Who are Ukraine's "Moderate Rebels?"
History is repeating itself as the US and UK arm extremists | Issue #44
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin announced a new military operation in Ukraine on Thursday.
The invasion is focusing on the heavily Russian populated Donbass region in the south-east of the country.
In a dramatic speech, Putin announced it came after “Ukrainian aggression” and requests to intervene from the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics to defend against anti-Russian “genocide” in Donbass.
That Monday, for the first time, Putin had officially recognised the DPR and LPR.
The DPR and LPR declared breakaway republics in 2014, in response to the “Maidan” coup in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, which overthrew the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
War has been waging in eastern Ukraine in one way or another since then. Thursday marked the start of a major new phase in that war.
Within only one hour of his Putin’s speech announcing his “special operation”, Russia had knocked out Ukraine’s entire air force and air defence systems, wiped out military targets all over the country, sent ground forces into eastern and southern Ukraine and invaded from the north, sending an invasion force towards Kiev in an apparent attempt to decapitate the Ukrainian government.
Russia’s endgame is not clear. In his speech, Putin stated the goal of the operation was “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine, stressing that “We do not have plans to occupy Ukrainian territories.”
A lot has been stated about Ukrainian Nazis in the last few weeks — and it’s a problem I’ve written about before — see Issue #40. But any time you try to point out the danger posed by the neo-Nazi and other far-right armed groups embedded within the Ukrainian state, you get accused of “Putin propaganda.”
But inconveniently for US empire and its pro-NATO apologists, on Sunday, that line was once again dis-proven — by no less a source than the official, blue-tick Twitter account of Ukraine’s National Guard.
As I’ve reported before, the explicitly neo-Nazi militia known as the Azov Battalion, soon after the 2014 coup, was integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces — including the National Guards.
On Sunday, the National Guards boasted (in English) that its neo-Nazi Azov fighters had been preparing to fight Muslim Russian troops by greasing their bullets with pig fat (Muslims don’t eat pork). They even posted an accompanying video.
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The account referred to the Russian Muslim soldiers as “Kadyrov orcs”. Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region, said on Saturday that his forces in Ukraine had yet to suffer a single loss.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s book Lord of the Rings — and in the norse myths that inspired it — orcs are the monstrous and barbaric sub-human creatures who make up the foot troops of the enemy’s anonymous hordes.
The video was widely viewed online — and widely criticised. Checking the Twitter replies on Sunday, you could see the liberal, pro-NATO meltdown.
Ash Sarkar @AyoCaesarThe Ukrainian National Guard sharing explicitly racist propaganda from the Azov movement is deeply worrying. As others have said, Russia exaggerates the role of the far right in Ukraine. But Western media coverage mostly ignores it so as to avoid copying Kremlin talking points. https://t.co/qKywlS1S9S
There were a lot of tweets along these lines, fretting about the bad PR for the imperialist NATO cause, and somehow still managing to spin this into an anti-Russian line about the problem with Ukrainian Nazis somehow being Putin lies and exaggerations.
After a lot of two-faced criticism, Twitter eventually hid the tweet behind this warning about “hateful content.” You can still click through to the tweet, but you can no longer reply to it and all the replies to date have also been hidden.
But as I emphasised on Twitter to Novara’s fake leftist Ash Sarkar (see above), this tweet was not just a worrying aberation, or a rogue element online. This is evidenced by the fact that the National Guard account wrote its Nazi tweet in English and has still refused to delete it — even though its liberal Western backers have advised that it will be bad for their image.
Every country has bad elements. But, as John Pilger explained recently, Ukraine is the only European country where the Nazis are openly embraced, armed and utilised by the government.
The now infamous “Ukrainian granny” photo op the week prior was even organized by the Azov Nazis, who were the ones running the civilian arms training in questions
If, despite Putin’s promises, the Russian military operation does in fact result in a protracted military occupation, it could end up backfiring, fuelling and empowering these neo-Nazi elements.
With US training of these extremists, there are massive shades of Syria here — “Moderate Rebels”. But this time instead of “Moderate al-Qaida,” in Ukraine we have — if you believe some beltway think tanks — “Moderate Nazis”.
And it appears the US empire is even training the respective “rebels” in the same tactics. A recent analysis in the LA Times by a historian of US intelligence explains.
“For years now the Central Intelligence Agency has been preparing for such a moment . . . by preparing Ukrainians to mount an insurgency against a Russian occupation,” Jeff Rogg wrote.
But despite training Ukrainian fighters since 2015, CIA optimists “seem to be forgetting the lessons from past U.S. efforts, including the CIA’s first attempt to support a Ukrainian insurgency against the Soviets in 1949, which ended in failure.”
Rogg argued that:
In 1950 . . . U.S. officers involved in the program knew they were fighting a losing battle. Today, we have no clear evidence that the Ukrainians are capable of sustaining an insurgency, or that Russia would retreat if faced with such resistance.
He wrote (my emphasis):
In the first U.S.-backed insurgency, according to top secret documents later declassified, American officials intended to use the Ukrainians as a proxy force to bleed the Soviet Union. This time, is the primary goal . . . to weaken Russia over the course of a long insurgency that will undoubtedly cost as many Ukrainian lives as Russian lives, if not more?
And a New York Times report from December coming out of the countryside near Kiev gave even more details about how Ukrainian Moderate Rebels will fight Russian soldiers.
In the piece, the reporter admits that, “Ukraine’s own generals say their regular military stands little chance in a full-fledged invasion.” Instead,
The goal is not to achieve victory against the weight of the Russian military, which would be virtually impossible for Ukraine anyway. Rather it is to create the threat of disruption and resistance to an occupying force.
The military training programme to civilians that the Times was reporting details on was run by mercenary group the Territorial Defense Forces, including “a nearly two-hour lecture . . . on likely plans of attack on Kyiv — including armored columns rolling in on highways or paratroopers seizing the airport — by Lt. Yuri Matviyenko, a former Ukrainian military attaché to Israel.”
“Expect a fast storming,” he said. “We won’t have much time.”
He described how the volunteers might resist based on the tactics of Islamist militias in Aleppo, Syria. The volunteers should use their knowledge of their own neighborhoods to move close to the Russian soldiers, leaving too little separation to call in airstrikes or artillery, he said.
Moderate Rebels indeed.
Recommended Reading and Listening
“Ukraine, Palestine and the propaganda of war,” Ali Abunimah
“From the Black Sea to the East Med, don't poke The Russian Bear,” Pepe Escobar