The Whys Behind the Ukraine Crisis

Robert Parry


Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria
Nuland, speaking to Ukrainian and other business leaders at
the National Press Club in Washington on Dec. 13, 2013, at
a meeting sponsored by Chevron.

Given the very high stakes of a nuclear confrontation with Russia, some analysts wonder what’s the real motive for taking this extraordinary risk over Ukraine. Is it about natural gas, protection of the U.S. dollar’s dominance, or an outgrowth of neocon extremism, says Robert Parry.

A senior U.S. diplomat told me recently that if Russia were to occupy all of Ukraine and even neighboring Belarus that there would be zero impact on U.S. national interests. The diplomat wasn’t advocating that, of course, but was noting the curious reality that Official Washington’s current war hysteria over Ukraine doesn’t connect to genuine security concerns.

So why has so much of the Washington Establishment – from prominent government officials to all the major media pundits – devoted so much time this past year to pounding their chests over the need to confront Russia regarding Ukraine? Who is benefiting from this eminently avoidable – yet extremely dangerous – crisis? What’s driving the madness?

Of course, Washington’s conventional wisdom is that America only wants “democracy” for the people of Ukraine and that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked this confrontation as part of an imperialist design to reclaim Russian territory lost during the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.


Who’s Telling the ‘Big Lie’ on Ukraine?

Robert Parry

Official Washington draws the Ukraine crisis in black-and-white colors with Russian President Putin the bad guy and the U.S.-backed leaders in Kiev the good guys. But the reality is much more nuanced, with the American people consistently misled on key facts.


Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a crowd on May 9,
2014, celebrating the 69th anniversary of victory over Nazi Ger-
many and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Crimean
port city of Sevastopol from the Nazis.
(Russian gov't photo)

If you wonder how the world could stumble into World War III – much as it did into World War I a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire U.S. political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats vs. black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.

The original lie behind Official Washington’s latest “group think” was that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis in Ukraine as part of some diabolical scheme to reclaim the territory of the defunct Soviet Union, including Estonia and other Baltic states. Though not a shred of U.S. intelligence supported this scenario, all the “smart people” of Washington just “knew” it to be true.

Yet, the once-acknowledged – though soon forgotten – reality was that the crisis was provoked last year by the European Union proposing an association agreement with Ukraine while U.S. neocons and other hawkish politicos and pundits envisioned using the Ukraine gambit as a way to undermine Putin inside Russia.


The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case

Robert Parry


The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch
and embraced by the New York Times, supposedly showing
the flight paths of two missiles from the Aug. 21 Sarin attack
intersecting at a Syrian military base.

At the first anniversary of the Sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, there is a concerted effort to reestablish the original conventional wisdom, blaming the Syrian government for the hundreds of deaths. The goal seems to be to bury the alternative narrative that later emerged.

One shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, that some wannabe-journalist bloggers are auditioning before possible mainstream employers by attacking investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh for writing a groundbreaking article implicating Syrian jihadist rebels and Turkish intelligence in the lethal use of Sarin on Aug. 21 outside Damascus.

From a sampling of these defenses of Official Washington’s old conventional wisdom – blaming the Syrian government – the chief attack line against Hersh is to repeat the initial U.S. government claim of a widespread strike involving multiple rockets.

The thinking then was that only the Syrian government had the capability to launch such a widespread assault. But this claim is outdated. The United Nations inspectors who fanned out across the Ghouta suburb of Damascus recovered only two suspicious rockets – and one was found to be clean of Sarin or any other chemical agent.

The one Sarin-laden rocket, which struck in the Zamalka/Ein Tarma neighborhood, was found to be crudely made and had a maximum range of about 2 to 3 kilometers, meaning that it would have been launched from rebel-controlled areas, not from a government zone.

But conventional wisdom is a difficult thing to shake once many “very important people” have embraced its certainties. Such VIPs don’t like to admit that they were suckered and there are always some aspiring operatives who hope to earn some brownie points by attacking anyone who deviates from the “group think.”


Why have the media and Obama administration gone silent on MH17?

Niles Williamson

The deafening silence of the US media and government about the investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 one month ago reeks of a cover-up.

In the hours and days immediately after the crash, without a single shred of evidence, US officials alleged that the passenger jet was shot down by an SA-11 ground-to-air missile fired from pro-Russian separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine. They launched a political campaign to obtain harsh economic sanctions against Russia and strengthen NATO’s military posture in Eastern Europe.

Picking up on the scent, the CIA attack dogs in the US and European media blamed the crash squarely on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The cover of the July 28 print edition of German news magazine Der Spiegel showed the images of MH17 victims surrounding bold red text reading “Stoppt Putin Jetzt!” (Stop Putin Now!). A July 26 editorial in the Economist declared Putin to be the author of MH17’s destruction, while the magazine ghoulishly superimposed Putin’s face over a spider web on its front cover, denouncing Putin’s “web of lies.”

