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US’ rise to form another Al Qaeda in Ukraine

IRNA – Some signs like comments made by politicians close to the power circle in Washington, including Hilary Clinton, suggest that the United States and Western countries are seeking to replicate the CIA Operation Cyclone in Ukraine.

While the world is stunned by the headlines about Ukraine crisi, the increasing evidence of continuous attempts by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to form and arm insurgent extremist forces in Ukraine and the consequences of such measure has attracted less global attention.

IRNA has prepared a report based on a Yahoo News report covering recent CIA movement in Ukraine. IRNA’s report gathers evidences that show Washington has been arming and strengthening Neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine. The report also surveys the ideology of the group, compares the US’ policy in Ukraine to its policy in Afghanistan during the 1970s and explores the consequences of such approach.

CIA movements in Ukraine war

Yahoo News reported in January, a month before Ukraine crisis, that CIA was training an insurgency in Ukraine under a program, which started in 2015, “to kill Russians”.

The covert program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s Ground Branch was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and expanded under the Trump administration, but the Biden administration has further augmented it, Yahoo News cited a former senior intelligence official as saying.

One person familiar with the program put it more bluntly, according to Yahoo News, saying that the program has taught the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians”. 

US officials deny that the CIA training program is, or was ever, offensively oriented and a current senior intelligence official said that the purpose of the training was to assist in “the collection of intelligence”. However, several former officials noted that the CIA program has included training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like “cover and move”, intelligence and other areas.

Shortly after the Yahoo News report, the Washington Post confirmed the CIA movements in Ukraine, too. In March 5, two weeks after the Russian invasion began, the Washington Post reported that officials in Washington and European capitals anticipated that the Russian military will reverse its early losses, setting the stage for a long, bloody insurgency.

The report said that Americans are planning how to help establish and support a government-in-exile, which could direct guerrilla operations against Russian occupiers, according to several US and European officials. The weapons the United States has provided to Ukraine’s military, and that continue to flow into the country, would be crucial to the success of an insurgent movement, officials said.

But who are the groups CIA is supporting?

Ukrainian and American Neo-Nazis

The fact that the far right force called Azov Battalion was the group trained by the Americans and has received Western arms in recent weeks has been repeatedly mentioned in the Western media.

For example, CNN wrote in a report dated March 30: “The existence of an identifiably Azov element within the Ukrainian armed forces — and an effective element at that — poses uncomfortable questions for the Ukrainian government and its Western allies, which continue to send arms to the country.” CNN has also confirmed that Azov Battalion forces have been active among the groups fighting Russian forces in and around Mariupol in recent weeks.

Jerusalem Post is another news outlet that reported the anti-armor weapon MATADOR has recently seen used by the Azov Battalion, which is widely characterized as Neo-Nazi ideologically. “An anti-armor weapon jointly developed by Israel, Singapore and a German company has been seen in operational use by the Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion against Russian military forces,” Jerusalem post said in the report.

Furthermore, a twitter account affiliated to Azov Battalion released a video last month showing a member of the group was using the weapon to target a Russia armored carrier. There have also been photos showing Azov members while using British rocket launchers. The Belarus medium Nexta TV revealed in a series of photos in March 8 that Azov Battalion was the first Ukrainian group to have learnt using British anti-tank launcher NLAW.

The website Declassified UK reported that it was “highly likely the NLAWs pictured with Azov members were supplied by the UK”. It also said that the only other donor of the equipment to Ukraine was believed to be Luxembourg, which recently sent 100.

The publication of the photos was followed by conservative UK MP James Heappey’s reaction, asking the UK Secretary of State for Defense whether Ukraine’s Azov Battalion would have access to UK-supplied NLAW anti-tank weapons. The secretary has yet to respond to Heappey’s question.

Western media have recently began their own psychological operation to normalize and whitewash Azov Battalion. The AFP, for instance, claimed in a report last Wednesday that Ukrainians supported the group. The report said: “But in Ukraine, the Azov regiment has largely enjoyed a solid reputation and been showered with praise for its years-long commitment to fight Russian incursions into the country.”

“This week, demonstrators gathered in Kyiv to rally public support for Azov and their fellow defenders of Mariupol, as the Russians launched another withering assault on a sprawling steel plant where Ukrainian forces in the southern city are taking a final stance,” the report continued.

