The West’s Hysterical Pseudo-Environment, Operation RYAN, and World War III

“In the period from July 14th to 19th, 2014 we witness a catastrophic increase (of 3473 people, or 47%) in the number of deserters in the units of the Army and the National Guard – in comparison with last week’s numbers (1847 people, 25%).? Apart from that, during the stated period the number of missing in action had increased as well (1344 people, 47%, last week – 344 people, 10%).

This phenomenon is connected to increased activity of the enemy in the Donetsk and the Lugansk regions as well as to the increase in the number of casualties in the ranks of the above-mentioned structures. This fact [negatively] influences the combat-worthiness of the personnel and makes continuation of the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] impossible. In the event the negative trend continues at the same level, I estimate that 2/3 of the active combat military units currently participating in the ATO will simply cease to exist in as little as 4 to 5 days.

With the aim of preserving the combat potential of our military structures, I am proposing that we perform a withdrawal maneuver of our militarily units to the area around Dobropil’ya and Smolyaninove. After replenishment of the ammunition stocks, re-grouping as well as rotation of the personnel by at least 60%, we can continue the offensive.

The Head of the Ukrainian Security Service of Ukraine,
V. Nalyvaichenko”

This memo appeared on the website called The Vineyard of the Saker on July 25, 2014. It appears to be evidence indicating that Kiev’s military forces, fighting in eastern Ukraine, are on the verge of disintegration. Perhaps that explains why, as Natalia Zinets of the reported on July 22nd, “Ukraine’s parliament approved a presidential decree to call up more military reserves and men under 50 to fight rebels in eastern Ukraine and defend the border against a concentration of troops in Russia.

But, you can rest assured that this memo will not find its way into broadcasts by any of the major U.S. news networks or into the pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post. Yet, curiously, on July 24th the Post published an editorial titled, “If the West doesn’t do more for Ukraine now, it might soon be too late.” On the 25th the Times published an article stating that the Ukrainian government believes that it can defeat the separatists within 3 weeks or so, if Russia doesn’t get more involved. Such is the “fog of war.”

(The neoconservatives at the Post showed their true militaristic colors when they asserted: “Incredibly, the European Union’s position — tacitly supported by Mr. Obama — is that the Ukrainian government should stop attempting to expel the invaders from its territory and instead negotiate with them about the political future of Ukraine. Fortunately, newly elected President Petro Poroshenko has not capitulated to this appeasement strategy.” (My emphasis.)

Nevertheless, no serious person should assume that V. Nalyvaichenko’s memo constitutes actual evidence. It might have been fabricated by some propagandist among the separatists or by someone in Moscow. It is just one more assertion of evidence that must vetted and put into context before being deemed to be evidence.

Yet, Western journalists, politicians and their spokespersons have been filling newspapers, internet sites, news briefings and TV broadcasts with breathless assertions of evidence indicating that either the eastern Ukrainian separatists or Russians assisting those separatists shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014. Very few of them seem to know the difference between mere assertions of evidence and actual evidence. Yet, by uncritically accepting mere assertions of evidence in the absence of evidence, these journalists, politicians and spokespersons have begun to create what Walter Lippmann called a “pseudo-environment,” one which some observers openly and gleefully admit is pummeling Russia with blame, even before an unbiased investigation has commenced.

For example, when spokespersons representing the coup regime in Kiev rushed to assert that Kiev had evidence proving the separatists or Russia shot down Flight MH17, reporters from the mainstream news media correctly reported those assertions as news. Some even acknowledged that the evidence was uncorroborated. Soon, however, western reporters and columnists began to treat those mere assertions as if they were the truth. Later in the afternoon of July 17th, when the U.S. government claimed that Flight MH17 had been shot down, reporters mistakenly treated that mere assertion of evidence as actual evidence.

On Friday, July 18th, President Obama asserted that MH17 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile that was fired from “territory that is controlled by Russian separatists.” Again western reporters from around the world treated that mere assertion of evidence as actual evidence. Fortunately, on July 24th, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Anatoly Antonov asked the White House questions that western reporters failed to ask: “So where is this evidence?” “Why is it not presented to the public? Is it, if I may say so, still being finished off?”

