Tag Archives: NATO

#MH17: Stronger western sanctions on Russia likely within 48 hours


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Memorial outside Schiphol airport to the 289 dead of flight MH17, apparently shot down by fighters endorsed by Vladimir Putin's regime. Photograph: Sipa USA/REXMemorial outside Schiphol airport to the 289 dead of flight MH17, apparently shot down by fighters endorsed by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Photograph: Sipa USA/REX

Russia is expected to be hit with further sanctions on Tuesday after the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy called for tougher action against the regime they believe is still shipping weapons into Ukraine despite the MH17 airliner disaster.

The western nations called on the European Union to impose new restrictions on trade with Russia’s defence, banking and hi-tech energy sectors, adding to existing asset freezes and travel bans on a list of people linked to the Kremlin.

New penalties are likely to be agreed at a meeting of ambassadors from all the EU’s 28 member states and could come into force within 24 to 48 hours. The US has already imposed similar trade sanctions and will now strengthen them, amid concerns among western nations that Moscow could still launch a full-scale cross-border intervention in Ukraine.

The joint call for Brussels to stand up to Vladimir Putin was agreed during a video conference between Barack Obama, David Cameron, President François Hollande of France, Italy’s prime minster, Matteo Renzi, and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel.

In a further warning to Russia, some Nato countries are sending troops to Poland in October to take part in a military display called Exercise Black Eagle. Britain is contributing more than 1,300 soldiers to the exercise, which Michael Fallon, the new defence secretary, said was a sign of support for the country’s allies in eastern Europe.

On Tuesday, Cameron will also meet families of some of the British victims of the disaster to express his condolences at a time when rebels are still blocking international experts from reaching the crash site.

There has been a significant toughening in the rhetoric against Russia in recent days over its suspected role in arming pro-Putin separatists in eastern Ukraine. Putin’s government denies any responsibility for the shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH17, killing 295 people. However, the UK, US and Ukraine have all said they suspect it was downed accidentally by rebels using a Soviet-era Buk missile.

Following the leaders’ video call, No 10 said the discussion had focused on “Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilise Ukraine” and agreed that the immediate priority must be to secure unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site.

Downing Street said it agreed that Russia had “failed to take the steps necessary to de-escalate the crisis, such as ceasing support for the separatists; stopping the flow of weapons across the border; and using its influence to ensure the release of hostages.

“Indeed the latest information from the region suggests that even since MH17 was shot down, Russia continues to transfer weapons across the border and to provide practical support to the separatists.”

Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Obama, also said European leaders had made clear their determination to act. He added: “We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy. In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself.”

The US indicated that the EU was also looking at broadening its criteria for sanctioning individuals in order, Blinken said, to “bring in some of the cronies of President Putin”. Blinken argued that the existing sanctions regime had already produced major strategic gains in Ukraine, leading to a new government and the signing of the EU association agreement.

However, he said US intelligence assessments indicated that Moscow continued to transfer heavy weaponry and fighters across the border and to aid pro-Russian separatists, and had stationed Russian troops near the border. He described Putin’s strategy as one of “doubling down” on support for separatist fighters.

Before the meeting, Russia said it would not retaliate with sanctions of its own or “fall into hysterics”. Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, said the penalties could even make the country “more independent and more confident in our own strength”.

“I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy,” he said. “We can’t ignore it. But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country.”

He also denied Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict and called for “honest, open participation of all those who have access to information about the crash”.

“Anything else we will consider as deceitful attempts to influence the investigation, putting presumption of innocence in doubt,” he said.

“I don’t want to throw accusations in advance, but I expect that no one will try to cover up evidence.”

The Guardian.

It’s not just about the Malaysian flight. #Russians are living in an alternate reality.


The plane crashed in eastern Ukraine, not the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)The plane crashed in eastern Ukraine, not the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

MOSCOW—Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has already shined a spotlight on the Russian public’s somewhat, um, unique views.

Russian media are running with conspiracy theories: that MH17 was shot down by NATO to spark a conflict with Russia, that MH17 wasn’t full of innocent civilians but week-old corpses, or that MH17 was shot down because it was mistaken for Vladimir Putin’s personal jet (as if anti-aircraft missiles weren’t aimed with radar but with a really large pair of binoculars). The only theory missing is the right one: that Russian-backed separatists accidentally shot down the plane when they mistook it for a Ukrainian military transport.

