Ukraine

The Voluntary Exchange Podcast: Not-So-Grand Chessboard

I thought this week I’d hit on a bunch of different geopolitical situations that could escalate in the near future.

Ukraine

Ukraine has been in the middle of low-energy civil war since the coup that took place in early 2014. It set the pro-EU, anti-Russian west against the Russian-speaking, breakaway west. Ukraine has always been a country trying to find an identity. Its borders have changed and so have its allegiances. At one time, it was part of Russia. For a long time in fact. It was called “Little Russia” for parts of the Middle Ages, and Russian leaders have always looked that it as part of Russian history.

The western area has felt more at home with the West. Parts of it were part of the Polish Kingdom, before breaking off and joining Great Russia in 1654 with the signing of the Treaty of Pereyaslav. The western region has more recently has tried to outlaw the Russian language in Ukraine, and in the past they called Russian-speakers “Cossaks”, much like the Poles did.

Currently, the war has been more of a cold one. With the eastern regions continuing to support Russia, with Moscow expanding its influence over the area. The Ukrainian government from Kiev, and the Neo-Nazi political party that the United States helped take over, has seen the army become “fatigued”, as most soldiers not on either extreme sides of the conflict. Much like the American Civil War, fighting your “brother” can become tiresome.

Germany vs Poland

An interesting development has come up in Poland. Poland has recently been controlled by a more right-wing, anti-EU party. Poland looks to gain back its national sovereignty from Brussels and the Neo-Liberals in Germany. It has refused to accept even one Muslim migrant, and thinks pretty highly of Donald Trump.

Poland’s refusal to play ball has lead Germany to support regime change. They have gone so far as to have the Germany Defense Minister call for support of the new “youth resistance” in Poland. This “resistance” has been linked to George Soros, and seems to be another “color revolution”. There have been a long history of these color revolutions in Europe, a few in Ukraine in the 2000s, before the successfully violent one in 2014.

Poland has pushed the envelope, looking to create its own “bloc” in Europe. This bloc would be built out of the “Three Seas Initiative”. The initiative aims to bring together three different blocs within Europe, offering national sovereignty and some breathing room from the over-bearing governance of the EU. Some are calling the bloc: “Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 2.0”. This does not sit well with Angela Merkel and her friends in Brussels.

The bloc would also be very anti-Russian, which would date back to the days of Communism.

Libya

The news out of Libya isn’t really news at all. The story here is that CNN has finally decided to cover the ongoing slave trade in the country. This was being reported on by actual journalists back as far as April of this year, maybe before. CNN took it’s time for a few reasons I’m sure.

During the revolt against Gaddafi, CNN took its talking points from the CIA-backed rebels on the ground. The rebels (the ones Hillary is so happy to take pictures with) made it clear that all black African migrants were really “mercenaries” brought in my Gaddafi to protect his regime. In reality, these migrants were brought in as workers by Gaddafi for development projects. But CNN ran with the “mercenary” term, giving the rebels the look of “freedom fighters” killing the evil mercenaries brought in by the evil dictator to stomp out any uprising.

These African migrants were hunted down and killed in large numbers. The ones that weren’t killed, are the slaves you seen CNN talking about today.

The whole war was based off a lie. A lie that Gaddafi was going to slaughter his citizens in the streets. A story that has been debunked ever since.

In a war that has been dubbed “Hillary’s War”, it was exposed by Wikileaks that Clinton knew about the targeting of migrants, but she was more than happy to ignore that to achieve her end goals.

The reason I believe that this is finally seeing the light of day is simple. The United States wants to expand its imperial footprint in Africa (something I covered in a previous episode), and what better way to sell that to the American people then to tell them there is an actual slave trade going on. CNN of course will make no connection between the trade and the US-backed forces, or that they peddled the narrative that provided cover for this disgusting practice.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has always been the butt of everyone’s joke. The country where a wheelbarrow worth of its currency buys you nothing. Where Bitcoin is at 13K apiece. Well, it seems like the corruption and economic criminality has finally caught up with President Mugabe.

This week, the military of the country took over the state radio & TV stations. It also put President Mugabe and his wife under house arrest. The military is not calling it a coup.

The president has been in power since 1980 and his now 93 years old. He is the oldest head of state on Earth, and planned to hand over power to his wife. As recently as today, Mugabe addressed the country on TV, surpising everyone by stating he was not stepping down.

The situation should be followed as it unfolds.

Iraq/Kurds

This week we also saw (maybe) the end of Kurdish autonomy in Iraq. Kurdistan’s Regional Government declared that they support a “United Iraq”, but them at odds with the more radical elements of the Kurdish population. Since this Iraq military’s takeover of Kirkuk, the Regional Government has lost all of it’s power. The politicians in charge seem to have made a deal with the central government of Baghdad. Iraq and its US backers wanted the selling of oil in the Kurdish region to flow through Baghdad, and that seems to have taken place. The idea of Kurdish independence in Iraq would seem to be dead.

