The United States there are 1000 Russians soldiers currently fighting in Ukraine. British sources say up to 5000. AFP reports a Russian mother’s lobby group as estimating up to 15,000 of their sons and husbands have “gone incommunicado” while on military exercises near Ukraine in the past two months.
Two of the EU’s new top officials - Donald Tusk and Federica Mogherini - have spoken out against Russia’s “war” on Ukraine.
Tusk, the Polish PM, who is to take over as EU Council head in December, said at a WWII commemoration in Westerplatte, on the Baltic Sea coast, on Monday (1 September) that Russia’s actions merit a tough Nato response.
“[The phrase] ‘No more war’ can no longer be the manifesto of the weak and helpless, an expression of the illusion that around us there are no people and no countries who want to use force and warfare as a means of pursuing their political goals”, he noted.
“Today, looking at the tragedy of the Ukrainians, looking at the war, because we have to use that word, we know, that September 1939 cannot be repeated”.
The Battle of Westerplatte marked the start of Germany and Russia’s invasion of Poland 75 years ago.
Tusk got the EU post last weekend despite being an advocate of strong sanctions on Russia.
He spoke ahead of a Nato summit this week which is to see the creation of a “rapid reaction force” to counter potential Russian aggression against the alliance’s eastern members.
Italian foreign minister Mogherini, who is to become the new EU foreign policy chief in November and who is considered Russia-friendly, also criticised Moscow on Monday.
She told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that EU sanctions are hurting the Russian economy and that “the Kremlin is acting against the interests of its people”.
She also accused Russian leader Vladimir Putin of not sticking to his promises.
"Putin has never respected the commitments he made in several situations, in Geneva, in Normandy, in Berlin. He wasted the chance to turn things around by influencing the separatists after the shooting down of the Malaysian airplane. The distance between commitments and concrete action has been enormous”.
The comments were echoed by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
She told a press conference in Berlin that tit-for-tat EU-Russia sanctions are hurting the German economy. But she added: “I have to say there is also an impact when you are allowed to move borders in Europe and attack other countries with your troops … accepting Russia's behavior is not an option”.
EU leaders last weekend gave Putin one week to stop hostilities in Ukraine or face new punitive measures, which, according to Reuters, could include a ban on European banks’ buying of Russian state bonds.
Quiet, pragmatic, tenacious - some compare Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister and newly-chosen EU Council chief, to German chancellor Angela Merkel. But unlike her, he has “given up” on Moscow, with Russia relations set to make or break his EU tenure.
Tusk will take over the EU baton from Belgium’s Herman Van Rompuy on 1 December.
He might stay for two and a half years or for five. But his fellow centre-right leaders have refused to give the job, a priori, to the centre left in 2017.
Opinion is divided on how he got the post.
For some, such as Charles Grant, the director of the London-based think tank, the Centre for European Reform (CER), the EU appointed a Pole as “a signal to Russia” it will not tolerate war-mongering in the east.
When Tusk took up the EU job on Saturday, he said he has three priorities: to bring an eastern European “sensitivity” to Russia relations; to stop the UK from leaving; and to stop divisions between eurozone and non-eurozone states getting bigger.
His first point was an understatement.
“The main expectation in Poland is that Tusk will make EU policy toward the east … represent the interests of central Europeans”, another Pism analyst, Sebastian Plocennik, said.
“Tusk’s appointment only has meaning if he can persuade member states to push forward with a much stronger European foreign and defence policy … This is Poland’s chance and he can’t blow it,” Carnegie’s Dempsey added.
“His [Tusk’s] approach to Russia is very different from Germany. The German approach is to find scope for compromise, to avoid confrontation. Tusk has given up on that. He doesn’t believe that by being softer and taking a step backward, we can accommodate Russian concerns”, Zaborowski noted.
Nato is to form a 4,000-strong spearhead force designed to go into action in 48 hours in response to Russian intervention in Ukraine. Stockpiles of military equipment will be stored at bases in Eastern Europe for the troops to use when they go into operation.
The mission, which is expected to have a sizeable British contingent, is due to be unveiled at the Nato summit in Wales later this week. It will include special forces, air, naval and intelligence detachments which will deploy alongside the soldiers of the host nation against an outside threat.
The Alliance has not named Russia as the threat against whom the measures are being taken and has stressed that it can be deployed anywhere in the world. But it will be working alongside the Readiness Action Plan which will have bases, it is believed, in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
The deployment is certain to be seen as provocative by the Kremlin. Under the 1997 Founding Act, which was viewed as ending the Cold War, Nato pledged to Boris Yeltsin’s government that it would not have a permanent troop presence in any of the former Warsaw Pact states. Nato insists that the bases do not break the pact as they are not permanent, but they will be there “for as long as it takes”. A senior official stated: “We have been through this thoroughly, taken extensive legal advice, and this is not in breach of the Act. There will not be permanent presence in these bases, there will not, for example, be personnel stationed there with their families.”
