MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin has used his New Year’s speech to hail his country’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula as an achievement that will “forever remain a landmark in the national history.”
Putin’s comment in his pre-recorded annual address on Wednesday already has been broadcast in Russia’s far eastern regions, where the holiday was celebrated hours ahead of Moscow, given the time difference.
The Kremlin also published several dozen New Year’s messages that Putin has sent to heads of state and international organizations, including one to President Barack Obama.
Putin reminded Obama of the upcoming 70th anniversary of the allied victory in World War II, and said that should serve as a reminder of “the responsibility that Russia and the United States bear for maintaining peace and international stability.” Moscow is anxious for those bilateral relations to advance, but only as long as there is “equality and mutual respect.”
After Ukraine’s former Russia-friendly president was driven from power in February, Moscow sent troops to overtake Crimea, home to a Russian naval base. Those forces blocked Ukrainian military garrisons and set the stage for a hastily called referendum on Crimea joining Russia, which Ukraine and the West rejected as illegal.
The West has imposed crippling sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where the fighting between the government troops and the rebels has killed more than 4,700 since April.
Under the combined blow of the sanctions and slumping oil prices, the Russian ruble has lost about half its value this year and the national economy has drifted into recession. Putin has promised that the economy will rebound in two years, but he has failed to offer a specific plan for easing Russia’s heavy dependence on oil and gas revenues.
In his speech, Putin praised Crimea’s “return home,” a view widely backed by many Russians who saw Ukraine’s control over the Black Sea region a historic injustice. Crimea only became part of Ukraine when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula to his native land in 1954. That mattered little until the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 and Crimea ended up in an independent Ukraine.
Experts have warned that Putin’s popularity, which soared after the annexation of Crimea, could fizzle quickly amid his nation’s economic downturn. But the Russian leader refrained from directly referring to Russia’s economic woes in his New Year address, praising his citizens for their readiness to stay united “both in days of triumphs and at a time of trials” and to maintain their “unity and solidarity.”
Ukrainian Combat Jet Returned Without Missiles After MH17 Crash
A Ukrainian jet took off carrying air-to-air missiles and returned without them on the day MH17 crashed
A Ukrainian air force Su-25 combat jet took off from an airbase in eastern Dnipropetrovsk carrying air-to-air missiles and returned without them on the day a Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in eastern Ukraine in July, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported, citing an airbase employee.
The employee, who claims to be an eyewitness, said on July 17 that three Ukrainian combat jets took off, and that one of them, an Su-25, was carrying air-to-air missiles.
“After a while only one jet [of the three] returned, which had had those missiles… It returned without the missiles. The pilot was very frightened,” the man said. The employee stressed that only the returned Su-25 had been equipped with air-to-air missiles, and said he was sure it was not air-to-ground missiles.
The airbase worker said he remembered the pilot saying “the wrong plane” and “the plane was in the wrong place at the wrong time” after he returned from the flight.
The newspaper interviewee did not exclude the possibility that an Su-25 pilot could confuse a Boeing passenger airliner with a military jet.
“This could be. There was quite a long distance, he could have failed to see what exactly that plane was,” the man said.
The missiles carried by the Su-25 (NATO reporting name Frogfoot) are capable of targeting an object at a 3-5-kilometer (1-3 mile) distance, and to an altitude of 7,000 meters (23,000 feet), the source stressed.
“With jet’s raised nose, it is not a problem to fix a target and launch a missile. The flying range of this missile is over 10 kilometers,” according to the man.
He further said that the missile is capable of hitting a plane fuselage, whether directly or from a distance of 500 meters.
The density of the objects which hit the MH17 was very high, and these findings did not exclude the downing of the plane by a missile.
“There is such a missile. It explodes and its shrapnel punctures [the plane]. And after that, the missile warhead strikes it,” the man said.
The MH17 passenger Boeing of Malaysian Airlines crashed on July 17 in the Donetsk region, as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people on board died.
The incident is being investigated by an international group headed by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), its final report is expected to be released in 2015. According to the preliminary information of the DSB, the Boeing was hit by “a large number of high-energy objects” penetrating the aircraft from outside, but the source of the objects was not found.
