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The Crisis in Ukraine is a Planetary Crisis Provoked by the U.S. that Threatens Nuclear War

Let us begin a conversation in response to what currently qualifies as the most profound question, the one that needs most urgently to be addressed if we are to have any chance of understanding what we conveniently refer to as the “Ukraine crisis.” This is, more accurately, a planetary crisis—close in magnitude to the near-certainty of species extinction within the next century, but in some ways ahead of secondary catastrophes such as the obscene, raging inequality between peoples and nations unleashed by President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s, and the global conglomerations of immense corporate and plutocratic power.

Why is it, then, that the three most important power alliances of the Western and Eurasian worlds—North America, led by the United States alongside its “Trudeauesque” poodle and with the problematic connivance of Mexico’s López Obrador; the European Union and post-Brexit UK; and the Russian Federation, in wobbly alliance with China—consider it worthwhile to suffer intensification of the risks of nuclear annihilation? This, in the face of an abundance of routes available for peaceful settlement, given a minimum of goodwill and genuine humanitarian concern?

In the case of Russia, we know very well what these reasons are because Russia has told us—clearly, consistently, loudly, and transparently—for more than 15 years. First and foremost, Russia resents the West’s violation of its unmistakable and supremely important pledge to President Gorbachev in 1990 that the power of NATO would not move one further inch eastward. Secretary of State James Baker gave this commitment at least three times on February 9 that year. This was in return for Russian acquiescence to the tragic error of German reunification, paving the way for an accelerating renaissance of an aggressively militarized and potentially neo-Nazi European hegemon.

President George H. W. Bush (left) with the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (right) in 1989. (Credit: theguardian.com)

Yet in place of the 16 members of NATO that existed in 1990, we today have 30, and Ukraine is more and more desperately knocking on the door, conceivably to be followed by Georgia, Finland and Sweden. Current U.S. President Joe Biden, whose son enjoyed a senior place on the board of Ukraine energy giant Burisma, played a key role in that process of enlargement. The U.S. and Russia possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, around 4,000 each.

But the United States has deployed its weapons far closer to Russia than Russia has deployed weapons close to the U.S. (each power also has fleets of nuclear submarines: in 2018 the U.S. had 14, against Russia’s 12). The United States has positioned nuclear defense/offense capabilities close to Russian borders in countries such as Poland and Romania. There are between 160 and 240 U.S. atomic bombs in NATO countries, of which 50 to 90 are stored in Turkey, a NATO member. Britain (225) and France (300) have their own sizeable nuclear arsenals.

(Source: atlanticcouncil.org)

Although it is commonly presumed that a nuclear exchange would quickly move from incremental (if there is any moderation at all) to massive, assessments as to how a nuclear war would actually pan out are extremely complicated for both technological and geopolitical reasons. It is not beyond comprehension that a conflict might be confined to so-called low-yield nuclear bombs or mini-nukes. Nor is it at all certain that nuclear weapons will all work as they are supposed to (in fact, it is reasonable to presume they will not). Many uncertainties attend the newest generation of hypersonic missiles. And the functionality of so-called missile defense systems is perhaps most of all in question.

In addition, there is the issue of the weaponization of nuclear reactors, which is to say their conversion into weapons by missile or other form of strike, whether intentional or otherwise. There are 15 reactors in Ukraine, and another 123 in Europe. The U.S. has 93, Russia 38. Not least is the danger of nuclear accident, which almost certainly increases in the context of accelerating tensions between countries at least one of which possesses nuclear weapons or countries that can strike the nuclear facilities or reactors of other countries. There have been at least a dozen or so near misses since the U.S. dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Although their deliberate use by the United States that year is the only time that nuclear weapons have actually been fired in conflict, there have been many instances in which the use of nuclear weapons has been seriously considered. Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone, in their book The Untold History of the United States, relate several instances in which U.S. presidents have given serious consideration to their use. This featured in Winston Churchill’s Operation Unthinkable, formulated within weeks of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It contemplated a nuclear strike against Soviet Russia.

The Pentagon developed at least nine such first-strike nuclear war plans before the Soviets tested their first atomic bomb in 1949. The 1949 Dropshot plan envisaged 300 nuclear bombs and 20,000 tons of conventional bombs on 200 targets in 100 urban areas, including Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Fortunately, the U.S. did not have sufficient weaponry for the purpose at that time.

(Source: express.co.uk)

In the United States and its allies, Russia confronts an adversary which is the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons on another, although this made little concrete difference to the outcome of the Second World War. This is also an adversary which has many times since considered using nuclear weapons again, which tolerates the acquisition of nuclear weapons by its closest allies (e.g., Britain, France, Israel) and bitterly opposes even the faintest possibility of their acquisition by its opponents (e.g., North Korea and Iran).

It is an adversary which fails to keep even its most important promises (e.g., about not allowing NATO to expand), a country which abrogates important treaties (as did Bush in abrogating the ABM treaty in 2002), and which has crowned itself as the rightful hegemon, entitled to crush any power, global or regional, that would dare challenge its hegemonic status (as in the “Wolfowitz doctrine” 1992, progenitor of the Bush doctrine in 2002 by which the U.S. entitles itself to preemptive war).

Paul Wolfowitz (Source: geopoliticsca.ru)

The U.S.’s credibility in international relations is profoundly undermined by: a long history of invasions and occupations of other powers—most egregiously, perhaps, in the case of Afghanistan 2001-2021, or that of Iraq (2003-2021), which can be counted along with many dozens of other instances since World War Two; overt and covert military interventions, with or without the consent of legitimate authorities, often reckless and cruel; fomenting of regime-change “color revolutions” as in Ukraine 2004 and 2014; and universal meddling with elections and political processes as in the activities of organizations such as Cambridge Analytica, and its parent Strategic Communications Limited, and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Not least is its equally long-established history of lying, just about everything, but particularly in matters of war. The Pentagon Papers, exposed by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 with respect to the Vietnam War, or the so-called Afghanistan Papers, gathered into book form by Craig Whitlock in 2021, should be sufficient cause for considerable alarm in this respect.

There is a context here of a profound U.S.-led, multi-media and multi-targeted anti-Russia propaganda campaign that dates to the accession to the Russian presidency of Vladimir Putin in 1999-2000. It builds on previous relentless Cold War propaganda against the Soviet Union (which had us all thinking this titanic struggle was all about capitalism versus communism when it was really just about who could steal the most from the developing world), and on an even more distant anti-Russian campaign stretching back at least as far as the Crimean War of 1853-56—all chronicled by Gerald Sussmann, among others, in 2020.

