands!
No more humanitarian bombing! No more Libyan adventures, no more Syrian adventures! Work with Assad, work with Putin. Anything else is nuts!
Beware the do-gooders who never give up on their dream of bombing Syria and removing Assad!
Piers Morgan wrote an article in the Daily Mail in which he puts the blame on us, the West! This is largely true, thanks to all the humanitarian bombers, the neolib R2Pers, and our old friends the neocon madmen who started everything with the criminal invasion of Iraq. Morgan says that we now have to “make it right”, which suggests duplicity and neoliberal delusion on his part.
PIERS MORGAN: Don’t shut your eyes to this picture because WE did this. Now we have to make it right:
The method of doublespeak being used by The Sun is similar:
“bringing an end to the war” = bombing Syria now!
British PM David Cameron, on the other hand, does not even attempt to conceal his chicanery with doublespeak, opting instead to flaunt his stupidity and repugnant nature as some kind of badge of honor.
Assad & ISIS responsible for drowned Syrian boy, says Cameron:
Prime Minister David Cameron has blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad and Islamic State militants for the “terrible scenes” on Europe’s beaches as the refugee crisis worsens. Speaking after MPs from across the political spectrum called for Britain to accept more refugees, Cameron said the crisis needs a “comprehensive solution” which includes a new government in Libya and being “tough” on Assad…
Whenever you see that heartbreaking, iconic photograph of poor Aylan Kurdi (and it is indeed heartbreaking – I don’t do a lot of crying myself, and I don’t like to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I cry almost every time I see or think about that poor, innocent toddler lying face down on the beach), do not forget for one second where the blame lies!
The blame lies squarely with: US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ISIS Czar General John Allen, US Secretary of State John Kerry, former British Secretary of State William Hague, the shameless, pathetic Brown Moses Blog liar and BBC’s go-to weapons “expert” Eliot Higgins, Keating Five and 47 Traitors member, and ISIS supporter – US Senator John McCain, and former CIA director David Petraeus, among many others, including the rotten Saudi royal family, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (who takes every opportunity to attack Assad), and to some degree the pathetic President Obama, who has, however, lately backed off the lunatic agenda of warmongering in the Middle East, so we can give him the benefit of the doubt for now – something we are not willing to do for his predecessor, the idiot George W. Bush and his insane VP Dick Cheney.
Soros-funded White Helmets are in Syria rescuing terrorists and attacking Assad:
“Events in Ukraine have brought a process that began 15 years ago to its logical conclusion. … Back then you will recall, Russia insisted that its role on the international stage was to represent the ‘civilized world’ when dealing with the so-called ‘rogue states’ of Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan – states whose actions threatened to destroy the existing world order. … As the years have passed, Russia has come less to represent civilized states than rogue ones, and to defend rogue states and their interests before the civilized states. … The West has forgotten how it co-existed with the Soviet Union through the use of deterrence. Now it will have to remember.” Alexander Golts
The shelling of residential areas in Mariupol which killed several dozen residents in January ended hopes that Russia would be able to return to the community of civilized nations any time in the foreseeable future. Before our very eyes, our country is turning into a global pariah.
Against the backdrop of renewed hostilities in south and east Ukraine, the Russian public paid little attention to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s recent visit to Iran. In practical terms there was nothing sensational about it. Moscow only hinted at the possibility of renewing a contract for the sale of S-300 air defense systems to Tehran, although officially the question was never discussed. Officials signed a vague agreement providing for military cooperation involving for the most part symbolic gestures such as exchanges of delegations, port visits of naval vessels and the like.
However in some cases, words are more important than specifics. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan announced after the talks with Shoigu: “Emphasis was placed on the need for cooperation between Russia and Iran in their joint struggle against interference by non-regional forces,” he said. Dehghan made no secret of who the “non-regional forces” he referred to are. According to him, all the trouble is due to the “destructive U.S. policy of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”
Like it or not, Shoigu’s visit allowed the Iranians to actually declare Russia an ally in countering the United States. This was the first time in my memory that a rogue state openly referred to Russia as an ally – and that Moscow didn’t seem to mind. Thus, the events in Ukraine have brought a process that began 15 years ago to its logical conclusion.
