[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]t is quite puzzling to reflect on the fact that both in Moscow and Washington the reaction to ambassador Kislyak’s imbroglios are exactly the same, at least at first sight. Both governments are both trying to minimize the importance of the revelations: it is a witch hunt fueled by fake news. It is all motivated by resentful Democrats and the liberal media who have not resigned themselves to having lost an election, they claim.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov has declared that “all this is very much reminiscent of a witch hunt and the McCarthyism era which we all thought was long gone.” Trump too has invoked the specter of McCarthyism alleging that President Obama had his phone tapped during the presidential campaign. Something denied by the FBI and all the other intelligence agencies. Really?
This similar reaction coming, mind you, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election. The same can be said for those geo-politics’ experts who continue to characterize the Trump-Russia relationship as “fake news” fueling a “new fake cold war.”
But if we take a second hard look we may detect a fundamental difference. In the United States, the suggestion that Sessions was not forthcoming with the Senate hearing was enough to force him to step aside from potential probes, regardless of what he and Kislyak discussed. In Moscow, on the other hand, the accusation by the US intelligence community that Russia has interfered in the presidential election, has never been acknowledged. Moscow regards all questions about Trump’s ties to Russia as symptoms of hysteria, bias and Russophobia by the American political establishment. As they see it, that’s what has caused the ouster of Mike Flynn and the recusal of Jeff Sessions.
But the suspicions that something more sinister is going on persist. Trump and his administration have so far refused to acknowledge the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia helped Trump with his election to the presidency, that Russia favored him over Clinton and actively acted on that preference.
In Moscow, the suggestion of collusion between Trump and Russia, or that of a possible blackmailing into cozying up to Putin, is regarded as a hangover from the Obama administration which was attempting to relegate Russia to the humiliating role of a powerless subservient nation.
Be that as it may, and eventually it will all come out in wash, the logical question persists: which is it, fake news or witch hunt? If it is fake news, then witch hunt makes no sense because there is nothing there to begin with and go hunting about; it’s a road to nowhere. If it is witch hunt, then fake-news makes no sense; there must be something on which the charges, false or true, are hanging. But it seems that common sense and logic is not a strong suit within the Orwellian world of both Moscow and Washington nowadays. It’s an alternate reality based on alternate facts.
The alternate facts work thus: you throw out an hypothetical criminal fact which in fact has not happened, then you say that if in fact it had happened, and we don’t know that, we then ought to urgently investigate it. So a distraction is created, the press goes chasing after the rabbit that is the hypothetical fact and forgets about the real investigation originally being pursued, i.e., the Russian connection. This rather deranged clever by half mode of thinking seems to have worked well for Trump, so far and the press has fallen for it. He is hoping, of course, that it will continue working for him, proving that he and Putin are the most brilliant men on earth. It remains to be seen if the whole US population is so naïve, and has been infected by the virus of a post-truth era, to the point that they will continue believing such a ruse. History will eventually render its verdict. Stay tuned.
NYT: The European Union is far from ready to accept Ukraine
European Union leaders visiting Kyiv last week offered financial help and lasting support to Ukraine as it tries to defeat Russia, but they stopped far short of granting Kyiv its key goal of accelerated membership in the bloc, – informs ‘The New York Times’.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine met with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and the European Council president, Charles Michel, with an aim of extracting commitments to let Ukraine soon join the bloc’s 27 member nations, which represent about 450 million people. Mr. Zelensky has said he expected E.U. nations to recognize Ukraine’s progress toward membership and touted overhauls designed to cement support.
But the path to membership is typically a protracted one and the bloc is far from ready to accept Ukraine — a country that will need billions in additional aid to rebuild after the war — into its ranks.
For officials in Brussels that presents a dilemma: how to encourage Ukraine to continue making changes to meet the E.U.’s high standards for governments without making promises they are not prepared to keep.
The European leaders walked a careful line, validating Ukraine’s aspirations but gently applying the brakes on talk of fast-track accession.
“The accession process is a merit-based process,” Ms. von der Leyen, a staunch supporter of Ukraine’s E.U. bid, said. “In other words, there are no rigid timelines. But there are goals that you have to reach reforms.”
Mr. Michel noted to Mr. Zelensky that to proceed with accession talks all E.U. members have to agree unanimously. It was just one reminder that the bloc is not prepared to cut corners.
Under pressure from public opinion and the United States to illustrate the bloc’s long-term commitment to Ukraine, E.U. leaders agreed to grant the country, as well as Moldova, candidate status in June. But Ms. von der Leyen and Mr. Michel have no authorization from the 27 E.U. members to make promises to Mr. Zelensky or to imply that they will bend the bloc’s stringent rules to let Ukraine in faster or with looser demands.
The E.U. accession process typically takes a decade or longer and requires deep changes aimed at aligning with the rest of the bloc. Issues for many countries include economic overhauls, safeguarding judicial independence and a free press, ensuring a competitive democratic political system, and fighting corruption.
Ambassadors from E.U. capitals meeting in Brussels to prepare for a visit by top officials to Kyiv disagreed over wording for a closing statement, with several diplomats insisting that the word “progress” be changed to “efforts” — and refusing to budge.
