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09 August 2014

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David Habakkuk

Mark Logan,

With respect:

As you will be aware, that here has been a lot of controversy about how high models of the Su-25 in the possession of the Ukrainian air force can fly.

As I stressed in the piece I posted last Monday which touched on these questions, in looking at Russian claims, one has to distinguish between claims made in the state-controlled media, which may very well contain a lot of disinformation, and claims made in public briefings by senior officials, supported by what purports to be evidence.

This evidence will obviously have to be submitted, in due course, to the investigators for critical analysis. If a single part of it can be shown to be unambiguously false, then the whole Russian case is called into question.

It is for this reason that I am not disposed to take it for granted that claims made by Lieutenant-General Kartopolov about the involvement of a Su-25 at the briefing on 21 July are lies. As you will recall, Kartopolov said that the Russian Defence Ministry would like to know 'why the military jet was flying along [the same civil aviation lines] at almost the same time and at the same level as a passenger plane.'

He also claimed that the Su-25 'can briefly climb up to 10,000metres [and are] regularly equipped with air-to-air missiles R-60 that can capture and destroy targets of a distance up to 12km and up to 5km as guaranteed.'

The report in the 'Independent' continued by saying that 'Russian officials say they have evidence of the jet’s presence following images taken by the Rostov monitoring centre, and has (sic) urged the US to release satellite images taken at the time of the crash.'

(See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/malaysia-airlines-mh17-crash-ukrainian-military-jet-was-flying-close-to-passenger-plane-before-it-was-shot-down-says-russian-officer-9619143.html .)

In fact, the U.S. has failed to produce any satellite imagery – or indeed any other evidence whatsoever – to support claims that a Buk missile was fired from a location in rebel-held territory, or that Buks were supplied to the separatists. Meanwhile, no attempt has been made to explain why it impossible to release such evidence.

It is claimed that 'social media' provides evidence, but no attempt has been made to produce such evidence in properly analysed form by Western intelligence agencies.

Moreover, the claims made on the basis of evidence which has not been released show at least one glaring contradiction. As I noted in my post on Monday, why did the 22 July briefing produce a picture which showed the Buk rising diagonally from Snizhne, while it had been claimed that the trail of 'flare' rose vertically?

(If moreover, a Buk was fired from Snizhne, even if the flare did not show up on satellites, should there not be 'before and after' pictures strongly suggesting a missile had been fired?)

The records from Kiev air traffic control have mysteriously disappeared – denials of claims they were impounded by the SBU are not particularly convincing. On 23 July, a spokesman for the British Department of Transport was quoted as saying that it should take about two days for British analysts to download and decipher the information on the 'black boxes' that had arrived at Farnborough. That was two and a half weeks ago.

(See http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2014/08/r.html .)

For some puzzling reason, Boeing, whose expertise ought to be critical, appears not to be involved in the investigations.

My view had been that the 'front-runner' hypotheses were a catastrophic bungle by the insurgents and a 'false flag' operation. If however it was the former, surely some iota of credible evidence should by now have been produced by Western intelligence? Some tiny smidgeon of something?

Meanwhile, I have followed Robert Parry's work, on and off, for years, and have great respect for him. If he suggests that U.S. intelligence analysts are taking the hypothesis of an attempt to shoot down Putin's plane seriously, I think that this, at the least, gives us some reason to take it more seriously than I would otherwise have done.

Cassandra

Why? Classic geostrategic plunder by IMF debt. West gets richer, Russia weaker, mission accomplished. Ukraine will have to put up and sell of its resources to pay its new debts. These will become assets of western neoliberals and oligarchs: farmland for Cargill, fracking fields for Hunter Biden, and iron mines for German companies. I wonder who will access militarily strategic Ukranian titanium deposits, and what will be the fate of the former Ukranian-Russian high tech military and aircraft partnerships, some no doubt secret. And Ukraine will be repaying debt into the foreseeable future. Russia did manage to hold onto its only warm-water naval base in the Crimea. Even so, betcha Brzenski and Nuland's bosses regard the $B5 USAID money well spent.