Back then you will recall, Russia insisted that its role on the international stage was to represent the “civilized world” when dealing with the so-called “rogue states” of Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan – states whose actions threatened to destroy the existing world order.
Before that, the Soviet Union was willing to support any state – from communists to cannibals – willing to declare its intentions to follow the socialist path, so Moscow had inherited extensive contacts with such countries. The new approach failed almost immediately.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il promised President Vladimir Putin he would cease missile testing, but no sooner had Putin announced his great diplomatic victory than the North Korean dictator announced he had been joking. Leaders of rogue states may be many things, but they aren’t fools. They understand that when the time comes to surrender their position, it should certainly not be to Moscow. It should be to a power that can immediately reward them for their actions. That is, Washington or Brussels.
As the years have passed, Russia has come less to represent civilized states than rogue ones, and to defend rogue states and their interests before the civilized states. The final step in that metamorphosis occurred during Shoigu’s recent visit to Tehran. Now Russia has irrevocably moved into the rogue camp.
I would suggest that now, after the annexation of Crimea and outbreak of war in southern and eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin now meets all the criteria of a rogue state. First of all this is due the presence of a nationalist dogma for the sake of which leaders will deliberately sacrifice the interests of the citizens they represent.
Iran follows the dogma of radical and fundamentalist Islam, in North Korea the dogma centers on “Juche,” which is in fact a cult of Oriental despotism. In today’s Russia it is imperialism tied to Orthodox Christianity, which considers that the military annexation of part of a neighboring state is justified by the fact that at the Crimean Chersonesos, Prince Vladimir [958-1015 AD] was baptized when he brought Orthodoxy to that part of the world.
The main thing is that Vladimir Putin, like the Iranian Ayatollahs and North Korean dictators, is all-too prepared to sacrifice the welfare of the population for the sake of vaguely defined “national interests,” which are in fact a mixture of hypertrophic national pride and the inferiority complexes of the nation’s leader. Today, for the sake of this combustible mixture, people in the Donbass are being killed.
Apparently Putin felt stung when French and German leaders refused to meet him in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana last December. Until recently, however, the Kremlin seems to have thought: if we allow the separatist to just a few more people, those weak-kneed Europe will lift the sanctions.
Moreover, even the relative success of a recent meeting of German, French, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers wasn’t enough to prevent the advance of separatists equipped with arms and ammunition from Russia. After all, the Kremlin has finally realized that its goal of “federalizing Ukraine” (under which Moscow would exercise complete control over Donbass and Kiev) is practically unattainable. If so, one must utilize the dominant resource: the lives of citizens in Donetsk and Mariupol. The Kremlin is well aware that the “weak” leaders of the U.S. and Western Europe find seeing women and children dying under fire from Grad rockets unbearable. The only way to stop it? … Agree to Russia’s proposal. Again there is the key issue that makes Russia a pariah: the Kremlin’s willingness to pay for its ambitions and prejudices with people’s lives.
Then there’s what makes Russia different from other rogue states: it is a former superpower which maintains the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal. Today, Putin exploits the fact that no one knows what to do when a major nuclear power violates all international agreements. The West has forgotten how it co-existed with the Soviet Union through the use of deterrence. Now it will have to remember …
From Moscow to London to New York, the Ukrainian revolution has been seen through a haze of propaganda. Russian leaders and the Russian press have insisted that Ukrainian protesters were right-wing extremists and then that their victory was a coup. Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, used the same clichés after a visit with the Russian president at Sochi.
After his regime was overturned, he maintained he had been ousted by “right-wing thugs,” a claim echoed by the armed men who seized control of airports and government buildings in the southern Ukrainian district of Crimea.
