Monday 5 September 2022

Who Do You Believe?

Who Do you believe? 

Recently, a friend gave me a copy of Tim Marshall's fascinating book, Prisoners of Geography:  Ten Maps that Explain Everything about the World. (Thanks Tom!)  In Prisoners of Geography, Marshall claims that "The Germans were involved in the machinations that overthrew Ukraine's President Yanukovych in 2014 [. . .] (102).  Out of curiosity, I googled "Germany involvement Ukraine overthrow."  Two websites came up as most relevant--World Socialist Web Site and Vox Ukraine--neither of which answered my question but they gave rise to another question:  Who do you believe?

What We say is information; what they say is disinformation

The article entitled "The 2014 coup in Ukraine" on the World Socialist Web Site begins:

The background and implications of the 2014 far-right coup in Kiev, which overthrew the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, is critical for understanding the current Ukraine-Russia war. This coup was openly supported by US and European imperialism and implemented primarily by far-right shock troops such as the Right Sector and the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party.

It represented the temporary culmination of long-standing efforts by US imperialism to install a puppet regime on the borders of Russia and brought the world a major step closer to a war between the largest nuclear powers, the US and Russia. Ukraine has since been systematically built up as a launching pad for a NATO war against Russia.

The second most relevant URL was a Vox Ukraine article entitled "The Maidan in 2014 is a coup d’etat: a review of Italian and German pro-Russian media."  The article is presented as "fact checking" and offers examples of "fake news" and "the truth" which contradicts this "fake news."

Fake: The Maidan in 2014 is a coup d’etat

Since 2014, the German publication RT.DE has mentioned Maidan in numerous publications as a place where a coup d’etat took place in Ukraine. A number of Italian media outlets, including and Glindifferenti, share this view.  [. . . .]

What is the truth?

Allegations of an alleged coup d’etat in the downtown of Kyiv are typical rhetoric of the Kremlin, which thus justifies its own aggression. Putin himself mentions it again and again [. . . .]

The Revolution of dignity [aka Maidan Uprising] has absolutely no signs of a coup d’etat .

 So, Who do you believe?

I have reviewed a number of articles, essays and polls in my modest search for my own modest version of the truth--what is coherent, based on the known and/or agreed-upon facts, and follows logically.  The challenge is to separate fact from opinion and, more importantly, fact from spin.

The Agreed-upon facts

Despite the semantic debate, hyperbole, the divergent characterization of the various agents, the word choices and loaded vocabulary, and the inclusion or exclusion of particular details, a number of agreed-upon facts do emerge:

  1. The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was overthrown in 2014. 
  2. Over one hundred people were killed in the process of overthrowing Yanukovych.   
  3. The USA supported the overthrow of Yanukovych. 
  4. The demonstrations, protests and eventual overthrow occurred when Yanukovych withdrew from a trade agreement with the EU. 
  5. What happened in 2014 and how it is interpreted matter:  they affect how we understand the war in Ukraine today.

Interpretations and Spin of the agreed-upon facts 

I can immediately imagine individuals disputing these "facts," suggesting alternative "facts," or dismissing these five facts as irrelevant.  However, based on my reading, these five facts are agreed-upon, self-evident, and unchallenged by both sides of the debate.  I highlight both sides to immediately point out that I am not talking about a Russian side or a Ukrainian side or a US side or a NATO or European or Communist or Democratic side.  There is a divergence of opinion in each of these cohorts and I immediately dismiss claims that "this is what all Ukrainians think" or "this is what all Russians think" or "this is what all Americans think."  The "sides" in this case are those that claim a coup in 2014 and those that deny a coup in 2014.  I have written on this blog that the evidence of a coup seems strong, even obvious and overt.  The fact that I now see significant effort to deny that the Maidan Uprising was "a coup" tells me that the question of a coup is an important one.   

1. The President of Ukraine was overthrown. Deniers of a coup will add that Yanukovych was a powerful oligarch, corrupt, a Russian puppet and showing signs of becoming a dictator.  What deniers leave unsaid is that Yanukovych was democratically elected.  Yanukovych's election was overseen by "Observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) [who] said there were no indications of serious fraud and described the vote as an 'impressive display' of democracy."

