Friday, July 01, 2016

Stirring Up A War With Russia-- Just What The World Needs



I spent most of June in Russia, primarily in Moscow and St. Petersburg. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I found Russians-- particularly in Moscow-- surly and defiant towards America and the West. The Western establishment insists Putin is using propaganda to play on the old fears and prejudices of the Cold War. On one level I saw it as a kind of paranoia, but it's a paranoia based on a very hard reality not on baseless assertions. As Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani made clear today at The Intercept Russia's fears were far from baseless as Gen. Philip Breedlove, now retired but until recently the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, plotted in private to overcome President Barack Obama’s reluctance to escalate military tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine in 2014, according to apparently hacked emails from Breedlove’s Gmail account that were posted on a new website called DC Leaks.

A year and a half ago, after a long and painful stay in a hospital with broken ribs and a punctured lung, I was home, getting physical therapy from a Ukrainian-American with deep ties to his homeland. He claimed, convincingly, the trouble in Ukraine was fomented by NATO, which he called "a brilliant move by the CIA to destabilize Russia at no cost to America." Today Fang and Jilani reported that "Obama defied political pressure from hawks in Congress and the military to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian government, fearing that doing so would increase the bloodshed and provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with the justification for deeper incursions into the country." You may recall that McCain and Lindsey Graham, to name two of the worst, seemed ready to charge off to war on their own.
Breedlove, during briefings to Congress, notably contradicted the Obama administration regarding the situation in Ukraine, leading to news stories about conflict between the general and Obama.

But the leaked emails provide an even more dramatic picture of the intense back-channel lobbying for the Obama administration to begin a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine.

In a series of messages in 2014, Breedlove sought meetings with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking for advice on how to pressure the Obama administration to take a more aggressive posture toward Russia.

“I may be wrong, … but I do not see this WH really ‘engaged’ by working with Europe/NATO. Frankly I think we are a ‘worry,’ … ie a threat to get the nation drug into a conflict,” Breedlove wrote in an email to Powell, who responded by accepting an invitation to meet and discuss the dilemma. “I seek your counsel on two fronts,” Breedlove continued, “how to frame this opportunity in a time where all eyes are on ISIL all the time, … and two, … how to work this personally with the POTUS.”

Breedlove attempted to influence the administration through several channels, emailing academics and retired military officials, including former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark, for assistance in building his case for supplying military assistance to Ukrainian forces battling Russian-backed separatists.

“I think POTUS sees us as a threat that must be minimized, … ie do not get me into a war????” Breedlove wrote in an email to Harlan Ullman, senior adviser to the Atlantic Council, describing his ongoing attempt to get Powell to help him influence Obama.

“Given Obama’s instruction to you not to start a war, this may be a tough sell,” Ullman replied a few months later, in another string of emails about Breedlove’s effort to “leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U.S. to react” to Russia.

Breedlove did not respond to a request for comment. He stepped down from his NATO leadership position in May and retired from service on Friday, July 1. Breedlove was a four-star Air Force general and served as the 17th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe starting on May 10, 2013.

Phillip Karber, an academic who corresponded regularly with Breedlove-- providing him with advice and intelligence on the Ukrainian crisis--  verified the authenticity of several of the emails in the leaked cache. He also told The Intercept that Breedlove confirmed to him that the general’s Gmail account was hacked and that the incident had been reported to the government.

“The last conversation I had about it with General Breedlove, he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been hacked several times,’” said Karber. He added that he noticed at least one of his personal emails appearing online from the leak before we had contacted him. “I turned this over to the U.S. government and asked them to investigate. No one has given me any answer.”

“I have no idea whose account was leaked or hacked,” said Powell, when reached for comment about the emails. Powell said he had no comment about the discussions regarding Obama’s response to the conflict in Ukraine.

In the European press, Breedlove has been portrayed as a hawkish figure known for leaning on allied nations to ditch diplomacy and to adopt a more confrontational role again Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. Breedlove, testifying before Congress earlier in February of this year, called Russia “a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies.”

Der Spiegel reported that Breedlove “stunned” German leaders with a surprise announcement in 2015 claiming that pro-Russian separatists had “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of the most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” sent to Donbass, a center of the conflict.

