Above photo: British SAS Troops train Ukrainian soldiers. AP.
Russia’s state investigative body issued a stark warning that it was looking into media reports alleging “sabotage experts” from Britain’s special forces had been deployed to western Ukraine. On Saturday, a defense source told RIA Novosti that at least two teams from the UK’s elite Special Air Service (SAS) forces arrived at a military base near the city of Lviv in western Ukraine.
In a statement, the Investigative Committee said it would follow up the report that covert operators had been sent in “to assist the Ukrainian special services in organizing sabotage on the territory of Ukraine.” It was not clear what steps Russia planned to take in response to SAS involvement in Ukraine. But the fact of possible presence of forces from a NATO country is significant, given that Russia had issued warnings it would target weapons supplies in Ukraine.
During a visit to India earlier this week, flamboyant British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spilled the secret that “we are currently training Ukrainians in Poland in the use of anti-aircraft defense, and actually in the UK in the use of armored vehicles.”
Reacting to the diplomatic gaffe, Polish General Waldemar Skrzypczak, an adviser to Poland’s defense minister, angrily denied the allegation that Ukrainian forces were being trained in Poland and said Friday that Boris Johnson was “attempting evil” with his statements about the training of Ukrainian troops abroad amid the conflict with Russia.
By disclosing classified information, Johnson “reveals military secrets” to Russia, the general said. “Training is a military matter and must be kept under wraps. The man should think before saying such things publicly.”
It emerged Friday Ukrainian troops were being trained in Britain in the use of 120 armored patrol vehicles pledged by Boris Johnson during his surprise visit to Kyiv on April 9. “It is only sensible that they get requisite training to make best use of it,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman revealed. “We are always conscious of anything perceived to be escalatory but clearly what is escalatory is the actions of Putin’s regime.”
Members of the Ukrainian government visited a military camp in April on Britain’s Salisbury Plain where they were shown demonstrations of equipment, followed by discussions on how the government can supply weapons. Britain’s military had been training Ukrainian forces since the 2014 Maidan coup toppling Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. But British special forces were withdrawn in February to avoid direct conflict with Russian forces and the possibility of NATO being drawn into the conflict.
Last week, two British citizens, Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin, who went to Ukraine to fight for the now-disbanded “international legion” of foreign mercenaries created by Kyiv in early days of the war and were fighting alongside neo-Nazi Azov militia in Mariupol, were captured by Russian forces and fervently appealed to the British prime minister for their immediate release.
The Britons appeared on Russian state TV and asked to be exchanged for Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian politician who is the leader of Ukraine’s Opposition Platform and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was charged with “high treason” and “aiding terrorism” by the Zelensky government and was placed under house arrest, from where he escaped and was rearrested on April 12. He is currently being held at an undisclosed location by the SBU, the fearsome Ukrainian intelligence agency being used as a tool for political persecution by the autocratic regime.
One of the captives wearing a T-shirt bearing the emblem of Ukraine’s infamous Azov battalion, Aiden Aslin, made a direct appeal to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “If Boris Johnson really does care like he says he does about British citizens then he would help pressure Zelensky to do the right thing and return Viktor to his family and return us to our families.”
Asked on Sky News whether a possible swap was something the government would get involved with, Britain’s Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis said: “We’re actually going through the process of sanctioning people who are close to Putin regime, we’re not going to be looking at how we can help Russia.” Reading between the lines, neither would the Boris Johnson government be looking at how to help British citizens.
“We always have responsibility for British citizens, which we take seriously. We’ve got to get the balance right in Ukraine and that’s why I say to anybody: do not travel illegally to Ukraine,” Lewis added while conveniently overlooking the fact British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss publicly acknowledged she supported individuals from the United Kingdom who might want to go to Ukraine to join an international force to fight.
She told the BBC on Feb. 27, days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, it was up to people to “make their own decisions,” but argued it was a “battle for democracy.” She said Ukrainians were fighting for freedom, “not just for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe.” The British government is as criminally culpable for inciting citizens to join NATO’s crusade in Ukraine as gullible volunteers who actually joined the fight in the war zone on the call of the government.
Favoring providing lethal weapons only instead of deploying British mercenaries as cannon fodder in Ukraine’s proxy war, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace took a nuanced approach and said with diplomatic overtones Ukraine would instead be supported to “fight every street with every piece of equipment we can get to them.” In other words, Ukraine would be made an “ordnance depot” of NATO powers on Russia’s western flank.
