From my perspective, the made-for-public Western news copy regarding Ukraine and Russia is childishly slanted and one-sided. The level of so-called aggression by Russia cannot even remotely be compared to the United States’ naked aggression against Iraq – a country that had not attacked the US, threatened the US, or had any WMD program (which even if it did, would still have not constituted a legitimate reason for invasion by another nation under existing international law.)
So there’s a heavy dose of “Do as we say, not as we do” when it comes to US pronouncements of ‘unacceptable aggression’ on the part of Russia. Predictably, Russia is less than pleased — as in the way they would be if routinely lectured in the press by Captain Hazelwood on the importance of boating safety.
Despite Western claims, it is highly unlikely Russia has yet moved heavy equipment and troop concentrations across the Ukraine border — because if they had, you’d for sure have seen pictures. Endless pictures of those troops and equipment on TV, morning, noon and night. You haven’t seen any pictures, so none likely exist, which means no Russian army troops or military armaments are yet in Ukraine.
But that has not stopped the US and NATO from accusing Russia of exactly those transgressions in nearly every single announcement and press release.
The latest hawkish salvo by General Breedlove was so over-the-top that Germany expressed public alarm:
Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine
Mar 6, 2015
It was quiet in eastern Ukraine last Wednesday. Indeed, it was another quiet day in an extended stretch of relative calm. The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn’t holding perfectly, but it was holding.
On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine — with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” having been sent to the Donbass.
“What is clear,” Breedlove said, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”
German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
The pattern has become a familiar one. For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove’s numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America’s NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.
The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove’s comments as “dangerous propaganda.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove’s comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.
Think about how truly and utterly bizarre this all is. It is literally not possible to hide “well over a thousand” combat vehicles from air and satellite surveillance, and everybody who knows anything at all knows this. How can Breedlove make such outlandish claims and expect anybody to think he’s anything other than daft?
What are reasonable intelligence analysts and diplomats in Germany, or anywhere for that matter, to make of any of this?
One uncomfortable pattern that fits is that the US has gotten used to lying overtly to get its way. All reasonable analysts who read the UNSCOM report on Iraq’s defunct WMD program back in 2002 (as I did) knew that Iraq did not have any such program as claimed by Colin Powell, Rumsfeld, Perle, Feith and the rest of the unbalanced individuals who rushed the world to a war of choice. The spin doctors of today will say that “bad intelligence” was to blame, but that too is a lie.
There was no bad intelligence, only bad people who made up false ‘intelligence’ and then foisted it upon the world. And it’s happening again.
To my mind, there’s no other way to interpret Breedlove’s comments; they are just too far outside of the bounds of what is a possible misinterpretation of data. Again, ‘more than a thousand’ pieces of heavy armor cannot be hidden from satellites, especially not in the open, flat country that is eastern Ukraine.
From a bit further in the Der Spiegel article we have this:
The experts contradicted Breedlove’s view in almost every respect. There weren’t 40,000 soldiers on the border, they believed, rather there were much less than 30,000 and perhaps even fewer than 20,000. Furthermore, most of the military equipment had not been brought to the border for a possible invasion, but had already been there prior to the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, there was no evidence of logistical preparation for an invasion, such as a field headquarters.
Breedlove, though, repeatedly made inexact, contradictory or even flat-out inaccurate statements. On Nov. 18, 2014, he told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that there were “regular Russian army units in eastern Ukraine.” One day later, he told the website of the German newsmagazine Stern that they weren’t fighting units, but “mostly trainers and advisors.”
He initially said there were “between 250 and 300” of them, and then “between 300 and 500.” For a time, NATO was even saying there were 1,000 of them.
A short word for the phrase “flat out inaccurate statements” is lie. We might as well get used to calling things by their correct terms, it makes things easier to follow and understand.
The reason I bring all this up is because the bellicosity of a small band of war hawks in the US seem to be driving policy for the entire nation. Back in 2002, it was a very small group operating out of the Office of Special Plans from a small corner of the pentagon under the direction of Donald Rumsfeld to generate the false intelligence used to ‘justify’ a truly unnecessary and ill-advised war.
This time it seems to be Vitoria Nuland, General Breedlove, and the usual assemblage of war hawks in the Senate and Congress.
But the risk cannot be denied. 2002 taught us all that the momentum of war can be initiated by obvious lies and a few dedicated people. That same risk is afoot today.
Will it come to pass? For the people of Ukraine it already has. For the people of Syria and Iraq, it already has.
The question is, will this spill over into a wider conflict that involves Europe and the US against Russia and whoever sides with Russia (*cough*cough* I’m looking at you, China).
