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 Ukraine: sanctions and the descent to madness

 Wednesday 30 July 2014

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Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, says Van Rompuy, "the European Union has been calling on the Russian leadership to work towards a peaceful resolution".

"We have", he says, "done this collectively and bilaterally. We regret to say that despite some mixed messages coming from Moscow, and exchanges in the Normandy and other formats, there has been scarce delivery on commitments. Our call has been, in practice, left unheeded".

So is demonstrated the complete incomprehension on the part of the "colleagues" as to the situation they have created, and the absurdity of their imposing sanctions on Russia for something for which they share responsibility.

For the rest, the Financial Times is as good a source as any, telling us that the EU has "agreed to its toughest sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War". It has backed sweeping measures intended to cripple the Russian economy and convince the Kremlin to abandon its support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

And, it appears, the "colleagues" are not messing about. The restrictions target Russia's financial, energy and defence sectors and include a measure that would prevent Russia's largest state-owned banks from issuing stock or bonds in European markets.

In addition, they will bar exports aimed at modernising the Russian oil industry and impose a blanket arms embargo that includes a carve-out allowing existing contracts – including a €1.2bn French deal to sell helicopter attack ships to the Russian navy – to go forward. Details of the sanctions are expected to be published by the end of the week, when the measures will go into effect.

And true to form, Obama is following in their wake, also announcing sanctions, saying they will make Russia's "weak economy even weaker". The co-ordinated actions of the US and European Union, he claims, would "have an even bigger bite" on Russia's economy.

Elsewhere, analysis suggests that sanctions will not make Putin back off. He knows that if he were to step back, pressure on him will only increase. Any serious concession he makes will lead to him losing power in Russia, which will probably send the country into a major turmoil. Yet any serious concession by the United States - in terms of accommodating Russia - will mean a palpable reduction of US global influence, with consequences in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere.

The US, the EU and Russia, therefore, are locked into an impasse, an unsolvable situation. But having effectively accused Putin of conspiring with the separatists, "leading to the killing of almost 300 innocent civilians in their flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia", there is no way either the EU or the US can expect the Russian leadership "to work towards a peaceful resolution".

So the madness descends. Imbued with their own brand of self-righteousness, neither the EU member states nor the US are going back off, but neither is Russia. No matter how clever they all think themselves, there is no way this ends well.


Richard North 30/07/2014 link

 Immigration: reducing the pull factors

 Tuesday 29 July 2014

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I don't really care what is motivating Mr Cameron in putting up his new immigration policy. But, in an authored piece in the Telegraph, he tells us that: "We're building an immigration system that puts Britain first", and if that serves to defuse the immigration issue, then it will have served its purpose.

What is interesting about Cameron's strategy is he is quite evidently stepping away from the drawbridge philosophy and addressing some of the "pull" factors that are drawing migrants to these shores.

His first focus is on clamping down on abuses. Some of the most egregious examples, he says, were those new arrivals claiming to be students, enrolling at bogus colleges. In one of these colleges, inspectors found no students at all; the excuse was that they had all gone on a field trip to the British Library.

Says Mr Cameron, "We have taken radical action, shutting down more than 750 of these colleges. Today we are announcing a further step to make sure colleges do proper checks on students: if 10 percent of those they recruit are refused visas, they will lose their licence".

Next on the list is illegal immigration. Yes, we need effective controls at the border, the prime minister says, "but it also means taking action inside the country too".

There has evidently been some thinking here, as David Cameron declares that it was absurd that those who were here illegally could get a licence to drive a car, or rent a flat, or have a bank account.

Since earlier this month, the government has been revoking driving licences – with 3,150 already withdrawn. From November, landlords will have a legal obligation to check the immigration status of their tenants. From December, rules to prevent illegal immigrants from opening bank accounts will be introduced. And crucially, once illegal immigrants have been identified, deportation will be easier.

From now on, for example, there will be a policy of "deport first, appeal later", so foreign criminals will be deported first and their appeals will be heard once they're back in their home country.

Cameron says his government is also addressing the abuse of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to a family life. Too many judges have treated this as an unqualified right. So judges must also consider the British public interest too. As far as his government is concerned, the rights of law-abiding citizens come well above the rights of criminals.

