Bomb-Plotting American Soldier Linked to US-Backed Neo Nazis in Ukraine

The FBI’s arrest is just the latest example  of “blowback,” when U.S. support for extremist foreign proxies fuels violent terrorism back at home, reports Ben Norton.

 By Ben Norton
The Grayzone

A far-right soldier in the United States Army has been arrested by the FBI for plotting bomb attacks on American media outlets and Democratic politicians.

While serving in the U.S. military, this right-wing extremist gave fascist militants in Ukraine and other countries information on how to build bombs, including what he called “cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans.”

The FBI said he had also planned to travel to Ukraine in order to join the Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi militia that has for years been directly supported by the U.S. In its court filing, the FBI described the Azov Battalion as a “violent far-right paramilitary group.” Yet it failed to disclose that this fascist militia has been armed and advised by U.S. military officials in order to turn up the heat on Russia.

Publicly available photos show U.S. military advisers directly meeting with the Ukrainian neo-Nazi militia — but the complete lack of critical coverage from a compliant mainstream media has ensured that few Americans know about their government’s double game with fascists.

At left, soldier wearing U.S. flag patch meets with members of Avoz Battalion. (The Grayzone)

The U.S. soldier’s arrest is the latest in a long list of cases of what intelligence agencies refer to as “blowback,” when U.S. support for extremist foreign proxies fuels violent terrorism back at home.

Teaching Extremists How to Make Bombs

The FBI filed a criminal complaint in Kansas district court on Monday, Sept. 23, revealing that it had arrested U.S. Army infantry soldier Jarrett William Smith for the alleged crime of “distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction.”

In online messages with an FBI informant, Smith discussed carrying out terrorist attacks inside the U.S., and said he was looking for fellow far-right “radicals.” He also talked about killing members of Antifa, a decentralized anti-fascist group.

According to the filing, Smith had since at least 2016 been in regular communication with Craig Lang, an American far-right extremist who traveled to Ukraine to fight with the neo-fascist militia the Right Sector.

Smith had initially hoped that Lang could help screen him and get him approval to join Ukraine’s radical right.

Smith told Lang in June 2016, before he enlisted in the U.S. Army, “No former military experience, but if I cannot find a slot in Ukraine by October I’ll be going into the Army … To fight is what I want to do.”

Apparently unable to find an opportunity in Ukraine, Smith joined the U.S. Army in June 2017.

While in the U.S. military, Smith repeatedly shared tips and tricks with Lang and other right-wing extremists in social media chats on how to build bombs.

In a Facebook group with Lang and others in December 2018, Smith boasted of his ability to create improvised explosive devices (IEDs), writing, “I got knowledge of IEDs for days. We can make cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans. I can teach you that.”

Perfunctory Accounts by Corporate Media 

Following the arrest of Jarrett William Smith, CBS reported that the U.S. Army soldiers had discussed “traveling to Ukraine to fight with a violent far-right group.” Like other corporate media outlets, CBS offered nothing more than a perfunctory account that failed to identify the specific extremist Ukrainian militia.

In its criminal complaint, however, the FBI wrote that Smith had “spoken about his desire to travel to Ukraine to fight with the Ukraine-based violent far-right paramilitary group, Azov Battalion.”

Azov Battalion. (The Grayzone)

What the FBI did not mention is that the U.S. has for years supported the Azov Battalion as a proxy against Russia and its regional allies.

Since a U.S.-backed 2014 coup overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected government and installed a viciously anti-Russian and pro-NATO right-wing government, Kiev has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

Neo-fascist Ukrainian groups like Right Sector and Svoboda played a major role in this Western-backed regime change operation. In the violence following the putsch, these forces cohered into neo-Nazi militias like the Azov Battalion and C14 (named after the white supremacist “14 words” slogan).

In 2014, the Azov Battalion was directly incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard, merging the explicitly fascist militia with the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior and military.

The United States strongly backs Ukraine and has given it significant military support. Many of the weapons provided by Washington have ended up in the hands of avowed neo-Nazis.

The Grayzone has repeatedly reported on U.S. support for these neo-Nazis forces, including both Azov and C14.

In 2018, Grayzone Editor Max Blumenthal reported on a meeting between U.S. military advisers and the Azov Battalion.

The fascist Ukrainian militia had published photos on its website in November 2017 showing uniformed American and Canadian military officers shaking hands with an Azov officer, who was wearing a patch of the Nazi-inspired symbol the Wolfsangel.

