US sees a resurgent Russian military expanding into Afghanistan, Libya

Introduction — March 29, 2017

Martin Indyk with Hillary Clinton (Indyk is the executive Vice President of the Brookings Institute). click to enlarge

Hillary Clinton with Martin Indyk, the executive Vice President of the Brookings Institute. Click to enlarge

U.S. military commanders and analysts claim that Russia is using turbulence and conflict in the Middle East to undermine the West’s influence in the region. However, in reporting this CNN pointedly omits to mention that the conflicts cited were all the result of Western intervention, covert or otherwise.
Afghanistan and Libya are both dealing with the consequences of that ‘intervention’. While Syria is torn by a conflict that was instigated and fuelled by the West, covertly and indirectly, through its allies in the gulf states, Turkey and Israel.
CNN pointedly omits to look at the origins of these conflicts. Instead it concentrates on claims that Russia is using them to establish what Bill Roggio of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies calls “Russian Imperialism”.
While it may be argued that Russia is trying to use these conflicts to re-establish itself as a global player it doesn’t change the fact that the West used exactly the same tactics against Russia. In Afghanistan for example, when it was still occupied by the former Soviet Union, the U.S. was quick to supply weapons to the mujahideen.
According to wikipedia:
As documented by the National Security Archive, “the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) played a significant role in asserting U.S. influence in Afghanistan by funding military operations designed to frustrate the Soviet invasion of that country. CIA covert action worked through Pakistani intelligence services to reach Afghani rebel groups.
So even if the Russians are trying to exploit current conflicts for their own advantage — and they would no doubt dispute that — what they are doing is no different from what the CIA did in Afghanistan.
The same holds true for Libya, where Western ‘intervention’ helped oust Gaddafi, and Syria, where covert Western efforts to remove President Assad were only thwarted after Russian ‘intervention’.
As all this is unfolding the buffer zone that the Warsaw Pact nations once provided Russia has been removed. Former members of the old Soviet military alliance Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria have now realigned with the West. Allowing NATO forces to deploy further east, in some cases right up to Russia’s very border.
In effect we are looking at a new Cold War being fought through covertly backed proxies. Like the first Cold War this is also a battle for hearts and minds so that much of what passes itself off as “news” is actually carefully crafted disinformation.
That much is apparent when one looks into the two Washington think-tanks quoted in the following CNN report. For example the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, which warns of “growing Russian imperialism”, arose out of a pro-Israeli organisation organization called EMET (Hebrew for “truth”).
The original aim of EMET, according to an application to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status: “was to provide education to enhance Israel’s image in North America and the public’s understanding of issues affecting Israeli-Arab relations.”
However, in the wake of September 11 that mission changed to “develop(ing) educational materials on the eradication of terrorism”. Together with the change in mission came a new name: the Foundation for Defense of Democracy.
Since then the foundation has led the attack on the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Another Washington expert quoted below is Anna Borshchevskaya, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Headed by Martin Indyk, a leading advocate of the Iraq invasion, the institute has also advocated waging a covert war on Iran.
Indyk is also executive Vice President of the Brookings Institute, which in a 2012 paper suggested:
“The United States and Israel share the same objective, and Israeli fears command widespread support on Capitol Hill. Should Israel decide to strike (Iran), particularly during the run-up to a closely contested presidential election, the Obama administration will find itself under tremendous pressure to support the effort.”
In other words the following CNN report is largely built around the proposals of Zionist hawks and Washington warmongers. The very people who advocated the Iraq invasion and agitated for intervention in Syria and Iran are now artfully preparing the way for conflict with Russia.
If Hillary Clinton was sitting in the Oval Office we would almost certainly be headed that way. Indeed many of the warmongers are still carrying on as if she was. However, Trump is not entirely in their pocket so although they are working hard to foment conflict with Russia, it may not be inevitable. Ed.

US sees a resurgent Russian military expanding into Afghanistan, Libya

Ryan Browne — CNN March 28, 2017

The Kremlin’s ambitions in the Middle East reach far beyond Syria, according to US officials.

From Afghanistan to Libya, US Pentagon officials are increasingly concerned by mounting Russian military and diplomatic activity they believed is aimed at undermining the US and NATO.

Some of the actions Moscow is accused of participating in include sending operatives to support an armed faction in Libya and providing political legitimacy — and maybe even supplies — to the Taliban in Afghanistan. These moves come on top of their overt dispatching of warplanes and ships to target the political opponents of its ally in Syria.

“It is my view that they are trying to increase their influence in this critical part of the globe,” Gen. Joseph Votel, who oversees US forces in the region, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month.

Military commanders and analysts see Moscow’s efforts as aimed at taking advantage of the geopolitical turbulence in the Middle East to re-establish Russia as a major player in the region and by extension the world stage.

The Soviet Union maintained a substantial military presence there during the Cold War, propping up an array of anti-Western regimes to counterbalance American partners and extend its geopolitical sphere of influence.

But shifting alliances, including a rapprochement between the US and Egypt, as well as the collapse of the USSR in 1991 caused Russian troops to mostly depart the Middle East.