Next in line is a new visa system for graduate entrepreneurs and the exceptionally talented, and establishing a much more robust system that accepts immigrants with the right skills, setting a cap on economic migration from outside the EU.

Then, the "magnetic pull" of Britain's benefits system is being addressed. No one can come to this country and expect to get out-of-work benefits immediately. They must wait at least three months. And now the time for which people can claim these benefits is to be cut.

It used to be that European arrivals could claim Jobseeker's Allowance or child benefit for a maximum of six months before their benefits would be cut off, but this is now to be cut to three months.

On housing, statutory guidance is to be changed to ensure that councils only add people to housing waiting lists when they have lived in the area for two years.

Another irritant is also to be removed –employers hunting out cheap labour from abroad, while too many young people are out of work: some recruitment agencies have even been recruiting directly from elsewhere in the EU without British workers ever getting a chance to apply for the jobs.

Thus the government is banning overseas-only recruitment – legally requiring agencies to advertise in English in the UK. And there will also be cuts in the vacancies posted on the EU-wide job portal, massively restricting the number of jobs advertised overseas.

Cameron also looks at the bigger picture, telling us that, when talking about getting young British people into work, the problem isn't a simplistic one of too many people coming here – it's also about too many British people being untrained, and too many thinking they can get a better income on benefits.

Thus, Cameron is talking about "building a different kind of Britain – a country that is not a soft touch, but a place to play your part, a nation where those who work hard can get on".

Carefully and painstakingly, he says, "we are building an economy that has real opportunities for our young people; an education system that encourages them to do their best; a welfare system that encourages work; and an immigration system that puts Britain first".

From politicians, one must expect this type of rhetoric, but what is not wrong is the "careful" and "painstaking" approach. Immigration control is not just (or even) about grand gestures, but numerous small policy initiatives, all to change the perception of our country to putative immigrants, and to allow appropriate measure to be taken.

This does mean addressing the "pull" factors, about which we have written so often, and a government that understands this is more likely to succeed than one wedded to gesture politics.

And from this, the point we expect to see emerge is that, increasingly, the government will be able to re-assert sufficient control over the flow of migrants to give us breathing space to engineer an EU exit plan that does not involve ditching "freedom of movement".

Implemented with sufficient control over "pull factors", and then with greater focus on "push" factors, we stand a chance of neutralising immigration as a referendum issue, leaving us to fight from the higher ground.

Thus, whether he appreciates it or not, Mr Cameron may just have made it a little bit easier to plot our exit from the EU. The one problem, though, is that some of the plans may fall foul of EU anti-discrimination requirements. If benefit entitlements are to be cut for immigrants from EU member states, they must also be cut for UK citizens.

However, it will do Cameron no great political harm to be seen to be having an argument with the European Commission, if they are unwise enough to intervene.

But if it comes to a battle, it is one Mr Cameron must win. Unless we can show that control measures can be taken without the "big bang" abolition of "freedom of movement", it will be very difficult to devise a workable exit plan for the short-term, and thereby win a referendum campaign.


Richard North 29/07/2014 link

 Yeovilton International Airday 2014

 Tuesday 29 July 2014

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It were a bit 'ot, but a good time were 'ad by all ... the following day as well, partly at the Weston Helicopter Museum, where the Dragonfly was snapped.

Richard North 29/07/2014 link

 Ukraine: clarity and mystery in equal measure

 Tuesday 29 July 2014

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The data from the MH17 flight recorders have been successfully downloaded by British experts and, while the information is still being evaluated, Reuters is conveying from a premature news conference in Kiev the claims of Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's Security Council.

Says Lysenko, analysis of the data show that the aircraft was destroyed by shrapnel coming from a "rocket blast" and went down because of "massive explosive decompression", thus indicating that a BUK surface-to-air missile may have been the weapon which brought the aircraft down.

A photograph of a segment of the fuselage – seemingly including some of the port framing from the cockpit windows (see above) – shows shrapnel penetration compatible with the aircraft having being downed by an anti-aircraft missile, the flight recorder data apparently corroborating physical evidence.

One might, incidentally, aver that the captain may have taken the full force of the blast, with the possibility that he died instantaneously, as it ripped through the cockpit wall.