Yemen

The situation in Yemen continues to get worse. Just this week the Saudi regime bombed the airport in the capital city of Sanaa, effectively shutting down another route for aid into the starving country.

Speaking of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Senator Chris Murphyspoke on the floor of Senate, calling out the US government for its role in the crimes taking place in the Middle East’s poorest nation:

Let’s hope maybe this brings some attention to the situation and guilt-trips a Congressmen or two to find their morals, if they have any.

Episode can be found here…The full episode archive can be found hereand on ITunes.

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Episode Preview: The Voluntary Exchange Podcast – Week of 8/20/2017

Good morning!

Tomorrow I will be recording and posting this weeks episode of The Voluntary Exchange Podcast. This week has been light in geopolitical stories. This episode will focus on much of the same stories from last week. Of course, the bulk of the episode will be my breakdown of Trump’s speech on Afghanistan from Monday. I posted my initial thoughts on the speech earlier this week, so I’ll hit on these points again.

This week’s topics include:

I will still be offering to take listener requests for topics to discuss on future episodes. Anything can be requested, but I do like to focus more on war and locking people in cages than transgender bathrooms. Submit your suggestions in the comment section!

I’d also like to give a shout out to Scott Horton. He has his first book out on Amazon, “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan”. If you don’t know Scott Horton, he is the editor of Antiwar.com, one of the founders of The Libertarian Institute, foreign policy Jedi, anarcho-capitalist, skateboard, and all around badass.

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Episode: The Empire Marches On

tyahnybok-mccain

As America fell into a state of hysteria the last week over the events in Charlottesville, the US imperial machine marched on. I get back to my roots in this episode. I speak briefly about the ouster of Steve Bannon and how that effects policy on Afghanistan. I hit on the literal fist fight at the top of world between India & China, Korean deescalation, the Saudi Crown Prince and I even give some reading recommendations.

NATO expansion continues in Europe, as the US Navy has decided to build bases in Ukraine and Moldova, showing America’s arrogance.

This week’s topics include:

Today’s episode.

The full archive of the show can be found here.

“At Least She Isn’t Trump”

Watching Trump speak all I kept thinking is his lack of a foreign policy is still less George W Bush-like than Hillary Clinton. The Democrat. Who “sensible” people will vote for. Literally wants to repeat the Iraq War in Syria. Still. Even after ISIS. Still wants to overthrow the secular government. Still wants to surround Russia and place more missiles in Eastern Europe.

Stay Home America 2016

Russia Cuts Off Ukraine Gas Supply To 6 European Countries

From Zerohedge:

Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian state energy giant Gazprom to cut supplies to and through Ukraine amid accusations, according to The Daily Mail, that its neighbor has been siphoning off and stealing Russian gas. Due to these “transit risks for European consumers in the territory of Ukraine,”Gazprom cut gas exports to Europe by 60%, plunging the continent into an energy crisis “within hours.” Perhaps explaining the explosion higher in NatGas prices (and oil) today, gas companies in Ukraine confirmed that Russia had cut off supply; and six countries reported a complete shut-off of Russian gas. The EU raged that the sudden cut-off to some of its member countries was “completely unacceptable,” but Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller later added that Russia plans to shift all its natural gas flows crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey; and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak stated unequivocally,”the decision has been made.”

As Bloomberg reports

Russia plans to shift all its natural gas flows crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey, a surprise move that the European Union’s energy chief said would hurt its reputation as a supplier.

The decision makes no economic sense, Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission’s vice president for energy union, told reporters today after talks with Russian government officials and the head of gas exporter, OAO Gazprom, in Moscow.

Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural gas supplier, plans to send 63 billion cubic meters through a proposed link under the Black Sea to Turkey, fully replacing shipments via Ukraine, Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller said during the discussions. About 40 percent of Russia’s gas exports to Europe and Turkey travel through Ukraine’s Soviet-era network.

Sefcovic said he was “very surprised” by Miller’s comment, adding that relying on a Turkish route, without Ukraine, won’t fit with the EU’s gas system.

Gazprom plans to deliver the fuel to Turkey’s border with Greece and “it’s up to the EU to decide what to do” with it further, according to Sefcovic.

Which, as The Daily Mail reports, has led to a major (and imminent) problem for Europe…

Russia cut gas exports to Europe by 60 percent today, plunging the continent into an energy crisis ‘within hours’ as a dispute with Ukraine escalated.

This morning, gas companies in Ukraine said that Russia had completely cut off their supply.

