On Saturday, the entire humanitarian convoy of 227 trucks crossed back into Russia without incident after having successfully delivered its contents to the Luhansk distribution center. The unwavering round trip project from Russia surmounted considerable bureaucratic delays and political obstacles including wild assertions that the convoy’s true purpose was to ‘smuggle weapons’ to the east Ukraine rebels.
Amidst a multitude of frenzied claims from the Kiev government and its western allies that the convoy was intent on fomenting violence and escalating the conflict as it constituted an ‘illegal incursion” and ‘violated the sovereignty of Ukraine,” the trucks peacefully avoided any confrontation with Ukraine military forces by taking advantage of back roads.
Given the very urgent need to provide immediate medical relief and other life necessities to Ukraine citizens, what has been especially noteworthy during the ten day period in which the Russian convoy was stalled at the border is the extent to which the Kiev government and its EU/US/NATO partners would go to impede a convoy carrying humanitarian supplies.
Now that the mission has been successfully completed without any of the predicted dire consequences, the considerable amount of egg on the collective public faces of its opponents who deliberately provoked an unnecessary combative situation would normally be cause for considerable public embarrassment; yet will be easily overlooked by an obedient submissive media. Obviously, the leaders of the western triumvirate were fully conscious of the fact that the convoy was totally dedicated for humanitarian purposes but sought to use the convoy as part of the larger goal of sowing the seeds of distrust and hostility toward Russia and toward Vladimir Putin in particular. Deepening public enmity towards Putin and eroding his reputation as a world leader is essential for the next chapter in Ukraine – that is the take-back of Crimea, after the defeat of the east Ukraine rebels.
After weeks of renegotiating what had already been negotiated and obfuscation by the Kiev government, the Russian Foreign Ministry finally took the risk and made the decision to begin the convoy’s journey even amid reports of ‘unusually intense’ shelling and house-to-house fighting in the Donbas region. While the horrific devastation from the internationally banned white phosphorous bombs on a civilian population continue as ballistic missiles with 1,000 pound warheads and military aircraft target Donetsk residential neighborhoods, the Foreign Ministry cited:
“New artificial demands and pretexts [on the part of Kiev] have become… intolerable. All pretexts for dragging on aid delivery to people in the humanitarian disaster area have been exhausted,” it said. “The Russian side has made the decision to act.”
In that same document, the Foreign Ministry reiterated the chronology of Russian efforts to secure the myriad approvals and the bureaucratic pretexts of countless false starts as the Kiev government displayed an appalling lack of urgency while the battles in Donetsk and Luhansk raged.
Predictably, as the convoy of 2,000 tons of assorted humanitarian supplies began its long-awaited trek, the Ukraine Foreign Affairs Ministry charged that “Russia began smuggling humanitarian aid to Ukraine, ignoring established international rules, procedures and agreements, without the consent and escort of the International Committee of the Red Cross.”
“The fact that Russian trucks entered the territory of Ukraine without proper border and customs procedures and that the cargo was not donated to the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) indicates deliberate and aggressive nature of Russia’s actions.” and that “We consider this act to be another flagrant violation of the fundamental principles of international law.”
As the convoy crossed into Ukraine on Friday, ‘swift condemnations’ were immediate from the Obama Administration and NATO. In an example of the militarization of US foreign policy with the National Security Council assuming what historically would be a State Department function, a middling NSC bureaucrat issued the official White House statement. Rather than endorse a ceasefire as German Chancellor Angela Merkel did on Sunday, the White House chose an inflammatory path of accusations without the verification to back up its claims of Russian escalation.
In an example of American compassion, Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, condemned the convoy as an “unauthorized entry into Ukraine” and called for the vehicles’ immediate withdrawal.
The EU added its belief that Russia was “violating the integrity of Ukraine borders without authorization from Kiev” and expressed regret that the relief convoy was “unaccompanied by the IRC.” Given the potential impact of the Ukraine war on globalization and the financial markets, even the financial community weighed in on the convoy debate with “People are thinking maybe the convoy sent wasn’t in line with an acknowledgment of a Red Cross-led endeavor and was something taken on by Russia unilaterally, which has reestablished a little bit of investor anxiety,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
Sounding more like a Greek chorus echoing repetitious objections to a humanitarian convoy traveling through a war-torn country was the ever-inflammatory NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who declared that “I condemn the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy” and that “a major escalation in Russian military involvement” had occurred.
While U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a cease-fire during the humanitarian mission, the truth of the matter was that without a ceasefire and no guarantee of safety from the Kiev government, the IRC monitors were pulled at the last moment from accompanying the convoy. In addition, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin reported that on August 12th, a diplomatic note had been received from the Ukraine government constituting what Churkin referred to as “official authorization’ for the convoy.
Perhaps the most egregious, the most obviously inexcusable misrepresentation of the facts, however, came from a conveniently-timed front page New York Times article entitled “Russians Open Fire in Ukraine NATO Reports.” whose job it is to be factually accurate and objectively represent all points of view.
With an irresponsible pen more committed to reiterating the Obama Administration’s public relations campaign than journalism, the New York Times again failed in its role as guardian of the truth allowing inaccurate exaggerations and entirely false anecdotes to masquerade as news.
While relying on the usual unnamed, unspecified vague “intelligence reports from several alliance members,” the Times categorically stated that “Russia … escalated tensions with Ukraine…, sending more than 200 trucks from a long-stalled aid convoy and, NATO said, conducting military operations on Ukrainian territory.”
Curiously, the Times article is a somewhat odd, overlapping mixture of reference to the humanitarian convoy interwoven in a story about an alleged Russian military incursion as if the existence of the convoy somehow confirms that a military intrusion has occurred while strangely suggesting that “200 trucks” had something to do with ‘conducting military operations’.
According to the Times “NATO officials said that the Russian military had moved artillery units inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces” and yet the Times reporters did not cite any of NATO’s proof that such artillery movement had occurred or how NATO could confirm that the artillery was firing at Ukrainian forces. In other words, NATO could say that the Moon is made of blue cheese and the Times would run the news in their Food section.
The basis for the assertions were a series of quotes from their favorite prattler NATO Secretary General Rasmussen who insisted (despite a total lack of verification) that “There has been “a major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces” and “Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces.” Again, the amazingly-incurious Times reporters dutifully wrote whatever they were told with no independent confirmation or analysis.
So as the Times not only included unsubstantiated, circumstantial quotes as fact but Mr. Rasmussen’s acknowledgment that he “did not say how many Russian artillery pieces had moved into Ukraine or where they were located, but one [unidentified] Western official said the number of Russian-operated artillery units was “substantial.”
Until finally, buried at the end of the lengthy article “There were no signs of Russian military vehicles or any other indications of an armed escort by Russian troops.”
Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth. in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor. Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.