All of this now builds a picture and, given that the US is also claiming to have satellite data which confirm a missile strike (although the actual data have not yet been released), there are potentially three sources which point towards a missile attack.

Add a photograph showing a dissipating smoke trail from the alleged launch site, and the sightings of a BUK missile launcher in the vicinity on the day of the shooting, and the balance of probability goes towards a missile strike.

This will not, of course, weaken the resolve of the many conspiracy theorists who are determined to show the aircraft was brought down by a bomb, or air-to-air missile. In the years to come, we can expect to see dedicated advocates come up with ever more extreme variations which will concede nothing to reality.

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Nothing of the recent information, of course, helps us determine the immediate origins of the BUK launcher, although the French magazine Paris Match has managed to come up with another photograph of the famous white low loader, this time tracking down the owner by dint of telephoning the number on the side of the truck. 

The owner of the truck company, Stroy-Bud Montage, claims the low loader was stolen "earlier this month", although the date is not specified. The location of the Paris Match photograph, however, has been traced by Ukraine at War to a lay-by on the outskirts of Donetsk – marked (1) on the satellite map (below - click to enlarge). 

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Interestingly, this is not very far from the truck depot where it was supposedly stolen and en route to a location in Donetsk where it was spotted on 17 July (but not photographed). Thence it was driven on the low loader along the H21 highway where it was seen travelling eastwards outside Zuhres – marked (2).

From there, it was seen in Torez, first on the low loader (3) and then after the launcher  had been offloaded (4). The launcher was then seen driving along the road under its own power (5) to a spot close to Snizhne, where the missile was launched (6).

From there, the Russian border is only about 15 miles almost due south, along an unclassified, but metalled road, easily traversable by a tracked vehicle to the border crossing at Marynivki, which is big enough to have its own customs post on the Ukrainian side.

Instead of taking this direct route, though, the launcher is apparently re-united with the low loader, whence it is identified in a suburb of Luhansk (7), at the intersection of Korolenko St. and Nechuya-Levitsky Blvd. So far unexplained, the low loader and the BUK were travelling in the direction opposite to that which they had supposedly come, and were not on any direct route to the border.

According to the Ukrainian Security Service, however, the picture labelled as (7) is near Krasnodon (marked 8), the rig close to the Ukraine-Russian border and shortly to cross over (with one other) apparently at 2am, despite the shot showing daylight conditions.

By coincidence, though, Krasnodon is very close to Izvarino where the Ukrainian An-26 flying at 6,500 metres was downed on 14 July, allegedly by an SA-11 missile, possibly from the same launcher that destroyed MH17.

That then is where it stands. On the one hand the indications that MH17 was downed by an SA-11 now firmer than ever but, on the other, the immediate origins of the launcher even less clear.

According to some narratives, the launcher manages to travel from the Russian border to Donetsk completely unobserved. It then pops up in Donetsk on a "stolen" low loader, only a few miles from the Ukraine base from which, earlier, one or more launchers were claimed to have been captured.

Then, on its trip from Donetsk to Snizhne, the launcher is constantly observed, its presence recorded on video or still camera a further five times. It is then filmed once more, in a suburb of Luhansk.

This is apparently after MH17 has been shot down, but without any corroborative evidence which would identify the date and time of filming, the detail can only be surmise. The SBU, who apparently released the film, have lied about the location and the time, so they could just as well be lying about the date.

After that, though, the launcher drops out of sight, 30 miles from the Russian border, and has not been seen again. Discount the Luhansk footage and the launcher has not been seen since it appearance near Snizhne, while no pictures of any other launchers, tracker unit or command module have been seen.

In evidential terms, therefore, it seems we are no closer to pinning down whether the federal Russian government assisted the separatists in obtaining the BUK M1, or took any part in the shooting down of MH17.

Of course, one cannot say that Putin and is government are innocent, but that isn't the point. No one, not even the Americans, have come up with any robust evidence that will support a claim that the Russian government, directly – or even indirectly – helped the separatists take possession of a BUK M1 launcher.

It is thus positively bizarre that the EU tomorrow is set to impose sanctions on Russia, alongside the United States.

It has come to a pretty state that sanctions can now be imposed on an important nation, with significant diplomatic and economic implications, without first furnishing any convincing evidence. This is not the way things are supposed to work.