Kiev has accused independence supporters in Ukraine’s southeast of shooting the plane down, but provided no evidence confirming the claim. The independence supporters say they do not have weapons which could down a plane flying at such a high altitude.
Russia Warns US on Bill Authorizing Military Weapons to Ukraine
Russia says there will be repercussions if Washington imposes new sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.
Deputy Foreign Secretary Sergei Ryabkov over the weekend blamed “anti-Russian moods” in Washington for the new bill authorizing lethal military aid to Kyiv and deeper sanctions against Russia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement last week the legislation, known as the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, had an “openly confrontational nature” and amounted to “blackmail.”
The ministry said the bill will cause “deep regret” and destroy chances for any joint efforts to end the Ukraine crisis.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to discuss the matter with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when they meet today in Rome.
The bill, passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate, authorizes $350 million in military hardware and munitions to Ukraine, and new sanctions against high-profile Russian exporters. The equipmentreportedly includes anti-tank and anti-armour weapons, radar, surveillance drones and communications gear.
Kyiv and Western governments accuse Moscow of supplying direct aid to pro-Russian rebels seeking autonomy in Ukraine’s east. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the charges and says that Russian soldiers seen fighting alongside rebels are doing so as volunteers.
As the latest political drama played out in Washington and Moscow, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said a fragile cease-fire between government forces and Russia-backed rebels appeared to be holding.
Poroshenko, speaking early Friday, said 24 hours had passed without any deaths or injuries in Ukraine’s war-torn east.
The Ukrainian leader pleaded with Russia to close its border with Ukraine, saying there would be “peace and stability” in his country within weeks if Moscow did so.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Wednesday an accident had occurred at the Zaporizhye nuclear power plant
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Wednesday an accident had occurred at the Zaporizhye nuclear power plant (NPP) in south-east Ukraine and called on the energy minister to hold a news conference.
“I know that an accident has occurred at the Zaporizhye NPP,” Yatseniuk said, asking new energy minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn to make clear when the problem would be resolved and what steps would be taken to restore normal power supply across Ukraine.
News agency Interfax Ukraine said the problem had occurred at bloc No 3 – a 1,000-megawatt reactor – and the resulting lack of output had worsened the power crisis in the country. Interfax added that the bloc was expected to come back on stream on Dec. 5.
Russia is sending additional military forces toward the border with eastern Ukraine, including units equipped with ballistic missiles, as part of Moscow’s ongoing destabilization effort in support of pro-Russian rebels.
U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports said one Russian military unit equipped with short-range ballistic missiles was detected this week near eastern Ukraine, where Russia has launched a destabilization program following its military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in March.
The military movements coincided with the an unusual number of flights last week by Russian strategic nuclear bombers and aircraft along Europe’s northern coasts in a what NATO’s military commander called strategic “messaging” toward the West.
“My opinion is that they’re messaging us,” Gen. Phillip Breedlove, the commander, told reporters at the Pentagon this week. “They’re messaging us that they are a great power and that they have the ability to exert these kinds of influences in our thinking.”
The bomber flights included three days of paired Tu-95 bomber flights that were to have circumnavigated Europe from the north but instead were halted near Portugal.
U.S. officials said Russia deployed several Il-78 refueling tankers in Egypt that were to resupply the bombers during flights over the Mediterranean, but those flights were scrapped for unknown reasons.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed concerns about Russian military moves in Ukraine during remarks to reporters Tuesday in Brussels.
“Recently we are also seeing Russian troops moving closer to the border with Ukraine, and Russia continues to support the separatists by training them, by providing equipment, and supporting them also by having special forces, Russian special forces, inside the eastern parts of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
Other officials said both intelligence and social media reports in recent days revealed an increase in Russian deployments.
The missile systems being deployed were described as conventionally armed, short-range ballistic missiles, multiple launch rocket systems, and BM-21 Grad multiple rocker launchers.
Additionally, Russian military forces are moving towed artillery pieces closer to the border.
