Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Trump/Putin - Part III

US policy vis a vis Russia reverted back to the one it had toward the ‘Communist enemy’ when it became apparent that Boris Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, would not allow Russia’s family jewels - its oil, gas, water, and other precious resources — to be siphoned off into the pockets of oligarchs as part of the US’s globalization project. 
Demonization of Russia is not only about ownership, but about leadership. While admitting, as Vladimir Putin did recently at the St Petersburg forum, that the US is the only superpower, the Russians do not think it is a good idea for one country to rule the world, and believe their more humane outlook is shared by more people.
Russia’s stance is not about power itself, as the US media implies, but about how it should be used in the modern world. Time and again, though unreported in the US media, Vladimir Putin has spelled out his vision of a multi-polar world, in which every country enjoys full sovereignty while cooperating with others. In the nineteen sixties, Czechoslovakia pioneered ‘socialism with a human face’, and Euro-communism appeared in Western Europe. Vladimir Putin’s ideology could be called capitalism with a human face, which is yet another way of saying ‘social democracy’. 
Trump says wages are too high, while Hillary has agreed to Bernie’s demand to ‘phase in’ a minimum wage of fifteen dollars an hour. (However, by the time that rate is achieved, inflation will have made it no better than today’s seven.) Twenty years after the end of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin’s domestic appeal is partly due to the fact that he did not throw the socialist baby out with the bathwater. While he has been given a variety of labels by pundits, my contention that he considers himself a social democrat was vindicated when I read Michail Gorbachev’s latest book……… in which he mentions the public’s positive reaction to the birth of a Russian democratic party, and Putin retorts: “But we are already a social democratic country!”

Considering the long list of countries the US has either attacked or undermined, US-led globalization has little in common with a humane capitalism. It does not focus on producers and consumers, with every-one entitled to education and health care, but on using money to produce more money, while large swathes of humanity become redundant.
Whether or not Putin’s capitalism would appeal to Trump is an open question, but on the surface it would appear more compatible with deal-making than is the manipulation of money, however passionate that activity may be to some.  More importantly, we cannot know how Trump would combine making international deals with fascism at home.  
What is crucial is that he is not interested in making war on Russia, nor, presumably anyone else. He suggests as much when he  says that the US should not be paying for its allies’ defense. As stated in Parti I of this series, another area in which he and Vladimir Putin appear to see eye to eye is nationalism, which Putin calls ‘sovereignization’. Nationalism’s appeal to the American religious right will also be welcomed by the Russian President, although American progressives will be less sanguine, and Trump himself has been a prime exemplar of the dissolution Putin associates with Western society.

As others have noted, notwithstanding twenty-first century technology, we’re repeating the nineteen thirties, when the age-old conflict between the few and the many led to the most dangerous world war in history.  Hillary’s clearly inferred intention to wage war on Russia will spell The End of History, but not as US Neocons imagine it.

