Category Archives: Vladimir Putin

Putin and Russia, the World’s “Heartland”

Russia has always fascinated me–the mystical orthodox faith brought to Kievan Rus in the ninth century, the stern heroes who defended Muscovy against the Golden Horde in the 13–15th centuries,  the vast spaces, the remarkable literature of Pushkin and Tolstoy, the Bolshevik Revolution against imperialism … The West has always been a bit jealous of its proud race of genius.

I fell in love with Russia as a teen when I discovered Sergei Prokofiev and insisted–rebelling against my teacher–on playing his fiendishly difficult Toccata in D minor for my Conservatory diploma. I have no idea how I managed it now, but I did, and the piece and my performance proved to be a fine metaphor for the logical impossibility of 20th century Russia, which lived on war and revolution, dreams and nightmares. Prokofieff returned to Russia in 1933, at the peak of Stalin’s repressions, and produced his greatest works, “Romeo and Juliet,” “Cinderella,” “War and Peace,” his war sonatas (not to mention his Ode to Stalin). That hooked me.

Today’s standoff between the Russian bear and the American eagle is yet another epic struggle in Russia’s history, at the heart of Eurasia–the world’s “heartland”. It had a narrow brush with complete collapse in 1985–98 under Gorbachev/Yeltsin, a weak, indecisive leadership, a metaphorical reenactment of Boris Godunov seizing the throne in the 16th century. 1985–98 was a repetition of Godunov and the legendary Time of Troubles.

1998 saw a reenactment of the rallying of the nation to expel the Polish occupiers and reassert Russian power in 1613, just as Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power ended the western invasion in the form of NATO encirclement and western carpetbaggers. That is most certainly how Russians now assess their crippled society.

Putin is despised in the West as a corrupt chauvinist, and Russia is boycotted (though Europe is happy to continue to buy Russian oil and gas), but the reality is very different. Just as in 1613, the first Romanov Tsar Mikihail was inexperienced (a 17-year-old  pious prince whose counselors were a mixed bag, some relatively honest and capable men like his father; some, corrupted and bigoted), Putin has fashioned an image of an incorruptible Russian patriot, above the fray, but all the time juggling with powerful oligarchs and complex political currents, both at home and abroad.

Western media is a barometer not so much for who is a ‘bad guy’, but who is getting the imperial goat; who needs being brought into line. So in the West, the Nobel peace laureate Gorbachev and Yeltsin were both slavishly praised (both are despised by Russians, rating 1% in popularity) and Putin is relentlessly pilloried. Who’s the ‘bad guy’ and why is he ‘bad’?

The American bully tries to taunt the Russian bear into doing something rash, as it moves NATO up to Russia’s borders, encircling it as it did in Cold War days, wooing and inciting noisy little neighbours from the Baltics to Georgia and further. But the Russian leader stands by his principles and his fellow Slavs, despite the provocations. The Time of Troubles is over. No one is going to destroy the Russian heartland, nor will they succeed in breaking up the ancient slavic federation into a chain of Walmarts.

1991 sea change

Whether Left or Right, all agree that the US was more cautious in foreign policy when the Soviet Union was alive and well. There have been lots of coups instigated or just abetted by Washington, but, other than Korea and Vietnam, very little use of US troops in the process–until 1991.

1991 marked a sea change in world politics. Bush senior, US president at the time, professed the goal to be “a new world order–a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations … an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the UN’s founders.”

The US and the EEC (newly incorporated as the European Union in 1993) would help the ex-socialist bloc, including the ex-Soviet Union and its energy-rich Central Asian republics, rebuild their economies and political structures along western capitalist, democratic lines, fashioning weak, “postmodern states”, independent in name only. This process began in Europe with the creation of the EU after WWII and accelerated in North America with the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, soon to be reinforced by the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, creating a monster ‘rimland’ American empire-lite, surrounding the Eurasian heartland.

Such alliances, with NATO under US guidance, are intended as the foundations for a united, peaceful world, a “postmodern imperialism”, devoid of messy competitive wars for colonies, neocolonies or the need for a life-or-death defense of ‘western civilization’. Russia was invited to join in the 1990s, but when it woke from its post-collapse hangover, it discovered that its dream of a nuclear free world had been pushed aside, and realized that the proposed peaceful postmodern imperial order was a sham. Events since have only confirmed this ‘sober’ assessment.

Bush senior hit the ground running, invading Iraq in January, without so much as a ‘by your leave’ to Soviet President Gorbachev (who merely approved, after an offer to mediate was ignored).

1991 was a doubly fateful year for Russians, who gained ‘freedom’, but most of whom lost everything after the August 1991 putsch, a few becoming fabulously wealthy overnight through blatant theft as the Soviet Union came crashing down. Mikhail Khodorkovsky epitomizes the change. A Young Communist League (YCL) functionary in the late 1980s, when no one was still joining, he and his ‘comrades’ opened businesses under the YCL stamp, positioned themselves to transfer them and YCL property to themselves as YCL functionaries, and then bought it for a song before their Soviet legal authority was canceled. At the same time, all state trade ground to a halt and the black market allowed them to add to their riches.

This happened in 1989–91, when Putin was languishing as a minor KGB agent in East Germany. By the time he returned to Leningrad, resigned from the KGB and got his political feet on the ground, the cupboard was bare. Khodorkovsky and his new ‘oligarch’ friends then used their new wealth to privatize the privatization process. By the time Putin was rising as Yeltsin’s protege, Yeltsin was conned into giving the crown jewels (resource industries) to the oligarchs in the infamous “loans-for-shares” deals, sending their wealth into the stratosphere.

Slaying the dragons

Russia is “no longer a superpower”. Its deteriorating economy is ranked “somewhere behind Spain”, White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced in October 2015. It doesn’t come near the Soviet Union in power and prestige. This taunt followed US scrambling of Russian military planes which were deemed a tad too close to a US aircraft carrier off the Korea peninsula, and US hysterics over Russian subs seen too near an internet cable in the Atlantic. How dare this second-rate Spain tweak the US nose?

Every day there is some gripe about the Russians. And don’t even mention the P word. Much like Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin is a strong, popular leader (83% approval) who dares defy the West, has been in power for over 15 years now (ok, as prime minister for a few years to requalify), accused of corruption.

To Russians, it seems he can do nothing wrong, despite defying the West on pretty well everything, from gay marriage to bare-faced western infiltration (excuse me, democracy promotion NGOs). Or perhaps it’s because of this. Russians strongly disapprove of US threats, and miss the feeling of being a key international player, which they enjoyed in Soviet times.

Western media loves to gossip about all political leaders, especially colourful ones who defy the empire. That puts Putin at the top of their list. Even a saint like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez got an unending stream of mud. The most damning attacks are on the corruption endemic in Russia after 1991. However, evidence of corruption points at most to Putin’s immediate circle, family and political friends, rather than Putin himself. His son-in-law Kiril Shamalov was already a rising star of Russian business when he married the president’s daughter Katerina in 2013, opening his own investment company and using his family contacts in business and banking (apparently all legit).

Putin’s own background and way of thinking is revealed in a collection of interviews with Putin, his family and friends called First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russian President Vladimir Putin (2000), a snapshot of the Putin family just as they entered the bubble of power and anonymity. His early career witnessed two scandalous, dysfunctional political families–that of his first post-KGB boss, St Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, and later that of Boris Yeltsin. Putin’s ex-wife and two daughters are kept out of the spotlight.

Putin is one of those rare politicians who arise at moments of crisis, intelligent and committed. He quickly took control of the post-Soviet shambles, brought some order to the chaos and instilled a sense of pride in a defeated people. His own fate and that of his country became one and guided what is still his greatest victory: bringing the Yelstin-era oligarchs into line. This he did carefully, going after media moguls Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Guzinsky in 2000, forcing them to sell their TV stations ORT and NRT, ironically dubbed “shares for freedom” transactions, after which they went into exile. Guzinsky sold his shares to fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich who promptly gave editorial control to the Kremlin.

Who really wants peace?

Fast forward to 2007. Munich. Putin criticized the US monopolistic dominance in global relations, and its “almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations.” The result: “No one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.”

2019: Putin is still number one to Russians, but losing ground because the economy is still a wreck and corruption is rife. He inherited a mess and the West has piled sanctions upon sanctions, interfered in Ukraine to keep the two great Slavic nations, Ukraine and Russia, apart, determined to turn all the ex-Soviet countries into postmodern basket cases, begging for scraps from the western banquet table.

But Russians and those of us in the West interested in boring things like peace are as firm as Putin is in supporting Russia’s principled policies around the world. His Munich speech gave ‘Munich’ a new meaning as a historical signpost.

In our age of instant media, this all seems like ancient history, but history often tells us more about today than the latest soundbyte out of the likes of Trump or BoJo. And cultural history even more so, revealing the swamp behind the glitz.

I just watched the first episode of Years and Years, a British television drama series, a joint production by the BBC and HBO. It is primer on not only our moral decline, but it portrays Russia, a possible corrective, is portrayed as even worse.

Businesswoman Vivienne “Viv” Rook (Emma Thompson) causes controversy by saying she “doesn’t give a fuck” about the Israel-Palestine conflict on an evening talk show. Daniel Lyons (Russell Tovey) works on immigration control and marries his ‘husband’ and then, when Trump launches an atom bomb on China, rushes to the refugee holding centre to have sex with a Ukrainian refugee Viktor, who complains that the now Russian-occupied Ukraine has made homosexuality illegal, as in Russia. (It is not!)

That in a nutshell is our monstrous distortion of world politics, with nasty Putin-Russia even more threatening than the Soviet Union was depicted. It is impossible to deconstruct the morass that BBC and its US equivalent has created. It truly frightens me. My only solace is in genuine history, and I thank whoever or whatever that bequeathed me my quirky love of Russia and its noble and tragic history.

Rather than being an active midwife of a new world order opposed to imperialism (Soviet policy), Russia is playing a waiting game — the age-old policy of retreat used against the Mongols, the French and the Nazis. “Americans play Monopoly, Russians chess.” At times, it is wise to sit back and wait for the straw that breaks the ogre’s (excuse me, camel’s) back. A fool’s mate comes about when your opponent is bankrupt, and it certainly looks like this is how the current game is shaping up.

What really clinched my love affair with Russia is the fervent commitment of all Russians that I’ve ever met to peace. They were the arbiters of peace throughout the impossible 20th century, contrary to all the propaganda we were fed in the West. So I will end on a more upbeat note: The US and Russia have many common interests–an end to terrorism, an end to nuclear weapons, environmental rescue, an end to extreme poverty. They all require cooperation. They are not zero-sum games. It’s your move, Uncle Sam.

Anti-Semitism Pandemic!

Get the kids into the house! Lock your doors! Board up the windows! Break out the gas masks and hazmat suits! According to the corporate media, we are now officially deep in the throes of a deadly anti-Semitism pandemic! And just as the threat of mind-controlling Russian influencers was finally waning! It seems the fabric of Western democracy just can’t catch a break these days.

The origins of this pernicious, panic-inducing pestilence remain shrouded in mystery, but epidemiologists now believe that it began in the Spring of 2015, shortly after the resignation of Ed Milliband as UK Labour Party leader, and went global in the Summer of 2016, right around the time of the Brexit referendum and the nomination of Donald Trump. (Although the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, to date, there exists no conclusive proof that Russian bio-weapons designers cooked up the virus in a hotel in Salisbury and sprayed it onto anyone’s doorknob.)

Virologists are working around the clock to map the genome of this scurrilous scourge, about which very little is known, other than that it has a sudden onset, and attacks the language center of the brain, causing the sufferer to express opinions about “Zionism,” “globalism,” “the Israel lobby,” “banks,” and other code words for “Jews.” Patients appear to be unaware that they are spouting these anti-Semitic code words until they are told they are by the corporate media, or their colleagues, or some random account on Twitter, at which point their symptoms alter dramatically, and they suffer a series of petit mal seizures, causing them to repeatedly apologize for unintentionally advocating the extermination of the entire Jewish people and the establishment of a worldwide Nazi Reich.

At the moment, Britain is taking the brunt of it. Despite the best efforts of the ruling classes and the media to contain its spread, several new cases of anti-Semitism have been reported throughout the Kingdom, or at least among the Labour Party, which, at this point, has been so thoroughly infected that it resembles a neo-Nazi death cult.

Jeremy Corbyn, who contracted the virus more or less the moment he assumed the leadership, is now exhibiting symptoms of late-stage disease. Reliable sources close to the party, reached for comment at a brunch in Qatar with Tony Blair and a bunch of Saudis, report that Corbyn is running around Momentum HQ in full Nazi regalia, alternately heiling Hitler and looking for journalists to apologize to.

Another Labour MP, Chris Williamson, had to be summarily quarantined after publicly apologizing for not apologizing for inciting a gathering of Labour members to stop apologizing for refusing to apologize for being disgusting anti-Semites … or something basically along those lines. Owen Jones is fiercely denying denying that the party is a hive of Nazis, and that he ever denied that denying the fact that there is zero actual evidence of that fact is essential to preserving what is left of the party, once it has been cured of anti-Semitism, or disbanded and reconstituted from scratch.

Emergency measures are now in effect. A full-scale Labour Party lockdown is imminent. Anyone not already infected is being advised to flee the party, denounce anyone who hasn’t done so as “a Hitler-loving Corbyn-sympathizer,” and prophylactically apologize for any critical statements they might have made about Israel, or “elites,” or “global capitalism,” or “bankers,” or anything else that anyone can construe as anti-Semitism (preferably in the pages of The Guardian).

Nor has the Continent been spared! What at first appeared to be a series of spontaneous protests against Emmanuel Macron, economic austerity, and global capitalism by the so-called “Yellow Vests” in France has now been officially diagnosed as a nationwide anti-Semitism outbreak. In a heroic attempt to contain the outbreak, Macron has dispatched his security forces to shoot the eyes out of unarmed women, pepper spray paraplegics in wheelchairs, and just generally beat bloody hell out of everyone. Strangely, none of these tactics have worked, so France has decided to join the USA, the UK, Germany, and the rest of the empire in defining anti-Zionism as form of anti-Semitism, such that anyone implying that Israel is in any way inherently racist, or a quasi-fascist Apartheid state, or making jokes about “elites” or “bankers,” can be detained and prosecuted for committing a “hate-crime.”

Meanwhile, in the United States (where Donald Trump, “U.S. patient zero,” had already single-handedly infected the vast majority of the American populace, and transformed the nation into an unrecognizable, genocidal Nazi Reich), the anti-Semitism virus has now spread to Congress, where Representative Ilhan Omar (reputed to be a hardcore member of the infamous “Axis of Anti-Semitism“) has apparently totally lost her mind and started talking about the Israel lobby, and the billions of dollars the U.S. government provides to Israel on an annual basis, and other Israel-related subjects one simply does not talk about (unless one writes for The New York Times and isn’t a hijab-wearing Muslim, in which case it’s completely fine to characterize support for Israel as being “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby“).