One official said the display of military power is part of Moscow’s effort to reinforce “separatists” seeking to carve out a pro-Russian enclave in Eastern Ukraine.
The Russian “Spetsnaz” or special forces commandos are already inside the country, but the ground forces as of Wednesday appeared to be staging at the border.
Russian military forces in Ukraine number around 300 commandos. “These are not fighting formations. These are formations and specialists that are in there doing training and equipping of the separatist forces,” Breedlove said.
The buildup is either part of a plan for military escalation, or a coordinated pressure tactic by Moscow to force Ukraine to make concessions to the rebels, officials said.
Rebel groups in the region have made repeated threats to take control of the key southeastern Ukrainian port of Mariupol and other territory unless the Ukrainian government agrees to make changes in the current separation line.
“The build up may just be a pressure tactic to force such concessions, or it may presage further escalation,” one official said.
Rebels in eastern Ukraine recently held elections that Ukraine and NATO dismissed as illegal. New charges were raised in Kiev Wednesday about violations of a peace agreement reached in Belarus in September.
Breedlove said Monday there was no “huge change” in Russian deployments. Currently about seven battalion task groups are stationed near the border with Ukraine.
“Some of those formations have moved closer to the border,” he said. “We believe that was probably to bring some pressure on and make sure that the elections went according to the separatist plans; we’ll look now to see if they pull back from the border into their previous border locations.”
“We have now realistically entered the phase of a ‘frozen conflict,’” Yury Yakimenko, a political analyst at Ukraine’s Razumkov political research center told Reuters. The term frozen conflict has been applied to other former Soviet Republics where separatists are being backed by Russian forces.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is part of a program by Russian President Vladimir Putin to gain control or hegemony over former Soviet bloc states described as the “near abroad.”
Putin is seeking to restore Russian power with territorial seizures, along with a large-scale nuclear and conventional forces buildup.
Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez said Russian forces and equipment remain on Ukraine’s border and on Ukrainian territory in violation of international law. “We again call on Russian authorities and the separatists they back to abide by their commitments under the Sept. 5 ceasefire agreement and the Sept. 19 implementing agreement,” she said.
Breedlove said the Russians in the past have conducted small-scale bomber flights.
“And what you saw this past week was a larger, more complex formation of aircraft carrying out a little deeper and, I would say, a little bit more provocative flight path,” he said. “And so it is a concern.”
The flights are destabilizing and “problematic,” Breedlove said.
Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, also voiced concerns about the Russian bomber flights.
“When it comes to the increased Russian military activity, both in the air but also along the borders of Ukraine, I think that what we see is, especially when it comes to increased air activity of Russian planes, is that they are showing strength, and what we are doing is what we are supposed to do: we are intercepting the Russian planes, whether it is in the Atlantic Sea or the Baltic Sea or in the Black Sea,” he said.
Breedlove said he has discussed with U.S. military chiefs the idea of moving additional troops and supplies closer to Russia as a result of “increased pressure that we feel in Eastern Europe now and because of the assurance measures that we are taking in the Baltics, in Poland, in Romania.”
“I believe there is a requirement for rotational forces in the future until we see the current situation begin to normalize,” he said.
Breedlove said the halt in the conflict in Ukraine has been “pretty much a cease-fire in name only.”
“There continue to be sporadic engagements in and around the cease-fire zone,” he said. “And the second thing that I would say that has changed is we have seen a general trend towards a hardening of this line of demarcation and much more softening of the actual Ukraine-Russia border.”
Russia’s border with Ukraine in the east is open and completely porous. As a result, Russian military equipment is flowing back and forth the border
“Russia continues to resupply the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine,” Breedlove said.
The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have been studying the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, writes Robert Beckhusen for Medium, and they think they’ve learned an important lesson
The way to stop Russian tanks isn’t with other tanks, he says, it’s with anti-tank missiles. Lots of them.
When it faced off against Russia, Georgia didn’t have this capability – and it proved costly. Beckhuson quotes Frederic Labarre, who wrote a history of one of the key battles in the Russia-Georgia conflict for Small Wars Journal.
