USA vs Russia: from Maidan to Trump
Second part of "Escalating the risky fight with Russia" article
The neocons and liberal hawks delivered Putin his first dose of payback when they helped orchestrate a putsch in neighboring Ukraine in 2014 that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych. Neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, a Hillary Clinton favorite, was caught on an unsecure phone line discussing with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt how they would “glue” or “midwife” a change in government that would put Nuland’s choice, Arseniy “Yats is the guy” Yatsenyuk in power. Meanwhile, the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) sponsored scores of projects inside Ukraine for training activists and funding journalists.
Another key project seeking to undermine Yanukovych’s government was the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Open Society foundation of billionaire currency speculator George Soros. Amid a massive propaganda barrage, street protests in Kiev and open encouragement from senior U.S. officials, a violent coup on Feb. 22, 2014 – spearheaded by neo-Nazi street fighters – forced Yanukovych to flee for his life and brought Yatsenyuk to power as Ukraine’s prime minister.
When ethnic Russians from Crimea and eastern Ukraine rejected this unconstitutional transfer of power – and Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia – the State Department and the mainstream Western media reported this resistance as a “Russian invasion” or “Russian aggression” – prompting the first wave of U.S. economic sanctions to punish Russia.
The European Union was brought into the sanctions regime after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, and the U.S. government immediately blamed Russia. The crash investigation – though technically “Dutch-led” – was effectively put under the control of Ukraine’s unsavory intelligence agency, the SBU, which has among its mandates the protection of Ukrainian government secrets and has been implicated in torturing captured ethnic Russians. Though I was told that at least some CIA analysts saw the hand of Ukrainian extremists behind the MH-17 shoot-down – and Dutch intelligence reported that the only powerful anti-aircraft missiles in the area that day were under the control of the Ukrainian military – Obama refused to release the details of the U.S. intelligence assessment, allowing the SBU-dominated investigation to pin the blame on Russia.
The U.S.-government-subsidized OCCRP also was involved in the analysis of the so-called “Panama Papers,” a law firm’s purloined financial records that led to front-page stories seeking to tie Putin to off-shored wealth even though Putin’s name was not found in the documents. The West’s thorough demonization of Putin set the stage for Hillary Clinton’s attempts to delegitimize Donald Trump by portraying him as Putin’s “puppet” because the Republican nominee advocated seeking normalized relations with Russia and cooperating with Moscow on counter-terrorism operations against Islamic State.
The Clinton campaign theme, which I was personally briefed on, sought to convince journalists that Trump was a Russian agent completely under Putin’s control. That theme provided the backdrop for the CIA’s leaked allegations about Russian hacking of the emails of the Democratic National Committee, which revealed how the DNC improperly tilted the primary playing field in favor of Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders. A second batch of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta disclosed the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street interests and pay-to-play aspects of the Clinton money machine.
Given Obama’s refusal to let CIA analysts brief reporters about internal CIA dissent questioning the mainstream consensus blaming the sarin attack on Syria and the MH-17 shoot-down on Russia – because those briefings might undercut the prevailing propaganda narratives – it’s a fair assumption that Obama authorized the CIA leaks to The Washington Post and other major media outlets about the alleged Russian hacks. I’ve also been told that there is some internal CIA dissent against the publicly released claim of Russian responsibility for the Democratic leaks, an analytical dispute that appears to center less on whether Russian intelligence and other entities may have hacked the email accounts than whether Russia then released the material to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former British Ambassador Craig Murray, an Assange associate who says he communicated with one of the sources (or a representative) in a meeting in Washington in September, say the emails did not come from the Russian government. Murray also has indicated that the two batches of emails had two different sources, both American, one a disgruntled Democrat and the other possibly from the U.S. intelligence community. Despite these doubts, the CIA’s leaked claims about alleged Russian responsibility for the hacks have prompted congressional demands for a thorough investigation, possibly even a special committee like the ones that examined the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals.
Telling the Full Story
If such an inquiry is undertaken – and assuming it’s not a pre-packaged deal that starts with the conclusion of Russian guilt and assembles whatever is necessary to “prove” the case – the investigation should also obtain testimony regarding Putin’s suspicion that Secretary of State Clinton, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Soros organization had a hand in the aborted “snow revolution” in Moscow from 2011 to 2013.
If such an inquiry is undertaken – and assuming it’s not a pre-packaged deal that starts with the conclusion of Russian guilt and assembles whatever is necessary to “prove” the case – the investigation should also obtain testimony regarding Putin’s suspicion that Secretary of State Clinton, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Soros organization had a hand in the aborted “snow revolution” in Moscow from 2011 to 2013. The investigation also should explore whether Obama assigned the CIA’s leadership to leak information to the mainstream media in a failed attempt to reverse the outcome of the U.S. election by trying to stampede the Electoral College into denying Trump the presidency. Under the CIA’s charter, it is forbidden to operate domestically or interfere in U.S. politics, a concern that worried President Harry Truman at the CIA’s founding. One of the most serious abuses of the Reagan administration was its systematic politicizing of the CIA’s analytical division when it was under the control of CIA Director William Casey and his deputy, Robert Gates. According to the CIA’s then-chief Russia expert Melvin Goodman and other former CIA analysts, the Casey-Gates team broke down the agency’s historic tradition of objective analysis and bullied CIA analysts into producing phony intelligence that served President Reagan’s ideological agenda.
That corruption continued through both Republican and Democratic presidents, including George W. Bush’s “slam-dunk” National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s non-existent WMD and now including Obama’s selective release of data on Syria, Ukraine and Russia.
Going to Extremes
As destructive as the past distortion of intelligence has been, the Obama CIA’s apparent interference in an attempt to reverse the outcome of a U.S. presidential election arguably ranks with the worst intelligence scandals in U.S. history. And, compounding the CIA’s political intervention is the fact that this controversy has taken on a life of its own as the Obama administration prepares to hit nuclear-armed Russia with a combination of new economic sanctions and covert cyber-attacks, apparently with the goal of heading off any rapprochement between Putin and Trump.
The neocons and their liberal-hawk allies clearly have in mind plans for making the Russian economy scream and somehow engineering a “regime change” in Moscow despite Putin’s current 80 percent approval ratings. But this latest scheme – like the earlier ones – is almost surely not going to end as its architects have drawn it up. While the neocons and liberal hawks may dream about some Western-beloved “liberal” being carried into the Kremlin while Putin is dragged away, the likelihood that the Russian people would put up with another round of American-prescribed “shock therapy” – in which Russia’s resources were plundered, Russian life expectancy plunged, and various U.S. “advisers” and hedge funds made out like bandits – is remote.
The far more likely result of Sen. Graham’s “crippling sanctions” would be that a hardline Russian nationalist would rise, lacking Putin’s calculating temperament. Instead of Putin and his famous sang froid, the world would likely be facing some hot-blooded extremist determined to defend the honor of Mother Russia even to the point of pulling out the nuclear codes and pushing the button. The neocons and liberal hawks may believe they’ve got this New Cold War all figured out, but if their record holds, they could easily be driving the world toward a hot war that would indeed be the war to end all wars – and to end humanity as well.