Category Archives: Europe

“Booming” Economy Leaves Millions Behind: Part Four

The last three economic updates (see end of article) focused primarily on the U.S., whereas this update focuses more on global conditions.

The data coming in every day, month after month, is revealing a clear picture of the dire straits confronting millions globally. Problems appear at every level and on every continent. There is no letup in deteriorating economic and social conditions at home and abroad. Things are dreadful and getting worse in most parts of the world, and the decline began long before top-down covid lockdowns started more than two years ago.

Unfortunately, mainstream economic news is largely irrational, contradictory, and incoherent; it does not help people figure out what is going on, who is responsible, why phenomena are unfolding the way they are, how to connect the dots intelligibly, and how to move forward in a way that favors the people. No serious theory, analysis, or perspective is offered to assist people in affirming their interests.

*****

“Poorer nations in Asia, Africa, Middle East face food crisis: UN.”

“In 2021, an Oxfam review of IMF COVID-19 loans showed that 33 African countries were encouraged to pursue austerity policies. This despite the IMF’s own research showing austerity worsens poverty and inequality.”

“In 2020, half of all Zimbabweans – eight million people – were estimated to be in extreme poverty. That toll is almost certainly greater after a stringent COVID-19 lockdown that hit the informal sector – on which 90 percent of economically active citizens depend on for their survival – especially hard.”

“Surging inflation set to derail Ghana’s 2022 growth target.”

“Turkish inflation of 70% Sets G-20 high.”

Severe economic crisis, high living cost affect Lebanese diet.”

Sri Lanka “is in shambles after defaulting on payments on its mountain of foreign loans — estimated to be worth $50 billion — for the first time since the country gained independence from the British in 1948.”

“The Bank of England forecast inflation exceeding 10% and predicted negligible growth for the next two years, toppling into months of recession, accompanied by the savage squeeze on living standards.”

“Italy unveiled a hefty package of measures ($14 billion euros) on Monday (May 2, 2022) aimed at shielding firms and families from surging energy costs as the war in Ukraine casts a shadow over the growth prospects of the euro zone’s third largest economy.”

“The Spanish economy was the hardest hit in the euro area by the pandemic, shrinking 11% in 2020 amid tough lockdowns. Two years later, it has still not returned to its pre-virus level.”

“Dutch consumers have never been so pessimistic about the economy.”

“France’s economy unexpectedly grinds to a halt in first quarter.”

“Business environment trends still mostly negative in Latvia.”

“‘We see a big recession in the making’: Top CEOs are fearing the worst in Europe.”

Europe’s Economy is ‘De Facto Stagnating,’ ECB’s Panetta Says.” ECB stands for European Central Bank. Fabio Panetta is an Executive Board member of the ECB.

“S. Korean economy facing growing downside risks.” South Korea is Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

“Depreciating yen threatens Japan’s economy.”

New Zealand: “Recession fears as survey shows record 20 percent of Kiwis plan to cut spending.”

“Australia’s prices surge at fastest pace in two decades.”

“Average Australian worker went backwards by $800 in 2021, says ACTU chief Michele O’Neil.”

“The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) places Costa Rica with the highest unemployment rate in people between 15 and 24 years old (40%), even when comparing us with other countries such as Colombia, Chile and Mexico, which are also part of this organization.”

“Inflation is eroding Latin Americans’ purchasing power.”

“[U.S.] Stock market’s plunge continues on new concerns about global economy.”

“The S&P 500 has dropped 18% so far this year, losing $7 trillion in value.”

“New wave of inflation – and disruptions – hits U.S. factory floors.”

“[In the U.S.] the average price of all grades of gasoline at the pump spiked to a record $4.33 per gallon on Monday, May 9, the third week in a row of increases, and was up 46% from a year ago, edging past the prior record of Monday, March 14 ($4.32), according to the US Energy Department’s EIA late Monday, based on its surveys of gas stations conducted during the day.”

“[In the U.S.] foreclosures surge 181% to highest levels since March 2020.”

Capital-centered economies cannot provide for the needs of all and are instead spiraling out of control with each passing month. Such economies perpetuate insecurity, instability, and anarchy for everyone, no matter which party of the rich is in power. Life is proving that none of the existing institutions and arrangements are capable of sorting out the grave problems confronting millions. “Representative democracy” is not giving rise to conditions that guarantee security, peace, and prosperity for all.

A completely new outlook, vision, thinking, politics, and direction is needed. New arrangements that favor the people are long overdue. The old way of doing things just prolongs misery and insecurity.

Part one of this series appeared on April 10, 2022, part two appeared on April 25, 2022, and part three appeared on May 10, 2022.

 

The post “Booming” Economy Leaves Millions Behind: Part Four first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Cost of the Ukraine War Felt in Africa, Global South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Could the U.S. Help to Bring Peace to Ukraine?

Photo credit: cdn.zeebiz.com

On April 21st, President Biden announced new shipments of weapons to Ukraine, at a cost of $800 million to U.S. taxpayers. On April 25th, Secretaries Blinken and Austin announced over $300 million more military aid. The United States has now spent $3.7 billion on weapons for Ukraine since the Russian invasion, bringing total U.S. military aid to Ukraine since 2014 to about $6.4 billion.

The top priority of Russian airstrikes in Ukraine has been to destroy as many of these weapons as possible before they reach the front lines of the war, so it is not clear how militarily effective these massive arms shipments really are. The other leg of U.S. “support” for Ukraine is its economic and financial sanctions against Russia, whose effectiveness is also highly uncertain.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is visiting Moscow and Kyiv to try to kick start negotiations for a ceasefire and a peace agreement. Since hopes for earlier peace negotiations in Belarus and Turkey have been washed away in a tide of military escalation, hostile rhetoric and politicized war crimes accusations, Secretary General Guterres’ mission may now be the best hope for peace in Ukraine.

This pattern of early hopes for a diplomatic resolution that are quickly dashed by a war psychosis is not unusual. Data on how wars end from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) make it clear that the first month of a war offers the best chance for a negotiated peace agreement. That window has now passed for Ukraine.

An analysis of the UCDP data by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found that 44% of wars that end within a month end in a ceasefire and peace agreement rather than the decisive defeat of either side, while that decreases to 24% in wars that last between a month and a year. Once wars rage on into a second year, they become even more intractable and usually last more than ten years.

CSIS fellow Benjamin Jensen, who analyzed the UCDP data, concluded:

The time for diplomacy is now. The longer a war lasts absent concessions by both parties, the more likely it is to escalate into a protracted conflict… In addition to punishment, Russian officials need a viable diplomatic off-ramp that addresses the concerns of all parties.

To be successful, diplomacy leading to a peace agreement must meet five basic conditions:

First, all sides must gain benefits from the peace agreement that outweigh what they think they can gain by war.

U.S. and allied officials are waging an information war to promote the idea that Russia is losing the war and that Ukraine can militarily defeat Russia, even as some officials admit that that could take several years.

In reality, neither side will benefit from a protracted war that lasts for many months or years. The lives of millions of Ukrainians will be lost and ruined, while Russia will be mired in the kind of military quagmire that both the U.S.S.R. and the United States already experienced in Afghanistan, and that most recent U.S. wars have turned into.

In Ukraine, the basic outlines of a peace agreement already exist. They are: withdrawal of Russian forces; Ukrainian neutrality between NATO and Russia; self-determination for all Ukrainians (including in Crimea and Donbas); and a regional security agreement that protects everyone and prevents new wars.