“On the one hand, it is clear that cool-headed infantry is more than a match for armour, especially in an urban environment,” Labarre says. “This lesson had been put to the test many times and many years before, by many countries. One wonders therefore why it wasn’t applied by the Georgians.”
The Baltic states, according to Beckhusen, aren’t interested in repeating these strategic errors.
Over the past two years, they have been buying anti-tank weapons in large numbers, he reports. Estonia, for instance, spent $55m [£34m] early this month for 120 US launchers, 250 missiles and assorted spare parts. Last year the three Baltic states combined to spend $63m on Swedish rocket systems.
“There’s one overriding reason for why the Baltic states want to destroy armour,” Beckhusen writes. “It’s because they fear Russian tanks. Many officials in these countries are also worried Nato might not come to the rescue were Russian troops were to invade.”
According to Richard Milne and Neil Buckley in the Financial Times, the Baltic nations remember half a century of occupation at the hands of the Soviets and are particularly sensitive to prospects of a more belligerent Russia under Vladimir Putin, even though the nations have Nato security guarantees.
“As members of Nato for the past decade, the potential prize for their destabilisation is all the greater for Mr Putin as it would call the alliance’s credibility into question,” they write. “Mr Putin’s ruling circle views Nato as an organisation that is fundamentally hostile and a threat to Russia.”
Recent concerns over the possibility of a Russia submarine cornered in the territorial waters of nearby Sweden have only heightened these concerns.
“The geopolitical stakes in the Baltics could scarcely be higher,” Milne and Buckley conclude.
If Hitler had died young – Counterfactuals are always fun, and the Academie Diplomatique Internationale’s Timothy W Ryback takes on a popular one in the New York Times. If Adolf Hitler had died in World War One, would fascism have taken hold in Germany?
Ryback speculates that Hitler emerged at a crucial time in Germany’s transition from monarchy to democracy.
“This was history’s perfect storm. Hitler seized the moment and plunged Germany and all of Europe full steam into catastrophe,” he writes. “We can say with certainty that no other political leader of the era would have harnessed national passions or driven an anti-Semitic, pure-race agenda with such ferocity or tragic consequence, resulting in the deaths of millions of European Jews as well as gypsies, homosexuals, the weak and disabled.”
Hitler’s rise, Ryback concludes, can offer lessons to modern-day leaders in regions such as the Arab world that are trying to make a similar transition from monarchical rulers to government by the people. “A history without Hitler underscores both the potential and pitfalls of transitioning societies,” he says.
Balancing security and freedom – Bob Rae writes in the Toronto Globe and Mail that Canadian leadership will have to tread lightly when considering legislative ways to address the recent shooting in Ottawa.
“Accountability and oversight” must be included in any attempt to expand law enforcement powers, he says.
“An effective strategy requires deep cultural knowledge, the engagement of many communities and their leaders, and the resources to be nimble in dealing with new groups and new threats,” he writes.
He says the key test, however, will be sticking with the reforms when energy prices make their eventual return to higher levels.
“Real reform here would require them to stay away during different phases of the petroleum price cycle,” he writes. “Unless of course there are oil shocks that create crisis situations crying out for government interventions.”
An Arab world anomaly – As other nations in the region struggle with war and authoritarian retrenchment, Tunisia is embracing a democratic path, writes Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post.
“In January it adopted a progressive constitution balancing power between the parliament chosen Sunday, which will confirm a prime minister, and a president to be popularly elected next month,” he writes.
In Tunisia, Diehl says, the country’s Islamist Ennahda party have embraced a unity governing coalition – forsaking the “scorched earth” politics of other Arab nations.
“The results of the election for the Supreme Council … show that no political force has a monopoly to form a majority. And this is definitely good.” – Taras Berezovets in Ukrayinska Pravda.
“There is hope for a new government made up of professionals and not politicos, a new leadership of the national Bank of Ukraine which will employ specialists who know what to do.” – Oleksandr Okhrymenko inVesti.
“A country is better off with legitimate government bodies, after all. Of course, we shouldn’t expect full resolution any time soon, but a freezing of the conflicts is possible.” – Andrey Bunich, president of the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Leaseholders in business dailyKommersant.