Now, this is where things get really confusing. Trump (who, let’s remember, is Literally Hitler, or was until he green-lit the attempted U.S. coup in Venezuela) and the Republicans have now united with the Democrats to denounce Ilhan Omar as a filthy anti-Semite, and possibly a full-fledged Islamic terrorist (or to condemn the existence of “hate,” or something). The corporate media, Facebook, and Twitter have been overtaken by hordes of angry anti-Semites accusing other anti-Semites of anti-Semitism. Congress is on the verge of convening a House Un-Israeli Activities Committee to investigate anyone who might have ever trafficked in “anti-Semitic tropes.” Meghan McCain was so thoroughly horrified by the hateful, anti-Semitic things that Ilhan Omar never said that she broke down blubbering on national television and begged Joy Behar to call in a Rabbi to convert her to Judaism on the spot … which some viewers found a bit unseemly.

OK, I know, you’re probably questioning the fact that this anti-Semitism pandemic just sprang up out of the ether one day, more or less in perfect synch with the Russian plot to destroy democracy that Vladimir Putin set in motion the moment the Global War on Terror seemed to be running out of steam. If you are, you need to close this essay, pull up either MSNBC or The Guardian website on your phone, and inoculate yourself against such thoughts. That conspiratorial type of thinking is one of the early warning signs that you have been infected with anti-Semitism! Unless you act now to protect yourself, before you know it, you’ll be raving about “the ruling classes,” “globalist elites,” “austerity,” “neoliberalism,” “the Israel lobby,” or even “Palestinians.”

So just put all that stuff out of your mind! This sudden anti-Semitism outbreak has nothing to do with the War on Populism that the global capitalist ruling classes have been waging for the last two years. It’s not like the establishment would stoop so low as to use anti-Semitism (and even the Holocaust!) as a cynical propaganda ploy to delegitimize their myriad opponents and critics. No, it’s much more believable that an idiopathic, worldwide anti-Semitism pandemic erupted, for no apparent reason, precisely as the capitalist ruling classes were beginning to suspect that they had a widespread “populist” insurgency on their hands.

Plus, even if our democratic leaders, and the professional journalists in the corporate media, were, in fact, a bunch of soulless, conniving, sociopathic scumbags, what purpose would it possibly serve for them to whip the public up into a series of fits of mass hysteria over anti-Semitism, or “populism,” or imaginary Russian hackers (or imminent lone-wolf terrorist attacks, possibly with homemade nuclear devices)? That wouldn’t make any sense, now would it? People would be so consumed with fear and hatred that they could hardly think. They might not even notice how they were being cynically manipulated, and were contributing to actual anti-Semitism by rendering the term devoid of any meaning.

No, the sudden anti-Semitism pandemic theory makes a lot more sense. So get out those vintage plague doctor masks, lock your critical thinking up in your anti-anti-Semitism safe room, and pull up Schindler’s List on Netflix … oh, and don’t forget to scour the Internet for any criticism of the capitalist ruling classes, or the corporate media, or neoliberalism, or any other anti-Semitic tropes!

Trump’s Global Impact (and What Russia Could Do)

TV news anchors typically describe Donald Trump’s poll numbers as low. But a 40 percent support figure in August of the second year is actually not so unusual. (Obama’s job approval rate was 44 at this point his first term; Bill Clinton was at 41; Ronald Reagan 42; Jimmy Carter at 41.) It’s not abnormal for a president to have this level of support at this point; the amazing thing is that Trump has been able to maintain it, given his degree of repulsiveness, from his election.

This shows the world something quite horrifying: that either this 40% actually agrees with that repulsiveness, doesn’t notice it, or tolerates it thinking at least he’s bringing jobs back.

However rocked by scandals, defections, pending legal issues, etc. Trump has retained his base. He said during his campaign that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Ave. and shoot somebody and not lose one voter. He has not shot anyone to my knowledge but he has torn babies from their moms and sent the moms out of the country and done things arguably worse than shooting somebody.

Domestically Trump remains strong, with the Republican Congress almost solidly behind him. In the mid-term election Republican candidates will mobilize the base by warning that if a Democrat wins, it might lead to Trump’s impeachment. (This at least is Steve Bannon’s recommendation.) Whatever happens, I think the 40/60 ratio of ardent fans and the nauseated and alarmed community will continue in this sad country.

But what is Trump’s standing internationally? He is generally seen by foreign leaders as a boorish, ignorant, self-obsessed buffoon, a narcissist who responds well to flattery (from Jordan’s king, South Korean envoys, Emmanuel Macron sometimes, the Saudis, Abe Shinzo), an erratic unpredictable leader often at odds with his own advisors. Every world leader knows that Trump’s former secretary of state Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” and former national security advisor H.R. McMaster and current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly have called him an “idiot.” Every national intelligence community has specialists who study the psychology of foreign leaders.

Surely every leader who meets Trump has been briefed in advance about his apparent malignant narcissism and coached to stoke his ego. Jordanian King Abdullah’s reference to Trump’s “grace” and “humility” in a White House press conference last June, and the Saudis’ inexplicable bestowal of the King Abdulaziz al Saud Collar on the Islamophobic Trump months after his election are a couple examples.

NATO allies note that, while not even engaging in discussion of NATO’s priorities and purposes, Trump demands that they increase their military spending. He depicts the failure of most to meet the 2% goal established several years ago as a kind of rip-off of the U.S., which has to step in to pick up the slack to keep NATO strong. The bullying pressure disturbed everyone at Brussels but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was obliged to say, “I would like to thank President Trump for his leadership on defense spending.” It’s not clear anything else happened at that meeting before Trump flew to Helsinki.

Trump: Alienating the World

Trump’s trade wars with Europe, China, Canada and other countries raise concern about his real business savvy, or at least his grasp of international economics. His threats against North Korea, followed by his rapprochement with Kim, gravely concern the South Koreans (not because they don’t want peace, but because they’ve sometimes been left out of the loop). He has of course alienated the Mexicans. He has offended a continent by referring to African nations as “shitty countries.” He has gone from praising Turkey’s Tayyib Erdogan to punishing him with sanctions driving down the Turkish lira, all on account of one detained Christian evangelist minister from the U.S. accused of supporting Kurdish separatism. He has completely alienated the Palestinians by demonstrating he doesn’t care about them and is a total Netanyahu stooge.

He offended Angela Merkel from the outset, courted Emmanuel Macron but then alienated him, annoyed Theresa May with his insults, befriended Jinping Xi but then slammed high tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. He has personally offended the Australian and Canadian prime ministers. If he has not yet alienated Abe Shinzo, he has at least produced consternation. (See this photo from the last G-7 summit in Quebec, where the Japanese leader looms between a confrontational Angela and pouting boy Donald, arms folded, eyes showing worry and consternation.)

Trump’s friends in this world include the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and maybe Modi’s India (although U.S. demands that India stop importing Iranian oil are affecting the relationship). Maybe we could include the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte although he like Trump is a mercurial type and is trying to diversify military purchases and draw closer to both China and Russia. And Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who shares his anti-immigrant stance and wants to readmit Russia to the G7. But it is a small group of friends, and subject to change.

Trump increasingly isolates this country. First the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, announced with such defiance citing its unfairness to the U.S. Then the departure from UNESCO (because of its alleged anti-Israel bias). Then withdrawing from the Iran Deal, so painfully crafted by the U.S., Russia, France, U.K. and Germany. Then leaving the UN Human Rights Council (after again accusing a body of anti-Israel bias, and trying to block an investigation into Israeli use of force in Gaza). And of course the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the decision to move the U.S. embassy there.

The United Nations General Assembly vote condemning that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last Dec. 21 was 128-9. All major U.S. allies including all other NATO members voted for the resolution or abstained (some in fear). Since the decision was opposed by some close advisors (but promoted by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a friend of Netanyahu’s since his teens when the Israeli politician once slept in his bed), this UNGA vote can be seen as a rejection of Trump personally.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley made a very Trumpian statement after the vote:

The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.  We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

Earlier she had warned the world: “At the UN, we’re constantly asked to do more and give more — in the past we have. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American people, about where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thursday, there will be a vote at the UN criticizing our choice. And yes, the US will be taking names.”

We are taking names. Obey! Such language is not winning Trump more friends. He may feel it better to be feared than loved but he’s not scaring anybody but Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Nauru and Togo (the only countries except for the U.S. and Israel that opposed the resolution).

The photo shoots and body language in Charlevoix and Brussels suggest that Trump is a pariah, increasingly considered such, not just due to his policies but due to his manifestly unstable personality.

Putin: Courting the World

Meanwhile the other most powerful man in the world—Vladimir Putin—is busily strengthening ties with China, Japan, both Koreas, India, Iran, Turkey and even long-time foes (like Saudi Arabia). Despite EU sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea in response to the Maidan coup of February 2014, Vladimir Putin reaches out to European leaders, seeks to make deals (the Baltic oil pipeline to Germany), advances concrete proposals (implementation of the Minsk Agreement), engages in carefully diplomacy (the Iran Deal) and generally projects through Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a serious approach to world affairs. (Compare Mike Pompeo, who barks utterly unacceptable demands to Iran to allow implementation of the deal, threatens all nations who trade with Iran with economic punishment, and thereby asserts the U.S.’s right to dominate the world through its banking system.)

Washington pulls out of the Iran Deal; Merkel journeys to Sochi to talk with Putin about how to preserve it despite U.S. madness.

Trump heaps sanctions on Turkey; Erdogan calls Putin and talks about diversifying Turkey’s ties. (This may have long-term implications for NATO.)

Trump threatens Merkel over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline; Merkel meets Putin in Berlin to discuss it, Iran, and other matters after the Russian leader meets the Austrian foreign minister as a guest at her wedding. They danced together; he perhaps thanked her again for her party’s opposition to EU Russian sanctions.

Putin is widely regarded as the adult on the world stage while the U.S. is led by a mischievous and unpredictable child. I don’t believe that Putin helped get Trump elected, but if he did he probably did so hoping Trump would halt NATO expansion, recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and remove the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Russia since 2014. In fact NATO will likely expand to include Montenegro, Trump proclaims NATO “stronger than ever” (due to his bullying leadership), and sanctions have been added not removed under Trump.

But on the plus side for Russia (and I think for the world), Trump has hastened U.S. decline by weakening the Atlantic Alliance, including U.S.-Canada ties; damaging U.S.-Mexican relations;  wreaking havoc with trade wars; and conveying to African leaders a sense of racist contempt. He has inadvertently produced an atmosphere more conducive to multilateralism.

While the U.S. corporate press indulges in unprecedented Russophobia, Moscow’s stature in the world rises. That Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula (Russian from 1783 to 1954) following a U.S.-backed regime change in Ukraine in 2014 bothers Germans and Italians less than the fact the U.S. invaded Iraq and sewed chaos throughout the Middle East resulting in Europe’s immigration crisis. Polls show Europeans trust Putin more than Trump.

It may be that world leaders, disgusted with the U.S. president and uncertain about who really makes decisions in Washington, will increasingly turn away from U.S. leadership. Merkel has said this; so has the EU president. For the first time in seven decades there is a real crisis within the U.S. imperialist bloc forged from 1945. What can Putin do to take advantage of this crisis, to encourage a more multilateral world?

Things to Do

Looking at it as a game, if I were assigned the Russia role I would during this window of opportunity, while this clown is in power, to take my cue from what Bill Clinton did when Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin led Russia. Yeltsin was another mercurial incompetent fool. Clinton took the opportunity to take over much of what had been Yugoslavia and expand NATO in a provocative betrayal of the Reagan-Gorbachev agreement. The leader of Russia could return the favor now by various measures.

Some ideas:

  1. Change the relationship between Russia and Japan, your neighbor that remains the world’s third largest economy. The U.S. has consistently discouraged Tokyo from signing a treaty with Moscow formally ending the Second World War since it would throw into question the rationale for maintaining 38,000 troops in Japan, mostly in Okinawa where they are largely unwelcome.

Settle the Northern Islands dispute; split the four and arrange for joint economic development. Sign a trade deal covering Siberian timber and crude oil exports. Long-term, encourage Tokyo to terminate the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty imposed on the country in 1952. Cater in resurgent Japanese nationalism by encouraging  Japan to become a normal country as opposed to a vassal one, and to embrace neutrality.

  1. Continue to deepen the relationship with China within the Shanghai Communique Organization, cooperating on Eurasian transport infrastructure to establish the common market Putin envisions extending “from Vladivostok to Lisbon.” Eurasia is most of the world, sixty percent of its population and a fourth of its land space. Japan just signed a treaty creating a common market with the EU; this was its response to Trump’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. East Asia is already connected to Europe and the trans-Pacific market will one day be rivaled by a Eurasian market.
  1. State clearly that NATO is unnecessary and indeed dangerous. Take advantage of the fact that candidate Trump questioned it. Use concrete examples. Ask Hungary: Why did you join in 1999—just as the U.S. and NATO were completing the destruction of Serbia—and what have you gotten from it other than economic damage when you’re forced to observe sanctions on Russia? Haven’t the sanctions cost the Hungarian economy over $ 10 billion? Hasn’t the Hungarian foreign minister protested the sanctions, saying they don’t work?

A recent poll in Hungary show 41 percent of the respondents felt NATO no longer important and a waste of money. The figures for Poland, the Czech Republic and Poland (which joined in a cluster in 1999, expanding the alliance after the Cold War) are similar.

67% of Hungarians agree that, “Current security threats are not serious enough to justify increased defense spending. The resources should instead be used for things like pensions, healthcare, and education.” Majorities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia agree. Encourage such rational sentiments during the time of Trump.

Merkel told Germans after the G-7 summit, “The era in which we could fully rely on others is over to some extent. That’s what I experienced over the past several days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands — naturally in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain, as good neighbors with whoever, also with Russia and other countries. But we have to know that we Europeans must fight for our own future and destiny.” Yes!

After Trump pulled out of the Iran Deal, European Council Donald Tusk condemned Trumps “capricious assertiveness” and declared: “Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think with friends like that who needs enemies. But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump, because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand you will find one at the end of your arm.” Yes!

