Midnight in Damascus

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MIDNIGHT IN DAMASCUS

Imagine you are part of a hardcore, heavily weaponized Islamist outfit in Syria.

You would have had until noon this Friday to contact the US and/or Russia military and win a prize; be part of a “cessation of hostilities,” ersatz “ceasefire” that does not apply to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, as well as assorted remnants of the former Free Syrian Army (FSA) who are for all practical purposes embedded with al-Nusra.Compounding the drama, as background noise you have US Secretary of State John Kerry bluffing that Plan B is the partition of Syria anyway. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once again had to call for order in the court.

So what do you do? You’re a Washington-approved “moderate rebel”. So you re-label yourself as FSA. Will you fool the task force set up by the US and Russia — hotline included — to monitor the “ceasefire”? Well, at least you’ve got a shot. The “ceasefire” mostly applies to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), unspecified “moderate rebels” and the Syrian Kurds. Everyone must de-weaponize by midnight this Friday.

If you’ve skipped the deadline, you may be in serious trouble. Because for the Russians, that qualifies you as an ally of Salafi-jihadis. You will be bombed to smithereens. And there’s nothing Uncle Sam can do to save you.

This positively Dadaist development is what passes for a road map to peace in Syria — even though odds are on Washington and Moscow will be seeing red on virtually every noon and cranny of it.

What this might spell out though goes way beyond Syria; it’s all about the White House, the Pentagon and NATO’s spectacular demise as exceptionalist arbiters and executioners — using Shock and Awe, R2P (responsibility to protect) or straight-up regime change — of geopolitical tangles.

Or is it?

Position of Syrian army at village of Salma and city of Zabadani
© Sputnik/ Michael Alaeddin

A hefty case can be made whether the “ceasefire” benefits Damascus and Moscow — considering the “4+1” (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) has been heavily on the offense. The “ceasefire” may certainly benefit Washington if the hidden agenda — to re-weaponize gaggles of “moderate rebels” — still applies. After all Pentagon supremo Ash “Empire of Whining” Carter, Marine General Joseph Dunford and CIA Director John Brennan are terminal Russophobes who will never admit defeat.The vague terms of the “cessation of hostilities” do not explicity specify that Washington, London and other members of the US-led-from-behind “coalition” should stop bombing Syrian territory. And there’s nothing about suicide bombs and chemical weapons routinely used by any outfit, from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh to “moderate rebels”, against the civilian Syrian population.

So there’s got to be some heavy-duty horse-trading between Washington and Moscow behind all the shadowplay. And none of it has leaked, at least not yet.

Daddy Stole My Invasion

Meanwhile, the much-ballyhooed joint invasion of Syria by Turkey and Saudi Arabia is not going to happen because His Masters’ Voice vetoed it — as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was forced to explain. He essentially admitted that the invasion would need the agreement of all members of the US-led-from-behind coalition fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Unfortunately, they are scared to death of being decimated by the Russian Air Force. So they might as well cozily revert to the “cessation of hostilities” charade.

On what really counts — the Syrian theatre of war — the most pressing issue is whether the SAA will finally be able to control Aleppo and environs, continue to rule in Latakia, and manage to configure Idlib as a Saudi remote-controlled Army of Conquest enclave cut off from almost all sides and depending solely on Ankara, which for its part won’t dare a face-to-face with the Russian Air Force.

It’s no wonder Turkey’s Sultan Erdogan fears this ceasefire business like the plague. Because he’s got nothing; at best a vague promise, extorted by Team Obama, that Syrian Kurds won’t keep advancing to smash either ISIS/ISIL/Daesh along the border, or pockets of al-Qaeda in Syria.In return, Ankara shall desist from its Syrian invasion and that dream of a 10 km “safe zone” inside Syrian territory to keep away the Kurds and facilitate the re-weaponizing of its Islamist proxies. Ankara’s favorite Jabhat al-Nusra, by the way, remains active north of Aleppo, and in the Turkmen regions of Latakia and Azaz (in the Turkish-Syrian border).

What Team Obama seems to have finally understood — and “seems” is the operative word — is that neither ISIS/ISIL/Daesh nor al-Nusra could ever “unify” Syria; assuming 60% of Syria’s population is Sunni, what matters is that over half are secular and do support Damascus against all those Turk/Saudi-supported Salafi-jihadi crazies.

Will this all be enough to assure the success of the “cessation of hostilities” charade? Hardly. Keep calm and carry on (watching). Plan B remains Return of the Living Dead material.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do notnecessarily reflect the official position of UNRULY HEARTS.

 

Unholy Alliance: Why US Hawks, Islamists are Bummed Out by Syrian Ceasefire
Ceasefire Agreement to ‘Radically’ Change Syria, Middle East
Nearly 100 Rebel Groups Sign Up to Syrian Ceasefire Deal
WikiLeaks’ Saudi Cables Reveal Riyadh Wanted to Pressure Russia on Syria
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cessation of hostilities, forecast, military, ceasefire, Daesh, United States, Damascus, Russia, Syria

MILITARY TIMES – Russia has big ambitions, growing capabilities

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Russia has big ambitions,
growing capabilities
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Early on the morning of Sept. 30, a Russian three-star general approached the American embassy in Baghdad, walked past a wall of well-armed Marines, to deliver face-to-face a diplomatic demarche to the United States. His statement was blunt: The Russia military would begin air strikes in neighboring Syria within the hour — and the American military should clear the area immediately.

It was a bout of brinksmanship between two nuclear-armed giants that the world has not seen in decades, and it has revived Cold War levels of suspicion, antagonism and gamesmanship.

With the launch of airstrikes in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated a proxy war with the U.S., putting those nation’s powerful militaries in support of opposing sides of the multipolar conflict. And it’s a huge gamble for Moscow, experts say. “This is really quite difficult for them. It’s logistically complex. The Russians don’t have much in the way of long-range power projection capability,” said Mark Galeotti, a Russian security expert at New York University.

Moscow’s military campaign in Syria is relying on supply lines that require air corridors through both Iranian and Iraqi air space. The only alternatives are naval supply lines running from Crimea, requiring a passage of up to 10 days round-trip. How long that can be sustained is unclear.

That and other questions about Russian military capabilities and objectives are taking center stage as Putin shows a relentless willingness to use military force in a heavy-handed foreign policy aimed at restoring his nation’s stature as a world power. In that quest, he has raised the specter of resurgent Russian military might — from Ukraine to the Baltics, from Syria to the broader Middle East.

Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture has sparked a sweeping review among U.S. defense strategists of America’s military policies and contingency plans in the event of a conflict with the former Soviet state. Indeed, the Pentagon’s senior leaders are asking questions that have been set aside for more than 20 years:

How much are the Russians truly capable of?
Where precisely might a conflict with Russia occur?
What would a war with Russia look like today?

Make no mistake: Experts agree that the U.S. military’s globe-spanning force would clobber the Russian military in any toe-to-toe conventional fight. But modern wars are not toe-to-toe conventional fights; geography, politics and terrain inevitably give one side an advantage.

Today, the U.S. spends nearly 10 times more than Russia on national defense. The U.S. operates 10 aircraft carriers; Russia has just one. And the U.S. military maintains a broad technological edge and a vastly superior ability to project power around the world.

Russia remains weak, according to many traditional criteria. But it is now developing some key technologies, new fighting tactics and a brazen geopolitical strategy that is aggressively undermining America’s 25-year claim to being the only truly global superpower. The result: Russia is unexpectedly re-emerging as America’s chief military rival.

As U.S. officials watch that unfold, they are “clearly motivated by concerns that at least locally, Russia has the potential to generate superior forces,” said David Ochmanek, a former Pentagon official who is now a defense analyst at the RAND Corp. And looming over the entire U.S.-Russian relationship are their nuclear arsenals. Russia has preserved, even modernized, its own “triad” with nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, a large fleet of long-range strike aircraft and increasingly sophisticated nuclear-armed submarines.

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“The Russian defense industry is being rebuilt from ruins,” said Vadim Kozyulin, a military expert at the Moscow-based PIR Center, a think tank. “The military balance can only be ensured by Russia’s nuclear might, which isn’t as expensive to maintain as many people think.”

But while Russia’s conventional forces are less impressive than its nuclear forces, there are specific conventional areas where the Russians excel — among them aircraft, air defenses, submarines, and electronic warfare.

The Soviet-era weapons design bureaus remain prominent internationally. Russia’s aerospace industry, for example, has benefited greatly from international exports to non-Western nations, which go to Russia to buy effective fighter jets that are cheaper than their Western variants. China today spends more on defense annually than Russia, but still imports platforms and advanced weaponry from Russia.

Attempting a side-by-side comparisons of the U.S. and Russian militaries is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, many experts say; the Russians have distinctly different strategic goals, and their military structure reflects that. Russia views itself as a land-based power, exerting influence in a sphere expanding outward from its Eurasian heartland into Eastern Europe, Central Asia and possibly the Middle East and Pacific rim. It is well suited for relying on a particular set of capabilities known as “anti-access and area denial.”

“The United States and Russia are going for different things,” Galeotti said. “What the Russians are looking for is not to take on and compete on equal terms with us. It’s denial.” For example, he said, “one can look at the U.S. Navy as massively superior to the Russian navy. Most of them are legacy Soviet ships. But in a way, that doesn’t matter, because Russia does not plan to send its forces all across the world’s oceans.”

That’s reflected in the fact that Russia maintains a lone aircraft carrier while the U.S. Navy’s 10-carrier fleet operates on a continuing global deployment cycle. Instead of carriers designed for offensive power projection at sea, the Russians are investing in an expanding fleet of submarines that can supplement their nuclear force and, conventionally, threaten an enemy surface fleet in nearby waters such as the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea or the Mediterranean Sea.

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Its airspace also is heavily fortified. The quality of Russia’s stealth aircraft is far weaker than those of the U.S., but Russia has cutting-edge anti-stealth systems, and also has invested heavily in robust surface-to-air missile systems and arrayed its forces domestically to protect its border regions. “The static airpower picture would favor the Russians because they have a lot of capability in terms of air defense and a variety of tactical and cruise and ballistic missiles,” said Paul Schwartz, a Russian military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Russia’s electronic warfare capability is also daunting to Pentagon military planners; left unclear is the extent to which Russia could jam the radars and signals intelligence that forms the foundation of the U.S.’s advanced air power. Any attempt by the U.S. and its allies to infiltrate Russian air space “would not necessarily be easy,” Schwartz said. “It would be a contested environment. But over time I think we would be able to degrade it. The problem is, with a nuclear power, you try to avoid a full-scale fighting.”

Meanwhile, the Russian army, still predominantly a conscripted force, is being transitioned to an American-style professional force. In effect, Russia has two armies: About two thirds of the roughly 800,000-man force remains filled with unmotivated and poorly trained draftees, but about one third is not — and those are the units outfitted with top-notch gear, including the Armata T-14 Main Battle Tanks.

In sum, the Russian military is not the equal of the U.S. military. But the gap has narrowed in recent years.

Forward Operating Base Syria

Russia’s swift creation of a forward operating base in Syria has stunned many U.S. officials. In just a few weeks, its military erected a potentially permanent base at Latakia, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. They’ve deployed dozens of combat aircraft, fortified the installation with tanks and assembled housing for hundreds of troops.

The Russians recently announced plans for a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean this fall, but did not specify exactly when ships would deploy to the region. The exercise will feature the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, the guided missile cruiser Moskva, as well as several smaller escort vessels and large amphibious assault and landing ships, Russia’s TASS news agency reported. Some military officials question whether the exercise is a cover for shipping more troops and gear to the Syrian coast.
Smoke rises over Talbiseh, a city in western Syria’s

Smoke rises over Talbiseh, a city in western Syria’s Homs province, on Sept. 30, marking Russian first airstrikes in the region.
(Photo: Homs Media Centre via AP)

The new forward operating base will give Russia the capability to fly combat air sorties, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance missions and drones across the Middle East. That could include Iraq, the leadership of which has invited the Russians to assist in the fight against the Islamic State in that country.

The base will help secure Russia’s longtime naval support facility at the Syrian port of Tarus, a key to the Russian military’s ability to maintain and project power into the Mediterranean. Russia reportedly is expanding its footprint at the Tarus facility.

More broadly, Moscow is signaling a long-term interest in extending its umbrella of anti-access area denial capabilities into the Middle East. The Russians reportedly are shipping some of their most advanced surface-to-air missile systems into Latakia, raising concerns inside the Pentagon because that move runs counter to Russia’s claims of limiting the focus of its military activities to Syrian rebel groups like the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Russia has deployed a number of Su-30 fighters to Syria,

Russia has deployed a number of Su-30 fighters to Syria, aircraft that are capable of striking ground targets as well as those in the air.
(Photo: Pavel Golovkin/AP)

“We see some very sophisticated air defenses going into those airfields, we see some very sophisticated air-to-air aircraft going into these airfields,” Gen. Phillip Breedlove, chief of the U.S. European Command and also the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said Sept. 28. “I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require SA-15s or SA-22s [Russian missiles]. I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require sophisticated air-to-air capabilities. These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about ISIL … they’re about something else.”

