While a shooting war is raging in Eastern Ukraine, already with well over 2,000 casualties, a battle for public opinion is being fought in western countries. Governments, intelligence services and media companies are whipping up animosity against Russia. Russia is doubtlessly also pursuing its interests in its policies toward Ukraine. But is the government of President Vladimir Putin responsible for the crisis? What role is NATO playing? Can we trust the photographic evidence of Russian troops in Ukraine?
weltnetz.tv spoke with Raymond McGovern a veteran of the CIA. Every morning, for nearly three decades, the native New Yorker was in charge of the 'President's Daily Briefings' in the White House. Altogether, he briefed seven presidents. Because of their criticism of the US war of aggression on Iraq, McGovern and other veteran intelligence professionals founded the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in 2003, to provide an alternative analysis to geopolitical conflicts. McGovern is also one of the signatories of an open letter to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in which veteran US intelligence officers warn the CDU politician about falsified evidence against Russia.
weltnetz.tv spoke briefly with Ray McGovern in the wings of an event in Berlin's "Sprechsaal".
Click on "mehr" to find the whole transcript of the Interview!
weltnetz.tv: Ray, on the occasion of the NATO summit, now being held in Wales, you were one of the co-signers of an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel – a letter by the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Why did you and your colleagues choose Chancellor Merkel from the other European NATO leaders?
Ray McGovern: Well we thought that we owed it to Chancellor Merkel to give her some caution and give her some forewarning about the intelligence.
Our field is intelligence. We're professional intelligence officers by trade. And among the eight officers that signed that memorandum to Angela Merkel, we're talking about 225 years of intelligence experience, mostly at very senior levels. So we have watched the abuse of intelligence. We have watched intelligence being fixed. And twelve years ago, we watched our profession being corrupted for the express purpose of "justifying" (in quotes) a war of aggression. It doesn't get any worse than that.
Many of the people, who are still around, who were some of the cheerleaders for that war of aggression – and I'm talking not only about people in the government, but even more sinister people in the US media, like for example, Michael R. Gordon, of the New York Times. We have the book on Gordon. He was the aluminum tubes culprit, where he took what the white house gave him and said aluminum tubes show that Saddam Hussein was going to develop nuclear weapons and, as Condoleezza Rice would say, the first sign of this could come in the shape of a mushroom cloud. Right? Okay?
So Michael Gordon was the fellow, who came up with the aluminum tubes and in a jocular way, we think he should have his tubes tied.
weltnetz.tv: Actually right now, the US claims to have intelligence information again of a Russian invasion in Eastern Ukraine. You warn in your open letter to Chancellor Merkel that this evidence is unreliable. What would be the objective behind the US fabricating this evidence?
Ray: Well, whether it's the US or the Ukrainian government, such as it is, or NATO itself, the Secretary General of NATO is a known dissimular, that's a nice way to put it, when one day before the war that I just mentioned – the US/UK attack on Iraq – Anders Fogh Rassmussen, who, at that point, was the Danish Prime Minister, told his parliament, quote, "it is not that we BELIEVE there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we KNOW it, period, end quote. Where did he get that? He got that from Washington. Okay? Where does he get what he says now? He gets it from Washington.
So these flimsy, fuzzy images that were reduced as proof of a Russian invasion, they are an embarrassment to any professional intelligence officer.
weltnetz.tv: Talking about pictures: Satellite photos are repeatedly being mentioned right now and even shown to prove the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine. Where do these pictures come from, and what do they prove?
Ray: Well many of them are said to come from commercial satellite collections, which is really funny. We spend $85 billion dollars a year just in our country, the United States, part of that going to very sophisticated satellites – in other forms of imagery delivered by the satellites. And we have ways to disguise the parameters of these images. In other words, if people are concerned about telling enemies how fine our resolution is, how we – I'm exaggerating of course, how we can tell, if McGovern has a button loose on his shirt, okay? (I don't think we can, but let's say, we can) – you want to disguise that, there are automated ways we can do that in two hours, degrade the photography. Now, that would be the kind of photography I would look for to prove that the Russians were coming, that the Russians are coming and that kind of thing. To depend on these fuzzy images, which show nothing, you know I really – you would think that a decent respect for the opinions of mankind would prevent people like Rassmussen or the Dutch head of that NATO unit or anybody in the state department from claiming that those images prove anything. They don't.
weltnetz.tv: Beginning in mid-September, NATO plans to hold its large-scale training exercise in Ukraine. How will this military maneuver influence the situation there?