  1. Continue the international effort to suppress ISIL, al-Nusra (al-Sham) and their allies in Syria, insuring the survival of a secular state (as opposed to a Gulf-funded Sunni sharia state). Carefully handle the contradictions between Turks and Kurds, Turkish-backed opposition groups and the Syrian Arab Army, Iranian and Hizbollah forces and Syrian Arab Army; U.S. forces and the Syrian Arab Army etc. Urge the U.S. forces to leave the country, as they are illegally there in the first place. Tell the Saudis their side has lost and they need to back off. Enhance the existing security cooperation with Iraq and compete for influence the country where the U.S. is extremely unpopular for obvious reasons.
  1. Enhance ties with Iran, including through barter deals that evade U.S. secondary sanctions and the sale of military equipment. Emphasize the illegality and cruelty of the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. Encourage Turkey’s stated determination to defy the U.S. embargo on trade with Iran, purchasing crude oil and natural gas. Encourage too India’s intention to do the same. Raise rhetorically in every international forum the arrogance of the U.S. in attempting to collapse the Iranian economy and induce regime change by marshaling all who can be cowed into cooperation—all of this being in violation of international law. Actively challenge the U.S. effort to repeat the coup of 1953.
  1. Take advantage of the fact that the U.S. has no lingering credibility on the Israel-Palestine conflict; it has been slavishly devoted to Israel for five decades and in its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has left Palestinians hopeless of any peaceful solution. Russia has cordial relations with the Palestine Authority, and has high-level ties with Hamas (which it does not consider terrorist, as the U.S. does), which it urges to cooperate with Fateh (PLO). It also has good relations with Israel, in part due to cultural connections (the large population in Israel of Russian origin), the history including the Stalin-era Soviet support for Israel at its inception, booming trade (up 25% last year, while the U.S. and Europe heaped on sanctions), and strategic cooperation in Syria to keep forces separate and avoid incidents as Israel seeks to maintain Golan Heights security and sometimes hit Hizbollah targets while Russia wants to aid the regime in defeating its mainly extreme Islamist opponents.

Russia supports a two-state solution, as almost everyone does in some vague sense. But while U.S. presidents since the 1967 War (Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump) have always been responsive to a Christian Evangelical political base that thinks Israel is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy and Jesus will return there soon; plus a well organized and funded Jewish Zionist community, they have taken pains to assert U.S. even-handedness on the issue of the Occupied Territories resulting from that war. Trump doesn’t do that.

Here’s Russia’s chance to make the resolution of the problem something other than a U.S.-dictated Dayton Accord. Or a U.S.-subsidized slow suffocation of the two-state concept, under load after load of housing block concrete. There were 150,000 settlers on the West Bank when the Second Oslo Accord was signed in 1995. There are 400,000 now. The U.S. has not succeeded in forcing the Israelis to change behavior. Maybe Russia is better placed to do that, especially given warm current relations with Turkey, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian factions, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt where since 2015 Russia has enjoyed access to airbases and airspace for its warplanes.

  1. Cultivate Latin American countries abused by Trump’s U.S.  Cozy up with Mexico. Just as you cooperate with Brazil within the BRICS association, providing financial assistance for infrastructure and various projects. Don’t do in Mexico what the U.S. did in Ukraine, just smother Mexico with affection as you once did Cuba and take advantage of the fact that Trump’s anti-Mexican rants, the Wall and the immigration terror are spreading anti-U.S. sentiment in Mexico. Maintain the existing warm relationship with Cuba. Take advantage of the fact that Trump reversed the Obama relaxation on travel and business and maintains the trade embargo. The EU and the whole world deplores the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Join with the nations of Latin America in helping Cuba develop despite it.
  1. Work with China, which also enjoys good relations with both Koreas, to promote and facilitate the reunification of Korea as a confederation of two states with different systems, rid of nuclear weapons. Encourage Trump to act on his stated inclination to withdraw troops from South Korea. Argue that they serve no purpose because both Koreas have massive armies, can defend themselves from invaders and have signed a peace agreement between themselves. It’s not like the South Korean people want those 28,000 soldiers in their country.

Again, I make these recommendations as someone observing a board game. I regard Russia as an oppressive capitalist country much like the one in which I live. I would not want it to replace the U.S. as lobal hegemon but see its agency in shaking up the world order now that Trump has initiated the process.

Russia, if you’re listening…. Success in these efforts could reshuffle the world in a positive way. Not just for Russia but for everybody. Dissolution of military alliances, beginning with NATO. Withdrawal of troops. Abandonment of economic sanctions. Peace agreements ending historical conflicts.

Exploit this Trump moment to produce some good.

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat, for sure.

Why the UK, the EU and the US Gang-Up on Russia

For the greater part of a decade the US, the UK and the EU have been carrying out a campaign to undermine and overthrow the Russia government and in particular to oust President Putin. Fundamental issues are at stake including the real possibility of a nuclear war.

The most recent western propaganda campaign and one of the most virulent is the charge launched by the UK regime of Prime Minister Theresa May. The Brits have claimed that Russian secret agents conspired to poison a former Russian double-agent and his daughter in England , threatening the sovereignty and safety of the British people. No evidence has ever been presented. Instead the UK expelled Russian diplomats and demands harsher sanctions, to increase tensions. The UK and its US and EU patrons are moving toward a break in relations and a military build-up.

A number of fundamental questions arise regarding the origins and growing intensity of this anti-Russian animus.

Why do the Western regimes now feel Russia is a greater threat then in the past? Do they believe Russia is more vulnerable to Western threats or attacks? Why do the Western military leaders seek to undermine Russia’s defenses? Do the US economic elites believe it is possible to provoke an economic crisis and the demise of President Putin’s government? What is the strategic goal of Western policymakers? Why has the UK regime taken the lead in the anti-Russian crusade via the fake toxin accusations at this time?

This paper is directed at providing key elements to address these questions.

The Historical Context for Western Aggression

Several fundamental historical factors dating back to the 1990s account for the current surge in Western hostility to Russia.

First and foremost, during the 1990s the US degraded Russia, reducing it to a vassal state, and imposing itself as a unipolar state.

Secondly, Western elites pillaged the Russian economy, seizing and laundering hundreds of billions of dollars. Wall Street and City of London banks and overseas tax havens were the main beneficiaries

Thirdly, the US seized and took control of the Russian electoral process, and secured the fraudulent “election” of Yeltsin.

Fourthly, the West degraded Russia’s military and scientific institutions and advanced their armed forces to Russia’s borders.

Fifthly, the West insured that Russia was unable to support its allies and independent governments throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Russia was unable to aid its allies in the Ukraine, Cuba, North Korea, Libya etc.

With the collapse of the Yeltsin regime and the election of President Putin, Russia regained its sovereignty, its economy recovered, its armed forces and scientific institutes were rebuilt and strengthened. Poverty was sharply reduced and Western backed gangster capitalists were constrained, jailed or fled mostly to the UK and the US.

Russia’s historic recovery under President Putin and its gradual international influence shattered US pretense to rule over unipolar world. Russia’s recovery and control of its economic resources lessened US dominance, especially of its oil and gas fields.

As Russia consolidated its sovereignty and advanced economically, socially, politically and militarily, the West increased its hostility in an effort to roll-back Russia to the Dark Ages of the 1990s.

The US launched numerous coups and military intervention and fraudulent elections to surround and isolate Russia. The Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Russian allies in Central Asia were targeted. NATO military bases proliferated.

Russia’s economy was targeted: sanctions were directed at its imports and exports. President Putin was subject to a virulent Western media propaganda campaign. US NGO’s funded opposition parties and politicians.

The US-EU rollback campaign failed.

The encirclement campaign failed.

The Ukraine fragmented – Russia allies took control of the East; Crimean voted for unification with Russia. Syria joined with Russia to defeat armed US vassals. Russia turned to China’s multi-lateral trade, transport and financial networks.

As the entire US unipolar fantasy dissolved it provoked deep resentment, animosity and a systematic counter-attack. The US’s costly and failed war on terror became a dress rehearsal for the economic and ideological war against the Kremlin. Russia’s historical recovery and defeat of Western rollback intensified the ideological and economic war.

The UK poison plot was concocted to heighten economic tensions and prepare the western public for heightened military confrontations.

Russia is not a threat to the West: it is recovering its sovereignty in order to further a multi-polar world. President Putin is not an “aggressor,” but he refuses to allow Russia to return to vassalage.

President Putin is immensely popular in Russia and hated by the US precisely because he is the opposition of Yeltsin. He has created a flourishing economy; he resists sanctions and defends Russia’s borders and allies.

Conclusion

In a summary response to the opening questions.

1) The Western regimes recognize that Russia is a threat to their global dominance; they know that Russia is no threat to invade the EU, North America or their vassals.

2) Western regimes believe they can topple Russia via economic warfare including sanctions. In fact, Russia has become more self-reliant and has diversified its trading partners, especially China, and even includes Saudi Arabia and other Western allies.

The Western propaganda campaign has failed to turn Russian voters against Putin. In the March 19, 2018 Presidential election voter participation increased to 67%. Vladimir Putin secured a record 77% majority. President Putin is politically stronger than ever.

Russia’s display of advanced nuclear and other advanced weaponry has had a major deterrent effect especially among US military leaders, making it clear that Russia is not vulnerable to attack.

The UK has attempted to unify and gain importance with the EU and the US via the launch of its anti-Russia toxic conspiracy. Prime Minister May has failed. Brexit will force the UK to break with the EU.

President Trump will not replace the EU as a substitute trading partner. While the EU and Washington may back the UK crusade against Russia they will pursue their own trade agenda; which do not include the UK.

In a word, the UK, the EU and the US are ganging-up on Russia, for diverse historic and contemporary reasons. The UK exploitation of the anti-Russian conspiracy is a temporary ploy to join the gang but will not change its inevitable global decline and the break-up of the UK.

Russia will remain a global power. It will continue under the leadership of President Putin .The Western powers will divide and bugger their neighbors – and decide it is their better judgment to accept and work within a multi-polar world.

All Fire and Fury in Ukraine

A Shabby Deck of Political Cards

For those folks who haven’t seen Ukraine on Fire (UOF), the Oliver Stone-produced documentary on the on-going Ukrainian crisis, it is not overstating the case to say it’s an essential historical document and one of the most important, insightful political documentaries of recent times. It may also be one of the most portentous.

Quite apart from the illuminating history lesson the film delivers as a backdrop to the current situation in one of Europe’s most pivotal of battlegrounds, there are many takeaways from the film. To begin, it stands as a vital corrective of the disinformation, misinformation, evangelistic doublespeak, ersatz analysis, unadulterated agitprop, and plain old garden-variety groupthink that attended the public discourse on the events and developments in the country, and which ultimately framed most people’s views of the situation. Needless to say, the messages and impressions conveyed by this ongoing, relentless ‘psy-op’ cum fake news onslaught still ‘rules the roost’ in most people’s minds.

Further, the film’s narrative is highly revealing in the manner in which the Western mainstream media (MSM) reported on the events surrounding the turmoil and conflict. In the process it showcases how much the perfidious thought contagion spread by the ever-nefarious neoconservatives and their fellow travelers the liberal interventionists infects U.S. foreign policy, along with the foreign policies of America’s assorted vassal states. It underscores moreover Russia’s seemingly inexhaustible forbearance with the U.S., which, sans any rational, coherent geopolitical basis for doing so, has been tested beyond reasonable endurance or expectation. This point is rendered especially palpable during the interviews Stone conducts with Russian president Vladimir Putin for UOF. (This is not to mention the actual The Putin Interviews).

At the same time UOF reveals again for those looking at America’s recidivistic predisposition for interfering in the affairs of other countries; this is an observation that’s always been evident save for the most preternaturally ignorant, ideologically myopic, or imperially inclined. Given the present zeitgeist as reflected by the headline-hogging “soap-saga” of “Russia-gate” – buttressed by former CIA chief James Woolsey’s whimsically smug concession recently that America interferes in other countries’ affairs “only for a very good cause [and] in the interests of democracy” – this is a reality that cannot be overstated. This is especially so when there are all too few examples where anyone might point to America’s interference actually serving the democratic interests (by any way that might be objectively measured) of any given country one might care to name.

The narrative encompassed by UOF is by extension a serious indictment on President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ukraine situation and his role in the creation of this singularly unholy mess — a prime exemplar of just how chaotic, dysfunctional, indeed war-like, were in large part the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s foreign policies. Ukraine on Fire attests unequivocally just how far removed the reality of Obama’s tenure was from his campaign rhetoric.

More broadly, the disaster in Ukraine – as we’ll see is still a work in progress even now under his successor, someone who pledged to curtail this direction in U.S. policy making, a promise which in no small measure propelled him into the Oval Office — is one of many that will forever inform people’s views of Number 44’s shop-soiled legacy. As Eric Zuesse noted a year after the coup, Obama employed a tactic of:

…attacking Russia by using fundamentalist and other conservative extremists in a given Russia-allied nation, so as to turn that…nation away from Russia, and toward America, and then of trying to crush these same right-wing extremists who’ve been so effective in defeating (or at least weakening) the pro-Russian leader in that Russia-allied country. This tactic leaves civil war and enormous bloodshed in the given formerly (or still) Russia-allied nation.

Three years after Zuesse made this comment, and over one year after the Great Black Hope left office, that situation to all intents prevails, with few harboring any optimism things are going to get better anytime soon. In fact, ominously, quite the opposite scenario is unfolding. Earlier this year, Gilbert Doctorow reported that a new draft law adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament and awaiting president Petro Poroshenko’s signature, threatens to escalate the Ukrainian conflict into a full-blown war, pitting nuclear-armed Russia against the United States and NATO. “Due to dire economic conditions,” Doctorow says, “Poroshenko and other government officials in Kiev have become deeply unpopular, and with diminished chances for electoral success may see war as politically advantageous.”

As history indelibly reminds us, this is an all too frequently recurring scenario in the conduct of international affairs. In a statement that undercuts much of the furor over the Russia-gate imbroglio, Doctorow observes that in contrast to the image of Trump administration policies being dictated by Moscow as portrayed by proponents of Russia-gate conspiracy theories, “the United States is moving towards deeper confrontation with the Kremlin in the geopolitical hot spot of Ukraine. For its part, the Kremlin has very little to gain and a great deal to lose economically and diplomatically from a campaign now against Kiev. If successful, as likely would be the case, given the vast disparity in military potential of the two sides, it could easily become a Pyrrhic victory.”

Just as ominous is the following. As noted in an Oriental Review op-ed earlier this year, a new neo-Nazi revival is clearly in the offing. This is in a country where fascist/Nazi/extreme right sentiment, especially in the western regions, has a long, storied, and ugly history, one that rarely bubbles far from the surface.

Again, this “ugly history” was laid bare in Ukraine on Fire. After concluding that the current situation in Ukraine is ‘painfully reminiscent’ of Germany in the 1920s, the OR op-ed attributes:

… poor governance on the heels of a lost war, which – added to the sense of betrayed hopes and the sharp decline in average incomes coupled with rising prices – is all driving a critical mass of the Ukrainian population toward an overwhelming feeling of desperation. [My emphasis]

In an observation attended by a profound sense of déjà vu for even casual students of history, the op-ed goes on to say that “[A] demand from the public for a ‘strong hand’ – a new, authoritarian ruler – is rapidly coalescing, due to their dissatisfaction with President Poroshenko and all the other jokers they’ve been dealt from that shabby deck of political cards.” According to the op-ed, a man like that already exists in this ‘destitute and disintegrating’ country. Known as the “White Führer” to his comrades-in-arms, this man is Andriy Biletsky, the commander of the Azov Battalion who is making an ever-bigger name for himself in the Ukrainian parliament and across the broader political arena.

