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22 August 2014

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walrus

Charles Bird, You are either misinformed or a liar. The Red Cross - ICRC is totally involved in the Lugansk mission and I quote from their website:

"The ICRC has taken all necessary administrative and preparatory steps for the passage of the Russian convoy – which remains at the border, still within Russia, pending customs checks – including sending additional staff to the area and receiving authorization from the Ukrainian authorities to clear the aid as humanitarian cargo after customs inspections. The organization is therefore ready to deliver the aid to Lugansk, provided both Russia and Ukraine agree on the strictly humanitarian nature of this convoy and provided assurances of safe passage are respected by the fighting parties. Under international humanitarian law, the parties to the conflict must respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel, in particular those legally displaying the red cross emblem."

Joe100

All -

Go watch RT live to see that the convoy (accompanied by reporters) has reached Lugansk without incident - although as TTG has noted much of the video shows the convoy within Ukraine on backroads. There is video of unloading into warehouses and the RT reporter on site indicates that the convey has already left Lugansk to return to Russia.

So I guess Russia has complied with the stated US demand - "remove the convoy from Ukraine"!

This must be playing well outside North America and the EU. And I think TTG has it nailed, Kiev has been promising a big victory by the 24th and this dose not fit that theme.

William Herschel

All, The New York Times which has slavishly followed the US Government line on Ukraine has published this which must be read in its entirety. I wonder what is going on in the Times. Several of their reporters are clearly posted from the CIA or, if they aren't, are being cheated of a paycheck. Yet the Times publishes this. In my Father's house are many mansions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/21/world/europe/an-american-voice-on-ukraines-front-lines-goes-silent.html

The Twisted Genius

William Herschel,

That was a good article. All it took was a little internet research. Unfortunately, a lot of reporters just seem to take the government press release and make an article out of it. I can't believe they get paid for that. This morning a saw a couple of tweets from Graham Phillips reporting out of Lugansk on 20 Aug. They illustrate a problem with journalism today.

"Life News guys and myself. In Lugansk giving you real news. The western journos - in the bar at Ramada rewriting PR."

"For days, i've seen only 1 other journalist op in #Lugansk, the team from @lifenews_ru. All the others are just rewriting press releases."

Not all journalists sit on their asses in the hotel bar. There's been a slew of them getting killed in Ukraine and other hot spots. Unfortunately, it's the good ones that get killed.

confusedponderer

DH,
"After all, the words of the wicked are only intended to deceive, and to seduce, and the man of virtue -- like 'Charles Bird' -- has to avoid listening to them, in order not to be deceived or seduced."

Thus emerges moral clarity.

Doctinaire rigour also is highly effective insulation from deception by the wicked.

Actually, the less you listen to the wicked's siren's call, the less likely you are to beceived into straying from that path of righteousness, the high road way up in the sky (right next to the pie).

One has to be cleat that moral clarity is being complemented by practical clarity: The emphasis on regime change as the answer to all policy problems makes it easier to choose policy. If all options are on the table and both options are regime change and regime change, the choice is obviously regime change. Such indeed standardised fore policy is a significant increase in efficiency and quite a breakthrough considering the exhausting, tedious and lengthy deliberation process normally involved in formulating coherent policy.

One could say that, when classical foreign policy is a five course dinner, regime change is the Whopper menu, supersized.

I think that is the reason why of late the US have frequently appointed as ambassador or undersecretary for whatnot people who ordinary folks would think of as being incompetent, lacking relevant experience and/or maturity and being by character or obvious biases or conflicts of interest generally unsuited for the job.

However, they would be mistaken: In fact, that is precisely what allows them to operate to a standard at such remarkable speed unencumbered by baggage like doubt, second thoughts, consideration, regional knowledge or language skills.

They are excellent group thinkers and team players, and once they have determined where the enemy is there are no holds barred and no quarter is given.

I am rather convinced that it is these primary qualities that makes them pass job interviews and confirmation hearings.

