Winning Friends and Influencing People - October 7, 207
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” was the title of a highly influential book by Dale Carnegie published in 1936 and still read today by people seeking to improve their chances of success. (The author was unrelated to Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, and in fact was the poster-child of the 'self-made man').
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” was the title of a highly influential book by Dale Carnegie published in 1936 and still read today by people seeking to improve their chances of success. (The author was unrelated to Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, and in fact was the poster-child of the 'self-made man').
The recent visit to Moscow of Salmon the new, young King of Saudi Arabia, marks a turning point in relations between the two countries -- and by extension, the opposite turning point in relations between Riyadh and Washington. Saudi Arabia and Russia are the world's largest oil exporters and recently, they agreed to cut production. If the two countries move closer over time, whether via their shared oil interests or for other reasons, this would mark an unprecedented shift in the world's most volatile region. Recently it was revealed as part of the daily drip drip of 'news' about ‘Russiagate' in the US, that acquaintances of Donald Trump had been negotiating with the Russians to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia, and the new King's visit to Moscow could well have been part of the country’s long-range preparations for the end of its oil bonanza. (But why not turn to solar…?)
Fast forward to the press conference by the two country's foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and the younger but nearly as ubiquitous Adel al-Jubeir. The event was broadcast live by RT, and after a few minutes of watching al-Jubeir read a few sentences from a prepared statement, followed by Lavrov speaking without notes in Russian for an equal length of time, I came to the conclusion that Russia’s Prime Minister was acting as consecutive interpreter for his guest. He appeared perfectly at ease in Arabic and having been an interpreter myself on occasion, I admired his ability to carry out this task flawlessly. (Simultaneous interpreting presents a different set of challenges....)
Was Russia's top diplomat pinch-hitting for an interpreter who failed to show up, or had the press conference been organized this way from the start? Either way, it is worthy of note that the Russians were not standing on ceremony, as other diplomats would surely have done, convinced that only when each side has its own interpreter can they trust the result. This behavior fits into the larger picture of the Russian President's way of interacting with foreign dignitaries, in an informal manner that implies equality, rather than the American way, in which familiarity on its part is not intended to erase inequality, but to emphasize it.
Anyone watching a clip from a Putin-organized forum involving foreigners will notice that he is rarely standing alone on the podium, but is seated as part of a panel. Russia Insider ran a video of the recent energy summit in which Putin told a joke whose message was that he didn't want to be the only panel member to be interrogated by the audience of business people from around the world attending the event. (Putin is often seen answering a question with a joke, while an American president will only tell a joke in public on the occasion of the yearly Washington correspondents’ dinner, where for a night he is cast in the role of a stand-up comedian.)
Similarly, when Putin holds a press conference, he is usually seated in the middle of a long table together with the journalists rather than standing at a mike in front of them. When American presidents or high officials meet with journalists or foreign counterparts, it's very structured and controlled, and there can never be any doubt who is top dog. I’m convinced that Putin’s informal style that demonstrates
his commitment to collegial relations between states goes a long way toward making friends for Russia.
The Soviet Union too had a deliberate outreach policy, organizing meetings and fora to which foreigners were invited, either as representatives of 'brotherly parties' or as 'fellow travelers': people who had a favorable attitude -- or even just an open mind - toward communism. Under President Putin, Russian outreach reflects the fact that countries are turning away from the hegemon toward a cooperative international scene, in which reciprocal respect is a matter of course.
The Beltway in a Box - October 2, 2017
This morning Kellyanne Conway duked it out with a brash anchor on CNN about the way the American press covers Donald Trump, as an unprecedented media war against the president goes into overdrive.
What we’ve been seeing since the Trump-Putin meeting is a variation on The Boy Who Called Wolf. Washington pundits have painted the Russian President as some sort of monster for so long that when their new Commander-in-Chief says he’s honored to meet him and goes on to have a two hour plus confab with him, they’re in the awkward position of having to continue their claims against him rather than admitting that it’s better to ‘move on’, so that the two countries don’t end up shooting themselves in the foot, taking the rest of the world with them.
They appear to believe that it’s more important to nab Putin on charges of intervention in ‘our democratic institutions’ than to save the world from a holocaust!
How did we get to this point? Hearing the current discussions about whether the president’s son should be indicted for a meeting with an un-named Russian, it’s clear that America is all about Cops and Robbers. “Investigating” has become a national sport, to the detriment of a common-sense appreciation for the survival of the human race. If Americans had any knowledge of history one could imagine that they fear another ‘Munich’ — a mistaken belief in 1939 that Hitler would be ‘reasonable’ in his demands. But it’s more like the trauma of Pearl Harbor— or 9/11, both of which have wrongly been made to appear as unmerited aggressions.
President Trump’s Democratic opponents are like dogs gnawing at a bone from which every shred of meat has vanished. It has become more important to ‘arrest and convict’ the man elected in a ‘free and fair’ election (never mind if by a largely un-educated citizenry) than to pressure him to cooperate with the rest of the world to fight climate change. In this environment, any ‘deal’ with a never-to-be-trusted Russian to power down our mutual nuclear capabilities would be viewed as a pipe dream.
We don’t ‘know’ that Putin has disappeared journalists, but on the strength of suspicions, (and in the absence of conclusive ‘investigations’) America’s best and brightest want us forego the sane steps that would keep the world going.
They should read up on the history of World War II, in which the Soviet Union lost a fifth of its population, 26 million, to the US’s 500,000. Maybe they could then begin to believe that the one thing Russia and its leaders are fanatic about is avoiding war.
Then again, that might seem strange to most Americans, who have grown up assuming that attacking other countries is normal.
Europe’s Gottedamerung - May 8, 2017
A few nights before the first round of the French presidential election, the world’s widest boulevard, lined on either side with the fresh green leaves of early spring, was flooded with police vans, their blue lights flashing against a black sky: a petty criminal known to authorities had shot a policeman sitting in his patrol car. When this type of incident occurs in the US, unarmed crowds, mostly black, throng the streets for days. When a French police officer is shot in his vehicle on the most prestigious boulevard in the world, it is immediately filled with the warning lights of dozens of police wagons, signaling a manhunt to the death. The fact that France is centrally administered explains the rapidity with which vehicles were rushed to the scene, but its forces of law and order are every bit as incapable of anticipating where terror will strike as any other. We’re not in the age of Clark Kent, but still in that of Humpty-Dumpty.
This is not 1939, when Hitler’s troops paraded down the ‘Elyseean Fields’ of the City of Light, anticipating a revenge for Germany’s 1918 defeat that would never come; but that bullet to a policeman’s head by a French citizen of Arab descent nonetheless signals Europe’s Crepuscule des Dieux. Decades of French anti-government demonstrations since World War II did not accomplish one-tenth of what terrorist attacks have achieved in a few short years: instilling an existential fear into a population that thought it had all the answers, thanks to its administrative institutions handed down from kings and emperors, and its culture that ever ‘shines forth’. Two days after the Elysee lockdown, France voted to give itself a choice between Marine Le Pen, whose father and founder of the National Front had referred to the Holocaust as ‘a detail of history’, and another who channels the ‘neither right nor left’ of Europe’s pre-war fascists, backed by the international 1%.
In a state of total decrepitude, the socialist party threw all its support behind Emanuel Macron, who in a much-broadcast phone call from former president Obama, promised to do as he was being told in order to win. The runoff will merely determine which brand of fascism France falls to, the difference between Marine Le Pen and Emanuel Macron being that her backers, like those of Donald Trump, are mainly lower and middle class voters who feel left out, while his are the bankers and managers. Macron is expected to win the second round next Sunday, however Marine Le Pen, much the more seasoned politician, announced that if elected she would appoint a Macron clone, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, (whose parti name, France Arise, could be confused with Macron’s Forward March) in yet another systematic move to make her far-right parti respectable to the 1%.
The socialists’ old bogeyman, the modern leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, the only candidate with a credible anti-globalization program, who would have led France out of seventy years of American hegemony to cooperate with Russia and the rest of the Eurasian continent, was eliminated in the first round. It was unlikely that his voters’ face-off with police after the results were announced presages a serious disruption of the second round, although some in a wishful-thinking US left saw Melenchon as the winner http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/emmanuel_macron_and_marine_le_pen_to_advance_in_french_election_20170423. When a social situation becomes dire, as under Louis XVIth, people will ransack weapons and go all the way to a revolutionary situation. But when everyone has free medical care, as in Europe, dire is relative.
The French presidential race was not only illustrative of a declining Europe, nor is it the first time that the far right successfully imposes itself thanks to the left’s pusillanimity. Throughout history, what is described as a race between the ‘forces of good and evil’ has in reality been one between the few and the many — which the few have always won, thanks to that pusillanimity. Europe’s wide array of parties include communists, socialists and social democrats who alternate in power with various right-wing parties. However, as neo-liberalism strengthened its hold on Europe’s 1%, decades of complacency by the left allowed the ‘white man’s burden to turn savages into good Christians’ to become the white man’s determination to relieve the savages of their treasures as they die off from oil spills, disease, agribusiness famines, and war. Having gone along with this American program, as detailed in French on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wn72T4dTFhoin, France’s socialists successfully prevented their rebellious left from competing for Europe’s soul against the far right.
