'Putin and His Ukrainian Friends'

International New York Times

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MH17: Guilty Rebels 'Worse for Moscow than KAL-007' (Gazeta, Russia)


"Now, with the Ukrainian question, we don't in fact have even a single ally. Five minutes after the incident we were completely isolated. ... If the separatists are found to have shot down the aircraft, it would be worse for Russia than the downing of the South Korean Boeing was for the USSR. ... Attempts to avoid economic collapse in the country could pull us into a full-scale war, possibly even a nuclear war. That, of course, would mean breaking the pattern of diplomacy and sweeping the pieces from the chessboard. However, from the beginning, I have felt that the threat of total geopolitical defeat, and to all of Russian civilization, which is what this has become, would push us into a corner."

Translated By Rosamund Musgrave


July 31, 2014


Gazeta - Russia - Original Article (Russian)

Georgy Bovt discusses the potential international consequences of the Boeing plane crash.


One can spend a long time teetering on the brink of a major war, but not forever. Sooner or later, military commanders (on both sides) will emerge, drawn out by an outburst of militarist hysteria and the scent of blood. That will fundamentally change the course of events.


All of a sudden, the situation which seemed yesterday to be merely “extremely dangerous,” becomes catastrophic and out of control. That moment has come in the Ukraine crisis.


The downed Malaysian Airliner is the point of no return. It is the shot in Sarajevo [the trigger for World War I]. The perpetrators of the tragedy will not only find themselves "on the wrong side of history," but more likely than not (in the best case scenario), in the dock, and there are certainly not going to be any victors in this story.


The answer to the first question, "who?," will likely be had in the near future: in the world we live in today, every conversation is bugged and every person is under surveillance. If it was possible for the Americans to intercept and make public discussions between the Soviet Air Force pilots who shot down a South Korean Boeing back in 1983, then this time the necessary evidence will surely be quicker in coming and more abundant [Korean Airlines Flight 007].


The question remains, though, whether the evidence will be seen as objective - and not tampered with. The stakes have reached unprecedented levels. In the war of information being unleashed around this tragedy, there will be no prisoners of war taken.


In the aftermath of the incident in September 1983, eyewitnesses recall that the threat of war was pungent. It was one of the tensest moments of the Cold War since the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the USSR was more seriously isolated than at any time in its post-war history. This, despite the fact that we had the Warsaw Pact at the time.


Many now believe that to be the moment when, faced with the prospect of war with the West, the Soviet Union began its collapse. Now, with the Ukrainian question, we don't in fact have even a single ally. Five minutes after the incident we were completely isolated.


Even before any investigation, the information war has begun with references made to “authoritative” yet anonymous sources alongside propaganda by all parties to the crisis.


To the West, the Kiev government is largely snow white and squeaky clean, a victim of aggression by Russia and “pro-Russian” insurgents (no other kind seem to exist). Information from official Ukrainian sources is most often not questioned. Articles about the possible involvement of Ukrainian forces in the destruction of the plane are almost entirely absent in Western media, although this has been our sad experience. The same occurred in the early 2000s during Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense system trials, when a Tupolev Tu-154 flying home from Tel Aviv was accidentally shot down [Siberian Airlines Flight 1812].


At the same time, when it comes to the separatists, the probability of their having control of an operating Buk anti-aircraft missile battery (from which, the likelihood is, the fateful missile was launched), is not in dispute. On June 29th, the separatists boasted that they were able to take control of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile regiment A-1402 in Donetsk, which included Buk missile batteries.


This news was widely reported in Russian media, but its significance wasn’t appreciated at the time.


Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council (SNBU) acknowledged as much, but assured that the missile batteries were inoperative. Can the SNBU be believed under these circumstances? The entire Ukrainian media appeared to, but now the fact that it was said to be inoperative seems to have been forgotten. Just as no one will remember (separatist leader) Strelkov’s announcement about the alleged shooting down of a Ukrainian Antonov-26 cargo aircraft, which was reported at the same time the Boeing was hit, but which has apparently disappeared.


Rocket launches located in a particular place can be clearly established via satellite, and the satellite is American. Alas, that is the only information that will be believed by the world.


It is also noteworthy that the plane was shot down on the same day that the West announced new sanctions. Russia, which is supposedly to blame for everything happening in Ukraine, could apparently bring it all to an end by shouting “retreat!” And the nightmare doesn't end there. The language of ultimatums and blunt pressure seems unavoidable for some time to come.


For some reason, until the disaster occurred, no one thought to close Ukrainian airspace to civil aviation. There is, of course, according to the preferred version of events, a more mature, European-style democracy now revealing itself to the world. But in the meantime, civilian aircraft are being shot down there. In this sense, the cause of the airline tragedy is a lack of understanding in Europe about what is actually going on in the country.


So let us examine the two commonly-held versions of events:


VERSION 1. The aircraft was shot down by Ukrainian troops.


At first glance, this sounds like the wildest theory direct from the Russian intelligence agencies. This version, of course, could easily be considered an element of information warfare: the real target of the Ukrainian security services wasn't the Malaysian airlines flight, but the Russian presidential plane on its way back from Brazil at around the same time (in fact, it wasn't at the air at the time).