At the root of this lies the philosophy that you don't need to be a cook to work at a burger joint.

ISL

TTG: Re: Reporters. Many simply take the press release and actually copy and paste paragraphs. I only can recall a very few reporters who have actually done any homework. Some at least are able to ask insightful followup questions, but they are few. Institutional laziness is the general rule, as they yearn for a shocking soundbite. Again, there are many exceptions, but far too few.

nick b

WH, TTG, ISL,

It was definitely interesting to see that in the NYT. I had seen a report of it on Vice, but it never mentioned his twitter feed. Here's the article:
https://news.vice.com/article/the-only-american-fighting-for-ukraine-dies-in-battle
Embedded in the article is a link to a video interview of Mr. Paslawsky by Vice on Aug. 7.

Here is another report from earlier this month about Ukrainian soldiers and the difficulties they've had slogging through Donbass:
https://medium.com/war-is-boring/ukraines-army-slogs-through-the-merciless-donbass-9634b9a371d1

There's a fair amount of interesting reporting going on, it's just a matter of finding it.

Ishmael Zechariah

TTG, SST:

Seems that ALL transporters have returned back to Russia proper (http://en.ria.ru/world/20140823/192279671/OSCE-Confirms-Humanitarian-Convoy-to-Ukraine-Crossed-Back-Into.html ) without suffering the fate of the helpless/hapless BTR-80 column. All of their cargo (~2000 tons) was reportedly delivered to the City of Luhansk which was supposed to be under a total blockade (http://en.ria.ru/russia/20140823/192278863/All-Aid-Convoy-Trucks-Return-to-Russia-No-Cargo-Inside---Deputy.html ). The Western Media reports on the subject avoid any mention of the implications of the above, and most concentrate on some mythical Russian artillery firing on the putschists. I have real trouble reconciling their "reality" with my perceptions and have two (non-rhetorical) questions:
1-Can the current press corps be rehabilitated? How?
2-How can we reform the "independent" media?

Ishmael Zechariah

David Habakkuk

TTG and all,

Given the way that what might be called the 'Russophile' viewpoint is systematically ignored in the Western media, one of the best ways of following it is through the 'Facebook' pages of some of its most intelligent representatives.

In particular, I would recommend the page of the former long-serving Canadian government analyst of first Soviet then Russian affairs, Dr Patrick Armstrong.

He has just put up a comment which, I think, merits thinking about – so I am posting it in full:

'Talks are coming. Most likely nothing will happen this round but we seem to see something emerging. Let's take a guess. Recognition of Crimea (maybe with another face-saving referendum under "international" supervision so that EU can pretend to have won on principle). Kiev promises never to join NATO (Kiev's word worth nothing, but a step). Self rule/autonomy for east (temporary fix to stop fighting). Russia sells gas cheap. All sanctions lifted. Some money promise from EU on propping up Ukraine (doesn't matter if EU carries through).

'I see this as merely a temporary agreement which will allow EU to pretend it's doing something useful and isn't simply Washington's sock puppet. But, most importantly, it stops the fighting and the easterners will pretend to be in Ukraine and allow a flag or two to fly but basically run their own affairs.

'It postpones more lasting solutions and decisions to the first half of 2015 when Ukraine's economy will be in desperate straits (Russia quietly helping the east throughout the winter and the EU pretending to help the centre and west) and the Kiev junta will be even shakier. If Kiev goes more nazi, then other options are possible for the east.

'This is not/not an ideal solution: it would have been a good one back in March, but too much has happened for Lugansk and Donesk to settle down under Kiev. I believe it is an acceptable temporary one. Kiev and Washington are never to be trusted but events should begin to work in the east's/Moscow's favour as Kiev's economy collapses and Washington become further embroiled in disasters around the world (and at home). Not a sell-out by Putin, as many have feared, but a stop to the killing and the establishment of a better bargaining position in Lugansk and Donetsk for the situation in 6-8 months.