In July 2018, Ukraine’s embassy in Israel attacked Blumenthal and The Grayzone for reporting factually on how the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion was also using Israeli weapons in the field.

Ukrainian neo-Nazi militia the Azov Battalion using Israeli weapons

Latest Case of Blowback

In its report on the arrest of the extremist U.S.  Army soldier, Jarrett William Smith, the legal news website Law & Crime described the Avoz Battalion as a “violent far-right terrorist group.”

It failed to mention that the U.S. has directly supported this violent far-right terrorist group, however.

Smith is not the first far-right American extremist to have plotted violent attacks with U.S. -backed Ukrainian fascists.

In November, Gray-zone Editor Max Blumenthal reported on an FBI indictment of four American white supremacists from the violent neo-fascist Rise Above Movement (RAM), who had trained with Ukraine’s Azov Battalion.

The FBI said in its indictment that Azov “is believed to have participated in training and radicalizing United States-based white supremacy organizations.”

This is reminiscent of blowback from American support for far-right extremist Islamist groups in the Middle East and Latin America who subsequently carried out acts of terrorism inside the U.S.

While few corporate media outlets have been willing to acknowledge U.S. support for neo-Nazi groups like Azov, the growing danger of blowback has propelled a burst of critical reporting about the militias.

Back in 2014, Vice Media promoted the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, whitewashing and even directly embedding with them while they were fighting pro-Russian separatists.

But five years later, Vice has done a volte-face. This July, the news outlet published an article warning that battle-hardened far-right extremists who trained in Ukraine were returning home to the U.S. and Europe, with violence on their minds.

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

This article is from The Grayzone.

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27 comments for “Bomb-Plotting American Soldier Linked to US-Backed Neo Nazis in Ukraine

  1. robert e williamson jr
    September 27, 2019 at 16:13

    If you talk to some of the more recent, 2003 forward, vets you will learn that the all volunteer armed forces of the U.S. have become populated with many strong right leaning “haters”. One of those things many might not be aware of.

    Find the type of vet who joined because of wanting to serve the country instead of the rights agenda and talk to them about what they witnessed, ESPECIALLY in combat units.

    The one who survive will be returning in droves and have been. Get ready for some good ole “blow back” resulting from the poorly thought out “wars for ever “program brought to us by the NEOCON’s>

  2. boxerwar
    September 26, 2019 at 18:38

    Thank You, Ben Norton, for shining LIGHT upon the STRONG NAZI presence/prevalence among Ukraine politicians and popular prevalent political persuasion.

    — Does this matter to Trump?

    Do you wonder if the Crook/Criminal Trump cares about Any People/Peoples??

    Has he Ever displayed ANY Concern for HUMANITY / the common people ???

    I give Nixon FAR MORE CREDIT, -vis-a-vis concern for the American people he Governed/Oversaw as POTUS.

    A minuscule example is/was his passage of the policy of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.

    A policy that opened many doors of opportunity/education for White Women and Blacks/
    THAT had been previously SHUT-TIGHT-AGAINST the Concept of “Equal-Opportunity”.

    The Now POTUS Trump was born and bread into
    The History of Discriminatory Permanence to
    The Perseverance of Female and Racial Inferiority

    Can we beat him in his head with a club
    as if Neanderthal’s have been replaced?

    Or will it take Sentient Androids / or
    Cybernetics /Artificial Intelligence/

    For you to Smell Human Dead Stench,
    As if Harriet Tubman was a Criminal. …

  3. Dianne Foster
    September 26, 2019 at 17:08

    Nuland was first appointed by Cheney, then promoted by HRC. My peace group did a presentation to neoliberal Dem Rep Rick Larsen (Wa-02) at the time of the coup, and before we could present any of our documentation, he sneered and put us down. We never got to the whole presentation. Of course the MSM NPR only reported on the retort in Crimea, as if nothing had happened before that to provoke the Russians, and it played well with their Putin-bashing narrative. Can’t wait to see this investigation open up both can of worms. Maybe Trump and Biden can share cells and pussy-grabbing stories.

  4. Jim Gates
    September 25, 2019 at 23:39

    Timely and at long last, some have been able to watch Stones documentary “Ukraine on Fire”.
    Given a little history lesson, no one in USA should be surprised at the affiliation with Nazis.

