Several decades ago, Americans as well as a number of Western nations were considering the Taliban as their key allies. In just less than three decades, the word Taliban turned into a symbol of terrorist and criminal acts. Under the direct participation of Taliban jihadists, Al Qaeda was born under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden targeting the Western nations as their main enemies. From the womb of Al Qaeda, several years later, Islamic State was born in Iraq under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This means, that Taliban jihadists have been playing the role of incubator of jihadism and religious extremism. And now, following America’s humiliating retreat from Afghanistan, leaving the country at mercy of the Taliban as well as handing-over military assets worth US$84 billion into possession of this jihadist outfit, America is repeating its blunder in Ukraine. This time they have joined hands with Azov Battalion and other neo-Nazi fascist groups, and unfortunately, once again, the United States and the Western world are seeing Azov and other neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine as their key allies against Washington’s war against Moscow. People may argue stating, in Ukraine, it is not America’s war against Russia. They may even say, should the US and its Western allies be involved in a direct war against Russia, there would be a physical presence of the US-EU forces in Ukraine. In this case, I would like to remind everyone of the case of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. Initially, American forces did not make a physical presence in that country. Instead, Washington was extending logistic and strategic support to the Taliban and other anti-USSR groups through the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). In Ukraine, sooner or later, America and its allies will require to send their troops, as because, this war is no more between Kiev and Moscow. It is a war between Washington and Moscow.
One of the gravest concerns centering Ukraine war is gaining the strength of the Azov Battalion. This time, Azov members are enjoying the privilege of getting access to sophisticated weapons and explosives, alongside drones, missiles, and other military hardware. It is understandable that Azov members will not just use the military hardware in their battle against Russia. A significant portion of these supplies will go to hidden places and be stockpiled for future requirements of this neo-Nazi fascist regiment as It will begin its second phase of the battle of establishing influence and bringing Ukraine under their direct control. In other words, as Afghanistan has slipped into the grips of the Taliban, Ukraine too eventually will slip into the grips of Azov Battalion members as well as other neo-Nazi and fascist groups. Ukraine is destined to become tomorrow’s Naziland.
According to counterterrorism experts, fighters of the Azov Battalion resemble other para-military units – and there are dozens of them – that have helped in fighting against the Russian military over the past six years. But Azov is much more than a militia. It has its own political party; two publishing houses; summer camps for children; and a vigilante force known as the National Militia, which patrols the streets of Ukrainian cities alongside the police. Unlike its ideological peers in the US and Europe, it also has a military wing with at least two training bases and a vast arsenal of weapons, from drones and armored vehicles to artillery pieces.
Outside Ukraine, Azov occupies a central role in a network of extremist groups stretching from California across Europe to New Zealand, according to law enforcement officials on three continents. And it acts as a magnet for young men eager for combat experience. Ali Soufan, a security consultant and former FBI agent who has studied Azov, estimates that more than 17,000 foreign fighters have come to Ukraine over the past six years from 50 countries. As Soufan looked into the recruitment methods of Ukraine’s more radical militias, he found an alarming pattern. It reminded him of Afghanistan in the 1990s, after Soviet forces withdrew and the US failed to fill the security vacuum. “Pretty soon the extremists took over. The Taliban was in charge. And we did not wake up until 9/11”, Soufan told TIME magazine. “This is the parallel now with Ukraine”, he added.
At a hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security in September 2019, Soufan urged US lawmakers to take the threat posed by Azov Battalion more seriously. The following month, 40 members of Congress signed a letter calling—unsuccessfully—for the US State Department to designate Azov a foreign terrorist organization. “Azov has been recruiting, radicalizing, and training American citizens for years”, the letter said.
Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, later confirmed in testimony to the US Senate that American white supremacists are “actually traveling overseas to train”.
The hearings on Capitol Hill glossed over a crucial question: How did Azov, an obscure militia started in 2014 with only a few dozen members, become so influential in the global web of far-right extremism?
