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“Professional Bashers”: GOP Will Find A Way To Blame President Obama On Ukraine Jet Downing

The monstrous downing of a Malaysian jet liner apparently by Russian backed separatists in the Ukraine did something that few thought could happen. It has gotten GOP leaders momentarily to agree with President Obama when he pointed the finger squarely at Russia for the horrific attack. But don’t expect the GOP’s hand hold with Obama to last. GOP leaders have been relentlessly snipping at Obama from the moment that Russia muscled into the Ukraine, lopped off slices of its territory, and cheered on and supplied pro-Russian separatists in the nation with sophisticated weapons. Presumably those weapons include the kind of missile thought to have taken down the jetliner. If it’s shown beyond doubt that the rebels downed the plane and did it with a Russian supplied missile, GOP leaders almost certainly will renew their barrage of attacks on Obama.

As always, their attacks will have absolutely nothing to do with indignation and outrage over the mass killing. It will have everything to do with politics. In April, when Obama first talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get him to stand down on stirring up tensions in the country, GOP leaders pounced. They branded him as too weak, soft and conciliatory. The smear was a rerun of the same smears it has repeated time and again against him on the issues of national security and foreign policy.

The GOP has dusted off the script on every foreign policy crisis that’s popped up since Obama entered the White House. The list is endless: Somalia, Bin Laden, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran and, of course, Benghazi. In each instance, just change the names and the rap is till the same, he’s weak, indecisive, and soft, and always the charge is that his alleged weakness somehow puts the nation at mortal risk. As in every one of the crisis’s that Obama allegedly bungled and jeopardized the nation’s security, the unreconstructed cold war hawks and professional GOP Obama bashers flatly declare that the U.S. must get tough, firm and resolute up to and including a military and even nuclear a saber rattle against a perceived American foreign enemy.

The Ukraine crisis has been no different. GOP leaders have called for Obama to do everything short of putting boots on the ground in the Ukraine to battle the Russian backed separatists. The only thing that has stopped those tempted to cross that line and make that call is the vehement overwhelming opposition of the American public. As horrible, bloody and now humanly catastrophic with the jetliner attack, the conflict is, it’s still a regional conflict in which the U.S., no matter how long and loud the saber rattle from the GOP, can do little beyond the strongest political and moral condemnation and sanctions. In themselves they are weak and for the most part ineffectual. As morally odious as the conflict is especially with its latest horrific turn, it still poses no direct threat to American security.

However, that means little to a GOP determined to score big in the mid-term elections. It will do everything it can to turn the heinous downing of the jetliner into yet another political indictment of Obama. They will scream louder to slap even tougher sanctions on Russia. Some of which are border on the absurd. This includes proposals to bar Russia from landing its Aeroflot planes in the U.S and other Western nation airports and even more dangerous and counterproductive, demanding that the U.S. arm the Ukraine military to the teeth. This almost certainly will guarantee a frantic arms race with Russia shipping even more heavy weaponry to the Rebels. The GOP nowhere explains exactly how any of this will bring Russia to its knees, to stop it from aiding the rebels or make airspace over Ukraine any safer.

Obama’s sensible option continues to be to redouble efforts through a combination of new sanctions which he did a day before the jetliner debacle that involved energy and banking transactions and negotiations aimed at stopping the flow of weapons and military support to the rebels. No matter how loud the war hawks scream about Obama’s actions, he has little choice but to try and help craft a solution through diplomacy. This hardly shows weakness, but recognition that the U.S.’s options are few.

The Malaysian jet liner downing was a senseless and heart-breaking tragedy that served absolutely no political or military purpose for the rebel separatists, if they indeed committed the dastardly deed. It will fuel even further the justifiable worldwide public rage at Russia and Putin. It will push Russia further to being branded a rogue state. Obama’s careful measures in dealing with the conflict have done much to insure that’s the case. The GOP’s inevitable finger point at him for the latest tragedy in the Ukraine will stand again as nothing more than the usual false, phony and opportunistic political pandering.

 

By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Associate Editor of New America Media; The Huffington Post Blog, July 19, 2014

 

 

July 22, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Russia, Ukraine | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The End Of The Russian Fairy Tale”: A Nihilistic Disregard For Human Life

Before there is any further discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it’s important that one point be made absolutely clear: This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political, and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane.