The force is part of a raft of measures being taken by Nato to sharpen up its reaction since the Ukraine crisis began in February. Since then, Crimea has been annexed by Vladimir Putin’s government and separatist forces, with Russian backing, are engaged in an increasingly violent civil war in the east of the country.
Moscow is to review its military doctrine, a move that is caused by expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe, problems of missile defense and the crisis situation in neighboring Ukraine, says an official from the Russia’s Security Council.
“I have no doubts that the issue of drawing of military infrastructure of NATO member-countries to the borders of our country, including via enlargement, will remain one of the external military threats for the Russian Federation,” Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of the Security Council said in an interview to RIA Novosti.
All NATO’s actions show that both the US and NATO are trying to escalate a deterioration of relations with Russia, he added.
“We consider that defining factor in [Moscow’s] relations with NATO will remain the unacceptability for Russia of the expansion plans of alliance’s military infrastructure to our borders, including via enlargement,” he stated.
Establishing and deploying of strategic missile defense systems which are undermining the global stability, as well as bringing the weapons into space, will also remain major military threats for Russia, he added.
“The USA wants to strengthen its troops in Baltic States. [They] have already decided to transfer its heavy weapons and military equipment, including tanks and armored infantry vehicles, to Estonia. And all this next to Russia’s border.”
Ex-NSA Director, U.S. Intelligence Veterans Write Open Letter To Merkel To Avoid All-Out Ukraine War
Alarmed at the anti-Russian hysteria sweeping Washington, and the specter of a new Cold War, U.S. intelligence veterans one of whom is none other than William Binney, the former senior NSA crypto-mathematician who back in March 2012 blew the whistle on the NSA's spying programs more than a year before Edward Snowden, took the unusual step of sending the following memo dated August 30 to German Chancellor Merkel challenging the reliability of Ukrainian and U.S. media claims about a Russian "invasion."
MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Ukraine and NATO
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Ukraine and NATO
We the undersigned are longtime veterans of U.S. intelligence. We take the unusual step of writing this open letter to you to ensure that you have an opportunity to be briefed on our views prior to the NATO summit on September 4-5.
You need to know, for example, that accusations of a major Russian "invasion" of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the "intelligence" seems to be of the same dubious, politically "fixed" kind used 12 years ago to "justify" the U.S.-led attack on Iraq. We saw no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq then; we see no credible evidence of a Russian invasion now. Twelve years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mindful of the flimsiness of the evidence on Iraqi WMD, refused to join in the attack on Iraq. In our view, you should be appropriately suspicions of charges made by the US State Department and NATO officials alleging a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
President Barack Obama tried yesterday to cool the rhetoric of his own senior diplomats and the corporate media, when he publicly described recent activity in the Ukraine, as "a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now … it’s not really a shift."
Obama, however, has only tenuous control over the policymakers in his administration – who, sadly, lack much sense of history, know little of war, and substitute anti-Russian invective for a policy. One year ago, hawkish State Department officials and their friends in the media very nearly got Mr. Obama to launch a major attack on Syria based, once again, on "intelligence" that was dubious, at best.
Largely because of the growing prominence of, and apparent reliance on, intelligence we believe to be spurious, we think the possibility of hostilities escalating beyond the borders of Ukraine has increased significantly over the past several days. More important, we believe that this likelihood can be avoided, depending on the degree of judicious skepticism you and other European leaders bring to the NATO summit next week.
Photos can be worth a thousand words; they can also deceive. We have considerable experience collecting, analyzing, and reporting on all kinds of satellite and other imagery, as well as other kinds of intelligence. Suffice it to say that the images released by NATO on August 28 provide a very flimsy basis on which to charge Russia with invading Ukraine. Sadly, they bear a strong resemblance to the images shown by Colin Powell at the UN on February 5, 2003 that, likewise, proved nothing.
That same day, we warned President Bush that our former colleague analysts were "increasingly distressed at the politicization of intelligence" and told him flatly, "Powell’s presentation does not come close" to justifying war. We urged Mr. Bush to "widen the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic."
Putin has until now showed considerable reserve on the conflict in the Ukraine, it behooves us to remember that Russia, too, can "shock and awe." In our view, if there is the slightest chance of that kind of thing eventually happening to Europe because of Ukraine, sober-minded leaders need to think this through very carefully.
