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

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[6]

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 [7].

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 777 [8]778 [9]779 [10]780 [11]781 [12]782 [13]783 [14]784 [15]794 [16], 800 [17]803 [18]804 [19], 808 [20]811 [21]817 [22]

818 [23]824 [24]826 [25]829 [26]832 [27]833 [28]837 [29]849 [30]850 [31]853 [32]857 [33]860 [34]872 [35]875 [36]876 [37], 877 [38]Listeners/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. [39]

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 [40] 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 [41], 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 [42] 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.