Both sides are essentially fighting to strengthen their hand in an eventual agreement along those lines. So how many people must die before the details can be worked out across a negotiating table instead of over the rubble of Ukrainian towns and cities?

Second, mediators must be impartial and trusted by both sides.

The United States has monopolized the role of mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis for decades, even as it openly backs and arms one side and abuses its UN veto to prevent international action. This has been a transparent model for endless war.

Turkey has so far acted as the principal mediator between Russia and Ukraine, but it is a NATO member that has supplied drones, weapons and military training to Ukraine. Both sides have accepted Turkey’s mediation, but can Turkey really be an honest broker?

The UN could play a legitimate role, as it is doing in Yemen, where the two sides are finally observing a two-month ceasefire. But even with the UN’s best efforts, it has taken years to negotiate this fragile pause in the war.

Third, the agreement must address the main concerns of all parties to the war.

In 2014, the U.S.-backed coup and the massacre of anti-coup protesters in Odessa led to declarations of independence by the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. The first Minsk Protocol agreement in September 2014 failed to end the ensuing civil war in Eastern Ukraine. A critical difference in the Minsk II agreement in February 2015 was that DPR and LPR representatives were included in the negotiations, and it succeeded in ending the worst fighting and preventing a major new outbreak of war for 7 years.

There is another party that was largely absent from the negotiations in Belarus and Turkey, people who make up half the population of Russia and Ukraine: the women of both countries. While some of them are fighting, many more can speak as victims, civilian casualties and refugees from a war unleashed mainly by men. The voices of women at the table would be a constant reminder of the human costs of war and the lives of women and children that are at stake.

Even when one side militarily wins a war, the grievances of the losers and unresolved political and strategic issues often sow the seeds of new outbreaks of war in the future. As Benjamin Jensen of CSIS suggested, the desires of U.S. and Western politicians to punish and gain strategic advantage over Russia must not be allowed to prevent a comprehensive resolution that addresses the concerns of all sides and ensures a lasting peace.

Fourth, there must be a step-by-step roadmap to a stable and lasting peace that all sides are committed to.

The Minsk II agreement led to a fragile ceasefire and established a roadmap to a political solution. But the Ukrainian government and parliament, under Presidents Poroshenko and then Zelensky, failed to take the next steps that Poroshenko agreed to in Minsk in 2015: to pass laws and constitutional changes to permit independent, internationally-supervised elections in the DPR and LPR, and to grant them autonomy within a federalized Ukrainian state.

Now that these failures have led to Russian recognition of the DPR and LPR’s independence, a new peace agreement must revisit and resolve their status, and that of Crimea, in ways that all sides will be committed to, whether that is through the autonomy promised in Minsk II or formal, recognized independence from Ukraine.

A sticking point in the peace negotiations in Turkey was Ukraine’s need for solid security guarantees to ensure that Russia won’t invade it again. The UN Charter formally protects all countries from international aggression, but it has repeatedly failed to do so when the aggressor, usually the United States, wields a Security Council veto. So how can a neutral Ukraine be reassured that it will be safe from attack in the future? And how can all parties be sure that the others will stick to the agreement this time?

Fifth, outside powers must not undermine the negotiation or implementation of a peace agreement.

Although the United States and its NATO allies are not active warring parties in Ukraine, their role in provoking this crisis through NATO expansion and the 2014 coup, then supporting Kyiv’s abandonment of the Minsk II agreement and flooding Ukraine with weapons, make them an “elephant in the room” that will cast a long shadow over the negotiating table, wherever that is.

In April 2012, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan drew up a six-point plan for a UN-monitored ceasefire and political transition in Syria. But at the very moment that the Annan plan took effect and UN ceasefire monitors were in place, the United States, NATO and their Arab monarchist allies held three “Friends of Syria” conferences, where they pledged virtually unlimited financial and military aid to the Al Qaeda-linked rebels they were backing to overthrow the Syrian government. This encouraged the rebels to ignore the ceasefire, and led to another decade of war for the people of Syria.

The fragile nature of peace negotiations over Ukraine make success highly vulnerable to such powerful external influences. The United States backed Ukraine in a confrontational approach to the civil war in Donbas instead of supporting the terms of the Minsk II agreement, and this has led to war with Russia. Now Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavosoglu, has told CNN Turk that unnamed NATO members “want the war to continue,” in order to keep weakening Russia.

Conclusion

How the United States and its NATO allies act now and in the coming months will be crucial in determining whether Ukraine is destroyed by years of war, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, or whether this war ends quickly through a diplomatic process that brings peace, security and stability to the people of Russia, Ukraine and their neighbors.

If the United States wants to help restore peace in Ukraine, it must diplomatically support peace negotiations, and make it clear to its ally, Ukraine, that it will support any concessions that Ukrainian negotiators believe are necessary to clinch a peace agreement with Russia.

Whatever mediator Russia and Ukraine agree to work with to try to resolve this crisis, the United States must give the diplomatic process its full, unreserved support, both in public and behind closed doors. It must also ensure that its own actions do not undermine the peace process in Ukraine as they did the Annan plan in Syria in 2012.

One of the most critical steps that U.S. and NATO leaders can take to provide an incentive for Russia to agree to a negotiated peace is to commit to lifting their sanctions if and when Russia complies with a withdrawal agreement. Without such a commitment, the sanctions will quickly lose any moral or practical value as leverage over Russia, and will be only an arbitrary form of collective punishment against its people, and against poor people everywhere who can no longer afford food to feed their families. As the de facto leader of the NATO military alliance, the U.S. position on this question will be crucial.

So policy decisions by the United States will have a critical impact on whether there will soon be peace in Ukraine, or only a much longer and bloodier war. The test for U.S. policymakers, and for Americans who care about the people of Ukraine, must be to ask which of these outcomes U.S. policy choices are likely to lead to.

The post How Could the U.S. Help to Bring Peace to Ukraine? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Different Classes in Russia Feel About Yankeedom, China and Europe: More Letters from Russia

Dear Barbara,

I hope that my email finds you and Bruce in good health and doing fine.

I will try to answer your interesting questions, please note that my answers are from my personal point of view, it is built on daily observations, readings, talking to different people, and even watching tv now and then, with no pretenses whatsoever.

How would you characterize the class structure in Russia in terms of upper class, upper-middle class, middle class, and working class?

The super-rich and oligarchs: This thin social layer is an entity by itself, it owns assets and shares in the big companies, banks and financial institutions. There is an uneasy peace between them and the government that regularly gathers them and “politely” reminds them of their social responsibilities and where their riches came from. They are at the present untouchable due to the fact that some of them are on boards of companies belonging to the state or near persons holding high positions in the government. That is when the political situation becomes corruptible.

The upper-middle class include the upper echelons of the government bureaucracy, the top management of companies, banks and financial institutions and people holding valuable assets (immovable and moveable). There is very little upward movement, the danger of moving downwards exists.

The middle class: mostly concentrated in the cities, professionals, engineers, teachers, doctors, small lawyers, office workers, shop owners, and small businessmen.  This is a relatively new class for Russia. Dynamic with porous boundaries, the danger of slipping to its lower level is higher than making a leap into its higher level or to the upper-middle class.