Ray: I don't think it will have much effect. I'm very pleased at the announcement yesterday of the cease-fire. That was a major achievement. The person most responsible for that: the hated Vladimir Putin. Okay? The "bad, bad Putin" we get in our media. Wears no shirt, sometimes. Rides horse with no shirt. "Bad, bad Putin." Okay?
Well as you know he and Poroshenko worked things out despite a lot of reluctance on the part of the Kiev authorities, US authorities and everybody else and it looks like there's a better chance for sustainable cease-fire now. Even the New York Times, today, gave "bad, bad Putin" credit for delineating the terms of a cease-fire, which apparently he did on the back of a pad on his way flying out to Siberia.
So they're giving credit, where it's due. And I'm just hoping that those, who see more benefit in a hostile relationship between the West – and specifically the US – and Russia, that they will stop their tricks, realize that Russia holds the high cards here and relent.
weltnetz.tv: At the same time, the maneuver corresponds to what President Obama recently said in Tallinn, when he told that "the West" would "stand firm." Do you believe that the European Union, his European allies will really "stand firm" behind US leadership, as it edges towards a war?
Ray: Well, you know, there is rhetoric and there is reality. President Obama is really good at rhetoric, not so good at reality. The reality is, the Russians aren't going to invade Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. That's been done. I can sympathize with their fears – the people, who live in those countries – they have a sad history, but there is not a scintilla of evidence that Putin or anyone else in Moscow intends to invade the Baltic republics. Nor is there a scintilla of evidence that Putin and his comrades ever thought that they would reincorporate Crimea into Russia until the putsch, until the coup d'état – the Western sponsored coup d'état – which removed a constitutionally elected government from power in Kiev on the 22nd of February. That's where you start this most recent history, Okay? You don't start it with the Crimean reincorporation into the Russian Republic.
weltnetz.tv: So let's talk about Russia's role. We read currently a lot in the US and European media about Russia's influence on the conflict in Ukraine, but much less about the US influence. What role does the United States play?
Ray: Well, you know, I'm an intelligence officer and the kind of evidence that we, we will kill for, you know, the kind of evidence that we lust after, is the same kind of evidence that any lawyer or court would lust after. And that is tangible evidence, like intercepted conversations. Okay.
Now, at the end of January, our Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs was speaking on an open phone with our ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in Kiev. And what did she say? She said a lot of things. But, among the things she said, was, "look, Yats is our man. Yats, he is the guy. These other people they can wait in the wings. You handle them. But, Yats is the guy because he used to be head of the Central Bank. He knows about the IMF and the austerity measures that will be required. Yats is our guy."
Now whoever intercepted that – I imagine it was the Russian service – you shouldn't be talking the open phone about who you're going to put in power after you mount a coup, but they did.
So that went on Youtube. The whole world listened to Victoria Nuland and she said some other things which really are too profane to mention in this conversation. But there it was out on YouTube.
Now, consider my surprise, when I woke up on the 23rd of February and there had been a coup d'état in Kiev. And who was the new premier? Yats! And I wrote an article that morning "Yikes! Its Yats!" I mean, I couldn't believe it, you know. You would have thought that him appearing on YouTube – or his name appearing – as the fellow that the US is going to choose for this coup d'état that a decent respect to the opinions of mankind would have prevented him from becoming the prime minister. No, no, no, no!
The hubris, the arrogance that was responsible for Yats, "who is our guy," who's been our guy for a while, actually, Poroshenko as well, as revealed by recent WikiLeaks cables, or WikiLeaks cables recently reviewed, and we've had influence over both those folks.
