Category Archives: Sanctions

Who Needs a Hegemon?

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the US has been able to exert tremendous influence on other nations through its military and economic power. The world no longer was bipolar with the US and the Soviet Union competing for leadership. Instead, it has been a unipolar world under US hegemonic leadership.

In 1997, US neoconservatives created a think tank, Project for the New American Century, to promote and extend American global leadership. In 2000, PNAC issued a report, ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’ that called for extending the US global leadership through maintaining the preeminence of US military forces. It was also considered important to deter the rise of a new great-power competitor.

War crimes

During the period since 1991, the US has misrepresented itself as a benign hegemon. The US mainstream media has worked hard to convince the US public and the world that US actions are for good causes. The US corporate media tout this era as a continuation of Pax Americana. However, many nations around the world view things very differently. They see, for example, the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that was based on lies as a major war crime that devastated Iraq and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. There were no sanctions imposed on the US or its allies for this shocking crime and no call for reparations to help rebuild Iraq. Moreover, this attack, along with the US involvement in the attack on Libya and its military support for terrorists in Syria, created instability and devastation throughout much of the Middle East.

Illegal use of sanctions

Many countries also question the US use of unilateral sanctions. Currently the US has imposed sanctions on 39 nations including about 1/3 of the globe’s population. Many of the sanctioned countries haven’t complied with US political positions and their people have paid a horrible price for these nations attempting to maintain their sovereignty. Although the US corporate media seldom, if ever, reports it, sanctions not approved by the UN Security Council are a violation of the UN Charter. So much for the US touted idea of a rules-based order. Moreover, perhaps even worse, the US uses secondary sanctions to prevent other nations from trading with the targeted nations.

In general, sanctions most severely affect the vulnerable and represent a most cruel form of economic warfare, similar to the idea of the siege warfare in the past. Moreover, history shows that the great majority of these illegal sanctions don’t work in bringing about the changes the US wants. For example, the US has had sanctions on Cuba for about six decades without bringing down the Cuban government. Among the sanctioned nations, the people of Venezuela have suffered particularly incredible hardships.

Coups overthrowing democracies

These nations also see the US support for coups and attempted coups in many nations; e.g., in Haiti in 2004, in Honduras in 2009, in Ukraine in 2014, and in Bolivia in 2019. In addition, during the past two years, there have been coups and coup attempts in Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Gambia and Mauritania led by US trained military officers.

Protecting war criminals

Nations around the world also see how the US prevents actions to be taken against its allies for their appalling violations of international law. Israel is a prime example, escaping any sanctions for its many war crimes, for its continuing occupation and theft of Palestinian land, and for its violations of human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, Israel has escaped sanctions for its criminal attacks on Gaza, Lebanon and Syria and for its illegal occupation of the Golan Heights.

These US actions are hardly those of a benign force. For many of the poorer nations, the last three decades of this unipolar world, the so-called Pax Americana, have brought violence, insecurity, poverty and hunger. China is the exceptional nation that has experienced impressive improvement in the quality of life for hundreds of millions of its people during this period.

US hypocrisy

Moreover, given the US attacks on Iraq and other countries, people around the world are angry about US hypocrisy over imposing sanctions on Russia for its criminal invasion of Ukraine. For example, most nations strongly condemned the Russian attack, but countries, including much of Asia, Africa and South America with the majority of the world’s population, do not support the US sanctions on Russia.

Deterring a competitor

The Russian attack on Ukraine follows eight years of ongoing fighting between Ukrainian nationalist forces and Ukrainians who rejected the 2014 US-supported coup. This coup overthrew a democratically-elected government and, unsurprisingly, the new coup government looked westward, away from Russia.

Insanely, the US knowingly provoked this 2022 Russian attack. Making matters worse, the US has not encouraged Ukraine to find a diplomatic solution to end the destruction and killing in Ukraine. Instead, the US seems willing to sacrifice Ukraine in order to weaken Russia.

A weakened Russia also harms the Russian and Chinese effort to move from a unipolar to a bipolar world. However, a bipolar world is not necessarily an answer to illegal actions by powerful nations. For example, both the US and the Soviet Union violated the sovereignty of other nations during the period that these two powers coexisted. As long as the UN Security Council allows a single permanent member to veto resolutions with no override possible, the Security Council can’t function when the interest of a powerful nation is challenged.

Regardless, the last three decades show that the US doesn’t follow or respect international law and strongly suggest there must be a force to counter the US hegemon that has done so much damage to the world. In particular, nations of the world needs to work together if there is to be any chance of lessening the disastrous impact of climate chaos. The world can’t allow this malign hegemon to continue to push corporate greed over the interests of life on the planet.

The post Who Needs a Hegemon? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How the US Government Steals from Other Countries

The American Government explains its thefts from other countries as being justifiable because the U.S. Government has slapped sanctions upon those countries, and because these sanctions authorize the U.S. Government to steal whatever it wants to steal, from them, that it can grab. Here are just a few such examples:

On May 26, Reuters headlined “U.S. seizes Iranian oil cargo near Greek island,” and reported:

The United States has confiscated an Iranian oil cargo held on a Russian-operated ship near Greece and will send the cargo to the United States. …
“The cargo has been transferred to another ship that was hired by the U.S.,” the source added, without providing further details.
The development comes after the United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on what it described as a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money laundering network for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. …
U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which monitors Iran-related tanker traffic, said the Pegas had loaded around 700,000 barrels of crude oil from Iran’s Sirri Island on Aug. 19, 2021.
Prior to this load, the Pegas transported over 3 million barrels of Iranian oil in 2021, with over 2.6 million of those barrels ending up in China, according to UANI analysis.
In 2020, Washington confiscated four cargoes of Iranian fuel that were bound for Venezuela and transferred them with the help of undisclosed foreign partners onto two other ships which then sailed to the United States. …

On 24 October 2019, USA Today bannered “Pentagon planning to send tanks, armored vehicles to Syrian oil fields” and pretended that if (Syria’s actual invader) America wouldn’t be stealing Syria’s oil, then (Syria’s actual defender, invited into the country in order to help defeat the U.S.-led invasion of it) Russia would be stealing it. Their article closed by saying that: “Nicholas Heras, an expert on Syria with the Center for a New American Security [CNAS], … said, ‘the Pentagon is making contingencies for a big fight with Russia for Syria’s oil.’” Perhaps the intention of that article was to help build Americans’ support for stealing Syria’s oil. (The CNAS is a Democratic Party think tank, and was there endorsing the Republican President Trump’s operation to steal Syria’s oil — it’s a bipartisan goal of the U.S. Government.) By contrast, two days later, Russia’s Sputnik News headlined about America’s thefts of oil from Syria, “The Russian military described the US scheme as nothing less than ‘international state banditism.’” (Russia had no need to deceive anyone about that.)

On 14 December 2019, Syria Times headlined “A huge convoy for US occupation forces enters Syria’s Qameshli city,” and reported that:

In a new breach of international laws, the US occupation forces sent today to Qameshli city in Hasaka province a new convoy composed of tanks, ambulances and dozens of vehicles and cars loading military and logistic materials. According to local sources, the convoy illegally entered this morning from Iraq in order to fortify the US occupation forces’ positions in the Syrian Jazeera.
This convoy is the biggest one that entered the Syrian territories since several months.
Over the few past months, the US occupation forces sent through illegal crossing points thousands of vehicles loaded with weapons, military equipment and logistic materials to reinforce their existence in the Syrian Jazeera region and to steal Syrian oil and wealth.

On 2 August 2020, Reuters bannered “Syria says U.S. oil firm signed deal with Kurdish-led rebels” and reported that,

Damascus “condemns in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company to steal Syria’s oil under the sponsorship and support of the American administration”, the Syrian statement said. “This agreement is null and void and has no legal basis.”

Furthermore: “There was no immediate response from SDF officials to a Reuters’ request for comment. There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials.”

The U.S. Government has done this also to Venezuela and other countries that it likewise wants to take over.

On 13 March 2022, Reuters headlined “Sanctions have frozen around $300 bln of Russian reserves, FinMin says,” and reported that “Foreign sanctions have frozen around $300 billion out of $640 billion that Russia had in its gold and forex reserves, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in an interview with state TV.”

The lawyer and geostrategic analyst Alexander Mercouris explains how and why America’s blocking Russia’s international payments of Russia’s sovereign debt, and Germany’s seizure of some of Gazprom’s German assets, “violate the [international-law] principle of sovereign immunity; both the central bank and Gazprom are, after all, owned by the Russian Government. … These were the sort of acts that, once upon a time, governments could legally make only in time of war. But of course Germany and the United States are not formally at war with Russia. So we see how another extraordinary step has been taken, towards … ever-greater illegality.” He wonders “what damage” will be done “to the international legal system and to the international financial system.”