2. People died in the overthrow.  According to the National Memorial to the Heavenly Hundred Heroes' description of the "Revolution of Dignity," the Maidan began with 1500 protestors, mostly students, but grew to hundreds of thousands in response to Ukrainian security forces' beating some of the students. The National Memorial reports that 

On the 61st day of Maidan, at the place of protests, the first two activists were shot. As at that moment, there were already two dead outside the places of confrontation. It was around a month when the power structure tried to clean up the city centre from protesters.

Only in the night of 22 February 2014, President Yanukovich escaped to Russia by using a charter jet. The amount of 108 victims of the Revolution of Dignity was officially determined. Most of the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred died from fire wounds on 20 February 2014.

According to Wikipedia's "List of people killed during the Revolution of Dignity," there were 130 victims.  The Wikipedia list includes 18 police officers.  BBC news video reports show protestors being fired upon and police being fired upon by protestors.

3. USA supported the overthrow.  Over the last eight years, the USA's support for post-2014 Ukraine has been displayed in increasingly bold and frequent headlines.  We know that under both presidents Biden and Trump the USA has sent tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. We know that within weeks of the February 2014 overthrow, the Director of the CIA, John Brennan, was in Ukraine.  Two months after the overthrow, Vice-President Joe Biden was in Ukraine to give a press conference with the American choice to lead the government, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and to promise Ukrainians on behalf of the USA, "we’re in the struggle for your very future." We know that individuals from both the US government and the CIA have praised CIA collaboration in Ukraine.  But what about in February 2014 and earlier?  We know about the infamous Nuland/Pyatt telephone conversation planning the post-overthrow government and power structure before the overthrow happened.  And, of course, we know that Nuland and Pyatt made themselves available for various photo-ops with the Maidan demonstrators and the eventual over-throwers.  We also know of complaints in the Ukrainian parliament in 2013 about TechCamps being run in the US embassy in Kyiv to promote civil unrest.  In this context, what truly surprises me is that in the various denials of a coup I have read there is no mention of the USA or American involvement.

4. Uprising began when the President withdrew from a trade agreement with the EU. Withdrawal from a trade agreement seems an insufficient cause for the chaos and bloodshed which followed.  Clearly the failed negotiations of the trade agreement provided a context for the uprising but what were the underlying reasons?  One side argues that in addition to being friendly with Moscow, Yanukovych was making moves toward dictatorship enforced by his security apparatus.  The other claims that the uprising was a power grab spearheaded by ultra-nationalist Neo-Nazis.  Neither of these claims is a sufficient explanation for the sudden large-scale uprising. Both sides blame the other for the escalation in violence and bloodshed.  Both sides were prepared to use deadly force and eventually did.  

As a Canadian, I try to imagine a similar situation here, and there are some parallels between Canada and Ukraine.  Like Ukraine, Canada is often geopolitically divided between east and west.  More specifically the independence movements in the Donbas and Crimea are at least superficially similar to Quebec's aspirations for greater autonomy and even sovereignty.  In Canada, we have come to accept that in order for a Prime Minister and his party to be elected, they must have support in French-speaking Quebec.  As reported in the New York Times, President Yanukovych and his Regions Party depended on strong support from Ukraine's eastern provinces in order to be elected.  As in Canada, language tensions are a constant feature of Ukrainian politics.  28% of Ukrainians speak Russian, most living in the eastern regions; 22% of Canadians speak French, most living in Quebec.  The difference I see is there has, historically, been a strong movement to make Ukrainian the national language to the detriment of Russian and other minority languages.  Western Canadians may not always like it but, for the most part, have come to accept the French language and asymmetrical power-sharing with Quebec as facts of life in Canada.

Am I suggesting that the Maidan Uprising can be understood as a language issue?  Absolutely not.  I am suggesting a myriad of causes--no single one being sufficient-- which coalesced around the EU trade negotiations with the catalyst of US support and encouragement.

5. What Happened in 2014 matters

– unconstitutionality;
- violent character;
– a small number of organizers and participants;
- seizure of power as the main goal.

