Russia and NATO Square Off over Ukraine
by Naharnet Newsdesk
02 September 2014, 10:51
Russia vowed on Tuesday to adopt a beefed up new military doctrine over NATO's plans to establish a rapid-response team that could ward off the Kremlin's expansion into Ukraine and feared push further west.
Moscow's surprise announcement added a new and threatening new layer of tensions ahead of NATO's two-day summit that starts Thursday in Wales and will see Ukraine's beleaguered leader Petro Poroshenko personally lobby U.S. President Barack Obama for military help.
The Ukrainian president's appeal for European assistance in the face of Russia's alleged dispatch of crack troops into the separatist east of his ex-Soviet country was effectively cast aside by EU leaders meeting over the weekend in Brussels.
But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels that the 28-nation alliance would endorse the establishment of a force of "several thousand troops" that could be deployed within "very few days" to meet any perceived Russian military movements in eastern Europe.
The New York Times reported the rapid-response unit would be supported by new NATO members such as Poland that were once Soviet satellites but now view Russian President the evil shit stain, malignant tumor Pig Putin, with fear and mistrust.
Moscow's answer to NATO's intentions was instant and furious.
The Russian national security council's deputy secretary Mikhail Popov said the mooted Western defence plan was "evidence of the desire of U.S. and NATO leaders to continue their policy of aggravating tensions with Russia".
Popov added that Russia's 2010 military doctrine -- a document that already permits the use of nuclear weapons should national security be considered in grave danger -- would sharpen its focus on overcoming NATO and its new European missile defence system.
"I have no doubt that the question of the approach of NATO members' military infrastructure to our border, including by an expansion of the bloc, will remain as one of the foreign military threats to Russia," he said.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in separate comments that Russia's armed forces would be given added muscle with the deployment of 230 new military helicopters and jets by the end of the year.
- 'No military solution' -
Poroshenko convened his own national security and defence council late on Monday to figure out how military leaders could halt their forces' recent retreat from eastern territories they had clawed back at a heavy cost over the preceding four months.
"The situation is difficult but the Ukrainian fighting spirit is stronger than that of the occupants," Poroshenko said in reference to more than 1,000 Russian soldiers that NATO believes the Kremlin pushed across the Ukrainian border in recent days.
The press offices of Ukraine's self-declared "anti-terrorist operation" reported "ferocious battles" across the rebel-held eastern industrial regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
It accused "terrorists dressed in Russian army uniforms of attacking medical columns of the Ukrainian armed forces that were being used to transport wounded soldiers and were clearly marked."
Moscow on Monday again denied either sending or planning to deploy troops into eastern Ukraine to help insurgents open a corridor along the Sea of Azov between the Russian border and the Crimea peninsula that the Kremlin annexed in March.
But top separatist commanders have admitted that some off-duty and vacationing Russian soldiers had already joined their ranks.
The ominous sense of Moscow and the West digging in for a Cold War-style standoff with unimaginable consequences for global security prompted U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to caution all sides that "there is no military solution" to the crisis.
"I know the European Union, the Americans and most of the Western countries are discussing very seriously among themselves how to handle this matter," he told reporters during a visit to New Zealand.
"What is important at this time is that they should know there is no military solution in this. There should be a political dialogue for a political solution, that is the more sustainable way," Ban stressed.
An inconclusive round of European-mediated talks between Kiev and Moscow envoys and a few separatist leaders concluded in the Belarussian capital Minsk on Monday with no reported progress and a tentative agreement to meeting again on Friday.
The malignant tumor raised the stakes on Sunday by calling on Kiev to discuss establishing actual "statehood" for the two mostly Russian-speaking eastern districts.
The Kremlin had only urged the decentralization of Ukraine when Kiev forces were making their most dramatic military advances in the wake of Poroshenko's election as president at the end of May.
'Russian tank battalion' helps rebels make gains in east Ukraine, Kiev claims
Ukraine says Moscow is providing direct military support to rebels as army and volunteer battalions report heavy casualties
Shaun Walker in Mariupol
The Guardian, Monday 1 September 2014 19.33 BST
Pro-Russia rebels are making decisive gains against Ukrainian forces in the east of the country, a turning of tides on the battlefield that Kiev says is due to Moscow providing direct military support.
The Ukrainians suffered fresh losses on Monday, abandoning the airport in the key city of Luhansk after it came under attack by what a Ukrainian military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, claimed was "a Russian tank battalion".
