Charlie Wilson's War
This week I watched Charlie Wilson's War a second and third time on Netflix. Now I have to read the book: George Crile's Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. The real-life story upon which the book and movie are based is that in the 1980s a Texas congressman, an evangelical Texas socialite, a group of CIA agents, the President of Pakistan and some Saudi financiers got together and funneled a billion-dollars worth of advanced weapons to the mujahideen in Afghanistan. The purpose of the operation according to the gleeful declarations of the CIA operatives in the film was "to kill Russians . . . to kill lots and lots of Russians." The irony, which most people are aware of today, is that those same weapons would eventually be used to kill Americans and their western allies in a war that lasted from October, 2001, until the Taliban declared victory over the USA in August, 2021.
Following the money . . .
Charlie Wilson's War seems oddly relevant today. The US is sending Ukraine 40 billion dollars in military and humanitarian aid, in addition to weapons being sent under the new Lend-Lease Act. Ironically, the original Lend-Lease Act was established during World War II to send military hardware to Russia. Although the aid packages are always presented as gestures of compassion toward Ukrainian widows and orphans, it seems obvious that the end result will be a lot more people dying, and the biggest chunk of these monies will end up in the coffers the eight major US weapons manufacturers.
According to Servant of the People, Ukraine is so corrupt it's funny
Russia's "unprovoked" invasion
Russian Seizure of Crimea in February, 2014
The "Maidan Uprising" and overthrow of Victor Yanucovich in January, 2014
Does Anybody really believe the Ukrainian Revolution was a CIA coup?
- Richard Black, retired colonel, U.S. Marines and U.S. Army JAG Corps and former Virginia State Senator, interviewed on the "Executive Intelligence Review" of the Schiller Institute
- Laurence Wilkerson, retired US army colonel and former Chief of Staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Jay Paul on The Analysis.news
- Eric Zeusse, "How and Why the US Government Perpetrated the 2014 Coup in Ukraine," in moderndiplomancy.eu
- On Quora, Kylee Smith, who describes herself as a "Social Science Major," has compiled a list of links and quotations in answer to the question: "Is there any credible evidence that Ukraine's 2014 revolution was a CIA coup?"
- Bryce Green. "What you should really know about Ukraine?" in Fair.
If it looks like a duck . . .
Why Overthrow Viktor Yanukovych?
Why would the CIA want to overthrow Viktor Yanukovych, the democratically-elected President of Ukraine? The Western narrative is that Yanukovych was pro-Russian and corrupt. Neither claim is particularly accurate or meaningful. As reported on BBC, Radio Free Europe and the Kyiv Post, and compiled on Wikipedia:
Yanukovych's ambition was for Ukraine to be part of an EU trading block centered in Brussels and a Eurasian trading block run from Moscow at the same time. The world today continues to work according to a Cold War logic: either you are with the USA and its allies and alliances, ideologically, politically, militarily and economically, or you must be dealt with. Playing at neutrality, being a bridge, enjoying the best of both worlds, global collaboration and trade deals risk running counter to American interests and are simply not viable options.
Why did President Yanukovych break off negotiations with the EU?
The Western narrative is that Yanukovych was a Russian puppet and Vladimir Putin was pulling his strings. The metaphor is nicely succinct but not very informative. The beginning of the end for Yanucovych was when he broke off negotiations for a European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement. Reports of the negotiations from 2013 (before everything exploded in 2014) tend to offer more information. See, for example, the report from Reuters: "EU Talking to IMF, World Bank and Others about Ukraine Assistance." The gist of the situation was that Ukraine was facing bankruptcy, unable to make its loan payments to the IMF and the World Bank, among others. In order to join the EU, meeting EU standards and regulations, and to avoid defaulting on its loans, the Ukraine would need, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Avarov, a bailout of "20 billion euros." When the offer of financial support was not forthcoming from the EU, Russia offered Ukraine a 15-billion-euro bailout, and Yanukovych broke off negotiations with the EU in order to accept the Russian offer.
