March 29, 2014

Putin Explains Russian-Crimean Reunification

This transcript appears in the March 28, 2014 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

President Vladimir Putin addressed the two chambers of the Russian parliament and other dignitaries at the Kremlin on March 18, 2014. This official transcript has been slightly edited for clarity; emphasis, subheads, and footnotes have been added.

Federation Council members, State Duma deputies, good afternoon. Representatives of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are here among us, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol!

Dear friends, we have gathered here today in connection with an issue that is of vital, historic significance to all of us. A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.

More than 82% of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96% of them spoke out in favor of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.

To understand the reason behind such a choice it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other.

Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Saint Prince Vladimir[1] was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization, and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea.[2] This is also Sevastopol—a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolizing Russian military glory and outstanding valor.

Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples' cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries. Russians and Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and people of other ethnic groups have lived side by side in Crimea, retaining their own identity, traditions, languages and faith.

Incidentally, the total population of the Crimean Peninsula today is 2.2 million people, of whom almost 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians who predominantly consider Russian their native language, and about 290,000-300,000 are Crimean Tatars, who, as the referendum has shown, also lean towards Russia.

True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly,[3] just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians.

Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland. I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalize the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.

We have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea. This is their common home, their motherland, and it would be right—I know the local population supports this—for Crimea to have three equal national languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.


In people's hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.

After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons—let God be their judge—added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine. Then, in 1954, a decision was made to transfer the Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a federal city. This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchov. What stood behind this decision of his—a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930s in Ukraine—is for historians to figure out.

What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol. They were faced with the fact. People, of course, wondered why all of a sudden Crimea became part of Ukraine. But on the whole—and we must state this clearly, we all know it—this decision was treated as a formality of sorts because the territory was transferred within the boundaries of a single state. Back then, it was impossible to imagine that Ukraine and Russia might split up and become two separate states. However, this has happened.

After the Collapse of the USSR

Unfortunately, what seemed impossible became a reality. The USSR fell apart. Things developed so swiftly that few people realized how truly dramatic those events and their consequences would be. Many people both in Russia and in Ukraine, as well as in other republics hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States that was created at the time would become the new common form of statehood. They were told that there would be a single currency, a single economic space, joint armed forces; however, all this remained empty promises, and the big country was gone. It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realized that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.

At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade,[4] Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as this collapse was legalized, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol—the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.

Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with.

And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests. However, the people could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice. All these years, citizens and many public figures came back to this issue, saying that Crimea is historically Russian land and Sevastopol is a Russian city. Yes, we all knew this in our hearts and minds, but we had to proceed from the existing reality and build our good-neighborly relations with independent Ukraine on a new basis. Meanwhile, our relations with Ukraine, with the fraternal Ukrainian people have always been and will remain of foremost importance for us.

Today we can speak about it openly, and I would like to share with you some details of the negotiations that took place in the early 2000s. The then President of Ukraine Mr. Kuchma asked me to expedite the process of delimiting the Russian-Ukrainian border. At that time, the process was practically at a standstill. Russia seemed to have recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine, but there were no negotiations on delimiting the borders. Despite the complexity of the situation, I immediately issued instructions to Russian government agencies to speed up their work to document the borders, so that everyone had a clear understanding that by agreeing to delimit the border we admitted de facto and de jure that Crimea was Ukrainian territory, thereby closing the issue.

We accommodated Ukraine not only regarding Crimea, but also on such a complicated matter as the maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. What we proceeded from back then was that good relations with Ukraine matter most for us and they should not fall hostage to deadlocked territorial disputes. However, we expected Ukraine to remain our good neighbor; we hoped that Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine, especially its southeast and Crimea, would live in a friendly, democratic and civilized state that would protect their rights in line with the norms of international law.

However, this is not how the situation developed. Time and time again attempts were made to deprive Russians of their historical memory, even of their language and to subject them to forced assimilation. Moreover, Russians, just like other citizens of Ukraine, are suffering from the constant political and state crisis that has been rocking the country for over 20 years.

The Maidan Protests

I understand why Ukrainian people wanted change. They have had enough of the authorities in power during the years of Ukraine's independence. Presidents, prime ministers, and parliamentarians changed, but their attitude to the country and its people remained the same. They milked the country, fought among themselves for power, assets, and cash flows and did not care much about the ordinary people. They did not wonder why it was that millions of Ukrainian citizens saw no prospects at home and went to other countries to work as day laborers. I would like to stress this: It was not some Silicon Valley they fled to, but to become day laborers. Last year alone, almost 3 million people found such jobs in Russia. According to some sources, in 2013 their earnings in Russia totaled over $20 billion, which is about 12% of Ukraine's GDP.

I would like to reiterate that I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption, inefficient state management, and poverty. The right to peaceful protest, democratic procedures, and elections exist for the sole purpose of replacing authorities that do not satisfy the people. However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder, and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes, and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.

The new so-called authorities began by introducing a draft law to revise the language policy, which was a direct infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities. However, they were immediately "disciplined" by the foreign sponsors of these so-called politicians. One has to admit that the mentors of these current authorities are smart and know well what such attempts to build a purely Ukrainian state may lead to. The draft law was set aside, but clearly reserved for the future. Hardly any mention is made of this attempt now, probably on the presumption that people have a short memory. Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera,[5] Hitler's accomplice during World War II.

It is also obvious that there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves—and I would like to stress this—are often controlled by radicals. In some cases, you need a special permit from the militants on the Maidan to meet with certain ministers of the current government. This is not a joke—this is reality.

Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov, and other Ukrainian cities.

Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.

International Law

First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law. Firstly, it's a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law—better late than never.

Secondly, and most importantly—what exactly are we violating? True, the President of the Russian Federation received permission from the Upper House of Parliament to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine. However, strictly speaking, nobody has acted on this permission yet. Russia's Armed Forces never entered Crimea; they were there already in line with an international agreement. True, we did enhance our forces there; however—this is something I would like everyone to hear and know—we did not exceed the personnel limit of our Armed Forces in Crimea, which is set at 25,000, because there was no need to do so.

Next. As it declared independence and decided to hold a referendum, the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. Incidentally, I would like to remind you that when Ukraine seceded from the USSR it did exactly the same thing, almost word for word. Ukraine used this right, yet the residents of Crimea are denied it. Why is that?

The Kosovo Precedent

Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent—a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country's central authorities. Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: "No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence," and "General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence." Crystal clear, as they say.

I do not like to resort to quotes, but in this case, I cannot help it. Here is a quote from another official document: the Written Statement of the United States America of April 17, 2009, submitted to the same UN International Court in connection with the hearings on Kosovo. Again, I quote: "Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law." They wrote this, disseminated it all over the world, had everyone agree, and now they are outraged. Over what? The actions of the Crimean people completely fit in with these instructions, as it were. For some reason, things that Kosovo Albanians (and we have full respect for them) were permitted to do, Russians, Ukrainians, and Crimean Tatars in Crimea are not allowed. Again, one wonders why.

We keep hearing from the United States and Western Europe that Kosovo is some special case. What makes it so special in the eyes of our colleagues? It turns out that it is the fact that the conflict in Kosovo resulted in so many human casualties. Is this a legal argument? The ruling of the International Court says nothing about this. This is not even double standards; this is amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism. One should not try so crudely to make everything suit one's own interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow. According to this logic, we have to make sure every conflict leads to human losses.

I will state clearly—if the Crimean local self-defense units had not taken the situation under control, there could have been casualties as well. Fortunately this did not happen. There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people. Here I would like to thank the Ukrainian military—and this is 22,000 fully armed servicemen. I would like to thank those Ukrainian service members who refrained from bloodshed and did not smear their uniforms in blood.

