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Reporting from Slavyansk demonstrates that a man who has been claimed by the unelected government of Kiev to be Russian special forces is in fact not a member of Russian special forces.

This is a follow-on to my previous diary which linked a Robert Parry article that reviewed NY Times reporting by Michael aluminum tubes Gordon to show how it amounted to a retraction of a claim that Russian soldiers are leading the unrest in Eastern Ukraine.

Simon Shuster, Time Magazine now adds to our reasons to be skeptical about the claim that Russians are leading the unrest with the following:

Over the past week, authorities in Kiev have released photographs that purport to prove that Mozhaev is an agent of the Russian military intelligence service known as GRU, and they have shared that information with senior Western diplomats and some reporters. This claim has been at the center of their narrative that Russian special forces, controlled by the Kremlin, have taken over towns in the Donbass, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine.
Mozhaev and his comrades took control of Slavyansk about a week ago. But over the past few days there has been no evident sign that they are receiving material support from Russia.
and, more generally,
The ranks of the so-called “green men” who are running Slavyansk, in contrast to those troops [in Crimea], appear to be made up mostly of war veterans, itinerant pro-Russian nationalists and ethnic Cossacks from across the former Soviet Union.
In Crimea, there never was any doubt that Russian soldiers who were legally-based in Crimea, had left their bases and (illegally) seized control of Crimea; we may note that they did so in the context of the illegal removal from power of Ukraine's president, who was a very bad--though legally elected--man. There's a lot of moral ambiguity there.  

But Eastern Ukraine is a different kettle of fish. There were no Russian soldiers based there. So, if Russian soldiers were leading the unrest, that would represent a dramatic escalation, and one that could not be defended by the claim that Eastern Ukraine is a vital Russian interest. It isn't; Crimea always has been.

Now, are there Russian soldiers in Eastern Ukraine? Maybe. But the case that they are leading the unrest is increasingly shaky. As is the case that the unelected government is one that we should support and as is the case that atrocities reported in Eastern Ukraine should be regarded as anything more significant than the usual man's inhumanity to man. It looks more and more as if paramilitary forces in Eastern Ukraine are more comparable to the Michigan Militia than the Michigan National Guard.

We should not be rushed into belligerency. In the coming weeks, American soldiers and sailors will be, metaphorically, eyeball to eyeball with Russian soldiers and sailors. While their numbers are small enough that no one imagines they're there to conquer Russia, imagine how we would feel about Russian soldiers and sailors operating from Canada.

In fact, we don't need to imagine. We can just remember what happened during the Cuban missile crisis, and how close we came to incinerating the world. It only takes one miscalculation, and one commander less concerned about innocent humanity than Vasily Archipov reportedly was then to lead to open conflict.

I don't think that's where we're heading. But I am convinced that the US is using Ukraine as a proxy to harass Russia and that the game could easily get out of hand. I think a fair review of the evidence will lead any except the ideologically-committed to see that this is a time for caution, not belligerency.

Update. Timely words from Nat Parry, Bob's brother:

Ukraine has Europe’s third-largest shale gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
If the West controls those reserves, then Russia loses all leverage over Europe. That's not necessarily a good thing, since in foreign policy, good relationships are between equals. But since Russia has used energy as a club over Ukraine, it could also help to equalize that relationship.

Whatever the result is, it shouldn't be accomplished in order to benefit the western oil and gas companies that are so deeply invested in Ukraine.
Update: Eternal Hope diaried on the Ukraine, and has more links exposing how many of the "green men" in Ukraine are not Russian Army. And, also, an allegation that Horlivka City Councilman Volodymyr Rybak was abducted and murdered on Russian orders.

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Comment Preferences

  •  honestly I think we (5+ / 0-)

    should just drop our role as world policeman and refocus our interests back at home.

    Besides our control on foreign matters is already shaky and as time passes it will only continue to grow.


    •  I am deeply concerned by quality of State thought (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Garrett, Wreck Smurfy, Sunspots

      I have been watching closely the performance of our State Department since the Honduran coup of 2009, following their briefings and trying to understand how they reach decisions. I have had a few direct contacts with State officials.