Many of these actions, by America and its allies, are alleged to be done not in order to reinforce existing international laws (which, of course, they instead violate), but the opposite: to advance “the international rules-based order,” which “rules,” that will be made by the U.S. Government, will be introduced as constituting new legal precedents in order to replace the current source of international laws, which is the U.N. and its authorized agencies. The U.S. Government would gradually replace the U.N., except as the U.N.’s being a sump for unprofitable expeditions that the ‘humanitarian’ and ‘democratic’ U.S. Government can endorse. There would be a further weakening of the U.N., which is already so weak so that, even now, anything which is done by the U.S. and its allies is, practically speaking, not possible to be prosecuted in international courts such as the International Criminal Court, which body is allowed to prosecute alleged crimes only by leaders of “third world” nations. America’s “rules-based international order” would replace that toothless U.N.-based system, and would be backed up by America’s over-800 military bases around the world. Unlike the existing U.N., which has no military, this “rules-based international order” would be enforced at gunpoint, everywhere.

However, even America’s allied nations are getting fleeced, though in different ways, by the U.S. Government. This is being done via international corruption. For example: America’s F-35 warplanes from Lockheed Martin Corporation and its sub-contractors (Northrop-Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and BAE Systems), are so bad and so very expensive that the U.S. Government wants to cut its losses on the plane without cutting the profits by Lockheed Martin and other ‘defense’-contractors’ on it, and therefore needs to increase its allies’ purchases of these warplanes. NATO is the main marketing organization for U.S. ‘defense’ contractors; and, so, on 15 April 2022, Russia’s RT news headlined “US nuclear bombs ‘shared’ with European allies will be deployed on Lockheed Martin jets, NATO explains,”and reported that,

Jessica Cox, director of the NATO nuclear policy directorate in Brussels, said … that “By the end of the decade, most if not all of our allies will have transitioned” to the F-35. …
Germany would replace its aging Tornado jets with F-35s, committing to buy up to three dozen and specifically citing the nuclear sharing mission as factoring in the decision. …
Finland and Sweden have recently voiced a desire to join NATO, and Helsinki already announced it would buy some 60 F-35s in early February [notably, BEFORE Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th]. …
The F-35 was originally proposed as a cost-effective modular design that could replace multiple older models in service with the US Air Force, Navy, and the Marines. In reality, it turned into three distinct designs with a lifetime project cost of over $1.7 trillion, the most expensive weapons program in US [and in all of global] history.
In addition to the price tag, the fifth-generation stealth fighter has also been plagued with performance issues, to the point where the new USAF chief of staff requested a study into a different aircraft in February 2021.
General Charles Q. Brown Jr. compared the F-35 to a “high end” sports car, a Ferrari one drives on Sundays only, and sought proposals for a “clean sheet design” of a “5th-gen minus” workhorse jet instead. Multiple US outlets characterized his proposal as a “tacit admission” that the F-35 program had failed.

That word “characterized” was there linked through to a number of informative articles, such as these, about the F-35:

Forbes: “The U.S. Air Force Just Admitted The F-35 Stealth Fighter Has Failed
Defense News:The Hidden Troubles of the F-35: The Pentagon will have to live with limits on F-35’s supersonic flights

That Defense News report said that the basic design-requirements for the F-35 prohibit any speed higher than the speed of sound (Mach 1), because the air-friction above that speed would instantly melt the stealth coating, and,

The potential damage from sustained high speeds would influence not only the F-35’s airframe and the low-observable coating that keeps it stealthy, but also the myriad antennas located on the back of the plane that are currently vulnerable to damage, according to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News.

Though that publication — which could not exist apart from the funding that is provided directly or indirectly from America’s ‘defense’ contractors — used euphemisms to describe this problem, such as “potential damage” and that there would need to be imposed “a time limit on high-speed flight” and that “the F-35 jet can only fly at supersonic speeds for short bursts of time before there is a risk of structural damage and loss of stealth capability,” the actual facts are: those “short bursts” would, in the practical world, be virtually instantaneous, approximating zero seconds, and the phrase “a risk” would be referring to 100% — a certainty. That’s virtually the opposite of the ‘news’-report’s allegation that the F-35 would need to avoid “sustained high speeds,” because the plane would instead need to avoid ANY supersonic speed. In other words: the plane’s stealth capability would need to be virtually 100% effective and at speeds only below the speed of sound, in order for the plane to be, at all, effective, and deserving to be called a “stealth” warplane. The only exception to that would be the F-35A, for the Air Force (not usable by the Navy — from aircraft carriers — nor by the Army).

As regards the F-35A (Air Force F-35 version), Wikipedia says about the F-35 that its maximum speed is Mach 1.6 (1.6 times the speed of sound). By contrast, Russia’s Su-57 (which is less expensive), has a maximum speed of Mach 2.0. The reason why Russia’s is both a better plane and far less costly is that Russia’s military-industrial complex is controlled ONLY by the Government, whereas America’s Government is instead controlled mainly by its ‘defense’-contractors, and is, therefore, overwhelmingly corrupt, which is also the reason why America is the permanent and unceasing warfare-state, ever since 25 July 1945, when its “Cold War” started, and has never ceased.

One of the few honest statements that the world-champion liar and the world’s most respected living person, U.S. President Barack Obama, made about his goals as President, was his 28 May 2014 statement to the graduating class at the West Point Military Academy, that,

The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come. … Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums. … It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world.

He was saying there that all other nations — including U.S. ‘allies’ — are “dispensable.” Consequently, of course, in that view: stealing by the U.S. Government, from any other Government, is acceptable. It’s the U.S. Government’s viewpoint, and is politically bipartisan in America. At least until now, it is an acceptable viewpoint, to most people. Perhaps truths have been hidden from them. Who has been doing this, and why, would then be the natural question on any intelligent individuals’ minds. But certainly there can be no reasonable doubt that the U.S. Government does — and rather routinely — steal from other countries. That’s a fact, if anything is.

The post How the US Government Steals from Other Countries first appeared on Dissident Voice.

And Then There Was No More Empire All of a Sudden

Bisa Butler (USA), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 2019.

Empire denies its own existence. It does not exist as an empire but only as benevolence, with its mission to spread human rights and sustainable development across the world. However, that perspective means nothing in Havana nor in Caracas, where ‘human rights’ has come to mean regime change, and where ‘sustainable development’ has come to mean the throttling of their people through sanctions and blockades. It is from the standpoint of the victims of empire that clarity comes.

US President Joe Biden is to host the Summit of the Americas in June, where he hopes to deepen Washington’s hegemony over the Americas. The United States government understands that its project of hegemony faces an existential crisis caused by the weaknesses of the US political system and the US economy, with limited funds available for investment within its own country, let alone for the rest of the world. At the same time, US hegemony faces a serious challenge from China, whose Belt and Road Initiative has been seen in large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund’s austerity agenda. Rather than work alongside Chinese investments, the US is eager to use any means to prevent China from engaging with countries in the Americas. Along this axis, the US has revitalised the Monroe Doctrine. This policy, which will be two centuries old next year, claims that the Americas are the dominion of the United States, its ‘sphere of influence’, and its ‘backyard’ (although Biden has tried to be cute by calling the region the US’s ‘front yard’).

Along with the International Peoples’ Assembly, we have developed a red alert on two instruments of US power – the Organisation of American States and the Summit of the Americas – as well as the challenge that the US faces as it tries to impose its hegemony in the region. The red alert is featured below and is available here as a PDF. Please read it, discuss it, and share it.

What is the Organisation of American States?

The Organisation of American States (OAS) was formed in Bogotá, Colombia in 1948 by the United States and its allies. Though the OAS Charter invokes the rhetoric of multilateralism and cooperation, the organisation has been used as a tool to fight against communism in the hemisphere and to impose a US agenda on the countries of the Americas. Roughly half of the funds for the OAS and 80 percent of the funds for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an autonomous organ of the OAS, come from the US. It is worth noting that – despite providing the majority of its budget – the US has not ratified any of the IACHR’s treaties.

The OAS showed its true colours after the Cuban Revolution (1959). In 1962, at a meeting in Punta del Este (Uruguay), Cuba – a founding member of the OAS – was expelled from the organisation. The declaration from the meeting stated that ‘the principles of communism are incompatible with the principles of the inter-American system’. In response, Fidel Castro called the OAS the ‘US Ministry of Colonies’.

The OAS set up the Special Consultative Committee on Security Against the Subversive Action of International Communism in 1962, with the purpose of allowing the elites in the Americas – led by the US – to use every means possible against popular movements of the working class and peasantry. The OAS has afforded diplomatic and political cover to the US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as it has participated in the overthrow of governments that attempt to exercise their legitimate sovereignty – sovereignty that the OAS Charter purports to guarantee. This exercise has gone all the way from the OAS’s expulsion of Cuba in 1962 to the orchestration of coups in Honduras (2009) and Bolivia (2019) to the repeated attempts to overthrow the governments of Nicaragua and Venezuela and ongoing interference in Haiti.