In this case, of use is the testimony of Spanish air traffic controllers who were keeping track of the Malaysian aircraft, and mentioned on Twitter that just two minutes before the tragedy, a pair of Ukrainian fighter jets appeared alongside it. If this is true, the plane may have been shot down not by Buk missiles, but by air-to-air missiles.


The power of the explosion would have been less, and the explosion would have been different, which could be established by investigators from the wreckage. To get your hair to stand on end, all you need to do is look at the paint job of the Malaysian aircraft and the Russian plane: they have the same blue-white-red tricolor, and the outlines of a 777 and an Ilyushin Il-96 are very similar. At a distance it is hard to distinguish the two.


A softer option is that the Ukrainian plane shot down the Malaysian Airlines flight by mistake, taking it for a Russian reconnaissance flight. This version fits in with information in Russian circles from the day before the disaster that the Ukrainians had redeployed the Buk missile system to the area (this, in turn, has been denied by the Americans).


Any version that implicates Ukraine would be dramatically in favor of Russia. Kiev would no longer be the innocent calf of democracy suckling at the teat of the European cash cow, but nearly a gangster regime.


Although the West would talk of a mistake rather than a crime, the image of the Ukrainian regime would be forever tarnished.


However the first dispatches from the West, with reference to various information sources, don't support this version. The Pentagon asserts that the plane was hit by a "ground to air" missile. Ukraine's Security Council, in turn, has posted intercepted conversations between the separatists, indicating quite unambiguously that they shot down the plane thinking it to be either an Il-76 or an AN-26 Ukrainian transport plane.


This, at least in the short term, is the basis for the second version, which is worse for us.


VERSION 2. Separatists shot down the plane.


This would be worse for Russia than the downing of the South Korean Boeing was for the USSR. Regardless of how the Buk missiles ended up in the hands of the separatists, this would also strengthen accusations that Moscow has been supplying them with arms. They would no longer be seen as separatists, but terrorists, whose place is not at the negotiating table in Kiev, but at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. That is the best case scenario.   


Moscow could also be accused of allowing Russian “volunteers” to help the separatists repair "inoperative" Buk systems. For Russia, that would be a very bad outcome, as there were also Buk missile batteries captured from the Ukrainian military in Crimea, which have since turned up with the separatists.


Third tier sanctions, sectoral sanctions, would not be slow in following. [In fact, they were agreed to July 29]. They would be imposed without regard to the economic costs to Western business. This threat was already sounded during the first crisis talks between Putin and Obama (held at Moscow's request).


It is entirely possible that all this talk will create a completely new trajectory for the development of the Ukraine crisis.


What immediately catches one's attention is the soft account of the Putin-Obama conversation from Russian sources, which emphasize that in addition to Ukraine, they allegedly spoke about the situation in the Middle East and other international affairs, whereas American sources only mention a discussion of sanctions.


From the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, it has always appeared to me that we are dealing with a moment in history when all rational economic calculations are brushed aside for the sake of much larger political considerations. In a situation like this, not a single industry or chamber of commerce in any European country would whimper, even in countries with strong economic ties to Russia.


What can we do? The most rational course of action in such a situation would be a decisive break with the separatists, allow their convictions, and of course, terminate any assistance being provided them.


If this was a game designed to make Kiev more compliant to Moscow by putting rifles into the hands the Girkin-Strelkovist separatists, then that game has played itself out. It has to be taken to a different level, perhaps economic, and projected into the long term. People who brought down a civilian airliner cannot be considered allies, or even aids.



The alternative to such immediate and action and getting ahead of the curve, would be the complete isolation of Russia and the imposition of sanctions,which our economy will survive as long as they don't extend beyond a one- to three-year horizon. Either way, the effect will in one way or another impact all of us.


Attempts to avoid economic collapse in the country could pull us into a full-scale war, possibly even a nuclear war. That, of course, would mean breaking the pattern of diplomacy and sweeping the pieces from the chessboard. However, from the beginning, I have felt that the threat of total geopolitical defeat, and to all of Russian civilization, which is what this has become, would push us into a corner.


Internally, the current Russian leadership is prepared for this scenario. Least of all because they don’t want to come to the same fate as Mohammar Qaddafi, who found his life ignominiously cut short outside of a sewer pipe. That sad tale began with the Lockerbie case, when two members of the Libyan secret services blew up an American airliner over Scotland. There was a belated admission to the crime and generous compensation was paid, but it didn't help.

Posted By Worldmeets.US


If the situation were to develop further, it could lead to the direct involvement of NATO forces in Ukrainian conflict. Russian and NATO troops look at each other across the Dnieper River. Already, not even the most catastrophic escalation of the crisis seems impossible.


One other possibility would be to talk about a joint peace-building operation by the West and Russia in southeast Ukraine. Today though, that seems a little too idealistic.


Now we have seen a passenger aircraft shot down, but have not seen acts of terrorism against nuclear power stations or critical infrastructure. That may happen yet.



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Posted By Worldmeets.US July 31, 2014, 10:29am




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