Dismayed

I haven't followed the details of this particular substory closely. How do we 'know' that whatever airframe the Russian Federation claims to have detected was actually a SU-25 and not something more capable? Does anyone know if the RF specifically claimed to have detected SU-25(s) or whether they might have used more general/bet-hedging language? To belabor a point which I am sure is obvious to you and most other readers, significant uncertainty in airframe identification increases the number of plausible scenarios which could fit the available data.

bth

The Handelsblatt article outlines the German industrialist thought process for good business. Sanctions make for poor financials. Russians buy new German cars, Ukrainian farmers and coal miners do not. When did the Germans actually give a damn about the Ukrainians' welfare?

Also the article in its hasty American bashing just fails to mention that the Russians actually did annex the Crimea and are in the process of violently splitting away eastern Ukraine and may soon move to the full Black Sea coast and then likely into the Baltics. The Handelsblatt article conjures up the ghost of Will Brandt and a jar of Vaseline as the best plan for business and calls it real politics.

Come winter the Handelsblatt types will want their warm houses and cheap Russian natural gas. They'll sell out the Ukrainians because over the years Germany sold its energy base to the Russians, pipelines, supplies, distribution, storage and in the interests of 'clean energy' are closing their coal mines. Basically the German industrialists make a nice profit from this arrangement, don't want to even consider economic discomfort and Putin knows it. Putin is counting on the self interest of the Germany industrialists to make his case for land seizures to the west.

Economic sanctions are a blunt and largely ineffective tool, but they do increase costs to an aggressor (and ourselves) and I doubt anyone expects them to stop Russian leaders now set on politically and financially severing themselves from western Europe and the US as much as anything to strengthen their own political power base within Russia.

Macgupta123

"The author is absolutely correct in observing that unlike the US, we have to be a little more serious in our relationship towards Russia and look beyond domestic political expedience. After all, we live here." ----- Remember Sarah Palin who sees Russia from her bedroom window or some such thing?

David Habakkuk

Dismayed,

Yes, Kartopolov did claim it was an Su-25. What is not clear to me is on what basis he could have been sure of the identification. However, having made the claim that the plane was flying at the same level as MH17, the Russians made no attempt to leave themselves a get out clause by leaving open the possibility that it could have been, for instance, a Su-27.

This makes me think that it is actually extremely unlikely that Kartopolov was simply talking nonsense when he suggested a Ukrainian Su-25 could reach that altitude for short periods.

According to Parry, the evidence has already been provided to U.S. intelligence.

Be that as it may, if the claim that the Su-25 cannot go this high is the palpable nonsense that Mark Logan thinks it is, why have U.S. officials not produced a serious attempt at demolishing the claims made by Kartopolov and others?

In sharp contrast to what I earlier thought, I now think it possible that both Russian and intelligence analysts, and also perhaps Malaysian, may have been genuinely uncertain as to what actually happened.

Madhu

The part about "marked dynamics" is very interesting and very astute, IMO.

In a book by Brian S. Petit, "Going Big by Getting Small: The Application of Operational Art by Special Operations in Phase Zero," there is the following:

"Lacking a grand strategy, the US executes many strategies that compete in a Darwinian forum to gain prominence, influence policies, and determine resource commitment."

Bureaucratic deep states within Washington, I am betting, compete along with all of the other commitments to a President's time so that he must be very clear in what he wants to avoid the multiple different directions in which American Foreign Policy wanders.

Of course, sometimes that single-mindedness leads to things like Iraq....

At any rate, NATO and the US' idea of it is very confused. What is it? A strictly defense arrangement for European defense? Which nations? And how should it grow? Should it grow? Does its growth help or hurt the very nations it claims to protect? Does a Global NATO weaken or strengthen it's purpose? How do different nations view the alliance? How does it serve their purposes? Those of an economic alliance, the EU? What role does NATO play in power politics? Money politics?

And so on. NATO is also a weird democracy promotion, nation building project which confuses its defensive capabilities.

Again, and so on. It's not just the German's that have economic interests, various EU members look at places like Ukraine in a zero sum manner but somehow that is not greed but German behavior of its industrialists is?

It's a mess.

I don't want smaller nations overrun by larger nations. But the world is a hard place and I don't see that much of the NATO expansion and grandstanding actually went toward practical, hard steps that firm up a place like Ukraine.

