From where I stand, the tens of thousands of Russian troops “amassed” on the Ukraine border smell exactly like the late Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
Here’s Agence France-Presse: “ . . .Russia seized the Black Sea region of Crimea and massed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.”
NBC: “the number (or Russian troops) is estimated at 150,000 . . .”
CNN: “Russia may have 40,000 troops near its border with eastern Ukraine and another 25,000 on alert and prepared to go in. . .”
AP: “Russian troops continue to mass along the Ukrainian border.”
John Kerry, after his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: Russia must pull back “thousands of troops massed along the Ukraine border” because those forces are creating a "climate of fear" inside Ukraine that does not support diplomatic dialogue.
Exactly where on the border is this mass of troops? “We went to look for ourselves,” writes Jim Maceda, a correspondent for United States television networks for 40 years. He and two colleagues drove an unmarked grey minivan the length of the 1,200-mile border.
They went to Sudzha, Kursk, five miles from the border, where a “Russian tank column” had been reported several days earlier. “As we drove around the quaint town, we saw no tanks or armored personnel carriers. We did see ATM machines on almost every block. All was quiet. There was no tension in the air. Outside of town farmers were planting winter wheat.”
They had traveled 500 miles along the border before they saw any sign of military activity — at the Belgorod army base near the civilian airport. Two MI-24 military helicopters took off, circled the perimeter of the base, and landed. Even on the base, they spotted no armored vehicles. They drove right up to the border gate to ask people about the reports of Russian troops preparing to invade. A taxi driver told them he was losing fares because the Ukrainian border guards lo longer allowed him to take passengers to the Ukrainian city of Karkov. But the Ukrainians did have tanks parked just inside the border. Referring to the neo-Nazi faction that was instrumental in overturning the elected government of Ukraine, a Russian said to Maceda, “Can you imagine if a trained Right Sector commandeered those tanks and fired on us?”
Maceda asked if he thought Kiev would give such an order. “No, I don’t,” he replied. “But also we have no faith that Kiev could prevent such an incident.”
After Belgorod, Maceda and his companions spent two days “traversing seemingly endless farmland on pot-holed roads, passing chicken coups and old ladies selling buckets of apples -- but no signs of brewing war.” At two army bases along the way — in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky and Rostov, both near Ukraine’s southeastern border —“the only activity we saw was some serious latrine duty and a band of conscripts enjoying a friendly wrestling match,” Maceda wrote.
Lavrov acknowledged that units from the army bases near the border have conducted training exercises, but insisted, both to Kerry and on Russian television, "We have absolutely no intention of, or interest in, crossing Ukraine's borders.”
In the interview with Russian television, Lavrov called the western sanctions against Russia a "dead-end" strategy that would not achieve results and accused the west of hypocrisy. He said it was inconsistent for the west to refuse to recognize Crimea's annexation, which followed a referendum on joining Russia that was overwhelmingly approved, while at the same time accepting the new government in Kiev, which was formed after the democratically-elected president president fled the country.
"If they are willing to accept the first event as legitimate, then surely they are obliged to acknowledge the second," Lavrov said.
The non-profit Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), an independent research and media organization based in Montreal, echoes the charge of hypocrisy:
“In excluding Russia from the G8 group of the industrialized nations, the United States and its partners are behaving in an intolerant, duplicitous and hypocritical manner.
“For those who willfully ignore the historical facts, it’s noteworthy that the Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet signed between Russia and Ukraine on May 28, 1997, permits Russia to lawfully maintain up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored vehicles and 22 military planes on the Crimean peninsula. This agreement will be effective until 2017, and is the most convincing logical justification for Russia’s military action in Crimea.
“What has happened is not an ‘occupation’ as the U.S. leaders claim, but that Russia has exercised its legal right for employing troops in a geographical area where the majority of inhabitants are ethnic Russians and don’t want to remain under the Ukraine autonomy and are overwhelmingly inclined to join Russia.
“What every neutral and unbiased observer of the international political developments can easily note is that it’s the United States which is renowned for its hegemonic policies and its imperialistic modus operandi, not Russia. Russia’s intervention in Crimea took place after it felt that its national interests are being seriously endangered on its borders, where 58% of the population is consisted of indigenous Russians who prefer to be reunited with Russia, rather than being seen as an asset and prize for the United States under the leadership of a new government in Ukraine which has neo-fascist backgrounds.”Neo-fascists. Ruthless dictators. We’ll go palsy-walsy with anyone to further our hegemonic interests. It’s the American way.