Arrival of 300 US Army soldiers to train Ukraine’s national guard sparks warnings by Russia of escalation in conflict.
Al Jazeera, April 18
About 300 US Army paratroopers have arrived in Ukraine for training exercises with national guard units – a move that Moscow and eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatist rebels have warned will escalate the conflict.
The troops, from the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade, are to spend six months training a total of about 900 Ukrainian national guardsmen.
Alexander Lukashevich, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, denounced the guardsmen as “ultranationalists … who stained themselves with the blood of women, children and the elderly during their punitive operations”.
Although Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had said the guardsman units could include the Azov Battalion, a far-right formation notorious for using an insignia used by many military units in Nazi Germany, US Embassy spokesman James Hallock said Azov fighters would not be among those trained.
RT, April 24
The massive fires that swept through nearly 60 villages and towns in the Siberian republic of Khakassia have left 23 people dead, and more than 900 injured, according to an official committee investigating the tragedy.
“Currently the committee can confirm 23 deaths,” head of the investigative committee Vladimir Markin was quoted as saying by TASS.
More than 1,400 homes were destroyed in the fire, leaving some 6,000 people homeless, according to regional governor Viktor Zimin. Those who suffered severe injuries from the fire were delivered to Krasnoyarsk for treatment.
Reuters, By Gabriela Baczynska, April 13
Moscow – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday paved the way for long-overdue missile system deliveries to Iran and Moscow started an oil-for-goods swap with Tehran, showing the Kremlin’s determination to boost economic ties with the Islamic Republic.
The moves come after world powers, including Russia, reached an interim deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear program and signal that Moscow may have a head-start in the race to benefit from an eventual lifting of sanctions on Tehran.
The Kremlin said Putin signed a decree lifting Russia’s own ban on the delivery of S-300 anti-missile rocket system to Iran, removing a major irritant between the two after Moscow canceled a corresponding contract in 2010 under pressure from the West.
FDL, By DSWright, March 31
Though sending US troops into Ukraine was already controversial, a report by the Associated Press shows a bad situation is getting worse. According to the AP the US forces being sent into Ukraine will be training Neo-Nazi militants who have already been accused of war crimes.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has publicly stated that among those forces receiving US training in April will be the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. The Azov Battalion uses Nazi symbols and openly declares its belief in white supremacy and antisemitism. Many members trace their family’s lineage to fighting with the Nazis against the Soviet Union during World War II.
How Elite Universities Are Hurting America
Foreign Affairs, By George Scialabba, March / April 2015
One of the most fruitful ideas to emerge from twentieth-century social theory is Max Weber’s notion of the “iron cage” of purposive rationality. Weber argued that once some principle of organization—market competition, say, or ideological orthodoxy—has achieved dominance in the spheres of production and governance, the rest of a society’s institutions find themselves gradually but inexorably adopting the same principle. In an ideology-dominant society, everything fluid turns to stone; in a market-dominant society, everything solid melts into air.
Not everything, of course. The iron cage is, like most other useful theoretical notions, an ideal type. All societies retain protected (or neglected) spaces where not-yet-rationalized traditions and communities flourish. Still, although the mills of rationalization turn slowly, they grind exceedingly fine. In time, Weber believed, every practice or institution in a modern society, regardless of its original purpose, experiences an irresistible pressure to adapt to the society’s fundamental organizing principle.
Los Angeles Times, By Carol J. Williams, March 15
Russia would have activated its nuclear arsenal if necessary a year ago when its troops secured the Crimean peninsula and carried out a referendum on the strategic peninsula’s secession from Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a documentary that aired Sunday.
In the report timed to Monday’s anniversary of the referendum, “Crimea: Path to the Motherland,” Putin justifies Moscow’s seizure of the Black Sea territory as necessary to protect Russians and military bases from what he described as a nationalist junta that had taken power in Kiev.
Putin accused the United States of masterminding the three-month uprising in the Ukrainian capital that ended with the ouster of Kremlin-allied President Viktor Yanukovich, who has since taken refuge in Russia.
While the documentary was clearly prerecorded, it served to project a vibrant and defiant image of the Russian president, who hasn’t been seen in public for more than a week, spurring rumors that he is sick or has been deposed in a palace coup.
Four-year bailout programme is expected to unlock further credit from donors and includes immediate $5bn payment to help stabilise conflict-hit economy
Reuters, March 11
The International Monetary Fund has signed off on a $17.5bn (£11.8bn) four-year aid programme for Ukraine, the second attempt in less than a year to help the country avoid bankruptcy.
The programme includes an immediate payment of $5bn for general budget support to help stabilise Ukraine’s listing economy.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, said the aim was to provide immediate economic stabilisation for a country beset by conflict.
The programme was ambitious and involved risks, Lagarde said, “notably those stemming from the conflict” with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. “With continued firm implementation, there is reasonably strong prospect of success.”
US 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Michael Foster said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC said the US would deploy personnel by the end of this week to train the Ukrainian national guard.
Sputnik News, March 3
Washington – The United States will deploy personnel by the end of this week to train the Ukrainian national guard, US 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Colonel Michael Foster said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC on Monday.
“Before this week is up, we’ll be deploying a battalion minus… to the Ukraine to train Ukrainian forces for the fight that’s taking place,” Foster stated. “What we’ve got laid out is six United States companies that will be training six Ukrainian companies throughout the summer.”
The training will take place at the level of US and Ukrainian national guard companies, Foster explained, adding that “we have nothing above battalion staff level” engaged in the military training.
The current plan is for US forces to stay six months, he said, and noted there have been discussions about how to increase the duration and the scope of the training mission.
The Daily Mail (UK), By Will Stewart, February 23
Moscow – Four new mysterious giant craters have appeared in the Siberian permafrost in northern Russia, sparking fears that global warming may be causing gas to erupt from underground.
