31 August 2014

Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Report on Today’s Fighting in the Eastern Ukraine

The situation in the Eastern regions of Ukraine
Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council
August 29,2014

NOTE: A larger PDF version of this map can be accessed by clicking here.

Consolidated data of the Information and Analytical Centre of the NSDC of Ukraine 17:00 - 29 august 2014

Military operations in the conflict zone

The situation in the ATO area remains difficult. It continues countrer-offensive of the RF Armed Forces and separatists gangs in south-eastern of Donetsk region. Armored Russians and their mercenaries located around Novoazovsk.

Today the armed forces of Ukraine several times entered in the fire contact with guerillas near the settlements Zolote and Gorske in Luhansk region.

In other parts of the ATO areas it has been ongoing positional battles on the outskirts of Luhansk, under Novosvitlivkf and Hryaschuvate, Donetsk and Ilovajski, Marinka, Starobeshevo and Olenevka Volnovakha (Donetsk region). In settlements Perevalsk, Zorynsk, Maloivanivka, Mala Faschivka, Verhuliyivka, Rozsypne it is fixed income of reinforcements for terrorists. The militants continue to fire Debaltseve with mortars installed in cars.

On 26 and 27 August positions of ATO forces in the area Novoazovsa were fired from multiple launch rocket systems “Grad”. It is noticed that in time of explosion of shells it deposited out unknown lacrimatory substance. According to preliminary analysis, it may be caused by outdated combustion of solid rocket fuel used in 220 mm unguided rocket projectiles.

By existing labeling it is revealed that these shells - 9 M 27 - are in service in RF Armed Forces. This confirmed additionally by the data of Classifier of the Chief Rocket Artillery Directorate of the Ministry of Defense.

In Mariupol direction jointed ATO forces improve engineering and fortification equipment of roadblocks and strongholds and carry out preventive measures in the city. Inhabitatts with settlers from captured terrorists cities help to build fortifications to prevent the Russian military assault on the outlying areas of the city. Mariupol locals are rushing to the Army Recruiting Offices expressing a desire to defend their city from the invading of Russian army.

The situation in the conflict zone localities

Terrorists’ giving of humanitarian aid to the local population in Lugansk is mostly demonstrative by nature: food is handed out before the cameras of Russian journalists. After their departure, the process of giving assistance immediately ceases.

Today in Luhansk region resumed gas supply in 4 towns: vilages Samsonivka, Pridorozhne (Krasnodonsky district), Irmino (Perevalsky district), Stanitsya-Luhanska (12 thousand subscribers). Total without gas supply remain partially - 24, full - 56 settlements in Luhansk region.

Rescuers of DSNS of Ukraine continue to restore infrastructure in the liberated from terrorists cities of Luhansk region. Now there is a combined rescue squad of Interregional Center Quick response (Sumy region). In August rescuers pulled out four piles of buildings, took out 1147 tons of destroyed building structures, cleared from trash a half mile of streets and roads of debris and 4,750 square meters of land from the wreckage, restored 460 square meters of roofs of buildings and fences. In addition to the reconstruction of destroyed buildings, lifeguards constantly deliver humanitarian aid to Luhansk region: food, necessities and clothing. In general, the region has delivered 341 tons of humanitarian aid and 52 cubic meters of drinking and 24 cubic meters of technology water.

***** Winning the Campaign Against the Islamic State: Key Strategic and Tactical Challenges

AUG 29, 2014 

The United States does not have good or quick options in dealing with the Islamic State, in part because it faces serious challenges in Iraq and Syria that cannot be separated from any efforts to weaken and destroy the Islamic State. This, however, is not a reason to stand and wait for better options that do not exist. The situation will not get better because the United States continues to dither.

The United States is already acting in important ways, and if this action is taken more decisively, in an integrated form, and over enough time to be effective it may well be capable of both imploding the Islamic State and serving U.S. interests in both Iraq and Syria.

This strategy is laid out in detail in a briefing entitledWinning the Islamic State Campaign: Key Strategic and Tactical Challenges that is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/140829_Iraq_Campaign_brief.pdf.

Shaping and Implementing an Effective United Strategy for Defeating the Islamic State

The United States must act in ways that recognize the grand strategic conditions it faces. The United States needs to act in ways that conserve its resources and recognize that it faces a wide range of competing strategic challenges both in the region and the world – as well as its domestic political realities: 
Secular, “Christian” United States with poor track record in Iraq and ties to Israel; lack of allied confidence in U.S. in Arab world and Turkey; No allied unity. 
Islamic State is only one of many regional and “Islamist” challenges: Morocco to Philippines: Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Central Asia, Myanmar, Thailand. 
Islamic State is only one of many Jihadist movements and threats even within Syria and Iraq; 70+ in Syria alone. 
Defeating Islamic State will still leave Jihadist movements, continuing threat. 
Caught between two increasingly sectarian civil wars with failed regimes in Syria (Alawites, Hezbollah, Iran-IRGC) and Iraq (Shi’ite militias, IRGC, Kurds). 
No chance of meaningful victory even in Iraq without Iraqi political unity. No clear good alternative in Syria. 
Many competing strategic priorities: Afghanistan, Ukraine, Asia, U.S. domestic issues and budget. 
Uncertain Congressional and public support; none for major ground presence. 