Six countries reported a complete shut-off of Russian gas shipped via Ukraine today, in a sharp escalation of a struggle over energy that threatens Europe as winter sets in.

Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia and Turkey all reported a halt in gas shipments from Russia through Ukraine.

As Bloomberg goes on to note, Gazprom has reduced deliveries via Ukraine after price and debt disputes with the neighboring country that twice in the past decade disrupted supplies to the EU during freezing weather.

“Transit risks for European consumers on the territory of Ukraine remain,” Miller said in an e-mailed statement. “There are no other options”except for the planned Turkish Stream link, he said.

“We have informed our European partners, and now it is up to them to put in place the necessary infrastructure starting from the Turkish-Greek border,” Miller said.

Russia won’t hurt its image with a shift to Turkey because it has always been a reliable gas supplier and never violated its obligations, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters today in Moscow after meeting Sefcovic.

“The decision has been made,” Novak said. “We are diversifying and eliminating the risks of unreliable countries that caused problems in past years, including for European consumers.”

Is the Conflict in Ukraine About More Than Just Natural Gas: Coal Reserves?

I’ve talked about the natural gas reserves under Eastern Ukraine and how this conflict begins and ends with the control of resources.

Well now ZeroHedge is reporting on another type of energy resource may also be at play. Coal.

Linking to Reuters, Zerohedge has the story, along with a map that makes it pretty clear why people seem to any give a shit about the “rebel” area of Ukraine:

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ZeroHedge: Russia & China Begin Construction of World’s Largest Gas Pipeline

If after months of Eurasian axis formation, one still hasn’t realized why in the grand game over Ukraine supremacy – not to mention superpower geopolitics – Europe, and the West, has zero leverage, while Russia has all the trump cards, then today’s latest development in Chinese-Russian cooperation should make it abundantly clear.

 

Overnight, following a grand ceremony in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, Russia and China officially began the construction of a new gas pipeline linking the countries. The bottom line to Russia – nearly half a trillion after China’s CNPC agreed to buy $400bn in gas from Russia’s Gazprom back in May. In return, Russia will ship 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas annually over a period of 30 years. The 3,968 km pipeline linking gas fields in eastern Siberia to China will be the world’s largest fuel network in the world.

Zerohedge

Memo to Angela Merkel From Veteran Intelligence Officers to Avoid All-out Ukraine War

Via AntiWar and ConsortiumNews

 

MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Ukraine and NATO

 

We the undersigned are longtime veterans of U.S. intelligence. We take the unusual step of writing this open letter to you to ensure that you have an opportunity to be briefed on our views prior to the NATO summit on September 4-5.

 

You need to know, for example, that accusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq. We saw no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq then; we see no credible evidence of a Russian invasion now. Twelve years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mindful of the flimsiness of the evidence on Iraqi WMD, refused to join in the attack on Iraq. In our view, you should be appropriately suspicions of charges made by the US State Department and NATO officials alleging a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

 

President Barack Obama tried yesterday to cool the rhetoric of his own senior diplomats and the corporate media, when he publicly described recent activity in the Ukraine, as “a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now … it’s not really a shift.”

 

Obama, however, has only tenuous control over the policymakers in his administration – who, sadly, lack much sense of history, know little of war, and substitute anti-Russian invective for a policy. One year ago, hawkish State Department officials and their friends in the media very nearly got Mr. Obama to launch a major attack on Syria based, once again, on “intelligence” that was dubious, at best.

 

Largely because of the growing prominence of, and apparent reliance on, intelligence we believe to be spurious, we think the possibility of hostilities escalating beyond the borders of Ukraine has increased significantly over the past several days. More important, we believe that this likelihood can be avoided, depending on the degree of judicious skepticism you and other European leaders bring to the NATO summit next week.

 

Experience With Untruth

 

Hopefully, your advisers have reminded you of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s checkered record for credibility. It appears to us that Rasmussen’s speeches continue to be drafted by Washington. This was abundantly clear on the day before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq when, as Danish Prime Minister, he told his Parliament: “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This is not something we just believe. We know.”

 

Photos can be worth a thousand words; they can also deceive. We have considerable experience collecting, analyzing, and reporting on all kinds of satellite and other imagery, as well as other kinds of intelligence. Suffice it to say that the images released by NATO on August 28 provide a very flimsy basis on which to charge Russia with invading Ukraine. Sadly, they bear a strong resemblance to the images shown by Colin Powell at the UN on February 5, 2003 that, likewise, proved nothing.

 

That same day, we warned President Bush that our former colleague analysts were “increasingly distressed at the politicization of intelligence” and told him flatly, “Powell’s presentation does not come close” to justifying war. We urged Mr. Bush to “widen the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

 

Consider Iraq today. Worse than catastrophic. Although President Vladimir Putin has until now showed considerable reserve on the conflict in the Ukraine, it behooves us to remember that Russia, too, can “shock and awe.” In our view, if there is the slightest chance of that kind of thing eventually happening to Europe because of Ukraine, sober-minded leaders need to think this through very carefully.