Trump/Putin - Part II

America’s leaders have been deaf to Vladimir Putin’s calls for a united front against Islamic fascism because they want to protect the neo-liberal variety, such as the one we installed in Ukraine. And although much of Trumps “grass roots” carry guns, they would likely be used to defend a rough individualism than a regime organized around the military.  
But these are subtleties that require ideological literacy to appreciate, and as the Clinton/Trump battle gets into full swing, never has America’s lack of ideological literacy been so apparent. The media drumbeat about Vladimir Putin’s preference for a Trump presidency shows that not even the pundits know the difference between an autocrat and a dictator. While the average voter still imagines Russia as a place where an armed soldier stands behind each worker/slave, eve more sophisticated Americans are unaware that a handful of parties compete in elections, while we have only two, our political class doing its best to keep it that way.
Since even Democratic-leaning anchors admit that Trump could very well be the next President, let’s survey the similarities and differences between him and the leader of a country Democrats are determined to treat as an enemy.
It’s clear that both Putin and Trump like to get things done - and expect their subordinates to do likewise, but this makes neither of them a dictator, while the United States supports many such across the globe. Some of my friends wonder how Putin, who can be considered a social-democrat, can support a billionaire who stands accused of stiffing employees. The answer is that Putin is playing the complicated game of chess, while most American politicians play checkers.
Some US pundits have noticed that Putin supports the right-wing parties that have flourished in Europe thanks to the immigration crisis, from Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France to Viktor Orban’s Jobbik Party in Hungary, however, either they ignore the reasons or don’t think their viewers care about them.
The fact is that Vladimir Putin supports the right-wing because its foundation is nationalism. He believes globalization — forced acceptance of American supremacy via or the financialization of economies that render large segments of the population redundant  should give way to independent countries living according to their individual heritage, resist a global culture built on consumption and competition and known as ‘keeping up with the Jonses’. Challenging American claims that its principles are universal, Putin believes that only God is universal, while peoples are distinct.  
When Donald Trump announces that he would prefer the US to be allied with Russia and China against ISIS, he is showing that he knows the difference between real and imaginary enemies, that accusations of Russian belligerence are false, while ISIS’s crimes are real..
As I wrote in a July 9, 2013 blog on my website titled The US chooses Capitalist Muslims:
Given the need for oil from an area long ruled by religion, it is not hard to believe that the United States took the practical decision to work with ‘moderate’ Muslims, that is pro-capitalist Muslims, instead of trying to secularize them.

Though Sunnis occasionally lean left, as was the case with Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party, leftist Muslims are usually found among Shi’as, such as the Iranian and Syrian governments.  The Western media avoids identifying the 1979 Iranian revolution with its predecessors, the French, Russian Chinese or Cuban revolutions, all of which are associated with idea of equity. In the case of Syria, it never mentions that Assad’s is the only secular Arab regime, that its eduction system is modeled on the French (Syria having been a French protectorate before independence), and that women enjoy Western-style equality, from divorce to education to careers.

Military might cannot ensure a coherent American Middle East policy, given the region’s fundamental rivalries: secular vs. religious, Sunni vs. Shi’a, left vs. right, traditionalists vs. moderns, ‘democratizing’ Sunni’s represented by the Brotherhood vs. socializing Shi’a Alawites.”

Today I would add that Russia, on the other hand, has co-existed for centuries with the Muslim nations along its southern rim and Putin’s policies toward war-torn Chechnya show that he prefers to back modernization in Islamic lands rather than convert Muslims to Orthodox Christianity - which would be similar to US efforts to ‘bring democracy’ to benighted populations.

When Donald Trump says he will build a wall to keep Latins out, and interrupt Muslim immigration ‘until we can figure things out’, he’s taking the opposite tack to Angela Merkel, who believes that Muslims can be good German citizens

Is Donald Trump aware of these subtleties?  Probably not, however one thing he does appear to know is that ‘deals’ will be derisory in a nuclear winter.

Finishing up August: More Good Intentions

Carrying the anti-Russian Narrative Forward (August 14)

 A half-page long article in the August 12 WSJ illustrates how the media is forced to distort every development in a given story in order to be consistent with the original narrative. Having claimed in 2014 that Russia had invaded Ukraine, and having repeated this ‘fact’ whenever any incident involving Ukraine and Russia takes place, the message must each time be massaged appropriately.  

English-language Russian on-line journals such as Russia Insider or The Durand report that Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko has announced a campaign to retake the rebel eastern territories, now known as the Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk, and also, that Russia foiled a terrorist attack on Crimea from Ukrainian territory, in which two of its soldiers died,  Meanwhile, RT reports that Russia's Black Sea Fleet command announced a three-day anti-sabotage drill to counter potential underwater attacks on naval installations in Crimea.

Dealing with these same issues, the WSJ headlines;  “Kiev Puts Military on Alert over Crimea”. claiming that: “Since annexing Crimea in 2014, Russia has fomented a pro-Russia rebellion in eastern Ukraine, aiming to keep the former Soviet republic off balance and stymie its overtures toward the West.” 