Given these conditions, the Administration, the Congress, and the American people need to accept the fact that a successful strategy must deal with three basic realities.

Defeating the Islamic State Must Be Far More Than a Military or Tactical Struggle

The first reality is that any effort to defeat the Islamic state must be far more than a military or a tactical struggle. It is a political and ideological struggle as well, and the United States must mobilize itself and its allies to use every possible tool to weaken the Islamic State and do so in the context of two ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria.

*** Henry Kissinger on the Assembly of a New World Order The concept that has underpinned the modern geopolitical era is in crisis

Aug. 29, 2014

The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis, writes Henry Kissinger. Above, a pro-Russian fighter stands guard at a checkpoint close to Donetsk, Ukraine in July. European Pressphoto Agency 

Libya is in civil war, fundamentalist armies are building a self-declared caliphate across Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan's young democracy is on the verge of paralysis. To these troubles are added a resurgence of tensions with Russia and a relationship with China divided between pledges of cooperation and public recrimination. The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis. 

The search for world order has long been defined almost exclusively by the concepts of Western societies. In the decades following World War II, the U.S.—strengthened in its economy and national confidence—began to take up the torch of international leadership and added a new dimension. A nation founded explicitly on an idea of free and representative governance, the U.S. identified its own rise with the spread of liberty and democracy and credited these forces with an ability to achieve just and lasting peace. The traditional European approach to order had viewed peoples and states as inherently competitive; to constrain the effects of their clashing ambitions, it relied on a balance of power and a concert of enlightened statesmen. The prevalent American view considered people inherently reasonable and inclined toward peaceful compromise and common sense; the spread of democracy was therefore the overarching goal for international order. Free markets would uplift individuals, enrich societies and substitute economic interdependence for traditional international rivalries. 

In the Middle East, religious militias violate borders at will. Getty Images 

India’s Border Infrastructure: Beyond the BRO

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
August 29, 2014

India’s lack of infrastructure puts it at a distinct disadvantage in border disputes with China. 

The new Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag is visiting the Eastern Command after undertaking a trip to the Ladakh area in the western part of the Sino-Indian border, where there have been repeated Chinese incursions. Suhag was also expected to make a trip to the forward bases in Arunachal Pradesh, depending on the weather conditions.

During the visit, Suhag is also expected to take stock of the progress in the establishment of the Army’s recently sanctioned Mountain Strike Corps (17 Corps), which is likely to be ready by 2018-19. Suhag, who was the Eastern Commander for two years prior to shifting to Army headquarters, played a major role in the formation of the new corps. Undertaken at a cost of 64,678 crore[t1] rupees ($10.7 billion), the corps will have 90,274 troops, of which 22 major and minor units were made ready in December 2013. According to an army official, the new corps will have “two high-altitude infantry divisions (59 Division at Panagarh and 72 Division at Pathankot) with their integral units, two independent infantry brigades, two armoured brigades and the like. It will include 30 new infantry battalions and two Para-Special Forces battalions.” While the new corps will be based in Panagarh, West Bengal, the force will be deployed from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, covering all the important trouble spots along the border. During his long tenure, Suhag is also reported to have served in a China-centric unit, the Special Frontier Force, which came up in the wake of the 1962 border war with China. Suhag is reported to have been the inspector general of the SFF before taking over as the Army vice chief.

All this suggests that the new army leadership is more focused on the urgent needs of the border areas. Even as there is a beefing up of capabilities on the border with new combat units, the biggest challenge is going to come from the poor state of border infrastructure. For instance, it reportedly takes 20 hours to drive a distance of 500 km (300 miles) from Guwahati to Tawang – a reflection of the severe condition of the road network in the region. The road density of Arunachal Pradesh is at a significantly low level of 18.65 km per 100 sq km., compared to the national average of 84 km per 100 sq km. Some of the major road projects in the region include making the trans-Arunachal highway from Nechipu to Hoj and Potin to Pangin two lanes, an upgrade of the Stillwell road in Arunachal Pradesh, and four more projects to widen roads including national highway 154 in Assam. The road network in Sikkim, another Indian state on the Sino-Indian border, is no different. The current road density is just 28.45 km per 100 sq km. There is only one road linking the capital Gangtok with the strategically significant Nathu La pass on the border, and one landslide-prone road with a width of 5 meters connecting the state with the rest of India.

On the Ground in Israel and Gaza

Two photographers capture scenes from the most recent outbreak of war.
AUG. 29, 2014

Gaza City, Aug. 13. The damage in the heavily bombed Shejaiya neighborhood. Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum, for The New York Times

In mid-August, I read a column in an Israeli newspaper by a mother who described putting her children to bed in their home near Gaza, where fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas had been raging since July 8. She explained how she made sure the path to the safe room was clear of toys so that they would be able to get there in the allotted 15 seconds if a siren sounded. I thought of her kids, lying in bed and trying to go to sleep. I had also just gotten back from Gaza, where there are neither sirens nor safe rooms, so I could hardly help thinking about all the toys buried under the rubble. On both sides, another generation is growing up amid violence and fear.