Interestingly, the message from authoritarian regimes in Moscow and Kiev was not so different from some of what was written during the uprising in the English-speaking world, especially in publications of the far left and the far right. From Lyndon LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review through Ron Paul’s newsletter through The Nation and The Guardian, the story was essentially the same: little of the factual history of the protests, but instead a play on the idea of a nationalist, fascist, or even Nazis coup d’état.
In fact, it was a classic popular revolution. It began with an unmistakably reactionary regime. A leader sought to gather all power, political as well as financial, in his own hands. This leader came to power in democratic elections, to be sure, but then altered the system from within. For example, the leader had been a common criminal: a rapist and a thief. He found a judge who was willing to misplace documents related to his case. That judge then became the chief justice of the Supreme Court. There were no constitutional objections, subsequently, when the leader asserted ever more power for his presidency.
In power, this leader, this president, remained a thief, but now on a grand, perhaps even unsurpassed, scale. Throughout his country millions of small businessmen and businesswomen found it impossible to keep their firms afloat, thanks to the arbitrary demands of tax authorities. Their profits were taken by the state, and the autonomy that those profits might have given them were denied. Workers in the factories and mines had no means whatsoever of expression their own distress, since any attempt at a strike or even at labor organization would simply have led to their dismissal.
The country, Ukraine, was in effect an oligarchy, where much of the wealth was in the hands of people who could fit in one elevator. But even this sort of pluralism, the presence of more than one very rich person, was too much for the leader, Viktor Yanukovych. He wanted to be not only the president but the oligarch-in-chief.His son, a dentist, was suddenly one of the wealthiest men in Europe. Tens of billions of dollars simply disappeared from the state budget. Yanukovych built for himself a series of extravagant homes, perhaps the ugliest in architectural history.
A villa at Mezhyhirya, an out-of-town estate of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych north of Kiev
It is hard to have all of the power and all of the money at the same time, because power comes from the state, and the state has to have a budget. If a leader steals so much from the people that the state goes bankrupt, then his power is diminished. Yanukovych actually faced this problem last year. And so, despite everything, he became vulnerable, in a very curious way. He needed someone to finance the immediate debts of the Ukrainian state so that his regime would not fall along with it.
Struggling to pay his debts last year, the Ukrainian leader had two options. The first was to begin trade cooperation with the European Union. No doubt an association agreement with the EU would have opened the way for loans. But it also would have meant the risk of the application of the rule of law within Ukraine. The other alternative was to take money from another authoritarian regime, the great neighbor to the east, the Russian Federation.
In December of last year, the leader of this neighboring authoritarian regime, Vladimir Putin, offered a deal.From Russia’s hard currency reserves accumulated by the sale of hydrocarbons he was willing to offer a loan of $15 billion, and lower the price of natural gas from Russia. Putin had a couple of little preoccupations, however.
The first was the gay conspiracy. This was a subject that had dominated Russian propaganda throughout last year but which had been essentially absent from Ukraine. Perhaps Ukraine could join in? Yes indeed: the Ukrainian prime minister began to explain to his population that Ukraine could not have closer cooperation with Europe, since the EU was interested chiefly in gay marriage.
Putin’s second preoccupation was something called Eurasia. This was and is Putin’s proposed rival to the European Union, a club of dictatorships meant to include Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Again, perhaps Ukraine could join? Yanukovych hesitated here, seeing the trap—the subordination of Ukraine of course meant his own subordination—but he did allow himself to be jollied along toward the necessary policies. He began to act like a proper dictator. He began to kill his own people in significant numbers. He bloodied his hands, making him an unlikely future partner for the European Union.
Enter a lonely, courageous Ukrainian rebel, a leading investigative journalist. A dark-skinned journalist who gets racially profiled by the regime. And a Muslim. And an Afghan. This isNayem Mustafa Nayem, the man who started the revolution. Using social media, he called students and other young people to rally on the main square of Kiev in support of a European choice for Ukraine. That square is called the Maidan, which by the way is an Arab word. During the first few days of the protests the students called it the Euromaidan. Russian propaganda called it, predictably enough, the Gayeuromaidan.