The working class is the most interesting and complex class. The classic working class person is in the military industrial complex, metallurgy, auto industry, oil and gas, power generation, and all types of transportation.  The upper classes make a point of a pretense of treating them well which includes salaries, perks and bonuses. Construction is a big part of the economy. Skilled workers are mainly Russians or citizens of the Russian Federation. There is a big part of the low skill jobs that are done by migrants from republics of what once was the Soviet Union. Their numbers are significant, including, janitors and, delivery workers.  They mostly do not integrate and hold on to their religion (mostly Muslim). Some of them are involved in misdemeanors and crimes, which are blown up and generalized to a whole nation or region. This is a sharp weapon in the hands of the authorities, pitting the migrants against locals. There is much more to be said but I will leave it for other occasions.

How do the different classes feel about “The Oligarchs” (billionaires in Russia) – do they think they deserve what they have?

I am afraid that my reply to this question is going to be a short one because there are no ambiguities or subtleties. Once again in my opinion it is not just a matter of class but a nearly unanimous negative attitude, especially from the working and middle classes and even from some of the upper classes. The Communists and left are just itching to nationalize some industries or at least have a better tax law. Fortunately, the majority of the people see the oligarchs as acquiring their fortunes like in Gustave Myers book History of Great American Fortunes as not having earned it.

What’s the range of differences in how the Russian people see the American people?

The range is narrow, and it does not depend on class.  Rather, it depends on age and the change in subtle things like music, art, and clothing.  I think that the average Russian attitude is negative, this is especially true for people older than 25 years. It is also a reaction to the US and western policies in demonizing and humiliating the Russian people. A western person a priori thinks that he is superior, and this not only on official state levels but in the mentality of the ordinary person. It is ubiquitous in art, literature, and Hollywood. From Harry Truman to Joe Biden nothing much has changed.

The Russian reaction was predictable, I am now mentioning daily stuff – not high politics or economics. It all started by making fun of the Americans and their ignorance about the history and geography of Russia, as well as their traditions and literature. Allow me to tell you one of the more famous stories of a well-known comedian (Mikhail Zadornov) who passed away not so long ago.

A Russian is traveling to the US to visit his friend, at the customs when they open his suitcase, they find a bunch of small branches (around 50 cm) tied together. The inspectors immediately are very suspicious. The Russian tries to explain that these branches are for the Sauna where they dip them in water and lightly hit each other (this is the Russian way and Sauna for some is like a religion, they can talk endlessly about which trees should be chosen for the best smell). The inspector’s eyes become like saucers. “This guy is not only a narcotic maniac, he is also sadomasochistic.”

I am not being flippant. I just want to show that ignorance and prejudice from nuclear policy to sauna lead us to making stupid decisions.

At the present the majority of the Russians, as a reaction to all the Russophobia, sanctions against any kind of activity, from industry and science to art and sport have really stiffened their stance against Americans. There is a set of people, belonging to the TV, cinema as well as some economists, and sports celebrities who are pro-western, which is not exactly pro American.  Anyway, many of them have left Russia after the beginning of the conflict with Ukraine. I should point out that in a real capitalistic society, a filmmaker or a painter is on his own in making his life. In Russia the majority receive help from the government on a regular basis. It is especially galling to the Russian taxpayer, who thinks his money is being wasted on someone who curses his country.

The Russians reacted coolly to the departure of US brands of fast food and clothes. This left many Americans wondering. Russia is not what it was in the 1990s. This is a different time. Russians now bring up their children not to eat fast food and drink soda pop (not always successfully), just like any sane parent in the US would do.

How do the different classes in Russia feel about China?

I do not think it is just a matter of classes. Defining how the Russians feel about China should be according to a number of factors that would include class. At the present there are two more or less evident trends. The first trend is supported by the state, the left, Communists and some of the nationalists who support strong ties with China on many levels. The Russians want to be sure that the Chinese have their backs through the Chinese Silk Road project and the Russian oil and gas supply to China. The liberals and pro-westerners try to find fault in any Chinese initiative.

However, all that being said, there is the human, psychological factor that broadly affects a significant number of Russians. There are cases when it is definitive and that is race. Many Russians, as most Europeans, cannot easily rid themselves of their racism that appeared after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. They see themselves as superior and have been taken in by the western propaganda. The ignorance and prejudice regarding Russia about China is colossal in dimension.  Culture and humanitarian sciences are Eurocentric. The Yellow Peril of the early 20th century is alive and well. Anti-Chinese propagandists love to bring up the border conflict that took place in 1969 between the Soviet Union and China.

The Russian Far East regions have a special relationship with China. There are some that welcome trade and financial possibilities while others are afraid that they would swamp their region and take it over. The Chinese buy unprocessed Russian timber from Siberia, and some of the local producers are eager to do this because they get paid in US dollars. The government frowns upon this, and a lot of commotion is raised. Despite their racism, the upper-class businessman is still eager to do business with China. The average man is wary and cautious. It is only the incomprehensible, myopic, bone-headed American foreign policy that is driving Russians to overcome their racism and have more sympathy for the Chinese.

How do the different classes feel about the European continent around the natural gas issue?

Soviet gas reached Germany in 1973 and each side signed a contract for 20 years, after lengthy negotiations. The German side noted that in spite of the different ideologies, all the procedures were very business-like. Since then, the Soviet, and afterwards the Russian supply of gas continued more or less smoothly to Germany and most European countries as well. Countries that have natural resources to sell as a policy diversify their routes of outlet. Just by taking a look at any modern map of gas or pipelines of nearly every producing country one can notice that. Therefore, Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipelines were logical and legitimate, especially if your pipeline passes through territory that is unstable.

The prevailing opinion about Europeans and gas supply has been formed by the fact that Europe has blocked Russian assets that are counted in hundreds of billion dollars, besides stopping the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The Russians took a step from their side, dividing the countries that they were supplying with gas into “friendly” and “unfriendly”. The friendly would continue to pay in US dollars or euros while the unfriendly that had blocked Russian assets would pay in Russian rubles. Although the contracts were in US dollars, Russia decided that blocking their assets was a force majeure clause, and they therefore took this step to defend their interests. It is not so much a class issue as it is an issue that affects nearly the whole nation. The majority of the Russians are fed up with Europe, with the gas issue and all the holier-than-thou attitude of nations filled up to their elbows in the blood of the people of the Third World as well.

With affection and respect

HCE

First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post How Different Classes in Russia Feel About Yankeedom, China and Europe: More Letters from Russia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Deconstructing Preemption, De-Nazification, Right to Protect . . . In the Eyes of Empire of Lies (and Hate)

Interesting Teach-in, well, discussion, with the speakers below. You will hear Scott Ritter divert from some of these speakers saying that the actions by Russia in Ukraine are legal, ethical and necessary.

Here is Ritter, just interviewed, Strategic Culture. Note that Ritter is called a traitor (for looking at the Russian military and political angles) and a Putin Stooge (this is it for Western Woke Culture) and he’s been banned on Twitter for a day, and then back up, and the seesaw of social media continues (more McCarthy: The New Democratic Opperative). You do not have to agree with militarism, but here we are, so the Western Woke Fascist Media and the Mendacious Political Class want nothing to do with, well, military minds looking at Russia (Ritter studied Russia big-time, and studied their military big time, both Soviet Union and Russia). He also is married to a Georgian. But again, this is it for the Western Intellect (sic).

Like we can’t watch Graham Phillips work, without being called, well, Russian Stooges. The Mainlining Mendacious Media calls him a Russian Sympathizer. Imagine that. For years,, he’s been a sympathizer (he is British, speaks Russian and goes to the actual places with camera in hand. Look at the one on Ossetia, the breakaway republic of Georgia. It is delightful (note the dinner he is served by the typical family):

Here, from, “The Ukrainian Conflict Is a U.S./NATO Proxy War, but One Which Russia Is Poised to Win Decisively – Scott Ritter” by Finian Cunningham, April 9, 2022

Question: Do you think that Russia has a just cause in launching its “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24?