(Source: Russia-now.com)

To this must now be added recent unfounded or presumptive anti-Russian harassment regarding an incessant and unlikely litany of all manner of accusations. These include the shooting down of MH17 in 2014; the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in 2018; purported collusion with Syrian President Assad over the use of chemical weapons; and, the most dramatic fable of all, alleged Russian hacking of DNC/DCCC servers and interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Russia has had every reason for deep distrust of the United States and its NATO and European allies. In addition, as I have chronicled elsewhere, we must take account of US/EU/NATO abetment to the illegal Euromaidan coup d’état of 2014 that was staged against a democratically elected president in 2014, just months away from scheduled elections, and whose muscle was provided by long-established Ukrainian neo-Nazi movements implicated in the assassinations of hundreds of protestors in Kiev and Odessa. To secure “legitimacy” and to stuff the coup legislature with their own people, the new leaders were obliged to ban the country’s major political parties, including the Party of the Regions and the Communist Party.

Scene from the 2014 Euromaidan coup. (Source: inquiriesjournal.com)

Terrified by the anti-Russian threats of the coup leaders, the largely pro-Russian population of Crimea (including Sebastopol, Russia’s major Black Sea port, held on long-lease from Ukraine and where Russia was entitled to maintain thousands of soldiers) voted to secede from Ukraine and to seek annexation by Russia.

In the significantly pro-Russian Donbass, citizens established the independent republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Kiev has never deigned to negotiate directly with the republics, with its own citizens, but has instead, having lost the initial war, violently subjected residents to extensive shelling (with most of the casualties taking place in the republics) and spitefully withdrawn all social security protections.

Workers bury the dead in Slovyansk in Eastern Ukraine where mass graves were found (Source: hrw.org)

The republics did not seek annexation by Russia, nor did Russia entertain annexation. Instead, Russia negotiated the Minsk agreements through the “Normandy Round” in 2015-2016. This sought and agreed to greater autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk within Ukraine. Unwilling or unable to combat its neo-Nazi extremists, Kiev proved unable to implement Minsk, nor did the international community, other than Russia, exert pressure on Kiev to make it happen.

It would have taken unusual credulity and naivety on the part of Russian leaders not to have concluded by 2022 that the U.S. and, with some exceptions, its NATO and EU allies, were resolutely and unforgivingly hostile to Russia.

Russia, having explored the possibility of accession to NATO in the 1990s and been rejected, resigned to the provocative continuation of NATO not just beyond the collapse of the Soviet Union—the very reason for NATO’s existence—but even beyond the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991. It has been targeted close to its borders by U.S./NATO nuclear weapons that are mockingly and ludicrously described as defenses against Iran’s (non-existent) nuclear missiles, and routinely humiliated and threatened by massive annual NATO military exercises along its borders and the Black Sea.

Members of the U.S. Marine Corps perform military exercise in (now Russian-occupied) Kherson on July 28, 2021 (Source: reuters.com)

Further, it has to listen to Ukrainian President and former clown Volodymyr Zelensky plead for speedier access of Ukraine to NATO membership (extending just days ago to a demand for the placement of nuclear weapons in Ukraine) and for a no-fly zone.

As such it could have had no reasonable hope ever to be freed of the scourge of U.S./EU/NATO salivation for the break-up of the Russian Federation and unregulated freedom for Western capital, as prelude to the Western world’s ultimate confrontation with China.

Whether Russian military exercises on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine from the end of 2021 were intended from the beginning as a platform for invasion is not clear. The invasion may have been provoked by the intensification of Ukrainian army assaults against the Donbass.

Incessant, even hysterical, U.S. warnings of a Russian invasion may themselves have provoked exactly that outcome if it seemed to Russia that the United States was determined to stage any kind of provocation that would have made it impossible for Russia to resist.

Presuming, surely correctly, that the U.S./NATO has long expected and salivated for a conflict that would provide sufficient pretext for the extermination of the Russian Federation, Russia decided on a measure of preemptive advantage at a singular moment when Russia possibly enjoys nuclear superiority over the West because of its further advance (at budgets a small fraction of those enjoyed by its adversary, whose military procurement practices are rife with corruption) of hypersonic missiles and a developing alliance with China.

Putin has indicated willingness to keep moving until Russia conquers the entire territory of Ukraine. The more he can acquire, the more he can negotiate with. At the time of writing the areas under control resemble the buffer zone created by Turkey along its border with northwestern Syria and by the U.S. along Syria’s northeastern border. This seizure of the land of a sovereign nation to add to Turkish security from what it regards as the Kurdish threat, and which it is using to hold the most extremist jihadist groups that the West and others have exploited in their efforts to destabilize the Syrian government, did not occasion the squeals of indignation from Western media that we now hear from them with regard to Ukraine.

Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine as of March 1, 2022 (Source: bbc.com)

Nor did the U.S. grab for Syria’s oil fields, and for its most fertile agricultural land, under proxy Kurdish control. And when the refugees from the U.S. wars of choice in Iraq, Syria and Libya reached the gates of Europe they were inhumanely humiliated and turned away (even allowing for a surprising measure of German generosity). Unlike whiter refugees from Ukraine into Poland and other neighbors. The oozing hypocrisy of Western self-righteousness is merely par for the course.

These considerations therefore help us to understand Russian preparedness to risk nuclear conflict. Indeed, it is possible that for Russia there is now no going back on the path to potential Armageddon. The decision to avert catastrophe has been thrown resolutely into the Western court. But what about the U.S. and its European allies? They are not in too great a hurry for the ultimate wet dream of Russian dissolution, although sooner would likely be more gratifying than later. For the moment, the conflict is well worth it, for as long as it is only Ukrainians who pay the ultimate price. Zelensky’s greatest folly has been to recklessly offer his country and its people as ground zero for World War Three.

Volodymyr Zelensky (Source: marca.com)

Short-term benefits for the West include a potential fillip to Joe Biden’s otherwise steep decline in domestic popularity. War has been the eternal answer to internal instability. It is too soon to say that the Ukraine crisis will help bridge the gulf between Democrats and Republicans, but there is a chance of some measure of healing, perhaps just enough to weaken the hold of the pro-Trump wing of the Republican Party.

This in turn could be deeply reassuring to the military-industrial complex (or, as Ray McGovern calls it, the MICIMATT—the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academic-think tank complex) whose distrust for Trump’s wavering on Putin provided fertile ground for the success of the Clinton campaign’s fabrication of the Russiagate saga.

Although Biden followed up on a shockingly incompetent withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021—alongside signs of a final exit from Iraq and from Syria—with a multi-billion dollar increase in the military budget, he has since advocated a further increase of 8% in 2022-2023.

Since this is close to the rate of inflation, the weapons lobby will doubtless require another 4% or so, if they are being modest (unlikely), and a sharp increase in European tension will not only boost their cause for a further budget increase but will greatly incentivize the demand for weapons for years to come.