First of all the WSJ chronology is wrong: Novorossiya, as the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk refer to themselves, was declared in April 2014, after the Crimean referendum had been held and recognized in March. The WSJ inversion not only fails to mention the referendum, it implies that Russia annexed Crimea by force, then encouraged a rebellion in the east, when in fact, the rebellion came first, led by local Russian-speaking inhabitants, and inspiring the referendum in Crimea.

Regarding the most recent news, supposedly the subject of the article, it doesn’t come until the next to last paragraph which reads: 

</blockquote>The head of the Ukraine’s National Police, Vadim Toyan, said his office has opened a criminal proceeding regarding the possible abduction of Yevhen Panov, a Ukrainian resident named by the FSB (Russian military intelligence) as the main perpetrator of one attempted attack (on Crimea).  Mr Panov was shown in handcuffs and with abrasions on his face on Russian television.

Pentagon officials said they have noticed Russia troop movements lately in the Crimea region, but it wasn’t clear as to whether they are reinforcements or units rotating in and out.</blockquote/> 

Note that the Ukrainian story implies that for some mysterious reason, one of its citizens was abducted by Russia, when in reality, the man was arrested for sabotage. 

By referring to troops rotating in and out, the WSJ implies that the Crimea had been newly occupied, when in fact, Russia’s continued possession of its Black Sea naval bases was part of the 1997 Partition Treaty between Russia and Ukraine that established two independent national fleets after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. At that time, Ukraine also agreed to lease major parts of its new bases in Sevastopol to the Russian Black Sea Fleet until 2017. 

Further according to Wikipedia: 

</blockquote>The Agreement between Ukraine and Russia on the Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine, widely referred to as the Kharkiv Pact (Ukrainian: Харківський пакт)[1][2] or Kharkiv Accords (Russian: Харьковские соглашения),[3][4][5] was signed on 21 April 2010 in Kharkiv, Ukraine, by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, whereby the Russian lease on naval facilities in Crimea was extended beyond 2017 until 2042, with an additional five-year renewal option in exchange for a multiyear discounted contract to provide Ukraine with Russian natural gas.[6] and ratified by the parliaments of the two countries on 27 April 2010. </blockquote/>

Following the February 2014 coup,  the Ukrainian government declared that the lease would not be extended and that the fleet would have to leave Sevastopol by 2017. Shortly after the March 2014 accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation,[7] Russia unilaterally terminated the treaty on 31 March 2014.[8][9] 

The WSJ devoted half a page to a simplified version of what is in fact a complicated history, continuing the narrative begun in 2014 of evil Russian machinations to prevent Ukraine, an independent country, from joining the European Union and eventually, NATO.  In the two and half years that have passed since the Ukraine coup, planned and financed by the US and headed State Department Assistant Secretary of Eastern Europe Victoria Nuland, NATO forces have moved into Poland and the Baltics, trying to provoke Russia after failing to get a rise over the Ukraine.  

</blockquote> WARSAW: NATO leaders agreed on Friday to deploy military forces to the Baltic states and eastern Poland for the first time and increase air and sea patrols to reassure allies who were once part of the Soviet bloc following Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

The 28-nation Western defense alliance decided to move four battalions totaling 3,000 to 4,000 troops into northeastern Europe on a rotating basis to display its readiness to defend eastern members against any Russian aggression.</blockquote/>

Russia did not invade Ukraine anymore than it would think of invading the three Baltic States or Poland. Its focus is on Eurasia, where, along with China, it is building the real challenge to US global hegemony.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

OUCH! More Posts from July!