Since 1962, the OAS has openly acted alongside the US government to sanction countries without a United Nations Security Council resolution, which makes these sanctions illegal. It has, therefore, regularly violated the ‘principle of non-interference’ in its own charter, which prohibits ‘armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements’ (chapter 1, article 2, section b and chapter IV, article 19).

Diego Rivera (Mexico), Liberación del Peón (‘Liberation of the peon’), 1931.

What is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)?

Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chávez, initiated a process in the early 2000s to build new regional institutions outside of US control. Three major platforms were built in this period: 1) the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2004; 2) the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2004; and 3) the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2010. These platforms established inter-governmental connections across the Americas, including summits on matters of regional importance and technical institutions to enhance trade and cultural interactions across borders. Each of these platforms have faced threats from the United States. As governments in the region oscillate politically, their commitment to these platforms has either increased (the more left they have been) or decreased (the more subordinate they have been to the United States).

At the 6th Summit of CELAC in Mexico City in 2021, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested that the OAS be disbanded and that CELAC help to build a multilateral organisation at the scale of the European Union to resolve regional conflicts, build trade partnerships, and promote the unity of the Americas.

Tessa Mars (Haiti), Untitled, Praying for the visa series, 2019.

What is the Summit of the Americas?

With the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the United States attempted to dominate the world by using its military power to discipline any state that did not accept its hegemony (as in Panama, 1989 and Iraq, 1991) and by institutionalising its economic power through the World Trade Organisation, set up in 1994. The US called the OAS member states to Miami for the first Summit of the Americas in 1994, which was subsequently handed over to the OAS to manage. The summit has convened every few years since to ‘discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level’.

Despite its stronghold over the OAS, the US has never been able fully to impose its agenda at these summits. At the third summit in Quebec City (2001) and the fourth summit in Mar del Plata (2005), popular movements held large counter-protests; at Mar del Plata, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez led a massive demonstration, which resulted in the collapse of the US-imposed Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. The fifth and sixth summits at Port of Spain (2009) and Cartagena (2012) became a battlefield for the debate over the US blockade on Cuba and its expulsion from the OAS. Due to immense pressure from the member states of the OAS, Cuba was invited to the seventh and eighth summits in Panama City (2015) and Lima (2018), against the wishes of the United States.

However, the United States has not invited Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela to the upcoming ninth summit to be held in Los Angeles in June 2022. Several countries – including Bolivia and Mexico – have said that they will not attend the meeting unless all thirty-five countries in the Americas are in attendance. From 8–10 June, a range of progressive organisations will hold a People’s Summit to counter the OAS summit and to amplify the voices of all the peoples of the Americas.

Rufino Tamayo (Mexico), Animals, 1941.

In 2010, the poet Derek Walcott (1930–2017) published ‘The Lost Empire’, a celebration of the Caribbean and of his own island, Saint Lucia, in particular as British imperialism retreated. Walcott grew up with the economic and cultural suffocation imposed by colonialism, the ugliness of being made to feel inferior, and the wretchedness of the poverty that came alongside it. Years later, reflecting on the jubilation of the retreat of British rule, Walcott wrote:

And then there was no more Empire all of a sudden.
Its victories were air, its dominions dirt:
Burma, Canada, Egypt, Africa, India, the Sudan.
The map that had seeped its stain on a schoolboy’s shirt
like red ink on a blotter, battles, long sieges.
Dhows and feluccas, hill stations, outposts, flags
fluttering down in the dusk, their golden aegis
went out with the sun, the last gleam on a great crag,
With tiger-eyed turbaned Sikhs, pennons of the Raj
to a sobbing bugle.

The sun is setting on imperialism as we emerge slowly and delicately into a world that seeks meaningful equality rather than subordination. ‘This small place’, Walcott writes of Saint Lucia, ‘produces nothing but beauty’. That would be true of the entire world if we could get beyond our long, modern history of battles and sieges, warships, and nuclear weapons.

The post And Then There Was No More Empire All of a Sudden first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Cost of the Ukraine War Felt in Africa, Global South

While international news headlines remain largely focused on the war in Ukraine, little attention is given to the horrific consequences of the war which are felt in many regions around the world. Even when these repercussions are discussed, disproportionate coverage is allocated to European countries, like Germany and Austria, due to their heavy reliance on Russian energy sources.

The horrific scenario, however, awaits countries in the Global South which, unlike Germany, will not be able to eventually substitute Russian raw material from elsewhere. Countries like Tunisia, Sri Lanka and Ghana and numerous others, are facing serious food shortages in the short, medium and long term.

The World Bank is warning of a “human catastrophe” as a result of a burgeoning food crisis, itself resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war. The World Bank President, David Malpass, told the BBC that his institution estimates a “huge” jump in food prices, reaching as high as 37%, which would mean that the poorest of people would be forced to “eat less and have less money for anything else such as schooling.”

This foreboding crisis is now compounding an existing global food crisis, resulting from major disruptions in the global supply chains, as a direct outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as pre-existing problems, resulting from wars and civil unrest, corruption, economic mismanagement, social inequality and more.

Even prior to the war in Ukraine, the world was already getting hungrier. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 811 million people in the world “faced hunger in 2020”, with a massive jump of 118 million compared to the previous year. Considering the continued deterioration of global economies, especially in the developing world, and the subsequent and unprecedented inflation worldwide, the number must have made several large jumps since the publishing of FAO’s report in July 2021, reporting on the previous year.

Indeed, inflation is now a global phenomenon. The consumer price index in the United States has increased by 8.5% from a year earlier, according to the financial media company, Bloomberg. In Europe, “inflation (reached) record 7.5%”, according to the latest data released by Eurostat. As troubling as these numbers are, western societies with relatively healthy economies and potential room for government subsidies, are more likely to weather the inflation storm, if compared to countries in Africa, South America, the Middle East and many parts of Asia.

The war in Ukraine has immediately impacted food supplies to many parts of the world. Russia and Ukraine combined contribute 30% of global wheat exports. Millions of tons of these exports find their way to food-import-dependent countries in the Global South – mainly the regions of South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Considering that some of these regions, comprising some of the poorest countries in the world, have already been struggling under the weight of pre-existing food crises, it is safe to say that tens of millions of people already are, or are likely to go, hungry in the coming months and years.

Another factor resulting from the war is the severe US-led western sanctions on Russia. The harm of these sanctions is likely to be felt more in other countries than in Russia itself, due to the fact that the latter is largely food and energy independent.

Although the overall size of the Russian economy is comparatively smaller than that of leading global economic powers like the US and China, its contributions to the world economy makes it absolutely critical. For example, Russia accounts for a quarter of the world’s natural gas exports, according to the World Bank, and 18% of coal and wheat exports, 14% of fertilizers and platinum shipments, and 11% of crude oil. Cutting off the world from such a massive wealth of natural resources while it is desperately trying to recover from the horrendous impact of the pandemic is equivalent to an act of economic self-mutilation.

Of course, some are likely to suffer more than others. While economic growth is estimated to shrink by a large margin – up to 50% in some cases – in countries that fuel regional and international growth such as Turkey, South Africa and Indonesia, the crisis is expected to be much more severe in countries that aim for mere economic subsistence, including many African countries.

An April report published by the humanitarian group, Oxfam, citing an alert issued by 11 international humanitarian organizations, warned that “West Africa is hit by its worst food crisis in a decade.” Currently, there are 27 million people going hungry in that region, a number that may rise to 38 million in June if nothing is done to stave off the crisis. According to the report, this number would represent “a new historic level”, as it would be an increase by more than a third compared to last year. Like other struggling regions, the massive food shortage is a result of the war in Ukraine, in addition to pre-existing problems, lead amongst them the pandemic and climate change.

While the thousands of sanctions imposed on Russia are yet to achieve any of their intended purpose, it is poor countries that are already feeling the burden of the war, sanctions and geopolitical tussle between great powers. As the west is busy dealing with its own economic woes, little heed is being paid to those suffering most. And as the world is forced to transition to a new global economic order, it will take years for small economies to successfully make that adjustment.

While it is important that we acknowledge the vast changes to the world’s geopolitical map, let us not forget that millions of people are going hungry, paying the price for a global conflict of which they are not part.

The post Cost of the Ukraine War Felt in Africa, Global South first appeared on Dissident Voice.

May Day 2022: Oppose Imperialist Militarism

Today is May 1, 2022 — May Day.

It’s workers’ day, working people’s day, working people’s international solidarity day. All divisive, sectarian, supremacist ideology and politics is opposed by the working people all around the world. On this day, this position is reiterated by the working people.

Today, this task – oppose divisive, sectarian, supremacist politics – is much urgent, much immediate, as imperialism is making onslaught in many forms, in direct and indirect ways, in concealed methods and forms, in lands after lands. Imperialism is today pushing one part of the people to oppose other parts. Imperialism is carrying out its nefarious act with nice slogans telling about its freedom and its democracy, slogans that hide class struggle, the struggle between the exploited and the exploiters. Imperialism is doing this dirty work by hiding the struggle between labor and capital.

