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There has been a lot of contradictory information regarding Russia's alleged buildup against Ukraine. The US has claimed that Russia has massed at least 40,000 troops on the border with Eastern Ukraine. The US has produced satellite photos, which they say are of Russian military equipment.

The Russians admit that these photos show Russian units. The catch is that they say that these photos were taken back in August, when Russia and other CIS nations were participating in a massive military exercise in the area in question.

These exercises are public knowledge.

Spread across three phases, the exercise involves the participation of air defence units from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

After starting with the master switching of troops to full combat readiness at the places of their deployment, the first phase is scheduled to conclude with re-deployment of servicemen and military hardware of air defence units to a testing range in Ashuluk in the Astrakhan region, southern Russia.

The re-deployment will be followed by an active phase of the exercise.

RT says Ukraine was involved. Airforce Technology does not mention Ukrainian involvement even though Yanukovych was still in power.

One reason to be skeptical of Breedlove's claim is that satellite photos were used erroneously to make the claim that Iraq was actively in possession of weapons of mass destruction. The notorious presentation by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell permanently damaged his reputation as someone who was simply motivated by the common good.

Another reason to be skeptical is that by treaty, Russia and their allies make regular flights over NATO territory to verify troop placement. Other observers make similar inspection flights over Russian territory to verify Russian troop placement. These observers have not made any such claims regarding any alleged Russian invasion. The Open Skies Treaty allows signatories to conduct inspection flights over territory on short notice to verify troop movements. We would find these claims more credible if they were made following an Open Skies Treaty inspection.

The third reason to be skeptical is that the narrative presented by Ukraine and the US is that Russia is clandestinely sneaking troops into East Ukraine to stir up trouble prior to invasion. OSCE found no evidence of this; there are no press releases to that effect by OSCE over the past 8 days. And a report today from the Russia-Ukraine border from Al-Jazeera finds normal activity besides the Ukrainian military digging in to repel a possible attack. This corroborates an earlier report from a few weeks ago by NBC News showing insufficient evidence of an invasion.

The fourth thing that does not pass the smell test is, if the US is so certain that a Russian invasion is imminent, then why have they not shared these plans with Ukraine?

However, the Russians still have a lot of explaining to do. The Guardian publishes the same photos that RT does. In the Guardian link, three of the photos show a date of March 22, 2014 and one shows a date of April 2nd. One is unidentified; the others are attributed to be from Buturlinovka Airbase, Primorko-Akhtarsk Airbase, and purported special forces at Yeysk. Two key questions must be answered -- can Russia prove that these photos were actually taken back in August as claimed? Or, in the alternative, can the US produce photos showing these areas were empty several months ago?

But even if it is verified that there is such a buildup, it does not follow that there will necessarily be an invasion. It is public knowledge that Ukraine has brought a lot of troops towards its eastern border. Given Russia's stated belief that Ukraine's new government has Neo-Nazis within its coalition, this move could have been done to repel a possible invasion given that they were once invaded by Nazis. Alternatively, these troops could be present as a show of force, to let Ukraine know that they are capable of striking in short notice.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

    by Eternal Hope on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 08:21:19 PM PDT

  •  As you say, their credibility (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope, Joieau

    is severely tarnished. They've done it before; why wouldn't we believe they would do it again?

    Come to think of it, that statement could be applied to both the United States and Russia...

  •  when it comes to warmongering, I don't trust our (5+ / 0-)

    media anymore than I trust RT

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 08:42:20 PM PDT

  •  China recently attempted to establish.. (5+ / 0-)

    ...a blockade so that the Philippines did not resupply its garrison on a strategically-located island.

    Moreover, a couple of days ago, China explicitly told the US that it should not concern itself with "territorial disputes" in Southeast Asia.

    My point?

    No country is more elated with the US focusing on the Ukraine than China.

    Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

    by PatriciaVa on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 08:42:42 PM PDT

    •  This presumes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The administration can't walk and chew him at the same time.  Maybe they can't I don't know. Still China's actions are ever troubling.   I dare say the Philippines are looking at Ukraine and learning the lesson that they're probably on their own also

      •  We have previously fought the Japanese (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in part to liberate the Philippines.  We would never hang the Philippines out to dry.  They are a major non-NATO ally.