The TIME magazine, in more than a dozen interviews with Azov’s leaders and recruits, found that the key to its international growth has been its pervasive use of social media, especially Facebook, which has struggled to keep the group off its platform. “Facebook is the main channel”, said the recruiter.
In a statement to TIME, Facebook defended its recent attempts to deal with the proliferation of right-wing extremists, saying it has banned more than 250 white supremacist groups, including Azov. “As they evolve their efforts to return to the platform, we update our enforcement methods with technology and human expertise to keep them off,” the statement said.
Yet its attempts to crack down have been far from fully effective. While Facebook first designated the Azov Battalion a “dangerous organization” in 2016, pages linked to the group continued to spread propaganda and advertise merchandise on the platform in 2020, according to research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate published in November. Even in December, the Azov movement’s political wing, the National Corps, and its youth wing maintained at least a dozen pages on Facebook. Some began disappearing after TIME posed questions about Azov to Facebook.
After the massacre of 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 – an arm of the Azov movement helped distribute the terrorist’s raving manifesto, in print and online, seeking to glorify his crimes and inspire others to follow. In the 16 years that followed the attacks of 9/11, far-right groups were responsible for nearly three-quarters of the 85 deadly extremist incidents that took place on American soil, according to a report published in 2017 by the US Government Accountability Office.
Among Azov’s closest American allies has been the Rise Above Movement, or RAM, a far-right gang, some of whose members have been charged by the FBI with a series of violent attacks in California. The group’s leader, Robert Rundo, has said his idea for RAM came from Ukraine’s far-right scene. “This is always my whole inspiration for everything”, he told a right-wing podcast in September 2017, referring to Azov as “the future”. “They really have the culture out there”, he said. “They have their own clubs. They have their own bars. They have their own dress style”.
The main recruitment center for Azov, known as the Cossack House, stands in the center of Kiev, a four-story brick building on loan from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. In the courtyard are cinemas and boxing clubs. The top floor hosts a lecture hall and a library, full of books by authors who supported German fascism, like Ezra Pound and Martin Heidegger, or whose works were co-opted by Nazi propaganda, like Friedrich Nietzsche and Ernst Jünger. On the ground floor is a shop called Militant Zone, which sells clothes and key chains with stylized swastikas and other neo-Nazi merchandise.
“It could be described as a small state within a state”, says Olena Semenyaka, the head of international outreach for the Azov movement. On a tour of the Cossack House in 2019, she told TIME that Azov’s mission was to form a coalition of far-right groups across the Western world, with the ultimate aim of taking power throughout Europe.
According to counterterrorism experts, while the world is stunned by the headlines about the Ukraine crisis and orchestrated anti-Russia and anti-Putin propaganda, the increasing evidence of continuous attempts by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to form and arm insurgent extremist forces in Ukraine and the consequences of such measure has attracted less global attention.
Yahoo News reported in January 2022, a month before the Ukraine crisis, that CIA was training an insurgency in Ukraine under a program, which started in 2015, “to kill Russians”.
The covert program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s Ground Branch was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and expanded under the Trump administration, but the Biden administration has further augmented it, Yahoo News cited a former senior intelligence official as saying.
One person familiar with the program put it more bluntly, according to Yahoo News, saying that the program has taught the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians”.
US officials deny that the CIA training program is, or was ever, offensively oriented and a current senior intelligence official said that the purpose of the training was to assist in “the collection of intelligence”. However, several former officials noted that the CIA program has included training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like “cover and move”, intelligence and other areas.
Shortly after the Yahoo News report, the Washington Post confirmed the CIA movements in Ukraine, too. On March 5, two weeks after the Russian invasion began, the Washington Post reported that officials in Washington and European capitals anticipated that the Russian military will reverse its early losses, setting the stage for a long, bloody insurgency.
The report said that Americans are planning how to help establish and support a government-in-exile, which could direct guerrilla operations against Russian forces, according to several US and European officials. The weapons the United States has provided to Ukraine’s military, and that continue to flow into the country, would be crucial to the success of an insurgent movement, officials said.
