Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ukraine updates April 22 , 2014 - ITAR-TASS/. Protesters in Luhansk have announced the establishment of a joint headquarters of South-Western Ukraine which will coordinate efforts of protesters in all other regions, the local media reported Monday. The joint coordination center will be based in Donetsk, the source said .......KIEV, April 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Valery Bolotov, the newly elected people’s governor of the Luhansk region, has pledged to take courts and police under control, Ukrainian media quoted Bolotov as saying on Monday ...... WASHINGTON, April 22. /ITAR-TASS/. The USA will provide aid to Ukraine worth $50 million for carrying out political and economic reforms. This assistance is aimed at strengthening partnership between the US and Ukraine, says the White House’s statement published on Tuesday ..... ​Firefighters v arsonists: US confirms $5bn spent on 'Ukraine democracy' ( Inane logic of Victoria Nuland - People holding illegal arms and occupying government buildings are perfectly OK, as long as they are permitted to do so, believes Washington’s top diplomat in Europe. But doing exactly the same thing without permission is bad. ) ...... Will US target Putin's assets abroad or really attempt to slam financing for Russian businesses ?


US De-escalation moves ????




Here Come The Boots On The Ground: US Troops Heading To Eastern Europe

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It seems the truce "deal" is well and truly dead...
  • 600 U.S. TROOPS HEADING TO EUROPE FOR EXERCISES: PENTAGON
  • U.S. AIRBORNE TROOPS GOING TO POLAND, LITHUANIA, LATVIA,ESTONIA
  • U.S. MILITARY EXERCISES ARE IN RESPONSE TO UKRAINE CRISIS:KIRBY
  • MORE MILITARY EXERCISES 'COMING THROUGH' NATO: PENTAGON
The question now, of course, is - what will Putin do in response to this action?
As for where these troops may be arriving from the answer is simple: that other US military intervention success story - Afghanistan. From Reuters:
The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 - the minimum demanded by the U.S. military to train Afghan forces - as the longest war in American history winds down, Obama administration officials briefed on the matter say.

Since Afghanistan's general election on April 5, White House, State Department and Pentagon officials have resumed discussions on how many American troops should remain after the current U.S.-led coalition ends its mission this year.

The decision to consider a small force, possibly less than 5,000 U.S. troops, reflects a belief among White House officials that Afghan security forces have evolved into a robust enough force to contain a still-potent Taliban-led insurgency. The small U.S. force that would remain could focus on counter-terrorism or training operations.

That belief, the officials say, is based partly on Afghanistan's surprisingly smooth election, which has won international praise for its high turnout, estimated at 60 percent of 12 million eligible votes, and the failure of Taliban militants to stage high-profile attacks that day.

The Obama administration has been looking at options for a possible residual U.S. force for months.

"The discussion is very much alive," said one U.S. official who asked not to be identified. "They're looking for additional options under 10,000" troops.

There are now about 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in 2011, when troop numbers peaked a decade into a conflict originally intended to deny al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Of course, it would be peak irony if the next country Russia decides to destabilize is none other than its old "buddy" Afghanistan, which lately appears far more amicable toward the Kremlin than the White House. It certainly would be an additional egg in the face of US foreign policy if Aghaniitan - so critical to the US controlled heroin trade - were to show a return to some of its Taliban roots for which it is so well-known.



and.......




Second US Warship Enters Black Sea To "Promote Peace And Stability"

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Less than two short weeks ago, the US sent their first warship into The Black Sea to "reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners." Since then, thing shave escalated and then de-escalated last week with the so-called "truce deal." So why is the US sending a second ship? The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Taylor (FFG 50), homeported in Mayport, Fla., will enter the Black Sea April 22 to "promote peace and stability in the region." We are sure that Putin will stand idly by and watch as NATO and the US build forces on his borders, but no matter how aggressive his response, the US Navy combat dolphin and sea lion team will not accompany the mission.