They are not “monsters and psychos”, Sky News cited a Briton who had recently joined Azov Battalion as saying. “The regiment’s background has been used by the Kremlin to justify its claim that Ukraine needed ‘de-Nazifying’. However Ed Arnold, research fellow on European security at the defense think tank RUSI, told Sky News that the Azov military group had ‘made steps to move away from its far-right links’,” Sky News said.

Other than Azov, another far-right group named Pravy Sektor also released photos showing its members beside UK-made anti-tank weapons. While Pravy Sektor members dismiss supporting neo-Nazi ideology, they publicly express themselves as fans of Stepan Bandera, the ultranationalist Ukrainian militant leader who cooperated with Nazis during the World War II.

As stated in the first part of this report, however, the US and the West began supporting these far-right Ukrainian groups long before the current war (at least since 2015). In addition to the recent Yahoo News report mentioned above, there is ample evidence of the US policy in recent years in support of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis and their armaments, particularly the Azov Battalion, but “we will mention the most important ones” to summarize the report.

The first signs of Washington’s determination to arm and strengthen the neo-Nazis appeared in December 2015. The US Congress at the time stripped the spending bill of the fiscal year 2016 of an amendment that prevented funds from falling into the hands of Ukrainian neo-fascist groups. The Nation later reported that the amendment was removed under pressure from the Pentagon. The move revealed that Washington had changed its previous policy on these extremist groups and was seeking to strengthen them to fight Russia.

There were, then, reports of American weapons flowing into Nazi militias. The reports began emerging from October 2016, when Texas-based AirTronic announced a $5.5 million contract “originating from an Allied European military customer” for their PSRL-1 weapons systems.

In June 2017, photos were published on Azov Battalion’s website showing the group’s fighters testing PSRL-1 RPGs in the field. The images raised speculation that the unnamed “customer” of AirTronic could be Ukraine.

Two months later (August 2017), the pro-Russian military analytics website Southfront released a secret contract between the Ukrainian state-run company Spetstechnoexport and the American company AirTronic on delivery of 100 PSRL-1 launchers worth $554,575 (about one-tenth of the total). (See the documents here.)

In an interview with VOA in December 2017, Richard Vandiver, Chief Operating Officer at the Texas company, emphasized that the activities were conducted in “very close coordination with the US Embassy, with the US State Department, with the US Pentagon and with the Ukrainian government.”

Finally, in January 2018, the Atlantic Council confirmed that the US government had delivered these lethal weapons to the Azov Battalion neo-Nazis. The US embassy has facilitated the transfer of these weapons to Ukraine, Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab research Aric Toler wrote, adding that he was not sure they knew Azov would be the first group to be trained with these weapons.

The Atlantic Council, known among experts as the unofficial NATO lobbyist in Washington and one of the strongest advocates for arming Ukrainian military, was a very unlikely source for such disclosure. While the think tank’s motives for the exposure remain unclear, the move made America’s semi-covert support for neo-Nazis in Ukraine more apparent and be more widely reported in the media.

A day after the Atlantic Council reported on Azov’s acquisition of the US weapons, the National Guard of Ukraine emphasized in an official statement that these weapons were not in Azov’s possession at the press release time. On the other hand, Azov Battalion removed all photos of its soldiers working with these weapons from its website under pressure from public opinion.

The leaked documents of the US relationship with the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, of course, are not only limited to arms deals but covers other areas of cooperation. In November 2018, for example, the Azov website published images of US officers meeting with the group’s commanders, saying that the officers were providing them with “training or other assistance”. These photos have now been removed from the Azov Battalion’’s official website, but some of them have been survived in other media.

This has also been confirmed by Azov officers. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Sgt. Ivan Kharkiv of the Azov battalion talked about his battalion’s experience with US trainers and US volunteers quite fondly. “We must take knowledge from all armies,” he said.

Neo-Nazi’s Ideology

Azov Battalion was established in May 2014, a month after the Ukrainian government announced it had launched a so-called “counter-terrorism operation” in eastern Ukraine. The group was made up of members of two other neo-Nazi groups, the Patriot of Ukraine and the Social National Assembly. At the time, these groups were members of another racist group called Right Sector. Right Sector emerged from the so-called “Euromaidan protests” that led to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych’s government and later became a paramilitary organization.