Open Season on Russia

Of course, all this only serves to highlight the pressures being brought to bear within the country itself; it is also those from without (not entirely unrelated to be sure) that are – or should be — of equal concern. Herein Doctorow again provides an alarming reveal. Although there are indications Washington is ‘fed up’ with the Kiev regime (and as Ukraine on Fire demonstrates conclusively, one it was responsible for installing in the first instance in 2014), he says:

…the United States has doubled down in its support for a military solution to the conflict. With military trainers now on the ground (does this development itself not have an ominously familiar ring to it?), and the U.S. budgeting $350m for security assistance to Ukraine, Washington has also recently started delivering lethal weapons, including the Javelin anti-tank missile system, free of charge to Kiev. [My emphasis].

In a Strategic Culture report, Robert Bridge recently offered an additional reality check on those external pressures. Instead of opting for a more balanced and cooperative foreign policy in its conduct of affairs in Eastern Europe, and specifically in its bilateral relationship with Russia, in his view, it was via the furphy of “Russia[n] aggression” – an allegation he says was “peddled to the unsuspecting masses based on fake news of a Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine and Crimea” – [that] the U.S. and NATO “dropped all pretensions [to cooperation] and declared open season on Russia.” [My emphasis]

This was, he notes, further compounded by assertions Russia manipulated the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and along with Donald Trump’s “empty threat” to pull the pin on NATO if member states did not pony up on additional defense spending, “Eastern Europe has [now] become a veritable hothouse of paranoia-driven militarization.”

We’ll return to this point later, but some backstory is essential here. Whether one has already seen Ukraine on Fire or not, it now comes complete with a hitherto unexpected layer of revelation and significance, given that the late Consortium News founder and editor Robert Parry is interviewed at length therein. Parry’s appearance in the film, poignantly as it turns out, underscores the man’s trailblazing achievements and his unimpeachable stature within the alternative, independent media cosmos.

For those folks constantly on the lookout for exemplars of journalism’s fundamental values, his input into the film’s narrative is a reminder to us all just how much his political insight and measured analysis will be missed. It goes without saying that those values have themselves been missing in action for some time in our mainstream media, as Parry himself – to his eternal chagrin – was all too aware. This is a state of affairs to which he spent the last two decades of his life exposing via the Consortium News masthead. So much so it seems, there was even some hint (by the man himself as it turns out) that the stress and pressure of being a media outlier had taken its toll and may have been the catalyst for the strokes he had in the weeks before his untimely death.

Yet Parry’s voluminous, in-depth commentary on Ukraine – including his many pieces on the controversy surrounding the still unresolved mystery of the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH-17 in eastern Ukraine in June 2014 (with 38 of my fellow Aussies on board) – was arguably second to none. His fierce, fearless criticism of those engaging in the aforementioned ‘groupthink’ – not just those in and around the Beltway but in the West in general (with as we’ll see my own country being a noteworthy example) — was insightful, along with his own reporting on events and developments as they unfolded over the months and years that followed 2014’s color revolution which culminated in the coup d’état.

Many of Parry’s observations in the film are reflective of, and derived from, that commentary, as those who followed his reporting closely on the Ukraine situation over the years will appreciate. He was acutely aware that one could not have a discussion of the key geopolitical events and developments of our time without some serious examination of the manner in which the corporate media manages (read: “massages”) the narratives that frame the Big Issues therein. As noted, in this Parry was unremitting in his disdain for those of his fellow “investigative journalists” who had sold their souls for the filthy lucre, the celebrity status, and/or the comfortable, secure tenure at one of the “premium” corporate media marques. To him, at best, they were perception managers; at worst glorified stenographers. (For others perhaps less tactful or more scornful than Parry, they were/are simply “presstitutes”!)

Yet for all that disdain, Parry possibly reserved even greater contempt for the “marques” that employed the “presstitutes”, with the New York Times and the Washington Post being singled out for frequently justified, laser-like reproach. To be sure, that was just with the print media. In this the reporting on the Ukraine crisis provides an exemplar – albeit by no means the only one – of just how self-serving, venal, hypocritical, supercilious, irresponsible, and manifestly dishonest the corporate media were. And, of course, they still are, each day sliding further and further into irrelevance as they blithely betray both the hallowed U.S. Constitution and the citizens of the country whose individual and collective interests they are increasingly at pains to validly claim to represent, and whose democratic institutions – along with the rights that are purportedly underwritten by said “institutions” – [they] are supposed to protect.

‘Shirt-fronting’ the Mainstream Fakery

Such a damning indictment of Western media was brought home in spades in the aftermath of the MH-17 disaster. It was a 60 Minutes Australia report on the tragedy that really got his gander up, and in this writer’s view, rightly so. At the time I was preparing my own take on MH-17, when the 60 Minutes segment aired.

I immediately alerted Bob to the report, knowing full well that given his earlier commentary on the tragedy and his views on MSM reporting in general, he’d be less than impressed with the conclusions they arrived at from their “investigation.” Much of this commentary by 60 Minutes was based on the dubious findings of Bellingcat (aka Eliot Higgins), a self-styled open source ‘citizen journalist’ who claimed to have the ‘skinny’ on who was responsible for the disaster.

Now space prohibits herein a full account of the circumstances surrounding the shoot-down, nor does it lend itself to a ‘blow by blow’ of the ‘argy-bargy’ between the 60 Minutes crew and their much touted source Higgins, and Parry himself. Suffice to say there seemed to be few limits to the indignation the former all managed to muster when the intrepid Consortium Newsman had the temerity to meticulously and relentlessly challenge their account of the tragedy.

(Those unfamiliar with this dust-up – one that perfectly case studies the vast gulf that exists between MSM reportage on MH-17 and that of a respected alternative news outlet – can see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for some of the commentary the ‘stoush’ elicited and examples of the ‘he said, she said’ exchanges between the respective antagonists.)

It needs be noted that there was much political capital to be gained by those in Washington and most of America’s allies in the West by blaming Russia for the MH-17 tragedy. The U.S. and said allies had already blamed the crisis in Ukraine that derived from the February 2014 coup on Russian “aggression” and Putin’s purported ambitions to resurrect the Soviet Union. So in one sense it was to be expected they’d seek to capitalize on this disaster by blaming the Russians.

Western leaders to this end began tripping over themselves in singling out ‘Vlad the Derailer’ as the bad guy du jour, all the while doing so unencumbered by anything approximating solid evidence to support this stance. As we might expect with the Russia-gate saga, to this day, no definitive proof of the hard-core forensic kind has been presented to identify exactly how the plane was shot down (was the missile launched from the air or from the ground?), much less who actually perpetrated the act (was it the anti-Russian Ukrainian military, the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, or the Russians themselves?) Again, to this day, the questions as to whether the plane was deliberately targeted (was it a false-flag attack?, or did it just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time), also remain unanswered.

As noted, the downing of MH-17 cost the lives of 38 Aussies, and the fallout from the tragedy – to say nothing of the way the disaster was politicized in order to serve the broader geopolitical objectives of the Beltway Bedlamites and their apparatchiks at home along with their counterparts in other Western nations – was especially pronounced Down Under. Our then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who took to sculling the Washington Kool-Aid by asserting it was Putin himself who was “personally responsible” for the disaster, was especially bolshie in his reaction. Ahead of Putin’s visit to this country in November 2014 for the G20 meeting in Brisbane that year, Abbott threatened to “shirt-front” the Russian president over the issue when they officially met up. Whilst this made for great headlines here and abroad, it did nothing to arrest his slide in the opinion polls, which one can reasonably surmise was at the time in the back of his mind. All in all, coming from a national leader on the world stage, this unprecedented, petulant outburst was something to behold.

But such was the fervor of the times regarding MH-17, and more broadly, the anti-Russian sentiment that prevailed earlier in the year over Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine in the aftermath of America’s bespoke coup d’état. Clearly Abbott’s desire to leverage the public outrage here in Australia that accompanied the tragedy and to ingratiate himself with the Bedlamites far outweighed any obligation that might’ve routinely accompanied a more measured diplomatic response. (It was after all to no avail; Abbott’s hold on the Aussie ‘premiership’ was itself ‘shirt-fronted’ about a year after making this comment, being successfully challenged for the leadership by the present PM Malcolm Turnbull.)

It should further be noted that many folks – mostly after the fact – justified the removal of the then Ukrainian government because it was irredeemably corrupt. This, of course, is a specious and convenient argument – a ‘justification’ that makes frequent cameos in the annals of regime change – partly so in this case because there’s little evidence the replacement regime has been any less corrupt.

But this raises an altogether different, arguably more important, consideration: If Uncle Sam had removed every last one of the countless client tyrants he’s had on his imperial dance card over the decades on the sole basis of their ethical, moral and/or legal standards of governance, adherence to democratic principles, and/or general political probity, it’s fair to surmise the geopolitical terrain might look as different today as the lunar landscape does to an as yet still pristine portion of the Amazonian rainforest. And the U.S. might still retain – and be able to credibly lay claim to – some of the moral capital it had accrued by war’s end in 1945, which few would argue it has now all but frittered away.

Of course, if we really want to push the envelope herein invoking moral relativism, we only need consider that – notwithstanding what it says on the box – America itself is hardly a bastion of “ethical, moral and/or legal standards of governance, [adherence to] democratic principles, and/or general political propriety.” Its ‘unblemished’ track record of thuggery and skullduggery implementing regime change on every continent except the Great White Patch on the “backside” of the Big Blue Ball is ample evidence of that. This is without even referencing its performance closer to home drawing on such benchmarks! It’s a “practice what you preach” thing!

Further, there was and remains no smoking gun evidence linking Russia or the Eastern Ukrainian, pro-Russian separatists to the MH-17 shoot-down, and therefore no sound rationale for Washington accusing either of complicity in this crime without ponying up with said evidence. If anything, the longer the dog-not-barking question of why the U.S. refused to release all of the forensic evidence and ‘intel’ related to the shoot-down remains unanswered, the more we should rightfully suspect any findings by the MH-17 investigation team (if they ever see the light of day) – one it has to be emphasized, suspiciously included representatives from the at least equally suspect Kiev regime.

Moreover, for the U.S. to have imposed a further regimen of economic sanctions as a consequence without at least awaiting the outcome of the official investigation spoke further volumes about Washington’s deeper game-plan vis-à-vis Ukraine and ultimately, Russia itself. And it would appear we are now seeing that “game-plan” come to a fruition of sorts. Again, to underscore all of this, in one of Parry’s last substantive analyses of the Ukraine situation back in June last year, he summed a decidedly more coherent reality for us all.

‘As the New York Times instructed us’ he observed in 2015, ‘there was no coup in Ukraine….no U.S. interference…and there weren’t even that many neo-Nazis. And the ensuing conflict wasn’t a resistance [movement] among Yanukovych’s supporters to his illegal ouster; no, it was “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion.”’ Parry didn’t spare the horses:

If you deviate from this groupthink – if you point out how U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland talked about the U.S. spending $5 billion on Ukraine; mention her pre-coup intercepted phone call with [Ukrainian] U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who the new leaders would be and how “to glue” or [how to] “midwife this thing”; note how Nuland and Senator John McCain urged on the violent anti-Yanukovych protesters; recognize that snipers firing from far-right-controlled buildings killed both police and protesters to provoke the climactic ouster of Yanukovych; [and if] you think all that indeed looks like a coup – you obviously are the victim of “Russian propaganda and disinformation.”

But as Parry glumly observed, thanks to the mainstream U.S. media, most Americans didn’t get to hear about any of that as, “[I]t has essentially banned those deviant facts from the public discourse. If they are mentioned at all, they’re lumped together with ‘fake news’ amid the reassuring hope that soon there’ll be algorithms to purge such troublesome information from the Internet.”

And for anyone whose “blowback antennae” are attuned to such matters, we cannot escape one abiding reality regarding the MH-17 disaster: If the putsch-meisters of the Potomac had minded their own business from the off and left well enough alone in Ukraine, irrespective of the cause of the shoot-down and who was responsible, we do know around three hundred innocent people would still be going about their business, and we wouldn’t be having this ‘conversation’. Four years later this is a reality I’ve yet to hear voiced by anyone in the MSM or in the upper echelons of Western governments. [My emphasis].

From Nobel Peace Prize to Imperial Warmonger

Last but not least, consider the following. For this writer, it remains incomprehensible that a U.S. State Department official – in this case the aforementioned Ms Nuland (aka The Maidan Cookie Monster) – would seemingly act in such a brazenly undiplomatic manner in bringing about this coup, a reality that as we’ve seen independent media folks like Robert Parry were at pains to bring to wider attention. It is in this instance particularly that the “he who lies first, lies best” maxim really comes to the fore.

Yet there can be no doubt that Nuland initiated this action with Obama’s full knowledge, with it being as much, if not moreso, Obama’s mess as it is Nuland’s and her neo-con cronies. Well might we say, “cue Harry Truman’s “the buck stops here!”

Of equal or greater concern herein is this. I’m sure I’m not the only one who noted with considerable bewilderment and dismay, the Kiev regime’s deployment – again with the full knowledge, approval indeed encouragement of the regime renovators in Washington – of extreme neo-Nazi forces in facilitating its rise to power from the off, and enforcing since the coup its brutal, illegitimate rule. As noted earlier, they are again getting their second wind.

Given the neoconservatives well-documented vise-grip on U.S. foreign policy in general, and their role in engineering said coup in particular – especially that of the Nuland/Kagan/ex-PNAC factions and their fellow travelers in the U.S. Congress such as McCain, who number amongst them some of the most prominent, so-called “American friends of Israel” – I’m at something of a loss as to how best to explain the glaring disconnect herein.

Of course, America’s foreign policy “initiatives” over the decades have always embraced an “end justifies the means” precept; only the most naïve or ill informed would deny this. But for most objective observers – even those of us all too familiar with the CIA’s notorious Operation Paperclip, (or its equally infamous ‘cousin’ Operation Gladio), wherein the U.S. actively recruited under-the-radar not-so-rehabbed former Nazis and extreme right wing elements to fight on any number of fronts the Cold War against the Soviets – this is breaking new ground in its embrace of the precept. Prima facie, this has to represent another glaring WTF ‘mo’ in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Geopolitics makes strange bedfellows one might reasonably conclude! And transforms Nobel Peace Prize winners into imperial warmongers!