German Intelligence Claims Pro-Russian Separatists Downed MH17
Germany’s foreign intelligence agency says its review of the crash of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 in Ukrainian has concluded it was brought down by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists near Donetsk.
After completing a detailed analysis, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), has concluded that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 19 in eastern Ukraine while on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
In an Oct. 8 presentation given to members of the parliamentary control committee, the Bundestag body responsible for monitoring the work of German intelligence, BND President Gerhard Schindler provided ample evidence to back up his case, including satellite images and diverse photo evidence. The BND has intelligence indicating that pro-Russian separatists captured a BUK air defense missile system at a Ukrainian military base and fired a missile on July 17 that exploded in direct proximity to the Malaysian aircraft, which had been carrying 298 people.
Evidence obtained shortly after the accident suggested the aircraft had been shot down by pro-Russian militants. Both the governments of Russia and Ukraine had mutually accused each other of responsibility for the crash. After a Dutch investigative commission reviewed the flight recorder, it avoided placing any blame for the crash. Some 189 residents of the Netherlands perished in the downing of Flight MH17.
BND’s Schindler says his agency has come up with unambiguous findings. One is that Ukrainian photos have been manipulated and that there are details indicating this. He also told the panel that Russian claims the missile had been fired by Ukrainian soldiers and that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to the passenger jet were false.
“It was pro-Russian separatists,” Schindler said of the crash, which involved the deaths of four German citizens. A spokesman for the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office told SPIEGEL that an investigation has been opened into unknown perpetrators because of the possibility that the crash had been a war crime.
Russia is moving tactical nuclear weapons systems into recently-annexed Crimea while the Obama administration is backing informal talks aimed at cutting U.S. tactical nuclear deployments in Europe.
Three senior House Republican leaders wrote to President Obama two weeks ago warning that Moscow will deploy nuclear missiles and bombers armed with long-range air launched cruise missiles into occupied Ukrainian territory.
“Locating nuclear weapons on the sovereign territory of another state without its permission is a devious and cynical action,” states the letter signed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif.) and two subcommittee chairmen.
“It further positions Russian nuclear weapons closer to the heart of NATO, and it allows Russia to gain a military benefit from its seizure of Crimea, allowing Russia to profit from its action.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent months “has escalated his use of nuclear threats to a level not seen since the Cold War,” they wrote.
In a related development, the Obama administration is funding non-official arms control talks with Russia through a Washington think-tank that are aimed at curbing U.S. tactical nuclear arms in Europe.
The first round of talks was held in Vienna Monday and Tuesday.
Critics say Obama administration arms control officials at the State Department and Pentagon are using the informal nuclear talks as groundwork for future tactical nuclear arms cuts.
Such cuts are likely to be opposed by NATO allies, especially in Eastern Europe, worried by growing Russian military threats to the continent.
Regarding the nuclear deployments to Crimea, Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R., Okla.) first disclosed last month that Putin had announced in August his approval of deploying nuclear-capable Iskander-M short-range missiles along with Tu-22 nuclear-capable bombers in Crimea, located on the Black Sea.
“The stationing of new nuclear forces on the Crimean peninsula, Ukrainian territory Russia annexed in March, is both a new and menacing threat to the security of Europe and also a clear message from Putin that he intends to continue to violate the territorial integrity of his neighbors,” Inhofe stated in a Sept. 8 op-ed in Foreign Policy.
In their Sept. 23 letter to the president, McKeon, Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), chairman of the subcommittee on strategic forces, and Rep. Michael Turner (R., Ohio), chairman of the subcommittee on tactical air and land forces, noted Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty by building a banned cruise missile. The missile has been identified by U.S. officials as the R-500.
The lawmakers said the Russian nuclear deployment in Crimea represents the “clear, and perhaps irrevocable tearing” of the 1997 agreement between NATO and Russia that allowed Russia to maintain a military presence within the alliance.
The Russian nuclear deployment plans and treaty violation should have been discussed during the recent NATO summit in Wales but were not, they said.