For many around the world, the most recent outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza has seemed like a rerun of a familiar film. The last dismal showing ended 20 months earlier, the one before that in 2009. For those closest to the fighting, it has been an inescapable fact of life for decades; Israel’s history is one of intermittent war with its Arab neighbors from the country’s founding 66 years ago. This summer’s conflict followed a breakdown in American-brokered peace talks that few ever believed would bear fruit. Israelis contend that what started it was the June kidnapping and murder of three teenagers hitchhiking home from their yeshivas in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians point to Israel’s earlier rejection of a reconciliation government that included Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates Gaza.
Jerusalem, Aug. 5. The funeral of Avraham Walz, 29, who was killed in an attack earlier in the day by a Palestinian driving a stolen construction vehicle. Six other Israelis were injured. Deadly violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased during the fighting in Gaza. Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Aug. 10. The funeral of Ahmed al-Masri, 14, who was on his way to a health clinic when he was killed in a drone strike. Four others were injured in the attack. Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum, for The New York Times

*** The U.S. Strategic Vacuum in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia

The United States has failed to define meaningful future strategies for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. It is cutting its presence in Afghanistan so quickly that its Transition efforts may well fail, and it has no clear future strategy for Pakistan and Central Asia.

The Burke Chair is issuing a new study that examines the problems in U.S. strategy in the region. It suggests the best solution for the U.S. in dealing with the complex problems in South Asia and Central Asia may be the simplest and most minimalist approach. No vital U.S. national security priorities are currently involved that require sustained, major U.S. intervention, and strategic triage indicates that other areas and problems have a higher priority.

This paper is entitled The U.S. Strategic Vacuum in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, and is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/140828_AfPak_Strategic_Vacuum.pdf.



The Poisoning of Africa’s Vultures

AUG. 27, 2014

NAIROBI, Kenya — IN July of last year, roughly 500 vultures died after they ate the pesticide-laced carcass of an elephant that had been killed by poachers in Namibia. It was an example of one poaching technique in Africa that seems to be on the rise: the poisoning of vultures so that authorities won’t be alerted to the location of the crime.

The overhead circling of vultures has long been used to locate lost or dead livestock. In the same way, vultures help law enforcement officers zero in on poachers.

With their keen eyesight and distinctive vantage point, vultures can locate an elephant carcass within 30 minutes of the animal’s death. It can take 45 to 70 minutes for the most skilled poachers to hack off two elephant tusks, and when vultures gather overhead rangers can get that much closer to apprehending the perpetrators. By poisoning a carcass and killing vultures en masse, poachers are trying to ensure that next time around there will be fewer of them to contend with.

Vulture conservationists began to take particular note of this development in July 2012, when an elephant was poached in Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and 191 vultures were found scattered around the carcass, poisoned. Since then, six more cases of these poisonings have been reported. The most recent was in May. All told, some 1,700 vultures died.

If vultures were merely the ancillary damage of poaching, it would be bad enough. But these birds are also dying from eating the poisoned carcasses of livestock that have been baited to kill predators, like lions, leopards and hyenas, in retaliation for killing livestock. Vultures, too, are being poisoned for their body parts, which are used in traditional medicine and for good luck.

What’s worrisome is that of the nine main species of vultures in Africa, four are endangered and three more are listed as vulnerable by the authoritativeRed List of Threatened Species maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Vultures are among the longest-living birds, surviving up to 30 years in the wild. They reproduce very slowly, reaching sexual maturity at 5 to 7 years of age on average. They generally produce one chick every one to two years. This reproductive strategy worked well, until the poisonings.

Myanmar’s Great Power Balancing Act

By Jacob Goldberg
August 29, 2014

In balancing its relations with China and India, Myanmar is continuing a well-established practice. 

Following her recent participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, which included bilateral meetings with counterparts from 11 countries, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj declared, “I myself feel that the visit was very successful.” Her trip will set the stage for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Myanmar in November. These engagements come as public and government opposition to Chinese infrastructure projects in Myanmar rises, offering India the opportunity to fill the strategic gap left by China’s waning influence in the Southeast Asian country.

While China remains Myanmar’s largest trade partner and supplies the bulk of the Myanmar Armed Forces’ weapons, the Myanmar government seems to be losing interest in Chinese investment in its infrastructure.

On July 18, Myanmar’s Ministry of Rail Transportation announced the cancellation of an agreement with the Chinese government to build a railway connecting Kunming in China to Kyaukpyu in Rakhine state. Ministry director Myint Wai attributed the cancellation to public opposition.

China’s ambassador to Myanmar Yang Houlan exposed Beijing’s discontent when he countered the ministry’s claim, saying in a July 25 press conference that the project would proceed with the support of the Myanmar government and people. He also claimed that opposition to the project has been overstated by the Myanmar government.

The Chinese envoy’s claims have not been corroborated by the Myanmar government.

