NATO Deny, Deny and Denies It Ever Had Troops in the Donbass Combat Zone:
Circumstantial, Visual and a 'Vacationer's' War 'Memoir' Evidence Suggests Otherwise
RogueMoney readers may recall that Russian President Vladimir Putin, during the Ukrainian Army's encirclement and humiliating defeat by Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) 'separatists' at Debaltsevo, described the UAF as a 'NATO foreign legion'. Putin's comments drew a sharp rebuke from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who declared at that time in late January 2015, "The statement that there is a NATO legion in Ukraine is nonsense. There is no NATO legion...the foreign forces in Ukraine are Russian".
Even at that time, Stoltenberg's comment was false. Stoltenberg's denial conflated the Donbass and ATO combat zone -- where the presence of American and NATO troops had been disavowed --with the entirety of Ukraine. If pressed, even Stoltenberg would've admitted the Ukrainians were hosting US/NATO troops -- but only, we were told, in an advising and training capacity, far from the fighting. NATO's training center at Yavoriv set up near the Polish border for American and Canadian troops to school members of Ukraine's National Guard (but not, The Daily Beast was told, members of the SS insignia flag waving Azov Battalion) is about as far away from the combat in Donbass as you can get while remaining inside Ukrainian territory.
How Bellingcat and The Interpreter Do 'Damage Control' to 'Debunk' Visual or Circumstantial Evidence of NATO Troops/Advisers or Mercenaries Presence in the Donbass
Naturally, we expect a hasty email or phone call from the Atlantic Council to Eliot Higgins, their Leicester, UK based couch potato OSINT analyst extraordinaire, to hastily 'prove' that this footage was not shot anywhere near the Donbass. Given NATO's past tendencies in this conflict, whenever a piece of footage (remember English native speaker in the Azov Battalion who WASN'T Chris 'Swampy' Garrett aka 'out of my face please' guy in January 2015 Mariupol?) or some other evidence such as NATO issue rifles or ammo (obviously, according to Bellingcat, brought to the ruined Donetsk Airport by the Russians after being captured in 2008 Georgia) has been found by Russian proxies on the battlefield, Bellingcat or The Interpreter (now a part of RFE/RL) rush to 'debunk' the latest 'Russian fake' concerning NATO troops or mercs in Donbass.
However, such hasty 'debunkings' are often sloppy -- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick and The Interpreter for example, forgot that 'out of my face please' guy in Mariupol was shorter, darker haired, and spoke with a different (try upstate New York or Ontario rather than England) Anglo-phone native accent. Out of my face guy is and was clearly NOT the Azov Battalion's blonde/ruddy haired Brit 'volunteer', Chris Garrett -- aside from their Azov camo uniform, the two men don't look anything alike. The Russia Analyst will have more to say in a future post about the considerable OSINT video evidence available online, at least according to Bellingcat's lofty standards, of American/European mercs not already publically ID'd as 'volunteers'.
We suspect Bellingcat contributor Aric Toler's recent posts at Medium on 'foreign volunteers' in the UAF (who all to a man deny receiving any salary from a NATO or EU government to supplement their meager Ukrainian salaries of $200 a month in hryvnia) is an attempt to get out ahead of this issue for Bellingcat's Atlantic Council bosses. However, the issue isn't going away, and neither is the great Ukrainian casualties cover up, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko still insisting on the falsified number of less than 3,100 admitted combat deaths, a figure probably three to five times below Kiev's REAL, hidden KIA.
We expect Bellingcat will try and quickly geolocate the footage of US Army soldiers posted above to a site not far from Yavoriv -- despite the absence of readily identifiable buildings or markers. To admit otherwise under official questioning would mark a change in Department of Defense policy, which has been to deny, deny, deny that American or any other NATO nation's troops have ever been placed in harm's way on behalf of the U.S.-supported government in Kiev. But again the question then becomes -- why is this footage being released now, and did the Russians obtain it through hacking or was it deliberately 'leaked' from the U.S. side as a message to Moscow that the dirty 'Deep State' will increase military aid to Kiev under President Trump?
Kiev Had Something to Hide in the Debaltsevo 'Cauldron':
The Urgency of the Negotiations Between Merkel/Hollande and Putin
Back in January/February 2015, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the deputy U.S. commander in Europe repeated Stoltenberg's denial and insistence that the only foreign troops fighting in the Donbass were Russian. But that didn't explain, as many in the alternative media pointed out at the time, the terrible urgency behind French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel flying to Moscow for immediate talks with Putin. If Ukrainian troops and only Ukrainians, not foreign mercenaries or advisers as the DNR commander Alexander Zakharchenko asserted, were trapped in the Debaltsevo pocket, why the urgent need for negotiations?