      And... I have been appalled. It's not that I disagree with them. It's that they seem to know nothing about the history or culture of the places with which they deal. Their predictions on Honduras have been completely wrong: violence and instability have escalated. Narcotics traffic is undiminished. Misery is in many ways worse even though the world economy is much better.

      I cannot believe that this sort of failure is what our State Department wants. I can only believe that the same sort of disinformed unreality that leads Washington to reject rises in the minimum wage and regulation of the financial system extends to how we do business abroad.

      •  I think the Bush administration (0+ / 0-)

        broke the State Department.

        It was entirely wrecked, and hasn't been repaired.

        •  Like the press, I think it had its golden age... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Garrett, Sunspots

          The US press was normally a yellow press, i.e., one dedicated to stirring up controversy. It had a golden age between FDR and Nixon when it acted with some courage. At this point, it's as yellow as it was when Hearst apocryphally said, You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war."

          Similarly, State has always been an instrument of American power, not a disinterested Samaritan. But there was a time when really well-educated people were attracted to the diplomatic service. Now, government has been so degraded in the public view that it's not an attractive destination.

  •  I wouldn't be surprised (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CharlesII, Sandino, Sunspots

    if Russia is giving the separatists support of some kind.
       But that isn't the same thing as sending troops.

     We need to stop looking at this from a Cold War lens. This is civil war-ish.

    "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

    by gjohnsit on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 11:02:49 AM PDT

  •  Outrage over Russian "infiltration" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CharlesII, Wreck Smurfy, Sunspots

    is predicated on either complete ignorance or poor memory of the fact that ethnic Russians have been heavily settled there since the 18th century, and therefore no infiltration would be necessary.

    If the media more thoroughly incorporated that fact into their analyses of Southeast Ukraine instead of reflexively pointing to Putin, the situation would suddenly start to resemble Kosovo post-1990 -- but that wouldn't look good for the governments supporting Kiev, would it?

    "We need to put the jam on the bottom shelf where the little people can reach it.” - Ralph Yarborough

    by Zutroy on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 11:22:35 AM PDT

    •  Speaking of poor memory (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      you seem to have forgotten that significant numbers of Russians were also "settled" there during the 20th century as part of the Soviet Russification program which involved moving people around the soviet union to make non-Russian areas more ethnically Russian specifically to make nationalist efforts at independence from Russia more difficult.  Add in the fact that 10 milllion or so Ukrainians died as part of the effort to break Ukrainian identity alongside that settlement policy and it starts to look less good for those supporting Russian actions today.  

      Your analogy to Kosovo might be a little more apt if the Kiev had launched campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide against its neighbors as Serbia did and then expelled a million people from the country as part of a campaign to change the ethnic composition of the area.  Since neither of those are true, this analogy pretty much fails.

      •  Why start at the 20th century? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mindful Nature, Wreck Smurfy

        " the 17th century, Muscovy already had a long-standing policy to absorb Ukraine and liquidate the foundation for local cultural life."  --Wikipedia

        The Russian moves into the Ukraine have little to do with communism, and a great deal to do with Russian imperialism. And, while one should condemn them, one should condemn them with the knowledge that the US committed crimes at least as grave against the Native Americans in the course of extending the American empire. All Great Powers do such things.  

        Zutroy's point is that we shouldn't be surprised by the presence of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine. It's like finding Brits in Ireland.

        •  Good point. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Texas Lefty

          Thanks for clarifying Zultroy's point.  It is a good one.

          I am disappointed that those who might decry the treatment of Native Americans would remain so indifferent to the record in Ukraine.  To me, the widespread failure of the dailykos community to decry this (look at the comments and you'll find many comments giving support to Russian imperialism) greatly discredits the left and this community to comment on and denounce the treatment of Native American communities or US imperialism.  If we don't have the clarity to recognize that what Putin is up to is wrong, we don't have the clarity to have credibility on other similar questions.

      •  I'm quite familiar with the history, Professor. (0+ / 0-)

        The majority of Russians there descend from pre-1917 settlers. The "Stalin put them there" canard is intended to delegitimize their presence, and it is especially ironic coming from Americans, when one considers how this country was populated.