        The Stars and Bars and the red swastika banner are both offerings to the same barbaric god.

        by amyzex on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 07:43:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  doubtful (0+ / 0-)

          that was seventy years ago.  We fought to liberate Ukraine too, and look at the lack of interest in doing anything there.  Today, the US isn't interested in that kind of thing.  We tend to meet genocide, war crimes, and imperialism with a yawn, or even a cheer, on both left and right.  

    •  Second Thomas Shoal (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Is not an Island,

      Second Thomas Shoal is claimed by the Philippines and China.[6] The Philippine navy maintains a presence of less than a dozen navy personnel on a rusting ship. The 100 m (330 ft) long U.S.-built (Second World War) Philippine Navy ship LT 57 Sierre Madre was deliberately run aground at the shoal in 1999 in response to the Chinese occupation of Mischief Reef.[7][8] The Philippines claims that the shoal is part of its continental shelf,[9] while parts of the Spratly group of islands, where Second Thomas Shoal lies, are claimed by China, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. In 2014, the Chinese government asked the Philippines to remove the grounded ship.[10][11]
    •  That's trivial (0+ / 0-)

      In the big picture the neighbors of China have formed a long political and military cordon against its right wingers' expansionism and deliberate bad behavior along its southern land border and bisecting the South and East China Seas.  It runs more or less from Delhi to Manila to Tokyo, with the U.S. the provider of mobile military strength.   Blame Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for assembling this containment in 2009, and the deeply painful and consequential strategic loss Beijing took when HRC pried Burma out of Beijing's orbit in 2011.  This cost Chinese neoimperialists Rangoon, i.e. the commercial port and naval base they desired to have on the Indian Ocean.

      Since then the right wing in Beijing has been embittered toward the U.S. but has only been able to do some bullying about various glorified rocks in the ocean relatively close to Chinese shores.  And making/letting its junk yard dog client-ally, North Korea, behave badly.  Also for the most part involving some tiny rocky islets.

  •  Why on earth? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe from Lowell, amyzex

    Would anyone expect either the results of flyovers or satellite photos to make their way into the public domain?  We have zero way of knowing whether the US has or has not shared anything with the Ukainian government.  Of your various efforts, this isn't up to your usual standards

    Generally, Ukraine and US have cause to warn against possible incursions to build support against such a move whereas Russia's role is to deny it.  Whether there are troops there or not, these roles really don't change given the current status.  Either way no one here or in the press is in a position to know squat

    And Colin Powell and the Bush administration aren't in power so that argument is pretty flat.  And certainly we can't hold The Putin regime up as a paragon of trustworthiness Either

    Long story short, this is not a story that we are going to have any sense of the truth of unless there is an invasion.  In the event there isn't, we will only know whether there were troops years from now and some propagandists somewhere will ever claim the opposite regardless of what the truth is

    •  Actually: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's been reported that we haven't shared information to Ukraine about Russia's invasion plans even though we claim that such an invasion is imminent.

      "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

      by Eternal Hope on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 09:05:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That article says why this is so (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mogolori, joe from Lowell, killjoy

        According to the article, the notion is that it is impossible to share information with Ukraine without also sharing it with Moscow given the high probability that Russian intelligence has infiltrated the Ukrainian military.

        So, while you present it as something that indicates that there is no military presence, instead there's a different explanation right there in your source.  Might want to mention this instead of saying:

        The fourth thing that does not pass the smell test is, if the US is so certain that a Russian invasion is imminent, then why have they not shared these plans with Ukraine?
        So,your own source answers that.  I'd edit that out, if it were me.

        Still, given the amount of activity that our government does that is secret, I'd be surprised that we know what is going on.  We have a Republican Representative saying this, but then one expects critical statements to come from that corner whether they're true or not.  That's probably the one group that has even less credibility than Putin.  THen the unnamed "senior intelligence official"  At least it is a story with a second source, so that makes is more credible, but don't color me surprised if this turns out not to be the case.

        I am praying of course that we NEVER find out because adults finally take charge and kick the numerous idiots here to the curb

  •  It's funny (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Involuntary Exile, Lepanto, amyzex, mkor7

    On Feb 26, 2014 , the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and Pentagon said there were 150,000 Russian Troops on the Ukraine Border,

    On March 3,2014, the number claimed was 100,000 and Kerry and Merkel were claiming that the Russians hadn't reduced the forces,

    On April 8, 2014, the Pentagon reduced the claimed number of troops to 80,000, while the Ukraine Defence Ministry, stuck at 100,000.