This may seem like the entertaining sideshow to a tragedy, but actually it’s just a window into a hugely dangerous problem. I recently moved to Moscow, and it’s hard to miss the extent to which Russian society exists in an alternate universe. Even well-educated, sophisticated people who have traveled widely in Europe and North America will frequently voice opinions that, in an American context, would place them alongside people wearing tinfoil hats. Russia is not living in the reality-based community.

One particularly easy and glaring example is Russian TV reporters, filing from Eastern Ukraine, who say they are reporting from the “Lugansk People’s Republic” or the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” Regardless of your views on the worsening civil war in Ukraine, which is not a neat story of black and white or right and wrong, it is obvious that these republics are almost entirely fictitious and that their “territory” is largely confined to a handful of government buildings. Despite their extremely dubious claims to legitimacy, the non-existent states are treated with deadly earnestness by both the state media and large numbers of ordinary Russians. (Ukraine has been a problem for Russian media ever since protests there began at the end of 2013.)

On almost any other issue you can think of, Russian views differ radically from the consensus here in America. Russians have extremely different opinions about the conflict in Syria, viewing the war in that unlucky country not as a brave struggle for freedom but as a chaotic war of all against all. They have different views about the war in Libya, where they see the overthrow of Gaddafi not as a new beginning but as the start of chaos and disorder. They have different views about 9/11, with shockingly large numbers of Russians supporting “alternate” explanations of one of history’s most carefully studied and well-documented terrorist attacks. (I was recently asked what “theory” of the attacks I supported only to be told that it was “my opinion” after I noted that al-Qaeda was clearly and obviously responsible.) Even something as seemingly straightforward and non-political as a meteor strike attracted a range of bizarre theories and pseudo-scientific “explanations” like the onset of an alien invasion or the testing of a new American super weapon. These wacky ideas (“the aliens are attacking Siberia!” “The grand masons are responsible for 9/11!”) would be extremely funny if they didn’t represent such a tragic deficit of reason.

I’ve asked people about these notions. Particularly if they’re a bit bashful about the position they’re about to advocate, Russians will often highlight their country’s long track record of superstition and its history as a rural, peasant society. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard “we’re a superstitious people” as an explanation for some kind of seemingly nonsensical position. In contrast to Western Europe, Russia really did urbanize and become literate much later. This delayed development has left a lasting impression on popular consciousness and public attitudes.

But while there is clearly some truth to the idea that Russia’s unique cultural history renders it susceptible to conspiracies, explanations centered on the “Russian soul” strike me as a cop-out. Far more important than the legacy of peasant life or any kind of natural penchant for mysteriousness and inscrutability is the Soviet legacy of propaganda. The older generations here all grew up in an environment in which the government systematically manipulated information on a scale that is hard to fathom. Although you might expect that this would engender a healthy skepticism, it appears to have created an unhealthy over-reaction. Russians don’t just doubt the “official line.” Several expats here, like me, have observed that they seem to doubt everything.

Like many Americans, I used to think that these differences would recede with time, and that, as they traveled the world, got jobs, and got rich, Russians would eventually start to think more and more like us. After Ukraine and the Malaysia Airlines crash, I’m a lot less optimistic. Despite ditching communism and its call to world revolution, Russia appears to becoming more, not less, different from the United States. It doesn’t just have its own system; it now has its own facts.

Mark Adomanis specializes in Russian economics and demographics.


By Mark Adomanis – The Washington Post.

BBC News: Malaysia jet crashes in east Ukraine conflict zone



Both the Ukrainian government and rebels have denied shooting the plane down

A Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 295 people has crashed in east Ukraine on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

There are no signs of survivors at the scene of the crash near the village of Grabovo, in rebel-held territory close to the border with Russia.

Both sides in Ukraine’s civil conflict accused each other of shooting down the plane with a missile. It is still not clear why the plane came down.

It is the second disaster suffered by Malaysia Airlines this year.

Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Malaysia to China in April and still has not been found.

At a news conference at Schiphol airport, Malaysia Airlines’ European chief Huib Gorter said they were still trying to identify some of the passengers from flight MH17.