5.1 Unconstitutionality. At face value, the events of the Maidan Uprising satisfy each of these criteria.  However, the article argues that the overthrow of the democratically elected President was constitutional on the grounds that "the only source of power in Ukraine is the people."  The argument echoes Vice President Joe Biden's speech of 22 April 2014, "that all Ukrainians can agree on the core idea that government exists to serve the people.  The people do not exist to serve the government." It is, of course, a slippery claim that "the people" have the constitutional right to overthrow the elected government, especially for President Joe Biden, as he now presents the counter argument in the context of the January 6 attempts to overthrow the election results in the US.

5.2 Violent character. In denying the violent character of events, the National Memorial claims that 

The violent actions of the authorities forced the protesters to use means of self-defense, mostly homemade shields, helmets, batons, and "Molotov cocktails." Therefore, the use of self-defense by protesters was forced, provoked by the criminal actions of those in power [ . . .].

However in a paper entitled "The 'Snipers' Massacre' on the Maidan in Ukraine" presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in 2015,  Ivan Katchanovski of the University of Ottawa concludes

[ . . .] that the massacre was a false flag operation, which was rationally planned and carried out with a goal of the overthrow of the government and seizure of power. [The study] found various evidence of the involvement of an alliance of the far right organizations, specifically the Right Sector and Svoboda, and oligarchic parties, such as Fatherland. Concealed shooters and spotters were located in at least 20 Maidan-controlled buildings or areas. The various evidence that the protesters were killed from these locations include some 70 testimonies, primarily by Maidan protesters, several videos of “snipers” targeting protesters from these buildings, comparisons of positions of the specific protesters at the time of their killing and their entry wounds, and bullet impact signs.

In the detailed evidence and analysis of his 80-page report, Katchanovski makes a brief reference to the fact Globe and Mail reporter Paul Waldie was in the Hotel Ukraine, a stronghold of the Maidan protestors, during the massacre, and witnessed protestors carrying guns which were used to kill police and, according to Katchanovski, their fellow protestors in order to discredit the government.  In his report for the Globe and Mail, "Globe in Kiev: Yanukovych regime’s hold is shaken after a deadly day," Waldie recounts that

Some protesters had guns as well and at least one could be seen taking aim at officers. A group of protesters, some carrying guns, also rushed into the hotel in the morning to get a better vantage point to attack police across the street. At least 37 people died, with some reports putting the figure as high as 70. Several hundred were also wounded.

In the body of his study, Katchanovski claims that Maidan protestors were the first to use deadly force, i.e. "live ammunition": "analyses of various sources of evidence indicate that the cease-fire agreement was broken by the Maidan side in the early morning, when small groups of armed protesters started to shoot from the Music Conservatory building with live ammunition [. . . ]." 

5.3 A small number of organizers and participants. For deniers of a coup, the "Revolution of Dignity" (aka Maidan Uprising) was the will of the great majority of the Ukrainian people.  For example, both Vox Ukraine and the National Memorial claim that over 8.5 million Ukrainians, 20% of the population, took part in protests against the government during the Revolution of Dignity.  The evidence for these numbers is a poll carried out in Ukraine in October 2014.

According to a sociological poll conducted in October 2014 by the Ilko Kucheriv Foundation for Democratic Initiatives, about 20% of Ukraine’s population, more than 8.5 million people, took part in peaceful rallies. The poll showed that most citizens perceived participating in the protests as a conscious struggle for their rights.

However, the poll being referred to  did not claim "8.5 million people took part in peaceful rallies" nor did it show "that most citizens perceived participating in the protests as a conscious struggle for their rights." According to the poll data,11% of the 2,025 respondents (i.e., 223 people) claimed to have "participated in Euromaidan events" and 9% "helped the protestors" in some way. Given the context of the survey within celebrations of the Revolution of Dignity, it is perhaps more striking that 81.6% of interviewees responded "I did not participate."

Contrary to the claim that "The poll showed that most citizens perceived participating in the protests as a conscious struggle for their rights," the poll actually showed that 37.9% shared this perception and the great majority of them were from Western Ukraine; i.e., 70.5%.  According to the poll (being cited by coup deniers), 31.2% of respondents perceived the Euromaidan/Revolution of Dignity/Maidan Uprising to be a "coup d'état."