Breedlove’s numbers were “significantly higher” than the figures known to NATO intelligence agencies and seemed exaggerated to German officials. The announcement appeared to be a provocation designed to disrupt mediation efforts led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In previous instances, German officials believed Breedlove overestimated Russian forces along the border with Ukraine by as many as 20,000 troops and found that the general had falsely claimed that several Russian military assets near the Ukrainian border were part of a special build-up in preparation for a large-scale invasion of the country. In fact, much of the Russian military equipment identified by Breedlove, the Germans said, had been stored there well before the revolution in Ukraine.

The emails, however, depict a desperate search by Breedlove to build his case for escalating the conflict, contacting colleagues and friends for intelligence to illustrate the Russian threat. Karber, who visited Ukrainian politicians and officials in Kiev on several occasions, sent frequent messages to Breedlove-- “per your request,” he noted-- regarding information he had received about separatist military forces and Russian troop movements. In several updates, Breedlove received military data sourced from Twitter and social media.
If Trumpy the clown can't bring himself to hire Chris Christie or Scott Brown or the Newtster on as a running mate, who better-- other than Tom Brady-- than Phil Breedlove? Sounds like they were made for each other. Or maybe Hillary would bid higher.

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At 4:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see why Breedlove would've thought Harlan Ullman to be an eager ally in Breedlove's seriously depraved attempt to create a dangerously direct U.S.-Russian proxy war in Ukraine, to produce another foolhardy American land war in Asia.

Ullman, besides being from the Atlantic Council, a group founded to continue European-U.S. military interventionist cooperation more or less forever, was the father of the strategy and name "Shock and Awe".

I managed to find a working phone number for Ullman, Mr. Shock and Awe, sometime around 2003-2004 and called him. He actually answered his phone, and I tried to talk him down from his jingoist ledge, reading him what Tolstoy had written about the self-fulfilling prophecy of fighting wars, the blind and corrupt self-interest involved, and that just because there had been wars was no reason to continue fighting new wars of choice** (Tolstoy quote is at the end of this comment).

I also lectured him about his personal poisoning of the language with the conscienceless depravity of military triumphalism and other warping military euphemisms - especially his "Shock and Awe" - and that he was playing a major role in leading his nation into the role of international war criminal and slaughterer of countless hundreds of thousands of lives.

We talked for about 15 minutes, arguing back and forth, with me basically repeating my same thesis in various ways and providing a few more examples of war hubris, and with Ullman insisting that the nation was going to war anyway, with him or without him, but that with his Shock and Awe strategy, if it worked as planned, would shorten the war and reduce casualties. I repeatedly explained how his strategy worked only as a 'gateway drug' for the war addiction.

Of course, Shock and Awe turned out to be only the first salvo in an extended gradual mass murder of Iraqis and by default all of the slaughter that has continued after the U.S. pulled the bulk of its military out of Iraq.

That was some very well-practiced self-delusion at work on Ullman's part, which is no surprise because that's always how warmongers rationalize. It's either 'Just following orders' or "Someone else will do it anyway even if I don't'.

His stubborn head-in-the-desert-sands denial about his direct facilitation of a deceitful non-inevitable war of choice helped launch a much greater slaughter still continuing now 13 years later in Iraq and now Syria. Self-delusion won out in his own made-up mind, but at least his jingoism and professional rationalizations were challenged.

After the call, I was amazed it had even taken place, but it was a great lesson for me about the nature of someone in an historic position of pivotal power being too consumed by events and his own egoistic gratification and how those work together to fuel endless war.

Such a person's state of mind represents an intentional cynicism wrapped in a desensitized callous rationalization and whipped forward like a workhorse by sheer will to dominance and self-aggrandizement. A real capital 'P' sociopathic patriarch type.

** "And so once more the men who reaped profit from it all will assert with assurance that since there has been a war there must needs have been one, and that other wars must follow, and they will again prepare future generations for a continuance of slaughter, depraving them from childhood". [Tolstoy]

At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome comment about Ullman above, and just supports the thought I had while reading the emails from Breedlove, and other emails from highly ranked officials, and that is - these people can barely communicate or write a coherent email, what the fuck are they doing in positions of power.
This just underlines my long held view that many, if not all, of the people in power are intellectually dim, and most just have a high degree of cunning. America is led by incompetents, and I'm sure most of the world is the same way.
If they aren't incompetent, they are full of hubris and ego, as the comment about Ullman shows, and the post itself shows about the rest of the waste of skins that we call "leaders".

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point about the incompetence factor in most leaders. That would mean that one leader with a superior intellect AND cunning could rise to the top very quickly. Kissinger comes to mind first.


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