Common Grounds

Our Friday News Analysis | How Do You Love Your Enemies? Have None! (Part 5)

May 19, 2023


BETRAYAL? If Zelensky Retakes Donbas, How Will He Face the People of Donbas?

Our Friday News Analysis | How Do You Love Your Enemies? Have None! (Part 5)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greets Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky outside Chequers, the prime minister’s countryside residence, where the president arrived by helicopter on Monday seeking pledges of further military support. The UK promised hundreds of air-defense missiles and drones to Ukraine—/UK Government photo.


The Hague, 19 May 2023 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.


The Majority of ‘Black’ Ukrainians (Ukrainians of Russian descent) in Donbas
Voted Zelensky into Office to Break Bread with BOTH Europe and Russia.


President Zelensky Breached the Trust





Ukraine's neighbors push for Zelensky to pursue peace as millions of displaced people flow into Europe


By Seymour Hersh
17 MAY 2023


Last Saturday, the Washington Post published an exposé of classified American intelligence documents showing that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, working behind the back of the Biden White House, pushed hard earlier this year for an expanded series of missile attacks inside Russia. The documents were part of a large cache of classified materials posted online by an Air Force enlisted man now in custody. A senior official of the Biden administration, asked by the Post for comment on the newly revealed intelligence, said that Zelensky has never violated his pledge never to use American weapons to strike inside Russia. In the view of the White House, Zelensky can do no wrong.


Zelensky’s desire to take the war to Russia may not be apparent to the president and senior foreign policy aides in the White House. Still, it is to those in the American intelligence community who have found it challenging to get their intelligence and their assessments a hearing in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, the slaughter in the city of Bakhmut continues. It is similar in idiocy, if not in numbers, to the massacre in Verdun and the Somme during World War I. The men in charge of today’s war—in Moscow, Kyiv, and Washington—have shown no interest even in temporary ceasefire talks that could serve as a prelude to something permanent. The word now is only about the possibilities of a late spring or summer offensive by either party.


But something else is cooking, as some in the American intelligence community know and have reported in secret, at the instigation of government officials at various levels in Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Latvia. These countries are all allies of Ukraine and declared enemies of Vladimir Putin.


This group is led by Poland, whose leadership no longer fears the Russian army because its performance in Ukraine has left the glow of its success at Stalingrad during the Second World War in tatters. It has been quietly urging Zelensky to find a way to end the war—even by resigning himself, if necessary—and to allow rebuilding his nation to get underway. Zelensky is not budging, according to intercepts and other data known inside the Central Intelligence Agency, but he is beginning to lose the private support of his neighbors.


One of the driving forces for the quiet European talks with Zelensky has been the more than five million Ukrainians fleeing from the war who have crossed the country’s borders and have registered with its neighbors under an EU agreement for temporary protection that includes residency rights, access to the labor market, housing, social welfare assistance, and medical care. An assessment published by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that the estimate excludes roughly 3 million Ukrainian refugees who escaped from the war zone without a visa into any of the 27 European nations that have abolished border control between each other under the Schengen agreement. Though not in the EU, Ukraine now enjoys all the benefits of the Schengen pact. A few nations, exhausted by the 15-month war, have reintroduced some forms of border control, but the regional refugee crisis will not be resolved until there is a formal peace agreement.


The UNHRC reports that free travel from Ukraine into the Baltic states and EU states in Western Europe “makes it difficult to determine exactly how many Ukrainians have reached the EU in the last few months and where they are now.” The report says the “vast majority” of the Ukrainian refugees are women and children, and one-third are under eighteen. Seventy-three percent of the working-age refugees are women, many with children.


A February analysis of the European refugee issue by the Council on Foreign Relations found that “tens of billions of dollars” in humanitarian aid were poured into Ukraine’s neighbors during the war’s first year. “As the conflict enters its second year with no end in sight,” the report says, “experts worry that host countries are growing fatigued.”