When riot police were sent to beat the students, who came to defend them? More “Afghans,” but “Afghans” of a very different sort: Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet Red Army, men who had been sent to invade Afghanistan during after the Soviet invasion of that country in 1979.These men came to defend “their children,” as they called the students. But they were also defending a protest initiated by a man born in Kabul at the very time they were fighting their way toward it.
In December the crowds grew larger. By the end of the year, millions of people had taken part in protests, all over the country. Journalists were beaten. Individual activists were abducted. Some of them were tortured. Dozens disappeared and have not yet been found. As the New Year began the protests broadened. Muslims from southern Ukraine marched in large numbers. Representatives of the large Kiev Jewish community were prominently represented. Some of the most important organizers were Jews. The telephone hotline that people called to seek missing relatives was established by gay activists (people who have experience with hotlines). Some of the hospital guards who tried to stop the police from abducting the wounded were young feminists.
In all of these ways, the “decadent” West, as Russia’s foreign minister put it, was present. Yes, there were some Jews, and there were some gays, in this revolution. And this was exploited by both the Russian and Ukrainian regimes in their internal propaganda. The Russian press presented the protest as part of a larger gay conspiracy. The Ukrainian regime instructed its riot police that the opposition was led by a larger Jewish conspiracy. Meanwhile, both regimes informed the outside world that the protestors were Nazis. Almost nobody in the West seemed to notice this contradiction.
On January 16, Yanukovych signed a series of laws that had been “passed” through parliament, entirely illegally, by a minority using only a show of hands. These laws, introduced by pro-Russian legislators and similar to Russian models, severely constrained the freedom of speech and assembly, making of millions of protesters “extremists” who could be imprisoned. Organizations that had financial contacts with the outside world, including Catholic and Jewish groups, were suddenly “foreign agents” and subject to immediate harassment.
After weeks of maintaining their calm in the face of repeated assaults by the riot police, some protesters now chose violence. Out of public view, people had been dying at the hands of the police for weeks. Now some of the protesters were killed by the regime in public. The first Ukrainian protester to be killed was an Armenian. The second to be killed was a Belarusian.
Then came the mass killings by the regime. On February 18 the Ukrainian parliament was supposed to consider a compromise that many observers believed was a first step away from bloody confrontation: a constitutional reform to return the state to parliamentary democracy. Instead, the riot police were unleashed in Kiev, this time armed not only with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets, but also with live ammunition. The protesters fell back to the Maidan and defended it, the way revolutionaries do: with cobblestones, Molotov cocktails, and in the end their bare hands.
On February 20, an EU delegation was supposed to arrive to negotiate a truce. Instead, the regime orchestrated a bloodbath. The riot police fell back from some of the Maidan. When protesters followed, they were shot by snipers who had taken up positions on rooftops. Again and again people ran out to try to rescue the wounded, and again and again they were shot.
Has it ever before happened that people associated with Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Armenian, Polish, and Jewish culture have died in a revolution that was started by a Muslim? Can we who pride ourselves in our diversity and tolerance think of anything remotely similar in our own histories?
The people were victorious as a result of sheer physical courage. The EU foreign ministers who were supposed to be treated to a bloody spectacle saw something else: the successful defense of the Maidan. The horrifying massacre provoked a general sense of outrage, even among some of the people who had been Yanukovych’s allies. He did something he probably had not, when the day began, intended to do: he signed an agreement in which he promised not to use violence. His policemen understood, perhaps better than he, what this meant: the end of the regime. They melted away, and he ran for his life. Power shifted to parliament, where a new coalition of oppositionists and dissenters from Yanukovych’s party formed a majority. Reforms began, beginning with the constitution. Presidential elections were called for May.