If the photos that NATO and the US have released represent the best available "proof" of an invasion from Russia, our suspicions increase that a major effort is under way to fortify arguments for the NATO summit to approve actions that Russia is sure to regard as provocative. Caveat emptor is an expression with which you are no doubt familiar. Suffice it to add that one should be very cautious regarding what Mr. Rasmussen, or even Secretary of State John Kerry, are peddling.
We trust that your advisers have kept you informed regarding the crisis in Ukraine from the beginning of 2014, and how the possibility that Ukraine would become a member of NATO is anathema to the Kremlin. According to a February 1, 2008 cable (published by WikiLeaks) from the US embassy in Moscow to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, US Ambassador William Burns was called in by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who explained Russia’s strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine.
At the same time, we have little doubt that, if and when the federalists need them, the Russian tanks will come.
This is precisely why the situation demands a concerted effort for a ceasefire, which you know Kiev has so far been delaying. What is to be done at this point? In our view, Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk need to be told flat-out that membership in NATO is not in the cards – and that NATO has no intention of waging a proxy war with Russia – and especially not in support of the ragtag army of Ukraine. Other members of NATO need to be told the same thing.
Vladimir Putin has boasted to European leaders that his forces could sweep into Kiev in two weeks if he wanted.
The Russian president reportedly made the threat to the European Commission president during talks on the Ukraine crisis.
Mr Putin told Jose Manuel Barroso: “If I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks,” Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper reported, implying this could be the result if the EU stepped up sanctions against Russia.
His comments, relayed by Mr Barroso to colleagues at last weekend’s EU summit, emerged as Nato announced it would build a new “spearhead” rapid reaction force of up to 4,000 troops that can be flown into eastern Europe in 48 hours to respond to possible Russian aggression.
The EU’s new head of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, also warned there was no military solution to what is now Europe’s biggest crisis in decades.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of the alliance, said Nato faced multiple crises on its southern and eastern borders that could erupt at any time.
Leaders of the alliance’s 28 members are expected to agree to the new force at this week’s Nato summit in Wales, and it is likely to include British troops.
The spearhead force is part of a package of measures to sharpen up the alliance as it faces crises in Iraq andUkraine.
The summit will agree to stockpile supplies in eastern Europe so that equipment and ammunition are waiting for the force when it arrives.
The alliance will also boost the number of exercises in the area, so that troops are constantly cycling through it. Mr Rasmussen said the new spearhead force would “travel light and strike hard if needed”.
Fierce fighting between Syrian rebel and government forces over the strategic Quneitra crossing on the Golan Heights has compelled Israel to up its readiness in the area
Forces loyal to the Assad regime have been fighting over the past day to retake the border area from rebels who captured it Wednesday, while rebel forces, including from the al-Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, have been streaming to the area in a bid to hold the spot.
The IDF’s top brass is meeting Tuesday morning to assess the escalating situation, while the army’s Northern Command has deployed infantry forces in armored personnel carriers to the border area, Channel 10 reported.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that both sides have sustained casualties in the fighting, which was focused around the town of Hamidiyeh in Quneitra province, near the Israeli border.
Fort Bliss, the American Army post across the border from the crime-ridden Mexican city of Juarez, is on high alert against a potential terrorist attack through the Labor Day weekend — but the Obama administration won’t admit it.
A Fort Bliss news release blandly describes the precautions, which include closing two normally open to civilian traffic and random inspections at others, as the “results of several recent security assessments and our constant concern for the safety of military members, families, employees and civilians,” according to the El Paso Times.
That’s understating the matter, according to the conservative group Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch issued a bulletin Friday stating federal authorities are aware of the risk of a Juarez-based attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The Israel-Hamas ceasefire went into effect last Tuesday, launching a week of fevered speculation about who won the 50-day conflict. Finding a winner may be hard, but finding some of the losers, less so. Along with the casualties on both sides, one clear loser was the US-Israel relationship.
On July 27, three weeks into the war, after Hamas had rejected Egypt’s proposal and before most of the war’s dead had died, US Secretary of State John Kerry powwowed with his Qatari and Turkish counterparts in Paris in an attempt to hammer out a draft that might entice Hamas to halt its fire.
The Paris talks produced a preliminary draft, effectively an agenda of issues that mattered to Hamas and Israel that would be taken up in the talks in Cairo under Egyptian auspices. The US quickly sent this document to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “for comment and input.”
Kerry’s very willingness to entertain Hamas’s demands, the very notion of attempting to entice the enemy to the talks while rocket fire continued, was seen in Jerusalem as an attempt to let Hamas gently down from the tree before it had learned the lesson. Well-intentioned or not, Kerry’s actions undermined Netanyahu’s fundamental war strategy.
US-Israel tensions and misunderstandings were laid bare in the Gaza conflict. In its wake, the costs are becoming evident as well.