        The principal tool that the Soviets used to dictate the composition of various republics was the manner in which they drew the borders in the 1920s. That is why Ukraine contains so many Russian lands -- Ukraine was gerrymandered to include them. This, of course, presents a problem if you intend to both side with Kiev and criticize Soviet policy-making in a consistent manner.

        The backstory about the gerrymandering is more complex:

        Lenin and his commissar of nationalities -- Stalin -- disagreed on the internal borders of the early Soviet state. Lenin wanted a union of republics (SSRs) for each nationality, while Stalin wanted the entire state to be the RSFSR, with places like Ukraine and Belarus as ASSRs instead of SSRs in their own right. As a compromise, the Soviet state was organized as a union of SSRs, but Stalin drew the lines to include swaths of ethnic Russians in various SSRs wherever feasible (Eastern Estonia, Eastern Belarus, Southeastern Ukraine, Northern Kazakhstan); correctly forseeing that ethnic Russians were going to be the glue that held the Soviet state together. So, then, if Soviet policy was indeed illegitimate, then the borders are illegitimate as well.

        Your analogy to Kosovo might be a little more apt if the Kiev had launched campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide against its neighbors as Serbia did and then expelled a million people from the country as part of a campaign to change the ethnic composition of the area.  Since neither of those are true, this analogy pretty much fails.
        The genesis of Kosovo's independence long predates any accusations of genocide or ethnic cleansing, and lies in decisions made by the leadership of the Serbian SR to strip the Kosovo SAP of its autonomy and to strip the ethnic Albanian majority in the province of language rights. The KLA was formed, the region declared independence the first time around in 1990 (which was only recognized by Albania), and the rest is history. If you like, you can read the ICJ opinion on the second and final declaration of independence here. Note the general conclusion, and its absence of any mention of genocide or ethnic cleansing.

        The history of self-determination, in general, does not indicate a consistent precedent of genocide or ethnic cleansing being required in order for self-determination to be considered valid. That would be a ludicrous concept, which would retroactively deny the self-determination of billions of people.

        "We need to put the jam on the bottom shelf where the little people can reach it.” - Ralph Yarborough

        by Zutroy on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 12:52:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We should not be rushed into beligerency, but we (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    should rush to denounce it on the part of Russia.

    Those who denounce the notion of the US sending military forces into other countries to "protect" US interests should also consider whether they are with the other hand condoning the same kinds of behavior by the Russian government in providing cover and justification for that aggression.

    If one opposes imperialism, one should oppose it and be clear on why.

    •  The diary clearly states that Russian occupation.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wreck Smurfy, Sunspots

      The diary clearly states that Russian occupation of Crimea is illegal... and lists some of the many illegalities on both sides  that have preceded it.

      One must not merely oppose imperialism. One must also oppose the constitutional and legal abuses that are its hallmark.

      And, while we should not hold our government to a higher standard than we hold other governments, ours is the one government for which we bear responsibility.

      •  True (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I did not mean to criticize the diary, but rather to expand upon the message and serve up a reminder.  There are far too many who condone imperialism on these pages.

        Where there are abuses, they are to be opposed, but the standard must always be on whether democratic legitimacy and the dignity of citizens is preserved.  When an elected government proceeds to deny that dignity and stack the process ever in its own favor, we should not cling to those corrupt processes.

      •  Yes, the diary technically does that, but (0+ / 0-)

        it mainly just advances the pro-Putin view.

        Nobody knows how many Russian special forces operators are in eastern Ukraine, but it would be folly to say there are none.

        But in any event, this discussion will be moot when Putin occupies eastern Ukraine, which I think is inevitable and soon.

        •  Don't you have any shame, Timaeus? (0+ / 0-)

          Your statement that "[The diary] mainly just advances the pro-Putin view." is purely ad hominem. I think you're smart enough to know what the Latin means.

          And if you are, why are you using it.

          in any event, this discussion will be moot when Putin occupies eastern Ukraine, which I think is inevitable and soon.
          Still waiting for your brilliant Ukrainian academic to make his research available to you. Please be sure to alert me when he does.

          I'm sure the invasion will he hard on the heels of that.

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