Azov Battalion, the new Al Qaeda in Ukraine
It is alleged in the media that the members of the Azov Battalion, which is seen by counterterrorism experts in the world as the new Al Qaeda, that promotes Nazism and fascism are being trained by the Americans and had received Western weapons in the recent times. International media outlets have also been exposing the secret connections between this far-right neo-Nazi group and the Western establishment. On March 30 in a report, CNN said: “The existence of an identifiably Azov element within the Ukrainian armed forces — and an effective element at that — poses uncomfortable questions for the Ukrainian government and its Western allies, which continue to send arms to the country”. CNN has also confirmed that Azov Battalion forces have been active among the groups fighting Russian forces in and around Mariupol in recent weeks.
Israel’s leading English newspaper the Jerusalem Post in a report said, the anti-armor weapon MATADOR has recently been used by the Azov Battalion, which is widely characterized as Neo-Nazi ideologically. “An anti-armor weapon jointly developed by Israel, Singapore, and a German company has been seen in operational use by the Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion against Russian military forces”, the Jerusalem Post said.
Furthermore, a Twitter account affiliated with Azov Battalion released a video showing a member of the group was using the weapon to target a Russian armored carrier. There have also been photos showing Azov members using British rocket launchers. The Belarus media outlet Nexta TV revealed in a series of photos on March 8, 2022, that the Azov Battalion was the first Ukrainian group to have learned to use the British anti-tank launcher NLAW.
A website named ‘Declassified UK’ reported that it was “highly likely the NLAWs pictured with Azov members were supplied by the UK”. It also said that the only other donor of the equipment to Ukraine was believed to be Luxembourg.
The publication of the photos was followed by conservative UK MP James Heappey’s reaction, asking the British Secretary of State for Defense whether Ukraine’s Azov Battalion would have access to UK-supplied NLAW anti-tank weapons. The secretary is yet to respond to Heappey’s question.
Western media has recently begun their own psychological operation to normalize and whitewash Azov Battalion. The AFP, for instance, claimed in a report that Ukrainians supported the group. The report said: “But in Ukraine, the Azov regiment has largely enjoyed a solid reputation and been showered with praise for its years-long commitment to fight Russian incursions into the country”.
“This week, demonstrators gathered in Kiev to rally public support for Azov and their fellow defenders of Mariupol, as the Russians launched another withering assault on a sprawling steel plant where Ukrainian forces in the southern city are taking a final stance,” the report continued.
They are not “monsters and psychos”, Sky News cited a Briton who had recently joined Azov Battalion as saying. “The regiment’s background has been used by the Kremlin to justify its claim that Ukraine needed ‘de-Nazifying’. However, Ed Arnold, a research fellow on European security at the defense think tank RUSI, told Sky News that the Azov military group had ‘made steps to move away from its far-right links’”, Sky News said.
In addition to Azov, another far-right group named Pravy Sektor also released photos showing its members beside UK-made anti-tank weapons. While Pravy Sektor members dismiss supporting neo-Nazi ideology, they publicly express themselves as fans of Stepan Bandera, the ultranationalist Ukrainian militant leader who cooperated with the Nazis during World War II.
Despite the fact of Western media’s frantic bids in hiding the actual face of the Azov Battalion of those neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine, counterterrorism experts said, the US and the West began supporting these far-right Nazi fascist groups at least since 2015 – long before the current war in Ukraine. Meaning, that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim about the existence of Nazis in Ukraine is based on evidences.
It may be mentioned here that the first signs of Washington’s determination to arm and strengthen the neo-Nazis appeared in December 2015. The US Congress at the time stripped the spending bill of the fiscal year 2016 of an amendment that prevented funds from falling into the hands of Ukrainian neo-fascist groups. The Nation later reported that the amendment was removed under pressure from the Pentagon. The move revealed that Washington had changed its previous policy on these extremist groups and was seeking to strengthen them to fight Russia.