The bloated U.S. 17-agency Intelligence community and its underworld of private contractors will be delighted that, for the first time in a generation, their intelligence (on the Russian invasion, at least) has been perceived by many to be correct, and that, for the first time in a generation, it is not a U.S. war of choice that must be lied about. Such a glorious moment of self-righteousness will go far in the propaganda business. So long as Intelligence can manipulate and coopt corporate, plutocratic, mainstream media, the extent and depth of previous U.S. evils need never prove an obstacle to beating the drums for perpetual war. The mainstream media can be relied upon to foreshorten the narrative, pull in the context, focus on only one side, demonize and personalize. Intelligence will always help with fabrication of what counts as “real.”

The Ukraine crisis upends the energy markets in a way that puts even broader smiles on the faces of fossil-fuel bosses. The forced closure of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to the rest of Europe will create an involuntary European appetite for (more expensive) U.S. LNG exports.

(Source: nationalworld.com)

The brunt of energy price increases will be suffered more by Europe than by the United States. Combined with growing European dependence on the U.S., the impoverishment of Europe is to the U.S.’s advantage, under the scope of the Wolfowitz doctrine, and sustains the buffer between Russia and the continental U.S. Pressure on the U.S. to return to a policy of self-sufficiency in energy will reinvigorate public tolerance for fracking and drilling, for pipelines and spills and fires (if the world is going to end in any case.).

On the downside, from a U.S. perspective, higher energy prices will boost the Russian economy and sustain its servicing of Chinese and other Asian markets, provided they can work around U.S. sanctions (they will).

Ukraine is a test of Chinese resolve in its move toward Russia, reminding it of the economic threats to Chinese interests from U.S. sanctions in countries of the Belt and Road initiative. But this will not be sufficient to shift China from what must surely be its conclusion that the United States is irredeemably wedded to the vision of a perpetually unipolar U.S. world.

In Europe, the crisis will help Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson escape decapitation over the embarrassment of the “Partygate” scandal. It has already enhanced President Macron’s bid to appear statesmanlike in the face of upcoming elections in April, and his ability to ward off threats from the extreme right. But mainly, the crisis will benefit Germany which, in recent years, has broken free of its punitive post-war chains not only to burnish its long-established economic primacy but to rebuild and modernize its military, and to send arms to Ukraine. The sleazy proto-fascist governments of several new East European and former Soviet Union governments will feel similarly enabled and justified.

But all these short-term outcomes notwithstanding, nobody should discount the possibility, short of a robust peace agreement, of nuclear war. If not a nuclear war, then prepare for a protracted global recession, if not depression.

The sorrowful-but-gritty public faces of Europe’s equivalent to MICIMATT—Europe’s financial, plutocratic, military and intelligence elites—are President of the European Union Ursula von der Leyen, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Along with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and French President Emmanuel Macron, it will be their faces we need to first scrutinize for a heads-up as to whether, finally, there is to be a public climb-down in the face of Russia’s nuclear checkmate. For that, indeed, is what it appears to be.

• First published in CovertAction Magazine

The post The Crisis in Ukraine is a Planetary Crisis Provoked by the U.S. that Threatens Nuclear War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

When Did the Ukraine War Begin?

Viewing the Ukraine war as starting with the current Russian invasion leads to very different conclusions than if you consider that the starting point of this war was the 2014 US-orchestrated coup in Ukraine. The coup, which had elements of an authentic popular revolt, has been used by outside powers to pursue geopolitical ends.

The conception that the war started on February 24 of this year is like viewing the “invasion” by the US and its allies of Normandy in June 1944 against the “sovereign” and “democratic” Vichy French as the start of World War II. Never mind that the Vichy government was a puppet of the Nazis; that the opportunities to negotiate had long been rejected; that the war had been raging for years; and that the only option for stopping the Nazis was militarily.

The US imperial army

NATO, it should be understood, is an army in the service of the US empire. Viewing it simply as an alliance of nominally sovereign entities obscures that it is commanded as a tool of US foreign policy in its stated quest of world dominion; that is, “full spectrum dominance.” The “alliance” members must fully integrate their militaries under that command along with purchasing US war equipment and offering up their own citizens as troops.

After the implosion of the Soviet Union and the supposed end of the first cold war, instead of NATO being disbanded, the opposite occurred. There was no “peace dividend” and no honoring of the promise that NATO would not expand any further. Instead, NATO stampeded east towards the borders of the Russian Federation adding fourteen new members of former USSR republics and allies.

Even before the 2014 coup, the US’s fateful decision in 2006 to draw Ukraine into NATO posed an existential threat to Russia. By December 2021, according to “realpolitik” international relations scholar John Mearsheimer, a US-armed Ukraine had become a de facto member of NATO, crossing a red line for Russia. Mearsheimer concludes, “the west bears primary responsibility for what is happening today.”

Failure of peaceful negotiations

Speaking before the UN on March 2, the Venezuelan representative identified the breach of the Minsk Protocols, with the encouragement of the US, as the precursor of the present crisis in Ukraine.

After the 2014 coup in Ukraine, the Minsk Protocols were an attempt at a peaceful settlement through “a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, release of prisoners of war, constitutional reform in Ukraine granting self-government to certain areas of Donbas, and restoring control of the state border to the Ukrainian government.” Moscow, Kyiv, and the eastern separatists were all parties to the agreements.

The Russian perception of negotiations with the western alliance in the run-up to the invasion, as reported by the New York Post, was described using insensitive terminology as “like the mute with the deaf” by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on his meeting with his British counterpart. (NOTE: the NYP, even in the updated version of the article, refers to Lavrov as the “Soviet” Foreign Minister, forgetting that the USSR hasn’t been around for over 30 years.)

Following the latest round of “sweeping” US-imposed sanctions on Russia, their Foreign Ministry announced, “we have reached the line where the point of no return begins.” Such sanctions are a form of warfare as deadly as bombs.

Upsides of war for the US and the downsides for everyone else

War is a great diversion for Joe Biden, whose popularity has been slipping due to a lackluster domestic performance. The US empire has much to gain: further unifying NATO under US domination, reducing Russian economic competition in the European energy market, justifying increasing the US war budget, and facilitating sales of war material to NATO vassals.

NATO has dumped over a trillion dollars in arms and facilities into the border countries next to Russia and continues to this day to pour lethal weapons into Ukraine. The leader of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi C14 recently bragged on YouTube (while other voices are censored): “We are being given so much weaponry not because as some say ‘the west is helping us,’ not because it is best for us. But because we perform the tasks set by the west…because we have fun, we have fun killing.”

More than 14,000 people have been killed in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas in warfare between ethnic Russians and Ukrainian regular military/right-wing paramilitaries in the eight years since the coup. The self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, beleaguered enclaves in the Donbas of largely ethnic Russians, seceded from Ukraine and were recognized by Russia on February 21.

The semi-governmental (over 80% US government funded) Rand Corporation’s playbook for the US and its allies says it all: “pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress – overextend and unbalance – Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime’s political standing at home and abroad.”

