WhoWhatWhy http://whowhatwhy.com Groundbreaking Investigative Journalism 2014-09-16T01:57:05Z hourly 1 2000-01-01T12:00+00:00 Germany Leads On Alt-Energy; Car Texting Block; Most Embarrassing Interview—And More Headlines http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/15/germany-leads-on-alt-energy-car-texting-block-most-embarrassing-interview-and-more-headlines/ 2014-09-16T01:57:05Z
• Technology blocks texting while driving

• Most awkward political interview ever

And more headlines… ]]>
123• Germany proves alternative energy is viable (New York Times)

• New technology stops texts and calls while driving (New York Times)

• MSM reporter cleared stories with CIA (The Intercept)

• Look who pays the pro-war pundits (The Nation)

• 12 most competitive Senate races (Washington Post)

• Beheadings not all treated equally; OpEd (OpEdNews)

• Outspoken liberal may seek presidency (Slate)

• The most awkward political interview ever? (National Memo)


COMING UP: Russ Baker Speaking at Warren Commission Conferences http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/14/coming-up-russ-baker-speaking-at-warren-commission-conferences/ 2014-09-14T22:22:57Z jfkWhoWhatWhy Editor-in Chief Russ Baker will be presenting at two Washington-area conferences on the 50th anniversary of the Warren Commission Report. Both appearances will be on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Even 50 years later, the widely discredited official report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy still draws tremendous scrutiny precisely because it failed to solve America’s greatest whodunit convincingly. In fact, more questions and revelations have risen in the half-century since the report purported to give the exhaustive story.

Baker’s own investigations turned up new connections and intrigues, which he wrote about in his best-selling Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. (You can read a 10-part series of excerpts starting here.)

Here is Baker’s schedule and more details on the conferences:

From 10:30-11:30 a.m., he will speak at the Crowne Plaza Old Town Hotel in Alexandria, VA

From 2:45-3:30 p.m., he will join a panel on “Why Won’t the Media Cover the Story?” at the Hyatt Regency, Bethesda, MD

From 4:15-5, he will speak again at the Hyatt Regency on the role of Warren Commission staff in the cover-up.

For information on The Warren Report and the JFK Assassination: Five Decades of Significant Disclosures (Bethesda), click here

For information on The Warren Report 50 Years Later: A Critical Examination (Alexandria), click here


WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.


US, Ukraine or Middle East? Ferguson Images Made It Hard to Tell http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/12/us-ukraine-or-middle-east-ferguson-images-made-it-hard-to-tell/ 2014-09-12T21:13:47Z Ferguson, Missouri, or Kiev, Ukraine?

Ferguson, Missouri, or Kiev, Ukraine?

The images out of Ferguson, Missouri, looked more like what one sees in Middle Eastern hot spots than in a Midwestern town: peaceful protesters from an alienated minority brutally dispered by law enforcers armed with military-grade weapons.

To many Americans, the disregard for fundamental constitutional rights shown by Ferguson cops laid bare a deep-seated racism in at least one community in the U.S. heartland. But many observers around the world saw an even more disturbing dynamic at work.

In their eyes, Americans were exposed as hypocrites on human rights—promoters of a strict standard of behavior abroad while harboring the most egregious violations at home.

Countries with their own histories of human-rights abuses are now pointing at the treatment of blacks and protesters of all races in the U.S as proof of a self-righteous double standard. Even though the story is fading from the headlines, it is likely to have much longer-playing impact on foreign perceptions of the U.S.—and a profound role in the propaganda wars. (For our earlier coverage of Ferguson, please click here and here.)

Criticism From Hostile Governments

IRAN: The U.S. has frequently denounced Iran’s violent suppression of dissent. After Ferguson, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei wasted no time in putting this on a Twitter account attributed to him:


RUSSIA: The Russian government, which rarely misses an opportunity to criticize the U.S., has said nothing official so far about the Ferguson unrest, but the Kremlin-backed TV network RT has covered the protests closely. “We’re currently in Ferguson, where tensions have been flying high ever since Saturday when 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by multiple shots by police officers.” (Ironically,opposition figures in Russia worry that the police response in Ferguson will give Vladimir Putin—who often uses Western precedents to justify his own actions—an excuse to crack down on dissidents when it suits him.)       