As for the U.S., I’ve long believed it is a lack of ‘ideological literacy’ that has prevented the left from gaining power and reversing America’s imperial train. There have not been enough well-educated and ideologically literate people to enable the left to prevail over the media and the money — or even to effectively organize, as was shown in the Occupy Movement. Ideology has been labelled as subversive for so long — together with the foreigners who thought it up — that the US left consists of a handful of tiny ‘socialist’ parties, each wanting to lead instead of cooperating. Although ideology has begun to seep through the dyke thanks to the Sanders campaign, it’s probably too late: America’s rulers, whose decisions spell life or death for the planet, knowing that ‘they alone’ cannot ‘fix’ the world, are writing off the bulk of humanity and accelerating plans to escape to Mars or a more human-friendly planet.
Among progressive journalists, Chris Hedges writes the most vivid descriptions of humanity’s predicament. Admitting that we can only cry in the wilderness, he ends his program on RT saying that ‘squawk we must’. Perhaps he should say ‘squawk we will’, for it’s hard to believe we are anything but bit players in an end-of-times scenario. Is there is anything that thinkers on either side of the pond can do prevent the fascism we thought we had banished long ago from a final, terrible victory?”
The French presidential election comes at a time when the countries of Europe are not only at odds among themselves, as they have been throughout history: they are at odds with the superstate they constructed, finding Brussels too bureaucratic and its political institutions undemocratic. Beyond that shared dissatisfaction, however, the Eastern states are once again out of step with those of the West. It is not known when the last state of the former Yugoslavia will be welcomed into the EU, but the sudden increase in Muslim immigrants into Europe that started in 2015 could cause the Union to break up before that happens, thanks to its Eastern members. Lead by the Hungarian President Viktor Orban, they categorically refuse to take in their EU mandated quota of Muslim refugees, citing their Christian civilization. (The European decision to become a border-free area called the Schengen Zone allows immigrants as well as EU passport holders to freely cross state borders, which is why the nationalists in both east and west talk about taking them back, in the same way that Donald Trumps talks about taking our country back by building a wall. Hungary did in fact build a wall, in an ironic sequitur to its ‘tragic’ four decades behind ‘the Iron Curtain’.)
As politicians across Europe confront their electors this year, nobody remembers that two wars, German occupation and Soviet ‘satellization' in fact succeeded centuries of Islamic rule. The Turkish conquest of Eastern Europe in the seventeenth century was twice halted on the outskirts of Vienna, saving the West from four hundred years of Muslim domination (although Spain had been conquered by Arab forces from North Africa in the eighth century). When the Ottoman Empire was dissolved after World War Two, its provincial beys were replaced by right-wing, largely agrarian regimes that eventually fought on the side of Hitler. Liberation by the Red Army paved the way for communist rule and development — and the end of Western invasions of Russia via the Eastern European plain. While a few pious tears were shed for Soviet ‘victims’, Western Europe saw itself as a club of rightly privileged nations.
During the entire period of the Cold War, the US failed to turn that Europe into its proxy battleground against the Soviet Union, but it was not for lack of crying wolf and dotting its territory with Pershing missiles. The gradual opening of the West’s doors to the ‘benighted lands’ was not without fear of Germany’s renewed influence (German having endured as the lingua franca of Eastern Europe even after Russian officially replaced it). But for the first time in many centuries, Germany is no longer the issue. As if in revenge for hundreds of years of disparagement by their Western neighbors, Europe’s Eastern countries became passionately pro-American, believing they owed their liberation to the US and enthusiastically joining NATO plans for what it hopes will finally be a successful takeover of Russia.
Starting with the French contest, but following with Italy and Germany, no matter who its future leaders are, Europe is likely to remain captive to the Gods of War.
Anne Applebaum’s — and the Pentagon’s — Take on Europe 0 Octobr 27, 2017
I remember during how during World War II Americans anxiously tuned in to their radios to hear the news from the US’s two fronts: invariably, there were figures on how many miles our troops had advanced in the latest battles. Journalists, which later came to be referred to as ‘embedded’ with the fighting forces, competed to publish the figures first.
Nowadays, American journalists simply state that in 2014 Russia ‘invaded’ Ukraine, without reporting how many kilometers its troops covered on any given day. (Obviously, Western journalists were not ‘embedded’ with the invading Russian force, however three years later, we still do not have the faintest idea how the invasion they still refer to went down. The mighty Russian army that ‘threatens’ Europe never arrived in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, a mere 236 miles from the Russian border. In fact, its presence on Ukrainian territory is limited to supporting two Russian-inhabited rebel provinces.
In the October 12th issue of the New York Review of Books, under the title A New European Narrative? Anne Applebaum, wife of former Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and a scholar with a host of credentials, claims, like any run-of-the-mill tv anchor, that ‘Russia invaded Ukraine’. Her marriage to a high-level Polish official (whose Wiki includes more details about his accomplishments than that of any international leader you can think of ), and her acquisition of Polish citizenship, (although dual nationality is officially frowned upon by the State Department), together with her professional focus on Eastern Europe, suggest the likelihood that she would write from a Polish perspective, which is tainted by centuries’ long enmity toward Russia.
Now it becomes clear that the article on Europe was intended to prime readers for the release of Applebaum’s new book Red Famine, Stalin’s War on Ukraine, which uses the great famine that occurred in southern Russia and Ukraine in the 1930’s to build a case against Vladimir Putin in Russia’s current standoff with Ukraine: a very original homage to the hundredth anniversary of the “Great October Revolution”.
Applebaum alleges that there is no more justification for Russia’s opposition to the Ukraine entering into a trade agreement with the EU, than for Stalin’s alleged decision to make Ukrainians bear the brunt of a failed harvest. She fails to mention that an EU-Ukraine trade deal would have allowed European goods to flow straight into Russia under the terms of Russia-Ukraine free trade agreements, without Russia having reciprocity vis a vis the EU! Applebaum’s article, built around a review of six books on Europe, paints a dire picture of contemporary Europe, yet fails to mention the role US force-feeding of neo-liberal economic policies played in the EU’s downfall from worker paradise to a pariah ripe for Russian ‘taking’.
As the Catalan crisis unfolds, threatening to see the first break-up of a European country, with more to follow, Applebaum’s list of European problems includes the migrant crisis (which can be traced to US wars of aggression) terrorism (ditto) international corruption (which affects the entire world), the single currency, high youth unemployment and ‘Russian revanchism’ — with hardly a word for dissatisfaction with the Brussels bureaucracy that spurs regionalism. Youth unemployment too can be laid at neo-liberalism’s door, as France’s new president, a former banker and neo-liberal poster child, makes it easier for companies to fire people, supposedly in order to boost employment: the breadth and violence of the reaction surpasses anything demo-prone France has seen since the 1968 Paris Spring.
While Applebaum laments the absence of a common foreign and defense policy between the EU’s member states, she knows that the US is probably lobbying to prevent this from happening, as brilliantly analyzed in a recent article by Ramin Mazaheri http://www.greanvillepost.com/2017/10/24/the-eurozone-has-likely-entered-its-final-calendar-year-contraction-coming/. Quoting the author of ‘The Great Regression, Heinrich Geiselberger, Applebaum writes: “Many hoped (the EU and NATO) would also help integrate Russia and North Africa into Europe.” (Note the hubris of that idea, as opposed to more cooperation between equals when it comes to Russia and the fact that much of Europe is viscerally opposed to welcoming ‘dark people’ especially if they are Muslims).
Applebaum goes on to muddy the waters by claiming that ‘the US and Great Britain, who see the EU as a ‘left-leaning’ institution, will be surprised to learn that many contributors [to Geiselberger’s] book see the EU as part of the same neo-liberal problem.” Applebaum practices here the neo-liberal sleight-of-hand that blames the victim for the problem without acknowledging that it’s because Europe’s leaders are incapable of resisting the pressure of US-led globalization.
As for ‘Russian revanchism’, this claim is developed in detail in an article for the Department of Defense’s Center for Complex Operations, by John Herbst, the Director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center who just happens to be a retired U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan. In “PRISM Volume 6, Number 2 | July 18, 2016”, Herbst claims that:
“For instance, Ossetia didn't shell Georgia, it was invaded and a handful of Russian peacekeepers paid with their lives to buy Ossetians some time before "the cavalry" came. From the very first days of the post-Soviet world, Moscow’s security services developed the “frozen conflict” tactic to limit the sovereignty of its neighbors. They supported Armenian separatists in the Azerbaijan region of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to exert pressure on Azeris, South Ossetians, and Ajarians; the Abkhaz in Georgia to pressure Tbilisi; and the Slavs in Transnistria in order to keep Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, in check. For those who mistakenly blame current tensions with Moscow on NATO enlargement, it is worth noting that Moscow had its frozen conflicts policy in place before talk of the first expansion of NATO.”