As a result, the congressmen urged the president to brief Congress on the threatening Russian nuclear deployments in Crimea. They also called on the president to suspend the NATO-Russia accord and demand the removal of all Russian military personnel from NATO facilities.
Additionally, they asked that the United States and its allies halt all arms control surveillance flights by Russia carried out under the Open Skies Treaty.
Significantly, the three House leaders called on the administration to begin research and development on deployment sites for new U.S. intermediate-range ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles, if Russian refuses to return to compliance with the INF accord.
Putin “must be made to understand that his actions will accomplish nothing more than the alienation [of] Russia from the West, its economy and its security architecture,” the lawmakers said.
“Until we have a strategy that convinces Mr. Putin he cannot achieve his dream of a ‘New Russia’ through illegal annexations, covert invasions, and nuclear saber-rattling, statements and sanctions along cannot be expected to have an effect on his actions,” the letter warns.
“Too much is at stake to continue to allow Russia’s dictator to continue to proceed on his current path toward regional destabilization without serous opposition.”
The action “further undermines Russian credibility in terms of the Budapest Memorandum that the Russian Federation signed in 1994,” the congressmen said.
The memorandum promised Ukraine would have security assurances against threats or use of force in exchange for Kiev giving up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons – at the time the third largest arsenal in the world.
On the Track 2 talks between Russian experts and a group hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the program leader was identified as anti-nuclear arms advocate Sharon Squassoni.
Squassoni took part in a study three years ago sponsored by the leftist, anti-nuclear weapons group Ploughshares Fund that called for removing all U.S. tactical nuclear arms from Europe.
Thomas Moore, a former senior professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who quit CSIS over concerns about Squassoni’s anti-nuclear slant, said he felt the Track 2 program, which was to cost $215,000 in federal funding, was unwise after Russia’s military takeover of Crimea which began last February.
Moore said in an interview that the administration could be using the CSIS Track 2 talks as a way of conducting direct negotiations to further reduce U.S. nuclear arms in Europe.
“Now is the wrong time to entertain any such ideas with any Russians, whether they are official or unofficial Russians, because they all support Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and violation of the INF treaty,” Moore said, noting that verifying any tactical nuclear arms reductions is nearly impossible.
“My goal was to verify and keep our nukes in Europe,” he said, noting that Squassoni knows little about nuclear arms and has been “a partisan for Obama and his anti-nuclear agenda in Europe.”
CSIS spokesman Andrew Schwartz confirmed that the Track 2 talks involving U.S., Russian and European experts are aimed at “limiting non-strategic nuclear weapons.” He declined to identify the U.S. or foreign members of the project and said a report on the program would be published in summer or fall of next year. He said the notion that the project has not been adjusted to account for the Crimea crisis is wrong.
Squassoni confirmed her participation in the Ploughshares study but said in an email that the recommendations of that project were not discussed during the first Track 2 meeting this week.
“I can assure you that my personal views do not interfere with my ability to facilitate balanced, analytically sound dialogues,” she said.
The CSIS-Russia Track 2 nuclear talks also are being supported by Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security; and Andrew Weber, who recently resigned as assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defenses amid allegations of insubordination and improper personnel activities.
A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to provide details surrounding Weber’s resignation but said he would be taking a lesser position at the State Department.
A U.S. official close to the Pentagon said Weber ran afoul of his superiors as a result of his anti-nuclear arms positions, and practices related to hiring and the use of personnel within his office.
Alexandra Bell, a spokeswoman for Gottemoeller said: “The administration is supportive of the domestic and international non-governmental community’s right to conduct research, scholarship, advocacy and Track 2 dialogues as they see fit.”
Both the Pentagon and State Department spokeswomen would not address the question of whether holding informal nuclear talks on cutting nuclear weapons in Europe with the Russians will undermine NATO security in the aftermath of the Crimean crisis.
Former Pentagon official Mark Schneider, a strategic nuclear arms specialist, said the Track 2 and any formal arms talks on tactical nuclear arms would fail.