The 1,215 km Kunming-Kyaukphyu railway, proposed in a 2011 memorandum between the Chinese and Myanmar governments, would have followed the route of an existing pipeline that connects gas fields in the Andaman Sea to refineries near Kunming. The $1 billion pipeline was fully funded by the Chinese government.

A recent Reuters report said the pipeline has been delivering only 15 percent of its intended annual capacity to its destination in Kunming.

Similarly, the bulk of the $20 billion cost of the now-defunct railway project was to be borne by the China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC).

However, in the three years since the memorandum was signed, public opposition to the project has hampered all progress on construction. Political parties and civil society groups in Rakhine state, through which the railway would have passed, have protested the construction of the pipeline as well as the railway, citing environmental and social concerns. Groups in Rakhine state also oppose the practice of exporting local natural resources out of Rakhine territory.

The cancellation of the Kunming-Kyaukpyu railway project follows a growing trend of opposition to Chinese investment in Myanmar’s infrastructure. In 2011, public opposition to the multi-billion dollar Myitsone Dam, another Chinese project, prompted President Thein Sein to suspend the project indefinitely.

Responding to China’s Air Intercept

By Ryan Santicola
August 27, 2014

The PLAAF J-11 fighter flying near the U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.

The US response to the recent intercept is important in the context of the safety and freedom of international airspace. 

Last week, a Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) J-11 fighter aircraft intercepted a United States Navy P-8A aircraft over the South China Sea, at one point coming within 30 feet of the P-8A while making sharp maneuvers and crossing the P-8A’s flight path. According to statements by officials at the U.S. Department of Defense and the White House, both aircraft were operating more than 100 nautical miles from the Chinese coast at the time of the intercept. The U.S. formally protested the intercept as dangerous and unprofessional. China responded to the demarche on Saturday, disputing that its aircraft was as close as the U.S. claimed.

This type of harassment and intimidation by the PLAAF has become common in the skies over the South China and East China Seas. In 2001, a PLAAF J-8 collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3, causing the EP-3 to make an emergency landing and the J-8 to crash into the sea. In May and June, Japan protested dangerous intercepts of military aircraft by PLAAF fighters over the East China Sea. Additionally, U.S. officials indicated that this was the second protest lodged with China since May, the previous one issued in regards to similarly aggressive intercepts that have occurred within the last six months.

The message being delivered by the U.S. following this incident is an important one. The U.S. did not object to the intercept itself, but rather to the manner in which it was conducted. This sets an important example of consistency for China and others and reinforces the U.S. commitment to two important issues in the maritime domain, safety of flight and freedom of navigation.

Fundamentally, this was an issue of safety and it is helpful to evaluate the PLAAF fighter’s 30 feet of separation vis-à-vis the standards for safe operation of intercepting aircraft. Article 3 of the Chicago Convention requires that state aircraft (a term that includes military aircraft) operate with “due regard” for the safety of navigation of others and this applies to aircraft conducting intercepts. While “due regard” is not defined in the Convention and is a matter of situational judgment, U.S. practice is instructive as to how it has been interpreted by one of the leading authorities in aviation. Regulations of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) state that “flight operations in accordance with the options of “due regard” or “operational” obligates the authorized state aircraft commander to separate his/her aircraft from all other air traffic.” FAA regulations set the threshold for safe aircraft separations at 500 feet, defining a Near Mid-Air Collision (NMAC) as an incident in which the possibility for a collision existed as a result of two aircraft not maintaining that minimum separation.


August 25, 2014 
Casualties of Cyber Warfare
American and Chinese Companies Are Getting Caught in the Crossfire of The Brewing Cyber War.

That the United States and China have engaged in skirmishes in the cyber domain is no secret. Since the beginning of the 21st century, targeted cyber attacks, often with signs of Chinese origin, have attempted to penetrate the computer networks of U.S. corporations and government agencies in search of potentially valuable information. In response to this new strategic threat, the U.S. Military’s Strategic Command commissioned the creation of a sub-unified Cyber Command in 2009, with one of its stated objectives being the “defense of specified Department of Defense information networks.”

U.S. President Barack Obama very clearly defined the threat that cyber attacks pose to the economy, in both the public and private sectors, when he said that the “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.” Indeed, conflict in the cyber domain is still having some serious repercussions for the business world.

Civilian Involvement in Cyber Warfare

The characteristic of cyber warfare that makes it so uniquely dangerous to the corporate sector is that military power in the cyber domain must be extended through computer networks provided and maintained by non-governmental bodies. The use of these networks for cyber attacks or defense requires the conscription or cooperation of civilian resources. This creates extreme liabilities for the corporations that provide these networks, as they will quickly become the targets of suspicion and possible retaliation from the enemy state. In recent years, both Chinese and American companies have been caught in just this situation.