Killings Plus Political Conventions Equal Chaos (July 10)
Over and over again, those of us who keep watch over the world from unofficial cathedra in the belly of the beast, wonder where it all will end, knowing our voices are heard by too few to change the drift toward war and/or climate catastrophe.
As the NATO Summit met in Warsaw we were haunted by the nineteen-thirties, realizing that for all our ‘freedoms’ — and even our alternative press, like the Germans of that time, we are powerless. Today it is Americans who bear the heaviest responsibility for what is happening in the world, yet increasingly, the system of government we would foist upon others degenerates from a laughing stock to a disaster.
Later this month, Hillary will become the Democratic Candidate at a Convention in Philadelphia, the city in which the Declaration of Independence was signed, and shortly thereafter, Donald Trump will be anointed as the Republican candidate in Cleveland, home of a once famous automobile industry. Hillary risks indictment for having an email server in her basement, while Donald Trump flirts with White supremacists.  Yet in the last few days, events have taken uncertainty to a new level.  After two black men were shot by white police officers in different places for no reason, a lone shooter in yet another city killed five of their colleagues. In a hideous close-up, Donald Trump declared that the police stand between civilization and “complete chaos”. Yet many of his followers own guns and some have announced they plan to appear at the convention carrying them.
Hillary will perhaps not be indicted, however it is extremely likely that Donald Trump will make new converts after the damning testimony by the head of the FBI concerning her ‘carelessness’ in leaving classified information open to discovery by the entire world. The Republican Convention precedes the Democratic one by just a few days, and although they will be held in separate cities, both could be disrupted, Trump’s by Black Lives Matter activists confronting armed militias, Hillary’s by Bernie supporters.
We haven’t seen ‘long, not summers’ since the race riots of the sixties, but these will  probably be seen as piddling compared to what could happen during the last ten days of  Independence month.

US/NATO/Europe/Russia (JULY 12)
While the US media, only about a century late, suddenly pays attention to the racial divide, our generals, via NATO, are inching us closer than we have ever been to World War III. Surely the former is happening partly because of the latter, which the US is not anxious to publicize.
The Republican Convention is sneaking up on a country distracted by the details of who shot whom and why.  As if American civilians had never been shot before, the race war makes the headlines while US troops train to attack Russia.
While police chiefs oozing good will paraded across our tv screens, UN-led NATO forces sealed off Russia’s Western borders, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, in a grim repeat of Hitler’s strategy.
According to a recent article by Russia analyst F. William Engdahl, Russia failed to definitively rid itself of the plague of the Yeltsin years, when Geoffrey Sachs was helping it unload precious national resources to eager oligarchs. And it would seem that the NATO exercises are intended to send a signal to Vladimir Putin, that he had not interfere as Dmitry Medvedev and the head of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina continue the neo-liberal policies dictated by Wall St.
According to Engdahl writing in New Eastern Outlook:
What I experienced in my discussions at the (St.Petersburg) conference–this year with record attendance of more than 12,000 business people and others from around the world–was a sense that there coexist two Russian governments, each the polar opposite of the other. Every key economic and finance post is firmly occupied at present by monetarist free-market liberal economists who might be called “Gaidar’s Kindergarten.” Yegor Gaidar was the architect, along with Harvard’s Jeffrey Sachs, a Soros-backed economist, of the radical “shock therapy” that was responsible for the economic hardships that plagued the country in the 1990s resulting in mass poverty and hyperinflation.”
It seems that Nabiullina first imposed a ridiculously high central bank interest rate of 17% for a year after the fall in the oil price, finally only bringing it down to 10.5%, although the price of oil had risen by 60%. This makes “the job virtually impossible of reviving credit flows to fuel genuine real investment in urgently needed infrastructure across the vast land expanse of Russia,” which is what President Putin is calling for.
The key to this disconnect is the Russian constitution of the Yeltsin years, under which “economic policy is the portfolio responsibility of the Prime Minister and his various ministers of Economics, Finance and so forth. The Russian President is responsible for defense and foreign policy.”
It’s no wonder many Russians say there’s a fifth column inside the govern-ment: the policies of Dmitry Medvedev are dictated by the US, which uses NATO to make sure they continue, by keeping Vladimir Putin busy worrying about military encroachment.  A similar plan as the one used to bring down the USSR, by bogging it down in Afghanistan and forcing it to keep up with an arms race.

