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The Olympic betrayal of Russia

Alexander Mercouris

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In the first half of 2016, shortly before the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Professor Richard McLaren at the request of WADA published his preliminary report on sports doping in Russia.

No one – least of all the Russian authorities – disputed that there had been a significant problem with doping in Russia.  The Russian authorities moreover singled out the person who they said was the prime suspect – Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov – the head of RUSADA, Russia’s principal WADA affiliated anti-doping laboratory.

Rodchenkov had come under suspicion of involvement in doping before.  Though he had previously been cleared of involvement in doping, after the Winter Olympics in 2014 in Sochi in Russia he fell under suspicion again.  He fled abroad to the United States, where he is now the subject of a witness protection programme.

Though Rodchenkov’s deep involvement in the doping which had taken place in Russian sport was universally accepted, Professor McLaren nonetheless made him his star witness.

On Rodchenkov’s evidence and without first consulting with the Russian authorities McLaren declared that the doping amongst Russian athletes which had taken place during the Sochi Olympics was the result of a massive state sponsored conspiracy organised by the Russian government and carried out by Rodchenkov in collaboration with the FSB.  McLaren moreover said that this had been proved “beyond reasonable doubt”.

To that end, reversing the burden of proof, McLaren campaigned for all Russian athletes to be prevented from participating in the Rio Olympics irrespective of whether there was actual evidence against them of doping or not.

In the event, though several sports federations including crucially the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) did prevent Russian athletes affiliated to them from participating in the Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee refused to impose a blanket ban.

The International Paralympic Committee on the strength of McLaren’s report however did so, preventing Russian paralympic athletes from participating in the Paralympic Games in Rio.

A few months later, after the Rio Olympics were over, Professor McLaren published the complete version of his report.

This broke no new ground and made the same allegations that his preliminary report had made before.

The International Olympic Committee on the eve of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang has now gone a step further.

It has banned Russian athletes from competing in the Winter Olympics under their own flag, is preventing them from participating in the Opening Ceremony, and has prohibited the playing of the Russian national anthem if they win gold medals.

Instead selected Russian athletes may attend the Winter Olympics but only if invited by the International Olympic Committee to do so, and can only compete as ‘athletes from Russia’ under the Olympic flag.

In addition a number of Russian sports officials including the former Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko are banned for life from any involvement in the Olympic Games, whilst the Russian Olympic Committee – one of the founder Committees of the Olympic Movement – has had its membership suspended.

What are the grounds for this extraordinary set of decisions?  I ask this question because from a legal and sports point of view I do not understand them.

As I have always understood it, the Olympic Movement seeks to be inclusive and non-discriminatory.  Whilst it is obviously right and proper to ban athletes from participating in the Olympic Games if they have been found guilty of drugs taking, surely if they have not been found guilty of drugs taking they should compete in the Games under their own flag on the same terms as everyone else?

If the Russian Olympic Committee is to be suspended surely that should be because its members have been found guilty of something?

If Russian government officials like Vitaly Mutko are to be banned from the Olympic Movement for life, then that too should be because they have been found to be guilty of something?

I ask these questions because the decision of the International Olympic Committee purports to be based on an independent investigation of the claims made by Professor McLaren in his two reports carried out by former Swiss President and Federal Council member Samuel Schmid.

Schmid’s report however not only fails to support the allegations of a gigantic government organised doping conspiracy in Russia, but it actually confirms that there is no evidence of such a conspiracy in Russia.  Moreover it also confirms that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing either by the Russian Olympic Committee or by a number of the people who have been banned.

Schmid’s report can be read here.

It turns out that the entirety of the evidence relied upon by Professor McLaren to support his claim of a gigantic government organised doping conspiracy in Russia is apart from Rodchenkov’s unsupported testimony a number of emails which passed between Rodchenkov and his co-conspirators and which were provided to Professor McLaren by Rodchenkov himself.

The problem is that the emails do not show the involvement of any senior government officials in the doping conspiracy.

Not a single email originates from a senior government official.  One official of the Sports Ministry – Vice-Minister Yury Nagornykh – was copied into some of the emails, though Schmid admits that he himself wrote none of them.

