From Executive Intelligence Review, February 20, 2015
by Jeffrey Steinberg
Feb. 17—As of midnight on Feb. 15, a ceasefire went into force in eastern Ukraine. The deal that was hammered out among Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko—i.e., without the direct involvement of the Obama Administration and the U.K. government—after 17 hours of non-stop negotiations in Minsk last week, is fragile, to say the least.
The immediate danger lies with an identifiable force—the neo-Nazi militias who are an integral part of the Kiev government, which came to power one year ago in a Nazi-driven coup d’état. Those Nazis are acting as protected assets of the Obama Administration, specifically Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.
These neo-Nazi forces have officially rejected the ceasefire. The battalions they control in southeastern Ukraine are not fully under the control of the central government in Kiev, but are armed by Ukraine’s “oligarchs”—big businessmen such as Dnepropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoysky. They are the offshoot of the Bandera movement, which was fascist in its own right even before World War II, then welcomed Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and carried out atrocities against the people of Ukraine and Poland that should have landed them in the dock at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. Instead, they were recruited by British and American intelligence services for the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
The neo-Nazi representatives within the government in Kiev are also out to sabotage any peace agreement. According to Russian media, former Commandant of the Maidan and current First Deputy Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (the Supreme Rada) Andriy Parubiy is coming to Washington this week. A cofounder of the neo-Nazi Svoboda party and of one of the paramilitary groups that became the Right Sector spearhead of the February 2014 coup, Parubiy today is a leader in the People’s Front, the political party of the man Victoria Nuland hand-picked as Ukraine’s post-coup prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Speaking Feb. 14 on Ukrainian TV, Parubiy announced the purpose of the trip: to get weapons. He said that Ukraine needs to strengthen its armed Forces and get “the USA to give us highly precise modern weaponry.” He added,
“Next week I am going to the United States, to discuss this in a very concrete and targeted way.”
The possibility that the U.S. would arm Ukraine—a move Moscow would see as an act of war—is precisely what impelled the leaders of France and Germany to work frenetically to get a ceasefire in Ukraine. It would be a step to World War III.
The Rush for a Ceasefire
President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel saw the Minsk talks as existential. They agreed that, if there were no diplomatic breakthrough, the Obama Administration would begin arming the Ukrainian military and this would escalate the crisis. Over the past weeks, more and more strategic analysts and policymakers have come to view the Ukraine crisis as a potential trigger for thermonuclear war between the United States and Russia. Articles headlining the danger have appeared in Germany’s Der Spiegel and even Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
The specter of a war of annihilation starting in the center of Europe was a powerful incentive for Merkel and Hollande to team up to preempt the U.S. weapons flows by the last-ditch diplomacy.
On the eve of the Minsk talks, Chancellor Merkel flew to Washington on Feb. 9 to confer with President Obama. She delivered a blunt message, according to German and American sources. First, she told the President that Europe was adamantly opposed to the U.S. arming the Ukrainian Army. Second, she told Obama that the lack of a direct dialogue between him and Russian President Putin was putting the world at risk. Only the leaders of the two nations with the thermonuclear arsenals that could destroy the planet could be the ultimate guarantors of mankind’s survival. They had to resume a direct, personal dialogue, Merkel insisted.
Her admonition appears to have had some impact. On Feb. 11, on the eve of the Minsk talks, Obama called Putin, and the two men had a 90-minute conversation, the content of which has been kept secret. According to Spiegel Online, which published a detailed account of Merkel’s and Hollande’s diplomatic efforts, the mere fact that the phone call took place demonstrated that Washington was deeply interested in the outcome of the Minsk talks.
At one point in the marathon diplomatic session, according to the Spiegel account, Putin, in private, spoke by phone to the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR). He secured their agreement to the ceasefire terms. In addition, Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov shuttled between the Hollande-Merkel-Poroshenko-Putin meeting and the Minsk contact group, which also met through the night at another location in Minsk (because Poroshenko refused to speak with the DPR/LPR delegation directly). It was the contact group, consisting of Alexander Zakharchenko (DPR), Igor Plotnitsky (LPR), Ukrainian ex-President Leonid Kuchma, Russian Ambassador to Kiev Mikhail Zurabov, and OSCE negotiator Heidi Tagliavini, who actually signed the 10-point Minsk accord.
In the previous months of renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine, after the September 2014 ceasefire broke down, the DPR/LPR forces captured an additional belt of territory, especially within the Donetsk Region, as they moved to push the Kiev battalions out of the range from which they could shell Donetsk and other cities. While the Minsk talks were proceeding, the DPR/LPR militias had nearly encircled 6,000 to 8,000 Ukrainians in the town of Debaltseve, the major rail junction between Donetsk and Lugansk. With growing defections, collapsing morale, and widespread draft evasion, the Ukraine Armed Forces were already at a break-point. For Merkel and Hollande, the idea of arming such a disintegrating army was a grave mistake, reflecting a lack of understanding of the reality of the Ukraine crisis in official Washington.
