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    THERE ARE SOME good reasons to believe Russians had something to do with the breaches into email accounts belonging to members of the Democratic party, which proved varyingly embarrassing or disruptive for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But “good” doesn’t necessarily mean good enough to indict Russia’s head of state for sabotaging our democracy.

    There’s a lot of evidence from the attack on the table, mostly detailing how the hack was perpetrated, and possibly the language of the perpetrators. It certainly remains plausible that Russians hacked the DNC, and remains possible that Russia itself ordered it. But the refrain of Russian attribution has been repeated so regularly and so emphatically that it’s become easy to forget that no one has ever truly proven the claim. There is strong evidence indicating that Democratic email accounts were breached via phishing messages, and that specific malware was spread across DNC computers. There’s even evidence that the attackers are the same group that’s been spotted attacking other targets in the past. But again: No one has actually proven that group is the Russian government (or works for it). This remains the enormous inductive leap that’s not been reckoned with, and Americans deserve better.

    We should also bear in mind that private security firm CrowdStrike’s frequently cited findings of Russian responsibility were essentially paid for by the DNC, which contracted its services in June. It’s highly unusual for evidence of a crime to be assembled on the victim’s dime. If we’re going to blame the Russian government for disrupting our presidential election — easily construed as an act of war — we need to be damn sure of every single shred of evidence. Guesswork and assumption could be disastrous.

    The gist of the Case Against Russia goes like this: The person or people who infiltrated the DNC’s email system and the account of John Podesta left behind clues of varying technical specificity indicating they have some connection to Russia, or at least speak Russian. Guccifer 2.0, the entity that originally distributed hacked materials from the Democratic party, is a deeply suspicious figure who has made statements and decisions that indicate some Russian connection. The website DCLeaks, which began publishing a great number of DNC emails, has some apparent ties to Guccifer and possibly Russia. And then there’s WikiLeaks, which after a long, sad slide into paranoia, conspiracy theorizing, and general internet toxicity has made no attempt to mask its affection for Vladimir Putin and its crazed contempt for Hillary Clinton. (Julian Assange has been stuck indoors for a very, very long time.) If you look at all of this and sort of squint, it looks quite strong indeed, an insurmountable heap of circumstantial evidence too great in volume to dismiss as just circumstantial or mere coincidence.

    But look more closely at the above and you can’t help but notice all of the qualifying words: Possibly, appears, connects, indicates. It’s impossible (or at least dishonest) to present the evidence for Russian responsibility for hacking the Democrats without using language like this. The question, then, is this: Do we want to make major foreign policy decisions with a belligerent nuclear power based on suggestions alone, no matter how strong?

    What We Know

    So far, all of the evidence pointing to Russia’s involvement in the Democratic hacks (DNC, DCCC, Podesta, et al.) comes from either private security firms (like CrowdStrike or FireEye) who sell cyber-defense services to other companies, or independent researchers, some with university affiliations and serious credentials, and some who are basically just Guys on Twitter. Although some of these private firms groups had proprietary access to DNC computers or files from them, much of the evidence has been drawn from publicly available data like the hacked emails and documents.

    Some of the malware found on DNC computers is believed to be the same as that used by two hacking groups believed to be Russian intelligence units, codenamed APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) 28/Fancy Bear and APT 29/Cozy Bear by industry researchers who track them.

    The attacker or attackers registered a deliberately misspelled domain name used for email phishing attacks against DNC employees, connected to an IP address associated with APT 28/Fancy Bear.
    Malware found on the DNC computers was programmed to communicate with an IP address associated with APT 28/Fancy Bear.
    Metadata in a file leaked by “Guccifer 2.0″ shows it was modified by a user called, in cyrillic, “Felix Edmundovich,” a reference to the founder of a Soviet-era secret police force. Another document contained cyrillic metadata indicating it had been edited on a document with Russian language settings.
    Peculiarities in a conversation with “Guccifer 2.0″ that Motherboard published in June suggests he is not Romanian, as he originally claimed.
    The DCLeaks.com domain was registered by a person using the same email service as the person who registered a misspelled domain used to send phishing emails to DNC employees.
    Some of the phishing emails were sent using Yandex, a Moscow-based webmail provider.
    A bit.ly link believed to have been used by APT 28/Fancy Bear in the past was also used against Podesta.
    Why That Isn’t Enough

    Viewed as a whole, the above evidence looks strong, and maybe even damning. But view each piece on its own, and it’s hard to feel impressed.

    For one, a lot of the so-called evidence above is no such thing. CrowdStrike, whose claims of Russian responsibility are perhaps most influential throughout the media, says APT 28/Fancy Bear “is known for its technique of registering domains that closely resemble domains of legitimate organizations they plan to target.” But this isn’t a Russian technique any more than using a computer is a Russian technique — misspelled domains are a cornerstone of phishing attacks all over the world. Is Yandex — the Russian equivalent of Google — some sort of giveaway? Anyone who claimed a hacker must be a CIA agent because they used a Gmail account would be laughed off the internet. We must also acknowledge that just because Guccifer 2.0 pretended to be Romanian, we can’t conclude he works for the Russian government — it just makes him a liar.

    Next, consider the fact that CrowdStrike describes APT 28 and 29 like this:

    Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of “living-off-the-land” techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities including deliberate targeting and “access management” tradecraft — both groups were constantly going back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels and perform other tasks to try to stay ahead of being detected.

    Compare that description to CrowdStrike’s claim it was able to finger APT 28 and 29, described above as digital spies par excellence, because they were so incredibly sloppy. Would a group whose “tradecraft is superb” with “operational security second to none” really leave behind the name of a Soviet spy chief imprinted on a document it sent to American journalists? Would these groups really be dumb enough to leave cyrillic comments on these documents? Would these groups that “constantly [go] back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels” get caught because they precisely didn’t make sure not to use IP addresses they’d been associated before? It’s very hard to buy the argument that the Democrats were hacked by one of the most sophisticated, diabolical foreign intelligence services in history, and that we know this because they screwed up over and over again.

    But how do we even know these oddly named groups are Russian? CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch himself describes APT 28 as a “Russian-based threat actor” whose modus operandi “closely mirrors the strategic interests of the Russian government” and “may indicate affiliation [Russia’s] Main Intelligence Department or GRU, Russia’s premier military intelligence service.” Security firm SecureWorks issued a report blaming Russia with “moderate confidence.” What constitutes moderate confidence? SecureWorks said it adopted the “grading system published by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence to indicate confidence in their assessments. … Moderate confidence generally means that the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.” All of this amounts to a very educated guess, at best.

    Even the claim that APT 28/Fancy Bear itself is a group working for the Kremlin is speculative, a fact that’s been completely erased from this year’s discourse. In its 2014 reveal of the group, the high-profile security firm FireEye couldn’t even blame Russia without a question mark in the headline: “APT28: A Window into Russia’s Cyber Espionage Operations?” The blog post itself is remarkably similar to arguments about the DNC hack: technical but still largely speculative, presenting evidence the company “[believes] indicate a government sponsor based in Moscow.” Believe! Indicate! We should know already this is no smoking gun. FireEye’s argument that the malware used by APT 28 is connected to the Russian government is based on the belief that its “developers are Russian language speakers operating during business hours that are consistent with the time zone of Russia’s major cities.”

    As security researcher Jeffrey Carr pointed out in June, FireEye’s 2014 report on APT 28 is questionable from the start:

    To my surprise, the report’s authors declared that they deliberately excluded evidence that didn’t support their judgment that the Russian government was responsible for APT28’s activities:

    “APT28 has targeted a variety of organizations that fall outside of the three themes we highlighted above. However, we are not profiling all of APT28’s targets with the same detail because they are not particularly indicative of a specific sponsor’s interests.” (emphasis added)

    That is the very definition of confirmation bias. Had FireEye published a detailed picture of APT28’s activities including all of their known targets, other theories regarding this group could have emerged; for example, that the malware developers and the operators of that malware were not the same or even necessarily affiliated.

    The notion that APT 28 has a narrow focus on American political targets is undermined in another SecureWorks paper, which shows that the hackers have a wide variety of interests: 10 percent of their targets are NGOs, 22 percent are journalists, 4 percent are aerospace researchers, and 8 percent are “government supply chain.” SecureWorks says that only 8 percent of APT 28/Fancy Bear’s targets are “government personnel” of any nationality — hardly the focused agenda described by CrowdStrike.

    Truly, the argument that “Guccifer 2.0″ is a Kremlin agent or that GRU breached John Podesta’s email only works if you presume that APT 28/Fancy Bear is a unit of the Russian government, a fact that has never been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. According to Carr, “it’s an old assumption going back years to when any attack against a non-financial target was attributed to a state actor.” Without that premise, all we can truly conclude is that some email accounts at the DNC et al. appear to have been broken into by someone, and perhaps they speak Russian. Left ignored is the mammoth difference between Russians and Russia.

    Security researcher Claudio Guarnieri put it this way:

    [Private security firms] can’t produce anything conclusive. What they produce is speculative attribution that is pretty common to make in the threat research field. I do that same speculative attribution myself, but it is just circumstantial. At the very best it can only prove that the actor that perpetrated the attack is very likely located in Russia. As for government involvement, it can only speculate that it is plausible because of context and political motivations, as well as technical connections with previous (or following attacks) that appear to be perpetrated by the same group and that corroborate the analysis that it is a Russian state-sponsored actor (for example, hacking of institutions of other countries Russia has some geopolitical interests in).

    Finally, one can’t be reminded enough that all of this evidence comes from private companies with a direct financial interest in making the internet seem as scary as possible, just as Lysol depends on making you believe your kitchen is crawling with E. Coli.

    What Does the Government Know?

    In October, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a joint statement blaming the Russian government for hacking the DNC. In it, they state their attribution plainly:

    The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.

    What’s missing is any evidence at all. If this federal confidence is based on evidence that’s being withheld from the public for any reason, that’s one thing — secrecy is their game. But if the U.S. Intelligence Community is asking the American electorate to believe them, to accept as true their claim that our most important civic institution was compromised by a longtime geopolitical nemesis, we need them to show us why.

    The same goes for the CIA, which is now squaring off directly against Trump, claiming (through leaks to the Washington Post and New York Times) that the Russian government conducted the hacks for the express purpose of helping defeat Clinton. Days later, Senator John McCain agreed with the assessment, deeming it “another form of warfare.” Again, it’s completely possible (and probable, really) that the CIA possesses hard evidence that could establish Russian attribution — it’s their job to have such evidence, and often to keep it secret.

    But what we’re presented with isn’t just the idea that these hacks happened, and that someone is responsible, and, well, I guess it’s just a shame. Our lawmakers and intelligence agencies are asking us to react to an attack that is almost military in nature — this is, we’re being told, “warfare.” When a foreign government conducts (or supports) an act of warfare against another country, it’s entirely possible that there will be an equal response. What we’re looking at now is the distinct possibility that the United States will consider military retaliation (digital or otherwise) against Russia, based on nothing but private sector consultants and secret intelligence agency notes. If you care about the country enough to be angry at the prospect of election-meddling, you should be terrified of the prospect of military tensions with Russia based on hidden evidence. You need not look too far back in recent history to find an example of when wrongly blaming a foreign government for sponsoring an attack on the U.S. has tremendously backfired.

    We Need the Real Evidence, Right Now

    It must be stated plainly: The U.S. intelligence community must make its evidence against Russia public if they want us to believe their claims. The integrity of our presidential elections is vital to the country’s survival; blind trust in the CIA is not. A governmental disclosure like this is also not entirely without precedent: In 2014, the Department of Justice produced a 56-page indictment detailing their exact evidence against a team of Chinese hackers working for the People’s Liberation Army, accused of stealing American trade secrets; each member was accused by name. The 2014 trade secret theft was a crime of much lower magnitude than election meddling, but what the DOJ furnished is what we should demand today from our country’s spies.

    If the CIA does show its hand, we should demand to see the evidence that matters (which, according to Edward Snowden, the government probably has, if it exists). I asked Jeffrey Carr what he would consider undeniable evidence of Russian governmental involvement: “Captured communications between a Russian government employee and the hackers,” adding that attribution “should solely be handled by government agencies because they have the legal authorization to do what it takes to get hard evidence.”

    Claudio Guarnieri concurred:

    All in all, technical circumstantial attribution is acceptable only so far as it is to explain an attack. It most definitely isn’t for the political repercussions that we’re observing now. For that, only documental evidence that is verifiable or intercepts of Russian officials would be convincing enough, I suspect.

    Given that the U.S. routinely attempts to intercept the communications of heads of state around the world, it’s not impossible that the CIA or the NSA has exactly this kind of proof. Granted, these intelligence agencies will be loath to reveal any evidence that could compromise the method they used to gather it. But in times of extraordinary risk, with two enormous military powers placed in direct conflict over national sovereignty, we need an extraordinary disclosure. The stakes are simply too high to take anyone’s word for it.

    Sam Biddle
    December 14 2016, 5:30 p.m.

    Find this story at 14 December 2016

    Copyright https://theintercept.com/

    Exclusive: Congress probing U.S. spy agencies’ possible lapses on Russia

    Senior U.S. lawmakers have begun probing possible intelligence lapses over Moscow’s intervention in Syria, concerned that American spy agencies were slow to grasp the scope and intention of Russia’s dramatic military offensive there, U.S. congressional sources and other officials told Reuters.

    A week after Russia plunged directly into Syria’s civil war by launching a campaign of air strikes, the intelligence committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives want to examine the extent to which the spy community overlooked or misjudged critical warning signs, the sources said.

    Findings of major blind spots would mark the latest of several U.S. intelligence misses in recent years, including Moscow’s surprise takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region last year and China’s rapid expansion of island-building activities in the South China Sea.

    Though spy agencies have sought to ramp up intelligence gathering on Russia since the crisis over Ukraine, they continue to struggle with inadequate resources because of the emphasis on counter-terrorism in the Middle East and the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, according to current and former U.S. officials.

    A senior administration official, who also asked not to be identified, insisted that there were “no surprises” and that policymakers were “comfortable” with the intelligence they received in the lead-up to the Russian offensive.

    Spy agencies had carefully tracked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s build-up of military assets and personnel in Syria in recent weeks, prompting White House criticism and demands for Moscow to explain itself.

    But intelligence officers – and the U.S. administration they serve – were caught mostly off-guard by the speed and aggressiveness of Putin’s use of air power as well as a Russian target list that included U.S.-backed rebels, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    “They saw some of this going on but didn’t appreciate the magnitude,” one of the sources told Reuters.

    Russia’s sudden move to ramp up its military involvement in the Syria crisis has thrown Obama’s Middle East strategy into doubt and laid bare an erosion of U.S. influence in the region.

    A shortage of reliable information and analysis could further hamper President Barack Obama’s efforts to craft a response on Syria to regain the initiative from Washington’s former Cold War foe.


    It is unclear how his administration could have reacted differently with better intelligence, though advance word of Putin’s attack plans might have allowed U.S. officials to warn the moderate Syrian opposition that they could end up in Russia’s line of fire.

    Obama, who is reluctant to see America drawn deeper into another Middle East conflict, has shown no desire to directly confront Russia over its Syria offensive – something Moscow may have taken as a green light to escalate its operations.

    Syrian troops and militia backed by Russian warplanes mounted what appeared to be their first major coordinated assault on Syrian insurgents on Wednesday and Moscow said its warships fired a barrage of missiles at them from the Caspian Sea, a sign of its new military reach.

    Russia’s military build-up now includes a growing naval presence, long-range rockets and a battalion of troops backed by Moscow’s most modern tanks, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said.

    The U.S. administration believes it now has a better understanding at least of Putin’s main motive – to do whatever it takes to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But Washington remains uncertain exactly how much further Putin is willing to go in terms of deployment of advanced military assets, the U.S. officials said.

    The lack of clarity stems in part from the limited ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to discern what Putin and a tightly knit circle of advisers are thinking and planning.

    In a tense meeting with Putin at the United Nations early last week, Obama was not given any advance notice of Russia’s attack plans, aides said. Russian air strikes began two days later, including the targeting of CIA-trained “moderate” anti-Assad rebels, though Moscow insisted it only hit Islamic State insurgents.

    “They did not expect the speed with which Putin ramped things up,” said Michael McFaul, Obama’s former ambassador to Moscow. “He likes the element of surprise.”

    U.S. intelligence agencies did closely follow and report to policymakers Russian moves to sharply expand infrastructure at its key air base in Latakia as well as the deployment of heavy equipment, including combat aircraft, to Syria, officials said.

    “We’re not mind readers,” the senior administration official said. “We didn’t know when Russia would fly the first sortie, but our analysis of the capabilities that were there was that they were there for a reason.”

    However, several other officials said U.S. agencies were behind the curve in assessing how far the Russians intended to go and how quickly they intended to launch operations.

    In fact, right up until a White House briefing given shortly after the bombing began, Obama press secretary Josh Earnest declined to draw “firm conclusions” on Russia’s strategy.


    One source suggested that U.S. experts initially thought the Russian build-up might have been more for a military “snap exercise” or a temporary show of force than preparations for sustained, large-scale attacks on Assad’s enemies.

    Another official said that after initial review, congressional oversight investigators believe that “information on this was not moving quickly enough through channels” to policymakers.

    And another source said there had been a “lag of a week” before agencies began voicing full-throated alarm about imminent Russian military operations.

    The senior administration official said, however, that “I don’t think anybody here perceived a gap” in intelligence.

    In their reviews of how U.S. intelligence handled the Syria build-up, officials said congressional intelligence committees would examine reports issued by the agencies and question officers involved in the process, according to congressional and national security sources. At the moment, no public hearings are planned, the officials said.

    Though the senior administration official denied the intelligence community was paying any less attention to Syria, John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said that not enough intelligence assets had been devoted to analyzing Putin’s “aggressive policies”.

    McFaul, who took the view that the Obama administration had been largely on top of the situation as Putin prepared his offensive, said that a faster or more precise intelligence assessment would probably have done little to change the outcome.

    “What difference would it make if we had known 48 hours ahead of time?” asked McFaul, who now teaches at Stanford University in California. “There still wouldn’t have been any better options for deterring Putin in Syria.”

    (Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Roberta Rampton, Writing by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Stuart Grudgings)

    Politics | Thu Oct 8, 2015 8:03am EDT Related:

    Find this story at 8 October 2015

    Copyright Thomson Reuters

    German spy charged with treason for aiding CIA and Russia

    Prosecutors have charged a German spy with treason, breach of official secrecy and taking bribes for allegedly providing secret documents to both the CIA and Russia’s intelligence agency. Prosecutors say Thursday Aug. 20, 2015, the 32-year-old man,handled mail and classified documents for Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND. ( Stephan Jansen/dpa via AP)
    BERLIN (AP) — A German spy who allegedly acted as a double agent for the United States and Russia has been charged with treason, breach of official secrecy and taking bribes, Germany’s federal prosecutors’ office said Thursday.

    The 32-year-old, identified only as Markus R. due to privacy rules, is accused of offering his services to the CIA in early 2008 while working for Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND. Documents he gave the U.S. spy agency would have revealed details of the BND’s work and personnel abroad, officials said.

    “In doing so the accused caused serious danger to Germany’s external security,” prosecutors said in a statement. “In return the accused received sums amounting to at least 95,000 euros ($104,900) from the CIA.”

    Shortly before his arrest in July 2014, Markus R. also offered to work for Russian intelligence and provided them with three documents, again harming Germany’s national security, prosecutors said.

    The discovery that the CIA had allegedly been spying on its German counterpart caused anger in Berlin, adding to diplomatic tension between Germany and the United States over reports about U.S. surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

    Following the arrest, the German government demanded the removal of the CIA station chief in Berlin.

    Prosecutors said Markus R. would have had access to sensitive documents because his job involved handling mail and classified documents for the BND’s foreign operations department.

    German weekly Der Spiegel reported that the 218 documents Markus R. allegedly passed to the CIA included a list of all BND agents abroad, a summary of an eavesdropped phone call between former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as a draft counter-espionage strategy. A spokeswoman for the federal prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the report.

    If convicted, Markus R. could face between one and 15 years in prison.

    Associated Press By FRANK JORDANS
    August 20, 2015 11:07 AM

    Find this story at 20 August 2015
    Copyright http://news.yahoo.com/

    KGB spy shares details of his escape to Britain in 1985

    Oleg GordievskyA Soviet double spy, who secretly defected to Britain 30 years ago this month, has revealed for the first time the details of his exfiltration by British intelligence in 1985. Oleg Gordievsky was one of the highest Soviet intelligence defectors to the West in the closing stages of the Cold War. He joined the Soviet KGB in 1963, eventually reaching the rank of colonel. But in the 1960s, while serving in the Soviet embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, Gordievsky began feeling disillusioned about the Soviet system. His doubts were reinforced by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. It was soon afterwards that he made the decision to contact British intelligence.
    Cautiously, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (known as MI6) communicated with Gordievsky, and in 1974 he secretly became an agent-in-place for the United Kingdom. Eight years later, in 1982, Gordievsky was promoted to KGB rezident (chief of station) in London. While there, he frequently made contact with his MI6 handlers, giving them highly coveted information on Soviet nuclear strategy, among other things. He is credited with informing London of Mikhail Gorbachev’s imminent ascendency to the premiership of the Soviet Union, long before he was seen by Western intelligence as a viable candidate to lead the country.
    But in May of 1985, Gordievsky was suddenly recalled to Moscow, where he was detained by the KGB. He was promptly taken to a KGB safe house in the outskirts of Moscow and interrogated for five hours, before being temporarily released pending further questioning. Remarkably, however, Gordievsky managed to escape his KGB surveillance and reappear in Britain less than a week later. How did this happen? On Sunday, the former double spy gave a rare rare interview to The Times, in which he revealed for the first time the details of his escape to London. He told The Times’ Ben Macintyre that he was smuggled out of the USSR by MI6 as part of Operation PIMLICO. PIMLICO was an emergency exfiltration operation that had been put in place by MI6 long before Gordievsky requested its activation in May of 1985.
    Every Tuesday, shortly after 7:00, a British MI6 officer would take a morning stroll at the Kutuzovsky Prospekt in Moscow. He would pass outside a designated bakery at exactly 7:24 a.m. local time. If he saw Gordievsky standing outside the bakery holding a grocery bag, it meant that the double agent was requesting to be exfiltrated as a matter of urgency. Gordievsky would then have to wait outside the bakery until a second MI6 officer appeared, carrying a bag from the Harrods luxury department store in London. The man would also be carrying a Mars bar (a popular British candy bar) and would bite into it while passing right in front of Gordievsky. That would be a message to him that his request to be exfiltrated had been received.
    Four days later, Gordievsky used his skills in evading surveillance and shook off (or dry-cleaned, in espionage tradecraft lingo) the KGB officers trailing him. He was then picked up by MI6 officers and smuggled out of the country in the trunk of a British diplomatic car that drove to the Finnish border. Gordievsky told The Times that Soviet customs officers stopped the car at the Finnish border and surrounded it with sniffer dogs. At that moment, a British diplomat’s wife, who was aware that Gordievsky was hiding in the car, came out of the vehicle and proceeded to change her baby’s diaper on the trunk, thus safeguarding Gordievsky’s hiding place and masking his scent with her baby’s used diaper. If it hadn’t been for the diplomat’s wife, Gordievsky told The Times that he might have been caught.
    After crossing the Soviet-Finnish border, Gordievsky traveled to Norway and from there he boarded a plane for England. Soviet authorities promptly sentenced him to death, but allowed his wife and children to join him in Britain six years later, after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally lobbied the Soviet government. Gordievsky’s death penalty still stands in Russia. In 2007, the Queen made Gordievsky a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George for services rendered to the security of the British state.


    Find this story at 6 July 2015

    Copyright intelnews.org

    Top KGB defector begged Margaret Thatcher to secure release of his family

    Oleg Gordievsky told the prime minister that without his wife and young daughters his “life has no meaning”, papers released by the National Archives show

    Oleg Gordievsky, the most prominent Soviet agent to defect to Britain during the Cold War, personally pleaded with Margaret Thatcher to help secure the release of his family from Moscow.
    The KGB colonel told the prime minister that without his wife and young daughters, who were prevented from following him to London, his “life has no meaning”.
    Files released by the National Archives reveal that MI6 secretly sought to broker a deal with the Russians to secure the safe passage of his family. When the offer was rejected, Mrs Thatcher insisted on expelling every KGB agent in Britain.
    Mr Gordievsky, who was one of the most important spies during the Cold War, provided Britain with reports on Soviet operations for more than a decade.
    When he issued his appeal to Mrs Thatcher in 1985, she responded personally in an emotive note on Sept 7 1985 urging him to have hope.
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    Tony Benn, a KGB spy? No, he was far too dangerous for us 26 Dec 2014
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    “Our anxiety for your family remains and we shall not forget them,” she said. “Having children of my own, I know the kind of thoughts and feelings which are going through your mind each and every day. But just as your concern is about them, so their concern will be for your safety and well-being.
    “Please do not say that life has no meaning. There is always hope. And we shall do all to help you through these difficult days.”
    Mrs Thatcher went on to suggest that the pair should meet when the “immediate situation” – the public announcement of Mr Gordievsky’s defection to Britain – had passed.
    Her personal involvement was greeted with extreme gratitude by Christopher Curwen, the MI6 chief who had arranged Mr Gordievsky’s extraction from Moscow.
    Curwen said: “The reassurance that his family would not be forgotten provided the help and support which he most needs at this difficult time.”
    Her comments “greatly assisted” MI6’s dealings with Mr Gordievsky at a “very dificult time,” he added.
    Mr Gordievsky arrived in London as a result of an emergency extraction sanctioned by Mrs Thatcher in the summer of 1985. Originally recruited in 1974, Mr Gordievsky became Britain’s star source inside the KGB after being posted to the Soviet secret service’s London bureau.
    However, on May 17 1985, having just been promised the job of head of station in London, he was suddenly summoned back to Moscow and subsequently accused of being a spy. He eventually escaped to London with the help of MI6, who smuggled him across the border into Finland, after giving his KBG minders the slip.
    When she formally announced Mr Gordievsky’s defection Mrs Thatcher said she hoped that “on humanitarian grounds” the Soviet authorities would agree to his request for his family to join him in London.
    However it was another six years before he was reunited with his wife Leila and children. His elder daughter Mariya was 11 on her arrival in London in 1991, and his second child Anna was 10.
    The National Archives files show that the prime minister took a close interest in Mr Gordievsky’s well-being, asking his handlers “whether he has some sort of companion to talk to and confide in at what is obviously a very difficult time for him.”

    By Edward Malnick7:00AM GMT 30 Dec 2014

    Find this story at 30 December 2014

    © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2015

    Inside Toronto’s secret Cold War History

    In the 50s and 60s, Soviet and American spies waged a secret war of espionage across the city of Toronto.

    At the height of the Cold War, Toronto was the site of an elaborate game of espionage played between the U.S and the Soviet Union, declassified CIA documents show.
    The records provide new details about how the CIA and the KGB spied on the city’s growing community of eastern European immigrants.
    And those details came as a surprise to at least one Toronto target who learned she was the subject of the CIA investigations.
    “I’m amazed. I’m absolutely in shock,” says Ukrainian-born Natalie Bundza, 78, who worked as a travel agent at an agency on Bloor St. when the CIA first began to monitor her travels.
    Because of her line of work, Bundza was used to being singled out by Soviet authorities. But when the Star showed her the declassified CIA file bearing her name, Bundza was stunned. The depth and breadth of the information that had been collected on her was startling.
    In one of Bundza’s trips to Ukraine in the late ’60s, the CIA had amassed enough intelligence to describe everything from the people she met with overseas to the content of her suitcase, even going as far as to mention the art books she had packed.
    “Took many books to Ukraine: several copies of Archipenko’s monograph Hnizdovsky monograph, poetry collections of the New York group, a Bible for Ivan Mykolaychuk,” the file reads.
    As a young travel agent in her early 30s, Bundza, who now lives in a bungalow in Etobicoke, would often accompany performance groups and tourists across the Iron Curtain and to the Soviet Union. She believes her job and her friends in the art world made her an attractive target for CIA spies.
    Mykolaychuk, an actor, and her other friends, she says, were part of what she calls the “Ukrainian intelligentsia.”
    They included famous sculptor Ivan Honchar, poet Ivan Drach, and prominent political activist Dmytro Pavlychko — names which were all dutifully noted by the CIA spy.
    “I was constantly followed (by the Soviets). They just knew my background. They knew I was a patriot, that I wasn’t a communist,” she says.
    She kept abreast of news from her home country, and she wasn’t afraid to take risks. In her early 30s, Bundza was “all guts, no brains,” she remembers. “I would have knocked on the president’s door if I had to.”
    “We were great tourist guides. We took no BS from (the Soviets),” she says.
    During one of her organized trips, she noticed that a Soviet customs official had been eyeing the stack of Bibles she carried with her. And so, without prompting, Bundza handed him a copy.
    Still, as far as Bundza remembers, she never divulged the minutiae of her travels to anyone — let alone an American spy. How, then, was the CIA able to monitor her travels?
    In Toronto, many served as the agency’s eyes and ears.
    “This was a period of time when the United States did not know nearly as much about the Soviet Union, whether it be its intentions or its capabilities,” said Richard Immerman, a Cold War historian at Temple University in Philadelphia. For the CIA, the goal was to “put different pieces (together) in the hope that one pattern would emerge.”
    Eyewitness accounts were deemed especially important by American intelligence officials.
    At the time, it was not uncommon for those venturing beyond the Iron Curtain to spy on behalf of the CIA, says Immerman. “Our aerial surveillance was limited (so) in many cases, those who did travel to the Soviet Union willingly co-operated with the CIA to provide information — whatever information,” he says. “These could be tourists. These could be businessmen. This was not a time when thousands of people from the West would travel to the Soviet Union.”
    But for the CIA, Toronto was also rife with potential enemies. In a 1959 declassified file, an American spy describes how 18 Canadians, 11 of whom lived in Toronto, were suspected of working for the KGB. According to the CIA agent, the Canadians had secretly travelled to the Soviet Union and received special training, only to return years later as undercover KGB operatives.
    Other suspected KGB spies, such as Ivan Kolaska, had apparently immigrated to Toronto as part of a bold Soviet plan to infiltrate Ukrainian communities overseas. Kolaska, along with other alleged KGB operatives, one of whom lived a double life as a Toronto City Hall employee, regularly met with Soviet diplomats in Toronto, the files say.
    In one of those meetings with Soviet embassy staff, the files say, Kolaska revealed the identities of dozens of Ukrainian students who had held a secret meeting in Kyiv. They were later arrested by Soviet authorities, according to the files.
    In many of the declassified documents, the CIA’s informants are named. Bundza’s file contains no such information, leaving only one clue as to the identity of the mysterious spy: Bundza’s full name.
    There is no mention of a “Natalie Bundza” in the file. Her name is listed as “Natalka” instead.
    Only another Ukrainian, she says, would have known her as “Natalka.”
    “It must have been someone from the community here.”

    By: Laurent Bastien Corbeil Staff Reporter, Published on Thu Jul 02 2015

    Find this story at 2 July 2015

    © Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. 1996-2015

    The Spy Among Us

    Jack Barsky held a job at some of the top corporations in the U.S. and lived a seemingly normal life — all while spying for the Soviet Union

    The following is a script from “The Spy Among Us” which aired on May 10, 2015. Steve Kroft is the correspondent. Draggan Mihailovich, producer.

    Tonight, we’re going to tell you a story you’ve probably never heard before because only a few people outside the FBI know anything about it. It’s a spy story unlike any other and if you think your life is complicated, wait till you hear about Jack Barsky’s, who led three of them simultaneously. One as a husband and father, two as a computer programmer and administrator at some top American corporations and three as a KGB agent spying on America during the last decade of the Cold War.

    The FBI did finally apprehend him in Pennsylvania but it was long after the Soviet Union had crumbled. What makes Jack Barsky’s story even more remarkable is he’s never spent a night in jail, the Russians declared him dead a long time ago, he’s living a quiet life in upstate New York and has worked in important and sensitive jobs. He’s now free to tell his story…as honestly as a former spy ever can.

    Jack Barsky CBS NEWS
    Steve Kroft: So who are you?
    Jack Barsky: Who am I? That depends when the question is asked. Right now, I’m Jack Barsky. I work in the United States. I’m a U.S. citizen. But it wasn’t always the case.

    Steve Kroft: How many different identities do you have?

    Jack Barsky: I have two main identities. A German one, and an American one.

    “Who am I? That depends when the question is asked. Right now, I’m Jack Barsky. I work in the United States. I’m a U.S. citizen. But it wasn’t always the case.”
    Steve Kroft: What’s your real name?

    Jack Barsky: My real name is Jack Barsky.

    Steve Kroft: And what name were you born with?

    Jack Barsky: Albrecht Dittrich. Say that three times real fast.

    Steve Kroft: Just say it once slowly…(laughs)

    Jack Barsky: Albrecht Dittrich.

    How Albrecht Dittrich became Jack Barsky is one of the untold stories of the Cold War, an era when the real battles were often fought between the CIA and the KGB. Barsky was a rarity, a Soviet spy who posed as an American and became enmeshed in American society. For the 10 years he was operational for the KGB, no one in this country knew his real story, not even his family.

    Steve Kroft: Did you think you were going to get away with this?

    Jack Barsky: Yeah, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it (laughs).

    Young Jack Barsky
    What Barsky did can be traced back to East Germany, back to the days when he was Albrecht Dittrich. A national scholar at a renowned university in Jena, Dittrich was on the fast track to becoming a chemistry professor, his dream job.
    Jack Barsky: Didn’t work out that way, because I was recruited by the KGB to do something a little more adventurous.

    Steve Kroft: Spy?

    Jack Barsky: We called it something different. We used a euphemism. I was going to be a “scout for peace.”

    Steve Kroft: A KGB “scout for peace”?

    Jack Barsky: That is correct. The communist spies were the good guys. And the capitalist spies were the evil ones. So we didn’t use the word spy.

    He says his spying career began with a knock on his dorm room door one Saturday afternoon in 1970. A man introduced himself, claiming to be from a prominent optics company.

