US Military Contractor Responsible For Operation Storm Working in Ukraine

In the year prior to the March 2014 coup in Kiev the American Justice Department gave a contract to an American firm, L-3 Communications, a military contractor based just outside Washington, to train and profile armed personnel who would work with NATO forces against their country.

In the year prior to the March 2014 coup in Kiev the American Justice Department gave a contract to an American firm, L-3 Communications, a military contractor based just outside Washington, to train and profile armed personnel who would work with NATO forces against their country. Technically L-3 received $178,571 in November 2012, and another $138,571 a year later to conduct “Police Instructor Development” in Ukraine.

NATO liaison to the project was ensured because the unit of L-3 which specializes in such training, Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) has been headed since 2010 by US General Bantz Craddock, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from December 2006 until June 2009, after which, in 2010, he took the more public NATO operations “private” under cover of MPRI, within the L-3 umbrella. In filings with the SEC, L-3 lists “counterintelligence, threat protection and counter terrorism” as part of the services it provides. L-3 is packed with former high-ranking US military generals and other officers including several L-3 board members: Gen. Richard A. Cody, former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army; former four star General Ann Dunwoody, from 2008 to 2012 head of US Army Materiel Command; and Gen. Henry Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, and former commander-in-Chief of the Special Operations Command.

L-3, one of the major contractors for the Defense Department and intelligence agencies with 2013 revenues of over $12 billion, acquired MPRI in 2000. L-3 was formed in 1997 from divested elements of the Lockheed Corporation — the  name comes from founders Frank Lanza and Robert LaPenta (former Lockheed employees) and Lehman Brothers, which helped put the new firm together.

MPRI was founded in 1987 by a US Major-General a few minutes from the Pentagon is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia and has bases in Newport News, Virginia; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Baghdad, Kuwait City, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. MPRI was infamous for working with Croatian forces in 1994. United Nations Resolution 713 called for an arms embargo against Croatia, so the American government referred the Croatian military to MPRI for training and strategy. The MPRI-trained Croatian forces launched Operation Storm, where upwards of 350,000 Serbs were forced to flee their homes and thousands were killed. Later, several MPRI-trained Croatian generals were accused of war crimes by Serbians, but never convicted by the US-dominated International Criminal Court. (Some of these contracts are available here)

According to a book on mercenaries by Michael Lee Lanning, shortly after Operation Storm the Bosnian government hired MPRI in May 1996 to reorganize, arm, and train its armed forces. The contract was paid for by other nations including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Brunei, and Malaysia, so the contract may not have appeared in the public US budgeting, although reportedly the US provided some oversight. Arms for Bosnia included 46,000 rifles, 1,000 machine guns, eighty armored personnel carriers, 45 tanks, and 840 light anti-tank weapons. To introduce the weapons into the Bosnian army and to train the force, MPRI sent retired US Army Maj. Gen. William Boice, recently commander of the US 1st Armored Division, and a team of 163 veteran US military personnel.

Just prior to becoming part of L-3, MPRI had trained members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which committed massacres against Serbs and ethnic Albanians, and the Commander of US Forces during the 1998 Kosovo campaign was none other than Bantz Craddock. From 2002 to 2004, Craddock served as Senior Military Advisor for Secretary Rumsfeld — during the lead up and execution of “shock and awe” in Iraq.

Some of the contracts from the Justice department for “police training” and other activities are publicly available, although the official titles of the contracts likely differs from the actual activities; and the Defense Department, Defense Intelligence Agency, NSA, and CIA contracts are obscure.  Some of the contracts for MPRI in Ukraine may have come directly from the Ukrainian government from funds allocated by the US or other NATO countries, or from private corporations or Ukrainian oligarchs.  As with Blackwater, the advantage of the US and NATO running intelligence and paramilitary operations under “private” cover is that it is very difficult to trace their actual activities.

Following the CIA-orchestrated Orange Revolution, from the public records MPRI has received 192 contracts from the US Justice Department in Ukraine since 2005, 55 of which have come since 2010, when Craddock took control.

These contracts range greatly, and include $1.1 million in 2008 to carry out the “Anti-Corruption project” of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, $892,857 in 2010 to carry out the eCustoms project of the State Customs Service of Ukraine, and $12,000 in 2005 for IT at the Ukraine Police Department.

As Lanning notes in his book, as a member of the New York Stock Exchange, L-3 “has made the profits of the modern mercenaries available to the general public.” He quotes founder Frank Lanza, “MPRI is a growth company with good profit margins and competitive advantages no other training business can match….”

Considerable focus has been given to recent NATO and US training and support projects in Eastern Europe and Ukraine – the lesson of L-3/MPRI is that more attention needs to be given to the universe of private contractors whose military, intelligence, and related activities clearly shape the operations and agendas in the ground.

by Daniel Zubov

Center for International Journalism and Research, “Rossiya Segodnia”

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