 

If the photos that NATO and the US have released represent the best available “proof” of an invasion from Russia, our suspicions increase that a major effort is under way to fortify arguments for the NATO summit to approve actions that Russia is sure to regard as provocative. Caveat emptor is an expression with which you are no doubt familiar. Suffice it to add that one should be very cautious regarding what Mr. Rasmussen, or even Secretary of State John Kerry, are peddling.

 

We trust that your advisers have kept you informed regarding the crisis in Ukraine from the beginning of 2014, and how the possibility that Ukraine would become a member of NATO is anathema to the Kremlin. According to a February 1, 2008 cable (published by WikiLeaks) from the US embassy in Moscow to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, US Ambassador William Burns was called in by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who explained Russia’s strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine.

 

Lavrov warned pointedly of “fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.” Burns gave his cable the unusual title, “NYET MEANS NYET: RUSSIA’S NATO ENLARGEMENT REDLINES,” and sent it off to Washington with IMMEDIATE precedence. Two months later, at their summit in Bucharest NATO leaders issued a formal declaration that “Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO.”

 

Just yesterday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk used his Facebook page to claim that, with the approval of Parliament that he has requested, the path to NATO membership is open. Yatsenyuk, of course, was Washington’s favorite pick to become prime minister after the February 22 coup d’etat in Kiev. “Yats is the guy,” said Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland a few weeks before the coup, in an intercepted telephone conversation with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. You may recall that this is the same conversation in which Nuland said, “Fuck the EU.”

 

Timing of the Russian “Invasion”

 

The conventional wisdom promoted by Kiev just a few weeks ago was that Ukrainian forces had the upper hand in fighting the anti-coup federalists in southeastern Ukraine, in what was largely portrayed as a mop-up operation. But that picture of the offensive originated almost solely from official government sources in Kiev. There were very few reports coming from the ground in southeastern Ukraine. There was one, however, quoting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, that raised doubt about the reliability of the government’s portrayal.

 

According to the “press service of the President of Ukraine” on August 18, Poroshenko called for a “regrouping of Ukrainian military units involved in the operation of power in the East of the country. … Today we need to do the rearrangement of forces that will defend our territory and continued army offensives,” said Poroshenko, adding, “we need to consider a new military operation in the new circumstances.”

 

If the “new circumstances” meant successful advances by Ukrainian government forces, why would it be necessary to “regroup,” to “rearrange” the forces? At about this time, sources on the ground began to report a string of successful attacks by the anti-coup federalists against government forces. According to these sources, it was the government army that was starting to take heavy casualties and lose ground, largely because of ineptitude and poor leadership.

Ten days later, as they became encircled and/or retreated, a ready-made excuse for this was to be found in the “Russian invasion.” That is precisely when the fuzzy photos were released by NATO and reporters like the New York Times’ Michael Gordon were set loose to spread the word that “the Russians are coming.” (Michael Gordon was one of the most egregious propagandists promoting the war on Iraq.)

 

No Invasion – But Plenty Other Russian Support

 

The anti-coup federalists in southeastern Ukraine enjoy considerable local support, partly as a result of government artillery strikes on major population centers. And we believe that Russian support probably has been pouring across the border and includes, significantly, excellent battlefield intelligence. But it is far from clear that this support includes tanks and artillery at this point – mostly because the federalists have been better led and surprisingly successful in pinning down government forces.

 

At the same time, we have little doubt that, if and when the federalists need them, the Russian tanks will come.

 

This is precisely why the situation demands a concerted effort for a ceasefire, which you know Kiev has so far been delaying. What is to be done at this point? In our view, Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk need to be told flat-out that membership in NATO is not in the cards – and that NATO has no intention of waging a proxy war with Russia – and especially not in support of the ragtag army of Ukraine. Other members of NATO need to be told the same thing.

 

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

  •     William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

  •     David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

  •     Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

  •     Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East (ret.)

  •     Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (Ret.)

  •     Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)

  •     Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)

The Coalition Government of Ukraine Collapses

This will make the geopolitical situation even more complicated. The UDAR and Svoboda parties both left, which means:

“Under the constitution, the former Soviet republic has 30 days to form a new coalition or it must call early elections. The existing cabinet will remain in place in the meantime.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government, took over the country in February after pro-European street protests prompted Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia. Yanukovych’s successor, billionaire Petro Poroshenko, had pledged to call parliamentary elections this year.”

Look for the EU and US to begin backing a new billionaire who can make a personal profit off the West controlling the natural resources of the land mass of Ukraine.

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