Schmid concludes that the fact Nagornykh was copied into some of the emails means that he “must have known” about Rodchenkov’s scheme.

Since however Schmid does not provide copies of the emails and hints that he may not have even read some of them, it is impossible to accept this claim with any confidence

In all these email exchanges produced, many names in the address bar (from, to and cc) have been blacked out by the IP in order to protect the confidentiality of these persons.  For this reason, Professor Richard McLaren was unable to share with the IOC DC the original messages.  As a consequence, the IOC DC is not able to confirm who was really aware of the information exchanged in the various emails.

(bold italics added)

It is quite clear from these words that none of the individuals who have now been penalised on the strength of the emails have been shown them either.

In other words they have been condemned on the strength of evidence they were not shown and which they were not therefore in a position to comment on or refute.

That is a shocking offence against due process, and I am astonished that it is happening and no-one is complaining about it.

One person who even McLaren now admits was not part of the email chain – and against whom no evidence of involvement in the doping scheme therefore exists – is Russia’s former Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

Here is what Schmid has to say about him

In one exchange of emails between Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov and Mr. Alexey Velikodniy regarding a footballer, Mr. Velikodniy mentioned that “the decision is with VL for consideration and approval”.  This single reference could not be considered as sufficient to demonstrate the personal involvement of the then Minister of Sport.

(bold italics added)

Even McLaren himself now admits (though very grudgingly) that there is no evidence against Mutko.  His whole case against Mutko it turns out is based entirely on a guess

Your question about Mr. Mutko was: did he know?  information is provided to the ministry and like any hierarchical organisation it flows upwards in the organisational structure.  So I would think that the information came to him through the ministry.  But it was the deputy minister (Nagornykh – AM) who was in charge of the process I described.  I don’t have any direct evidence as to whether he knew or didn’t know.  I have met with him, I have discussed the matter with him, he didn’t indicate that he knew.

(bold italics added)

Not only is McLaren’s case against Mutko based entirely on a guess, but it is a guess which is completely unwarranted.

Given that Rodchenkov and his associates were engaging in a criminal conspiracy would the information about it really flow effortlessly up the organisational structure of the ministry until it reached Mutko himself?  The only circumstance where that would happen would be if Mutko and the entire staff of the ministry were also part of the conspiracy.  That obviously is what McLaren believes, but of which he admits he has no evidence.

The fact that McLaren believes such a thing without having any evidence for it incidentally exposes the extent of his bias.  It also shows why his entire theory is not just unwarranted but almost certainly wrong.

Most of the rest of the Schmid report is concerned with the evidence of the existence of extensive and organised doping before and during the Sochi Olympics in Russia.  Since no one least of all the Russian authorities deny that this took place, it is not obvious why this information has been provided in such detail.

What however of the individual at the centre of this scandal – RUSADA’s doping mastermind and McLaren’s key witness Dr. Rodchenkov – what does Schmid have to say about him?

It turns out that Rodchenkov not only was instrumental in carrying out the doping but that he did at least some of it for money

One of the major actors identified was Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, director of the Moscow Laboratory; he was at the heart of the doping activities and of the positive drugs test cover-up; he had direct access within the Ministry of Sport to request funds for the laboratory equipment.  The Report showed that in his position he was not only accepting but also requesting money in order to execute the concealment of positive tests of Russian athletics athletes.  Furthermore, he admitted during an interview to have intentionally destroyed 1,417 samples at the end of 2014 in order to limit the extent of the WADA’s audit, of which he was previously informed by WADA.

(bold italics added)

In other words Rodchenkov was not just a cheat but was corrupt as well.

Elsewhere Schmid discusses how Rodchenkov insinuated himself into the international anti-doping system

Within the evolution of the system, the analysis of the evidence as well as the movie Icarus, shows that Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov played a key role.  Due to his scientific abilities he was able to set-up detection methods to improve the fight against doping, to publish scientific articles and participate to experts’ observatory programmes, winning so a great international credibility.  This enabled him on one hand, as an anti-doping expert, to gain access to the international expertise and strategy, in particular, during the Olympic Games London 2012, which helped him to contribute to the development of the specific system to be operational during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.

