From Sputnik, December 16, 2014
By Andrew Korybko
The latest anti-Russian bill to come out of Washington does a lot more than simply arm Ukraine, although that’s destabilizing enough as it is. Contained within the Act are powerful provisions that expand NATO’s influence in Russia’s backyard and continue the War on Syria.
The Ukrainian Freedom Support Act (UFSA) is essentially the actionable successor to the recently passed House Resolution 758, which itself has been referred to as the declaration of the New Cold War. It’s exceptionally noteworthy for fulfilling John McCain’s threat to arm Ukraine, but it’s the other decrees within it that have gone unnoticed by the mainstream media, although they’re just as troubling, if not more so. And unsurprisingly, Congress somehow found a way to group its War on Syria into the UFSA, showing that it truly exploits any opportunity to push through its agenda of regime change there even if it has absolutely nothing to do with the bill at hand.
The Three Amigos
The UFSA is just as much about Moldova and Georgia as it is about Ukraine, as all three countries are collectively grouped together except for when it comes to assisting with internally displaced persons. For example, when it comes to ‘the three amigos’, UFSA says that sanctions will be imposed if:
- Russia (or any actor affiliated with it) sends “defense articles” to those countries without the consent of its government’
- And Russia “withholds significant natural gas supplies from countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova” and NATO members.
And that the three are to be ‘rewarded’ with:
- Major non-NATO ally status (which allows them to purchase weapons only reserved for NATO allies);
- And a prioritized information campaign run by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where these countries are given a greater focus than the other former Soviet states.
Putting it all together, it is clear that the US has strategically incorporated Moldova and Georgia into its legislation about Ukraine, providing proof that it is Washington and not Moscow which is ‘widening the battlefield’ of the New Cold War. This isn’t the first time either, as all the amigos were first lumped together in May when the so-called Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 was unveiled, which served as the predecessor of House Resolution 758.
The reasoning for this is rather simple, actually. The US wants to coordinate its push against the former Soviet periphery and is pulling out all the stops along the way. The primary objective is NATO expansion all the way to the Russian border, as well as the destabilization of Russian interests in or near these countries. Russia has a military base in the de-facto independent Transnistrian region of Moldova, while the historic reunification of Crimea and Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s independence from Georgia are well known. It is these precise interests and territories that the US wants to threaten with the Act.
The Big Tent
Another observation that’s lost on the mainstream media is that the Act creates a ‘big tent’ of American interests in Eurasia. When addressing the non-consented transfer of Russian defense articles to “specified countries”, other than the three amigos, it describes these as being “any other country of significant concern for purposes of this Act, such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the Central Asia republics.” It’s obvious that the US would place its NATO allies under this designation, but to spread the umbrella over the Central Asian republics is a strategy that has more to it than originally meets the eye.
Russia in no way supports separatism in Central Asia, and aside from neutral Turkmenistan, it actually has constructive military and anti-terror relations with all of the regional states as a result of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This group has explicitly stated its opposition to terrorism, separatism, and extremism, and all of its members are now watching the violent situation in Afghanistan with the trepidation that it may move northward next year.
Within this context, the US is sending smoke signals to those governments that it is open for cooperating with them, but with the implicit understanding that they have to abandon their alliance with Russia and accuse it of the fantasy-driven treachery of arming separatist groups. The purpose here is to expand the reach of NATO’s 12,000 or so troops that will stay behind in Afghanistan and use them to push Russian influence (no matter how beneficial to anti-terrorist operations and regional stability) out of Central Asia.
Slick Talking About Syria
Congress understood that the current anti-Russian climate meant that the UFSA was surely bound to pass, so it added a completely irrelevant clause relating to Syria in order to strengthen the war effort against it. Specifically, the Act mandates that sanctions be imposed against any Russian company or related individual that sells defense articles to Syria. This is the complete opposite standard that it is applying to the ‘big tent’ countries. Congress says that Russia can’t transfer such units to the ‘big tent’ without the consent of their governments, but such transfers are prohibited to Syria when its government consents to it.
So what’s going on here?
The US and its allies don’t recognize the legitimacy of the Syrian government, despite President Assad having been democratically re-elected with 88.7% of the vote back in June, and the fact that they support regime change within the country. They’d rather give weapons to the insurgents fighting to overthrow the government (even if such arms sometimes end up in the hands of terrorists) than approve of Russia’s continued support for the government’s anti-terrorist war. The Syrian Arab Army is once more on the upswing (backed by Russian support), so it’s not coincidental that such a provision was made at this time. Nonetheless, such bullying by the US will never result in Russia abandoning its support for Syria, especially at this critical time, and should be seen as nothing more than the naked intimidation tactic that it is.
Andrew Korybko is the political analyst and journalist for Sputnik who currently lives and studies in Moscow.