The conflict could have ruinous consequences for the Russian Federation, according to western sources and even some people who identify as left in Russia. As a bonus for the US, according to Juan S. González, the US National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, the sanctions against Russia are “by design” intended to hurt Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, all targeted by Washington for regime change. And, of course, for Ukrainians of all ethnicities there is no winning in a war.

It is difficult to think what other options Russia has to defend itself. Perhaps there are some, but surely they are slim. It should be clear that the US has continually been the aggressor even if some do not agree with the Russian response. As Phyllis Bennis with the Institute for Policy Studies argues, the US provoked this war.

Severing Russia from Europe

The peaceful integration of Russia with the rest of Europe would be a great threat to the US empire. A unified or even a cordial Europe could truly herald the end of US hegemony. The long-game geopolitical goal of preventing the unification of Europe may well be the fundamental aim of US foreign policy in that continent.

What would become of “US strategic interests” if peace were to break out in Europe, and Russia would become partners with Germany, France, and Italy? A potentially more independent Europe, including Russia, would challenge the US-dominated Atlanticist project.

The extreme hostility that the US took to the Nord Stream 2 project, which would have piped Russian natural gas under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, went beyond the narrow economism of favoring US liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers. Where Washington’s earlier efforts of imposing illegal unilateral economic sanctions on its NATO ally faltered, the current conflict will surely discourage any rational and cooperative economic association of Russia with its western neighbors.

The severing of Russia from the rest of Europe is a tremendous victory for the US imperial project. This is especially the case, when there were recent moves in the direction of economic, cultural, and political exchange, which have now been reversed.

Spheres of Influence and inter-imperialist rivalry

Russia shares a 1,426-mile border with Ukraine and considers that region within its security perimeter, vital to its national security. The US, which is 5,705 miles from Ukraine, considers the world its sphere of influence. Clearly, there is a conflict of interest.

The contemporary geopolitical dynamic has evolved from the one Lenin described in 1916 in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, which was then characterized as one of inter-imperialist rivalry. This theory is not entirely adequate to understand today’s world dominated by a single superpower (with its European Union, British, and Japanese junior partners). Surely, national centers of capital continue to compete. But over-arching this competition is a militantly imposed unipolar pax Americana.

There is just one superpower with hundreds of foreign military bases, possession of the world’s reserve currency, and control of the SWIFT worldwide payment and transaction system. Simply reducing the conflict to one of contesting capitalists obscures the context of empire.

Further, even if one just understands the present situation as one of a clash of two imperialist camps, that does not preclude taking sides. Surely World War II was an inter-imperialist war, but that did not prevent socialists from opposing the Axis pole and supporting the allies. The US is ever more aggressively stirring up the pot, not only in Ukraine, but also Taiwan, Africa, and elsewhere.

Asymmetry of the Forces

The forces are asymmetrical in this contest. Russia and the US may have comparable nuclear arsenals, but Russia has no bases of any kind in North America compared to at least six nuclear and many more conventional bases for the US in Europe. The US military budget is 11.9 times the size of Russia’s, not to mention the war chests of Washington’s NATO allies. Similarly, the US economy is 12.5 times as large as Russia’s. Of the Fortune 500 top international corporations, only four are Russian compared to 122 from the US. Russia’s labor productivity is only 36% of the US’s. In terms of finance capital, the US has 11 of the world’s top 100 banks; Russia has one. Far from being a key exporter of capital, Russia is a leader in capital flight, in part owing to sanctions imposed by the US and its allies.

As analyst Stansfield Smith concludes, Russia “plays very little part in the quintessential imperialist activity: the export of capital to the periphery and the extraction of profit from developing countries’ labor and resources.” Russia is a target of US-led imperialism; Ukraine is caught in the crossfire.

Hypocrisy of the “international community”

If only the outrage over the Russian invasion had some ethical grounding by what is misleadingly called the “international community,” but is in reality the US and its subalterns. Biden’s touted “rules based order” is one where the US makes the rules and the rest of the world follows its orders, in contradiction to the Charter of the UN and other recognized international law.

From Cuba, journalist Ángel Guerra Cabrera laments: “our region witnessed flagrant US violations of those principles in Guatemala, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada and Panama, the last three through direct invasions. Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are current examples of a US policy that flatly denies its assertion, not to mention Puerto Rico.”

International law expert Alfred de Zayas reminds us that the so-called “international community seems to have accepted egregious violations of Art. 2(4) [of the UN Charter] by the US against Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela; by NATO countries against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yugoslavia; by Israel against all its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians and Lebanese; by Saudi Arabia against Yemen; by Azerbaijan against Nagorno Karabakh, by Turkey against Cyprus, etc.”

How this war will end

Regardless of how one sides – or not – in the new cold war, it is instructive to understand the context of the conflict. This is especially so when views outside the dominant US narrative, such as those of Russian outlets Sputnik and RT that hosted US intellectuals like Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, are being silenced.

This article addressed how this war began. How it will end or even if it will end is another story. The world is spiraling into a new cold war, emanating from a region formally at peace under socialism.

Expressing a view from the standpoint of the Global South, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva commented: “we do not want to be anyone’s enemy. We are not interested, nor is the world, in a new cold war…which is for sure dragging the whole world into a conflict that could put humanity in danger.” If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that the end of endless war will come with end of the US imperial project that provoked this crisis.

The post When Did the Ukraine War Begin? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

WWII Redux: The Endpoint of U.S. Policy from Ukraine to Taiwan

“This is not going to be a war of Ukraine and Russia. This is going to be a European war, a full-fledged war.” So spoke Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky just days after berating the U.S. for beating the drums of war.

It is not hard to imagine how Zelensky’s words must have fallen on those European ears that were attentive.  His warning surely conjured up images of World War II when tens of millions of Europeans and Russians perished.

Zelensky’s words echoed those of Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte on the other side of the world at the Eastern edge of the great Eurasian land mass: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat.”  We can be sure that Duterte, like Zelensky, had in mind WWII which also consumed tens of millions of lives in East Asia.

The United States is stoking tensions in both Europe and East Asia, with Ukraine and Taiwan as the current flashpoints on the doorsteps of Russia and China which are the targeted nations.  Let us be clear at the outset.  As we shall see, the endpoint of this process is not for the U.S. to do battle with Russia or China but to watch China and Russia fight it out with the neighbors to the ruin of both sides.  The US is to “lead from behind’ – as safely and remotely as can be arranged.

To make sense of this and react properly, we must be very clear-eyed about the goal of the U.S.  Neither Russia nor China has attacked or even threatened the U.S.  Nor are they in a position to do so – unless one believes that either is ready to embark on a suicidal nuclear war.

Why should the U.S. Elite and its media pour out a steady stream of anti-China and anti-Russia invective?  Why the steady eastward march of NATO since the end of the first Cold War?  The goal of the U.S. is crystal clear – it regards itself as the Exceptional Nation and entitled to be the number one power on the planet, eclipsing all others.