Other thoughts come to mind in this connection. They keep talking of some sort of Russian intervention in Crimea, some sort of aggression. This is strange to hear. I cannot recall a single case in history of an intervention without a single shot being fired and with no human casualties.

Deteriorating International Relations


Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades. After the dissolution of bipolarity on the planet, we no longer have stability. Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly deteriorating. Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle "If you are not with us, you are against us." To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.

This happened in Yugoslavia; we remember 1999 very well. It was hard to believe, even seeing it with my own eyes, that at the end of the 20th century, one of Europe's capitals, Belgrade, was under missile attack for several weeks, and then came the real intervention. Was there a UN Security Council resolution on this matter, allowing for these actions? Nothing of the sort. And then, they hit Afghanistan, Iraq, and frankly violated the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, when instead of imposing the so-called no-fly zone over it they started bombing it too.

There was a whole series of controlled "color" revolutions. Clearly, the people in those nations, where these events took place, were sick of tyranny and poverty, of their lack of prospects; but these feelings were taken advantage of cynically. Standards were imposed on these nations that did not in any way correspond to their way of life, traditions, or these peoples' cultures. As a result, instead of democracy and freedom, there was chaos, outbreaks of violence and a series of upheavals. The Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter.

A similar situation unfolded in Ukraine. In 2004, to push the desired candidate through at the presidential elections, they came up with a "third round" that was not stipulated by the law. It was absurd and a mockery of the Constitution. And now, they have thrown in an organized and well-equipped army of militants.

We understand what is happening; we understand that these actions were aimed against Ukraine and Russia and against Eurasian integration. And all this while Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the West. We are constantly proposing cooperation on all key issues; we want to strengthen our level of trust and for our relations to be equal, open, and fair. But we saw no reciprocal steps.

Lies and Betrayed Promises

On the contrary, they have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO's expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They kept telling us the same thing: "Well, this does not concern you." That's easy to say.

It happened with the deployment of a missile defense system. In spite of all our apprehensions, the project is working and moving forward. It happened with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on visa issues, promises of fair competition and free access to global markets.

Today, we are being threatened with sanctions, but we already experience many restrictions, ones that are quite significant for us, our economy and our nation. For example, still during the times of the Cold War, the U.S. and subsequently other nations restricted a large list of technologies and equipment from being sold to the USSR, creating the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls list. Today, they have formally been eliminated, but only formally; and in reality, many restrictions are still in effect.

In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it, and because we call things as they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, conducting themselves outrageously, and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.

After all, they were fully aware that there are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and in Crimea. They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. Russia found itself in a position it could not retreat from. If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this.

Russia's Policy Now

Today, it is imperative to end this hysteria, to refute the rhetoric of the cold war and to accept the obvious fact: Russia is an independent, active participant in international affairs; like other countries, it has its own national interests that need to be taken into account and respected.

At the same time, we are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea; we are grateful to the people of China, whose leaders have always considered the situation in Ukraine and Crimea taking into account the full historical and political context, and greatly appreciate India's reserve and objectivity.

Today, I would like to address the people of the United States of America, the people who, since the foundation of their nation and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, have been proud to hold freedom above all else. Isn't the desire of Crimea's residents to freely choose their fate such a value? Please understand us.

I believe that the Europeans, first and foremost, the Germans, will also understand me. Let me remind you that in the course of political consultations on the unification of East and West Germany, at the expert, though very high level, some nations that were then and are now Germany's allies did not support the idea of unification. Our nation, however, unequivocally supported the sincere, unstoppable desire of the Germans for national unity. I am confident that you have not forgotten this, and I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.

I also want to address the people of Ukraine. I sincerely want you to understand us: we do not want to harm you in any way, or to hurt your national feelings. We have always respected the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, incidentally, unlike those who sacrificed Ukraine's unity for their political ambitions. They flaunt slogans about Ukraine's greatness, but they are the ones who did everything to divide the nation. Today's civil standoff is entirely on their conscience. I want you to hear me, my dear friends. Do not believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.

I repeat, just as it has been for centuries, it will be a home to all the peoples living there. What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera's footsteps!

Crimea is our common historical legacy and a very important factor in regional stability. And this strategic territory should be part of a strong and stable sovereignty, which today can only be Russian. Otherwise, dear friends (I am addressing both Ukraine and Russia), you and we—the Russians and the Ukrainians—could lose Crimea completely, and that could happen in the near historical perspective. Please think about it.

Let me note too that we have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO's navy would be right there in this city of Russia's military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. These are things that could have become reality were it not for the choice the Crimean people made, and I want to say thank you to them for this.

But let me say too that we are not opposed to cooperation with NATO, for this is certainly not the case. For all the internal processes within the organization, NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round.

Let me say quite frankly that it pains our hearts to see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, to see the people's suffering and their uncertainty about how to get through today and what awaits them tomorrow. Our concerns are understandable, because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.

Let me say one other thing too. Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine's own interest to ensure that these people's rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine's state stability and territorial integrity.

We want to be friends with Ukraine and we want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign and self-sufficient country. Ukraine is one of our biggest partners, after all. We have many joint projects and I believe in their success no matter what the current difficulties. Most importantly, we want peace and harmony to reign in Ukraine, and we are ready to work together with other countries to do everything possible to facilitate and support this. But as I said, only Ukraine's own people can put their own house in order.

Residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the whole of Russia admired your courage, dignity and bravery. It was you who decided Crimea's future. We were closer than ever over these days, supporting each other. These were sincere feelings of solidarity. It is at historic turning points such as these that a nation demonstrates its maturity and strength of spirit. The Russian people showed this maturity and strength through their united support for their compatriots.

Russia's foreign policy position on this matter drew its firmness from the will of millions of our people, our national unity and the support of our country's main political and public forces. I want to thank everyone for this patriotic spirit, everyone without exception. Now, we need to continue and maintain this kind of consolidation so as to resolve the tasks our country faces on its road ahead.

Obviously, we will encounter external opposition, but this is a decision that we need to make for ourselves. Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in, retreat to who knows where? Some Western politicians are already threatening us with not just sanctions, but also the prospect of increasingly serious problems on the domestic front. I would like to know what it is they have in mind exactly: action by a fifth column, this disparate bunch of "national traitors," or are they hoping to put us in a worsening social and economic situation so as to provoke public discontent? We consider such statements irresponsible and clearly aggressive in tone, and we will respond to them accordingly. At the same time, we will never seek confrontation with our partners, whether in the East or the West, but on the contrary, will do everything we can to build civilized and good-neighborly relations as one is supposed to in the modern world.


I understand the people of Crimea, who put the question in the clearest possible terms in the referendum: Should Crimea be with Ukraine or with Russia? We can be sure in saying that the authorities in Crimea and Sevastopol, the legislative authorities, when they formulated the question, set aside group and political interests and made the people's fundamental interests alone the cornerstone of their work. The particular historic, population, political, and economic circumstances of Crimea would have made any other proposed option only temporary and fragile and would have inevitably led to further worsening of the situation there, which would have had disastrous effects on people's lives. The people of Crimea thus decided to put the question in firm and uncompromising form, with no gray areas. The referendum was fair and transparent, and the people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will and stated that they want to be with Russia.

Russia will also have to make a difficult decision now, taking into account the various domestic and external considerations. What do people here in Russia think? Here, as in any democratic country, people have different points of view, but I want to make the point that the absolute majority of our people clearly do support what is happening.