    Jack Barsky: He wanted to talk with me about my career, which was highly unusual. I immediately, there was a flash in my head that said, “That’s Stasi.”

    Steve Kroft: East German secret police?

    Jack Barsky: East German secret police, yeah.

    It was a Stasi agent. He invited Dittrich to this restaurant in Jena where a Russian KGB agent showed up and took over the conversation. The KGB liked Dittrich’s potential because he was smart, his father was a member of the Communist party and he didn’t have any relatives in the West. Dittrich liked the attention and the notion he might get to help the Soviets.

    Steve Kroft: And what did you think of America?

    Jack Barsky: It was the enemy. And, the reason that the Americans did so well was because they exploited all the third-world countries. That’s what we were taught, and that’s what we believed. We didn’t know any better. I grew up in an area where you could not receive West German television. It was called the “Valley of the Clueless.”

    For the next couple of years, the KGB put Dittrich through elaborate tests and then in 1973 he was summoned to East Berlin, to this former Soviet military compound. The KGB, he says, wanted him to go undercover.

    Jack Barsky: At that point, I had passed all the tests, so they wanted, they made me an offer.

    Steve Kroft: But you had been thinking about it all along, hadn’t you?

    Jack Barsky: That’s true. With one counterweight in that you didn’t really know what was going to come. Is– how do you test drive becoming another person?

    It was a difficult decision, but he agreed to join the KGB and eventually found himself in Moscow, undergoing intensive training.

    Jack Barsky: A very large part of the training was operational work. Determination as to whether you’re being under surveillance. Morse code, short wave radio reception. I also learned how to do microdots. A microdot is, you know, you take a picture and make it so small with the use of microscope that you can put it under a postage stamp.

    The Soviets were looking to send someone to the U.S. who could pose as an American. Dittrich showed a command of English and no trace of an East German accent that might give him away. He learned a hundred new English words every day.

    Jack Barsky: It took me forever. I did probably a full year of phonetics training. The difference between “hot” and “hut.” Right? That, that’s very difficult and, and most Germans don’t get that one.

    Steve Kroft: Did you want to go to the United States?

    Jack Barsky: Oh yeah. Sure. There was New York, there was San Francisco, you know, we heard about these places.

    Steve Kroft: Your horizons were expanding…

    Jack Barsky: Oh, absolutely. Now I’m really in the big league, right?

    Dittrich needed an American identity. And one day a diplomat out of the Soviet embassy in Washington came across this tombstone just outside of D.C. with the name of a 10-year-old boy who had died in 1955. The name was Jack Philip Barsky.

    Jack Barsky: And they said, “Guess what? We have a birth certificate. We’re going to the U.S.”

    Steve Kroft: And that was the Jack Barsky birth certificate.

    Jack Barsky: The Jack Barsky birth certificate that somebody had obtained and I was given. I didn’t have to get this myself.

    Steve Kroft: Did you feel strange walking around with this identity of a child?

    Jack Barsky: No. No. When you do this kind of work, some things you don’t think about. Because if you explore, you may find something you don’t like.

    The newly minted Jack Barsky landed in New York City in the fall of 1978, with a phony back story called a legend and a fake Canadian passport that he quickly discarded. The KGB’s plan for him was fairly straightforward. They wanted the 29-year-old East German to get a real U.S. passport with his new name, then become a businessman, then insert himself into the upper echelons of American society and then to get close to National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski so that he could spy on him.

    Jack Barsky: That was the plan. It failed.

    Steve Kroft: Why?

    Jack Barsky: Because I was not given very good instructions with regard to how to apply for a passport.

    When he went to apply for a passport at Rockefeller Center, Barsky was thrown off by the list of questions.

    Jack Barsky: Specific details about my past, for which I had no proof. So I walked out of it.

    Steve Kroft: Did the KGB have a pretty good grasp on the United States and how things worked there?

    Jack Barsky: No.

    Steve Kroft: No?

    Jack Barsky: Absolutely not. They made a number of mistakes in terms of giving me advice, what to do, what not to do. They just didn’t know.

    Left to fend for himself in a country the KGB didn’t understand, he got himself a cheap apartment and tried to make do with a birth certificate and $6,000 dollars in cash the Soviets had given him. His spying career at that point more resembled the bumbling Boris Badenov than James Bond…

    Steve Kroft: So you were working as a bike messenger?

    Jack Barsky: Right.

    Steve Kroft: That doesn’t sound like a promising position for a spy.

    Jack Barsky: No. But there were a lot of things that I didn’t know…

    Steve Kroft: So how close did you ever get to Brzezinski?

    Jack Barsky: Not very.

    To get a Social Security card, which he would need if he wanted a real job, Barsky knew he would have to do some acting.

    Jack Barsky: It was unusual for a 30-plus-year-old person to, to say, “You know, I don’t have a Social Security card. Give me one.” So in order to make my story stick I made my face dirty. So I looked like somebody who just came off a farm. It worked! The lady asked me, she said, “So how come you don’t, you don’t have a card?” And when the answer was, “I didn’t need one.” “Why?” “Well, I worked on a farm.” And that was the end of the interview.

    The Social Security card enabled him to enroll at Baruch College in Manhattan, where he majored in computer systems. He was class valedictorian but you won’t find a picture of him in the school yearbook. In 1984, he was hired as a programmer by Metropolitan Life Insurance where he had access to the personal information of millions of Americans.

    Steve Kroft: You were writing computer code?

    Jack Barsky: Right. Yes. Lots of it. And I was really good at it.

    What he didn’t write, he stole, on behalf of the KGB.

    Steve Kroft: What was the most valuable piece of information you gave them?

    Jack Barsky: I would say that was the computer code because it was a very prominent piece of industrial software still in use today.

    Steve Kroft: This was IBM code?

    Jack Barsky: No comment.

    Steve Kroft: You don’t want to say?

    Jack Barsky: No. It was good stuff. Let’s put it this way, yeah.

    Steve Kroft: It was helpful to the Soviet Union…

    Jack Barsky: It would’ve been helpful to the Soviet Union and their running organizations and, and factories and so forth.

    Steve Kroft: How often did you communicate with the Russians?

    Jack Barsky: I would get a radiogram once a week.

    Steve Kroft: A radiogram, meaning?

    Jack Barsky: A radiogram means a transmission that was on a certain frequency at a certain time.

    Every Thursday night at 9:15 Barsky would tune into his shortwave radio at his apartment in Queens and listen for a transmission he believed came from Cuba.

    Jack Barsky: All the messages were encrypted that they became digits. And the digits would be sent over as, in groups of five. And sometimes that took a good hour to just write it all down, and then another three hours to decipher.

    During the 10 years he worked for the KGB, Barsky had a ready-made cover story.

    Steve Kroft: When somebody’d ask you, you know, “Where you from Jack?,” what’d you say?

    Jack Barsky: I’m originally from New Jersey. I was born in Orange. That’s it. American. Nobody ever questioned that. People would question my, “You have an accent.” But my comeback was, “Yeah, my mother was German and we spoke a lot of German at home.”

    Steve Kroft: You had to tell a lot of lies.

    Jack Barsky: Absolutely. I was living a lie.

    Steve Kroft: Were you a good liar?

    Jack Barsky: The best.

    You had to be a good liar to juggle the multiple lives he was leading. Every two years while he was undercover for the KGB, Barsky would return to East Germany and Moscow for debriefings. During one of his visits to East Berlin he married his old girlfriend Gerlinde and they had a son.

    Steve Kroft: Did that complicate matters?

    Jack Barsky: Initially it wasn’t complicated at all, it got complicated later.

    Steve Kroft: Because?

    Jack Barsky: Because I got married in the United States to somebody else.

    Steve Kroft: Did she know about your other wife in Germany?

    Jack Barsky: No.

    Steve Kroft: Did your wife in Germany know about the…

    Jack Barsky: Not at all.

    Steve Kroft: So you had two wives?

    Jack Barsky: I did. I’m, I was officially a bigamist. That’s, that’s the one thing I am so totally not proud of.

    Steve Kroft: Being a spy was all right. Being a bigamist…

    Jack Barsky: In hindsight, you know, I was a spy for the wrong people. But I, this one hurt because I had promised my German wife, that you know, we would be together forever. And I broke that promise. And the one way I can explain it to myself is I had separated the German, the Dittrich from the Barsky to the point where the two just didn’t know about each other.

    Not only did he have two different identities, and two wives, he had a son named Matthias in Germany and a daughter named Chelsea in America. And by November 1988, a radiogram from the KGB would force him to make an excruciating choice.

    Jack Barsky: I received a radiogram that essentially said, “You need to come home. Your cover may soon be broken and you’re in danger of being arrested by the American authorities.”

    Barsky was given urgent instructions from the KGB to locate an oil can that had been dropped next to a fallen tree just off this path on New York’s Staten Island. A fake passport and cash that he needed to escape the United States and return to East Germany would be concealed inside the can.

    Jack Barsky: I was supposed to pick up the container and go on, leave. Not even go back home to the apartment, just disappear. The container wasn’t there. I don’t know what I would have done if I had found it, but I know what I did when I didn’t find it. I did not tell them, “repeat the operation.” I made the decision to stay.

    Steve Kroft: Why?

    Jack Barsky: Because of Chelsea.

    Steve Kroft: Your daughter.

    Jack Barsky: Yes. If Chelsea’s not in the mix, that’s a no brainer, I’m outta here.

    Barsky had chosen Chelsea over Matthias.

    Jack Barsky: I had bonded with her. It was a tough one because on the one hand I had a wife and child in Germany but if I don’t take care of Chelsea, she grows up in poverty.

    Steve Kroft: This may be a little harsh but it sounds like the first time in your life that you thought about somebody besides yourself.

    Jack Barsky: You’re absolutely right. I was quite an egomaniac. I was.

    Jack Barsky was still left with the not insignificant matter of telling the KGB that he was staying in America. In a moment, we’ll tell you how he duped the KGB and how the FBI changed his life.

    At the end of 1988, Jack Barsky’s 10-year run as a clandestine KGB agent in the United States was about to come to an end. He had ignored Soviet warnings that his cover had been blown and decided to remain in America and not return to his native East Germany. He was taking a chance that no one in America would ever find out who he really was. And he was taking a bigger chance that the KGB wouldn’t retaliate for disobeying an order. The urgency with which the Soviets seemed to view the situation became clear one morning in Queens.

    Jack Barsky says he was on his way to work in December 1988, standing and waiting for an “A” train on this subway platform when a stranger paid him a visit.

    Jack Barsky: There’s this character in, in a black coat and he sidles up to me and he whispers in my ear, he says, “You gotta come home or else you’re dead.” And then he walked out.

    Steve Kroft: Russian accent?

    Jack Barsky: Yes.

    Steve Kroft: That’s an incentive.

    Jack Barsky: It’s an incentive to go.

    Steve Kroft: I mean spies get killed all the time.

    Jack Barsky: They do. But not me. The entire time I always had this childlike belief that everything would be all right.

    “There’s this character in, in a black coat and he sidles up to me and he whispers in my ear, he says, ‘You gotta come home or else you’re dead.’ And then he walked out.”
    Steve Kroft: So what are you going to tell the Russians?

    Jack Barsky: Well, I (sighs) I sent them, this “Dear John” letter, the goodbye letter in which I stated that I had contracted AIDS and that the only way for me to get a treatment would be in the United States.

    Steve Kroft: You just wrote them a letter and said, ‘I can’t come back. I’ve got AIDS”?

    Jack Barsky: There’s three things I tell people that the Russians were afraid of. AIDS, Jewish people and Ronald Reagan. And they were deathly…

    Steve Kroft: In that order?

    Jack Barsky: I think Ronald Reagan took the top spot. They thought he would push the button.

    The AIDS letter apparently worked because in East Berlin the Soviets told his German wife Gerlinde he wasn’t coming back.

    Jack Barsky: They went to Gerlinde and told her that I had died of AIDS. So I think they just wrote me off completely.

    Steve Kroft: You were officially dead in East Germany?

    Jack Barsky: Right. After five years she was able to declare me dead.

    Once the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union fell apart, Barsky was a man without a country. No one would want him back. He felt his secret was safe in America. He became a family guy, with a wife, two kids, Chelsea and Jessie, and a job. He burrowed himself into suburbia, keeping a low profile.

    Jack Barsky: I was settling down, I was living in the, in rural Pennsylvania at the time, in a nice house, with two children. I was, like, typical middle class existence.

    And his life would have stayed quiet if a KGB archivist named Vasili Mitrokhin hadn’t defected to the West in 1992 with a trove of notes on the Soviets’ spying operations around the world. Buried deep in his papers was the last name of a secret agent the KGB had deployed somewhere in America: Barsky.

    Joe Reilly: We were concerned that he might be running an agent operating in the federal government somewhere. Who knows? In the FBI, the CIA, the State Department. We had no idea.

    Joe Reilly was an FBI agent when the bureau got the Mitrokhin tip, and the Barsky case quickly became serious enough that FBI director Louis Freeh got personally involved. The FBI didn’t know who or where he was, but the best lead seemed to be a Jack Barsky who was working as an I.T. specialist in New Jersey, with a suburban home across the border in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania.

    Steve Kroft: Aside from his name was there anything else that made you suspicious and make you think that this was the guy you were looking for?

    Joe Reilly: Yes. One thing was the fact that he had applied for a Social Security number late in life. Especially someone like him who was educated and intelligent.

    The FBI began following Barsky, and when this surveillance photo caught him talking to a native of Cuba, the bureau grew increasingly concerned.

    Joe Barsky: There were some indications that I could possibly be the head of a international spy ring, because I had a friend who was originally from Cuba. And it so happened that this friend owned an apartment that was rented to a Soviet diplomat. So that one and raised all kinds of flags and they investigated me very, very, very carefully.

    FBI agent Joe Reilly went so far as to set up an observation post on a hillside behind Barsky’s house. This is a picture he took of his view.

    Joe Reilly: I got a telescope and binoculars, as if I was a birdwatcher. But I was looking at his backyard and at him. Over time, I learned a great deal about him.

    Steve Kroft: Like what?

    Joe Reilly: …just watching him. Well, I became convinced that he loved his children. And that was important because I wanted to know if he would flee. There was less chance of that if, if he was devoted to his children. And he was.

    But that wasn’t enough for the FBI. The bureau bought the house next door to get a closer look at the Barskys.

    Steve Kroft: Did you get a good deal?

    Joe Reilly: I think we paid what he was asking. And we had agents living there so that we could be sure who was coming and going from his house without being too obvious in our surveillance.

    Steve Kroft: You had no idea the FBI was living next door to you?

    Jack Barsky: No.

    Steve Kroft: Never saw…

    Jack Barsky: No.

    Steve Kroft: …Joe Reilly up on the hill with the binoculars?

    Jack Barsky: Absolutely not.

    When the FBI finally got authorization from the Justice Department to bug Barsky’s home, the case broke wide open.

    Joe Reilly: Within, I’d say, the first two weeks that we had microphones in his house, he had an argument with his wife in the kitchen. And during the course of that dispute, he readily admitted that he was an agent, operating from the Soviet Union.

    It was all the FBI needed to move in on Barsky. They set a trap for him at a toll bridge across the Delaware River as he drove home from work late one Friday afternoon in May of 1997.

    Jack Barsky: I’m being waved to the side by a state trooper. And he said, “We’re doing a routine traffic check. Would you please get out of the car?” I get out of the car and somebody steps up from, from behind and shows me a badge. And he said, “FBI. We would like to talk to you.”

    Joe Reilly: His face just dropped. And we told him that he had to go with us.

    Jack Barsky: The first words out of my mouth were, “Am I under arrest?” And the answer was, “No.” Now that took a big weight off of me, so I figured there was a chance to get out of this in one piece. And the next question I asked, “So what took you so long?”

    The FBI had rented an entire wing of a motel off Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania for Barsky’s interrogation.

    Joe Reilly: But on the way to the motel, I remember turning to him. And I, I told him that this didn’t have to be the worst day of his life. And he immediately realized that he had an out.

    Jack Barsky: I said to them, “Listen, I know I have only one shot out of this and that means I need to come clean and be 100 percent honest and tell you everything I know.”

    The FBI questioned Barsky throughout the weekend and gave him a polygraph test that he passed. Convinced that his spying days were over, and that his friendship with the Cuban was just that, the FBI decided to keep the whole thing quiet and allowed Barsky to go back to work on Monday morning.

    Steve Kroft: Was he charged with something?

    Joe Reilly: No.

    Steve Kroft: Even though he confessed to being a Soviet spy?

    Joe Reilly: Yes.

    Steve Kroft: That seems odd.

    Joe Reilly: Well, we wanted him to cooperate with us. We didn’t want to put him in jail. He was no use to us there.

    Barsky continued to meet not only with the FBI but with the National Security Agency to offer his first-hand insights into the KGB and the Russians.

    Jack Barsky: I was able to provide them with a lot of valuable information how the KGB operated.

    The only people who were aware of his secret were the FBI and Penelope, his wife in America, who subsequently filed for divorce. His daughter Chelsea, then a teenager, knew only that he wanted to tell her something when she turned 18. That day finally arrived on a four-hour drive to St. Francis University.

    Chelsea: He started chuckling to himself and he said, “Well, I’m a, I was a spy. I was a KGB spy.” I was like “What? Really?”

    Jack also revealed to Chelsea why he had decided to stay in America.

    Chelsea: He said that, you know, he fell in love with me and my, my curls when I was a little baby. And then I cried.

    Steve Kroft: Did he tell you everything?

    Chelsea: No, he didn’t. He didn’t tell me 100 percent the whole truth. He left some things out at that point.

    Jack Barsky: I told her everything that you can tell in four hours that is age appropriate. She was still a teenager. I may not have told her that I was married in Germany.

    He waited another two years before he matter-of-factly dropped another bombshell about his past.

    Chelsea: He just looked straight ahead at the TV. And he said, “Did I tell you you have a brother?” And I turned my head. I’m like, “What? Are you serious?”

    The half brother was Matthias, the boy Jack had left behind in Germany. Chelsea was determined to find him. Jack didn’t like the idea.

    Jack Barsky: I did not feel comfortable getting in touch with him. I did not feel comfortable with my acknowledging my German past.

    After a year of trying to track him down online, Chelsea finally got a reply from Matthias…

    Chelsea: The subject line said, “Dear little sister.” And when I saw, “Dear little sister,” I just started weeping, because that meant everything to me. That meant that he accepted me.

    Matthias: And this is me…

    A month later, Matthias was in Pennsylvania visiting Chelsea and her brother Jessie. They hit it off. Matthias wasn’t interested in seeing his father, then changed his mind.

    Barsky’s children, from left: Jessie, Matthias and Chelsea
    Steve Kroft: Was it awkward?
    Jack Barsky: I just remember he stared at me for a couple of minutes. He just stared at me.

    Steve Kroft: I mean he had reason to be angry with you.

    Jack Barsky: When I told him the dilemma that I was faced with, he actually said, “I understand.”

    Steve Kroft: And what’s your relationship like with Matthias now?

    Jack Barsky: He feels like he’s my son.

    Gerlinde, the wife in Germany who thought he was dead, wants nothing to do with Jack today – or with 60 Minutes.

    He has remarried and has a four-year-old daughter. They live in upstate New York where Jack has worked as director of software development for a company that manages New York’s high voltage power grid, a critical piece of U.S. infrastructure. When he told his employer recently that he had once been a KGB spy, he was placed on a paid leave of absence. Before becoming an American citizen last year, he had been given a clean bill of health by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies. But in the world of espionage it’s often difficult to tell what’s true and what’s legend.

    Steve Kroft: Are you telling the truth right now?

    Jack Barsky: I am, absolutely. The truth as far as I know it. Yes.

    Steve Kroft: As far as you know it?

    Jack Barsky: Well, you know, sometimes memory fails you. But I am, I am absolutely not holding back anything.

    Steve Kroft: Why tell the story now?

    Jack Barsky: I want to meet my maker clean. I need to get clean with the past. I need to digest this fully.

    The FBI agent who apprehended him, Joe Reilly, still believes in Barsky. And in yet another twist to this story, the two are good friends and golfing buddies.

    Joe Reilly: He’s a very honest person. And if you want to find out how honest someone is, play golf with them.

    Steve Kroft: But you’re a former FBI guy and he’s a former spy. What’s the bond?

    Joe Reilly: It’s personal. He credits me for keeping him out of prison.

    After nearly 30 years, Jack Barsky went back to visit a unified Germany, first in October, then again last month.

    [Jack Barsky: So that was essentially the very beginning of my career…]

    He showed his kids where this improbable tale began and some other key settings in his odyssey. And he caught up with old classmates who knew him as Albrecht Dittrich.

    Barsky in Germany with his American children CBS NEWS
    Steve Kroft: When you’re here in Germany…
    Jack Barsky: Yeah…

    Steve Kroft: …are you Albrecht or are you Jack?

    Jack Barsky: No, I’m Jack. I am 100 percent Jack. You know, the, I let the Albrecht out and sometimes he interferes, but they, they get along very well now (laughs)…

    The Berlin wall, which once divided east and west, is now gone except for a section that has been turned into an art display. Checkpoint Charlie, once the epicenter of the Cold War, is now a tourist attraction, full of kitsch. Statues of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels still stand in the eastern part of Berlin, relics of another era as is the man who straddled two worlds and got away with it.

    2015 May 10 CORRESPONDENT Steve Kroft

    Find this story at 10 May 2015

    © 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

    Huurlingen voor Oekraïne

    De onafhankelijke republiek Oekraïne heeft, na een revolutie die zijn pro-Russische president verjoeg, nu in het oosten van zijn grondgebied een conflict met burgers van Russische afkomst waarbij aan beide zijden huursoldaten worden ingezet.

    Begin dit jaar hield de Russische bevolking van het schiereiland Krim een referendum dat door de regering van Oekraïne niet werd erkend, maar wel door de regering van Rusland. Het referendum resulteerde in de onafhankelijkheid en daarna de aansluiting van het gebied bij Rusland. Dit zeer tegen de wens van de autochtone bewoners van het schiereiland, de Krim-Tataren en de regering in Kiev.

    Korte tijd later kwamen inwoners van steden in het oosten van het land in opstand tegen het regime in Kiev. Men wilde zich afscheiden om zich vervolgens aan te kunnen sluiten bij Rusland. Op het Maidanplein in Kiev vond op 20 februari 2014 een slachting onder pro-Westerse burgers plaats. Wie daarvoor verantwoordelijk was, maakt deel uit van de propagandaoorlog die gaande is in Oekraïne.

    In de stad Odessa kwam het tot bloedvergieten tussen soldaten van onbekende herkomst en pro-Russische burgers waarbij veel slachtoffers vielen. Wat de situatie nog meer verward, is een oproep van Oekraïense Krim-Tataren die meevechten in de Syrische opstand. Eén van hun leiders riep op tot een Jihad, een heilige oorlog, tegen de Russen in de Oekraïne. Pro-Russische Tartaren aan de andere kant lijken het te hebben gemunt op de Tartaarse minderheid op het schiereiland.

    Mengt Rusland zich in het conflict?

    In het Westen wordt geroepen dat Rusland de rebellen zou steunen. Die steun was op de Krim duidelijk, daar waren echter ook Russische troepen gelegerd. In het Oosten van Oekraïne is de situatie veel onduidelijker. Wat wel duidelijk is geworden, is dat er Russen meevechten met de Pro-Russische separatisten. Sommige hebben zich ook opgeworpen als commandant of bestuurder van de onafhankelijke Donetsk People’s Republic en de Luhansk People’s Republic. Dat onder deze vrijwilligers Russische militairen meevechten, is waarschijnlijk. Maar dat zegt nog niets over een officiële Russische ondersteuning van de opstand in het Oosten van Rusland.

    Ditzelfde geldt voor de inzet van militair materieel van de Russen. Russische militairen die sympathiseren met de separatisten zullen materieel hebben meegenomen zodra ze daartoe in staat zijn geweest. De Russische grensbewakers zullen daarbij een oogje hebben dichtgeknepen, maar van structurele en grootschalige Russische ondersteuning lijkt vooralsnog geen sprake. De separatisten hebben ook nog een enkele militaire bases en politiebureaus overvallen waarbij wapens zijn buitgemaakt, het merendeel van Russische makelij.

    Van onomstotelijk bewijs voor directe Russische ondersteuning van de separatisten in Oost-Oekraïne lijkt echter geen sprake. Wel zijn er veel huurlingen in het gebied actief. Over de aanwezigheid van Tsjetsjeense strijders van het ‘leger’ van de leider van Tsjetsjenië, Ramzan Kadyrov, is door verschillende bronnen bericht. Zij zouden deel uitmaken van het Vostok Bataljon. Er zouden ook Ossetiërs, Oezbeken, Servische Chetniks en vrijwilligers van andere nationaliteiten meevechten met de Pro-Russen. Ook Oekraïners, zowel burgers als militairen, maken deel uit van de separatisten.

    Aan de kant van de regeringsgetrouwe Oekraïense troepen ligt de zaak zo mogelijk nog iets gecompliceerder. De Russen hebben meermaals het Westen ervan beschuldigd zich in het conflict te hebben gemengd. Begin juni werden deze beschuldigingen concreter en riep de Russische overheid de VS op haar huurlingen van private bedrijven terug te trekken. In maart doken de eerste berichten over Amerikaanse huurlingen aan Oekraïense zijde op. De pro-Russische krant Russia Today sprak van 300 tot 400 huurlingen, afkomstig van het particuliere bedrijf Academi (voorheen Xe Services en Blackwater). De huurlingen zouden zijn ingezet door de Oekraïense regering om demonstranten in het zuidoosten van het land te bestrijden.


    Het private Academi, dat taken van het Amerikaanse leger uitvoert, ontkende de beschuldigingen en beschuldigde op haar beurt een ‘onverantwoordelijke blogger’ en een ‘internetjournalist’ ervan de geruchten te hebben verspreid. Het bedrijf stelde op 17 maart dit jaar dat haar medewerkers niet actief zijn in Oekraïne. Waarom het bedrijf in haar persbericht het woord ‘onverantwoordelijk’ gebruikt, is onduidelijk. Het persbericht, inmiddels van hun website verwijderd, belicht vooral de reputatie van Academi en haar geschiedenis met namen als Blackwater, Xe Services en Erik Prince.

    Nadat de storm was geluwd, vroeg Rusland begin april nog opheldering over de aanwezigheid van Amerikaanse huurlingen, maar ook daarop kwam geen antwoord. De meeste media besteedden er geen aandacht aan. Pas toen de Duitse krant Bild am Sonntag begin mei berichtte dat 300 of 400 huurlingen van het bedrijf Academi meevochten tegen de separatisten, explodeerde de Duitse media. Van Der Spiegel tot de Aachener Nachrichten namen het bericht over. Dit had te maken met de claim van Bild dat de Duitse Bondskanselier Angela Merkel door de Bundes Nachrichten Dienst (BND), de Duitse inlichtingendienst, op de hoogte was gesteld van het feit dat 400 Amerikaanse huursoldaten meevochten. Volgens Bild am Sonntag was die informatie aan de BND ter beschikking gesteld door de Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst NSA.

    Opnieuw reageerde Academi met de verwijzing naar onverantwoordelijke media en dat het bedrijf niet aanwezig zou zijn in Oekraïne. Vervolgens ging het persbericht vooral over de namen Academi en Blackwater, die van Erik Prince en Xe Services komen niet langer voor. Ditmaal voelde het Witte Huis zich geroepen de aanwezigheid van de Amerikaanse huurlingen te ontkennen, waarbij de woordvoerder van de US National Security Council naar de website van Academi verwees. De Duitse krant Südwest Presse haalde op 22 mei een leverancier en bekende van Blackwater-baas Eric Prince aan die anoniem wenste te blijven. Volgens deze bron zouden er wel degelijk Amerikaanse huurlingen betrokken zijn bij talrijke vuurgevechten met pro-Russische separatisten.

    De beschuldigingen ten aanzien van de aanwezigheid van Amerikaanse huurlingen, maar ook helikopters van het Amerikaanse leger, volgen elkander in rap tempo op. De Russen herhaalden hun klacht in juni en augustus van dit jaar. Naast Academi, zouden ook Greystone Limited, onderdeel van Academi, en Cubic Applications International, actief zijn in Oekraïne. Zowel de Russische legercommandant Valeri Guerassimov als de onderminister van Buitenlandse Zaken Ryabkov, spreken van tientallen Amerikaanse huurlingen die mee zouden vechten met het Oekraïense leger, en westerse beveiligingsbedrijven die paramilitaire taken uitvoeren in Oekraïne.


    In het weekend van 12 en 13 april is de CIA-directeur John Brennan op een missie in Kiev geweest. Brennan kwam op het moment dat verschillende Oekraïense soldaten hun wapens overdroegen aan de pro-Russische rebellen. Het verhaal deed de ronde dat de Russen een geheime operatie uitvoerden in het gebied en het Oekraïense leger af bluften. Duidelijk was wel dat Kiev aan de verliezende hand was. De precieze strekking van de conversaties van de CIA-baas met de Oekraïners is niet duidelijk, maar Forbes magazine duidde de Amerikaanse hulp als ‘non-lethal help’. Gezien de intensieve relatie tussen Amerika en Oekraïne zal de CIA bepaalde informatie met het Oekraïense leger delen, zeker over de positie van Russische eenheden, maar ook over de separatisten.

    De slechte moraal van het Oekraïense leger en de bluf van de Russen zullen zeker hebben geleid tot een groot aantal verliezen. Verschillende militaire helikopters en vliegtuigen zijn door de rebellen uit de lucht geschoten in mei en juni van dit jaar. Op 19 mei beweerde de separatistische burgemeester van de Oost-Oekraïense stad Slavyansk dat de rebellen van de opstandige steden in het oosten 650 Oekraïense militairen zouden hebben gedood, verwond of gevangen hebben genomen. Onder hen 70 buitenlanders, zoals 13 CIA-operators en 14 medewerkers van Greystone, terwijl diverse medewerkers van de CIA en private bedrijven gewond zouden zijn geraakt.

    Deze beweringen en cijfers van verliezen aan de Oekraïense, maar ook aan de Pro-Russische zijde, zijn moeilijk te verifiëren. Wel is duidelijk dat het Oekraïense leger in eerste instantie op verschillende plaatsen in het oosten van het land zware verliezen heeft geleden. Na de aanslag op vlucht MH17 werden de Pro-Russische rebellen teruggedrongen en rukte het Oekraïense leger op. Of er buitenlanders zijn omgekomen aan beide zijden van het slagveld is nog onduidelijker.

    Brennan’s bezoek aan Kiev en het langzaam terugkerende vertrouwen bij het Oekraïense leger, duiden erop dat er ‘adviseurs’ aan het werk zijn. Het is dan ook niet gek dat de Russische wapenexpert Andrey Klintsevitsj in de Glavnoye Weekly News van 18 juni stelt dat er Amerikaanse specialisten aanwezig zijn in het conflictgebied om het Oekraïense leger te coördineren. Natuurlijk kan alles worden gezien in het licht van de Russische propaganda, maar dit geldt evenzeer voor de Amerikaanse ontkenningen over de aanwezigheid van Amerikaanse huurlingen.

    Ook de directeur van het Russische Instituut voor Strategische Studies, Leonid Resketnikov, beweert dat er Westerse troepen actief zijn. Hij stelt dat er Amerikaanse en Poolse sluipschutters worden ingezet in Donetsk. Ook Igor Strelkov (Igor Girkin), de minister van Defensie van de Donetsk People’s Republic, vertelde op een persbijeenkomst in juli dat een pro-Kiev checkpoint tussen Ilovaisk en Amvrosiyevka wordt bemand door Poolse huurlingen. Volgens hem droegen de soldaten kleding met emblemen van het Poolse leger.

    De Poolse regering ontkent de beschuldigingen, maar de voormalige baas van de Tsjechische militaire inlichtingendienst stelde in juni dat hij zich kon voorstellen dat er huurlingen aan het strijden zijn in Oekraïne. Hoewel hij geen informatie had over Tsjechische huurlingen in het land, vertelde hij over Tsjechen in Irak die waren gesneuveld en dat het niet de eerste keer zou zijn dat er huurlingen meevechten in een conflict binnen Europa of elders in de wereld.

    Het bewijs voor de aanwezigheid van Amerikaanse, Poolse of Tsjechische huurlingen is vooralsnog bepaald niet overtuigend. Er is een vage film op Youtube te zien van een gevangen genomen man die roept dat hij ‘US-citizen’ is. Ook andere nationaliteiten zouden meevechten.

    Volgens de Israëlische krant The Times of Israel vochten op het moment dat de regering in Kiev omvergeworpen werd door de huidige machthebbers – verschillende voormalige Israëlische militairen van Oekraïense afkomst die naar hun thuisland waren teruggekeerd – mee tegen het oude regime van Janoekovitsj. Een van hen zou Delta heten en het commando hebben over een eenheid van veertig mannen en vrouwen. Delta zou al in februari rond het protest op het Maidanplein actief zijn geweest.

    De foto van Delta maakt echter duidelijk hoe moeilijk de bewijslast is voor de aanwezigheid van huurlingen aan beide zijden van het slagveld. De meeste militairen dragen een bivakmuts en militaire uniformen lijken gemakkelijk uitwisselbaar. Tenzij mensen zelf aangeven dat zij meedoen aan de strijd in Oekraïne of huurlingen organiseren voor het slagveld, blijft het speculeren.


    In deze gepolariseerde oorlog waarbij de feiten vaak moeilijk te checken zijn en bronnen al evenmin, vinden regelmatig gebeurtenissen plaats die slechts binnen een van de ‘kampen’ wordt gerapporteerd. Zoals het bericht van Anonymous Ukraine, een website die in maart beweerde enkele e-mails te hebben onderschept van een Amerikaanse militair attaché in Kiev en een Oekraïense commandant die met elkaar communiceren. Daaruit blijkt dat de VS met hulp van Special Forces aanvallen zouden willen uitvoeren onder valse vlag op doelen in Oekraïne met de bedoeling de Russen hiervan de schuld te geven.