This goal is most explicitly stated in the well-known Wolfowitz Doctrine drawn shortly after the end of the first Cold War in 1992.  It proclaimed that the U.S.’s  “first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet union or elsewhere….”  It stated that no regional power must be allowed to emerge with the power and resources “sufficient to generate global power.”  It stated frankly “we must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global power.” (Emphasis, jw)

The Wolfowitz Doctrine is but the latest in a series of such proclamations that have proclaimed global domination as the goal of U.S. foreign policy since 1941 the year before the U.S. entered WWII.  This lineage is documented clearly in the book by the Quicny Institute’s Stephen Wertheim “Tomorrow, The World: The Birth of US Global Supremacy.

Let us consider China first and then Russia, the foremost target of the U.S., first.  China’s economy is number one in terms of PPP-GDP according to the IMF and has been since November, 2014.  It is growing faster than the U.S. economy and shows no signs of slowing down.  In a sense China has already won by this metric since economic power is the ultimate basis of all power.

But what about a military defeat of China?  Can the U.S. with its present vastly superior armed forces bring that about?  The historian, Alfred McCoy, answers that question in the way most do these days, with a clear “no”:

The most volatile flashpoint in Beijing’s grand strategy for breaking Washington’s geopolitical grip over Eurasia lies in the contested waters between China’s coast and the Pacific littoral, which the Chinese call “the first island chain.

But China’s clear advantage in any struggle over that first Pacific island chain is simply distance. …The tyranny of distance, in other words, means that the U.S. loss of that first island chain, along with its axial anchor on Eurasia’s Pacific littoral, should only be a matter of time.

Certainly the U.S. Elite recognizes this problem.  Do they have a solution?

Moreover, that is not the end of the “problem” for the U.S.  There are other powerful countries, like Japan, or rapidly rising economies in East Asia, easily the most dynamic economic region in the world.  These too will become peer competitors, and in the case of Japan, it already has been a competitor both before WWII and during the 1980s.

If we hop over to the Western edge of Eurasia, we see that the U.S. has a similar “problem” when it comes to Russia.  Here too the U.S. cannot defeat Russia in a conventional conflict nor have U.S. sanctions been able to bring it down.  How can the U.S. surmount this obstacle? And as in the case of East Asia the U.S. faces another economic competitor, Germany, or more accurately, the EU, with Germany at its core. How is the U.S. to deal with this dual threat?

One clue comes in the response of Joe Biden to both the tension over Taiwan and that over Ukraine.  Biden has said repeatedly that he will not send U.S. combat troops to fight Russia over Ukraine or to fight China over Taiwan.  But it will send materiel and weapons and also “advisors.”  And here too the U.S. has other peer competitors most notably Germany which has been the target of U.S. tariffs. The economist Michael Hudson puts it succinctly in a penetrating essay, “America’s real adversaries are its European and other allies: The U.S. aim is to keep them from trading with China and Russia.”

Such “difficulties for the U.S. were solved once before – in WWII.  One way of looking at WWII is that it was a combination of two great regional wars, one in East Asia and one in Europe.  In Europe the U.S. was minimally involved as Russia, the core of the USSR, battled it out with Germany, sustaining great damage to life and economy.  Both Germany and Russia were economic basket cases when the war was over, two countries lying in ruins.

The US provided weapons and materiel to Russia but was minimally involved militarily, only entering late in the game.  The same happened in East Asia with Japan in the role of Germany and China in the role of Russia.  Both Japan and China were devastated in the same way as were Russia and Europe.  This was not an unconscious strategy on the part of the United States.  As Harry Truman, then a Senator, declared in 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.. . ”

At the end of it all the U.S. emerged as the most powerful economic and military power on the planet.  McCoy spells it out:

Like all past imperial hegemons, U.S. global power has similarly rested on geopolitical dominance over Eurasia, now home to 70% of the world’s population and productivity. After the Axis alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan failed to conquer that vast land mass, the Allied victory in World War II allowed Washington, as historian John Darwin put it, to build its “colossal imperium… on an unprecedented scale,” becoming the first power in history to control the strategic axial points “at both ends of Eurasia.

As a critical first step, the U.S. formed the NATO alliance in 1949, establishing major military installations in Germany and naval bases in Italy to ensure control of the western side of Eurasia. After its defeat of Japan, as the new overlord of the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific, Washington dictated the terms of four key mutual-defense pacts in the region with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia and so acquired a vast range of military bases along the Pacific littoral that would secure the eastern end of Eurasia. To tie the two axial ends of that vast land mass into a strategic perimeter, Washington ringed the continent’s southern rim with successive chains of steel, including three navy fleets, hundreds of combat aircraft, and most recently, a string of 60 drone bases stretching from Sicily to the Pacific island of Guam.

The U.S. was able to become the dominant power on the planet because all peer competitors were left in ruins by the two great regional wars in Europe and East Asia, wars which are grouped under the heading of WWII.

If Europe is plunged into a war of Russia against the EU powers with the U.S. “leading from behind,” with material and weapons, who will benefit?  And if East Asia is plunged into a war of China against Japan and whatever allies it can drum up, with the U.S. “leading from behind,” who will benefit?

It is pretty clear that such a replay of WWII will benefit the U.S.  In WWII while Eurasia suffered tens of millions of deaths, the US suffered about 400,000 – a terrible toll certainly but nothing like that seen in Eurasia.  And with the economies and territories of Eurasia, East and West, in ruins, the U.S. will emerge on top, in the catbird seat, and able to dictate terms to the world.  WWII redux.

But what about the danger of nuclear war growing out of such conflicts?  The U.S. has a history of nuclear “brinksmanship,” going back to the earliest post-WWII days.  It is a country that has shown itself willing to risk nuclear holocaust.

Are there U.S. policy makers criminal enough to see this policy of provocation through to the end?  I will leave that to the reader to answer.

The Peoples of East and West Eurasia are the ones who will suffer most in this scenario.  And they are the ones who can stop the madness by living peacefully with Russia and China rather than serving as cannon fodder for the U.S.  There are clear signs of dissent from the European “allies” of the U.S., especially Germany but the influence of the U.S. remains powerful.  Germany and many other countries are after all occupied by tens of thousands of U.S. troops, their media heavily influenced by the U.S. and with the organization that commands European troops, NATO, under U.S. command.  Which way will it go?

In East Asia the situation is the same.  Japan is the key but the hatred of China among the Elite is intense.  Will the Japanese people and the other peoples of East Asia be able to put the brakes on the drive to war?

Some say that a two-front conflict like this is U.S. overreach.  But certainly, if war is raging on or near the territories of both Russia and China, there is little likelihood that one can aid the other.

Given the power of modern weaponry, this impending world war will be much more damaging than WWII by far.  The criminality that is on the way to unleashing it is almost beyond comprehension.

