By Nauman Sadiq for VT Islamabad
While Russian forces appear on the verge of liberating the strategically significant port city Mariupol, the second-largest city in the Donetsk Oblast in east Ukraine, thus claiming a major strategic victory in the Russo-Ukraine War, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss resorted to the oldest trick in the NATO’s psyops’ playbook of accusing adversaries of staging chemical weapons attacks and tweeted Monday:
“Reports that Russian forces may have used chemical agents in an attack on the people of Mariupol. We are working urgently with partners to verify the details. Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime to account.”
Inanely parroting the unsubstantiated claim by the NATO patrons, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky alleged Monday night that Russia could resort to chemical weapons as it massed troops in the eastern Donbas region for an assault on Mariupol.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said the government was checking “unverified information” that Russia might have used chemical weapons while besieging Mariupol. “There is a theory that these could be phosphorous munitions,” Malyar said in televised comments.
The self-styled governor of the eastern Donetsk region appointed by Kyiv, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said he had seen incident reports on possible chemical weapons use in Mariupol but could not confirm them. “We know that last night around midnight a drone dropped some so-far unknown explosive device, and the people that were in and around the Mariupol metal plant, there were three people, they began to feel unwell,” he told reporters. They were taken to hospital and their lives were not in danger, he added.
Although Russia unequivocally denied using chemical weapons in Mariupol, in any case, the use of white phosphorous is not banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). In fact, the United States itself used plenty of white phosphorus munitions in its campaign against the Islamic State in Syria’s Raqqa in 2017. White phosphorus is mainly used for lighting up the night sky in conflict zones to prevent hit-and-run tactics adopted by insurgent groups in the dark of the night against regular military forces.
But the real reason the dubious allegation of the use of chemical weapons by Russian forces has been leveled by Ukraine’s security forces and their international backers is that the battle for Mariupol has reached a decisive phase, with Ukraine’s CIA-trained neo-Nazi militias holed up in the Azovstal industrial district and considering laying down their heavy weapons in exchange for getting a safe corridor for evacuation from the battle zone.
Should the Russian forces seize Azovstal, they would be in full control of Mariupol, the lynchpin between Russian-held areas to the west and east, and would proclaim a major strategic victory against Ukraine’s security forces and allied ultra-nationalist militias.
It’s obvious much like her suave American counterpart, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who has made more asinine gaffes in his yearlong diplomatic career than “Sleepy Joe” made in over forty-year political career, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss isn’t much of a news junkie, either.
Otherwise, before resorting to the absurd allegation that Russian forces might have used chemical agents in Mariupol, she would certainly have recalled that in a bombshell NBC scoop published April 7, the authors of the report alleged that US spy agencies used deliberate and selective intelligence leaks to mainstream news outlets to mount a disinformation campaign against Russia during the latter’s month-long military offensive in Ukraine, despite being aware the intelligence wasn’t credible.
The US intelligence assessment that Russia was preparing to use chemical weapons in the Ukraine War, that was widely reported in the corporate media previously and once again being resorted to by Ukraine’s politicians and their NATO patrons, was an unsubstantiated claim leaked to the press as a tit-for-tat response to the damning Russian allegation that Ukraine was pursuing an active biological weapons program, in collaboration with Washington, in scores of bio-labs discovered by Russian forces in Ukraine in the early days of the military campaign.
The NBC report notes: “It was an attention-grabbing assertion that made headlines around the world: US officials said they had indications suggesting Russia might be preparing to use chemical agents in Ukraine. President Joe Biden later said it publicly. But three US officials told NBC News this week there was no evidence Russia had brought any chemical weapons near Ukraine. They said the US released the information to deter Russia from using the banned munitions.
“Multiple US officials acknowledged that the US had used information as a weapon even when confidence in the accuracy of the information wasn’t high. Sometimes it had used low-confidence intelligence for the deterrent effect, as with chemical agents, and other times, as an official put it, the US was just ‘trying to get inside Putin’s head.’”
Among other revealing facts, the NBC report noted a charge that Russia had turned to China for potential military help lacked hard evidence, a European official and two US officials told the news outlet’s correspondents.
“The US officials said there were no indications China was considering providing weapons to Russia. The Biden administration put that out as a warning to China not to do so, they said. The European official described the disclosure as a public game to prevent any military support from China.’”
Thus, niftily forestalling the likelihood of strengthening mutually beneficial bonds between China and Russia when the latter is badly in need of economic relief, the United States pre-emptively accused China of pledging to sell military hardware to Russia, when the latter, itself one of the world’s leading arms exporters, didn’t even make any such request to China.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held an intense seven-hour meeting in Rome with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on March 15 and warned China of the “grave consequences” of evading Western sanctions on Russia. Besides wielding the stick of economic sanctions, he must also have dangled the carrot of ending the trade war against China, initiated by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration, until Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
As far as military power is concerned, Russia with its enormous arsenal of conventional as well as nuclear weapons more or less equals the military power of the United States. But it’s the much more subtle and insidious tactic of economic warfare for which Russia seems to have no answer following the break-up of the Soviet Union in the nineties and consequent dismantling of the once-thriving communist bloc, spanning Eastern Europe, Latin America, and many socialist states in Asia and Africa in the sixties.