  5. L. Vincent Anderson
    September 25, 2019 at 15:20

    This article notes that Victoria Nuland is married to Robert Kagan, self-styled ‘anti-fascist’ expat of the GOP, as of 2016. Kagan follows in his father Donald (Kagan!)’s footsteps, not incidentally; as a prime commentator on the Peloponesian War, Kagan Sr. must have taught his son the ways of Alcibiades, presumed theoretician behind the world-domineering diplomatic model known as the Melian Dialogue! (Loads of literature on that, but the maxim in a nutshell is ‘The Powerful do what they can, and the Weak what they must.’ As little island Melos was to Athenian generals, so Ukraine is to the U.S. State Dept. and CIA, with the latter’s noted agents on the ground.)

    Not to be totally outdone, the U.S. Congress has had its own little slush fund to supply similar maxims to the various US-styled Victims on our Enemies list. See, June 2019 on the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

    The who’s-who on the NED’s board includes, guess who? Victoria Nuland, chief architect of the Obama coup in Ukraine. After a ‘partial’ summary of the NED’s ‘Russia 2016’ projects for democratic rule in Russia, the above blogger concludes, “…It is very apparent that NED’s overt actions in Russia and other nations around the world are very similar in scope and style to the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert nation re-engineering operations.” As of the Reagan era, NED is at best what the CIA was when Intelligence was its main mission. At worst….

    • Tim Jones
      September 25, 2019 at 19:54

      An Israeli weapons manufacturer supplies, at least, rifles to the Ukraine military, so weapons end up in Neo-Nazi groups.

      Also, in another angle, the FBI should focus on known extremists rather than trying, as in the recently leaked FBI memo, that relates conspiracy theories with some extremist violence. By the way, it is a very confusing memo with poor and contradictory arguments. One part of it hinges on the Internet banning unacceptable content. Think YouTube and Twitter, Facebook etc.

    • September 25, 2019 at 22:43

      Athens was able to collect city states like Milos in a great alliance after its fortuitous defeat of the Persians at Salamis but hubris soon displayed itself amongst Athenian statesmen and the long war with Sparta ensued. That collapsed Athenian wealth and political prominence and paved the way for its later conquest by the Romans.
      It is relevant today because US wealth is declining and the country appears to be in the same parlous state as Athens. The growth the media jubilantly reports is not supported by the usual statistics. There is only one more step – cutting interest rates – before the present power holders give up and skulk off with their money.
      Do not for one moment suppose that the country is in good health. The philosophy of the rulers has never been “we are all in this together” – eventually the men of commerce who own the media will be unable to hide reality. They will quietly withdraw their wealth and slip away, leaving the country and its unpayable debts to those who remain. From the leading nation prior to 9/11, USA is now on the way to irrelevance.

  6. EuGene Miller
    September 25, 2019 at 13:04

    During the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, I witnessed an incongruous video on the RT network. The video showed the rebels in the process of occupying the chamber of the parliament. The incongruous element in this scene was an American confederate flag (known as the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia) draped over the railing of a gallery overlooking the chamber.

    The source of the video was RT; but I doubt that any RT correspondent was filming in the Ukraine parliament building. The source was probably a Ukrainian or U.S. freelance news team.

    Perhaps the Confederate cause is popular among Ukrainian neo-fascists; or perhaps the contract mercenaries, affiliated with U.S. NGOs, brought their values and their flag with them on their 2014 operation.

    • Nick
      September 26, 2019 at 01:07

      That video [of the Confederate Flag] can be found on YouTube.

      Looks like someone with a cell phone. The group hanging the flags is Svoboda Party, and I believe the location is Kiev City Hall. Also, post WWII, the swastika was banned in many places, most notably Germany, where the Confederate Flag is often used in its place.

  7. AnneR
    September 25, 2019 at 08:23

    Thank you Mr Norton for this important and timely piece.

    Significantly and completely in-keeping with their overall bias and duty as state funded, corporate-capitalist backed propaganda media, neither BBC World Service nor NPR have mentioned any of this (to my hearing, anyway). Just both media continue to speak of “the Russian annexation” of Crimea – never any mention of the referendum on Crimea’s population deciding to re-join Russia. Silence on the one hand; repetition of anti-Russian tropes on the other. All so very Orwellian and Goebbelsian (with a dash of Bernays thrown in).