Money from the outside only promotes corruption, Western battles with Putin pits one group within the nation against another, the Ukraine border forces have never been adequately helped and, yet, NATO is talking about beefing up their CYBERDEFENSE capabilities and all sorts of nonsense.

Those that claim they wish to help Ukraine or other Eastern European/Baltic nations are not not really providing good, grounded practical help because some of the desire to help is motivated by other desires than simply pure defense. And troubled nations must first govern well if they don't want outsiders to manipulate and weaken them.

This is a thoughtful piece because it asks people to slow down and think things through.

And focusing on NATO as in instrument of American hegemony misses the point that others game the system too, and use the alliance for their own rather strange purposes which is why it is such a confused business.

What, exactly, is this combined NATO/EU/West business? Just what is this all meant to be? Dreams don't always translate into reality and the Ukrainians are paying for it, even as some of their leaders absolutely have made terrible governing decisions that allow outsiders--both Putin and the West--to weaken their society.

CatMack

Dear Babak,

I am aware of these facts and I understand your point. I am ashamed with how the things worked out with Poland. I also see no point in apologizing for or justifying Polish behaviour. Any defence I could mount would be along lines of “Bad Nazis, good Germans”, I hypocrisy I would rather not indulge in.

Instead, let me offer you an anecdote shedding some light into how far the rot has progressed and how irreversible it is, both in Poland and in the broader NATO system. A new Commandant for the NATO Defence College is Major General Janusz Bojarski. Before arriving in Rome this July, General Bojarski was the personnel director for the Polish Ministry of Defence and Defense Attache to the Polish Embassy in Washington. He was also first Deputy and later the Director of the Military Intelligence Service from 2004 to 2007. He also received Legion of Merit. A stalwart of Polish-U.S. alliance and defender of Western values.

I suppose by now you can guess that General Bojarski had humble beginnings. He started by graduating from Felix Dzierzynski Political-Military Academy for politruks. His first serious task was overseeing one of the military internment camps after December 1981 where more “unruly” and “uncooperative” members of Solidarnosc were shipped to isolate them from more “enlighten” members of opposition. Many attraction were provided to his pensioners, from engineered tuberculosis outbreaks to homosexual rapes. All while his buddies were running around the country, torturing and assassinating priests who chose not to collaborate, well into 1990. After he became Brigadier General, some of his more notable successes included organizing catering for CIA torture chambers in Poland as well as logistics for transport of Turkish heroine to Germany.

General Bojarski is the typical member of Polish elite and deep state. Just one that has been chosen to take position of influence in careers of NATO officers and their thinking on political-military issues. Can this example be used to judge moral and intellectual condition of his NATO promoters?

Best,

Mark Logan

Dismayed,

They reported Su-25. I would guess one of their Su-25's was aloft and in the area. If we are searching for facts to fit desired narratives, I'm happy to play Devil's Advocate on this one.

They had one of their few air superiority fighters shot down already. As the rebs have no air power at all it's easy to imagine the Uke's opting to use their dedicated ground attack aircraft exclusively in the combat area after that. They have a lot more of them and they are a lot cheaper.

Kyle Pearson

These economic sanctions, coupled with the US's military activities in Syria, Ukraine, and North Africa, have only succeeded in persuading Russia to push up the time frame on their attempt to build a new economic center, one that is firmly located in Central Asia. Russia has more than one arena it can build in; the only thing these sanctions have done is to thrust Eurasianism to the forefront of the Russian playbook. That does not bode well for Europe, and contrary to Washington's perspective, it is a really bad development for the US.