 The New Migration (July 10)
During the Vietnam War, hundreds of young Americans moved to Canada to avoid the draft. During the fifty-four years when Cuba and the US had no diplomatic relations, hundreds of Americans travelled to Cuba by hook or by crook, to witness socialism up close and bring supplies that the US blockade kept out.
While this was going on, Soviet Jews were leaving for Israel, whence many continued their journey to the US or Europe, and a few artists such as the dancer  Mikhail Baryshnikov, defected while on tour here.
While most American intellectuals who travelled to the Soviet Union in the years between the Russian revolution and the start of World War II, labelled as “fellow travelers”, did so out of a conviction that something momentous was taking place there, often ending up so disappointed that they became fervent anti-Communists, currently, another migration to Russia is taking place, this time  among journalists who are not wanted in the American mainstream media. Unable to concur in the way US policy toward Russia is reported and interpreted in their own press, they (often relatives of those who emigrated to Canada or travelled to Cuba) go to work for Russian English language television or news sites Their ideological motivation is less stark than their predecessors of a hundred years ago: the ideological differences between Putin’s Russia and Washington are more subtle than in the past: what motivates these expats is their refusal to countenance their country’s bellicose attitude toward the rest of the world, its determination to remain top dog, deciding which policies are acceptable and which are to be condemned, and, if necessary, defeated.
In a reversal of what went on during the Cold War, when The Voice of America or Radio Liberty disseminated propaganda mainly to listeners behind the Iron Curtain - Americans increasingly appreciate how other countries see the news, watching not only the BBC, but Japanese, French or Russian English language broadcasts.  (This latter known petulantly in government spheres as ‘Putin’s Bullhorn’.)
While few Americans appear to have been interested in joining the staff of France 24, increasing numbers have jobs at RT.  This current list may be incomplete: Thom Hartmann, Jesse Ventura, Tyrel Ventura, Sean Stone, Tabatha Wallace, Ed Schultz, Larry King, and most recently, former New York times Middle East bureau chief and prolific progressive author, Chris Hedges.  It does not include the half dozen or so anchors, or the hosts of stock market shows, most prominently Stacy Herbert and Mark Keiser.
This rundown doesn’t include the growing number of American political figures who agree to be interviewed on RT, often extensively.  In recent months I’ve seen Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, former CIA agent Ray MdGovern as well as members the  Ron Paul Institute. 
Like the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, these renegade journalists are hardly alone in Moscow. They are among 40,000 other Americans, businessmen, students, teachers, translators, husbands or wives of Russian citizens, many of whom live in the backwaters of this vast country, and are often present on-line.
The irony of representatives of America’s fabled ‘fourth estate’, the so-called ‘government watchdog’, whose Golden Rule is ‘objectivity’, having to expatriate themselves in order to be able to earn a livelihood in agreement with their conscience, should be lost on no one.
Since this post was written two more prominent Americans have appeared on RT, Lt Gen Mark Hertling, and Republican rep Dana Rohrabacher.

P.S. Other favorite destinations for American expat journalists are Berlin and Iceland.