On October 8, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives’ intelligence committee released a report that warned of potential national security threats posed by Chinese telecommunication giants Huawei and ZTE. After conducting a year-long investigation of the suspect companies, the intelligence committee found serious vulnerabilities caused by hidden “backdoors” worked into the companies’ technologies that would allow access to U.S. government and business networks. The report advised against the purchase of products manufactured by Huawei or ZTE, and suggested that policymakers block any mergers between either of the two companies and U.S. telecommunication corporations. These accusations have seriously hurt consumer confidence in the two companies, to the extent that in December of 2013, Huawei’s executive vice president dramatically declared “we are not interested in the U.S. market anymore.” While Huawei has managed to hold on to a small market share in America, the company’s association with Chinese state-sponsored cyber attacks has devastated its ability to operate in the United States.

It became clear last year, though, that the United States was a perpetrator of cyber attacks as well as a victim. In June 2013, former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden provided the world with a look into the intelligence apparatus of the NSA, releasing thousands of classified documents to the media. The released documents revealed that the U.S., like China, was using domestic tech firms (in many cases without their knowledge or consent) as conduits for intelligence gathering cyber attacks. In May 2014, the Chinese government announced that it would no longer purchase or use two of Microsoft’s main products, the Windows 8 operating system and the Microsoft Office 365 Suite. Then, in late July and early August, Chinese officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) raided multiple offices owned by Microsoft and its contractors in China. While vague statements about an anti-monopoly probe were made, the company’s decision to end support for the Windows XP operating system – a move that would expose the many Chinese computers that use the operating system to security risks – was also cited as a factor in the raids. While it is likely that the ban and subsequent raids were also intended to pave the way for new operating system technologies created in China, the Snowden revelations allowed potential U.S. espionage activities to be cited as a justification. Just as Huawei and ZTE suffered for their association with espionage activities of the Chinese government, Microsoft took a major hit because of the provocative actions of its government.

An Undefined Battlefield

'Ambiguous warfare' providing NATO with new challenge

By Peter 
August 21, 2014 

'Ambiguous Warfare' Providing NATO With New Challenge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Since Russia's annexation of Crimea in March, NATO has been publicly refocusing on its old Cold War foe Moscow. The threats it now believes it faces, however, are distinctly different to those of the latter half of the 20th century.

The West then was defending against the risk of Soviet armor pouring across the North German plain. Now, officials and experts say, it is "ambiguous warfare" that is focusing minds within NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Confrontations are viewed as more likely to start with cyber attacks or covert action to stir up Russian minorities in Europe's east than from any overt aggression.

So as NATO prepares for its summit on September 4 and 5 in Wales, it is having to come to grips with relatively new threats to test Article 5 of its treaty. That essentially says that an attack on one NATO state is an attack on all.

Since NATO's post-Cold War expansion that has meant protecting eastern members including the Baltic states. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia all have considerable Russian minorities while Poland and others worry Russia still views them as within its sphere of influence.

High-profile troop, aircraft and ship deployments and exercises have been designed to send the message that the United States and its allies would react with force to any attack on its territory.

A less conventional attack, however, could be harder to defend against. For example, without firm proof that Moscow was behind a cyber attack or covert action, deciding whether to invoke Article 5 would be very difficult.

Now Ukraine Wants to Join NATO This could get complicated

On Aug. 29

the Ukrainian prime minister said he will pursue NATO membership for his nation by asking parliament to overturn a law banning foreign alliances.

Separately, the NATO secretary general said Russia is undertaking direct military operations designed to destabilize the Ukraine—and that NATO will “fully respect” any change in the Ukraine’s non-aligned status. He made the comments today after an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission held at the Ukraine’s request.

The news comes on the heels of the Aug. 28 decision by the alliance to release spy satellite imagery that shows what NATO called “substantial numbers” of Russian combat troops inside Ukrainian territory.

“The Ukrainian government is submitting a bill to parliament on the abolition of the non-aligned status of the Ukrainian state and on the resumption of Ukraine’s course towards NATO membership,” Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said in an announcement.

Ukrainian law forbids the nation from forming alliances that would economically or politically entangle the country with the Russian Federation. Overturning this law would remove any legal barriers from Ukraine joining NATO, a goal which the alliance has said it supports.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance will fully respect any decision made by the Ukraine regarding its “security policy and alliance affiliations.”

During its Wales summit in early September, NATO will discuss how it can increase cooperation with the Ukraine, including funds for help with logistics, command and control, cyber-defense and medical care for wounded soldiers.

During the media conference at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Rasmussen also took the opportunity to bluntly say that Russia has seriously escalated aggression against the Ukraine.

“Despite Moscow’s hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and southeastern Ukraine,” he said. “This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilize Ukraine as a sovereign nation.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin has steadfastly denied that Russian forces are invading the Ukraine and blames the current crisis on Ukrainian agitation. Russia says the troop build-up along its border with the Ukraine is part of military exercises … and any Russian troops fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists are volunteers using leave or vacation time to join the fight.

NATO Releases New Satellite Imagery of Soviet Troops Operating Inside the Ukraine and Along the Border

Dan Lamothe
August 28, 2014
NATO: These new satellite images show Russian troops in and around Ukraine

NATO released satellite images on Thursday of what it said were Russian artillery, vehicles and troops in and around eastern Ukraine, just as Ukrainian officials said Russian troops in armored vehicles captured the Ukrainian town of Novoazovsk, along its southeastern coastline. 