So the bottom line here is that, yeah it was a Western sponsored coup. There's little doubt about that, and how it was arranged on the ground, well we know that the Estonian Foreign Minister reported to Catherine Ashton, who's the EU Foreign Minister equivalent, he said, "did you know that the doctors in the hospitals here in Kiev are reporting that the same shells from the same weapons from the same snipers were hitting not only the police but the demonstrators?"
Now who are those snipers? They were agent provocateurs.
Whose orders were they following? Well, we know that John Kerry tried to persuade – and did persuade – Yanukovych to withdraw the security forces that were protecting him. We know, because Putin said, "I told Yanukovych that's crazy. Don't do that for God's sake. That would be crazy." He did it anyway and of course you know the rest of the story. He had to flee the area the next morning. So who are these sharpshooters? Who was trying to cause the kind of putsch that would result in the removal of a constitutionally elected government and end in the placing of people, who were already revealed to be the US sponsored folks and not only that, but four of the cabinet ministries going to proto-fascists. I'll say it again – proto-fascists.
weltnetz.tv: Talking about these forces and talking about these groups, how do you see the role of rightwing extremists in the Ukraine, for example the Asov Battalion? Is this decisive for Russia?
Ray: I think, as far as the Russians are concerned, they have lots of experience with the Bandera types, with Nazis. When you think that they lost 25 million – that's million with an M – Russians during World War II, they know what Nazis are like. I thought the rest of Europe knew what Nazis are like too. I thought here in Germany, they knew what Nazis are like. But you don't get much press about these Svoboda people.
Even though the UN has identified them as "right-wing extremists," you don't get much press about the Right Sector. And yet we know that they were flying Nazi flags and, in couple of the photos, US Confederate flags – white supremacist flags – in their territory. So, yeah, I know enough about them it's got my hair on end: Why is it not that reaction in Western Europe? And I suggest that it is because the media hasn't allowed the people here in Germany or elsewhere to realize the seriousness of this situation. Of course it is not limited to Ukraine. There are problems right in France and in other countries as well.
weltnetz.tv: So would you say that there is already a proxy war being waged in Ukraine?
Ray: I would say that there's a cease-fire now. The proxy war, it's a little bit hard to define it that way. It was a coup d'état. And it was a coup d'état in a country, which is integral to Russia's interests. It was a national security threat to the Russians. We knew that, and so the question really is, are our policy makers so naive, as not to realize that Russia holds the high cards here. The stakes are immensely higher for Russia and that they would do things, like reincorporate Crimea into Russia. Did they not know that? I don't know. There a lot of naive people in Washington. I don't know if they were that stupid.
But there's another faction that sees great merit in creating tension between Russia and the United States. Not only the arms manufacturers; not only the people, who can't build a common European battle tank without an identifiable enemy.
These are people who see merit in a hostile relationship, because they don't like what Putin did this time last year – precisely, this time last year – when he pulled Obama's chestnuts out of the fire on Syria.
Now Obama did the sensible thing on Syria. He resisted Kerry and the other neo-cons, who wanted to attack Syria. And Putin said, "we can get those chemical weapons removed and destroyed."
There was a degree of trust between them. This is an amazing thing. Not many people realize, the Syrian chemical weapons have been removed from Syria and completely destroyed. Amazing thing! Okay? Who knows that? It's not very much in the press. Right? So there was trust that enabled that to happen and deprive the neo-cons of the war, after which they were lusting. Okay?
The other thing, of course, is that the Russians have been helpful on Iran. They helped facilitate a sensible approach to what people fear are Iranian aspirations to have a nuclear weapon. The evidence, once again, is not there. But there are these fears, and so the negotiations are joined and hopefully by the 24th of November, they will come to some resolution of this problem. And it will be partly because the Russians have been helpful.
Now, there are neo-cons. And they don't like this, okay. They don't like this with a passion. Okay? "Neo-con," I define as somebody, who has difficulty distinguishing between the strategic interests of Israel, on the one hand, and the United States on the other. Now, please, don't misunderstand. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion. Right? But I don't think the neo-cons should be running the foreign policy of the United States, if they have this dual kind of loyalty.
weltnetz.tv: Ray, thank you very much for the interview
Ray: You are most welcome.
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