Weeks ago, I learned that the American intelligence community knew that some officials in Western Europe and the Baltic states wanted the war between Ukraine and Russia to end. These officials have concluded that it is time for Zelensky to “come around” and seek a settlement. A knowledgeable American official told me that some in the leadership in Hungary and Poland worked together to get Ukraine involved in serious talks with Moscow. “Hungary is a big player in this, and so are Poland and Germany, and they are working to get Zelensky to come around,” the American official said. The European leaders have made it clear that “Zelensky can keep what he’s got”—a villa in Italy and interests in offshore bank accounts—“if he works up a peace deal even if he’s got to be paid off if it’s the only way to get a deal.”

So far, the official said, Zelensky has rejected such advice and ignored offers of large sums of money to ease his retreat to an estate he owns in Italy. There is no support in the Biden Administration for any settlement that involves Zelensky’s departure, and the leadership in France and England “are too beholden” to Biden to contemplate such a scenario. There is a reality that some elements in the American intelligence community can’t ignore, the official said, even if the White House is ignoring it: “Ukraine is running out of money, and it is known that the next four or months are critical. And Eastern Europeans are talking about a deal.” The issue for them, the official told me, “is how to get the United States to stop supporting Zelensky,” The White House support goes beyond the needs of the war: “We are paying all of the retirement funds—the 401k’s—for Ukraine.”


And Zelensky wants more, the official said. “Zelensky is telling us that if you want to win the war, you’ve got to give me more money and more stuff. He tells us, ‘I’ve got to pay off the generals.’ He’s telling us”—if he is forced out of office—“he’s going to the highest bidder. He’d rather go to Italy than stay and possibly get killed by his people.”

“All of this talk is being reported and is now flying around inside the American intelligence community, but, as usual,” the official said, “it’s not clear to the intelligence community what the president and his foreign policy aides in the White House know of the reality” of the European discussion about finding a way to end the war. “We are still training Ukrainians how to fly our F-16s that will be shot down by Russia as soon as they get into the war zone. The mainstream press is dedicated to Biden and the war, and Biden is still talking about the Great Satan in Moscow while the Russian economy is doing great. Putin can stay where he is”—in power—“despite failing to wipe Ukraine off the map as an independent state. And he thought he would win the war with just one airborne division”—a sarcastic reference to Russia’s failed attempt to seize a vital airport by parachuting in an attack force in the war's first days of the war.


“Europe’s problem,” the official said, in terms of getting a quick settlement to the war, “is that the White House wants Zelensky to survive while there are others”—in Russia and in some European capitals—“who say Zelensky has got to go, no matter what,”


It’s not clear that this understanding has gotten to the Oval Office. I have been told that some better intelligence about the war does not reach the president through no fault of those who prepare the often contrary assessments. Biden is said to rely on briefings and other materials prepared by Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence since the Biden Administration came into office. She has spent much of her career working for Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, whose ties to Biden and agreement with him on matters pertaining to Russia and China go back decades.


I have been told that the one saving grace for some in the community has been CIA Director William Burns. Burns was ambassador to Russia and Deputy Secretary of State and is seen as someone “who has come around” in opposition to some of the White House’s foreign policy follies. “He doesn’t want to be a rat on a sinking ship,” the official told me.


On the other hand, I have been told it’s unclear to those in the CIA who prepare the President’s Daily Brief that Joe Biden is a regular reader of their intelligence summary. The document is usually three pages. Decades ago, I was told—by someone who begged me not to write about it then—that Ronald Reagan rarely read the PDB until Colin Powell, then in the White House, began reading it to a video recorder. The tape would then be played for the president. It’s unclear who, if anyone, might take the initiative as Biden’s Colin Powell.


What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive? Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen, featuring the clowns in some European capitals.


Gravitas | Europe divided on Ukraine War



Click Here to Watch Video (9 minutes, 23 seconds)


Is the EU on the Verge of Splitting?




Kyiv has a large amount of Western-supplied arms and the least experienced leadership in Europe, the veteran US politician warns


RT Editorial Staff
HomeWorld News
8 May 2023


Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attends the awarding ceremony. © AFP / John MacDougall


Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has signaled a U-turn in his views on Ukraine’s prospective NATO membership. The veteran politician told The Economist that he now believes peace in Europe cannot be achieved without Ukraine joining the US-led military bloc.

