The Putin Obstacle
As for Russia, the neocons have viewed President Vladimir Putin as a major obstacle to their plans at least since 2013 when he helped President Obama come up with a compromise with Syria that averted a U.S. military strike over dubious claims that the Syrian military was responsible for a sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at an energy meeting on Nov. 23, 2015, in Tehran.
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Subsequent evidence indicated that the sarin attack most likely was a provocation by Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate to trick the U.S. military into entering the war on Al Qaeda's side.
While you might wonder why the U.S. government would even think about taking actions that would benefit Al Qaeda, which lured the U.S. into this Mideast quagmire in the first place by attacking on 9/11, the answer is that Israel and the neocons -- along with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-governed states -- favored an Al Qaeda victory if that was what was needed to shatter the so-called "Shiite crescent," anchored in Iran and reaching through Syria to Lebanon.
Many neocons are, in effect, America's Israeli agents and -- since Israel is now allied with Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Gulf states versus Iran -- the neocons exercise their media/political influence to rationalize U.S. military strikes against Iran's regional allies, i.e., Syria's secular government of Bashar al-Assad.
For his part, Putin compounded his offense to the neocons by facilitating Obama's negotiations with Iran that imposed strict constraints on Iran's actions toward development of a nuclear bomb and took U.S. war against Iran off the table. The neocons, Israel and Saudi Arabia wanted the U.S. military to lead a bombing campaign against Iran with the hope of crippling their regional adversary and possibly even achieving "regime change" in Tehran.
It was in that time frame that NED's neocon President Carl Gershman identified Ukraine as the "biggest prize" and an important step toward the even bigger prize of removing Putin in Russia.
Other U.S. government neocons, including Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sen. John McCain, delivered the Ukraine "prize" by supporting the Feb. 22, 2014 coup that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine and unleashed anti-Russian nationalists (including neo-Nazis) who began killing ethnic Russians in the south and east near Russia's border.
When Putin responded by allowing Crimeans to vote on secession from Ukraine and reunification with Russia, the West -- and especially the neocon-dominated mainstream media -- denounced the move as a "Russian invasion." Covertly, the Russians also helped ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine who defied the coup regime in Kiev and faced annihilation from Ukrainian military forces, including the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, which literally displayed Swastikas and SS symbols. Putin's assistance to these embattled ethnic Russian Ukrainians became "Russian aggression."
Many U.S. pundits and journalists -- in the conservative, centrist and liberal media -- were swept up by the various hysterias over Syria, Iran and Russia -- much as they had been a decade earlier around the Iraq-WMD frenzy and the "responsibility to protect" (or R2P) argument for the violent "regime change" in Libya in 2011. In all these cases, the public debate was saturated with U.S. government and neocon propaganda, much of it false.
But it worked. For instance, the neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks achieved extraordinary success in seducing many American "peace activists" to support the "regime change" war in Syria by sending sympathetic victims of the Syrian government on speaking tours.
Meanwhile, the major U.S. media essentially flacked for "moderate" Syrian rebels who just happened to be fighting alongside Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate and sharing their powerful U.S.-supplied weapons with the jihadists, all the better to kill Syrian soldiers trying to protect the secular government in Damascus.