Herbst fails to admit that harking back to a traditional socialist meme, one of Russia’s core principles is the defense of national sovereignty. The US has systematically organized ‘color revolutions’ in the countries on Russia’s border to draw them into its orbit with the goal of eventually rendering Russia vulnerable to a takeover, complete with its trove of precious minerals and other resources.
According to Herbst:
“ After the Rose Revolution in Georgia in the fall of 2003, which drove President Eduard Shevardnadze from power, the Kremlin instituted a trade embargo and undertook various military provocations. In late July 2008, Russia’s South Ossetian proxies began to shell Georgian positions. A sharp Georgian response gave Moscow the pretext to send in troops in August, which promptly defeated the Georgians.”
The official Russian version of the ‘Georgian War’ is that Georgian soldiers stormed into the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, causing Russia to send in troops to restore South Ossetian sovereignty. Yet Herbst continues:
“Led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Western mediators established a diplomatic process that led to a ceasefire. The United States sent humanitarian assistance to Georgia and, as a caution to Moscow not to send its troops further into Georgia beyond South Ossetia, delivered it via the U.S. military. Moscow did not take the war beyond South Ossetia.”
This account is a bit silly, as if by delivering aid ‘via the US military’ — whatever that means — would be sufficient to deter Russia from further action. The idea that Russia would want to ‘take action’ against Georgia, is just part of the usual obfuscation: in fact, there was a series of color revolutions, starting with the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. An American, Gene Sharp, is credited with providing the blueprint for ‘color revolutions’ with his writings on non-violent change, and the US-educated- and-installed Sakashvili ruined Georgia all on his own, then sought refuge in Ukraine, where he was first given citizenship, then asked to leave. But that’s another story.
Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution pitted a pro-Russian candidate against a nationalist, and was won by the nationalist. In the following election, in 2010, the outcome was reversed, followed by EU efforts to woo Ukraine away from Russia by offering membership. American analysts never mention the reason why Russia opposed that membership: Russia has an economic treaty with Ukraine, that would not only result in EU and Ukrainian goods reciprocally circulating freely: EU goods would be able to enter Russia as well, with no reciprocity!
According to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, in a speech to the Washington Press Club in December, 2013, the US spent five billion dollars encouraging Ukrainian demands for EU membership. That speech was uploaded to the internet the following February, when it became clear that violence in Kiev’s Maidan Square would culminate in a US-engineered coup against the elected pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovich. He fled on February, 22, 2014, after Neo-Nazi militiamen threatened an accord that had just been reached to end the clashes.
One of the militia leaders, Dmitri Yaros, who subsequently became Minister of the Interior in the Kiev coup government, gave an expansive interview that Time published in its February 5, 2014 issue, and which was subsequently scrubbed from the internet. That interview, which can be accessed via the name of the interviewer, Simon Shuster http://time.com/4493/ukraine-dmitri-yarosh-kiev/ is the most valuable document we have to prove that references to Neo-Nazis in Ukraine are if anything understated.
Yaros candidly traces the history of his movement from World War II, when Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera organized militias to kill Russians, Poles and Jews alongside Hitler’s SS, hoping the Reich would reward them with independence when it defeated the Soviet Union. (Ukraine only existed as an independent territorial entity for two years after World War I, and since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.) Today, the Ukrainian government is still supported by the Neo-Nazi militias that provided the muscle on the Maidan.
Back to Herbst’s version of history:
“Putin has escalated his intervention [into Ukraine] several times. It began in April 2015 with Russian leadership, arms, and money” (almost a year after the formation of the Peoples’ Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk…). When Ukraine launched its counter-offensive under newly elected President Petro Poroshenko in June 2015, the Kremlin sent in increasingly sophisticated weapons, more fighters (including the Vostok Battalion of Chechens), and finally, the regular Russian army itself in August.”
According to Herbst:
“Only the use of regular Russian forces stopped the Ukrainian counteroffensive.” (That hardly sounds like an occupying army…) “Throughout this period, the West was slow and weak in confronting the Kremlin. For instance, the G7 leaders had warned Putin in early June that if he did not cease his intervention in Ukraine by the end of the month, Russia would face sectoral sanctions. Yet by the end of June, despite the introduction of major Russian weapons systems into Ukraine, there was no more talk of sectoral sanctions. Only the July shooting-down of the Malaysian passenger jet, along with the invasion (sic) by Russian troops, persuaded the Europeans to put those sanctions in place.”
(Here is yet another doctored version of Russian history: MH17 was not shot down by "top of the line" Russian weapons, but is widely believed to have been brought down by a Buk, an old Soviet weapon no longer in use by the Russian military, but still used by Ukrainians at the time. Also, according to this paragraph, the so-called Russian ‘invasion’ took place more than a year after the Kiev coup and the Eastern provinces declarations of autonomy!)
“After regular Russian forces defeated the Ukrainian army in early September 2015, Germany and France helped negotiate the Minsk I ceasefire, which Russia repeatedly violated by introducing more equipment and military supplies into Ukraine and taking (sic) an additional 500 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory. This escalated aggression, however, did not lead to any additional sanctions last year.”
Where are these 500 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory that have supposedly been ‘taken’ by Russia? Again, deliberate obfuscation reigns. The reference is to ‘regular Russian forces’, as in an invading army, when in reality Russian volunteers have been aiding the citizen armies of the Russian-speaking People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, with President Putin discouraging their hopes for integration into Russia.
The case of Crimea is different: unlike Eastern Ukraine, it had been part of Russia since Catherine the Great seized it from Turkey, and it hosts Russia’s only warm water fleet, per a long-term treaty with Kiev. Given the strong presence of fascists in the post-2014 government, Russia could not risk having its naval base overrun. The ‘little green men’ so popular with journalists were part of the contingent regularly stationed in Sebastopol. However, according to Herbst:
“Putin’s second vulnerability concerns the use of his army in Ukraine. While his media have conducted an extensive smear campaign against Ukraine and its leadership, they have not been able to persuade the Russian people that Russian troops should be used there. Since the summer of 2015, numerous polls by Moscow’s Levada Center have shown that a large majority of the Russian people oppose using troops in Ukraine. Because of this, Putin has denied the presence of Russian troops there, despite strong evidence to the contrary. For example, thousands of regular Russian troops were used in August and September of 2014 to stop Ukraine’s counter-offensive.”
(We have heard nothing of these supposed military to military battles. Where were the journalists?)
“In January 2015, Western intelligence estimates reported that there were anywhere between 250 to 1,000 Russian officers in Ukraine, while Ukrainian intelligence claimed that there were as many as 9,000 or 10,000 Russian troops. Even Putin finally acknowledged in December 2015 that there were “some” Russian military in the Donbass.”
Broadening his analysis, Herbst seemingly lets his imagination run wild: in reality this is a shop-worn effort to present the US attitude toward Russia as being more than willing to engage in joint efforts:
“The United States might also enhance cooperation with all interested Central Asian states to offset the potential destabilizing impact of its withdrawal from Afghanistan. While this may seem counterintuitive, this last initiative need not exclude the Kremlin. Indeed, NATO and the EU can also help strengthen some nations on Russia’s periphery by projects that include the Kremlin. This would also demonstrate that NATO and EU policies are designed not just to discourage Kremlin aggression, but also to resuscitate cooperation on matters of mutual interest.”
But then - inevitably:
“Policy in the grey zone should also focus on state weaknesses that Moscow exploits to ensure its control. As discussed above, the Kremlin uses its intelligence services to recruit agents in the power ministries of the post-Soviet states. It also uses its firms to acquire key sectors of these countries’ economies and to buy political influence.”
“With interested countries, the United States and NATO should offer programs to help vet (sic) the security services and militaries to make clear that (or to ensure that?) they both are under the full control of the political leaders in these states. At the same time, the United States and the EU should expand programs to uncover corruption in the financial and other sectors of these countries’ economies.”
It’s difficult to decide whether this breezy program qualifies as mere hutzpa or beyond the pale delusion: to imagine that ‘the Stans’ that ring Russia’s southern border, where most Muslims live peaceful and increasingly comfortable lives, would be interested in US hucksterism, is almost beyond belief. Clearly, the Pentagon’s imagination is running wild:
“Two years after Russia began to tear Ukraine apart,(!) and seven years after it did the same in Georgia, (!!) the West is finally waking up to the danger of Kremlin revanchism.”
What do the Pentagon’s ‘experts’ know about the intricacies of South Ossetian, Abkhazian or Azerbaijani politics — much less these three small nations’ relations with Russia? (Do any of them even speak these countries’ languages?) We seem to have ended up a long way from Applebaum’s Europe, but only to the extent that we buy into her view of it as a superior ‘civilization’ which the countries that make up the major part of the Eurasian continent — as well as Africa —should emulate. Europe is a peninsula of Eurasia that is at last awaking up to the fact that its trans-Atlantic bonds are what threaten its future.