What, in your opinion, was Euromaidan? Regional differences







Ukraine in general

A coup d'état carried out with the support of the West







A coup d'état to be prepared by the political opposition







Spontaneous protest of the population







Conscious struggle of citizens united to protect their rights















5.4 Seizure of power as main goal.  In denying a coup, the National Memorial claims that the goal of the Maidan Uprising was not "seizure of power" but "the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU."  The claim is followed by a list of idealistic ambitions almost none of which were achieved following Maidan.  The "seizure of power" may not have been the intended goal in everyone's mind, but we know with certainty that the major figures behind the Maidan did come to power in the aftermath:  most notably, Petro Poroshenko became President, Arseniy Yatsenyu became Prime Minister, and Vitali Klitschko became Mayor of Kyiv.

And, of course, what is left out of denials of a coup is the role of western governments.  As outlined in the Globe and Mail, 20 February 2014--"Canada imposes new sanctions on senior Ukrainian officials"--Canada, the USA and the EU had shown their strong support for the Maidan Uprising in advance of the overthrow of the Viktor Yanukovych government.  Whatever your opinion of Maidan as a coup or not, we can agree that understanding the war means understanding Maidan.

Sunday 7 August 2022

The War in Afghanistan that the USA Won

"We Won!"

According to Charlie Wilson's War, by George Crile, when the last Russian troops were driven out of Afghanistan by the mujahideen (Islamic "holy warriors") in February 1989, Milt Bearden, head of the CIA's Islamabad station cabled simply "We won."  Crile's work brings together a wealth of knowledge and experience, in-depth insight into the issues and geopolitics, and extensive research into and interviews with all the major players.  Beyond a detailed history of the USA's covert war against the Russians in Afghanistan, Charlie Wilson's War provides a guided tour of the internal operations of the CIA and a study of the fraught relationship between the US government and its spy agency.  Crile details how a motley crew of characters--Congressman Charlie Wilson, socialite Joanne Herring, rogue CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, and young savant warfare strategist Mike Vickers, to name but a few--managed to manipulate global politics involving the USA, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, Iran and China, and, arguably, provoked the collapse of the Soviet Union in November 1989.  In short, the book tells us how the CIA works, how the American government works, and even, in some measure, how the world works--and it's never quite as we might imagine.

What Is a "proxy war"?

I was drawn to Charlie Wilson's War because it opened a door to understanding what is happening in Ukraine today.  The Russian invasion of Ukraine, like the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, (and for that matter like the Vietnam War and the Korean War) is a proxy war between Russia and the USA.  In the simplest of terms, a "proxy war" means the hegemonic nations at war aren't necessarily the people who are actually fighting on the battlefield. I had thought the cynical expression about the USA's "fighting to the last Ukrainian" was original to the Russia-Ukraine war.  However, the expression is used repeatedly in Charlie Wilson's War as the CIA struggled to avoid the perception that  "The USA was ready to fight to the last Afghan."

 An "Unprovoked" "proxy war"?

The parallels between the Russia-Afghanistan-USA war and the Russia-Ukraine-USA war are multiple.  But the divergences are even more instructive.  The most obvious similarity between the two wars is that in both cases they are "proxy wars" between Russia and the USA (and its NATO allies). This most obvious fact about the war in Ukraine--that it is a proxy war--is the least likely fact to be reported in Western media.  This fact cannot be repeated because it contradicts a dominant theme in Western reports that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was "unprovoked."  Of all the moral, legal, geopolitical and even pragmatic insults and aspersions that can justifiable describe the Russian invasion, the one that makes the least sense and is the least credible is the one we hear most often, that it was "unprovoked."