In effect, the Russians could challenge the air superiority maintained — even taken for granted — by the U.S. over large swaths the Middle East for more than 20 years. A crucial factor in this equation is Russia’s alliance with Iran, another key Syrian ally. Russia depends on Iranian airspace for its flight corridors into Syria, and reportedly is prepared to support Iranian ground troops aligned with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Experts inside Russia believe the incursion into Syria, along with Putin’s aggressive speech at the United Nations on Sept. 28, signal his long-term interest in becoming a key player in the region.

“It became clear that Russia is going to exercise a more ambitious policy in the Middle East. The Russian President made it clear that the western model of democracy and its way of dealing with conflicts in the region is not working,” said Yury Barmin, a Moscow-based Russian expert on Mideast politics and Russian foreign policy. However, Barmin said, “it is doubtful that Russia has the capacity to emerge as a leading power in [the Middle East] in the near future because its presence in the region is limited if you compare it to that of the United States.”

Yet some see Putin’s maneuvers in Syria as some broader geopolitical gambit that aims to secure a deal on Ukraine. Russia currently occupies parts of Ukraine, but the U.S. still considers Moscow’s March 2014 invasion illegal and its control there illegitimate. “It’s much more about the U.S. than it is about Syria and Assad,” Galeotti said. “Let’s be honest, if Washington indicated that some deal could be struck where they tacitly accept the Russians’ position in Crimea and parts of Donbas, they are not going to fight a war for Assad.”

In Ukraine, a new brand of ‘hybrid warfare’

The conflict in Ukraine and the American training mission there is giving the Pentagon fresh insight on an enemy they might fight elsewhere in the not-too-distant future. But critics say America’s timid response to Russian aggression — both in Crimea and the the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — has done little to deter Moscow. In Ukraine Russia has revealed a new brand of “hybrid warfare,” one that mixes non-state proxy fighters, heavy armor and artillery, drones, electronic warfare and aggressive information operations to achieve battlefield victories.
Ukrainian servicemen patrol near the chemical plant

Ukrainian servicemen patrol near the chemical plant in Avdeevka, a town just north of the city of Donetsk, on June 20. Ukrainian troops face threats from insurgents and conventionally trained forces.
(Photo: Aleskey Chernyshev/AFP)

“It is good for us to be aware how they fight,” said Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, in an interview with Military Times on Sept. 10. “We have not fought wars the way they do in kind of an urban, mixed urban and nonurban setting with UAVs, with electronic jamming.”

Farkas is stepping down from her post at the end of October, after five years at the Defense Department. It’s unclear who will take her place as the Pentagon’s key policy maker for Russia-related issues.

For the small cadre of U.S. military professionals who’ve been working alongside Ukrainian government forces, the fight against Russian-backed rebels is a major change from their recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’ve got a ton of experience in low-intensity warfare, counterinsurgency warfare, whereas a bulk of the Ukraine experience is facing a 21st-century, near-peer adversary,” said Army Lt. Col. Michael Kloepper, commander of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, which recently began its third rotation into Ukraine to train that nation’s military forces.

The Army deployments are part of a broader U.S. military effort to reassure NATO allies rattled by Russia’s actions. Yet the Obama administration has been reluctant to provide more robust support, determined, it seems, to avoid the potential for a proxy war with the Russians.
Since its annexation of Crimea in early 2014, Russia

Since its annexation of Crimea in early 2014, Russia has steadily expanded its military presence in the region. In response, the U.S. and its NATO allies are working to build, train and equip Ukrainian forces.
(Photo: John Bretschneider/Staff)

Russian has lined thousands of troops and large tank and artillery units along its Ukrainian border. Those Russian troops routinely shell the border towns and make incursions into Ukraine to fight alongside the rebels in the contested areas. So far, the administration has pledged only “nonlethal aid” for training and gear such as Humvees, small drones and radar.

Washington has placed economic sanctions on Russia, sent U.S. troops to help train Ukrainian forces and has ramped up military exercises across Eastern Europe. But it has not yet provided any offensive weaponry and ammunition, and it has not threatened military action against Russia. Since March 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine, the U.S. has contributed $244 million in nonlethal security assistance and training. For comparison, that amount would pay for about three weeks of operations in Iraq and Syria.

Ukrainian officials in Kiev have made repeated pleas for more. “We need anti-tank Javelin systems, intelligence and combat drones, … fighter jets, helicopters, electronic and signal intelligence systems, radars and sound intelligence systems” to counter Russian military equipment used by Moscow-backed separatists on the eastern front, said Colonel General Victor Muzhenko, the Ukrainian military’s top officer. They’ve also asked for anti-aircraft guns and more equipment to neutralize enemy snipers, he told Military Times.
Ukrainian troops man an anti-aircraft weapon at a checkpoint

Ukrainian troops man an anti-aircraft weapon at a checkpoint outside the town of Amvrosiivka, close to the Russian border. Kiev says it’s desperate for more weaponry, but so far Washington has shown willingness to provide only nonlethal equipment.
(Photo: Vadim Ghirda/AP)

There are between 30,000 and 35,000 Russian-backed fighters in Eastern Ukraine, about 9,000 of whom are coming solely from the Russian front, Muzhenko estimates. They’re using sophisticated electronic warfare systems to jam the Ukrainians’ communications, radar, GPS and early warning-detection equipment, said Ihor Dolhov, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister for European integration.

It’s a unique battlespace, and the Americans who have provided training to Ukrainian forces are eager to collect intelligence about the Russians’ new mode of combat. “It has been interesting to hear what they have learned,” Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, told Defense News, a sister publication of Military Times. “No Americans have been under Russian artillery or rocket fire or been on the receiving end of significant Russian electronic warfare, the jamming and collecting, for example, not at tactical levels.”

The future of the Ukraine conflict is unclear. In late September, all sides agreed to withdraw tanks and heavy artillery from Ukraine’s eastern front. A ceasefire in eastern Ukraine also appears to be holding, although each side remains wary, and local parliamentary elections set to take place Oct. 25 may be upended by pro-Russian separatists, who aim to hold their own elections.

For now, Obama shows no signs of conceding to Russian control the regions Ukraine has controlled for decades. “We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated,” Obama told the U.N. General Assembly in a major speech on Sept. 28. “That’s the basis of the sanctions that the United States and our partners imposed on Russia. It’s not a desire to return to the Cold War.”