'What do you all think?'

I would be interested in what TTG and other members of this 'Committee of Correspondence' think.

VietnamVet

DH

This is a perfectly reasonable plan to ratchet down the tension. The problem is that I read your post after reading “Merkel says tightening Ukraine-Russian border is key to peace deal”.

http://news.yahoo.com/u-says-russia-must-pull-convoy-ukraine-face-002716124.html

The West is intent on grabbing all they can just like a school yard bully and doesn’t recognize the risks they are tasking with starting a nuclear war. Western leaders seem to be incapable of acknowledging the death and destruction that they have already caused or any errors in judgment.

World War I, exactly 100 years ago, is being replayed but this time with nuclear weapons on both sides.

Joe100

David Habakkuk -

I think the key question here is who, if anyone has sufficient power to agree to and actually enforce such a deal. From what I have read over the past several months it is not clear that Poroshenko has control over the fighting - or at least does not fully control the armed forces engaged. What is the real power structure that could agree to and enforce such a deal? How much power do the key Oligarchs have and what agreement would fit their interests? Would Right Sector/Svoboda simply force another coup if Poroshenko agreed to such a deal? Can the key US parties "influencing" events in Kiev influence/control the groups that could either effectively agree to such a deal or block such (if that was in the interest of their US "influencers").

It seems hard to speculate about possible/plausible outcomes without real insight into Kiev's political power structure.

burton50

DH:
I agree with VV. It’s really far too late for the sort of solutions that will lead to an end to the violence. The old hatreds have now been brought to a sort of white heat, and will not now be easily put back in the box. Besides, which of the actors in this drama are really ready to issue the kind of guarantees that will be necessary to any serious negotiated settlement, even a temporary one?
The Kievan regime -- at the urging of the Americans and a certain segment of the European elite (I’m thinking of people like Rasmussen) has invested its entire existence – and a great deal of its available funds -- on some sort of “total victory” in the East. So far, despite very substantial losses in personnel and equipment, suppression of the revolt has proved elusive, to say the least. To be sure, the insurgency has given up a lot of territory, but the cession of territory is, in my view, the sum of tactical decisions taken in order to conserve their forces, while making Ukrainian Army, National Guard and “territorial defense” units pay a very high price. TTG gave a run-down on the figures for Ukrainian losses in his post of August 19 – and that was before the late great push to “liberate” Donetsk and Lugansk by Independence Day, which has degenerated into inconclusive local street fighting in a series of lesser towns and have posed the potential for new encirclements.
A peaceful solution will certainly require, from the standpoint of the insurgency, a withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the immediate region as a prelude to any serious negotiations and a halt to the shelling and bombing of populated areas. I can’t imagine that the armed formations controlled by or affiliated with Right Sector and/or Igor Kolomoiskii, which are only nominally under central control, will take this sort of solution lying down. There have already been threats issued by these parties against the central government in connection with more minor issues, generally associated with the arrest of members of these groups for clearly criminal activities. A general climb-down from the Kievan government’s war policy would not only meet strong resistance from its foreign sponsors in Washington, but perhaps a more immediately dangerous backlash from the extremists in the field.
In short, there is no party to this conflict – foreign or domestic – that has any real interest or enough independent political clout to force a serious negotiated settlement and underwrite it with the necessary guarantees. Certainly not the United States, whose political class is quite satisfied to fight to the last Ukrainian soldier, not among the heavyweights in the European Union, who prefer, as always, to follow the Americans, and not Russia, which appears, having secured its minimal security interests in the annexation of Crimea, to be girding for a long war not precisely of its own choosing, but which was probably inevitable given the expansion of NATO in the era after 1991, given the degeneration of the Washington foreign people into inanity.