Seven days after Obama’s assertion, the world still waits for the evidence. Think about it. Had the U.S. possessed the actual evidence to support its allegation, wouldn’t it have been eager to show such evidence to the entire world?

Then, there is the report by Olga Ivshina of the BBC, which was subsequently retracted. As part of her report, Ms. Ivshina claimed: “The inhabitants of the nearby villages are certain that they saw military aircraft in the sky shortly prior to the catastrophe. According to them, it actually was the jet fighters that brought down the Boeing.” This is at least the second time that the BBC appears to have slanted its reporting, in order to tow the political line of the British government. The first time, as reported by Stephen Shenfield on June 19th, was when the BBC deliberately refused to report the Pravyi Sektor massacre of anti-Kiev protesters in Odessa on May 2nd.

On July 21st, four days after the downing of the airliner Russia’s Ministry of Defense offered to the world satellite photos of Buk missiles located in territory controlled by Kiev’s coup regime. Those photos might constitute evidence, but I’m in no position to judge. Thus, they remain mere assertions of evidence.

On July 22nd, U.S. intelligence admitted that it had no evidence directly linking Russia to the plane crash, notwithstanding such incessant claims by Kiev’s coup regime. Why, then, if it takes time to sift for evidence, did western reporters treat the almost instantaneous assertions of evidence made by the Kiev’s coup regime as actual evidence?

Kiev routinely attempts to “frame” world opinion by publicly calling the separatists in eastern Ukraine “terrorists.” It’s pure propaganda. Real “terrorists” would be attempting to blow up people and buildings in Kiev and Lviv (the bastion of the neo-Nazi Svoboda party) – rather than simply taking up arms to defend themselves in their home towns.

Moreover, the coup regime in Kiev routinely lies when it denies that their military is responsible for the aerial assaults and artillery bombardments that dismember and kill innocent civilians, including women and children in eastern Ukraine. Even the New York Times, which competes with the Washington Post to be the strongest anti-Russia propaganda bullhorn outside of the Oval Office, admits, “The government in Kiev is prosecuting a war here, and civilians are suffering as a result, their minds hardening.” (July 22, 2014) Nevertheless, western reporters and commentators continue to treat assertions of evidence by Kiev’s coup regime as actual evidence.

Apparently, these reporters had failed to read their Walter Lippmann: “The function of news is to signalize an event, the function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them in relation with each other, and make a picture of reality on which men can act.” (Public Opinion, p 226). To this day, there has been little bringing to light the hidden facts and almost no setting them in relation with each other.

Consider the case of Anna Applebaum, a writer for the neo-conservative editorial board of the Washington Post. On July 20th she wrote a column titled, “Look at what Russia has done. Its proxy war in Ukraine has become a real war.”

As she states at the outset: “Before there is any further discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it’s important that one point be made absolutely clear: This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane…”

“With the help of local thugs, these Russian security men besieged police stations, government offices and other symbols of political authority to delegitimize the Ukrainian state.”

“Delegitimize the Ukrainian State?” Why, the bulk of the government, as it now exists in Kiev, came to power as the result of a coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych! That is why I sent her the following email:

“Dear Ms. Applebaum:

I like your logic: “This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.” Unfortunately, you failed to extend the logic far enough: “This plane crash is a result of an American-inspired and Pravy Sektor led anti-Russia coup in Kiev that toppled a democratically elected government and prompted citizens in Crimea and eastern Ukraine to bid adieu.

How does that sound?

Walter C. Uhler”

Ms. Applebaum also asserted: “Just for the record: There weren’t any Ukrainian government-controlled anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine because the separatists were not flying airplanes.” But, how could she possibly know? Where’s her actual evidence? Especially now that Russia’s Ministry of Defense has offered satellite photos to support allegations that “on the day of the accident the Ukrainian Armed Forces deployed 3 to 4 artillery battalions of Buk-M1 missile system not far from Donetsk.”