CHINA: China’s official Xinhua news agency said that Ferguson is an example of how America’s “racial divide still remains a deeply-rooted chronic disease that keeps tearing U.S. society apart.” It added: “The Ferguson incident once again demonstrates that even if a country that has for years tried to play the role of an international human rights judge and defender, there is still much room for improvement at home.”

EGYPT: The U.S. has criticized this country for its brutal response to the Arab Spring, and the persecution of minority sects. Now its government is asking the U.S. to show “restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion”

Criticism From Allies

Criticism from the world’s most democratic countries and institutions is harder to dismiss than the predictable gloatings and tut-tuttings of Iran, Russia, China, and Egypt.

Media coverage from Britain—America’s staunchest ally, which suffered race riots after the shooting of a black teen by the London police in 2011—grew increasingly critical about events in Ferguson.

The Guardian wrote that despite having a black president in office, “the use of armored vehicles and sniper nests in the height of a Missouri summer has exposed the extent and consequences of segregation in America’s heartland.” Another opinion piece was more explicit, describing Ferguson as a mostly black town “under occupation” by “a militarized police force that killed a black child.”

The Telegraph newspaper sent one of its most experienced war correspondents, Rob Crilly, to cover the riots. For the first time in a career that has taken him to Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, the Middle East and elsewhere, Crilly was arrested for doing his job—in the middle of the U.S.A.


European newspapers displayed the story on their front pages, and were critical of an ally that in years past pointed its finger at their own handling of civil unrest.

Even the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon called on U.S. authorities “to ensure that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are protected.” He also demanded that law enforcement officials abide by U.S. and international standards for dealing with demonstrators.

Amnesty International, the global human rights organization, sent observers to Ferguson—the first time the group has ever deployed such a team within the United States.


Double Standard, Double-Edged Sword

Of course, foreign observers are unlikely to appreciate the nuances of federal vs. local control of police forces under the U.S. Constitution. Just as few Americans are quick to grasp the theological differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims or the historical twists and turns of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia.

fer2But Americans should have no trouble understanding how media watchers overseas might conclude that the U.S. is in favor of protests only when they happen far away and bring down hostile governments—especially if Washington has had a hand in lighting or fanning the flames of unrest.  

So-called democracy-building campaigns funded by the U.S, have played a bigger role in fomenting anti-government activities around the world than is generally known.The Arab Spring, Syria, Libya and Ukraine all offer master classes in how the West creates “a people’s uprising.”

Understanding how America is viewed from beyond its borders is essential to maintaining credibility in the eyes of friends and adversaries alike.

fer3In a world where military adventures carry demonstrable risks of blowback and out-of-control (even nuclear) escalation, a credible projection of soft power may be the best hope for defending legitimate national interests – not to mention advancing human rights wherever they are threatened.

If media coverage of Ferguson teaches nothing else, it’s that images in the international marketplace are indeed worth the proverbial thousand words. The only way to amend such tell-tale pictures is to get serious about dealing with the reality of unremitting racism that lies behind them.


WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on it. But can we count on you? We cannot do our work without your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.


Fracking Sick, Social Media vs Dissent, JFK Vietnam insight—and More Headlines http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/11/fracking-sick-social-media-vs-dissent-jfk-vietnam-insight-and-more-headlines/ 2014-09-11T15:34:26Z
• Social media actually stifles dissent

• Fracking sickens residents

And more headlines… ]]>
Those living near fracking are sicker, says study

Those living near fracking are sicker, says study

• How Social Media Stifles Dissent (New York Times)

• Iran’s Boots on the Ground in Iraq (Foreign Policy)

• People Near Fracking Wells Sicker (USA Today)

• History: JFK Frustrated at Staffers’ Conflicting Vietnam Assessments (Politico)

• Resistance is Futile: Cost of Challenging Police State (OpEd News)

• Police Could Be Forced to Repay Millions in Grants Used for Military Equipment (Guardian)

• New Exemptions from 50-Year Declassification Rules (Secrecy News)

• Café Bans Laptops and Tablets—Start of a Trend? (Guardian)


UPDATE: Louis Freeh’s Curious Car Accident http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/10/update-louis-freehs-curious-car-accident/ 2014-09-10T22:26:45Z Rescuers prepare to fly ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh to the hospital

Rescuers prepare to fly ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh to the hospital

Recently, we reported on an Aug. 25 one-car crash involving the long-time former FBI director, Louis Freeh. Considering Freeh’s prominence and tenure in the national security apparatus, the incident has received surprisingly little media attention and virtually no serious scrutiny.