From the beginning, the Russian government did not send regular soldiers to Ukraine. Instead, it sent Russian mercenaries and security service operatives such as Igor Strelkov—the commander in chief in Donetsk and a Russian secret police colonel who fought in both Chechen wars—or Vladimir Antyufeyev, the Donetsk “deputy prime minister” who led the Latvian KGB’s attempt to overthrow the independent Latvian government back in 1991.

With the help of local thugs, these Russian security men besieged police stations, government offices, and other symbols of political authority, in order to delegitimize the Ukrainian state. In this task, they were assisted by the Russian government and by Russia’s state-controlled mass media, both of which still constantly denigrate Ukraine and its “Nazi” government. Just in the past week, Russian reporting on Ukraine reached a new pitch of hysteria, with fake stories about the supposed crucifixion of a child and an extraordinary documentary comparing the Ukrainian army’s defense of its own country with the Rwandan genocide.

Into this ambiguous and unstable situation, the Russians cynically funneled a stream of heavy weapons: machine guns and artillery, and eventually tanks, armed personnel carriers, and anti-aircraft missiles. In recent days, the separatist forces were openly using MANPADS, and were also boasting of having taken down large Ukrainian transport planes, clearly with Russian specialist assistance. Indeed, Strelkov on Thursday afternoon boasted online of having taken down another military plane, before realizing that the plane in question was MH17. He removed the post. In late June, several different Russian media sources published photographs of BUK anti-aircraft missiles, which they said had been captured by the separatists—though they were probably outright gifts from Russia. These posts have also been removed.

This is the context within which a surface-to-air missile was aimed at a passenger plane: A lawless environment; irregular soldiers who might not be so good at reading radar; a nihilistic disregard for human life; scorn for international norms, rules, or standards. Just for the record: There weren’t any Ukrainian government-controlled anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine, because the separatists were not flying airplanes.

Until now, these unorthodox methods have worked well for the Russians. They unnerved and distracted the Ukrainian government while at the same time allowing foreign governments, and European governments in particular, to turn a blind eye. Because the war was not a “real” war, it could be described as “local,” as “containable,” it could remain a low priority for European foreign policy or indeed for anybody’s foreign policy.

If it has done nothing else, the crash of Flight MH17 has just put an end to the “it’s not a real war” fairy tale, both for the Russians and for the West. Tragically, this unconventional nonwar war has just killed 298 people, mostly Europeans. We can’t pretend it isn’t happening any longer, or that it doesn’t affect anyone outside of Donetsk. The Russians can’t pretend either.

Without the fairy-tale pretense, some things are about to become clear. For one, we are about to learn whether the West in 2014 is as united, and as determined to stop terrorism as it was 26 years ago. When the Libyan government brought down Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, the West closed ranks and isolated the Libyan regime. Can we do the same now—or will too many be tempted to describe this as a “tragic accident,” and to dismiss what will inevitably be a controversial investigation as “inconclusive?” It is insufficient to state, as President Obama has now done, that there must be a “cease-fire” in Ukraine. What is needed is a withdrawal of Russian mercenaries, weapons, and support. The West—and the world—must push for Ukrainian state sovereignty to be reestablished in eastern Ukraine, not for the perpetuation of another frozen conflict.

We will also learn something interesting about the Russian president. So far there is no sign of shock or shame in Russia. But in truth, this tragedy offers Vladimir Putin an opportunity to get out of the messy disaster he has created in eastern Ukraine. He now has the perfect excuse to denounce the separatist movement and to cut its supplies. If he refuses, then we know that he remains profoundly dedicated to the chaos and nihilism he created in Donetsk. We can assume he intends to perpetuate it elsewhere. And if we are not prepared to fight it, we should be braced for it to spread.