Predicting the next flashpoint

For more than a year, the U.S. and its European allies have been reassessing the military balance along NATO’s eastern border, which is lined with former Soviet satellite states. The result has been Operation Atlantic Resolve, an expanded rotational presence of U.S troops in NATO’s easternmost countries like Poland, the Baltics, Romania and Bulgaria.

Putin and his military have menaced the Baltic countries, who are among the newest and weakest NATO partners. Russia has repeatedly sent military aircraft into Baltic airspace, patrolled submarines in the Baltic Sea and allegedly mounted cyber-attacks. And Russian officials have voiced support for Russian-speaking minorities, raising the specter of future agitation.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Muzzy, an observer-controller

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Muzzy, an observer-controller from Company A, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment, works with an Estonian soldier during a training exercise in Germany. Some see NATO’s newest members, like Estonia, as particularly vulnerable to Russia aggression.
(Photo: Sgt. Christina Dion/Army)

The aggression in the Baltics, especially Estonia, which has a large Russian-speaking minority, has been more ambiguous than Moscow’s overt operations in Ukraine and Syria. The argument goes that Putin would employ a type of hybrid warfare perfected in Ukraine to rally ethnic Russian populations in the Baltic states to rise up in support with special operations forces — the so-called “little green men.”

That has sparked concern in the West that Putin’s ultimate goal is to break NATO with force, if intimidation fails. NATO is struggling to figure out how to respond, with member nations holding differing perspectives on when Russian behavior crosses a red line. It’s about “working out at what point a military response is the correct response,” said Nick de Larrinaga, a London-based analyst for IHS Jane’s Defense and Security Group. “Hybrid warfare casts doubts about when there should be a military response, or whether this is a civilian issue that should be taken care of by local law enforcement,” he said.
Russia claims to have some 750 tanks in its western

Russia claims to have some 750 tanks in its western military region, though its unclear how much of that equipment is legitimately combat-ready.
(Photo: Andrey Kronberg/AFP/Getty Images)

Another option for Russia, of course, is to shift to a conventional fight. A review of the military balance in the immediate Baltic theater would seem to give Russia an initial advantage in an aerial campaign against NATO, if Moscow’s political objective was to push NATO out of the Baltics.

According to a recent report by international think tank Chatham House, Russia’s military strength in its Western Military District stands at 65,000 ground troops, 850 pieces of artillery, 750 tanks, and 320 combat aircraft. Other estimates are much higher, but in general there is a high degree of uncertainty about how much of those forces exist only on paper, and how many are truly prepared for combat.

Another aspect of the Russian military that gets overhyped is its Baltic Fleet, the smallest of Russia’s main fleets and truly a shadow of its former self. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the coastal infrastructure that stretched from Kalingrad to Leningrad was lost to the newly independent Baltic states.

Today, the fleet is split between Kalingrad and St. Petersburg, making it difficult to support a larger fleet. The Baltic Fleet’s assets today include only two small Kilo-class diesel powered submarines, one of which is used mostly for training, along with a handful of Sovremenny-class destroyers, a frigate, four corvettes, and a smattering of support ships.

For a conventional operation, Russia also could bring assets from its Northern Fleet, which frequently patrols the North Atlantic, into the Baltic theater to support a larger action.

That threat could become a powerful one if Russia’s true goal in the Baltics is to force NATO into showing that it won’t honor Article V, the key element of the alliance treaty that holds an attack on one member nation will be met with a swift and unified response from all member nations.

Defense News’ Russia correspondent, Matthew Bodner, contributed to this report from Moscow.

© 2015 http://www.militarytimes.com. All rights reserved.

Unruly Hearts with WordPress thanks Military Times for this excellent article.

Putin: Russia ready to cooperate with moderate rebels in Syria — if they can be found

putin-wink

Today the official presidential website of Russia reports the statements Putin made following a working meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in which “the head of the defense department informed the President on the course of the operation of air and space forces of Russia in Syria”:

[…] Vladimir Putin: “We realize that conflicts of this kind must end in a political settlement. I discussed this matter just this morning with the Russian Foreign Minister. During my recent visit to Paris, the President of France, Mr Hollande, voiced an interesting idea that he thought is worth a try, namely, to have President Assad’s government troops join forces with the Free Syrian Army. True, we do not know yet where this army is and who heads it, but if we take the view that these people are part of the healthy opposition, if it were possible to have them join in the fight against terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and others, this would help pave the way to a future political settlement in Syria. […]”

The U.S. Is Destroying Europe

 

europe-usa-eu-flags-400x199In Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and other countries at the periphery or edges of Europe, U.S. President Barack Obama has been pursuing a policy of destabilization, and even of bombings and other military assistance, that drives millions of refugees out of those peripheral areas and into Europe, thereby adding fuel to the far-rightwing fires of anti-immigrant rejectionism, and of resultant political destabilization, throughout Europe, not only on its peripheries, but even as far away as in northern Europe.

Shamus Cooke at Off-Guardian headlines on 3 August 2015, “Obama’s ‘Safe Zone’ in Syria Intended to Turn It into New Libya,” and he reports that Obama has approved U.S. air support for Turkey’s previously unenfoceable no-fly zone over Syria. The U.S. will now shoot down all of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s planes that are targeting the extremist-Muslim groups, including ISIS, that have taken over huge swaths of Syrian territory.

Cooke reports:

Turkey has been demanding this no-fly zone from Obama since the Syrian war started. It’s been discussed throughout the conflict and even in recent months, though the intended goal was always the Syrian government. And suddenly the no-fly zone is happening — right where Turkey always wanted it — but it’s being labeled an ‘anti-ISIS’ safe zone, instead of its proper name: ‘Anti Kurdish and anti-Syrian government’ safe zone.

The New York Times reported on July 27th, that,

“the plan calls for relatively moderate Syrian insurgents to take the territory, with the help of American and possibly Turkish air support.”

However, the Times, stenographically reporting (as usual) from and for their U.S. Government sources (and so propagandizing for the U.S. Government), fails to define “relatively moderate,” but all of the “relatively moderate insurgent” groups in Syria cooperate with ISIS and help them to find and decapitate, or sometimes hold for ransoms, any non-Muslims there. Under Assad, Syria has been a non-clerical state, and has enjoyed freedom of religion, but all of the Syrian opposition to Assad’s rule is alien to that. The U.S. is now, even more clearly than before, anti-Assad, pro-Islamist.