As I predicted in the fall of 2014, things would continue to escalate before they deescalate. The moves are coming fast and furious now. The US has moved heavy armor into the region, right on Russia’s border:
US sends heavy armour to Baltic states to ‘deter’ Russia
Mar 9, 2015
Riga (AFP) – The United States on Monday delivered more than 100 pieces of military equipment to vulnerable NATO-allied Baltic states in a move designed to provide them with the ability to deter potential Russian threats.
The deliveries are intended to “demonstrate resolve to President (Vladimir) Putin and Russia that collectively we can come together,” US Major General John R. O’Connor told AFP as he oversaw the delivery of the equipment in the port of Riga.
The delivery included Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Scout Humvees as well as support equipment and O’Connor said the armour would stay “for as long as required to deter Russian aggression”.
The three former Soviet-ruled Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all NATO and European Union members since 2004, have very little military hardware of their own.
Because the Western press seems unable to understand these things from a neutral perspective, let’s imagine how the US might react if Russia were to move heavy armor into Mexico to help “deter US aggression.”
I think we all know the answer to that: the US would immediately react in a very threatened manner.
It needs to be pointed out that this is precisely the reason that NATO expansion was undertaken so aggressively back in the 1995–2005 period. The potential for military action became much greater than if the foreign affairs of individual countries were managed independently by their own governments. Now, because of the NATO treaty, Europe and the US are obligated to military action if ever and whenever a perceived threat arises against any NATO member.
Of course, the chances of starting a conflict are immeasurably better if you taunt and parade yourself as close as possible to your intended adversary:
U.S. military vehicles paraded 300 yards from the Russian border
Feb 24, 2015
MOSCOW — U.S. military combat vehicles paraded Wednesday through an Estonian city that juts into Russia, a symbolic act that highlighted the stakes for both sides amid the worst tensions between the West and Russia since the Cold War.
The armored personnel carriers and other U.S. Army vehicles that rolled through the streets of Narva, a border city separated by a narrow frontier from Russia, were a dramatic reminder of the new military confrontation in Eastern Europe.
The soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Second Cavalry Regiment were taking part in a military parade to mark Estonia’s Independence Day.
It’s obvious that there are factions within the US military establishment that are not just preparing for war with Russia, but actively provoking tensions.
Which makes today’s news out of the EU all the more concerning because it shows a degree of coordination that now spans the Atlantic, and has jumped outside of the usual NATO military alliance and into the civilian bureaucracy of the EU:
Juncker calls for EU army, says would deter Russia
Mar 9, 2015
(Reuters) – The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats as well as restore the bloc’s foreign policy standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper on Sunday.
Arguing that NATO was not enough because not all members of the transatlantic defense alliance are in the EU, Juncker said a common EU army would also send important signals to the world.
“A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries,” Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “Such an army would also help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world.”
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Juncker’s proposal: “Our future as Europeans will at some point be with a European army,” she told German radio.
It’s telling that Juncker trotted out his proposal and immediately a German defense minister was at the ready to lend support. This means it’s a serious proposal, and has already been circulated and vetted.
While we might disagree as to whether a common military would prevent future wars between EU countries, the thing about armies is that once you have one, there’s a tendency to want to use it.
They are very expensive to just have lying about. In times past, no country would think of keeping one assembled after a war because they have a bad habit of needing something to do, and if nothing is available externally, they have been known to turn their power inwards (see: Egyptian military coup. Also: US military industrial complex).
And how has Russia reacted to all this? In an escalate-y, predicable sort of way:
Russian legislator: EU’s common army, if created, to play provocative role
MOSCOW, 9 March. /TASS/. The European Union’s common armed forces, if they are ever created, may play a provocative role, first deputy chairman of the United Russia faction in the State Duma, Frants Klintsevich, told the media on Sunday.
“In the nuclear age extra armies do not provide any additional security. But they surely can play a provocative role,” Klintsevich said, adding it was regrettable that such ideas had already met with some support.
“One should presume that a European army is seen as an addendum to NATO. And in this kind of situation Western politicians are not shy to accuse Russia of some aggressiveness,” Klintsevich said.
Russia went right for the nuclear trump card, noting that conventional forces do not really have a clearly defined role when nukes are on the table. That is, Russia has said (again!) very clearly that they have nukes, might use them, and do not appreciate being constantly threatened. And yet here we are.
I mean, it was barely a week ago that a Russian military chief said this:
Russia says ready to reciprocate nuclear strike
Mar 1, 2015
A Russian military chief says the country’s Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) are ready to defend the country against any possible “lightning-speed” nuclear strike.
“If we have to accomplish a task of repelling a ‘lightning-speed’ nuclear strike, this objective will be attained within a prescribed period,” Andrei Burbin, the SMF Central Command’s chief, was quoted by Russian media as saying on Saturday.
He voiced the SMF preparedness to deliver a retaliatory nuclear strike “unhesitatingly” if Russia comes under any assault.
Referring to the geographic position of Russia’s missile units, the major general said it will protect them from demolition by “any global strike,” adding that 98 percent of the SMF systems would be new in 2020.
