NATO Watch editor Ian Davis writes:
Prior to today’s ceasefire announcement, fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine had been escalating sharply. Russia had stepped up support for the rebels and reportedly deployed troops inside Ukraine.
Although the war in Ukraine is pulling in foreign fighters for both sides, allegations of Russian government involvement are rife. Last week, for example, NATO released a series of satellite images showing what a top general described as “Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry … operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory”.
However, a group of former officers of the US intelligence community (formed in January 2003 as a “coast-to-coast enterprise” to protest the use of faulty intelligence “upon which the US/UK invasion of Iraq was based”), the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), published a memorandum on 31 August 2014 that raises important questions about NATO’s role in the crisis. The memo is reproduced on the NATO Watch website with the kind permission of one of the signatories, Ray McGovern.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”.
Other points made:
- 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.
- . . . 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 . . .Two months later, at their summit in Bucharest NATO leaders issued a formal declaration that “Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO.”
- 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.)
- 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. 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