Hungary’s Orban and George Soros - October 29, 2017
An unexpected, but relatively easy to explain twist to the European immigrant crisis has just occured:
The right-wing Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, has accused billionaire financier George Soros of seeking to ruin his (Christian) country by backing the resettlement of Muslims, which Orban has staunchly opposed.
If we take into consideration the long-standing US policy of undermining Europe as a worker-friendly entity with a larger economy, Orban’s reaction makes perfect sense. As I recently (again) wrote:
http://www.otherjones.com/2017/10/the-alt-right-and-arithmetic-of-race.html, the browning — and the Islamization — of Europe are mathematically unavoidable, as is the browning of the rest of the Caucasian world, which constitutes only 16% of the world’s population. And who better than George Soros knows how to add and subtract?
Being totally ignorant in financial matters, I can however speculate with a fair chance of getting it right that Soros is using the same tools that enabled him to become a billionaire to get ahead of the curve in the browning of Europe, for no other reason that it helps weaken the European economy that until recently, with the 2008 economic crisis, has threatened the United States. Not only because of its economic power, but because that has until recently been combined with worker-friendly legislation. France’s new president, Emanuel Macron, a neo-liberal poster child who took an encouraging call from former president Obama just before his election as the neo-liberal standard-bearer, has already proven himself worthy of that name by decreeing draconian changes to the labor law that will make it easier to fire workers — supposedly to combat unemployment!
As if these developments were not enough, Spain flirts with a replay of its 1936 Civil War, as the culturally unique Catalans unsuccessfully trying to break free of Madrid, while a German satirical magazine calls for the assassination of ‘baby Hitler’, the newly elected thirty-one year-old Prime Minister of Austria.
Now add to that toxic mix George Soros’s best effort in favor of the old continent. As reported by RT, according to Michael Vachon, a spokesperson for Soros:
“Soros’s actual position on migration is that the international community should provide more support to the developing countries that today host 89 percent of refugees and that Europe should accept several hundred thousand fully screened refugees through an orderly process of vetting and resettlement.”
As I have written consistently, the browning — and the Islamization — of Europe are inevitable, not least because atheism has largely displaced active Christianity, while Islam is the fastest growing religion. Europe should undertake to guide the transformation rather than following either Orban or Soros, with policies that are neither starry-eyed multiculturalism nor an invitation to the Alt-Right.
Is Putin a Tsar, Really? - October 28, 2017
The first time I took on The Economist was in 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev appointed Eduard Schevarnadze as Foreign Minister after the death of Andrei Gromyko, known in the West for his intransigence. When The Economist headlined something like “Schevar-Who?”, I opined that the two probably went back a long way, which turned out to be true: together they ushered in Perestroika, which successfully influenced East-West relations.
Today I’m taking on the venerable Economist again, in the person of its editor-in-chief. Zanny Minton Beddoes titles her lead October 28th article A Tsar is Born, giving the lie to feminist claims of original thinking. It behooved the widely read English-language weekly to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution — and what better way to mark the date than to deliver the ultimate Putin-bashing? As Catalonia’s future hangs by a thread, and US airwaves imply there is no bigger story than the president’s declaration of an opioid crisis, I dissect this eminent contribution to international comity:
In the second paragraph Ms Beddoes asserts that President Putin shares the weaknesses of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Romanov to sit on the throne, who was executed along with his family by the Bolsheviks, without spelling this out, but noting that: “The Kremlin is said to be preparing a display of mourning for the execution of the last tsar,” which is in line with President Putin’s statements (ignored by Western editorial offices) condemning the execution of the royal family.
Beddoes further muddies the waters by affirming that today’s elites “lack a legitimacy of their own and make no long-term plans,” asserting that they mainly associate revolution with the recent uprising in Ukraine? Only journalists committed to the official narrative can affirm that in 2014 there was anything remotely resembling a revolution in Ukraine. What took place was a coup, in which beefy, chain-wielding Neo-fascist militiamen forced the pro-Russian elected president to flee for his life.
Perhaps with Peter the Great in mind, Beddoes affirms that “The legitimacy of the tsar lies not (or, at least, not entirely) in the bloodline or the throne itself, but in the person who occupies the role and his ability to turn defeat into victory,” implying that President Putin does not fulfill the requirement, even when he beats back ISIS in Syria, saving its secular President, targeted by the US. “Like any tsar, Mr Putin has presented himself as a gatherer of Russian lands and the man who came to consolidate and save Russia from disintegration after a period of chaos and disorder.” (That’s the ‘revanchist’ thing…) “To create this image, he portrayed the 1990s not as a period of transition towards Western-style democracy and free markets, but as a modern instance of the Times of Troubles—a period of uprisings, invasions and famine in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.”
If I had the time and inclination I would consult The Economist’s archives for coverage of the disorder widely recognized as having characterized Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, when Russia’s crown jewels were being snapped up at bargain prices by those who became its famed ‘oligarchs’, while ordinary Russians struggled to master the ‘democratic’ free-for-all.
Western-style democracy represents the gradual transformation of the hallowed Greek ideal of direct citizen rule into a Ponzi scheme. Is not the most important information presented by the media the amount of money competing campaigns dispose of? As my TV grinds on, still focusing on the president’s announcement of an opioid crisis, the headline is about lawsuits against purveyors of prescription pain killers, to which users become addicted, that will affect the pharmaceutical industry. On the same day, President Putin decided to bring forward the yearly increase in military pensions, due to need. The Russian ‘tsar’ doesn’t have to worry that private interests will prevent the Duma (or parliament), from taking this action, as could well be the case if Russia were a ‘Western democracy’. (How many pet projects may have to be delayed in order for money to be diverted to Russian pensioners?) According to RT: “President Putin commented that “the Russian budget has enough money for the early increase”, the Russian Finance Minister confirmed it, and that was that.
For Beddoes, such behavior is shameful: “[Putin] established a direct line to the Russian people, using state television stations to project his message,” as if unaware of President Trump’s constant use of Twitter to bypass the media.
Much like a Tsar, she notes, Putin “rarely appeared with or talked about his wife.” I remember hearing him say, a few years ago that: “With our children now grown-up, my wife and I have separated amicably…”
But no anti-Putin screed would be complete without a role for the most copy-worthy oligarch: “Whatever the formal reasons for sending Mikhail Khodorkovsky to a Siberian jail, (he was convicted of embezzling a lot of money from business partners), most Russians believed that he fell foul of Mr Putin and deserved his personal wrath. Few questioned the prerogative of the tsar to banish a rebellious underling.” (Khodorkovsky was sent to a jail in a remote region on the Russia-China border, thousands of miles from Moscow — and Alexei Navalny was recently released from detention in Kyrgyzstan…..) “In Mr Putin’s system the oligarchs prosper at the ruler’s pleasure.”
Ms Beddoes appears to have forgotten Putin’s statements early in his presidency, that the oligarchs were free to do business as long as they didn’t interfere in government, not to mention their literal looting of the country’s resources and industries. In fact, she whitewashes them: “In the 1990s these [civil society] networks jostled for influence; in the 2000s they were integrated into a single pyramid with Mr Putin at the top as the chief patron…” (She apparently can’t make up her mind whether Vladimir Putin is a fake tsar or The Godfather…)
“[In 2012] sliding ratings, and protests in Moscow and several other large cities, forced him to reaffirm his status by traditional means—and he saw his chance by expanding Russia’s territory during the protests in Ukraine in 2013.” Beddoes appears to suggest that Russia took over the Ukraine, and moreover that it did so in 2013, even before the US-instigated Maidan coup!
Referring to next year’s presidential election, which Vladimir Putin is expected to win, The Economist appears to back Alexei Navalny: “[He] is not seeking to beat Mr Putin—for that he would need a fair election.” (Is that all?). “He wants to deprive him of ‘miracle, mystery and authority’. Recently he described Mr Putin not as a despot or tyrant, but as a turnip. ‘Putin’s notorious rating of 86% exists in a political vacuum,’ he wrote in a blog. ‘If the only thing you have been fed all your life is turnip, you are likely to rate it as highly edible. We come to this vacuum with an obvious [message]: There are better things than turnips.’” (See my ‘Putin versus Navalny: Is this a Joke?’)
“What Mr Navalny offers is not just a change of personality at the top of the Kremlin, but a fundamentally different political order—a modern state. His American-style campaign, which includes frequent mentions of his family (sic), breaks the cultural code which Mr Putin has evoked. His purpose, he says, is to alleviate the syndrome of ‘learned helplessness’ and an entrench-ed belief that nothing can change.” (I’ve read that most Russians feel their country has had enough change in the last hundred years, and they appeared to be anything but helpless when I visited last May.)