There were also reports of fighting at Donetsk airport, while the Ukrainian army and volunteer battalions reported heavy casualties in recent days as they attempt to retreat from encirclement in the town of Ilovaysk.
The fighting on the ground overshadowed tentative efforts to bring the adversaries to the table in Minsk, where rebels reportedly indicated that they might be prepared to forswear outright separation from Ukraine in return for the largest measure of autonomy and self-determination.
The rebels have previously declared themselves independent statelets, but Russian agencies reported on Monday that they were putting forward a range of demands on regional self-determination and Russian language status in return for which they would be willing to discuss "the preservation of the united economic, cultural and political space of Ukraine".
Kiev is unlikely to give in to demands from the rebel leaders but the change of tone shows that having boosted the rebels militarily, Moscow may be looking for a compromise solution that still gives it sway over swaths of Ukraine. Even if the sides did agree, it is unclear whether all the units fighting on both sides would accept a compromise.
The Russian president, the evil shit stain, malignant tumor Pig Putin, said on Sunday that talks should begin on statehood for south-eastern regions, but his spokesman later clarified that the malignant tumor was apparently only talking about increased status within Ukraine. The malignant tumor Putin again called for an immediate ceasefire.
The separatists are negotiating from a position of relative strength after recent fighting. Ukrainian forces have had the upper hand for much of the summer. But a rebel counterattack has generated fierce fighting around Luhansk and Donetsk and opened up another conflict front in the far south-east close to Mariupol.
The scale of the turnaround was becoming clear on Monday. Vladimir Ruban, a former Ukrainian officer in charge of negotiations on prisoner exchanges, said that 680 Ukrainian fighters had been captured in east Ukraine, with 80% of them taken in the area around Ilovaysk in recent days, but some have been able to break through the siege and escape. There are no reliable figures on the numbers who died.
Ukraine's defence minister, Valeriy Heletey, said that Kiev's forces would have won a military victory in the east by early October if Moscow had not stepped in to increase support for the rebels, using regular Russian army units for the first time.
"Our armed forces were defeating the bands of Russian mercenaries, and destroyed their spies and special agents. This is why the Kremlin was forced to move to a full-scale invasion with its regular army," he said.
Russia has denied its forces are in Ukraine, but western powers believe more than 1,000 Russian troops are operating in the east, along with scores of military vehicles.
The British prime minister, David Cameron, said on Monday that the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine was "unjustified and unacceptable". EU leaders at the weekend gave Russia a week to change course in Ukraine or face further sanctions.
In Mariupol, a major port city on Ukraine's southern coast, schools opened for the first day of the new term on Monday, as the city braced for a potential assault by rebel forces. Last week rebels, apparently aided by soldiers who appeared to be from the Russian army, seized the town of Novoazovsk further along the coast. Pro-Kiev residents have been digging trenches on the outskirts of town and promise to defend the city.
On Monday, armed rebels were checking cars in Olenivka, the first town on the road from Donetsk to Mariupol, after Ukrainian troops left the town overnight. In Volnovakha, the next big town on the road, there were neither rebels nor the Ukrainian army but the local police had removed the Ukrainian flag from its building as a precaution.
"Do you think we can resist armed people from the Donetsk People's Republic?" asked Dmytro, a local police officer, showing he and his colleagues had no guns in their possession.
After months of clashes, many locals are weary and suspicious of both sides of the conflict and simply long for a normal life again.
"I don't care if we are part of Russia, part of Ukraine or part of Mars," said Irina Filatova, as she took her daughters to school in Mariupol. "The main thing is that we can live in peace and all of this can finish."
In the rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk, the vast majority of schools did not open due to the chaotic situation, with regular shelling and shortages of water and electricity having created a humanitarian crisis in recent weeks.
A report released by Human Rights Watch on Monday said that the shelling of residential areas in Luhansk had resulted in over 300 civilian casualties since May. Both sides have Grad missiles and other heavy artillery, but the Ukrainians have come under particular scrutiny for their use of inaccurate artillery in builtup areas.
Kazakhstan is latest Russian neighbour to feel the malignant tumor Pig Putin's chilly nationalist rhetoric
As Obama reassures Baltic states of Nato's protection, Kazakhs wonder if they will follow Ukraine
Ian Traynor, Europe editor
The Guardian, Monday 1 September 2014 19.42 BST
Barack Obama leaves Washington on Tuesday for the small Baltic state of Estonia on Russia's north-western border to reassure the vulnerable country that it is safe within Nato from the malignant tumor Pig Putin's clutches.