Or is it possible I’m once again missing something obvious here? How are all these “American friends of Israel”, either inside or outside of the Capitol ‘tent’, able to reconcile their on-going support of a regime utilizing such forces – whose pernicious ideology being synonymous with rabid anti-Semitism would one imagines, be totally abhorrent to Jewish folks and right-thinking non-Jews alike – under any circumstances? As it turns out, the so-called “friends” have been bending butt over backwards since the coup denying, playing down, or completely ignoring this “disconnect”. It is only begrudgingly and belatedly they – along with their hacks, flacks and lackeys in the MSM – were able to bring themselves to concede there has been and remains any such neo-Nazi involvement in Ukraine, much less acknowledge any such “disconnect”.

Another key question here is this. How does the all powerful AIPAC and various Jewish/Israel lobby groups and affiliated bodies feel about their “American friends” precipitating and engaging in regime change missions that involve the use and on-going embrace of neo-Nazi forces? Is this just some fuzzy ‘post-modern’ perversion of realpolitik at work here, and I’m simply too naive or stupid to understand what the hell is going on and what the end-game might be? And now that the neo-Nazi ‘natives’ are becoming increasingly restless as noted — their frustration with their nominal patrons within the present regime’s hierarchy reaching boiling points — it’ll doubtless make for interesting times ahead.

All this, of course, without considering the added reality of these extreme right-wing factions possibly combining forces and cozying up in a Nazi/fascist/white supremacist group hug cum love-fest with radical jihadist/Islamic militant groups in what could likely shape up to be an exceedingly bloody counter-coup, along with the equally likely prospects of the Ukrainian economy imploding in the interim, or at least in the wake of the turmoil induced by any such coup!

On these matters alone, I’m prepped nonetheless to be enlightened as to how/when anything good is likely to come out of America’s color revolution and regime renovation experiment in this part of the geopolitical landscape. And when it comes to the situation in Ukraine, one that has emanated directly from America’s interference in its political affairs in 2014 (after, it has to be said, an unsuccessful one there ten years earlier, well might we ask of the aforementioned, former CIA chief spook Woolsey: How’s that ‘[we] only [do it] for a very good cause [and] in the interests of democracy’ thing workin’ out for ya Jimbo?’

Yet whilst these are just some of the reality checks needed in order to assemble a measure of veracity and insight regarding all things Ukraine, such “checks” one imagines are, and will remain for sometime, asynchronous with the narratives disseminated via Washington’s anti-Putin, anti-Russian ‘brochure.’

And one final point if I may. If Putin and his Kremlin gremlins did indeed do some kind of a dodgy deal with Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election in order to get him across the line ahead of Hillary Clinton – the only story that seems to capture the attention of the MSM mavens these days – it would be fair to say that the otherwise estimable Russian president and his beloved Motherland are getting well and truly shafted. Maybe Putin isn’t as clever as we give him credit for? To be so artfully duped by a dope like The Trumpster? Oh, the ignominy of it all!

Yet, all that aside, wouldn’t many of us just love to hear what the estimable and dutifully righteous Mr Parry might’ve had to say about more recent and possible developments in the country that interestingly – according to German historian Kees Boterbloem — was affectionately known back in the day as “Little Russia”?

But, of course, that’s not going to happen. I can only hope this missive in some small – if not (ahem) short – measure, passes for the next best thing!

Fatal Quad: Who Is Assassinating Former MI6 Assets On British Soil?

Last week it was widely reported that a former Soviet and Russian military intelligence officer Sergey Skripal, working for MI6 since 1995, convicted in Russia of high treason in 2006 and released to UK under the 2010 US-Russia spy swap, was found unconscience with his daughter on a public bench near a shopping center in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. The British media and its eccentric foreign minister were swift blaming Russian secret services in attempting to assassinate Skripal, who up to now is still in a coma in Salisbury District Hospital. During the past week the British press histeria escalated and even made PM Theresa May come out with a ridiculous statement on the issue on Thursday.

This tragic case amended the sequence of suspicious and still unresolved cases of deaths in Britain of the valuable MI6 assets of Russian origin: Alexander Litvinenko (2006), Alexander Perepеlichny (2012) and Boris Berezovsky (2013).

Alexander Litvinenko

Former officer of the Russian FSB secret service who was in charge of surveillance and later protection of the oligarch and government official Boris Berezovsky in the 1990s, defected to Britain in November 2000, soon after Russian prosecutors revived the Aeroflot fraud investigation and Berezovsky was again questioned in court.  That was the season when the oligarch’s empire was ruining under the consistent legal actions of the Russian authorities. Berezovsky clearly realised that sooner or later he will be jailed in Russia and was seeking for asylum, that would allow him to follow up his political battle against the recently elected young Russian president Vladimir Putin. It is unclear whether Litvinenko defected on Berezovsky’s direct order or was just afraid of prosecution for possible crimes committed while collaborating with the oligarch who, according to late Paul Klebnikov, was one of the criminal kings of Russia.

As Litvinenko was granted asylum in the UK only in May 2001, we suspect that the negotiations on the terms of Litvinenko’s surrender to British secret services were not that easy. He did not possess any valuable intelligence as he was working in counter-criminal and protection units of the FSB, therefore he could be utilised only as a propaganda tool. So he eventually did, after months of failed attempts to avoid it, becoming a journalist for Chechenpress leaflet, supporting the most radical and irreconcilable wing of the separatist movement in the Russian Caucasus, writing defamatory books and actively participating in any single anti-Russian propaganda campaign in international media.

From left to right: Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Serezovsky, Chechen leader Ahmed Zakaev and pocket writer Yury Felshtinsky celebrating Berezovsky’s 60th anniversary in London, Jan 2006.

A few days after receiving in October 2006 the long-expected British passport, he hit the headlines of all mainstream media worldwide as a “polonium victim of bloody Putin’s regime”, thus multiplying  the global emotional revenue from modest MI6 investments into this miserable figure. The timeline study of his presence on “hospitable” British soil suggests that the citizenship was a landmark he had been desperately waiting for to get rid of the disgraceful dependency on Her Majesty’s intelligence service. Once he obtained it, he got off the hook and became an ideal sacred victim for the lasting anti-Russian campaign and dance on his bones.

The inquiry into his death, ordered by then Interior Minister Theresa May in July 2014 (!), was completed by January 2016 and publicly released. William Dunkerley made an exhaustive diagnosis to that report in his opinion piece, published in The Guardian soon thereafter. We urgently recommend our readers to refresh it in memory. In the most brief terms, he exposes the document as considerably influenced by the anti-Russian PR campaign, inconsistent, unreliable, biased, dubious and lacking evidence.

Boris Berezovsky

The “Godfather” of the Kremlin, as Paul Klebnikov branded him in a book which eventually claimed his life, Boris Berezovsky was the personification of oligarchy in its most ugly form. He played the role of grey cardinal near President Yeltsyn in the 1990s, securing super profits for his business empire and trying to manipulate political process in Russia. He even reportedly “approved” the candidacy of Vladimir Putin as Yeltsyn’s successor back in 1999, being sure that he and his people would be able to curb and control the neophyte politician.

The cold shower came soon. Three weeks after the Putin’s first inauguration, the Berezovsky-controlled media launched a powerful campaign to oppose the President’s plans to reform the federal system of Russia, depriving Berezovsky and other tycoons of the tools to manipulate regional authorities. Those were the first maneuvers in a political war which lasted for more than 12 years. Berezovsky was firmly and consistently pressed out of all institutional positions in Russia, a number of legal cases for power abuse, financial fraud and other crimes were opened against him. At the end of 2000 he left Russia for good, settled in London and started his vigorous, costly, but generally futile efforts to oust Putin and recover influence on the Kremlin.

Boris Berezovsky in London

By September 2012, when Vladimir Putin was elected for his third term and Berezovsky lost the case against his business rival Roman Abramovich in London’s high court, he surrendered. He wrote two repentful private letters to president Putin asking for forgiveness and permission to return to Russia without being put under custody. He certainly did not receive any formal reply from the Russian president, but perhaps by March 2013 he received some kind of other positive signals from Moscow. According to witnesses, he was full of life and optimism and plans for the future the very day March 23, 2013 when he was found dead in a bathroom of his Ascot’s house. The official investigation concluded that it was “an act of suicide” failing to provide any supportive evidence. Most likely he was about to leave Britain for good with his fiancé Katerina Sabirova (she had paid e-tickets way to Israel for March 25, 2013), so the MI6 spymasters supervising “project Berezovsky”, closely monitoring him and being aware of his intentions, could not afford let him go out of their reach.

Alexander Perepelichny

Alexander Perepelichny (R) with some of his “clients”, photo taken in 1990s.

Alexander Perepelichny was the Russian entrepreneur engaged in what is delicately called “private banking services”. He was laundering money, huge money, of his clients, derived from illegal activities and operations. Among them there were a number of criminal bosses and corrupted government officials seeking to legalise their funds into different types of assets outside Russia, mostly in the UK. Before the financial collapse in 2009 the volume of funds under his trusted management exceeded hundreds of millions US dollars. Sorry for him, as a result of Blue Monday, he lost around US$200 million belonging to his clients. Under increasing pressure of ‘serious men’ at home, in January 2010 he had to escape to Britain, where he quickly found a buyer of sensitive information he possessed on some of the Russian corrupted officials – a British investor and reported MI6 agent William Browder, who earned a fortune in Russia in 1990s and early 2000s to be later persecuted there on tax fraud charges. Coincidence or not, but Perepelichny left Russia weeks after the infamous Sergey Magnitsky mysteriously died in prison, an incident which appeared to be the cornerstone of a behemoth-sized politically motivated case, resulted in Magnitsky Act, “Magnitsky list” and other voluntaristic anti-Russian legal instruments.

The vague Magnitsky case is beyond our detailed consideration today, although it deserves a very close attention of any unbiased researcher as a sample of fabulous soap-bubble and bluff in international political solitaire. What is really important for this paragraph is the following episode from William Browder’s breathtaking biography:

It took place in New York on February 3, 2015, when the marshals of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan tried to serve him a subpoena to give evidence on the only prosecution case so far on the US soil proceeding from the Magnitsky Act. (The details of that case can be found here.) The reason for such nervous behavior of Mr. Browder is obvious: his argumentation on Magnitsky case serves only for political aims, when the verdict is pre-planned and scheduled. Where and when the real business interests are touched, all his claims would be destroyed by any experienced lawyer, as did Mark Cymrot from BakerHostetler during Browder’s deposition in court on April 15, 2015.

Coming back to Perepelichny, we have to acknowledge that he was the key witness who could potentially destroy the scam with the highest political stakes on the Magnitsky dossier. As Browder responds with “I do not recall” and “I do not know” on any substantial inquiry in the court, the US judiciary could be very interested in hearing Perepelichny. This menace to the Magnitsky Act was eliminated one week before the bill passed the US House: on November 10, 2012 Alexander Perepelichny was found dead outside his mansion in London. The police investigation did not bring any tangible result but the theory of “Russian mafia” involved was timely injected into the international media. One month later Magnitsky Act was signed by president Obama…

Sergey Skripal

Sergey Skripal was by far less a public personality than any other of the previous trio. The acting Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer, he was recruited in Spain in 1995 by MI6 agent Pablo Miller, hooked on illegal trade operations. For the next years he was busy selling amounts of classified information on Russian military secrets to the Vauxhall Cross, although not everything is clear in his relationship to SIS; e.g., it is unclear why he resigned from GRU in 1999 aged 48 to take by far less informative position in Foreign Ministry and later – a regional government. He apparently wanted to get off the hook and perhaps he succeeded – again, the circumstances of leakage about him to Russian security services in 2004 are vague and dim. It looks very much like the same SIS organized this leak to punish a rampant, poorly controllable and lacking access to any significant information asset.

Anyway, after spending less than 6 out 13 years in prison, in 2010 he was included into the exchange list at the Russia-US negotiations on a spy swap. Still we do not know whether it was concurred by the US side with their British partners, perhaps Skripal came to Britain as a surprise guest. Since then he kept a low profile living in Salisbury, but reportedly lectured British intelligence staff on the specifics of Russian clandestine operations. There would be very little benefit from him for the Crown unless he is served as another sacred victim justifying the bugaboo of the “Russian threat” in the UK and worldwide.

Sergey Skripal with his daughter Yulia in their favorite Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury.

***

The notable feature of all so different persons of the exposed quad is that they irrationally believed in the reliability of British justice and banking systems, institutions and secret services. None of them seemed to be fully aware of the simple fact that they are allowed to feel themselves as the real gentlemen only as long as they served British interests. Once they represented even a potential threat for ongoing political operations or their current value could not exceed anymore a certain threshold, they were easily sacrificed to fulfill their last, but not least task – to be firewood to sustain the flames of Russophobia at their new and very temporary homeland.

Fixing Global Warming is Bigger Than Paris ‘15

The worldwide effort to harness, slow down, lessen, reduce, remove the threat of global warming is epitomized by the Paris ’15 climate accord. This agreement calls for nations of the world to implement plans to slow down greenhouse gas emissions, specifically CO2 from fossil fuels, and to take other remedial actions necessary to hold global temps below 2°C but preferably 1.5°C relative to the start of the industrial revolution over 200 years ago.

That task may be an overwhelming one, more so than realized, due to the simple fact that according to YaleEnvironment360:

Frighteningly, this modern rise of CO2 is also accelerating at an unusual rate. In the late 1950s, the annual rate of increase was about 0.7 ppm per year; from 2005-2014 it was about 2.1 ppm per year.1

“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted… CO2 will need to be reduced… to at most 350 ppm,” according to Columbia University climate guru James Hansen. “We sailed past that target in about 1990, and it will take a gargantuan effort to turn back the clock.”2

Meanwhile, year-over-year CO2 numbers continue a relentless march upwards, unimpeded.

Monthly average CO2 Readings in Parts Per Million (“PPM”)

1850 (Ice Core Data)                                285.20

1959 (Mauna Loa readings start)               316.18

February 2017                                         406.42

February 2018                                         408.35

March 2018                                             409.97

A return to 350 ppm is looking very distant.

For perspective on the challenge ahead, Wally Broecker (Columbia) aka: the Grandfather of Climate Science, discussed the outlook in a July 2017 interview:

In 1950s, when I was in graduate school, we got 15 percent of our energy from renewables and nuclear, and 85 percent from fossil fuels. Today it’s the same. Both of them have been increasing at 3 percent a year.3

Remarkably, according to Broecker, the ratio of renewable-to-fossil fuel energy has not changed one iota in almost 70 years. That’s all the more remarkable because, since the 1980s, global warming has been pinpointed as an existential threat. Yet, the renewable-to-fossil fuel energy ratio stays the same. According to Broecker, that ratio needs to change or all bets are off.