As Navy reports,
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Taylor (FFG 50), homeported in Mayport, Fla., will enter the Black Sea April 22 to promote peace and stability in the region.


The U.S. Navy routinely operates ships in the Black Sea consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law. Taylor's mission is to reassure NATO allies of the U.S. Navy's commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working toward mutual goals in the region.

Taylor recently completed repairs at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece. After a round of sea trials that measured the vessel's performance, general seaworthiness, speed and maneuverability, she has now resumed her operations.

Taylor is deployed in a multi-mission role in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to contribute to regional maritime security, conduct bilateral and multilateral training missions, and to support NATO operations and deployments throughout the region.
We are sure Putin will simply watch and not respond in any way as this happens, but as The Guardian reports,
However ominously martial Russia’s actions toward Ukraine have become, the next combatants in the crisis will not be the US navy’s fleet of dolphins.


Yes, the navy trains and keeps dolphins, whose powerful innate echolocation abilities help sailors spot suspicious undersea objects that might be mines. The marine mammal enlistees are the aquatic equivalent of the dogs, whose sophisticated sense of smell has aided US soldiers in the hunt for homemade insurgent bombs on land.
But, contrary to reports, the dolphins are not accompanying the USS Donald Cook to the Black Sea.
Russia’s Izvestia newspaper recently asserted that a team of US dolphins had formed a maritime security perimeter around the Cook, a guided missile destroyer the US recently sent to international waters near Ukraine.
Last week, Russian fighter jets passed over the warship in a move the Pentagon considered a provocation, but it is unclear what the dolphins would have done to confront Russian airpower.

The question is moot, since, according to the navy, thedolphins were never alongside the Cook in the first place.
“There is no truth to this report,” said Lieutenant Commander Katie Cerezo, a navy spokeswoman.
The dolphins and sea lions are rarely deployed. In addition to worldwide demonstrations and exhibitions, the vast majority of actual naval dolphin operations are conducted in US harbors and ports, said Ed Budzyna, a spokesman for the naval marine mammal program.

“As far as being deployed to other regions and areas, that doesn’t really happen,” Budzyna said. “I don’t believe they were ever at the Black Sea."

http://hotair.com/archives/2014/04/22/mccain-to-biden-or-else-what/



McCain to Biden: “Or else what?”

POSTED AT 2:41 PM ON APRIL 22, 2014 BY ED MORRISSEY

  
John McCain appeared on Morning Joe earlier to react to the latest developments in Ukraine, including the tough talk from Joe Biden earlier today. McCain didn’t rebut Biden’s warnings to Russia as much as he wondered what the Obama administration planned to dofor a follow-up. McCain interjected, “Or else what?” at the end of the replay of Biden’s remarks. McCain warned that it’s not just the Ukrainians asking the same question, but also US allies and NATO partners in the Baltics:
Earlier Tuesday, Vice President Biden called on Russia to stop supporting the pro-Russian groups who have taken over a number of government buildings in the eastern part of the country.
“Or else what?” McCain asked after listening to Biden’s remarks on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Or else what? What is the vice president saying, if they continue to do this, what will we do?”
McCain, who has called on the United States to offer light military weapons to Ukraine, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is keeping troops lined at the eastern border to evaluate his options. He warned the United States should not underestimate him.
It’s a long segment, with this exchange near the halfway mark. Joe Scarborough noted in the run-up to the topic that a bipartisan consensus seems to be emerging for some kind of limited Western intervention in Ukraine — not military per se, but certainly with energy supplies and perhaps with “light” arms. Scarborough quoted NY Times columnist Nick Krystof as saying that Ukrainians “will not forgive” the West if we stand by and let Russia dismember their nation.
McCain, as one might expect, followed up with a robust argument for more intervention. That is especially true to keep the Baltic states from falling into despair over Western fortitude. Unfortunately, McCain then goes on to insist on intervention in Syria, too, and then suggests that the political lessons of the Vietnam War show that the US will sustain costly and lengthy interventions as long as they know what’s at stake. That’s probably the opposite of what people think when they consider the lessons of Vietnam, thanks in part to the man who is now Secretary of State, and it’s hardly the most attractive analogy for the pro-intervention argument.