The current global neocolonial order is being led by the United States and its West European clients since the signing of the Bretton Woods Accord in 1945 following the Second World War. Historically, any state, particularly those inclined to pursue socialist policies, that dared to challenge the Western monopoly over global trade and economic policies was internationally isolated and its national economy went bankrupt over a period of time.
But for once, it appears quite plausible that in its relentless efforts to internationally isolate Russia, the Biden administration is likely to unravel the whole neocolonial economic order imposed on the world after the signing of the Bretton Woods Accord in 1945 after European powers were devastated by the war reluctantly accepted Washington’s diktat of pegging their currencies to the US dollar, backed by gold reserves, a practice that has since been abandoned in the seventies, thus conceding the dollar hegemony in the global financial system.
Ukraine’s infamous Azov Battalion, widely acknowledged as a neo-Nazi volunteer paramilitary force connected with foreign white supremacist organizations, was initially formed as a volunteer group in May 2014 out of the ultra-nationalist Patriots of Ukraine gang, and the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly (SNA) group.
As a battalion, the group fought on the frontlines against pro-Russia separatists in Donbas, the eastern region of Ukraine, and rose to prominence after recapturing the strategic port city of Mariupol from the Russia-backed separatists. The militant outfit was officially integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine on November 12, 2014, and exacted high praise from then-President Petro Poroshenko. “These are our best warriors,” he said at an awards ceremony in 2014. “Our best volunteers.”
In June 2015, both Canada and the United States announced they would not support or train the Azov regiment, citing its neo-Nazi connections. The following year, however, the US lifted the ban under pressure from the Pentagon, and the CIA initiated the clandestine program of nurturing ultra-nationalist militias in east Ukraine in order to mount a war of attrition against Russia.
Speaking to CNN’s Dana Bash on April 3, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that “NATO allies have supported Ukraine for many, many years,” adding that military aid has been “stepped up over the last weeks since the invasion.” The official clarified that “NATO allies like the United States, but also the United Kingdom and Canada and some others, have trained Ukrainian troops for years.”
According to Stoltenberg’s estimates, “tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops” had received such training, and were now “at the front fighting against invading Russian forces.” The secretary-general went on to credit the Brussels-based alliance with the fact that the “Ukrainian armed forces are much bigger, much better equipped, much better trained and much better led now than ever before.”
In addition to a longstanding CIA program aimed at cultivating an anti-Russian insurgency in Ukraine, Canada’s Department of National Defense revealed on January 26, two days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the Canadian Armed Forces trained “nearly 33,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel in a range of tactical and advanced military skills.” While The United Kingdom, via Operation Orbital, trained 22,000 Ukrainian fighters, as noted by NATO’s informed secretary-general.
In an explosive scoop, Zach Dorfman reported for the Yahoo News on March 16: “As part of the Ukraine-based training program, CIA paramilitaries taught their Ukrainian counterparts sniper techniques; how to operate U.S.-supplied Javelin anti-tank missiles and other equipment; how to evade digital tracking the Russians used to pinpoint the location of Ukrainian troops, which had left them vulnerable to attacks by artillery; how to use covert communications tools; and how to remain undetected in the war zone while also drawing out Russian and insurgent forces from their positions, among other skills, according to former officials.
“When CIA paramilitaries first traveled to eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia’s initial 2014 incursion, their brief was twofold. First, they were ordered to determine how the agency could best help train Ukrainian special operations personnel to fight the Russian military forces, and their separatist allies, waging a grinding war against Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region. But the second part of the mission was to test the mettle of the Ukrainians themselves, according to former officials.”
Besides the CIA’s clandestine program for training Ukraine’s largely conscripted military and allied neo-Nazi militias in east Ukraine and the US Special Forces program for training Ukraine’s security forces at Yavoriv Combat Training Center in the western part of the country bordering Poland that was hit by a barrage of 30 cruise missiles killing at least 35 militants on March 13, Dorfman claims in a separate January report that the CIA also ran a covert program for training Ukraine’s special forces at an undisclosed facility in the southern United States.
“The CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in 2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S., according to some of those officials.
“While the covert program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s Ground Branch — now officially known as Ground Department — was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, and expanded under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has further augmented it.”
By 2015, as part of this expanded anti-Russia effort, CIA Ground Branch paramilitaries also “started traveling to the front in eastern Ukraine” to advise and assist Ukraine’s security forces and allied neo-Nazi militias there. The multiweek, US-based CIA program included “training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like cover and move, intelligence and other areas.”
One person familiar with the program put it more bluntly. “The United States is training an insurgency,” said a former CIA official, adding that the program has taught the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians.” Going back decades, the CIA had provided limited training to Ukrainian intelligence units to try and shore up a US-allied Kyiv and undermine Russian influence, but cooperation ramped up after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 following the Maidan coup toppling pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a former CIA executive confided to Dorfman.
About the Author: Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based geopolitical and national security analyst focused on geostrategic affairs and hybrid warfare in the Af-Pak and the Middle East regions. His domains of expertise include neocolonialism, the military-industrial complex, and petro-imperialism. He is a regular contributor of diligently researched investigative reports to VT.
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