Renewables and nuclear are not changing in their percentage share. And in order to stop the CO2 from rising we have to go to a factor-of-ten reduction in fossil fuel burning — at least a factor of ten. And that means changing all the world’s infrastructure.2

The world relies upon trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure to source, create, and deliver energy. However, if renewables take over as the primary source of energy creation, a lot of fossil fuel infrastructure will be worth zero. So far, based upon the record over the past seven decades, fossil fuel infrastructure looks solidly in place, in fact, growing in size, and there are some powerful forces in the world that want to keep it that way, which, in turn, makes it doubly difficult to achieve Paris ’15.

One problem in confronting the global warming issue is participation, by whom and to what extent. Scientists such as James G. Anderson of Harvard state it takes a WWII type of effort to overcome the global warming problem, which implies all hands on deck, as well as within 5 years in a substantive way.

But, there are major obstacles: One year ago President Sauli Niinistö of the Republic of Finland met with President Putin of Russia at the International Arctic forum in Arkhangelsk, Russia, March 29-31, 2017.

In his opening remarks, President Niinistö stated:

My starting point today is the growing threat of climate change. Tackling this challenge is crucial if we want to ensure that the Arctic remains the place it is today. But the issue is of global significance: If we lose the Arctic, we lose the whole world.4

He continued:

This catastrophe will not be limited to the Arctic. There will be enormous consequences worldwide. As the ice melts, sea levels will rise. As the ice melts, solar radiation will not be reflected back – instead, its energy will further warm the water and accelerate global warming.

He mentioned Russia’s 7,000 methane-infused pingos that have suddenly popped up throughout Siberia, in his words:

A further concern is the recent report made by Russian scientists that in Siberia there are some 7,000 methane-filled pockets waiting to release content. This will create danger and disruption to infrastructure and humans in the area. What is worse, once released, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

At latitude 66°33′47.1″ N, the Arctic Circle intersects Finland at its midpoint. President Sauli Niinistö knows the Arctic. He lives it.

Thereafter, President Putin’s speech at the same forum emphasized:

Russia, which makes up almost a third of the Arctic zone… includes over 150 projects with estimated investment of trillions of roubles… and creation of so-called development support zones… and the development of offshore deposits… we devoted special attention to the Northern Sea Route… almost a year-round artery….5

No mention of global warming. However, Russia can’t wait for open blue waters in the Arctic for development of fossil fuels and open sea routes over the North Pole for transportation purposes.

Furthermore, in interviews following the forum, Putin stated his opinion that humans are not responsible for climate change: “Icebergs have been melting for decades, started in the 1930s” when, according to him, “there were no serious anthropological factors at work.” He says global warming cannot be stopped because “it’s tied to global cycles on Earth. The issue is to adapt to it.”

Russia adapts by spending trillions of rubles to explore for fossil fuels. Similarly, the United States follows in lockstep by opening up national parks all across the country to big oil, including Arctic Wilderness refuges.

Climate change deniers lead the world’s largest economy (United States) and Russia, the sixth largest. They are at the top of the pyramid of fossil fuel production at the very moment when the infrastructure of the Arctic; i.e., multi-year ice, is crumbling apart right before everybody’s eyes. Therefore, the question is whether a disintegrating Arctic is good or bad. Obviously, by their actions alone, both America and Russia want collapsing Arctic infrastructure. They are banking on it!

President Niinistö succinctly summed up the risks of a collapsing Arctic, on January 2nd, 2018 when he was sworn in for a second six-year term, after a landslide victory at the polls:

Combating climate change is the most important issue in the coming years. That’s just how it must be, so that humankind won’t have to endure the destruction of the planet.6

At that swearing-in ceremony, Maria Lohela, Speaker of the Parliament, praised President Niinistö’s first-term and specifically mentioned his initiatives to combat the use of coal, which accelerates the melting of polar ice caps.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s frantic delirium over coal, oil and gas exploration/production is only surpassed in exuberance by an historical event, John D. Rockefeller’s heartfelt passion for turning nature’s bounty into a fortune, growing Standard Oil Company from the world’s largest refinery in 1870 into the world’s first and largest multinational in 1911, indeed, a record pace for capitalistic development.

But, with America’s national parks opening up carte blanche to big oil, Trump has a shot at exceeding Rockefeller’s record pace. His emphasis, like Rockefeller of 100 years ago, is drill everywhere, far and wide, pole to pole.

Meanwhile, it’s nearly unimaginable/unbelievable contrasting Middle Eastern ethos to American and Russian, all major oil producers.  As, for example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s biggest solar farm currently in operation covers the parking lot of the National Oil Company, Saudi Aramco.

The Saudi government wants not just to reshape its energy mix at home but also to emerge as a global force in clean power.7

By the end of the year, Saudi Arabia aims to invest up to $7 billion to develop seven new solar plants and a big wind farm.

In September 2017, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched plans for the world’s largest Concentrated Solar Power project, including the world’s tallest solar tower.

In August 2017 Kuwait launched a $1.2B solar power plant project.

As of January 2018, Oman completed its feasibility plan for a huge solar park of 500MW.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is making plans to build a 100MW solar plant as part of its renewable energy agenda.

OPEC is turning green for practical purposes, but more importantly, they’re demonstrating an intellect and foresightedness above and beyond boorish accretion of oil as a way of life. They see the future.

Meantime, similar to John D. Rockefeller’s race to oil glory 100 years ago, the U.S. and Russia are in a trillion-dollar race competing for newly exposed riches of oil and gas but in frigid waters sans ice and in Arctic wildlife refuges, pounding on the door of the final frontier where a mistake magnifies ten-fold. It’s a dicey future.

Back in the day Rockefeller was a visionary. Today, the Rockefeller Family Fund is divesting all of its holdings of fossil fuel companies.

  1. Nicola Jones, “How the World Passed a Carbon Threshold and Why It Matters”, YaleEnvironment360, January 26, 2017.
  2. Ibid.
  3. David Wallace-Wells, “The Man Who Coined the Term ‘Global Warming’ on the Worst-Case Scenario for Planet Earth”, Daily Intelligencer, July 10, 2017.
  4. Opening Remarks by the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at ‘The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’ Forum, Arkhangelsk, March 30th, 2017.
  5. Vladimir Putin’s Speech at the ‘Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’ International Arctic Forum, About the Forum, International Arctic Forum, March 2017.
  6. President Niinistö Emphasizes Climate Change at Inauguration, UUTISET News, January 2nd, 2018.
  7. Stanley Reed, “From Oil to Solar: Saudi Arabia Plots a Shift to Renewables”, The New York Times, February 5, 2018.

Why the West cannot stomach Russians

When it comes to Russia or the Soviet Union, reports and historical accounts do get blurry; in the West they do, and consequently in all of its ‘client states’.

Fairy tales get intermingled with reality, while fabrications are masterfully injected into the subconsciousness of billions of people worldwide. Russia is an enormous country, in fact, the largest country on Earth in terms of territory. It is scarcely inhabited. It is deep, and as a classic once wrote: “It is impossible to understand Russia with one’s brain. One could only believe in it.”

The Western mind generally doesn’t like things unknown, spiritual and complex. Since the ‘old days’, especially since the crusades and monstrous colonialist expeditions to all corners of the world, the Westerners were told fables about their own “noble deeds” performed in the plundered lands. Everything had to be clear and simple: “Virtuous Europeans were civilizing savages and spreading Christianity, therefore, in fact, saving those dark poor primitive souls.”

Of course, tens of millions were dying in the process, while further tens of millions were shackled and brought to the “New Worlds” as slaves. Gold, silver, and other loot, as well as slave labor had been (and still are) paying for all those European palaces, railroads, universities and theatres, but that did not matter, as the bloodshed was most of the time something abstract and far away from those over-sensitive eyes of the Western public.

Westerners like simplicity, particularly when it comes to moral definitions of “good and evil”. It matters nothing if the truth gets systematically ‘massaged’, or even if the reality is fully fabricated. What matters is that there is no deep guilt and no soul-searching. Western rulers and their opinion makers know their people – their ‘subjects’ – perfectly well, and most of the time, they give them what they are asking for. The rulers and the reigned are generally living in symbiosis. They keep bitching about each other, but mostly they have similar goals: to live well, to live extremely well, as long as the others are forced to pay for it; with their riches, with their labor and often with their blood.

Culturally, most of the citizens of Europe and North America hate to pay the bill for their high life; they even detest to admit that their life is extremely ‘high’. They like to feel like victims. They like to feel that they are ‘used’. They like to imagine that they are sacrificing themselves for the rest of the world.

And, above all, they hate real victims: those they have been murdering, raping, plundering and insulting, for decades and centuries.

Recent ‘refugee crises’ showed the spite Europeans feel for their prey. People who made them rich and who lost everything in the process are humiliated, despised and insulted. Be they Afghans or Africans, the Middle Easterners or South Asians. Or Russians, although Russians are falling to its own, unique category.

*****

Many Russians look white. Most of them eat with knife and fork, they drink alcohol, excel at Western classical music, poetry, literature, science and philosophy.

To Western eyes they look ‘normal’, but actually, they are not.

Russians always want ‘something else’; they refuse to play by Western rules.

They are stubbornly demanding to remain different, and to be left alone.

When confronted, when attacked, they fight.

They rarely strike first, almost never invade.

But when threatened, when assaulted, they fight with tremendous determination and force, and they never lose. Villages and cities get converted into invader’s graves. Millions die while defending their Motherland, but the country survives. And it happens again and again and again, as the Western hordes have been, for centuries, assaulting and burning Russian lands, never learning the lesson and never giving up on their sinister dream of conquering and controlling that proud and determined colossus.

In the West, they don’t like those who defend themselves, who fight against them, and especially those who win.

*****

It gets much worse than that.

Russia has this terrible habit… not only does it defend itself and its people, but it also fights for the others, protecting colonized and pillaged nations, as well as those that are unjustly assaulted.

It saved the world from Nazism. It did it at a horrific price of 25 million men, women and children, but it did it; courageously, proudly and altruistically. The West never forgave the Soviet Union for this epic victory either, because all that is unselfish and self-sacrificing, is always in direct conflict with its own principles, and therefore ‘extremely dangerous’.

The Russian people had risen; had fought and won in the 1917 Revolution; an event which terrified the West more than anything else in history, as it had attempted to create a fully egalitarian, classless and racially color-blind society. It also gave birth to Internationalism, an occurrence that I recently described in my book The Great October Socialist Revolution: Impact on the World and the Birth of Internationalism.

Soviet Internationalism, right after the victory in WWII, helped greatly, directly and indirectly, dozens of countries on all continents, to stand up and to confront the European colonialism and the North American imperialism. The West, and especially Europe, never forgave the Soviet people in general and Russians in particular, for helping to liberate its slaves.

That is when the greatest wave of propaganda in human history really began to roll. From London to New York, from Paris to Toronto, an elaborate web of anti-Soviet and covertly anti-Russian hysteria was unleashed with monstrously destructive force. Tens of thousands of ‘journalists’, intelligence officers, psychologists, historians, as well as academics, were employed. Nothing Soviet, nothing Russian (except those glorified and often ‘manufactured’ Russian dissidents) was spared.

The excesses of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the pre-WWII era were systematically fabricated, exaggerated, and then engraved into the Western history textbooks and mass media narrative. In those tales, there was nothing about the vicious invasions and attacks coming from the West, aimed at destroying the young Bolshevik state. Naturally, there was no space for mentioning the British, French, U.S., Czech, Polish, Japanese, German and others’ monstrous cruelties.

Soviet and Russian views were hardly ever allowed to penetrate the monolithic and one-sided Western propaganda narrative.

Like obedient sheep, the Western public accepted the disinformation it was fed with. Eventually, many people living in the Western colonies and ‘client states’, did the same. A great number of colonized people were taught how to blame themselves for their misery.

The most absurd but somehow logical occurrence then took place: many men, women and even children living in the USSR, succumbed to Western propaganda. Instead of trying to reform their imperfect but still greatly progressive country, they gave up, became cynical, aggressively ‘disillusioned’, corrupt and naively but staunchly pro-Western.

*****

It was the first and most likely the last time in the history, Russia got defeated by the West. It happened through deceit, through shameless lies, through Western propaganda.

What followed could be easily described as genocide.

The Soviet Union was first lulled into Afghanistan, then it was mortally injured by the war there, by an arms race with the United States, and by the final stage of propaganda that was literally flowing like lava from various hostile Western state-sponsored radio stations. Of course, local ‘dissidents’ also played an important role.

Under Gorbachev, a ‘useful idiot’ of the West, things got extremely bizarre. I don’t believe that he was paid to ruin his own country, but he did almost everything to run it into the ground; precisely what Washington wanted him to do. Then, in front of the entire world, a mighty and proud Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics suddenly shook in agony, then uttered a loud cry, and collapsed; died painfully but swiftly.

A new turbo-capitalist, bandit, pro-oligarch and confusedly pro-Western Russia was born. Russia which was governed by an alcoholic Boris Yeltsin; a man loved and supported by Washington, London and other Western centers of power.

It was a totally unnatural, sick Russia – cynical and compassionless, built with someone else’s ideas – Russia of Radio Liberty and Voice of America, of the BBC, of black marketers, of oligarchs and multi-national corporations.

Is the West now daring to say that Russians are ‘interfering’ in something in Washington? Are they out of their minds?

Washington and other Western capitals did not only ‘interfere’, they openly broke the Soviet Union into pieces and then they began kicking Russia which was at that point half-alive. Is it all forgotten, or is Western public again fully ‘unaware’ of what took place during those dark days?

The West kept spitting at the impoverished and injured country, refused to honor international agreements and treaties. It offered no help. Multi-nationals were unleashed, and began ‘privatizing’ Russian state companies, basically stealing what was built by the sweat and blood of Soviet workers, during long decades.

Interference? Let me repeat: it was direct intervention, invasion, a grab of resources, shameless theft! I want to read and write about it, but we don’t hear much about it, anymore, do we?

Now we are told that Russia is paranoid, that its President is paranoid! With straight face, the West is lying; pretending that it has not been trying to murder Russia.

Those years… Those pro-Western years when Russia became a semi-client state of the West, or call it a semi-colony! There was no mercy, no compassion coming from abroad. Many of those idiots – kitchen intellectuals from Moscow and provinces – suddenly woke up but it was too late. Many of them had suddenly nothing to eat. They got what they were told to ask for: their Western ‘freedom and democracy’, and Western-style capitalism or in summary: total collapse.

I remember well how it was ‘then’. I began returning to Russia, horrified, working in Moscow, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Leningrad. Academics from Akadem Gorodok outside Novosibirsk were selling their libraries in the bitter cold, in dark metro underpasses of Novosibirsk… Runs on the banks… Old retired people dying from hunger and cold behind massive doors of concrete blocks… unpaid salaries and starving miners, teachers…

Russia under the deadly embrace of the West, for the first and hopefully last time! Russia whose life expectancy suddenly dropped to African Sub-Saharan levels. Russia humiliated, wild, in terrible pain.

*****

But that nightmare did not last long.