McCain’s right that we’ve misread Putin for the last five years, but he’s likely misreading the American public on this point. How did we do with the less-lengthy and much-less-costly Iraq War, which actually succeeded in producing a unified, representative republic in the midst of Arab monarchies and dictatorships?










Ukraine De-Escalation over along with Easter holiday.....



The Truce Is Over: Ukraine President Urges Restart Of Military Action

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Ukraine's Acting President Turchynov appears to be calling for an official break in the "truce" deal...
  • *UKRAINE'S TURCHYNOV URGES RESTART OF ANTI-TERRORIST OPERATION
  • *TURCHYNOV SAYS 'TERRORISTS' HOLDING EAST UKRAINE REGION HOSTAGE
  • *TURCHYNOV SAYS EAST UKRAINE SEPARATISTS SUPPORTED BY RUSSIA
So much for Joe Biden's peace-keeping salvation mission to Kiev...
As Bloomberg reports, Pro-Russian separatists have “crossed line,” Ukraine acting President Oleksandr Turchynov says in statement posted on parliament website.







and.....







Ukraine Military Plane Hit By Gunfire Over Pro-Russia Held Slavyansk

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It would seem a red-line or two have been crossed:
  • *UKRAINE MILITARY  PLANE HIT BY GUNFIRE FROM REBEL TOWN: AFP
This comes on the heels of elevated tensions in the last few days since the "deal" and Biden's arrival in Kiev. Last week saw 'unidentified' fighter jets open fire on the Pro-Russian-held Kramatorsk airfield
Antonov An-30 military plane hit by gunfire over during observation flight - Defense ministry http://on.rt.com/1q9y34 


From earlier......




​Firefighters v arsonists: US confirms $5bn spent on 'Ukraine democracy'

Published time: April 22, 2014 10:38
Victoria Nuland (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)
Victoria Nuland (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)
People holding illegal arms and occupying government buildings are perfectly OK, as long as they are permitted to do so, believes Washington’s top diplomat in Europe. But doing exactly the same thing without permission is bad.
This piece of infallible logic came from the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, as she refused to equate the situation in Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in February with the present one in eastern Ukraine. In both cases armed militias have seized buildings and refused to leave.
“You can’t compare the situation in Kiev, where now everything that is still being held by protesters is being held with licenses and with the agreement of the government of Ukraine, with the agreement of the Rada, or with regular leases from the owners of the buildings,” Nuland told CNN in an interview.
Of course, when those militias were taking over buildings and building barricades in Kiev and elsewhere in in Ukraine, they didn’t have any license. It was only after they toppled the Ukrainian government that the new authorities moved to legitimize those seizures. The same authorities whose legitimacy is now being questioned by the protesters in the country’s east.
There is another difference between the two armed movements, according to Nuland.
“You can’t compare it to what is happening in eastern Ukraine, where you have armed separatists wearing balaclavas, carrying very heavy munitions, holding government buildings refusing to allow monitors in refusing to allow journalists in,” she claimed.
As if balaclava-wearing radical protesters never pelted the police with firebombs and didn’t shoot at them with guns stolen from police stations in Ukraine. But isn’t this is how the people presumably now in charge came to power?
The Kiev militias are where they are because they could topple the new government just as they did with the previous one. They already besieged the parliament demanded the resignation of the interior minister for the killing one of their leaders, and it took a lot of convincing on the part of the MPs to make them leave.
Of course when the authorities can’t force somebody to follow the law, they can save face by altering that law. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian government, disarming those unruly militias is what they agreed to by signing a joint statement with Russia, the US and the EU in Geneva last week. Pretending that this document applies only to those opposing Kiev simply won’t work.
Naturally, Washington blames Russia for making things worse in Ukraine, and fails to see the impotence of the current government.
“We continue to be concerned that you cannot dress yourself like a firefighter and behave like an arsonist,” Nuland said.
One can wonder what she was dressing herself like as she was treating Maidan activists to cookies and discussing the composition of the government which now sits in Kiev with the US ambassador to Ukraine.
Or how the $5 billion, which the US poured into “building civil society” in Ukraine helped the country overcome its inherent divisions and build a stable nation that can change its government without any street violence.
Alexandre Antonov, RT


