This article originally appeared at Off Guardian
The U.S. has long been trying to drive a wedge between Russia and Ukraine, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks said in an interview published on Monday by the Argentine newspaper Pagina/12, TASS news agency reports.
“The U.S. has long been trying to draw Ukraine into the Western orbit, to pluck it out of Russia’s sphere of influence as a minimum if not to make it a NATO member,” Assange said.
Under the influence of bureaucratic ambitions, Europe has gotten involved in the misadventure, too, he believes.
“The U.S. and Europe have allocated billions of dollars to set up nongovernmental organizations, with the aid of which they promised to help Ukraine curb corruption,” Assange said.
He recalled numerous warnings on the part of Russia that the attempts to bring Ukraine into NATO might trigger a civil war in that country.
Here is an excerpt of Assange’s comments delivered in a live videoconference with journalists from around the world:
— Let’s move on to Ukraine.
— The best analysis comes from a recognized geopolitical analyst, John Mearsheimer, a highly reputed academic whose work has been used even by the State Department. He is not an extremist. His opinion is the same as mine.What we say is documented in the cables.
There is one cable from 2008 showing that Russia drew a line in the sand and set her limits to the United States and NATO. The cable is titled “No means no” and refers to the territorial expansion of NATO. It explains that if there was interference in Ukraine through an attempt to integrate it into NATO, this would not be tolerated by the heavily Russian-speaking regions in Ukraine, who consider themselves Russian for having belonged to the Soviet Union, and Crimea is one of those regions. And Russia warned that the attempt to bring Ukraine into NATO would cause a civil war.
Thus you can see the strategic importance Russia confers to Ukraine as part of the Slavic civilization and to the military-industrial complex in eastern Ukraine, which continues to produce ballistic guided missiles, missile parts, etc. The US has long been trying to bring Ukraine into the West, if not with aNATO membership, at least by Ukraine becoming independent of Moscow’ssphere of influence, in order to reduce the Russian military-industrial complex and reduce its naval bases in Crimea.
They had been trying to do this for a long time and Russia had been complaining and warning about what would happen. Europe, under the influence of the European Union’s bureaucratic expansionism, joined the attempt.
But the Russians are not innocent. Their handling of their most valued and dear strategic ally, of their closest trading partner, was completely incompetent. No country can operate in Ukraine as Russia can. BecauseUkrainians speak Russian and look like Russians due to family and trade relations between the two countries. Russia neglected Ukraine by relating not to its people, but to its oligarchy, to its political elite, to the Ukrainian economy. She spent billions of dollars in subsidies for Ukraine.
At the same time the US and Western Europe spent billions of dollars on the creation of NGOs and of social networks. Through these institutions and these media the West promised to end corruption in Ukraine. The Russians did a lot of wrong things when they could have related to Ukraine in a different fashion. They removed many agents of the FSB (Russian secret service) from Ukraine and transferred them to Chechnya in order to prevent terrorist attacks. Chechnya became Russia’s first priority, and now we see the results of neglecting Ukraine.
— And regarding the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov just feet away from the Kremlin?
— There’s a link to what is happening in Ukraine. It looks like the special forces Russia is using to train and support separatist forces in eastern Ukraine come, or at least initially came from, Chechnya, and there’s a reason for that: Chechen forces are the best trained and more experienced in what they call counterinsurgency operations, which basically means fighting in a civil war, because that is what is happening in Chechnya, a breakaway republic seeking independence from Russia. For this reason Russia used Chechnya regiments in Ukraine, and these regiments are controlled by the president of the Chechen region (Ramzan) Kadyrov. And I do not mean Kadyrov is loyal to Putin, since he has his own agenda, but formally he depends on Putin.
Throughout the Chechen conflict Kadyrov deployed troops and intelligence services that are quite powerful and that have been charged with murder, even in Vienna for example, of Kadyrov opponents. The war in Ukraine made Russia pour much money on Chechen forces and Chechen intelligence services. The result is that they became very powerful and now somehow rival the FSB, which until now was the only intelligence service that operated and gathered intelligence abroad. The material murderers of Nemtsov at the Kremlin’’s entrance were Chechens linked to the secret services of this country.
— And Kadyrov said the murderer was a national hero …
— Exactly. That’s why it is hard to know what is happening, but at some level Chechen services were proving that the FSB does not control Moscow and that they have the power to kill someone at the gates of the Kremlin.
This does not mean that Kadyrov ordered the murder, it is possible that some intermediate command sought to prove its usefulness to Kadyrov or the Russian far right.
Let’s consider now what happened next. A week or two after the murder, Putin honored Kadyrov with a medal for services to Russia. At the same ceremony he also honored the FSB agent who had poisoned with polonium the former spy Litvinenko in a London sushi restaurant (in 2006). In the West’s perspective, the image Putin left at the awards ceremony was horrible. It was as if he had said: “I supported equally the two murders,” the FSB’s and the Chechens’. Putin had shown himself to be angry and confused after the death of Nemstov. So, giving this medal to Kadyrov generates confusion in the Russian population and makes it think that perhaps Putin ordered the killing, that maybe he is happy with the murder because he is a strong leader who controls the situation.
But the reality is that he does not control completely the Chechen forces. They are a very closed group, they have their own language and their own agenda.Putin’s power center is the FSB, who provide his safety, and the relationship with the Chechen services is very delicate, so the situation is very interesting.