Last fall, Kissinger insisted that “it was not a wise American policy to attempt to include Ukraine into NATO.” He said the bloc’s eastward expansion since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 had essentially removed Russia’s historic “safety belt.” Still, he insisted that was no justification for Russia’s “surprise attack” on Ukraine.


However, in his interview on Wednesday with the British outlet, the politician, who turns 100 on May 27, suggested that “for the safety of Europe, it is better to have Ukraine in NATO.

He acknowledged that he currently finds himself “in the weird position that people say, ‘Look at him, he’s changed his mind. Now he’s for membership of Ukraine in NATO.’”

The reason for such a shift is “twofold,” Kissinger said. “One, Russia is no longer the conventional threat it used to be. And, secondly, we have now armed Ukraine to a point where it will be the best-armed, most modern country and with the least experienced leadership in Europe,” he explained.


According to the former US Secretary of State, the position taken by European countries towards Kyiv’s membership is “madly dangerous.”


               “The Europeans are saying we don’t want them in NATO because they’re too risky, and therefore we’ll arm the hell out of them and give them the most advanced weapons. How can that possibly work?” he asked.


In 2008, NATO declared that Kyiv would join the bloc but did not specify a date. “The decision to leave open the membership of Ukraine in NATO was very wrong and unwise,” Kissinger said.


The possibility of Ukraine, which the Russians consider “the little brother closest to them organically, or historically,” being accepted into the US-led alliance became “a final turning point” for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin when he decided to send troops to the neighboring country in February 2022, he explained.


Last month, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius suggested that “this is not the time to decide” about Ukraine’s place in NATO. He was backed by Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda, who said it “would be too difficult” to make Kyiv a member of the bloc while the conflict with Moscow continues.


Russia, which sees NATO’s eastward expansion as a significant security threat, had singled out Kyiv’s push to join the bloc as among the main reasons for launching its military operation in Ukraine more than a year ago.

Writing on Telegram, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev claimed that despite Kissinger’s vast experience, he was “totally wrong” to suggest that Ukrainian membership in NATO would somehow guarantee peace. Instead, it would only lead to a confrontation between Russia and the bloc, Medvedev insisted.


If the “dull-witted” NATO leadership decides to welcome Kyiv into the bloc, “the Ukrainian nationalist regime won’t give up on attempts to regain lost territories,” added Medvedev, who currently serves as deputy head of Russia’s Security Council.


In response, Moscow “would have to reply harshly with all available means,” likely triggering NATO’s Article 5, which states that an attack on one member equates to an attack on the entire bloc, Medvedev explained.




The United States is resisting a European push for powerful fighters. But will it relent, as it did before with tanks, rocket launchers, and air defense missiles?


A Dutch F-16 jet fighter landed at Volkel air base in the Netherlands. Britain and the Netherlands are leading a European push to send the jets to Ukraine. Credit: Remko De Waal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


               “A fresh push by Britain and the Netherlands to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter planes has exposed the latest fault line among Western allies who have wrangled repeatedly over sending powerful weapons of war, once again pitting the reluctant United States against some of its closest European partners.


               Several European allies are prepared to give their F-16s to Ukraine. But the Biden administration, which must approve any transfers of American-made planes, remains unconvinced that Ukraine needs the expensive jets, a staple of many modern military arsenals.


               So deep is Washington’s skepticism that Kyiv’s pilots are currently not even allowed to train on the F-16s owned by European states, according to a senior Ukrainian official who spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive diplomatic issue frankly.”


Read more: ‘The Latest Flash Point Among Ukraine’s Allies Is Whether to Send F-16s,’ by Lara Jakes, reporting from Rome, and Eric Schmitt, reporting from Washington DC, New York Times, 18 May 2023. 



Editor's Note | Blood is Thicker than Water


If the West genuinely wanted peaceful coexistence, the EU-US (NATO) Axis would have:

               1) Allowed Ukraine to become a trading partner of BOTH the EU and the Russian Federation.

               2) Guaranteed open access to the seaports and shipping lanes and the pipelines in Ukraine to facilitate the free flow of oil and gas.