The post WWII Redux: The Endpoint of U.S. Policy from Ukraine to Taiwan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Russians Are Coming: Are Beijing and Moscow at the Cusp of a Formal Alliance?

It should matter little to the Chinese that American diplomats and a handful of their western allies will not be attending the Beijing Winter Olympics in February. What truly matters is that the Russians are coming.

The above is not an arbitrary statement. It is supported with facts. According to a survey conducted by China’s Global Times newspaper, the majority of the Chinese people value their country’s relations with Russia more than that of the EU and certainly more than that of the United States. The newspaper reported that such a finding makes it “the first time in 15 years that China-US ties did not top the list of the important bilateral relations in the Global Times annual survey.”

In fact, some kind of an alliance is already forming between China and Russia. The fact that the Chinese people are taking note of this and are supporting their government’s drive towards greater integration – political, economic and geostrategic – between Beijing and Moscow, indicates that the informal and potentially formal alliance is a long-term strategy for both nations.

American hostilities towards China, as seen by the Chinese, have become unbearable, and the Chinese people and government seem to have lost, not only any trust, however modest, of Washington, but of its own political system as well. 66 percent of all Chinese either disapproved of the US democratic system – or whatever remains of it – or believe that US democracy has sharply declined. Ironically, the vast majority of Americans share such a bleak view of their own country, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2019 and again by the Michigan Public Policy Survey in 2021.

This leads us to two possible conclusions: First, the Chinese people will not be pushing for an American-style democracy any time soon and, second, the Chinese trust in the US does not hinge on what political party controls the White House or Congress.

While the Chinese negative view of the US is unmistakably clear, Beijing remains hopeful that existing divisions with the European Union would allow it to expand economically in a region that is rife with financial and political opportunities, thus strategic growth. This fact offers China and Russia yet another area of potential cooperation, as Russia is also keen to expand into the European markets using its recently completed Nord Stream 2 gas project. Though Europe is already struggling with gas shortages, Europeans are divided on whether Russia should be allowed to claim a massive geostrategic influence by having such sway over the EU energy needs.

Germany, which already receives nearly a third of its gas supplies from Russia – through Nord Stream 1 – is worried that allowing Nord Stream 2 to operate would make it too dependent on Russian gas supplies. Under intense pressure from Washington, Germany is caught between a rock and a hard place:  it needs Russian gas to keep its economy afloat, but is worried about American retaliation. To appease Washington, the German government threatened, on December 16, to block the new pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine. But is Germany in a position that allows it to make such demands?

Meanwhile, Washington is keeping a close watch on Russia’s and China’s strategic expansion westward, and it views the ‘threat’ posed by both countries with great alarm. In his recent visit to Scotland to take part in the COP26, US President Joe Biden accused China and Russia of “walking away” on “a gigantic issue”, referring to climate change. China has “lost the ability to influence people around the world and here in COP. The same way I would argue with Russia,” Biden said on November 3.

But will such rhetoric make any difference, or sway traditional US allies to boycott the lucrative deals and massive economic opportunities presented by the two emerging Asian giants?

According to Eurostat, in 2020, China overtook the US as Europe’s largest import and third-largest export partner. Moreover, according to Nature magazine, most European countries largely depend on Russian energy sources, with the European Union estimated to import nearly 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

In the face of these vastly changing realities, the US seems to be running out of options. The Summit for Democracy, orchestrated by Washington last December, seemed like a desperate cry for attention as opposed to celebrating the supposed democratic countries. 111 countries participated in the conference. The participants were handpicked by Washington and included such countries as Israel, Albania and Ukraine. China and Russia were, of course, excluded, not because of their lack of democratic credentials – such notions are often of no relevance to the politicized US definition of ‘democracy’ – but because they, along with others, were meant to be left isolated in the latest US hegemonic move.

The conference, expectedly, turned out to be an exercise in futility. Needless to say, the US is in no position to give democracy lessons to anyone. The attempted coup in Washington by tens of thousands of angry US militants on January 6, 2021 – coupled with various opinion polls attesting to Americans’ lack of faith in their elected institutions – places the US democracy brand at an all-time low.

As the US grows desperate in its tactics – aside from increasingly ineffectual sanctions, aggressive language and the relentless waving of the democracy card – China and Russia continue to draw closer to one another, on all fronts. In an essay entitled ‘Respecting People’s Democratic Rights’, written jointly by the ambassadors of Beijing and Moscow in Washington, Qin Gang and Anatoly Antonov wrote in the National Interest magazine that the democracy summit was “an evident product of (US’s) Cold-War mentality,” which “will stoke up ideological confrontation and a rift in the world, creating new ‘dividing lines’.”

But there is more than their mutual rejection of American hostilities that is bringing China and Russia closer. The two countries are not motivated by their fear of the American military or some NATO invasion. Russia’s and China’s militaries are moving from strength to strength and neither country is experiencing the anxiety often felt by smaller, weaker and relatively isolated countries that have faced direct or indirect US military threats.

To push back against possible NATO expansion, the Russian military is actively mobilizing in various regions at its western borders. For its part, the Chinese military has made it clear that any US-led attempt aimed at altering the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait would provoke an immediate military retaliation. In a virtual meeting with the US President, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Biden on November 16 that the US was “playing with fire”. “Whoever plays with fire will get burnt,” he threatened.

The Chinese-Russian alliance aims largely at defending the two countries’ regional and international interests, which are in constant expansion. In the case of China, the country is now a member of what is considered the world’s largest economic pact. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which was officiated on January 1, covers a global market that caters to around 30 percent of the world’s population.

Russia, too, operates based on multiple regional and international alliances. One of these military alliances is the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is currently involved in ‘peacekeeping’ operations in Kazakhstan. From Syria in the Middle East, to Venezuela in South America to Mali in West Africa and beyond, Russia’s military influence has increased to the extent that, in September 2021, Moscow signed military cooperation agreements with Africa’s two most populous nations, Nigeria and Ethiopia, challenging the traditional dominance of the US and France on the African continent.

Informally, China and Russia are already operating according to a regional and global model that can be compared to that of the now-defunct Warsaw Treaty Organization (1955-91), a political and military alliance between the Soviet Union and several Eastern European countries that aimed at counter-balancing the US-led NATO alliance. The Warsaw Pact pushed back against US-led western hegemony and labored to protect the interests of the pact’s members throughout the world. History seems to be repeating itself, though under different designations.

Historically, the two countries have had a difficult and, at times, antagonistic relationship, dating back to the 19th century. During the Nikita Khrushchev era, Beijing and Moscow even broke their ties altogether. The Sino-Soviet split of 1960 was earth-shattering to the extent that it transformed the bipolarity of the Cold War, where China operated as an entirely independent party.