There had been reports of American weapons flowing into the hands of Nazi militias. The reports began emerging from October 2016, when Texas-based AirTronic announced a US$5.5 million contract “originating from an Allied European military customer” for their PSRL-1 weapons systems.
In June 2017, photos were published on Azov Battalion’s website showing the group’s fighters testing PSRL-1 RPGs in the field. The images raised speculation that the unnamed “customer” of AirTronic could be Ukraine.
Two months later (in August 2017), the pro-Russian military analytics website Southfront released a secret contract between the Ukrainian state-run company Spetstechnoexport and the American company AirTronic on delivery of 100 PSRL-1 launchers worth US$554,575 (about one-tenth of the total). See the documents HERE.
In an interview with VOA in December 2017, Richard Vandiver, Chief Operating Officer at the Texas company, emphasized that the activities were conducted in “very close coordination with the US Embassy, with the US State Department, with the US Pentagon, and with the Ukrainian government”.
In January 2018, the Atlantic Council confirmed that the US government had delivered these lethal weapons to the Azov Battalion neo-Nazis. The US embassy has facilitated the transfer of these weapons to Ukraine, Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab research Aric Toler wrote, adding that he was not sure they knew Azov would be the first group to be trained with these weapons.
The Atlantic Council, known among experts as the unofficial NATO lobbyist in Washington and one of the strongest advocates for arming the Ukrainian military, was a very unlikely source for such disclosure. While the think tank’s motives for the exposure remain unclear, the move made America’s semi-covert support for neo-Nazis in Ukraine more apparent and be more widely reported in the media.
A day after the Atlantic Council reported on Azov’s acquisition of the US weapons, the National Guard of Ukraine emphasized in an official statement that these weapons were not in Azov’s possession at the press release time. On the other hand, Azov Battalion removed all photos of its soldiers working with these weapons from its website under pressure from public opinion.
The leaked documents of the US relationship with the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, of course, are not only limited to arms deals but cover other areas of cooperation. In November 2018, for example, the Azov website published images of US officers meeting with the group’s commanders, saying that the officers were providing them with “training or other assistance”. These photos have now been removed from the Azov Battalion’s official website, but some of them have surfaced in other media.
This has also been confirmed by Azov officers. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Sgt. Ivan Kharkiv of the Azov battalion talked about his battalion’s experience with US trainers and US volunteers quite fondly. “We must take knowledge from all armies”, he said.
Azov Battalion was established in May 2014, a month after the Ukrainian government announced it had launched a so-called “counter-terrorism operation” in eastern Ukraine. The group was made up of members of two other neo-Nazi groups, the Patriot of Ukraine and the Social National Assembly. At the time, these groups were members of another racist group called Right Sector. Right Sector emerged from the so-called “Euromaidan protests” that led to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych’s government and later became a paramilitary organization.
The neo-Nazi groups Patriot of Ukraine and National Social Assembly were led by far-right politician Andriy Biletsky. Biletsky was detained in Yanukovych’s government for his racist views and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. He was later recognized as a political prisoner after the fall of Yanukovych and was acquitted of all charges as part of a program to free political prisoners. After his release from prison in May 2014, he established Azov Battalion and commanded it until he was promoted to higher positions in the Ukrainian government. Biletsky’s views can be summed up in his infamous 2010 statement that the Ukrainian nation’s mission was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [sub-humans]”.
Biletsky’s views form the core of the Azov Battalion’s ideology. According to the Lower Class magazine and other media outlets, including The Guardian, Azov now has an underground organization called the Misanthropic Division, which is heavily involved in recruiting neo-Nazi youth in France, Germany, and Scandinavian countries. The organization promises foreign fighters that they will be trained to work with heavy weapons, including tanks, in Ukraine.
Some of Biletsky’s ideas are manifested in the code of conduct of the National Social Assembly: “To prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital; to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man”.