“Alexander Dugin, a nationalist ideologist, says Russia is entering a time of troubles. ‘Putin works for the present. He has no key to the future,’ he says. Few people in Russia’s elite expect the succession to happen constitutionally or peacefully.’” That’s because a country only gets a leader like Vladimir Putin once in a century. For the US, the best possible scenario is President Trump reaching the end of his term without getting us into a nuclear war - a post-impeachment President Pence being too sanctimonious to contemplate.
Under the US Radar: The BRICS - SEPTEMBER 6, 2017
As the ninth annual BRICS gathering, held this year in China, comes to an end, it’s time to point out that these five nations representing some 23% of the world’s economy and 43 % of its population, is almost totally absent from the Western media. Yet the very fact that 43% of the world’s population only accounts for 23% of its wealth should make the ‘developed world’ take notice.
In what may seem like a contradiction, the reason why this has not happened in the eleven years since the organization’s founding, is that it embodies the world’s challenge to American hegemony. Most Americans have never heard the word BRICS, let alone being aware that it stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa.
Coincidentally, as I write this, Peter Lavelle’s Crosstalk on RT is discussing this very issue and specifically, who stands to gain from the US refusal to acknowledge the growing list of international economic organizations centered around Russia and China. Dmitry Babich commented that the US doesn’t even notice the Eurasian Economic Union, while Marc Svoboda asserted that Russians and their allies actually want to be decoupled from the West. Svoboda also mentioned that Iran and Egypt had both accepted invitations to the BRICS meeting, foreshadowing the possibility of a gradual healing of the Sunni-Shia rift. (For a discussion of this issue see my http://www.otherjones.com/search?q=Sunni-Shia, http://www.otherjones.com/2013/07/the-us-chooses-capitalist-muslims.html and http://www.otherjones.com/2017/08/sooner-or-later-donald-trump-will-have.html.)
Dare I suggest that when Emanuel Macron, France’s new under-forty president invites the two Libyan heads of government to meet in Paris, he is following Vladimir Putin’s example? The problem without initiative was that it was done without Italian involvement, despite the fact that, as one diplomat put it, Italy is the “European member state that has the most granular understanding of the situation on the ground.” Apparently, Macron needs to be more attentive to the Putin style.
For decades the US dictated the behavior of the world community but since Vladimir Putin acted on the socialist principle of non-interference in Syria by assisting the government under attack by the US and its proxies, the US is no longer seen as the ‘indispensable nation’, as Obama liked to say, and that in fact, it is responsible for much of what is wrong with the world.
As populations increasingly notice how differently from their American counterpart the Russian and Chinese Presidents interact with the world, the BRICS, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Development Bank and the various other ‘peripheral’ international institutions will become household words. (As I was writing this, Kiril Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund was telling RT’s Lindsey Graham about deals with Japan and South Korea….)
P.S Robin Wright today in thenewyorker.com: “American leadership in the world—how do I phrase this, it’s so obvious, but apparently not to him—is critical to our success.
In the Land of the Free, No One is Above Suspicion - SEPTEMBER 14, 2017
The Russia probe is making a lot of Americans unhappy, either because they are convinced that Vladimir Putin is an enemy who must be taught a lesson, or because they know the deep state is fabricating a case for war.
One thing I never hear mentioned, however, is the fact that political issues turn into legal issues much more often in the US than perhaps anywhere else. I have lived in half a dozen foreign countries for a total of half my life, without encountering a similar phenomenon.
The United States’ founding by people escaping religious prosecution by a powerful ruler all-but guaranteed a suspicion of everything foreign, reinforced by our geographical location on the far side of a great ocean: THEY were ‘over there’, in places from which WE had happily escaped, determined to do things differently.
But ‘different’ does not mean ‘more just’: four hundred years later, our government is still opening investigations at the drop of a hat, in an almost maniacal determination to track down the tiniest clue concerning citizens’ behavior. A phrase that become a mantra during the Watergate investigation of President Nixon has become a leitmotif: “What did X know and when did he/she know it?” Knowledge has become a liability.
Take the case of Donald Trump, Jr: When he received an invitation to meet with someone who offered to provide ‘dirt’ on his father’s presidential opponent Hillary Clinton, the legal code required him to alert the FBI! Every media anchor assured us that they would have done so because it was their duty as citizens.
How can this be??? Well, presidential candidates are forbidden to accept any aid from a foreign government — meaning not only money, but also information. Of course, like any state, the US attaches great importance to having allies who are treaty-bound to come to its aid in the event of an attack, but it forbids them to help any candidate get elected: Other are ‘foreign’ before they are allies.
To assuage its fear of ‘the Other’, the young republic quickly turned to the law: The 5th United States Congress, dominated by Federalists, passed The Alien and Sedition Acts, four bills signed into law by President John Adams in 1798. They made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen (Naturalization Act), allowed the president to imprison and deport non-citizens who were considered dangerous (Alien Friends Act) or who were from a hostile nation (Alien Enemy Act), which also criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government (Sedition Act).
Almost a hundred and fifty years later, in 1917, Congress passed the Espionage and Aliens Act which, as in every country, punishes military insubordination and supporting United States enemies during wartime, and also prohibits citizens from interfering in military operations or recruitment.
The following year, Congress passed a new Sedition Act, applicable during wartime. It punished any speech or writing that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light — or even that interfered with the sale of government bonds! The use of "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces that would cause others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt” could bring jail sentences ranging from five to twenty years! The Postmaster General could refuse to deliver mail that met the standards for punishable speech or opinion, meaning that he could open suspicious-looking letters and confiscate opposition newspapers.
The progressive movement that began with the fight against slavery fell fully victim to the foundational fear of the foreigner when the Russian revolution toppled the Tzar. When President Franklin Roosevelt declared that robber capitalism left too many people out in the cold, the corporate-owned media conflated his New Deal with socialism, socialism with ‘foreign’ and ‘foreign’ with ‘Red’. In 1938, Congress created the infamous House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), unleashing a witch hunt against suspected Communists (who were, by definition ‘beholden to a foreign power’) that became known as McCarthyism, never really dying out.
In HUAC’s days, Americans suspected of approving socialism were tracked down, often losing their jobs. Today, if you question Russophobia, you are considered ‘un-American’, even if you are the President of the United States!
In days gone-by it was an oxymoron that nations should try to get along with one another through diplomacy instead of resorting to war. War was a last resort, and even then, it had to be approved by the fifteen member United Nations Security Council — until it became a means of ‘saving’ foreign civilians from evil leaders, which soon morphed into a determination to prevent ‘foreign’ nations from seeking to influence the voters’ choice of an anti-war candidate for President, facilitated by the continuity of legislation going all the way back to the country’s founding: foreigners bad!
The people’s representatives consider that it is right for them to parallel the investigations being carried out by the nation’s judiciary — which is ‘independent’ of both the ‘executive’ (the Presidency) and the legislative (Congress) — as long as their activities do not affect those of said judiciary, care being taken by both sides not to trample on each other’s turf. The lengths to which will go to uncover any ‘collusion’ (a synonym of ‘cooperation’ which however has a negative connotation) on the part of US citizens with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, are all the more shocking in light of the US’s real problems, ranging from crumbling bridges to runaway health care costs, to racial tensions and wars without end.
As if nothing were more natural, our ‘best and brightest’ devote the greater part of their time and energies to investigating the members of the Trump White House in an effort to establish criminal behavior associated with our self-defined ‘adversary’. ’As I write this, on Tuesday, September 12th, news anchors reveal that White House employees who would never be in the news are compelled to hire lawyers if they remember ever having been in the presence of the President’s son-on-law, Jared Kushner, who is under investigation for meeting with Russians, because they will be asked to remember everything he may have said. According to MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
“If Kushner had discussed touchy issues in presence of lower downs, they could have problems….Everyone has to lawyer up after talking with Kushner….If he discussed such issues with the President without a lawyer being present, he could have problems.”
Lawyers have replaced bodyguards, as prosecutors go beyond an individual’s conscious behavior to establish guilt.
I’ve written elsewhere (Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel ) about the day-long ‘interview’ I was put through with two FBI agents when, knowing i had spent a dozen years in various countries ‘behind the Iron Curtain’, an Assistant Secretary of State had the unconscionable idea to hire me as a speech writer. That was almost fifty years ago, and today, a lowly policeman who happens to be a Muslim, can become a victim of the government he has served.
The September 11th (sic) issue of the New Yorker magazine tells the story of a Muslim American who had been considered an outstanding member of the New York Police Department until someone decided that as a Muslim he had to be guilty of something. He was eventually fired, even though a judge ruled he was innocent of the ridiculous charge of having an affair with a French counterpart. He can no longer get any job with the city, and is back to driving a cab to support his American family, as he did when he first arrived as an immigrant twenty-five years ago.
The details of the investigations carried out by various departments of ‘New York’s finest’ mimic the current wave of Russophobia investigations: No one is safe.