http://en.itar-tass.com/world/729004

KIEV, April 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Valery Bolotov, the newly elected people’s governor of the Luhansk region, has pledged to take courts and police under control, Ukrainian media quoted Bolotov as saying on Monday.
“The people of the Luhansk region have empowered me to occupy this high post of an acting people’s governor. I will try to justify their trust,” Bolotov said as quoted by the media.
He plans to create a people’s council of the Luhansk region that will comprise representatives of all cities located in the region.
“The re-subordination of law enforcement agencies, including courts and the Interior Ministry, will be legal. The bodies of the Luhansk people’s power will act in cooperation with other regions in south-eastern Ukraine,” Bolotov known as the commander of “the southeast army” said.




http://en.itar-tass.com/world/728934




KIEV, April 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Protesters in Luhansk have announced the establishment of a joint headquarters of South-Western Ukraine which will coordinate efforts of protesters in all other regions, the local media reported Monday. The joint coordination center will be based in Donetsk, the source said.

On Monday, people's gatherings have been held in Luhansk and other settlements of the region to formulate questions which should be put to a referendum the protesters are planning to hold on May 11.

The establishment of a federal state, the status of a subject of a federal state and the status of the Russian language are among issues on the agenda of the planned referendum.
A large-scale meeting of supporters of a federal state was scheduled in Luhansk for 3.00 pm Moscow time Monday.


http://en.itar-tass.com/world/729086


WASHINGTON, April 22. /ITAR-TASS/. The USA will provide aid to Ukraine worth $50 million for carrying out political and economic reforms. This assistance is aimed at strengthening partnership between the US and Ukraine, says the White House’s statement published on Tuesday.
Of the mentioned sum, $11.4 million are designated for holding presidential elections in Ukraine that are scheduled for May 25. These funds are intended to support democratic processes, and not to aid any specific candidate, the White House stated.
In addition, the USA will provide $8 million to aid Ukraine’s armed forces, but this assistance doesn’t envisage arms shipments. These funds are meant to be used for buying communication systems, engineering equipment and transport facilities.
The White House published this statement along with the visit of US Vice President Joseph Biden to Ukraine. Biden is holding negotiations with the Ukrainian leadership in Kiev.



Threats from the US on additional unilateral sanctions , fear of May 11 , 2014 Referendum  .....


US: Russia Has ‘Days, Not Weeks’ to Force Ukraine Protesters’ Surrender

US Ambassador Vows New Sanctions If Protests Continue

by Jason Ditz, April 21, 2014
US officials, still under the impression that Russia’s government has absolute and unquestioned control over protests in eastern Ukraine, are accusing Russia of “violating” the deal by not forcing an immediate surrender.
The White House insists Russia has the influence to force a surrender, and that its agreement to last week’s Geneva deal had committed it to force the protesters to do so.
US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt warned Russia has “days, not weeks” to impose a surrender to the interim government on the protesters, vowing harsh new sanctions if they don’t.
The protesters insist that since they weren’t a party to the Geneva talks the demands have nothing to do with them. Ukraine’s interim government, which was a party to the deal, has claimed the text, which were supposed to calm tensions, actually gives them another pretext to attack the region militarily to enforce the demands.




and....