Like Ms. Applebaum at the Post, the “philosopher” Bernard-Henri Levy and the “scholar” Timothy Garton Ash have recently and further defiled the pages of the New York Times with their hysterical rubbish. Professor Ash even stooped to mention the “rather ratlike face” of President Putin. But, just as we can get a fix on Ms. Applebaum’s objectivity by noting that she’s married to Poland’s foreign minister, we also can get a fix on Professor Ash, by noting his ties to the far right-wing Hoover Institution.

On July 20th, Trudy Rubin, the “Worldview” columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote a column titled, “After plane horror, Europe must stand up to Putin.” A true believer like Ms. Applebaum and most group-think western journalists, Ms. Rubin asserted: “More than 200 European civilians, along with dozens of Aussies, Asians, and North Americans, lie dead because of Putin’s determination to force Ukraine to join a new Russian empire.”

Conveniently, she had forgotten that it was European Union, not Russia, that initially told Ukraine it must choose between Europe’s economic organization and Russia’s. Conveniently, she had forgotten that, when President Yanukovych violated his earlier pledge to join the EU and chose Russia – largely because its short term economic deal was significantly better — American government officials violated Ukraine’s sovereignty by joining protesters who opposed Yanukovych’s volte-face. Conveniently, she had forgotten that the American-inspired and neo-Nazi Pravyi Sektor-led coup spurred a backlash in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Having forgotten all those intermediate events, Ms. Rubin then remembered that Russia was allowing, if not actually providing, assistance to the separatists, who shot down the airliner.

Worse, Ms. Rubin then turned into a spokesperson for Kiev’s coup regime. She actually wrote, “The Ukrainian government insists that Russian trainers and military were behind all the shootdowns, military and civilian.” Like so many other poorly trained western journalists, Ms. Rubin misconstrued Kiev’s assertions of evidence to constitute actual evidence.

Unfortunately for her credibility, on July 22nd U.S. officials asserted that they had found no evidence directly linking Russia to the Malaysia plane crash. But, even before the U.S. made its determination, I sent an email to Ms. Rubin that challenged her assertions. It reads as follows:

“Dear Ms. Rubin:

I’ve been reading your work on the conflict in Ukraine and, as a person who has studied Russia for more than 40 years, I find it extremely biased and lacking in historical perspective. Anti-Russia and anti-Putin invective appears to fill the gaps in your education. (I’m not a fan of Vladimir Putin. He had my friend, Igor Sutyagin, arrested. But, I’m not hysterical.)

For your information, Robert Parry, who is at least as trustworthy as you, wrote this yesterday: ‘Regarding the shoot-down of the Malaysian jetliner on Thursday, I’m told that some CIA analysts cite U.S. satellite reconnaissance photos suggesting that the anti-aircraft missile that brought down Flight 17 was fired by Ukrainian troops from a government battery, not by ethnic Russian rebels who have been resisting the regime in Kiev since elected President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown on Feb. 22.’

‘According to a source briefed on the tentative findings, the soldiers manning the battery appeared to be wearing Ukrainian uniforms and may have been drinking, since what looked like beer bottles were scattered around the site. But the source added that the information was still incomplete and the analysts did not rule out the possibility of rebel responsibility.’

But, like most so-called journalists in the West’s mainstream media, you seem to have ruled out the possibility that the coup regime in Kiev — and that is precisely what it remains, notwithstanding the election of Poroshenko — fired the Buk missile. After all, the Russian Ministry of Defense has tracked down an operational Buk system under Ukrainian control near Stela, outside Donetsk.

But this is the worst of your many sins: You’ve become a de facto spokesperson for the coup regime in Kiev. You’re as bad as the propagandists at RT!

Walter C. Uhler “

To her credit, Ms. Rubin took the time to respond to my email. She wrote:

“Dear Mr.Uhler:

I think you have fallen victim to the kind of propaganda you accuse me of propagating.

I read Parry’s piece. He is citing a second had unnamed source: ‘I’m told that some CIA analysts cite U.S. satellite reconnaissance photos” he says. That is meaningless. ‘I am told’…. ‘some CIA analysts’…this is weasel sourcing of the worst kind.

