Impending military confrontation with Russia?

WMR has received an “over the transom” warning that in the few months preceding the November 4 presidential election, a rival chain-of-command that operates out of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and that was previously reported by WMR with regard to the movement of nuclear weapons from North Dakota to Louisiana in August 2007, plans to create a military showdown with Russia.

The rival Cheney chain-of-command, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates successfully purged from the top echelons of the Air Force, also existed within the Army. In his new book, “The War Within,” the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward reveals that Cheney’s rival chain-of-command also penetrated the senior ranks of the U.S. Army. Cheney’s chain via the Army went from former Army Vice Chief of Staff retired General Jack Keane, through loyalists in the Pentagon and in the National Security Council, to General David Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq. Previously, Bush fired Petraeus’ predecessor, Gen. George Casey, and the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, General John Abizaid. Later, Bush, once again, carried out Cheney’s wishes by firing Abizaid’s replacement, Admiral William Fallon. Woodward reports that the then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was concerned that Bush and Cheney were going to have the military “take the fall” for the Iraq debacle.

Cheney used Keane to make trips to Iraq to brief Petraeus. Keane then brought back messages from Petraeus to Cheney, bypassing Fallon, the Joint Chiefs, and Gates, whose appointment by Bush as Defense Secretary to replace Donald Rumsfeld was strongly opposed by Cheney. Bush also used Keane to send “back channel” messages to Petraeus, again bypassing Gates and the Joint Chiefs.

In an effort to create a renewed “Cold War” mentality and benefit the candidacies of John McCain and Sarah Palin, the Cheney loyalists in the U.S. military may be preparing to use a forthcoming worldwide Russian military exercise code named “STABILNOST 2008,” or “STABILITY 2008,” to stage a confrontation between U.S. and Russian military forces. A military source has informed WMR that a “hot” incident between the U.S. and Russia may bring about a Cold War situation that will throw into question the military experience of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Cheney has just completed a trip to Russia’s southern border, visiting Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, pledging support for Georgian and Ukrainian membership in NATO and issuing warnings to Moscow from both Tbilisi and Kiev.

Stabilnost 2008 offers the Cheney loyalists in the military a number of scenarios for a staged incident. Stabilnost will begin in late September and continue for two months through late November. Stabilnost forces will face a surge in a U.S. naval presence with the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in the northern Arabian Sea, the USS George Washington in the western Pacific, USS Ronald Reagan CSG in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility, and the USS Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) in the Persian Gulf area.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, in an interview with Russian Defense Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda on February 22, 2008, outlined the scope of STABILNOST 2008. He said the exercise will “consists of a series of operational and command-staff exercises and training of various levels, which are united by a single concept of operations and are conducted over the course of two months in Russia’s various regions.” Serdyukov was previously the head of Russia’s Federal Tax Service, the agency that has gone after members of the Russian-Israeli oligarchy, many of whom have fled Russia for Britain and Israel, for tax evasion and fraud.

Although there is little more known about STABILNOST 2008 from open sources, the Rossiya TV channel’s news program “Segodnya” on December 1, 2007, stated, “the STABILITY 2008 strategic command-post exercise will become the core event [of 200 large scale exercises]. The Army and Navy will spend two months practicing elimination of armed conflicts in different regions of Russia. The exercise will finish with a command-post drill in command and control over the entire Armed Forces, including the nuclear component.”

Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Alexander Kolmakov was reported by Interfax of April 29, 2008, as stating “all the branches of the armed forces will be involved in it [STABILNOST 2008] The exercise will be held not only at the level of the armed forces, but also at the level of national military structures.” Other news reports stated that Kolmakov said the exercise would include all parts of Russia. Serdyukov told Interfax that STABILNOST 2008 would be “focusing on stamping out armed conflicts ‘along the perimeter’ of Russian borders.” Russia is consolidating its hold on the breakaway Georgian autonomous republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia but Ukraine’s Crimean autonomous region and Moldova’s Transdniestrian Republic may also play into Russia’s military exercise plans. Cheney’s visit to Azerbaijan, from where the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (Turkey) oil pipeline originates, comes after joint U.S.-Azeri naval and air exercises designed to protect Caspian Sea oil installations, were completed. Azerbaijan wants troops from Russia’s CSTO ally Armenia withdrawn from the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, another possible flashpoint between U.S. and Russian forces in what Russia’s considers its sphere or “space.”