This shift is going to work to the strong benefit of China, Iran, perhaps India, and everything in between. The sanctions are not hurting Russia in any meaningful way; instead, they are forcing a more rapid consolidation of what were once tenuous agreements among cautious geographic neighbors into a full-blown alliance - and as Russia's counter-sanctions demonstrate, at what will be a steep cost to western Europe

The US actions in Ukraine were intended to split the EU from Russia, in the fatuously naive presumption that the US-NATO-OSCE economies are the natural capstones on a pyramid of international trade. Only that unexamined faith can justify, for me, how the US could believe that its "pivot to Asia" and an "isolated" Russia would pull the economic center back into "The West". The "pivot to Asia" is intended to contain China; instead, it has pushed China to begin asserting its interests in the region more aggressively. China's defensive capabilities in the Pacific are adequate to its needs, now, and short of an open attack on China (which is conceivable - perhaps one orchestrated by a color revolution in Taiwan, via the nascent Sunflower movement that appeared in Taipei earlier this year), there is very little that the US can do to thwart China's continued assertion of sovereignty over the portions of the South China Sea it claims.

The changes currently under way in South America - with increasingly strong trade ties between South America and Asia, and rapidly divestment of the exclusive North-South American trade bloc of yesteryear - prove just how foolish Washington's faith in US and "western" economic dominance is. Contrast that to the US's most purely loyal trade allies: Mexico? The Philippines? Japan, now 30 years into a deflationary cycle with no end in sight (one that is turning it to militarize, as well)? South Korea, forever courting the possibility of a devastating war with their northern neighbors? And then Europe, of course.

The sad truth is that the people in charge of the US, now - people of my generation - cannot remember a time when the US was anything other than the world's hegemon. The Cold War has always seemed distant for most middle-aged Americans of today. Beginning in the late 70s it started to seem rather like a fairy tale set in faraway lands like Lebanon, Nicaragua, or eastern Europe, and when the walls around the Soviet Union began to crumble, the youth of the late 80s and early 90s interpreted it as proof the US had always been safe, always destined to “win,” and that the US was now anointed to be the "World's Policeman", as Poppy Bush so blandly declared.

Russia does not need US and European business; there are plenty of other places it can sell its resources: South America, Central Asia, India, Africa.... In contrast, the US and NATO have staked their economic well-being on the myth of "free trade," globalization, and a corporately-managed peace where states strive to keep their governments out of the business sector, and political elites serve corporate interests. The US and much of western Europe have exported a great deal of our manufacturing and production to foreign countries; the US still maintains a high-tech manufacturing sector, but it mainly caters to the government, and other corporations. The stuff of which the daily citizen's life is built with largely comes in on ships, from other countries.

China and Russia have simply not accepted the idea that everything is going to be managed by corporations, under a globalized "free market", and that idea appeals to weaker countries who are feeling the pain and injustice of IMF, UN, and World Bank adjudications (the recent decisions re: Argentina are a good example). Many governments, today, are increasingly turning away from NATO and the US, looking instead to the Eurasian bloc as a better example of how to gain prosperity and independence.

Up until the last ten or fifteen years, China's economy was entirely dependent upon exporting its wares to wealthier countries. For its manufacturing sector there was no domestic demand to speak of, and the only way for China (or Russia, for that matter) to bring money across the borders, into their sphere of influence, was to build stuff for export to "The West."

That has already changed some, now, and over the next 12 years it is going to speed up. In its 11th 12-year-plan, China's government first began to target the need for a stronger domestic economy. Heavy industries - such as automobile and appliance manufacturing - were targeted for development, with the specific aim of creating a full range of domestically-produced products for domestic consumption, for the entire spectrum of Chinese society: work, industry, and luxury consumption.

That has been achieved, and it was done through strategic, state-sponsored industrial partnerships with firms like Volkswagen, General Motors, Volvo, Peugot, Ford, and Toyota. These companies are playing along with the Chinese approach under the mistaken presumption that, eventually, China will loosen its trade restrictions and allow "unfettered" competition to foreign-owned businesses.

That is a fantasy. The 12 year plans have clearly stated that China's goal, in these partnerships, is technology transfer with the ultimate aim of producing, first, a domestic market that will become one of the main suppliers to the Chinese people, and second, one that is capable of exporting its own products - including high-end luxury products - to other countries. China is succeeding in building up its technology and scientific research capabilities. It's working hard at green energy. It has already built the world's first maglev, and it's the world's leading supplier of renewable energy solutions.