On April 9, Boris Johnson undertook a clandestine visit to Kyiv amidst much secrecy and tweeted a picture sitting beside Zelensky after the visit. Johnson’s trip came a day after the EU’s top executives, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, publicly visited Kyiv and met with Zelensky.
British media hailed the “daredevil feat” of taking the eight-hour train journey in the war zone by the prime minister and compared him to the fabled British secret agent, James Bond 007. During the visit, he pledged 120 “armored vehicles” and new “anti-ship missile systems” to Ukraine.
The British government also announced it would be sending £100 million of military equipment, including more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, helmets, night-vision devices and body armor. The United Kingdom guaranteed an extra $500 million in World Bank lending to Ukraine, taking the total loan guarantee to up to $1 billion.
In addition to the clandestine visit to Kyiv, Boris Johnson is also credited with another highly provocative incident that happened before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last June, the British Royal Navy Defender breached Russia’s territorial waters in the Black Sea and as many as 20 Russian aircraft conducted “unsafe maneuvers” merely 500 feet above the warship and Britain also lamented shots were fired in the path of the ship.
“British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would not say whether he had personally approved the Defender’s voyage but suggested the Royal Navy was making a point by taking that route,” a Politico report alleged in June. A Telegraph report noted that former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had raised concerns about the mission, proposed by defense chiefs, and that Boris Johnson was ultimately called in to settle the dispute.
Among the 50-page Ministry of Defense documents discovered at a bus stop in Kent and passed to BBC were papers showing that ministers knew that sending a Royal Navy warship close to Crimea last June would provoke Russia, and did it anyway, sparking an international incident.
Last week, Russia announced banning Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and ten other British politicians from entering Russia over the United Kingdom’s hostile stance on the war in Ukraine.
Besides Britain, Germany has taken the lead in escalating NATO’s conflict with Russia. On April 15, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced plans to spend an additional €2 billion ($2.16 billion) on military needs, most of which is aimed at providing weapons to Ukraine.
Approximately €400 million ($432.5 million) of the cash is being allocated to the European Peace Facility, a funding mechanism through which military aid is being procured for Ukraine. The remaining part of the additional funds will be deployed directly towards supplies for Kyiv, among other needs. Scholz has pledged €100 billion ($112.7 billion) of the 2022 budget for the armed forces and committed to reaching the target of 2% of GDP spending on defense that is requested by NATO.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Berlin initially provided Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 anti-aircraft Stinger missiles. In mid-March, Germany said that due to security risks, it would not disclose further information about supplies of weapons to Ukraine.
The European Union decided earlier this month to massively increase financial support for Ukraine’s military to €1.5 billion. Most of that support, which is also supposed to allow Kyiv to buy weapons, is financed by Germany. The newly announced financial support would allow Kyiv to directly buy tanks from German defense companies like Rheinmetall.
Germany was specifically considering sending “Marder” light tanks, armored vehicles equipped with anti-tank missiles, to Ukraine. The German defense company Rheinmetall had signaled it could provide 100 such tanks, which were standing on the firm’s grounds, German officials told Politico.
Politicians were also discussing whether Berlin could similarly supply its heavy-combat “Leopard” tanks to Ukraine. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, told Deutschlandfunk radio on April 14 that Kyiv was “expecting” Berlin to deliver Marder and Leopard tanks, as well as the anti-aircraft “Gepard” tank.
One agreed shipment authorized by the German government includes 56 Czechoslovak-made infantry fighting vehicles that used to be operated by East Germany. Berlin passed the IFVs on to Sweden at the end of the 1990s, which later sold them to a Czech company that now aims to sell them to Kyiv, according to German Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Clearly, Germany has already provided plenty of “heavy weapons” to Ukraine. The asinine humbugs of Bundeswehr having “depleted its weapons stocks” and the peril of “direct confrontation with Russia” aside, the real reason Berlin is feigning neutrality in the Russo-Ukraine War is the fact that being a manufacturing hub of Europe, Germany is heavily reliant on the import of Russia’s natural gas to meet its massive energy demands and keep the industry running.
