Monday, 18 September 2023 14:14

Is CIA Director Bill Burns Helping Ukraine to Win or Blocking It? Featured

By Frederick Starr and Andrei Piontkovsky 
The Kyiv Post
September 18, 2023

 

Almost 600 days of Russia’s war in Ukraine have given rise to almost 600 days of confrontation between pro-Ukrainian and Kremlin-appeasing groups within the US administration. 

 

The good news is that friends of Ukraine have largely succeeded in overcoming the artificial and self-destructive taboo against supporting Ukraine that the US has imposed on itself. The bad news is that – each time – Kyiv’s American skptics seem to succeed in significantly slowing down US support.

Unacknowledged in large parts of official Washington is the reality that thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have had to pay for this procrastination with their lives. Had there been a hundred or more F-16 fighter jets in the Ukrainian skies a year ago, this cursed war would now be history.

Meanwhile, the US’s puzzling taboo has deliberately tied the hands of the victims of criminal aggression. The US press has reported in detail on how Russia invaded Ukraine, is destroying its cities and villages, and is daily murdering civilians with rockets launched from Russian territory. Yet Washington has effectively prohibited Ukraine from delivering answering strikes on the sources of Russia’s bombings.

Not one US official has publicly admitted that this line has been adopted. Worse, some act as if it doesn’t exist. While his colleagues in the White House have dragged their feet on providing Ukraine with military aircraft, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has unambiguously asserted Ukraine’s right to utilize any weapon at its disposal to expel the occupiers, including strikes on the territory of the aggressor.

An illuminating article published earlier this summer in Newsweek –“Exclusive: The CIA’s Blind Spot about Ukraine War” by William Arkin, revealed the origins and inner workings of the confused US approach. 

At Biden’s behest, CIA Director William Joseph Burns established direct communication with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow as early as in November 2021, that is three months before Russia launched its full-scale attack on Ukraine.

"In some ironic ways… the meeting was highly successful," a senior US intelligence official told Newsweek. “The United States would not fight directly nor seek regime change, the Biden administration pledged. Russia would limit its assault to Ukraine and act in accordance with unstated but well-understood guidelines for secret operations.” 

But, according to Newsweek, “Once Russian forces poured into Ukraine, the United States had to quickly shift gears. The CIA, like the rest of the U.S. intelligence community, had misread Russia's military capacity and Ukraine's resilience as Russia failed to take Kyiv and withdrew from the north.”

Nevertheless, certain clandestine rules of the road apparently agreed to by Burns and Putin were adhered to by the US side. Washington would prohibit Ukraine from carrying out strikes on Russian territory. And, in return, speaking as if for all NATO, Burns sought and gained a promise from the dictator not to attack NATO member countries. 

Burns met with Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin in Ankara in November 2022 and then is believed to have briefed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky about his “non-agreement” with the Russians. 

Far from criticizing Burns, Arkin emoted on the CIA’s difficulties in keeping an eye on the increasingly unruly Ukrainians, who repeatedly attempted to deliver strikes on targets both in Russian occupied Crimea and Russia itself.

Naryshkin revealed that he and Burns discussed, "thought about and deliberated on what should be done about Ukraine" in a lengthy phone call on June 30, initiated by the US side.

Over the 560+ days of Russia’s so-called “special military operation,” and tens of thousands of documented warcrimes, instances of torture, shootings and rape, Burns and the CIA have remained silent on Russia, while apparently issuing threats to Ukraine. On July 5, a CIA spokesperson warned that if Kyiv continued acts of sabotage within Russia it could have “disastrous consequences.” 

What other catastrophic consequences are the people in Burn’s office expecting will occur through the fault of the Ukrainians?

All thinkable and unthinkable catastrophes have already happened as a result of the covert Burns-Putin deal. Yet Newsweek was beside itself with pride at Burns’ diplomatic success and expressed anger at the Ukrainians for trying to defend their country by violating the “ground rules” that Burns was seeking to impose on them without their consent.

With Russia’s war against Ukraine dragging on and on, and the Ukrainians eager to break through with the proper support of their supporters, should this cruel state of affairs be allowed to continue? 
 

The bipartisan pro-Ukrainian majority in the post-vacation Congress would do well to organize hearings to which they should invite Blinken, Burns, Arkin and those sources in the CIA whom he cites in his article. They should also invite National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who has been singing in the same key as Burns. 

The hearings should seek answers to the following questions:

1. Does there exist an agreement between the governments of the US and the Russian Federation about “rules of the road” of the Russo-Ukrainian war?

2. If so, why were Congress and the American people unaware of them until now?

3. If not, then on what basis is Burns imposing these “road rules” on Ukraine?

4. Should Congress even regard Burns’ actions as treasonous? 

Burns and Sullivan live in a world where the great powers set the rules and small countries must humbly obey. So does Putin. 

We do not have to live in such a world and accept the rules they seek to impose on us.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Dr. Frederick Starr, a co-founder (with George Kennan and James Billington) of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, is chairperson of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, and has written two dozen books on Russia and the USSR.

Dr. Andrei Piontkovsky is a Russian scientist, political writer and analyst, member of International PEN Club who was forced to leave Russia in 2016. For many years he has been a regular political commentator for the BBC World Service, Radio Liberty, and Voice of America. Piontkovsky is the author of several books on the Putin presidency.  In 2017, Piontkovsky was awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize for “Courage in Journalism.”

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