The most recent public opinion surveys conducted here in Russia show that 95% of people think that Russia should protect the interests of Russians and members of other ethnic groups living in Crimea—95% of our citizens. More than 83% think that Russia should do this even if it will complicate our relations with some other countries. A total of 86% of our people see Crimea as still being Russian territory and part of our country's lands. And one particularly important figure, which corresponds exactly with the result in Crimea's referendum: Almost 92% of our people support Crimea's reunification with Russia.

Thus we see that the overwhelming majority of people in Crimea and the absolute majority of the Russian Federation's people support the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia.

Now this is a matter for Russia's own political decision, and any decision here can be based only on the people's will, because the people are the ultimate source of all authority.

Members of the Federation Council, deputies of the State Duma, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol, today, in accordance with the people's will, I submit to the Federal Assembly a request to consider a Constitutional Law on the creation of two new constituent entities within the Russian Federation: the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and to ratify the treaty on admitting to the Russian Federation Crimea and Sevastopol, which is already ready for signing. I stand assured of your support.

[1] Prince Vladimir (958-1050), the Prince of Novgorod, converted from paganism to Orthodox Christianity in 988, and ruled Kievan Rus from 980 until his death.

[2] During the Crimean War (1853-1856).

[3] In May 1944, the entire population of the Crimean Tatars was deported to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin's Soviet government. An estimated 46% of them died from hunger and disease. They were rehabilitated in 1967, but were banned from legally returning to Crimea until the 1980s.

[3] In August 1990, a year before the breakup of the Soviet Union, then-Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) Boris Yeltsin, the future first President of post-Soviet Russia, advised autonomous republics (AR) within the RSFSR: "Take as much sovereignty as you can swallow." The increased autonomy granted to the AR at that time, in a power struggle that involved competing legal changes made by the USSR and the RSFSR, came back to haunt Russia. In the 1990s, some AR set up their own foreign ministries and passed laws contradicting federal laws, while insurgents in other AR, such as Chechnya, invoked the 1990 decisions as grounds for secession.

[5] Stepan Bandera (1909-59) headed a Ukrainian independence movement, the OUN, which collaborated with the Nazis before and after the invasion of the Soviet Union and participated in the extermination of Jews and Poles in Ukraine. See EIR, Feb 7, 2014.

Putin Lays Out Strategic Import of Crimea Annexation

This article appears in the March 28, 2014 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

by Susan Welsh

March 22—We publish in this section the full text of Russian President Vladimir Putin's March 18 speech to the two chambers of the Russian parliament and other dignitaries, including leaders of Crimea who the week before, had announced their intention to declare independence from Ukraine, pending the results of a referendum. After Putin's speech, they signed a treaty incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation.

On March 16, the populations of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the administratively distinct City of Sevastopol had voted overwhelmingly to apply to join the Russian Federation. The returns in those referenda were, respectively, 96.77% with a turnout of 83.1%, and 95.60% with a turnout of 89.5%.

Our principal reason for publishing the full speech is that Americans, in particular, are utterly in the dark about what the man actually says and said. U.S. mainstream press coverage has been overwhelmingly along the lines of "Is Putin Like Hitler?" or "Putin Threatens New Cold War." This speech was a well-reasoned and statesman-like overview of Russian foreign and strategic policy, yet American readers are given only snippets, embedded in overwhelmingly negative spin.

There are few exceptions to what Henry Kissinger described, in a Washington Post op-ed on March 5, as "the demonization of Vladimir Putin." Although this magazine does not usually find itself in agreement with Kissinger, we concur that for the West, "this is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one." And Stephen F. Cohen, a highly respected historian of Russia and the Soviet Union who comes more from the left of the political spectrum, summed it up in a Jan. 30 interview with "I think that the vilification of Putin in this country, demonization, is the worst press coverage by the American media of Russia that I've seen in my 40 years of studying Russia and contributing to the media."

Historical Ties

Let's analyze a few of Putin's key points.

First, he emphasizes the historical importance of Crimea as a part of Russia, which is indisputably the case. (He notes the peculiar historical circumstances under which the two were separated, first in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchov while the USSR still existed as one country, and then when the borders of the post-Soviet countries were drawn up after 1991.)

What about Ukraine? Also indisputably, that country has been torn by opposing views toward Russia since before Ukraine ever existed as a nation-state. Divisions along linguistic and religious lines led to hideous bloodletting in previous centuries, in which no one party was exclusively to blame. Putin was at pains to thank Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea for the fact that they behaved very responsibly, that no blood was shed.

But he also castigated the "Maidan" leaders of the Feb. 22 coup in Ukraine for the country's current polarization. "Do not believe those who want you to fear Russia," he said, addressing Ukrainians, "shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land." It will continue to be a home to all the peoples living there, he said, but, "What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera's footsteps!"—a reference to Stepan Bandera, the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian Nazi collaborator whose forces waged partisan war against the Soviet Union, from Hitler's invasion in 1941 until as late as 1956.

While these accusations against the Banderites are routinely dismissed as "Russian propaganda" by U.S. pundits who know nothing about history, the evidence is there for anyone who bothers to look into it. Bandera's heirs are still alive and well in Ukraine today, in the Svoboda party (with its several Cabinet positions), the Right Sector paramilitaries, and others. Their anti-Semitic and anti-Russian ravings are there for all to see, as EIR has documented over the last months.

Yet despite the Banderite legacy, Russia and Ukraine have been linked by geography, history, and culture for centuries.

Many outstanding Ukrainian thinkers, such as Academician Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945) and Prof. Taras Muranivsky (1935-2000, leader of the Schiller Institute in Moscow), coupled their passion for Ukraine's identity as a nation-state, with a profound commitment to Ukrainian-Russian collaboration on ideas of importance for both nations and all mankind.

NATO's Eastward Expansion

Putin's second main point was NATO's eastward expansion since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1990-91, and Russia's keen sense that it was betrayed by those Western leaders who had promised, again and again, that this would not happen. This, too, is pooh-poohed (if mentioned at all) by our talking heads. Is what Putin says true?

The German Spiegel Online, on Nov. 26, 2009, published an article based on newly declassified German documents, which makes it abundantly clear that such assurances were given to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachov, although they were never put in writing. A few examples from this and other sources:

U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, Feb. 9, 1990, speech in the Kremlin: There will be "no extension of NATO's jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east," provided Moscow agrees to the NATO membership of a unified Germany.

West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Feb. 10, 1990: "We are aware that NATO membership raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east."

NATO Secretary-General Manfred Wörner, May 17, 1990, speech in Brussels: "The fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee."

When these promises were broken, in one country after another, would you not perhaps expect that Russia would think it was being encircled? And wouldn't it be right?

A May 2, 1998 article by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, provided a useful view, when he reported on the reaction of George Kennan—one of the figures who launched the original Cold War—to the recent Senate vote on the inclusion of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in NATO: "I think it is the beginning of a new Cold War," said the 94-year-old Kennan. "I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way."

Kennan added, after discussing how poorly Russian history is understood in the West, "Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are—but this is just wrong."

International Law

The third major theme of Putin's remarks concerns international law. Did Russia "invade" Crimea? Did it violate international law? He says not.

On the question of invasion, no less a personage than CIA Director John Brennan told a senior lawmaker on Feb. 28 that a 1997 treaty between Russia and Ukraine allows up to 25,000 Russia troops in the Crimea region, the Los Angeles Times reported on March 3. "The number of Russian troops that have surged into Ukraine in recent days remains well below that threshold, Brennan said, according to U.S. officials who declined to be named...."