Seymour Hersh reported in the London Review of Books on 17 April 2014, that the Obama Administration’s Libyan bombing campaign in 2011 was part of a broader program to bring sarin gas from Libya to the al-Nusra Front in Syria, in order to help produce a gas-attack upon civilians, which the U.S. Administration could then blame upon Assad, as being an excuse to bomb there just as Obama had already so successfully done in Libya. Both dictators, Gaddafi and Assad, were allied with Russia, and Assad especially has been important to Russia, as a transit-route for Russia’s gas supplies, and not for Qatar’s gas supplies — Qatar being the major potential threat to Russia’s status as the top supplier of gas into Europe.

Obama’s top goal in international relations, and throughout his military policies, has been to defeat Russia, to force a regime-change there that will make Russia part of the American empire, no longer the major nation that resists control from Washington.

Prior to the U.S. bombings of Libya in 2011, Libya was at peace and thriving. Per-capita GDP (income) in 2010 according to the IMF was $12,357.80, but it plunged to only $5,839.70 in 2011 — the year we bombed and destroyed the country. (Hillary Clinton famously bragged, “We came, we saw, he [Gaddafi] died!”) (And, unlike in U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, that per-capita GDP was remarkably evenly distributed, and both education and health care were socialized and available to everyone, even to the poor.)

More recently, on 15 February 2015, reporter Leila Fadel of NPR bannered “With Oil Fields Under Attack, Libya’s Economic Future Looks Bleak.” She announced: “The man in charge looks at production and knows the future is bleak. ‘We cannot produce. We are losing 80 percent of our production,’ says Mustapha Sanallah, the chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation.”

Under instructions from Washington, the IMF hasn’t been reliably reporting Libya’s GDP figures after 2011, but instead shows that things there were immediately restored to normal (even to better than normal: $13,580.55 per-capita GDP) in 2012, but everybody knows that it’s false; even NPR is, in effect, reporting that it’s not true. The CIA estimates that Libya’s per-capita GDP was a ridiculous $23,900 in 2012 (they give no figures for the years before that), and says Libya’s per-capita GDP has declined only slightly thereafter. None of the official estimates are at all trustworthy, though the Atlantic Council at least made an effort to explain things honestly, headlining in their latest systematic report about Libya’s economy, on 23 January 2014, “Libya: Facing Economic Collapse in 2014.”

Libya has become Europe’s big problem. Millions of Libyans are fleeing the chaos there. Some of them are fleeing across the Mediterranean and ending up in refugee camps in southern Italy; and some are escaping to elsewhere in Europe.

And Syria is now yet another nation that’s being destroyed in order to conquer Russia. Even the reliably propagandistic New York Times is acknowledging, in its ‘news’ reporting, that, “both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first priority.” So: U.S. bombers will be enforcing a no-fly-zone over parts of Syria in order to bring down Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad and replace his secular government by an Islamic government — and the ‘anti-ISIS’ thing is just for show; it’s PR, propaganda. The public cares far more about defeating ISIS than about defeating Russia; but that’s not the way America’s aristocracy views things. Their objective is extending America’s empire — extending their own empire.

Similarly, Obama overthrew the neutralist government of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine in February 2014, but that was under the fake cover of ‘democracy’ demonstrations, instead of under the fake cover of ‘opposing Islamic terrorism’ or whatever other phrases that the U.S. Government uses to fool suckers about America’s installation of, and support to, a rabidly anti-Russia, racist-fascist, or nazi, government next door to Russia, in Ukraine. Just as Libya had been at peace before the U.S. invaded and destroyed it, and just as Syria had been at peace before the U.S and Turkey invaded and destroyed it, Ukraine too was at peace before the U.S. perpetrated its coup there and installed nazis and an ethnic cleansing campaign there, and destroyed Ukraine too.

Like with Libya before the overthrow of Gaddafi there, or Syria before the current effort to overthrow Assad there, or the more recent successful overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, it’s all aimed to defeat Russia.

The fact that all of Europe is sharing in the devastation that Obama and other American conservatives — imperialists, even — impose, is of little if any concern to the powers-that-be in Washington DC, but, if it matters at all to them, then perhaps it’s another appealing aspect of this broader operation: By weakening European nations, and not only nations in the Middle East, Obama’s war against Russia is yet further establishing America to be “the last man standing,” at the end of the chaos and destruction that America causes.

Consequently, for example, in terms of U.S. international strategy, the fact that the economic sanctions against Russia are enormously harming the economies of European nations is good, not bad.

There are two ways to win, at any game: One is by improving one’s own performance. The other is by weakening the performances by all of one’s competitors. The United States is now relying almost entirely upon the latter type of strategy.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

US NEEDS UKRAINE WAR TO MAINTAIN GLOBAL HEGEMONY – MIKE WHITNEY

  • US wants to maintain full spectrum dominance, thwart multipolar world

  • For that it needs a weak Russia and Ukraine war is the way to do it

 

This article originally appeared at CounterPunch

 

“I want to appeal to the Ukrainian people, to the mothers, the fathers, the sisters and the grandparents. Stop sending your sons and brothers to this pointless, merciless slaughter. The interests of the Ukrainian government are not your interests. I beg of you: Come to your senses. You do not have to water Donbass fields with Ukrainian blood. It’s not worth it.”

— Alexander Zakharchenko,  Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic

us-flag

We won’t stand for peer competitors

I’ve been reading Mike Whitney since I was 13 yrs old. What I didn’t understamd my father explained to me.
after I finished reading this article by Mike, I fully understood the writer. Here it goes:

Washington needs a war in Ukraine to achieve its strategic objectives. This point cannot be overstated.

The US wants to push NATO to Russia’s western border. It wants a land-bridge to Asia to spread US military bases across the continent. It wants to control the pipeline corridors from Russia to Europe to monitor Moscow’s revenues and to ensure that gas continues to be denominated in dollars. And it wants a weaker, unstable Russia that is more prone to regime change, fragmentation and, ultimately, foreign control.

These objectives cannot be achieved peacefully, indeed, if the fighting stopped tomorrow, the sanctions would be lifted shortly after, and the Russian economy would begin to recover. How would that benefit Washington?

It wouldn’t. It would undermine Washington’s broader plan to integrate China and Russia into the prevailing economic system, the dollar system. Powerbrokers in the US realize that the present system must either expand or collapse. Either China and Russia are brought to heel and persuaded to accept a subordinate role in the US-led global order or Washington’s tenure as global hegemon will come to an end.

This is why hostilities in East Ukraine have escalated and will continue to escalate. This is why the U.S. Congress approved a bill for tougher sanctions on Russia’s energy sector and lethal aid for Ukraine’s military. This is why Washington has sent military trainers to Ukraine and is preparing to provide $3 billion in “anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored Humvees, and radars that can determine the location of enemy rocket and artillery fire.”