He said of the passengers that have been identified there were:

  • 154 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians
  • Six Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian
  • All 15 of the crew were Malaysian

Other airlines have announced they are now avoiding eastern Ukraine.

The crash site is in an area controlled by Ukraine's separatist rebelsThe crash site is in an area controlled by Ukraine’s separatist rebels
Flight MH17 had been due to enter Russian airspace when contact was lostFlight MH17 had been due to enter Russian airspace when contact was lost
Flight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, on Thursday afternoonFlight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, on Thursday afternoon


Analysis: Jonathan Marcus, BBC News

If it does turn out that the Boeing 777 was shot down by the separatists – with weaponry supplied by Moscow – then it could significantly alter the terms of the whole debate surrounding the Ukraine crisis.

Over the past few days there has been growing concern among Western governments that Russia was stepping up its military support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Nato spokesmen insist that more and more heavy military equipment has moved from Russian stockpiles to the separatists across the border.

In response, the United States has strengthened its economic sanctions against Moscow – it is threatening even stronger action – though the European Union has so far failed to follow Washington’s lead.

But if Russia in any way had a hand in this tragedy then the pressure – especially on the Europeans – for much tougher sanctions will only grow.

Game-changer in Ukraine crisis?


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke of his shock and said he was launching an immediate inquiry into the crash.

“This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia,” he said.

US and Ukrainian officials said they believed the plane had been brought down by a missile.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said it was an “act of terrorism”.

Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told the BBC he had intercepted phone conversations that proved the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists.

Map showing crash site

But Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the Ukraine government for restarting military operations in the area, where it is trying to regain control from pro-Russian rebels.

“The country in whose airspace this happened bears responsibility for it,” he said.

Separatist leader Alexander Borodai accused the Ukrainian government of downing the airliner.

Ukraine’s defence ministry issued a statement saying there were no air force jets in the area and no surface-to-air systems being used against the rebels.

The British government has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the crisis in Ukraine as a result of the crash.

The plane fell between Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk.

At least 100 bodies have been found so far at the scene, an emergency services worker told Reuters news agency, with wreckage spread across an area of up to about 15km (nine miles) in diameter.

Broken pieces of the wings were marked with the blue and red paint of Malaysian Airlines.

“I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang and shots,” a witness called Vladimir told Reuters.

“Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke.”

A separatist rebel from nearby Krasnyi Luch who gave his name as Sergei said: “From my balcony I saw a plane begin to descend from a great height and then heard two explosions.”

The upper floor of Schiphol Airport is closed for media and reserved for family and relatives of flight MH17The upper floor of Schiphol Airport is closed for media and reserved for family and relatives of flight MH17
A staff member sits behind a closed Malaysia Airlines desk at Kuala Lumpur International AirportA staff member sits behind a closed Malaysia Airlines desk at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

The head of the Russian Air Traffic Controllers’ Union, Sergei Kovalyov, told BBC Russian that the airspace over eastern Ukraine had remained open during the conflict because the planes previously shot down had tended to be helicopters or low-flying fast jets.

“In order to bring down an airplane from an altitude of 10,000m, you need to have very serious weapons…. missiles,” he said. “It’s either a mistake or a terrorist act.”

Ukraine has accused Russia’s military of supplying advanced missiles to the rebels.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian officials blamed the Russian air force for shooting down one of its ground attack jets on Wednesday, and a transport plane on Monday.

In 2001, Ukraine admitted its military was probably responsible for shooting down a Russian airliner that crashed into the Black Sea, killing all 78 people on board.


Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 – Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur
Flight MH17
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER

Crew: 15

Passengers: 280

Left Amsterdam: 10:15 GMT

Lost contact: 14:15 GMT at 10,000m (33,000ft)

Visit the BBC website for more videosBBC News

NATO Secretary General statement on the crash of Malaysia Airlines aircraft


Anders Fogh RasmussenSecretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen

I am profoundly shocked and saddened by the crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger aircraft in Ukraine today, with the loss of many lives.

I offer my sincerest condolences to the families and the loved ones of the victims and to all those touched by this terrible tragedy.

Much is unclear about the circumstances of the crash. However the instability in the region, caused by Russian-backed separatists, has created an increasingly dangerous situation.

It is important that a full international investigation should be launched immediately, without any hindrance, to establish the facts and that those who may be responsible are swiftly brought to justice.