Richard North 29/07/2014 link

 Flooding: what a difference

 Monday 28 July 2014

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Pete went down to Burrowbridge in early March to have a look at the situation, and sent us the picture above. Yesterday, we revisited the same scene, with the picture taken below – with our Pete in the left of the frame. There is evidence of dredging, although it is not extensive. The work is scheduled to continue to October.

Richard North 28/07/2014 link

 Booker: could Obama have prevented the MH17 tragedy?

 Monday 28 July 2014

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It seems to me that three points need to guide us in our appreciation of MH17 – and generally on contentious issues. The first is that just because one party to a dispute is lying, that does not mean that the other parties are necessarily telling the truth.

The second point is that, just because a party tells lies, everything they say will always be lies. Sometimes, just to confuse the issue, they tell the truth - after all, the best way of lying is to cloak your deceit in the garments of truth.

Thirdly, rather like the first point, just because a party self evidently has something to hide, and is therefore not telling the whole truth, that does not mean that other parties do not also have things to hide. Everybody might have something to hide, albeit they may be hiding different things.

And with that in mind, later than usual – but posted for the record – we have the Booker column, which takes up the very real and important question of whether President Obama could have prevented the MH17 tragedy.

This, says Booker, is the most alarming unanswered question over the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, one so fearful to contemplate that it has scarcely even been asked. Was President Obama in fact been better placed than anyone else to prevent that disaster from taking place?

When, in his statement 24 hours after the plane was downed, the President stoked speculation about the involvement of President Putin, did he deliberately obscure the fact that, days earlier, he had already learnt enough from his many intelligence sources to know that the 55 international airliners travelling every day along that flight path over eastern Ukraine faced the threat of precisely such a disaster?

If so, why did the US authorities not make it a top priority to ensure that such flights were immediately halted?

In all the initial confusion over what Mr Obama called "this outrage of unspeakable proportions", there was a hysterical rush to pin the blame on Russia’s president. "Putin's killed my son", as one newspaper front page had it. But, over the days that followed, as ever more information emerged about this story, the US government appeared to be backtracking on its original narrative.

The 30-year-old SA-11, or Buk M1 missile launcher, apparently responsible for the downing of MH17, had not been recently smuggled in over the Russian border, as was alleged. It had almost certainly been in Ukraine all along, as part of the equipment of Ukraine's official armed forces. 

On June 29, several launchers were probably captured from those forces, in a non-operational state, by the pro-Russian rebels. By July 13, at least one was again fully functional, and used the next day to down a Ukrainian Antonov 26 transport aircraft, from a height that only such a missile could have reached.

All this, including the exact position from where the fatal missile was launched, would almost certainly have been detected by the plethora of US satellites that have been closely monitoring that area, and confirmed by other intelligence, including mobile-phone intercepts.

It is inconceivable that this did not ring alarm bells with anyone, including the authorities in Kiev, which should have had prime responsibility for immediately closing their airspace.

But for various reasons, not least the sizeable income Ukraine would have lost from the airlines making 350 flights a day across the country as a whole, they did nothing. No one, then, was in a better position to know the danger that air travellers were being exposed to than Washington. Which also apparently did nothing.

It was three days after the downing of the Antonov that the rebels shot down MH17, almost certainly unaware that it was an airliner. When Mr Obama made his statement, he explicitly mentioned the Antonov, but fogged over the implications of that earlier incident by blurring it with the rebels’ shooting-down of other aircraft from lower altitudes, using much less powerful rockets.

Mr Obama then went on to say that "we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia", including "anti-aircraft weapons".

The uncomfortable question, to which the world really does deserve an answer, is why, in the light of all that has emerged as to how much Washington knew in the days before MH17 was shot down, did it not take steps to ensure that civilian overflights were immediately halted?

As so often before in the West's weak and wrong-headed response to the Ukrainian shambles – created more than anything by those vaingloriously provocative moves to absorb that country into the EU – we can begin to understand rather better the way in which Europe sleepwalked into war in the summer of 1914. 

Pray God, Booker concludes, it does not come to that this time. But the hysterical misreading of this latest chapter in the Ukrainian tragedy has hardly inspired confidence in those who rule us.


