Thursday, September 11, 2014



            Shall we say "Here we go again?" after the 9/11 festivities, or memorials are over.  We can all lament the two of three thousand innocent people who died in the towers that day, but not the same number of innocent people who died in Gaza?  But now we have a "terrorist" threat in Iraq to take care of.

            It may be difficult to grasp, but what happened as a result of 9/11?  Many think that the entire thing was staged to make way for what followed, but it is just as likely that Bush and Cheney gave thanks that it happened.  At the time, Bush was seen reading a story about a goat, or duck, at the time.  When the fact was whispered in his ear, he waited for the longest time, perhaps because he wanted instead to find out what happened to the duck first, then get on an airplane.  Well, it's as good an explanation as anyone else has given, right?

            Because of the deaths in the twin towers, the crash into the Pentagon, and a crash in Pennsylvania, we quite logically invaded Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and occupied both countries for ten years and spent at least three trillion dollars, and sent many soldiers and civilians to their deaths.  To celebrate our success at reforming the world, Obama announced an additional war on the eve of 9/11. 

            There has been a lot of talk about boot on the ground.  We have no boots of the ground in Iraq.  We do have about 2,000 soldiers there, presumably they walk, and they wear boots, but they are not boots on the ground.  We are assured that boots on the ground are off the table.  You should always keep your boots off the table, don't you know.

            This time, we will get involved in Syria.  In Lebanon there was a civil war that went on for 15 years at least and it was only stopped by the intervention and mediation of Syria.  Now the civil war is in Syria.  There is no way that can turn out well with us involved.  It is less likely to result in good results than the NFL investigation into domestic violence cases.

            Actually, the US should be considered the Rodney Dangerfield of International Relations.  We unified Vietnam, and nobody said thank you.  We saved Afghanistan from the Taliban and now things are great there and women have the vote.  We liberated Iraq from the evil Saddam Hussein, and everything is peaceful.  We liberated Libya from Gaddafi, and they recently held a Militian Pool Party in the American Embassy.  Of course, we had left, but still, things are nice there now and they love us.  Last year they even celebrated 9/11 in Benghazi. 

            Now, of course, we have to liberate Syria from Assad.  So, we are going to arm what we called "doctors, lawyers, and radio journalists" and let them fight ISIL.  Yeah, they will be the boots.  Of course, Assad says this will violate international law and Putin agrees with him, but hey, Putin is just jealous and testing nuclear missiles, just in case NATO attacks from Poland.

            Anyway, here are a couple scholars to talk about the subject without all the idiocy of our major networks:


Obama Vows to Destroy Islamic State, But Expanded Strikes in Syria & Iraq Point to "Endless War"