NATO – News

#NATO fights back: #Russia’s accusations! Setting the record straight


NATO fights back

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has led to Russia’s international isolation, including NATO’s suspension of all practical cooperation with Russia. To divert attention away from its actions, Russia has levelled a series of accusations against NATO which are based on misrepresentations of the facts and ignore the sustained effort that NATO has put into building a partnership with Russia. Russia has also made baseless attacks on the legitimacy of the Ukrainian authorities and has used force to seize part of Ukraine’s territory. This document sets the record straight. (A link to the original document can be found at the end of the article).1

Russian claims that the Ukrainian authorities are illegitimate.

Ukraine’s President Poroshenko was elected on 25 May with a clear majority in a vote which the OSCE characterized (report here) as showing the “clear resolve of the authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and with a respect for fundamental freedoms. ”The only areas where serious restrictions were reported were those controlled by separatists, who undertook “increasing attempts to derail the process.”

In other words, the President is legitimate, the actions of the separatists were not.

The current Ukrainian government was approved by an overwhelming majority in the Ukrainian parliament (371 votes out of 417 registered) on 27 February 2014, including members of the Party of Regions.

That parliament was elected on 28 October 2012. The Russian Foreign Ministry at the time declared that the elections were held “peacefully, without any excesses and in line with generally-accepted standards” and “confirmed Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law.” The statement can be read in Russian here. The parliament which Russia called legitimate then can hardly be called illegitimate now.

Finally, Russian officials continue to allege that the Ukrainian parliament and government are dominated by “Nazis” and “fascists.” However, in the presidential elections on May 25, the candidates whom Russia labelled as “fascists” received barely 1% of the votes. Ukraine’s electorate clearly voted for unity and moderation, not separatism or extremism.

Russian claims that NATO’s response is escalatory.

Russian officials accuse NATO of escalating the crisis in Ukraine by reinforcing the defence of Allies in Eastern Europe. This is a striking display of double standards. It is Russia which is destabilising Europe – not NATO.

Firstly, NATO’s actions throughout the crisis have been proportionate to the situation, and defensive in nature. The Alliance has deployed additional aircraft to reinforce air policing missions, additional ships to the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Seas, and additional troops to exercises on the territory of Eastern Allies.

All of these deployments are limited in scale and designed to reinforce defence. They have been prompted by the instability and unpredictability Russia has generated on our borders by its illegal invasion of a sovereign European country. NATO’s actions cannot be presented as a potential offensive force. To describe them as such shows either ignorance or dishonesty. They are in line with NATO’s international commitments, including the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

In the NATO-Russia Founding Act (available here), NATO reiterates that “in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defence and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces. Accordingly, it will have to rely on adequate infrastructure commensurate with the above tasks. In this context, reinforcement may take place, when necessary, in the event of defence against a threat of aggression and missions in support of peace consistent with the United Nations Charter and the OSCE governing principles, as well as for exercises consistent with the adapted CFE Treaty, the provisions of the Vienna Document 1994 and mutually agreed transparency measures. Russia will exercise similar restraint in its conventional force deployments in Europe.”

Russia, on the other hand, has broken its international commitments, including basic principles in the NATO-Russia Founding Act, such as “refraining from the threat or use of force against each other as well as against any other state, its sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence in any manner inconsistent with the United Nations Charter and with the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations Between Participating States contained in the Helsinki Final Act” and the “respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security, the inviolability of borders and peoples’ right of self-determination as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents.”

Between March and May 2014, Russia had massed around 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s border and threatened to invade Ukraine. As of 11 July 2014, Russia still has around 12,000 troops, tanks and, artillery close to the Ukrainian border. Over the past months, Russia has also embarked on an unprecedented schedule of no-notice military exercises involving massive numbers of troops and heavy equipment. Russia should explain what its military plans are before it starts accusing others of posing a threat.

Secondly, all of NATO’s deployments have taken place on NATO territory, with the intention to deter threats to NATO territory.

Russia, on the other hand, has illegally annexed Crimea, allowed mercenaries and heavy weapons to flow across its border into Ukraine, and refused to condemn the aggressive and illegal actions of armed separatists in Ukraine, as it committed to do in Geneva in April. Recruiting efforts for separatist fighters are also expanding inside Russia. Continue reading