Richard North 28/07/2014 link


 Sunday 27 July 2014


Good day out. Normal service will resume tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, here is Booker.

Peter North 27/07/2014 link

 Lite blogging

 Saturday 26 July 2014

EUreferedum is on the road. Tomorrow is Yeovilton International Air Day where we shall be watching Sea Kings blowing things up and other misadventures in aerospace. Normal service will be resumed later this weekend. Meanwhile, have a read of this.

Peter North 26/07/2014 link

 Ukraine: the selectivity of the of the media

 Friday 25 July 2014

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Something I meant to do yesterday, except it was too hot to concentrate, was this report from Russia Today on the Ukranian Security Service (SBU) and fabrication of evidence on the transport of BUK missile launchers to the Russian border.

After happily peddling the ever-more ludicrous Russian propaganda, which has ranged from the Ukrainians shooting down MH17 with their own launchers, to the absurd proposition of an Su-25 shooting down the airliner, this English-language Russian broadcaster has at last happened upon a story which is factually correct.

This attacks the foundation of the SBU claim that three launchers were in the possession of the separatists, which had been spotted heading for the Russian border in the small hours of 18 July, immediately following the downing of MH17. And crucially, it relies on two photographs, until recently displayed on the official website of the SBU as their evidence (see below).

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Following publication of the facebook photograph which suggested that part of the SBU "evidence" was of a photograph of a Ukranian Army BUK-M1 taken on 18 March 2014 in the northeast of Donetsk, however, and a number of websites carrying the same information, we see the response of the SBU. Without a word of explanation, it has removed the photographs from their website. Their "evidence" has disappeared.

Nevertheless, the website is still claiming that on "July 18 at 2 am in the Luhansk region crossed the border with Russia two trucks, each of which was launcher 'BUK-M'", despite the use of one photograph as supporting evidence now known to be fraudulent.

What particularly firms this up is, at the time the original photograph was taken, in early March, there was something of an invasion scare, leading to some high profile manoeuvres by the Ukrainian Army, including the deployment of at least a battalion of BUK launchers, some of which were filmed many times, in many different places, including a film which RT has found, and is now posted on YouTube (below).

Interestingly, the facebook photograph was also published several times on the web, on 19 March 2014, including here and, ironically, here.

On this site, ironically, is carried an appeal from the Ukrainian defence department "to journalists, bloggers and, in general, ordinary citizens to not to talk about the movement of Ukrainian troops to not [give] advantage [to] the enemy" (machine translation).

From this, two three points emerge: firstly we have the SBU willing to use such obviously falsifiable "evidence" in a fraudulent manner, in circumstances where it must have known its claim was false. Secondly we have the Western media and intelligence agencies willingness to believe this false information and, thirdly, even when it is disproved, it stands on the record with no attempt to remove or correct the falsehood, while the underlying lies continue to be perpetrated.

Even in terms of the future, this is quite important. In months and year to come, historians other others will be looking up the accounts of the period. Legacy sites such as The Times, which conveyed this false information when it was released, are giving no clue that the information they convey is false, and known to be so at the time it was published. 

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This then brings us to the second low loader hauling a BUK M1, and the now quite famous video grab from the YouTube clip (pictured above) supplied by the Ukrainian authorities, the vehicle said to be heading for the Russian border (even though the shot is in daylight). But the location of the vehicle has now been now identified as in the separatist-held town of Luhansk (see picture below).

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However, the location is in a residential part of the town (pictured above and located on the map below - click to enlarge). It is inside the ring road and not on any route directly leading to the Russian border. Furthermore, the nearest border crossing suitable for a heavy low loader (marked on map below) is over 30 miles away. 

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Without a verifiable time of filming, and more detail, it is actually not possible to tell the origin of the launcher, whether it is coming from or going to the border, or indeed whether it had been anywhere near the border.  It may even be on its way to the launch site. 

In other words, from an evidential point of view, the video clip tells us nothing about the origin of the BUK launcher, or its destination after the shooting down of MK17. In fact, it raises the question of why, if the launcher was being transported from the firing site in Snizhne to the Russian border, it was then seen in the suburbs of Luhansk, off the main route to the border?