The gist of the Azov Battalion’s ideology is the call for “Reconquista”. According to the ideology, the whites of Eastern Europe should unite and follow the Nazis’ Reichskommissariat in Ukraine during World War II to bring the region under the control of a white government.
British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported in 2018 that Azov’s extremist profile and slick English–language pages on social media have even attracted foreign fighters from many countries, including Brazil, Italy, the UK, France, the US, Greece, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Russia. Furthermore, Time magazine reported that the racist group used Facebook to recruit and radicalize new forces.
The US has a history of flaws in supporting extremist groups as part of its dubious foreign policy, which has ultimately plunged the American people and the world into a cycle of terrorist violence. In the 1960s, the CIA’s collaboration with extremist groups fighting Fidel Castro’s government turned Miami into a hub of terrorist violence.
The current US policy in Ukraine is more than anything reminiscent of Washington’s Operation Cyclone in the late 1970s in Afghanistan. During this operation, the CIA decided to arm and fund extremist groups to counter Soviet influence.
“Lest we forget, the CIA gave birth to Osama Bin Laden and breastfed his organization during the 1980s. Former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably a product of Western intelligence agencies. Mr. Cook explained that Al Qaeda, which literally means an abbreviation of “the database” in Arabic, was originally the computer database of the thousands of Islamist extremists, who were trained by the CIA and funded by the Saudis, in order to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan”, Garikai Chengu, a scholar at Harvard, wrote in a memo for Counterpunch.
He added: “America’s relationship with Al Qaeda has always been a love-hate affair. Depending on whether a particular Al Qaeda terrorist group in a given region furthers American interests or not, the US State Department either funds or aggressively targets that terrorist group. Even as American foreign policymakers claim to oppose Muslim extremism, they knowingly foment it as a weapon of foreign policy”.
But the similarity between US policy in Afghanistan and Ukraine does not only match analytical evidence but also it has been mentioned and called for by some politicians close to the centers of power in Washington, members of the Democratic Party in particular, in recent days.
Shortly after the Russian military invasion of Ukraine began, former Senior Operations Officer in the CIA Clandestine Service Douglas London published an article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The Coming Ukrainian Insurgency”. He stated in the article that “Putin will face a long, bloody insurgency that could spread across multiple borders” and has the potential to “destabilize other countries in Russia’s orbit, such as Kazakhstan, and even spill into Russia itself”.
Another notable statement by Douglas Landon in that article was that “the United States will invariably be a major and essential source of backing for a Ukrainian insurgency”. He added: “As the United States learned in Vietnam and Afghanistan, an insurgency that has reliable supply lines, ample reserves of fighters, and sanctuary over the border can sustain itself indefinitely, sap an occupying army’s will to fight, and exhaust political support for the occupation at home”.
London explicitly says that the model of this coming insurgency resembles the CIA-backed insurgencies of the 1980s and the US support for the “moderate insurgents” since 2011.
London is not alone in promoting the Afghan insurgency as a model to instigate insurgency in Ukraine. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during whose office the State Department advocated supporting “moderate insurgents” in Syria and who oversaw the destruction of Libya under the US and NATO support, is another one to back the implementation of the Afghanistan model.
Clinton’s view is particularly important because her Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan who has a very close intellectual relationship with her and the Clintons is now the US National Security Adviser. In addition, she comments more candidly on Washington’s policies that the Joe Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, as Clinton’s views are no longer considered the official position of the Democratic Party.
“[Operation Cyclone] didn’t end well for the Russians… but the fact is, that a very motivated, and then funded, and armed insurgency basically drove the Russians out of Afghanistan… But I think that is the model that people are now looking toward. And if there can be sufficient armaments that get in … and keep the Ukrainians, both their military and their citizen volunteer soldiers, supplied, that can continue to stymie Russia”, Hillary Clinton told MSNBC on May 8, 2021.