An Overt war versus a covert war:  The remarkable differences

The key difference between how the USA supported and armed the Afghan tribal warlords and how the USA is now supporting and arming the Ukrainian military and Ukraine's various militias is the difference between a covert and an overt war.  In my previous post I asked the question "Was the 2014 Maidan Uprising in Kyiv a covert CIA operation?" and concluded that it could hardly be called covert.  It seems possible, maybe even probable that the Orange Revolution in 2004 overturning the presidential election in Ukraine was a US-backed operation.    It seems evident and obvious that the Maidan Revolution in 2014 was a US operation and there was surprising little effort made to hide the fact.  When Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt's telephone conversation planning who would run the Ukrainian government after the 2014 coup was leaked to the public, Nuland's only comment was that the leak was "good spy-craft." She didn't even bother to deny the implication that the Maidan Uprising was a US-supported overthrow of the government.  Instead, she and Ambassador Pyatt presented themselves for photo-ops with the demonstrators who would, shortly afterwards, overthrow the democratically-elected government in a bloody coup. 


The Contrast makes the point

As recounted in Charlie Wilson's War,  in the 1980s, the CIA was obsessed with keeping their operations clandestine in order to avoid provoking Russia into escalation: invading Pakistan or using nuclear weapons or both.  As Crile points out, the war in Afghanistan was barely even reported in US media. The CIA went to great extents to hide the source of the new high-tech weapons they were funneling to the mujahideen but, at the same time, they had the challenge of muting the politicians and hawks at home in the USA who were calling for escalation and threatening to blow the lid off the covert operation.  In Ukraine, from the 2004 overthrow to the 2014 coup to American bio-labs established in Ukraine to the tens of billions of dollars in weapons flowing from the USA to Ukraine, (not to mention the expansion of NATO to Russia's borders and the declarations in Ukraine of then Vice President Joe Biden) the Americans have publicly goaded the Russians into escalation, daring them to use nuclear weapons and/or to invade a NATO ally.  The same people who claim that Vladimir Putin is amoral and insane seem equally convinced that he won't do the obviously amoral and insane and use his substantial nuclear arsenal. 

"The Enemy of my enemy is my friend." 

Pakistan's role was crucial in ousting the Soviets from Afghanistan.  The Afghan forces would have been unable to fight without being able to retreat, regroup and be rearmed and resupplied through northern Pakistan.  The Americans' greatest concern was that the Russians would continue their invasion into Pakistan.  Had they done so, they might likely have been victorious in the region.

Four NATO countries share a border with Ukraine--Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.  If Russia were to attack any of these countries, the USA and all NATO members would, by treaty, be obligated to join the conflict.  A nuclear World War III would begin.

One of the biggest differences between Afghanistan in the 1980s and Ukraine in the 2020s is the shifting of alliances.  Most importantly, in the 1980s, China and the Soviet Union were considered mortal enemies.  In the 1980s, China manufactured weapons for the CIA which were distributed through Pakistan to arm the Afghans against the Russians.  Currently, the USA is imposing sanctions and sabre rattling against both China and Russia, forcing an alliance between these powerful, erstwhile unfriendly neighbours who now present a public face as the best of friends.

Comparing Outcomes:  Afghanistan versus Ukraine

We now know that once the Afghans had driven out the Russians using American technology, weaponry and training, the various tribal warlords began to turn on each other.  The Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Landen emerged from the chaos as dominant forces in Afghanistan.  In 2001, from their bases in Afghanistan, bin Landen and a team of his fellow Saudis developed a plan to crash commercial jet liners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the White House.  (Since the CIA had made arrangements for Saudi Arabia to supply fully half of all financial aid going to the mujahideen, it is possible that Afghan warriors never fully realized that they were being armed by the USA.)  What followed  was an American invasion of Afghanistan (after a devastating and pointless invasion of Iraq) and a war that lasted 20 years, destroyed lives, cost trillions of dollars and ended in a US surrender returning the Taliban to power.

There are enormous differences between Afghanistan and Ukraine, but in both cases you have the USA pouring billions of dollars into countries known for their corruption which have ongoing civil wars and long-standing internal strife. In both cases, you have the USA supplying massive funds and armaments seemingly without paying much attention to who exactly they are funding and arming. In Afghanistan, the influx of massive amounts of US capital created a kleptocracy.  Hamid Karzai, the USA's choice to lead Afghanistan, attempted to hold the country together through nepotism, cronyism, bribes and favours, and failed miserably.