Leverage on Putin and Russia - maybe not as great as one might think from a bond market blockade........



Why Putin Is Smiling At The Bond Market's Blockade Of Russia

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One of the recurring themes the western media regurgitates at every opportunity is that while the western "diplomatic" sanctions against Russia are clearly a joke, one thing that will severely cripple the economy is the capital market embargo that has struck Russian companies, which are facing $115 billion of debt due over the next 12 months.
Recall that not a single Russian Eurobond issue has successfully priced since Russia's peaceful annexation of Crimea. Surely there is no way Russia can afford to let its major corporations - the nexus of its petroleum trade - go insolvent, which is why Putin will have to restrain himself and beg western investors to come back and chase appetiziing Russian yields (with other people's money of course). Turns out this line of thought is completely wrong.
Russian companies, facing $115 billion of debt due over the next 12 months,will have the funds even as bond markets shut because of the Ukraine crisis, according to Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.

Firms will have about $100 billion in cash and earnings at their disposal during the next 18 months, Moody’s said in an analysis of 47 businesses April 11. Almost all 55 companies examined by Fitch are “well placed” to withstand a closed refinancing market for the rest of 2014, it said in a note on April 16. Banks have more than $20 billion in foreign currency to lend as the tensions prompted customers to convert their ruble savings, ZAO Raiffeisenbank said.

The amount of cash on balances of Russian companies, committed credit lines from banks and the operating cash flows they will get is sufficient for the companies to comfortably service their liabilities,” Denis Perevezentsev, an analyst at Moody’s in Moscow, said by phone on April 17.
So, Russia can comfortably extend its Ukraine campaign well into 2015? Truly great news for Kiev, which is already bankrupt, and which is scrambling to get every last bcf of gas it can get its hands on before  Gazprom finally pulls the plug in under a month.
Ah, the miracles of positive cash flow... and how quickly it eliminates any so-called political leverage the bearer of the world's reserve currency thought it may have had, leading ultimately to this.




This Means War: US To Target Putin's Personal $40 Billion Stash

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While the White House has continually threatened further sanctions against Russia for non-de-escalation (even as it un-de-escalates itself), the specifics of the additional sanctions have been sparseGerman CEO warnings over blowback from economic sanctions... the"nonsense" of replacing Russian gas with US gas... the Russian warnings of "interdependence" and "boomerangs"... all reduce the West's arsenal of financial sanctions. But, as The Times of London reportsperhaps the US has found a crucial pain point for Putin - a sanctions regime that would target Putin's personal wealth, which includes a reported $40 billion stashed in Swiss bank accounts.
The White House on Friday refused to comment on reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal wealth could be targeted if the West were to move ahead with additional sanctions over Ukraine.

"I'm not going to get into foreshadowing particular individuals or entities that the United States may target," national security adviser Susan Rice told reporters at the White House. "But let me just say we've been clear that there are additional individuals, officials, close associates of senior leadership, oligarchsand those entities that they are associated with that remain very much potential targets of additional sanctions."

...
The Times of London reported Fridaythat the U.S. was preparing a sanctions regime that would target Putin's personal wealth, which includes a reported $40 billion stashed in Swiss bank accounts.
Putin's actual holdings are a tightly held secret, and the extent of his holdings are difficult to estimate. But a threat of trying to freeze the Russian president's personal assets could have played a role in a deal brokered Thursday by foreign ministers from the U.S., Ukraine, Russia and European Union.
Perhaps it is worth remembering Putin's response from last week's Q&A...
Putin was asked why the US can do whatever it wants and no one punishes them, while attempts are being made to punish Russia.

“The US is certainly one of the world’s leaders. At some point it seemed that it was the only leader and a uni-polar system was in place. Today it appears that is not the case.Everything in the world is interdependent and once you try to punish someone, in the end you will cut off your nose to spite your face,” he said.
Though we are sure Obama and his team have considered all the intended and unintended consequences of any such actions.