    Now the Pentagon number is 40,000, the Ukranians are stuck at 100,000, and Kerry and Merkel are still claiming Russia hasn't withdrawn any Forces from the border,

    And when asked if these number estimates include the 25,000 that have always been stationed in Crimea, they evade the question.

  •  i dont get (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe from Lowell, killjoy

    I try to load the original at but for some reason dont get the original piece.

    in the header though, they state that "As can be seen from the pictures themselves, all images were taken in March and April 2014".

    This opposing claim should be easy to settle for journalists, after all there are public satellites available. This doesnt need to stay a say-so. Even the NATO released images themselves are Digital Globe and not some secret asset imagery, so I can hardly understand how Russia´s date claim can hold up.

    Further, as far as I read it, no one claims that an invasion "is imminent", only that the buildup "can be used" for an invasion at 24 hrs notice. Who (in the US?) says that an invasion actually is imminent?

    I understood that NATO simply claims that these troops are there, not what they are there for, and that NATO said "they are not being moved for days on end, unlike what would happen if they actually were on a maneuver" ... "so what is the deal with this"?

    so while I agree that NATO´s claims cant be taken for granted either, I do think you are slanting towards building strawmans (strawpeople?) in this diary. That there is "nothing to see by the eye at the border itself" is disingenious: of course not, in either case.

  •  Very balanced diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    Thank you for contributing this.

    The Stars and Bars and the red swastika banner are both offerings to the same barbaric god.

    by amyzex on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 07:42:22 AM PDT

  •  Demonstrating the season (0+ / 0-)

    in which the photos were taken is in this case easy as pie. August is high summer. Green grass, leaves on trees (that haven't even begun to color-up yet), there may even be a heat signature the camera had to compensate for.

    It is early April now, the eastern Ukraine/Russian border area would still be late winter/very early spring. Maybe some bulbs up and fruit trees in bloom, nothing but buds (and those barely) on trees.

    This sure seems like a no-brainer to me.

    There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

    by Joieau on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 07:43:37 AM PDT

    •  Pictures are here: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

      by Eternal Hope on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 11:14:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmmm... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eternal Hope

        Not great angles, and (of course) missing surroundings as much as possible. Still, shrubs/trees near the buildings in photo 2 on that page sure look to be in full leaf and casting solid shadows. Unless they're evergreens, that could be a clue.

        Picture 4 is pretty darned green too, and again the shrubbery/trees look to be in full swing. I'm not a satellite photo analyst by any means, and I don't know if all the landscaping on Russian bases tends to evergreens, or even if they use astroturf instead of grass/weeds on the ground generally. But I'd guess summer.

        There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

        by Joieau on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 12:02:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Oh, please (0+ / 0-)
    The fourth thing that does not pass the smell test is, if the US is so certain that a Russian invasion is imminent, then why have they not shared these plans with Ukraine?
    Because if you look at it with a tactical military eye, no particular plan or prediction of what Russian ground forces will do is likely to hold up.

    The distances on the ground from Russian military units supposedly 20-30 miles from the Ukrainian border to the relevant Ukrainian cities are relatively small- the units can probably move at 40-60 miles an hour and reach them in less than two hours, in some cases less than an hour, even by not taking the most direct routes.  Ukrainian forces there are much smaller and not strongly armed and can perhaps close a major road or two in force, but it's easy enough for a sufficient Russian invasion force to bypass and obviate any such defense by just rolling around them across fields and taking smaller roads.   It's also entirely to Russian military advantage and these things being politically in for a penny, in for a pound to send in all invasion forces all at once and everywhere there's a worthwhile objective, so it's at least 90% probability they won't do the thing piecemeal.

    The significantly useful information on the defense side is strategic, i.e. when it will happen.  At this point all military defense of such an invasion would be expected to be token and futile, i.e. quite easily defeated.

  •  i have to give EH (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    I have to offer eternal hope my excuses. Today it was indeed reported that NATO sources believe that Russia plans a military takeover of the entire Ukraine.

    that seems to have been a fresh report however. A "secret NATO document" was said to have been leaked wherein NATO staffers estimate that Russia will militarily attack although the estimate given was with 25K soldiers, not 40K, and that the object is the entire Ukraine and not just the eastern part.

    if true (I mean if this is really said in a NATO study) then its indeed worth questioning what that assessment is based upon. Also, if this is not merely a contingency study.

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