All of Washington’s actions are designed with one purpose in mind, to intensify the fighting and escalate the conflict. The heavy losses sustained by Ukraine’s inexperienced army and the terrible suffering of the civilians in Lugansk and Donetsk are of no interest to US war-planners.

Their job is to make sure that peace is avoided at all cost because peace would derail US plans to pivot to Asia and remain the world’s only superpower. Here’s an except from an article in the WSWS:

“The ultimate aim of the US and its allies is to reduce Russia to an impoverished and semi-colonial status. Such a strategy, historically associated with Carter administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, is again being openly promoted.

In a speech last year at the Wilson Center, Brzezinski called on Washington to provide Kiev with “weapons designed particularly to permit the Ukrainians to engage in effective urban warfare of resistance.” In line with the policies now recommended in the report by the Brookings Institution and other think tanks calling for US arms to the Kiev regime, Brzezinski called for providing “anti-tank weapons…weapons capable for use in urban short-range fighting.”

While the strategy outlined by Brzezinski is politically criminal—trapping Russia in an ethnic urban war in Ukraine that would threaten the deaths of millions, if not billions of people—it is fully aligned with the policies he has promoted against Russia for decades.” (“The US arming of Ukraine and the danger of World War III“, World Socialist Web Site)

Non-lethal military aid will inevitably lead to lethal military aid, sophisticated weaponry, no-fly zones, covert assistance, foreign contractors, Special ops, and boots on the ground. We’ve seen it all before. There is no popular opposition to the war in the US, no thriving antiwar movement that can shut down cities, order a general strike or disrupt the status quo.

So there’s no way to stop the persistent drive to war. The media and the political class have given Obama carte blanche, the authority to prosecute the conflict as he sees fit. That increases the probability of a broader war by this summer following the spring thaw.

While the possibility of a nuclear conflagration cannot be excluded, it won’t effect US plans for the near future. No one thinks that Putin will launch a nuclear war to protect the Donbass, so the deterrent value of the weapons is lost.

And Washington isn’t worried about the costs either. Despite botched military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and half a dozen other countries around the world; US stocks are still soaring, foreign investment in US Treasuries is at record levels, the US economy is growing at a faster pace than any of its global competitors, and the dollar has risen an eye-watering 13 percent against a basket of foreign currencies since last June. America has paid nothing for decimating vast swathes of the planet and killing more than a million people. Why would they stop now?

They won’t, which is why the fighting in Ukraine is going to escalate. Check this out from the WSWS:

“On Monday, the New York Times announced that the Obama administration is moving to directly arm the Ukrainian army and the fascistic militias supporting the NATO-backed regime in Kiev, after its recent setbacks in the offensive against pro-Russian separatist forces in east Ukraine.

The article cites a joint report issued Monday by the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and delivered to President Obama, advising the White House and NATO on the best way to escalate the war in Ukraine….

According to the Times, US officials are rapidly shifting to support the report’s proposals. NATO military commander in Europe General Philip M. Breedlove, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey all supported discussions on directly arming Kiev. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is reconsidering her opposition to arming Kiev, paving the way for Obama’s approval.” (“Washington moves toward arming Ukrainian regime“, World Socialist Web Site)

See what’s going on? The die is already cast. There will be a war with Russia because that’s what the political establishment wants. It’s that simple. And while previous provocations failed to lure Putin into the Ukrainian cauldron, this new surge of violence–a spring offensive– is bound to do the trick.

Putin is not going to sit on his hands while proxies armed with US weapons and US logistical support pound the Donbass to Fallujah-type rubble. He’ll do what any responsible leader would do. He’ll protect his people. That means war. (See the vast damage that Obama’s proxy war has done to E. Ukraine here: “An overview of the socio – humanitarian situation on the territory of Donetsk People’s Republic as a consequence of military action from 17 to 23 January 2015“)

Asymmetrical Warfare: Falling Oil Prices

Keep in mind, that the Russian economy has already been battered by economic sanctions, oil price manipulation, and a vicious attack of the ruble.

Until this week, the mainstream media dismissed the idea that the Saudis were deliberately pushing down oil prices to hurt Russia. They said the Saudis were merely trying to retain “market share” by maintaining current production levels and letting prices fall naturally.

But it was all bunkum as the New York Times finally admitted on Tuesday in an article titled: “Saudi Oil Is Seen as Lever to Pry Russian Support From Syria’s Assad”. Here’s a clip from the article:

“Saudi Arabia has been trying to pressure President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon his support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, using its dominance of the global oil markets at a time when the Russian government is reeling from the effects of plummeting oil prices…

Saudi officials say — and they have told the United States — that they think they have some leverage over Mr. Putin because of their ability to reduce the supply of oil and possibly drive up prices….Any weakening of Russian support for Mr. Assad could be one of the first signs that the recent tumult in the oil market is having an impact on global statecraft…..

Saudi Arabia’s leverage depends on how seriously Moscow views its declining oil revenue. “If they are hurting so bad that they need the oil deal right away, the Saudis are in a good position to make them pay a geopolitical price as well,” said F. Gregory Gause III, a Middle East specialist at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service (“Saudi Oil Is Seen as Lever to Pry Russian Support From Syria’s Assad“, New York Times)

The Saudis “think they have some leverage over Mr. Putin because of their ability” to manipulate prices?

That says it all, doesn’t it?

What’s interesting about this article is the way it conflicts with previous pieces in the Times. For example, just two weeks ago, in an article titled “Who Will Rule the Oil Market?” the author failed to see any political motive behind the Saudi’s action.

According to the narrative, the Saudis were just afraid that “they would lose market share permanently” if they cut production and kept prices high. Now the Times has done a 180 and joined the so called conspiracy nuts who said that prices were manipulated for political reasons.

In fact, the sudden price plunge had nothing to do with deflationary pressures, supply-demand dynamics, or any other mumbo-jumbo market forces. It was 100 percent politics.

The attack on the ruble was also politically motivated, although the details are much more sketchy. There’s an interesting interview with Alistair Crooke that’s worth a read for those who are curious about how the Pentagon’s “full spectrum dominance” applies to financial warfare. According to Crooke:

“…with Ukraine, we have entered a new era: We have a substantial, geostrategic conflict taking place, but it’s effectively a geo-financial war between the US and Russia. We have the collapse in the oil prices; we have the currency wars; we have the contrived “shorting” — selling short — of the ruble. We have a geo-financial war, and what we are seeing as a consequence of this geo-financial war is that first of all, it has brought about a close alliance between Russia and China.