Scott Ritter: I believe Russia has articulated a cognizable claim of preemptive collective self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The threat posed by NATO expansion, and Ukraine’s eight-year bombardment of the civilians of the Donbass fall under this umbrella.

Question: Do you think Russia has legitimate concerns about the Pentagon sponsoring biological weapons programs in laboratories in Ukraine?

Scott Ritter: The Pentagon denies any biological weapons program, but admits biological research programs on Ukrainian soil. Documents captured by Russia have allegedly uncovered the existence of programs the components of which could be construed as having offensive biological warfare applications. The U.S. should be required to explain the purpose of these programs.

Question: What do you make of allegations in Western media that Russian troops committed war crimes in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities? It is claimed that Russian forces summarily executed civilians.

Scott Ritter: All claims of war crimes must be thoroughly investigated, including Ukrainian allegations that Russia killed Ukrainian civilians in Bucha. However, the data available about the Bucha incident does not sustain the Ukrainian claims, and as such, the media should refrain from echoing these claims as fact until a proper investigation of the evidence is conducted, either by the media, or unbiased authorities.

While one may be able to mount a legal challenge to Russia’s contention that its joint operation with Russia’s newly recognized independent nations of Lugansk and Donetsk constitutes a “regional security or self-defense organization” as regards “anticipatory collective self-defense actions” under Article 51, there can be no doubt as to the legitimacy of Russia’s contention that the Russian-speaking population of the Donbass had been subjected to a brutal eight-year-long bombardment that had killed thousands of people.

Moreover, Russia claims to have documentary proof that the Ukrainian Army was preparing for a massive military incursion into the Donbass which was pre-empted by the Russian-led “special military operation.” [OSCE figures show an increase of government shelling of the area in the days before Russia moved in.]

Finally, Russia has articulated claims about Ukraine’s intent regarding nuclear weapons, and in particular efforts to manufacture a so-called “dirty bomb”, which have yet to be proven or disproven. [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a reference to seeking a nuclear weapon in February at the Munich Security Conference.]

The bottom line is that Russia has set forth a cognizable claim under the doctrine of anticipatory collective self defense, devised originally by the U.S. and NATO, as it applies to Article 51 which is predicated on fact, not fiction.  (Ritter, Russia, Ukraine & the Law of War: Crime of Aggression)


[Nuremberg Trials. 1st row: Hermann Göring, Rudolf Heß, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel. 2nd row: Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel. (Office of the U.S. Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality/Still Picture Records LICON, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S)]

All the speakers, except maybe excluding John Kiriakou, have great points to make: Andrei Martyanov, expert on Russian military affairs, author The Real Revolution in Military Affairs; Chris Kaspar de Ploeg, author Ukraine in the Crossfire; James Carden, Adviser U.S.-Russia bilateral commission during the Obama administration & Ex. Editor of The American Committee for East-West accord; Scott Ritter, former U.S. Marine Intelligence officer, UN Arms Inspector, exposed WMD lie in U.S. push to invade Iraq; John Kiriakou, CIA whistleblower and Radio Sputnik host; Ron Ridenour, peace activist, author The Russian Peace Threat; Gerald Horne, historian, author, Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston; Jeremy Kuzmarov, CAM Managing Editor and author of The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce.

Imagine, the provocations.

The US government invoked self-defense as a legal justification for its invasion of Panama. Several scholars and observers have opined that the invasion was illegal under international law.

Watch, Panama Deception here: C-Span!

Oh, those Freedom Fighters, the back-shooting, civilian-killing, village-burning Contras:

Appendix A: Background on United States Funding of the Contras

In examining the allegations in the Mercury News and elsewhere, it is important to understand the timing of funding of the Contras by the United States. The following dates explain the periods during which the United States government provided funding to the Contras or cut off such funding.

  • Anastasio Somoza Debayle was the leader of Nicaragua from 1967 until July 1979, when he was overthrown by the Sandinistas. When President Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981, he promptly canceled the final $15 million payment of a $75 million aid package to Nicaragua, reversing the Carter administration’s policy towards Nicaragua. On November 17, 1981, President Reagan signed National Security Directive 17, authorizing provision of covert support to anti-Sandinista forces. On December 1, 1981, Reagan signed a document intending to conceal the November 17 authorization of anti-Sandinista operations. The document characterized the United States’ goal in Nicaragua as that of interdicting the flow of arms from Nicaragua to El Salvador, where leftist guerrillas were receiving aid from Sandinista forces.
  • In late 1982, Edward P. Boland, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 1983 Defense Appropriations bill that prohibited the CIA, the principal conduit of covert American support for the Contras, from spending funds “for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua.” However, the CIA could continue to support the Contras if it claimed that the purpose was something other than to overthrow the government. In December 1983, a compromise was reached and Congress passed a funding cap for fiscal year 1984 of $24 million for aid to the Contras, an amount significantly lower than what the Reagan administration wanted, with the possibility that the Administration could seek supplemental funds later.
  • This funding was insufficient to support the Administration’s “Contra program” and the decision was made to approach other countries for monetary support. In April 1984, Robert McFarlane convinced Saudi Arabia to contribute $1 million per month to the Contras through a secret bank account set up by Lt. Col. Oliver North.
  • In October 1984, the second Boland amendment took effect. It prohibited any military or paramilitary support for the Contras from October 3, 1984, through December 19, 1985. As a result, the CIA and Department of Defense (DOD) began withdrawing personnel from Central America. During this time, however, the National Security Council continued to provide support to the Contras.
  • In August 1985, Congress approved $25 million in humanitarian aid to the Contras, with the proviso that the State Department, and not the CIA or the DOD, administer the aid. President Reagan created the Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office (NHAO) to supply the humanitarian aid. In September 1985, Oliver North began using the Salvadoran air base at Ilopango for Contra resupply efforts.
  • On October 5, 1986, a plane loaded with supplies for the Contras, financed by private benefactors, was shot down by Nicaraguan soldiers. On board were weapons and other lethal supplies and three Americans. One American, Eugene Hasenfus, claimed while in custody that he worked for the CIA. The Reagan Administration denied any knowledge of the private resupply efforts.
  • On October 17, 1986, Congress approved $100 million in funds for the Contras. In 1987, after the discovery of private resupply efforts orchestrated by the National Security Council and Oliver North, Congress ceased all but “non-lethal” aid in 1987. The war between the Sandinistas and the Contras ended with a cease-fire in 1990.
  • Although the Contras were often referred to as one group, several distinct factions made up the Contras.
  • In August 1980, Colonel Enrique Bermudez, a former Colonel in Somoza’s National Guard, united other former National Guard officers and anti-Sandinista civilians to form the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (FDN). This group was known as the Northern Front because it was based in Honduras. In February 1983, Adolfo Calero became the head of the FDN.
  • In April 1982, Eden Pastora split from the Sandinista regime and organized the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ARDE) and the Sandinista Revolutionary Front (FRS), which declared war on the Sandinista regime. Pastora’s group was based in Costa Rica and along the southern border of Nicaragua, and therefore became known as the Southern Front. Pastora refused to work with Bermudez, claiming that Bermudez, as a member of the former Somoza regime, was politically tainted. The CIA decided to support the FDN and generally declined to support the ARDE.

Again, let’s think about what is actually happening in Ukraine, and where the country is, and what the Russians in that country are facing, and, gulp, where is Ukraine? Thousands of miles away, like Panama and Nicaragua are from USA?