And what happened – those short but horrible years under both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, but above all under the Western diktat – will never be forgotten, not forgiven.

Russians know perfectly well what they do not want, anymore!

Russia stood up again. Huge, indignant and determined to live its own life, its own way. From an impoverished, humiliated and robbed nation, subservient to the West, the country evolved and within a few years, the free and independent Russia once again joined ranks of the most developed and powerful countries on Earth.

And as before Gorbachev, Russia is once again able to help those nations which are under unjust and vicious attacks of the Western empire.

A man who is leading this renaissance, President Vladimir Putin, is tough, but Russia is under great threat and so is the world – this is no time for weaklings.

President Putin is not perfect (who is, really?), but he is a true patriot, and I dare say, an internationalist.

Now the West, once again, hates both Russia and its leader. No wonder; undefeated, strong and free Russia is the worst imaginable foe of Washington and its lieutenants.

That’s how the West feels, not Russia. Despite all that was done to it, despite tens of millions of lost and ruined lives, Russia has always been ready to compromise, even to forgive, if not forget.

*****

There is something deeply pathological in the psyche of the West. It cannot accept anything less than full and unconditional submission. It has to control, to be in charge, and on top of everything; it has to feel exceptional. Even when it murders and ruins the entire Planet, it insists on feeling superior to the rest of the world.

This faith in exceptionalism is the true Western religion, much more than even Christianity, which for decades has not really played any important role there. Exceptionalism is fanatical, it is fundamentalist and unquestionable.

It also insists that its narrative is the only one available anywhere in the World. That the West is seen as a moral leader, as a beacon of progress, as the only competent judge and guru.

Lies are piling on top of lies. As in all religions, the more absurd the pseudo-reality is, the more brutal and extreme are the methods used to uphold it. The more laughable the fabrications are, the more powerful the techniques used to suppress the truth are.

Today, hundreds of thousands of ‘academics’, teachers, journalists, artists, psychologists and other highly paid professionals, in all parts of the world, are employed by the Empire, for two goals only – to glorify the Western narrative and to discredit all that is standing in its way; daring to challenge it.

Russia is the most hated adversary of the West, with China, Russia’s close ally being near second.

The propaganda war unleashed by the West is so insane, so intense, that even some of the European and North American citizens are beginning to question tales coming from Washington, London and elsewhere.

Wherever one turns, there is a tremendous medley of lies, of semi-lies, half-truths; a complex and unnavigable swamp of conspiracy theories. Russia is being attacked for interfering in U.S. domestic affairs, for defending Syria, for standing by defenseless and intimidated nations, for having its own powerful media, for doping its athletes, for still being Communist, for not being socialist anymore; in brief: for everything imaginable and unimaginable.

Criticism of the country is so thorough and ludicrous, that one begins to ask very legitimate questions: “what about the past? What about the Western narrative regarding the Soviet past, particularly the post-Revolutionary period, and the period between two world wars?”

The more I analyze this present-day Western anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda, the more determined I am to study and write about the Western narrative regarding Soviet history. I’m definitely planning to investigate these matters in the future, together with my friends – Russian and Ukrainian historians.

*****

In the eyes of the West, Russians are ‘traitors’.

Instead of joining the looters, they have been standing by the ‘wretched of the world’, in the past, as well as now. They refused to sell their Motherland, and to enslave their own people. Their government is doing all it can to make Russia self-sufficient, fully independent, prosperous, proud and free.

Remember that ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and many other terms, mean totally different things in distinctive parts of the world. What is happening in the West could never be described as ‘freedom’ in Russia or in China, and vice versa.

Frustrated, collapsing, atomized and egotistic societies of Europe and North America do not inspire even their own people anymore. They are escaping by millions annually, to Asia, Latin America, and even to Africa. Escaping from emptiness, meaninglessness and emotional cold. But it is not Russia’s or China’s business to tell them how to live or not to live!

In the meantime, great cultures like Russia and China do not need, and do not want, to be told by the Westerners, what freedom is, and what democracy is.

They do not attack the West, and expect the same in return.

It is truly embarrassing that the countries responsible for hundreds of genocides, for hundreds of millions of murdered people on all continents, still dare to lecture others.

Many victims are too scared to speak.

Russia is not.

It is composed, gracious, but fully determined to defend itself if necessary; itself as well as many other human beings living on this beautiful but deeply scarred Planet.

Russian culture is enormous: from poetry and literature, to music, ballet, philosophy… Russian hearts are soft, they easily melt when approached with love and kindness. But when millions of lives of innocent people are threatened, both the hearts and muscles of Russians quickly turn to stone and steel. During such moments, when only victory could save the world, Russian fists are hard, and the same is true about the Russian armor.

There is no match to Russian courage in the sadistic but cowardly West.

Irreversibly, both hope and future are moving towards the east.

And that is why Russia is desperately hated by the West.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook

The Coming Wars to End All Wars

The compulsive hatred of Putin by many who have almost zero idea about Putin or Russian history is disproportionate to any rational analysis, but not surprising. Trump and Putin are like weird doppelgangers in the liberal imagination.

— John Steppling, “Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk into a Bar”, Dissident Voice, February 21, 2018.

The Trump and Netanyahu governments have a problem: How to start a greatly expanded Middle-Eastern war without having a justifiable reason for one.  No doubt they are working hard to solve this urgent problem.  If they can’t find a “justification” (which they can’t), they will have to create one (which they will).  Or perhaps they will find what they have already created.  Whatever the solution, we should feel confident that they are not sitting on their hands. History teaches those who care to learn that when aggressors place a gun on the wall in the first act of their play, it must go off in the final act.

These sinister players have signaled us quite clearly what they have in store.  All signs point toward an upcoming large-scale Israeli/U.S. attack on Lebanon and Syria, and all the sycophantic mainstream media are in the kitchen prepping for the feast.  Russia and Iran are the main course, with Lebanon and Syria, who will be devoured first, as the hors d’oeuvres.  As always, the media play along as if they don’t yet know what’s coming.  Everyone in the know knows what is, just not exactly when.  And the media wait with baited breath as they count down to the dramatic moment when they can report the incident that will compel the “innocent” to attack the “guilty.”

Anyone with half a brain can see the greatly increased anti-Russian propaganda of the past few weeks.  This has happened as the Russia-gate claims have fallen to pieces, as former CIA analyst Raymond McGovern, the late Robert Parry, Paul Craig Roberts, and others have documented so assiduously.  All across the media spectrum, from the big name corporate stenographers like The New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio, The Washington Post to The Atlantic and Nation magazines and other “leftist” publications such as Mother Jones and Who What Why, the Russia and Putin bashing has become hysterical in tone, joined as it is with an anti-Trump obsession, as if Trump were a dear friend of Putin and Russia and wasn’t closely allied with the Netanyahu government in its plans for the Middle-East.  As if Trump were in charge.

“Russia Sees Midterm Elections as a Chance to Sow Fresh Discord (NY Times, 2/13), “Russia Strongman” (Putin) has “pulled off one of the greatest acts of political sabotage in modern history (The Atlantic, January /February 2018), “”Mueller’s Latest Indictment Shows Trump Has Helped Putin Cover Up a Crime” (Mother Jones, 2/16/18), “A Russian Sightseeing Tour For Realists” (whowhatwhy.com, 2/7/18), etc.

I am reminded of the turn to the right that so many “muckrakers” made during and after WW I.  Afraid of a revolt from below, bewitched by their own vision to articulate the world’s future, heady over their own war propaganda, and wanting to be on the safe side of the government crackdown on dissent (The Espionage Act, the Palmer Raids, etc.), many progressives of the era embraced a jingoism similar to the anti-Russia mania of today.

Only someone totally lacking a sense of humor and blind to propaganda would not laugh uproariously at today’s media nonsense about Russia, but such laughter would be infused with a foreboding awareness that as the Middle East explodes and U.S./NATO backed Kiev forces prepare to attack the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, the world is entering a very dangerous period.  And, of course, Trump has said, “The U.S. has great strength and patience but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”  Totally destroy 26 million human beings. While his bully buddy in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently said at the Munich Security Conference that Iran is “the greatest threat to the world,” compared it to Nazi Germany, and claimed it was developing ballistic missiles to strike deep into the United States.  “Iran seeks to dominate our region, the Middle East, and seeks to dominate the world through aggression and terror,” he said.  And he vowed to act against Iran and anyone who supported it – i.e. Lebanon and Syria (Russia).

Putin also, like all the mythic bogeymen, is portrayed as the new Hitler intent on conquering the world.  If the American public wasn’t so “sophisticated” and adept at seeing through lies – pause and laugh – we could expect some World War I posters with Russian soldiers (like The Huns), sharp teeth glistening, gorilla strong and beastly, holding American women in preparation for the kill or rape.  Last year, when Oliver Stone did the world the great service of releasing his four-part interview with Putin, he was bashed, of course.  Just as he was with his film JFK, the only movie in history to be reviewed and panned one year before its release by a Washington Post reviewer who didn’t see the movie but had a purloined preliminary script as his source.  The Washington Post: the object of the latest film drivel, The Post, portraying it falsely as the savior of the nation through the publication of the Pentagon Papers (which is another story).  The Washington Post – the CIA’s dear friend.

In his Putin interviews, Oliver Stone, a man of truth and honor, lets viewers catch a glimpse of the real Vladimir Putin.  Of course, Putin is a politician and the leader of a great and powerful nation, and one should receive his words skeptically. But watching Stone interview Putin for four hours, one comes away – but I doubt few have watched the four hours – with a reasonably good sense of the man.  And putting aside one’s impressions of him, he makes factual points that should ring loud and clear to anyone conversant with facts.  One: that the U.S. needs an external enemy (“I know that, I feel that.”). Two: the U.S.A. engineered the coup d’état in the Ukraine on Russia’s border.  Three: the U.S. has surrounded Russia with US/NATO troops and bases armed with anti-ballistic missiles that can, as Putin rightly says to Stone, be converted in hours to regular offensive nuclear missiles aimed at Russia.  This is a factual and true statement that should make any fair-minded person stand up in horror.  If Russia had such missiles encircling the United States from Cuba, Mexico, and Canada, what American would find it tolerable?  What would CNN and The New York Times have to say?  Yet these same people readily find it impossible to see the legitimacy in Russia’s position, resorting to name calling and illogical rhetoric.

Russia is surrounded with U.S/NATO troops and missiles and yet Russia is the aggressor.  So too Iran that is also surrounded.  These media are propagandists, that’s why.  They promote war, as they always have.  They are pushing for war with Russia via Syria/Lebanon/Iran and Ukraine, and they are nihilistically demonizing North Korea (as part of Obama’s pivot toward Asia and the encircling of China, as John Pilger has brilliantly documented in his film The Coming War on China) in what can only be called a conspiracy to commit genocide, as Dr. Graeme MacQueen and Christopher Black make clear in their Open Letter to the International Criminal Court.

We are moving toward a global war that will become nuclear if an international anti-war movement doesn’t quickly arise to stop it.  Most people bemoan the thought of such a war to end all wars, but refuse to analyze the factors leading to it. It happens step-by-step, and many steps have already been taken with more coming soon. It’s so obvious that most can’t see it, or don’t want to.  The corporate main stream media are enemies of the truth; are clearly part of the continuation of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, and those who still rely on them for the truth are beyond reach.

Douglas Valentine, in The CIA as Organized Crime, says the CIA has long aimed to use and co-opt the “Compatible Left, which in America translates into liberals and pseudo-intellectual status seekers who are easily influenced.”  And he adds that the propaganda is not just produced by the CIA but by the military, State Department, and red, white, and blue advertisements that are everywhere.  Nothing has changed since the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s.

Valentine adds:

All of that is ongoing, despite being exposed in the late 1960s.  Various technological advances, including the internet, have spread the network around the world, and many people don’t even realize they are part of it, that they’re promoting the CIA line.  “Assad’s a butcher,” they say, or “Putin kills journalists,” or “China is repressive.”  They have no idea what they’re talking about but spout all this propaganda.

William Blake said it truly in his poem “London“:

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How to break the chains – that is our task.

Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…

Since the FBI never inspected the DNC’s computers first-hand, the only evidence comes from an Irvine, California, cyber-security firm known as CrowdStrike whose chief technical officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, a well-known Putin-phobe, is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank that is also vehemently anti-Russian as well as a close Hillary Clinton ally.
— Daniel Lazare, Consortium News

The masses did not mistakenly choose fascism. Rather, there is a more fundamental nonidentity between class consciousness and mass movements. Fascism was not a Falschkauf (mistaken purchase) followed by buyer’s remorse. The people fought for it, fiercely and stubbornly—though this desire for fascism is also a desire for suppression, a “fight for servitude,” if you will, or an “escape from freedom,” as Erich Fromm put it in the title of his 1941 book.
— Ana Teixeira Pinto, E-Flux

This week an angry dead end kid named Nikolas Cruz took his legally purchased AR 15 and walked into a school and opened fire. The FBI knew about Cruz because he had been reported to them. Cruz had been reported to the school, too. But nobody followed up. Cruz himself is one of those unpleasant looking young men that are visibly angry, and who exhibit, even in photographs, a quality of emotional disturbance. But nobody followed up. The FBI is too busy writing narrative fiction about Russia. The FBI is more concerned with constructing terrorist threats and then busting various patsies and making a big show of their success. This same week the US has continued to bomb Yemen alongside Saudi Arabia. This same week Mike Pence stomped around the site of the Winter Olympics and managed to insult most every foreign leader in attendance, but most acutely the hosts of this event. But then Pence is a vulgar rube from the hinterlands of Indiana. A fundamentalist Christian whose knowledge of the world is even smaller than his boss, the President.

The Hill reported….“Approval of the FBI has increased among Democrats and decreased among Republicans since President Trump took office, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.” So, uh, Dems and liberals are fawning over the FBI because, presumably, Mueller is after Satan-in-Chief The Donald, while Republicans are pouting because, presumably, the FBI isn’t dropping the fictitious investigation of Russian collusion. Meanwhile, the FBI, famed for various cluster fucks like Waco and Ruby Ridge, not to mention COINTELPRO and countless undercover surveillances on journalists and dissidents of all kinds, is being embraced by liberal America. (COINTELPRO, as a reminder, attacked the Black Panther party, and among its victims were Fred Hampton, Geronimo Pratt, and Mumia Abu Jamal. And it was J.Edgar Hoover who wrote letters that described Hampton as the ‘new black messiah’ — one that needed to be dealt with). That is your virtuous FBI.

Now part of this is just the desire among liberals for the status quo. At all costs. It is liberals far more than Republicans who want a Norman Rockwell America. The arch conservative wants something closer to gated communities of whiteness and armed privatized security roaming the streets keeping their property safe. It is the liberal Democratic voter who WANTS TO BELIEVE in the goodness of America. Who wants to believe in all that progress in civil rights and gender equality. But both will in the end default to authoritarian political control. They always have.