President Obama has authorized U.S. airstrikes for the first time in Syria and their expansion in Iraq against the militant group Islamic State. In a prime-time address, Obama vowed to hunt down Islamic State militants "wherever they are." Obama also announced he is sending 475 more U.S. military troops to Iraq, bringing the total to 1,600. He also called for congressional support to arm and train the Syrian opposition. We get analysis of Obama’s speech and this latest U.S. military foray into the Middle East with two guests: Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia who has worked on issues involving Iraq since the 1980s and a former adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government; and Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College and author of several books. Prashad’s latest article is "What President Obama Should Not Do About ISIS."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In a prime-time televised address last night, President Barack Obama announced he had authorized U.S. airstrikes for the first time in Syria and their expansion in Iraq against the Islamic State, which has seized broad stretches of Iraq and Syria. He vowed to hunt down militants from the Islamic State, quote, "wherever they are." Obama also announced he is sending 475 more U.S. military troops to Iraq, bringing the total to 1,600. He also called for congressional support to arm and train the Syrian opposition. Obama’s speech came on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.
First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. Now that those teams have completed their work, and Iraq has formed a government, we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq. As I’ve said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission. We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We’ll also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.
Across the border in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people, a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.
Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding, improve our intelligence, strengthen our defenses, counter its warped ideology, and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.
Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
So this is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about President Obama’s speech, we’re joined by two guests. Peter Galbraith is former U.S. ambassador to Croatia. He’s worked on issues involving Iraq since the 1980s and is a former adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government. He testified before a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, currently a senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. His books include The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End. He joins us from Washington, D.C.
In Chicopee, Massachusetts, we’re joined by Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College, author of several books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and, most recently, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. Vijay Prashad is also a columnist for Frontline, where he’s been writing extensively about the Islamic State, his latest piece headlined "What President Obama Should Not Do About ISIS."
Ambassador Galbraith, let’s begin with you. Your response to President Obama’s speech last night?
PETER GALBRAITH: He outlined a strategy, and I think the strategy has a good prospect of accomplishing the goal of degrading ISIS. But I don’t think it’s capable of destroying ISIS. So let’s look at the parts of it. Airstrikes are effective when there are forces on the ground. And that really is the dilemma. Inside Iraq and Syria, there are three main forces that you could be supporting. There’s the Kurdistan Peshmerga, which suffered setbacks in August, but the units remained intact. With air support, they’ve been able to retake territory. But they are not going to go significantly beyond Kurdistan, and they’ve more or less retaken that territory. In the rest of Iraq, there’s the Iraqi army, which has largely disappeared since the beginning of the year. We spent billions building it up, and the end result was that the weapons we provided ended up in ISIS’s hands. I don’t see how you reconstitute that. The president’s talking about supporting local forces, and that, in theory, could be effective in the Sunni areas, but it’s going to be hard to get them set up, given that ISIS is there, and also that they would have to work with a government that Sunnis absolutely don’t trust. They don’t see a big difference between al-Abadi and his predecessor, Maliki. So, and in Syria, the problem with supporting the Syrian opposition is that we don’t really have a good feel for who all these people are, and they really have no prospect of defeating Assad, and we don’t really know if we can rely on them to fight ISIS, with the exception of, again, in the Kurdish north, the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish military. They have been fighting ISIS for well more than a year and at least have been holding their own.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Vijay Prashad, I wanted to ask you your reaction to the president’s speech and his new policy, and also this whole idea of asking Congress to finance the retraining once again, a creation of a new Iraqi army, after the last one that the United States spent billions on training has basically disintegrated.
VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, I found the speech interesting, because the details on Iraq were definitely much more significant than the details on Syria. It was very light on Syria, for a good reason. At least in Iraq, as Ambassador Galbraith said, there is the possibility of providing close air support to the Kurdish Peshmerga from Iraqi Kurdistan. There’s a possibility of providing close air support through whatever remains of the Iraqi army. After all, they did take back the town of Amerli. But in Syria, there is no real easy group to which the United States can give close air support.
You know, the YPG—that is to say, the Kurdish force in the northeast of Syria—is backed by the Kurdish Workers’ Party from Turkey. The United States sees them as a terrorist organization. So I doubt very much that they will overtly have any coordination with the YPG and the PKK. They’ve already said they will not coordinate with the Syrian government. That’s the second force that could be mobilized to attack the ISIS fighters, particularly as ISIS is moving beyond Raqqa toward the homeland of the Kurdish government. The third major force is the other Islamist opposition. And it’s important to point out here that just a few days ago there was an enormous bomb attack on one of the most, you know, fierce fighting units among the other Islamists, and that was Ahrar al-Sham’s, which lost basically its entire leadership. The Free Syrian Army is basically a shell of what it had been. It’s more in name only.
So the idea that the United States is now going to outsource the training of a moderate Syrian opposition fighting force to Saudi Arabia has created, I think, a lot of worry in the region, a lot of concern, because Saudi Arabia’s own cutout in the Syrian war has been Jaysh al-Islam, which is not known for its moderation in any way. So the United States, if it wants to provide close air support to take on the Islamic State inside Syria, has no effective partner. So, in that sense, Mr. Obama’s speech yesterday was very confusing and was much more rhetoric than actual strategy.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to this debate. We’re joined by Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College, also by Ambassador Peter Galbraith. Stay with us.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We continue to look at President Obama’s speech last night authorizing airstrikes in Syria and expanding attacks in Iraq against the Islamic State.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partners’ forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the speech, again, we’re joined by two guests, Ambassador Peter Galbraith, former adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government, and Trinity College professor Vijay Prashad. Vijay Prashad, do you think the U.S. should be bombing at all?
VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, you know, there’s a big difference between bombing from the sky to, you know, destroy the advance of something like the Islamic State, and to give close air support. And I think that this is the confusion, is what exactly is the United States prepared to do? Is it prepared to wipe out the city of Raqqa? Or does it want to give close air support to people on the ground who are fighting directly and engaging with the group, the Islamic State? In Syria, as far as I can see in, unless there is a serious political discussion between all the parties, there is no way that you can reconstitute a significant enough fighting force that will be able to take on the Islamic State. It seems that the United States wants to have it both ways: on the one side, take on the Islamic State, and on the other side, continue with promoting chaos inside Syria. You cannot promote chaos and take on the Islamic State. You have to pick one particular strategy, and Mr. Obama actually has chosen both. Bombing is not a panacea, unless there’s a real strategy of how you’re going to defeat the Islamic State on the ground.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ambassador Galbraith, what about this issue of the president saying that he believes he has the authorization to be able to carry out these actions and says he would welcome a vote by Congress but doesn’t feel he needs it? I’d like to ask you about that specifically in relationship to Syria itself.
PETER GALBRAITH: I spent 14 years working for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, from '79 to ’93, and repeatedly the issue of the War Powers Act came up. It was enacted to prevent another Vietnam, but the kind of conflicts that we've had since then have been much smaller scale. The Congress is not serious about having a role in making decisions about these kinds of interventions. And presidents, when they really want to do it, are not interested in getting congressional support. So I think this is really an academic debate that is not of much interest to the American people, not to the foreign policy community. Frankly, it’s a sideshow.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you agree with that, Professor Prashad?
VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, you know, I don’t have the kind of experience in Washington, D.C., but I do think that a lot of what happens in American foreign policy making, or has happened in the last few years, is much more for domestic consumption than it is actually about the problems around the world. If you just take the examples that Mr. Obama said yesterday of successes, you know, he mentioned Yemen and Somalia. Well, that’s news to the people of Somalia and Yemen that the American strategy has been a success. Indeed, Yemen, principally because it’s out of the American news, appears to be a quiet place, but it’s definitely not a quiet place for the people of Yemen. In fact, the problems in Yemen have since compounded. And even in Somalia, where the leader of al-Shabab was assassinated recently, there was a bomb blast. And, you know, I don’t know, they counted about 20 people dead. So it’s not clear that—when foreign policy decision making is made in the public domain in the United States, it’s not clear that that’s directly in the interests of people overseas or whether it’s for domestic consumption. And it seems to me this is much more for domestic consumption than it is for the actual pragmatic problems for people in that region.
AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Prashad [sic], the issue of Saudi Arabia, I believe—rather, Ambassador Galbraith, Saudi Arabia, I think Secretary of State Kerry is there today. Saudi Arabia as a funder of the Islamic State and the U.S. role as an ally with Saudi Arabia, do you think it is putting the proper pressure it should, whether we’re talking about Saudi Arabia, whether we’re talking about Qatar, whether we’re talking about Jordan?
PETER GALBRAITH: Well, the first point is that these countries don’t see the situation as we do. As far as they’re concerned, the top threat is Iran, and then probably the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Islamic State would be in third place. So, to the extent that the Islamic State is useful in fighting the Iranian-backed regime in Iraq and in Syria, they are much more ambivalent. And that raises a question about a strategy of having the Saudis involved in training the so-called moderate Islamic opposition. And there’s always a question about whether the Saudis are moderate in this matter.
But the other problem in Syria, which I think people don’t focus on, is some 35 percent of the Syrian population is not Sunni Arab. That is to say, they are Alawites, Christian, Druze, other religious minorities and Kurds. And the striking thing about this opposition is that it doesn’t include significant support from any of those communities. The Alawites fear, with very good reason, that if the opposition were to prevail, even the moderates, that they would face genocide. So even if they don’t like Assad, he’s an Alawite, and at least he’s there and capable of preventing genocide.
Now, the one thing that I think was—one of the things that I think was good in the president’s speech, which hasn’t been remarked on, is he made a distinction between trying to eliminate ISIS and having a political settlement in Syria. And I think there’s no prospect that the Syrian war can be resolved militarily. I think it’s going to be very difficult to do it politically. But at least there’s a recognition in his speech that as far as the Assad regime goes, we’re not looking at a military defeat, we’re looking at a political settlement. And I think that’s right.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Vijay Prashad, what would you see as the solution to the continuing crisis in Iraq and Syria? And how does the United States counter this view in the Arab and Muslim world that it’s going from one country to another seeking to impose its solutions on the local domestic conflicts?
VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, Juan, I’ll put it in two different ways. I was actually struck by President Obama’s use of words like "Shia" and "Sunni," very loosely used, and I don’t think this is helpful. I think the most important direction is to create a rapprochement, for the United States to work towards creating a de-escalation and rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Unless the United States is able to bring these two countries or at least help bring these two countries to the table, there is going to be continued chaos in the region. And in fact, there has been an opportunity to bring them together, and that was the ill-starred Syria contact group which was formed by Egypt in 2012, which had the most important countries in the region sit around the table, and that was Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt. I think something like that needs to be reconstituted. I utterly agree with Ambassador Galbraith that from the standpoint of Riyadh, they still see Iran as the principal threat. And if this continues to happen, well, God help the Middle East, because the most important thing is to de-escalate the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is what is principally going to be an impediment to any—let’s not say "peace," but any de-escalation of the immense violence that has inflicted Syria and Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Professor Prashad, the same question to you about the role of Saudi Arabia in all of this?
VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, I mean, it’s a curious business. Again, like Ambassador Galbraith, I agree. It’s a serious question whether Saudi Arabia has moderate goals in the region. I mean, the fact is that their cutout in Syria, which is Jaysh al-Islam, was not at all considered a moderate group. I mean, people have worried about the people that Saudi officially has been financing. Forget the private financing from Saudi, Qatari and Kuwaiti sheikhs; the official organization itself is not moderate. So how does that give people confidence that the new force that will be constituted, you know, after the Islamic Front, the Southern Front, and this will be the third attempt—how are we confident that this is going to be moderate? I think, you know, this is really hoping against hope for some kind of development which there is no evidence to indicate can happen—in other words, the making of a moderate military force through the good auspices of Saudi Arabia.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ambassador Galbraith, I’d like to ask you about Iraq specifically. You’ve argued in some of your writings that the national project of Iraq is essentially a failed project and that, especially in terms of the Kurds, greater independence would probably be a better route. How do you see what is going to be happening in Iraq, even assuming the United States is able to prevail against the Islamic State with the support of the local Iraqi and Syrian militias or fighters?
PETER GALBRAITH: Well, Iraq had broke apart a long time ago. Kurdistan in the north is, in all regards, an independent state with its own parliament, army. We’re now supplying it directly. We speak of it, you know, as if it were also an independent state. And there’s no way that it’s going to go back to be just a region of Iraq. The president of Kurdistan said he’s going to have a referendum on independence. I think that’s probably been put off for a while. But the operative thing is "put off for a while."
And with regard to Sunnis and Shiites, the problem is that the Sunnis ran Iraq for its first 90 years and their policy was to keep the Kurds in and the Shiites down. Since 2003, the Shiites, who are the majority, have been in charge. It has been a—the last three prime ministers have come Dawa, a Shiite religious party. They seek to define Iraq as a Shiite state with close ties with Iran. That’s unacceptable to the Sunnis. And there’s no way that Sunnis are going to turn against ISIS and work with a government that they see doesn’t really include them, and indeed is hostile to them.
And the president made a lot in his speech of this national unity government. That was the basis for the strategy. But there isn’t one. The Kurds, of the 30 Cabinet ministries, they got three. They haven’t actually even named their people. By their strength in Parliament, they should have had twice as many. They didn’t want to join the government. They did so—and they’ve said this very clearly—only because of very intense U.S. pressure, and because of the deadline of President Obama’s speech. The Sunnis, the members of the government, if any of them live in the Sunni areas of Iraq, they can’t go home. So they aren’t really representing the people who are there. And also, none of those tensions have been solved. Abadi is really—although he speaks better, maybe isn’t as dour and paranoid as his predecessor, he comes from exactly the same party, exactly the same approach, that of a centralized state that is not going to be accommodating to either the Kurds or the Sunnis. So, this national government is not real, and that’s a fundamental problem with the strategy.
AMY GOODMAN: Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday the rapid rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can be attributed to the failure of President Obama to assert American influence in the region.
DICK CHENEY: ISIS does not recognize a border between Syria and Iraq, so neither should we. We should immediately hit them in their sanctuaries, staging areas, command centers and lines of communication, wherever we find them. We should provide significantly increased numbers of military trainers, special operations forces and intelligence architecture and air power to aid the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga in their counteroffensive againstISIS. We work to defeat ISIS and prevent the establishment of a terrorist safe haven in the heart of the Middle East. We must move globally to get back on offense in the war on terror.
AMY GOODMAN: Aside from criticizing the Obama administration, is what President Obama is doing that different from what Dick Cheney wants, Vijay Prashad?
VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, not really, except, of course, firstly, it’s a hubris matter to take Dick Cheney seriously, who after all was one of the architects of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which, you know, basically broke the state up completely and provided the opportunity for Iraqi society, which had never really had any kind of al-Qaeda group, to incubate al-Qaeda. So, it’s an odd thing for him to now give advice. But on the other hand, what he’s saying is similar to what Mr. Obama is saying. He’s being more specific. I don’t know what intelligence he is reading, but it’s amazing to hear somebody talk about the Islamic State having command and control centers, supply routes. I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about. This is not a group that’s functioning in the way that he imagines. This is a very different kind of insurgency, much more fragmented. And I’m not sure that it’s going to be so easy to find targets from up on high without people on the ground.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Ambassador Galbraith, the subtitle of your book isWar Without End. Are we now looking at a war without end?
PETER GALBRAITH: Yes. I think President Obama’s strategy may be able to degrade the Islamic State, but there isn’t the prospect of putting together a unified Iraqi government that is going to win over the Sunnis and make them partners in an effort to eradicate ISIS in the Sunni areas of the country. So, this is likely to continue for many years. And in Syria, you know, I thought Syria, in its demography, has a lot of similarities to Lebanon. And that civil war went on for 15 years, and it ended when Syria intervened. But there isn’t a Syria to intervene in Syria, so this war also could go on for decades. It’s a real tragedy for the peoples of that part of the world, and it’s going to be a challenge for U.S. and world foreign policy. We’ve had a lot of talk about pivoting from Europe to Asia, but inevitably we’re going to be focused on this part of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Galbraith, I want to thank you for being with us, former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, worked on issues involving Iraq since the '80s, former adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government, now with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, among his books, Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America's Enemies and The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End. And thank you to Professor Vijay Prashad of Trinity College, author of a number of books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and, most recently, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, what would Dr. King do? Stay with us.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Isis and NATO: Really stupid activity