The neo-Nazi groups Patriot of Ukraine and National Social Assembly were led by far-right politician Andriy Biletsky. Biletsky was detained in Yanukovych’s government for his racist views and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. He was later recognized as a political prisoner after the fall of Yanukovych and was acquitted of all charges as part of a program to free political prisoners. After his release from prison in May 2014, he established Azov Battalion and commanded it until he was promoted to higher positions in the Ukrainian government. Biletsky’s views can be summed up in his famous 2010 statement that the Ukrainian nation’s mission was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans]”.

Biletsky’s views form the core of the Azov Battalion’s ideology. According to the Lower Class and other media outlets, including The Guardian, Azov now has an underground organization called the Misanthropic Division, which is heavily involved in recruiting neo-Nazi youth in France, Germany and Scandinavia. The organization promises foreign fighters that they will be trained to work with heavy weapons, including tanks, in Ukraine.

Some of Biletsky’s ideas are manifested in code of conduct of the National Social Assembly: “To prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital; to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man.”

The gist of Azov Battalion’s ideology is the call for “Reconquista”. According to the ideology, the whites of Eastern Europe should unite and follow the Nazis’ Reichskommissariat in Ukraine during the World War II to bring the region under the control of a white government.

The Daily Telegraph reported in 2018 that Azov’s extremist profile and slick English–language pages on social media have even attracted foreign fighters from many countries, including Brazil, Italy, the UK, France, the US, Greece, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Russia. Furthermore, Time magazine reported that the racist group used Facebook to recruit and radicalize new forces.

New Al Qaeda in Ukraine

The US has a history of flaws in supporting extremist groups as part of its adventurous foreign policy, which has ultimately plunged the American people and the world in a cycle of terrorist violence. In the 1960s, the CIA collaboration with extremist groups fighting Fidel Castro’s government turned Miami into a hub of terrorist violence.

In the years following the 2011 Syrian civil unrest, Washington strengthened extremist and terrorist groups in the region to weaken the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which led to widespread insecurity in the region, death hundreds of thousands and displacement of millions.

But the current US policy in Ukraine is more than anything reminiscent of Washington’s Operation Cyclone in the late 1970s in Afghanistan. During this operation CIA decided to arm and fund extremist groups to counter Soviet influence.

“Lest we forget, the CIA gave birth to Osama Bin Laden and breastfed his organization during the 1980s. Former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably a product of Western intelligence agencies. Mr. Cook explained that Al Qaeda, which literally means an abbreviation of “the database” in Arabic, was originally the computer database of the thousands of Islamist extremists, who were trained by the CIA and funded by the Saudis, in order to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan,” Garikai Chengu, a scholar at Harvard, wrote in a memo for Counterpunch.

He added: “America’s relationship with Al Qaeda has always been a love-hate affair. Depending on whether a particular Al Qaeda terrorist group in a given region furthers American interests or not, the US State Department either funds or aggressively targets that terrorist group. Even as American foreign policy makers claim to oppose Muslim extremism, they knowingly foment it as a weapon of foreign policy.”

But the similarity between US policy in Afghanistan and Ukraine does not only match analytical evidence, but also it has been mentioned and called for by some politicians close to the centers of power in Washington, members of the Democratic Party in particular, in recent days.

Shortly after the Russian military invasion of Ukraine began, former Senior Operations Officer in the CIA Clandestine Service Douglas London published an article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The Coming Ukrainian Insurgency“. He stated in the article that “Putin will face a long, bloody insurgency that could spread across multiple borders” and has the potential to “destabilize other countries in Russia’s orbit, such as Kazakhstan, and even spill into Russia itself”.

Another notable statement by Douglas Landon in that article was that “the United States will invariably be a major and essential source of backing for a Ukrainian insurgency.” He added: “As the United States learned in Vietnam and Afghanistan, an insurgency that has reliable supply lines, ample reserves of fighters, and sanctuary over the border can sustain itself indefinitely, sap an occupying army’s will to fight, and exhaust political support for the occupation at home.”

London explicitly says that the model of this coming insurgency resembles the CIA-backed insurgencies of the 1980s and the US support for the “moderate insurgents” since 2011.

