Ukrainian Maneuvers

KIEV/BERLIN | | ukraine

KIEV/BERLIN (Own report) - The publication of the preliminary report on the crash of Boeing MH17 in eastern Ukraine, has left crucial questions unanswered. For example, the report gives no indications of what sort of projectiles had hit the aircraft. This would be important for reconstructing whether the MH17 was actually shot down from a position on the ground. On-site forensics, which would have facilitated the investigation, had already been halted weeks ago, due to the Kiev government troops launching attacks on rebel positions in the immediate vicinity of the crash site. While resolving the cause of the crash is being delayed, NATO is loosing no time in its planning and carrying out military maneuvers. Over the past few days, the Alliance has held maneuvers in Baltic countries bordering on Russia - with German participation. More maneuvers are planned for today and over the next few days. The scenarios range from wars of intervention and occupation à la Afghanistan, to controlling maritime regions, to conflicts with militarily powerful nations, such as Russia. In reference to this latter scenario, NATO is planning a transition to a new type of warfare, according to the US military.

Unanswered Questions

What had caused the July 17 crash of the Boeing MH17 in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 persons aboard, remains unclear. According to the preliminary report published yesterday, there were no indications of technical malfunctions. The damage to the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the MH17, as shown in photographs, seem to have been caused "by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.” The plane apparently broke apart in mid-air. This, in fact, confirms that the Boeing had been shot down. However, the report does not provide answers to the crucial questions. The allegation by Russian sources that Ukrainian fighter jets were flying in the relative proximity of the passenger plane remains unanswered. Also unanswered is whether the aircraft had been hit by an air-to-air or a surface-to-air missile; whether the numerous small holes in the cockpit were caused by machinegun rounds, as the Canadian OSCE observer Michael Bociurkiw claimed, shortly after his first inspection. Important questions about the circumstances in which the forensics were undertaken remain unanswered as well. For example, why did Ukrainian troops force the experts to halt their on-site investigation of the crash, after only a few days, by launching attacks on rebel positions in the immediate vicinity.[1]

No Reliable Evidence

At the end of last week, the German government responded to a parliamentary interpellation concerning the MH17 crash, saying that the MH17 had been tracked during its flight by "two AWACS aircraft ... by means of radar, as well as signals from the MH-17's transponder." However, the radar recordings ended at 14:52 CET - just before the crash - when the Boeing left the AWACS' "zone of reconnaissance." According to the German government, the AWACS had recorded "signals from an anti-aircraft-missile system, which are "classified as 'Surface to Air-Missile' SA-3." It remains unclear, whether the latter was within the AWACS' "zone of reconnaissance," which the MH17 had already left by the time it is alleged to have been downed. If an anti-aircraft-missile system would have been stationed near the crash site, the question arises, how could the AWACS record a ground-based object, but not the airborne MH17. The German government admits that according to available information, it has "no reliable evidence of the possible use of anti-aircraft-missile systems" against the MH17.[2] This confirms that the German government has supported sanctions on Russia, purely on the basis of speculations. Immediately following the downing of the Malaysian Boeing, the EU imposed its first sanctions.

Take off from Ramstein

Even though the obvious shooting down of the MH17 is the second massacre remaining unresolved - with the February 20 sniper-murders at Kiev's Maidan Square - NATO is launching a set of maneuvers in rapid fire succession in countries bordering on Russia. Already, during NATO's summit in Newport, the war alliance carried out its "Steadfast Javelin II" maneuver - with German participation. The combat exercise began at the US Air Force Base in Ramstein, Germany, September 2. Around 2,000 soldiers from ten nations took part. On the weekend, 500 paratroopers were dropped at an airfield in Latvia - not even 150 km from the Russian border. Another 160 paratroopers trained in Lithuania. Smaller maneuvers were held also in Estonia and in Poland. The maneuver ending tomorrow, Thursday, is characterized by the US military as a transitional step from training exercises for combat interventions à la Afghanistan to training for combat with militarily powerful nations, such as Russia. This points toward NATO's future. Other maneuvers are set to follow.

Control of the Black Sea

The "Sea Breeze" maneuver, which began this past Monday, ends today, Wednesday. According to US information, this maneuver is especially focused on maritime interception missions - operations to intercept enemy forces. However it also trains in measures for taking control of maritime regions in crisis situations. Particularly armed forces from Black Sea riparian nations are participating - units from the NATO countries Turkey and Rumania, but also non-NATO nations Georgia and Ukraine. The "Sea Breeze" maneuvers, focused on taking control of the Black Sea, have been regularly held since 1997 in the Crimea, often with German troops participating. The population has repeatedly protested against these NATO combat maneuvers. In the aftermath of the February putsch in Kiev, Russia feared that Ukraine, with its new, extremely anti-Russian regime, could challenge Moscow's continued use of its essential Crimean naval base and possibly replace it with a NATO naval base.

From Kosovo to East Ukraine

Ultimately, the maneuver "Rapid Trident" is scheduled to begin in Western Ukraine next Monday, again with German participation. Like "Sea Breeze," "Rapid Trident" has also regularly been held since 1997. According to a report, it trains troops in the "typical tasks of stabilization missions, such as were recently standard in Afghanistan, for example providing security against mines and ambushes for military patrols."[3] This is an indication of Ukraine's past and future function for NATO - furnishing personnel and equipment for western interventions throughout the world. Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared that Kiev actually does keep soldiers in reserve for any NATO mission.[4] Ukrainian troops were already participating in the Iraq invasion. From August 2003 - under President Leonid Kuchma - until December 2008, the government had sent up to 1,650 soldiers into that country under US occupation. The Ukrainian civil war imposed limits on Kiev's activities. It has been reported that Hungarian soldiers have recently replaced around 100 Ukrainian soldiers, who were stationed in Kosovo, in the KFOR framework, so that they can fight in the civil war raging in the east of their country.

Other reports and background information on Germany's policy toward Ukraine can be found here: The Crimean Conflict, The Kiev Escalation Strategy, Cold War Images, The Free World, A Fatal Taboo Violation, The Europeanization of Ukraine, Official Government Vocative, An Unusual Mission, "Scientific Nationalists", Crisis of Legitimacy and "Fascist Freedom Fighters", The Restoration of the Oligarchs (IV), For Peace and Freedom, The Finnish Model, Second-Class Stakeholders, Establish Facts and Ukrainian Patriots.

[1] Dutch Safety Board: Preliminary report. Crash involving Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flight MH17. The Hague, September 2014.
[2] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf eine Kleine Anfrage der Fraktion Die Linke. Berlin, 05.09.2014.
[3] Johannes Leithäuser: Gipfel der Gesten. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05.09.2014.
[4] Ukraine's contribution to NATO peace support activities.