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U.S. Gives Green Light to Arming and Training Nazis in Ukraine

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Hel­mets of the Ukrain­ian Azov bat­tal­ion, as filmed by a Nor­we­gian doc­u­men­tary crew and shown on Ger­man TV

COMMENT: While Amer­i­cans were engag­ing in hol­i­day-relat­ed activ­i­ties or watch­ing foot­ball, Con­gress passed an omnibus spend­ing bill that con­tains a rid­er strip­ping out oppo­si­tion to fund­ing Nazi units in Ukraine. This gives a green light to arm­ing the vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions such as the Azov (some of whose mem­bers’ hel­mets are pic­tured) or Lukhansk‑1.

Giv­en that the Third Reich-col­lab­o­ra­tionist OUN/B has long had sup­port from West­ern intel­li­gence and found inclu­sion in first, the GOP and, ulti­mate­ly, the Maid­an regime in Ukraine, this is not sur­pris­ing.

(It is impos­si­ble with­in the scope of this post to cov­er our volu­mi­nous cov­er­age of the Ukraine cri­sis. Pre­vi­ous pro­grams on the sub­ject are: FTR #‘s 777778779780781782783784794, 800803804, 808811817

818824826829832833837849850853857860872875876, 877Listeners/readers are encour­aged to exam­ine these pro­grams and/or their descrip­tions in detail, in order to flesh out their under­stand­ing.)

“Con­gress Has Removed a Ban on Fund­ing Neo-Nazis From Its Year-End Spend­ing Bill” by James Car­den; The Nation; 1/13/2016.

Under pres­sure from the Pen­ta­gon, Con­gress has stripped the spend­ing bill of an amend­ment that pre­vented funds from falling into the hands of Ukrain­ian neo-fas­cist groups.

In mid-Decem­ber 2015, Con­gress passed a 2,000-plus-page omnibus spend­ing bill for fis­cal year 2016. Both par­ties were quick to declare vic­tory after the pas­sage of the $1.8 tril­lion pack­age. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters “we feel good about the out­come, pri­mar­ily because we got a com­pro­mise bud­get agree­ment that fought off a wide vari­ety of ide­o­log­i­cal rid­ers.” The office of House Speak­er Paul J. Ryan tout­ed the bill’s “64 bil­lion for over­seas con­tin­gency oper­a­tions” for, among oth­er things, assist­ing ”Euro­pean coun­tries fac­ing Russ­ian aggres­sion.”

It would be safe to assume that one of the Euro­pean coun­tries which would stand to ben­e­fit from the omnibus measure—designed, in part, to com­bat “Russ­ian aggression”—would be Ukraine, which has already, accord­ing to the White House, received $2 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees and near­ly $760 mil­lion in “secu­rity, pro­gram­matic, and tech­ni­cal assis­tance” since Feb­ru­ary 2014.

Yet some have expressed con­cern that some of this aid has made its way into the hands of neo-Nazi groups, such as the Azov Bat­tal­ion. Last sum­mer the Dai­ly Beast pub­lished an inter­view by the jour­nal­ists Will Cath­cart and Joseph Epstein in which a mem­ber of the Azov bat­tal­ion spoke about “his battalion’s expe­ri­ence with U.S. train­ers and U.S. vol­un­teers quite fond­ly, even men­tion­ing U.S. vol­un­teers engi­neers and medics that are still cur­rently assist­ing them.”

And so, in July of last year, Con­gress­men John Cony­ers of Michi­gan and Ted Yoho of Flori­da drew up an amend­ment to the House Defense Appro­pri­a­tions bill (HR 2685) that “lim­its arms, train­ing, and oth­er assis­tance to the neo-Nazi Ukrain­ian mili­tia, the Azov Bat­tal­ion.” It passed by a unan­i­mous vote in the House.

And yet by the time Novem­ber came around and the con­fer­ence debate over the year-end appro­pri­a­tions bill was under­way, the Cony­ers-Yoho mea­sure appeared to be in jeop­ardy. And indeed it was. An offi­cial famil­iar with the debate told The Nation that the House Defense Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee came under pres­sure from the Pen­ta­gon to remove the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment from the text of the bill.

The Pentagon’s objec­tion to the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment rests on the claim that it is redun­dant because sim­i­lar legislation—known as the Leahy law—already exists that would pre­vent the fund­ing of Azov. This, as it turns out, is untrue. The Leahy law cov­ers only those groups for which the “Sec­re­tary of State has cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion that such unit has com­mit­ted a gross vio­la­tion of human rights.” Yet the State Depart­ment has nev­er claimed to have such infor­ma­tion about Azov, so fund­ing to the group can­not be blocked by the Leahy law. The con­gres­sional source I spoke to point­ed out that “even if Azov is already cov­ered by Leahy, then no there was no need to strip it out of final bill.” Indeed, the Leahy law can­not block fund­ing to groups, no mat­ter how nox­ious their ide­ol­ogy, in the absence of “cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion” that they have com­mit­ted human-rights vio­la­tions. The Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment was designed to rem­edy that short­com­ing.

Con­sid­er­ing the fact that the US Army has been train­ing Ukrain­ian armed forces and nation­al guard troops, the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment made a great deal of sense; block­ing the avowed­ly neo-Nazi Azov bat­tal­ion from receiv­ing US assis­tance would fur­ther what Pres­i­dent Oba­ma often refers to as “our inter­ests and val­ues.”

...

Whether White House spokesman Josh Earnest was refer­ring, in part, to the Cony­ers-Yoho amend­ment as one of those “ide­o­log­i­cal rid­ers” the admin­is­tra­tion fought to defeat is unclear. What is clear is that by strip­ping out the anti-neo-Nazi pro­vi­sion, Con­gress and the admin­is­tra­tion have paved the way for US fund­ing to end up in the hands of the most nox­ious ele­ments cir­cu­lat­ing with­in Ukraine today.

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