Here, a Dutch journalist:

Sonja at the place of the rocket attack in Donetsk, the ATM machine. [Photo Courtesy of Sonja Van den Ende]

Read her work:

As the war in Ukraine rages on, I visited the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as an embedded reporter with the Russian army.

Both of the republics are the trigger of the current conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared their independence on February 24, 2022, something a lot of people were waiting for since the CIA backed coup in Ukraine of February 2014. That coup had resulted in the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and new laws forcing the Ukrainian language on Russian-speaking residents. Luhansk and Donetsk consequently voted on their independence and Ukraine attacked them, precipitating the war.

European support for the so-called Maidan coup was considerable: the Dutch MP Hans van Baalen from the ruling Dutch VVD party (Mark Rutte), for example, was at the protests that helped trigger the coup, as was the former Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt. Both were seen cheering on the crowds, surrounded by right-extremists on the stage, shouting “democracy.”

So what is preemptive defense? Right to Protect? What is big ugly history of Nazi’s in Poland and Ukraine? What is that all about, uh, Americanum?

At least 32 countries have sent direct military aid to Ukraine this year! US and NATO Allies Arm Neo-Nazi Units in Ukraine as Foreign Policy Elites Yearn for Afghan-style Insurgency

So, plans by ZioLensky for Dirty Bombs from the wasteland of Chernobyl, not a provocation?

How many were immolated in Waco? Why? Mount Carmel Center became engulfed in flames. The fire resulted in the deaths of 76 Branch Davidians, including 25 children, two pregnant women, and David Koresh himself.

Oh, the impatience of the USA, FBI, ATF, Attorney General, Bill Clinton, the lot of them.

Or, dropping bombs on Philly, to kill, well, black people:

How many died, and what happened to the city block? Bombs dropped on our own people, again! Police dropped a bomb on a West Philly house in 1985. The fire caused by the explosion killed 11 people, an atrocity that Philadelphia still grapples with today.

 

Oh, the irony.

Black Lives Do Not Matter, here, or in Ukraine. Below, representation of those lives killed by cops, of all races, in one year. Many of these in a year, 60 percent, did not involve a person with a gun, and a huge number, 40 percent, involved people going throug mental health crises.

More than one thousand people are killed by police every year in America

Oh, being black in Ukraine:

[Foreign students trying to reach the Ukrainian border said they were thrown off trains, not allowed on buses, and made to wait hours in the cold before crossing over.]

Yes, the first casualty of war is truth, and with the USA as the Empire of Lies and Hate, the casualty is now a larger framework of a Zombie Nation of virtue signalers and those who want the fake news to be real, please!

So far as I know, this is the first war in modern history with no objective, principled coverage in mainstream media of day-to-day events and their context. None. It is morn-to-night propaganda, disinformation and lies of omission — most of it fashioned by the Nazi-infested Zelensky regime in Kiev and repeated uncritically as fact.

There is one thing worse than this degenerate state of affairs. It is the extent to which the media’s malpractice is perfectly fine to most Americans. Tell us what to think and believe no matter if it is true, they say, and we will think and believe it. Show us some pictures, for images are all.

There are larger implications to consider here. Critical as it is that we understand this conflict, Ukraine is a mirror in which we see ourselves as we have become. For more Americans than I wish were so, reality forms only in images. These Americans are no longer occupants of their own lives. Risking a paradox, what they take to be reality is detached from reality.

This majority — and it is almost certainly a majority — has no thoughts or views except those first verified through the machinery of manufactured images and “facts.” Television screens, the pages of purportedly authoritative newspapers, the air waves of government-funded radio stations — NPR, the BBC — serve to certify realities that do not have to be real, truths that do not have to be true.

Before proceeding to Bucha, the outrage of the moment, I must reproduce a quotation from that propaganda-is-O.K. piece The Times published in its March 3 editions. It is from a Twitter user who was distressed that it became public that the Ghost of Kiev turned out to be a ghost and the Snake Island heroes didn’t do much by way of holding the fort.

‘Why can’t we just let people believe some things?’ this thoughtful man or woman wanted to know. What is wrong, in other words, if thinking and believing nice things that aren’t true makes people feel better? (Patrick LawrenceSpecial to Consortium News)

Daniel Boorstin’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo- Events in America, has been cited by yours truly several times. It is a completely amazing work, sixty years ahead of its time, and it is almost completely ignored!.

boorstin daniel - the image - AbeBooks

I describe the world of our making, how we have used our wealth, our literacy, our technology, and our progress to create the thicket of unreality which stands between us and the facts of life. …. The reporter’s task is to find a way to weave these threads of unreality into a fabric the reader will not recognize as entirely unreal. (Boorstin)

The post Deconstructing Preemption, De-Nazification, Right to Protect . . . In the Eyes of Empire of Lies (and Hate) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Do We Have a Failure to Communicate!

Ted Rall gets it right here: The Left Must Continue to Avoid the Ukraine Trap

“Find a way to be against the war in Ukraine, please.” That was the subject line of one of my recent hate emails. “If you look through Mr. Rall’s cartoons for the past month, there isn’t a single one condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” an anonymous online commenter chided. “There’s plenty of ones based around whataboutism condemning us for condemning them but not a single one that just comes right out and says what Russia is doing now is wrong.”

The Right — in the U.S. that includes Republicans, Democrats and corporate media — has set a clever trap for the anti-war Left. The rhetoric in this essay’s first paragraph is an example. If the Left were to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Right would portray us as Russia-loving hypocrites who only oppose wars when the United States starts them. If the Left backed Ukraine, they’d be joining an unholy alliance with a government installed in a CIA-backed coup that pointlessly provoked Russia by asking to join NATO and is so tolerant of neo-Nazism that it allows soldiers wearing Nazi insignia in its military and seems to be trying to set some sort of record for building statues to World War II Nazi collaborators and antisemites. Plus, they’d be helping the Right distract people from the murderous sins of American imperialism, which are ongoing.

So, again, the offensive weapons industry, from the grenade to the guzzling B-1 bomber, from the pant zipper to the propelled hand-held rockets, from the Meals Ready to Eat to the Missiles from the Drones’ Mouth, all of those shell casings and depleted uranium bullet heads, all of that, including Burger Kings for Troops to the Experimental Anthrax Vaccines, all of that, and all the paper-mouse pushers, all the middlewomen and middlemen, all the folks in this military everything industrial complex, that is what the Russian Right to Stop Extremists/Murderers/ Nazis in Ukraine is all about. USA/UK/EU can take out wedding parties, but Russia can’t take out Nazi’s.

So, we have Angela Davis (throw away your blackness black panther card) and Chomsky and Sean Penn and every manner of woke and wise idiot calling Putin a dictator, a thug, an authoritarian leader. Oh, the authoritarian BlackRock and Raytheon and Biden Administration and USA Lobbying Network, and on and on, so, again, tenured professors with book contracts and speaking (paid big bucks) engagements, forget about them.

This is the American Way — Making Money on/off of WAR. The Racket that General Butler talked about is so so more complicated than his experiences in the 1890s through 1940s. These times are filled with buckets of DNA we might think have zero to do with war, but are so attached to the inbreeding of the war machines that every nanosecond of business and every transaction in this society is all tied to WAR. Like embedded energy and life cycle analysis, the military complex, if we really did the true cost of war/warring, the one or six trillion dollars that Brown University comes up with would be factored up by 10 or more.