In his insistence that Russia did not violate international law, Putin discusses at some length the precedent of Kosova, quoting from UN documents and an official statement from the U.S. government to the International Court. The point here is that international law does not prohibit declarations of independence, such as that issued by Crimea, even if they violate domestic legislation.

Yet in the Washington Post, the daily newspaper read by most of our officials in the nation's capital, Will Englund had the following to say about Putin's speech: "In a speech to a joint session of the Russian parliament, he compared the move to the independence declaration of Kosova in 2008 and the reunification of Germany in 1990—but, in reality, this is the first time that one European nation has seized territory from another since the end of World War II."

At least some European observers understand that Russian actions have not been about "seizing territory." The stated intention of Western-backed, coup-installed Ukrainian government officials on ending the autonomous status of Crimea (with its heavily Russian-ethnic population and the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet) had to remind Moscow of the actions of then-Georgian President Michael Saakashvili in 2008, when he attacked the autonomous region of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers who were stationed there. This Georgian attack, as German expert on Russia Alexander Rahr emphasized in his book Putin nach Putin (2008), was a kind of wake-up call to the Kremlin leadership, and their response was predictably harsh.

"Russia clearly drew a red line to the West; much like the West did 50 years ago in the Cuba Crisis," he said in an interview to the Caucasian Review of International Affairs (August 2008). "Russia is not going to accept a further expansion of NATO in the heartland of the post-Soviet territories, which are regarded as specific and historic zones of influence of Russia."

The developments of the past four months around Ukraine and Crimea are of the same coloration.

A 'Mirror' of the Broader Crisis

Finally, Putin stressed the broader strategic context of the Ukraine crisis. "Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades," he said.

"We understand what is happening; we understand that these actions were aimed against Ukraine and Russia and against Eurasian integration. And all this while Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the West.

What Does “Small Footprint” Really Mean?

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 13 March 2014.
There will be no more large-scale American counterinsurgency operations. At least, that’s what the Obama administration’s Defense Strategic Guidance (DSG) of 2012anticipates. While it maintains an existing emphasis on countering irregular threats and conserving hard-won skill sets, the DSG articulates a desire to do so not through large-scale counterinsurgency, but by maintaining a persistent, forward presence around the world and leveraging that presence to deter potential adversaries, respond to crises, and build the capacity of partner nations to provide for their own security. Specifically regarding the latter, the document states,
Across the globe we will seek to be the security partner of choice, pursuing new partnerships with a growing number of nations – including those in
Africa and Latin America – whose interests and viewpoints are merging into a common vision of freedom, stability, and prosperity. Whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives… [Emphasis in the


EU: Сolossus with Feet of Clay

Pyotr ISKENDEROV | 29.03.2014 | 19:11

Ten years ago, on March 29, 2004, the EU took a hasty decision on enlargement adding simultaneously ten more new members: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta. As a result, the European Union became an all-European organization instead of being an economic community. It gave rise to new problems and contradictions.

The process of enlargement, unparalleled in EU’s history, lasted more than a year. The agreement on new states membership was signed on April 16, 2003 by EU members and ten candidates. It was to be followed by a period of ironing out details left unsolved even after the would-be members «swallowed» 300 directives and 100000 pages of pre-accession instructions. For instance, Hungary threatened to respond in kind in case it would be affected by work force restrictions. It referred to the principle of reciprocity stated in the accession agreement. The remaining difficulties had to be speedily ironed out at a number of high-level meetings held before the summit of March 25-26, 2004.

Then the EU had to grapple with problems related to Cyprus. Brussels was frustrated over the results of referendum on «United Cyprus» that took place on April 24, 2004. The Cypriot Turks gave wide support of around 65% to the plan of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. 75% Greek Cypriots were against. They believed the concessions to the Turkish community went too far. But there was nothing to do about it. The EU kept in force its previous decision to make the Greek part of the island a de facto EU member while leaving the Turkish community out.

On May 1, 2004, the ratified accession treaty finally entered into force. That day the EU heads of states and governments, including those of new members, gathered in Dublin (Ireland chaired the European Union at the time) to mark the event.

At first the enlargement was to include Bulgaria and Romania. But the European Commission finally decided the states were not ready to join at the time. They acceded later on January 1, 2007. The postponement impacted the relationship with Brussels afterwards. The two states are still treated as outsiders. For instance, they have not been allowed to join the Schengen agreement as yet. In their turn, Bulgarians and Romanians complain about the double standards often adopted by the European Union. Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean, said in an interview for Die Welt that 7 years after joining the EU, Romanians still do not feel equal to other European citizens and it creates a state of frustration. «Romania's EU accession occurred 10 years ago and certainly there are many issues to be resolved. Meanwhile it is painful that the EU applies double standards and my country is subject to a special control mechanism», the diplomat said in an interview with the daily Die Welt.

According to Madiafax report, «Romania often plays a role in the national election campaigns of other countries, where clichés are delivered that are extremely offensive to us. This creates frustration and makes many Romanians not feel equal to other European citizens», the Foreign Minister said while on a work visit in Germany.

The gist of the problem is extreme politicization of the European Union’s enlargement strategy. Politics, not economics, define the final decisions. As a result, the issues of social and economic inequality and political contradictions have to be solved after the countries have become members, not before.

New EU members claim to be the victims of unfair treatment by Brussels bureaucracy while West European states have their own grievances and psychological complexes. Günter Verheugen, a German politician, who served as European Commissioner for Enlargement from 1999 to 2004, said the founding states see enlargement as a threat. And he admits that, once started, the process of enlargement cannot be stopped or delayed. At that, some states headed by France argued that the expansion should not run ahead of the integration processes inside the European Union. According to statistics, the mass enlargement had ambiguous results. Some states have displayed good dynamics in recent years. On the one hand, the GDP of the Czech Republic grew in 2005-2012 totally by 21, 4 %, in the same period the Slovakia’s GDP grew by 35, 6% and the figure was 33, 6% for Poland. In case of Baltic States - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - the average total growth index was 19-24%.

On the other hand, the increase was mainly achieved during the first years of membership. Then it abruptly slowed down or even showed minus results. The «United Europe» failed to become a factor of stabilization for new comers. The close integration within the framework of Eurozone also failed. In 2005-2012 the total EU GDP grew by 8% in comparison with only 6,7 % in case of Eurozone. No surprise the sentiments of euroscepticism have significantly spread around in Central and Eastern Europe, including the attitude towards adopting the single European currency. Besides, the internal contradictions have been exacerbating along the North-South and West-East lines. The Ukraine’s becoming a failed state is a result of the EU’s policy of expansion further into Eurasia with the help of Eastern Partnership program…

Peter S. Rashish, Senior Trade Advisor at Transnational Strategy Group LLC and a member of the Advisory Board of the American Security Project, said, «Considering the overwhelming geo-economics imperative of getting TTIP done, is there a risk that it could fail? Yes, if both the U.S. and the EU fall victim to what Freud called the «narcissism of minor differences» and take their eyes off the big picture for too long. While the U.S. and the EU have their legitimate differences on a number of trade, investment and regulatory matters, what divides the two sides of the Atlantic is minor compared to what unites their joint interests».

But in case of Eastern Europe the differences are hardly seen as minor. While becoming members they longed for concrete economic benefits. The hopes have been frustrated so far. 

Washington’s back-to-the-future military policies in Africa

You could be forgiven if this jumble of words looks like nonsense to you. It isn’t. It’s the language of the U.S. military’s simmering African interventions; the patois that goes with a set of missions carried out in countries most Americans couldn’t locate on a map; the argot of conflicts now primarily fought by proxies and a former colonial power on a continent that the U.S. military views as a hotbed of instability and that hawkish pundits increasingly see as a growth area for future armed interventions.  