The Twisted Genius

David Habakkuk,

Yes, I do like Patrick Armstrong's writings, although I haven't followed anyone on Facebook. I might give that a try. His suggestions for an eventual negotiated solution are perfectly reasonable and, in my opinion, the only sane way forward. Kiev is not capable of achieving a complete military victory IMO. Nor do I see Novorossiya taking Kiev. A military stalemate with continuing sanctions is in no one's interest.

There was a recent interview in the Ukrainian newspaper “Ukrainskaya Pravda” with Colonel General Vladimir Ruban, who negotiates for the return of prisoners held by the rebels. He makes an emphatic point of not demonizing the rebels, telling the interviewer they are not terrorists and that they are not enemies. Hearing these words from a professional Ukrainian military officer is not that surprising. Seeing these views expressed in a Ukrainian newspaper is not only surprising, but heartening. Ruban even says he is willing and capable of negotiating an end to this war. I doubt he is alone.

The only wild card is how far the neocon/R2P cabal in Washington is willing to go to keep the Svoboda/Pravy Sektor junta in power and Europe in line. Without the support of Washington, I believe Europe, minus NATO's Rasmussen, would rapidly join Russia in pushing for a negotiated solution. I also believe the junta in Kiev would be vulnerable to a second coup by the generals and/or a very disgruntled populace without continued strong covert support from Washington.

confusedponderer

Priceles headline:
"Russia Reminds UN That Ukraine Agreed to Let Russia Deliver Aid on August 12

Russia has sent a humanitarian convoy to the east of Ukraine, considering that it has received official authorization of Kiev government, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said.

The corresponding note was received on August 12, Churkin said, noting that the humanitarian aid to Syria was delivered without the consent of the authorities of the country.

"If we are talking about respect for sovereignty, we have received a formal agreement from them [the Ukrainian authorities]. We have discussed this issue with them, and if they decided to cheat, then it's their problem," Churkin told Russian reporters after the closed meeting of the UN Security Council on Ukraine on Friday.

The note that gave consent for the passage of the humanitarian convoy through the Ukrainian border was received on 12 August, Churkin said."

http://en.ria.ru/politics/20140823/192264525/Russia-Reminds-UN-that-Ukraine-Agreed-to-Let-Russia-Deliver-Aid.html

Two things:

#1 A bow to the Birds

I very much doubt that what the Russians have is a forgery, and they can be counted on to have handed the UN a copy.

In sum: Not only are the Russians not cheating by smuggling weapons under humanitarian cover, they the Red Cross is on board also, obstructed only by Ukie obstinacy, and it is not an invasion as well because the Ukrainians have agreed to it.

Not much left of the original narrative.

#2 The Syria reference

The reference to Syria is a valid argument legally. It is indeed a contradiction to demand that Russia respect Ukrainian sovereignty when delivering humanitarian goods, while allowing yourself to not require any such consent in Syria. The two stances are legally irreconcilable. Syria's sovereignty is the same thing as Ukraine's.

That's typical Russian legal conservatism on international law. The implied accusation of US and Western hypochrisy is well founded but incidental.

And indeed, at least ever since the age of drone strikes and extrajudicial killings began after 9/11, the US are probably the most prolific serial violator of national sovereignty worldwide. Their conduct and the newer R2P mindlessness have done much to undermine the Westphalian order, and thus international stability. I think that's reckless at best.

pbj

Those interested in Ukraine situation, here's another map type resource form the separatist side:

http://militarymaps.info/

warning: information overload, questionable accuracy of content, in a google-maps-based, russian-language, facebook-integrated web app (!)