The 2022 spending bill, which passed both chambers with gleeful bipartisan support last week, included billions of dollars for ships and planes that the Pentagon didn’t ask for, a common occurrence in Congress. Then, here it is — just one angle. Congress authorized $27 billion for Navy ships, including $4 billion for several vessels the Navy didn’t ask for, and $900 million for additional Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets the Navy had hoped to phase out. The bill also provides billions to purchase 20 more Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes than the Pentagon requested.

And, the details are in the sausage making, from scarred land for corn, to the poisons to grow the corn, to the ponds of pig blood and guts, to the butchering of antibiotic-filled and toxin-laden pigs, to the transportation of poisoned meat, to sausage warehouses, to all of the packaging and happy meal advertisements, and then, of course, the cost of clogged arteries and obesity and colon cancers, all of that, well, figure in a similar cost analysis for every Hellfire missile produced for the profits of the offensive weapons Mafia.

Since the start of the new year, Lockheed Martin’s stock has soared nearly 25 percent, while Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman each saw their stock prices rise by around 12 percent.

In a January earnings call, Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet said that the “renewed great power competition” would lead to inflated defense budgets and additional sales. On the same day, Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told investors that the company expected to see “opportunities for international sales” amid the Russian threat.

“The tensions in Eastern Europe, the tensions in the South China Sea, all of those things are putting pressure on some of the defense spending over there,” Hayes said. “So I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it.”

The defense lobbyist also predicted a major gain for U.S. defense firms thanks to increased European defense spending.

“As much as many countries have their own defense industrial base, they don’t make everything they need themselves. So they are going to rely on us in many cases for missiles, for aircraft, for ground vehicles,” they said. (source)

These are sociopaths. Read it again and again if you are dense. “…. thanks to increased EU spending . . . .” Or, “. . . . fully expect we’re going to see … benefit from it (wars) . . . ” These are golf course dealing misanthropes. Their kids go to Yale, and they have two or four homes around the country. They attend $500 a ticket Hamilton galas. They are the Titans of Terror.

Alas, the offensive weapons-equipment-PSYOPS-marketing-financing INDUSTRY is the gift (poison, PTSD, maiming, mauling, murdering) that keeps on giving. The sacking of our own personal and collective agency, that is, where is the fight for our poor, for our huddled masses, for our general anxiety disordered citizens? Where are those bandaids and nurses staffing those free drop-in clinics? Where are those hefty checks for clean water systems, R & R-ing lead pipes? Where are those insulating old homes programs? Where are those funds for aging in place programs? Where are the deals for the poor and struggling to get into national parks free? Where are those used tires for aging cars that take mother and daughter to their fast-food/child care/adult care jobs? Where are those food vouchers even the French are handing out? Where is all that help, uh?

Over decades of brainwashing and history scrubbing and agnotology and consumerism and propaganda and plain bad PK12 education. After years of mediocre college degrees, and after throwing money at computer engineers, the AI Hole in the Autism Wall Gang, and after so much celebrity pimping, the American public will pull out a yellow and blue hanky and smear their crocodile tears for a billionaire lying comic ZioLenskyy and wax nostalgic for those Nazi-loving Ukrainians, but never a word for fellow human beings in, well, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Russia.

We wonder about Word Press — a non-profit (sic) that takes $100 a year just for this little shit show? Will the site be hacked, cut, or disengaged because of Russia’s flag above and the UkiNazi image below?

 

Oh, the stories over at Grayzone or Consortium News or Mint Press or Covert Action Magazine, or . . . .

‘Gods of War’: How the US weaponized Ukraine against Russia TJ COLES

And the evil is the shutdown of discourse. True evil. Makes Mossad and CIA and Stasi and KGB look like Keystone Cops:

And, so, Zelenskyy wants hundreds and hundreds of billions in weapons and aid and for his padded luxurious life. Yep, a failure to communicate — the US of A! But there is still some sanity — Black Agenda Report:

Left Voices are Censored

Censorship is supposed to happen in other places, not in the U.S. But big tech, in alliance with the state, is silencing Black and other left voices in the media. The war in Ukraine is bringing this process into high relief and making a mockery of claims of freedom of expression. Jacqueline Luqman, co-host of the Sputnik program, By Any Means Necessary , explains.

The U.S. Crisis Plays Out in Ukraine

Joe Biden travelled to Europe for NATO and G7 meetings one month after Russian troops entered Ukraine. Biden predictably condemned Russia but also suggested he was seeking regime change against Vladimir Putin. Dr. Gerald Horne , author and historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, analyses US policy in Ukraine.

The end game is lies, all the spin, the tens of thousands of outlets, the social media monsters, all of the PSYOPS, all the roots of Edward Bernays, Milton Friedman, Madmen, the entire suite of propaganda tools. A failure to communicate is now an avalanche of lies, as in the Empire of Lies. Russia loses that war — information 5.0 USA style, is Russia 1.0. Honesty is a crutch.

We’ve studied this system of propaganda, and it is sophisticated, way before Goebbels, but still, he is the master 2.0. Israel is a killer of a liar. Britain. USA.

Russia’s approach to the Ukraine question is remarkably different from the West’s. As far as Russia is concerned Ukraine is not a pawn on the chessboard but rather a member of the family with whom communication has become impossible due to protracted foreign interference and influence operations. According to Andrei Ilnitsky, an advisor to the Russian Ministry of Defence, Ukraine is the territory where the Russian world lost one of the strategic battles in the cognitive war. Having lost the battle, Russia feels all the more obliged to win the war — a war to undo the damage to a country that historically has always been part of the Russian world and to prevent the same damage at home. It is rather telling that what US-NATO call an “information war” is referred to as “mental’naya voina”, that is cognitive war, by this prominent Russian strategist. Being mainly on the receiving end of information/influence operations, Russia has been studying their deleterious effects. (source)

Marketing 101 is now hyperspace marketing, and the tools of bots, AI, algorithms, etc., they are like neutron info bombs.

  1.  Bandwagon propaganda
  2.  Card Stacking propaganda
  3.  Plain Folk Propaganda
  4.  Testimonial Propaganda
  5.  Glittering Generality Propaganda
  6.  Name Calling Propaganda
  7.  Transfer Propaganda
  8.  Ad nauseam propaganda
  9.  Stereotyping propaganda
  10.  Appeal to prejudice propaganda
  11.  Appeal to fear propaganda

So therefore, this relentless manipulation of people’s emotions and coginitive disassociation and associative thinking has unleashed a dangerous whirlwind of mass insanity.

The most dangerous purveyor of it:

US Propaganda 100 Years ago and how the Media was influenced (3) | by Melmac Politics | Medium

 

The New Age of Propaganda: Understanding Influence Operations in the Digital Age

World Economic Forum Blasted for 'Insane Pro-CRT Propaganda' Video - Miami Standard

Putin's digital aggression is backfiring in Ukraine - The Hill Times

The post Do We Have a Failure to Communicate! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Can Israel Exist without America: Numbers Speaks of a Changing Reality 

When Russian and Ukrainian delegations meeting in Turkey on March 29 reached an initial understanding regarding a list of countries that could serve as security guarantors for Kyiv should an agreement be struck, Israel appeared on the list. The other countries included the US, the UK, China, Russia, France, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Italy and Poland.

One may explain Israel’s political significance to the Russian-Ukrainian talks based on Tel Aviv’s strong ties with Kyiv, as opposed to Russia’s trust in Israel. This is insufficient to rationalize how Israel has managed to acquire relevance in an international conflict, arguably the most serious since World War II.