“They can have as many tracks as they want but the Russians will not agree to limits on tactical nuclear weapons,” Schneider said. “Their advantage is too great.”
The United States is believed to have around 200 nuclear weapons in Europe. Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal is at least 2,000.
“NATO politics will prevent any cuts in U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe,” he said. “This is obviously about the worst possible time to talk about something like this.”
Schneider said nuclear policymakers should focus on deterrence now instead of disarmament.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told state-run Interfax March 26 that a “missile-carrying regiment” of Tu-22 Backfire nuclear bombers will be deployed to the Crimean airbase at Gvardeyskoye within two years.
IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly described the nuclear-capable Tu-22s to be based in Crimea as “the backbone of Soviet naval strike units during the Cold War.”
Rogers, the strategic forces subcommittee chairman, said Sept. 18 that the Russians have discussed “plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Crimea.”
When exactly a month ago the supposedly objective, impartial Netherlands released its official, 34-page preliminary report of the MH-17 crash over Ukraine, presumably based on black box data, air traffic control records, and other “authentic, verified” information, there were precisely zero mentions of “oxygen“, “mask” or “oxygen mask.”
Which is odd, because in what should become the biggest Freudian slip scandal in false-flag history, certainly since the Gulf of Tonkin, yesterday Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans accidentally revealed for the very first time ever, that one of the Australian passengers aboard the doomed airplane“appears to have donned an oxygen mask before the fatal crash, suggesting some on board might have been aware of their impending deaths, a Dutch official disclosed.” Clearly a crucial aspect of the crash, as it points at the severity of the alleged explosion, yet one which was not noted until yesterday and which completely skipped the purvey of the official crash report for reasons unknown.
Needless to say, this makes a complete mockery of the story that the plane had exploded upon impact with the “Russian” missile, and is why there was supposedly no trace of any impact on the flight’s black box recorder.
Whether or not it also means that the alternative theory that a Ukraine jet had purposefully downed the Malaysian aircraft to serve as a pretext to implicate Russia, is unclear. But it also means that yet another conspiracy theory becomes fact: namely that whoever were the western powers who doctored and manipulated the “official” crash report of MH-17 to implicate Putin, not only lied but fabricated evidence.
Immediately upon realization just how serious the implications of this slip are, the damage control started, but it was too late. From the LA Times:
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans apologized on Thursday for making the revelation on a television talk show the previous night, before the families of the 298 victims of the disaster had been notified of the disturbing discovery.
Timmermans gave an emotional speech at the United Nations four days after the crash in which he imagined the terrified passengers exchanging glances “one final time, in an unarticulated goodbye.”
When talk show host Jeroen Pauw interviewed Timmermans on Wednesday night, he provoked the minister with accusations that he had dramatized the victims’ last moments as a preliminary investigation report suggests that the Boeing 777′s destruction was so swift that those on board were unlikely to have known anything was amiss.
“They did not see the rocket coming, but you know someone was found with an oxygen mask on his mouth?” Timmermans replied, according to the NL Times translation of his comments. “He thus had the time to do that. We cannot rule it out.”
Well, actually we did not know because the official report that your country released Mr. Timmermans, and which we posted a month ago said that “high-energy objects from outside the aircraft” struck the airplane as it flew at an altitude of 33,000 feet, suggesting it had been struck by a missile.
Nothing on the flight data or cockpit voice recorders indicated the crew or passengers took any action in response to the fatal impact.
Which means the entire report is a fabrication.
So what did happen?
The mask found around the neck of the unnamed passenger, one of 88 Australian citizens and residents on board, was tested for fingerprints, saliva and DNA but produced no forensic evidence, De Bruin said. “So it is not known how or when that mask got around the neck of the victim,” he said.
The discovery of the mask and the implications it raised about the passengers’ final moments were conveyed to the Australian’s family before Timmermans’ interview on Wednesday night, the prosecutor’s office said. But information was sent out to other family members of the MH-17 victims only on Thursday morning.
Timmermans issued a statement Thursday saying he regretted making the comment. We are confident that everyone else in the false-flag waving Western camp very much regretted Timmermans’ comment as well.