Yet this is the corrupt and scheming individual whose largely uncorroborated claims of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy McLaren accepts as true.

Schmid – somewhat grudgingly but nonetheless conclusively – admits that there is in fact no evidence of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia

….the independent and impartial evidence do not allow the IOC DC to establish with certitude either who initiated or who headed this scheme.

On many occasions, reference was made on the involvement at the Minister of Sport’s level, but no indication, independent or impartial evidence appeared to corroborate any involvement or knowledge at a higher level of the State.

Elsewhere Schmid admits that the doping scheme in Russia did not involve all Russian athletes – a sure indication by the way that it was not government organised or state sponsored – and that it was different from the doping scheme in the former German Democratic Republic, which of course was both government organised and state sponsored.

Given that this is so, why is former Sports Minister Mutko against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists being banned from participating in the Olympic Games for the rest of his life?

Why is the Russian Olympic Committee being suspended, when no evidence of the involvement of any of its members in the doping scheme exists?

The IOC DC notes that neither the IC’s nor the IP’s Reports mentioned the participation of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the system.  No findings appeared during the IOC DC’s investigation to contradict these statements.

In order to justify the IOC’s actions against Mutko, the ROC and other Russian individuals and sports institutions against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists, Schmid comes up with a complicated theory of their legal responsibility for the doping scheme even though there is no evidence that they knew about it.

All I would say about that is that I have never heard of a case where individuals against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists and who must therefore be presumed to have acted at all times in good faith are punished because of a criminal conspiracy carried out by others of which there is no evidence they had any knowledge.

That truly is guilt by association, and it is wrong.

Right at the very start of the Russian Olympic Doping Scandal in an article for Sputnik dated 12th November 2015, I said that the right way forward was not to impose discriminatory and unlawful blanket bans on Russian athletes which ignored the presumption of innocence and which contradicted the humanitarian and inclusive principles of the Olympic Games, but to work with the Russians to ensure that anti-doping systems in Russia were made as strong as possible so that large scale doping of the sort organised by Dr. Rodchenkov could no longer take place

….it seems to me utterly wrong to ban athletes from competing simply because they are Russian.

That goes utterly against the humanitarian principles upon which the Olympics were founded. It is also contrary to the non-discriminatory principles in most national laws.

The Russian authorities are challenging some of the allegations — as it is their right to do — but look to be genuinely offering cooperation to help solve the problem.

For example they have offered to appoint a foreign specialist to head their laboratory. The right thing to do is not to impose a blanket ban but to work with the Russian authorities so that the problem can be solved.

That may involve bringing criminal charges and imposing individual bans on specific persons, barring them from involvement in international sports training and competition.

If that does not happen and a blanket ban on Russian athletes is imposed instead, then it seems to me that the world’s sporting bodies will not only have retreated from their ideals but will open themselves up to questions about what their real motives are.

‘Solving the problem’ in this way is exactly the approach the Russian authorities – who do not deny the existence of large scale doping problem in Russia – have taken.

The anti-doping systems now put in place in Russia are now universally acknowledged to be just about the best in the world.  Here is how Steve Scott, sports editor of the ITN news channel in Britain, describes them

A lot has changed at the Russia Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in the past 18 months and, according to some close to this transformation, if you employ objective criteria, the Moscow laboratory is as good as it gets.

“The quality of testing and planning is very high.” a senior anti-doping source told me.

The Agency has doubled in size, has had its budget doubled too and is carrying out twice as many tests. It has also built up a team of 50 trained doping control officers, whereas before it had none. As for a much needed cultural shift, there has also been a significant changeover of staff; few remain who were immersed in the bad old ways of doing things.

Given that this is so and that there is now longer any possibility of Russian athletes engaging in a massive doping conspiracy in the coming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, why is action being taken to prevent them competing on the same basis as everyone else?

It turns out that WADA is refusing to certify RUSADA – Russia’s radically reorganised anti-doping laboratory – for no other reason than that the Russian authorities are refusing to accept the McLaren report.