But, the working people can’t be hoodwinked, can’t be confused, can’t be made pawn to capital; the working people can’t be pulled to the camp of capital; and today, imperialism, as the highest form, the most dangerous form of capital, can’t be ally of the working classes in no country. With long experience, expertise, enormous resources, command over natural and social sciences and over technology, owning the most powerful political-military-diplomatic-propaganda machine, having worldwide networks in many forms, imperialism today stands as the most dangerous class-force against all the peoples, all the working people of the world.

Today’s May Day, therefore, is the day to raise this slogan: Down with imperialism, oppose imperialism, oppose imperialist political-geopolitical-war machinations and acts, its war plans and wars in all forms: direct invasion and aggression, proxy war, subversion, psychological-ideological-political acts.

Opposing imperialism by the working class is an imperative, as this is the leading and most powerful class-force (i) defending the exploitative world order, and the exploitative political-economic systems in countries, (ii) subjugating and destructing life and ecological systems on the entire planet, (iii) backing exploiting-reactionary classes all over the world, (iv) expropriating all resources-all the commons that peoples own in continents and oceans, (v) waging wars in many forms, wasting resources by waging imperialist wars while peoples in lands pass deprived life, and pay for imperialism’s wars. Imperialism is the leading and guiding global political force opposing the working classes, and subjugating and slaughtering the working classes in different forms including the wars imperialism organizes in lands. Imperialism is the leading and guiding political force that organizes, backs and carries on conspiracies, provocations and activities against all political struggles the working peoples in lands organize for emancipation.

So, on this May Day, one of the slogans is: Down with imperialism, oppose all imperialist wars and machinations.

Today, with the background of imperialist war in Ukraine, war-residues and encumbrances over Europe and countries across oceans, with possibilities of expanding of fire-spewing war to countries in Europe, even spreading to some other continents, opposing imperialism, opposing imperialist war-armaments activities is one of the immediate and urgent tasks of the working people all over the world, as a dark cloud of continents-wide imperialist war is spreading its wings. The war-cloud is getting dense and darker, as imperialists are making full-throttled war preparation, which began much earlier than the Russian forces stepped into Ukraine, as imperialist legislative documents show.

Already peoples in countries have begun making payment for the on-going imperialist war in Ukraine. Now, the people of Europe are making the most of this payment. The war-payment by peoples is widening gradually. Imperialism is socializing the war-cost – putting the burden of war on entire societies. Report by The New York Times “Governments tighten grip on global food stocks, sending prices higher” (April 30, 2022), and the World Bank’s April Commodity Markets Outlook report are only two among a number of international reports on the issue released over the last few weeks that tell the looming precarious situation. The WB warns: Global energy prices are projected to rise dramatically, culminating in the biggest price jump in commodities in nearly half a century. Global energy prices that already have seen a dramatic surge due to the pandemic lockdowns in China and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, are expected to surge by 50.5% in 2022. Indermit Gill, the WB’s Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions, said in a statement accompanying the report: “This amounts to the largest commodity shock we’ve experienced since the 1970s. As was the case then, the shock is being aggravated by a surge in restrictions in trade of food, fuel and fertilizers. A recent estimate by the Food and Agricultural Organization has found: The Ukraine crisis would push up to 12 million people into hunger worldwideThis is in part because, as the FAO estimates, one‑third of Ukraine’s crops and agricultural land may not be harvested or cultivated this year, which will lead to a loss of one fifth of Ukraine’s wheat supply. Future harvests are in jeopardy also, as next season’s crop is unlikely to be planted amidst war-conditions. Simultaneously, sanctions on Russia, the world’s largest producer of wheat, have further reduced global supplies.

The question is: Who has imposed this war in Ukraine? Who has organized this war? Who is fuelling this war by supplying arms to the Ukraine proxy soldiers? Who is organizing trainings in other countries for the Ukraine foot soldiers? Since when was this war organized? No plan for such a war can be organized overnight.

On the opposite, the war industry is making profit. Armaments of billions of dollars have already been spent, and billions of dollars are in the pipeline. The war is now a daily business of the imperialist powers. The Frontier (Kolkata, India) comment “Arms Merchants’ Boon Day” is a small part of the full info on arms business backed by the Ukraine War: “Arms merchants are super-happy with a boon day while a NATO proxy – the ruling regime in Kiev – is playing a bloody game of war in Ukraine.” Lockheed Martin’s stock prices surged 25% since beginning of 2022, and Raytheon’s 17%. Alessandro Profumo, Chief Executive of Italian defence group Leonardo, said in March its free cash flow would be more than double this year compared with 2021. Profumo expects NATO countries to ramp up military spending to reach 2% of GDP over time. This means increased profit.

Sanctions, now being used without precedent in the world history, by the imperialist camp are taking its toll from the peoples in countries the warring imperialist capitals control. It’s the people that will pay most, pay first in this sanction-war, which is itself a nullifying act of the market mechanism that the dominating capitals propagate, utter as its hymn.

The on-going imperialist fire-spewing war in Europe is being expanded gradually, and it’s apprehended that it’ll be expanded – geographically, and in terms of intensity, which means a more bloody war, a more destructive war, which is people are going to pay with more blood and life, livelihood. The New York Times report “Fears are mounting that Ukraine War will spill across borders” (April 28, 2022) is not a single report expressing this hunch of spill over of the war. A few more analyses having similar dread are there also. The NYT report said: “Now, the fear in Washington and European capitals is that the conflict may soon escalate into a wider war — spreading to neighboring states, to cyberspace and to NATO countries suddenly facing a Russian cutoff of gas. Over the long term, such an expansion could evolve into a more direct conflict between Washington and Moscow reminiscent of the Cold War, as each seeks to sap the other’s power.”

In ultimate analysis, it’s the working classes, it’s the labor that makes the payment, as only labor produces surplus value, and that value is appropriated first from labor.

Here, today, on this May Day, the working people’s slogan is: No to imperialist war; oppose all war activities, oppose all war allocations, oppose all sanctions, oppose all propaganda war.

Imperialism’s war venture is pushing behind the working peoples’ fundamental questions of wage, democratic rights, access to info., participation in all areas of planning and decision-making. There are attempts to organize imperialist war-jingoism.

The questions of wage, democratic rights, access to info., participation in all areas of planning and decision-making are political questions; and political questions are to be resolved with political struggles, not with adventurism, anarchism and terrorism. It shouldn’t be forgotten that adventurism, anarchism and terrorism are ultimately capitals’ ally, serve capital, serve powers of exploiting class dominance. Today’s May Day reminds the working classes to organize these political struggles for rights and wages.

This May Day reminds not to forget class struggle. The working classes have to intensify class struggle, and sharpen tools of class struggle, wherever possible – organize strikes, stoppages, mobilizations, publicity and press, discussions. Intensifying class struggle with the gathering cloud of continents-wide imperialist war in the background is a difficult and complex task; but, there’s no scope to forget and ignore this task; there’s no scope to ignore the dominating warring classes cheating and blooding peoples in countries.

Immortal martyrs of May, martyrs from the ranks of the working classes, martyrs from the people’s camp remain alive forever with these struggles against capital, against imperialist capital, against exploitation.

The post May Day 2022: Oppose Imperialist Militarism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

On Ukraine, The World Majority Sides With Russia Over U.S.

2014 saw two pivotal events that led to the current conflict in Ukraine.

The first, familiar to all, was the coup in Ukraine in which a democratically elected government was overthrown at the direction of the United States and with the assistance of neo-Nazi elements which Ukraine has long harbored.

Shortly thereafter the first shots in the present war were fired on the Russian-sympathetic Donbass region by the newly installed Ukrainian government.  The shelling of the Donbass which claimed 14,000 lives, has continued for 8 years, despite attempts at a cease-fire under the Minsk accords which Russia, France and Germany agreed upon but Ukraine backed by the US refused to implement.  On February 24, 2022, Russia finally responded to the slaughter in Donbass and the threat of NATO on its doorstep.

Russia Turns to the East – China Provides an Alternative Economic Powerhouse

The second pivotal event of 2014 was less noticed and, in fact, rarely mentioned in the Western mainstream media.  In November of that year according to the IMF, China’s GDP surpassed that of the U.S. in purchasing power parity terms (PPP GDP).  (This measure of GDP is calculated and published by the IMF, World Bank and even the CIA.  Students of international relations like economics Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, Graham Allison and many others consider this metric the best measure of a nation’s comparative economic power.)   One person who took note and who often mentions China’s standing in the PPP-GDP ranking is none other than Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

From one point of view, the Russian action in Ukraine represents a decisive turn away from the hostile West to the more dynamic East and the Global South.  This follows decades of importuning the West for a peaceful relationship since the Cold War’s end.  As Russia makes its Pivot to the East, it is doing its best to ensure that its Western border with Ukraine is secured.