The original Minsk agreement talks after all were not reached as fast in August/September 2014, even after disastrous Ukrainian Army defeats at Ilovaisk and Saur Mogila left the road to Mariupol wide open. Had Putin wanted to, the Russian Army could've provided the LDNR insurgents with enough firepower to storm the city and slaughter its Azov Battalion defenders. But the so-called 'vacationers' as well as Russian Army veteran volunteer/mercenary 'Northern Wind' tanks withdrew to Russian territory. A deal was struck, perhaps to preserve the 'company town' industrial assets of DNR-funding Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Ahkmetov from destruction in fighting for Mariupol -- and Kiev (barely) hung on to control over the Donbass' only port.
As an aside here, the Azov Battalion's comic Waffen SS wannabes and the foreign mercs in their ranks patted themselves on the back as badasses while (contrary to the lies of idiot Azov fanboys like Paul Gregory) avoiding heavy combat with tanks and artillery that would've decimated their numbers. Azov, which SOFREP contributors have described as misunderstood and definitely not Nazis, has been accused by some Ukrainian sources of chickening out after losing just six of its members KIA'd at Ilovaisk, when the opposition wasn't just a few easily rolled Mariupol cops turned separatists with small arms it could rout using a garbage truck for armor. Faced with actual rocket and mortar fire at Ilovaisk rather than Berkut riot policemen who lacked even firearms, many 'heroes of the Maidan' like Semen Semenchenko whined on their Facebook pages that the Ukrainian Army abandoned them, and then fled the battlefield with conveniently timed wounds.
Has Russia Done This Procedure Before When Its Proxies Encountered NATO Troops Where They Weren't Supposed to Be? Getting the Turkish Special Forces/Mercenary Advisers Out of East Aleppo
Several months following the Ilovaisk debacle, after lying about the scope of its losses at Donetsk Airport, Kiev clearly had something to hide at Debaltsevo. At that time Team RogueMoney's friend Dr. Jim Willie said his sources in Europe had reported NATO mercenaries trapped in the pocket, and that Merkel/Hollande were demanding safe corridors to evacuate civilians from Debaltsevo's 'cauldron' in -- with buses also perhaps evacuating foreign military or mercenaries out of uniform. Naturally, the LDNR and Russian propaganda likely exaggerated the number of foreigners among the Ukrainians to enhance their victory.
The relevancy of this recent history to the present is plain if we look at east Aleppo, where the only NATO special forces left in the broken pockets of resistance are probably Turkish. This week the militants are suing for a truce that would enable them to evacuate via the Syrian government's well known green bus express to Idlib. Such an evacuation might allow the super fit looking Turks among the 'Syrian' fighters to escape the tightening Syrian/Russian noose and live to fight another day alongside their jihadi clients.
The point being, in places where the Russians have decisively committed to helping their proxies win using massed fires and airpower -- as at Palmyra and Aleppo -- they've won. A point that an anonymous, (likely Polish) Slavic contributor to one of the Russia Analyst's new favorite sites seems to have missed in relation to Ukraine, where Russian support has been far more limited for the LDNR than for the Syrian Arab Army and has not involved a single documented air or cruise missile strike.
Life in Damascus during the Syrian civil war https://t.co/RTo3WkYQ8V
— SOFREP (@SOFREP) December 7, 2016
— The War Nerd (@TheWarNerd) December 5, 2016
Why the Russia Analyst is a Fan of SOFREP's Reporting --- Exposing the Tensions Between the Pentagon and the CIA, and How Langley Seems Far Less Focused on ISIS Than Assad
I'm referring to SOFREP.com, an online magazine published by Jack Murphy, a former U.S Army Special Forces soldier turned new media entrepreneur. For going to Damascus and telling the truth about the Syria war to a neocon dominated Washington Establishment that doesn't want to hear it -- including the disgust many JSOC guys have for training the 'moderate rebels' they know are jihadist Al-Qaeda/ISIS sympathizers -- Mr. Murphy is a hero. The Russia Analyst encourages RogueMoney readers to do their best to spread Murphy's reports about the CIA's foot dragging on the anti-ISIS mission as far and wide as possible.
At the same time, while if we met Mr. Murphy we'd buy him a beer, no one -- not even his neocon critics who accuse him of being an 'Assadist' -- can claim he's 'soft on the Russians'. Not if they actually read SOFREP.com, which publishes many accounts glorifying the Ukrainian military and volunteer battalions' exploits, while not always soft pedaling the UAF's problems of supply shortages, low morale and alcoholism. The tendency toward heavy drinking in the UAF trenches is worsened by missed 'demobbing' dates because Kiev can't conscript enough young men to fight and provide shorter rotations for burned out troops).
DENY THIS, Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej Polski -- SOFREP.com's Combat Memoir of at Least ONE NATO 'Vacationer' Describing the Alleged Active Duty Russian Army Opposing Ukrainian Soldiers as a 'Paper Tiger'
Ironically, one aspect of the Donbass war that SOFREP has in spades that one also sees in pro-LDNR sites like Ft. Russ -- the assumption that anyone on the enemy's side who knows how to fight must by definition be a professional soldier (and a dead Pole or Croat left behind on the battlefield in UAF uniform must look just like a dead Ukrainian). Thus when the Novorossiya Armed Forces (NAF) of the Donetsk People's Republic encountered fierce resistance from the well dug in 'cyborgs' of the UAF at the Donetsk Airport, only eventually grinding them down with artillery and close quarters combat -- which would not have been necessary had the Russian Air Force simply fried the place -- the NAF's propaganda spoke of Polish troops at the airport. Maybe that's who left behind those Barrett sniper rifles, M-16s and at least one Polish flag in the rubble Bellingcat insists the Russians planted there for their propaganda.