    Meanwhile, the House Demrats are beavering away again at seeking to impeach the Strumpet, this time over *his* possible use of “blackmail” to get Ukraine’s prez to re-open the investigation into corruption at Burisma and specifically into Hunter Biden’s role in that. Do the Demrats really want to open this particular can of worms, given that their doddery-minded hopeful (again) Biden the elder himself is reported to have only a few years ago to have used similar blackmail techniques in order to kill the original investigation into corruption at Burisma which would very likely have implicated his son? Or will they find some way to prevent that can being opened to public scrutiny? (Media silence, for example?)

    We – US and NATO vassals are responsible for the criminal, neo-Nazi enterprise that is Ukraine these days. No wonder the Russian speakers, those of Russian background want to return to being within the motherland’s embrace.

  8. Ron O
    September 24, 2019 at 23:14

    Here in S. Carolina -where he’s from- the local news mentioned the bit about his desire to join a Ukraine militia, but nothing about the context this article provides. They went to his neighborhood, though, and reported that he kept his lawn well mowed. That’s some intrepid journalism!

    Seriously, though, it’s probably just coincidence, but the timing of this bust is odd, given everything going on with Biden & son, the impeachment inquiry on Trump, all over questions, questions, questions over what really went down in 2014 in the Ukraine. Will Americans finally get “the rest of the story” that they missed at the time, thanks to the MSM’s sins of omission?

  9. bevin
    September 24, 2019 at 21:36

    The Azov Battalion has even closer links with Canada and its armed forces.

    • ElderD
      September 25, 2019 at 19:37

      Not surprising. Canadian elites have had a longstanding affinity for fascists. In the wake of WWII, Mackenzie King welcomed thousands of Ukrainian war criminals, members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the Waffen SS Galicia and Stepan Bandera’s Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). A few of them and many of their descendants and associates continue to have a strong presence in Canada.

    • Xyptol
      September 28, 2019 at 07:54

      I live in Canada and when I was a child, the guy who lived across the street had served in the “Galicia Division” during the war. It was only years later that I realized how close we lived to a Nazi collaborator.

  10. CitizenOne
    September 24, 2019 at 20:33

    When we support Nazis we call it bringing freedom and democracy to Ukraine which is the highest form of love we can muster for our beloved ally. This is the sacred duty of the United States. Restoring freedom and democracy and peace wherever it has been lost even if it means we give the whole nation over to the Nazis.
    As examples of our restoring peace through supporting terrorists strategy let’s look at a couple of win wins:
    Ukraine: Sure a lot of Russians were killed but Ukraine is now a fully functional fascist led democracy. How cool is that?
    Iraq: Okay, there are really a staggering number of dead but Iraq is now a top tourism and vacation spot for westerners so there is that to consider.
    Syria: Sheesh! Well what are a couple million refugees and half a million deaths anyway. Just chump change really when you consider what we have gained by deposing Bashar Assad! What? We did not accomplish that? Well no matter these folks died for a good cause even if a lot of them were burned alive in cages in front of their parents and spouses.
    Libya: A fully restored cannibalistic democracy filled with the American value based society consisting of 1. Slavery, 2. Civil War, 3. Cannabalisim.

    All these nations were fully restored to the highest form of government and the people rejoice in these new bastions of freedom, peace, democracy and some small amount of people eating other people Its really a small thing.

    Let us instead look forward. Soon it will be…Venezuela and Iran who will feel the sting of ultimate freedom
    Both countries badly need to be fully restored to a complete democracy while also being completely depleted of their oil. Once filled with the values of freedom these countries will gladly and willingly open up their oil reserves like blossoming flowering flower blossoms but not opossums that give all democratic countries their heavenly glow and also an oily sheen.

    • Abby
      September 25, 2019 at 21:43

      Ah yes that smell of freedom and democracy that we have brought to so many countries. That they are much worse off now doesn’t seem to register to many Americans who support the troops no matter the cost. I especially love that the first black American president brought slavery back to Libya. Now that type of legacy will be hard to match.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    September 24, 2019 at 19:55

    In “A Distant Mirror” the late historian Barbara Tuchman wrote of the impact in Europe of the returning Crusaders in the 13th century. It was very uncool. While I’m about the last person who could be called religious, there’s a lot to be learned from the various and sundry religions of the world. The one that immediately leaps to mind is As you sow, so shall you reap.