Scientists spotted the new holes, along with dozens of other smaller ones, in the same area as three other enormous craters that were spotted on the Yamal Peninsula last year.
The craters are thought to be caused by eruptions of methane gas from the permafrost as rising rising temperatures causes the frozen soil to melt.
‘We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,’ Professor Bogoyavlensky told The Siberian Times.
‘Five are directly on the Yamal peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr peninsula.
‘We have exact locations for only four of them.
‘The other three were spotted by reindeer herders.
‘But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them. I would compare this with mushrooms.
‘When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.’
The Siberian Times: Dozens of new craters suspected in northern Russia
Vadym Prystaiko, now deputy foreign minister, calls on the West to ‘stiffen up in the spine’
CBC News, February 21
Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister says he is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and wants Canada to help by supplying lethal weapons and the training to use them.
Vadym Prystaiko, who until last fall was Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, says the world must not be afraid of joining Ukraine in the fight against a nuclear power.
In an interview with CBC Radio’s The House airing Saturday, Prystaiko says the ceasefire brokered by Germany and France was not holding.
“The biggest hub we ever had in the railroad is completely destroyed and devastated,” he told host Evan Solomon about Debaltseve, captured by Russian-backed rebels after the terms were to have taken effect earlier this week.
BBC – The UK and the EU have been accused of a “catastrophic misreading” of the mood in the Kremlin in the run-up to the crisis in Ukraine.
The House of Lords EU committee claimed Europe “sleepwalked” into the crisis. The EU had not realised the depth of Russian hostility to its plans for closer relations with Ukraine, it said… The committee’s report said Britain had not been “active or visible enough” in dealing with the situation in Ukraine. It blamed Foreign Office cuts, which it said led to fewer Russian experts working there, and less emphasis on analysis. A similar decline in EU foreign ministries had left them ill-equipped to formulate an “authoritative response” to the crisis, it said.
The report claimed that for too long the EU’s relationship with Moscow had been based on the “optimistic premise” that Russia was on a trajectory to becoming a democratic country. The result, it said, was a failure to appreciate the depth of Russian hostility when the EU opened talks aimed at establishing an “association agreement” with Ukraine in 2013.
Mr Cameron rejected claims Britain “sleepwalked” into the crisis in Ukraine.
Almost 91 of Russia’s credit institutions have been incorporated into a newly launched Russian domestic ‘SWIFT’ analogous.
Sputnik News, By Ekaterina Blinova, February 13
Almost 91 domestic credit institutions have been incorporated into the new Russian financial system, the analogous of SWIFT, an international banking network.
The new service, will allow Russian banks to communicate seamlessly through the Central Bank of Russia. It should be noted that Russia’s Central Bank initiated the development of the country’s own messaging system in response to repeated threats voiced by Moscow’s Western partners to disconnect Russia from SWIFT.
SWIFT (The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is a Belgium-based international organization that provides services and a standardized environment for global banking communicating that allows financial institutions to send and receive messages about their transactions.
Joining the global interbank system in 1989, Russia has become one of the most active users of SWIFT globally, sending hundreds of thousands of messages per day. In general, SWIFT provides a secure communication network for more than ten thousands of financial institutions around the world, approving transactions of trillions of US dollars.
Via Ian Welsh: Russia Creates Its Own Payment System
France24, February 12
The warring parties in Ukraine agreed Thursday to a February 15 ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines in a deal French President François Hollande called a “comprehensive political solution” after marathon talks in Minsk.
Speaking to reporters after almost 16 hours of talks between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Putin said: “We have managed to agree on the main issues,” adding that a ceasefire would come into effect at midnight on February 15.
“The second point, which I believe to be extremely important, is the withdrawal of heavy weapons from today’s line of contact for Ukrainian troops and from the line stipulated in the September 19 Minsk agreements for Donbass rebels,” he said.
French President François Hollande called the deal a “comprehensive political solution” and said it provides “serious hope, even if all is not done”.
Ukraine: Who Wants War? And Who Doesn’t?
By William Boardman – Reader Supported News [2.9.15]
“Russian aggression” – the bad faith mantra of dishonest brokers
Just as NATO allies Germany and France were undertaking a peace initiative with Russia and Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry turned up in Kiev at the same time, seeking to poison the talks before they started by spouting yet again the ritual U.S. accusation of “Russian aggression.” The incantation is meaningless without context. Its purpose is mesmerize a false consciousness. “Russian aggression” may or may not exist in the events of the past year, just like “Russian self-defense.” Reporting on the ground has been too unreliable to support any firm analysis, never mind the provocative “Russian aggression” the U.S. brandishes as a virtual call for war.
Western aggression, political and diplomatic more than military, is a cold reality and has been for two decades. The West, and especially the U.S. has yet to accept responsibility for 20 years of anti-Russian aggression, much less pull back from such perennial hostility. The Obama administration (parts of it at least, given the incoherence of the “administration”) has acted as if its pulling off an only-slightly-violent coup in Kiev in 2014 was a grand triumph. Worse, having grabbed a government on Russia’s borders, the Obama hawks carry on as if the only reasonable choice for Russia is to accept the success of this Western aggression.
Washington Post, By Michael Birnbaum, February 11
Moscow — Pro-Moscow rebels and Ukrainian forces waged intense battles over strategic ground Wednesday as leaders gathered for high-stakes talks seeking to quell the escalating conflict and close rifts between Russia and the West.
“This is really a last-chance negotiation,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Inter radio before the meeting in Belarus to try to restore a collapsed cease-fire in eastern Ukraine. “There is a risk of war a three-hour flight from Paris.”
But fighting has spiked even as the peace bids look for footing.