Anyone comparing the media’s demonization of Putin with their treatment of Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi had to conclude that Washington was launching a campaign for regime change in Russia like those it carried out in Libya and Iraq—this time, recklessly pushing the United States towards war with a nuclear-armed power, Russia.

Having built up the crash into a casus belli against Russia, however, the US media suddenly dropped the matter completely. The New York Times has not found it fit to print a word on the MH17 crash since August 7.


Burning Point With Ekaterina Kudashkina

Ekaterina Kudashkina interviews Paul Craig Roberts

Why did President Obama look so lost Monday while trying to make a case against Russia in the downing of the Malaysian Boeing in Ukraine? And how come the US journalists seem to know more than experts and intelligence agencies investigating the case? The Burning Point is discussing it with Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the US Treasury, currently the chairman of The Institute for Political Economy. Download mp3.

Mr. Roberts, the shooting down of the Boeing passenger airplane in Ukraine is really making headlines. But sometimes it seems that many media outlets already know everything about what appears to be still a mystery to experts.

This is Washington’s propaganda show. They have seized on the opportunity to demonize Russia, especially President Putin. Washington is disturbed by a number of things – one is the rise of Russia and China as powers. This is inconsistent with the Wolfowitz doctrine, which is the basis of American foreign policy. The Wolfowitz doctrine requires that the US prevent the rise of other powers. So, that is the big backdrop, the big background of it. And what Washington is doing, they have seized on this airliner catastrophe, whoever is responsible, whatever is the cause, in order to blame Russia. And so instantly as soon as the world learned that the Malaysian airliner had gone down, Washington was controlling the explanation. It was out with the story that Russia did it, or the Russian government helped the ‘separatists’ in Eastern Ukraine do it. And that it seemed to be orchestrated. And such an orchestration requires advanced effort, advanced timing and that almost implies that the US was involved in the catastrophe. So, what we have heard is accusations and insinuations from the US government, the American media and as far as I can tell much of the European media. There is no evidence, but the accusation and insinuations are repeated over and over, and this is a propaganda trick to establish the truth by repetition. There has been no evidence presented by Washington and no response from Washington to the Russian government’s pleas to look at evidence, to have a non-politicized expert international investigation. It’s only the Russian government that has released any evidence; they have released the satellite photos of the Ukrainian missile batteries in place; they have released the flight path of Ukrainian jet, which approached the Malaysian airliner prior to its demise. And they repeatedly asked for evidence and Washington provides not.


The Mystery of a Ukrainian Army ‘Defector’

Robert Parry

Image: An image provided by U.S. intelligence agencies depicts where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was hit by a missile in eastern Ukraine. (U.S. intelligence agencies)

Exclusive: U.S. intelligence officials suggest that the person who fired the missile that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 may have been “a defector” from the Ukrainian army, an apparent attempt to explain why some CIA analysts thought satellite images revealed men in Ukrainian army uniforms manning the missile battery, writes Robert Parry.

As the U.S. government seeks to build its case blaming eastern Ukrainian rebels and Russia for the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the evidence seems to be getting twisted to fit the preordained conclusion, including a curious explanation for why the troops suspected of firing the fateful missile may have been wearing Ukrainian army uniforms.

On Tuesday, mainstream journalists, including for the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, were given a briefing about the U.S. intelligence information that supposedly points the finger of blame at the rebels and Russia. While much of this circumstantial case was derived from postings on “social media,” the briefings also addressed the key issue of who fired the Buk anti-aircraft missile that is believed to have downed the airliner killing all 298 people onboard.

After last Thursday’s shoot-down, I was told that U.S. intelligence analysts were examining satellite imagery that showed the crew manning the suspected missile battery wearing what looked like Ukrainian army uniforms, but my source said the analysts were still struggling with whether that essentially destroyed the U.S. government’s case blaming the rebels.

The Los Angeles Times article on Tuesday’s briefing seemed to address the same information this way: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”


Will Ukraine Be New York Times’s Waterloo?

Robert Parry

Exclusive: As Ukrainian soldiers from the coup regime in Kiev tighten the noose around anti-coup rebels in eastern Ukraine, the New York Times continues its cheerleading for the coup regime and its contempt for the rebels, raising grave questions about the Times’ credibility.

For Americans interested in foreign policy, the New York Times has become the last U.S. newspaper to continue devoting substantial resources to covering the world. But the Times increasingly betrays its responsibility to deliver anything approaching honest journalism on overseas crises especially when Official Washington has a strong stake in the outcome.