Arseniy Yatsenyu, the American choice to lead Ukraine after 2014, only lasted two years in office. Petro Poroshenko, the post-2014, anti-communist President of Ukraine was not only voted out of office after one term but had to flee the country, accused of high treason.  Volodymyr Zelensky, the actor who played the President of Ukraine in a TV comedy series and was then elected President of Ukraine in reality, came out of nowhere--sort of.

Since the Russian invasion, Zelensky has been aptly compared to Winston Churchill.  However, Zelensky's image has been showing signs of tarnish in recent weeks as Amnesty International has accused Ukrainian forces of war crimes, he has fired two of his closest advisors and his ambassador to Germany, and carried out extensive purges of suspected pro-Russians throughout his government.  Zelensky's attempts to make a direct appeal to China's Xi Jinping is unlikely to please Washington.  It is worth remembering that Churchill was voted out of office two months after the end of World War II.

We know from the Nuland/Pyatt telephone call that the plan was to keep the ultra-nationalist, right-wing extremists (Oleh Tyahnybok and Vitali Klitschko) out of government.  However, since the invasion, the right-wing groups and their militias have proven to be the most skilled and determined fighters, and have become heroes, even to the minorities, Roma, Jews, moderates, socialists, and LGBTs who were their victims in the past. 

What Does victory look like?

Russian victory. Interviewed on "Underground" on RT (Russia Today--which is now banned in the West), John Bolton, Trump's one-time National Security Advisor, was to the point: Russia has no interest in holding Ukraine.  Bolton claimed that once Russia had control of the eastern provinces, Crimea and a southern port, they could and likely would, if necessary, lay waste to the rest of the Ukraine.

In the event of Russian victory, a best case scenario would be a Ukraine divided between East and West (not unlike North and South Korea, China and Taiwan, India and Pakistan, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, etc--the list of similar examples gets pretty long).

I have heard the claim expressed with great conviction that if Putin defeats Ukraine he will continue to expand the Russian empire and invade neighbouring countries. I fail to see the logic or any evidence for this prognosis.  I have to assume that it is based on the underlying assumption that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked and Putin is a power-hungry madman.  I suppose part of my reluctance to accept this analysis is that it implies that Russia must be defeated at any cost and makes a nuclear war inevitable.

Ukrainian victory. The results of a Ukrainian victory are much more complicated and difficult to predict.  The best case scenario from a Western perspective is that the war-weary people of Russia will rise up and overthrow the regime.  However, Putin has shown what he can and effectively will do to maintain his dictatorship.  Moreover, from a Russian perspective, the people have seen this scenario before in recent history.  With liberalization and greater openness to the West under Gorbachev then Yeltsin, bringing down the wall, agreeing to the re-unification of Germany, Russians expected immediate prosperity, security, and that there would be no expansion of NATO.  Whether or not Russian expectations were justified is much debated, but it is clear that the Russian people didn't get what they expected.  Can the West reasonably expect the Russian people to buy the same set of promises again?

The least likely and worst case scenario would be the collapse of the Russian nation-state. The Caspienreport offers a detailed analysis of why a collapse is unlikely, but at the same time, how the collapse (if ever it should happen) would lead to decades of wars as neighbouring countries begin to claim the territories of a defeated Russia.

Ukraine Back to the future?

Ukraine cannot return to the days before the Russian invasion (2014 to 2022) because that would be a return to the civil war between East and West.  Ukraine cannot return to the days before 2014 or 2004 because that would be a return to Russian hegemony.  The great hope is that a strong, independent, unified Ukraine will join the European Union and NATO.  However, with or without Zelensky, in the aftermath of the war, an ultra-nationalist government and the bloody purge of Russians, pro-Russians and suspected Russian sympathizers seem likely. Such "ethnic cleansing" would prevent Ukraine's membership in the EU and NATO.  Paradoxically, the same cadre which might give Ukraine a victory might also prevent Ukraine from enjoying the benefits of victory.  The rise of a Ukrainian Neo-Nazi equivalent of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Landen isn't the worst possible nightmare, but it would be a nightmare.