The UAF has the same tendency, to assume that any competent opponent on the breakway republics' side MUST be a Russian Army regular, if not a member of the highly trained VDV spetsnaz actually spotted in Syria. They also have a tendency to use 'drive by' propaganda techniques, pioneered by StopFake.org, to dismiss any claims that the 'foreign volunteers' in the UAF are doing it for more than adventure and $200 a month or less in hyrvnia.
Ukraine Might Not Have the Money for NATO Mercs, But Somebody Paid for Fluent Italian Speaking 'Ukrainians' Or Lousy Slavic Russian Speakers (Poles Recalling RU Lessons from the late 1980s Solidarity/Perestroika Era?) Outside Slayvansk
Every Soldier Thinks He's the Best -- But Contact With Reality and the Actual Enemy Sometimes Comes as a Shock -- Thankfully We Probably Won't Find Out How Well NATO Would Fight Without Air Cover on Russia's Doorstep
One article at SOFREP.com stood out as the exception to this rule of Ukrainian propaganda, that everyone fighting them has to be either a mercenary from Chechnya or a Buryat conscript from Siberia -- and thousands of Donbass natives couldn't possibly have been sufficiently pissed off by the 'Maidan revolution' or atrocities like the Odessa massacre to have taken up arms against Kiev. And its unknown author uses an oddly Soviets in Afghanistan term, 'bandits', to describe the Donbass native units of mixed quality ranging from hardened veterans to teenagers, old men and even some women holding the trenches.
This nameless SOFREP NATO 'vacationer', who makes a nod to the Slavic bravery of his enemies while boasting of the vast superiority of the NATO infantryman, is almost certainly Polish. He displays exactly the kind of historic Polish swagger which, while saving Europe at the gates of Vienna in 1683, also got many Polish soldiers killed in droves at Kiev in 1920 or at Borodino in 1812. SOFREP's NATO 'vacationer' concludes with this flourish:
Thankfully for SOFREP's brave Polish super soldier, Donald J. Trump and not Hillary Clinton was elected President of the United States on November 8. So he won't get to experience alongside some American advisers that 'oh shit' moment when they realize there aren't just small LDNR drones overhead, but SU-34s and Ka-52s locked and loaded hunting for vastly superior NATO infantry like him, while the 1st Guards Tank Army's massed cluster rockets just incinerated many of the Ukrainian Army units encircled around him in the Donbass.
Someday soon perhaps, a Polish journalist with big brass ones will work up the nerve to ask Warsaw's Defense Ministry to produce a list of all soldiers killed or injured in 'training accidents' or within months of discharge since April 2014. We won't hold our breaths for a similar list from the NATO member Baltic states or Finland or NATO cheerleader Carl Bildt's [Azov battalion staffing] Swedes. But we'd guesstimate the number of 'vacationer' or 'ex' Western servicemen KIA is about a couple dozen and seriously WIA double that figure.
Conclusions: Russian Propaganda Has Vastly Exaggerated the Scale of US/NATO Mercenaries and Advisers Present in the Donbass/ATO Zone -- But That Doesn't Mean They Were Never There and In Harm's Way
Admittedly, Russian propaganda outlets have tended to vastly exagerrate the number of foreigners in the Ukrainian ranks as well as ascribe the competency of any UAF unit that can actually hold its ground much less advance in heavy combat to direct NATO intervention. Such exaggerations have made it easy for NATO officials like the alliance's former Ambassador to Moscow Robert Psczcel to dismiss voices shouting at him on Russian TV that the Poles covered up hundreds of coffins being flown from the ATO zone back to Warsaw.
As the expression goes just because you're paranoid doesn't mean no one is looking for you, and just because Russian TV doesn't always tell the truth about the Donbass war doesn't mean NATO is either.
Hell, if Jack Murphy wants to write me off as just another 'conspiracy nut', he can ask how many American pilots who disappeared during the Korean or Vietnam Wars ended up dying in Siberia, and likewise, how many Soviet pilots or SAM crews were killed in Korea, Nam or the Arab-Israeli wars. Why exactly would Cold War 2.0, even with the advent of smart phones to film no speak Russian foreigners with the UAF in the Donbass, be so different from the last Cold War's disavowed combats?
In conclusion, let us hope that 'someone's bullshit political agenda' as Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) said in 1994's Clear and Present Danger isn't deliberately putting American soldiers in harms' way alongside the UAF and in Syria ahead of President elect Trump's inauguration...to block any prospective U.S.-Russia thaw with flag-draped American coffins. The truth about the Ukraine war -- especially Kiev's hidden casualties that RFE/RL, BBC and AP refuse to report -- needs a soldier.