The satellite photos appear to show Russian vehicles and troops in numerous locations. NATO officials said that the first image below shows a convoy with self-propelled artillery in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine, inside territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists on Aug. 21. The Ukrainian military has not moved this far inside separatist-controlled territory, so NATO officials said they are confident the equipment is Russian: 

This second image shows Russian artillery units setting up positions in Krasnodon, NATO officials said. Vehicles believed to be carrying ammunition and supplies are alongside them. 

“This configuration is exactly how trained military professionals would arrange their assets on the ground, indicating that these are not unskilled amateurs, but Russian soldiers,” NATO officials said. 

The image below shows shows a staging area for military equipment on the Russian side of the border, near Rostov-on-Don, NATO said. It appears to be about 31 miles from the border crossing in Dovzhansky, Ukraine. 

The photo below, to the left, was taken June 19, and shows the area mostly empty. The photo to the right was taken Aug. 20, and shows Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks and tents, NATO officials said. Russia is said to have set up similar encampments on other areas of the border: 

The Eternal Collapse of Russia

August 28, 2014

Despite centuries of dire predictions, Russia isn't going anywhere. 

RUSSIA, IT IS often said, is a country that is barely able to stumble out of bed and put on matching socks in the morning. In the lead-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi and continuing during the Games, the U.S. media declared open season on the nation. Americans were told that Russia is a country just about bereft of functioning elevators or toilets. Or even a national food, “except perhaps bad sushi.” Its people “hardly know who they are anymore” and its essence is defined by copyright infringement and “all-encompassing corruption.” All in all, Russia is “a country that’s falling apart,” as a New Republic cover story in February put it.

It’s a hardy theme. It’s also a completely bogus one. But that hasn’t stopped the media from reviving it again and again.

Thirteen years ago, for example, theAtlantic published a cover story, “Russia Is Finished,” on “the unstoppable descent of a once great power into social catastrophe” and ultimately “obscurity.” That was a particularly bad year to predict Russia’s demise, as an economic revival was starting to take hold. And these days, Russia is proving itself to be anything but “finished” as a geopolitical actor, with its aggressive seizure of Crimea and its arming of pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine—who appear to be responsible for the July shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet as it flew over rebel-held territory. Nor is Russia’s determined and so far successful backing of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and its nascent alliance with China based on a historic energy pact, suggestive of a nation that is no longer a consequential player on the world stage. Russia remains a risk-taking nation—and as questionable, even reckless, as its gambles may be, as in its support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, this is not the behavior of a country destined for insignificance. And while there is a great deal that is second-rate about Russia, from its sagging transportation infrastructure to its shoddy health-care system, such blemishes, common to many nations, including the United States, are hardly evidence of a fatal malaise.

The interesting question, then, is what lies behind this unbalanced mind-set—what might be called the “Russia Is Doomed” syndrome. What is the source of such stubbornly exaggerated thinking—and why is Russia chronically misdiagnosed in this fashion?

IT FEELS right, as a first line of exploration, to call in Dr. Freud. Maybe the strange idea that “the drama is coming to a close,” as the Atlantic piece prematurely declared of Russian history, is actually a wish of the collective Western subconscious—the silent urge of the id. The Freudian recesses can subtly affect our political desires, after all, and our twenty-first-century nervousness about Russia can be traced to long-standing European anxieties about despotic Russia as a kind of repository of the primitive in the human condition—dangerously and infuriatingly resistant to higher and hard-won European values. In his popular and bigoted early nineteenth-century travelogue, the French aristocrat Marquis de Custine said that in Russia “the veneer of European civilization was too thin to be credible.” His dyspeptic view of Russia has lived on ever since.

No NATO Action Against Russia or Islamic State

AUGUST 29, 2014 - 04:20 PM 

A day after President Barack Obama said that the United States has no plan for countering the Islamic State, that it would not confront the Islamist militant group in Syria alone, and that it doesn't intend anything stronger than fiscal sanctions to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, sources within NATO said that the alliance is also unlikely to act directly.

Instead, European Union leaders, who are meeting in Brussels on Saturday, Aug. 30, are likely to issue a new round of sanctions in retaliation for Russia's most recent incursion into Ukraine. A NATO source familiar with discussions on the EU's response to Russia toldForeign Policy that the new sanctions could be levied as early as Saturday.

"It's obvious at this point that there are going to be new sanctions," the source said. "All of this was decided before what happened yesterday."

According to a British report obtained by Bloomberg, the United Kingdom will recommend banning Russia's access to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, a key avenue through which Russia acccesses the international financial system.

The source was referring to comments Obama made Thursday, which included his plan to build a coalition of countries willing to take the fight to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, in Syria.

Obama -- who will also attend the NATO summit in Wales next week --tapped Secretary of State John Kerry to lead the diplomatic effort to get allies on board against the Sunni militant group that has seized wide swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.