But what now emerges is a fourth point. All sides have either been falsifying the evidence, misrepresenting it, or generally muddying the waters. As has been observed, there is an information war going on. Yet, when it comes to pointing fingers, we see exactly the same sort of selectively from the Western media as we are getting from the likes of RT. They are all at it. 

Hot off the press from the Economist, for instance, we have a piece entitled, "A web of lies", telling us that "Vladimir Putin's epic deceits have grave consequences for his people and the outside world". Mr Putin has blamed the tragedy of MH17 on Ukraine, the Economist complains, and not without justification does it dismiss his "lies".

Says the magazine, "A high-court's worth of circumstantial evidence points to the conclusion that pro-Russian separatists fired a surface-to-air missile out of their territory at what they probably thought was a Ukrainian military aircraft", yet we are told Putin was the author of the destruction of MH17:
Russia's president is implicated in their crime twice over. First, it looks as if the missile was supplied by Russia, its crew was trained by Russia, and after the strike the launcher was spirited back to Russia. Second, Mr Putin is implicated in a broader sense because this is his war. The linchpins of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic are not Ukrainian separatists but Russian citizens who are, or were, members of the intelligence services. Their former colleague, Mr Putin, has paid for the war and armed them with tanks, personnel carriers, artillery - and batteries of surface-to-air missiles. The separatists pulled the trigger, but Mr Putin pulled the strings.
In terms of evidence, though, the magazine relies on its own news story, where we see written:
Since late June small convoys of Russian heavy weapons had been flowing into the Luhansk region of Ukraine from a deployment and training site set up near Rostov by the separatists' Russian military helpers, according to Western intelligence sources. On July 13th, at about the same time that Mr Putin was sitting down to watch the World Cup final with Angela Merkel ... American sources say that a much bigger convoy of around 150 vehicles made the journey. It is said to have included tanks, artillery, Grad rocket launchers, armoured personnel carriers and Buk missile systems. Russia flatly denies having sent any such missiles.
But then comes the priceless statement, where it is conceded: "Whether it was a missile delivered by that convoy that brought down MH17 is unknown" - more priceless when you appreciate that there is no evidence that there were BUK launchers in the convoy, much less that they had been supplied by the Russian government. 

So, the mighty Economist doesn't have any evidence that the BUK launcher was delivered by the Russians, and the Russians deny supplying it. It thus has to pay lip service to "reports in late June that the rebels had captured such missiles from the Ukrainians".

Here then lies the key sleight of hand. The Russians are, of course, "liars" so their denials can be discounted. But, when it comes to the separatists capturing a launcher from the Ukrainian Army, we get: "… the Ukrainians deny this and it may well have been deliberate Russian misinformation". Therefore, because the Ukrainians deny it, it is discounted by the Economist.  

Never mind that the Ukrainians too have been indulging in their own form of "misinformation", up to and including the fabrication of evidence. "Successful attacks on aircraft started straight after the convoy's arrival" so, despite the separatists having had a launcher since 28 June, and possibly having got it repaired (even having had it delivered by the self-same convoy), the Ukrainian narrative prevails.

Skewed, distorted, one-side, partisan, incomplete and flawed – the Economist typifies Western media coverage and captures absolutely the mindset of the Western intelligence analysts. Counterpuch has it as "Russia-bashing, hatred, hysteria and humbug", while Paul Craig Roberts states the obvious, that there was no evidence that Russia "did it", and Tony Cartalucci notes:
The abject failure of the United States to once again put forth credible evidence amid a firestorm of propaganda and rush to judgement - and subsequent action - echoes the attempted rush to war after NATO-member Turkey and Saudi Arabia assisted terrorists from the Syrian Al Qaeda franchise, Al Nusra, in carrying out a false-flag sarin gas attack in Damascus in August 2013. It also echoes the fallacious, fabricated evidence peddled before the United Nations regarding Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" that in fact did not exist - but led to the invasion and nearly decade-long occupation of Iraq and over a million dead.
Anyone who now accepts that anything the legacy media has to say on such weighty matters is genuine, or even useful without very careful checking, or who again accepts an official "intelligence" assessment as unbiased, has only themselves to blame. The value in such reports is mainly in identifying the narrative. But if you want to know what is happening, you are going to have to go elsewhere.