The result of these economic sanctions against Russia has been to firmly drive Russia and the other BRICS nations into a stronger strategic partnership. The recent moves by the BRICS countries - to create an international banking agreement that will compete with the IMF, to supply one another with resources and imports (Russia-China, primarily), to fund one another's economies (Putin's recent trip to South America) - are just the first steps.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has been quietly and steadily securing informal agreements, these last 14 years, with the (again) openly stated aim of creating an alternate reserve currency that will allow Eurasia to do business with the rest of the world without resorting to the dollar.

Greater Iran and Central Asia are, with cooperation from South America and Africa, quite capable of supplying one another with the resources needed to achieve this. Where before, Russia was building stronger ties with western Europe and using that commerce to gain better terms with China, the only thing this Ukrainian fiasco concocted by the neo-Cons has done is to convince Russia that the current terms offered by China are adequate.

That is speeding up the shift away from "The West," and with the US's military adventurism in Africa and the brutality of its ill-conceived "Arab Spring", other countries are going to be much more inclined to try out that alternative approach to governance and economic management. If the west only offers a "my-way or the highway" demand under threat of political and social destabilization, constant civil conflict, vast economic inequality, and permanently indentured servitude to the IMF and western governments, then poorer and less-developed countries are going to be far more inclined to try out the alternatives offered by countries which have already succeeded in breaking out of the trap.

To make a long story short: the economic framework which the US and western European countries have created makes the US and NATO economies quite dependent on the rest of the world.

But the rest of the world is, increasingly, not dependent upon them. If Washington and the western European governments continue to follow the policies of the last 15 years, then there will come a day when the costs of destroying the dollar and the decade-or-so depression that will follow will be less painful than continuing to work within the IMF/World Bank/US-UK corporate economic framework which currently dominates international trade.

Once that day comes, the only things the US will be left with is a massive military, Hollywood, and a lot of unemployed people who can no longer afford an education, healthcare, nor the merchandise sold in WalMart.

What I see when I read news from the US, these days, is that our people (and throughout much of Europe) are frustrated at their declining standard of living. In the US, as well, there are the additional problems of stark economic inequality, militarization of the civil sphere in the name of corporate rights, and the rapidly diminishing "middle class."

That is not the overarching ethos in other parts of the world. People in most of China, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia have been seeing a steady increase in their lives for two or three generations, now. Most of them are content with what they have – they work hard, but they get fed, and they have homes, security, and opportunity. Wars are not a problem, in Asia. Economic inequality is something that most of those governments perceive as a paramount political responsibility. Similarly, South America has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the last 20 years, and economic prosperity has come most rapidly and most successfully to those countries which have managed to break with the US economic sphere and build an independent international identity.

Contrary to what Washington believes, NATO can be broken, and European countries are capable of turning their gaze eastwards, away from the Atlantic.

I worry that the US leadership will recognize that fact far too late for it to be of any use in addressing the coming shift. Our military will be of no constructive use in managing these problems. "If the only thing you have is a hammer...."

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

I regret to learn of the rot that you speak.

Evidently, this is not limited to Poland - there must be something deeply disturbing going on in the European Union - enemies are created at a whim and to what purpose?

FB Ali

Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

It covers a lot of ground, and it covers it very well.

Babak Makkinejad

This might yet come to pass as you hypothesize but will take decades.

Kyle Pearson

Perhaps two, at the most. The momentum is quickening.

The issue could easily be prematurely forced by war. In the lead-up to both of the world wars, and the US civil war, people thought that changes were inevitable, but would come slowly. Then the wars happened, and far more change than anyone had conceived swept away the old order.

The leadership in Washington doesn't seem to have read much about Churchill, World War II, and the dissolution of colonial imperialism that followed.

The current economic and trade agreements in place are at least as fragile as the British and French empires were, back in the 30s. A strong international deflationary cycle can rip apart debtors like nothing else around.

China holds US debt, right now. The deflation has already started. The changes that global warming is bringing are going to change life in unpredictable and cataclysmic ways, over the next thirty years. It's very hard to say how quickly the pace and scope of political and social change will be - only that it's certain.