Why however should the Russian authorities accept the McLaren report when McLaren’s claims of a massive government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia have been shown to have no evidence behind them?

Is it anyway right and proper to coerce someone into confessing a crime for which no evidence exists?  Is that not the action of a blackmailer or of a police state?  Is that the sort of behaviour the International Olympic Committee – guardian of the Olympic Movement and upholder of its ideals – wants to associate itself with?

In reality the decision of the International Olympic Committee to ban certain Russians from involvement in the Olympic Movement, to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee, and to allow only specially invited Russian athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics and then only under the Olympic flag, has nothing to do either with sport or doping or the principles of legality.

It is entirely the product of politics, and the Russians are right to say it is.

Though this is the worst decision the International Olympic Committee has taken in its whole history, it is just possible that we may be approaching the end of this tawdry affair.

It seems that if the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang end without scandals then the Russian Olympic Committee will be readmitted to the Olympic Movement on the last day of the Games, allowing Russian athletes to celebrate the last day of the Games under their own flag.

Presumably that means that restrictions on the participation by Russian athletes in future Olympic Games will be lifted.

That presumably is why the Russian authorities are encouraging their athletes to participate in the PyeongChang Games under the Olympic flag, humiliating though they say they find it.

Whilst I understand this reasoning, I am not sure I share it.

An Olympic Movement capable of making such a grossly discriminatory and frankly unlawful decision is obviously no longer fit for purpose.

In light of this I think that the Russians and the many other national teams that must privately think this should now set about setting up their own alternative sports competitions, initially in parallel to those of the Olympic Movement but eventually as alternatives to them.

Since I doubt that this will be the last of these scandals that seems to me the only way forward.

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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EU’s ‘toothless’ response to creation of Kosovo army risks worsening the crisis – Moscow

Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army.

RT

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Via RT…


The creation of Kosovo’s own 5,000-strong army is a threat to peace and security in a turbulent region and may lead to a new escalation, Russia’s UN envoy has warned, calling the EU’s lackluster response irresponsible.

Speaking at the UN Security Council emergency meeting on Kosovo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army to replace its lightly armed emergency response force.

“The EU reaction to the decision by Pristina cannot be described as other than toothless. This irresponsible policy has crossed the line,” Nebenzya said, after the UNSC meeting on Monday.

The diplomat said the lack of decisive action on the part of the 28-member bloc was a “great disappointment,” adding that the EU seems to “have turned a blind eye on the illegal creation of Kosovo’s ‘army.’”

The law, approved by Kosovo lawmakers on Friday, paves the way for doubling the size of the current Kosovo Security Force and for turning it into a de facto army, with 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists.

The move did not go down well even with Kosovo’s usual backers, with both NATO and the EU voicing their indignation. NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “ill-timed” and lamented that Kosovo’s authorities had ignored “the concerns expressed by NATO.”

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, has echoed those concerns, saying in a statement that the mandate of Kosovo’s forces “should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process” in accordance with the state’s constitution.

The only nation to openly applaud the controversial move was the US, with its ambassador to Kosovo, Phillip Kosnett, saying that Washington “reaffirms its support” for the upgrade as it is “only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country” to have a full-fledged army.

The Kosovo MPs’ decision has drawn anger in the Serbian capital Belgrade and provoked a strong response from Moscow, which calledon the UN mission in Kosovo to demilitarize the area in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244, and to disband any armed units.

Nebenzya pointed out that the UN resolution does not allow any Kosovo Albanian military units to be present in the region’s territory. He accused Western countries, including members of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR), of “condoning and supporting” the violation by Pristina of the resolution.

It is feared that the army, though a relatively small force, might inflame tensions in the region and impede attempts at reconciliation between Pristina and Belgrade. Serbia has warned that it might consider an armed intervention if the army becomes a threat to the 120,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo.

“The advance of Kosovo’s army presents a threat to the peace and security in the region, which may lead to the recurrence of the armed conflict,” Nebenzya stated.

In addition to creating its own army, Kosovo in November hit Serbia with a 100 percent import tariff on goods, defying calls by the US and the EU to roll the measure back.

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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