Illustration: Saladin

Ok, now things are getting too weird.  Looking for a way to defeat the Caliphate by air?  Do what Biden says: Follow them to the gates of hell where they will have to watch a Joan Rivers Marathon eternally.  Or everyone could apply for a job with Al Baghdadi, Calif, IS, (sorry, zip code unknown) 

Everyone seems to think they have a perverted interpretation of Islam.  Actually, they have a hero in Saladin, not Mohammed, and they have him wrong too.

Yet, who was Saladin?  His history has been ignored in the West.  In fact, I did not even know of him until my senior year when I took a course in Spenser.  He wrote the third longest poem in the English language, and it was only 25% completed.  It was published in 1595.  The poem itself has this reputation: "Only 5 people have read it from cover to cover and three of them are still asleep."  Keats thought it was great.  No, I'm not going into telling you who Keats was. 

Saladin was the great warrior in the mid to late medieval period (ca. 1187, esp. or so) who rid the Mideast from the pillagers known as the "crusaders".  The Crusades were just another series of invasions and rapine disguised as "Holy Wars".  It is a hallmark of monotheism that war is carried out in "God's" name.  The ancient Greeks had a lot of wars and a lot of gods, but they just called upon their god's for assistance from time to time, much to their regret.  In fact, I believe it was Homer who said "When the Gods wish to laugh at us, they grant our wishes."  Anyway, Saladin put an end to the crusades or at least started the liberation of Palestine.  Today, Palestinians are basically secular.  Leave it to George Bush to resurrect the term "Crusades", much to our regret.

Putin also comes into this.  The Caliphate threatened him because he supports Assad.  Now, they have made a big mistake.  Remember the pirates off of Somalia?  They were getting one ship after antoher until they captured a Russian one.  That was it.  They never even looked at another Russian ship because of the response.

Also, if this group is such a threat, why not join Assad and Iran, its natural enemies, and work together?  Another example of stupidity.

The next issue is Ukraine.  The two interviews sum up the situation very well, so there is no point in further elaborating.  You might also want to consult the article in the Nation.  The point about Neo-McCarthyism is well-taken.

Well, here are two interiews on Russia, one with Stephen Cohen and the other with a former Ambassador to Russia.


Ukraine Ceasefire Takes Hold, but an Expanding NATO on Russia’s Borders Raises Threat of Nuclear War

