This blog is about The Big Picture - information and insights about what goes on in the world outside our borders - and what it means for Americans. Unless otherwise specified, all photos from Deena Stryker archive.
Since my articles are freely available at New Eastern Outlook (journal.neo.org), henceforth I will be mainly reposting articles and videos from sources that get no exposure in the US media, mainly from Russia, China and other international players.
Below is a televised discussion about the Russian economy, which I don't think has a paralell in the US. Comments are welcome, I respond to all.
Since the time of the French Revolution, the left-right divide has focused mainly on attitudes toward equity within nation-states and since the Russian revolution it has included competition between capitalism and socialism on the world stage. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the West, which touts competition, was confident it had eliminated the notion that nations, like kindergartners, should cooperate to the benefit of all.
For almost a decade, our man in Moscow, the tippler Boris Yeltsin, solidified that conviction, as the majority lost much of their safety nets while a few in the new Russia got richer, as competition was anointed as the highest good by oligarchs like David Browder, who thought they could even get away with not paying taxes to the new Russian State.
Strongman Vladimir Putin started to change all that the minute he stepped into Yeltsin's wornout shoes: the oligarchs could keep their ill-gained wealth (they bought up the individual shares that had been distributed to financially unsavvy Russian citizens to gain control of the country's major assets) as long as they kept their noses out of the new president's plan to make his country a good place to live for everyone.
Somehow, the US found that attitude offensive. Under President Clinton (who tore up Yugoslavia) it adopted a new Security Doctrine: no country should even dream of challenging US world hegemony, and Russia, with its vast mineral wealth, was in a position to do just that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfowitz_Doctrine. (This document is worth reading in its entirety, not least because it describes the steps the US should take to ensure the fidelity of allies.) By the time Vladiimir Putin had been voted in as President of the Russian Federation twice (in 2000 and 2004), it was becoming clear that the United States was not adhering to the promises made to Mikhail Gorbachev after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, that if the Soviet Union agreed to the reunification of Germany, NATO would not advance beyond that new country's eastern border. At the yearly Munich Security Conference in 2007, Putin denounced NATO's drang nach Osten, which for Russians represents a repeat of previous invasions by Germany through the Eastern European corridor. To no avail. NATO has continued its march right up to Russia's border, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. And in 2014, with an eye to eventually enrolling Russia's neighbor, Ukraine, in the Western alliance, we (according to videod bragging by Victoria Nuland, Clinton's secretary for Eastern European Affairs, to the Washington Press Club in December 2013), spent five billion dollars supporting 'pro-democracy' groups, efforts which, in Febrary 2014 culminated in 'The Maidan', weeks-long demonstrations backed by armed Neo-Nazi militias ressuscitated from World War II that forced the pro-Russian president to flee. Since then, the West has claimed that it was Russia that infringed on the post World War II rules, which stipulated that the agreed-upon boundaries of Europe were inviolate (never mind Yugoslavia), by backing the Russian speaking Donbas region that refuses to recognize the coup-installed Kiev government, and organizing a referendum in Crimea. Never mind that at the end of World War II, Crimea was part of the Soviet Union until it was gifted to Ukraine by Khruschev in 1954! And never mind that Russia is entitled to defend its warm water naval base in Sebastopol, which was created by Catherine the Great in the eighteenth century, to prevent NATO from adding a Black Sea fleet to the tanks lining Russia's land border with Europe!
The US's determination to maintain its hegemony over the world is closely linked to its devotion to competition over cooperation, and represents the twenty-first century front-line of the perrenial left-right divide: The world is one big community and Russia, together with its close ally China and a number of other large countries, believes that cooperation is the best way to ensure a fair distribution of wealth across borders. Unremarked by the US media, as the G7 was under way, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that groups like-minded nations, was holding its 18th annual summit in Shanghai. The organization was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and now also includes India and Pakistan. Iran, Aghanistan, Belarus, Mongoliaare observers, and the position of Dialogue Partner was created in 2008 for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Negal, adding Turkey in 2009. And while President Trump was lashing out at the G7, in Shanghai, the other authoritarian leader he claims to be friends with, China's Xi Jin Ping, was discussing cooperation at an organization that covers three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.
I'm so tired of hearing only one opinion about Russia and Vladimir Putin, over and over, on every channel, lilke so many broken records, that I asked a Moscow friend if the same thing was happening there. His answer was: "Vat a kvestchun!"
Here is the link to a popular Russian television program with English captions that he sent me.
If you are wondering why, almost two uyears after the 2016 election, Washington and its media are frothing at the mouth over 'Russian intervention in our democratic process', you will find the answer by Googling 'The Wolfowitz Doctrine' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfowitz_Doctrine). As I detailed in my book Russia's Americans, it has represented official American security policy since the late nineties. During the presidency of George Bush it was referred to as 'the Bush doctrine', which was carried over to the Obama president. President Trump issued his own security doctrine, however it is only a slightly attenuated version of its predecessor, which makes clear what the current hysteria is all about.
In plain language, the 1992 document described as Defense Planning Guidance for the 1994–99 fiscal years, which has never been superseded, states:
Our first objective 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.
There can be no challenge to U.S.'s world leadership.