But we think that journalistic rigor warrants a close look at misfortune befalling people in sensitive positions, even when there is a reasonable possibility that there is nothing more to learn. You can read our first article here.

Now, we’d like to update you on two key points, and then on some other curiosities.

First: local Vermont media are reporting that, just prior to his crash along a relatively straight and flat portion of a rural stretch of Vermont Highway 12, Freeh, 64, nearly took out three motorists, whose evasive actions saved themselves.

Second: a still unidentified FBI agent quickly materialized at the scene of the crash.

Freeh Wheeling

Vermont’s largest newspaper, the Burlington Free Press, provided the following coverage, citing one of the drivers whose quick action saved their lives:

The driver, Van Coleman, gave a written statement to a Windsor County deputy sheriff, who was the first police officer on the scene of the Aug. 25 crash of Freeh’s vehicle. Deputy Sheriff Justin Hoyt said he gave the eyewitness report to state police.

A motorcyclist and two cars needed to swerve into the left lane when Freeh’s vehicle crossed the center line on Vermont 12 in Barnard and headed at the trio at a high rate of speed, Coleman told the Burlington Free Press.

Freeh “was doing about 60 to 65 miles per hour and was on the left side of the road,” Coleman said. The speed limit was 50 mph.

Coleman said the northbound motorcyclist, who was first in line, moved to the left to avoid the SUV coming in the wrong lane. Another car also swerved left before Coleman followed suit in his Honda, he said.

None of this information about Freeh’s behavior has been provided to the public by the government—so we have the local media to thank for its diligence.

The Free Press provides claims by various Vermont officials that they themselves did not have the information to release.

State police were criticized for trying to keep the crash under wraps for 24 hours. A video crew for Fox44/ABC 22 in Colchester and a photographer from a local weekly newspaper in Woodstock were at the scene, but they were told a news release would be issued the following day.

Instead, FBI sources in Washington told NBC News that Freeh had been in a Vermont crash. The Vermont State Police issued a news release more than eight hours after the wreck and only after multiple calls by local and national media.

Mystery G-Man Rushes to Scene

A still unidentified FBI agent was one of the first people to arrive at the accident scene, according to police. He was apparently from out of state. What he was doing there is still not clear. Police believed him to be off-duty, but could not say with certainty.

Students of history will note the many instances in which FBI have shown up at sensitive accident/crash scenes with great haste—sometimes seemingly surmounting formidable obstacles, and sometimes arriving in force that would seem impossible based on actual local staffing.

One of many examples where FBI swarmed a crash scene was the 1972 Chicago plane crash that killed Dorothy Hunt, a former CIA officer and wife of the embattled CIA officer and Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, while she was cooperating with a journalist on inquiries into Watergate. The FBI took over the investigation, prompting complaints from the National Transportation Safety Board, which has statutory responsibility for such air disaster probes. (A detailed review of the incident can be found in Carl Oglesby’s Yankee and Cowboy War.)

Freeh himself was involved in a similar accident scene takeover, following the downing/crash of TWA flight 800 over Long Island. Freeh commandeered the investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board right after the incident in July 1996. Once the FBI took over, the NTSB was denied access to witnesses (see Aviation Week, Dec. 15, 1997; paywall).  That August, chemists at the FBI crime lab found traces of PETN, a component of bombs and surface-to-air missiles.  Yet, in November 1997, the FBI closed the investigation for good, claiming no evidence of a criminal act had been found.  There has never been a follow-up investigation of this case. (For more, see the documentary by WhoWhatWhy contributor Kristina Borjesson.)