Immediately following the start of the war, Israeli officials began to circumnavigate the globe, shuttling between many countries that are directly or even nominally involved in the conflict. Israeli President Isaac Herzog flew to Istanbul to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The outcome of this meeting could usher in “a turning point in relations between Turkey and Israel,” Erdogan said.

Though “Israel is proceeding cautiously with Turkey,” Lavan Karkov wrote in the Jerusalem Post, Herzog hopes that “his meeting with .. Erdogan is starting a positive process toward improved relations.” The ‘improved relations’ are not concerned with the fate of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation and siege, but with a gas pipeline connecting Israel’s Leviathan offshore gas field in the eastern Mediterranean, to southern Europe via Turkey.

This project will improve Israel’s geopolitical status in the Middle East and Europe. The political leverage of being a primary gas supplier to Europe would allow Israel even stronger influence over the continent and will certainly tone down any future criticism of Tel Aviv by Ankara.

That was only one of many such Israeli overtures. Tel Aviv’s diplomatic flurry included a top-level meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, and a succession of visits by top European, American, Arab and other officials to Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel on March 26 and was expected to put some pressure on Israel to join the US-led western sanctions on Russia. Little of that has transpired. The greatest rebuke came from Under-Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, when, on March 11, she called on Israel not to become “the last haven for dirty money that’s fueling Putin’s wars”.

For years, Israel had hoped to free itself from its disproportionate reliance on Washington. This dependency took on many forms: financial and military assistance, political backing, diplomatic cover and more. According to Chuck Freilich, writing in Newsweek, “by the end of the ten-year military-aid package  agreed (between Washington and Tel Aviv) for 2019-28, the total figure (of US aid to Israel) will be nearly $170bn.”

Many Palestinians and others believe that, if the US ceases to support Israel, the latter would simply collapse. However, this might not be the case, at least not in theory. Writing in March 2021 in the New York Times, Max Fisher estimated that US aid to Israel in 1981 “was equivalent to almost 10 percent of Israel’s economy,” while in 2020, the nearly $4 billion of US aid was “closer to 1 percent.”

Still, this 1 percent is vital for Israel, as much of the funds are funneled to the Israeli military which, in turn, converts them to weapons that are routinely used against Palestinians and other Arab countries. Israeli military technology of today is far more developed than it was 40 years ago. Figures by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) place Israel as the world’s eighth-largest military exporter between 2016-2020, with an estimated export value of $8.3 billion in 2020 alone. These numbers continue to grow as Israeli military hardware is increasingly incorporated into many security apparatuses across the world, including the US, the EU and also in the Global South.

Much of this discussion is rooted in a document from 1996, entitled: “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. The document was authored by Richard Perle, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense, jointly with top leaders in the neoconservative movement in Washington. The target audience of that research was none other than Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then the newly-elected Israeli Prime Minister.

Aside from the document’s detailed instructions on how Israel can use some of its Arab neighbors, in addition to Turkey, to weaken and ‘roll back’ hostile governments, it also made significant references to future relations Tel Aviv should aspire to develop with Washington.

Perle urged Israel to “make a clean break from the past and establish a new vision for the U.S.-Israeli partnership based on self-reliance, maturity and mutuality – not one focused narrowly on territorial disputes.” This new, ‘self-reliant Israel’ “does not need U.S. troops in any capacity to defend it.” Ultimately, such self-reliance “will grant Israel greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of pressure used against it in the past.”

An example is Israel’s relations with China. In 2013, Washington was outraged when Israel sold secret missile and electro-optic US technology to China. Quickly, Tel Aviv was forced to retreat. The controversy subsided when the head of defense experts at the Israeli Defense Ministry was removed. Eight years on, despite US protests and demands that Israel must not allow China to operate the Israeli Haifa port due to Washington’s security concerns, the port was officially initiated in September 2021.

Israel’s regional and international strategy seems to be advancing in multiple directions, some of them directly opposing those of Washington. Yet, thanks to continued Israeli influence in the US Congress, Washington does little to hold Israel accountable. Meanwhile, now that Israel is fully aware that the US has changed its political attitude in the Middle East and is moving in the direction of the Pacific region and Eastern Europe, Tel Aviv’s ‘clean break’ strategy is moving faster than ever before. However, this comes with risks. Though Israel is stronger now, its neighbors are also getting stronger.

Hence, it is critical that Palestinians understand that Israel’s survival is no longer linked to the US, at least not as intrinsically as in the past. Therefore, the fight against Israeli occupation and apartheid can no longer be disproportionately focused on breaking up the ‘special relationship’ that united Tel Aviv and Washington for over 50 years. Israel’s ‘independence’ from the US entails risks and opportunities that must be considered in the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

The post Can Israel Exist without America: Numbers Speaks of a Changing Reality  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fabricating Putin Quotes and Banning Paraplegic Athletes to Undermine Russia

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

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

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

Why Ukraine?

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

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

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

Censorship

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

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

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

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

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

Sensational Accusations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self Censorship

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

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

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

Fabricating quotes

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

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

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

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

Ukraine in the Global Context

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

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

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

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

Cuba said:

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

South African President Ramaphosa blamed NATO saying:

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

The Chinese representative said:

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

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

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

The post Fabricating Putin Quotes and Banning Paraplegic Athletes to Undermine Russia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Is Europe Really More Civilized? Ukraine Conflict a Platform for Racism and Rewriting History

When a gruesome six-minute video of Ukrainian soldiers shooting and torturing handcuffed and tied up Russian soldiers circulated online, outraged people on social media and elsewhere compared this barbaric behavior to that of Daesh.

In a rare admission of moral responsibility, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian President, quickly reminded Ukrainian fighters of their responsibility under international law. “I would like to remind all our military, civilian and defense forces, once again, that the abuse of prisoners is a war crime that has no amnesty under military law and has no statute of limitations,” he said, asserting that “We are a European army”, as if the latter is synonymous with civilized behavior.

Even that supposed claim of responsibility conveyed subtle racism, as if to suggest that non-westerners, non-Europeans, may carry out such grisly and cowardly violence, but certainly not the more rational, humane and intellectually superior Europeans.

The comment, though less obvious, reminds one of the racist remarks by CBS’ foreign correspondent, Charlie D’Agata, on February 26, when he shamelessly compared Middle Eastern cities with the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, stating that “Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan, (…) this is a relatively civilized, relatively European city”.

The Russia-Ukraine war has been a stage of racist comments and behavior, some explicit and obvious, others implicit and indirect. Far from being implicit, however, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov, did not mince words when, last February, he addressed the issue of Ukrainian refugees. Europe can benefit from Ukrainian refugees, he said, because “these people are Europeans. (…) These people are intelligent, they are educated people. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists.”

One of many other telling episodes that highlight western racism, but also continued denial of its grim reality, was an interview conducted by the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, with the Ukrainian Azov Battalion Commander, Dmytro Kuharchuck. The latter’s militia is known for its far-right politics, outright racism and horrific acts of violence. Yet, the newspaper described Kuharchuck as “the kind of fighter you don’t expect. He reads Kant and he doesn’t only use his bazooka.” If this is not the very definition of denial, what is?

That said, our proud European friends must be careful before supplanting the word ‘European’ with ‘civilization’ and respect for human rights. They ought not to forget their past or rewrite their history because, after all, racially-based slavery is a European and western brand. The slave trade, as a result of which millions of slaves were shipped from Africa during the course of four centuries, was very much European. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, 1.8 million people “died on the Middle Passage of the transatlantic slave trade”. Other estimations put the number much higher.