The "Maidan Uprising" begins 21 November 2013
When the breakdown of Ukraine's negotiations with the EU was made public, protests began in Maidan Square, they turned bloody, people were killed and, within months, Yanucovich was overthrown. After a number of threats and attempts on his life, Yanucovich fled Ukraine 21 February 2014, and Petro Poroshenco, the billionaire pro-EU, anti-communist became the new President, winning a snap election 25 May 2014. Poroshenco signed the European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement 27 June 2014. Without the requested financial bailout, and with the Russian seizure of Crimea, and escalation of the civil war in the Donbas region, the Ukranian economy went into sharp decline and in the presidential elections of 2019, Poroshenco was defeated by Voldymyr Zelensky. In 2021, Poroschenco fled Ukraine after being accused of "high treason" and financing terrorists for buying coal from separatist regions of Ukraine. Russia launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine 24 February 2022.
Zelensky's First years in office
Zelensky was elected in 2019 in opposition to Petro Poroshenko, the pro-European, militarist, anti-communist incumbent. Zelensky came to power as a peace maker, promising to negotiate with pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region. According to a Wilson Center online article:
Zelensky’s mandate allowed him to promote a peace settlement that would see Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed insurgents withdraw from the so-called “contact line” in eastern Ukraine. Zelensky’s opponents characterized the move as a capitulation that would do nothing but legitimize Russian aggression in the Donets Basin and Crimea, but he retained widespread support from a war-weary public.
Additionally, Zelensky's anti-corruption agenda
progressed well over his first year in office but
[. . . .] by March 2020 everything changed. Zelensky appointed as his new chief of staff Andriy Yermak, a person rumored to have business connections to Russia. Zelensky sacked his cabinet of ministers, and Denys Shmyhal, a former governor who had ties to oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, became the new prime minister. The Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] also voted to remove prosecutor general Ruslan Ryaboshapka, a decision that concerned the West. In selecting his new cabinet, Zelensky appointed numerous figures who had ties to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk. Zelensky, it seemed, was surrounding himself with Ukraine’s old faces.
Why Invade when Zelensky was President?
Why did Russia launch a full-scale invasion in 2022 when Zelensky was President--a politician who, in contrast to Poroshenco, had come to power promising to negotiate with Russia to end the civil war in Eastern Ukraine and was surrounding himself with pro-Russian ministers? The hawkish theory is that Putin took Zelensky's willingness to negotiate as a sign of weakness. Additionally, the FSB (the Russian secret service) paid careful attention to polling in Ukraine and calculated that not only was Zelensky's approval rating dropping but Ukrainians were fed up with the civil war that had been going on for more than eight years and would be ready to accept an invasion and Russian hegemony if it meant peace.
A countervailing theory is that Zelensky really wasn't in control of the country. There were too many disparate elements working to control Ukraine: Europhiles, nationalists, NATO, oligarchs, Neo-nazi militias, and especially the USA through the CIA and NGOs likeTechCamp and the NED (the public face of the CIA). After 2014, the operation was no longer covert. The USA was providing a massive build-up of weaponry, military technology and training to Ukraine. The military build-up only made the headlines in the USA as an aside in the impeachment hearings against Donald Trump. Presumably, with Joe Biden, an old-time cold warrior whose son was heavily invested in Ukraine, taking office, the Russians felt compelled to move sooner rather than later to re-establish their hegemony over Ukraine.
What is a "CIA covert operation"?
In considering the question of the CIA involvement in the "Maidan uprising," it is useful to consider what a "covert CIA operation" is. How would we know one if we saw one? What should we be looking for as evidence? Yes, lots of people claim to know it was a CIA coup and share their opinions. Yes, from a distance, the prima facia evidence is that what happened looks like a CIA operation. But for the more skeptical among us, what empirical evidence is there? Okay, if it was a "covert" operation, we can't expect to see video of somebody with CIA printed on his flak jacket machine-gunning the Ukrainian parliament. And even if such a video existed, we would rightly assume it was Russian misinformation and propaganda. We need to keep in mind what is known about how the CIA goes about a covert operation in the overthrow of a regime. A recent article, entitled "The (Literally) Unbelievable Story of the Original Fake News Network," offers extensive, detailed historical research on how "a cocky American actor and two radio DJs" hired by the CIA were able to launch a revolution and oust the President of Guatemala. As the article points out:
[ . . .] the CIA didn’t just use media manipulation to turn a country upside down and install the president that the U.S. wanted. The agency wrote a six-stage, step-by-step playbook for exactly how to do it.
The agency playbook is written in allusive bureaucratize, so here is my bowdlerized, boiled-down interpretation:
Identify and confirm replacement leadership for the regime to be overthrown (e.g. the Shah in Iran, Pinochet in Chile, Castillo Armas in Guatemala)
Establish a narrative to justify the coup, spinning events to conform to the narrative.