“His Head Was Down”

What happened to Freeh on August 25 when his 2010 SUV left the highway, and hit a tree? Here’s the Free Press again:

“His head was down, so I thought he had fallen asleep,” Coleman, the witness, said as he reflected on what he saw before Freeh crashed.

“I think he was totally out. He made no attempt to stop,” said Coleman, who spoke initially to the News & Citizen newspaper, a weekly in Morristown.

It’s important to remember that this happened shortly after noon, and not terribly far from Freeh’s vacation home, not typical circumstances for a driver to have fallen asleep.

Freeh and his staff have been mum on the whole thing; the FBI has provided no details or explanation. And law enforcement has not appeared to be especially zealous in figuring out what happened. As the Free Press reported on Sept 3:

Earlier state police had said there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were a factor in the Aug. 25 crash.  That was based on personal observation, no probable cause and a lack of suspicion,” Keefe said in explaining why no test was administered.

And AP reported on Sept 4:

State Police Capt. Ray Keefe said police did not consider if Freeh was using a cellphone before the crash, and did not examine his phone, because the accident was not consistent with one of a distracted driver; no brake or swerve marks were left on the road.

The Vermont State Police said they found no sign that his car had been tampered with. That is also what police said about the one-car crash of national security journalist Michael Hastings. Of course, police see more accidents than most people and rarely say a car has been tampered with. That’s mainly because most cars are not involved in accidents because of tampering.

Freeh is, or was, under armed guard at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, a hospital in neighboring New Hampshire that is considered among the top hospitals. It routinely has very tight security, so the reason for the extra precautions is not clear.

There is the possibility that the law enforcement agencies involved with Freeh’s car crash are treating it with kid gloves because Freeh was one of their own. Although it happens less and less nowadays, there is ample history of fellow law officers giving special treatment to cases involving someone else who carries a badge. The fact that Freeh once held the biggest badge in the land could also be playing a factor.

Freeh, with his knowledge of details concerning controversial major security events that have not been, in many people’s minds, satisfactorily explained—including 9/11, TWA Flight 800, Oklahoma City, Ruby Ridge, Waco, investigations of the Clintons and more—is in a sensitive position. If his accident was, in the opinion of the FBI, not an accident, then they would conceivably have a reason to be concerned for his safety.

Ultimately, however, Freeh, a man who headed an agency famous for being tight-lipped, is unlikely to share his thoughts.


WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.


HuffPo National Security Fellow: Conspiracy Theories and Manslaughter. Huh?!? http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/09/huffpo-national-security-fellow-conspiracy-theories-and-manslaughter-huh/ 2014-09-09T17:43:04Z Donté Stallworth, HuffPo’s New National Security Correspondent

Donté Stallworth, HuffPo’s New National Security Correspondent

How is the brave new world of online journalism doing? Consider this: The Huffington Post has hired former NFL star Donté Stallworth as a “Reporting Fellow” to cover….National Security.

His experience in the area is limited to tweeting his views on subjects ranging from 9/11 to ISIL. That’s apparently sufficient cred for HuffPo Politics Managing Editor Amanda Terkel, who said there’s been “a national security wonk lurking underneath Donté’s helmet for quite some time, as anyone who follows him on Twitter knows.” And she’s not alone: the website Foreign Policy last year offered him a job (sort of) based on his Twitter stream.

We find two things especially interesting about HuffPo’s new hire.

One is that Huffington Post (with which we are friendly enough and where material of ours very occasionally appears) seems to be congenitally unable to resist bringing aboard people whose main credentials are fame, wealth or connections. But, heck—it’s a business, and it needs money and clicks. So whatever.