“Russia is certainly expanding its influence and trying to reestablish itself as a superpower,” Bill Roggio of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told CNN.

Russian imperialism?

Roggio, managing editor of The Long War Journal, said the efforts were a new form of “growing Russian imperialism” that were also intended to “undermine the US and NATO.”

“What all these Kremlin actions show is that Putin cares more about dividing and undermining the West than anything else,” Anna Borshchevskaya of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told CNN.

In Afghanistan, US intelligence agencies once backed an insurgency aimed at ejecting Soviet troops in order to weaken an overextended Moscow. The Soviet Union’s costly 1979 invasion of Afghanistan involved tens of thousands of ground troops and resulted in a damaging withdrawal in 1989 that many historians view as precipitating the fall of the USSR.

Now American military officers see a growing Russian effort to bolster the Taliban’s legitimacy and undercut NATO’s military effort there, seemingly disregarding the harsh lessons of its previous invasion — or perhaps seeing a chance at ironic form of revenge for America’s Cold War efforts.

America’s top military officer in Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, said Thursday that Russia had increased its support to the Afghan Taliban, including potentially the provision of supplies.

“I’ve seen the influence of Russia of late, increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Scaparrotti told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Scaparrotti, who is also NATO’s top military commander, did not specify what kind of war materiel the Russians might be supplying to the Taliban.

Moscow denied the accusation Friday.

Moscow: False claims

Zamir Kabulov, a Russian Foreign Ministry official, told Russian state media Ria Novosti, “It is an absolutely false claim, we have reacted to this multiple times. It doesn’t deserve any reaction as these announcements are inventions, designed to justify the failure of the American political and military campaigns. We cannot find any other explanation.”

Votel and the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, have both previously said that Moscow is trying to undermine the government in Kabul and provide political legitimacy to the Taliban by saying the insurgent group was fighting ISIS, a notion that experts and NATO military officials reject.

Roggio said that while there had been reports of Russia arming the Taliban in the past, he called Scaparrotti’s comments the “first significant” official remarks on the issue.

Of particular concern to US officials was a series of meetings held in Moscow in December concerning Afghanistan’s future, which included neighboring countries with Taliban representatives reportedly on the sidelines but no representation from the internationally recognized government in Kabul.

Moscow’s actions in Afghanistan in particular are seen as part of a bid to undermine NATO and to better their position in the case of a Taliban victory should the US withdraw from the country.

In Libya, US military intelligence has detected Russian forces at an airbase in far western Egypt close to the Libyan border, a deployment that US officials see as part growing Russian interference in that civil war-torn nation.

While the US would like to see the UN-backed Government of National Accord in the country’s west prevail over, Russia has been reaching out to Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a military commander who exercises control over the country’s east as well.

Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of US troops in Africa, called Russian activities in Libya “very concerning” while appearing on Capitol Hill alongside Votel earlier in March.

“They are on the ground, they are trying to influence the action, we watch what they do with great concern,” Waldhauser elaborated while speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Friday.

“In addition to the military side of this, we have seen some recent activities in business ventures, whether its oil, whether its weapons sales,” he added.

It’s a concern recently echoed by the NATO Deputy Secretary General, Rose Gottemoeller, who drew attention to Moscow’s presence in Libya.

“I am very concerned about Russian forces seemingly gathering to influence the situation there. It troubles me very, very much,” she told an audience in Brussels on Saturday.

Russia engages both sides in Libya

Russia has engaged repeatedly with Haftar, even going so far as to fly him out to a Russian air craft carrier for a formal visit. But the Kremlin also recently hosted the Prime Minister from the rival Government of National Accord.

“Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who becomes and what entity becomes in charge of the government inside Libya,” Waldhauser said earlier this month, saying that Moscow was trying to replicate what it had achieved in Syria, where it has amassed considerable influence by being the military savior of the embattled regime.

Analysts see Moscow’s support of secular strongmen in Syria and Libya while simultaneously offering some support to the Taliban in Afghanistan and working with Iran in Syria as indicative of Russia’s willingness to forgo ideology as it seeks to expand its influence.

Borshchevskaya of the Washington Institute, who focuses on Russia’s role in the Middle East, added that Moscow appears particularly interested in the Mediterranean, and through its diplomatic efforts and stationing of military assets, is seeking to boost its presence there, as it’s traditionally been a stronghold of NATO.

But faced with an economy battered by low oil prices and international sanctions over its actions in Ukraine, Russia interventions are being waged largely on the cheap.

Outside of Syria, Moscow has largely avoided a robust military intervention, preferring clandestine aid and diplomatic maneuvers.

“Putin appears quite cognizant of his limitations and is avoiding a second Afghanistan scenario for Russia,” Borshchevskaya said.

The less ambitious involvement, according to Roggo, means that, “For now it appears to be costs they can absorb.”

And experts see Moscow’s actions as taking advantage of what Putin viewed as a US pull back from the region following Washington’s decision to not intervene in the Libyan or Syrian civil wars and its drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Broadly speaking, Putin has been stepping into vacuums wherever the West retreated,” Borshchevskaya, said.



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