Still, the propaganda continued. Yanukovych stopped somewhere to record a video message, in Russian, claiming that he was the victim of a Nazi coup. Russian leaders maintained that extremists had come to power, and that Russians in Ukraine were under threat. Although the constitutional transition is indeed debatable in the details, these charges of a right-wing coup are nonsense.
The Ukrainian far right did play an important part in the revolution. What it did, in going to the barricades, was to liberate itself from the regime of which it had been one of the bulwarks. One of the moral atrocities of the Yanukovych regime was to crush opposition from the center-right, and support opposition from the far right. By imprisoning his major opponents from the legal political parties, most famously Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovych was able to make of democracy a game in which he and the far right were the only players.
The far right, a party called Svoboda, grew larger in these conditions, but never remotely large enough to pose a real challenge to the Yanukovych regime in democratic elections. In this arrangement Yanukovych could then tell gullible westerners that he was the alternative to the far right. In fact, Svoboda was a house opposition that, during the revolution, rebelled against its own leadership. Against the wishes of their leaders, the radical youth of Svobodafought in considerable numbers, alongside of course people of completely different views. They fought and they took risks and they died, sometimes while trying to save others. In the post-revolutionary situation these young men will likely seek new leadership. The leader of Svoboda, according to opinion polls, has little popular support; if he chooses to run for president, which is unlikely, he will lose.
Dmytro Yarosh, shown last month in Independence Square in Kiev, is running for president.
The radical alternative toSvobodais Right Sector, a group of far-right organizations whose frankly admitted goal was not a European future but a national revolution against all foreign influences. In the long run, Right Sector is the group to watch.For the time being, its leaders have been very careful, in conversations with both Jews and Russians, to stress that their goal is political and not ethnic or racial. In the days after the revolution they have not caused violence or disorder. On the contrary, the subway runs in Kiev. The grotesque residences of Yanukovych are visited by tourists, but they are not looted. The main one is now being used as a base for archival research by investigative journalists.
The transitional authorities were not from the right, or even from the western part of Ukraine, where nationalism is more widespread. The speaker of the parliament and the acting president is a Baptist preacher from southeastern Ukraine. All of the power ministries, where of course any coup-plotter would plant his own people, were led by professionals and Russian speakers. The acting minister of internal affairs was half Armenian and half Russian. The acting minister of defense was of Roma origin.
The provisional authorities are now being supplanted by a new government, chosen by parliament, which is very similar in its general orientation. The new prime minister is a Russian-speaking conservative Technocrat. Both of the major presidential candidates in the elections planned for May are Russian speakers. The likely next president, Vitali Klitschko, is the son of a general in the Soviet armed forces, best known in the West as the heavyweight champion boxer. He is a chess player and a Russian speaker. He does his best to speak Ukrainian. It does not come terribly naturally. He is not a Ukrainian nationalist.
As specialists in Russian and Ukrainian nationalism have been predicting for weeks, the claim that the Ukrainian revolution is a “nationalist coup,” as Yanukovych, in Russian exile has become a pretext for Russian intervention. This now appears to be underway in the Crimea, where the Russian flag has been raised over the regional parliament and gunmen have occupied the airports. Meanwhile, Russia has put army battle groups on alert and sent naval cruisers from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails. The young leaders of theMaidan, some of them radical leftists, have risked their lives to oppose a regime that represented, at an extreme, the inequalities that we criticize at home.They have an experience of revolution that we do not. Part of that experience, unfortunately, is that Westerners are provincial, gullible, and reactionary.
Thus far the new Ukrainian authorities have reacted with remarkable calm. It is entirely possible that a Russian attack on Ukraine will provoke a strong nationalist reaction: indeed, it would be rather surprising if it did not, since invasions have a way of bringing out the worst in people. If this is what does happen, we should see events for what they are: an entirely unprovoked attack by one nation upon the sovereign territory of another.
Insofar as we have accepted the presentation of the revolution as a fascist coup, we have delayed policies that might have stopped the killing earlier, and helped prepare the way for war. Insofar as we wish for peace and democracy, we are going to have to begin by getting the story right.