Patrick Bahzad

First post for me on here, so would like to seize this opportunity to thank Col. Lang for his excellent site, always a good reading !
Now regarding the whole Ukraine situation, based on the info I'm hearing (i.e. not based on Western media networks reports) I would say the story on the ground is very very different from the spin that Kiev tries to give to events unfolding right now. The issue really for followers of mainstream media is that everything that comes from Kiev is taken at face value, even the worst soviet style attempts at disinformation. This is why some may find the situation so confusing, because of conflictings news, while in fact things are being set in motion and the days (or weeks to come) might be crucial for a short term settlement of the conflict.
Basically, the story is the following:
Last week (on August 19th), Kiev Kiev started yet another "offensive" and was already talking about imminent surrender and capture of Donetsk and Lugansk, which was so surreal it made me smile, despite tragic nature of events on the ground. The ukrainian statement shows a very flawed thinking, based on the wrong assumption that they could pull another "Slaviansk" type victory. Thing is, there was no victory, there was just a tactical redeployment of pro-russian rebels who broke very easily through ukrainian lines (you might wonder how that is possible without any 'inside' help), in order to avoid a fight in a city that was much more difficult to defend than Donetsk or Lugansk. The engagements taking place on the ground have actually shown that the ukrainian infantry is outmanoeuvered and outsmarted by the pro-russian militias. Also, the rebel artillery has proven to be more precise and more professionnal than the Ukrainian army, whose morale is rapidly sinking. All that pro-Kiev are left to do, is to direct large scale, indiscriminate shelling at city centers, hoping to get some of the rebels, but mostly failing due to their incompetence, leaving civil casualties instead. Another major shortcoming of the Kiev forces, is that they failed to cut off the Donetsk water supply and that the Russian "aid" convoy has now arrived in Lugansk. In real terms, this means the Ukrainian offensive against those cities is going to fail miserably.
The rebels seem to have now started their own counter-offensive, which they had been announcing for 3 weeks. I guess the "improvement" of their situation in Donetsk and Lugansk allows them to pull some forces from these areas and use them elsewhere. The objective is not so much to encircle Pro-Kiev forces but to take control of the border area with Russia, in order to facilitate movement of equipment and manpower over that border. If they reach that goal, their next move might be to go for Mariupol and Slaviansk.
I predict a very hard to swallow reality check for all those who have been saying that the rebels are about to get crushed. In fact, there's gonna be a lot of headshaking in a many places, given that Kiev has sent most of its forces in the Donbass, leaving the 'hinterland' mostly troops empty ... The region of Kharkov, Zaporojie or Dniepropetrovsk is largely unguarded and this vacuum might prove a real strategic blunder for Kiev, if rebels are able to exploit it by infiltrating various sized armed groups into those areas, cutting of supply roads, attacking army convoys and bascially wrecking havoc behind ennemy lines, just like they have done on a smaller scale in the East of the Donbass.
Meanwhile, the minister of the Economy has resigned. He probably knows what's around the corner and doesnt want to serve as a scapegoat: winter is coming soon (and no Russian gas supplies in sight, while coal used for heating - which used to come mostly from Donbass - will also not be delivered due to stand-still of production or deliveries). Lots of ukrainian have started bying electrical heating devices which is going to put a lot of strain on electricity production in Ukraine, with most probably electricity blackouts in the winter if there's no Russian gas coming.
Politically, things are pretty bad as well, with the Right Sektor trying to weigh in heavily on the government. Word on the street is that Porochenko is so fed up with Paruby and Iarosh, that ‘Aidar’, ‘Donbass’ and ‘Shakhtersk’ battalions are being sent deliberatly into battles that will bleed them out ... wouldnt be surprized if that was true as well.
All in all, the outlook for Kiev is very bleak, contrary to what the the pro-Kiev supporters have been saying for months (just for the record, I'm neither pro- nor anti- anybody in this fight, just observing what's going on). We've been hearing loads of BS, but the shit is about to hit the fan ...

mistah charley, ph.d.

in reply to Patrick Bahzad

I agree with you that SST is a site filled with good reading and interesting news and views, and if I have not so stated in my relatively few comments so far, I want to make my gratitude explicit now to our host and the many knowledgeable guest writers and commentators.

On this topic, which pertains to a current armed conflict that may have even wider destructive ramifications, I would be interested to know the source of your information. You state that the info you're hearing is "not based on Western media networks reports". Where and from whom are you hearing it? How do you (and how could we) evaluate its reliability?