The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels are reportedly set to sign a ceasefire today aimed at ending over six months of fighting that has killed at least 2,600 people and displaced over a million. The deal is expected this morning in the Belarusian capital of Minsk as President Obama and European leaders meet in Wales for a major NATO summit. The ceasefire comes at a time when the Ukrainian military has suffered a number of defeats at the hands of the Russian-backed rebels. In the hours leading up to the reported ceasefire, pro-Russian rebels launched another offensive to take the port city of Mariupol, which stands about halfway between Russia and the Crimea region. The Ukrainian government and NATO have accused Russia of sending forces into Ukraine, a claim Moscow denies. The new developments in Ukraine come as NATO has announced plans to create a new rapid reaction force in response to the Ukraine crisis. We are joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, and the author of numerous books on Russia and the Soviet Union.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, now to international news.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels are reportedly set to sign a ceasefire today aimed at ending over six months of fighting in eastern Ukraine that has killed at least 2,600 people and displaced over one million. The deal is expected to be signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk as President Obama and European leaders meet in Wales for a major NATO summit. The ceasefire comes at a time when the Ukrainian military has suffered a number of defeats at the hands of the Russian-backed rebels.
A new dispatch from The New York Review of Books reveals the remnants of at least 68 Ukrainian military vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, pickups, buses and trucks are littered along one 16-mile stretch in eastern Ukraine where the rebels launched an offensive last week. The reporter, Tim Judah, writes, quote, "The scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine over the last week has to be seen to be believed. It amounts to a catastrophic defeat and will long be remembered by embittered Ukrainians as among the darkest days of their history."
In the hours leading up to the ceasefire, pro-Russian rebels launched another offensive to take the port city of Mariupol, which stands about halfway between Russia and the Crimea region. The Ukrainian government and NATO have accused Russia of sending forces into Ukraine, a claim that Moscow continues to deny.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile in Wales, NATO has announced plans to create a new rapid reaction force in response to the Ukraine crisis. British Prime Minister David Cameron said the new force could be deployed anywhere in the world in two to five days.
PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: So we must be able to act more swiftly. In 2002, NATO stood down its high-readiness force. I hope that today we can agree a multinational spearhead force, deployable anywhere in the world in just two to five days. This would be part of a reformed NATO response force, with headquarters in Poland, forward units in the eastern allies, and pre-positioned equipment and infrastructure to allow more exercises and, if necessary, rapid reinforcement. If we can agree this, the United Kingdom will contribute 3,500 personnel to this multinational force.
AMY GOODMAN: In another development, the Pentagon has announced 200 U.S. troops will be sent to Ukraine later this month for a multinational military exercise dubbed Rapid Trident. Another 280 U.S. troops will work with Ukrainian forces next week for a military exercise aboard the USS Ross in the Black Sea.
To talk more about the crisis in Ukraine and the NATO summit, we’re joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, also the author of a number of books on Russia and the Soviet Union. His latest piece in The Nation is headlined "Patriotic Heresy vs. the New Cold War: Neo-McCarthyites Have Stifled Democratic Debate on Russia and Ukraine."
So, welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Cohen. Talk about the latest developments, both the decisions out of NATO and what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine.
STEPHEN COHEN: One latest development is related to what Juan just said about New York kids. There are about a million refugees from eastern Ukraine, most of them having fled to Russia, a lot of kids. Traditionally in Ukraine and Russia, the first day of school is September 1. There are about 50,000 to 70,000 kids who needed to have started school. The Russians have made every effort to get them in school, but there are a lot of little Ukrainian kids who won’t be going to school this September yet, because they’re living in refugee camps. And that’s the story, of course.
This is a horrific, tragic, completely unnecessary war in eastern Ukraine. In my own judgment, we have contributed mightily to this tragedy. I would say that historians one day will look back and say that America has blood on its hands. Three thousand people have died, most of them civilians who couldn’t move quickly. That’s women with small children, older women. A million refugees. Talk of a ceasefire that might go into place today, which would be wonderful, because nobody else should die for absolutely no reason.
But what’s driving the new developments, and partially the NATO meeting in Wales, but this stunning development, that Juan mentioned, reported in The New York Review of Books, though a handful of us in this country have been trying to get it into the media for nearly two weeks, is that it appeared that the Ukrainian army would conquer eastern Ukraine. But what they were doing is sitting outside the cities, bombarding these cities with aircraft, rockets, heavy artillery. That’s what caused the 3,000 deaths and the refugees. They’ve seriously damaged the entire infrastructure, industrial infrastructure, of Ukraine, which is in these eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, the so-called Donbas region.
It turned out, though, that the Ukrainian army didn’t want to enter these cities, where the rebels were embedded, ensconced. It’s their homes; these fighters are mainly from these cities. And while this killing was going on, the rebels were regrouping. Now, there’s an argument: How much help did they get from Russia? Some people are saying Russia invaded. Others say, no, Russia just gave them some technical and organizational support. But whatever happened in the last 10 days, there’s been one of the most remarkable military turnarounds we’ve witnessed in many years, and the Ukrainian army is not only being defeated, but it’s on the run. It’s fleeing. It wants no more of this. It’s leaving its heavy equipment behind. It’s really in full-scale retreat, except in one place, the city Juan mentioned, Mariupol, where there’s a fight going on as we talk now. The rebels have the city encircled. Whether that fighting will stop if the ceasefire is announced in the next couple hours, we don’t know. It’s a very important city. But everything has now changed. If there’s negotiation, the government of Ukraine, Poroshenko, the president, our President Obama and NATOthought that when negotiations began, the West would dictate the terms to Putin because they won the war in Ukraine. Now it’s the reverse.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, what about this whole issue of United States forces now actually being introduced, the exercises in Ukraine? To what degree do you see the Obama administration being drawn more and more into the conflict?
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, we have to ask ourselves, because we don’t fully know, because Obama is a kind of aloof figure who disappears in moments like this, then reappears and says kind of ignomatic things. But are we being drawn into it, or are we driving these events? It has been true, ever since NATO was created, that the United States controlled NATO. Now, it is also true now that there—that NATO is deeply divided on the Ukrainian issue. There’s a war party. And the war party is led by Poland, the three Baltic states, to a certain extent Romania but not so much, and Britain. Then there’s a party that wants to accommodate Russia, that thinks that this is not entirely Russia’s fault. And moreover, these people—the Germans, the French, the Spanish, the Italians—depend on Russia, in many ways, for their economic prosperity. They want to negotiate, not punish Russia. Where is Obama in this? It would appear nowhere, except occasionally he comes in, as he did in Estonia—was it yesterday or the day before?—and seem to give a speech that favors the war party.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to the comments of President Obama when he was in the former Soviet republic of Estonia blaming Russia for the fighting and vowing to defend the Baltic states.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It was not the government of Kiev that destabilized eastern Ukraine. It’s been the pro-Russian separatists, who are encouraged by Russia, financed by Russia, trained by Russia, supplied by Russia and armed by Russia. And the Russian forces that have now moved into Ukraine are not on a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission. They are Russian combat forces with Russian weapons in Russian tanks.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s President Obama. Professor Stephen Cohen?
STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, it is. It certainly is President Obama. Look, here’s the underlying problem. What Obama just said implies, if not asserts, that if it wasn’t for Russia, Ukraine would be stable, that Russia has destabilized Ukraine. No serious person would believe that to be the case. Ukraine is in the throes of a civil war, which was precipitated by the political crisis that occurred in Ukraine last November and then this February, when the elected president of Ukraine was overthrown by a street mob, and that set off a civil war, primarily between the west, including Kiev, and the east, but not only. There’s a central Ukraine that’s here and there. This civil war then became, as I said it would or might when we first started talking earlier this year, a proxy war between the United States and Russia.