London is not alone in promoting the Afghan insurgency as a model to instigate insurgency in Ukraine. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during whose office the State Department advocated supporting “moderate insurgents” (actually Takfiri terrorists) in Syria and who oversaw the destruction of Libya under the US and NATO support, is another one to back implementation of the Afghanistan model.

Clinton’s view is particularly important because her chief of staff Jake Sullivan who has a very close intellectual relationship with her and the Clintons is now the US National Security Adviser. In addition, she comments more candidly on Washington’s policies that the Joe Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, as Clinton’s views are no longer considered the official position of the Democratic Party.

“[Operation Cyclone] didn’t end well for the Russians… but the fact is, that a very motivated, and then funded, and armed insurgency basically drove the Russians out of Afghanistan… But I think that is the model that people are now looking toward. And if there can be sufficient armaments that get in … and keep the Ukrainians, both their military and their citizen volunteer soldiers, supplied, that can continue to stymie Russia,” Clinton told MSNBC on May 8.

When Hillary Clinton once again appeared on MSNBC on March 8 to be interviewed by Mika Brzezinski, daughter of former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski who was the main architect of the Afghan Mujahideen armament policy, she expressed her willingness to implement the Afghanistan model in Ukraine even more clearly. She said lethal defensive weapons were entering Ukraine, but they needed more weapons. Clinton called for greater access of Ukraine to defensive weapons, noting that this war wouldn’t end soon.

Biden administration officials have repeatedly expressed similar views in recent days, although less explicitly. In almost every interview, Blinken has implied that the war in Ukraine would continue. “If [Putin’s] goal is to impose some kind of puppet regime … by keeping Russian forces in Ukraine, it will be a long, bloody, drawn-out mess through which Russia will continue to suffer grievously,” he said in a joint press conference with his British counterpart.

Joe Biden has repeatedly made indirect references to attempts to stage a long-running insurgency in Ukraine. He said in his State of the Union Address in March that Russia “will pay a continuing high price over the long run.”

Now that these are openly being promoted as role models for the “Coming Ukrainian Insurgency”, what awaits Ukraine? If we want to consider the CIA record in supporting the insurgency as an indicator for predicting the future, then we must say that US policy would cause far more destruction and suffering to the people, both in Ukraine and the United States. Ukraine will turn into a defeated country and a battleground, and those in the West who boast about their governments’ supporting the Ukrainian side in the war will soon face new realities that will put another deadly proxy war before them.

In Ukraine, even if the US support of the insurgency could impose costs on the Russian side, the conflict could lead to instability across Central and Eastern Europe. This has been a consistent pattern in the CIA support for paramilitary operations from the Cold War to present-day Afghanistan and Iraq. This danger is exacerbated when weapons sent by the US eventually fall into the hands of terrorists, militants, or other extremist groups. At the same time, the proxy war between the US and Russia may turn into a real war.

This is especially important when we face a plethora of documented reports showing that the US is counting on Ukraine’s neo-Nazis to advance a planned insurgency in the country. In fact, the US intelligence services had warned in early 2020 that a “transnational white supremacist network” with alleged ties to the Ukraine conflict will be the next global catastrophe to befall the world as the threat of COVID-19 recedes.

Interestingly, in a report on the dangers of such a network, the Soufan Intelligence Center stated that Ukraine was emerging as a hub in the broader network of transnational white supremacy extremism, modeling on terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. The report states: The danger of terrorism is growing in the United States, just as it is elsewhere in the world, with white supremacist extremists strengthening transnational networks and even imitating the tactics, techniques, and procedures of groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS). These networks share approaches to recruitment, financing, and propaganda, with Ukraine emerging as a hub in the broader network of transnational white supremacy extremism, attracting foreign recruits from all over the world.”

If an Al Qaeda came out of Operation Cyclone to made the September 11 tragedy happen and forced the US to launch a campaign against its rebel children, whom it once sheltered under its wings, that resulted in a horrific devastation in Afghanistan, mass killings and war crimes in several countries, and the longest and most expensive war and occupation and also a decrease in civil liberties and security within the US itself, what are the guarantees that replication of the same policy in Ukraine would bear a different outcome? This is a question for the American and Western officials to answer.

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