This CBS documentary looks at how Ukrainian forces are being supplied and armed: Arming Ukraine:  A NATO and Western Perspective

In interviews, the embedded CBS reporter is told that "only 30% of the supplies are getting to the frontlines."

From The Grayzone:

CBS deletes documentary promo on corrupt Ukraine military aid after US gov’t pressure


Update 2

From The Grayzone, in an interview with Futon Armstrong, the USA's National Intelligence Officer for Latin America, Armstrong provides the following analysis of the various levels of US-supported coups.

FULTON ARMSTRONG:  Coups, we have to be careful.  Just a teeny bit of history here, that when the US government supports coups, it’s done on different levels.  There’s the highly political level where the policy is to achieve regime change without actually getting into the mud with potential coup plotters.  A second level would be one where we establish it as a policy, and we, through various players in the US government, including covert players but also overt players, go out and sort of look for people who say, think, sort of ‘help me rid me of this priest’ sort of stuff.  And then the third one is when you’re hands-on and you’re actually recruiting people, arming people, and setting particular operations in motion.

 Note:  In my blog post (above) it is clear, evident and uncontested that the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in 2014 was a "level two" US-supported coup.  There is reason to suspect but insufficient evidence available to someone like me that the coup in Kyiv went all the way to a "level three."

Monday 27 June 2022

Was the 2014 Maidan Uprising in Kyiv a CIA Covert Operation?

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 of the eight major US weapons manufacturers.

According to Servant of the People, Ukraine is so corrupt it's funny

Ukraine is frequently portrayed as a corrupt nation.  Operation Odessa, the documentary about a Colombian drug cartel's attempt to buy a nuclear submarine, was truly gobsmack-worthy. In the Ukrainian comedy series Servant of the People, staring Volodymyr Zelensky, the underlying premise is endemic Ukrainian corruption. Even testimony before the US congress, though it was focused on whether or not President Trump should be impeached for his attempts to get the dirt on Hunter Biden's business in Ukraine,  showed an underlying assumption that corruption in Ukraine was rampant.  No doubt when the people of Ukraine elected Volodymyr Zelensky and his Servant of the People Party, in 2019, they thought he would take on corruption the same way he did as the fictional President of Ukraine in the TV comedy.   

 Russia's "unprovoked" invasion

Although we are bombarded with coverage of the war in Ukraine these days, the country's cloak-and-dagger history makes it difficult to grasp where we are right now and how we got here.  Western legacy, mainstream media wants me to believe that Vladimir Putin, "unprovoked," decided to invade Ukraine because he's a nasty, immoral gangster, because he's an egomaniac and megalomaniac, because it might add to his personal wealth and prestige, because he wants the Soviet Union back.  All these claims might be true but they don't add up to an explanation for the war at this point in history unless we add that Putin is irrational and insane, at which point the narrative really begins to lose credibility.

Russian Seizure of Crimea in February, 2014

Timelines explaining the war in Ukraine often begin in 2014. In 2014 Russian forces seized Crimea which was, at the time, part of Ukraine.  According to the most recent census, 67.9% of Crimean residents consider themselves Russian.  After the Russian invasion of Crimea, the USA and other Western governments began imposing sanctions on Russia. Why did Russia invade Crimea in 2014?

The "Maidan Uprising" and overthrow of Victor Yanucovich in January, 2014

In Ukraine, 2014 was the year of the "Maidan Uprising," also known as Euromaidan and the Revolution of Dignity, and the presumed cause of the timing of Russia's seizure of Crimea.  Numerous sources I have encountered claim that the "Maidan Uprising" was a covert CIA operation.  Why should I believe that this is true? And even if it is true, what difference does it make?

Does Anybody really believe the Ukrainian Revolution was a CIA coup?

Here is a short list of some of the people who claim that the "Maidan Uprising" was a CIA covert operation:

If it looks like a duck . . .

Part of the reason we might imagine that the 2014 Ukrainian revolution was a CIA op is because it looks like the CIA plots that we already know about:  a riot bought and paid for by the CIA brought down Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran in order to protect US oil interest, the overthrow of Allende in Chile to support US copper interests, the coup against Arbenz in Guatamala at the behest of the United Fruit company.  