U.S. military averaging more than a mission a day in Africa

Documents reveal blinding pace of Ops in 2013, more of the same for 2014
27 MARCH, by Nick Turse
The numbers tell the story: 10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security cooperation activities.

For years, the U.S. military has publicly insisted that its efforts in Africa are small scale. Its public affairs personnel and commanders have repeatedly claimed no more than a “light footprint” on that continent, including a remarkably modest presence when it comes to military personnel. They have, however, balked at specifying just what that light footprint actually consists of. During an interview, for instance, a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman once expressed worry that tabulating the command’s deployments would offer a “skewed image” of U.S. efforts there.

It turns out that the numbers do just the opposite.

Last year, according AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez, the U.S. military carried out a total of 546 “activities” on the continent — a catch-all term for everything the military does in Africa. In other words, it averages about one and a half missions a day. This represents a 217% increase in operations, programs, and exercises since the command was established in 2008.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, Rodriguez noted that the 10 exercises, 55 operations, and 481 security cooperation activities made AFRICOM “an extremely active geographic command.” But exactly what the command is “active” in doing is often far from clear.

AFRICOM releases information about only a fraction of its activities. It offers no breakdown on the nature of its operations. And it allows only a handful of cherry-picked reporters the chance to observe a few select missions. The command refuses even to offer a count of the countries in which it is “active,” preferring to keep most information about what it’s doing — and when and where — secret.

While Rodriguez’s testimony offers but a glimpse of the scale of AFRICOM’s activities, a cache of previously undisclosed military briefing documents obtained by TomDispatch sheds additional light on the types of missions being carried out and their locations all across the continent. These briefings prepared for top commanders and civilian officials in 2013 demonstrate a substantial increase in deployments in recent years and reveal U.S. military operations to be more extensive than previously reported. They also indicate that the pace of operations in Africa will remain robust in 2014, with U.S. forces expected again to average far more than a mission each day on the continent.

The constant gardener

U.S. troops carry out a wide range of operations in Africa, including airstrikes targeting suspected militants, night raids aimed at kidnapping terror suspects, airlifts of French and African troops onto the battlefields of proxy wars, and evacuation operations in destabilized countries. Above all, however, the U.S. military conducts training missions, mentors allies, and funds, equips, and advises its local surrogates.

U.S. Africa Command describes its activities as advancing “U.S. national security interests through focused, sustained engagement with partners” and insists that its “operations,exercises, and security cooperation assistance programs support U.S. Government foreign policy and do so primarily through military-to-military activities and assistance programs.”

Saharan Express is a typical exercise that biennially pairs U.S. forces with members of the navies and coast guards of around a dozen mostly African countries. Operations include Juniper Micron and Echo Casemate, missions focused on aiding French and African interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic. Other “security cooperation” activities include the State Partnership Program, which teams African military forces with U.S. National Guard units and the State Department-funded Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program through which U.S. military mentors and advisors provide equipment and instruction to African units.

Many military-to-military activities and advisory missions are carried out by soldiers from the Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, as part of a “regionally aligned forces” effort that farms out specially trained U.S. troops to geographic combatant commands, like AFRICOM. Other training engagements are carried out by units from across the service branches, including Africa Partnership Station 13 whose U.S. naval personnel and Marines teach skills such as patrolling procedures and hand-to-hand combat techniques. Meanwhile, members of the Air Force recently provided assistance to Nigerian troops in areas ranging from logistics to airlift support to public affairs.

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Previously undisclosed U.S. Army Africa records reveal a 94% increase in all activities by Army personnel from 2011 to 2013, including a 174% surge in State Partnership missions (from 34 to 93) and a 436% jump in Advise-and-Assist activities including ACOTA missions (from 11 to 59). Last year, according to a December 2013 document, these efforts involved everything from teaching Kenyan troops how to use Raven surveillance drones and helping Algerian forces field new mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPS, to training Chadian and Guinean infantrymen and aiding France’s ongoing interventions in West and Central Africa.

AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson refused to offer further details about these activities. “We do training with a lot of different countries in Africa,” he told me. When I asked if he had a number on those “different countries,” he replied, “No, I don’t.” He ignored repeated written requests for further information. But a cache of records detailing deployments by members of just the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, from June through December 2013, highlights the sheer size, scope, and sweep of U.S. training missions.

June saw members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Niger, Uganda, Ghana, and on two separate missions to Malawi; in July, troops from the team traveled to Burundi, Mauritania, Niger, Uganda, and South Africa; August deployments included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Niger, two missions in Malawi, and three to Uganda; September saw activities in Chad, Togo, Cameroon, Ghana, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Uganda, and Malawi; in October, members of the unit headed for Guinea and South Africa; November’s deployments consisted of Lesotho, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Guinea; while December’s schedule consisted of activities in South Sudan, Cameroon, and Uganda, according to the documents. All told, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division carried out 128 separate “activities” in 28 African countries during all of 2013.

The records obtained by TomDispatch also indicate that U.S. Army Africa took part in almost 80% of all AFRICOM activities on the continent in 2013, averaging more than one mission per day. Preliminary projections for 2014 suggest a similar pace this year — 418 activities were already planned out by mid-December 2013 — including anticipated increases in the number of operations and train-and-equip missions.

Full-scale exercises, each involving U.S. Army troops and members of the militaries of multiple African countries, are also slated to rise from 14 to 20 in 2014, according to the documents. So far, AFRICOM has released information on 11 named exercises scheduled for this year. These include African Lion in Morocco, Eastern Accord in Uganda, Western Accord in Senegal, Central Accord in Cameroon, and Southern Accord in Malawi, all of which include a field training component and serve as a capstone event for the prior year’s military-to-military programs. AFRICOM will also conduct at least three maritime security exercises, including Cutlass Express off the coast of East Africa, Obangame Express in the Gulf of Guinea, and Saharan Express in the waters off Senegal and the Cape Verde islands, as well as its annual Africa Endeavor exercise, which is designed to promote “information sharing” and facilitate standardized communications procedures within African militaries.

Additionally, U.S. and African Special Operations forces will carry out an exercise codenamed Silent Warrior 2014 in Germany and have already completed Flintlock 2014 (since 2005, an annual event). As part of Flintlock 2014, more than 1,000 troops from 18 nations, including Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Senegal, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and the host nation of Niger, carried out counterterror training on the outskirts of Niamey, the capital, as well as at small bases in Tahoua, Agadez, and Diffa. “Although Flintlock is considered an exercise, it is really an extension of ongoing training, engagement, and operations that help prepare our close Africa partners in the fight against extremism and the enemies that threaten peace, stability, and regional security,” said Colonel Kenneth Sipperly, the commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahel, during the Flintlock opening ceremony.

Locations, locations, locations

A 2013 investigation by TomDispatch analyzing official documents and open source information revealed that the U.S. military was involved with at least 49 of the 54 nations on the African continent during 2012 and 2013 in activities that ranged from special ops raids to the training of proxy forces. A map produced late last year by U.S. Army Africa bolsters the findings, indicating its troops had conducted or planned to conduct “activities” in all African “countries” during the 2013 fiscal year except for Western Sahara (a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa), Guinea Bissau, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe. Egypt is considered outside of AFRICOM’s area of operations, but did see U.S. military activity in 2013, as did Somalia, which now also hosts a small team of U.S. advisors. Other documents indicate Army troops actually deployed to São Tomé and Príncipe, a country that regularly conducts activities with the U.S. Navy.