"The violence that's been taking place in Syria has obviously given ISIL a safe haven there in ungoverned spaces, and in order for us to degrade ISIL over the long term, we're going to have to build a regional strategy," Obama said during Thursday's White House news conference.

"As I've said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I'm confident that we can and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners," the president added.

The source also reaffirmed Obama's assertion that there would be no immediate military response to Russia's opening of a third front in itsincurious into eastern Ukraine, which came about six months after it first drew Western ire for annexing Crimea in March.

"We don't expect to have a major resolution coming from NATO. This is going to be the work of individual allies, very likely this weekend," the source said. "Where we're going to be a week from now is anyone's guess. We're going to be bound by the limitations built in the [NATO] treaty. We're not going to intervene militarily."


August 29, 2014  

Unorthodox tactics are nothing new in conflict. “The Russians were the adversary who dropped the sword and picked up a club,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace, speaking of field marshal Mikhail Kutuzov’s partisan campaign against Napoleon.

“Not asking about anyone’s tastes or rules, with stupid simplicity, but with expediency.”

In Ukraine, Russia has again taken up a club. But Moscow’s intervention in recent months is more than just an opportunistic ploy. In its scale, the covert war in Crimea and the Lugansk and Donetsk regions has set a high watermark in the art. It has laid bare the weakness of Nato’s ossified military deterrent – the centrepiece of international security order that was supposed to be hardening, not weakening. And it has become a lightning rod for a debate about the future of conflict.

When Nato chiefs meet in Wales next week for the most important summit the world’s biggest military alliance has held in 20 years, their thoughts will be dominated by Moscow’s actions against its neighbour.

For some of Nato’s most senior military strategists and for many of the most important figures in international affairs the post cold war world is at an inflection point: a common orthodoxy in Western thought – the notion of a globalising world in which greater prosperity was ultimately analogous to stability – has been again thrown into contention.

In public, Nato chiefs talk of Vladimir Putin’s 20th century mentality. The alliance on Thursday accused Moscow of having 1,000 troops in Ukraine in an overt sign of Russia’s direct military involvement in the conflict.

But, in private, they are more candid – and worried – about the 21st century tactics Mr Putin is using. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have exploded the notion that expansive communications technologies and economic interdependence were fostering a kind of grand bargain.

Instead nationalism, genocide, irredentism and military aggression, which were thought to be in decline, are alive and well, finding new and powerful means of being deployed in Ukraine and beyond.

“We are entering a brave new world here,” says Admiral James Stavridis, supreme allied commander of Nato until last year and now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

“And I use that expression really thinking about the novel [by Aldous Huxley] . . . it’s anything but a brave new world. It’s a frightened, unstable world and we need to wake up and realise that.”

Nato refers to this form of conflict as “hybrid war”. The phrase refers to a broad range of hostile actions, of which military force is only a small part, that are invariably executed in concert as part of a flexible strategy with long-term objectives.

Predictably, the most lucid exposition of the concept is Russian. In February 2013, Valery Gerasimov, the newly appointed chief of Russia’s general staff, penned an article in the Russian defence journal VPK.

War and peace, Mr Gerasimov wrote, in remarks that now seem prophetic, are becoming more blurred.

Is the U.S. Enabling Putin's Invasion?

The senior military commanders at NATO, officials at the State Department, and, yes, even the president of the United States proved Thursday that they have a perfectly clear idea what Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine. They just don’t want to say the word out loud

So they talk about “interventions” and “incursions” but not, heaven forbid, “invasions.” This, even though they estimate considerably more than 1,000 Russian troops are operating in Ukraine to bolster separatist rebels who were incited, aided, and abetted by the Russian secret services; even though those troops have brought with them heavy weaponry, including motorized artillery and T-72 tanks; even though their anti-aircraft missile shot down a civilian airliner with almost 300 people aboard in July; and even though, in the last few days, they have opened up a new front near the Black Sea coast and engaged in direct, ferocious combat against the Ukrainian army. No, it seems that somehow “invasion” is too strong a word for all that. 

“Our focus is more on what Russia is doing, [and] what we’re going to do about it, than what we’re calling it,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. 

But by playing semantic games, the Obama administration and European leaders are playing Putin’s game. “Confusion,” as a NATO briefer explained Thursday, “is part and parcel of this Russian hybrid warfare strategy.” We are watching an invasion using subversion, coercion, and somewhat limited military action. But it’s an invasion nonetheless. And when you refuse to call things by their real names, you are not only confusing the people who hear you, you’re accepting Putin’s obfuscations. You are sending a signal that says any Western response to his actions will be inconsequential. 

Russia's Slow-Motion Invasion of Ukraine

Is Putin waging a new form of warfare, or a very old one?
AUG 29 2014

A pro-Russian rebel in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

Is Russia invading Ukraine? Ask Ukraine, and the answer is yes. Ask Russia, and the answer is no ... ish. Ask the United States, and you'll learn that Russia, sinceannexing Crimea from Ukraine in March, has been demonstrating a "pattern" of "escalation of aggression." U.S. officials have avoided labeling Russia's "incursions" an invasion, perhaps to dodge the diplomatic and military implications of doing so.