Though diplomatic relations between Beijing and Moscow were restored in 1989, it was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union that cooperation between both nations intensified. For example, the decision, in 1997, to coordinate their diplomatic positions in the United Nations gave birth to the Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New International Order. That agreement between Russia and China laid the foundations for the actively evolving multi-polar world that is currently transpiring before our eyes.

Present reality – namely US, NATO, EU pressures – has compelled Russia and China to slowly, but surely, cement their relationship, especially on the economic, diplomatic and military fronts. Writing in Carnegie Moscow Center, Alexander Gabuev explained that, according to data provided by the Russian Federal Customs Service, “China’s share in Russian foreign trade grew from 10.5 percent in 2013 (before the Ukraine crisis and sanctions) to 16.7 percent in 2019 and 18.3 percent in the pandemic-struck 2020.”

Moreover, the two countries are holding regular large-scale joint military exercises, aimed at strengthening their growing security and military cooperation.

This already close relation is likely to develop even further in the near future, especially as China finds itself compelled to diversify its energy sources. This became a pressing need following recent tensions between Australia, a NATO member, and China. Currently, Australia is the main natural gas supplier to Beijing.

On its own, Russia cannot conclusively defeat Western designs. China, too, despite its massive economic power, cannot play a geopolitical game of this caliber without solid alliances. Both countries greatly benefit from building an alternative to US-led political, economic and military alliances, starting with NATO. The need for a Russian-Chinese alliance becomes even more beneficial when seen through the various opportunities presenting themselves: growing weakness in the US’s own political system, cracks within US-EU relations and the faltering power of NATO itself. Turkey, for example, though a NATO member, has for years been exploring its own geopolitical alliances outside the NATO paradigm. Turkey is already cementing its ties with both Russia and China, and on various fronts. Other countries, for example, Iran and various South American countries, that have been targeted by the US for refusing to toe Washington’s political line, are desperately seeking non-western alliances to protect their interests, their sovereignty and their heavily sanctioned economies.

While it is still too early to claim that China and Russia are anywhere near a full-blown alliance of the Warsaw nature, there is no reason to believe that the cooperation between both countries will be halted, or even slow down anytime soon. The question is how far are Beijing and Moscow willing to go to protect their interests.

The post The Russians Are Coming: Are Beijing and Moscow at the Cusp of a Formal Alliance? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Our Future vs. Neoliberalism

(Photo:  Tom Pennington)

In country after country around the world, people are rising up to challenge entrenched, failing neoliberal political and economic systems, with mixed but sometimes promising results.

Progressive leaders in the U.S. Congress are refusing to back down on the Democrats’ promises to American voters to reduce poverty, expand rights to healthcare, education and clean energy, and repair a shredded social safety net. After decades of tax cuts for the rich, they are also committed to raising taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations to pay for this popular agenda.

Germany has elected a ruling coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats that excludes the conservative Christian Democrats for the first time since 2000. The new government promises a $14 minimum wage, solar panels on all suitable roof space, 2% of land for wind farms and the closure of Germany’s last coal-fired power plants by 2030.

Iraqis voted in an election that was called in response to a popular protest movement launched in October 2019 to challenge the endemic corruption of the post-2003 political class and its subservience to U.S. and Iranian interests. The protest movement was split between taking part in the election and boycotting it, but its candidates still won about 35 seats and will have a voice in parliament. The party of long-time Iraqi nationalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr won 73 seats, the largest of any single party, while Iranian-backed parties whose armed militias killed hundreds of protesters in 2019 lost popular support and many of their seats.

Chile’s billionaire president, Sebastian Piñera, is being impeached after the Pandora Papers revealed details of bribery and tax evasion in his sale of a mining company, and he could face up to 5 years in prison. Mass street protests in 2019 forced Piñera to agree to a new constitution to replace the one written under the Pinochet military dictatorship, and a convention that includes representatives of indigenous and other marginalized communities has been elected to draft the constitution. Progressive parties and candidates are expected to do well in the general election in November.

Maybe the greatest success of people power has come in Bolivia. In 2020, only a year after a U.S.-backed right-wing military coup, a mass mobilization of mostly indigenous working people forced a new election, and the socialist MAS Party of Evo Morales was returned to power. Since then it has already introduced a new wealth tax and welfare payments to four million people to help eliminate hunger in Bolivia.

The Ideological Context

Since the 1970s, Western political and corporate leaders have peddled a quasi-religious belief in the power of “free” markets and unbridled capitalism to solve all the world’s problems. This new “neoliberal” orthodoxy is a thinly disguised reversion to the systematic injustice of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism, which led to gross inequality and poverty even in wealthy countries, famines that killed tens of millions of people in India and China, and horrific exploitation of the poor and vulnerable worldwide.

For most of the 20th century, Western countries gradually responded to the excesses and injustices of capitalism by using the power of government to redistribute wealth through progressive taxation and a growing public sector, and ensure broad access to public goods like education and healthcare. This led to a gradual expansion of broadly shared prosperity in the United States and Western Europe through a strong public sector that balanced the power of private corporations and their owners.

The steadily growing shared prosperity of the post-WWII years in the West was derailed by a  combination of factors, including the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, Nixon’s freeze on prices and wages, runaway inflation caused by dropping the gold standard, and then a second oil crisis after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Right-wing politicians led by Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. blamed the power of organized labor and the public sector for the economic crisis. They launched a “neoliberal” counter-revolution to bust unions, shrink and privatize the public sector, cut taxes, deregulate industries and supposedly unleash “the magic of the market.” Then they took credit for a return to economic growth that really owed more to the end of the oil crises.

The United States and United Kingdom used their economic, military and media power to spread their neoliberal gospel across the world. Chile’s experiment in neoliberalism under Pinochet’s military dictatorship became a model for U.S. efforts to roll back the “pink tide” in Latin America. When the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe opened to the West at the end of the Cold War, it was the extreme, neoliberal brand of capitalism that Western economists imposed as “shock therapy” to privatize state-owned enterprises and open countries to Western corporations.

In the United States, the mass media shy away from the word “neoliberalism” to describe the changes in society since the 1980s. They describe its effects in less systemic terms, as globalization, privatization, deregulation, consumerism and so on, without calling attention to their common ideological roots. This allows them to treat its impacts as separate, unconnected problems: poverty and inequality, mass incarceration, environmental degradation, ballooning debt, money in politics, disinvestment in public services, declines in public health, permanent war, and record military spending.

After a generation of systematic neoliberal control, it is now obvious to people all over the world that neoliberalism has utterly failed to solve the world’s problems. As many predicted all along, it has just enabled the rich to get much, much richer, while structural and even existential problems remain unsolved.

Even once people have grasped the self-serving, predatory nature of this system that has overtaken their political and economic life, many still fall victim to the demoralization and powerlessness that are among its most insidious products, as they are brainwashed to see themselves only as individuals and consumers, instead of as active and collectively powerful citizens.