Following the Russian action in Ukraine, the inevitable U.S. sanctions poured onto Russia.  China refused to join them and refused to condemn Russia.  This was no surprise; after all Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China had been drawing ever closer for years, most notably with trade denominated in ruble-renminbi exchange, thus moving toward independence from the West’s dollar dominated trade regime.

The World Majority Refuses to Back U.S. Sanctions

But then a big surprise. India joined China in refusing to honor the US sanctions regime.  And India kept to its resolve despite enormous pressure including calls from Biden to Modi and a train of high level US, UK and EU officials trekking off to India to bully, threaten and otherwise attempting to intimidate India.  India would face “consequences,” the tired US threat went up.  India did not budge.

India’s close military and diplomatic ties with Russia were forged during the anti-colonial struggles of the Soviet era.  India’s economic interests in Russian exports could not be countermanded by U.S. threats.  India and Russia are now working on trade via ruble-rupee exchange.  In fact, Russia has turned out to be a factor that put India and China on the same side, pursuing their own interests and independence in the face of U.S. diktat.  Moreover with trade in ruble-renminbi exchange already a reality and with ruble-rupee exchange in the offing, are we about to witness a Renminbi-Ruble-Rupee world of trade – a “3R” alternative to the Dollar-Euro monopoly?  Is the world’s second most important political relationship, that between India and China, about to take a more peaceful direction?  What’s the world’s first most important relationship?

India is but one example of the shift in power.  Out of 195 countries, only 30 have honored the US sanctions on Russia.  That means about 165 countries in the world have refused to join the sanctions.   Those countries represent by far the majority of the world’s population.  Most of Africa, Latin America (including Mexico and Brazil), East Asia (excepting Japan, South Korea, both occupied by U.S. troops and hence not sovereign, Singapore and the renegade Chinese Province of Taiwan) have refused.  (India and China alone represent 35% of humanity.)

Add to that fact that 40 different countries are now the targets of US sanctions and there is a powerful constituency to oppose the thuggish economic tactics of the U.S.

Finally, at the recent G-20 Summit a walkout led by the US when the Russia delegate spoke was joined by the representatives of only 3 other G-20 countries, with 80% of these leading financial nations refusing to join!  Similarly, a US attempt to bar a Russian delegate from a G-20 meeting later in the year in Bali was rebuffed by Indonesia which currently holds the G-20 Presidency.

Nations Taking Russia’s side are no longer poor as in Cold War 1.0.

These dissenting countries of the Global South are no longer as poor as they were during the Cold War.  Of the top 10 countries in PPP-GDP, 5 do not support the sanctions.  And these include China (number one) and India (number 3).  So the first and third most powerful economies stand against the US on this matter.  (Russia is number 6 on that list about equal to Germany, number 5, the two being close to equal, belying the idea that Russia’s economy is negligible.)

These stands are vastly more significant than any UN vote.  Such votes can be coerced by a great power and little attention is paid to them in the world.  But the economic interests of a nation and its view of the main danger in the world are important determinants of how it reacts economically – for example, to sanctions. A “no” to US sanctions is putting one’s money where one’s mouth is.

We in the West hear that Russia is “isolated in the world” as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.  If one is speaking about the Eurovassal states and the Anglosphere, that is true.  But considering humanity as a whole and among the rising economies of the world, it is the US that stands isolated.  And even in Europe, cracks are emerging.  Hungary and Serbia have not joined the sanctions regime and, of course, most European countries will not and indeed cannot turn away from Russian energy imports crucial to their economies.  It appears that the grand scheme of U.S. global hegemony to be brought about by the US move to WWII Redux, both Cold and Hot, has hit a mighty snag.

For those who look forward to a multipolar world, this is a welcome turn of events emerging out of the cruel tragedy of the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine.  The possibility of a saner, more prosperous multipolar world lies ahead – if we can get there.

The post On Ukraine, The World Majority Sides With Russia Over U.S. first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Letters From Moscow Across the Class Divide

What follows is a series of emails from a comrade, HCE. He is a Russian citizen and has lived and worked in Moscow for many years. He is a Marxist-Leninist. The questions we asked him are in bold.

Dear Bruce:

Thank you for your email and interest. The subjects that you have mentioned in your questions have been in my thoughts for some time. I will try to answer them in a straightforward manner and keep things as transparent as possible. Once again, I would like to state that these are just my opinions and impressions with no pretenses whatsoever. Some of the questions remind me of my youth when I was just 15 years old and full of romantic ideas about the world revolution, of fighting on the barricades with a red flag in my hands. Then I started organizing in a working-class district and I was presented with nearly some of the same questions that you have posed. I began to understand that the revolution was about understanding many things, including nationalism and sports.

How has each of the four classes (upper, upper-middle, middle, and working class) been affected by the departure of Yankee businesses (McDonalds, Pepsi, auto, and gas companies)?

According to my knowledge, a number of the fast-food companies, although following the official US line, have left some room for maneuvering. For example, McDonalds left a two months’ salary for their employees, leaving some bridges intact. The loss of jobs in places like these would affect the working class. The shelves in supermarkets are still loaded with Coca Cola and Pepsi. But even before events in Ukraine, US fast-food has a strong competitor in the local grill in Mid East fashion. The main criteria are quality versus price and how quick you can get it and head for the job or auditorium.

There would be serious implications in the closing of plants that are involved in big projects like the auto industry, which would lead to loss of jobs for the whole spectrum, from the working class till the upper-middle class. But as far as I know the US does not have such projects in Russia. American cars are not popular in Moscow. You may see a pickup now and then. Otherwise it is Korean, Japanese, French, and German cars that dominate beside Russian cars. For the French car company Renault, their sales in Russia are second only to their French market.

All that being said, what is critical is THE OIL AND GAS companies. This is where things get murky. Let us use as an example a US oil company that owns shares in a big oil project. They may declare that they will follow sanctions, then come back the next day and declare that this concerns the operational side only. I am sure that many Americans will be surprised if they start digging to find out who are the shareholders of a significant number of Russian oil and gas companies. In my opinion the oil industry is so intricate, there are so many loopholes in contracts and legal issues that I think the sanction process will proceed slowly. This is where all the classes and the state will be affected. Please note that according to the laws of the Russian Federation, foreign companies can sell their shares only after obtaining the approval of the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation.

How have the sanctions from the US affected the everyday life of each class?

At the present, it is hard for the average Muscovite to notice any change in the daily routine of his life. The cost for food, his apartment and bills for electricity, water, internet are the same. Prices are maybe slightly higher. This is also true for clothes. The upper classes may yearn for foreign foodstuffs, and their holidays in Europe and buying their clothes from Milan and Paris, but the average Muscovite is satisfied with spending his holidays in Russia, Crimea, Turkey, and Egypt.

However, being an old hand at sanctions I know how demoralizing they can be in the long run, when the struggle for survival leaves no room for anything else. My heart goes out to all the Russian people, especially the elderly. They have suffered and been through so much. Now at last, when they should have some peace, they have to worry about every ruble of their modest pension.

Russia of course is not Iraq or Syria; it is a self-sufficient country, and in spite of sanctions, embargoes, and Russo-phobia it will not budge. There is a certain inherent flaw in the Western attitude towards Russia and Russians that I always warn westerners about; never, ever underestimate the Russians. You do this at your own peril.

My latest impression about these sanctions is that the Western governments (US, EU, Canada, Australia) are running around burning every bridge and closing the smallest door (private companies are sometimes reluctant to follow their lead) thereby creating a superficial situation that ignores the reality. It is the reality that you cannot isolate a country that possesses the largest landmass and vital raw materials and is capable of full self-sufficiency.

To sum up briefly: on a personal level the first to be hit in later stages will be the working and middle class, pensioners, and students on their own. The upper and upper-middle class may lose some of their luxuries, but I do not see them having any difficulties at all.

To what extent is there a housing crisis in Russia in terms of the cost of rent and/or the cost of buying a home?

I have to begin with a statement that seems far from rent. It has to do with the collective memory of the Russian people. They are aware that during Soviet times, the state provided an apartment after you had worked at the plant, factory, research institute …etc. for three years. Education was free, so was health care. So, in spite of switching to another system, the people have this residual memory in their mind that takes the service of the state for granted.

I do not think that there is a housing crisis in Russia. There is also something here that is rarely found in the West – namely that members of a family are willing to move over and let their children or grandchildren live with them. Grandmothers and even grandfathers are an institution in Russia. They consider it is part of their duty to take care of babies and toddlers while their parents’ work.

We have to be very specific when discussing housing and rent. Thus, we will be talking about Moscow, where salaries and rents are high. The majority of the city population live in apartments. The prices of these apartments steeply increase as you head from the outskirts to the center of the city. The price depends on the quality and area of the apartment. However, the Soviet planning of huge living complexes that include living quarters, kindergartens, schools, supermarkets. that surround the old Moscow remains in place.