               3) Gradually disengaged and eventually terminated NATO to countervail a threat that did not exist. The Russian Federation wanted to work with, not against, Europe, to sell its products and services and to expand its market share, not its territories.


After all, Russia is not just the largest country on earth, with 11 time zones. It is also the largest country in Europe.

And what an economic feast it could be for Ukraine. They would be simultaneously trading with East and West.


Russians and Ukrainians feel more at home with each other than with NATO.


Blood is thicker than water. 


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Next Week


The US Grip on the Middle East Slips and Peace Breaks Out

Washington’s poor decision-making is starting to catch up with it as nations choose to pursue peace without American interference


By Robert Inlakesh
RT HomeWorld News
2 May 2023


Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, meets Bashar al-Assad on April 18, 2023, in Damascus, Syria.
© Photo by Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


As Washington’s influence in the Middle East declines, countries throughout the region are taking to compromise, rapprochement, and peace talks, inflicting a blow to the US narrative that seeks to depict its role as a stabilizer and democracy advocate.

Under the leadership of US President Joe Biden, there has been a notable downgrade in the status of the West amongst various longtime Middle East allies. As the US-led West exerts most of its efforts on the war in Ukraine, its poor decision-making in the Middle East has finally begun to catch up to it.



Iranian Insider and British Spy: How a Double Life Ended on the Gallows


1 May 2023
New York Times
By Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman


Western intelligence officials said Iran executed a former deputy defense minister in January 2023 who provided Britain with valuable intelligence on Iranian nuclear and military programs over a decade.

Alireza Akbari during an interview in Tehran. Iran announced in January that Mr. Akbari had been executed on espionage charges for Britain. Credit: Khabar Online News Agency


United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer
17 May 2023

Next week | Our special edition on Iran and Russia includes: A Tehran political scientist analyzes the strategic shift to Moscow; the seven phases of developing military ties; an explainer on the new North-South Corridor; the four phases of gyrating trade; and the news digest.



Explainer: Iran’s Strategic Pivot to Russia
For decades Iran and Russia have collaborated on trade, energy, arms, and nuclear projects. Tehran has often been frustrated with Moscow’s slow implementation of agreements. But the two had grown much closer since 2022, when Iran started providing military support to Russia for the war in Ukraine. Trade increased as they helped each other skirt Western sanctions.

Iran & Russia: Burgeoning Military Ties
Military cooperation between Iran and Russia has gyrated from virtually nothing after the 1979 revolution to a strategic partnership, bolstered by necessary arms transfers, by 2023, and according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Moscow accounted for about a third of Tehran’s arms imports during the four decades after the revolution. According to John Kirby of the National Security Council, the two countries had forged a “full-scale defense partnership” by mid-2023.

Iran & Russia: New Land & Sea Networks
Since 2002, Iran, Russia, and India have worked intermittently on a new transportation system by rail, road, and sea—running 4,500 miles through at least six Eurasian countries and benefitting seven others—that could be a game-changer for global trade. The joint project aims to cut travel costs by up to a third and shipping time by nearly a half.

Iran & Russia: Gyrating Trade Grows
Trade between Iran and Russia fluctuated wildly in the three decades after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. It plummeted by 65 percent between 2010 and 2015 during UN sanctions on Iran, then nearly quadrupled by 2022 after international sanctions were lifted, a new trade route opened, and a budding military alliance deepened.

US Report on Religious Freedom in Iran
On May 15, the State Department released its annual report on religious freedom. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the Iranian government for the crackdown on protesters. “People across Iran, led by young women, continue peaceful protests demanding their human rights, including freedom of religion, galvanized by the killing of Masa Amini, who was arrested by the so-called morality police because her hijab did not fully cover her hair.”

News Digest: Week of May 15
During the week of May 15, the United States charged a Chinese national for attempting to provide materials for Iran’s ballistic missile program. The White House announced that Russia sought to purchase more Iranian drones against Ukraine, and Azerbaijan arrested at least nine people accused of plotting assassinations on behalf of Iran.



The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of the Building the Bridge Foundation, The Hague.


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