U.S. satellite intelligence has determined the missile came from a rebel-held area, and that the Ukrainians didn’t have any BUK missiles in that area. Moreover, this is not a missile where you get drunk and just push a button: why on earth would Ukrainians go through the complex technical maneuvers of targeting a high-flying plane when the rebels don’t have an airforce. Even Parry undermines his own totally unsourced argument when he says : ‘Why the Ukrainian military would intentionally have aimed at a plane flying eastward toward Russia is hard to comprehend, however.’

Meantime, there is extensive factual evidence on the other side: the official Russian media websites and key rebel websites crowing about the shootdown (which were erased but widely viewed and photographed) cannot be denied. High flying Ukrainian planes had just been shot down at altitudes higher than the rebels claim to have the capacity to do. Rebel leaders admit they worked for the FSB and have Russian passports. One could go on and on and on. (I have been in Donetsk – the rebel leaders in now way represent the local people.) And of course there are satellite photos and audio taps of cell phones which I am certain the US is now verifying and will be laying out to Putin.

No doubt he will deny everything, no matter the concrete facts, as he has done from the beginning. However, Russia propaganda from Putin on down is so absurd and hysterical – dead bodies on the planes??? trying to shootdown Putin’s plane???!!! – and so out there for all to see, that why should one believe anything the Kremlin says? After all, Putin consistently lied about the Russian troops presence in Crimea even as international journalists were photographing and interviewing Russian special forces.

As for the alleged ‘coup’ and Neuland’s famous tape: obviously Parry has never even bothered to read the text which is readily available on the web: she was speaking not of overthrowing Yanukovych but of something totally other: Yanukovych’s prime minister had quit and he was making a deal with the opposition as to which of them would be appointed PM, but the opposition was still debating – she thought Yatsenyuk would be the better choice. Russia is seeking to destabilize Ukraine, and that policy is directed from the
Kremlin: it does not take a rocket scientist to see this.

Parry’s piece is simply his opinion, backed by nothing. And his call to ‘wait for an investigation’ is undercut by the fact that Russian-backed rebels are preventing access to the site and removing evidence.
Trudy Rubin

Worldview columnist
The Philadelphia Inquirer”

I didn’t know that the U.S. would admit that it had no evidence linking Russia to the downing of Flight MH17 when I responded to Ms. Rubin’s email. Neither did I know that U.S. intelligence officials would lend credence to Robert Parry’s reporting when they acknowledged that “it was possible the SA-11 [Buk] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.” (Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2014) So I responded to Ms. Rubin by writing the following:

“Ms. Rubin:

Thank you for taking the time to respond.

Unfortunately, you still seem to be missing the point. Assertions of evidence, whether they be by Robert Parry, Russia’s Ministry of Defense or our intelligence agencies is [sic] quite different from actual evidence. Need I remind you of Colin Powell’s debacle at the UN regarding Iraq’s so-called WMDs?

You have no true evidence, neither do I. Yet, you’ve jumped to the gun as an apologist for Kiev’s coup regime. Had you read my latest article, you would know that I remain agnostic — and you could have saved yourself the time you took to tell me things that I’ve already written about.

(Believe it or not, my views have captured the attention of the folks at RT and at the VOA — who both sought interviews — not to mention my many regular readers around the world.)

One final word: Jake Kipp, who is one of the world’s foremost experts on Russia’s military, wrote to me yesterday to remind me that: “What I’d like folks to remember is that at the height of anti-Soviet sentiment after KAL-007 the Soviet leadership launched Operation RYAN (Raketnoe Yadernoe Napadanie) in search of evidence of a planned US nuclear first strike. Russian rhetoric right now has a lot of talk of a Third World War and Putin has carried out a number of strategic nuclear alerts involving the launching of ICBMs, SLBMs, Cruise Missiles, and short-range ballistic missiles.”

Be careful about what you write!

Walter C. Uhler”

To make matters worse for Ms. Rubin’s credibility, one day after she claimed: “I have been in Donetsk – the rebel leaders in now [sic] way represent the local people,” Professor Ivan Katchanovski wrote an article in the Washington Post titled, “What do citizens of Ukraine actually think about secession?” It was based upon the results of a recent survey.