No Wonder NATO is Frantic!(July 12)
While a first sight, NATO’s phenomenal buildup in Europe, intended to counter Russia’s so-called ‘aggression’, is a deadly threat to the world, a closer look may reveal a different story. 
NATO is an ‘alliance’ of many countries with different priorities, each of which dangles on strings pulled in Washington.
Its alleged enemy, the Russian Federation, is a vast country with a small population whose huge casualties in WWII make it determined to defend itself.
Soviet domination of Eastern Europe lasted from 1945 to 1990, while US domination of Western Europe, though perhaps less visible, has lasted from 1945 to the present, a quarter of a century longer.
Due to several centuries of Ottoman rule, the countries of Eastern Europe, having historically lagged behind those of the West, were determined, in 1990, to make up for their lack of clout by being more European than Western Europe. 
In reality this meant being more pro-American, and never more so than in attitudes toward Russia! During the Cold War, when Soviet troops were (unobtrusively) stationed in Eastern Europe, Western Europe ‘welcomed’ NATO troops who would prevent  a Soviet conquest.
The fact that no such thing was ever contemplated in Moscow in no way prevents today’s Eastern European leaders from loudly joining the US claim that  Russia is an enemy!
This accusation is facilitated by the following facts:  Not only is Russia by far the largest country in the world, spanning nine time zones, it backs up to China, the most populous country in the world. Although one is Caucasian while the other is Oriental, between then these two countries have a formidable military determined to defend a common socialist ethos that privileges negotiations and sharing over conquest and plunder. 
In 1989 my book ‘A Different Europe, a Different World, (Une autre Europe, un autre monde) was published in France. It anticipated Europe’s reunification and suggested that Europeans should replace the Atlantic Alliance with full participation in the Eurasian Community, in which the Soviet Union, far from being a threat, was simply one of five giants, the others being India, China, the Middle East and Europe, each of equal weight.
It has taken twenty-five years for the leaders of Western Europe to arrive at a similar conclusion. The problem is that those of Eastern Europe, always decades behind, are trying to prevent them from turning words into deeds, dismissing as irrelevant the fact that Soviet domination stemmed from Eastern Europe’s location between the West and Russia, through which attacks have repeatedly been carried out.
The crucial question for the European Union is whether Eastern Europeans will finally catch up with reality and realize that the twenty-first century sun rises in the East, enabling a carefully constructed but flawed union to be transformed into something more durable — and peaceful.

A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma (july 18)
This is how one of the most astute leaders of the 20th century, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill famously described the Soviet Union during World War II, when Joseph Stalin became an indispensable ally against Hitler. Ironically, this appraisal came a century after two members of the French nobility wrote “travel books” on the US and Russia. 

Americans are familiar with the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, who traveled to the United States in 1831 and was astonished to discover a country organized around individualism. Democracy in America, published in 1835 is still assigned to college students today. But while Tocqueville was traveling West, another French nobleman, the Marquis de Custine, travelled East, publishing Empire of the Czar: A Journey Through Eternal Russia in 1839.  In the 1970’s, this work inspired the Hungarian historian Tibor Szamuely, who had lived in the Soviet Union, to write The Russian Tradition, tracing Russia’s history of authoritarianism to four hundred years of rule by the Mongol Golden Horde.

Seventy years ago, the small countries of Europe were fighting for their survival with the decisive help of the countries these books describe. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, in 1941, as bombs rained on London, the United States entered the war against both Japan and Germany. Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in June, bringing that country into the war alongside Britain and France. (Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939, in order to gain time to prepare for war.)

Hitler’s rise in Germany was directly linked to the Russian Revolution that, in 1917, had overthrown the Tsarist regime, threatening the international one-percent. Notwithstanding Stalin’s internal purges of the 1930’s, the Western allies had no choice but to cooperate with him in the fight against Nazism, which was an extreme form of capitalism. Churchill’s remark that Russia was a mystery was a way of rationalizing the alliance with one dictatorship in order to defeat the other.

Fast-forward to 1991 and the implosion of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin comes to power with the blessing of the United States, allowing American ‘advisors’ to reshape his country’s economic system to the benefit of foreign investors and local oligarchs, literally driving its economy into the ground.

Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin in 2000, and has been alternately President and Prime Minister since then, in tandem with Dmitry Medvedev, raking up the highest ratings of any national leader. In 2001, Protestant born-again President George W Bush, son of a former CIA director, looked into Putin’s eyes and saw a former KGB officer who had embraced his nation’s Orthodox Christianity. He failed to imagine that he would want Russia to take back its economic sovereignty, opposing US domination of the world financial system.

Meanwhile, Washington’s Neo-Conservatives refuse to abandon the objective enunciated in 1997 by Zbignieuw Brzezinski: ensuring that the United States remains forever the most powerful nation on earth. In order to achieve that objective, it must neutralize Russia, where the greatest trove of resources are located, and China, the country with the world’s largest population.  Both China and Russia having abandoned Communism, a new reason had to be found to turn them into enemies.