AFRICOM is adamant that the U.S. military has only one base on the continent: Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. Official documents examined by TomDispatch, however, make reference to bases by other names: forward operating sites, or FOSes (long-term locations); cooperative security locations, or CSLs (through which small numbers of U.S. troops periodically rotate); and contingency locations, or CLs (which are used only during ongoing missions).

AFRICOM has repeatedly denied requests by TomDispatch for further information on the numbers or locations of FOSes, CSLs, and CLs, but official documents produced in 2012 make reference to seven cooperative security locations, including one in Entebbe, Uganda, a location from which U.S. contractors have flown secret surveillance missions, according to an investigation by the Washington Post. Information released earlier this year by the military also makes references to at least nine “forward operating locations,” or FOLs in Africa.

We know not what they do

“What We Are Doing,” the title of a December 2013 military document obtained by TomDispatch, offers answers to questions that AFRICOM has long sought to avoid and provides information the command has worked to keep under wraps. So much else, however, remains in the shadows.

From 2008 to 2013, the number of missions, exercises, operations, and other activities under AFRICOM’s purview has skyrocketed from 172 to 546, but little substantive information has been made public about what exactly most of these missions involved and just who U.S. forces have trained. Since 2011, U.S. Army Africa alone has taken part in close to 1,000 “activities” across the continent, but independent reporters have only been on hand for a tiny fraction of them, so there are limits to what we can know about them beyond military talking points and official news releases for a relative few of these missions. Only later did it become clear that the United States extensively mentored the military officer who overthrew Mali’s elected government in 2012, and that the U.S. trained a Congolese commando battalion implicated by the United Nations in mass rapes and other atrocities during that same year, to cite two examples.

Since its inception, U.S. Africa Command has consistently downplayed its role on the continent. Meanwhile, far from the press or the public, the officers running its secret operations have privately been calling Africa “the battlefield of tomorrow, today.”

After years in the dark, we now know just how “extremely active” — to use General David Rodriguez’s phrase — AFRICOM has been and how rapidly the tempo of its missions has increased. It remains to be seen just what else we don’t know about U.S. Africa Command’s exponentially expanding operations.

Nick Turse is the managing editor and a fellow at the Nation Institute. A 2014 Izzy Award winner, his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Timesthe Nation, at the BBC and regularlyat TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (just out in paperback).

India's defence industry languishes

Monopoly of the defence PSUs has to end
G Parthasarathy 27/3/14

Engineers work on a LCA Tejas before its induction into the IAF. A PTI file photo
Speaking on the 15th anniversary of the Pokhran nuclear test last year, Narendra Modi observed: “There is a crucial question we have to answer — how do we become self-sufficient in defence manufacturing? This is not only about military power but also about being self-reliant for our defence equipment”. India has, since 2011, retained the dubious distinction of replacing China as the largest arms importer in the world. According to SIPRI, India’s major arms imports surged by 111 per cent in the last five years compared to 2004-2008.

China’s arms imports have declined. It has successfully leveraged its arms imports to engineer and develop a vibrant defence industry, now exporting armaments, ranging from fighter aircraft and frigates to missiles and rifles. Pakistan’s Al Khalid tank, frontline JF 17 fighter and recently acquired frigates are all from China. Its main ballistic missiles, the Shaheen 1 and Shaheen 2, are replicas of their Chinese counterparts. Moreover, China is a regular supplier of arms to our other neighbours like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The pathetic inadequacies of India's defence industry were exposed when it was unable to meet Afghanistan's wish list so vital for its security as American forces prepare to leave.

While our missile development programme gives us pride, our nuclear deterrent will be credible only when Agni 5 and the Navy’s nuclear submarines become fully operational. We are not in a position to export any major weapons platform. The 5.56 mm (INSAS) Automatic Rifle, manufactured by our ordnance factories will be rejected by any modern army. There is a total absence of accountability in the entire process of defence acquisitions and domestic production. The most classic case of such bungling pertains to the famous/infamous Bofors FH 77, 155 mm Howitzer.

In 1986 India signed a $285 million contract for the supply of 410 155 mm Bofors Howitzers. The contract included a provision for the manufacture of 1000 guns in India. The Bofors deal, which led to the outrageous arrest of a Defence Secretary of impeccable integrity, S.K. Bhatnagar, became a turning point, further complicating the already cumbersome defence acquisition procedures. The government cancelled the entire contract without arranging for either domestic manufacture or selecting an alternative gun. Like in all such cases, the armed forces rushed in for the import of an alternative. The acquisition process became more complicated, as offers for comparable weapon systems from Singapore and South Africa were rejected on allegations of kickbacks.

India would have been hard pressed to win the Kargil conflict speedily without the firepower that the Bofors gun provided. But we now come to the strange part of this entire episode. By 1987, India had received the entire design data and transfer of technology from Sweden for the manufacture of the Bofors gun. For over 20 years, these designs gathered dust in the offices of the Defence Production Establishment. It was only when no alternative was available that these designs were discovered and after much procrastination, the Ordnance Factories commenced a process of assembly. While the first test of the indigenous gun understandably failed, the Ordnance Factory Board has now successfully moved to commence its manufacture soon, with a range of 38 km as against the 30 km range of the Swedish Bofors. We have similarly successfully designed and developed multi-barrelled rocket launchers. But the larger issue is: Who is to be held responsible for mothballing the designs received from Sweden and why was the task of domestic manufacture not undertaken earlier?

What ails India’s defence industry is now common knowledge. There are reports of a number of committees, including those headed by defence scientist Rama Rao and by Vijay Kelkar, apart from the report of the Naresh Chandra Task Force. The contours of these reports are broadly known. It is now obvious that a few issues need to be clearly and expeditiously addressed. First, the restrictions on foreign investment in high-tech, defence-related industries need radical liberalisation. Secondly, the monopoly of the public sector institutions in defence production has to end. Even today some of the most sensitive and critical assemblies for equipment, ranging from nuclear submarines to tanks and warships are being sourced from the private sector, which must be given a level-playing field for competing with defence PSUs.

Defence production must not involve a predominant emphasis on imports and assembly as at present. There has to be a large measure of import substitution of a vast array of critical raw materials, components and sub-systems, amounting to billions of dollars each year, now imported for regular production by the defence PSUs under the umbrella of “licence manufacture”. The private sector with help from the DRDO could play a significant role in this area.

A good starting point for a new approach to defence production could be in regard to the light combat aircraft, which has now undergone substantial trials and could be inducted into service significantly if it is fast-tracked. By all accounts, both its air defence version and its naval version will have a performance comparable to the Swedish Viggen, which was one of the aircraft under consideration for acquisition by the IAF. There will be the usual breast-beating and predictable opposition by the Air Force. But this process has to be undertaken once we are assured that the aircraft will even initially be able to meet any anticipated threat from across our western borders.

India has an added advantage over China. It can get weapons systems and defence technology from Europe and the USA. We will have to leverage this, together with our access to weapons and technology from Israel and Russia, to demand and get the best terms possible for building an indigenous high-tech defence industrial base. Moreover, the present structure of our Defence Ministry, which is run by generalist bureaucrats, needs drastic change. Far greater integration of staff and procedures between the Service Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence is imperative to halt the setbacks of the recent past in civil- military relations.

NSA Spied on Chinese Government and Networking Firm Huawei

Targeting Huawei

According to documents viewed by SPIEGEL, America'a NSA intelligence agency put considerable efforts into spying on Chinese politicians and firms. One major target was Huawei, a company that is fast becoming a major Internet player.

The American government conducted a major intelligence offensive against China, with targets including the Chinese government and networking company Huawei, according to documents from former NSA worker Edward Snowden that have been viewed by SPIEGEL and the New York Times. Among the American intelligence service's targets were former Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Chinese Trade Ministry, banks, as well as telecommunications companies.