The second thing is more problematical: Stallworth’s views tend toward what the HuffPo itself might dismiss as “conspiracy theory.” Anything even remotely identifiable along those lines is routinely removed or blocked by HuffPo editors based on the site’s (unpublished) editorial policy. And they don’t do that just for wild imaginings. Even carefully measured and documented work that questions the conventional interpretation of events doesn’t get ink at Huffpo—including deep digs into the illogical parts of the official narrative about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the many questions surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing, especially the FBI’s relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

How hypocritical, then, is it for the site to make the NFL dude a National Security Fellow? Consider these 2009 tweets:




Oh, there’s one more thing about HuffPo’s new hire:

It cannot be ignored that the same year Stallworth was tweeting the above items, he killed a pedestrian while driving drunk. Stallworth was suspended by the NFL, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, was sentenced to just 30 days in jail (he only served 24 of those) and then had to put in 1,000 hours of community service.

Although it’s not clear just what duties a Huffington Post National Security Fellow is expected to perform, Stallworth’s new gig is not part of that community service.

Or is it? Now that would be a conspiracy theory.


Photo Credits:


Hil Loves Henry, Puerto Rico Tax Haven, Military and God—and More Headlines http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/08/hil-loves-henry-puerto-rico-tax-haven-military-and-god-and-more-headlines/ 2014-09-08T18:47:03Z
• Rich moving to Puerto Rico for no federal taxes

• Hillary Clinton lovefest with Henry Kissinger

And more headlines… ]]>
hil• How social media stifles dissent (New York Times)

• US investors move to Puerto Rico to avoid income taxes (New York Times)

• California nuclear plant another Fukushima waiting to happen (EcoWatch)

• Climate disasters disproportionally harming US south and African-Americans (OpEd News)

• Civil case—not government—finally targets bankers over mortgage fraud (Salon)

• Hillary Clinton praises Kissinger as “surprisingly idealistic” (Mother Jones)

• Near-extinct blue whales make amazing comeback (NPR)

• Air Force officer denied re-enlistment over refusal to write “so help me God” (American Humanist)

UPDATE: Petition to Put 9/11 Probe on NYC Ballot Jumps Big Hurdle http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/06/update-petition-to-put-911-probe-on-nyc-ballot-jumps-big-hurdle/ 2014-09-07T02:50:04Z The Ruins of WTC Building 7

The Ruins of WTC Building 7

A group that wants New York City voters to authorize a new investigation into the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 on 9/11 won a significant victory this week.

The City of New York conceded that the High-Rise Safety Initiative has enough signatures to qualify its petition for an investigation of all high-rise building collapses since the 9/11 attacks. Any credible inquiry would include WTC Building 7. (For our earlier story on the initiative, please click here)

The victory comes as part of a trial which started last month. The High-Rise Safety Initiative sued to overturn the City’s determination that not enough of the signatures it collected were bona fide, and that the legal language of the petition is not valid.

So with the first reason for the City’s rejection out of the way, the High-Rise Building Initiative now must persuade the court that its petition language is legitimate.

If it can, then voters will decide on the November ballot whether the baffling collapse of Building 7 will get another look. That could answer nagging questions about the building, including how fires caused the building to fall to the ground so swiftly.


WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.



Ukraine Crisis Sends NATO Back to the Cold War http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/04/ukraine-sends-nato-back-to-the-cold-war/ 2014-09-04T18:00:04Z NATO’s expanding again.

NATO’s expanding again.

NATO, a military alliance forged in the Cold War, is showing signs of reverting to type—with Russia assuming its familiar role as the “heavy.”

This is a development that should trouble us all, not least because the arguments advanced to justify NATO’s newly aggressive stance are so hard to resist.

Nobody can deny that NATO is preparing to flex its military muscles, with Europe engulfed in the biggest period of instability in decades. Yet, as some 67 heads of state meet at its latest summit in Wales this week, few are talking about the alliance’s legacy of expansionism—which many feel has contributed to the current tensions with Russia. Instead all the talk is of the 28-nation alliance seeking a new purpose as the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan steadily continues.

In responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, NATO looks to have found it.


“We will send an unmistakable message,” NATO’s secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an op-ed co-authored with General Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe. “We must make the right choices for NATO: to ensure that the alliance remains ready, willing and able to defend our almost one billion citizens.”

In response to Russia’s land grab in Crimea—the first territorial aggrandizement in Europe since the Second World War—the alliance founded in 1949 to combat the Soviet Union is once again preparing to stand up to Moscow. The bellicose talk comes even as Putin is talking of a ceasefire with Ukraine.