    De gehackte mails zijn niet verder onderzocht, maar Anonymous Ukraine zegt zich in te willen zetten om de wereld te tonen dat volgens hen de fascisten de macht hebben overgenomen in Oekraïne. De groep hackte daartoe eind februari allerlei Poolse websites en plaatste een ‘nazi-alert’ op de voorpagina’s. Hiermee doelt Anonymous Ukraine op extreem-rechtse partijen in het bestuur van het land. Svoboda en de SNA zijn na de ‘Maidan revolutie’ toegetreden tot de regering en Svoboda heeft de controle over ongeveer een kwart van de ministeries volgens Foreign Policy. Svoboda leverde de minister van Defensie, de vice-premier, de openbare aanklager en de vice-voorzitter van de nieuwe regering.

    De ‘revolutionaire’ regering in Kiev wordt door zijn tegenstanders, vooral de Russen, daarom ‘Bandera Nazi’s’ genoemd. Stepan Bandera was een Oekraïense nationalist die aan het einde van de Tweede Wereldoorlog vocht tegen Polen, de nazi’s en het Rode Leger. Bandera bleef tot in de jaren ’50 met zijn nationalistische rebellenbeweging militair actief. Vervolgens werd hij door een KGB-agent in München vermoord. Bandera werd in het westen van Oekraïne gezien als een held, terwijl het in het door Russen gedomineerde oosten van het land juist andersom was.

    Op 5 juli publiceerde de internetsite Antiwar.com een artikel genaamd The war on truth waarin wordt beweerd dat de protesten in het begin van dit jaar tegen president Janoekovitsj dubieus waren. Tijdens de zogeheten ‘Euromaidan-protesten’ werd een bloedbad aangericht waarbij zowel politiemensen als demonstranten zijn gedood. Uit nader onderzoek van de Oekraïense autoriteiten zou volgens de auteur zijn gebleken dat de slachtoffers aan beide zijden zijn gevallen door kogels afkomstig uit dezelfde vuurwapens.

    Ook het Duitse tv-programma Monitor van 10 april plaatste vraagtekens bij de ‘officiële’ versie van de gebeurtenissen op 20 februari 2014. Was het wel zo zeker dat de speciale eenheid Berkut verantwoordelijk is geweest voor het bloedbad en de vlucht van voormalig president Janoekovitsj? Het programma schetst een beeld van een onderzoek naar een bloedbad waarvan de conclusie bij voorbaat al vaststaat. Het leidt tot onduidelijkheid bij de slachtoffers en nabestaanden, terwijl een officier van justitie van de extreem-rechtse Svoboda duidelijk niet geïnteresseerd is in waarheidsvinding.

    ‘Maidan’ en de gevlucht Janoekovitsj vormen een keerpunt in de Oekraïense ‘revolutie’. De interim-regering die vervolgens werd gevormd, werd door zowel de VS als de EU snel erkend. De ‘ware’ toedracht op het Maidanplein en de opkomst van Svoboda is voor geen enkele Westers regime reden geweest om vragen te stellen over de legitimiteit van het huidige gezag in Oekraïne.

    Geld maakt macht

    Na ‘Maidan’ volgden de ontwikkelingen zich snel op. Eerst was er de strijd om de Krim en vervolgens Oost-Oekraïne. Het conflict in Oost-Oekraïne is echter van een ander kaliber dan de onafhankelijkheid van de Krim. Dat heeft niet alleen met de aanwezigheid van de Russische vloot te maken in de Zwarte Zee. Oost-Oekraïne is niet alleen bevolkt met merendeel etnische Russen, het is tevens het welvarende deel van het land met de aanwezigheid van grondstoffen en industrie. Zo zullen er bij het zenden van troepen naar het Zuid-Oosten van het land om de opstand neer te slaan naast nationalistische motieven ook economische motieven ten grondslag hebben gelegen.

    De gouverneur van de regio Dnepropretovsk, de oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, is één van de rijkste personen van het land. Hij heeft belangen in het geïndustrialiseerde oosten, waar tevens vele mijnen aanwezig zijn. Kolomoisky werd op 15 mei door de krant Russia Today genoemd als opdrachtgever van de massamoord in Odessa, waarbij tientallen pro-Russische betogers werden aangevallen en vermoord. De Britse krant The Independent gaf begin mei al aan dat Kolomoisky een geldbedrag had ingezet op elke gevangen genomen Russische ‘agent’.

    Kolomoisky is ook één van de financiers – sommigen zeggen samen met de VS – van een bijzondere legereenheid die onder bevel staat van het ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken. Op 15 juni noemde de Russische minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Lavrov in The Voice of Russia Kolomoisky hem als financier van dit speciale bataljon. Volgens een artikel dat op 1 juni verscheen op de website van het Canadese Global Research is ook de VS financier van deze eenheid, genaamd het Azov Bataljon. Wie de eenheid financiert, lijkt minder belangrijk dan de samenstelling van de groep.

    Azov bataljon

    De Fransman Gaston Besson, die eerder vocht als vrijwilliger in Birma, Laos, Suriname, Kroatië en Bosnië, was in juni en juli ter plaatse en fungeerde als contactpersoon voor geïnteresseerde vrijwilligers. Volgens Besson zijn er al Zweden, Italianen, Finnen en Tsjechen in de eenheid opgenomen. Hoewel de Tsjechische regering in een artikel begin juni in de Prague Post ontkent dat zijn onderdanen meevechten, wezen de opstandelingen al eerder op het feit dat er Polen en Tsjechen in het Azov Bataljon streden.

    Global Research openbaarde op 28 mei dat Poolse contractors en Oekraïense rechts-extremisten in Polen zijn opgeleid om burgerprotesten neer te slaan. Dat er Italianen en Zweden aanwezig zijn, blijkt uit diverse artikelen van Al-Jazeera over de aanwezigheid van Italiaanse en Zweedse fascisten. Ook werd bekend dat de neo-nazi Francesco Saverio Fontana in dienst gekomen is van de eenheid. Op 22 juli publiceerde Gaston Besson een krantenartikel op zijn Facebook-pagina waaruit blijkt dat een Zweedse neo-nazi in dienst van het Azov Bataljon gevangen genomen was door de separatisten. Het ging hier om Mikael Skillt, die de functie vervulde van sluipschutter.

    Het Azov Bataljon rekruteert actief buitenlandse vrijwilligers die moeten gaan dienen naast een substantiële hoeveelheid Oekraïense Russen die curieus genoeg al in de eenheid aanwezig zijn. Naast het Azov Bataljon zijn er nog enige andere bataljons die op soortgelijke manier georganiseerd zijn; de Dniepr en Donbass Bataljons. Op 20 juni verklaarde Lavrov in de Russia and CIS Military Weekly dat Azov een sleutelrol heeft vervuld bij de aanval op de Russische ambassade in Kiev medio juni.

    Social Nationalist Assembly

    Het Azov Bataljon is georganiseerd door de extreem-rechtse politieke partij Social Nationalist Assembly (SNA) die een wolfsangel gebruikt als embleem. Deze partij maakt deel uit van een coalitie van extreem-rechtse groepen, waar ook kozakken en de politieke straatbende White Hammer deel van uitmaken. Het geheel werd bekend onder de naam Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector). Het Azov Bataljon zelf heeft ook als embleem een omgekeerde wolfsangel, die erg veel lijkt op het embleem van de Waffen-SS divisie Das Reich, met op de achtergrond een ander nazi-teken, het zonnerad.

    Svoboda en SNA zijn niet hetzelfde, maar hebben grote overeenkomsten. SNA heeft zich eind 2013 aangesloten bij een groep van extreem-rechtse clubs in Oekraïne onder de naam Right Sector. Dmytro Yarosh van de Right Sector, Deputy Secretary of National Security van het land, stelde dat Right Sector en Svoboda veel vergelijkbare ideologische standpunten innemen. Hij beschuldigde Svoboda er echter wel van racistisch te zijn, maar leden van Right Sector worden ook genoemd bij aanvallen op Russen en joden.

    SNA-leider Andriy Biletskyy, die zijn eigen groep binnen Right Sector leidt, is ook de leider van het Azov Bataljon. Biletskyy zat enige maanden geleden nog in de gevangenis in zijn woonplaats Charkov op verdenking van moord. Nu is de 34-jarige oud-historicus en ultranationalist aanvoerder van een elite-eenheid die vuile klusjes moet opknappen voor de regering.

    In een interview op 17 juni op de Oekraïense website Ukrayinska Pravda vertelt Biletskyy dat niet magnaat Kolomoisky de eenheid financiert, maar verschillende zakenmensen uit de stad Mariupol. Volgens hem is de eenheid onafhankelijk en worden veel uitgaven als voedsel en onderdak door leden van de eenheid zelf bekostigd. Er zouden zo’n 30 tot 50 procent etnische Russen dienen in zijn bataljon.

    Waarom Azov zo’n belangrijke rol kan spelen en ingezet wordt aan het front, komt volgens Bileskyy omdat zijn eenheid bestaat uit vrijwilligers die graag willen vechten. Volgens hem zijn de leden van politie-eenheden en het leger juist in dienst gegaan om een onbezorgd leventje te kunnen leiden. Azov maakt in theorie onderdeel uit van de Nationale Garde, meldde de Eurasia Review van 29 juni.

    In dienst van de revolutie

    Gaston Besson geeft in een op zijn Facebook-pagina gepubliceerde bericht aan dat een basis van de SNA zal fungeren als contactplaats voor arriverende buitenlandse vrijwilligers. Deze vrijwilligers zullen, net zoals de Oekraïense vrijwilligers in de eenheid, niet worden betaald. Daarna volgt een lijst met gegevens die moeten worden doorgegeven, zoals leeftijd, woonplaats, motivatie en militaire ervaring. Voor instructeurs is er een minimum dienstverband van twee maanden en voor vrijwilligers die actief willen dienen in het bataljon is er een dienstverband van vier tot zes maanden.

    Besson: “We zijn socialist, nationalist en radicaal!”, en even verder: “We hebben sterke ideeën voor de toekomst van de Oekraïne en Europa.” Wat deze ideeën zijn, licht hij niet toe. Na weken van strijd tussen separatisten en speciale bataljons van de regering in Kiev, schrijft Besson op zijn Facebook-pagina: ‘Ukraine : De la Revolution a la Guerre […] Du ” Maidan ” au Pravyi Sektor , au S.N.A. et pour finir le Bataillon Azov sur le Front de l Est […] Et demain ? La grande reconquete Europeenne […] Gloire a l ‘Ukraine !’ De grote herovering van Europa!

    Op 22 juli vermeldt de Facebook-pagina van Besson een oproep om geld te storten voor Azov met de toevoeging ‘for all other matters’ het mailadres van Besson. Dat Azov daadwerkelijk wordt ingezet en meevecht aan het front mag ook blijken uit een artikel van 7 juli van Agence France Presse. De separatistenleider Denis Pushikin geeft in het artikel aan dat zijn mannen tientallen leden van Azov hebben gedood bij gevechten in de regio Saur-Mogila.


    Aan beide zijden van de burgeroorlog vechten huurlingen mee. Zo wordt een proxy-oorlog gevoerd. Rusland is officieel geen partij, maar knijpt een oogje toe bij materieel dat over de grens rolt. Strijders uit het land melden zich vrijwillig aan en gaan vechten voor de pro-Russische separatisten. Rusland stelt zich ambivalent op, maar dat doet ook het Westen.

    Aan de andere kant van het slagveld vechten ook huurlingen, maar deze huurlingen zijn anders dan aan pro-Russische zijde niet alleen gemotiveerd door een territoriale oorlog. Het zijn fascisten die deel uitmaken van een huurlingenleger dat ook extreem-rechtse connecties heeft in de politiek. De val van de regering van Oekraïne zal niet veel veranderen aan deze strijdgroepen.

    Deze extreem-rechtse groepen zijn gemachtigd door de regering in Kiev om een eigen legertje te organiseren en die zorgen niet alleen in het oosten van het land voor spanningen. Veel joodse inwoners van het land zijn deze extreem-rechtse paramilitaire groepen een angstige voorbode in een land waar joden-vervolgingen vóór en tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog berucht en zeer omvangrijk waren. De aanvragen voor emigratie naar Israël stromen dan ook binnen.

    Of deze groepen actief door het Westen worden gesteund is even onduidelijk als de steun van de Russen voor de separatisten, maar Amerika en de EU leggen deze groepen geen strobreed in de weg. Oekraïne is er alles aan gelegen aansluiting te zoeken bij het rijke Westen. De EU en de Verenigde Staten is er echter ook alles aan gelegen om Oekraïne in hun invloedssferen te krijgen. Hierbij zullen zowel geopolitieke als economische motieven een rol spelen. Welke rol het Westen precies heeft gespeeld bij het afzetten van president Janoekovitsj en de steun aan de ultra-nationalisten zal waarschijnlijk nooit duidelijk worden, evenmin wat er op het Maidanplein is gebeurd.

    De ultranationalisten zijn nodig om het vuile werk op te knappen in een proxy-oorlog tussen twee grootmachten. Zij spelen een rol tijdens en vlak na een revolutie die met behulp van onduidelijke paramilitairen en private contractors voor de uitbreiding van de NAVO en om de bodemschatten uit de oostelijke Oekraïne toegankelijk maakt voor het Westen.

    Deze proxy-oorlog is ook een totale propaganda-oorlog geworden, waarbij waarheidsvinding als eerste wordt geslachtofferd. George Restle van het Duitse tv-programma Monitor postte op 30 juli een kort statement onder de titel ‘Oekraine: Alstublieft zwart – wit!’ Hij constateert dat in het huidige sociale media tijdperk, met de hoeveelheid aan overheidswoordvoerders, het niet langer gaat om waarheidsvinding, maar om een meningsvorming zonder onderzoek, waarbij nuancering niet past. Wie beide zijden van een conflict bekritiseert, hoort nergens meer bij…

    Rende van de Kamp

    Driven by far-right ideology, Azov Battalion mans Ukraine’s front line

    A volunteer military unit is confronting Russia in the east, but future clashes with pro-Western Kiev may lie ahead

    URZUF, Ukraine — From his watch post overlooking the sandy beaches of the Azov Sea, Nemets is charged with guarding the shoreline against a possible Russian incursion.

    “Twenty minutes by boat, and you’re in Russia,” the 30-year-old said, as he squinted into the midday sun and shrugged to adjust the heavy bulletproof vest weighing down his narrow shoulders in the summer heat.

    Nemets, who prefers to go only by his nom de guerre, comes from the central Ukrainian city of Kirovohrad and is a member of the all-volunteer Azov Battalion, one of Ukraine’s many paramilitary groups formed in response to the government’s struggle against pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east, the territory where a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down on July 17.

    “This is war, and this is how people become a nation,” he said. “This is the process in which we are learning who is strong and who isn’t.”

    The pro-Kiev battalion was named after the blue waters of this southeastern Ukrainian sea that Nemets now guards. More than half of the battalion’s fighters are Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians, who were brought up in the region now being fought over and who may have spent summer holidays swimming in the sea’s warm waters.

    Many of the Azov Battalion members are, by their own description, ultra-right Ukrainian nationalists. Ideologically, they are aligned with the Social-National Assembly, a confederation of groups in Ukraine that have drawn heavy criticism for their radical form of nationalism since the start of the protest movement in Kiev last November, which eventually ousted the Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

    But in Ukraine’s current war the lines have blurred between patriotism and extreme nationalism in this former Soviet republic, now deeply divided as it muddles through its worst political crisis since the breakup of the Soviet Union. At times, the government has coordinated with groups accused of extreme nationalism in its military operation against what it says is a Moscow-sponsored separatist movement. The fighters of the Azov Battalion are a symbol of that alliance, and it is a coordination that some analysts say should be watched carefully.

    “Modern history shows that any opportunistic cooperation of the authorities with the extreme right in the end results in problems for the government and society,” wrote Anton Shekhovtsov, an expert on Ukraine’s far right and a Ph.D. student at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London, in his blog last month.

    The Azov Battalion is recognized as part of the Ministry of the Interior’s troops and has been actively engaged in battles in key areas of what the government calls an “anti-terrorist operation,” or ATO. It has included fights for Mariupol, the largest of the port cities on the Azov Sea, on May 9 and June 13.

    The battalion has adopted symbols and slogans that come close to those used by neo-Nazis, drawing alarm from many moderate Ukrainians and fueling the fire of Russian media accusations that the current Kiev government is a “fascist junta.”

    Oleh Odnorozhenko, the chief ideologist of the Social-National Assembly and a member of the Azov Battalion, insists that they and their sister organization the Right Sector are not neo-Nazis or neo-fascist, as the Russian media have depicted them.

    “That is all Putinism propaganda,” Odnorozhenko said about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that the groups are elements of an anti-Russian fascism determined to eradicate ethnic Russians from Ukraine. “We aren’t anti-Russian here. Two-thirds of the guys speak Russian. But we are anti-Putin.”

    For all the controversy surrounding the government’s association with paramilitary groups like Azov, some argue that it is a necessary evil in extreme times.

    “The country is quite radicalized on both sides now,” said Vasyl Arbuzov, a Donetsk native and an aide to the Kiev-appointed governor of the province, Sergei Taruta. “These aren’t the kind of guys I hang out with on the weekend, but at the moment they are the kind of guys we need because they are willing to fight.”

    When the battle for Ukraine’s east erupted in April, the country found that its defense forces were in a parlous state after decades of budgetary neglect. Ukraine, it turned out, was not prepared to wage a war on its own soil, particularly what the government claims is a fight against the heavily funded Russian military.

    “I’m not sure their nationalistic ideology is taken that seriously by the guys at the battalion, but it’s the thing that binds them together at the moment. It’s the tissue that’s holding them together as they fight for Ukraine,” Arbuzov said. “They aren’t here to protect the white race. They are here to protect the state of Ukraine against oppressors, which today is the Russian Federation.”

    The 300 or so troops of the Azov Battalion are living and training in the ousted president’s former summer residence here, a collection of multistoried beach homes in a landscaped setting atop a picturesque cliff overlooking the Azov Sea.

    On the training grounds, men run drills on storming buildings and urban fighting in an open space in the middle of the seaside resort’s territory. Nearby, there is a common building housing sleeping quarters and a cafeteria.

    While some of the men were on a training course, others were working out with free weights in makeshift outdoor gyms, or tinkering with the battalion’s military vehicles, including its own makeshift armored personnel carrier. A fighter who goes only by his nom de guerre, Malik, said he designed the APC himself, using welded steel to create attack-proof side panels on an old Russian Kamaz heavy truck.

    Malik said he was a motorcycle mechanic before he joined the battalion in May, after his native Crimea was annexed by Russia. His APC creation survived an attack during a fight in Mariupol last month. “Everyone wants one now. The Right Sector tried to copy my design, but they couldn’t do it,” Malik said. “But we need more equipment here, particularly technical weapons and body armor.”

    While the battalion is recognized by the Interior Ministry and provided with some arms, it is largely funded by charity from Ukrainians, wealthy businessmen, the Ukrainian diaspora and other European far-right groups.

    Its ideological alignment with other far-right, social-nationalist groups has attracted volunteers from Sweden, Italy, France, Canada and Russia.

    Lemko, a Canadian volunteer whose roots are Ukrainian, said he came to the Azov Battalion several weeks ago because he was concerned about the direction in which Ukraine was heading. He said he was a national socialist — though he rejected the term neo-Nazi — and was a member of far-right groups in Canada, many of which, he said, face problems with the Canadian government because of their political beliefs.

    The Canadian volunteer said he was fighting not just against the pro-Russian separatists in the east but for Ukraine’s future; that is, a future that does not include joining the European Union. Joining the EU would destroy Ukraine’s national identity, just as it destroyed the national states of the rest of Europe by admitting economic refugees across borders, he said.

    “Ukraine should be for Ukrainians,” Lemko said. “We don’t need the European idea of multicultural extremism here. Ukraine must protect its cultural and ethnic integrity.”

    Such sentiments — which go directly opposite to what the pro-European leadership in Kiev and many of its supporters want — might bode ill for the future of the alliance between the far right and Ukraine’s current government.

    Nor is Lemko alone. Sitting in a plastic lawn chair with a Kalashnikov resting on his lap, he discussed Ukraine’s future with two volunteer fighters from Sweden. They all agreed that Ukraine is a wealthy country whose economic potential was stolen by oligarchs. But recently elected President Petro Poroshenko was just another oligarch replacing the previous regime, they said.

    “I’m here to support a national idea of Ukraine. I’m willing to die helping them get these bandits out,” said Sevren, 28, from Gothenburg, Sweden.

    Lemko agreed. “We actually have two enemies now, the EU on one side and the Russian Federation on the other. But first, we need to deal with the separatists,” he said.

    July 24, 2014 5:00AM ET
    by Sabra Ayres @SabraAyres

    Find this story at 24 July 2014

    Neo-fascists train to fight Ukrainian rebels

    © 2014 Al Jazeera America

    Ukraine crisis: the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists

    Kiev throws paramilitaries – some openly neo-Nazi – into the front of the battle with rebels
    Phantom, 23, a fighter in the Azov battalion, outside its HQ in the Ukrainian seaside town of Urzuf

    The fighters of the Azov battalion lined up in single file to say farewell to their fallen comrade. His pallid corpse lay under the sun in an open casket trimmed with blue velvet.
    Some of the men placed carnations by the body, others roses. Many struck their chests with a closed fist before touching their dead friend’s arm. One fighter had an SS tattoo on his neck.
    Sergiy Grek, 22, lost a leg and died from massive blood loss after a radio-controlled anti-tank mine exploded near to him.
    As Ukraine’s armed forces tighten the noose around pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, the western-backed government in Kiev is throwing militia groups – some openly neo-Nazi – into the front of the battle.
    The Azov battalion has the most chilling reputation of all. Last week, it came to the fore as it mounted a bold attack on the rebel redoubt of Donetsk, striking deep into the suburbs of a city under siege.
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    Andriy Biletsky, in black T-shirt, commander of Ukraine’s Azov battalion (Tom Parfitt)
    In Marinka, on the western outskirts, the battalion was sent forward ahead of tanks and armoured vehicles of the Ukrainian army’s 51st Mechanised Brigade. A ferocious close-quarters fight ensued as they got caught in an ambush laid by well-trained separatists, who shot from 30 yards away. The Azov irregulars replied with a squall of fire, fending off the attack and seizing a rebel checkpoint.
    Mr Grek, also known as “Balagan”, died in the battle and 14 others were wounded. Speaking after the ceremony Andriy Biletsky, the battalion’s commander, told the Telegraph the operation had been a “100% success”. “The battalion is a family and every death is painful to us but these were minimal losses,” he said. “Most important of all, we established a bridgehead for the attack on Donetsk. And when that comes we will be leading the way.”
    The military achievement is hard to dispute. By securing Marinka the battalion “widened the front and tightened the circle”, around the rebels’ capital, as another fighter put it. While Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, prevaricates about sending an invasion force into Ukraine, the rebels he backs are losing ground fast.
    But Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, proclaimed in eastern Ukraine in March, should send a shiver down Europe’s spine. Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming.
    The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.

    The Azov battalion uses the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf”s Hook) symbol on its banner (Tom Parfitt)
    “Personally, I’m a Nazi,” said “Phantom”, a 23-year-old former lawyer at the ceremony wearing camouflage and holding a Kalashnikov. “I don’t hate any other nationalities but I believe each nation should have its own country.” He added: “We have one idea: to liberate our land from terrorists.”
    The Telegraph was invited to see some 300 Azov fighters pay respects to Mr Grek, their first comrade to die since the battalion was formed in May. An honour guard fired volleys into the air at the battalion’s headquarters on the edge of Urzuf, a small beach resort on Ukraine’s Azov Sea coast. Two more militiamen died on Sunday fighting north of Donetsk <>. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, called one of them a hero.
    Each new recruit receives only a couple of weeks of training before joining the battalion. The interior ministry and private donors provide weapons.
    The HQ is a seaside dacha compound dotted with pines that once belonged to the ousted president of Ukraine, Vladimir Yanukovich, when he was governor of this region. Families in swimsuits with towels and inflatable rings walk past gate-guards toting automatic rifles.
    Parked inside among wooden gazebos overlooking the sea are the tools of Azov’s trade – two armoured personnel carriers, a converted truck with retractable steel shutters to cover its windows, and several Nissan pick-ups fitted with machine-gun mounts.

    A converted truck with steel shutters used by the Azov battalion and known to the fighters as ’the Lump of Iron’ (Tom Parfitt)
    Mr Biletsky, a muscular man in a black T-shirt and camouflage trousers, said the battalion was a light infantry unit, ideal for the urban warfare needed to take cities like Donetsk.
    The 35-year old commander began creating the battalion after he was released from pre-trial detention in February in the wake of pro-western protests in Kiev. He had denied a charge of attempted murder, claiming it was politically motivated.
    A former history student and amateur boxer, Mr Biletsky is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly. “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival,” he wrote in a recent commentary. “A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”
    The battalion itself is founded on right wing views, the commander said in Urzuf, and no Nazi convictions could exclude a recruit. “The most important thing is being a good fighter and a good brother so that we can trust each other,” he said.
    Interestingly, many of the men in the battalion are Russians from eastern Ukraine who wear masks because they fear their relatives in rebel-controlled areas could be persecuted if their identities are revealed.
    Phantom said he was such a Russian but that he was opposed to Moscow supporting “terrorists” in his homeland: “I volunteered and all I demanded was a gun and the possibility to defend my country.”
    Asked about his Nazi sympathies, he said: “After the First World World War, Germany was a total mess and Hitler rebuilt it: he built houses and roads, put in telephone lines, and created jobs. I respect that.” Homosexuality is a mental illness and the scale of the Holocaust “is a big question”, he added.

    Fighters of the Azov battalion say farewell to their first comrade to die in the war against Russia-backed rebels (Tom Parfitt)
    Stepan, 23, another fighter, said that if leaders of the pro-Russian separatists were captured they should be executed after a military tribunal.
    Such notions seem a far cry from the spirit of the “Maidan” protests that peaked in Kiev in February with the ousting of Mr Yanukovich, who had refused to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. Young liberals led the way but the uprising, which ended with the president fleeing to Russia, provoked a huge patriotic awakening that sucked in hardline groups.
    Azov’s extremist profile and slick English–language pages on social media have even attracted foreign fighters. Mr Biletsky says he has men from Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scandinavia. At the base in Urzuf, Mikael Skillt, 37, a former sniper with the Swedish Army and National Guard, leads and trains a reconnaissance unit.
    “When I saw the Maidan protests I recognised bravery and suffering,” he told the Telegraph. “A warrior soul was awakened. But you can only do so much, going against the enemy with sticks and stones. I had some experience and I though maybe I could help.”
    Mr Skillt says he called himself a National Socialist as a young man and more recently he was active in the extreme right wing Party of the Swedes. “Now I’m fighting for the freedom of Ukraine against Putin’s imperialist front,” he said.
    His unit is improving fast under his tutelage. “What they lack in experience, they make up in balls,” he said. Once he is done with Azov –where he claimed he receives a nominal GBP100 a month – Mr Skillt plans to go to Syria to fight for President Bashar al-Assad as a hired gun earning “very good money”.
    Such characters under Kiev’s control play straight into the hands of Russian and separatist propaganda that portrays Ukraine’s government as a “fascist junta” manipulated by the West.
    “These battalions are made up of mercenaries, not volunteers,” said Sergei Kavtaradze, a representative of the rebel authorities in Donetsk. “They are real fascists who kill and rape civilians.” Mr Kavtaradze could not cite evidence of his claim and the battalion says it has not harmed a single civilian.
    Ukraine’s government is unrepentant about using the neo-Nazis. “The most important thing is their spirit and their desire to make Ukraine free and independent,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Arsen Avakov, the interior minister. “A person who takes a weapon in his hands and goes to defend his motherland is a hero. And his political views are his own affair.”
    Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian and Ukrainian security affairs at New York University, fears battalions like Azov are becoming “magnets to attract violent fringe elements from across Ukraine and beyond”. “The danger is that this is part of the building up of a toxic legacy for when the war ends,” he said.
    Extremist paramilitary groups who have built up “their own little Freikorps” and who are fundamentally opposed to finding consensus may demand a part in public life as victors in the conflict, Mr Galeotti added. “And what do you do when the war is over and you get veterans from Azov swaggering down your high street, and in your own lives?”

    By Tom Parfitt, 11 Aug 2014

    Find this story at 11 August 2014

    © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014

    Foreigners join far-right militias in Ukraine’s fight against rebels

    Fears that nationalist Azov Battalion and others could ultimately turn on new rulers

    Sitting in the shade of a broad pine tree and a pink-and-orange umbrella, two Swedes and a Canadian explain why they are ready to kill, and be killed, for the future of a free Ukraine.

    They are members of the Azov Battalion, one of several units of volunteers fighting alongside Ukraine’s military and national guard against separatist rebels – allegedly backed by Moscow – who want the country’s eastern regions to join Russia.

    The battalion is based by the Sea of Azov in southern Donetsk province, in a beachside complex formerly used as a holiday home by the family of Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted as Ukraine’s president in February.
    The unit was formed by the Social National Assembly, a Ukrainian nationalist group described by critics as violently racist, and its emblem includes variations on the “black sun” and “wolf’s hook” symbols long associated with Nazism.

    Lurid propaganda

    The ideology of Azov is a gift to the Kremlin, which has used lurid propaganda to discredit Ukraine’s revolution as a fascist coup that threatens the country’s tens of millions of Russian-speakers and, more broadly, Europe.
    There are also growing fears in Ukraine that Azov and other far-right militias could ultimately turn on its new rulers, whom they see not as representatives of the revolution but of a venal oligarchy that has dominated the country for decades.

    Russia’s annexation of Crimea and covert support for rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk regions has fuelled radicalism in a Ukraine already reeling from the revolution, and stoked national passions in a country that feels attacked by its huge neighbour and largely abandoned by its supposed allies in the West.
    Azov now plans to expand its ranks from 300 to 500 men, and a French supporter called Gaston Besson – who fought for Croatian independence in the 1990s – is forming a brigade of foreigners willing to take up arms for Ukraine’s freedom and territory.
    “Volunteers have come from Russia, France, Italy, Belarus, Canada, Sweden, Slovenia – many countries,” said Oleg Odnorozhenko, a self-proclaimed ideologue of the Social National Assembly.
    “We have had about two dozen foreigners so far. Lots more want to come but we select those with relevant experience,” he added, noting that a Georgian special forces trainer was working “semi-officially” with Azov.
    The shouts of children on the beach drifted through Yanukovich’s old compound on a warm sea breeze, as three of Azov’s foreign contingent discussed why they were here, far from home, and ready to spill and shed blood for Ukraine.
    “I was sick of the television pictures from CNN and Russia Today, so I decided to come to Ukraine and see for myself. I found a great people, who desire freedom, being used in a tug-of-war,” said Severin (28) from Gothenburg in Sweden.
    “I would love to solve Ukraine’s problems with political discussions. But that’s impossible now,” he added.
    “I am in favour of a free European people. And I am here to help these European people live in freedom.”
    Severin calls himself a national socialist, but rejects the connotations that he says come with the term “neo-Nazi”. He wanted to serve in the Swedish army “to protect my land and people” but was rejected due to his political beliefs.

    Like the two men alongside him, Mikola from Stockholm and a man from Canada who uses the nickname “Lemko”, Severin is against immigration, multiculturalism, globalisation and the rampant capitalism and liberalism he sees ruining the modern world.
    The three men share a faith in the strength of ethnically pure nations, living according to their traditions.
    Lemko, who hails from Canada’s large Ukrainian diaspora, said he believed in a “Ukraine for the Ukrainian people” and saw the western social model as just as great a threat to the country’s future as the antipathy of the Kremlin. “I lived in western Europe for 11 years, so I know,” said Lemko, who is in his 30s. “Ukraine has two enemies – Russia and the EU.”
    Disillusioned by a western world that they regard as feckless, decadent and enslaved by high finance, the men saw an inspiring sense of purpose, patriotism and self-sacrifice in the tent camp on Kiev’s Independence Square, where the revolution played out last winter.
    First combat
    Severin saw his first combat action on June 13th, when the Azov Battalion fought separatist militants in the nearby port city of Mariupol.
    “On the way there, I thought this would be a special day. But it was harsh, and after experiencing that no one would say war was beautiful. Mortars went off close by and two of my comrades were injured. But I was proud to serve.”
    Lemko has no plans to return to Canada and Severin says he could be here for “two months or years”, while Mikola hopes to return to Sweden in the near future to continue his psychology studies.
    “I’m here to deal with the separatists,” Mikola said. “After that, let’s see.”
    The foreigners, like the local members of Azov, are derisive of Ukraine’s billionaire president, Petro Poroshenko, the pro-EU government in Kiev and western states that have been deeply reluctant to take a tough stand against Russia.
    “A split is a definite possibility,” Lemko said of fears that the various units fighting the rebels today will one day clash over political differences, and over who exactly controls these increasingly large and well-armed paramilitary battalions.
    What is clear is that Azov’s extreme nationalism does not have widespread support in Ukraine: three far-right candidates mustered barely 10 per cent of votes between them in May’s presidential election, even during a deep national crisis.
    Desire to defend
    Vasyl Arbuzov, an adviser to Donetsk governor Sergei Taruta, said Ukraine’s nationalists were bound far less by ideology than by a desire to defend the country.
    “These aren’t the kind of guys I hang out with on the weekend but, at the moment, they are the kind of guys we need because they are willing to fight,” he said.
    Inside their seaside base, Kalashnikovs on their laps, three of Azov’s foreigners said they were ready for anything.
    “How much talking can you do?” said Lemko.
    “Whatever it takes – there’s no turning back now.”