The episode, recounted by four diplomats and officials who participated in the meetings and spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to share details of the confidential discussions with the news media, showcases a dilemma for the bloc as Ukraine pushes for fast track membership: How to offer hope for a better future soon, without making false promises.
RAND Corp.: U.S. Policy in the Russia-Ukraine conflict
RAND Corp. could not stand aside and published its assessments and proposals, which show that instead of an analysis of the situation in Ukraine, RAND prefers to use convenient political cliches, which are sometimes far from the real state of affairs. In any case, RAND believes that it is the USA that should be the winner in the war between Russia and Ukraine. And this is a fundamental mistake in the report.
However, we will quote some points from this text “Avoiding a Long War. U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict”:
“How does this end? Increasingly, this question is dominating discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war in Washington and other Western capitals.
The trajectory and ultimate outcome of the war will, of course, be determined largely by the policies of Ukraine and Russia. But Kyiv and Moscow are not the only capitals with a stake in what happens.
This war is the most significant interstate conflict in decades, and its evolution will have major consequences for the United States. It is appropriate to assess how this conflict may evolve, what alternative trajectories might mean for U.S. interests, and what Washington can do to promote a trajectory that best serves U.S. interests.
Our analysis suggests that duration is the most important of the remaining dimensions for the United States. The negative consequences of a long war would be severe. So long as the war is ongoing, escalation risks will remain elevated. Duration and escalation risks are thus directly linked.
Additionally, a longer war will continue to cause economic harm to Ukraine as well as to Europe and the global economy.
For the United States, a longer war will entail both increased direct costs (such as more budgetary and military support to Ukraine) and increased opportunity costs in terms of pursuing other foreign policy priorities.
There are possible benefits to protracted conflict: a further weakening of Russia and the opportunity for Ukraine to make territorial gains.
There are other risks to consider, however.
The United States has expended considerable effort building and holding together a global coalition to sanction Russia. Presumably, the United States would aim to gain support from members of this coalition before signaling the possibility of sanctions relief to Russia, but it may not be possible to get all members to agree, which could limit the amount of relief the United States could offer.
Even if coalition members were unified on a plan for sanctions relief, a risk would remain. As the members of the coalition begin to unwind sanctions as part of a negotiations process, some states might become reluctant to put them back in place if the Ukraine-Russia negotiations or agreements collapse. The coalition may not be as strong as it is now if it later needs to reimpose sanctions.
Moreover, U.S. leaders may pay a political cost domestically and with allies opposed to any sanctions relief. Our analysis suggests that this debate is too narrowly focused on one dimension of the war’s trajectory.
Territorial control, although immensely important to Ukraine, is not the most important dimension of the war’s future for the United States. We conclude that, in addition to averting possible escalation to a Russia-NATO war or Russian nuclear use, avoiding a long war is also a higher priority for the United States than facilitating significantly more Ukrainian territorial control.
Whereas the United States cannot determine the territorial outcome of the war directly, it will have direct control over these policies.
President Biden has said that this war will end at the negotiating table. But the administration has not yet made any moves to push the parties toward talks…. to help catalyze the eventual start of a process that could bring this war to a negotiated end in a time frame that would serve U.S. interests.
RAND analysts should be reminded that if they think the best option is ‘negotiations in the interests of the United States’, then they recognize the United States as a party to the military conflict.
Meanwhile they should also keep in mind that “Russia wants the conflict with Ukraine to end, but the time factor is not the main issue,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an exclusive interview to Sputnik on Thursday, February 2-nd. That would serve Russian interests.
Israel gives Ukraine intelligence. “The best thing” that could have happened to Israel-NATO relations?
NATO sources tell ‘Haaretz’ some of the intel is on the Iranian drones in Ukraine, writes Yossi Melman at Israeli newspaper.
Israel has stepped up its intelligence assistance to Ukraine in recent weeks via NATO, sources in Brussels told ‘Haaretz’, with Jerusalem remaining keen to keep its aid to the embattled country indirect.
“Iran’s decision to supply drones and increase its military cooperation with Russia is a strategic mistake by Tehran and the best thing that could have happened to Israel-NATO relations,” an Israeli defense source told ‘Haaretz’.
Only a month and a half ago, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Aviv Kochavi, turned down a proposal by Ukraine’s defense minister to share information on the Iranian drones being shot down over his country. These details would have come in return for the passing on of Israeli intelligence. Israel feared that Russia might respond by hampering the Israel Air Force’s freedom in Syria’s skies, as Iran tries to deepen its presence against Israel to the north.
But American pressure and the stepped-up Iranian aid to Russia have convinced Israel to abandon its policy of apathy.
Last month, senior European officials told ‘Haaretz’ that under American pressure, Israel agreed to underwrite the purchase of millions of dollars of “strategic materials” for Ukraine. The materials were transferred via a NATO country, and Israel agreed to let NATO countries transfer to Ukraine weapons including electro-optical and fire-control systems made by Israeli firms.
Over several years, the Mossad, Military Intelligence, the IAF and the navy have built up a database on Iran’s drones. If Brussels gains access to this data, Ukraine and NATO countries will benefit, as will other states such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia.
In 1994, Israel signed an agreement granting it status as a NATO “partner.” This lets it appoint an ambassador and a military attaché, and take part in the alliance’s air and sea exercises in the Baltic states, Montenegro and the Indian Ocean.
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