    • AnneR
      September 25, 2019 at 08:33

      Yes, Jeff. Exactly. This is the lesson that the US-UK-IS refuse to face. They obviously continue to believe, wholeheartedly, in western European superiority on every front. And they can’t wrap their minds around, it would seem, that other peoples with different (and longer) historical cultures and trajectories might get miffed enough at what we are doing to their countries, peoples that they will retaliate in whatever way they can. Nor it seems, does the US or the UK (national service still exists in the Zionist occupied Palestine) have any ability to recognize that when you have only a mercenary military (prettied up as “volunteer”) you will attract into those forces many who are socio-psychopathic, who are killers at heart and eager to have the excuse to slaughter and to learn and have the means by which to do so. They will come “home.” And with them bring not only their already existing socio-psychopathies but also their revved up taste for killing.

      Homegrown blowback.

  12. John Wright
    September 24, 2019 at 19:46

    When I first read about U.S. white nationalists/fascists traveling to the Ukraine to train with the Azov Battalion, I wondered how long it would take for one or more of them to get caught conspiring or committing acts of domestic terrorism within the U.S.

    Now we know. I hope that the FBI and DHS do their jobs and all his buddies are dissuaded from following in his footsteps. Although, if history is any indication, it’s quite likely that one or more will be lured into committing acts of terrorism (e.g. OKC) in order to advance the security state agenda.

    It will be interesting to see if the corporate media will try to stand this story on its head by trying to spin the narrative in a way that casts some blame on Russia. I wouldn’t put it past Maddow to lead that particular charge up Mount Mendacity.

    • Zoran Aleksic
      September 25, 2019 at 14:32

      No need to spin the narrative to try to pin it on the Russians. They just won’t report it.

  13. Martin
    September 24, 2019 at 17:17

    Two years before maidan the european parliament adopted a resolution ventilating their concern over the ukrainian right-wing parties (svoboda). In 2 years time these had become the heroes of the revolution. Victoria Nuland (Robert Kagan’s wife) was probably an HRC-asset. Jihadists, right-wing extremists are puppets of an old establishment, imo. When they’re threatened they release the hounds. (Now they’re busy crashing the democratic party in impeaching trump with help from the inside).

    • b.grand
      September 26, 2019 at 02:44

      Victoria Nuland was an HRC appointment.

      Alexandra Chalupa was (is) an HRC/DNC asset who solicited dirt on Trump from her Ukrainian contacts – fabricated if necessary. Remember how Manafort got fired? Look her up. Russiagate was a cover-up for the real collusion.

  14. September 24, 2019 at 16:00

    So, Have the Nazis terrorized Zelensky into submission or is he working with them. No one’s explained to me how Ukraine can go in a different direction with murderous, West-backed nazis running loose in the country.

    • John Wright
      September 24, 2019 at 19:54

      I think it’s something like a waltz, one step forward, one step sideways and one step backward.

      At least until they can change enough of the members of the orchestra, beginning with the percussion section.

      (Short-sighted U.S. policy makers, wittingly or not, have turned the Ukraine into a tinderbox capable of sparking the last world war we’ll ever know. Fortunately, the Russians are doing everything they can to avoid such an outcome while preserving their interests.)

  15. Sally Snyder
    September 24, 2019 at 14:34

    Here is an article that looks at Washington’s lie about the Ukraine, Russia Crimea and its referendum that the entire anti-Russia narrative was built on: in June 2019.

    It would appear that the Obama Administration very clearly understood that the people of Crimea wanted to separate from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation and that the results of the March 2014 referendum were valid.

    • AnneR
      September 25, 2019 at 08:40

      Oh yes, Sally S, I do not doubt for one minute that the Obama admin was fully aware of the righteousness of the Crimean referendum (as I seem to recall it was observed by many from other countries). But when has that ever stopped any US admin or Congress from ignoring truth and promoting lies when it benefits them and their corporate-capitalist-imperialist and *those* lobbying groups’ interests? They (not since the beginning of the 20th C really) have never shown *any* real desire to put the interests of ordinary, working (even less working class) people’s interests anywhere on the ladder of must-do, fulfill policies.

    • b.grand
      September 26, 2019 at 02:50

      Freaky hypocrisy today of Dems. praising the “whistleblower” of Trump phone call. Where was their praise for Julian Assange and Chelsey Manning, or their criticism of persecutor in chief Obama? Real war crimes don’t rate with the neo-lib hawks.

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