    Daniel McLaughlin
    Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:01

    Find this story at 17 July 2014

    © 2014 THE IRISH TIMES

    Interview with the Radio Sweden Concerning the Azov Battalion in Ukraine

    My Interview with the Radio Sweden Concerning the Azov Battalion in Ukraine

    What is Azov Battalion?
    This is a paramilitary/special police formation organized about 2 months ago by the Social- National Assembly (SNA) and its paramilitary wing, called Patriot of Ukraine (PU), with support of a leader of the Radical Party and the Ukrainian government. It was called a battalion, but initially it included only about 60 men. They are also called “black men” because of black uniform that they wear.
    Who’s in charge of Azov battalion?
    The battalion is formally subordinated to the Minister of Internal Affairs. But it is de facto subordinated to the Social National Assembly and it is commanded by leaders of the SNA/PU. The de facto commander of the battalion is Andrii Biletski, the leader of Patriot of Ukraine.
    Who’s fighting for them? (ideologically uninterested citizens, far right radicals etc.)
    The battalion mostly includes members of the SNA/PU, football ultras from Dynamo Kyiv, and other far right radicals. There are also far right sympathizers and some other Maidan activists.
    If comprised of far right radicals mainly, how important is the ideology for this group?
    The ideology is central to the battalion. Its new members give their oath in presence of the SNA/PU leaders and the SNA/PU flag, depicting Wolfsangel, a neo-Nazi symbol. During such a recent ceremony, they also recited a prayer honoring Stepan Bandera and other leaders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, a radical nationalist and semi-fascist organization.
    If many of them are so-called neo-fascists, in what way exactly?
    The SNA/PU advocate a neo-Nazi ideology along with ultranationalism and racism. The same applies to the SNA/PU commanders and members of the Azov battalion and many football ultras and others who serve in this formation. Biletsky is called the “White Leader.” He and several other commanders of the battalion were imprisoned on murder or terrorism charges, but they were released after the fall of Yanukovych. The SNA/PU are one of the founders of the Right Sector.
    What happened in Mariupol last week? Is there any truth behind pro-Russian allegations of pro-Ukrainian forces harming civilians in Mariupol?
    The Azov battalion took control last week over Mariupol after a brief fight with a relatively small number of pro-Russian separatists. Their videos indicate that they assault civilians and torture their prisoners, but these cases are not investigated or prosecuted. The Azov battalion along with other formations also stormed the police headquarters in this city on May 9th when 9

    people were killed, including the attackers, policemen, and civilians. But it is difficult to say if these civilians were killed by the battalion, since there are no investigations.
    How many foreigners is estimated to fighting with the Azov battalion?
    The precise numbers are difficult to know. But various reports suggest that at least several foreigners are in the battalion, including at least one from Sweden.
    Do you have any information of the swede fighting for them, Mikael Skillt?

    Skillt came to Ukraine during the Euromaidan protests last winter. He then joined C14, a neo- Nazi organization affiliated with Svoboda, a major far right party which plays important role in the current government. Skillt now joined the Azov battalion.

    by Ivan Katchanovski
    June 19, 2014

    Find this story at 19 June 2014

    Academia © 2014

    Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden

    The appearance of far-right activists, both foreign and home-grown, among the Ukrainian volunteers fighting in east Ukraine is causing unease.

    Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He is known to be dangerous to the rebels: reportedly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head.

    In a telephone conversation from an undisclosed location, Mr Skillt told me more about his duties: “I have at least three purposes in the Azov Battalion: I am a commander of a small reconnaissance unit, I am also a sniper, and sometimes I work as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.”

    As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi.

    “It’s all about how you see it,” he says. “I would be an idiot if I said I did not want to see survival of white people. After World War Two, the victors wrote their history. They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

    ‘One stray liberal’
    Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. His next project is to go fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he believes Mr Assad is standing up to “international Zionism”.

    Mikael Skillt in Ukraine
    Mikael Skillt in Ukraine
    Not all of Mr Skillt’s views are widely shared in the Azov Battalion, which is about 300-strong in total.

    He says his comrades do not discuss politics much, though some of them may be “national socialists” and may wear swastikas. On the other hand, “there is even one liberal, though I don’t know how he got there”, he adds, with a smile in his voice.

    Mr Skillt says there is only a handful of foreign fighters in the Azov Battalion and they do not get paid. “They see it as a good thing, to come and fight,” he explains. However, Mr Skillt is expecting more foreigners to join soon: he says there is now a recruiter who is looking for “serious fighters” from outside Ukraine.

    The key figures in the Azov Battalion are its commander, Andriy Biletsky, and his deputy, Ihor Mosiychuk.

    Andriy Biletsky is also the leader of a Ukrainian organisation called the Social National Assembly. Its aims are stated in one of their online publications:

    “to prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital”
    “to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man”
    This, according to experts, is a typical neo-Nazi narrative.

    ‘Foreign journalists’
    The Azov Battalion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s interior ministry. A ministerial adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, got angry when I asked him if the battalion had any neo-Nazi links through the Social National Assembly.

    Azov Battalion fighters parading with flags in Kiev, 3 June
    Azov Battalion fighters parading with the Wolfsangel banner favoured by neo-Nazis
    Young women say goodbye to Azov Battalion fighters in Kiev, 23 June
    Young women saying goodbye to Azov Battalion fighters in Kiev last month
    Azov fighters guarding suspected rebels in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, 13 June
    Azov fighters guarding suspected rebels in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, last month
    “The Social National Assembly is not a neo-Nazi organisation,” he said.

    “It is a party of Ukrainian patriots who are giving their lives while the rich Europeans are only talking about supporting Ukraine. When, may I ask, will English people come here and help us fight terrorists sent by Russia’s President [Vladimir] Putin, instead of lecturing us on our moral values or people’s political affiliations?”

    Mr Gerashchenko was adamant, however, that there were no foreign citizens fighting in the Azov Battalion.

    Continue reading the main story

    Start Quote

    Neo-Nazis are as dangerous as pro-Russia extremists in Eastern Ukraine”

    Anton Shekhovtsov
    Expert on far right in Europe
    “There are foreign journalists, from Sweden, Spain and Italy, who have come to report on the heroic achievements of the fighters in their struggle against terrorism,” he said.

    He insisted he had never heard of Mikael Skillt, the Swedish sniper.

    Ukraine is a democratic state, which held a democratic election in May, where the far right and nationalist parties got hardly any votes. These views are not popular with the electorate.

    But Anton Shekhovtsov, a prominent expert on far-right and neo-Nazi movements in Europe, believes the Ukrainian government should be clear about whom it is arming to fight for Ukraine’s democratic cause.

    “It is a pressing concern, especially with regards to the anti-terrorist operation,” he said. “In my view, the war against pro-Russia separatists is the war for democratic values. Neo-Nazis are as dangerous as pro-Russia extremists in eastern Ukraine.”

    6 July 2014
    By Dina Newman

    Find this story at 6 July 2014

    Swedish neo-nazi Mikael Skillt is fighting in the Azov Battalion against separatist 

    BBC © 2014

    Why CIA Director Brennan Visited Kiev: In Ukraine The Covert War Has Begun

    Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, Vladimir Putin has said, and he should know because the country is already in the midst of a covert intelligence war. Over the weekend, CIA director John Brennan travelled to Kiev, nobody knows exactly why, but some speculate that he intends to open US intelligence resources to Ukrainian leaders about real-time Russian military maneuvers. The US has, thus far, refrained from sharing such knowledge because Moscow is believed to have penetrated much of Ukraine’s communications systems – and Washington isn’t about to hand over its surveillance secrets to the Russians.

    If you have any doubts that the battle is raging on the ‘covert ops’ front just consider today’s events in Pcholkino where Ukrainian soldiers from the 25th Airborn Division handed over their weapons and APC’s to pro-Russian militiamen and pretty much surrendered. The Ukrainian commander was quoted as saying “they’ve captured us and are using dirty tricks”. This is the kind of morale-busting incident that can spread quickly. It doesn’t happen spontaneously and it often begins with mixed messages, literally – messages purporting to come from the chain of command but actually originate from the enemy’s dirty tricks department.

    So what kind of conversations did Brennan have during his visit? There’s no way of knowing for sure of course. But, according to my sources, and based on my experience of reporting on the Russian invasion of Georgia, the US-Ukraine information exchange would go a lot further than simply tracking numbers and motions of Russian tanks and soldiers. The operative term here is ‘non-lethal’ help – that remains Washington’s official position. But in today’s digital and virtual battlefield, the game can be over before the first shot gets fired. And if Moscow’s mastery over the digital domain can be countered, Putin might think twice about risking the expensive hardware that he has invested billions in upgrading since the Georgian war.

    In that conflict, the US refused to sell air-cover missiles (Manpads) to Tbilisi while the Israelis deactivated the ones they’d sold after Putin threatened them with retaliation by selling Hezbollah comparable weapons. So Georgia was left with the Ukraine-made missiles it had purchased, which proved effective but not numerous enough. The Russians have undoubtedly rectified that vulnerability, especially as they and Ukraine share the same weapons systems. In effect, Russian warplanes have likely found ways to jam targeting vectors or to create illusory electronic clusters to decoy the manpads.

    So Brennan might have shared data on how to get past the jamming. The same kind of forensic struggle applies to aerial combat, a rare thing these days but one that may become decisive if ground-based missiles prove ineffectual. Since the Russians can hack into any kind of long-distance chatter about such details between the US and Kiev, Brennan probably had to physically hand them over to his Ukrainian interlocutors. That is, to fully vetted individuals, because as we’ve seen repeatedly during the current crisis, not least in the Maidan, Russian spies masquerading as Ukrainian patriots are not uncommon. Ukraine’s politicians and military personnel (though not nearly as much) have a long history of divided loyalties.

    Digital conflict, by its very nature, is a shadow conflict and therefore fundamentally psychological. If you lose touch with central command or you suspect the enemy is messing with your communications, you become isolated. You fire at your own side, shoot down your warplanes. In fact, you’re likely to stop shooting altogether, out of confusion and paralysis, as happened in some military bases in Georgia. And now is happening in Ukraine. You don’t know if the coded messages telling you to refrain from firing are a feint or genuine. In a modern war between two sides with hardware i.e. not a guerilla war, line-of-sight engagements occur less often than you’d think. Tanks and planes and artillery get knocked out from afar. Digital certainty is everything. The absence of it spells disaster.

    So Brennan needed to reassure his hosts above all on that matter. Or perhaps vice-versa. They might need to reassure the US that Ukraine’s military position is not hopeless. If the US assessed the Ukrainian armed forces as too electronically compromised to use heavy weapons systems, then Washington might discourage a confrontation, might refuse to help in crucial ways, as happened in Georgia. Or Washington might suggest alternate methodologies, low-tech or asymmetrical alternatives, to create enough confusion or humiliation as to tarnish Putin’s popularity. The Russian side has clearly initiated such tactics already. Brennan will try to shore up the security of Ukraine’s military signals systems. He will suggest ways to retaliate in kind by hacking into the pro-Moscow militia’s comms.

    To get an idea of how crucial is this stage of the confrontation, just witness how images of Ukrainian armored vehicles now driven by militias have gone global. Moscow will trumpet the news, claiming that even Ukrainian soldiers don’t want to fight, that the US is stoking artificial hatred. The government in Kiev will find itself snookered – either to admit that its signals channels are hopelessly compromised and therefore cannot mount a convincing military operation or that such incidents are spontaneous but limited. A tough position either way. One thing is certain, the war has begun.

    Melik KaylanMelik Kaylan
    WASHINGTON 4/16/2014 @ 4:30PM 9,980 views

    Find this story at 16 April 2014

    Copyright http://www.forbes.com/

    The foreigners who flocked to join the fight – in Ukraine

    Military leaders in Ukraine charged Russia was deepening its foray into Ukrainian territory and sending new troops to the Crimean border.
    Aug. 27, 2014 Bystanders watch a fire consuming a school in downtown Donetsk after being hit by shelling. Several civilians died when their car was completely burned after being hit by shell fragments in central Donetsk, the rebel-held city in eastern Ukraine. Francisco Leong/AFP/Getty Images
    View Photo Gallery —Refugees flee the violence, some seeking shelter in Russia, while Ukraine says its army has penetrated the rebel stronghold of Luhansk in what could prove to be a breakthrough development in the months-long conflict.

    Foreign fighters have become central to the narrative of the Islamic State and its fighting in Syria and Iraq: Just this week the distinct British accent of the man believed to have called American journalist James Foley was a grim reminder that thousands of foreigners have traveled to the Middle East to join the fight. It’s a big concern for many governments.

    But foreigners have also flocked to other world conflicts, notably Ukraine.

    This point was brought home this week, with the death of an American fighting in Ukraine. Mark Gregory Paslawsky, a 55-year-old born in New York, is believed to be the only U.S. citizen who has fought in Ukraine until he died in fighting on Aug. 19. His death was announced in a Facebook post by Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko.

    Paslawsky, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, grew up in a Ukrainian-American family. He had moved to Ukraine decades ago, but his decision to fight in the Ukrainian Army’s volunteer Donbas Battalion this year earned him the fascination of the global media. Vice Media produced a documentary about him just a few weeks ago, which you can watch below:

    Paslawsky was far from the only fighter with a foreign nationality in Ukraine: There seem to have been many from Russia and South Ossetia among the separatist ranks. But there are also reports of more unexpected guests.

    Last month the BBC profiled Mikael Skillt, a Swedish military veteran who had joined the pro-Ukrainian volunteer force Azov Battalion. While Paslawsky’s decision to fight seems to have been motivated by an understandable Ukrainian nationalism, Skillt’s decision seemed to be motivated by something more extremist, even neo-Nazi.

    “After World War II, the victors wrote their history,” Skillt told the BBC. “They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

    The force Skillt reportedly fights for, the Azov Battalion, has become a source of controversy for its use of neo-Nazi symbols and rhetoric. The commander of the group has told reporters that he has fighters from Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scandinavia, with as many as two dozen foreigners fighting for it by mid-summer. There were also reports that an exclusively Polish militia was fighting in Ukraine, though the Polish government later released a statement saying that the information it has “does not corroborate such allegations.”

    The numbers may be small when compared to those who have gone to the Middle East, where there are estimated to be as many as 12,000 foreign fighters, but they are a reminder that foreign fighters are not a uniquely Islamist issue.

    You certainly have to wonder if attracting fringe far right groups, even in small numbers, is a positive for Ukraine. The BBC says Interior Ministry adviser Herashchenko became angry when asked about the Azov Battalion’s alleged extremist links and denied foreigners were fighting with the group. It also plays into the early Kremlin narrative that the Euromaidan protests were influenced by outside forces – months ago, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused a private firm of sending American mercenaries to fight separatists in Ukraine, though those claims were deemed “rubbish” by the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.

    Pro-Russian separatist forces have some unlikely foreign allies too, however. Earlier this month Reuters reported that a number of Spanish “civil war nostalgics” were fighting alongside pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Two Spanish men, Rafael Muñoz Perez and Ángel, published a video on YouTube explaining their motivation for heading to Ukraine.

    “We are here to defend civil people,” Muñoz Perez explains.

    By Adam Taylor August 22

    Find this story at 22 august 2014

    Copyright http://www.washingtonpost.com/

    Israeli militia commander fights to protect Kiev

    Delta, a Ukrainian-born former IDF soldier, heads a force of 40 men and women, most of whom are not Jewish, against gov’t forces

    Ukraine appeals to UNSC over Russian invasionKerry warns Russia against intervention in UkraineYanukovych blames fascists, West for Ukraine chaosUkraine Reform shul defaced by anti-Semitic graffitiSwitzerland, Austria freeze Yanukovych’s assetsUnidentified armed men patrol Crimea airport

    He calls his troops “the Blue Helmets of Maidan,” but brown is the color of the headgear worn by Delta — the nom de guerre of the commander of a Jewish-led militia force that participated in the Ukrainian revolution. Under his helmet, he also wears a kippah.

    Delta, a Ukraine-born former soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, spoke to JTA Thursday on condition of anonymity. He explained how he came to use combat skills he acquired in the Shu’alei Shimshon reconnaissance battalion of the Givati infantry brigade to rise through the ranks of Kiev’s street fighters. He has headed a force of 40 men and women — including several fellow IDF veterans — in violent clashes with government forces.

    Several Ukrainian Jews, including Rabbi Moshe Azman, one of the country’s claimants to the title of chief rabbi, confirmed Delta’s identity and role in the still-unfinished revolution.

    The “Blue Helmets” nickname, a reference to the UN peacekeeping force, stuck after Delta’s unit last month prevented a mob from torching a building occupied by Ukrainian police, he said. “There were dozens of officers inside, surrounded by 1,200 demonstrators who wanted to burn them alive,” he recalled. “We intervened and negotiated their safe passage.”

    The problem, he said, was that the officers would not leave without their guns, citing orders. Delta told JTA his unit reasoned with the mob to allow the officers to leave with their guns. “It would have been a massacre, and that was not an option,” he said.

    The Blue Helmets comprise 35 men and women who are not Jewish, and who are led by five ex-IDF soldiers, says Delta, an Orthodox Jew in his late 30s who regularly prays at Azman’s Brodsky Synagogue. He declined to speak about his private life.

    Delta, who immigrated to Israel in the 1990s, moved back to Ukraine several years ago and has worked as a businessman. He says he joined the protest movement as a volunteer on Nov. 30, after witnessing violence by government forces against student protesters.

    “I saw unarmed civilians with no military background being ground by a well-oiled military machine, and it made my blood boil,” Delta told JTA in Hebrew laced with military jargon. “I joined them then and there, and I started fighting back the way I learned how, through urban warfare maneuvers. People followed, and I found myself heading a platoon of young men. Kids, really.”

    Anti-government protesters take a break on a barricade at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 (photo credit: AP/ Marko Drobnjakovic)
    Anti-government protesters take a break on a barricade at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 (photo credit: AP/ Marko Drobnjakovic)

    The other ex-IDF infantrymen joined the Blue Helmets later after hearing it was led by a fellow vet, Delta said.

    As platoon leader, Delta says he takes orders from activists connected to Svoboda, an ultra-nationalist party that has been frequently accused of anti-Semitism and whose members have been said to have had key positions in organizing the opposition protests.

    “I don’t belong [to Svoboda], but I take orders from their team. They know I’m Israeli, Jewish and an ex-IDF soldier. They call me ‘brother,’” he said. “What they’re saying about Svoboda is exaggerated, I know this for a fact. I don’t like them because they’re inconsistent, not because of [any] anti-Semitism issue.”

    The commanding position of Svoboda in the revolution is no secret, according to Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow at the Washington DC-based Heritage Foundation think tank.

    “The driving force among the so-called white sector in the Maidan are the nationalists, who went against the SWAT teams and snipers who were shooting at them,” Cohen told JTA.

    Still, many Jews supported the revolution and actively participated in it.

    Earlier this week, an interim government was announced ahead of election scheduled for May, including ministers from several minority groups.

    Volodymyr Groysman, a former mayor of the city of Vinnytsia and the newly appointed deputy prime minister for regional policy, is a Jew, Rabbi Azman said.

    “There are no signs for concern yet,” said Cohen, “but the West needs to make it clear to Ukraine that how it is seen depends on how minorities are treated.”

    On Wednesday, Russian State Duma Chairman Sergey Naryshkin said Moscow was concerned about anti-Semitic declarations by radical groups in Ukraine.

    But Delta says the Kremlin is using the anti-Semitism card falsely to delegitimize the Ukrainian revolution, which is distancing Ukraine from Russia’s sphere of influence.

    “It’s bullshit. I never saw any expression of anti-Semitism during the protests, and the claims to the contrary were part of the reason I joined the movement. We’re trying to show that Jews care,” he said.

    Anti-government protesters lob stones during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Efrem Lukatsky)
    Anti-government protesters lob stones during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

    Still, Delta’s reasons for not revealing his name betray his sense of feeling like an outsider. “If I were Ukrainian, I would have been a hero. But for me it’s better to not reveal my name if I want to keep living here in peace and quiet,” he said.

    Fellow Jews have criticized him for working with Svoboda. “Some asked me if instead of ‘Shalom’ they should now greet me with a ‘Sieg heil.’ I simply find it laughable,” he said. But he does have frustrations related to being an outsider. “Sometimes I tell myself, ‘What are you doing? This is not your army. This isn’t even your country.’”

    He recalls feeling this way during one of the fiercest battles he experienced, which took place last week at Institutskaya Street and left 12 protesters dead. “The snipers began firing rubber bullets at us. I fired back from my rubber-bullet rifle,” Delta said.

    “Then they opened live rounds, and my friend caught a bullet in his leg. They shot at us like at a firing range. I wasn’t ready for a last stand. I carried my friend and ordered my troops to fall back. They’re scared kids. I gave them some cash for phone calls and told them to take off their uniform and run away until further instructions. I didn’t want to see anyone else die that day.”

    Currently, the Blue Helmets are carrying out police work that include patrols and preventing looting and vandalism in a city of 3 million struggling to climb out of the chaos that engulfed it for the past three months.

    But Delta has another, more ambitious, project: He and Azman are organizing the airborne evacuation of seriously wounded protesters — none of them Jewish — for critical operations in Israel. One of the patients, a 19-year-old woman, was wounded at Institutskaya by a bullet that penetrated her eye and is lodged inside her brain, according to Delta. Azman says he hopes the plane of 17 patients will take off next week, with funding from private donors and with help from Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel.

    “The doctor told me that another millimeter to either direction and she would be dead,” Delta said. “And I told him it was the work of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.”

    BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ February 28, 2014, 9:37 pm 50

    Find this story at 28 February 2014


    400 US mercenaries ‘deployed on ground’ in Ukraine military

    About 400 elite mercenaries from the notorious US private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater) are taking part in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protesters in southeastern regions of the country, German media reports.

    The Bild am Sonntag newspaper, citing a source in intelligence circles, wrote Sunday that Academi employees are involved in the Kiev military crackdown on pro-autonomy activists in near the town of Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region.

    On April 29, German Intelligence Service (BND) informed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government about the mercenaries’ participation in the operation, the paper said, RIA Novosti reported. It is not clear who commands the private military contractors and pays for their services, however.

    In March, media reports appeared suggesting that the coup-imposed government in Kiev could have employed up to 300 mercenaries.That was before the new government launched a military operation against anti-Maidan activists, or “terrorists” as Kiev put it, in southeast Ukraine.

    At the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry said then that reports claiming Kiev was planning to involve “involve staff from foreign military companies to ‘ensure the rule of law,’” could suggest that it wanted “to suppress civil protests and dissatisfaction.”

    In particular, Greystone Limited, which is currently registered in Barbados and is a part of Academi Corporation, is a candidate for such a gendarme role. It is a similar and probably an affiliated structure of the Blackwater private army, whose staff have been accused of cruel and systematic violations of human rights in various trouble spots on many occasions.

    “Among the candidates for the role of gendarme is the Barbados-registered company Greystone Limited, which is integrated with the Academi corporation,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is an analogue, and, probably and affiliated body of the Blackwater private army, whose employees have repeatedly been accused of committing grievous and systematic human rights abuses in different troubled regions.”

    Allegations increased further after unverified videos appeared on YouTube of unidentified armed men in the streets of Donetsk, the capital of the country’s industrial and coalmining region. In those videos, onlookers can be heard shouting “Mercenaries!”“Blackwater!,” and “Who are you going to shoot at?”

    (FILES) A picture taken on July 5, 2005 shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater securing the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)(FILES) A picture taken on July 5, 2005 shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater securing the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

    Academi denied its involvement in Ukraine, claiming on its website that “rumors” were posted by “some irresponsible bloggers and online reporters.”

    “Such unfounded statements combined with the lack of factual reporting to support them and the lack of context about the company, are nothing more than sensationalistic efforts to create hysteria and headlines in times of genuine crisis,” the US firm stated.

    The American security company Blackwater gained worldwide notoriety for the substantial role it played in the Iraq war as a contractor for the US government. In recent years it has changed its name twice – in 2009 it was renamed Xe Services and in 2011 it got its current name, Academi.

    The firm became infamous for the alleged September 16, 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. The attack, which saw 20 others wounded, was allegedly without justification and in violation of deadly-force rules that pertained to American security contractors in Iraq at the time. Between 2005 and September 2007, Blackwater security guards were involved in at least 195 shooting incidents in Iraq and fired first in 163 of those cases, a Congressional report said at the time.

    Published time: May 11, 2014 15:04
    Edited time: May 12, 2014 21:59 Get short URL

    Find this story at 11 Mai 2014

    © Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”, 2005–2014.

    Einsatz gegen Separatisten Ukrainische Armee bekommt offenbar Unterstützung von US-Söldnern

    400 US-Söldner sollen in der Ostukraine gegen die Separatisten kämpfen. Das berichtet “Bild am Sonntag” und beruft sich dabei auf Geheimdienstinformationen. Die Kämpfer kommen demnach vom Militärdienstleister Academi, früher bekannt als Blackwater.

    Berlin – Es war ein eindeutig formuliertes Dementi. “Unverantwortliche Blogger und ein Onlinereporter” hätten “Gerüchte” verbreitet, wonach Angestellte der Firma Academi in der Ukraine im Einsatz seien. Das sei falsch und nichts mehr als ein “sensationalistischer Versuch, eine Hysterie zu kreieren”. So äußerte sich der US-Militärdienstleister, ehemals unter dem Namen Blackwater zu unrühmlicher Bekanntheit gelangt, am 17. März auf seiner Webseite.

    Die staatliche russische Nachrichtenagentur “Ria Novosti” legte freilich am 7. April nach: Blackwater-Kämpfer agierten in der Ostukraine – und zwar in der Uniform der ukrainischen Sonderpolizei “Sokol”. Eine unabhängige Bestätigung dafür gab es nicht.

    Ein Zeitungsbericht legt nun nahe, dass an der Sache womöglich doch etwas dran sein könnte: Laut “Bild am Sonntag” werden die ukrainischen Sicherheitskräfte von 400 Academi-Elitesoldaten unterstützt. Sie sollen Einsätze gegen prorussische Rebellen rund um die ostukrainische Stadt Slowjansk geführt haben. Demnach setzte der Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) die Bundesregierung am 29. April darüber in Kenntnis. Wer die Söldner beauftragt habe, sei noch unklar.

    Die Informationen sollen vom US-Geheimdienst stammen und seien während der sogenannten Nachrichtendienstlichen Lage, einer regelmäßigen Besprechung unter Leitung von Kanzleramtschef Peter Altmaier (CDU), vorgetragen worden. An dem Treffen hätten auch die Präsidenten der Nachrichtendienste und des Bundeskriminalamts, der Geheimdienstkoordinator des Kanzleramts und hochrangige Ministeriumsbeamte teilgenommen.

    Angeblich Luftraum gezielt verletzt

    Die Zeitung berichtet aus der Runde weiterhin, dass die US-Geheimdienstler auch über Informationen verfügten, wonach russische Flugzeuge absichtlich den Luftraum der Ukraine verletzt hätten. Die Regierung in Moskau hatte das dementiert. Der BND habe aber Informationen der Amerikaner, dass Moskaus Militärpiloten den Einsatzbefehl bekommen hätten, gezielt in den ukrainischen Luftraum einzudringen.

    Eine Bestätigung für den Bericht gibt es bisher nicht. Der BND habe eine Stellungnahme abgelehnt, so “Bild am Sonntag”. Private Sicherheitsfirmen wie Academi gerieten insbesondere während des Irak-Kriegs in die Kritik. In den USA stehen mehrere ehemalige Blackwater-Angestellte im Zusammenhang mit der Tötung von irakischen Zivilisten vor Gericht. Academi hat sich mit einer Millionenzahlung von Ermittlungen in den USA freigekauft.
    11. Mai 2014, 08:10 Uhr

    11. Mai 2014, 08:10 Uhr

    Find this story at 11 Mai 2014


    PRIVATE US-SICHERHEITSFIRMA ACADEMI Wer steckt hinter der Söldnertruppe?

    Ukrainer, Russen oder doch auch US-Amerikaner? Wer kämpft wirklich auf welcher Seite im ukrainischen Bürgerkrieg?
    Am Wochenende sorgte ein Bericht der „BILD am SONNTAG“ für Aufregung, wonach die ukrainischen Sicherheitskräfte von 400 Söldnern der US-Firma Academi unterstützt würden. Der Bundesnachrichtendienst habe die Bundesregierung am 29. April darüber in Kenntnis gesetzt. Die Informationen sollen vom US-Geheimdienst stammen.
    Das Dementi kam prompt:
    Academi habe nirgendwo in der Ukraine Personal präsent oder im Einsatz, sagte Vizeunternehmenschefin Suzanne Kelly „Zeit Online“. Es sei auch nicht geplant, in der Ukraine präsent zu sein oder einen Einsatz zu starten.

    Doch wer steckt wirklich hinter Academi?
    Das Unternehmen bezeichnet sich selbst als Anbieter von Sicherheitsdienstleistungen. Es verweist auf seine Erfahrung in den gefährlichsten Regionen der Welt, ein erstklassiges, weltweites Netzwerk von Sicherheitsexperten und seine vertrauensvolle Partnerschaft mit staatlichen und privaten Kunden.
    Academi ist aus der 1997 gegründeten privaten US-Sicherheitsfirma Blackwater hervorgegangen.
    Das Unternehmen erlangte traurige Berühmtheit, als im Irak-Krieg Blackwater-Mitarbeiter, die dort im Auftrag des Pentagon tätig waren, am 16. September 2007 im Westen von Bagdad 17 irakische Zivilisten erschossen. Zudem sollen Söldner an Folter-Verhören in Geheimgefängnissen der CIA beteiligt gewesen sein.
    Blackwater wurde 2009 in Xe Services umbenannt, was laut Beobachtern dabei helfen sollte, die Makel der Vergangenheit zu loszuwerden. 2010 kaufte eine private Investorengruppe die Firma. Der Gründer Erik Prince, ein früherer Marinesoldat und Millionenerbe, verließ das Unternehmen.
    VergrößernDer frühere Blackwater-Chef Erik Prince, Archivbild von 2007
    Der frühere Blackwater-Chef Erik Prince, Archivbild von 2007
    Foto: Reuters
    2011 erfolgte die erneute Umbenennung in Academi. Geleitet wird die Firma nun vom Ex-Brigadegeneral der US Army, Craig Nixon. Im Aufsichtsrat sitzt auch der ehemalige Justizminister unter Präsident George W. Bush, John Ashcroft.
    Das Management betont, rein gar nichts mehr mit Blackwater und Prince zu tun zu haben. Es sei „unglaublich unverantwortlich“, den Eindruck zu erwecken, Academi und Blackwater seien ein und dasselbe, schimpfte Vizechefin Kelly.
    Doch in seiner auf der Webseite des Unternehmens abrufbaren Image-Broschüre verweist Academi auf seine langjährige, über ein Jahrzehnt zurückreichende Erfolgsgeschichte.
    VergrößernMitarbeiter der privaten US-Sicherheitsfirma Blackwater schützen Paul Bremer, den zivilen US-Verwalter im Irak (Mitte), in Bagdad, Irak. Archivbild vom 8. September 2003
    Mitarbeiter der privaten US-Sicherheitsfirma Blackwater schützen Paul Bremer, den zivilen US-Verwalter im Irak (Mitte), in Bagdad, Irak. Archivbild vom 8. September 2003
    Foto: dpa
    Das Unternehmen erhält weiterhin lukrative Aufträge der US-Regierung, unter anderem als Betreiber von Militäranlagen in Afghanistan.
    Die Firma gibt an, pro Jahr rund 20 000 Mitarbeiter zu Aufträgen zu entsenden. Kunden seien Regierungen und private Einrichtungen. Nach brasilianischen Medienberichten schulte Academi zuletzt die Polizei des Landes für den Umgang mit terroristischen Bedrohungen bei der anstehenden Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft.
    Ob tatsächlich Academi-Söldner in der Ukraine im Einsatz sind, lässt sich schwer nachprüfen. Auf den bereits im März bei Youtube hochgeladenen Videos, die als „Beweis“ angeführt werden, sind lediglich maskierte, schwer bewaffnete Männer zu sehen. Aus einer wütenden Menge sind „Blackwater“-Rufe zu hören.

    Seit dem Erscheinen der Videos wird immer wieder spekuliert, dass Söldner die pro-westliche ukrainische Regierung unterstützen.
    Die russische Nachrichtenagentur Interfax verbreitete die Äußerungen eines russischen Diplomaten in Kiew, wonach 300 Söldner bereits in der ukrainischen Hauptstadt eingetroffen seien. Die meisten seien aus den USA und zuvor im Irak und in Afghanistan im Einsatz gewesen. Dabei wird auch immer wieder die private US-Sicherheitsfirma Greystone genannt – früher ebenfalls ein Tochterunternehmen von Blackwater.
    Die britische „Daily Mail“ fragte den Sicherheits-Experten Dr. Nafeez Amad vom unabhängigen Londoner Institut für Politikforschung und -entwicklung (IPRD), ob es sich bei den im Video gezeigten Soldaten um US-Söldner handeln könnte.
    Seine Antwort: „Schwer zu sagen. Es ist sicherlich im Bereich des Möglichen.“ Die Uniformen der Männer glichen denen von US-Söldnern. Die Männer sähen auch nicht wie russische Söldner aus.
    Andererseits sei die Frage, warum sich die Männer in dem Video so öffentlich zur Schau stellen, wird Dr. Amad weiter zitiert.
    „Natürlich ist auch möglich, dass das alles russische Propaganda ist.“

    14.05.2014 – 22:33 Uhr

    Find this story at 14 Mai 2014

    Copyright http://www.bild.de/

    Alleged CIA Spy in Germany May Have Worked for Russia All Along

    Edward Snowden revealed the NSA had been tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
    Germany has expelled the U.S. CIA’s station chief in the country, in a dramatic turn of events set into motion after a low-level German intelligence official was caught offering his spying services to Russia.

    Cooperation between Germany and the U.S. requires “mutual trust and openness,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement Thursday. “The federal government is ready to continue this and expects the same from its closest partners.”

    Germany was first unsettled by U.S. spying practices after documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone and conducting surveillance inside Germany.

    Tensions rekindled last week after German authorities arrested a low-level employee of the Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, on suspicion of offering to spy for Russia.

    The BND official later admitted that he had previously worked for the CIA, but that the U.S. spy body lost interest after two years of service during which the man reportedly leaked more than 200 classified documents, news reports said.

    The man then reportedly approached the Russian consulate in Munich with an offer to spy for Moscow, but was caught by Germany’s anti-espionage officials.

    German espionage-affairs analyst Erich Schmidt-Eenboom told Germany’s Deutsche Welle after the scandal broke out that the BND official might have been spying for Russia from the very beginning, even if he believed he was selling documents to the CIA.