Trump Versus Wolfowitz NOVEMBER 12, 2017
As President Trump affirms publicly his commitment to friendly relations with Russia at an economic summit in Hanoi, (the first President since Franklin Roosevelt to do so), the press backs the special prosecutor seeking to indict him, while NATO continues to ramp up its forces on Russia’s borders with Europe by bring in tanks and other ‘defensive’ weapons.
Although the United States was founded on Christian principles, and has one of the highest percentages of people practicing a religion of any Western country, most Americans seem not to realize that their country is building a case for nuclear war with the other major nuclear power. Until recently, Americans believed that while nuclear weapons were a necessary evil — because our enemies had them — every effort should be made to avoid using them. Now, Russian ‘behavior’ in its own back yard is seen as justifying an American attack, the inevitable use of nukes merely a slight detour on the path of human progress.
Has Russia done anything that even comes close to war-ranting talk of war? Its two sins are ‘invading’ Ukraine and ‘interfering’ in a sacred American exercise. Interestingly, rather than using the word ‘election’, the beltway refers to Russia’s internet capers as ‘interfering in our Democracy. Ever since the highest court baptized corporations as people, allowing them to spend unlimited money to help their candidates win elections, democracy has been spelled with a capital D, the media breathlessly zeroing in on the amounts candidates raise, rather than on the ideas they espouse. Vladimir Putin’s sin is not to have drawn a sword, but to have voted for peace electronically.
These accusations only work because Americans were taught to regard Russia as an ‘evil empire’ for having embraced a political philosophy intended to ensure the well-being of the 99%, (whether or not it succeeded). When, after seventy years, it executed a stunning turnaround, allowing capitalism to flourish (creating a lot of crooks and billionaires in the process), American policymakers could have applauded. Instead, Washington began building a case for confrontation.
The rationale behind this behavior is Washington’s stated plan to carve up the world’s largest country into loyal fiefdoms to ensure continuing American world hegemony. I’ve mentioned the Wolfowitz Doctrine before, but until it becomes mandatory high school reading, Americans will believe congressional and special investigations are necessary as a prelude to war.
Drafted in 1992, a year after the Soviet Union imploded, by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz and never superseded, under the humdrum title of Defense Planning Guidance, its purpose was and is to
prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.
The notion of an imperial presidency did not do justice to this set of detailed policy recommendations intended to ensure that no country is ever able to challenge American hegemony. When it was leaked to the New York Times, Senator Edward Kennedy described its recommendation of pre-emptive military action to prevent any other nation from rising to superpower status as "a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.” Confronted with widespread condemnation, the document https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfowitz_Doctrine was rewritten in softer language, and when the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan - neither of which could possibly challenge American hegemony - it became known as the Bush doctrine.
Continued uninterruptedly at the cost of thousands of American, and especially foreign lives, some might see in it echoes of Hitler’s plan for a thousand year Reich, but sadly, most Americans believe their country is merely — and generously! —exercising ‘benevolent oversight’ over an innocent ‘rules-based’ order. As rewritten, the Defense Planning Guidance lays out pious aspirations:
Our most fundamental goal is to deter or defeat attack from whatever source... The second goal is to strengthen and extend the system of defense arrangements that binds democratic and like-minded nations together in common defense against aggression, build habits of cooperation, avoid the re-nationalization of security policies, and provide security at lower costs and with lower risks for all. Our preference for a collective response to preclude threats or, if necessary, to deal with them is a key feature of our regional defense strategy. The third goal is to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and also thereby to strengthen the barriers against the re-emergence of a global threat to the interests of the U.S. and our allies.
No matter how it is couched, the Wolfowitz Doctrine is the twenty-year old foreign policy guide that Donald Trump’s ‘naive’ foreign policy goals challenge, provoking a no holds barred pursuit of those who helped him get elected.
Although Russia and China are the only countries capable of challenging US dominance, they have made no threats. To understand Washington’s seeming obsession with preventing it ever happening, we need to back up to 2007. In a landmark speech to the 2007 Munich International Security Conference, Vladimir Putin advocated an international architecture in which the four or five regional powers would cooperate on the international stage to ensure peace and prosperity for all. Since any form of power-sharing contradicts the Wolfowitz doctrine, the US responded by fomenting a series of color revolutions, starting with Georgia in 2008, then Ukraine in 2014 aimed at eventually carving up Russia itself that dared propose such a thing into obedient fiefdoms, presumably before taking on the other major power, China.
In 2014, NPR broadcast a discussion between Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, and journalist Corey Flintoff, in which the Russian says:
The socioeconomic problems of some countries are used as an excuse to replace nationally-oriented governments with regimes controlled from abroad. Those regimes provide their patrons with unimpeded access to these countries' resources…
This suggests that President Putin was well aware of the Wolfowitz doctrine when the US assiduously backed the ‘freedom fighters’ in Kiev’s Maidan Square, who eventually overthrew the pro-Russian president, Victor Yanukovich (whose image Paul Manafort was paid to polish…).
Washington was not concerned by the leading role played by private, far-right militias who worship the memory of nationalist Stepan Bandera, who fought with the Nazis in World War II, expecting a victorious Hitler to grant Ukraine independence from the Soviet Union. In fact, Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, personally kept up the rebellion’s morale by handing out cookies in the Maidan encampments. When Yanukovich was forced to flee for his life, she chose his successor in consultation with then American Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, in a telephone conversa-tion which can be found on the web.
Here we need back up to Ukraine’s tragic history as part of a changing set of entities that included some or all of its neighbors, Russia, Poland and the Baltic states, only achieving independence between 1917 and 1921. Ukraine’s nationalist aspirations continue to take precedence over any repugnance its people might feel vis a vis the Neo-Nazi militias, who in fact took over security after the 2014 coup. Attitudes are very different, however, among the Russian-speaking population located in the east of the country along the Russian border. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Soviet Union lost ten times as many people as the US in repelling Hitler from its territory and liberating Eastern Europe. So when the coup government in Kiev removed equal status for the Russian language, referring to Russians as ‘cockroaches’, the inhabitants of Donetsk and Lugansk took up arms. They would have preferred to rejoin the mother country, but President Putin, who has a degree in international law, made clear that this was not going to happen. Instead, he backed their demands for significant local autonomy, helping the peoples’ militias resist attacks by Kiev’s troops. True to the Wolfowitz playbook, President Obama accused him of ‘invading’ his neighbor, acting ‘as though might makes right’.
“Wolfowitz” attributes even greater importance to events in Crimea. As in Eastern Ukraine, ninety percent of the peninsula’s inhabitants are also Russians, but the context is different: Russia cannot afford to lose its one warm water naval base, built by Catherine the Great in Sebastopol, so Putin organized a referendum, knowing Crimeans would vote overwhelmingly to rejoin the mother country. In fact, Crimea had always been part of Russia until in 1954, Khruschev gifted it to Ukraine. (Currently, the Duma is discussing a bill that would rescind Khruschev’s decision, eliminating the peg upon which the US hangs its accusations of Russian illegality.)
And since we’re talking about military activity, among the more than 800 American military bases worldwide, twelve are in tiny South Korea, while only three Russian bases are located outside the borders of the Commonwealth of independent States, which replaced the Soviet Union. These consist of one air base and one port in Syria and a naval resupply facility in Vietnam.
Under these circumstances and as a man committed to making deals rather than wars, candidate Trump announced his desire to improve relations with Russia, approved by a public that has long since forgotten the Wolfowitz Doctrine. However, for Washington bureaucrats, who remain the same from one president to the next, Wolfowitz remains the law of the land, and trips to Moscow that could be construed as ‘political’ were criminal. Russia having gone from being ‘foreign’ to ‘adversary’ to ‘enemy’ on the basis of its so-called ‘invasion’ of Ukraine, American citizens are required to signal any encounter with Russians to the FBI! Saudi Arabia can bomb tiny Yemen to smithereens, in the biggest ethnic cleansing ever, but talking to Russians can land you in jail.
Relations between Obama and Putin, and even more so, between Hillary Clinton and the Russian President, were already so bad even before the election, that the US media accused the Russian President of purposely introducing a large dog into one of their meetings, knowing that Hillary fears canines. (Putin shows off his dogs the way Trump shows off his Mandarin-singing granddaughter, but according to the Kremlin, when he noticed Hillary’s discomfort, he apologized and dismissed the dog.)
Such ‘unverifiables’ litter the US/Russia relationship, but Hillary’s fear of dogs is by far more credible than is Russia’s ‘invasion’ of Ukraine. Had it actually occured, Kiev would have fallen in twenty-four hours. And yet, Paul Manafort’s scrubbing from the Republican presidential platform of a promise to provide weapons to Kiev, is condemned as favoring Russia rather than as depriving a Neo-Nazi regime of the means to kill its own citizens.
