US mulls arming Ukraine in struggle

With Russian-backed separatists pressing their attacks in Ukraine, NATO’s military commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, now supports providing defensive weapons and equipment to Kiev’s beleaguered forces, and an array of administration and military officials appear to be edging toward that position, American officials said Sunday.

President Obama has made no decisions on providing such lethal assistance. But after a series of striking reversals that Ukraine’s forces have suffered in recent weeks, the Obama administration is taking a fresh look at the question of military aid.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who plans to visit Kiev on Thursday, is open to new discussions about providing lethal assistance, as is Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, officials said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is leaving his post soon, backs sending defensive weapons to the Ukrainian forces.

In recent months, Susan E. Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, has resisted proposals to provide lethal assistance, several officials said. But one official who is familiar with her views insisted that Ms. Rice was now prepared to reconsider the issue.

Fearing that the provision of defensive weapons might tempt President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to raise the stakes, the White House has limited American aid to “non-lethal” items, including body armor, night-vision goggles, first aid kits and engineering equipment.

But the failure of economic sanctions to dissuade Russia from sending heavy weapons and military personnel to eastern Ukraine is pushing the issue of defensive weapons back into discussion.

“Although our focus remains on pursuing a solution through diplomatic means, we are always evaluating other options that will help create space for a negotiated solution to the crisis,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

Fueling the broader debate over policy is an independent report to be issued Monday by eight former senior American officials, who urge the United States to send $3 billion in defensive arms and equipment to Ukraine, including anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored Humvees and radars that can determine the location of enemy rocket and artillery fire.

By MICHAEL R. GORDON and ERIC SCHMITT – New York Times –

Russian spy ship in Havana during US-Cuba talks

A Russian intelligence warship docked in Havana on Tuesday, a day before the start of historic US-Cuba talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations.

There was nothing stealthy about the arrival of the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, which was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock. But the visit was not officially announced by Cuban authorities.

US officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not at all out of the ordinary.

“It’s not unprecedented. It’s not unusual. It’s not alarming,” a defense official told AFP.

The Vishnya or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, according to Russian media.

From AFP & Yahoo News –

The Outlook for the New Year

Washington has shaped 2015 to be a year of conflict. The conflict could be intense.

Washington is the cause of the conflict, which has been brewing for some time. Russia was too weak to do anything about it when the Clinton regime pushed NATO to Russia’s borders and illegally attacked Yugoslavia, breaking the country into small easily controlled pieces. Russia was also too weak to do anything about it when the George W. Bush regime withdrew from the ABM treaty and undertook to locate anti-ballistic missile bases on Russia’s borders. Washington lied to Moscow that the purpose of the ABM bases is to protect Europe from non-existent Iranian nuclear ICBMs. However, Moscow understood that the purpose of the ABM bases is to degrade Russia’s nuclear deterrent, thereby enhancing Washington’s ability to coerce Russia into agreements that compromise Russian sovereignty.

By summer 2008 Russian power had returned. On Washington’s orders, the US and Israeli trained and equipped Georgian army attacked the breakaway republic of South Ossetia during the early hours of August 8, killing Russian peacekeepers and civilian population. Units of the Russian military instantly responded and within a few hours the American trained and equipped Georgian army was routed and defeated. Georgia was in Russia’s hands again, where the province had resided during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Putin should have hung Mikheil Saakashvili, the American puppet installed as president of Georgia by the Washington-instigated “Rose Revolution”, and reincorporated Georgia into the Russian Federation. Instead, in a strategic error, Russia withdrew its forces, leaving Washington’s puppet regime in place to cause future trouble for Russia. Washington is pushing hard to incorporate Georgia into NATO, thus adding more US military bases on Russia’s border. However, at the time, Moscow thought Europe to be more independent of Washington than it is and relied on good relations with Europe to keep American bases out of Georgia.