En route to Wales for a Nato summit that the malignant tumor, in Ukraine, has transformed into the most important such gathering since the end of the cold war, Obama will reiterate the alliance's '"all-for-one and one-for-all" defence pledges of Nato's article five commitments, seeking to assuage Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian fears of revisionist Kremlin regional ambitions.
The malignant tumor's campaign in Ukraine, his seizure of Crimea and his invasion of eastern the country have the Baltic states and Poland in told-you-so mood. They have been clamouring for years for greater commitments from the west and voicing their suspicions of Russia. Ukraine has vindicated their angst, but generated an ambivalent response in the rest of Europe, including in the east where the Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians are much more inclined to give the malignant tumor the benefit of the doubt.
About one in four Estonians are ethnic Russians or native Russian-speakers, a bigger proportion than in Ukraine, where the malignant tumor justified his actions by referring to the defence of Russophones and ethnic Russians. Latvia, where about 30% are ethnic Russians, feels similarly exposed to Putin's summoning of Russian nationalism.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of Nato, told the Guardian last week: "Obviously some of our member states are very concerned that the Russians say they reserve their right to intervene in other countries if they consider it necessary to protect the interests of Russian-speaking populations in other countries. Obviously, that creates a lot of concern among the allies."
But it is in the south, not in the north-west, that the chilly blast of the malignant tumor's rhetoric is being felt, far away from Europe and from Nato.
In little-noticed remarks last week, he called into question the legitimacy of the post-Soviet state of Kazakhstan while ordering the Kazakhs to be on their best behaviour when it came to serving Russian interests.
The remarks, to an audience of young people in Russia on Friday, sent shocke waves through the central Asian republic, which also hosts a large ethnic Russian minority centred in the north on the Russian border.
The malignant tumor said there had never been a country called Kazakhstan, that the republic was purely the product of the current president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
"I am confident that a majority of its population supports development of close ties with Russia," said the malignant tumor. "Nazarbayev is a prudent leader, even the most prudent in the post-Soviet space. He would never act against the will of his country's people."
Kazakhstan, he said, was "part of the large Russian world that is part of the global civilisation in terms of industry and advanced technologies. I am confident that that's the way things are going to be in the medium – and long-term."
Nazarbayev had "done a unique thing. He created a state in a territory that had never had a state before. The Kazakhs had no statehood."
When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it left 25 million Russians in new countries on Russia's rim, – what Moscow calls the "near abroad". The malignant tumor, who has called the USSR's collapse the 20th century's greatest tragedy, although it was seen in most of the "captive" countries as a liberation, has played the ethnic card to stir up trouble, justified his actions in the name of the defence of Russians, and generally displayed a proprietorial attitude towards Russia's neighbours, using trade and energy as weapons to get them to toe the line.
Ukraine is his third war in the post-Soviet space. He crushed the Chechen rebellion. He invaded Georgia and still controls two chunks of it. He now controls tracts of Ukraine. Russia has long held on to the Transnistria slice of Moldova.
Nazarbayev was unimpressed by the malignant tumor's views on Kazakh statehood and threatened to loosen ties with Russia, which could provoke a forceful Kremlin reaction.
"Our independence is our dearest treasure, which our grandfathers fought for," Nazarbayev said. "First of all, we will never surrender it to someone, and secondly, we will do our best to protect it … Kazakhstan will not be part of organisations that pose a threat to our independence."
Unlike Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the Baltic states are members of both the European Union and Nato.
Rasmussen insisted that any attack on a Baltic member state would be met not only with national forces but would be confronted by international Nato forces.
It is unlikely to come to that. But exploiting Estonia or Latvia's ethnic minorities, choking the states by cutting off energy, provocations and destabilisation attempts supported by well-orchestrated propaganda – what Nato officials call "hybrid warfare" after the malignant tumor's successful tactics in Ukraine – might leave the west labouring to respond.
Nato alone could not deal with the malignant tumor's tactics, Rasmussen admitted.