    “In the intelligence business, it is possible to be recruited under false pretenses,” Schmidt-Eenboom was quoted as saying. “Meaning he could have been told he was working for an American agency by people actually working for Russian intelligence. That’s indeed possible in this business.”

    In a timely coincidence, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday lashed out at spying practices by some nations — which he did not name — against their allies.

    “As for the aforementioned cyber espionage, this is not only blatant hypocrisy in relations between allies and partners, but also a direct infringement against state sovereignty and a violation of human rights, interference in private lives,” Putin said in an interview published on the Kremlin website Friday.

    By Anna Dolgov Jul. 11 2014 09:59 Last edited 09:59
    Francois Lenoir / Reuters

    Find this story at 11 July 2014

    © Copyright 1992-2014. The Moscow Times

    Inside Putin’s East European Spy Campaign

    Russian President Vladimir Putin’s well-organized espionage operations from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus are described as “soft power with a hard edge,” but his efforts across the region have been more systematic than the unrest in Ukraine suggests

    On Sept. 8, 2012, the Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky participated in the opening of a Russian nationalist organization called the Izborsky Club in the monastery town of Pskov, just across the border from Estonia. His speech itself was not particularly memorable, but the Russian official’s presence at the affair was not lost on the Estonian Internal Security Service, which believes the club’s imperialist message and outreach to ethnic Russians across the border are part of an anti-Estonian influence operation run by Moscow.

    The head of the club, Aleksandr Prokhanov, seemed to confirm the Estonian suspicions later that month when he declared, “Our club is a laboratory, where the ideology of the Russian state is being developed. It is an institute where the concept of a breakthrough is created; it is a military workshop, where an ideological weapon is being forged that will be sent straight into battle.”

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has many such weapons in his irredentist arsenal. The rapid collapse of the pro-Moscow government of Victor Yanukovich in Ukraine brought some of them, like paramilitary force, to the attention of the western public. But Putin’s efforts across the region have been far more systematic and carefully thought out than the recent chaos in Ukraine suggests. Over the last decade, Putin has established a well-organized, well-funded and often subtle overt and covert operation in the vast swath of neighboring countries, from Estonia on the Baltic Sea to Azerbaijan in the Caucuses, say western and regional government officials. “He’s implementing a plan that he’s had all along,” says Clifford Gaddy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of a biography of Putin.

    The operation has been described by local intelligence officials as “soft power with a hard edge” and includes a range of Cold War espionage tools. His Baltic neighbors say, for example, that he has deployed agents provocateurs to stir up their minority ethnic Russian groups which make up 25% of the population in Estonia and as much as 40% of the population in Latvia. They say he has established government-controlled humanitarian front organizations in their capitals, infiltrated their security services and energy industry companies, instigated nationalist riots and launched cyber attacks. The goal, says the Estonian Ambassador to the U.S., Marina Kaljurand, is “to restore in one form or another the power of the Russian Federation on the lands where Russian people live.”

    The operation has the secondary, larger goal of undermining and rolling back western power, say U.S. and European officials. And while the greatest threat is to his immediate neighbors, his activities also challenge Europe and the U.S. All NATO countries have committed to each other’s mutual defense, which means the U.S. is treaty-bound to come to Russia’s NATO neighbors, like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, if Putin were to attack.

    For now, Putin seems unlikely to risk a direct conflict with NATO. But his espionage efforts in relatively weak NATO countries can be as effective as military action. “If you look at the complex sort of strategy that Moscow has employed in Crimea and in Ukraine it becomes much less clear what constitutes an invasion or measures to destabilize,” neighboring countries, says Sharyl Cross, director of the Kozmetsky Center at St. Edward’s University. That uncertainty about what kind of invasion the Baltics might face could make a strong NATO response impossible.

    That in turn, says former CIA chief John McLaughlin, could be even more damaging to the U.S. and Western Europe by fatally undermining one of the most successful peacetime alliances in history. “If he were to challenge NATO in some way that paralyzed us over an Article Five issue, that would be a dagger to the heart of the alliance,” McLaughlin says.

    The espionage confrontation between Russia and its Western neighbors started with their independence back in the early 1990s, but it escalated in 2007. In one particularly bad incident, the Estonian government removed a statue of a Russian soldier from central Tallinn in April that year, sparking riots by ethnic Russians. In the wake of the riots, Amb. Kaljurand, who was then the Estonian ambassador to Moscow, was attacked in her car by a mob on her way to a press conference. Days later a massive Distributed Denial Of Service cyber attack was launched against the computer systems of the Estonian government and major Estonian industries. In private meetings with the U.S. Ambassador to Estonia, top Estonian officials said Russia was behind the organization and implementation of all the attacks, according to confidential cables sent to Washington by the U.S. embassy and published by Wikileaks.

    The war in Georgia in August 2008, sharpened NATO’s focus on Putin’s threat. Russia declared it was protecting ethnic Russians from a hostile Georgian government, an assertion that was taken as a direct warning by other countries in the region with Russian minorities, including the Baltic States and Ukraine. Around the world, intelligence agencies noticed a shift in Russian behavior, according to other Wikileaks cables. In a meeting between a State Department intelligence officer and his counterpart from the Australian government in Canberra in mid-November 2008, for example, the Australian warned the U.S. that Russia was launching a regional program to destabilize its neighbors and advance its interests. In a secret cable back to Washington, the State official said his Australian counterpart “described the Baltic states and Ukraine as ‘countries that are in Russia’s sights,’ with the dangerous similarities in Moscow’s view of the ethnically Russian population and strategic geography of Crimea to those which motivated its recent actions against Georgia.”

    In response to the war in Georgia, the U.S. agreed for the first time that NATO should draw up contingency plans to respond to a Russian attack against the Baltic states. The alliance set about expanding plans known as Operation Eagle Guardian, which were developed to defend Poland, to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

    Russia for its part also stepped up its game. Putin encouraged the Russian parliament to pass a law authorizing him to intervene in other countries to protect ethnic Russians. More subtly, in 2008, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs established a national agency dedicated to advancing Russian interests especially in the former Soviet Union, now known as the Commonwealth of Independent States, and to engaging with and organizing what Moscow calls “compatriots living abroad.” Called Rossotrudnichestvo, the agency performs a variety of traditional cultural roles at embassies around the world. It also helps organize local ethnic Russian groups abroad in ways that unsettle host governments.

    According to a report by the Estonian security services, membership in one local ethnic Russian group in Estonia, “Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots” is approved by the Russian Embassy and its activities are guided by the embassy. The purpose of the group “is to organize and coordinate the Russian diaspora living in foreign countries to support the objectives and interests of Russian foreign policy under the direction of Russian departments,” according to the most recent report of the Estonian Internal Security Service. “The compatriot policy aims to influence decisions taken in the host countries, by guiding the Russian-speaking population, and by using influence operations inherited from the KGB,” the report says.

    Last October, Mother Jones magazine said the FBI had interviewed Americans who had accepted travel stipends from the office of Russotrudnichestvo in Washington as part of an investigation into potential spying by the Russian agency. The head of the Rossotrudnichestvo office denied the charges and called on the U.S. government to distance itself from the allegations. The FBI and other U.S. agencies declined to comment on the report.

    Russia also targets regional businesses and businessmen to establish influence over key sectors, especially energy. Recently, Latvian intelligence identified a top businessman in the energy sector holding clandestine meetings with a Russian intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover out of the Russian embassy, according to an official familiar with NATO and Latvian intelligence. When Latvian security services reached out to the businessman in an attempt to work with him, his meetings with the Russian official stopped, but his trips to Russia increased. The Latvian intelligence services concluded he was meeting with his Russian handler out of their view, the official says.

    Putin has also used his intelligence advantage in neighboring countries to go after NATO itself. After Estonia arrested the former head of its National Security Authority, Herman Simm, in 2009 on charges of spying for Moscow, the Atlantic alliance uncovered and expelled two alleged Russian co-conspirators working at its headquarters in Brussels.

    Most recently during the crisis in Ukraine, Putin has stepped up the traditional use of media propaganda, especially on television. The propaganda peaked with outlandish and false accusations of attacks against Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine. Russia’s neighbors have taken a variety of approaches to countering the propaganda, from outright censorship to counter-programming. On Mar. 21, Lithuania banned broadcasts of Gazprom-owned NTV Mir station after it showed a movie that the government said “spread lies about” Lithuania’s move to declare independence from the Soviet Union in early 1991. On Apr. 3, Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council suspended the broadcast rights of Rossiya RTR for three weeks, claiming the station was peddling “war propaganda.”

    Estonia, for its part, considered banning Russian broadcasts but opted to leave Russian channels on and instead to compete with a barrage of “counter-programming” through Russian language TV, radio and print media. “If you ban things it creates more interest,” says Amb. Kaljurand, “The better way is to give better facts and the point of view of the West.”

    The U.S. and its allies are hardly innocents in the international spy game. The U.S. government uses overt and covert means to influence and organize pro-Western groups in many of the same countries Putin is targeting. It works through cultural and diplomatic channels to recruit intelligence sources around the world and in eastern Europe, and the Ukraine crisis has only heightened that work. Says CIA spokesman Dean Boyd, “The Agency’s strong partnerships throughout the region enable cooperation on a variety of intelligence issues. When a foreign crisis erupts, it’s normal for the CIA to shift into overdrive to ensure that our officers have access to the best available information to support the policy community.”

    It is also true that Russia’s western neighbors include some with anti-Russian and anti-Semitic views that are occasionally reflected in political debate. Lithuania and Latvia in particular are noted in repeated U.S. diplomatic cables from the region to Washington for the presence of “strident” anti-Russian and anti-Semitic voices in politics, some of them belonging to powerful figures.

    In late April the U.S. deployed 600 troops to the Baltics and Poland, and U.S. and other NATO countries increased air patrols in the Baltics. The largely symbolic deployment was intended to reassure all four countries that the U.S. takes its Article 5 obligations seriously, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at the time. Likewise, Kirby said, “If there is a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe.”

    Even the most nervous Russian neighbors believe Putin’s use of force is likely to stop in Ukraine, but his espionage program is likely to continue. “[He] is using the soft power tools and other forms of indirect coercion and influence against the Baltics states,” says the official familiar with NATO and Latvian intelligence, “He will use all of these tactics.”

    That is a particular concern for Moscow’s neighbors as Russians everywhere prepare to celebrate on May 9 Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany. “If we have a little bit of rioting that will make people become scared and they’ll say maybe we need to find an accommodation with the Russians,” the official says.

    Massimo Calabresi @calabresim May 7, 2014

    Find this story at 7 May 2014

    Copyright Time

    How MI5 and CIA Can Fight the Russian Threat

    After years reorienting itself toward counter-terrorism operations and hiring speakers of Urdu and Pashto, MI5, Britain’s domestic security and counterespionage agency, is now looking for Russian-speaking intelligence analysts. Meanwhile, a contact of mine suggested that the Russia desks in several European intelligence agencies are hastily expanding, with agents and analysts being transferred in from other sections. Yesterday, they were reading reports on North African politics and scanning the Chinese press. Now they are poring over YouTube footage of Russian armor on exercises near the Ukrainian border.

    All of a sudden, as talk of a new Cold War dominates opinion pages all over the world, Western intelligence and security agencies are rushing to regain capacities lost during the 1990s and 2000s. After all, those were the days of the “peace dividend.” During this period, Russia seemed at best a partner and at worst an irrelevance. But suddenly, the big, bad specter of al-Qaida and jihadi terrorism seemed the greater menace.

    I remember talking to a veteran of the U.S. intelligence community, who had experienced two purges. First, as a Russia hand, she had seen her section decimated after the Soviet collapse. Having managed to reinvent herself as a specialist in dealing with transnational organized crime — especially the Russian mob — she then saw the best and brightest of her unit summarily transferred to counter-terrorism work after 9/11.

    Now, the West is worried about the Russian threat again, and it is painfully aware of the deficiencies in its intelligence capacities in this region.

    Paradoxically, Western security agencies themselves have been warning for years of an upsurge in the scale and aggressiveness of Russian espionage operations.

    What’s more, there has been a steady stream of Russian espionage cases. Some were more Austin Powers than James Bond, such as the cell of Foreign Intelligence Service sleeper agents uncovered in the U.S. in 2010, best known for Anna Chapman. But others were very serious breaches of Western security. Jeffrey Delisle, a Canadian naval officer who offered his services to GRU, Russia’s military intelligence, had access to top-secret material from around the world. Herman Simm, a long-time Russian agent, was head of the Estonian Defense Ministry’s security department. And there are others in these categories.

    Yet for all this, there seems to have been an unwillingness to take the security breaches seriously. The Chapman case — and how galling it must be for other, more professional members of the cell to have been relegated by posterity into mere extras in her story — was more the grounds for titillation and entertainment than serious consideration. Other incidents tended to be five-day wonders at the most in the media.

    This was not because Western security agencies were not expressing their concerns. Indeed, back in 2010, MI5 issued a statement, saying “the threat from Russian espionage continues to be significant and is similar to the Cold War.” Rather, it reflected their political masters’ determination to classify Russia as a second-rate, has-been state. The other factor was the Western security agencies’ narrow focus on terrorism, as if ragged gangs of religious fanatics dodging drones from cave to cave halfway across the globe represented an existential threat to the Western order.

    It has taken the Ukrainian crisis to change attitudes. Last month, I attended the Lennart Meri Conference on Baltic security in Tallinn. There, the mood was tinged with more than a little of the “told you so,” especially among representatives from Central Europe. To them, the “western West” had for years been content to underestimate Russian intentions and capacities and to rely on bromides about “partnerships” and “restarts.” The West is only now realizing its mistake.

    Of course, the West has always spied on Russia and tried to counter its intelligence operations. But there is no escaping the damage done by nearly 25 years of neglect. Rebuilding counterintelligence assets, let alone agent networks on the ground and the analytic capacity at home, cannot be done quickly.

    Meanwhile, we must remember that democracies in particular have a tendency to lurch from one over-compensation to another. The West was too quick to write Russia off in the miserable 1990s. Will it now go to the other extreme and consider Russia as an existential enemy in the 2010s? If so, this would clearly exacerbate tensions with Moscow even further. It would also likely mean that the West’s spies once again become obsessed with Russian military capacities.

    The threat to Europe, though, is not that Russia will send its tanks into the Baltics, Poland or Romania. Even in its current emaciated condition, NATO is capable of delivering a devastating response to any Russian aggression in Europe. Nor is the problem that Russia’s unidentified special forces — aka “little green men” — will suddenly crop up in Estonia’s Russian-speaking city of Narva or among the Russian tourists in Karlovy Vary.

    Rather, the problem is that Russia could try to render the West impotent. First, it could divide Western leaders over the issue of how to best deal with the Russian threat. Germany is perhaps the best example of a country already divided over the “Russian problem.” Russia could also infiltrate Western financial institutions through cyberwarfare or dirty money. The question is whether Western security agencies, as they desperately scramble to respond to the new perceived challenge after running down their Cold War capabilities, will simply seek to recreate these again. That would be a mistake. What is needed is not a revival of the old, but the creation of new capabilities to respond to a new era of diffuse, complex asymmetric competition.

    Mark Galeotti is professor of global affairs at New York University.

    By Mark GaleottiMay. 06 2014 20:45 Last edited 20:46

    Find this story at 6 May 2014

    © Copyright 1992-2014. The Moscow Times

    Todesschüsse in Kiew+ Wer ist für das Blutbad vom Maidan verantwortlich

    Georg Restle: „Die Krise in der Ukraine ist noch lange nicht vorbei. Dies haben uns die Bilder aus dem Osten des Landes von dieser Woche gelehrt. Und auch die Propagandaschlacht geht weiter. Eine der zentralen Fragen ist dabei, wer ist verantwortlich für das Blutbad, dem im Februar Dutzende Demonstranten und Polizisten zum Opfer fielen, und das schließlich zum Sturz des Präsidenten Janukowitsch führte? Wer also waren die Todesschützen auf dem Kiewer Maidan? Die vom Westen unterstützte Übergangsregierung hat sich letzte Woche festgelegt: Präsident Janukowitsch und seine Sonderkommandos tragen demnach allein die Schuld für die Toten. Doch an dieser Version gibt es jetzt erhebliche Zweifel, wie die Recherchen von Philipp Jahn, Olga Sviridenko und Stephan Stuchlik zeigen.”

    Was geschah am 20. Februar 2014 in Kiew? Aufgeheizte Stimmung, aus den ursprünglich friedlichen Demonstrationen ist ein Bürgerkrieg geworden. Teile der Demonstranten haben sich bewaffnet, rücken in Richtung Regierungsgebäude vor. In einzelnen Trupps versuchen die Demonstranten, auf die Instituts-Straße zu gelangen. Der blutige Donnerstag: Einzeln werden Demonstranten erschossen, viele von den Dächern umliegender Gebäude. Aber wer genau waren diese Scharfschützen, die auf die Demonstranten schossen?

    Diese Frage beschäftigt die Kiewer bis heute, zu Hunderten kommen sie täglich an den Platz des Massakers.

    Als wir ankommen, sechs Wochen danach, ist anscheinend noch nicht einmal die grundsätzliche Beweisaufnahme abgeschlossen. Sergeij, ein Waffenexperte, ist einer der vielen unabhängigen Ermittler, die eng mit der Staatsanwaltschaft zusammenarbeiten und die Ermittlungen in Gang halten. Vor unseren Augen sichert er noch Patronenhülsen. Danach alarmiert er die staatlichen Ermittler, die den Ort nach eigener Aussage schon gründlich untersucht haben. Erstaunlich, während sie noch arbeiten, hat sich ihre vorgesetzte Behörde in einer Pressekonferenz schon festgelegt, wer die Schuldigen sind.

    Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Mit dem heutigen Tag klagt die Staatsanwaltschaft 12 Mitglieder der Spezialeinheit Berkut des Mordes an friedlichen Demonstranten an. Der damalige Präsident Janukowitsch befehligte direkt diese Spezialeinheit Berkut.“

    Die neue Regierung sagt also, die alte Regierung Janukowitsch wäre für das Blutbad verantwortlich.

    Doch was geschah wirklich am 20 Februar? Fest steht, die Demonstranten rückten auf der Institutsstraße Richtung Regierungsgebäude vor. Von gegenüber gerieten sie unter Feuer, vom Dach des Ministerkabinetts, der Zentralbank und weiteren Regierungsgebäuden. Doch schon früh gab es Hinweise, dass sie auch im Rücken getroffen wurden, von ihrer eigenen Zentrale aus, vom Hotel Ukraina.

    Aber welche Beweise gibt es dafür? Zum einen ist da dieses Video, das augenscheinlich beweist, dass der Oppositionelle mit dem Metallschild von hinten getroffen wird. Der Mann in Gelb auf dieser Aufnahme geht sogar noch weiter. Er gehörte zu den Demonstranten, war an diesem Tag stundenlang auf der Institutsstraße. Er heißt Mikola, wir treffen uns mit ihm am Ort des Geschehens. Er sagt uns, es wurde sogar mehrfach in den Rücken der Opposition geschossen.

    Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, am zwanzigsten wurden wir von hinten beschossen, vom Hotel Ukraina, vom 8. oder 9. Stock aus.“

    Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Von der achten oder neunten Etage?“

    Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, auf jeden Fall fast von ganz oben.“

    Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Von da oben?“

    Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, da standen Leute oben und haben geschossen und aus der anderen Richtung hier wurden wir auch beschossen.“

    Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Und wer hat von oben geschossen?“

    Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Das weiß ich nicht.“

    Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Haben Sie eine Ahnung?“

    Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Das waren Söldner, auf jeden Fall Profis.“

    Das Ukraina-Hotel hier war das damalige Zentrum der Demonstranten. Hat sich der Augenzeuge geirrt? Wir sind nachts unterwegs mit Ermittler Sergej. Er zeigt uns mit einem Laser, dass es nicht nur Schusskanäle aus Richtung der Regierungsgebäude gibt. Einige Kanäle in den Bäumen deuten in die entgegengesetzte Richtung, wenn man durch Austrittsloch und Einschussloch leuchtet, oben ins Hotel Ukraina, damals die Zentrale der Opposition. Das aber passt schlecht zur Version des Generalstaatsanwalts, der uns nach Tagen Überzeugungsarbeit endlich empfängt. Er ist von der neuen Regierung eingesetzt, gehört dem rechtsnationalen Flügel der damaligen Opposition an, der umstrittenen Svobóda-Partei.

    Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt, Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir können wirklich heute schon sagen, nach allen Beweismitteln und Expertisen, die wir in der Hand haben, wer prinzipiell Schuld an den Sniper-Attacken ist: der damalige Präsident Viktor Janukowitsch, der ehemalige Verwaltungschef und der ehemalige Innenminister Sacharchenko.“

    Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Sie wissen auch, dass es Sniper vom Hotel Ukraina gab?“

    Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt, Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir untersuchen das.“

    Die Scharfschützen also alles Janukowitsch-Leute? Es gibt noch weitere Beweise, die diese These in Frage stellen. Wir treffen uns mit einem Radio-Amateur, der an diesem Tag aufgezeichnet hat, wie sich Janukowitsch-Scharfschützen untereinander unterhalten. Ihr Funkverkehr beweist: Da schießt jemand auf Unbewaffnete, jemand den sie nicht kennen.

    1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „He, Leute, ihr da drüben, rechts vom Hotel Ukraina.“

    2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wer hat da geschossen? Unsere Leute schießen nicht auf Unbewaffnete.“

    1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Jungs, da sitzt ein Spotter, der zielt auf mich. Auf wen zielt der von der Ecke. Guckt mal!“

    2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Auf dem Dach vom gelben Gebäude. Auf dem Kino, auf dem Kino.“

    1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Den hat jemand erschossen. Aber nicht wir.“

    2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Miron, Miron, gibt es da noch mehr Scharfschützen? Und wer sind die?“

    Wir halten fest: Es gab neben den Regierungs-Scharfschützen also noch andere unbekannte Schützen, die auf unbewaffnete Demonstranten geschossen haben. Und, wer immer vom Hotel Ukraina schießt, hat – so legt dieses Video nahe – auch diese Milizionäre getroffen. Dass Janukowitsch auf die eigenen Leute hat schießen lassen, ist unwahrscheinlich.

    Gab es also Scharfschützen der damaligen Opposition? Fest steht, es gab neben den vielen friedlichen Demonstranten durchaus eine Gruppe Radikaler mit professionellen Waffen, wie diese Aufnahmen zeigen.

    Und, das Hotel am Morgen des 20. Februar war fest in der Hand der Opposition. Wir sprechen mit Augenzeugen aus dem Hotel Ukraina, Journalisten, Oppositionelle. Sie alle bestätigen uns, am 20. Februar war das Hotel von der Opposition schwer bewacht. Es hätte sich also schwerlich ein Scharfschütze der Regierung einschleichen können.

    Haben also radikale Oppositionelle am Ende selbst geschossen, um Chaos zu erzeugen? Um Janukowitsch die Schuld anzuhängen? Die russischen Fernsehsender verbreiten Bilder, auf denen genau das zu sehen sein soll. Unsere Recherchen bestätigen, dass die Aufnahmen tatsächlich im Hotel Ukraina gemacht wurden. Aber wer da genau auf wen schießt, lässt sich nicht endgültig klären.

    Fest steht nur, es wurde nicht nur auf Oppositionelle, sondern auch auf die Milizen der Regierung geschossen. Vielleicht sogar von denselben Leuten? Wir treffen einen der wenigen Ärzte, der die Verwundeten beider Seiten versorgt hat.

    Oleksandr Lisowoi, Krankenhaus Nr. 6, Kiew (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Die Verwundeten, die wir behandelt haben, hatten denselben Typ Schussverletzungen, ich spreche jetzt von dem Typ Kugeln, die wir aus den Körpern herausoperiert haben, die waren identisch. Mehr kann ich nicht sagen.“

    Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Aber die haben Sie…“

    Oleksandr Lisowoi, Krankenhaus Nr. 6, Kiew (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Bei der Miliz und bei der Opposition gefunden.“

    Warum geht die Staatsanwaltschaft solchen Fragen nicht nach? Der deutsche Außenminister und die Europäische Union haben bereits im Februar per Abkommen festgestellt, dass die Schuldfrage in der Ukraine ein politisch zentrales Thema sei, die Aufarbeitung sollte „ergebnisoffen“ sein, um das Vertrauen in die neue ukrainische Regierung zu stärken. Doch mittlerweile mehren sich die Zweifel, ob wirklich sachgerecht ermittelt wird, auch bei den eigenen Mitarbeitern. Wir sprechen mit einem hochrangigen Mitglied der Ermittlungskommission. Er erzählt uns Unglaubliches.

    Zitat: „Das, was mir an Ergebnissen meiner Untersuchung vorliegt, stimmt nicht mit dem überein, was die Staatsanwaltschaft erklärt.“

    Wurden also Beweismittel unterdrückt oder sogar unterschlagen? Auch die Rechtsanwälte, die die Angehörigen der Toten vertreten, alle eigentlich auf Seiten der neuen Regierung, beklagen sich, dass sie überhaupt nicht darüber informiert werden, womit genau sich die Staatsanwaltschaft beschäftige.

    Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir haben nicht gesagt bekommen, welcher Typ Waffen, wir bekommen keinen Zugang zu den Gutachten, wir bekommen die Einsatzpläne nicht. Die anderen Ermittlungsdokumente haben wir auch nicht, die Staatsanwaltschaft zeigt uns einfach keine Papiere.“

    Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Haben Sie ballistische Gutachten?“

    Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Nein.“

    Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Rechtsmedizinische Gutachten?“

    Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ich durfte in den Obduktionsbericht reingucken, aber nicht kopieren, ballistische Gutachten habe ich nicht bekommen.“

    Ein Anwalt der Verletzten geht sogar noch weiter:

    Oleksandr Baschuk, Anwalt der Geschädigten (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir kommen alle an keine Ermittlungsprotokolle ran und wenn Sie mich fragen, gibt es dafür einen einfachen Grund, es wird nicht richtig ermittelt. Ich als Anwalt der Verletzten sage Ihnen, die Staatsanwaltschaft ermittelt nicht richtig, die decken ihre Leute, die sind parteiisch, so wie früher. Die wollen wie in der Sowjetunion oder unter Janukowitsch alles unter der Decke halten, so ist das.“

    Der blutige Donnerstag: Über 30 Menschen werden an diesem Tag in Kiew ermordet, ein Blutbad im Zentrum einer europäischen Großstadt. Unsere Recherchen zeigen, dass in Kiew schon Schuldige präsentiert werden, obwohl es auch zahlreiche Hinweise gibt, die in Richtung Opposition weisen. Spuren, die nicht verfolgt werden. Und möglicherweise gibt es auch noch andere Kräfte, die an den Schießereien beteiligt waren. Die Kiewer Generalstaatsanwaltschaft ist sich in ihrer Einschätzung sicher, wir sind es nicht.

    Georg Restle: „Bei allen offenen Fragen, dass ein Vertreter der nationalistischen Svoboda-Partei als Generalstaatsanwalt die Aufklärung des Kiewer Blutbads ganz offensichtlich behindert, wirft ein schlechtes Bild auf die neue Übergangsregierung – und damit auch auf all jene westlichen Regierungen, die die neuen Machthaber in Kiew unterstützen.“

    DasErste.de – Monitor –

    Find this story at 10 April 2014

    © WDR 2014

    It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war

    The attempt to lever Kiev into the western camp by ousting an elected leader made conflict certain. It could be a threat to us all

    ‘The reality is that after two decades of Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit … ‘ Illustration: Matt Kenyon
    The threat of war in Ukraine is growing. As the unelected government in Kiev declares itself unable to control the rebellion in the country’s east, John Kerry brands Russia a rogue state. The US and the European Union step up sanctions against the Kremlin, accusing it of destabilising Ukraine. The White House is reported to be set on a new cold war policy with the aim of turning Russia into a “pariah state”.

    That might be more explicable if what is going on in eastern Ukraine now were not the mirror image of what took place in Kiev a couple of months ago. Then, it was armed protesters in Maidan Square seizing government buildings and demanding a change of government and constitution. US and European leaders championed the “masked militants” and denounced the elected government for its crackdown, just as they now back the unelected government’s use of force against rebels occupying police stations and town halls in cities such as Slavyansk and Donetsk.

    “America is with you,” Senator John McCain told demonstrators then, standing shoulder to shoulder with the leader of the far-right Svoboda party as the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up the new Ukrainian government.

    When the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover, politicians such as William Hague brazenly misled parliament about the legality of what had taken place: the imposition of a pro-western government on Russia’s most neuralgic and politically divided neighbour.

    Putin bit back, taking a leaf out of the US street-protest playbook – even though, as in Kiev, the protests that spread from Crimea to eastern Ukraine evidently have mass support. But what had been a glorious cry for freedom in Kiev became infiltration and insatiable aggression in Sevastopol and Luhansk.

    After Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, the bulk of the western media abandoned any hint of even-handed coverage. So Putin is now routinely compared to Hitler, while the role of the fascistic right on the streets and in the new Ukrainian regime has been airbrushed out of most reporting as Putinist propaganda.

    So you don’t hear much about the Ukrainian government’s veneration of wartime Nazi collaborators and pogromists, or the arson attacks on the homes and offices of elected communist leaders, or the integration of the extreme Right Sector into the national guard, while the anti-semitism and white supremacism of the government’s ultra-nationalists is assiduously played down, and false identifications of Russian special forces are relayed as fact.

    The reality is that, after two decades of eastward Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit and defence structure, via an explicitly anti-Moscow EU association agreement. Its rejection led to the Maidan protests and the installation of an anti-Russian administration – rejected by half the country – that went on to sign the EU and International Monetary Fund agreements regardless.

    No Russian government could have acquiesced in such a threat from territory that was at the heart of both Russia and the Soviet Union. Putin’s absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive, and the red line now drawn: the east of Ukraine, at least, is not going to be swallowed up by Nato or the EU.

    But the dangers are also multiplying. Ukraine has shown itself to be barely a functioning state: the former government was unable to clear Maidan, and the western-backed regime is “helpless” against the protests in the Soviet-nostalgic industrial east. For all the talk about the paramilitary “green men” (who turn out to be overwhelmingly Ukrainian), the rebellion also has strong social and democratic demands: who would argue against a referendum on autonomy and elected governors?

    Meanwhile, the US and its European allies impose sanctions and dictate terms to Russia and its proteges in Kiev, encouraging the military crackdown on protesters after visits from Joe Biden and the CIA director, John Brennan. But by what right is the US involved at all, incorporating under its strategic umbrella a state that has never been a member of Nato, and whose last elected government came to power on a platform of explicit neutrality? It has none, of course – which is why the Ukraine crisis is seen in such a different light across most of the world. There may be few global takers for Putin’s oligarchic conservatism and nationalism, but Russia’s counterweight to US imperial expansion is welcomed, from China to Brazil.

    In fact, one outcome of the crisis is likely to be a closer alliance between China and Russia, as the US continues its anti-Chinese “pivot” to Asia. And despite growing violence, the cost in lives of Russia’s arms-length involvement in Ukraine has so far been minimal compared with any significant western intervention you care to think of for decades.

    The risk of civil war is nevertheless growing, and with it the chances of outside powers being drawn into the conflict. Barack Obama has already sent token forces to eastern Europe and is under pressure, both from Republicans and Nato hawks such as Poland, to send many more. Both US and British troops are due to take part in Nato military exercises in Ukraine this summer.

    The US and EU have already overplayed their hand in Ukraine. Neither Russia nor the western powers may want to intervene directly, and the Ukrainian prime minister’s conjuring up of a third world war presumably isn’t authorised by his Washington sponsors. But a century after 1914, the risk of unintended consequences should be obvious enough – as the threat of a return of big-power conflict grows. Pressure for a negotiated end to the crisis is essential.

    Seumas Milne
    The Guardian, Wednesday 30 April 2014 21.01 BST

    Find this story at 30 April 2014

    © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    After Crimea, West’s spies, armies to raise Russia focus

    (Reuters) – As Western states enter a new era of potential confrontation with Moscow, they face an awkward reality.

    A quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the level of expertise on Russia in intelligence agencies, armed forces and governments has diminished drastically.

    Rising concern over Russian government espionage – including increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks and computer spyware – had sparked some modest renewed interest in recent years, primarily in counterintelligence.

    But the way Washington and its allies were so blindsided by President Vladimir Putin’s military seizure and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, is seen demonstrating a dramatic need for renewed focus.

    The bottom line, current and former officials say, is that with the post-September 11, 2001 focus on Islamist militancy and the Middle East and later the rise of China, the former Soviet Union was simply not seen a career enhancing speciality.

    Compared to the Cold War era, when most of Russian territory was off-limits to Westerners, regional specialists say there is no shortage of expertise among academics and in the business community today. But it has so far gone untapped.

    “There is a good supply of Russia experts out there – people who have lived there with lots of good experience – but the demand has just not been there from government,” says Fiona Hill, U.S. national intelligence officer for Russia in 2006-9 and now director for the Centre for the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution.

    “The Pentagon in particular has lost a lot of its Russia expertise, as has the White House.”

    More of those outside experts are now likely to find work in defence ministries and intelligence agencies, current and former officials say. But in an era of constrained budgets, focusing on Russia is likely to mean redeploying resources from elsewhere.

    Until the Ukraine crisis that did not seem a natural choice, people with knowledge of internal discussions say.

    “The main problem is one of capacity at a time when counterterrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab awakening have taken up so much energy,” said one former Western intelligence officer on condition of anonymity.

    Russia is primarily a threat to its immediate neighbourhood only, officials and analysts say, but still one requiring greater vigilance that over the last two decades.


    Capacity alone is far from everything. The West’s legions of Soviet specialists, with few exceptions, missed the warning signs of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

    Still, officials and analysts say there is a growing feeling that the West should have done more to increase its Russia focus particularly as Moscow’s defence spending rose some 30 percent after its 2008 war with Georgia.

    “The people who know the most about Russia’s defence capability have tended to take it the most seriously,” says former Pentagon official Elbridge Colby, now a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security.

    Some central and east European and Nordic states have long focused much if not all of their intelligence and defence resources on Russia. Poland and Sweden in particular are seen leading the pack. Others are now catching up.

    One reason Washington and its allies were so surprised by events in Crimea was that during Russia’s military build-up in the region, there was little or no signals chatter indicating an imminent takeover, intelligence sources say.