Just prior to Georgia’s sneak attack on South Ossetia, the United States held “IMMEDIATE RESPONSE 2008″ in Georgia with Azerbaijani, Ukrainian, Armenian, Georgian, and American troops. Russia considered the exercise a provocation and countered with CAUCASUS FRONTIER 2008 in the northern Caucasus, near Georgia, in the Russian North Caucasus Military District.

After Russia’s counter-invasion of South Ossetia and Georgia, the Russian Army captured some American command and control vehicles, as well as intelligence equipment, left behind with Georgian forces and are analyzing them near Moscow. In another provocation aimed at Russia, Ukrainian, Polish, and British are participating in the “COSSACK STEPPE 2008″ exercise at the Nova Demba military base in Poland, Poland recently signed an agreement with the United States for the establishment of a missile base in Poland, which also infuriated Moscow. NATO, Ukrainian, and Moldovan forces are also engaged in the “RAPID TRIDENT” exercise near Lviv until September 14.

Serdyukov also spoke of Stabilnost taking place in the “world ocean” and involving the Russian Black Sea, Baltic, Northern, and Pacific Fleets. The U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy pulled out of a joint exercise with the Russian Pacific Fleet, the “FRUKUS” exercise scheduled for late August, over the Georgian situation. A French ship did participate. Russia pulled out of NATO’s “OPEN SPIRIT” exercise in the Baltic Sea held in late August and refused permission for the U.S. Navy frigate, USS Ford, to visit Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky between September 5-9.

On August 22, 2008, Interfax-AVN provided some additional details about Stabilnost 2008. Between September 8-15, 2008, the 15th Motor-Rifle (peacekeeping) Brigade stationed in Samara will begin training at the Safakulevo test range in Kurgan Region. The exercise will be under the command of Major General Oleg Torgashev, commander of the combat training directorate of the Volga-Urals Military District (VUMD). The 2,000-member brigade has responsibility for “keeping or restoring international peace and security.” It is the brigade’s first exercise. Other Russian peacekeeping units are already stationed in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Trandniester. Other mountain motorized-rifle brigades will participate in the Stabilnost exercise in the republics of Dagestan, north of Azerbaijan, where Cheney recently visited; and Karachay-Cherkessia, in the northern Caucasus. Stabilnost also includes Long Range Aviation flights, components of the strategic nuclear forces that fly patrols over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and North Pole, as well as air defense (PVO) forces. Russian long-range cruise missile planes, the Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear, have also received permission to use air bases in Cuba, Vietnam, and Cape Verde.

Venezuela announced that from November 10 to 14, four Russian naval ships and 1,000 Russian sailors would participate in joint maneuvers with Venezuela in the Caribbean. It would be the first such exercise for Russia in Latin America. Later, President Hugo Chavez said the exercise would be postponed to late November or December. The United States recently announced the re-creation of the Fourth Fleet, which has Latin America and the Caribbean in its Area of Responsibility.

There are also indications that Stabilnost will include a “strategic front exercise” that will include 32,000 reservists called to active duty. Other countries, part of Commonwealth of Independent States’ Joint Air Defense System, also will participate in Stabilnost 2008, including surface-to-air missile troops. Concurrent to Stabilnost, 4,000 troops from Russia, Armenia, and Tajikistan are participating in “RUBEZH-2008″, or “BORDER 2008″ or “FRONTIER 2008,” an exercise conducted under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kygyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) may also be holding “MIRNAYA MISSIYA” (“PEACE MISSION”)exercises, billed as anti-terrorism exercises. The SCO includes the CSTO states, minus Belarus, and China. On September 5, Russian and Kazakh forces completed “CENTRE 2008,” a live fire artillery and air exercise, at the Cherbakul range in the Chelyabinsk Region of Russia. Centre 2008 also involved Russian Air Force and Interior Ministry troops in the Urals and Volga federal districts.