Now, it’s absolutely true that Russia has made the destabilization of Ukraine worse. It’s also absolutely true that the United States has contributed to the destabilization of Ukraine. But if tomorrow the United States would go away and Russia would go away, Ukraine would still be in a civil war. And we know what civil wars are. We had one in our country. Russia had one. There were many civil wars around the world in the 20th century and elsewhere today. The point is, the only way you can end a civil war, either the one side completely conquers and the other side gives up, as happened with the Confederacy in the United States, or there’s a stalemate or somebody says, "Enough killing, because these are brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers, they’re part of the same family," and you negotiate.
So we will see later today, perhaps, or tomorrow whether this ceasefire comes and if it holds. Now, negotiating a civil war is terribly complex. In some ways, we’re still arguing about the American Civil War. I grew up in Kentucky, segregated Kentucky, and in my childhood, people were still claiming we, the South, won. So, this isn’t going to end if the United States and Russia goes way. But both sides have the capacity to get these negotiations going. But when Obama says that Russia destabilized Ukraine, it’s a half-truth.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Stephen Cohen, I wanted to ask you—you’ve come under some criticism by other Russia experts in the U.S. as being an apologist for the Russian intervention in Ukraine, I think in Forbes magazine. Op-ed piece there claimed that you were questioning whether Ukraine had the right to exercise control over its own territory, that it was plotting to seize its own territory. I’m wondering your response to that criticism.
STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, I mean, many very harsh and unpleasant, probably libelous and slanderous things have been said about me, which suggests to me that they have no factual response to me. Rather than call me a toady and an apologist and a paid hiring of the Kremlin, I’d like to hear what factual mistakes I’ve made. And I haven’t seen any, because I’m a scholar and I try not to make factual mistakes.
It’s not about whether Ukraine has the right to take back its territory. The problem is, as I just said, that a civil war began when we, the United States, and Europe backed a street coup that overthrew an elected president. When you overthrow a constitution and when you overthrow a president, you’re likely to get a civil war. It usually happens. Now, when you have a civil war, the country is divided. And in this case, the government in Kiev is trying to conquer where the rebels, so to speak, are located. The problem is that the rebel provinces do not recognize the legitimacy of the government in Kiev. The United States recognizes the legitimacy, but that doesn’t make it legitimate.
Now, let’s go to what’s going on in Kiev now. I mean, Obama also said—and I kind of chuckled and cried—that we are helping Ukraine build a democracy. What kind of democracy is unfolding in Kiev? All right, they had a presidential election. About a fifth of the country couldn’t vote. Now, Poroshenko has called a parliamentary election in October, a month from now. But where the war is, in the south and the east, they won’t vote. So you’re going to end up with a rump country, further dividing the country. Meanwhile, they’re shutting down democracy in Kiev. Communist Party is being banned. Another party that represents the east is being banned. People are being arrested. There’s censorship kicking in. There’s no democracy in Kiev, because it’s a wartime government. You just don’t get democracy. So, these assertions by the United States that we’re democracy builders, we’re virtuous, and it’s all Putin’s fault, this is—it’s worse than a half-truth; it’s actually a falsehood.
AMY GOODMAN: The possibility of Ukraine in NATO and what that means and what—
STEPHEN COHEN: Nuclear war.
STEPHEN COHEN: Next question. I mean, it’s clear. It’s clear. First of all, by NATO’s own rules, Ukraine cannot join NATO, a country that does not control its own territory. In this case, Kiev controls less and less by the day. It’s lost Crimea. It’s losing the Donbas—I just described why—to the war. A country that does not control its own territory cannot join Ukraine [sic]. Those are the rules.
AMY GOODMAN: Cannot join—
STEPHEN COHEN: I mean, NATO. Secondly, you have to meet certain economic, political and military criteria to join NATO. Ukraine meets none of them. Thirdly, and most importantly, Ukraine is linked to Russia not only in terms of being Russia’s essential security zone, but it’s linked conjugally, so to speak, intermarriage. There are millions, if not tens of millions, of Russian and Ukrainians married together. Put it inNATO, and you’re going to put a barricade through millions of families. Russia will react militarily.
In fact, Russia is already reacting militarily, because look what they’re doing in Wales today. They’re going to create a so-called rapid deployment force of 4,000 fighters. What is 4,000 fighters? Fifteen thousand or less rebels in Ukraine are crushing a 50,000-member Ukrainian army. Four thousand against a million-man Russian army, it’s nonsense. The real reason for creating the so-called rapid deployment force is they say it needs infrastructure. And the infrastructure—that is, in plain language is military bases—need to be on Russia’s borders. And they’ve said where they’re going to put them: in the Baltic republic, Poland and Romania.
Now, why is this important? Because NATO has expanded for 20 years, but it’s been primarily a political expansion, bringing these countries of eastern Europe into our sphere of political influence; now it’s becoming a military expansion. So, within a short period of time, we will have a new—well, we have a new Cold War, but here’s the difference. The last Cold War, the military confrontation was in Berlin, far from Russia. Now it will be, if they go ahead with this NATO decision, right plunk on Russia’s borders. Russia will then leave the historic nuclear agreement that Reagan and Gorbachev signed in 1987 to abolish short-range nuclear missiles. It was the first time nuclear—a category of nuclear weapons had ever been abolished. Where are, by the way, the nuclear abolitionists today? Where is the grassroots movement, you know, FREEZE, SANE? Where have these people gone to? Because we’re looking at a new nuclear arms race. Russia moves these intermediate missiles now to protect its own borders, as the West comes toward Russia. And the tripwire for using these weapons is enormous.
One other thing. Russia has about, I think, 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons, sometimes called battlefield nuclear weapons. You use these for short distances. They can be fired; you don’t need an airplane or a missile to fly them. They can be fired from artillery. But they’re nuclear. They’re radioactive. They’ve never been used. Russia has about 10,000. We have about 500. Russia’s military doctrine clearly says that if Russia is threatened by overwhelming conventional forces, we will use tactical nuclear weapons. So when Obama boasts, as he has on two occasions, that our conventional weapons are vastly superior to Russia, he’s feeding into this argument by the Russian hawks that we have to get our tactical nuclear weapons ready. So, bring NATO—I mean, bring Ukraine into NATO, and all this stuff will be up and ready. And then it will just take the shootdown of a Malaysian aircraft, about which everybody has forgotten. Still nobody knows who did it. There seems to have been an agreement among the major powers not to tell us who did it. Was suggested wasn’t the rebels, wasn’t Russia, after all. But it would take something like that, which can happen in these circumstances, to launch something that was unthinkable.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean there seems to be an agreement between the major countries?
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, in addition to the insurance company for the airplane, which technically has legal responsibility, the major countries that are doing it, Britain has the black boxes, the Netherlands are involved. There was a report the other day that these parties, these states, have agreed that they would not divulge individually what they have discovered. Now, they’ve had plenty of time to interpret the black boxes. There are reports from Germany that the White House version of what happened is not true, therefore you have to look elsewhere for the culprit who did the shooting down. They’re sitting on satellite intercepts. They have the images. They won’t release the air controller’s conversations in Kiev with the doomed aircraft. Why not? Did the pilot say—let me speculate—"Oh, my god, we’re being fired on by a jet fighter next to us! What’s going on?" Because we know there were two Ukrainian jet fighters. We don’t know, but somebody knows. You might ask—you might get somebody on who’s been investigating this to find out what they actually know.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you very much—
STEPHEN COHEN: That’s a digression. I apologize.
AMY GOODMAN: No, that was very interesting. Thank you very much, Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton, author of a number of books on Russia and the Soviet Union. His latestpiece in The Nation, we’ll link to, "Patriotic Heresy vs. the New Cold War: Neo-McCarthyites Have Stifled Democratic Debate on Russia and Ukraine."
This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report.
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Fmr. U.S. Ambassador: To Resolve Ukraine Crisis, Address Internal Divisions & Russian Fears of NATO