China understands that Russia constitutes the first domino; if Russia is to fall, China will be next. These two states are together moving to create a parallel financial system, disentangled from the Western financial system. ……

For some time, the international order was structured around the United Nations and the corpus of international law, but more and more the West has tended to bypass the UN as an institution designed to maintain the international order, and instead relies on economic sanctions to pressure some countries. We have a dollar-based financial system, and through instrumentalizing America’s position as controller of all dollar transactions, the US has been able to bypass the old tools of diplomacy and the UN — in order to further its aims.

But increasingly, this monopoly over the reserve currency has become the unilateral tool of the United States — displacing multilateral action at the UN. The US claims jurisdiction over any dollar-denominated transaction that takes place anywhere in the world. And most business and trading transactions in the world are denominated in dollars. This essentially constitutes the financialization of the global order: The International Order depends more on control by the US Treasury and Federal Reserve than on the UN as before.” (“Turkey might become hostage to ISIL just like Pakistan did“, Today’s Zaman)

Financial warfare, asymmetrical warfare, Forth Generation warfare, space warfare, information warfare, nuclear warfare, laser, chemical, and biological warfare. The US has expanded its arsenal well beyond the traditional range of conventional weaponry. The goal, of course, is to preserve the post-1991 world order (The dissolution up of the Soviet Union) and maintain full spectrum dominance.

The emergence of a multi-polar world order spearheaded by Moscow poses the greatest single threat to Washington’s plans for continued domination. The first significant clash between these two competing world views will likely take place sometime this summer in East Ukraine. God help us.

NOTE: The Novorussia Armed Forces (NAF) currently have 8,000 Ukrainian regulars surrounded in Debaltsevo, East Ukraine. This is a very big deal although the media has been (predictably) keeping the story out of the headlines.

Evacuation corridors have been opened to allow civilians to leave the area. Fighting could break out at anytime. At present, it looks like a good part of the Kiev’s Nazi army could be destroyed in one fell swoop. This is why Merkel and Hollande have taken an emergency flight to Moscow to talk with Putin. They are not interested in peace. They merely want to save their proxy army from annihilation.

I expect Putin may intervene on behalf of the Ukrainian soldiers, but I think commander Zakharchenko will resist. If he lets these troops go now, what assurance does he have that they won’t be back in a month or so with high-powered weaponry provided by our war-mongering congress and White House?

Tell me; what choice does Zakharchenko really have? If his comrades are killed in future combat because he let Kiev’s army escape, who can he blame but himself?

There are no good choices.

 thanks Mike. You don’t stop amazing me. I have learned a lot by reading you. And I will keep reading you.

Western Defeat in Ukraine

 Western Defeat in Ukraine

 

By Roger Cohen  – Published by The New York Times

LONDON — It was not a surprise that President Vladimir Putin of Russia came out in strong support of FIFA against the “blatant attempt” of the United States “to extend its jurisdiction to other states.” Institutionalized corruption is Putin’s thing. The governing body of world soccer has become a near-perfect illustration of how such a system works, almost as good as the once-pliant Ukraine of Putin’s ousted puppet, former President Viktor Yanukovych.

American power is Putin’s obsession. He professes to see its long arm everywhere, subverting Russia and countries of its former empire. So the Justice Department’s move against FIFA fit every Russian geostrategic theory. (In addition, of course, Putin is worried about the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as he should be. To say the event will carry echoes of the Berlin Olympics of 1936 would be an exaggeration, but not a wild one.)

It is not a surprise that various Russian generals and officials have been blustering about nukes, even threatening to wipe out poor little Denmark’s navy; nor that they have made clear that they will defend the annexation of Crimea (where the extension of Russian jurisdiction was on the “blatant” side) with every weapon in their arsenal. Force is the language Putin understands better than any other. He knows how uncomfortable much of Europe has become with this lexicon.

There are in fact no more surprises. Putin has turned on the West, seeing opposition to it as the glue of his regime, rather than integration with it as the path to Russian progress. He has opted for his life’s work: buying people, compromising them, threatening them.

Perhaps it was the street protests in Moscow of late 2011. Perhaps it was a perception of Western perfidy in Libya earlier that year. Perhaps it was some inkling about a moment of American weakness. Perhaps it really was the ouster through a popular uprising of the grossly corrupt Yanukovych in Ukraine. Perhaps it was simply his inner K.G.B. officer rising to the surface, a yearning for the empire lost. In the end the reasons are secondary to the reality, which is that Putin has opted to ignite Russian nationalism by cultivating the myth of Western encirclement of the largest nation on earth by far. The G-7 will convene in a few days without him. Of course it will. The Russian president is no longer interested in the rules of that club. Controlled antagonism to it suits him better.

Some 15 months have gone by since the annexation of Crimea. A few things have become clear. On the whole, they are troubling. The first is how muted, really, the American reaction has been to Moscow’s seizure of a chunk of Ukrainian territory and Russia’s stirring-up of a little war in eastern Ukraine with its more than 6,000 dead. The United States is not even a party to the Minsk accords, the deeply flawed agreement to unwind the conflict that looks more like a means to freeze it in place.

By Ainhoa Aristizabal – Unruly Hearts

Roger, you sound like a broken record in bringing Washington’s rhetoric.  But let me remind you that the US has invaded 70 nations since 1776. Any wonder why americans are not welcome in many countries? Of course, americans reaction to Crimeans asking Russia to make them part of the Russian Federation hasn’t impressed them a bit being that their country has invaded 70 nations, and even occupied some of those countries.

The 4th of July is Independence Day for the United States and commemorates the 4 July 1776 Declaration of Independence for the US, the key passage of which is “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Unfortunately american racism has grossly violated the proposition that “all men are created equal” and the worst form of racism involves invasion of other countries, as well as the growing racism in your country. The US has invaded about 70 countries since its inception and has invaded a total of about 50 countries since 1945 [1]. The World needs to declare a transition from the 4th of July as Independence for America Day to the 4th of July as Independence from America Day.

The following is a list of countries invaded by the US forces  (naval, military and ultimately air forces) since its inception in order of major incidents. This catalogue derives heavily form the work of US academic Dr Zoltan Grossman’s article “From Wounded Knee to Libya: a century of U.S. military interventions” [1], Gideon Polya’s book ‘Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (that includes a brief history of all countries since Neolithic times) [2] and William Blum’s book “ Rogue State ” [3]. This list includes instances of violent deployment of US forces within America (e.g. against demonstrators, miners etc), and includes small-scale bombing and military intervention operations, military evacuations of Americans and specific instances of explicit threats of use of nuclear weapons. The list does not include the 1801-1805 US Marine Barbary War operations against Barbary pirates based in Morocco , Algeria , Tunisia and Libya , and also ignores massive US subversion of virtually all countries in the world.

