Pentagon Confirms US Troops Will Deploy to Ukraine in Spring

Unknown Number of Troops to Carry Out Training in Lviv

US Army commander in Europe Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges visited Ukraine today, as Pentagon officials confirmed plans to send troops to war-torn Ukraine this spring for a “training operation.”

ukraineOfficials say the number of troops involved has not been determined at this time, and that the troops are part of an effort to strengthen the “rule of law” in the country.

By “rule of law,” they mean getting the Ukrainian military, which is ratcheting up its conscription, ready to crush eastern rebels, who have been demanding reforms after the new government imposed a series of harsh restrictions on the ethnic Russian east.

So far, the plans are to put the troops in Lviv, in the far west, which should keep the US forces from getting too directly into the nation’s civil war, though officials are saying this is just the “first step in further training,” which means more operations could happen, putting troops closer to the frontlines.

by Jason Ditz

Russia Warns Sanctions Could Backfire on US, EU

Much of Western Bailout Likely to Wind Up in Russian Hands Anyhow

As Western officials continue to ratchet up threats for sanctions on Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that the move could “boomerang” and hit the sanctioners, particularly in the European Union, much harder than Russia itself.

lavrovLavrov warned the US push for sanctions was “poorly thought out,” a comment that reflects EU concerns about the plan as well, since many EU nations are highly dependent on Russian natural gas.

The natural gas concern has fueled calls for the US to open up its exporting of gas, though the White House downplayed that prospect, and says that they are several years away from allowing significant exports of natural gas.

Ironically, Western officials that have been pledging billions of dollars to bail out the Ukraine economy in the wake of regime change are going to be finding a lot of that money going to Russia to pay bills owed to major Russian companies. Gazprom alone is owed nearly $2 billion for natural gas shipments to the Ukraine.

Proximity and historical ties make Russia by far the most important business partner for the Ukraine, though the recent protest movement has caused many Russian companies to dramatically reduce the estimated value of their business there.

by Jason Ditz

Ukraine’s Neo-Fascist Right Sector Leader Dmytro Yarosh to Run for President

Ukraine’s leader of the far-right Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) paramilitary movement Dmytro Yarosh has announced his presidential bid in elections planned for 25 May.

The ultra-nationalist movement’s chairman Andriy Tarasenko said that Right Sector will also become a political party.

“Dmytro Yarosh will run for president,” he said. “We are preparing for a congress, at which the party will be renamed, and we will participate in the elections in Kyiv, the elections in all local councils, towns and villages.”

“We remain the leaders of this revolution. We are mobilising, we are preparing to react to foreign aggression,” Tarasenko added, claiming that the movement was ready for a full-scale war with Russia.

A leading figure in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Yarosh advocated a “national revolution” during the protests and dismissed ousted Viktor Yanukovich’s administration as an “internal occupational regime”.

Yarosh, who considers the far-right Svoboda “too liberal”, wants to ban both the former ruling party (Party of Regions) and the Communist Party of Ukraine.

Tarasenko distanced the movement from the pro-EU government led by interim president Oleksandr Turchinov.

“There has been no reset of power. Only the names in the government offices have changed,” he was quoted as saying.

“Our struggle is entering a peaceful phase, a political phase and that is why we are going into politics,” he said.

Anti-government protesters from far-right group "Right Sector" train in Independence Square in central Kiev in January 2014

Anti-government protesters from far-right group “Right Sector” train in Independence Square in central Kiev in January 2014

Russia opened a criminal investigation against Yarosh for incitement to extremism and terrorism.

Right Sector was condemned by the US State Department for “inflaming conditions on the streets”.

In an interview with Time magazine, Yarosh revealed that the ultra-nationalist movement had amassed a lethal arsenal of weapons.

The movement’s ideology, which rejects any foreign influence over Ukraine, borders on fascism, according to reports.

“For all the years of Ukraine’s independence, Russia has pursued a systematic, targeted policy of subjugation toward Ukraine,” Yarosh told Time. “So of course we will prepare for a conflict with them.”

White House Rails at China, Russia Over Snowden’s Escape

US Ready to Damage Key Diplomatic Ties Out of Anger

obama01The Obama Administration is furious. A good chunk of Congress is furious. Most of the Sunday news show pundits are furious. Shaking their fists impotently in rage at the escape of Edward Snowden from Hong Kong, they are inconsolable.

Who are they mad at? Tiny Ecuador, who is granting Snowden asylum, to be sure. But the rage is also targeted at China, Hong Kong’s city government, even Russia for letting Snowden’s plane stop off there.

The White House has promised a “negative impact” on Sino-American relations as a result of Snowden’s escape, and demands that Russia use “all options” to capture Snowden and turn him over to the US government, threatening major repercussions for defiance.

Rep. Peter King (R – NY), always convenient for his ability to boil things down to their totally unreasonable conclusions, insisted that the US must now be much more hostile toward China going forward, and that “business cannot go on as usual.

In the end this means that the US government is willing to self-sabotage its most important diplomatic relationships, those with China and Russia, which the Obama Administration has been pouring effort into keeping at least nominally civil.

Neither Russia or China is eager to worsen relations with the US, though China is surely displeased with the news of US cyber-attacks. Ultimately it is the Obama Administration’s own anger, and the lack of a detainee to take out their frustrations on, that will drive the worsening ties.

 

by Jason Ditz, June 24, 2013

Israeli DM Threatens to Attack Russian Ships

Defensive Shipments a ‘Threat’

Israel’s long-standing habit of making bellicose threats in the face of neighbors potentially acquiring defensive weapons has reached a new level today, with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon threatening to attack Russian ships in the Mediterranean if they attempt to deliver anti-aircraft weapons to Syria.

moshe_1_1Russia has had a long-standing contract with Syria to provide anti-aircraft defensive systems, and the Assad government is keen to get those shipments completed in the wake of repeated Israeli air strikes against them. The Russian S-300 system, the best the Russian government sells, is seen as being able to foil Israeli attacks.

Israel has struggled to justify its opposition to the deliveries, making ridiculous predictions of a dystopian future in which the whole region is a no-fly zone because Syria is attacking random planes for no reason. Syria’s existing arsenal would be able to do this at any rate, and it doesn’t. The obvious reason for acquiring the S-300 is to stop the Israeli attacks, and that’s also the obvious reason for Israeli opposition. It’s just not likely to convince the Russians.

A similar round of Israeli rhetoric was seen over several years related to Iran, with Israeli officials first claiming they had super-secret electronics that would render all S-300′s useless worldwide and render Russian airspace defenseless. They later revised that claim and insisted those defensive weapons were an “existential threat” to Israel. After that didn’t work either, they threatened massive retaliatory arms sales to “Russia’s enemies.”

The question of the latest threats is just how desperately Israel wants to keep its overwhelming military superiority over the entire region, and whether the prospect of one of its would-be victims acquiring defensive equipment is such a threat to their long-term strategy that it warrants risking a war with Russia. Logic would suggest it doesn’t.

by Jason Ditz

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