“The U.S. must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. In non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. We must maintain the means to deter potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”IS IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE WITNESSING FAKE HYSTERIA?
Posted on NEO Juune 30, 2018
The reunification of Europe was still three decades away when, in 1963, the playwright Vaclav Havel presented his first works in Prague’s Theater of the Absurd, ushering in the transformation of the historically staid Czech culture into a whimsical one that contributed to the downfall of Communism in Eastern Europe.
The man who was to initiate Charter 77, criticizing the Communist government for failing to implement human rights provisions of a number of documents it had signed, including the 1960 Constitution of Czechoslovakia, the Final Act of the 1975 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Basket III of the Helsinki Accords), and 1966 United Nations covenants on political, civil, economic, and cultural rights, was ultimately voted the first President of the Czech Republic from 1993-2003.
Vaclav’ Havel’s movement was associated with the notion of ‘living in truth’, which implied ceasing to cooperate with official Communist claims of democracy. At a time when American intellectuals increasingly disregard facts that are part of the public record, historian Timothy Snyder publishes a pocket-sized book titled On Tyranny, in which (after saluting the great philosopher Hannah Arendt, who wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism) he urges Americans, among other things, to support the mainstream media, realizing that “some of what is on the internet is there to harm you”. He further advises his readers to “make eye contract and small talk as a way of breaking down social barriers”, “contribute to good causes”, “be a patriot” and “be calm when the unthinkable arrives”.
Snyder, who specialized in Eastern Europe, began his crusade for ‘the truth’ by drawing western attention to Vaclav Havel’s philosophy back in the eighties. For Havel, ‘living in truth meant keeping a sacred space for what you can prove to be true and for truth-tellers, and Snyder runs with the notion that self-deception enables tyrannies to spread. And yet, with his string of goody-two-shoes recommendations, he implicitly protects media intellectuals such as Fareed Zakaria, who have access to a much larger, and even less educated public.
In his latest weekly program, MSNBC’s authority on truth reported on the Scandinavian countries’ recent decisions to beef up their military and instruct their citizens in how to behave in the event of war with Russia.
WITHOUT ONCE MENTIONING the presence of thousands of NATO troops on Russia’s borders with Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Zakaria wants Americans to know that even the historically neutral Scandinavia countries are taking a stand against ‘Russian aggression’. Here is a map from my book Russia’s Americans that shows the location of US bases most significant for Russia. from among its thousands around the world.
This stark reality is kept from the American people, although it accounts for Vladimir Putin’s decision to ‘stand Russia’s ground’ on its side of the border. That decision, reflecting the first duty of any responsible leader, is presented by the Western media as ‘Russia poised to overrun Europe’.
Vaclav’ Havel’s principal of ‘Living in Truth’, espoused by Cold War activists across Eastern Europe proved so inspiring that in 2018, intellectuals still invoke it to justify positions that are the exact opposite of those Havel espoused, as the drumbeat of war continues uninterrupted from the time the world was divided between socialists and capitalists.
It has become clear to at least a few of us that although it’s no longer ideology that’s at stake, it’s still ‘Russia’, a country whose open plains were invaded from the East, the South and the West. To accuse Russia’s leader (who has been in office only two years longer than the Turkish President just re-elected for the third time in a process of dubious legitimacy) of seeking to ‘recreate the Russian Empire’ is a curious way of describing repeated US-led efforts to gnaw at Russia’s European borders. In 2008, the US backed Georgia’s separatist neighbors, and when that effort fizzled, the US State Department openly funded democratic forces in Ukraine, but allowed them to be subsumed by Neo-Nazi militias. When these militias attacked its countrymen living there, Russia defended them and was promptly accused of invading its neighbor, as when it permitted those living in Crimea to hold a referendum on reunification.
Although the Crimea referendum relies for its legitimacy on the 1996 Kosovo referendum organized by NATO to formalize that region’s independence from Serbia, the US accuses Russia of modifying the post World War II borders agreed upon in Yalta by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, while, advising Russia to ‘get used to’ seeing US warships off the coast of its main warm water naval base in the Black Sea….
It took Vaclav Havel, the Polish historian Adam Michnik and the trade union boss Lech Walesa, who would become Poland’s first post-communist president, two decades to reclaim their countries’ respective realities (together with the Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians and Bulgarians). Those of us who compose today’s American opposition are powerless to end our government’s selective use of information, as well as its physical abuse of the world outside our borders, whether in post-United Fruit Central America, the rape that drives Africans into Europe, or attempts to persuade Pacific nations that the China Sea is not Beijing’s Mare Nostrum.
Our voices can scarcely be heard, as the personal space reserved for truth closes in around us.
P.S. July 3, 2108:
It seems that the publication of Timothy Snyder’s pocket-sized book was the start of something. (‘Tyranny’, by the way, was a much-used word during the American (and French) revolutions, and thus has a more solemn ring to it than the words ‘dictatorship’ or ‘oligarchy’ or ‘authoritarianism’, commonly used today to express the same notion of injustice.)
In the last few weeks, there has been a concerted campaign by the US media to promote itself. This must mean that the readership of progressive websites is reaching an alarming rate. On July 2, the New York Times ran an add on the internet stating that The Truth Demands our Attention (sic).