What is characteristic of modern times is that large areas of industrial plants located in Moscow were closed down after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The construction companies took over the land for pennies and built living quarters and business centers in their place.

Average Rent Prices – 1USD = 75.88 rubles, as per April16/2022 for a one-room apartment is as follows.

–  “Old Moscow” around the center of the city is 111,695 rubles per month. This translates as $1,472 dollars per month.

– Middle area between Old Moscow and the outskirts is 33,024 rubles per month. This translates as $435 dollars per month.

– Outskirts 24863 rubles per month. The translation to dollars is $328 per month.

Statistics from the following reference (in Russian). https://www.mirkvartir.ru/journal/analytics/2020/02/13/rejting-rajonov-moskvy-po-stoimosti-arendy-kvartir/

(Editor’s note: average rent for a studio apartment in New York City is $3,237.)

Homes within the Moscow administrative borders are a luxury that only the super-rich of the upper class can afford. However, when moving out of this Moscow administrative circle, there are closed blocks of homes for the rich of the upper classes. When moving further away from the center we get into an area of mingled upper-class, middle-class homes as well as temporary dachas (summer houses). These were built by working class and middle-class people who got their land as a grant from the state during the Soviet period.

How much is homelessness a problem in Russia. Are the homeless concentrated in certain parts of the city? Are there enough places to house them?

Dear Bruce, since I am writing about Moscow and have lived here for many years I will continue to do so and will not generalize for a huge country. According to the official statistics of the Moscow Department of Labor and Social Protection, the number of homeless in Moscow is around 14,000. Bear in mind that Moscow’s population is 12,641,000 as of 2022. I have not seen any concentration of homeless in any parts of the city. In a megapolis like Moscow you can go on with your business for weeks without meeting a homeless person. You may find some homeless persons loitering near churches especially on Sundays or religious holidays.  Otherwise, it is not common. I found that there are 34 lodging centers for the homeless in Moscow itself and 38 in Moscow district.

(Editor’s note – New York City has a population of 18,823,000 with five municipal shelter systems for 48,413 people experiencing homelessness.)

Kindly find a link below, there is a table in detail describing each lodging center, its telephone number and the services provided, including food and medicine. Unfortunately for non-Russian speakers, the statistics are in Russian.

https://upch.mosreg.ru/deyatelnost/pravovoe-prosveshchenie/24-01-2021-20-23-06-spisok-adresov-uchrezhdeniy-v-moskve-i-moskovskoy

What kind of sports are the different classes interested in? Are there professional teams that people follow?

To end this letter, I have picked this question so as not to be too officious and stuffy and I admit the question is near to my heart.

Dear Bruce, I remember that in a number of your articles you raised the subject of how the left has not evaluated sports properly, thereby losing what could have been a strong weapon in their hands.

The sports that are popular in Russia are:

  • Soccer
  • Ice Hockey
  • Skiing and biathlon
  • Figure Skating
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial Arts, Boxing
  • Tennis
  • Bandy
  • Track and Field (athletics)

The interest in a definite sport or sports is not only according to class. That would be too simplistic. There is also gender, nationality, and the preferences of those in power. There are professional leagues in soccer, ice hockey, basketball, volleyball, handball, and other sports. There are all the attributes that go with professional sports: big money, corruption, fan clubs, and politics. Anything that you see in US professional sports has its twin in Russia. There are differences in preferences between Russians and Americans. For example, the Biathlon in Russia has a big following and you see people glued to the TV when it is on. I don’t think this is the case in the US. This is also true for skiing. During the long winter season you can see hundreds of Muscovites skiing, and there are, of course, professionals and semiprofessionals.

All classes follow soccer, but it is followed by more of the working class. There are clubs with a long history and there is very big money and political prestige at stake. In spite of this the Russian national team is below average, and the Russians throw their hands up in despair when the national team is mentioned. All that is unattractive to soccer fans all over the world is present in Russia, too. There are quite a few foreign players playing for Russian clubs, mostly mediocre, no superstars.

There is a different attitude towards ice hockey. The Russians take it as a personal tweaking of their nose if their national team loses because there is a lot of talent all over the country. It is also followed by all classes as far as I can tell. There is a professional league and it has support from sponsors and the government.

Figure skating is very popular, especially with the Russian ladies, and the skaters are household names. There is a strong movement against the domination of Russian girls. Methods are not always honest. The majority of Russian ladies from all classes are followers of the sport. I sometimes think that there isn’t a single Russian mom who hasn’t taken her daughter to a figure skating or rhythmic gymnastics coach when she was just 5 years old.

Basketball is especially popular with the middle class. There is a professional league with decent local players and quite a lot of foreign players, including African-Americans (this was before the sanctions). The African-Americans left a good impression as players and people. I watched them on TV and even went to the stadium twice. The sanctions will affect the level of basketball since most of the foreigners will leave if they have not already left.

Volleyball is a national game. You see people of all ages playing volleyball throughout the tough winter season, even on snow. There are strong Russian women’s and men’s leagues, with good foreign players coming to play. They are followed by all classes and were very popular during the Soviet period.

Gymnastics is considered by Russians as their sport, everybody else is a newcomer. The Japanese were the first to arrive to the then Soviet Union in the 1950s with their cinema cameras to take films of the Russian gymnasts. All kinds of martial arts and all types of boxing are popular with the Russians, especially for the people from the Caucasus region, Chechen, and Dagestan. There is an upsurge in these sports because they are patronized by the president.

Tennis is a sport that is followed mainly by the middle class and upper-middle class. The tournaments in Russia are not popular with top players. I cannot recall if any of them have ever visited Russia. The prize money probably is not tempting nor are the points for rating. People watch on TV the ATP and WTA games as well as the grand slams. The sport is very cosmopolitan. Probably the only time when tennis players gather as a national team is the Davis Cup and the Olympics.

Bandy is played in Russia and the Scandinavian countries. It used to be much more popular during Soviet times. There is a professional league, and its followers are mainly working and middle class. (Editor’s note – Bandy is a game similar to ice hockey.)

Track and field in Russia has been virtually isolated and demonized since some 5 years ago. I think it is important that I mention the war waged against Russian athletes by Western sport bureaucrats, the media, all the doping agencies, the Olympics authorities, and federations of various kinds of sports. This is especially true for the track and field federations. This tendency became much worse after the conflict in Ukraine. These organizations have virtually isolated Russian sports, and the way they treat a tennis or hockey player by demanding from them that they denounce their country is truly shameful.

I am sure that an American reader may wonder, “what about baseball and American football”, the two most popular games in the US? It was only in recent years that I found out that there is the American Football League. I confess that I am a fan of this game and I follow the NFL on TV. A couple of years ago I was wearing a baseball cap of my favorite team, The Seattle Seahawks. I was in the supermarket in the cashier que, and there was this huge guy staring at me. I tried to be friendly and smiled. He smiled back and pointed to my baseball cap. I asked him if he liked it, and he replied that he had one like it and that he was a fan of the Seattle Seahawks, too. I found out then about the Russian League and that he had played as a linesman when younger (he was about 40 years old). Of course, we started talking about the NFL, the woes of the Seattle Seahawks, and we became acquaintances.

Just imagine, me – a person of Middle East origin – and this Russian guy talking about the NFL in Russian together in Moscow! This is the strength of sports! And it should be utilized to bring people together, in spite of all of us being well aware that capitalism corrupts sports to the core.

With affection and respect,

HCE

First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Letters From Moscow Across the Class Divide first appeared on Dissident Voice.

This Is Not the Age of Certainty

Henry Moore (Britain), Grey Tube Shelter, 1940.

Henry Moore (Britain), Grey Tube Shelter, 1940.

It is hard to fathom the depths of our time, the terrible wars, and the confounding information that whizzes by without much wisdom. Certainties that flood the airwaves and the internet are easy to come by, but are they derived from an honest assessment of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russian banks (part of a broader United States sanctions policy that now afflicts approximately thirty countries)? Do they acknowledge the horrific reality of hunger that has increased due to this war and the sanctions? It appears that much of the ‘certainties’ are caught up in the ‘Cold War mentality’, which views humanity as irreversibly divided on two opposing sides. However, this is not the case; most countries are struggling to craft a non-aligned approach to the US-imposed ‘new Cold War’. Russia’s conflict with Ukraine is a symptom of broader geopolitical battles that have been waged over decades.

On 26 March, US President Joe Biden defined some certainties from his perspective at the Royal Castle in Warsaw (Poland), calling the war in Ukraine ‘a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force’. These binaries are wholly a fantasy of the White House, whose attitude towards ‘rules-based order’ is not rooted in the UN Charter but in ‘rules’ that the US pronounces. Biden’s antinomies culminated in one policy objective: ‘For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power’, he said, meaning Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The narrowness of Biden’s approach to the conflict in Ukraine has led to a public call for regime change in Russia, a country of 146 million people whose government possesses 6,255 nuclear warheads. With the US’s violent history of controlling leadership in several countries, reckless statements about regime change cannot go unanswered. They must be universally contested.