Custine’s and Szamuely’s books enabled the US to discount that Putin’s high ratings, which merely confirmed that Russians took authoritarian rule for granted. In turn, however, the Russian President notes that Tocqueville’s individualism led American voters to surrender their freedom to gadgets that engage their separateness, leaving government free to wreck havoc at home and abroad.

Tackling Russia on the Sports Field  (July 20)
Americans like to say: ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’ but this advice has been forgotten by the pointy heads in Washington. The last thing they want is to join Russia  in solving the world’s dire problems. Since that makes them look pretty bad, they are looking for every possible way to peel support away from a country they claim is America’s enemy.
Currently the airways are full of talk about the possibility that Russia would be banned from taking part in the up-coming Olympic Games in Brazil, on the pretext that the IOC has ‘definitive proof’ — in the words of a spokesman — that the Putin government was complicit in the doping of its athletes going back to 2013.
Two things strike me as strange: the first is the fact that the Russian doctor and former lab head who apparently faked test results now lives in California, were he heads a laboratory.  
The second thing is that sports fans are less likely than other people to be up on foreign news and international politics, while they are passionate about sports news..  These people are bound to make up a sizable portion of any electorate, so someone in President Obama’s foreign policy team probably decided to target them instead of consumers of hard news. Sports fans have probably not followed the Ukraine coup, or even the NATO buildup on Russia’s borders, much less recently trotted out claims that Russia ‘invaded’ Georgia in 2008, when in reality it was the Georgians who shot at Ossetians across the border, forcing Russia to intervene, and providing an excuse for NATO to move its tanks right up to Russia’s  borders.
I will be very surprised if it does not eventually turn out that the Russian doctor who heads a lab in California, is not just being rewarded for his cooperation but was actually recruited by US agents. Sports fans constitute a significant percentage of the public. If the US can get them riled up, they will back a US attack on Russia.

Trump/Putin Ukraine (Aug. 1)

As the controversy over Donald Trump’s remarks about Russia and Ukraine go viral, the monumental ignorance of America’s political leaders about world events has finally come front and center.  Donald Trump doesn’t know that Russia never invaded Ukraine, but he seems to think they might, while his Democratic adversaries are convinced it has, and that it annexed Crimea under military threat when in fact over 80% of its inhabitants are Russia and they overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia, which the Crimea has always been part of except after 1954 when Khruschev, believing the Soviet Union was forever, gave it to Ukraine in a gesture of brotherly love.

This brings us to the subject of Paul Manafort’s past ties with the Ukrainian pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted in an American-backed Neo-Nazi coup in 2014.  The media has mentioned these ties before, but probably because it hasn’t a clue as to Russia/Ukraine relations past or present, it has avoided going into any detail.  Today it is mentioned a friend of Manafort’s is involved in Black Sea oil.  (Note that the Crimea is a Black Sea peninsula…)

Here is a quote from today’s Guardian:

</blockquote>The coordinator of the Washington diplomatic corps for the Republicans in Cleveland was Frank Mermoud, a former state department official involved in business ventures in Ukraine via Cub Energy, a Black Sea-focused oil and gas company of which he is a director. He is also on the board of the US Ukraine Business Council.

Mermoud has longstanding ties to Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who in 2010 helped pro-Russia Viktor Yanukovych refashion his image and win a presidential election in Ukraine.…</blockquote/>

Hmmm, Cub Energy, here’s what its website says:

<blockquote> According to The World Fact Book, estimated oil production in 2012 was 80,400 Bbls/d, ranking Ukraine 52nd in the world in oil production. 