Joseph Kishore over at WSWS wrote back in 2016 already:

… the Times’ article set the tone for a wave of war-mongering commentary in the American media. Lipton was interviewed on the cable news channels and the Public Broadcasting System’s evening news program. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin declared on MSNBC that the US had been “attacked by Russia.” He called for an independent commission, citing the bipartisan panel set up after 9/11. CNN commentator Jake Tapper referred to Russia as the “enemy” and openly wondered, in the course of interviewing former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, whether President-elect Trump was “siding with the enemy.

But most Democrats believe in Russian evil doing. They believe Putin is a tyrant. They WANT TO BELIEVE. Now, the logic of Crowdstrike and all those US security experts on cyber warfare is that only the most sophisticated hackers could have penetrated the protections of the U.S. government, while at the same time only the most unsophisticated cyber hackers, revealing their amateurish clumsiness by leaving a variety of Russian language clues in the meta data, could have done such a thing. It is the same logic that posits Taliban or ISIS commanders, cunning…evil geniuses..who plot the overthrow of western civilization..but who are also simultaneously primitives living in caves. The Russians are also evil geniuses but also primitives.

On one level the U.S. loves the uneducated. America has never trusted intelligence or education. But they have to at the same time be the best. The best at everything. The best killers. The most violent soldiers. Etc. But not the most educated. Trump’s approval ratings climb as he cuts funding to libraries and the arts. Such actions have always been an electoral winner in the USA.

Edward Luce had a cogent piece at Financial Times of all places. He wrote

America’s elites have stored more wealth than they can consume. This creates three problems for everyone else. First, elites invest their surpluses in replicating their advantages. Kids raised in poorer neighbourhoods with mediocre schools stand little chance. Their parents cannot match the social capital of their wealthier peers. The drawbridge is rising. The gap between the self image of meritocratic openness and reality is wide. Psychologists call this “self-discrepancy”. Economists call it barriers to entry.

This is an important observation. He also added:

…Social capital is about knowing what to say to whom and when, which is a sophisticated skill. Technical learning is for others. Children of the elites are learning how to raise money for philanthropic causes. Economists define this as a positional good. Sociologists call it virtue signalling. Mr Trump calls it political correctness.

And finally, Luce points out that the new bourgeoisie (not his word) are suffering from a loss of even the appearance of a meritocracy. Too few jobs for what are now the over-educated (well, over degreed). And Luce concludes with a particularly astute insight. The bourgeoisie are finding they need Trump. Without him there is no distraction. And then he poses the question for these aspiring classes; do they really love the highly educated as they claim? Do they deserve admiration because of their degrees?

And here we touch upon the core issues at work socially in the Trump phenomenon. Trump is easy and even enjoyable to make fun of. He IS a distraction. But Trump also serves a very clear purpose for the 1%. Those who reign above the haute bourgeoisie. For Trump is still implementing the same policies that Hillary Clinton would have. The same wars, by and large. The same military build up. All the right people are still making money. The difference is in Trump’s less important appointments. The difference is Jeff Sessions for one. And the various minor cabinet hacks and flunkies he has installed in positions of limited but not insignificant power. He is normalizing in a way unprecedented, the weaponized ignorance of the Christian right.

And this includes, of course, the open racism and xenophobia on display and perhaps crystalized in Mike Pence’s boorish crassness at the Olympics. Pence suffers no doubts. The new Christians of televangilism never do. These are creationists and believers in the rapture. That they are barking mad has been known for a while now, but never before have they entered the corridors of power. The 1% carry on as before. So does the Pentagon and CIA — though the infilitration of the Christian extremists in the Air Force is well documented. Remember, all Presidents must have prayer breakfasts for fuck sake. They must go to Church. They get a dog, and they put on leather bomber jackets for photo ops. And they have a spiritual advisor. There is a whole laundry list of must do’s. What is different now is that stupidity is being not just normalized but accepted as, perhaps, a virtue. Beevis and Butthead go to Washington. Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure on Capital Hill. How different, really, was George W. Bush? (the newly rehabilitated GWB, in a curious charm make over…but I digress…).

So, no, the aspiring haute bourgeoisie do not REALLY love education. The hard work of studying is for proles. For Asian kids and social climbers and those quota scholarship kids. The idea of learning having some inherent value is now fully gone from the public imagination. Socrates who? He played *soccer* for Brazil, no? Literally nobody reads. I mean book stores are closing en mass. The Gutenberg era is over. I wrote recently on my blog about Hugh Kenner. I used to sneak into his lectures at UCSB in the early 70s. There are no Hugh Kenners anymore. Erudition is to become an obsolete word.

The state of Minnesota is taking Huckleberry Finn off high school reading lists. Harper Lee is being taken off, too. No doubt others will follow. Hurtful. Twain’s epic novel is, apparently, “hurtful”. I am coming, I have to admit, to just not care about who has hurt feelings.

All those social correctives that looked to rid the culture of racist images and language are now appropriated for other purposes. For narcissistic vehicles for anger. For America is as angry a society as the world may have ever seen. All that I see now, the new McCarthyism, the Russophobic propaganda that is swallowed wholesale, and not just swallowed but used as a kind of narcotic — is carried along and draws energy from a deep reservoir of rage. The old Puritan consciousness that wants nothing more than to chastise and shun is alive in the U.S. today. All these hurt feelings are expressions of the narcissistic desire to believe in our own uniqueness and specialness. And such subjective manufacture helps distract from the increasing sadism of American society overall.

The real violence of a system based on inequality is buried. It is obscured. The violence of capital, of wage slavery is mystified. All relations under capitalism are coercive. And when the early Capitalist class collaborated with the Church to burn a few hundred thousand women as witches in the early 1700s, across Europe, they were setting a structural dynamic in motion. The Inquisition and witch burning were not the result of magic, but of the need for scapegoats and for ridding the system of autonomous women and small craftspeople. It set up a class war, essentially, one mediated in that case by a deep hatred of women. And fear. The destruction of various celebrities (mostly) for sexual *misconduct* has already been appropriated by NATO and CAA and even Paul Kagame got in the act (see Emma Watson and the Rwandian war criminal share a dais…all to *help* women in war torn areas, or something. I mean who knows. But its mind numbing how quickly such things are activated). Angelina Jolie, who never saw a country she didn’t want to bomb or quarantine (see marriage and honeymoon in Namibia) is also is out stumping for NATO aggressions under cover of protecting women in war zones. No mention of stopping war zones from being created, of course. MeToo became, as quick as you can write hashtag, a vehicle for the exact opposite of that for which it began. And this was predictable.

Today the system has other scapegoats and other needs than it did during the witch trials in Europe. But the violence of capital is alive throughout the carceral system, alive in black communities where cops operate as anti insurgency soldiers bent on pacification. Fallujah or Baltimore, there is not a lot of difference. And the violence of Nikolas Cruz will cause great oceans of tears and hand wringing. Get rid of guns. Okay, how about those in the hands of cops — or those in the army or marine corps? Those are OK, because they don’t shoot up schools. Well, not *our* schools, anyway. There is a sort of pattern recognition in the public now. Shoot up a school is a certain class of irrational violence. People will posit notions about anti depressants or whatever. And it might have some truth to it. Maybe a lot, but I can guarantee that few will read anything about the beliefs of these *sick* shooters. That they all, like Anders Breivik, adhere to classic fascistic values and ideology. They do not fall out of the sky. They are the product of a vast number of forces, but they also kill not just because they suffer humiliation and are frustrated and emotionally disfigured. Or, rather, that emotional disfigurement creates the fascist sensibility. They do not think it is wrong, what they do. Cruz had a history of aggressive behaviour toward women. He was a member of ROTC and posted constantly on social media with various guns and weapons. Those who knew him said he was obsessed with guns. The chilling photos of cops in SWAT attire arresting a kid who wanted to be just like them. There is a strange closed loop of morbid mimetic activity on display.

The U.S. today creates enemies. It often seems the primary activity of America, the manufacturing of global enemies and threats. Of late it is Putin and Kim Jong Il. But they are only the latest in a long line. U.S. police departments, heavily militarized, and increasingly trained in Israel for counter insurgency, are no longer in the policing business but rather in the soldiering business. They are militia, not peace officers. The dysfunctional extreme for what this produces is Nikolas Cruz. But how far is Cruz from the Florida cop who murdered a begging man, on his knees, on video? How far from George Zimmerman? One suspects those three might enjoy a beer together and share many of the same values. I am always struck when reading about these alleged lone wolf shooters how NOT alone they are. Klaus Thewelit’s seminal work Male Fantasies should be required reading.

But if male-female relations of production under patriarchy are relations of oppression, it is appropriate to understand the sexuality created by, and active within, those relations as a sexuality of the oppressor and the oppressed. If the social nature of such “gender-distinctions” isn’t expressly emphasized, it seems grievously wrong to distinguish these sexualities according to the categories “male” and “female.” The sexuality of the patriarch is less “male” than it is deadly, just as that of the subjected women is not so much “female” as suppressed, devivified.
— Klaus Thewelit

Theweleit didn’t see genocide as the thwarted expression of inhibited sexual energies. His point was rather that the production of gender and sexuality are intimately tied to the content of anti-Semitism and overt racism—both before, during, and after the fall of the Weimar Republic. Fascist sexuality is not so much repressed as it is ideological: it idealizes virility and fertility as political imperatives.
— Ana Teixeira Pinto

The cultural post-modernism of today, at least in the U.S., is technologically sophisticated and socially hyper conservative. The neoliberal system might marginalize white nationalists but they cultivate their symbolism and much of their rhetoric. A Nikolas Cruz desired completion as the captain of capitalist manhood. His failures, his lack of productive labor, his relative poverty, escalated his hatred of those he saw as responsible — and at the head of that list one would guess would be women. But the indoctrination of men like Cruz, or boys, begins earlier. As Theweleit writes: “No man is forced to turn political fascist for reasons of economic devaluation or degradation. His fascism develops much earlier, from his feelings; he is a fascist from the inside.”

The violence of the U.S. military, globally, inflicted on the most defenseless nations and people cannot be separated from cops in Chicago or Baltimore or Los Angeles, nor from Fallujuh and Libya and Syria. I mean, the U.S. has occupied Afghanistan for sixteen years. The U.S. military metaphorically rapes these countries. And it is a kind of re-colonializing. Sylvia Federici called the World Bank and IMF “the new Conquistadors”. Nor can it be separated, finally, from Harvey Weinstein or James Toback. Nor from the lynch mob hysteria that has coopted the entire #metoo* phenomenon.

Nikolas Cruz sensed he was broken, and his longing for restoration was reflected back at him by those men who would later capture him. Kevlar and weaponry, helmeted faceless phallic superbodies. He could only merge with his fantasy through mimetic approximation. Cruz may be seen as insane, but he was not *only* insane.

The anti-Russian propaganda that is spewed out daily by mainstream media is an insidious and destructive force that also cannot really be separated from the tidal swell of violence on the streets and in the institutions of U.S. society. Manufacturing contempt for North Korea or Yemen or Libya is not *only* propaganda. It has consequences to the psyches of the people that must absorb that inculcating assault.

(Go back and read Ben Judah’s bizarre and lurid anti Putin piece at Newsweek,July 2014 — the one with Putin in shades on the cover, his eyes reflecting a burning …we presume…America. Read it now and just try to digest that this is what passes for *real* news as opposed to fake news).

In March of last year Brian Cloughly began an article on this massive anti Russian propaganda this way…

On January 30 NBC News reported that “On a snowy Polish plain dominated by Russian forces for decades, American tanks and troops sent a message to Moscow and demonstrated the firepower of the NATO alliance. Amid concerns that President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO is wavering, the tanks fired salvos that declared the 28-nation alliance a vital deterrent in a dangerous new world.

One intriguing aspect of this slanted account are the phrases “dominated by Russian forces for decades” and “vital deterrent” which are used by NBC to imply that Russia yearns, for some unspecified reason, to invade Poland. As is common in the Western media there is no justification or evidence to substantiate the suggestion that Russia is hell-bent on domination, and the fact that US troops are far from home, operating along the Russian border, is regarded as normal behaviour on the part of the world’s “indispensable nation”.

This is just one example of out of literally hundreds and hundreds. One could find the same against Maduro and Venezuela and against the DPRK. It hardly needs pointing out that Hollywood produces endless paeans of love for militarism and male destructiveness. Capitalism produces economic inequality and as such cannot exist without political and social oppression. The contradictions of Hollywood’s endless fascist product and its equally endless hand wringing over sexual harassment or gun control should be obvious. The sexual harassment in Hollywood goes back to Shirley Temple. It is built into a system in which all parties are there to monetize themselves. It is also true that men with power must punish those beneath them. They cannot exist without subordinates. What Theweleit wrote of the *soldier male* (his term for the prototype ur fascist) that the most urgent task facing him…“is to pursue, to dam in, and to subdue any force that threatens to transform him back into the horribly disorganized jumble of flesh, hair, skin, bones, intestines, and feelings that calls itself human.” Hollywood produces narratives that make the non human heroic. The first Terminator was a watershed moment in that respect. A film whose message was that an android…no, a ‘killer’ android…made a better parent that the human version.

Propaganda that creates phantom enemies is justified because Trump is now the perfect villain. And as such, is a tool of the ruling class. He is the justification for the abandonment of all notions of integrity and honesty, compassion or honour. One case of harassment I know of included a woman who had signed a non disclosure agreement and took payment of tens of thousands of dollars. She disclosed anyway and was applauded as heroic. It is not heroic to break your word. To take a payoff and then snitch anyway. But punishment is its own justification. Trump’s vulgarity is a kind of pride in ignorance trope. He intentionally chooses to be crude, because that is what his base desires. They may not admit it, those suburban small businessmen and managerial white class — but they do. A sense of shunning the soft and sensitive. Stories about escorts and golden showers only adds to his appeal. Those guys wish they could afford escorts. Trump is the grandson of a whore house owner, after all. He never sold himself as Adlai Stevenson.

So, Mark Twain is hurtful. Libraries are being shuttered across the country. Book stores are closing. The U.S. poverty levels have exceeded those of many developing countries. The compulsive hatred of Putin by many who have almost zero idea about Putin or Russian history is disproportionate to any rational analysis, but not surprising. Trump and Putin are like weird doppelgangers in the liberal imagination.

For the propagandists of the exceptional and indispensable nation the by-product of their creative activities is Nikolas Cruz. Trump shares with the far right parties growing across Europe the open disdain for democracy and free speech. Cruz was wearing a Trump cap in one of his Instagram photos. He wasn’t wearing a Che t-shirt. He wanted to kill antifa. He was not an isolated mentally disturbed killer. He was a fascist killer. He wanted to be made whole and inviolate. The way all fascists want to be whole, but cannot.