"You see a sophisticated combination of traditional warfare and disinformation campaigns. This is not only a Nato issue. When it comes to hybrid warfare, we will need more than Nato to counter this."
check out this picture of the psychopath .. the malignant tumor Pig Putin
Baltics Poised for Obama Visit amid High Anxiety over Russia
by Naharnet Newsdesk
02 September 2014, 22:22
From Tallinn to Warsaw, Russian moves in Ukraine are sparking grave concern across a region deeply scarred by war and decades of Soviet occupation on the eve of a landmark visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.
"I'm very worried mainly because every time it seems like it can't get any worse, it does," says Helen Sildna, 35, a music festival impresario in Estonia's capital Tallinn where Obama will touch down Wednesday en route to a NATO summit in Wales.
"European leaders just keep on expressing their 'grave concern', nothing more. They don't do what needs to be done to change the situation," she told Agence France-Presse.
Estonia's Prime Minsiter Taavi Roivas say Russia's intervention in Ukraine has fundamentally altered Europe's security and that the West must respond with a long-term strategy.
"This isn't just a period of bad weather, it's climate change. So our reaction has to be long-term," he told the Financial Times.
More than 100 prominent Baltic figures, including former leaders of Estonia Arnold Ruutel and Lithuania's Vytautas Landsbergis, on Monday urged "a permanent presence of allied troops" in the Baltic states in an open letter to Obama.
Their call echoes similar ones by leaders from across the region for permanent NATO or U.S. boots on the ground, a move they hope will materialize at the Wales summit.
"Russia's overt neo-imperialism cannot but make us fear that we are potential objects of its expansionist dreams," the joint letter said, urging Obama to take an "emphatically unambiguous stand ... defending the vision of a free Europe."
Analysts, however, admit that expectations about what Obama can deliver in Tallinn in terms of regional security must be tempered by the fact that the real deals will be cut at the two-day NATO summit starting Thursday.
"The Estonian wish list, insofar as one exists, will have to defer to an obvious need not to rock the boat in the run-up to Cardiff," Ahto Lobjakas, an analyst at Estonian Foreign Policy Institute told AFP.
On the street, the language is more blunt.
In Latvia's capital Riga, Janis Jansons, 47, does not mince his words as he goes about his shopping: "The malignant tumor Pig Putin's a thug. We need to stand up to him, or where will it end? If he succeeds in Ukraine, he would look here next. You can bet on it."
The Baltic nation broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 after nearly five decades of occupation and joined the EU and NATO in 2004, along with fellow Balts Lithuania and Estonia.
"Being in NATO does make a difference. If we weren't, he would probably be here already. I have seen American troops in the street here and it made me feel good. I wish there were more of them."
Anxiety is also fueled by the presence of large Russian-speaking minorities which represent more than a quarter of the population in Estonia and Latvia, respectively 1.3 and two million.
"At first I thought he was right to re-claim Crimea but now I don't. Ukraine was Russia's friend and brother. Is it worth losing a good friend over a small piece of land?" ethnic-Russian Latvian Anna Slavinskaya, 52, told AFP.
Enn Toom, a retired Estonian mathematician and psychologist, frets over what he terms Moscow's "dark propaganda" against Ukraine and cynicism in the West.
He points to an ethnic-Russian Estonian "who under the influence of Russian propaganda went to rescue his Ukrainian brothers from the 'fascist Kiev Junta'. After having seen the reality he returned home a few weeks later."
"Also I'm worried about the toothless hypocrisy and greed of the so-called western countries. For example the sale of sophisticated military technology to the aggressor," said the 75-year-old, referring to a lucrative deal by France to sell hi-tech Mistral warships to Russia.
Meanwhile, young Lithuanians like manager Vytautas Budreika, 25, have taken to social media to raise funds for humanitarian aide for Ukraine.
"Six years ago I was confident Russia posed no threat. But after its 2008 action against Georgia and now Ukraine, I believe Russia is dangerous ... and I'm very much afraid," he told AFP.
Anxiety is less palpable in Poland, but its war-torn past weighs heavily on the Polish psyche.
"Resorting to armed force against neighbors, annexing their territory, preventing them from freely choosing their international ties, conjures up the darkest chapters of European history," Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said Monday at ceremonies marking 75 years since an attack by Nazi Germany on Poland set off World War II.
"I'm very concerned about what is happening between Russia and Ukraine. To be honest, I avoid the news because it sends shivers down my spine," Polish pensioner Barbara Rybeczko-Tarnowiecka told AFP.