Identify, manage, encourage or create a civil conflict.
Use resources on the ground to manipulate the media, creating panic and/or opposition within the general public.
Arrange mass demonstrations and riots as needed.
Bolster, support, finance, train and motivate opposition forces, infiltrating if necessary, to determine that they will take action when needed.
The CIA playbook in Ukraine
1. Identify replacement leadership. In the leaked telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland, assistant Secretary of State, and Geoffrey Pyatt, US Ambassador to the Ukraine, 4 February 2014 (17 days before Yanucovych was overthrown in the bloody coup), we can hear the Americans consulting on the make-up of the next Ukrainian government. We hear them considering that Vitali Klitschko (leader of the party named after Petro Poroschenco--who became president after the coup) as a problem for the position of deputy Prime Minister. Nuland says that "Klitch should not go into the government." He became Mayor of Kyiv after the coup. Nuland and Pyatt agree that Arseniy Yatsenyuk will run the new government, with conditions that have been explained to him. Yatsenyuk became Prime Minister of Ukraine after the uprising but was forced to resign by President Poroschenco two years later. Pyatt comments that "the problem is going to be Tyahnybok and his guys." Oleh Tyahnybok was a leader of the Social-National Party of Ukraine which would later become Svoboda. Interpretations of his speeches and politics label him a Neo-Nazi. Nuland's position, in the call, is that Yatsenyuk "needs Klitch and Tyahnybok [the extreme right-wing nationalists] on the outside." "He [Yatsenyuk, the new leader of Ukraine] needs to be talking to them four times a week." Why? Will the new government leader be giving instructions to right-wing nationalists outside of government, or will he be receiving orders from them? Step one of the CIA playbook seems confirmed: US representatives have decided what the leadership and power structure in Ukraine will be after the coup.
Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt with Vitali Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk
2. Establish a narrative. As we have seen, the narrative was that Yanucovych was a corrupt Russian puppet leading his people away from the promised prosperity of EU membership. The right-wing, ultra-ethnic-nationalist party, Svoboda (All-Ukrainian Union "Freedom" Party) was given credibility and even managed to gain 10% of the vote in the parliamentary elections in 2012. (After 2014 Svoboda virtually disappeared from the political landscape.) As we have seen in the Nuland-Pyatt phone conversation, the plan was to keep Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of Svaboda, out of government but for him to play a role as the power behind the throne to be occupied by Arseniy Yatsenyuk. At the same time, the narrative would be spread that EU and NATO membership, at any cost, were the true desire of the unified Ukrainian people (ignoring the fact that about a third of the population was Russian-speaking and likely pro-Russian). Yanucovych's neutralist discourse would go largely unreported. We will never know if Yanucovych intended to go back to negotiations with the EU after accepting the Russian bailout. On 24 January 2019, he was sentenced in absentia to thirteen years' imprisonment for high treason by a Ukrainian court.--and remains in exile in Russia.
Victoria Nuland with Oleh Tyahnybok, Vitali Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk
3. Identify and manage a civil conflict. Ukraine was the bloodiest battleground between Nazis and Communist in World War II. Some Ukrainians saw the Nazis as their saviors from the Soviet Communists. Some Ukrainians, especially Jews (more Jews were killed in Ukraine during the Holocaust that anywhere else in Europe), viewed the Communists as their saviors from the Nazis. The underlying, historical conflict has never completely disappeared. As reported by the New York Times, Ukraine is divided between its pro-EU west and pro-Russian east. Ukraine remains home to diehard Communists and avowed Neo-Nazis. They may be marginal extremes in the population but they represent a conflict that is easy for the CIA to exploit covertly and the USA to exploit publicly.
The BBC, Vice and Insider have done a number of reports on Neo-Nazis in Ukraine. When interviewed, participants often repudiate the label "Neo-Nazis" and describe themselves as "nationalists."
4. Resources on the ground to manipulate the media. In a speech before the Ukrainian parliament in November, 2013, Deputy Oleg Tsarov claimed to have "proof of USA staging civil war in Ukraine." Tsarov was elected to the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, representing regions of Eastern Ukraine, on three separate occasions. He has been wanted by Ukrainian police since June 2014 for promoting separatism and violence. As you can see/hear in the Youtube video, Tsarov claims that the US embassy in Kyiv was using "TechCamp" in the support and preparation of a civil war in Ukraine. As recorded, he goes on to say . . .