Richard North 25/07/2014 link

 Ukraine: the EU is failing the test

 Friday 25 July 2014

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We pinned down the provocative role of the EU in relation to the Ukraine and Russia, way back in February, and Booker put the lid on it the following month.

Now, four months later, from a newspaper that seems determined to cast Putin as the spawn of Satan, pinning every ill it can imagine on the Russian President, we have in Steven Glover, what can only be the token contrarian, hired to argue the case that "the EU is guilty of precipitating this crisis, and arguably of causing it".

A fatal combination of vanity, hubris and naivety characterised EU policy towards Ukraine before its elected President, Viktor Yanukovych, was removed in a popular uprising earlier this year.

Now, writes Glover, the same EU, which recklessly attempted to lure Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, reveals itself as being feeble and divided, and utterly incapable of dealing with the alarming consequences of its actions.

On that basis, the piece's headline asserts that, if it wasn't for the blundering EU, MH17 might not have been downed. Glover himself argues that, if Putin were really as crazy and militaristic as Adolf Hitler, as some commentators have suggested, he would presumably have sooner or later helped himself to the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine.

Hence, we have a "divided, cowardly and unprincipled" EU set against a not quite so bad Putin, putting the EU seriously on the naughty step, Now that Russia is blatantly misbehaving, Glover writes, "the same European nations that thoughtlessly baited the Russian bear are running for cover in the most undignified way".

Glover doubts he is another Hitler. It seems much more likely that he is a nationalist and an opportunist who regarded the wooing of Ukraine by the EU, and the removal of President Yanukovych, as a sufficient provocation, while the EU is engineering its own downfall by its "such a timid response", which comes after the "needlessly aggressive" provocation of Russia.

However, while Glover might have fingered the EU correctly, I don't think he is anywhere close to understanding the Russians. And even if Putin himself is not a cold, calculating homicidal maniac, some of the people around him, such as his economic advisor, Sergei Glazyev, are barking mad, people who make paranoia sound normal.

Glazyev (see YouTube video) who characterises Ukraine as a US occupied country, with the "Kiev Nazis" intent on the genocide of the people of Eastern Ukraine (Donbass). Thence will the Americans, and their puppets in Kiev, militarise Ukraine and launch an invasion on Russia. They are intent on the construction of a Nazi dictatorship and the total mobilisation of the people against Russia.

By the end of the year, says Glazyev, there will be any army of half a million men ranged against us, with military equipment being brought out of storage, making a very powerful military machine targeting us, fired up by Nazis ideologically indoctrinated against Russia.

This is not something we can "sit out", the man says. After Donbass, the next target is Crimea, creating the pretext for a war against Russia – and regional war in the first instance and ultimately a "fourth world war".

Thus, within a six-month window of opportunity – after which he thinks it will be too late – Glazyev believes Russia should mount a pre-emptive strike, taking out the Ukrainian military capability. And, although he doesn't spell it out, he's thinking in terms of shock and awe. This is a man who is apparently ready and willing to go to war.

In this comfortable country of ours, it is hard to get inside the minds of the Russians and the Ukrainians, but the very fact a senior political figure can so readily talk about the need for war – and apparently have a strong following – tells us that we are dealing with something unimaginable in British politics.

Back in Ukraine, though, the leader of the "Kiev Nazis", prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his resignation today, after the parliament blocked legislation on tighter controls over the energy sector in the face of dwindling natural gas supplies from Russia.

Stresses in the system are growing, and can only intensify. And there, Glover makes the very same point were making those months ago. In the face gowing threats to peace and stability, the EU has been exposed as a wayward toddler passing itself off as a world power.

The truth is, he says, that most European countries do not want to jeopardise their trade with Russia. Many of them are reliant on Russia for their oil and gas supplies, Germany in particular. Some 35 percent of its oil, and 42 percent of its gas, is imported from Russia.

And for those reasons, it seems the EU is not able to deal with the growing bellicosity of two parties who seem to be leading us inexorably to war. This is far more than the loss of MH17, terrible though that was, and far more then whether a number of EU member states manage to keep their citizens warm in winter.

This is a war that will potentially rip apart central Europe, one that could drag in the larger part of continental Europe, turning the clock back a century or more. It is a crisis which the New York Times says is testing the EU's resolve. And, as it stands, the EU is failing the test.


Richard North 25/07/2014 link