The comments come against the backdrop of a recent boost in NATO’s military presence near Russia’s borders. In 2014, NATO forces held some 200 military exercises with the Western military block’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg promising that such maneuvers would continue.
You’d think that with the stakes being so high that there would be obvious diplomatic efforts underway to try and defuse the situation and prevent any accidents from happening. But instead, we see the West consistently accusing Russia of aggressiveness while holding hundreds of military exercises and positioning its NATO equipment closer and closer to Russia’s borders.
Meanwhile Russia is busy saying to the world, Hey look: we still have a bunch of working nukes over here and we think you should keep that in mind.
I fear that I will have to issue an ALERT at some point over this entire matter. Again, an ALERT happens when I come into possession of information that causes me to personally take new or different actions.
I am seriously entertaining preparing for war, and as I’ve written before, the nature of this next war could involve everything from trade battles, to cyber attacks, to financial system assaults, a downing of the US electrical grid, to an actual shooting war — perhaps one that escalates to a nuclear exchange.
When things are this obviously crazy, anything is possible.
It is my contention that the next shooting war will change the geopolitical landscape permanently and irrevocably for the US and the US dollar’s reserve currency status. Much of the weight carried by the US is because of its dominant military. But a military is only as powerful as its ability to project force; and that requires that you either walk to the conflict via a land bridge or you ship your heavy equipment over the seas.
Light skirmishes can be accomplished via air, but nothing too serious because it’s just not possible to fly in everything you need. Tanks are heavy. So is food and fuel. Ammunition too. Moving a hundred thousand troops requires ships. Of which, clearly, the USA has many.
But ships are no longer useful in the modern world, as France rather embarrassingly proved to the US recently:
US supercarrier ‘sunk’ by French submarine in wargames
Mar 6, 2015
The French Ministry of Defence has revealed one of its attack submarines pulled of an astounding upset during recent war-games in the North Atlantic.
The Aviationist blog spotted an article on the French defence force’s website — quickly withdrawn — which told how one of their submarines, the “Saphir” tackled the might of the United States’ navy off the coast of Florida.
At the core of the surface force was the enormous aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its powerful strike wing of 90 combat aircraft and helicopters.
Clustered protectively about it was several advanced cruisers and destroyers, and its own guardian submarine.
In one element of the war games, the Saphir was tasked with the role of being the “bad guy”.
Its mission: To seek, locate and exterminate the US naval force.
The exact details of how it achieved this embarrassing outcome is not known.
Somehow, the French submarine must have been able to slip between the defensive sensor patchwork of patrol aircraft, helicopters, warships and submarines to line up a shot on the $13 billion monstrosity.
There she lurked as a fictitious political crisis evolved in the world above.
On the final day of the exercise, the order finally came.
Sink the Theodore Roosevelt.
This 30-year-old Saphir proceeded to do. Along with most of the escorting warships.
Yes, a single 39-year old submarine managed to sneak into the protective ring of an entire aircraft carrier group and go through a mock firing of its entire complement of torpedoes against the entire set of targets.
Besides the embarrassment for the US crews involved, this proves an important point: ships are no match for submarines. And there are a lot of submarines out there on both sides. Offensive anti-ship technology in the form of advanced submarine torpedoes, as well as missiles fired from land or aircraft, have advanced by enormous leaps and bounds since WWII.
The US has never faced an adversary with such technology in open warfare. But Russia and China (and even Iran) are stocked to the gills with such weapons.
By provoking Russia, the US risks exposing the fact that it cannot really project power all across the globe anymore because it cannot possibly ship things to and fro with impunity. Once that calculus changes, everything changes — with King Dollar right at the top of the list.
Whether that comes to pass, I am finding the risk of a major conflict between NATO/EU and Russia to be high and seemingly growing higher with every passing week. Such are the times in which we live.
It leaves me asking if it’s time to begin preparing for war, which means being ready for the worst.
I truly wish that this were not how things were unfolding, but seeing General Breedlove and Victoria Nuland get away unchallenged with their blatant falsehoods is giving me a serious case of déjà vu.
We’ve been here before. And we know that the war hawks seem to get their way, for reasons that remain murky at best. Only this time they have a real, legitimate and dangerous foe in their sights.
In Part 2: How To Prepare For War, we investigate the risks associated with the most likely forms of conflict should things escalate from here: trade war, energy war, financial war, cyberwar, grid-down sabotage, shooting war and nuclear war.
While any of these developments will be grim at best, there are a surprising number of steps you can take today that will reduce your vulnerability to each off these. And in most cases, the investment of material and time will have persisting value even if (hopefully) the current global tensions de-escalate.
But as we often say, the time to prepare for crisis is in advance. Given the risks, why wouldn’t you start taking at least a few precautions now?