The Nuland Factor
Indeed, the policy of the Obama Administration towards Ukraine and Russia has been hijacked from day one by a collection of neo-conservatives and humanitarian interventionist ideologues—led by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland. The wife of neo-con Robert Kagan, Nuland served as a foreign policy advisor to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, before being appointed as the Bush Administration’s Ambassador to NATO.
Nuland publicly boasted that the U.S. had poured $5 billion into the “democracy” movement in Ukraine since the end of the Cold War, and she made clear, in an infamous taped phone call in January 2014, that the man who is now Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yatsenyuk, was owned by Washington. She is responsible for covering up the powerful role of the Banderite Nazis in the Maidan coup and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Nuland’s current role in sabotaging efforts for peace was highlighted in a Feb. 15 article in Germany’s Der Spiegel, entitled “America’s Riot Diplomat.” The column stated that Nuland poses a threat to America’s allies, and that while she is supposed to solve the crisis of Ukraine and relations with Russia, “in the crisis, Nuland herself has become the problem.”
Der Spiegel described a closed-door meeting, apparently reported anonymously both to it and to the Bild newspaper, held by Nuland at the Munich Security Conference one week ago, with “perhaps two dozen U.S. diplomats and Senators.” There Nuland gave instructions to “fight against the Europeans” on the issue of arming Ukraine to fight Russia. She was described as referring “bitterly” to the German Chancellor’s and French President’s meeting with President Putin as “Merkel’s Moscow junk,” and “Moscow bullshit,” and she welcomed a Senator’s calling German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen the “Defeatism Minister.”
These reports give the lie to Nuland’s claim on the morning of Feb. 11, when the Minsk Agreement was announced, that “we [the United States] enthusiastically support it.”
Der Spiegel says that Nuland does not stop short of calling for “heavy weapons” to be given by NATO to Ukraine.
Raising the Alarm
In a statement issued on Feb. 14, Lyndon LaRouche warned that the war danger would persist until Nuland was fired and her links to hardcore Banderite Nazis exposed publicly (see box).
The larger threat of thermonuclear war, stemming from the Ukraine crisis, was a dominant theme behind the scenes at the annual Munich Security Conference. On the eve of that meeting, three national security specialists, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and former British Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne, wrote an op-ed calling for an overhaul of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, with an inclusive role for Russia.
The same view was echoed in two other high-visibility venues. On Feb. 11, Jack Matlock, who was President Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union during the closing days of the Cold War, told a packed audience at the National Press Club in Washington that the West had violated some of the most essential agreements with Moscow, those which had allowed for the peaceful demise of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, and that the danger of a world war was grave (see transcript in this Feature).
Two days later, Markus Becker, writing about the Munich Security Conference in Spiegel Online, warned that the “Threat of War Is Higher than in the Cold War.” He presented some of the same arguments as the Nunn-Ivanov-Browne article.
Unless LaRouche’s demand for Nuland’s ouster is acted upon swiftly, the chances of the neo-Nazis in Ukraine wrecking the fragile peace are immense. Nuland’s ouster must be followed by the agreement among governments to disqualify and remove the Nazi elements now running rampant, and participating in government, in Ukraine. This demand has been raised repeatedly by the Russian government, and by LaRouche.
If the cycle of violence in eastern Ukraine resumes full-force, the prospects of escalation into a direct Russia-U.S. military confrontation are very high.
Richard Burt, who was one of the chief U.S. arms control negotiators with the Soviets, told Spiegel Online (Feb. 9) that the danger of nuclear war is very great. “Both American and Russian nuclear arms are essentially on a kind of hair-trigger alert. Both sides have a nuclear posture where land-based missiles could be authorized for use in less than 15 minutes.” He acknowledged that the kind of “hybrid warfare” now underway in eastern Ukraine adds greatly to the danger of miscalculation into thermonuclear confrontation. Former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov concurred, telling Spiegel, “Now the threat of a war is higher than during the Cold War.”
It must be understood, in addition, that the primary driver for war is the bankruptcy of the trans-Atlantic financial system, centered in London and Wall Street. The desperation of financier circles over the looming doom of their system and the collapse of their political power is driving the war danger. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has observed in recent statements, if there had been no Ukraine crisis, some circles in the West would have created one—to deal with the larger collapse they are facing.
 Der Spiegel article is here (in German):