Among his findings was the following: “A survey, which was conducted for my research project by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in Ukraine, except Crimea, from April 29 to May 11, shows that the representation of separatism in Donbas by the Ukrainian and the Western governments and the media as small groups of Russian military intelligence agents and local “terrorists” or “rebels” who lack popular backing in this region and, therefore, can be easily defeated by force is unfounded. Most residents of Donbas supported different forms of separatism (54 percent). This survey also confirms that the lack of central government legitimacy in Donbas was a key reason for a single-digit voter turnout in the presidential election on May 25. About 70 percent of the respondents either did not plan to vote or did not know which candidate to support. Just 5 percent of residents in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions intended to vote for Petro Poroshenko, who won the election with 55 percent of the national vote.”

Equally significant is Professor Katchanovski’s conclusion about the type of conflict currently embroiling eastern Ukraine. “Some political scientists specializing in Ukraine warned before or at the start of the conflict about possibilities of civil war and the breakup of the country, but such expert conclusions went unheeded. Now, civil war and a de facto breakup of Ukraine have taken place. Attempts to solve the conflict in Donbas by force will lead to mounting casualties among civilians, Ukrainian forces and armed separatists. Even a military defeat of separatists is unlikely to end the conflict because it reflects significant regional divisions since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, including a history of separatism in Crimea and Donbas. And Russia, with significant military, political, and economic leverage over Ukraine, is there to stay.”

What Professor Katchanovski failed to say (and what Jake Kipp only hinted at) is that the hysterical pseudo-environment now being created in the West could precipitate World War III.

On September 24, 2002, I wrote an article for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled, “Asking the Question of Preemption: A Crazy Policy in a World Set to Go Off.” The objective of the article was to warn Americans – at a time when the Bush administration was hyping dubious intelligence about Iraq — that the Soviet Union came close to launching a preemptive nuclear strike on America and Europe in 1983, due to dubious intelligence.

In 1981, after the election of President Reagan, the KGB’s Yuri Andropov ordered the implementation of “Operation RYAN,” (Raketnoe Yadernoe Napadanie, nuclear missile attack), which was tasked with collecting intelligence that indicated that the United States was planning a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union.

The decision to deploy Pershing II nuclear missiles in West Germany, thereby giving the Soviet Union but a few minutes to respond to a nuclear attack, increased the importance of Operation RYAN. But matters reached a feverish pitch in 1983 due to outrageous American rhetoric. First, there was President Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech. Second was his “Star Wars” speech. Third was American-led hysterics about the shootdown of KAL 007.

In that super-heated atmosphere, the KGB came to believe that a preemptive nuclear strike might occur under the cover of the Able Archer military exercise that U.S.-NATO forces were then conducting that November. Moscow’s KGB center issued a flash alert for all information indicating that the United States was preparing an imminent nuclear strike.

According to Professor Beth Fischer (in her book The Reagan Reversal), Moscow upgraded “the alert status of twelve of its nuclear-capable fighter aircraft” and “in East Germany and Poland, Soviet forces began to prepare for a retaliatory nuclear strike.”

Fortunately, the crisis subsided. But, why the Soviet Union did not launch a preemptive strike of its own remains an open question. After all, as Fischer correctly notes, “prevailing nuclear doctrine at the time held that in the face of an impending nuclear attack, the Soviets should have sought to avoid disaster by launching a preemptive nuclear attack of their own.” (“Asking the Question of Preemption”)

The hostile pseudo-environment now being created by irresponsible western politicians, spokespersons and reporters — who can’t differentiate assertions of evidence from actual evidence — seems similar to that which the U.S. created in 1983. Thus, Jake Kipp’s warning bears repeating: “Russian rhetoric right now has a lot of talk of a Third World War and Putin has carried out a number of strategic nuclear alerts involving the launching of ICBMs, SLBMs, Cruise Missiles, and short-range ballistic missiles.”

But we are not the only people concerned about an impending World War III. The renowned Russia scholar, Steve Cohen, fears the possibility and Jacob Heilbrunn has written an article titled: “The Ukraine Plane Disaster: Countdown to A New World War I?” Finally, Robert W. Merry has recently written an article titled, “The Ghosts of World War I Circle over Ukraine.”

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including Dissident Voice, The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA). He can be reached at: Read other articles by Walter C., or visit Walter C.'s website.