The United States has joined the aggressive chorus, too. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby this week said Russia’s actions have “galvanized the alliance and … and brought into sharp relief the need for all NATO partners and allies to continue sufficient and adequate defense spending.”

Expensive Posturing

A strong move by NATO in response to increased tensions will not come cheap. Right now, only four of NATO’s members spend more than 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. Indeed, the alliance’s governments have cut total defense spending by a fifth over the last five years. Yet Russia’s has jumped up by 50% over the same period.

In the UK, officials are overseeing the diplomacy that they hope will precede a sweeping agreement to advance troops much closer to Russia’s border. The expectation is that, rather than permanently basing NATO troops in former Warsaw Pact countries like the Baltic states and Poland, a rapid reinforcement capability will be established that will, in essence, send Eastern Europe back to a Cold War footing.

Agreement has already been reached on the movement of a NATO headquarters to a “forward” position – probably at the alliance’s existing base in Szczecin, Poland. Vital equipment and supplies will be placed in waiting near the Russian border, a senior British Foreign Office official said on condition of anonymity, at a recent briefing in London attended by WhoWhatWhy. When a crisis develops, troops will be rushed into any border area NATO feels is threatened by Russia, grabbing their weapons along the way. A new set of military exercises will be set up to prepare troops for combat scenarios, the official said.

A NATO air patrol of F-16s and an AWACS

A NATO air patrol of F-16s and an AWACS

Besides all this, a number of countries will soon be offered what are euphemistically called “defense capacity building missions.” These programs are played down by NATO-allied officials, who characterize them as a way for countries to benefit from the alliance’s “expertise.” Georgia, which Russia invaded in 2008, is on the shortlist—an inclusion likely to anger Moscow.


For years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, defense experts say, NATO bent over backwards to keep Russia happy. “It created a number of serious dialogues. But Russia expressed deep discomfort about a further deepening of ties,” says Kathleen McInnis, a former Department of Defense strategist who now works for the Chatham House think-tank in London. “It’s actually been Russia that’s given NATO the cold shoulder.”

One manifestation of NATO’s attempts to appease Russia was its hesitancy to garrison troops in Eastern Europe for 20 years, according to Jonathan Eyal, international studies director at the London-based Royal United Services Institute think-tank. NATO exhibited a “marked reluctance to get troops into Eastern Europe because it would be seen as a hostile move,” he said.

Yet at the same time that the West enjoyed the “peace dividend” of reduced defense spending, NATO continued to push its borders east in what amounted to a diplomatic offensive. In 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined the alliance in 1999, followed five years later by the Baltic States, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria.

A “Finger in the Eye”

This took place despite warnings from some quarters, including British Colonel Bob Stewart, who was the chief of policy at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe two decades ago. Back then, he argued that pushing NATO further east “would be like sticking a finger in the eye of the Russians – that if we expand we’ve got to be very careful we don’t irritate the hell out of the Russians. I warned about that and I was overruled.”

Now that the Russian bear is clearly aroused, Stewart has become an avid proponent of confrontation. “Yes, the Russians will protest like hell,” he says, about NATO expanding its fighting capabilities in Eastern Europe. “But let’s face it, we don’t like what the Russians have done. So tough shit.”

Gisela Stuart, a Labour colleague on the committee, makes the same point in less provocative language. She remembers travelling around the Baltic during the build-up to the 2004 NATO expansion—a time when the Baltic countries were also hoping to join the European Union. “To them, NATO membership was more important than EU membership,” she recalls. “For countries that got the Cold War in the neck, the physical security was much more important than anything else.”

Politicians, military figures and defense experts may disagree on whether NATO should have been more circumspect in pushing into what has been Russia’s traditional sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. But for a surprising number of defense analysts in Britain, the time has come to vigorously counter what they see as Putin’s belligerence.

The 2002 NATO summit

The 2002 NATO summit

“If there is one person responsible for this it is Mr. Putin, who has created a scenario whereby it is seen as a sign of weakness for NATO to avoid a deployment,” Jonathan Eyal says. “If the summit concludes with no demonstrable moves to provide more equipment for NATO troops, this will be interpreted by the Russians as a sign of weakness, that the allies are divided.”