    Still, Moscow had very publicly mobilised its forces several days earlier ostensibly for an exercise. That such obvious clues were missed, some say, suggests analysts had lost their edge in assessing and predicting the actions of the Russian leadership.

    While U.S. officials are now monitoring closely a Russian troop build-up along Ukraine’s eastern border, Western experts differ over whether Putin plans to invade the region.


    For the United States, two espionage incidents in the last decade helped draw counterintelligence attention back to Moscow’s suspected activities.

    The first was the 2008 discovery of sophisticated spy software dubbed Agent BTZ that infected Department of Defence computers after apparently entering from a USB drive later found in the car park of a U.S. military base in the Middle East.

    Pentagon officials spent months cleaning systems and the attack is still seen one of the most serious breaches of U.S. government IT security. Although Washington never officially laid blame for the intrusion, several US officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Moscow was the prime suspect.

    Much higher profile was the 2010 arrest and expulsion of 10 “deep cover” spies in the United States including Anna Chapman, who became a Russian television presenter and celebrity. That followed information from a Russian defector and a major FBI investigation. There is little evidence the spies were hugely successful.

    In Britain, security agencies began paying more attention to Russia after the 2007 death of Putin opponent Alexander Litvinenko from radioactive poisoning.

    Until recently, however, military intelligence specialists were simply too busy with operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

    Russia’s Crimea annexation may revive military specialisms such as tank and submarine warfare neglected during the decade-long campaign in mountainous, landlocked Afghanistan.

    “Antisubmarine warfare is something that has been far too sidelined for the simple reason that the Taliban do not have submarines,” said one former senior European officer.

    Some of the problems in understanding Russia, however, may be societal rather than military.

    “For a country that is so patriotic, we can be highly intolerant of others’ patriotism,” former Pentagon official Colby said of the United States. “We just don’t see their patriotism as particularly legitimate.”

    LONDON Mon Apr 7, 2014 1:35pm BST
    (Reporting by Peter Apps; Editing by Paul Taylor)

    Find this story at 7 April 2014

    Copyright Thomson Reuters

    The U.S. has treated Russia like a loser since the end of the Cold War

    One afternoon in September 1987, Secretary of State George Shultz settled in a chair across the table from Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in a New York conference room. Both were in the city for the United Nations General Assembly.

    As he habitually did at the start of such meetings , Shultz handed Shevardnadze a list of reported human rights abuses in the Soviet Union. Shevardnadze’s predecessor, Andrei Gromyko, had always received such lists grudgingly and would lecture us for interfering in Soviet internal affairs.

    This time, though, Shevardnadze looked Shultz in the eye and said through his interpreter: “George, I will check this out, and if your information is correct, I will do what I can to correct the problem. But I want you to know one thing: I am not doing this because you ask me to; I am doing it because it is what my country needs to do.”

    Shultz replied: “Eduard, that’s the only reason either of us should do something. Let me assure you that I will never ask you to do something that I believe is not in your country’s interest.”

    They stood and shook hands. As I watched the scene, with as much emotion as amazement, it dawned on me that the Cold War was over. The job of American ambassador in Moscow was going to be a lot easier for me than it had been for my predecessors.

    I thought back to that moment as talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s top diplomat this past week failed to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. It’s striking that the language being used publicly now is so much more strident than our language, public or private, was then. “It can get ugly fast if the wrong choices are made,” Kerry declared Wednesday, threatening sanctions.

    I don’t believe that we are witnessing a renewal of the Cold War. The tensions between Russia and the West are based more on misunderstandings, misrepresentations and posturing for domestic audiences than on any real clash of ideologies or national interests. And the issues are far fewer and much less dangerous than those we dealt with during the Cold War.

    But a failure to appreciate how the Cold War ended has had a profound impact on Russian and Western attitudes — and helps explain what we are seeing now.

    The common assumption that the West forced the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus won the Cold War is wrong . The fact is that the Cold War ended by negotiation to the advantage of both sides.

    At the December 1989 Malta summit, Mikhail Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush confirmed that the ideological basis for the war was gone, stating that the two nations no longer regarded each other as enemies . Over the next two years, we worked more closely with the Soviets than with even some of our allies. Together, we halted the arms race, banned chemical weapons and agreed to drastically reduce nuclear weapons. I also witnessed the raising of the Iron Curtain, the liberation of Eastern Europe and the voluntary abandonment of communist ideology by the Soviet leader. Without an arms race ruining the Soviet economy and perpetuating totalitarianism, Gorbachev was freed to focus on internal reforms.

    Because the collapse of the Soviet Union happened so soon afterward, people often confuse it with the end of the Cold War. But they were separate events, and the former was not an inevitable outcome of the latter.

    Moreover, the breakup of the U.S.S.R. into 15 separate countries was not something the United States caused or wanted. We hoped that Gorbachev would forge a voluntary union of Soviet republics, minus the three Baltic countries. Bush made this clear in August 1991 when he urged the non-Russian Soviet republics to adopt the union treaty Gorbachev had proposed and warned against “suicidal nationalism.” Russians who regret the collapse of the Soviet Union should remember that it was the elected leader of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, who conspired with his Ukrainian and Belarusian counterparts to replace the U.S.S.R. with a loose and powerless “commonwealth.”

    Even after the U.S.S.R. ceased to exist, Gorbachev maintained that “the end of the Cold War is our common victory.” Yet the United States insisted on treating Russia as the loser.

    “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War,” Bush said during his 1992 State of the Union address. That rhetoric would not have been particularly damaging on its own. But it was reinforced by actions taken under the next three presidents.

    President Bill Clinton supported NATO’s bombing of Serbia without U.N. Security Council approval and the expansion of NATO to include former Warsaw Pact countries. Those moves seemed to violate the understanding that the United States would not take advantage of the Soviet retreat from Eastern Europe. The effect on Russians’ trust in the United States was devastating. In 1991, polls indicated that about 80 percent of Russian citizens had a favorable view of the United States; in 1999, nearly the same percentage had an unfavorable view.

    Vladi­mir Putin was elected in 2000 and initially followed a pro-Western orientation. When terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, he was the first foreign leader to call and offer support. He cooperated with the United States when it invaded Afghanistan, and he voluntarily removed Russian bases from Cuba and Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.

    What did he get in return? Some meaningless praise from President George W. Bush, who then delivered the diplomatic equivalent of swift kicks to the groin: further expansion of NATO in the Baltics and the Balkans, and plans for American bases there; withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; invasion of Iraq without U.N. Security Council approval; overt participation in the “color revolutions” in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan; and then, probing some of the firmest red lines any Russian leader would draw, talk of taking Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Americans, heritors of the Monroe Doctrine, should have understood that Russia would be hypersensitive to foreign-dominated military alliances approaching or touching its borders.

    President Obama famously attempted a “reset” of relations with Russia, with some success: The New START treaty was an important achievement, and there was increased quiet cooperation on a number of regional issues. But then Congress’s penchant for minding other people’s business when it cannot cope with its own began to take its toll. The Magnitsky Act , which singled out Russia for human rights violations as if there were none of comparable gravity elsewhere, infuriated Russia’s rulers and confirmed with the broader public the image of the United States as an implacable enemy.

    The sad fact is that the cycle of dismissive actions by the United States met by overreactions by Russia has so poisoned the relationship that the sort of quiet diplomacy used to end the Cold War was impossible when the crisis in Ukraine burst upon the world’s consciousness. It’s why 43 percent of Russians are ready to believe that Western actions are behind the crisis and that Russia is under siege.

    Putin’s military occupation of Crimea has exacerbated the situation. If it leads to the incorporation of Crimea in the Russian Federation , it may well result in a period of mutual recrimination and economic sanctions reminiscent of the Cold War. In that scenario, there would be no winners, only losers: most of all Ukraine itself, which may not survive in its present form, and Russia, which would become more isolated. Russia may also see a rise in terrorist acts from anti-Russian extremists on its periphery and more resistance from neighboring governments to membership in the economic union it is promoting.

    Meanwhile, the United States and Europe would lose to the extent that a resentful Russia would make it even more difficult to address global and regional issues such as the Iranian nuclear program, North Korea and the Syrian civil war, to name a few. Russian policy in these areas has not always been all the United States desired, but it has been more helpful than many Americans realize. And encouraging a more obstructive Russia is not in anyone’s interest.

    By Jack F. Matlock Jr.,

    Jack F. Matlock Jr., ambassador to the U.S.S.R. from 1987 to 1991, is the author of “Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended.”

    Find this story at 14 March 2014

    © The Washington Post Company

    Former U.S. Ambassador: Behind Crimea Crisis, Russia Responding to Years of “Hostile” U.S. Policy

    The standoff over Ukraine and the fate of Crimea has sparked the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on top Russian officials while announcing new military exercises in Baltic states. Meanwhile in Moscow, the Russian government says it is considering changing its stance on Iran’s nuclear talks in response to newly imposed U.S. sanctions. As tensions rise, we are joined by Jack Matlock, who served as the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. Matlock argues that Russian President Vladimir Putin is acting in response to years of perceived hostility from the U.S., from the eastward expansion of NATO to the bombing of Serbia to the expansion of American military bases in eastern Europe.

    This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Ukrainian government has announced plans to abandon its military bases in Crimea and evacuate its forces following Russia’s decision to annex the region. Earlier today, Russian forces reportedly released the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, who has been seized in his own headquarters in Crimea. At the United Nations, ambassadors sparred over the situation in Crimea. Yuriy Sergeyev is the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N.

    YURIY SERGEYEV: The declaration of independence by the Crimean Republic is a direct consequence of the application of the use of force and threats against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, and, in view of Russian nuclear power status, has a particularly dangerous character for Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity, as well as for international peace and security in general. Accordingly, I assert that on the basis of customary norms and international law, that the international community is obliged not to recognize Crimea as a subject of international law or any situation, treaty or agreement that may be arise or be achieved by this territory.
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, defended Moscow’s move to annex Crimea.

    VITALY CHURKIN: [translated] A historic injustice has been righted, which resulted from the arbitrary actions of the leader of the U.S.S.R. at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, who, with the stroke of a pen in 1954, in violation of the constitutional norms, transferred the Russian region of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was part of the same state then. And he did this without informing the population of Crimea and, of course, without their consent. And nobody cared about the views of the Crimeans.
    AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy warship, the Truxtun, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, conducted a one-day military exercise in the Black Sea with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies. And Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting this week with the heads of states of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, promising Washington would protect them from any Russian aggression. On Wednesday, President Obama addressed the crisis during an interview with NBC 7 San Diego.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine. What we are going to do is mobilize all of our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international coalition that sends a clear message, which is: The Ukraine should decide their own destiny. Russia, right now, is violating international law and the sovereignty of another country. You know, might doesn’t make right. And, you know, we are going to continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia as it continues down its current course.
    AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the growing crisis in Ukraine, we’re joined by Ambassador Jack Matlock. He served as U.S. ambassador to Moscow from 1987 to 1991. He’s the author of several books, including Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended. He recently wrote a column for The Washington Post headlined “The U.S. Has Treated Russia Like a Loser Since the End of the Cold War.”

    Ambassador Matlock, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the situation right now, what has just taken place, Ukraine now pulling out of Crimea.

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: Well, I think that what we have seen is a reaction, in many respects, to a long history of what the Russian government, the Russian president and many of the Russian people—most of them—feel has been a pattern of American activity that has been hostile to Russia and has simply disregarded their national interests. They feel that having thrown off communism, having dispensed with the Soviet Empire, that the U.S. systematically, from the time it started expanding NATO to the east, without them, and then using NATO to carry out what they consider offensive actions about an—against another country—in this case, Serbia—a country which had not attacked any NATO member, and then detached territory from it—this is very relevant now to what we’re seeing happening in Crimea—and then continued to place bases in these countries, to move closer and closer to borders, and then to talk of taking Ukraine, most of whose people didn’t want to be a member of NATO, into NATO, and Georgia. Now, this began an intrusion into an area which the Russians are very sensitive. Now, how would Americans feel if some Russian or Chinese or even West European started putting bases in Mexico or in the Caribbean, or trying to form governments that were hostile to us? You know, we saw how we virtually went ballistic over Cuba. And I think that we have not been very attentive to what it takes to have a harmonious relationship with Russia.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Ambassador Matlock, Americans often look at these crises in isolation, and some of the press coverage deals with them that way. But from your perspective, you argued that we should see the continuum of events that have happened from the Russian point of view—for instance, the Orange Revolution, the pronouncements of some of our leaders several years back, the crisis in Georgia a few years ago, and how the Russians are seeing the original good feeling that most Russians had toward the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union compared to now.

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: Yes, that’s absolutely true. You see, in the Orange Revolution in Kiev, foreigners, including Americans, were very active in organizing people and inspiring them. Now, you know, I have to ask Americans: How would Occupy Wall Street have looked if you had foreigners out there leading them? Do you think that would have helped them get their point across? I don’t think so. And I think we have to understand that when we start directly interfering, particularly our government officials, in the internal makeup of other governments, we’re really asking for trouble.

    And, you know, we were pretty careful not to do that in my day. And I recall, for example, when I was being consulted by the newly elected leaders of what was still Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania. They were still in the Soviet Union, and they would come to us. We were, of course, sympathetic to their independence; we had never even recognized that they were legally part of the Soviet Union. But I had to tell them, “Keep it peaceful. If you are suppressed, there’s nothing we can do about it. We cannot come and help you. We’re not going to start a nuclear war.” Well, they kept it peaceful, despite provocations.

    Now, what have we been telling the Ukrainians, the Georgians—at least some of us, officials? “Just hold on. You can join NATO, and that will solve your problems for you.” You know, and yet, it is that very prospect, that the United States and its European allies were trying to surround Russia with hostile bases, that has raised the emotional temperature of all these things. And that was a huge mistake. As George Kennan wrote back in the ’90s when this question came up, the decision to expand NATO the way it was done was one of the most fateful and bad decisions of the late 20th century.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Vice President Joe Biden, who criticized Russia recently during his trip to Lithuania Wednesday.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I want to make it clear: We stand resolutely with our Baltic allies in support of Ukrainian people and against Russian aggression. As long as Russia continues on this dark path, they will face increasing political and economic isolation. There are those who say that this action shows the old rules still apply. But Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior.
    AMY GOODMAN: And in a speech Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted what he called Western hypocrisy on Crimea, saying that the U.S. selectively applies international law according to its political interests.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] Our Western partners, headed by the United States of America, prefer in their practical policy to be guided not by international law, but by the right of the strong. They started to believe that they have been chosen and they are unique, that they are allowed to decide the fate of the world, that only they could always be right. They do whatever they want
    AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Jack Matlock, if you could respond to both Biden and Putin?

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: Well, I think that this rhetoric on both sides is being very unhelpful. The fact is, Russia now has returned Crimea to Russia. It has been, most of its recent history, in the last couple of centuries, been Russian. The majority of the people are Russian. They clearly would prefer to be in Russia. And the bottom line is, we can argue ’til doomsday over who did what and why and who was the legal and who was not—I’m sure historians generations from now will still be arguing it—but the fact is, Russia now is not going to give up Crimea. The fact also is, if you really look at it dispassionately, Ukraine is better off without Crimea, because Ukraine is divided enough as it is. Their big problem is internal, in putting together disparate people who have been put together in that country. The distraction of Crimea, where most of the people did not want to be in Ukraine and ended up in Ukraine as a result of really almost a bureaucratic whim, is—was, I think, a real liability for Ukraine.

    Now, the—we should be concentrating now on how we put Ukraine back together—not we, but the Ukrainians, with the help of the Europeans, with the help of the Russians, and with at least a benign view from the United States. Now, the American president and vice president directly challenging the Russian president and threatening them with isolation is going to bring the opposite effect. All of this has actually increased President Putin’s popularity among Russians. Now, you know, most politicians, they like to do things that make them more popular at home. And, you know, the idea that we are acting, you know, contrary to what Russians would consider their very natural interests—that is, in bringing an area which had been Russian and traditionally Russian for a long time back into Russia—they look at that as a good thing. It’s going to be very costly to Russia, they’re going to find out, in many ways. But to continue all of this rhetoric, I would ask, well, how is it going to end? What is your objective? Because it isn’t going to free up Crimea again or give it back to Ukraine.

    I think it would be most helpful to encourage the Ukrainians to form a united government that can begin reforms. The proposals before, both by the EU and by Russia, would not have solved their problems. And they are not going to solve the problems by taking a government that basically represents one half of the country and making it work on the whole country. And all of this interference, both by Russia and by the West, including the United States, has tended to split Ukraine. Now, that is the big issue there. And we need to turn our attention more to it. And I just hope everyone can calm down and look at realities and stop trying to start sort of a new Cold War over this. As compared to the issues of the Cold War, this is quite minor. It has many of the characteristics of a family dispute. And when outsiders get into a family dispute, they’re usually not very helpful.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Ambassador Matlock, what would you, if you were counseling the president, urge him to do at this stage? Because obviously there are these pretty weak sanctions that have so far been announced. What would your advice be?

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: Well, I think, first of all, we should start keeping our voice down and sort of let things work out. You know, to ship in military equipment and so on is just going to be a further provocation. Obviously, this is not something that’s going to be solved by military confrontations. So, I think if we can find a way to speak less in public, to use more quiet diplomacy—and right now, frankly, the relationships between our presidents are so poisonous, they really should have representatives who can quietly go and, you know, work with counterparts elsewhere.

    But fundamentally, it’s going to be the Ukrainians who have to put their society back together. It is seriously broken now. And it seems to me they could take a leaf from the Finns, who have been very successful ever since World War II in putting together a country with both Finns and Swedes, by treating them equally, by being very respectful and careful about their relations with Russia, never getting into—anymore into military struggles or allowing foreign bases on their land. And they’ve been extremely successful. Why can’t the Ukrainians follow a policy of that sort? I think, for them, it would work, too. But first, they have to find a way to unite the disparate elements in Ukraine; otherwise, these pressures from Russia, on the one hand, and the West, on the other, is going to simply tear them apart. Now—

    AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador, on Wednesday—

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: —in the final analysis, if the—

    AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, the head of Ukraine’s First National TV was attacked in his office by members of the far-right Svoboda party, including at least one member of Parliament who serves on the parliamentary committee on freedom of speech. The attackers accused the station of working for the Russian authorities, after it aired a live broadcast of the signing of the agreement between President Putin and the de facto Crimean authorities. In a video posted online, the attackers are seen forcing the head of the channel to write a resignation letter. Heather McGill of Amnesty International condemned the attack, saying, quote, “The acting Ukrainian authorities must waste no time in demonstrating that basic human rights are protected in Ukraine and that nobody will face discrimination because of their political views or ethnic origin.” Ambassador Matlock, can you talk about this attack and the role of these far-right-wing parties in the new Ukrainian government?

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: Well, I’m not intimately informed about all of the details, but—and I would say that I think Russian media have exaggerated that right-wing threat. On the other hand, those who have ignored it, I think, are making a big mistake. We do have to understand that a significant part of the violence at the Maidan, the demonstrations in Kiev, were done by these extreme right-wing, sort of neo-fascist groups. And they do—some of their leaders do occupy prominent positions in the security forces of the new government. And I think—I think the Russians and others are quite legitimately concerned about that. Therefore, you know, many of these things are not nearly as black and white, when we begin to look at them, as is implied in much of the rhetoric that we’re hearing. And I do think that everybody needs now to take a quiet breath to really look at where we are and to see if we can’t find ways, by keeping our voices down, to help the Ukrainians in present-day Ukraine to get to a road to greater unity and reform that will make them a viable state.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jack Matlock, we want to thank—

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: And I would argue that—

    AMY GOODMAN: We want to—

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: —they are better off without Crimea.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us. Ambassador Matlock served as the U.S. ambassador—

    JACK MATLOCK JR.: Thank you.

    AMY GOODMAN: —to Moscow from 1987 to 1991 under both President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, and he’s the author of a number of books, including Superpower Illusions and Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador’s Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended.

    When we come back, we’ll be joined by Raphael Warnock, the minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s church. He was among 39 people arrested this week in Atlanta. Stay with us.

    Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

    THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2014

    Find this story at 20 March 2014

    The forgotten coup – and how the godfather rules from Canberra to Kiev

    Washington’s role in the fascist putsch against an elected government in Ukraine will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore the historical record. Since 1945, dozens of governments, many of them democracies, have met a similar fate, usually with bloodshed.

    Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries on earth with fewer people than Wales, yet under the reformist Sandinistas in the 1980s it was regarded in Washington as a “strategic threat”. The logic was simple; if the weakest slipped the leash, setting an example, who else would try their luck?

    The great game of dominance offers no immunity for even the most loyal US “ally”. This is demonstrated by perhaps the least known of Washington’s coups – in Australia. The story of this forgotten coup is a salutary lesson for those governments that believe a “Ukraine” or a “Chile” could never happen to them.

    Australia’s deference to the United States makes Britain, by comparison, seem a renegade. During the American invasion of Vietnam – which Australia had pleaded to join – an official in Canberra voiced a rare complaint to Washington that the British knew more about US objectives in that war than its antipodean comrade-in-arms. The response was swift: “We have to keep the Brits informed to keep them happy. You are with us come what may.”

    This dictum was rudely set aside in 1972 with the election of the reformist Labor government of Gough Whitlam. Although not regarded as of the left, Whitlam – now in his 98th year – was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride, propriety and extraordinary political imagination. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm” and speak as a voice independent of London and Washington.

    On the day after his election, Whitlam ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO – then, as now, beholden to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the Nixon/Kissinger administration as “corrupt and barbaric”, Frank Snepp, a CIA officer stationed in Saigon at the time, said later: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

    Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, ostensibly a joint Australian/US “facility”. Pine Gap is a giant vacuum cleaner which, as the whistleblower Edward Snowden recently revealed, allows the US to spy on everyone. In the 1970s, most Australians had no idea that this secretive foreign enclave placed their country on the front line of a potential nuclear war with the Soviet Union.  Whitlam clearly knew the personal risk he was taking – as the minutes of a meeting with the US ambassador demonstrate. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” he warned, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.

    Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. Consequences were inevitable… a kind of Chile was set in motion.”

    The CIA had just helped General Pinochet to crush the democratic government of another reformer, Salvador Allende, in Chile.

    In 1974, the White House sent the Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, very senior and sinister figure in the State Department who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as the “coupmaster”, he had played a played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors – described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to  rise against the government”.

    Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded in California by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was a young Christopher Boyce, an idealist who, troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”, became a whistleblower. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.

    In his black top hat and medal-laden mourning suit, Kerr was the embodiment of imperium. He was the Queen of England’s Australian viceroy in a country that still recognised her as head of state. His duties were ceremonial; yet Whitlam – who appointed him – was unaware of or chose to ignore Kerr’s long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence.

    The Governor-General was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by the Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, ‘The Crimes of Patriots’, as, “an elite, invitation-only group… exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige… Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

    In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 had long been operating against his government. “The Brits were actually de-coding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In interviews in the 1980s with the American investigative journalist Joseph Trento, executive officers of the CIA disclosed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield, and that “arrangements” were made. A deputy director of the CIA told Trento: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

    In 1975, Whitlam learned of a secret list of CIA personnel in Australia held by the Permanent Head of the Australian Defence Department, Sir Arthur Tange – a deeply conservative mandarin with unprecedented territorial power in Canberra. Whitlam demanded to see the list. On it was the name, Richard Stallings who, under cover, had set up Pine Gap as a provocative CIA installation. Whitlam now had the proof he was looking for.

    On 10 November, 1975, he was shown a top secret telex message sent by ASIO in Washington. This was later sourced to Theodore Shackley, head of the CIA’s East Asia Division and one of the most notorious figures spawned by the Agency. Shackley had been head of the CIA’s Miami-based operation to assassinate Fidel Castro and Station Chief in Laos and Vietnam. He had recently worked on the “Allende problem”.

    Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. Incredibly, it said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country.

    The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA whose ties to Washington were, and reman binding. He was briefed on the “security crisis”. He had then asked for a secure line and spent 20 minutes in hushed conversation.

    On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The problem was solved.

    John Pilger
    16 March 2014

    Find this story at 16 March 2014

    © John Pilger 2010 – 2014

    The Backstory to the Russia-Ukraine Confrontation: The US-NATO Encirclement of Russia (2014)

    The Big Picture: The U.S. and NATO Have Been Trying to Encircle Russia Militarily Since 1991

    The American press portrays Putin as being the bad guy and the aggressor in the Ukraine crisis.

    Putin is certainly no saint. A former KGB agent, Putin’s net worth is estimated at some $40 billion dollars … as he has squeezed money out of the Russian economy by treating the country as his own personal fiefdom. And all sides appear to have dirt on their hands in the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

    But we can only see the bigger picture if we take a step back and gain a little understanding of the history underlying the current tensions.

    Indeed, the fact that the U.S. has allegedly paid billions of dollars to anti-Russian forces in Ukraine – and even purportedly picked the Ukrainian president – has to be seen in context.

    Veteran New York Times reporter Steven Kinzer notes at the Boston Globe:

    From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States has relentlessly pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran. [Background here, here and here.] It has brought 12 countries in central Europe, all of them formerly allied with Moscow, into the NATO alliance. US military power is now directly on Russia’s borders.

    “I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” warned George Kennan, the renowned diplomat and Russia-watcher, as NATO began expanding eastward. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely, and it will affect their policies.”

    Stephen Cohen – professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University who has long focused on Russia – explained this weekend on CNN:

    We are witnessing as we talk the making possibly of the worst history of our lifetime. We are watching the descending of a new cold war divide between west and east, only this time, it is not in far away Berlin, it’s right on Russia’s borders through the historical civilization in Ukraine. It’s a crisis of historic magnitude. If you ask how we got in it, how we got into the crisis, and how therefore do we get out, it is time to stop asking why Putin – why Putin is doing this or that, but ask about the American policy, and the European Union policy that led to this moment.


    I don’t know if you your listeners or views remember George Kennan. He was considered [a] great strategic thinker about Russia among American diplomats but he warned when we expanded NATO [under Bill Clinton], that this was the most fateful mistake of American foreign policy and that it would lead to a new Cold War. George lived to his hundreds, died a few years ago, but his truth goes marching on. The decision to move NATO beginning in the 90′s continuing under Bush and continuing under Obama, is right now on Russia’s borders.

    And if you want to know for sure, and I have spent a lot of time in Moscow, if you want to know what the Russian power elite thinks Ukraine is about, it is about bringing it into NATO. One last point, that so-called economic partnership that Yanukovych, the elected president of Ukraine did not sign, and that set off the streets – the protests in the streets in November, which led to this violence in and confrontation today, that so-called economic agreement included military clauses which said that Ukraine by signing this so called civilization agreement had to abide by NATO military policy. This is what this is about from the Russian point of view, the ongoing western march towards post Soviet Russia.

    Jonathan Steele writes at the Guardian

    Both John Kerry’s threats to expel Russia from the G8 and the Ukrainian government’s plea for Nato aid mark a dangerous escalation of a crisis that can easily be contained if cool heads prevail. Hysteria seems to be the mood in Washington and Kiev, with the new Ukrainian prime minister claiming, “We are on the brink of disaster” as he calls up army reserves in response to Russian military movements in Crimea.

    Were he talking about the country’s economic plight he would have a point. Instead, along with much of the US and European media, he was over-dramatising developments in the east, where Russian speakers are understandably alarmed after the new Kiev authorities scrapped a law allowing Russian as an official language in their areas. They see it as proof that the anti-Russian ultra-nationalists from western Ukraine who were the dominant force in last month’s insurrection still control it. Eastern Ukrainians fear similar tactics of storming public buildings could be used against their elected officials.

    Kerry’s rush to punish Russia and Nato’s decision to respond to Kiev’s call by holding a meeting of member states’ ambassadors in Brussels today were mistakes. Ukraine is not part of the alliance, so none of the obligations of common defence come into play. Nato should refrain from interfering in Ukraine by word or deed. The fact that it insists on getting engaged reveals the elephant in the room: underlying the crisis in Crimea and Russia’s fierce resistance to potential changes is Nato’s undisguised ambition to continue two decades of expansion into what used to be called “post-Soviet space”, led by Bill Clinton and taken up by successive administrations in Washington. At the back of Pentagon minds, no doubt, is the dream that a US navy will one day replace the Russian Black Sea fleet in the Crimean ports of Sevastopol and Balaclava.


    Vladimir Putin’s troop movements in Crimea, which are supported by most Russians, are of questionable legality under the terms of the peace and friendship treaty that Russia signed with Ukraine in 1997. But their illegality is considerably less clear-cut than that of the US-led invasion of Iraq, or of Afghanistan, where the UN security council only authorised the intervention several weeks after it had happened. [Indeed, top American leaders admit that the Iraq war was for reasons different than publicly stated. And the U.S. military sticks its nose in other countries’ business all over the world. And see this.] And Russia’s troop movements can be reversed if the crisis abates. That would require the restoration of the language law in eastern Ukraine and firm action to prevent armed groups of anti-Russian nationalists threatening public buildings there.

    Again, we don’t believe that there are angels on any side. But we do believe that everyone has to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, calm down and reach a negotiated diplomatic resolution.

    And see this, this, this and this (interview with a 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and the Joint Chiefs of Staff).

    By Washington’s Blog
    Global Research, March 04, 2014

    Find this story at 4 March 2014

    Copyright © 2005-2014 GlobalResearch.ca

    CIA reportedly says Russia sees treaty as justifying Ukraine moves (2014)

    [Updated, 8 p.m., March 3: WASHINGTON — CIA director John Brennan told a senior lawmaker Monday that a 1997 treaty between Russia and Ukraine allows up to 25,000 Russia troops in the vital Crimea region, so Russia may not consider its recent troop movements to be an invasion, U.S. officials said.

    The number of Russian troops that have surged into Ukraine in recent days remains well below that threshold, Brennan said, according to U.S. officials who declined to be named in describing private discussions and declined to name the legislator.

    Though Brennan disagrees that the treaty justifies Russia’s incursion, he urged a cautious approach, the officials said. Administration officials have said Moscow violated the treaty, which requires the Russian navy, which bases its Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol, to coordinate all military movements on the Crimean peninsula with Ukraine.]

    The next day, Russian troops took up positions around key facilities in Crimea, and by nightfall the CIA assessed that Russia was in control of the region, officials said.

    “This was not predicted,” said a U.S. official, who asked not to be named in discussing the classified briefings.

    The intelligence officials defended their analysis, however, saying Putin may have made a spur of the moment decision to take military action.

    U.S. intelligence agencies have “provided timely and valuable information that has helped policymakers understand the situation on the ground and make informed decisions,” said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence. “That continues to be the case. Any suggestion that there were intelligence shortcomings related to the situation in Ukraine are uninformed and misleading.”

    The difficulty in predicting the Russian military moves echoed a similar intelligence gap in August 2008 when Russian troops backed separatist forces in South Ossetia against the republic of Georgia in a five-day war. The CIA was caught off guard at the time, officials said later.

    A former CIA case officer, who also declined to be named in discussing sensitive issues, said that the agency’s focus on counter-terrorism over the last 13 years has undermined its ability to conduct traditional espionage against key adversaries, including Russia.

    The CIA station in Kiev, Ukraine, “cannot be larger than two or three case officers,” the former official said. “Did they have sources that could have forecast Russian intentions? Almost certainly not.”

    Another former senior intelligence officer with experience in the region said the CIA doesn’t have sources that could have forecast Putin’s plans in Crimea. But, he said, it shouldn’t be viewed as an intelligence failure if analysts didn’t anticipate the actions of Russian troops operating out of bases there.

    “The presence of Russian troops there is a fait accompli, so nobody is going to be watching what’s happening in those bases,” he said.

    A CIA spokesman rebuffed the notion that the agency’s espionage muscles had atrophied.

    “Although we do not talk about our specific intelligence efforts, the agency is a versatile global organization that is more than capable of addressing a range of national security threats simultaneously and it does so every day,” said spokesman Dean Boyd. “Anyone suggesting otherwise is seriously misinformed.”

    By Ken Dilanian This post has been updated, as indicated below.
    March 3, 2014, 8:19 p.m.

    Find this story at 3 March 2014

    Copyright 2014 Los Angeles Times

    Encircling Russia with US Military Bases: Moscow Catches CIA Spy Red-Handed (2013)

    CIA agents operate most everywhere. Some pose as diplomats.

    Diplomacy provides cover for why they’re sent. Christopher Fogle was caught red-handed. He was assigned to Washington’s Moscow embassy political section. He was third secretary.

    A web site name search found no match. It’s no surprise why. He was arrested, declared persona non grata, and expelled. He got off easy. He committed espionage. He should have been imprisoned.

    On May 14, Voice of Russia (VOR) headlined “FSB catches CIA Agent Controller red handed,” saying:

    The previous evening, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said Fogle “was arrested while in the process of attempting to recruit a member of one of the Russian special services.” No name was mentioned.

    According to the embassy’s political section, it

    “presents US foreign and security policy positions to the Government of the Russian Federation and interprets for Washington, Russia’s major foreign, defense and security policies.”

    “Also, (it) analyzes and reports on significant events and trends in Russian domestic politics (elections, political parties, Kremlin-regional relations, media, human rights etc.) in so far as they affect Russia’s relationship with the US.”

    “The section consists of three units: External Affairs, Political-Military Affairs, Internal Affairs.”

    In other words, it spies. It does so under cover of diplomacy. It’s much like during Cold War days. Washington spends unknown sums doing it. Black budgets aren’t revealed.

    VOR said:

    “While the CIA may place an agent or officer under official cover in any position, even ambassador, it is important to note that the section this particular agent was working in would have been responsible for whatever operations the US has connected to the recent Russian opposition and meddling in the elections processes in Russia.”

    When Fogle was arrested, FSB said he had technical devices, a disguise, a large stack of 500-euro notes (about $650 each), and Russian instructions for an intelligence agent he tried to recruit.

    A photo showed him lying face down. His arms were pinned behind his back. Instructions apparently were in letter form. It was addressed to a “Dear friend,” saying:


    “This is an advance from someone who has been highly impressed by your professionalism, and who would highly value your cooperation in the future.”