Today the Russian government no longer has any illusion that Europe is capable of an independent foreign policy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated publicly that Russia has learned that diplomacy with Europe is pointless, because European politicians represent Washington’s interest, not Europe’s. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently acknowledged that Europe’s Captive Nation status has made it clear to Russia that Russian goodwill gestures are unable to produce diplomatic results.

With Moscow’s delusion shattered that diplomacy with the West can produce peaceful solutions, reality has set in, reinforced by the demonization of Vladimir Putin by Washington and its vassal states. Hillary Clinton called Putin the new Hitler. While Washington incorporates former constituent parts of the Russian and Soviet empires into its own empire and bombs seven countries, Washington claims that Putin is militarily aggressive and intends to reconstitute the Soviet empire. Washington arms the neo-nazi regime Obama established in Ukraine, while erroneously claiming that Putin has invaded and annexed Ukrainian provinces. All of these blatant lies are echoed repeatedly by the Western presstitutes. Not even Hitler had such a compliant media as Washington has.

Every diplomatic effort by Russia has been blocked by Washington and has come to naught. So now Russia has been forced by reality to update its military doctrine. The new doctrine approved on December 26 states that the US and NATO comprise a major military threat to the existence of Russia as a sovereign independent country.

The Russian document cites Washington’s war doctrine of pre-emptive nuclear attack, deployment of anti-ballistic missiles, buildup of NATO forces, and intent to deploy weapons in space as clear indications that Washington is preparing to attack Russia.

By Paul Craig Roberts – A Nation Beguiled –

US and Cuba to resume diplomatic relations

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, American officials said Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final culminating meeting at the Vatican, President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast.

The contractor, Alan Gross, boarded an American government plane bound for the United States on Wednesday morning and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who have been in an American prison since 1981. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who has been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap but released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”

In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the administration signaled that it would welcome a move by Congress to ease or lift it should lawmakers choose to.
“Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people,” the White House said in a written statement.

By Peter Baker – New York Times –

Russia to increase ‘patrols’ over Gulf of Mexico

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s announcement comes along with a spike in Russian flights over the Black, Baltic and North Seas and Atlantic.
The move highlights growing tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, where NATO says Russian tanks are streaming in.
Just Tuesday, Obama and Putin sat together in China for Asia-Pacific economic meeting that was pleasant in front of cameras but icy behind them.
On the table in addition to Ukraine were the issues of Russia’s involvement with warn-torn Syria and its renewed plans to build nuclear reactors in Iran.

Russia’s long-range bombers will range from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico on regular patrol missions, the military said Wednesday, a show of muscle reflecting tensions with the West over Ukraine.

A statement from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s statement comes as NATO has reported a spike in Russian military flights over the Black, Baltic and North seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

It reflects Moscow’s increasingly tough posture amid tensions with the West over Ukraine and its role in the conflict in Syria.

Shoigu said Russian long-range bombers will conduct flights along Russian borders and over the Arctic Ocean. He added that ‘in the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.’….

The bomber patrol flights have resumed under Putin’s rule and have become increasingly frequent in recent years.

On Monday, the European Leadership Network issued a report that found a sharp rise in Russian-NATO military encounters since the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea, including violations of national airspace, narrowly avoided midair collisions, close encounters at sea, harassment of reconnaissance planes, close overflights over warships, and Russian mock bombing raid missions.

Three of the nearly 40 incidents, the think tank said, carried a ‘high probability’ of causing casualties or triggering a direct military confrontation: a narrowly avoided collision between a civilian airliner and a Russian surveillance plane, the abduction of an Estonian intelligence officer, and a large-scale Swedish hunt for a suspected Russian submarine that yielded no result.

In September, the report said, Russian strategic bombers in the Labrador Sea off Canada practiced cruise missile strikes on the U.S. Earlier this year, in May,

the report said, Russian military aircraft approached within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the California coast, the closest such Russian military flight reported since the end of the Cold War….

By AP Reporter and Josh Gardner – MailOnline.com –