Alternate headline: Second look at the NSA? In a closed-door meeting last Friday, John Kerry claimed that Western intel had captured telephone conversations that prove Russia has directed the separatist groups in eastern Ukraine in their campaign to destabilize the country. Some of the handlers are the same as in Crimea, Kerry claimed in the meeting, which Josh Rogin and Eli Lake exclusively report for The Daily Beast:
“Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from,” Kerry said at a private meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington. A recording of Kerry’s remarks was obtained by The Daily Beast.
Kerry didn’t name specific Russian officials implicated in the recordings. But he claimed that the intercepts provided proof of the Russians deliberately fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine—and lying about it to U.S. officials and the public.
“It’s not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine,” said Kerry. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue state-ism. It’s the worst order of behavior.” …
Kerry has asserted publicly before that Russian intelligence officers were the “catalyst” behind the riots and government building takeovers in eastern Ukraine. But on Friday he told the private audience why he—and the U.S. intelligence community—were so sure of this assessment.
If so, then American intel has caught up after missing in its analysis of Crimea and Russia. Perhaps the Obama administration has also caught up with reality. After scolding the EU for its part in exacerbating the Ukraine crisis with its support for the Euromaidan protests, Kerry blasted Sergei Lavrov for being a big, fat, un-reset-button liar. If that paraphrase sounds undiplomatic, Kerry’s actual language wasn’t much less plain:
“Right now there is not a negotiation; there is a confrontation. I’m sad to report I’ve never seen such a complete, miserable, unaccountable, disgraceful walk away from a set of promises and understandings than what has taken place,” Kerry said. ““I’ve had six conversations with Lavrov in the last weeks. The last one was kafta-esque, it was other planet, it was just bizarre. Nobody is better at telling you that red is blue and black is white… That’s what we are dealing with.”
Well … yes. That’s what Obama administration critics have said since the Reset Button fiasco five years ago. That’s what we said when Obama unilaterally canceled the missile shield program in eastern Europe, too, and pretty much what we’ve said about Russia all along. For those five years, Obama’s critics were called a bunch of revanchists and Cold War obsessives. Talk about Kafka-esque. Welcome to the non-Metamorphosis of Moscow, Obama administration Russophiles!
What does Russia have to say for itself? A Lavrov deputy waggled the finger of shame at Europe for its “Iron Curtain” sanctions. No, seriously:
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said “Iron Curtain”-style US sanctions could harm its hi-tech sector.
Moscow also said the EU should be ashamed of extending its sanctions and was “under Washington’s thumb”. …
He added: “This is a revival of a system created in 1949 when Western countries essentially lowered an ‘Iron Curtain’, cutting off supplies of hi-tech goods to the USSR and other countries.”
A Russian foreign ministry statement said the EU was “doing Washington’s bidding with new unfriendly gestures towards Russia”.
It added: “If that is how someone in Brussels is hoping to stabilise the situation in Ukraine, then it is a clear indication of a complete lack of understanding of the interior political situation in the country… Are you not ashamed?”
Russian forces seized Crimea, staged a phony plebiscite, and Russian-directed forces are doing the same thing in eastern Ukraine … and it’s Europe that should be ashamed. I’d mention Kafka again here, but this is less shocking for those who didn’t think that centuries of Russian imperialism and Soviet-style propaganda ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, especially with a former KGB lieutenant colonel setting himself up as tsar.