    “We are willing to offer you $100,000 and discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation, and payment could be significantly larger, if you are willing to answer concrete questions.”

    It added that $1 million annually would be paid for longterm cooperation. Bonuses were promised for special information.

    Instructions explained an anonymous Internet cafe gmail account – unbacggdA@gmail.com. Write to the address was said, wait seven days, and check for an answer.

    The closing comment was: “Thank you for reading this. We are very anxious for the opportunity to be working with you in the near future. Your friends.”

    VOR said embassy undercover work is “old school….(W)hat’s interesting is the apparent desperation the CIA is operating under in attempting to obtain intelligence about Russia.”

    Using an anonymous gmail address is another twist. Russia’s FSB said:

    “Recently, the US intelligence community has repeatedly attempted to recruit employees of Russian law enforcement agencies and special departments.”

    These attempts were “recorded and passed to FSB Counter-Intelligence.” It prevents widespread internal US meddling. It does so effectively.

    Various schemes were discovered. Doing so foiled US schemes. VOR said Washington’s color revolution plot failed. USAID was expelled.

    On Wednesday, Russia’s Channel 1 television aired comments from a man called an FSB officer. His identify was concealed. He said:

    “Over the past two years we have been observing persistent attempts by the CIA to recruit employees of Russian law enforcement and security agencies.”

    “We asked our American colleagues to discontinue such disturbing practices with regard to Russian citizens. However, our requests were ignored.”

    He added that Russian counterintelligence knew Fogle was a career CIA agent the moment he arrived. He was closely monitored.

    His foiled espionage mission wasn’t his first. His amateurish disguise wasn’t the first time he used one.

    Other CIA operatives infest Russia. Its counterintelligence perhaps is on to their schemes. It’s had decades learning how. Its Cold War adversary hasn’t changed.

    Golos is a so-called independent NGO election monitor. America’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds it.

    In last year’s Russian elections, it alleged over 2,000 irregularities, including 900 in Moscow. Executive director Grigory Melkonyants claimed “massive serious violations.” He was well paid to say it.

    NED, its National Democratic Institute (NDI) arm, the International Republican Institute (IRI), USAID, and similar organizations function as destabilizing US foreign policy tools.

    Russia’s a prime target. The Cold War never ended. It’s reinvented in new form.

    Taking NED or other foreign money violates Russian law. Making baseless accusations compounds malfeasance. Golos is considered a foreign agent.

    It’s been fined two or more times. Charges involved violating Russian electoral law. It still operates. Strict new reporting measures are enforced. All NGOs must comply.

    Washington’s subversion and destabilization schemes are harder to implement successfully. Fewer opportunities are afforded.

    Moscow prefers cooperative relations with America. Good faith offers are made. Washington’s confrontational policies prevent them.

    America’s covert war persists. It’s much like the bad old days. Names, faces, strategies and technology alone changed.

    Russian effectiveness in preventing CIA subversion exposes a “very large gap in US intelligence,” said VOR.

    Michael McFaul is US ambassador. On May 15, he was summoned to Russia’s Foreign Minister to explain. The previous day, he refused to answer journalists’ questions. He faced tougher official ones.

    At the same time, Moscow’s Center for Political Information general director Alexei Mukhin believes Russian-US relations won’t change much. “Despite being a very unpleasant incident,” he said, “it is still more or an embarrassment.”

    He’s likely right. Both countries know the other spies. Most nations do it. Key is not getting caught. Other issues take precedence. They affect normalized relations.

    Last December, America’s Magnitsky Act became law. Putin called it “purely political (and) unfriendly.”

    Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian attorney. In 2009, he died in police custody. His death drew international media attention.

    He specialized in civil law. He did anti-corruption work. He uncovered evidence of tax fraud. He implicated police, judiciary figures, tax officials, bankers, and Russia’s mafia.

    He accused them of stealing around $230 million dollars in 2007 through fraudulent tax refunds.

    Initially his death was blamed on medical neglect. Later claims suggested murder. Official investigations began. In July 2011, death by medical neglect was ruled.

    Enacting Magnitsky normalized US/Russian trade relations. Doing so came with strings. Moscow raised legitimate objections.

    The legislation imposes visa bans, asset freezes, and other sanctions on Russian nationals accused of committing human rights abuses. Other disturbing provisions were included.

    Russia responded. The Dima Yakovlev bill was enacted. It imposes visa bans and asset freezes on US officials accused of violating the rights of Russian citizens abroad.

    It prohibits US-sponsored NGOs from operating in Russia disruptively. It also targets US citizens associated with them. Another provision bans US citizens from adopting Russian orphans.

    At issue is neglect causing harm or death. Dima Yakovlev was a Russian boy. His adoptive father’s reprehensible negligence and abuse caused his death. He was acquitted on manslaughter charges.

    Lax US adoption laws and follow-through procedures prevent knowing how other Russian orphans are treated.

    US-Russia 2009 reset policies promised a “fresh start.” Rhetoric was more promise than fulfillment. Washington’s intentions prevent normalized relations. Obama is more belligerent than Bush. Conflict is prioritized over diplomacy.

    Encircling Russia with US bases is major thorn affecting normalized relations. Militarizing North Africa, the Middle East and part of Eurasia breached GHW Bush’s pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev not to do so.

    Washington’s promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Russia understands well. At a time no nation threatens America, the Pentagon maintain a growing network of well over 1,000 global bases. Unknown secret ones exist.

    Many are positioned near Russia’s borders. Doing so is provocative and belligerent. So called missile defense systems and advanced tracking radar are for offense, not defense.

    Friendly countries don’t treat others this way. Doing so is fraught with risks. Russia knows it’s targeted. US policy destroys trust.

    Fogel’s arrest appears strategically timed. On June 17 and 18, Putin and Obama will attend the G8 summit. It’s scheduled for Northern Ireland. They’ll likely talk privately.

    In September, they’ll meet again. The G20 summit is scheduled for St. Petersburg. Egg on Obama’s face affords Putin more leverage. How things will play out remains to be seen.

    Major bilateral and geopolitical issues must be addressed. On May 15, Russia Today (RT) headlined “Presidential post: Putin’s response to Obama letter to be ‘mailed’ soon.”

    Obama’s letter discussed missile defense, nuclear disarmament and transparent interaction. Putin’s response is expected shortly. It’s “exact content” isn’t known.

    Russia’s Kommersant daily learned the main topics. RT said Obama proposed a legally binding agreement. He wants to assure neither country plans aggressive moves against the other.

    It bears repeating, American promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. The 2010 New Start treaty was deeply flawed. It reflected old wine in new bottles.

    Nuclear disarmament isn’t planned. Rhetoric changed, not policy. Washington plans new, upgraded weapons. They’ll replace outdated ones.

    Dangerous testing continues. First-strike capability is prioritized. Plans include doing so from space. Putin understands the threat. Mutual distrust won’t change. Putin has just cause for concern.

    On May 15, he chaired a council of Russia’s top military officials. Discussion focused on developing defensive missile systems. At issue is countering America’s threat. It’s a menace too great to ignore.

    Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

    By Stephen Lendman
    Global Research, May 16, 2013

    Find this story at 16 May 2013

    Copyright © 2005-2014 GlobalResearch.ca

    Encircling Russia, Targeting China (2010)

    NATO’S True Role in US Grand Strategy

    On November 19 and 20, NATO leaders meet in Lisbon for what is billed as a summit on “NATO’s Strategic Concept”. Among topics of discussion will be an array of scary “threats”, from cyberwar to climate change, as well as nice protective things like nuclear weapons and a high tech Maginot Line boondoggle supposed to stop enemy missiles in mid-air. The NATO leaders will be unable to avoid talking about the war in Afghanistan, that endless crusade that unites the civilized world against the elusive Old Man of the Mountain, Hassan i Sabah, eleventh century chief of the Assassins in his latest reincarnation as Osama bin Laden. There will no doubt be much talk of “our shared values”.

    Most of what they will discuss is fiction with a price tag.

    The one thing missing from the Strategic Concept summit agenda is a serious discussion of strategy.

    This is partly because NATO as such has no strategy, and cannot have its own strategy. NATO is in reality an instrument of United States strategy. Its only operative Strategic Concept is the one put into practice by the United States. But even that is an elusive phantom. American leaders seem to prefer striking postures, “showing resolve”, to defining strategies.

    One who does presume to define strategy is Zbigniew Brzezinski, godfather of the Afghan Mujahidin back when they could be used to destroy the Soviet Union. Brzezinski was not shy about bluntly stating the strategic objective of U.S. policy in his 1993 book The Grand Chessboard: “American primacy”. As for NATO, he described it as one of the institutions serving to perpetuate American hegemony, “making the United States a key participant even in intra-European affairs.” In its “global web of specialized institutions”, which of course includes NATO, the United States exercises power through “continuous bargaining, dialogue, diffusion, and quest for formal consensus, even though that power originates ultimately from a single source, namely, Washington, D.C.”

    The description perfectly fits the Lisbon “Strategic Concept” conference. Last week, NATO’s Danish secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, announced that “we are pretty close to a consensus”. And this consensus, according to the New York Times, “will probably follow President Barack Obama’s own formulation: to work toward a non-nuclear world while maintaining a nuclear deterrent”.

    Wait a minute, does that make sense? No, but it is the stuff of NATO consensus. Peace through war, nuclear disarmament through nuclear armament, and above all, defense of member states by sending expeditionary forces to infuriate the natives of distant lands.

    A strategy is not a consensus written by committees.

    The American method of “continuous bargaining, dialogue, diffusion, and quest for formal consensus” wears down whatever resistance may occasionally appear. Thus Germany and France initially resisted Georgian membership in NATO, as well as the notorious “missile shield”, both seen as blatant provocations apt to set off a new arms race with Russia and damage fruitful German and French relations with Moscow, for no useful purpose. But the United States does not take no for an answer, and keeps repeating its imperatives until resistance fades. The one recent exception was the French refusal to join the invasion of Iraq, but the angry U.S. reaction scared the conservative French political class into supporting the pro-American Nicolas Sarkozy.

    In search of “threats” and “challenges”

    The very heart of what passes for a “strategic concept” was first declared and put into operation in the spring of 1999, when NATO defied international law, the United Nations and its own original charter by waging an aggressive war outside its defensive perimeter against Yugoslavia. That transformed NATO from a defensive to an offensive alliance. Ten years later, the godmother of that war, Madeleine Albright, was picked to chair the “group of experts” that spent several months holding seminars, consultations and meetings preparing the Lisbon agenda. Prominent in these gatherings were Lord Peter Levene, chairman of Lloyd’s of London, the insurance giant, and the former chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, Jeroen van der Veer. These ruling class figures are not exactly military strategists, but their participation should reassure the international business community that their worldwide interests are being taken into consideration.

    Indeed, a catalogue of threats enumerated by Rasmussen in a speech last year seemed to suggest that NATO was working for the insurance industry. NATO, he said, was needed to deal with piracy, cyber security, climate change, extreme weather events such as catastrophic storms and flooding, rising sea levels, large-scale population movement into inhabited areas, sometimes across borders, water shortages, droughts, decreasing food production, global warming, CO2 emissions, the retreat of Arctic ice uncovering hitherto inaccessible resources, fuel efficiency and dependence on foreign sources, etc.

    Most of the enumerated threats cannot even remotely be construed as calling for military solutions. Surely no “rogue states” or “outposts of tyranny” or “international terrorists” are responsible for climate change, yet Rasmussen presents them as challenges to NATO.

    On the other hand, some of the results of these scenarios, such as population movements caused by rising sea levels or drought, can indeed be seen as potentially causing crises. The ominous aspect of the enumeration is precisely that all such problems are eagerly snatched up by NATO as requiring military solutions.

    The main threat to NATO is its own obsolescence. And the search for a “strategic concept” is the search for pretexts to keep it going.

    NATO’s Threat to the World

    While it searches for threats, NATO itself is a growing threat to the world. The basic threat is its contribution to strengthening the U.S.-led tendency to abandon diplomacy and negotiations in favor of military force. This is seen clearly in Rasmussen’s inclusion of weather phenomena in his list of threats to NATO, when they should, instead, be problems for international diplomacy and negotiations. The growing danger is that Western diplomacy is dying. The United States has set the tone: we are virtuous, we have the power, the rest of the world must obey or else. Diplomacy is despised as weakness. The State Department has long since ceased to be at the core of U.S. foreign policy. With its vast network of military bases the world over, as well as military attachés in embassies and countless missions to client countries, the Pentagon is incomparably more powerful and influential in the world than the State Department. Recent Secretaries of State, far from seeking diplomatic alternatives to war, have actually played a leading role in advocating war instead of diplomacy, whether Madeleine Albright in the Balkans or Colin Powell waving fake test tubes in the United Nations Security Council. Policy is defined by the National Security Advisor, various privately-funded think tanks and the Pentagon, with interference from a Congress which itself is composed of politicians eager to obtain military contracts for their constituencies.

    NATO is dragging Washington’s European allies down the same path. Just as the Pentagon has replaced the State Department, NATO itself is being used by the United States as a potential substitute for the United Nations. The 1999 “Kosovo war” was a first major step in that direction. Sarkozy’s France, after rejoining the NATO joint command, is gutting the traditionally skilled French foreign service, cutting back on civilian representation throughout the world. The European Union foreign service now being created by Lady Ashton will have no policy and no authority of its own.

    Bureaucratic Inertia

    Behind its appeals to “common values”, NATO is driven above all by bureaucratic inertia. The alliance itself is an excrescence of the U.S. military-industrial complex. For sixty years, military procurements and Pentagon contracts have been an essential source of industrial research, profits, jobs, Congressional careers, even university funding. The interplay of these varied interests converge to determine an implicit U.S. strategy of world conquest.

    An ever-expanding global network of somewhere between 800 and a thousand military bases on foreign soil.

    Bilateral military accords with client states which offer training while obliging them to purchase U.S.-made weapons and redesign their armed forces away from national defense toward internal security (i.e. repression) and possible integration into U.S.-led wars of aggression.

    Use of these close relationships with local armed forces to influence the domestic politics of weaker states.

    Perpetual military exercises with client states, which provide the Pentagon with perfect knowledge of the military potential of client states, integrate them into the U.S. military machine, and sustain a “ready for war” mentality.

    Deployment of its network of bases, “allies” and military exercises so as to surround, isolate, intimidate and eventually provoke major nations perceived as potential rivals, notably Russia and China.

    The implicit strategy of the United States, as perceived by its actions, is a gradual military conquest to ensure world domination. One original feature of this world conquest project is that, although extremely active, day after day, it is virtually ignored by the vast majority of the population of the conquering nation, as well as by its most closely dominated allies, i.e., the NATO states. The endless propaganda about “terrorist threats” (the fleas on the elephant) and other diversions keep most Americans totally unaware of what is going on, all the more easily in that Americans are almost uniquely ignorant of the rest of the world and thus totally uninterested. The U.S. may bomb a country off the map before more than a small fraction of Americans know where to find it.

    The main task of U.S. strategists, whose careers take them between think tanks, boards of directors, consultancy firms and the government, is to justify this giant mechanism much more than to steer it. To a large extent, it steers itself. Since the collapse of the “Soviet threat”, policy-makers have settled for invisible or potential threats. U.S. military doctrine has as its aim to move preventively against any potential rival to U.S. world hegemony. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia retains the largest arsenal outside the United States, and China is a rapidly rising economic power. Neither one threatens the United States or Western Europe. On the contrary, both are ready and willing to concentrate on peaceful business.

    However, they are increasingly alarmed by the military encirclement and provocative military exercises carried on by the United States on their very doorsteps. The implicit aggressive strategy may be obscure to most Americans, but leaders in the targeted countries are quite certain they understand what it is going on.

    The Russia-Iran-Israel Triangle

    Currently, the main explicit “enemy” is Iran. Washington claims that the “missile shield” which it is forcing on its European allies is designed to defend the West from Iran. But the Russians see quite clearly that the missile shield is aimed at themselves. First of all, they understand quite clearly that Iran has no such missiles nor any possible motive for using them against the West. It is perfectly obvious to all informed analysts that even if Iran developed nuclear weapons and missiles, they would be conceived as a deterrent against Israel, the regional nuclear superpower which enjoys a free hand attacking neighboring countries. Israel does not want to lose that freedom to attack, and thus naturally opposes the Iranian deterrent. Israeli propagandists scream loudly about the threat from Iran, and have worked incessantly to infect NATO with their paranoia.

    Israel has even been described as “Global NATO’s 29th member”. Israeli officials have assiduously worked on a receptive Madeleine Albright to make sure that Israeli interests are included in the “Strategic Concept”. During the past five years, Israel and NATO have been taking part in joint naval exercises in the Red Sea and in the Mediterranean, as well as joint ground exercises from Brussels to Ukraine. On October 16, 2006, Israel became the first non-European country to reach a so-called “Individual Cooperation Program” agreement with NATO for cooperation in 27 different areas. It is worth noting that Israel is the only country outside Europe which the U.S. includes in the area of responsibility of its European Command (rather than the Central Command that covers the rest of the Middle East).

    At a NATO-Israel Relations seminar in Herzliya on October 24, 2006, the Israeli foreign minister at the time, Tzipi Livni, declared that “The alliance between NATO and Israel is only natural….Israel and NATO share a common strategic vision. In many ways, Israel is the front line defending our common way of life.”

    Not everybody in European countries would consider that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine reflect “our common way of life”. This is no doubt one reason why the deepening union between NATO and Israel has not taken the open form of NATO membership. Especially after the savage attack on Gaza, such a move would arouse objections in European countries. Nevertheless, Israel continues to invite itself into NATO, ardently supported, of course, by its faithful followers in the U.S. Congress.

    The principal cause of this growing Israel-NATO symbiosis has been identified by Mearsheimer and Walt: the vigorous and powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States. Israeli lobbies are also strong in France, Britain and the UK. They have zealously developed the theme of Israel as the “front line” in the defense of “Western values” against militant Islam. The fact that militant Islam is largely a product of that “front line” creates a perfect vicious circle.

    Israel’s aggressive stance toward its regional neighbors would be a serious liability for NATO, apt to be dragged into wars of Israel’s choosing which are by no means in the interest of Europe.

    However, there is one subtle strategic advantage in the Israeli connection which the United States seems to be using… against Russia. By subscribing to the hysterical “Iranian threat” theory, the United States can continue to claim with a straight face that the planned missile shield is directed against Iran, not Russia. This cannot be expected to convince the Russians. But it can be used to make their protests sound “paranoid” – at least to the ears of the Western faithful. Dear me, what can they be complaining about when we “reset” our relations with Moscow and invite the Russian president to our “Strategic Concept” happy gathering?

    However, the Russians know quite well that:

    The missile shield is to be constructed surrounding Russia, which does have missiles, which it keeps for deterrence.

    By neutralizing Russian missiles, the United States would free its own hand to attack Russia, knowing that the Russia could not retaliate.

    Therefore, whatever is said, the missile shield, if it worked, would serve to facilitate eventual aggression against Russia.

    Encircling Russia

    The encirclement of Russia continues in the Black Sea, the Baltic and the Arctic circle.

    United States officials continue to claim that Ukraine must join NATO. Just this week, in a New York Times column, Zbigniew’s son Ian J. Brzezinski advised Obama against abandoning the “vision” of a “whole, free and secure” Europe including “eventual Georgian and Ukrainian membership in NATO and the European Union.” The fact that the vast majority of the people of Ukraine are against NATO membership is of no account. For the current scion of the noble Brzezinski dynasty it is the minority that counts. Abandoning the vision “undercuts those in Georgia and Ukraine who see their future in Europe. It reinforces Kremlin aspirations for a sphere of influence…” The notion that “the Kremlin” aspires to a “sphere of influence” in Ukraine is absurd considering the extremely close historic links between Russia and Ukraine, whose capital Kiev was the cradle of the Russian state. But the Brzezinski family hailed from Galicia, the part of Western Ukraine which once belonged to Poland, and which is the center of the anti-Russian minority. U.S. foreign policy is all too frequently influenced by such foreign rivalries of which the vast majority of Americans are totally ignorant.

    Relentless U.S. insistence on absorbing Ukraine continues despite the fact that it would imply expelling the Russian Black Sea fleet from its base in the Crimean peninsula, where the local population is overwhelmingly Russian speaking and pro-Russian. This is a recipe for war with Russia if ever there was one.

    And meanwhile, U.S. officials continue to declare their support for Georgia, whose American-trained president openly hopes to bring NATO support into his next war against Russia. Aside from provocative naval maneuvers in the Black Sea, the United States, NATO and (as yet) non-NATO members Sweden and Finland regularly carry out major military exercises in the Baltic Sea, virtually in sight of the Russia cities Saint Petersburg and Kaliningrad. These exercises involve thousands of ground troops, hundreds of aircraft including F-15 jet fighters, AWACS, as well as naval forces including the U.S. Carrier Strike Group 12, landing craft and warships from a dozen countries.

    Perhaps most ominous of all, in the Arctic region, the United States has been persistently engaging Canada and the Scandinavian states (including Denmark via Greenland) in a military deployment openly directed against Russia. The point of these Arctic deployment was stated by Fogh Rasmussen when he mentioned, among “threats” to be met by NATO, the fact that “Arctic ice is retreating, for resources that had, until now, been covered under ice.” Now, one might consider that this uncovering of resources would be an opportunity for cooperation in exploiting them. But that is not the official U.S. mind set.

    Last October, US Admiral James G Stavridis, supreme Nato commander for Europe, said global warming and a race for resources could lead to a conflict in the Arctic. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Christopher C. Colvin, in charge of Alaska’s coastline, said Russian shipping activity in the Arctic Ocean was “of particular concern” for the US and called for more military facilities in the region. The US Geological Service believes that the Arctic contains up to a quarter of the world’s unexplored deposits of oil and gas. Under the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, a coastal state is entitled to a 200-nautical mile EEZ and can claim a further 150 miles if it proves that the seabed is a continuation of its continental shelf. Russia is applying to make this claim. After pushing for the rest of the world to adopt the Convention, the United States Senate has still not ratified the Treaty. In January 2009, NATO declared the “High North” to be “of strategic interest to the Alliance,” and since then, NATO has held several major war games clearly preparing for eventual conflict with Russia over Arctic resources.

    Russia largely dismantled its defenses in the Arctic after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and has called for negotiating compromises over resource control. Last September, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for joint efforts to protect the fragile ecosystem, attract foreign investment, promote environmentally friendly technologies and work to resolve disputes through international law. But the United States, as usual, prefers to settle the issue by throwing its weight around. This could lead to a new arms race in the Arctic, and even to armed clashes.

    Despite all these provocative moves, it is most unlikely that the United States actually seeks war with Russia, although skirmishes and incidents here and there cannot be ruled out. The U.S. policy appears to be to encircle and intimidate Russia to such an extent that it accepts a semi-satellite status that neutralizes it in the anticipated future conflict with China.

    Target China

    The only reason to target China is like the proverbial reason to climb the mountain: it is there. It is big. And the US must be on top of everything.

    The strategy for dominating China is the same as for Russia. It is classic warfare: encirclement, siege, more or less clandestine support for internal disorder. As examples of this strategy:

    The United States is provocatively strengthening its military presence along the Pacific shores of China, offering “protection against China” to East Asian countries.

    During the Cold War, when India got its armaments from the Soviet Union and struck a non-aligned posture, the United States armed Pakistan as its main regional ally. Now the U.S. is shifting its favors to India, in order to keep India out of the orbit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and to build it as a counterweight to China.

    The United States and its allies support any internal dissidence that might weaken China, whether it is the Dalai Lama, the Uighurs, or Liu Xiaobo, the jailed dissident.

    The Nobel Peace Prize was bestowed on Liu Xiaobo by a committee of Norwegian legislators headed by Thorbjorn Jagland, Norway’s echo of Tony Blair, who has served as Norway’s prime minister and foreign minister, and has been one of his country’s main cheerleaders for NATO. At a NATO-sponsored conference of European parliamentarians last year, Jagland declared: “When we are not able to stop tyranny, war starts. This is why NATO is indispensable. NATO is the only multilateral military organization rooted in international law. It is an organization that the U.N. can use when necessary — to stop tyranny, like we did in the Balkans.” This is an astoundingly bold misstatement of fact, considering that NATO openly defied international law and the United Nations to make war in the Balkans – where in reality there was ethnic conflict, but no “tyranny”.

    In announcing the choice of Liu, the Norwegian Nobel committee, headed by Jagland, declared that it “has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace.” The “close connection”, to follow the logic of Jagland’s own statements, is that if a foreign state fails to respect human rights according to Western interpretations, it may be bombed, as NATO bombed Yugoslavia. Indeed, the very powers that make the most noise about “human rights”, notably the United States and Britain, are the ones making the most wars all over the world. The Norwegian’s statements make it clear that granting the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu (who in his youth spent time in Norway) amounted in reality to an endorsement of NATO.

    “Democracies” to replace the United Nations

    The European members of NATO add relatively little to the military power of the United States. Their contribution is above all political. Their presence maintains the illusion of an “International Community”. The world conquest being pursued by the bureaucratic inertia of the Pentagon can be presented as the crusade by the world’s “democracies” to spread their enlightened political order to the rest of a recalcitrant world.

    The Euro-Atlantic governments proclaim their “democracy” as proof of their absolute right to intervene in the affairs of the rest of the world. On the basis of the fallacy that “human rights are necessary for peace”, they proclaim their right to make war.

    A crucial question is whether “Western democracy” still has the strength to dismantle this war machine before it is too late.

    Note: Grateful thanks to Rick Rozoff for his constant flow of important information.

    DIANA JOHNSTONE is the author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions.She can be reached at diana.josto@yahoo.fr

    NOVEMBER 18, 2010

    Find this story at 18 November 2010

    Copyright © CounterPunch

    Encircling Russia (2004)

    The latest expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation by taking in seven countries, all except one of them members of the erstwhile Warsaw Pact, is a step closer to the encirclement of Russia by the Western military alliance.

    NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (fourth from right) with Foreign Ministers of the seven new NATO members, (from left) Bulgaria’s Solomon Isaac Passy, Lituania’s Antanas Valionis, Slovenia’s Dimitri Rupel, Estonia’s Kristina Ojuland, Romania’s Mircea Dan Geoana, Latvia’s Rihards Piks and Slovakia’s Eduard Kukan at the alliance headquarters in Brussels on April 2.

    ON March 29, United States President George W. Bush formally welcomed seven new members to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) at a ceremony in the White House. The new members are Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Except Slovenia, all of them were part of the Warsaw Pact, which was the military counter-weight to NATO in Europe during the Cold War. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were part of the Soviet Union.

    President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Mikhail Gorbachev was given an assurance by the West prior to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall that NATO too would be disbanded eventually. Many in the West argued that with the disappearance of the so-called Communist threat, the rationale for the existence of NATO no longer existed. In retrospect, Washington had long-term plans aimed at ensuring its continued military dominance in East and Central Europe.

    NATO was formed on April 4, 1949, by 12 countries – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. The first formal expansion of NATO took place in 1999, when three former Warsaw Pact members, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, were welcomed into the alliance.

    Moscow, while not publicly pressing the panic button, has reasons to be worried. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has said that his country will be forced to revise its defence policy unless NATO revised its military doctrine. “Why is an organisation that was designed to oppose the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe still necessary in today’s world?” he asked. The Russian leadership had made it clear to the U.S. that it considers the recent expansion as an unfriendly step and an extension of U.S. hegemony into Central-Eastern Europe. With the U.S. pulling all the strings in NATO, that means the setting up of U.S. military bases and deep penetration by the U.S. of the military and security systems of East Europe. NATO encirclement will also mean that U.S. missiles will be seconds away from Moscow and U.S. spy planes will be constantly snooping on Russian defence and scientific installations.

    Even some NATO members, notably France and Germany, are not too happy with the unseemly haste with which the new members have been brought in. The seven new members form part of what U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has characterised as “new Europe”. The U.S. hopes to downsize further the influence of Western Europe in NATO as it completes the encirclement of Russia. With the addition of the new members, NATO’s access to the Kalingrad region as well as the Black Sea will be further circumscribed.

    By European standards, barring Slovenia, the new members are relatively poor but are all part of President Bush’s “coalition of the willing” in the so-called `War on Terror’. Membership of NATO was one of the inducements offered to these countries. U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel had described the new NATO members as the “Coalition of the Bought” last year. In lieu of their token participation in Iraq, the Bush administration had given these countries a lot of inducements, including the setting up of a $100-million Central European Investment Fund, enhanced trade status and easier access to international capital. Many of the new members joined the “coalition of the willing” without taking their Parliaments or people into confidence. NATO is being expanded when older NATO members such as Spain, which is the sixth biggest contributor of troops, have given notice that they are withdrawing troops from Iraq. There are 1,300 Spanish troops in Iraq. Even the Polish government has hinted that the withdrawal of its 2,460 troops from Iraq is a distinct possibility. Poland has the fourth largest number of troops in that country. The new NATO members have so far contributed only a token number of soldiers.

    The Russian Defence Minster, in a signed article, has said that Russia has valid reasons to be concerned about NATO’s ongoing expansion, particularly if it goes ahead with the plan to build big military bases in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. “The alliance is gaining greater ability to control and monitor Russian territory. We cannot turn a blind eye as NATO’s air and military bases get much closer to cities and defence complexes in European Russia,” he wrote. Russia has also expressed its concerns about NATO’s new priorities, which are contrary to its charter and stated goals. At the NATO summit held in Prague in 2002, the alliance agreed to undertake military operations even outside the territory of member-nations, whenever deemed necessary, without a United Nations mandate. “Any NATO actions not approved by the U.N. should therefore be considered illegal – including `preventive wars’ like that in Iraq,” wrote Ivanov. He told the Russian media in early April that he regretted that NATO was “much more concerned about the deployment of military bases and strike aircraft as close to the Russian borders as possible”.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said in the first week of April that NATO’s enlargement would not help solve international problems. “Practice has shown that a mechanical enlargement cannot help us ward off the threats we face. This enlargement could not prevent the terrorist acts in Madrid, nor could it help us solve the problems in Afghanistan,” Putin pointed out. The Kremlin has reason to be wary about Washington’s game plan. In the last two years, American military bases have been established in Russia’s “Asian underbelly” – the states of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The U.S. has bases in Georgia and Bulgaria. NATO now has a foothold in the Baltic, Caspian and Black Seas. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac were in Moscow in the first week of April. They were the first Western leaders to visit Moscow after Putin’s re-election. The NATO expansion would have no doubt been on top of their agenda for discussion. Putin has said on several occasions that Russia, Germany and France have “practically coinciding” positions on most international issues.

    Though the Russian leadership is not openly articulating it, NATO is being perceived as a political organisation that has illegally appropriated global responsibilities. Its recent actions have also shown that it is a military-political alliance inimical to Russia. NATO has made it clear that it will go on expanding until it seals once and for all the political results of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The next round of expansion could involve Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries, completing the geopolitical encirclement of Russia. Some Russian commentators say that the eastward expansion of NATO constitutes the biggest threat to their country since the Great Patriotic War (Second World War ). Before its neighbours joined NATO, Russia had nothing to fear from their armies. Now it has to confront the might of NATO at its doorstep. Statements by Western leaders that they consider Russia as “a partner not an enemy” will no longer be taken seriously.

    Volume 21 – Issue 09, April 24 – May 07, 2004


    Find this story April May 2004

    Copyright © 2004, Frontline.

    Sir Christopher Curwen -obituary; Sir Christopher Curwen was the MI6 Chief who oversaw one of his Service’s greatest coups — getting Oleg Gordievsky out of Moscow

    Sir Christopher Curwen , who has died aged 84, was head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, or MI6) from 1985 to 1988, and it was under his aegis that the Service brought off one of its most spectacular coups, the exfiltration from Moscow of the agent Oleg Gordievsky.

    Successively code-named FELIKS and OVATION after being recruited by SIS in 1974, Gordievsky was its star source inside the KGB. He had provided valuable reports at a critical time in the Cold War, a period in which paranoia at the Kremlin had become so pronounced that Nato’s 1983 ABLE ARCHER exercise had been misinterpreted in Moscow as a possible cover for a surprise attack on the Soviet Bloc.

    As well as producing enormous quantities of documents from the rezidentura (KGB station) in London, where he had been posted in June 1982 , Gordievsky had identified KGB personnel in the First Chief Directorate ’s British and Scandinavian department and had shed light on dozens of past cases.

    While posted to Copenhagen, Gordievsky had alerted SIS to two of the KGB’s most important sources in Norway: Gunvar Haavik and Arne Treholt. Code-named GRETA, Haavik was a secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had been spying since she had conducted a love affair in 1947 with a Soviet while she was working at the Norwegian embassy in Moscow. Haavik had been arrested in January 1977 in the act of passing information to her KGB case officer in an Oslo suburb, and confessed to having been a spy for almost 30 years. Arne Treholt, also employed by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, was arrested in January 1984 in possession of 66 classified documents . He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.

    Gordievsky’s greatest triumph, however, was to prevent a potentially massive breach of security in MI5. This was the unmasking of Michael Bettaney, who since December 1982 had been working for the Soviet counter-espionage section, and had made three anonymous approaches to the KGB rezident (head of station) in London, Arkadi Gouk, offering to supply him with MI5 secrets. SIS’s tip from Gordievsky led to a discreet mole-hunt, swiftly conducted inside MI5 by Eliza Manningham-Buller, who identified the culprit without compromising the source of the original tip. In April 1984 Bettaney was sentenced to 23 years’ imprisonment .

    With scalps such as these, Gordievsky was considered SIS’s most valuable source, and elaborate measures had been taken to protect him. He was, for example, given the front-door key to a flat, close to the Soviet embassy in London, to which he could disappear with his family should the need arise.

    Curwen’s appointment as “C” (as the head of MI6 is known) coincided with just such a crisis. On Friday May 17 1985, having just been promised the job of rezident (head of station) in London , Gordievsky was suddenly summoned back to Moscow, supposedly for consultations.