When Hillary Clinton once again appeared on MSNBC on March 8, 2022, to be interviewed by Mika Brzezinski, daughter of former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski who was the main architect of the Afghan Mujahideen armament policy, she expressed her willingness to implement the Afghanistan model in Ukraine even more clearly. She said lethal defensive weapons were entering Ukraine, but they needed more weapons. Hillary Clinton called for greater access for Ukraine to defensive weapons, noting that this war wouldn’t end soon.
Biden administration officials have repeatedly expressed similar views in recent days, although less explicitly. In almost every interview, Blinken has implied that the war in Ukraine would continue. “If [Putin’s] goal is to impose some kind of puppet regime … by keeping Russian forces in Ukraine, it will be a long, bloody, drawn-out mess through which Russia will continue to suffer grievously”, he said in a joint press conference with his British counterpart.
Joe Biden has repeatedly made indirect references to attempts to stage a long-running insurgency in Ukraine. He said in his State of the Union Address in March that Russia “will pay a continuing high price over the long run”.
Now that these are openly being promoted as role models for the “Coming Ukrainian Insurgency”, what awaits Ukraine? If we want to consider the CIA’s record in supporting the insurgency as an indicator for predicting the future, then we must say that US policy would cause far more destruction and suffering to the people, both in Ukraine and the United States. Ukraine will turn into a defeated country and a battleground, and those in the West who boast about their governments’ supporting the Ukrainian side in the war will soon face new realities that will put another deadly proxy war before them.
In Ukraine, even if the US support of the insurgency could impose costs on the Russian side, the conflict could lead to instability across Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. This has been a consistent pattern in the CIA’s support for paramilitary operations from the Cold War to present-day Afghanistan and Iraq. This danger is exacerbated when weapons sent by the US eventually fall into the hands of terrorists, militants, or other extremist groups. At the same time, the proxy war between the US and Russia may turn into a real war, which would leave a serious impact on the entire world.
This is especially important when we face a plethora of documented reports showing that the US is counting on Ukraine’s neo-Nazis to advance a planned insurgency in the country. In fact, the US intelligence services had warned in early 2020 that a “transnational white supremacist network” with alleged ties to the Ukraine conflict will be the next global catastrophe to befall the world as the threat of COVID-19 recedes.
Interestingly, in a report on the dangers of such a network, the Soufan Intelligence Center stated that Ukraine was emerging as a hub in the broader network of transnational white supremacy extremism, modeling on terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. The report states: “The danger of terrorism is growing in the United States, just as it is elsewhere in the world, with white supremacist extremists strengthening transnational networks and even imitating the tactics, techniques, and procedures of groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS). These networks share approaches to recruitment, financing, and propaganda, with Ukraine emerging as a hub in the broader network of transnational white supremacy extremism, attracting foreign recruits from all over the world”.
If an Al Qaeda came out of Operation Cyclone to make the September 11 tragedy happen and forced the US to launch a campaign against its rebel children, whom it once sheltered under its wings, that resulted in horrific devastation in Afghanistan, mass killings, and war crimes in several countries, and the longest and most expensive war and occupation and also a decrease in civil liberties and security within the US itself, what are the guarantees that replication of the same policy in Ukraine would bear a different outcome? In my opinion, the Ukraine war is going to give birth to a newer and much tougher security challenge to the entire world with the emergence of Nazi terrorism. Members of the Azov Battalion and other neo-Nazi fractions in Ukraine will ultimately export terrorism within Ukraine’s neighboring nations in East and West Europe, while it will eventually affect a majority of the countries in the world, including the United States, Britain, and the European Union nations. If someone would understand the dangerous consequence of the rise of Nazi terrorists in Ukraine with the Azov Battalion getting sophisticated weapons, explosives, and military assets from the Western countries, we shall certainly feel threatened in a much bigger way than we are currently facing from Al Qaeda, Islamic State, and other radical Islamic militancy groups. For the entire world, the Ukraine situation is certainly going to become a double jeopardy. If Zelensky wins, Ukraine will ultimately go into the grips of neo-Nazis. If he loses, neo-Nazis will spread their terrorist agendas throughout the world.
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