It’s no coincidence that President Obama stopped over in Estonia before to the summit. In a speech, he said the Baltic states will be defended to the hilt from Russian aggression. U.S. aircraft are already patrolling their skies and more ships are being sent to the Black and Baltic seas. “Our alliance should extend these defensive measures for as long as necessary, because the defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London,” Obama said.

Yet it was precisely NATO’s aggressive expansion into areas like the Baltic States—after Russia dismantled the Warsaw Pact at the end of the Cold War—that created the conditions for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, according to David Gibbs, a professor of history and government at the University of Arizona who has written extensively about NATO. So history may be repeating itself.

The recent discussions about admitting Ukraine and Georgia as members have only exacerbated Russia’s frustrations. “Russia views its interventions in the Ukraine as defensive actions, against NATO threats to its border security. NATO expansion must be viewed as a short-sighted action, one that was bound to provoke the Russians, and it laid the groundwork for the Ukraine’s civil war.”

Putin’s Game

In Britain—which spends more than 2 percent of its GDP on defense—influential voices are calling for new ways to respond to Russia. Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, former chief of Britain’s Royal Air Force, wants an acknowledgement that the old policies have failed. “We’ve taken the risk that nothing will happen, but there’s been a wake-up call,” he says. “Politicians have chosen other priorities—they have to be elected, after all. But these are a series of crises. And at the moment, NATO doesn’t look serious.”

Britain is optimistic that it will secure allies’ commitment to at least halt the fall in defense spending, the Foreign Office official told WhoWhatWhy. “That will mark the start of a sea-change in attitudes.”

In the meantime, the nature of warfare itself seems to be changing: Russia is firing artillery into Ukraine, a move that in previous years would be unequivocally viewed as an act of war. Moscow has largely denied allegations that its soldiers are being deployed against the Ukrainians but in unmarked uniforms or using humanitarian aid as a cover. It did, however, admit the capture of 10 Russian paratroopers in Ukraine, while saying they’d crossed the border accidentally.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

“Putin, as an ex-KGB colonel, knows what he’s doing. He’s playing this game,” Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, a Royal Air Force strategist, says. “That’s why he hasn’t driven three divisions across the border.” According to Lambert, the Russian president’s tactics need to be understood by Western leaders, and a new way of dealing with that type of warfare has to be developed.

There’s little chance that NATO will undertake such a radical re-invention any time soon. Its focus, as leaders gather at Celtic Manor in Wales, is on securing agreement to send its troops back to a Cold War footing. That will be combined with pressure on more reticent allies to increase defense spending.

Some analysts argue that the Cold War is the wrong lens through which to view what’s happening in Eastern Europe. McInnis of Chatham House thinks the better analogy is to the uneasy balance between European powers that existed during the run-up to the First World War.

And she warns: “[I]t’s a somewhat unstable system.” Her view is that the last 25 years of security and stability in Europe are a historical aberration: “We, the U.S. and Europe, are not very interested in war because we’ve become unaccustomed to it. But just because we’re not interested in war doesn’t mean war isn’t interested in us.”


WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.


Guantanamo “Show Trial”, 47-hr Workweek, Evictions Spike—and More Headlines http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/09/03/guantanamo-show-trial-47-hr-workweek-evictions-spike-and-more-headlines/ 2014-09-03T18:57:35Z
• Average American Workweek 47 Hours

• Evictions Surge

And more headlines… ]]>
Average American now works a 47-hour week

Average American now works a 47-hour week

• Military defense lawyer for KSM at Guantanamo resigns in protest over “show trial” (NPR)

• Evictions surge nationally in hot rental market (New York Times)

• Palestinian support for Hamas spikes (ABC)

• Average American workweek 47 hours (Gallup Poll)

• St Paul police tasered black man sitting in/near public space (Slate)

• Per capita spending on Medicare actually….falling (New York Times)

• Microsoft, others, leave controversial ALEC business group, but not Google (PR Watch)

• Man removed from public meeting for not standing for pledge & prayer (TPM)