Invading Germany would be the last thing in the minds of Russia’s policymakers. All Russia has to do is resort to formidable tools of economic warfare at its disposal against industrialized economies of Europe by halting energy supplies to have as much psychological impact on the decision-making of Europe’s pretentious politicians representing avaricious corporate interests as the “terrifying specter” of “World War III” and “nuclear holocaust.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz even alluded to this fact in a wide-ranging interview with Der Spiegel. Referring to the Biden administration’s behind-the-scenes pressure that Germany should immediately stop importing gas from Russia, Scholz noted: “I absolutely do not see how a gas embargo would end the war. If Putin were open to economic arguments, he would never have begun this crazy war. Secondly, you act as if this was about money. But it’s about avoiding a dramatic economic crisis and the loss of millions of jobs and factories that would never again open their doors.” Scholz added imposing embargo on Russian gas would have considerable consequences “not just for Germany but for the whole of Europe.”
But at the behest of political establishments of the United States and Europe in order to force Germany to act against its national interests and to “do more” to internationally isolate Russia and transfer a large chunk of its arsenal of lethal weapons to Ukraine even if such a confrontational approach against Russia risks German economy going bankrupt, the mainstream media has been tasked to publicize the dubious report of an alleged rift between the Scholz government and the German Greens, the latter being coalition partners of the Scholz-led Social Democrats and purportedly favoring not only providing heavy weapons to Ukraine, but maybe committing German troops to the conflict to “liberate fair maiden Cinderella from the clutches of wicked stepmother.”
It’s ironic that the party calls itself “Greens” while unabashedly promoting undisguised militarism and confrontational approach towards Russia. Perfidious German politicians, despite being largest consumers of Russian gas, are deploying the cunning “good cop, bad cop” strategy against Russia, with the Greens playing the “bad cop” and Chancellor Scholz behaving as the “good cop” in order to ingratiate himself with Russia, even though Germany is one of the largest providers of lethal military assistance to Ukraine following the United States and the United Kingdom.
Despite being an industrial powerhouse of Europe, Germany might have been a sovereign state at liberty to pursue independent foreign policy during the reign of the Third Reich but, since the defeat of the Nazis in the Second World War, it has become a virtual colony of the imperial United States, comparable to Japan and South Korea in the Far East where 45,000 and 28,500 US troops have been deployed, respectively.
In Europe, 400,000 US forces were deployed at the height of the Cold War in the sixties, though the number has since been brought down after European powers developed their own military capacity following the devastation of the Second World War.
The number of American troops deployed in Europe now stands at 50,000 in Germany, 15,000 in Italy, 10,000 in the United Kingdom, and not to mention tens of thousands of additional US troops that have recently been deployed in Eastern Europe since the escalation of hostilities with Russia.
Historically, the NATO military alliance, at least ostensibly, was conceived as a defensive alliance in 1949 during the Cold War in order to offset conventional warfare superiority of the former Soviet Union. The US forged collective defense pact with the West European nations after the Soviet Union reached the threshold to build its first atomic bomb in 1949 and achieved nuclear parity with the US.
But the trans-Atlantic military alliance has outlived its purpose following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and is now being used as an aggressive and expansionist military alliance meant to browbeat and coerce the former Soviet allies, the East European states, to join NATO and its auxiliary economic alliance, the European Union, or risk international economic isolation.
All the militaries of the NATO member states operate under the integrated military command led by the Pentagon. Before being elected president, General Dwight Eisenhower was the first commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).
The commander of Allied Command Operations has been given the title Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), and is always a US four-star general officer or flag officer who also serves as the Commander US European Command, and is answerable to the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Among European powers, only France has adopted a relatively flexible stance to the Ukraine conflict and that, too, because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine happened on the eve of presidential elections in France, in which President Macron is in a tight race against far-right candidate Marie Le Pen, with a run-off scheduled to take place Sunday, April 24.
Emmanuel Macron said last week that his dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin had stalled after alleged mass killings were discovered in Ukraine: “Since the massacres we have discovered in Bucha and in other towns, the war has taken a different turn, so I did not speak to him again directly since, but I don’t rule out doing so in the future.”
It comes as a surprise, though, hearing from the mouth of a Frenchman, whose forebears were responsible for the massacre of millions of Algerians during the Algerian War lasting from 1954 to 1962, that he has abandoned peace dialogue with Russia in protest over alleged “mass killings” in Ukraine.
Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based geopolitical and national security analyst focused on geo-strategic affairs and hybrid warfare in the Middle East and Eurasia regions. His domains of expertise include neocolonialism, military-industrial complex and petro-imperialism. He is a regular contributor of diligently researched investigative reports to alternative news media.