Juss Piho (Estonia), Journey, 2009.

The principal axis of Russia’s war is not actually Ukraine, though it bears the brunt of it today. It is whether Europe can be permitted to forge projects independently of the US and its North Atlantic agenda. Between the fall of the USSR (1991) and the world financial crisis (2007–08), Russia, the new post-Soviet republics (including Ukraine), and other Eastern European states sought to integrate into the European system, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Russia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace process in 1994, and seven Eastern European countries (including Estonia and Latvia that border Russia) joined NATO in 2004. During the global financial crisis, it became evident that integration into the European project would not be fully possible because of vulnerabilities in Europe.

At the Munich Security Conference in February 2007, President Vladimir Putin challenged the US’s attempt to create a unipolar world. ‘What is a unipolar world?’, Putin asked. ‘No matter how we beautify this term, it means one single centre of power, one single centre of force, and one single master’. Referring to US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 (which he had criticised at that time) and the US’s illegal Iraq War in 2003, Putin said, ‘Nobody feels secure anymore because nobody can hide behind international law’. Later, at the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest (Romania), Putin warned about the dangers of NATO’s eastward expansion, lobbying against the entry of Georgia and Ukraine into the military alliance. The next year, Russia partnered with Brazil, China, India, and South Africa to form the BRICS bloc as an alternative to Western-driven globalisation.

Yang Fudong (China), Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, Part IV, 2006.

For generations, Europe has relied on imports of natural gas and crude oil first from the USSR and then from Russia. This dependence on Russia has increased as European countries have sought to end their use of coal and nuclear energy. At the same time, Poland (2015) and Italy (2019) signed onto the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Between 2012 and 2019, the Chinese government also formed the 17+1 Initiative, linking seventeen central and Eastern European countries in the BRI project. The integration of Europe into Eurasia opened the door for its foreign policy independence. But this was not permitted. The entire ‘global NATO’ feint – articulated in 2008 by NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer – was part of preventing this development.

Fearful of the great changes occurring in Eurasia, the US acted on commercial and diplomatic/military fronts. Commercially, the US tried to substitute European reliance on Russian natural gas by promising to supply Europe with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from both US suppliers and Gulf Arab states. Since LNG is far more expensive than piped gas, this was not an enticing commercial deal. Challenges to Chinese advancements in high-tech solutions – particularly in telecommunications, robotics, and green energy – could not be sustained by Silicon Valley firms, so the US escalated two other instruments of force: first, the use of War on Terror rhetoric to ban Chinese firms (claiming security and privacy considerations) and second, diplomatic and military manoeuvres to challenge Russia’s sense of stability.

Sadamasa Motonaga (Japan), Red and Yellow, 1963.

The US’s strategy was not entirely successful. European countries could see that there was no effective substitute for both Russian energy and Chinese investment. Banning Huawei’s telecommunications tools and preventing NordStream 2 from certification would only hurt the European people. This was clear. But what was not so clear was that the US concurrently began to dismantle the architecture that held in place confidence that no country would begin a nuclear war. In 2002, the US unilaterally abandoned the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and, in 2018–19, they left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. European countries played a key role in establishing the INF Treaty in 1987 through the ‘nuclear freeze’ movement, but the abandonment of the treaty in 2018–19 was met with relative silence from Europeans. In 2018, US National Security Strategy shifted from its focus on the Global War on Terror to the prevention of the ‘re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition’ from ‘near-peer rivals’ such as China and Russia. At the same time, European countries began to carry out ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises through NATO in the Baltic Sea, the Arctic Sea, and South China Sea, sending threatening messages to China and Russia. These moves effectively brought China and Russia very close together.

Russia indicated on several occasions that it was aware of these tactics and would defend its borders and its region with force. When the US intervened in Syria in 2012 and Ukraine in 2014, these moves threatened Russia with the loss of its two main warm water ports (in Latakia, Syria and Sebastopol, Crimea), which is why Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and intervened militarily in Syria in 2015. These actions suggested that Russia would continue to use its military to protect what it sees as its national interests. Ukraine then shut down the North Crimean canal that brought the peninsula 85% of its water, forcing Russia to supply the region with water over the Kerch Strait Bridge, built at enormous cost between 2016 and 2019. Russia did not need ‘security guarantees’ from Ukraine, or even from NATO, but it sought them from the United States. There was fear in Moscow that the US would place intermediate range nuclear missiles around Russia.

Evgeny Trotsky (Russia), Rest, 2016.

In light of this recent history, contradictions rattle the responses of Germany, Japan, and India, amongst others. Each of these countries needs Russian natural gas and crude oil. Both Germany and Japan have sanctioned Russian banks, but neither German Chancellor Olaf Scholz nor Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida can cut energy imports. India, despite being part of the US-backed Quad along with Japan, has refused to join the condemnation of Russia and the sanctions on its banking sector. These countries have to manage the contradictions of our time and weigh up the uncertainties. No state should accept the so-called ‘certainties’ that reinforce Cold War dynamics, nor should they neglect the dangerous outcomes of externally influenced regime change and chaos.

It is always a good idea to reflect on the quiet charm of the poems of Tōge Sankichi, who watched the atomic bomb fall on his native Hiroshima in 1945, and then later joined the Japanese Communist Party to fight for peace. In his ‘Call to Action’, Sankichi wrote:

stretch out those grotesque arms
to the many similar arms
and, if it seems like that flash might fall again,
hold up the accursed sun:
even now it is not too late.

The post This Is Not the Age of Certainty first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fabricating Putin Quotes and Banning Paraplegic Athletes to Undermine Russia

Mobilizing a population to vilify and hate a targeted enemy is a tactic that leaders have used since before the dawn of human history, and it is being used to demonize Russia and Vladimir Putin in the current conflict. If we want to join the march to war, we can join the hate fest.  But if we want a more objective and honest assessment of events, we must rely upon facts that our government and its cheer-leading mainstream media are not anxious for us to view.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,  all things Russian are being punished. Russian athletes, including paraplegics, are barred from international sports competition. Century old Russian writers and musicians such as Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky are being removed from book shelves and concerts. Even Russian bred cats are not exempt.

If such actions are justified, why was there no such banning of US athletes, musicians or writers after the US invasion of Iraq?  Moreover, why are so few people outraged by the bombing and killing of 370,000 Yemeni people?  Why are so few people outraged as thousands of Afghans starve because the United States is seizing Afghanistan’s national assets which were in western banks?

Why Ukraine?

There has been massive and widespread publicity about Ukraine. It is a simple Hollywood script:  Ukraine is the angel, Russia is the devil, Zelensky is the hero and all good people will wear blue and yellow ribbons.

Maintaining this image requires propaganda to promote it, and censorship to prevent challengers debunking it.

This has required trashing some long held western traditions. By banning all Russian athletes from international competition, the International Olympic Committee and different athletic federations have violated the Olympic Charter which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality.

Censorship

The West prides itself on free speech yet censorship of alternative viewpoints is now widespread in Europe and North America.  Russia Today and other Russian media outlets are being blocked on the internet as well as cable TV.  Ironically,  numerous programs on RT were hosted by Americans, for example journalist Chris Hedges and comedian Lee Camp.  The US is silencing its own citizens.

Censorship or shadow banning is widespread on social media. On April 6, one of the best informed military analysts, Scott Ritter @realScottRitter, was suspended from Twitter. Why?  Because he  suggested that the victims of Bucha may have been murdered not by Russians, but rather by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and the US and UK may also be culpable.

The 2015 Netflix documentary titled “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” deals with the Maidan (Kiev central square) uprising of 2013-2014.  It ignores the most essential elements of the events: the management provided by the US  and the muscle provided by ultra-nationalists of the Right Sector and Azov Battalion. The attacks and killing of Ukrainian police are whitewashed away.

By contrast, the 2016 documentary “Ukraine on Fire provides the background and essential elements of the conflict.  It is not available on Netflix and was banned from distribution on YouTube for some time.

Most people in the West are unaware of the US involvement in the 2014 Kiev coup, subsequent US funding and training of ultra-nationalist and Neo Nazi battalions, and the eight year war in eastern Ukraine resulting in fourteen thousand deaths.

Sensational Accusations

Backed by US and UK intelligence agencies, Ukraine knows the importance of the information war. They make sensational accusations that receive uncritical media coverage. When the truth eventually comes out, it is ignored or buried on the back pages. Here are a few examples:

– In 2014,  eleven civilians were killed in eastern Ukraine when an apartment was hit in rebel held territory.  Ukraine tried to blame Russia even though no bombs were coming from Russia and the population is ethnically Russian.