Naftogaz is the largest of the Ukrainian state-owned companies and it dominates exploration and production.  Naftogaz also owns the main oil and gas pipelines, gas processing facilities, the import and transit rights of gas and gas distribution rights in Ukraine.  Naftogaz has entered into agreements with many foreign companies to enable an acceleration of hydrocarbon development in Ukraine.  Cub is among the foreign companies active in Ukraine along with the recent entry by Shell and Chevron. <blockquote>  

It doesn’t make the front pages of American media, but some erudite figures in Washington have probably heard of Russia’s various pipe-line projects to bring gas to Europe.  One of them was set to pass through Ukraine, however after the 2014 coup in Ukraine, Russia sought other solutions including one which would bypass Ukraine for Turkey.

Further of interest to the campaign currently gathering steam to impale Trump on his relations with Russia, further links on the CUb energy website clarify the US claim that Russia could invade Moldova after biting off a chunk of Ukrainian real estate in the east.

</blockquote> Transcarpathian Basin
The Transcarpathian basin means the approximate 7,500 km2 region located in Western Ukraine bordering Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. The basin is estimated to have 4 Tcf of natural gas which, to date, remains vastly under-explored with only approximately three percent of the region’s hydrocarbon potential discovered. Cub Energy has a 100% working interest in two licenses and a 50% working interest in the third license for a total of 99,000 gross acres (net 61,500 acres).<blockquote/> 

Moldova is part of the Transcarpathian basin. 

And lo and behold, the two Russian-majority rebel areas in the east of Ukraine are part of the

</blockquote> Dnieper-Donets Basin
Located in Eastern Ukraine, the Dnieper-Donets Basin has produced vast amounts of coal, oil and gas. Despite the long history of production, this vast 31,000 km2 region still has immense untapped potential.  Cub’s application of western drilling technology combined with high domestic natural gas prices has resulted in wells with rapid payback periods and high IRRs for the Company.</blockquote>

The question is whether the US-installed government of Petro Poroshenko, its security dependent on Neo-Nazi militias, can be relied upon by Cub Energy to fulfill whatever its role is in the twin energy project.

Russia/Turkey: Ready and Willing (Aug. 9)

A major geo-political realignment is taking place between the US, Russia and Turkey.
While NATO used Turkey to ‘defend’ Europe’s so-called southern flank (by threatening Russia’s southern flank), the European Union led Turkey on for decades with respect to joining it.  Of late, Europe has asked Turkey to rescue it from the dire consequences of US-led wars against Muslim countries that impelled hundreds of thousands of refugees toward its shores.  In a supreme irony, having excluded Muslim Turkey from the Christian club, it found itself hosting many more Muslim refugees than the entire population of Turkey.

Turkey did not behave well in this matter, but currently, it may be helping to change the geo-strategic balance across the Eurasian continent. It occupies a key geographic position between Europe and Asia, and at the end of World War II, threw in its lot with the Euro-Atlantic alliance by joining NATO, enrolling its large, well-trained army in the stand-off with the Soviet Union. This policy was consistent with centuries of generally inimical, often warlike relations between the Muslim Ottoman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Tsarist Empire.  Yet sixty-five years of fealty to the West did not move by an iota the standoff between Islam and Christianity.

Whether it be the attempt by the US to bring about ‘regime change’ in Syria, or Europe’s continued rejection of Turkey for obvious religious reasons (delaying granting visa-free travel to Turkish citizens in exchange for Turkey processing refugee applications to Europe), appears to have dove-tailed with two other crucial international developments: the US build-up of accusations against Russia, with a view to forcing it into war, and President Putin’s increasing cooperation with China via the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement, the Eurasian Economic Community and the Silk Road Project also known as One- Belt, One Road, that will link Europe to Asia by rail and road.

Although individual events such as the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey as part of opposing policies on the Syrian civil war, severely marred relations between the two countries, it would appear that Turkey’s erratic president has realized it is now more advantageous for his country to acknowledge its Eastern roots than to try to graft itself onto the foreign religious culture represented by the West. Besides the obvious economic advantages of joining a community that would stretch from the Bosphorus to the Pacific, both Turkey and Russia consider religion to be a preeminent factor in governance, an allegiance that, in today’s international context, is as important as military might.