But the NSA made a special effort to target Huawei. With 150,000 employees and €28 billion ($38.6 billion) in annual revenues, the company is the world's second largest network equipment supplier. At the beginning of 2009, the NSA began an extensive operation, referred to internally as "Shotgiant," against the company, which is considered a major competitor to US-based Cisco. The company produces smartphones and tablets, but also mobile phone infrastructure, WLAN routers and fiber optic cable -- the kind of technology that is decisive in the NSA's battle for data supremacy.

A special unit with the US intelligence agency succeeded in infiltrating Huwaei's network and copied a list of 1,400 customers as well as internal documents providing training to engineers on the use of Huwaei products, among other things.

Source Code Breached

According to a top secret NSA presentation, NSA workers not only succeeded in accessing the email archive, but also the secret source code of individual Huwaei products. Software source code is the holy grail of computer companies. Because Huawei directed all mail traffic from its employees through a central office in Shenzhen, where the NSA had infiltrated the network, the Americans were able to read a large share of the email sent by company workers beginning in January 2009, including messages from company CEO Ren Zhengfei and Chairwoman Sun Yafang.

"We currently have good access and so much data that we don't know what to do with it," states one internal document. As justification for targeting the company, an NSA document claims that "many of our targets communicate over Huawei produced products, we want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products." The agency also states concern that "Huawei's widespread infrastructure will provide the PRC (People's Republic of China) with SIGINT capabilities." SIGINT is agency jargon for signals intelligence. The documents do not state whether the agency found information indicating that to be the case.

The operation was conducted with the involvement of the White House intelligence coordinator and the FBI. One document states that the threat posed by Huawei is "unique".

The agency also stated in a document that "the intelligence community structures are not suited for handling issues that combine economic, counterintelligence, military influence and telecommunications infrastructure from one entity."

Fears of Chinese Influence on the Net

The agency notes that understanding how the firm operates will pay dividends in the future. In the past, the network infrastructure business has been dominated by Western firms, but the Chinese are working to make American and Western firms "less relevant". That Chinese push is beginning to open up technology standards that were long determined by US companies, and China is controlling an increasing amount of the flow of information on the net.

In a statement, Huawei spokesman Bill Plummer criticized the spying measures. "If it is true, the irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us," he said. "If such espionage has been truly conducted, then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation."

Responding to the allegations, NSA spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said she should could not comment on specific collection activities or on the intelligence operations of specific foreign countries, "but I can tell you that our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs of our country." She also said, "We do not give intelligence we collect to US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line."

Editor's note: A longer version of this story will appear in German in the issue of SPIEGEL to be published on Monday.

Related SPIEGEL ONLINE links:
GCHQ Revealed: Inside Her Majesty's Listening Service (02/27/2014)
Striking Back: Germany Considers Counterespionage Against US (02/18/2014)
Probing America: Top German Prosecutor Considers NSA Investigation (01/20/2014)
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March 25, 2014

Xinjiang’s cycle of violence

The Kunmíng violence underscores the need for a more sensitive approach to the Uighur question in China

The expansive square in front of the Id Kah Mosque, a 1,000-year-old place of worship in the heart of Kashgar, usually buzzes with activity as the sun sets on the Taklamakan desert. Worshippers, young and old, gather outside its distinctive yellow walls. The street nearby doubles as a bustling market, selling naan bread, dried fruit and lamb. The mosque is located not far from the edge of Kashgar’s old city, a sprawling maze of narrow alleyways and mud-brick houses that gives the famous Silk Road town its unique identity. For centuries, this town served as the gateway between West and East. As I walked through Kashgar’s distinctive by-lanes, I heard of the thriving links between the old kingdoms of Kashgar and India, Tibet, Central Asia and China — interactions that helped shape the rich local Uighur culture. At one point in its history, the old kingdom of Kashgar stretched its rule into parts of Ladakh, I was told. Today, there are places in Ladakh like Daulat Beg Oldi, named after a noble who once resided in Yarkand and Kashgar, still bearing signs of their old connected Silk Road histories.

Spate of attacks
When I visited the city a little less than three years ago towards the end of the holy month of Ramadan — my third visit — celebrations in the bustling old town appeared muted. Weeks earlier, the city had been rocked by two explosions, set off in minivans in a crowded pedestrian street in the new city, where most Chinese residents live. Unlike many cities in China’s far western Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, Kashgar is still overwhelmingly Uighur — although the number of Han Chinese migrants is fast increasing. Chinese — now a majority in the provincial capital Ürümqi, make up around half of Xinjiang’s population, up from only six per cent when the People’s Republic brought Xinjiang — its “new frontier” — under its control.

The explosions appeared to target Chinese residents. After one crude bomb was detonated, two men hijacked a van and drove it into a crowd of shoppers. Eight people were killed. The next day, another group of men, armed with knives, stormed into a restaurant frequented by Chinese tourists, stabbing to death its owner and four others. Four attackers were shot and killed by police. The result, a few weeks later, was a heavy security presence outside the Id Kah: around two dozen heavily armed People’s Armed Police, or paramilitary personnel, with riot gear, assault rifles and shields watched over the square — a presence, I am told, that is now permanent.

The violence in Kashgar in 2011 turned out to be the start of a string of similar incidents unfolding across Xinjiang, especially in the Uighur-dominated south, where Kashgar and Hotan are located. In August last year, 21 people were killed, including 15 police and community workers, in a clash with six people in a town in Bachu County, also in Kashgar prefecture. The six were later identified by state media as members of a group that was “planning to launch terrorist activities,” similar to the one in 2011 on the pedestrian street. A number of similar small-scale incidents have been reported since, occurring intermittently in Hotan and other cities. These usually only receive little attention, described briefly in terse state media reports that shed little light on the events and generally disregarded by the wider Chinese public, in some sense accepted as par for the course in “violent Xinjiang.”

That, however, would change, following the events of March 1 in Ku¯nmíng, the provincial capital of southwestern Yunnan province, a popular tourist destination for Chinese, known as “the city of eternal spring.” In an attack that resembled earlier incidents in southern Xinjiang, a group of masked assailants, armed with knives, went on a rampage in Ku¯nmíng railway station. Eight masked men and women, all dressed in black, moved quickly and quietly, stabbing at will, leaving a trail of blood, panic and horror. Armed with long knives, they appeared to be highly trained, according to witness accounts. They inflicted deadly cuts, often attacking their victims in similar, precise ways. The attackers appeared unfazed when armed police were deployed: one marched straight into a shower of bullets unleashed by police, a witness said. Four attackers were killed, and one injured woman assailant was captured. Three others suspected of involvement in the attack were detained. The attack left 29 people killed, and came as a shock to Chinese authorities, being the first of its kind to take place outside Xinjiang. The only similar incident of this kind was last year, when, in a strikingly similar repeat of the Kashgar attack, a jeep was driven by three Uighurs into a crowd in the heart of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Two tourists were killed.

The Ku¯nmíng attack, however, was especially significant, according to Pan Zhiping, a Chinese scholar at the official Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, who writes on terrorism and has advised the government. “The attack was well organised,” he said in an interview. “Ku¯nmíng is a long way from Xinjiang. The attackers this time were well trained and brutal.” The police were unprepared. It took them 30 minutes to mount an organised response, by which time 29 people were killed and more than a hundred injured. “Without intelligence,” Mr. Pan said, “you cannot predict such things could happen in Yunnan. And such intelligence is really hard to obtain.”