Ukraine has retracted an earlier claim to have reached a ceasefire with Russia. The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko initially said he agreed with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on steps toward a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. But the Kremlin then denied a ceasefire agreement, saying it is in no position to make a deal because it is not a party to the fighting. Ukraine has accused Russia of direct involvement in the violence amidst a recent escalation. The confusion comes as President Obama visits the former Soviet republic of Estonia ahead of a major NATO summit in Wales. On Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest outlined NATO’s plans to expand its presence in eastern Europe. Ukraine and NATO have accused Russia of sending armored columns of troops into Ukraine, but Russia has denied its troops are involved in fighting on the ground. We are joined by Jack Matlock, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the crisis in Ukraine, where more than 2,600 people have been killed since April. Earlier today, Ukraine said its president had agreed with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on steps towards a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, but the Kremlin denied any actual truce deal had been formalized. Initially, the Ukrainian presidential website had claimed a permanent ceasefire had been reached, but then the statement was retracted.
The confusion comes as President Obama visits the former Soviet republic of Estonia ahead of a major NATO summit in Wales. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest outlined NATO’s plans to expand its presence in eastern Europe.
PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: The United States, in cooperation with our allies, plans to significantly increase the readiness of a NATO response force to ensure that the alliance is prepared to respond to threats in a timely fashion. This will involved training, exercises and discussions about what kinds of infrastructure will be required in the Baltics, in Poland, in Romania and other states on the eastern frontier to deal with the world in which they face new concerns about Russian intentions.
AMY GOODMAN: Ukraine and NATO have accused Russia of sending armored columns of troops into Ukraine, but Russia has denied its troops are involved in fighting on the ground. Over the past week, the Russian-backed rebels have made a number of advances in eastern Ukraine. On Monday, rebels took control of the airport in the city of Luhansk. Now they’re storming the airport in Donetsk, the biggest city under their control. On Tuesday, an Italian newspaper reported Putin had told outgoing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso that he could take Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, within two weeks, if he wanted to. The Kremlin said the remark was taken out of context.
Joining us now is Jack Matlock, served as U.S. ambassador to the former Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991, author of several books, including Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray—And How to Return to Reality, as well as Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended.
Ambassador Matlock, we welcome you to Democracy Now! What do you think is most important to understand what’s happening in Ukraine today?
JACK MATLOCK: Well, I think one of the most important things to understand is that, practically speaking, the Ukrainians and the Russians have to agree on what would be an acceptable way to proceed within Ukraine. That is the fact of the matter. And one can, you know, talk all one wishes about how impermissible it is for Russia to intervene, but the fact is they are going to intervene until they are certain that there is no prospect of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO. And all of the threats by NATO and so on to sort of increase defenses elsewhere is simply provocative to the Russians. Now, I’m not saying that’s right, but I am saying that’s the way Russia is going to react. And frankly, this is all predictable. And those of us who helped negotiate the end of the Cold War almost unanimously said in the 1990s, "Do not expand NATO eastward. Find a different way to protect eastern Europe, a way that includes Russia. Otherwise, eventually there’s going to be a confrontation, because there is a red line, as far as any Russian government is concerned, when it comes to Ukraine and Georgia and other former republics of the Soviet Union."
JACK MATLOCK: I would say, with the exception of the three Baltic states. They were a special case.
AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for immediate negotiations on the statehood of southern and eastern Ukraine. On Monday, Putin blamed Kiev’s leadership for declining to participate in direct political talks with the separatists. This is what he said.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] What is the essence of the tragedy that is happening in Ukraine right now? I think the main reason for that is that the current Kiev leadership does not want to carry out a substantive political dialogue with the east of its country. And so, right now, in my opinion, a very important process, a process of direct talks, starts. We have been working on it for a long time, and we agreed upon that with President Poroshenko in Minsk. We start to have—or renew, to be precise—this sort of contact.
AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Matlock, the significance of what President Putin is saying?
JACK MATLOCK: Well, it does seem to me that, practically speaking, there needs to be an understanding between Russia and the Ukrainians as to how to solve this problem. It is not going to be solved militarily. So the idea that we should be giving more help to the Ukrainian government in a military sense simply exacerbates the problem. And the basic problem is Ukraine is a deeply divided country. And as long as one side tries to impose its will on the other—and that is what has happened since February, the Ukrainian nationalists in the west have been trying to impose their will on the east, and the Russians aren’t going to permit that. And that is the fact of the matter. So, yes, there simply needs to be an agreement.
And most of the—I would say, the influence of the West in trying to help the Ukrainians by, I would say, defending them against the Russians tends to be provocative, because—you know, Putin is right: If he decided, he could take Kiev. Russia is a nuclear power. And Russia feels that we have ignored that, that we have insulted them time and time again, and that we are out to turn Ukraine into an American puppet that surrounds them. And, you know, with that sort of psychology, by resisting that, in Russian eyes, he has gained unprecedented popularity. So, it seems to me that we have to understand that, like it or not, the Ukrainians are going to have to make an agreement that’s acceptable to them, if they keep their unity.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to reporters Thursday, President Obama said the U.S. will collaborate with its NATO allies in dealing with the Ukraine crisis, but he ruled out military action against Russia.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will continue to stand firm with our allies and partners that what is happening is wrong, that there is a solution that allows Ukraine and Russia to live peacefully. But it is not in the cards for us to see a military confrontation between Russia and the United States in this region. Keep in mind, however, that I’m about to go to a NATO conference. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but a number of those states that are close by are. And we take our Article 5 commitments to defend each other very seriously.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s President Obama. Ambassador Jack Matlock, you say, you know, Russia is very threatened by the possibility Ukraine would join NATO. Most people in the United States, I don’t think, understand the politics of NATO. It’s not on people’s radar. Why is NATO such a threat? And what was the agreement that was originally worked out around NATO, with Ukraine and also in the Baltics, in Lithuania and Latvia and Estonia—Estonia, where President Obama is right now?
JACK MATLOCK: Well, they are members of NATO. They will be defended. Russia is not threatening them militarily. Of course we will defend them, because they are members of NATO. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. And why we react as if it is and has any claim on our cooperation in defending them from Russia, this is simply not the case. These are different cases. And, you know, by saying we have to increase our military presence in the Baltic states, this just reinforced the Russian perception that they must, and at all costs, keep Ukraine from that happening, or else they’ll have American bases in Ukraine, they’ll have American naval bases on the Black Sea. This is the fear. And it seems to me that it is not necessary to protect the Baltics, which are not being threatened by Russia, and it is apt to make the Russians even more demanding toward the Ukrainians when it comes to Ukraine. However, you know, we’re on that course, clearly. The Estonians and others feel that they could be threatened. But I think there is no question that as members of NATO, they would be defended by the United States, and Russia is not going to present a military challenge to them. But they are going to do whatever they consider necessary to make sure this doesn’t happen in Ukraine.
AMY GOODMAN: What about NATO officials saying they plan to approve a NATOrapid reaction force that would, what, be a 4,000-member force that could be rapidly deployed to eastern Europe in response to what they called Russia’s aggressive behavior?
JACK MATLOCK: Well, I’m not aware of what that aggressive behavior in regard to the Baltic states is. And again, I think that’s unnecessary, and it tends to make the Russians even more demanding when it comes to Ukraine.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the original understanding of NATO and Russia. Go back a ways to understand what the deal was worked out between Russia andNATO allies.
JACK MATLOCK: Well, when the Berlin Wall came down, when eastern Europe began to try to free itself from the Communist rule, the first President Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, met with Gorbachev in Malta, and they made a very important statement. One was we were no longer enemies. The second was the Soviet Union would not intervene in eastern Europe to keep Communist rule there. And in response, the United States would not take advantage of that.
Now, this was a—you might say, a gentlemen’s agreement between Gorbachev and President Bush. It was one which was echoed by the other Western leaders—the British prime minister, the German chancellor, the French president. As we negotiated German unity, there the question was: Could a united Germany stay inNATO? At first, Gorbachev said, "No, if they unite, they have to leave NATO." And we said, "Look, let them unite. Let them stay in NATO. But we will not extend NATO to the territory of East Germany." Well, it turned out that legally you couldn’t do it that way, so in the final agreement it was that all of Germany would stay in NATO, but that the territory of East Germany would be special, in that there would be no foreign troops—that is, no non-German troops—and no nuclear weapons. Now, later—at that time, the Warsaw Pact was still in place. We weren’t talking about eastern Europe. But the statements made were very general. At one point, Secretary Baker told Gorbachev NATO jurisdiction would not move one inch to the east. Well, he had the GDR in mind, but that’s not what he said specifically.
So, yes, if I had been asked when I was ambassador of the United States in Moscow in 1991, "Is there an understanding that NATO won’t move to the east?" I would have said, "Yes, there is." However, it was not a legal commitment, and one could say that once the Soviet Union collapsed, any agreement then maybe didn’t hold, except that when you think about it, if there was no reason to expand NATO when the Soviet Union existed, there was even less reason when the Soviet Union collapsed and you were talking about Russia. And the reason many of us—myself, George Kennan, many of us—argued against NATO expansion in the '90s was precisely to avoid the sort of situation we have today. It was totally predictable. If we start expandingNATO, as we get closer to the Russian border, they are going to consider this a hostile act. And at some point, they will draw a line, and they will do anything within their power to keep it from going any further. That's what we’re seeing today.