In the end, Russiagate is just another example of America’s fairytale foreign policy: are Muslim militias, whether Hezbollah or Hamas, ‘terrorists’, or patriotic challenges to plans for a greater Israel? As we witness the suspicious resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister via television from the Saudi capital, the reputation of the Saudi’s nemesis, Iran — which has not attacked another country in three hundred years, should depend upon the answer to that question. However, Americans are constantly reminded that during its 1979 revolution, Iran held fifty-two US Embassy staff hostage for 444 days! Unmentioned is the fact that its revolution was in response to the situation created twenty-six years earlier, when the US carried out a coup against the elected government that was about to nationalize Iran’s oil, replacing him with the Shah, who gave us the oil and ruled with an iron fist.
(Iran and Russia have long been allies, but because America’s political elite cannot imagine that the relationship is based on shared values, it thinks it can drive a wedge between them. A similar delusion applies to the Iran nuclear deal: to their credit, our European allies have warned the US that it cannot unilaterally abandon the agreement because the Western signatories are indivisible.)
Whether or not one applauds the election of Donald Trump, it should be obvious that if the nuclear great powers do not maintain friendly relations, the future of mankind is in jeopardy. Why should Russia’s ‘behavior’ in its own back yard justify plans for war? Why, instead of handing out medals to those who reached out to Russia, are we threatening to ruin their lives? Why do those who hope that President Trump will not challenge North Korea to a nuclear exchange not also worry about the missiles we installed in Europe, to be launched against Russia in the event that it were to ‘invade’ the tiny Baltic countries to defend their Russian minorities? (This could conceivably happen were we to also install Neo-fascist regimes in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as the next step in trying to separate Russia from its ‘near abroad…..)
As long as the regime we installed in Kiev could be seen as merely ‘tolerating’ torchlight marches by far-right militias proclaiming their allegiance to Hitler ally Stepan Bandera, the media could ignore it (between visits by the likes of Senator John McCain). Just recently, however, the Poroshenko government promoted the worst pages in Ukraine’s history with a statue of a leader who oversaw the killing of thousands of Jews before Hitler came to power. Symon Petliura is sculpted sitting on a bench with papers in his hand, as if he were a thinker rather than a mass murderer, making Kiev an ‘inspiration’ for far-right political parties winning elections across Europe.
Meanwhile, American citizens can only watch, powerless, as the country that founded the United Nations envisions destroying significant parts of the world to ensure its continued domination of what remains — in the name of its exceptionalism.
The Awakening of Fareed Zakaria - October 29, 2017
I’ve been more or less watching CNN’s star political analyst for about ten years, first enchanted by his intelligence, then increasingly disappointed by the use he has put it to.
Until today, Fareed has been one of the most astute spokesperson for Exceptionalist America, slicing and dicing ever more finely the official exegesis according to which the United States is the best country humanity has ever produced, and that its job is to fight to the last foreigner to make every other country as close a copy as possible of the original City Upon a Hill.
As the Russian President continued to make an ever widening circle of friends, http://www.otherjones.com/2017/10/winning-friends-and-influencing-people.html, the US, via ‘analysts like Zakaria, has put forward an ever less convincing case for demonizing him, following the Wolfowitz Doctrine that declares the US must employ every means to prevent another nation from usurping its place as hegemon — preparing the American public for eventual war with Russia by claiming it invades its neighbors.
The spin doctors have managed thus far to ignore the growing alliance between Russia and China, hoping that old Communist enmities would eventually resurface. Perhaps the tipping point came when the foreign policy establishment took a closer look at China’s flagship project: a road, rail and shipping link between Asia and the Western tip of Europe, modestly designated as One Road One Belt.
If that was the case, they pretended it was not really worth getting upset about. Until now.
President Xi’s coronation at the recent Congress of the Chinese People’s Republic’s five-yearly Communist Party Congress had to be acknowledged as a tipping point because after failing to return the treat of ‘the best chocolate cake you’ve ever seen’ at Mar a Lago by leaning decisively on Rocketman, the president of the Middle Kingdom announced that China would henceforth play a central role on the world stage. (Announcing this, Fareed contrasted it to the policy of Deng Xiaoping, China’s last outstanding leader, of laying low on the international stage, in a way that made it seem as though he wanted to take credit completing the phrase with ‘until the right time’…..)
As is often the case with the seamless cooperation between Great Britain and the US, the former’s flagship weekly, The Economist set the tone by featuring Xi on its cover as The Most Powerful Man in the World. Recently, Vladimir Putin was portrayed merely as a new Tsar, https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21730644-ignoring-its-lessons-dangerous-russia-vladimir-putin-wants-forget-revolution whose wishes, like those of all Russian leaders, are ‘an enigma wrapped in a mystery’.
With Xi’s forthright statement of China’s intention heretofore to play a major role on the world stage, the claim that the United States is the ‘indispensable country’ has collapsed like a pricked balloon, but Fareed stepped bravely into the fray: “We have been given notice by China that our dominance is challenged, he admitted (in his own carefully chosen words). This in itself is of course, a major accomplishment on his part. However, he offered no suggestions as to what the US should do about it, which tells me that he believed until the very last moment in the story he was purveying of enduring US hegemony.
Most worryingly, he failed to note that nuclear war against either China or Russia is not the answer, although until now it was plausible to suggest http://www.otherjones.com/2017/10/maddows-two-trick-poney.html that Obama’s pivot to Asia announced the intention of dealing with China before taking on Russia…..
The WSJ Version of Reality August 5, 2017
This weekend’s Wall St. Journal, borrowed from a friend, is a clever anti-Russian montage, half of which has little basis in reality. (The other half is a review of six books about Russia, all of which appear interesting in one way or another, but none of which appears to have anything positive to say about the present, a standard media two-fer.
Page 6 of the Review section leads with a headline warning readers that “Russia is Going Global”, by Eugene Rumer and Andrew S. Weiss. The subtitle is “Russia Lines up Allies Against the US”. In reality, there is no Russian counterpart to NATO, where the US has lined up no fewer than twenty-nine allies against Russia. The Soviet-led Warsaw Pact was disbanded in February, 1991, followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December of that year. The understanding between the two superpowers was that in exchange for Russia acquiescing to the reunification of Germany, NATO would not move one inch beyond its eastern border. Since then, NATO has steadily moved its troops, tanks and missiles eastward, all the way Russia’s western border, within firing range of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Yet it is Moscow that is guilty of “lining up allies”. According to the WSJ, they consist of Turkey — with which Russia has historically had a rocky relationship, but is now establishing more friendly ties (normally considered a good thing between neighbors), and Libya, where it has backed a military leader “who is battling Islamists in Benghazi.” (There is no mention of the rocky relationship between Benghazi and Tripoli, which Russia is mediating….) In 2011, Russia condemned the US intervention that resulted in the brutal murder of Muammar Gadhafi, the leader who brought an oil-rich but backward desert country into the twenty-first century, and whose Arab Socialist Republic had long been a Moscow ally. Also on the list of Moscow’s misdeeds, in that corner of the world, is ‘wooing’ Egypt. But that’s not all.
“Russian intrigue is also creating headaches for the West in an often overlooked theater, the Balkans, NATO’s newest member, being tiny Montenegro.” The WSJ claims the Russians plotted to kill that country’s leader in order to prevent it from being the last non-NATO member in Eastern Europe. (The only European countries who are not NATO members are Sweden, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland and Malta.)
While the possible defection of Turkey would be a major upset, it having been the “southern bulwark against the Soviet Union” since 1950, the writers feign to ignore the recently warming relationship between Erdogan and Putin. The prospect of Turkey joining the various military and trade pacts that encompass the countries between Moscow and Beijing is apparently too horrible to mention.
Normally, major journalists try to avoid showing their ignorance of important facts, but when it comes to Russia, it’s a different ball game. These writers deliberately make no mention of the China-Russia One Belt One Road project, which is linking the farthest reaches of Asia to Europe, via a series of roads, rail lines, and ports. The project has its own financing via the Asian Infrastructure Bank and dwarfs anything the West has even imagined. It’s clear that the assignment was to concentrate on Russia, while avoiding any ‘inconvenient truths’.
Turning to Europe, Rumer and Weiss affirm that “Even the resounding defeat of France’s Marine Le Pen, France’s pro-Russian candidate…. was a reminder that no country in Europe can dare to ignore the risk of Russian interference in its politics.” This cleverly turned phrase is part of the never-ending litany over Russia’s supposed interference in the US elections, (which, if true, could not even remotely compete with the US’s routine recourse to regime change around the world) justifying claims that it is doing the same thing in Europe. As a neighbor on the same continent, Russia’s goal is to “pry Europe away from the US” and fold it into a vast Eurasian Alliance, which makes more geographic sense than a trans-Atlantic alliance that relies on alleged “shared values” that invariably favor the US. Never mind that according to former Assistant Secretary of State for East European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, the US spent 5 billion preparing demonstrations in Ukraine that in 2014 enabled it to engineer a coup against the elected pro-Russian president, with the help of neo-Nazi militias, that lead to a civil war with the Russian population in the east of that country who are allergic to Nazis.
