French intel chief questions NATO claims

France’s intelligence chief has questioned NATO’s claims of Russia preparing to attack Ukraine as their agents failed to spot any activities signaling this – either before or after the crisis began.

A statement by the chief of France’s military intelligence, General Christophe Gomart, was published on the National Assembly’s website.

“NATO announced that the Russians were about to invade Ukraine. But, according to French intelligence, there is nothing to corroborate this hypothesis – we determined that the Russians were deploying neither command posts nor logistical facilities, including field hospitals, needed for a military incursion,” General Gomart told a parliamentary hearing.

NATO’s top brass has been incanting mantras about a “Russian invasion” ever since the crisis in Ukraine began a year ago. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as his predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen, have lashed at Russia on numerous occasions, claiming that the Russian military is present on the ground in Ukraine, but failing to provide evidence supporting these claims.

“Our conclusion eventually proved correct because even if some Russian soldiers had indeed been seen on the Ukrainian side of the border, it was just a ploy, meant to bring pressure to bear on President Poroshenko, rather than an attempt to invade Ukraine,” General Gomart said.

The French intelligence chief’s remarks came in the context of France’s role in NATO. Gomart noted that at the moment the alliance is dominated by US intelligence, while France’s intelligence is taken not taken into consideration so much.

“France will not be fooled. France has its own sources of information and we are aware what the explanation for the crisis in Ukraine is,” Philippe Migault, expert on Ukraine from the University of International and Strategic Relations, said.

Meanwhile an American RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft was buzzed by a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet over the Baltic Sea near Russia’s Kaliningrad Region, according to the Pentagon.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that the interception was launched after “Russian air defense radars spotted an unidentified air target over the Baltic Sea making steady progress toward the national border.” The aircraft had its transponder turned off, Konashenkov said.

The head of Russia’s Upper House Committee for Foreign Relations, Konstantin Kosachev, called on to NATO to stop their “hysterics” over flights by the Russian Air Force, “presenting them as aggression and demonizing Russia.”

“In connection with the incident over the Baltic one should keep in mind that Russia is a Baltic country, whereas the US is not,” Kosachev said.

Frants Klintsevich, of the United Russia party, said the report showed US intelligence has been working to fulfill a political order.

Meanwhile, on Friday five Northern European states, non-NATO Finland and Sweden included, signed a declaration on the expansion of military cooperation to counter “Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Since Finland and Sweden intend to interact with NATO on a matching contribution basis, which might indicate a desire to join the alliance, Moscow will view this declaration as an act of aggression, Norwegian defense analyst Janne Haaland Matlary warned.

“Finland and Sweden have also decided to keep their exercises to NATO standards, which implies a step on the way toward NATO. Today, there are no political grounds for them to join NATO, public opinion is not frightened enough, and referendums will be required. But what is happening now still looks like a preparation for membership,” Matlary told Aftenposten newspaper on Friday.