David Habakkuk

TTG,

As regards 'Facebook', I inadvertently confused two different issues. Because I thought Dr Armstrong's analysis very interesting, I reproduced it at length. However, the fact that I may encounter this kind of analysis is not the primary reason why I check in regularly to his page.

A principal feature of the 'Facebook' format is that it means that one can post a link and brief comment, in literally a matter of seconds, in such a manner that people who might be interested can rapidly gauge whether clicking on the link is worth the expenditure of time.

What I have found is that a quick visit to the pages of Armstrong and a few others – Eric Kraus and Mark Sleboda in particular – is likely to mean that with a minimal expenditure of time I can be reasonably confident of not missing too much of the significant argument on the 'Russophile' side.

Also, such writers not infrequently draw attention to pieces which bring out the completely cretinous nature of so much of what passes for 'strategic thinking' in the contemporary West.

So, for example, it was through Krauss's 'Facebook' page that I came across an interview with Strobe Talbott where he explained that he saw the developing 'entente' between Russia and China as 'very much as a surface phenomenon without deep roots.'

(See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/strobe-talbott-russia-ukraine_b_5688516.html .)

It seems to me Krauss's comment on the interview is apt: 'I realise that it is very dangerous to underestimate your adversaries, but still I must start to wonder whether the American establishment is not just arrogant but also downright stupid.'

When I checked his page a few minutes ago, he was linking to a number of pieces that suggest that the victory of Narendra Modi, together with the Ukraine crisis, may be encouraging a coming together of the major Eurasian powers', in an order that could end up marginalising the 'Atlantic' world.

Back in February 2007, I used comments by Kraus – together with arguments from an 'Atlanticist' Russian emigre to the United States, Nicolai Petro, and a German 'Eurasianist' Alexander Rahr, in an attempt to explain to the chief economics commentator of the FT, Martin Wolf, that his notion that 'the bear' was 'trapped' was much nonsense today as the parallel notion held by Chamberlain in 1939 was.

In response, I encountered an extraordinary display of intellectual arrogance, naivety and stupidity.

Charles I

Convoy returns home, Lavarov announces another and MSM reports an armored column has entered Ukraine from Russia after Sunday talking heads rehash ME failures. Claims column has been fiercely engaged. Or not. Snafu.

Why were so many virtually empty trucks, allowed on MSM, sent there and back? Wounded Russian nationals evac?

Yeah Patrick Bahzad what's the source of this info, haven't read Sakar's Vineyard in months.

Charles I

Imagine not having to tranship into and out of the Chinese market, Two consumer-hungry middle classes, pipelines full of energy, what's not to like?

Patrick Bahzad

Sorry for late reply, I guess I'm in a different time zone ... ;-)
Regarding reliability of info, it depends what we're talking about: as far as past events are concerned, you just need to look at what was announced by both sides at time of events (for example, statement by Kiev that Lugansk and Donetsk were about to fall) and then look at what happened in reality. So that in itself can be used as an indicator of reliability of info published by both sides. If you cross-reference several types of open source info of that sort, you can get some measure of what to make of it.
As for what's going on right now, it's not rocket science either. If you have some military background, or if you know about counter-insurgency tactics, you have already a pretty good idea what each side is gonna try to do on the ground. You can also factor in the specific regional context as additional info. Regarding specific sources, there's quite a lot of open reliable and unbiased open source info out there (ICRC reports, OSCE observers, Amnesty international volunteers). You can add to that the many videos posted online by both sides, if you speak russian and ukrainian, and you get a better idea of who they are and what they're up for (agreed, this part more tricky to analyse, but it's basically it's baiscally what intelligence agencies are doing as well on a larger scale, when they have the linguistic knowledge to do so, which unfortunately isnt always the case).
Finally, some of us have family and friends or colleagues in the region, who can also provide some type of information that you're won't find in most media outlets.
That's it, in a nutshell ;-)

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