– At the beginning of the current conflict, Ukrainian President Zelensky claimed that soldiers on Snake Island died heroically rather than surrender. Actually, all the soldiers surrendered.

– Ukraine and western media claim a maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed by Russia. Evidence shows the hospital was taken over by Ukrainian military forces on March 7, two days before the bombing on March 9.

– The latest sensational accusations are regarding dead civilians in Bucha,  north of Kiev. Again, there is much contrary evidence. The Russian soldiers left Bucha on March 31, the mayor of Bucha announced the town liberated with no mention of atrocities on March 31, the Azov battalion entered Bucha on April 1,  the Ukrainian Defense Ministry published video of  “Russian” atrocities on April 3.

In most cases, western media does not probe the accusations or use simple logic to ask if they make sense.  However, in the case of Bucha story, the NY Times had to acknowledge they were “unable to independently verify the assertions by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.”

Self Censorship

In addition to actual censorship, there is widespread self-censorship. Instead of reading what the Russians are saying, western political “analysts” engage in outlandish amateur psychology and speculation. With no factual basis, they speculate about what Putin wants and his mental state.

This is convenient if one does not want to deal with the real issues and arguments.

Most western analysts and journalists are afraid or unwilling to read or listen to what the Russian leaders say. That is unfortunate because those speeches are more clear and direct than those from western politicians who rely on public relations, spin and platitudes.

Fabricating quotes

Ignorance of Russian foreign policy is such that Truthout online magazine recently published an article which contains a sensational but completely invented quote from Putin. It says,

Putin here is clear enough: “Ukraine has no national rights that Russians are bound to respect. Prepare for reunification, reabsorption, or some other euphemism for subaltern status with Mother Russia.”

Putin said no such thing and any moderately knowledgeable person would recognize this to be fake.

When I emailed the co-author, Carl Davidson, asking where the quotation came from, he admitted inventing it. This is significant because the statement goes to the core of what the conflict is about. Is Russia trying to absorb all of Ukraine? Do they intend to occupy Ukraine?  Anyone who reads the speeches of Putin and Lavrov, such as here, here and here,  knows they do not. Davidson’s fabricated quote suggests he has not read the speeches himself.

Ukraine in the Global Context

The article with the made-up quote contends that “Putin is part of a global right-wing authoritarian movements that seeks to ‘overthrow’ the 20th Century.” This analysis is close to that of the US Democratic Party, which sees the major global division being between “authoritarianism” vs “democracy”.

It is highly US-centered and partisan, with Putin somehow lumped with Trump. It  is also self-serving, with US Democrats as the embodiment of “democracy”.  It is completely contrary to a class analysis.

This faulty analysis has major contradictions. It is well known that Biden is unpopular. Biden’s latest approval rating is under 42%. It is less well known in the West that Putin is popular in Russia. Since the intervention in Ukraine his approval rating has increased to over 80%.

Also largely unknown in the West, most of the world does NOT support the Western analysis of the Ukraine conflict.  Countries representing 59% of the global population abstained or voted against the condemnation of Russia at the UN General Assembly. These countries tend to see US exceptionalism and economic-military domination as a key problem. They do not think it helpful to demonize Russia and they urge negotiations and quick resolution to the Ukraine war.

Cuba said:

History will hold the United States accountable for the consequences of an increasingly offensive military doctrine beyond NATO’s borders which threatens international peace, security and stability…. Russia has the right to defend itself.

South African President Ramaphosa blamed NATO saying:

The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region.

The Chinese representative said:

The final settlement of the Ukraine crisis requires abandoning the Cold War mentality, abandoning the logic of ensuring one’s own security at the expense of others’ security, and abandoning the approach of seeking regional security by expanding military bloc.

Many western anti-war movements are critical of Russia’s invasion. Others, such as the US Peace Council, see the US and NATO as largely responsible. However, they all see the necessity of pressing to stop the war before it gets worse.

In contrast, the western military-industrial-media complex is fueling the war with propaganda, censorship, banning, demonization and more weapons. It appears they do not want a resolution to the conflict. Just as they supported NATO pushing up against Russia, knowing that it risked provoking Russia to the point of retaliation, they seem to be pushing for a protracted bloody conflict in Ukraine, knowing that it risks global conflagration.  Yet they persist, while crying crocodile tears.

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An antidote to the “Split” in the US Peace Movement: Anti-interventionism

Massachusetts Peace Action, a venerable part of the US Peace Movement, has been around since the 1980s and its predecessors date back to the 1950s.  Its voice is heeded and it represents most of the shared opinions of the liberal and progressive US peace movement.

A recent piece by its Assistant Director, Brian Garvey,  provides an astute analysis of the ideological differences in the progressive part of the US peace movement and properly criticizes its inability to unite around a common program.  He asks the two crucial questions:

“What do we do now? and

“How do we make a difference?”

“Making a difference” to end the war is crucial.  We in the US peace effort want to be effective. If what we do makes no difference, then we might as well watch TV, go for a walk in the woods or just stay in bed for the day.  In asking what is to be done, we must ask what is effective.  And below I consider the matter in terms of effectiveness.

To get to an answer to his two questions, Garvey divides the movement into three ideological groups.  His categorization is revealing:

“First, is the group that places all blame on Russia for the war in Ukraine..”

“Second, is a group that refuses to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“The third group is a blend of the first two. It condemns Russia’s invasion… but it admits that NATO expansion set the stage.”

To Be Effective the US Peace Movement Must Focus on the US

Tellingly, it is all about Russia!  Does it make sense for the US peace movement to be so concerned about what Russia does or fails to do?  Remember, as Garvey points out quite correctly – that the goal of the peace movement is to “make a difference.”  Do we imagine that what we say or do will “make a difference” in the inner circles of the Russian administration or Duma (parliament)?  Or have an effect on Russian elections?

On the other hand, the politicians in the US are very, very concerned about what we may think – our words do have an effect, albeit limited one.  That is the reason the US has no draft. So to “make a difference,” we ought to focus on what the United States can do now to end the war.  It seems evident that we should call on Biden to stop sending arms, materiel and “advisors” to Ukraine.  Today, now – first and foremost.  That should be at the top of our list of goals.

Some would say that the Ukraine is a proxy in a fight between the US and Russia, with the US calling on Ukrainians to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.  In my view (full disclosure) that is absolutely correct, the goal being to set Europe against Russia to the benefit of the US.  But it does not matter whether one agrees with that view or not.  If above all else we want to stop the death and destruction of Ukrainians and Russians, if we want to be effective at ending the bloodshed ASAP, then we should work to stop the US from fueling the fire and prolonging the war with arms and advisors.

In short, stop sending US arms, materiel and advisors to Ukraine and its neighbors – NOW.

The same can be said of the US sanctions which fall most heavily on the Global South, threatening not only its energy supply but also food with expected widespread starvation to follow.  Since these sanctions have the greatest impact on the people of color in the world, it is not a stretch to say they are racist.

In short, stop the racist US sanctions -NOW.

Stop the Russia Bashing

Moreover, keeping the focus on Russia takes the focus off the US and allows it to escape whatever responsibility it has for the war – and it is a rare bird in the peace community that feels the US bears no responsibility.  The focus on Russia, including the McCarthyite insistence that everyone denounce Russia, beefs up the narrative that makes the war possible.  This focus is in and of itself a great victory for the propagandists of war!

That leads us to the question of “condemning” Russia for the war.  Wherever one might fall in the debate, what effect does this Russia bashing have?  In terms of “making a difference” and mindful again of the fact that it is only the US not the Russians that hears us, what sort of a difference does the condemnation of Russia have?  Clearly it feeds the pro-war narrative and builds more support for the war.  We do not have to take the Russian side to call for an end to the Russia bashing, and such a call should be acceptable to all those who favor peace.

In short, stop the Russia Bashing – NOW.

Forget about Russia and a basis for unity emerges – anti-interventionism

The calls above are not only calls for effective action.  They are calls everyone who wishes for peace can agree on -including those who fall outside the liberal/progressive camp like the Ron Paul Republicans or the Pat Buchanan traditional conservatives or paleo-conservatives.

 Among these calls there is no call for diplomacy, negotiations or cease fires although I agree with those suggestions.  Everyone agrees on that– with the possible exception of the Biden administration and the hawks in Congress.  The Zelensky government and the Russian government are, in fact, negotiating.

And what those two governments come up with is their business not ours.  For us to make suggestions to those two governments betrays a bit of hubris, even exceptionalism, that those of us living in the heart of the US Empire must watch out for.  It permeates everything here.  We are not gods pulling levers to run the world.

Once upon a time anti-interventionism, especially important for peace advocates living in the heart of the hegemonic US Empire, was a point of principle for all those who consider themselves progressives in the US.  Sadly, that is no longer the case. Let’s hope that the war in Ukraine will arouse a passion for it once again.

The post An antidote to the “Split” in the US Peace Movement: Anti-interventionism first appeared on Dissident Voice.