On September 5, CSTO’s Collective Security Council, represented by the Presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, met in Moscow to arrive at a common position on South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

On September 1, President Dmitry Medvedev signed a presidential directive that authorizes the deployment of 200 Russian peacekeepers and 4 Mi-8MT helicopters to Chad and the Central African Republic. There are reports that the United States is building a large military base in Chad a few miles from the Sudan-Libya-Chad border triangle. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, an anti-Russian hawk, just paid the first visit to Libya by an American Secretary of State since John Foster Dulles. Rice and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi discussed AFRICOM, the new U.S. Africa Command. The United States also recently concluded an agreement with the Central African Republic to establish a military base in that country. The arrival of 200 Russian peacekeepers in both Chad and the Central African Republic is just one of many places where a neocon-directed American action against Russian forces could occur.

With Russian forces about to fan out with planes, ships, and troops around the world and U.S. forces at surge levels, especially in the Middle East and Mediterranean, including the presence of U.S. warships in the Black Sea at numbers violating the 1936 Montreux Convention, which limits to three week tours and 45,000 tons, warships from non-Black Sea nations that enter the waters through the Turkish Straits, the neocons who operate through Cheney appear poised to stage a confrontation with Russia. Turkey has decided to remain neutral in the confrontation between Russia and the United States.
In July, NATO held a naval exercise, “SEA BREEZE 2008, with Ukraine and Georgia, a move that generated complaints from Moscow. Russia and Ukraine are currently at odds over the continued presence of a major Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea, a former Russian peninsula ceded to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 The Russian Navy’s lease on the Sevastopol base expires in 2017 and the neocon Ukrainian government wants Russia to begin preparations to pull out. Russia, along with the large Russian and Tatar population in Crimea, wants to stay in Sevastopol beyond 2017 and Russia is suspicious that with Ukraine eager to join NATO, Sevastopol could eventually become a NATO naval base in its own waters.

Cheney bypassed Turkey on his visit to the region but found time to attend the secretive Ambrosetti Conference in Cernobbio on Lake Como in Italy, where he accused Russia of arming “terrorists.” Cheney met in Cernobbio with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Spain’s former neo-fascist Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, BP’s chairman Peter Sutherland, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, and President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy. Cheney later met in Rome with neo-fascist Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. If Cheney and the neocons are preparing a surprise for Russia during STABILNOST 2008, the recent words of Russian General Valery Yevnevich should be heeded, Yevnevich said, “regardless of the aggressor and whether he receives support from Europe or from beyond the Atlantic, we have everything needed to destroy him and he will be destroyed.” And with word that the United States may be gearing up for a war with Iran, Iran’s Navy Commander in Gorgan, Golestan province, Morteza Saffari, told the Fars News Agency on Sept. 2: “The Americans think they are creating ballyhoo in the Persian Gulf. We thank God that their warships are within our target range and if there will be any threats or aggressions against Iran at any point, the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps] Navy is ready to give the enemy its first crushing response.” Iranian forces also recently completed a military exercise in west Azerbaijan.

After a demoralizing war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is in a hopeless position to take on Russia, Iran, and their allies in a war. In 1974, a concerned White House Chief of Staff, Gen Alexander Haig, sent a message to all senior military commanders that they were not to carry out any orders from the Commander-in-Chief unless they had his authorization. Haig was concerned that a besieged Richard Nixon might try to start a military crisis to save himself from impeachment over the Watergate scandal. Gates might think about emulating Haig an issue a similar order with Cheney hell bent on starting a crisis with Russia in order to benefit co-neocon ideologue McCain.

Wayne Madsen

Washington insider with many contacts within the capitol’s Beltway, the US Intelligence community and beyond