US leads ‘largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine’ – Follows Pentagon’s Advice to Conquer the World?

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Ukrainian soldiers and servicemen of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team take part in a joint military exercise called “Fearless Guardian 2015” at the military training area in Yavoriv, outside Lviv, Ukraine, May 12, 2015.Oleksandr Klymenko/Reuters

Troops from the US, UK, Germany and 14 other countries are set to conduct what officials are calling the “largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine” in the west of the country over the coming weeks.

The exercises will be conducted in Lviv region, in western Ukraine, far from the conflict zone in the east, with as many as 1,800 servicemen from 18 countries taking part from today until the end of the month.

The Saber Guardian and Rapid Trident exercises are conducted annually between the US army in Europe and European states which agree to participate. Last year they included 1,300 defence staff from 15 militaries, including Ukraine. However last year, only Rapid Trident took place on Ukrainian soil, with Saber Guardian being organised in Bulgaria.

Beside the US military and their Ukrainian hosts, personnel from other Nato allied nations joining the exercise include the UK, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Canada, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, while non-members Serbia, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan are also set to participate.

“Multinational exercises have been conducted in Ukraine since 1995, however it is safe to say that this is the largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine to date,” Don Wrenn public affairs public affairs specialist for US Army Europe, who is at the site of the exercises says.

Despite the heightening tension in eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed rebels have intensified fire towards Kiev-held positions since May, Wrenn says the exercise has no relation to the specific conflict.

“It is not anything to do with the political situation,” Wrenn says “This exercise was planned ahead of time. Countries were notified that it would occur and we can’t directly connect with the situation going on. Rapid Trident has been going for years in Ukraine.”

“Part of why this is larger this year is that there are two exercises going ahead at the same time in the same place,” Wrenn explains. The Saber Guardian exercise rotates between host nations, it just so happens that this year it was Ukraine’s turn to host it, coinciding with Rapid Trident

“The two were held together and integrated with each other,” Wrenn says. Training will begin tomorrow, after the end of today’s opening ceremony.

“We will be looking at practicing skills such as casualty evacuation and first aid, reacting to being ambushed in both an offensive posture or in defensive mode, we are conducting training in how to identify and react to improvised explosives and devices and there will be some simulated outpost operations.”

“These are all skills that are to be used either in combat or peacekeeping. Some Ukrainian armored vehicles will be included but most of the vehicles being used are just US humvees and wheeled vehicles,” he adds. Contrary to some media reports, no air operations are scheduled as part of the exercise.

Although a period of relative calm followed in the east after a ceasefire agreement was signed by the rebel leaders, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in February, clashes increase along the contact lines in May and by June the rebels launched the largest offensive since the battle for the strategic town of Debaltseve on the eve of the ceasefire deal.

Rebel leader Alexander Zaharchenko once again publically set target towns which the rebels plan to “take” in May and Reuters, Nato and the Ukrainian government have all reported an increasing military build up on the Russian side of the border.

Since the start of the conflict with pro-Russian rebels in the east, Ukraine has led a series of reforms to its military in a bid to strengthen its efficiency in the short and long term. Eastern regions have obtained physical reinforcement bases and Ukraine has also pursued stronger ties with western neighbours such as the joint battalion it formed last year with Poland and Lithuania,

President Petro Poroshenko pledged yesterday to increase Ukraine’s security spending power, adding a further 5 billion hryvna (over €200m) to the defence budget, according to a statement released on his official website. Independent Russian news site Slon reported that the last Ukrainian budget allotted 90 billion hryvna to defence spending, which, together with Poroshenko’s latest pledge equals around €4bn.

However,  Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s claim that the Ukraine will take over Donbass by the end of the year seems to be one more of his tricks. 

According to Forbes, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has offered Russian counterpart Vldimir Putin to ”include Donbass” in the territory of the federation. The announcement was released to Forbes magazine through an anonymous source.

It was stated that the proposal had been extended during the Normandy Four talks held in Minsk on February 11 and 12.

”Poroshenko directly told me, ”Take Donbass”, and I responded, ”Have you gone mad ? I don’t need Donbass. If you don’t need it, announce its independence”, was the statement Vladimir Putin made at his meeting with Russian industrialists and businessmen on March 19, as quoted by Forbes.

In the words of the Russian President, Poroshenko then stated that Ukrainian authorities are not able to take the step, ” Then, let Ukrainian authorities pay the pensions and social care to the population of Donbass and let them restore the banking system,” Putin allegedly insisted.

The ceasefire deal included 14 points connected to the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, release of prisoners, the providing of humanitarian aid for the severely affected regions of Ukraine, as well as establishing of special statute for the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Republics.

According to the source released information to Forbes, Putin himself is skeptical regarding the peace deal and believes that Ukrainian authorities are attempting to win the fight with rebel forces and to destroy Donbass in economic terms.

Allegedly, Putin said that EU leaders are well aware of the Ukrainian intentions, but the strengthening of the conflict is said to be in favor of US foreign polices. He also informed business leaders that the EU sanctions against Russia are unlikely to be removed in the upcoming years.

On the other hand, Poroshenko’s relations with Poland have deteriorated.

A scheduled meeting of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with the winner of the Polish presidential elections Andrzej Duda in Warsaw will not now take place, Polish news agency PAP reported on Wednesday, with reference to its own sources close to the newly-elected head of state.

At home, Poroshenko is facing serious problems with the nationalist “Right Sector” paramilitary group.  The popular assembly is dubbed ‘Away With Traitors in Power!’

The popular assembly dubbed “Away With Traitors in Power!”organized by Ukraine’s far-right paramilitary group, Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) has started on Independence Square (Maidan).

Here’s the scene on ‘s Maidan right now. 1000+ now gathered for far-right nationalist rally:

WATCH LIVE STREAMING VIDEO  HERE

The rally follows a recent shootout involving members of ‘Right Sector’, security teams close to Ukrainian MP Mykhailo Lanyo and local police officers which took place in the town of Mukacheve in Ukraine’s western Zakarpattia region on July 11. Four people were killed and up to 14 were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.

‘Right Sector’ is one of a number of militarised groups that emerged during violent protests that toppled former Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych a year ago.

The militias went on to fight alongside Ukrainian troops in the east against Russian-backed militants, but concerns have risen over whether they could pose a challenge to President Poroshenko and the government or threaten public security.

‘Right Sector’ and police have accused each other of initiating the violence in Mukacheve, but on Tuesday a spokesman for the group said two of its members had surrendered to the SBU security service.