    On his arrival Gordievsky realised that his apartment had been searched; and when he reached FCD headquarters he was accused of being a spy. When he denied it, his interrogators used drugs in an unsuccessful attempt to extract a confession, and he concluded that, although the KGB had been tipped off to his dual role, there was insufficient evidence to justify an arrest. Although he remained under constant surveillance, in late July Gordievsky was able to shake off his watchers while jogging in a park and send an emergency signal to SIS requesting a rescue .

    The “signal” was nothing more elaborate than Gordievsky’s appearing on a pre-arranged street corner, at a particular time, carrying a Harrods shopping bag — but it was enough to prompt Curwen to brief Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Office private secretary, Charles Powell, who immediately flew to Scotland, where the Prime Minister was staying with the Queen at Balmoral. After consultation with the Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, Mrs Thatcher approved a high-risk plan to get Gordievsky out of Moscow and into the West.

    The ruse — originally conceived by John Scarlett, himself a future Chief of SIS — was for MI6’s Moscow station commander, Viscount Asquith, to play the “Good Samaritan” by driving a pregnant member of the embassy staff in his Saab for medical treatment in Helsinki; Gordievsky — having evaded his KGB watchers — joined the car at a rendezvous outside Leningrad and was driven over the frontier with Finland at Viborg. He was then driven to Trömso in Norway, and the next day flew from Oslo to London.

    Gordievsky was briefly accommodated at a country house in the Midlands, where Curwen visited him, and then at Fort Monckton, Gosport, where he underwent an 80-day debriefing conducted by SIS’s principal Kremlinologist, Gordon Barrass. Among Gordievsky’s other visitors was the US Director of Central Intelligence, Bill Casey, who was flown down to the fort for a lunch hosted by Curwen, a celebration of one of SIS’s most impressive post-war coups.

    Although Gordievsky’s safe exfiltration was a source of great pride for Curwen and his staff, there remained considerable concern about precisely how the agent had been compromised. One possibility was that, after so many setbacks, the KGB had worked out for itself that a mole had been at work within the organisation. Or had Gordievsky’s dual role somehow been leaked by a mole?

    It was not until the CIA arrested the Soviet spy Aldrich Ames in February 1994 that an explanation was offered. Ames claimed to having identified Gordievsky to the Soviets as a source who had penetrated the KGB in Denmark and London — although there were doubts that he was telling the truth.

    Gordievsky’s defection was nevertheless a devastating blow for the KGB, and the expulsion of the London rezidentura, ordered on the basis of his information, had a colossal impact on the organisation .

    Resettled under a new identity near London, Gordievsky published his memoirs, Last Stop Execution, in 1994. As well as describing his role in compromising KGB spies in Norway and in Sweden, he revealed that the KGB rezidentura in London had cultivated several highly-placed trade union leaders (among them Richard Briginshaw and Ray Buckton), and that the Soviet embassy had been in touch with what he termed “confidential contacts” – influential individuals (including three Left-wing Labour MPs, Joan Lester, Jo Richardson and Joan Maynard) who could be relied upon to take the Kremlin’s lead on political controversies.

    The constitutional implications of Gordievsky’s disclosures were considered sufficiently important for Curwen to brief the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler, who in turn called in Tony Blair, as leader of the Opposition, to explain the situation to him.

    The son of a vicar, Christopher Keith Curwen was born on April 9 1929 and educated at Sherborne, where he was a friend of David Sheppard, later the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool. During National Service as a second-lieutenant with the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in Malaya, Curwen was mentioned in dispatches for his gallantry in jungle warfare against communist guerrillas. An officer who served alongside him in Malaya said of Curwen: “There are some people you’d go into the jungle with and some you wouldn’t. I would be very happy to go back into the jungle with Chris… He was tough and fair. He was an excellent officer and his men liked him very much.”

    Curwen went up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he was a keen rower and occasional rugby player. He joined the Cambridge Union but seems to have shown little interest in politics. In the summer of 1951 he drove across the Sahara after visiting his elder brother, then working in the Colonial Service in Nigeria.

    In July 1952 he joined SIS and two years later, in 1954, was posted to Thailand to work for Robert Hemblys-Scales, where he became fluent in Thai. In July 1956 he was moved to Vientiane, where he married his first wife, Vera Noom Tai, a physiotherapist who later worked at St Thomas’s Hospital.

    Curwen returned to head office in Broadway in 1958, but by 1961 he was back in Bangkok, before spending two years in Kuala Lumpur. After another spell in London , in May 1968 he began a three-year appointment as SIS’s liaison officer in Washington, DC . A Washington colleague described him as “a very gentle chap. I can’t think of anyone more low-key than him.”

    Other diplomats who worked alongside Curwen described him as hardworking and discreet. “[He] was very scrupulous,” one recalled. “He used to refer all his activities for approval to me and I give him full marks for that. Of course, there may have been some that he didn’t refer to me.”

    In 1977 Curwen’s first marriage was dissolved, and in the same year he married his former secretary, Helen Stirling. He was posted to Geneva as head of station, and in May 1980 was back in London as “C”’s Deputy, succeeding Sir Colin Figures in July 1985 — just in time to be confronted by the Gordievsky crisis.

    Mrs Thatcher had been less than impressed by MI6’s performance in the months leading up to the Argentine invasion of the Falklands in 1982. It is said that Curwen’s appointment as C was promoted by Sir Antony Duff, the director-general of MI5.

    His selection as “C” was unusual in that “Far East Hands” are rarely appointed to the post, which more usually goes to a Kremlinologist or Middle East specialist. Curwen’s four-year tenure had the advantage of a burgeoning budget, after the Prime Minister insisted that more funds be made available for SIS after years of financial cuts.

    Curwen was appointed CMG in 1982 and KCMG in 1986.

    On his retirement in November 1988, Curwen succeeded Colin Figures as the Cabinet Intelligence Coordinator, helping the Prime Minister to manage administrative issues across the whole of the intelligence community. In 1991 he recommended in a review, undertaken on behalf of the Cabinet Office’s Joint Intelligence Committee, that MI5 should continue to lead the Metropolitan Police Special Branch in operations against the Provisional IRA.

    He finally retired in 1991, when he took on a part-time role as a member of the Security Commission, a body which became redundant when the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee was created three years later .

    Sir Christopher Curwen, who retired near Bath, listed his interests in Who’s Who as books, gardening and motoring.

    He had five children: a son and two daughters with his first wife, and a son and a daughter with his second.

    Sir Christopher Curwen, born April 9 1929, died December 18 2013

    7:25PM GMT 23 Dec 2013


    Find this story at 23 December 2013

    © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

    Moscow Denies U.S.-Based Diplomat Sought Young Spies

    Moscow has angrily denied that one of its diplomats in Washington tried to recruit young Americans to spy for Russian intelligence agencies, calling the allegations a “horror story” reminiscent of the Cold War.

    The spy flap centering around the 59-year-old head of a Kremlin-funded cultural exchange program raises the specter of a new dispute rocking already stormy relations between Russia and the U.S.

    The FBI is investigating whether Yury Zaitsev, head of the Russian Center for Science and Culture, is a Russian intelligence officer who arranged all-expense-paid trips to Russia aimed at grooming young Americans, including students, political aides, nonprofit sector workers and business executives, according to Mother Jones magazine, which first broke the story.

    The Russian Embassy in Washington and Zaitsev himself rejected the allegations and expressed concern that unknown people were trying to ruin efforts by Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin to mend and expand ties.

    “It’s a shame that Russian-American relations periodically echo the Cold War,” Zaitsev, who refused to speak to Mother Jones on the issue, said late Wednesday in an interview with state news agency Itar-Tass. “Someone apparently wants to see the Iron Curtain fall between our two countries once again.”

    “This kind of horror story very much resembles the Cold War era,” embassy spokesman Yevgeny Khorishko said in a statement released to Russian media. “A blunt attempt is being made to distort and discredit the activities of the Russian cultural center, which focuses on developing trust and cooperation between our two countries and people.”

    He warned that “somebody intends to torpedo” a goal set by Obama and Putin at a Group of Eight summit in June to expand direct contracts between Americans and Russians so as to raise relations to a new level.

    But Khorishko vowed that Moscow would not be deterred by the spy allegations. ”The Russian cultural center has been working to expand contacts and improve understanding between Russian and American citizens and will continue to do this work,” he said.

    The Russian center is housed in a 1895 mansion purchased by Moscow in 1957. (rccusa.org)

    Mother Jones and other U.S. media reported that FBI officials had met with people who traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg on trips organized by the Russian cultural center and quizzed them on whether Zaitsev worked for Russian intelligence and whether any attempts had been made to recruit them during their stay. The media reports, citing trip participants, said all had denied that the Russians had sought to recruit them.

    The FBI refused to comment on whether it had opened an investigation into Zaitsev.

    Zaitsev has diplomatic immunity, so U.S. prosecutors could not press charges against him if the FBI were to conclude that he broke the law. But the State Department could withdraw his immunity, forcing the Russian Foreign Ministry to recall him to Moscow.

    The cultural center has brought 128 Americans on “short-term, fact-finding trips” to Russia since the exchange program was created under a presidential decree in 2011, according to program information on the center’s website. The global program, which seeks participants aged 25 to 35, has also invited 1,219 people from other countries, including 283 from Europe, 157 from Asia and the Middle East, 29 from Africa and South America and 750 from other former Soviet republics.

    About 25 people participated in each trip from the U.S., and they stayed at five-star hotels and met with senior politicians like the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg and Federation Council Deputy Speaker Alexander Torshin, Mother Jones said.

    Zaitsev, a St. Petersburg native, said in the interview that trip participants were being targeted in a “witch hunt” rooted in a U.S. fear of Russia. “I think it is simply unacceptable that they are ordered to tell what, why, how and why,” he said.

    In a reminder of lingering suspicions in both countries, Zaitsev pointed out that the U.S. government also organizes exchange programs that bring young Russians to the United States, and he insisted that his program was as transparent as any of those. “All of the information about our programs and projects is publicly available on our website,” he said.

    Zaitsev’s path to Washington is not clear from his organization’s website. He received a doctorate in economics from the Leningrad Technological Institute in 1980 and then worked in several government-run student organizations until the Soviet collapse, according to his online biography. He worked in unspecified “leadership positions in private companies” from 1992 until he was appointed head of the cultural center in July 2010. He is married and has one adult son.

    The center’s second floor has a space library focusing on Russian-U.S. cooperation. (rccusa.org)

    But Zaitsev faces a formidable task. Relations between the Russia and the U.S. have soured since Putin returned to the presidency last year, with Washington deploring a Kremlin crackdown on the opposition and a ban on U.S. parents adopting Russian children. Moscow for its part has assailed the U.S. Magnitsky blacklist of Russian officials accused of human rights violations.

    The tensions have cast a shadow over yearlong events mean to celebrate the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

    The Russian cultural center, also known as Rossotrudnichestvo, is “the official home of Russian culture in the United States” and was created in 2001 under a bilateral agreement aimed at fostering relations, according to its website.

    It is housed in a 1895 mansion located 20 minutes by foot from the White House that the Soviet government bought in 1957 and used for the embassy’s consular services for 40 years.

    The first floor contains the Moscow Room, decorated in cream and gold leaf and with paintings of the Bolshoi Theater, the Kremlin, Moscow State University and Christ the Savior Cathedral; as well as the Hall of Mirrors, with two gala portraits of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great; and the Russian-American Room, with a colorful panorama depicting key moments in Russian-American relations.

    The second floor hosts the Pushkin Library, with more than 2,000 books, 300 movies on video and DVD and more than 100 audiobooks; a space library focusing on Russian-U.S. cooperation in space exploration; and classrooms offering Russian-language lessons.

    The third floor contains two guest rooms, while the basement has a kitchen that prepares meals for the center’s receptions and offers classes on Russian cuisine.

    25 October 2013 | Issue 5242
    By Andrew McChesney

    Find this story at 25 October 2013

    © Copyright 1992-2013. The Moscow Times.

    Head of D.C.-based Russian cultural center being investigated as possible spy

    The FBI is investigating whether the U.S.-based director of a Russian government-run cultural exchange program was clandestinely recruiting Americans as possible intelligence assets, according to law enforcement officials.

    FBI agents have been interviewing Americans who participated in the Rossotrudnichestvo exchange program run by Yury Zaytsev, who also heads the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Washington. For the past 12 years, the program has paid for about 130 Americans to visit Russia.

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    FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson declined to comment on whether there was an investigation or to discuss the bureau’s role. A woman who answered the phone at the cultural center said that neither Zaytsev nor the center would comment.

    “We know that the boys and girls are speaking,” said the woman, referring to the young Americans who participated in the program and have been interviewed by the FBI. “There are many. But we shall not put out a comment.”

    “We are clean and transparent, friendly and true,” said the woman, who did not give her name or title.

    The center, at Phelps Place in the Kalorama neighborhood of northwest Washington, offers language lessons and cultural programs, according to its Web site.

    A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington denied that the cultural center was involved in the recruitment of spies.

    “All such ‘scaring information’ very much resembles Cold War era,” the spokesman, Yevgeniy Khorishko, said in an e-mail. He added that such allegations were being leveled only to “distort and to blacken activities of the Russian Cultural Center.”

    The FBI investigation of Zaytsev was first reported by Mother Jones magazine on its Web site.

    Law enforcement officials said the FBI is investigating whether Zaytsev and Rossotrudnichestvo have used trips to Russia to recruit Americans. Rossotrudnichestvo paid for all their expenses, including meals, travel, visa fees and lodging. Most of the trips involved about 25 participants, who sometimes stayed in luxury hotels and met with Russian government officials.

    Zaytsev did not go on the exchange trips, said one law enforcement official, but he created files on some of the participants, allegedly to cultivate them as future intelligence assets. Law enforcement officials would not comment on whether the FBI has any evidence that Zaytsev was successful in recruiting any assets.

    As part of their probe, FBI special agents are trying to interview the Americans who participated in the program, including graduate students, business executives, political aides and nonprofit workers. Rossotrudnichestvo also has cultural exchanges for young people in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

    Richard Portwood, the executive director of the Center for American-Russian Engagement of Emerging Leaders and a participant in the cultural exchange program, said he was interviewed by the FBI this month and was told that Zaytsev was a foreign intelligence officer.

    “These revelations came as a total surprise,” Portwood said in a statement. “My sincere hope is that Mr. Zaytsev’s alleged activities do not prevent U.S.-Russia cultural exchanges in the future.”

    Portwood, 27, a graduate student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said in a telephone interview that he took two trips to Russia through the exchange program, each lasting a little more than a week, in December 2011 and in June 2012. He said the FBI wanted to know what he and others traveling with him did on the trips, whom they met with and whether they saw anything suspicious. Portwood said the trips did not raise any suspicions. But he added: “Cold War spy games have existed for decades between the U.S. and Russia. We’re not naive to that history.”

    Zaytsev, who is on a State Department list of foreign mission staff, has diplomatic immunity, according to an administration official. The United States could revoke his immunity, which would force him to return to Russia, a law enforcement official said.

    By Sari Horwitz, Published: October 23 E-mail the writer
    Nick Anderson contributed to this report.

    Find this story at 23 October 2013

    © 1996-2013 The Washington Post

    FBI Probing Whether Russia Used Cultural Junkets to Recruit American Intelligence Assets

    Did a senior Russian embassy officer set up exchange trips to Moscow to cultivate young, up-and-coming Americans as Russian intelligence assets?

    On September 30, Richard Portwood, a 27-year-old Georgetown University graduate student, received a phone call from an FBI agent who said the bureau wanted to meet with him urgently. Portwood didn’t know why the FBI would have any interest in him, but two days later he sat down with a pair of agents at a coffee shop near his apartment. They told him they suspected that Yury Zaytsev, the US director of a Russian government-run cultural exchange program that Portwood had participated in, was a spy.

    Since 2001, Zaytsev’s organization, Rossotrudnichestvo, has footed the bill for about 130 young Americans—including political aides, nonprofit advocates, and business executives—to visit Russia. Along with Portwood, Mother Jones has spoken to two other Rossotrudnichestvo participants who were questioned by the FBI about Zaytsev, who also heads the Russian Cultural Center in Washington.
    Yury Zaytsev, a Russian diplomat. Multiple sources tell us he is the subject of an extensive FBI investigation. Rossotrudnichestvo

    The FBI agents “have been very up front about” their investigation into whether Zaytsev is a Russian intelligence agent, says a 24-year-old nonprofit worker whom the FBI has interviewed twice and who asked not to be identified. The FBI agents, according to this source, said, “We’re investigating Yury for spying activities. We just want to know what interactions you’ve had with him.” The nonprofit worker was shocked. Zaytsev, he says, is “what you imagine when you imagine a Russian diplomat. He’s fairly stoic, tall, pale.” Zaytsev did not travel on the exchange trips he helped arrange, and his contact with the Americans who went on these trips was limited.

    The agents who interviewed the Rossotrudnichestvo participants did not tell them what evidence they possessed to support their suspicions. FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into Zaytsev or answer any questions about FBI actions regarding the Russian. (The FBI did not ask Mother Jones to withhold this story.) But based on what the bureau’s agents said during the interviews, the Americans who were questioned concluded the FBI suspects that Zaytsev and Rossotrudnichestvo have used the all-expenses-paid trips to Russia in an effort to cultivate young Americans as intelligence assets. (An asset could be someone who actually works with an intelligence service to gather information, or merely a contact who provides information, opinions, or gossip, not realizing it is being collected by an intelligence officer.) The nonprofit worker says the FBI agents told him that Zaytsev had identified him as a potential asset. Zaytsev or his associates, the agents said, had begun to build a file on the nonprofit worker and at least one other Rossotrudnichestvo participant who had been an adviser to an American governor.

    Advertise on MotherJones.com

    Many countries—including the United States—place spies abroad under diplomatic cover, and it’s common for law enforcement agencies to keep a close eye on foreign diplomats who might be engaged in espionage. The Americans interviewed by the FBI say the agents did not indicate whether they believed Zaytsev had succeeded in developing Americans as assets.

    The FBI appears to be mounting an extensive investigation of Zaytsev. The three Americans interviewed by the FBI say the agents told them the bureau is trying to interview every American who has attended these trips. The nonprofit worker says that FBI agents went so far as to contact a married couple, who are Rossotrudnichestvo alums, while they were vacationing in Japan. He says the agents told him they were also scouring flight manifests associated with Rossotrudnichestvo trips for names that showed up repeatedly and could be Zaytsev collaborators.

    All three former participants describe their Rossotrudnichestvo experience as a typical cultural exchange program, albeit a ritzy one. The organization paid for meals, travel, lodging, and every other expense associated with the trip, down to the visa fee. During the St. Petersburg leg of a June 2012 trip, participants stayed at the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge, a luxury hotel that has hosted delegations for the G8 and G20 summits. Participants on that trip met with the governors of Moscow and St. Petersburg and with Aleksander Torshin, a high-ranking member of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Since 2011, Rossotrudnichestvo has organized six trips. Most included about 25 people, although roughly 50 visited Russia during the group’s first trip in December 2011.

    The application process for this exchange program is simple. The application form calls for basic personal details—including the applicant’s place of work and job title—copies of the applicant’s passport, and a one-page letter “briefly outlining why you should be selected, why you are interested and what interests you have in collaboration with Russia.” Applicants tend to find the program through referrals. (Portwood has referred about 50 people to Rossotrudnichestvo. To his knowledge, Rossotrudnichestvo never denied any applicants.) The group also offers similar exchanges to young professionals in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe.

    When I called the Russian Cultural Center last week, Zaytsev answered. He declined to answer questions about the FBI’s investigation on the phone, but he eagerly invited me to visit him at the center two days later. “I welcome any questions you have for me,” he said. When I arrived, though, Galina Komissarova, a center employee, asked me to leave, saying I hadn’t sent questions in advance as Zaytsev had requested. (He hadn’t.) Komissarova would not disclose her title or role at the center. “I just clean,” she said sternly, showing me the door. I discovered later that Komissarova is Zaytsev’s wife.

    Since then, Zaytsev has not replied to written questions or returned repeated phone calls.

    A State Department spokeswoman confirms that Zaytsev is on a list of foreign mission staff who have diplomatic immunity. If it chose to, the United States could revoke his immunity, forcing Russia to call him home.

    Portwood, who attended Rossotrudnichestvo trips in 2011 and 2012, and the other Americans questioned by the FBI were asked a similar set of questions. The agents wanted to know how they had heard about the exchange program and where in Russia they traveled. They also asked whether participants had encountered any anti-American sentiment on their trip, were offered jobs, or had suspicious interactions with Rossotrudnichestvo afterward. Portwood and the two other participants said they answered “no” to these questions.

    According to three Rossotrudnichestvo alums, Zaytsev displayed no suspicious behavior and none developed an ongoing relationship with him after their excursion. For most Rossotrudnichestvo participants, they say, Zaytsev was merely the name on the congratulatory letter they received when they were accepted into the exchange program.

    The third participant who spoke to Mother Jones about the exchange program, a 26-year-old resident of Washington, DC, is not surprised by the FBI’s allegations—and doesn’t care whether he was targeted as a possible intelligence asset. “There’s not a single American diplomat anywhere in the American sphere of influence who doesn’t have an open line of communication with the CIA. … [What Zaytsev is doing] is not something that every other single [foreign] cultural center in DC isn’t also doing,” he says. “And that doesn’t bother me. I don’t have a security clearance. I don’t work for an elected official. I run a social enterprise that has absolutely nothing to do with US-Russia relations.”

    Rossotrudnichestvo’s most recent Russia trip was scheduled for mid-October and it’s unclear whether or not it went forward as planned. After he was questioned by the FBI, Portwood emailed people he had earlier referred to the organization to inform them of what he learned. His email read, in part: “The FBI disclosed to me that Yury Zaytsev is a Russian Foreign Intelligence officer and a professional spy, acting as the Director of the Russian Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.…only so that he can maintain a residence here in the United States. In fact, the FBI alleges that part of Mr. Zaytsev’s mission is sending young professionals from the United States to Russia as part of a cultural program wherein participants are evaluated and/or assessed for Russian counterintelligence purposes.”

    Portwood was disappointed to learn the exchange program may have been a cover for Russian intelligence work. “It passed the smell test,” he says. “But I guess Russia’s Russia, you know?”

    UPDATE, 6:00 p.m. EDT, Wednesday October 23: The Russian Embassy provided the following statement in an email to Mother Jones:

    All such “scaring information” very much resembles Cold War era. A blunt tentative is made to distort and to blacken activities of the Russian Cultural Center in DC, which are aimed at developing mutual trust and cooperation between our peoples and countries. As a matter of fact, somebody intends to torpedo the guidelines of the Russian and U.S. Presidents, whose Joint Statement in Lough Erne emphasizes the importance of “expanding direct contracts between Americans and Russians that will serve to strengthen mutual understanding and trust and make it possible to raise U.S.-Russian relations to a qualitatively new level”.

    Russian Cultural Center has been working to expand contacts and better understanding between Russian and American citizens and will continue this work.

    —By Molly Redden
    | Wed Oct. 23, 2013 3:00 AM PDT | UPDATED Wed Oct. 23, 2013 3:00 PM PDT

    Find this story at 23 October 2013

    Copyright ©2013 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress.

    KGB ‘recruited’ two politicians as agents

    KGB station chief Ivan Stenin (right) and his successor, Geronty Lazovik, in Canberra in 1971.

    A KGB officer ran two Australian federal parliamentarians as Soviet agents in the 1970s, according to a confidential account of ASIO counter-espionage operations during the Cold War.

    ASIO also tried to persuade a Russian military intelligence officer to defect by offering him treatment in the US for his stomach cancer.

    In an unusually candid document obtained by Fairfax Media, a former senior ASIO officer lists known Soviet intelligence officers in Australia and reveals numerous details of ASIO’s counter-espionage efforts. Much of the information remains classified.

    The account by the former counter-espionage specialist confirms that Soviet intelligence was very active in Australia throughout the Cold War and that ASIO’s counter-espionage efforts had only limited success.

    The document reveals ASIO’s bid in the 1970s to induce a senior military intelligence officer, Yuriy Ivanovich Stepanenko, to defect.

    ASIO offered the Russian, who had stomach cancer, ”the best facilities in the world” at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore ”if he wanted to jump”.

    According to the former ASIO officer, the Russian was “tempted but didn’t live much longer”.

    The document also details how ASIO’s bugging operations revealed in the late 1960s and early 1970s that KGB officer Vladimir Aleksandrovich Aleksyev was “running two Australian politicians as agents, using tradecraft of a fairly high order”.

    Aleksyev was followed by Vladimir Yevgenyevich Tulayev, “a hard-eyed, well-dressed thug” who, according to declassified ASIO documents, was also “aggressively involved in intelligence operations in Australia”.

    Geronty Lazovik, another “definite agent runner”, was much more urbane and developed a wide range of contacts across Federal Parliament by targeting Labor politicians, staffers and lobbyists. However, ASIO director-general Peter Barbour delayed recommending that Tulayev and Lazovik be expelled before the 1972 federal election for fear of triggering political controversy.

    Declassified documents show that after the election the new Labor prime minister, Gough Whitlam, was concerned about ASIO’s investigations causing diplomatic embarrassment. Neither KGB officer was expelled and the government suspended ASIO’s phone taps on the Soviet embassy.

    Lazovik was reportedly later awarded a medal for his work in Australia. The award was for “allegedly recruiting a top agent in ASIO, Defence or [the Department of Foreign Affairs]”, according to the former ASIO officer.

    The document also sheds light on the 1983 Combe-Ivanov affair in which the Hawke Labor government blackballed former Labor national secretary and political lobbyist David Combe because of his involvement with KGB officer Valery Ivanov, who was expelled from Australia.

    The former ASIO officer says that Ivanov recruited a cipher clerk in the Indonesian embassy and that ASIO approached the Indonesians to agree to “a joint operation running the cipher clerk back against Ivanov”. However, the proposed double-agent operation had to aborted because of Ivanov’s expulsion.

    “The farewell party for Ivanov was bugged and revealing. He had been roundly castigated by [fellow KGB officer] Koshlyakov for going too far, too soon, and wasn’t very happy at that,” the former ASIO officer says.

    October 14, 2013
    Philip Dorling

    Find this story at 14 October 2013

    Copyright © 2013 Fairfax Media

    Moscow offers spy swap for sleeper couple

    Moscow wants to exchange a married couple of Russian spies jailed this month in Germany for at least one convict jailed in Russia on charges of spying for the West, a report said Monday.
    Russian spies use ‘safe’ German typewriters – Science & Technology (12 Jul 2013)
    Court jails Russian spy couple – National (2 Jul 2013)
    Alleged Russian spy couple in ‘Cold War’ trial – National (15 Jan 2013)

    Russia’s Kommersant newspaper said that the Russian secret services wanted to bring the pair — known only by their code names Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag — back to Russia after decades as “sleepers” in Germany.

    In a Cold War-style exchange, Moscow would simultaneously hand over to the West at least one spy convicted of passing secrets to Berlin or its allies, the paper said.

    “The process of consultations [with Germany] on a possible exchange was started only recently, after their conviction” on July 2nd, a Russian security source told the paper.

    “We will get our guys out of there,” the source added.

    Another source told the paper that Moscow had waited until after the trial was over to seek the exchange, in case the legal process were toshed further light on how their cover had been blown.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied to the paper that any exchange had been discussed at talks in June between President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    The man known as Andreas Anschlag was jailed for six and a half years and Heidrun Anschlag for five and a half years by the higher regional court in the south western city of Stuttgart.

    The pair had been planted there West Germany from 1988 by the Soviet Union’s KGB secret service and later worked for its successor the SVR, the court heard.

    Kommersant said that the jailed couple’s lawyer Horst-Dieter Petschke confirmed that the swap was expected and told the paper that the exchange could “happen at any moment”.

    It said that possible candidates to be freed in Russia in such an exchange included Andrei Dumenkov, who was jailed in 2006 for 12 years for seeking to hand Germany data on Russian missile designs.

    Another name citied was Valery Mikhailov, a former colonel in the Russian security service who was jailed in 2012 for 18 years for spying for the United States.

    Such spy exchanges, familiar from the Cold War era and John le Carré novels, already have a precedent in post-Soviet Russian history.

    In 2010, Russia and the United States agreed a sensational spy swap of ten Russian “sleeper” agents caught in the United States for four men convicted in Russia of spying for the West.

    The ten Russian spies — including the glamorous female agent Anna Chapman — were brought back to Moscow and subsequently personally welcomed by Putin.

    Published: 15 Jul 2013 09:38 CET | Print version

    Find this story at 15 July 2013

    related story at 4 February 2013

    related story at 4 February 2013

    related story at 4 February 2013

    related story at 4 February 2013

    © The Local Europe GmbH

    Datenleck bei der Nato; Geheimpapiere in der Küche

    Viele Jahre lang arbeitet Manfred K. als Informatiker bei der Nato – bieder, unauffällig, pflichtbewusst. Dann kommt heraus: Der 60-Jährige soll brisante Informationen gestohlen haben und auf geheimen Konten Millionen Euro bunkern. Ist er ein Spion?

    Koblenz – An dem Dorf bei Kaiserslautern ist die Weltgeschichte bislang ohne Zwischenstopp vorbeigesaust. Es gibt wenig Sehenswürdigkeiten und noch weniger Persönlichkeiten, die irgendwie von Bedeutung gewesen wären. Man könnte sagen, in dem 900-Seelen-Nest ist die Welt noch in Ordnung, doch seit einigen Monaten stimmt auch das nicht mehr.

    Damals, es war im Herbst 2012, kamen Bundesanwälte, Staatsschützer des Landeskriminalamts, Agenten des Militärischen Abschirmdiensts. Sie durchsuchten ein schnödes Einfamilienhaus nahe der Hauptstraße und sie taten es gründlich. Lösten die Tapeten von den Wänden, schleppten alle Möbel in den Garten, setzten ein Bodenradargerät ein. Sie sollten fündig werden.

    Unter einer Fliese im Keller und hinter einer Fußleiste in der Küche entdeckten die Ermittler zwei USB-Sticks mit brisanten Geheiminformationen der Nato. Es ging um Einsatzplanungen, Luftlagebilder, um IP-Adressen und Passwörter für Programme, wie sie das Bündnis auch in Kampfeinsätzen verwendet. Ein Offizier nennt das Material “brisant”. Eine “Weitergabe hätte uns sicherlich sehr geschadet”.

    Prozess wegen Landesverrats

    Der Hausherr, Manfred K., der 34 Jahre lang als IT-Fachmann bei der Nato gearbeitet hatte, wurde daraufhin festgenommen. Von Mittwoch an muss sich der Wirtschaftsinformatiker wegen “landesverräterischer Ausspähung” vor dem Oberlandesgericht Koblenz verantworten, ihm drohen bis zu zehn Jahre Haft.

    Dabei ist noch vollkommen unklar, wozu K. die Informationen hortete und ob er bereits in der Vergangenheit Daten an ausländische Nachrichtendienste verkauft hat. Immerhin verfügte der 60-Jährige, der zuletzt auf dem US-Militärflughafen Ramstein arbeitete und monatlich mehr als 7000 Euro netto verdiente, über ein Vermögen von 6,5 Millionen Euro. Das Geld hatte er bei Fondsgesellschaften in Luxemburg und Großbritannien angelegt. Teilweise soll er auch hohe Beträge in bar eingezahlt haben.

    Die entscheidenden Fragen sind daher: Woher stammen die Millionen? Sparten die Eheleute K., die in sehr bescheidenen Verhältnissen lebten, bloß eisern? Ließ sich K., zuständig für die Beschaffung von Computer und Software, vielleicht von Unternehmen schmieren? Oder verkaufte er doch ausländischen Agenten brisante Nato-Papiere? Weder die Bundesanwaltschaft noch die Verteidigerin von Manfred K. wollten sich dazu auf Anfrage äußern.

    Bilder aus Panama

    Unstrittig ist hingegen, dass K. und seine Frau Deutschland zumindest vorübergehend den Rücken kehren wollten. So bemühte sich der IT-Experte seit Längerem intensiv darum, Aufenthaltsgenehmigungen für Panama zu bekommen, wozu Einkommensnachweise nötig waren. Auch fanden die Ermittler auf diversen Sticks zahlreiche Bilder aus Mittelamerika. Wollte Manfred K. flüchten?

    Gegen eine nachrichtendienstliche Tätigkeit des Angeklagten scheint jedoch die Art seines Vorgehens zu sprechen. Nach SPIEGEL-ONLINE-Informationen gelang es ihm im März 2012, die teilweise als geheim eingestuften Unterlagen an einem internen Sicherheitscheck vorbei auf seinen Dienstcomputer zu laden. Von dort aus sandte K. sie wohl über seinen Nato-Account an seine private GMX-Adresse und speicherte sie anschließend auf verschiedenen Medien. Besonders konspirativ war das nicht.

    Die beiden Agenten des russischen Auslandsgeheimdienstes SWR, die kürzlich vom Oberlandesgericht Stuttgart zu mehrjährigen Haftstrafen verurteilt worden waren, gingen anders vor. Sie ließen sich von einem Mitarbeiter des Den Haager Außenministeriums Hunderte vertrauliche Dokumente liefern. Die Übergabe der Papiere erfolgte zumeist in den Niederlanden, danach deponierte der Agent die Akten in “toten Briefkästen” im Raum Bonn, wo sie anschließend von Mitarbeitern der russischen Botschaft abgeholt wurden.

    Und noch etwas erscheint seltsam im Fall Manfred K.: 2010 ließ der Nato-Mitarbeiter über längere Zeit eine große Nähe zur NPD erkennen. Er besuchte öffentliche Veranstaltungen der Partei und spendete ihr 3000 Euro. Angeblich wollte er auf diese Weise einen Verlust seiner Zugangsberechtigung zu Geheiminformationen und damit seine Frühpensionierung provozieren. Doch falls das wirklich sein Plan war, ging der nicht auf. Es dauerte noch geraume Zeit, bis K. dem Verfassungsschutz und der Nato-Spionageabwehr auffiel. Die Militärs wandten sich schließlich an die Bundesanwaltschaft.

    Als Beamte ihn Anfang August 2012 in seinem Heimatdorf festnahmen, war Manfred K. bereits seit einer Woche Rentner.

    16. Juli 2013, 14:28 Uhr
    Von Jörg Diehl

    Find this story at 16 July 2013


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