Thank you each for your response.

fanto

All: I read with bemusement the exchange between Babak and CatMack - a few points: 1. Iran has not been a host to Polish troops (under Gen Anders) out of Iran's own good heart - Iran was partner of the West at that time and probably had to 'host' the Poles. 2. Shah Reza Pahlevi and his Savak boys were not angels either, 3. Stalin had nothing to do with creation of Poland in 1918 as Babak states and I am a little shocked by Babak's assertion, knowing from his entries in general that he is well informed. Here he is not.
I appreciate Cat's entry for his even tone. Thank you.

fanto

@bth - you are just German-phobe, the industrialists in Germany must take care, better or worse, of their own population and must be aware of job losses this policy of 'containing Russia' will cause. Also, Crimea was part of Russia for a long time, not as biblical as other countries claim for themselves, but nevertheless sufficient for current times.

Babak Makkinejad

Stalin opposed the ambition of Lenin and others to expand the Revolution Westward starting with Poland - in 1919.

The fact remains that not only the Polish soldiers were in Iran, but also non-combatant refugees - women and children.

Yes, Iran was an occupied country and had to host the Poles - no doubt.

But those Poles lived there in Iran and were recipient of Iranian hospitality - how much was that worth?

confusedponderer

Considering the rather significant extent to which the City of London continues to do business with Russia, I am tempted to say that you somewhat unfairly single out German business interests and industrialists.

fanto

BM - the Army of Gen Anders - with their families often, was there in transit. What evidence do you have that Stalin was "opposing the ambition of Lenin ..to expand the Revolution Westward in 1919"?

David Habakkuk

Kyle Pearson, F.B. Ali,

A piece by the former Indian diplomat M.H. Bhadrakumar, entitled 'Modi leads India to the Silk Road' has been posted on the 'Asia Times' site.

(See http://www.rediff.com/news/column/modi-leads-india-to-the-silk-road/20140807.htm .)

A quick reading suggests that the argument is interesting. In Bhadrakumar's version, Modi is seriously interested in the project of Eurasian integration under the auspices of the SCO, and the Chinese may be sufficiently impressed to be looking again at their assumption that India, in that organisation, would be a 'Trojan Horse'.

If my understanding is right, Bhadrakumar is an old Indian leftist -- and it may be that this is the case of the wish becoming father of the thought.

But then, it might not be.

Anna-Marina

Stalin was Georgian. Khrushchev, a Ukrainian, was an active participant in Holodomor on Ukraine when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians died. Dzerzhinsky (of CheKa fame) was Polish. Yagoda (a chief of KGB), Kamenev, Zemlyachka (famous for her murderous orders), Sverdlov, Trotsky were Jews.
It is an ungrateful task to judge history on ethnic ground.
And a final point: Russia has enough of natural resources. The current wars of aggression has been conducted in order to snatch other nations' mineral wealth.

Anna-Marina

The morons as a rule are not interested in national interests. Kolomoysky, the wealthy organizer of armed bandits against federalists, has Israeli citizenship. He and other oligarchs are only interested in base line. Ukraine is tightly intertwines with Russia historically and culturally. The ongoing civil war would not be possible without various encouragements by the US State Dept. The general Ukrainian population is sacrificed by the neocons.
Putin is an unsavory character, but it is not for nothing that the tough and patient Russians support Putin's current policies.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ihor_Kolomoyskyi

Anna-Marina

Thank you for the overview.

FB Ali

"Putin is an unsavory character...."

What is the basis for that statement? It seems you take the usual Western propaganda at face value.

Putin is a Russian patriot. He is doing the best he can for his country in a dangerous world in difficult circumstances. National leaders are not 'Boy Scouts': if you think any Western leader is one, you're mistaken.

He appears to be personally honest (see the link I give on my post of today). He certainly is intelligent and forthright, speaking his mind clearly and forcefully.

Russia is fortunate to have such a leader.

confusedponderer

"the wish becoming father of the thought"

Amusing phrase; the german phrasing would be nearly identical:

"da ist der Wunsch der Vater des Gedanken"

In our case precedence and parentage is made quite clear: Obviously, the father was there first, it has to be, howe else could there be a child? Though admittedly I digress.

That said, I read the article by Bhadrakumar also, and he is IMO very knowledgeable and pretty much always worth a read. I read him first in the indispensable Asia Times, and to his blog 'indian Punchline' you have already linked to.

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