The Times’ failures in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War are, of course, well known, particularly the infamous “aluminum tube” story by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller. And, the Times has shown similar bias on the Syrian conflict, such as last year’s debunked Times’ “vector analysis” tracing a sarin-laden rocket back to a Syrian military base when the rocket had less than one-third the necessary range.

But the Times’ prejudice over the Ukraine crisis has reached new levels of extreme as the “newspaper of record” routinely carries water for the neocons and other hawks who still dominate the U.S. State Department. Everything that the Times writes about Ukraine is so polluted with propaganda that it requires a very strong filter, along with additives from more independent news sources, to get anything approaching an accurate understanding of events.


Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia

Robert Parry

Any propaganda war starts by planting stories that your target is getting rich, whether he is or isn’t, the latest move in demonizing Vladimir Putin. But the larger question is what might happen if the neocons succeed in destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia.

Now that the demonization of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is in full swing, one has to wonder when the neocons will unveil their plan for “regime change” in Moscow, despite the risks that overthrowing Putin and turning Russia into a super-sized version of Ukraine might entail for the survival of the planet.

There is a “little-old-lady-who-swallowed-the-fly” quality to neocon thinking. When one of their schemes goes bad, they simply move to a bigger, more dangerous scheme.

If the Palestinians and Lebanon’s Hezbollah persist in annoying you and troubling Israel, you target their sponsors with “regime change” – in Iraq, Syria and Iran. If your “regime change” in Iraq goes badly, you escalate the subversion of Syria and the bankrupting of Iran. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

Just when you think you’ve cornered President Barack Obama into a massive bombing campaign against Syria – with a possible follow-on war against Iran – Putin steps in to give Obama a peaceful path out, getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and Iran to agree to constraints on its nuclear program.

So, this Obama-Putin collaboration has become your new threat. That means you take aim at Ukraine, knowing its sensitivity to Russia. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]


Another New York Times-Michael Gordon Special?

Robert Parry

The NYT is at it again with a lead story citing grainy photos from the post-putsch regime in Kiev as proving that Russian special forces are behind the popular uprisings in eastern Ukraine, another slanted story coauthored by M. Gordon.

There is now a pattern to New York Times “investigative” stories that seek to pin the blame on some nefarious foreign enemy, as in the 2002 article on Iraq buying aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges; the 2013 “vector analysis” tracing sarin-laden rockets to a Syrian military base; and now a photographic analysis proving that Russian soldiers are behind unrest in eastern Ukraine.

All these stories draw hard conclusions from very murky evidence while ignoring or brushing aside alternative explanations. They also pile up supportive acclamations for their conclusions from self-interested sources while treating any doubters as rubes. And, these three articles all involved reporter Michael R. Gordon.

The infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, which Gordon co-wrote with Judith Miller, relied on U.S. intelligence sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of “mushroom clouds” if they didn’t support President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The timing played perfectly into the administration’s advertising “rollout” for the Iraq War.


Ukrainians Get IMF’s Bitter Medicine

Robert Parry


A customer and street vendor are seen before the background
of an outdoor ad with an image of the Ukrainian hryvnia and
U.S. dollar bank notes in central Kiev.
(Reuters/A. Stepanov)

Exclusive: Though lacking legitimacy from national elections, Ukraine’s coup regime has approved a harsh IMF austerity plan that hits Ukraine’s “99 percent” the hardest and asks little from the country’s “1 percent,” including the corrupt “oligarchs.”

It’s a safe bet that most of the Ukrainians who flooded Maidan Square in Kiev in February did not do so because they wanted the International Monetary Fund to make their lives even more miserable by slashing subsidies for heat, gutting pensions and devaluing the currency to make everyday goods more expensive.

But thanks to the U.S.-backed coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with a regime including far-right parties, super-rich ”oligarchs” and technocrats with little sympathy for the suffering of average people, that’s exactly what happened. Although lacking legitimacy that would come from national elections, the coup regime pushed through the demands of the Washington-based IMF.

The process began just 10 days after the violent Feb. 22 coup that forced Yanukovych to flee for his life. IMF officials landed in Kiev on March 4 to hammer out a deal that acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, himself a chilly bank technocrat, has acknowledged is “very unpopular, very difficult, very tough.”

What is also striking about the IMF plan is that it puts virtually all the pain on average Ukrainians. There is nothing in the economic “reform” package that extracts some of the ill-gotten gains from Ukraine’s ten or so “oligarchs,” the multimillionaires and even billionaires who largely plundered Ukraine’s wealth after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

There is no plan for demanding that these “oligarchs” kick in some percentage of their net worth to help their own country. Instead, hard-pressed citizens of the United States and Europe are expected to carry the financial load.


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