American instructors explained how social networks and Internet technologies can be used for targeted manipulation of public opinion as well as to activate protest potential to provoke violent unrest on the territory of Ukraine, radicalization of the population and triggering of infighting.
TechCamp Ukraine (and others) is organized by the US Department of State and publicly promoted as supplying American technical expertise to Ukrainians (and other Eastern Europeans).
5. Arrange mass demonstrations. The irrefutable evidence that the anti-government forces were well trained and tech savvy was the speed and efficiency with which the Maidan Square demonstrations were organized. The breakdown of negotiations with the EU was announced 21 November 2013. By all accounts, the protest demonstrations with thousands of people gathering in the Maidan Square began the very same day. The BBC and others reported and videoed the demonstrations. (The man leading the crowd in the singing of the national anthem in this video is Vitali Klitschko, the right-wing nationalist who Victoria Nuland said should not be in the government but would remain a power broker. In the conversation, February 4, Pyatt tells Nuland, "He [Klitschko] is the next phone call you want to set up.") Lots of average Ukrainians were there to protest against the government and its policies, to support their preferred political party (there are 349 political parties in Ukraine), and to demand EU membership. Some were there to protest the protestors, but the uprising was clearly salted with right-wing militias (young men with faces covered who refused to identify themselves or their party or politics).
6. Motivate opposition forces to take action. One hundred and thirty people died, directly and indirectly, in the Maidan Uprising, including 18 police officers. BBC video includes footage of the shooting, an interview with Andriy Shevchenko, one of the organizers of the protests who is today Ukraine's Ambassador to Canada, and an interview with one of the protestors who confesses to shooting at police. While there is no doubt that police shot and killed protestors, protestors also shot and killed police. Protest organizers claim that the shooters were Russians trying to stir up the civil war in the east, and Russians claim the shooting was backed by the CIA, for, more or less, the same reason.
Is Ihor Lutsenko the "smoking gun"?
Who is Ihor Lutsenko? The very first name on the List of people killed during the Revolution of Dignity is Yuriy Verbytskyi and the explanation of his death is that he and his friend, Ihor Lutsenko, were kidnapped from a hospital, taken to the country side, questioned and tortured. Yuriy died, but Ihor survived. Ihor Lutsenko is, therefore, one of a small number of people who might give us some access to the most covert elements of the "Maidan Uprising." On Wikipedia he is described as a Maidan organizer, journalist and politician, who lost his seat in 2019, and is now "an adviser of the Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko" (that is, Victoria Nuland's power broker who figured so prominently in videos of the demonstration).
Continuing to search the name "Ihor Lutsenko," I came to this website: "C14 - Radical right-wing group with youth camps, paramilitary unit and history of violence" which lists Ihor Lutsenko as a "related" individual who collaborates with C14. (C14 and the "Right Sector" are featured in multiple BBC videos.) The website in question is called "Reporting Radicalism" and is partnered with Freedom House in Washington.
I could find only one article in English with the details of Ihor's and Yuriy's kidnapping and torture: "Abducted And Left To Die: Euromaidan Supporter Found Dead In Forest" in a blog published by Radio Free Europe. According to the article:
He [Ihor Lutsenko] told Ukraine's Hromadske TV: "This was definitely done in police style. These people effectively interrogated us. They repeatedly asked me, for instance, how Euromaidan was operated and who financed it."
"On the other hand, I don't think that [President Viktor] Yanukovych and those on his side lack this information, they can clearly obtain it from different sources."
What Difference does it make?
Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt at the Maidan demonstrations
The Tail wagging the dog
"Good against Evil": What more do we need to know?
Today we know that US policy is to promote a lengthy war in Ukraine, to weaken Russia in a proxy war of attrition . . . "to fight to the last Ukrainian"--a rehearsal for the proxy war to come in Taiwan. No matter how obvious the chaos of competing interests, the Machiavellic games being played, the message remains the same: "it's a battle of good against evil." Our leaders and the dominant voices in our media have assured us that we are on the side of good. What more do we need to know?
Representative Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat on the House Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, said in an interview that the relationships Ukrainian commandos developed with American and other counterparts over the past several years had proved invaluable in the fight against Russia.