He suspects the involvement of the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a banned group whose leader is thought to be in hiding in Pakistan, near the Afghan border. While China has blamed most incidents on the ETIM, there has been little clear evidence of their capabilities of carrying out attacks in China. In the past, exiled Uighur groups have suggested that every act of unrest in Xinjiang, even those stemming from local protests, has been blamed on the ETIM to justify harsh responses.

Qin Guangrong, the Communist Party chief of Yunnan, told local media that the eight Ku¯nmíng attackers had previously sought to leave China “for jihad” overseas, but were unable to do so. They had first attempted to leave from southern Guangdong, but tracked back to Ku¯nmíng when they found no way to leave. For the Chinese government, the Ku¯nmíng attack, which one Party-run newspaper described as “China’s 9/11,” bolsters its claims on the terror threat. Mr. Pan said the government should step up anti-terror crackdowns in Xinjiang and elsewhere.

Local grievances, ethnic tensions

The danger for the government is that its past responses have appeared to exacerbate, rather than improve, the on-the-ground situation in Xinjiang. A case in point was the 2009 ethnic riots in Ürümqi, where 197 people were left killed. The government blamed the riots on ETIM and separatist groups, although the nature of mass rioting suggests otherwise.

Interviews with Uighurs in Ürümqi and Kashgar suggest the local population has growing grievances with government policies, particularly involving the migration of Han Chinese. Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economist known for his outspoken views, has documented rising local unemployment, as Uighur youth remain shut out of lucrative jobs. State-run energy companies, which hold unrivalled sway over government and policy in this mineral and oil-rich region, prefer hiring Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese, he has written. Earlier this year, Mr. Tohti, a widely respected and popular voice in the Uighur community, was taken away from his Beijing home by State police. He has not been heard from since.

Other grievances involve restrictions on religion. Uighur government workers and students in many universities are banned from practising religion, whether it is fasting during Ramadan or even wearing veils. Recent “anti-veil” crackdowns in Kashgar and Hotan, cited by local officials as being driven by security reasons, have understandably angered Uighurs, seen as an assault on their culture.

Wang Lixiong is a Chinese writer who has written extensively on Tibet, Xinjiang and ethnic issues. In an article following the Ku¯nmíng attack, he warned of the danger of an official response that fuels a cycle of violence. He has argued for policymaking that takes into account the sensitivities and aspirations of Uighurs. Today’s policies “have been escalating the ethnic tension,” he warned. Following the Ürümqi riots, locals say ethnic relations have worsened, as Han and Uighur neighbourhoods retreat into themselves, leaving an increasingly segregated city.

“Continuing on that path,” Mr. Wang warned, “it will not take long to reach the point of no return where all opportunities for healthy interaction will be lost, and a vicious cycle pushes the two sides farther and farther apart.”

Saudi grant kills Iran-Pakistan pipeline

By Syed Fazl-e-Haider

KARACHI - A US$1.5 billion donation to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia is hotly being debated in the country's parliament, political circles and among the analysts. The main question being under what deal Riyadh disbursed the crucial amount to help the cash-strapped country make short-term economic gains? What has Pakistan guaranteed or promised to do in return? Many believe Saudi Arabia killed many birds with one stone. 

Saudi Arabia did what the US could not do to keep Pakistan away from a $7.5-billion gas pipeline project with Iran. In a tit-for-tat deal, Saudi Arabia might have persuaded Islamabad to cancel the Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline project, which is vital to end energy shortages that are crippling Pakistan's economy. 

Pakistan's oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, after receiving funds from Saudi Arabia last month, reportedly said work on the pipeline was not possible because of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Iran over its nuclear program. Iran has warned that Islamabad is contractually obliged to complete the project which would allow Tehran to export gas to its southeastern neighbor.

"Iran has carried out its commitments ... and expects the Pakistani side to honor its own," Iran's deputy oil minister Ali Majedi was reported to have said. "They should even pick up the pace of work and make up for falling behind schedule in constructing Pakistan's [780-kilometer] side of the pipeline."

Iran has already laid the pipeline its side up to its border with Pakistan. Financing has been the key issue for Islamabad. Islamabad has so far failed to secure the required funding for the IP pipeline due to the threat of sanctions from the US. Pakistan had been asking Iran, China and Russia to fill the finance gap.

Ironically, Saudi Arabia's $1.5 billion donation was the amount Pakistan needed complete the portion of pipeline on its territory. But this donation, or "gift" as called by Ishaq Dar, Pakistan's finance minister, could not be used to finance the construction of the IP pipeline.

The Saudi grant has, however, helped Pakistan to shore up its foreign exchange reserves. It improved the health of the Pakistani rupee, which appreciated 6% to a nine-month high against the US dollar within a week.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have a history of mistrust, posing a serious challenge for Pakistan to maintain a delicate balance in its bilateral relations with both countries. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has preferred friendship with Saudi Arabia over Iran. He enjoys good and close relations with the Saudi royal family.

Last year, former president Asif Ali Zardari inaugurated the delayed IP pipeline on March 11. The administration of Yousaf Raza Gilani downplayed the US pressure and continued to go ahead with the Iran pipeline project.

In 2012, Saudi Arabia had offered energy-deficient Pakistan the alternative options to cope with the energy crisis in a move to lull the country to abandon the IP gas pipeline project . A "special message" about the project from the Saudi king was delivered to Pakistan by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Saudi deputy foreign minister, in his one-to-one meeting with former prime minister Gilani in Islamabad. The Saudi message came at a time when Pakistan had expedited its efforts to strike government-to-government deals on financing its portion of pipeline with Moscow and Beijing, despite stiff opposition from the US.

The "timing" of the launch of the pipeline project, which was scheduled to be completed by the end of this year when the US is scheduled to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, is a crucial consideration for Islamabad. Washington direly needs Islamabad's support and cooperation in the run up to Afghan war endgame, and represents a window of opportunity to complete the pipeline project at a time the US would not be in a position to significantly hurt Pakistan's interest. Geopolitically, a major foreign policy challenge for the US was to convince Islamabad to abandon the pipeline without undermining its own interests in Afghanistan.

The fate of IP pipeline is now uncertain after Pakistan has showed its reluctance to go ahead with the project. The pipeline, which would initially transfer 30 million cubic meters of gas per day, could bail the country out of the acute energy crisis. Under pipeline contract, Pakistan has to pay a penalty of $3 million per day if fails to implement it by December 2014. Pakistan may face arbitration by Iran but believes that it is qualified for a waiver because the IP gas deal with Iran was signed before Western sanctions were imposed on Iran.

Geopolitics, corporate interests and other shenanigans have produced twists and turns in the pipeline project. It has been strongly been opposed by the US, while Russia and China have supported it. India withdraw from the project in 2009 after signing a civil nuclear deal with the US. Even as as it negotiates a nuclear deal with Iran, Washington has not so far exempted the project from the sanctions. Islamabad took up the issue with US authorities at a meeting on the sidelines of the revised bilateral strategic dialogue in Washington last year. The US however was not convinced.

Iran in December not only canceled a $500 million loan promised in 2012 with Pakistan for building the section of a pipeline to bring natural gas from Iran, but it also announced that it will demand compensation if Islamabad fails to build the pipeline by end of this year. Iran took a u-turn on the pipeline following the interim nuclear deal with Western powers last year. The u-turn turned the project, once considered an "energy lifeline" for Pakistan's economy, into a liability. The latest turn, courtesy of the recent $1.5 billion donation from the Saudi Arabia, looks likely to kill the strategically significant project.

Syed Fazl-e-Haider ( ) is a development analyst in Pakistan. He is the author of many books, including The Economic Development of Balochistan, published in May 2004. E-mail

(Copyright 2014 Syed Fazl-e-Haider)