We know that one of the very first covert CIA operations was an attempt to infiltrate Ukraine in 1949, and the operation went horribly wrong.    In 2004, the Orange Revolution, weeks of protests in Kyiv, led to the overturning of the presidential election won by Viktor Yanucovych and bringing to power his rival the the US-preferred, pro-European candidate, Viktor Yushchenco.  In the presidential elections of 2010, Yushchenco, who, according to Western reports was the choice of the people of Ukraine, finished a distant third with 5.45% of the vote.  And once again, Viktor Yanucovych won the presidential run-off vote. In 2014, for the second time in ten years, Yanucovych won the presidential election but lost the presidency because of demonstrations and riots in the streets of Kyiv.

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:

  1. Identify and confirm replacement leadership for the regime to be overthrown (e.g. the Shah in Iran, Pinochet in Chile, Castillo Armas in Guatemala)

  2. Establish a narrative to justify the coup, spinning events to conform to the narrative.

  3. Identify, manage, encourage or create a civil conflict.

  4. Use resources on the ground to manipulate the media, creating panic and/or opposition within the general public.

  5. Arrange mass demonstrations and riots as needed.

  6.  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.[25]--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."

Neo-Nazi threat in new Ukraine: NEWSNIGHT

The far-right group threatening to overthrow Ukraine's government - Newsnight

Out of Control: Ukraine's Rogue Militias

Inside a Ukrainian nationalist camp where kids are trained to kill Russian invaders

 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.[5][6] 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."

Who would have reason to kidnap Ihor from the hospital when he went to accompany his friend who had been injured in a fight in Maidan Square?  Who would dress and act like police, know how to effectively interrogate prisoners, yet ask questions that the police and the government would already know the answers to?  If not the Right Sector and not the government, who then?  If there was any hint that his abductors were Russian, wouldn't Ihor, the right-wing, anti-communist be quick to say so?  Who would be motivated to kidnap two protestors, who had left the fighting to nurse their wounds, beat them up for a day while pretending to be police then release them to go back to the fighting at Maidan the next day, more motivated than ever to revenge themselves on the government and the police?  According to the autopsy report, Ihor's friend, Yuriy, died of hypothermia.  His death may well have been unintended.

 What Difference does it make?

I've done a lot more work than usual preparing this post.  If you have read this far, you have done a lot of work too. It shouldn't be this much work to get a clear picture of what happened eight years ago and brought us to the war and global turmoil we are facing today.  Did the CIA imitate police, kidnap and torture Ihor Lutsenko and send him back to Maidan, motivated for bloodshed?  Who knows?  As I have researched the hypothesis, the greatest argument against the "Maidan Uprising" being a "covert CIA operation" is that there was so little effort to hide US intentions.  The internet is littered with images of Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt at the Maidan demonstrations.  Forbes reported that CIA Director John Brennan visited Ukraine in April, 2014.  Does anyone care if the CIA was carrying out operations a few months earlier in 2013?

 Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt at the Maidan demonstrations

The Tail wagging the dog

The discouraging realization for me is that the tail can still so easily wag the dog:  a few minor, marginal characters--people whose politics and morality we would immediately repudiate if given the chance to know who and what they are--could snowball the chaos and catastrophe of Ukraine into a global cataclysm. 

"Good against Evil": What more do we need to know?

 In Charlie Wilson's War, the key to arming the mujahideen, was the approval of "useful idiot," Congressman Clarence "Doc" Long, Chairman of the subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the House Appropriations Committee.  To convince him to sign off on the budget appropriation of weapons, Charlie Wilson, Joanne King Herring and the President Zia-ul-Haq, took him to visit an Afghan refugee camp in the north of Pakistan.  There, Congressman Long's messiah complex took over and he gave a speech promising the requested weapons because, in his words, the Afghan war with Russia was "a battle of good against evil."

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?


From the New York Times 25 June 2022:

"Three Days of the Condor" and the Tenth Anniversary of "The Sour Grapevine"

Sharing Intelligence I'm still obsessing over " sharing intelligence ."  May 15th was the tenth anniversary of this blog.  I w...