Colonialism is another European quality. Starting in the 15th century, and lasting for centuries afterward, colonialism ravaged the entire Global South. Unlike the slave trade, colonialism enslaved entire peoples and divided whole continents, like Africa, among European spheres of influence.

The nation of Congo was literally owned by one person, Belgian King Leopold II. India was effectively controlled and colonized by the British East India Company and, later, by the British government. The fate of South America was largely determined by the US-imposed Monroe Doctrines of 1823. For nearly 200 years, this continent has paid – and continues to pay – an extremely heavy price of US colonialism and neocolonialism. No numbers or figures can possibly express the destruction and death toll inflicted by Western-European colonialism on the rest of the world, simply because the victims are still being counted. But for the sake of illustration, according to American historian, Adam Hochschild, ten million people have died in Congo alone from 1885 to 1908.

And how can we forget that World War I and II are also entirely European, leaving behind around 40 million and 75 million dead, respectively. (Other estimations are significantly higher). The gruesomeness of these European wars can only be compared to the atrocities committed, also by Europeans, throughout the South, for hundreds of years prior.

Mere months after The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in 1949, the eager western partners were quick to flex their muscles in Korea in 1950, instigating a war that lasted for three years, resulting in the death of nearly 5 million people. The Korean war, like many other NATO-instigated conflicts, remains an unhealed wound to this day.

The list goes on and on, from the disgraceful Opium Wars on China, starting in 1839, to the nuclear bombings of Japan in 1945, to the destruction of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, in 1954, 1959 and 1970 respectively, to the political meddling, military interventions and regime change in numerous countries around the world. They are all the work of the West, of the US and its ever-willing ‘European partners’, all done in the name of spreading democracy, freedom and human rights.

If it were not for the Europeans, Palestine would have gained its independence decades ago, and its people, this writer included, would have not been made refugees, suffering under the yoke of Zionist Israel. If it were not for the US and the Europeans, Iraq would have remained a sovereign country and millions of lives would have been spared in one of the world’s oldest civilizations; and Afghanistan would have not endured this untold hardship. Even when the US and its European friends finally relented and left Afghanistan last year, they continue to hold the country hostage, by blocking the release of its funds, leading to actual starvation among the people of that war-torn country.

So before bragging about the virtues of Europe, and the demeaning of everyone else, the likes of Arestovych, D’Agata, and Petkov should take a look at themselves in the mirror and reconsider their unsubstantiated ethnocentric view of the world and of history. In fact, if anyone deserves bragging rights it is those colonized nations that resisted colonialism, the slaves that fought for their freedom, and the oppressed nations that resisted their European oppressors, despite the pain and suffering that such struggles entailed.

Sadly, for Europe, however, instead of using the Russia-Ukraine war as an opportunity to reflect on the future of the European project, whatever that is, it is being used as an opportunity to score cheap points against the very victims of Europe everywhere. Once more, valuable lessons remain unlearned.

The post Is Europe Really More Civilized? Ukraine Conflict a Platform for Racism and Rewriting History first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From Korea to Libya: On the Future of Ukraine and NATO’s Neverending Wars

Much has been said and written about media bias and double standards in the West’s response to the Russia-Ukraine war, when compared with other wars and military conflicts across the world, especially in the Middle East and the Global South. Less obvious is how such hypocrisy is a reflection of a much larger phenomenon which governs the West’s relationship to war and conflict zones.

On March 19, Iraq commemorated the 19th anniversary of the US invasion which killed, according to modest estimates, over a million Iraqis. The consequences of that war were equally devastating as it destabilized the entire Middle East region, leading to various civil and proxy wars. The Arab world is reeling under that horrific experience to this day.

Also, on March 19, the eleventh anniversary of the NATO war on Libya was commemorated and followed, five days later, by the 23rd anniversary of the NATO war on Yugoslavia. Like every NATO-led war since the inception of the alliance in 1949, these wars resulted in widespread devastation and tragic death tolls.

None of these wars, starting with the NATO intervention in the Korean Peninsula in 1950, have stabilized any of the warring regions. Iraq is still as vulnerable to terrorism and outside military interventions and, in many ways, remains an occupied country. Libya is divided among various warring camps, and a return to civil war remains a real possibility.

Yet, enthusiasm for war remains high, as if over seventy years of failed military interventions have not taught us any meaningful lessons. Daily, news headlines tell us that the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Spain or some other western power have decided to ship a new kind of ‘lethal weapons’ to Ukraine. Billions of dollars have already been allocated by Western countries to contribute to the war in Ukraine.

In contrast, very little has been done to offer platforms for diplomatic, non-violent solutions. A handful of countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have offered mediation or insisted on a diplomatic solution to the war, arguing, as China’s foreign ministry reiterated on March 18, that “all sides need to jointly support Russia and Ukraine in having dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace”.

Though the violation of the sovereignty of any country is illegal under international law, and is a stark violation of the United Nations Charter, this does not mean that the only solution to violence is counter-violence. This cannot be truer in the case of Russia and Ukraine, as a state of civil war has existed in Eastern Ukraine for eight years, harvesting thousands of lives and depriving whole communities from any sense of peace or security. NATO’s weapons cannot possibly address the root causes of this communal struggle. On the contrary, they can only fuel it further.

If more weapons were the answer, the conflict would have been resolved years ago. According to the BBC, the US has already allocated $2.7bn to Ukraine over the last eight years, long before the current war. This massive arsenal included “anti-tank and anti-armor weapons … US-made sniper (rifles), ammunition and accessories”.

The speed with which additional military aid has poured into Ukraine following the Russian military operations on February 24 is unprecedented in modern history. This raises not only political or legal questions, but moral questions as well – the eagerness to fund war and the lack of enthusiasm to help countries rebuild.

After 21 years of US war and invasion of Afghanistan, resulting in a humanitarian and refugee crisis, Kabul is now largely left on its own. Last September, the UN refugee agency warned that “a major humanitarian crisis is looming in Afghanistan”, yet nothing has been done to address this ‘looming’ crisis, which has greatly worsened since then.

Afghani refugees are rarely welcomed in Europe. The same is true for refugees coming from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali and other conflicts that directly or indirectly involved NATO. This hypocrisy is accentuated when we consider international initiatives that aim to support war refugees, or rebuild the economies of war-torn nations.

Compare the lack of enthusiasm in supporting war-torn nations with the West’s unparalleled euphoria in providing weapons to Ukraine. Sadly, it will not be long before the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have left their country in recent weeks become a burden on Europe, thus subjected to the same kind of mainstream criticism and far-right attacks.

While it is true that the West’s attitude towards Ukraine is different from its attitude towards victims of western interventions, one has to be careful before supposing that the ‘privileged’ Ukrainains will ultimately be better off than the victims of war throughout the Middle East. As the war drags on, Ukraine will continue to suffer, either the direct impact of the war or the collective trauma that will surely follow. The amassing of NATO weapons in Ukraine, as was the case of Libya, will likely backfire. In Libya, NATO’s weapons fueled the country’s  decade long civil war.

Ukraine needs peace and security, not perpetual war that is designed to serve the strategic interests of certain countries or military alliances. Though military invasions must be wholly rejected, whether in Iraq or Ukraine, turning Ukraine into another convenient zone of perpetual geopolitical struggle between NATO and Russia is not the answer.

The post From Korea to Libya: On the Future of Ukraine and NATO’s Neverending Wars first appeared on Dissident Voice.