 

By: Anne Applebaum, Slate, July 18, 2014

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Where Are Putin’s American Admirers Now?”: Vlad’s Doting, Adoring Conservative Fans Are Awfully Quiet

It is hard to overstate the damage that the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over eastern Ukraine has done to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition to isolating him further internationally and threatening greater harm to the Russian economy, the killing of 298 people aboard a civilian jetliner, which U.S. officials are increasingly sure was caused by a missile launched by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, has gravely undermined the aura of competence and tactical brilliance that Putin has cultivated over the years and which helped Russia project outsized influence even in an era of post-Soviet decline and diminishment. As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes, letting powerful Russian-made anti-aircraft weaponry into the hands of pro-Russia fighters who cannot tell the difference between a large passenger airliner and a military plane is “a f’-up on Putin’s part of almost mind-boggling proportions. Yes, a tragedy. Yes, perhaps an atrocity. But almost more threatening, a screw up.”

But we should not just leave it at that. Rather, we should recall all those in recent months who showered awe and praise on Putin for his extreme capability, which was often contrasted unfavorably with the hapless President Obama.

First, there was all the praise for the Russian military itself following the invasion of Crimea. The New York Times, among many others, gave dazzling reviews of the “sleek new vanguard of the Russian military,” soldiers who were “lean and fit,” dressed in uniforms that were “crisp and neat …their new helmets…bedecked with tinted safety goggles,” and outfitted with “compact encrypted radio units distributed at the small-unit level, a telltale sign of a sweeping modernization effort undertaken five years ago by Putin that has revitalized Russia’s conventional military abilities, frightening some of its former vassal states in Eastern Europe and forcing NATO to re-evaluate its longstanding view of post-Soviet Russia as a nuclear power with limited ground muscle.”

This seemed a tad premature and overstated, given that the Russian military was facing virtually no resistance from the outnumbered Ukrainian forces in Crimeait’s easy for soldiers to look sleek and professional when there’s no actual contact with the enemy. But Putin himself basked in the praise, echoing it himself in a ceremony celebrating the invasion: “The recent events in Crimea were a serious test, demonstrating the quality of the new capabilities of our military personnel, as well as the high moral spirit of the staff,” he said.

Once pro-Russian separatists started their uprising in eastern Ukraine, there was a new round of praise for the deviously brilliant strategy Putin was deploying there, sending in personnel and equipment to assist the separatists but making sure that the personnel were unmarked, giving Russia superficially plausible deniability about their activities. Commentators hailed this approachmaskirovka, or masked warfareas the wave of the future in warfare. As one admirer wrote in a column for the Huffington Post:

President Putin’s game plan in Ukraine becomes clearer day by day despite Russia’s excellent, even brilliant, use of its traditional maskirovka. … It stands for deliberately misleading the enemy with regard to own intentions causing the opponent to make wrong decisions thereby playing into your own hand. In today’s world this is mainly done through cunning use of networks to shape perceptions blurring the picture and opening up for world opinion to see your view as the correct one legitimizing policy steps you intend to take.

This “cunning use of networks” is less “excellent, even brilliant” when said networks, as now appears likely, kill nearly 300 innocent civilians, most of them citizens of the nation that is one of your largest trading partners.

Meanwhile, there was all along the more general praise for the prowess and capability of Putin himself from American conservatives. Charles Krauthammer penned a Washington Post op-ed headlined: “Obama vs. Putin, the Mismatch.” Rudy Giuliani’s adulation for Putin surely caused a blush in the Kremlin: “[H]e makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. And then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader.” Rush Limbaugh went on a riff about Putin’s superiority to Obama:

In fact, Putinready for this?postponed the Oscar telecast last night. He didn’t want his own population distracted. He wanted his own population knowing full well what he was doing, and he wanted them celebrating him. They weren’t distracted. We were. …

Well, did you hear that the White House put out a photo of Obama talking on the phone with Vlad, and Obama’s sleeves were rolled up?  That was done to make it look like Obama was really working hardI mean, really taking it seriously. His sleeves were rolled up while on the phone with Putin! Putin probably had his shirt off practicing Tai-Chi while he was talking to Obama.

Was Putin also practicing shirtless Tai-Chi when he learned that, in all likelihood, men fighting in Russia’s name and with its backing had downed a passenger airliner and provoked a major international incident? Who knows. Enough, for now, that this awful tragedy provokes a jot of self-reflection on the part of those who were so willing to trumpet Putin’s brilliance these past few months. If Putin’s maskirovka did manage to “shape perceptions blurring the picture,” these admirers were the most susceptible.

 

By: Alec MacGillis, The New Republic, July 18, 2014

July 20, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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