US Issues a ‘False-Flag’ Warning About Russia

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(Newser)

The US says Russia is so bent on invading Ukraine that it’s cooking up a phony reason to justify it. In other words, Moscow is allegedly working on a “false-flag” mission. “We have information that indicates Russia has already prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine,” an anonymous US official tells the Washington Post. “The operatives are trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy-forces.” All of which could lead to a Russian invasion later this month or in February. Other big outlets, including the AP, are quoting the same official. The development comes amid high tensions: Russian troops are massed on the Ukraine border, and talks between Russia and the West to defuse the situation have gone nowhere. More:

  • ‘Dead end’ talks: “The drumbeat of war is sounding loud and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill,” says Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The organization held talks in Vienna on Thursday, but Russian diplomats later declared them to be at a “dead end,” per Axios. “It seems the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” agreed Zbigniew Rau, the Polish chairman of the group.
  • US role: If Russia does invade, the New York Times reports that the US might fund an insurgency, essentially a “guerrilla war against Russian military occupation.” After such an invasion, “US and NATO military assistance—intelligence, cyber, anti-armor and anti-air weapons, offensive naval missiles—would ratchet up significantly,” James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander at NATO, tells the newspaper. “And if it turned into a Ukrainian insurgency, Putin should realize that after fighting insurgencies ourselves for two decades, we know how to arm, train, and energize them.”
  • Familiar: White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Russia similarly conducted a false-flag operation before its annexation of Crimea, reports the AP. “We saw this playbook in 2014,” says Sullivan. “They are preparing this playbook again.” The US also says Moscow is infiltrating Ukrainian social media to “fabricate Ukrainian provocations,” another tactic used in 2014.
  • What Russia says: Moscow has consistently denied that it plans to invade Ukraine. But it also wants assurances that Ukraine won’t join NATO, a position the US rejects, per the AP. The US has warned Moscow that it faces broad sanctions should its troops advance over the border.

(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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