What we know is that there are currently more than 1,000 heavily armed Russian troops in southeastern Ukraine and 20,000 Russian soldiers massed on the border, according to NATO. We know that armored vehicles and military equipment have been rolling into Ukraine from the direction of Russia in the dark of night; that Russian paratroopers were recently apprehended by Ukrainian authorities; that a massive convoy of Russian trucks enteredUkrainian territory without Kiev's consent earlier this month. If you believe the Kremlin and pro-Moscow Ukrainian separatists, the Russian troops in Ukraine are on vacation, the captured Russian paratroopers entered Ukraine "by accident," the Russian government is not directing and arming the rebels battling the Ukrainian military, and the truck convoy was delivering humanitarian aid. Then again, Vladimir Putin once declared that the "little green men" occupying Crimea were local self-defense forces who had gone shopping for Russian military uniforms, only to later admit that they were—surprise!—Russian soldiers.

The reality is this: Russia and Ukraine are effectively at war, and have been for some time, though Moscow has recently decided to operate more openly. If international reaction to the fact that one major European power has invaded another seems remarkably muted, that's in part because the Kremlin has adopted a bewildering strategy over the last five months of disguising its actions, head-faking toward peace, and slowly escalating its aggression—what Michael Weiss has characterized as war by "slow, seditious drip."

It's a shape-shifting, slow-motion invasion that we don't quite know what to make of. Is Russia forging a new template for warfare, or dusting off Soviet models?

Putin's "pattern of escalating aggression," to borrow a phrase from the Obama administration, is confounding. Sometimes, it looks like this grainy image from NATO of a Russian military convoy lugging artillery through Ukraine:

UN Report Finds That War Crimes and Human Rights Abuses Have Been Committed by All Sides in Syrian Civil War

August 28, 2014
Islamic State commits war crimes, Syrian govt using poison gas: U.N.

1 of 3. From L-R: Vitit Muntarbhorn, Karen Koning AbuZayd, Chief investigator Paulo Pinheiro and Carla del Ponte, of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, attend a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva August 27, 2014.

(Reuters) - The United Nations accused Islamic State insurgents on Wednesday of committing war crimes including amputations and public executions, sometimes in the presence of children, and said it believed Damascus had used chlorine gas in combating its enemies.

The Sunni militants, who are bringing weapons from Iraq, have changed the power balance in Syria, consolidating control over large areas and establishing order by imposing harsh sharia law, the U.N. said in its latest report.

"Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle on Fridays in al Raqqa and ISIS-controlled areas of Aleppo governorate (province)," the report said.

"Children have been present at the executions, which take the form of beheading or shooting in the head at close range… Bodies are placed on public display, often on crucifixes, for up to three days, serving as a warning to local residents."

The independent investigators voiced deep concern about boys forced to join the ranks of Islamic States who are being trained in camps in Syria that could be targeted by U.S. air strikes.

Not Your Grandfather’s Terrorist Organization: Why ISIS Has Been So Successful On the Battlefield So Far

Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt
August 28, 2014
Military Skill and Terrorist Technique Fuel Success of ISIS

BAGHDAD — As fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to seize territory, the group has quietly built an effective management structure of mostly middle-aged Iraqis overseeing departments of finance, arms, local governance, military operations and recruitment.

At the top the organization is the self-declared leader of all Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.

He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army.

They include former Iraqi officers like Fadel al-Hayali, the top deputy for Iraq, who once served Mr. Hussein as a lieutenant colonel, and Adnan al-Sweidawi, a former lieutenant colonel who now heads the group’s military council.

The pedigree of its leadership, outlined by an Iraqi who has seen documents seized by the Iraqi military, as well as by American intelligence officials, helps explain its battlefield successes: Its leaders augmented traditional military skill with terrorist techniques refined through years of fighting American troops, while also having deep local knowledge and contacts. ISIS is in effect a hybrid of terrorists and an army.

“These are the academies that these men graduated from to become what they are today,” said the Iraqi, a researcher named Hisham Alhashimi.

ISIS, which calls itself Islamic State, burst into global consciousness in June when its fighters seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, after moving into Iraq from their base in Syria.

The Iraqi Army melted away, and Mr. Baghdadi declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, that erased borders and imposed Taliban-like rule over a large territory. Not everyone was surprised by the group’s success. “These guys know the terrorism business inside and out, and they are the ones who survived aggressive counterterrorism campaigns during the surge,” said one American intelligence official, referring to the increase in American troops in Iraq in 2007. “They didn’t survive by being incompetent.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing intelligence reports.

After ISIS stormed into Mosul, one official recalled a startling phone call from a former major general in one of Mr. Hussein’s elite forces. The former general had appealed months earlier to rejoin the Iraqi Army, but the official had refused. Now the general was fighting for ISIS and threatened revenge.

“We will reach you soon, and I will chop you into pieces,” he said, according to the official, Bikhtiyar al-Qadi, of the commission that bars some former members of Mr. Hussein’s Baath Party from government posts.