Further, as to Europe, were American journalists specializing in Russian affairs only able to read French, they would know that the foreign policy priority of the man who defeated Ms Le Pen, the youthful Emanuel Macron, is to be the statesman who engineered a US-Russia rapprochement. for which his own press teases him. (See http://www.otherjones.com/2017/07/story-to-follow-macron-method.html, http://www.otherjones.com/2017/07/macrons-latest-and-depths-of-us.html,
According to the WSJ, “Russian government-owned arms companies, unburdened by scruples about human rights and democracy” (as opposed to Boeing or Northrop Grumman….), are eager to recoup the market share they lost when Egypt left the Soviet orbit”. (However, it’s not Russian but American weapons that are bombing Yemen…)
As with One Belt One Road, there is no mention of the Putin-Xi view of how the world should be organized: instead of one hegemon (the US) they call for a ‘multi-polar world’ in which the major countries, each with its sphere of influence, cooperate to meet international challenges and maintain peace. Clearly, the US fears that were its people to hear about this worldview, they would approve it, hence the need claim that Russia simply wants to take America’s place on the throne.
“Russia’s renewed activism isn’t about dictating events in particular corners of the world.” In the new abracadabra, “it is about exploiting opportunities to undermine and hollow out the US-led international order, with its norms of economic openness, democratic accountability and the rule of law”.
Even the least informed Americans are likely to find the latter part of that sentence highly questionable, not to mention the rest of the world.
The Unravelling - October 23, 2017
I first used the word unravelling in 2013 when the Bolivian President’s plane was refused overflight by several European countries at the US’s bidding, due to suspicions that it was carrying Edward Snowden. The article mentioned several other events that signaled the start of international efforts to deconstruct the Empire, as President Obama’s second term got under way. Four years and some later, the unravelling is happening at home, as ‘democracy’ itself, the so-called ‘bedrock’ of liberalism, has turned to farce.
A largely uneducated white electorate gravitated toward a presidential candidate whose primary attraction was that ‘he speaks like us’, as one voter said just a few days ago to a TV anchor expressing disbelief at the lasting support of President Trump’s base, even in the face of evidence that his words are devoid of meaning.
When the US tries to being ‘democracy’ to developing countries, the emphasis is on ‘free markets’ rather than education, but few such countries follow that advice, viewing health and education as indispensable to the proper functioning of society. Sadly, the US has not heeded its own message, leaving education in the hands of local politicians whose knowledge of the world would fit in a thimble. Hand in glove, ‘education’ and ‘media’ ensure that citizens get just enough knowledge to be beer guzzling ‘couch potatoes’ — preparing, however to ‘take their country back’ by shooting targets in the woods.
These voters brought the candidate of extreme right-wing financiers such as Robert Mercer and industrialists like the Koch brothers to power, to the growing panic of moderate Republicans like Senators Flake and Corker, who spoke out this week. The first indictments by the Special Prosecutor charged with investigating the extent of Russian interference in the US election and Trump’s possible collusion will come Monday, on the heels of the (limited)release this week of classified documents related to the Special Congressional Committee’s investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1964 per a government directive issued fifty years ago.
While the United States poses as the stellar example of government that all should follow, its history since the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, just a century before those of JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, all of which centered to a greater or lesser degree around its problem of race, was unlikely to lead to anything other than the relentless dismantling of its institutions driven by the notion of White Nationalism.
We’re experiencing a dizzying sense of deja vue, as Spain reverts to its 1930’s Civil War, while the rest of Europe relives the same period’s vindictive nationalism: Is the world doomed to the cyclical history espoused by Alt-Right theoretician Steve Bannon (lavishly funded by Robert Mercer)? Surely no one will quibble with me when I say that the struggle between left and right that many thought over with the disintegration of the Soviet Union is today epitomized by Washington’s consistent efforts to demonize a Russia that is no longer Communist — yet has not, as I have written many times, thrown the socialist baby out with the bath water.
That is the standoff that is eternal, though it appears under diverse disguises. Even US determination to carve up Russia and seize its mineral wealth is,, after all, a wet dream of the 1%.
For decades, Europe criticized the United States for its racial discrimination, without opposing the international agenda that ultimately resulted in it too having to confront the presence of dark people in its midst.
Is Europe Finally Talking Immigration Sense? - September, 2017
Although Angela Merkel is tipped to easily win reelection for a fourth term — in power only five years fewer than Vladimir Putin, she is congratulated, while he is accused of running a rigged system — many German voters are angry that she opened Germany’s doors to Muslim refugees and economic migrants.
North African and Turkish workers are not new to Europe: in the sixties, France and Germany brought over thousands to replenish the ranks of its work force decimated by war, who were encouraged to send for their wives and children. The latter, far from clamoring to return to their parents’ former homes, are Islamizing the Christian continent, just as the anti-immigrant right claims.
Although he stands no chance of becoming Chancellor, the center-right Free Democratic Party candidate, Christian Lindner has come up with an idea that seems admirable: Germany should work to restore peace to the Middle East and Africa, and then ask refugees to go home.
Realistically, it will take decades for this to happen, by which time the children of today’s arrivals will have children of their own, for whom their parents’ lands will be foreign. For comparison, although second and third generation Palestinians still dream of an independent Palestinian state, theirs is a contiguous land which occupation prevented from becoming fundamentally different from what it was in 1967, while Africa and the Middle East will be very different places were the damage of colonialism and war to be repaired.
On the other hand In a recent interview with the Guardian on Sept. 7, controversial Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said he cut deals with warring tribes in southern Libya to try to halt migration coming across the borders of Chad, Mali and Niger. Minniti said he didn’t bribe the tribes but offered them resources to build an “alternative economy.” Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/09/libya-italy-deal-militias-stop-migration-flow.html#ixzz4sbJjPhy6
So why even mention Lindner’s proposal? Precisely because it lays responsibility for the outsized wave of Muslim immigration, squarely on the Christian world that is rejecting it. Following the destruction of World War II, Western Europe gratefully accepted American assistance. Although presented as altruistic, it came with obligations that prevented the old world from having an independent foreign policy. Although France and England succeeded in building nuclear deterrents, as part of NATO, they were expected to sign on to US-led wars, never imagining that these would boomerang. While America remained safely isolated from the Eurasian and African continents by two oceans, the victims of its wars and economic rape headed for Europe as the nearest haven.
Contrary to the new arrivals expectations, Europe let them down. The so-called ‘union’ left Greece to shoulder most of the burden from the Middle East for a year, until it managed to persuade Turkey to take back some refugees in return for hefty financing for holding camps and promises that its application to join would be given new life.
For thirty years, as hundreds of thousands of Turkish and North African workers kept German and French industry humming, Muslim Turkey had been trying to become part of Europe. Now it was being asked to take in thousands of foreigners so that Europe could remain “a Christian continent”, while not even granting Turks visa free travel! In 2016, an aborted coup resulted in Turkish President Erdogan cracking down on dissidents, the press and the judiciary, even getting a majority to approve changes to the constitution that increased his powers, putting EU ascension even farther off, and thus making Turkey’s cooperation on refugees more problematic.
As for Italy, as the closest European country to Libyan ports of departure, it was easily overwhelmed, while France and Spain kept their ports closed to traffickers. (Germany, though having no Mediterranean port, pushed for concerted sea patrols.) Some refugees headed for Rome, where they set up pup tents on a major square near the Central Station, while others were seen climbing over the boulders protecting summer homes from the sea between Ventimiglia and Menton. They got to Calais, six hundred miles away, where they set up a camp that soon came to be known as ‘the jungle’.
From there they tried nightly to cross to England, either on lorries or trains under the Channel Tunnel, more inclined to learn English than French and believing a conservative monarchy would better protect them than France’s socialist government. Soon they were joined by adolescents, and even unaccompanied children. After several years of trash accumulating and locals protesting, the government forced them out, but most scattered before they could be relocated.
Most unexpectedly, in all of this, the quotas mandated for each country by Brussels were indignantly rejected by the recently joined nations of Eastern Europe, mainly Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Having lived for two generations behind the Wall separating them from Western Europe, they saw no contradiction in putting up walls of their own, using police dogs to convince the refugees that they would never be tolerated.
Now, German voters angry over Angela Merkel’s open door policy, are unlikely to vote for either the socialists or the Greens. However the proposal by the Free Democrats — normally a possible coalition partner — to allow refugees to remain in Germany until the Middle East and Africa are ‘repaired’ is likely to allow the far-right anti-immigrant party, Alternative for Germany, to pull ahead.
Most Germans recognize that Merkel is the strongest candidate when it comes to relations with both the US and Russia. But while Lindner’s proposal sounds reasonable, they know deep down that the problem of Muslim immigrants can only grow. (See http://www.otherjones.com/2017/08/sooner-or-later-donald-trump-will-have.html, and http://www.otherjones.com/2015/03/in-europe-arithmetic-of-otherness-and.html.)