In effect, confronting neoliberalism—whether as individuals, groups, communities or countries—requires a two-step process. First, we must understand the nature of the beast that has us and the world in its grip, whatever we choose to call it. Second, we must overcome our own demoralization and powerlessness, and rekindle our collective power as political and economic actors to build the better world we know is possible.

We will see that collective power in the streets and the suites at COP26 in Glasgow, when the world’s leaders will gather to confront the reality that neoliberalism has allowed corporate profits to trump a rational response to the devastating impact of fossil fuels on the Earth’s climate. Extinction Rebellion and other groups will be in the streets in Glasgow, demanding the long-delayed action that is required to solve the problem, including an end to net carbon emissions by 2025.

While scientists warned us for decades what the result would be, political and business leaders have peddled their neoliberal snake oil to keep filling their coffers at the expense of the future of life on Earth. If we fail to stop them now, living conditions will keep deteriorating for people everywhere, as the natural world our lives depend on is washed out from under our feet, goes up in smoke and, species by species, dies and disappears forever.

The Covid pandemic is another real world case study on the impact of neoliberalism. As the official death toll reaches 5 million and many more deaths go unreported, rich countries are still hoarding vaccines, drug companies are reaping a bonanza of profits from vaccines and new drugs, and the lethal, devastating injustice of the entire neoliberal “market” system is laid bare for the whole world to see. Calls for a “people’s vaccine” and “vaccine justice” have been challenging what has now been termed “vaccine apartheid.”

Conclusion

In the 1980s, U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often told the world, “There is no alternative” to the neoliberal order she and President Reagan were unleashing. After only one or two generations, the self-serving insanity they prescribed and the crises it has caused have made it a question of survival for humanity to find alternatives.

Around the world, ordinary people are rising up to demand real change. The people of Iraq, Chile and Bolivia have overcome the incredible traumas inflicted on them to take to the streets in the thousands and demand better government. Americans should likewise demand that our government stop wasting trillions of dollars to militarize the world and destroy countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, and start solving our real problems, here and abroad.

People around the world understand the nature of the problems we face better than we did a generation or even a decade ago. Now we must overcome demoralization and powerlessness in order to act. It helps to understand that the demoralization and powerlessness we may feel are themselves products of this neoliberal system, and that simply overcoming them is a victory in itself.

As we reject the inevitability of neoliberalism and Thatcher’s lie that there is no alternative, we must also reject the lie that we are just passive, powerless consumers. As human beings, we have the same collective power that human beings have always had to build a better world for ourselves and our children – and now is the time to harness that power.

The post Our Future vs. Neoliberalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Passing the Torch

The baby-boom generation is ending its lap in the human race, and the Fridays-for-future generation is beginning its run. Generational shifts of power are symbolized by the image of passing the torch, but now what the older has to pass on to the younger seems not a torch but a time bomb, a legacy of crises.

To find a way out of the disaster, we need to look at how we got into it, the historical context. The economic and social system of capitalism shapes our times and shapes us. It is a system based on power, the ability of one group to dominate another – owners dominate workers, rich countries dominate poor countries. To understand the effects of this, let’s review a bit of history.

At the beginning of the 20th century Britain and France were the dominant powers, controlling colonies in Africa and Asia from which they extracted great wealth. Germany was becoming more powerful and also wanted colonies, but Britain and France were determined to keep them out. This conflict led to the First World War in which Germany was crushed.

During that time, people in the colonies and other poor countries were rebelling, trying to throw off domination. This movement was most advanced in Russia, where it was based on the principles of Marx and Lenin. In the chaos of the First World War, the Russian workers succeeded in overthrowing the government and creating the world’s first true socialist nation.

After the war, though, the capitalist powers tried to crush the revolution through invasion, sabotage, and economic warfare. These attacks weakened the revolution and gave Stalin the opportunity to seize dictatorial control of Russia. He distorted the democratic principles of Marx and Lenin into an oppressive, totalitarian regime. Then he and his followers shaped the communist parties of China, Vietnam, and Cuba in this dictatorial form. True socialism no longer existed and still doesn’t.

During and after the war, the revolutionary spirit spread to Germany. To squelch it, the German capitalists helped Hitler, a fanatical anti-communist and anti-Semite, seize control and become a dictator. He led Germany into the Second World War and murdered six million Jews plus other minorities.

The Jewish Holocaust set off a chain of ongoing tragedies. It led to the formation of Israel, which Britain and the USA supported primarily so they could have a base in the Mideast close to the energy reserves. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs were pushed off their land, and they were outraged at being forced to pay for the crimes of the Germans. This generated violent Muslim fundamentalism and an ongoing war to get their homeland back. Due to global Muslim solidarity and their cultural need to avenge dishonor, their resistance has now spread worldwide. The West has responded with massive violence from Libya to the Philippines to stamp it out and maintain their access to the resources. US-NATO attacks on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and much of Africa have killed millions but have succeeded only in generating determined hatred in the survivors.

Ironically, the USA is fighting for oil, but the world’s single largest user of oil is the US military which is doing the fighting. All this contributes to the growing environmental disasters. Our poor planet is reeling under human assault. Our drive for consumption is reaching the point where we are consuming ourselves. The world is trapped in a ghastly dilemma.

That’s the bad news, but here’s the good news: History shows us 1) the cause of these calamities is capitalism 2) that system can be overthrown 3) the way to build a new society is by holding to the democratic principles of Marx and Lenin, avoiding both liberal reformism and Stalinist totalitarianism. The political party that I’ve found to have the best understanding of these principles is the Freedom Socialist Party. It offers a torch of knowledge worth passing on to the next generation.

The post Passing the Torch first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Following Afghanistan Defeat: Can EU Win Own ‘Independence’ from the US?

Suddenly, the idea put forth by French President, Emmanuel Macron, late last year does not seem so far-fetched or untenable after all. Following the US-NATO hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan, European countries are now forced to consider the once unthinkable:  a gradual dismantling from US dominance.

When, on September 29, 2020, Macron uttered these words: “We, some countries more than others, gave up on our strategic independence by depending too much on American weapons systems”, the context of this statement had little to do with Afghanistan. Instead, Europe was angry at the bullying tactics used by former US President Donald Trump and sought alternatives to US leadership. The latter has treated NATO – actually, all of Europe – with such disdain, that it has forced America’s closest allies to rethink their foreign policy outlook and global military strategy altogether.

Even the advent of US President Joe Biden and his assurances to Europe that “America is back” did little to reassure European countries, which fear, justifiably, that US political instability may exist long after Biden’s term in office expires.

The chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan – without NATO members even being consulted or considered as the US signed and enacted a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban starting in July 2020 – has convinced Europe that, despite the defeat of Trump, Washington has essentially remained the same: a self-centered ‘ally’.

Now that the US and NATO have officially left Afghanistan, a political debate in Europe is raging on many political platforms. The strongest indicators that Europe is ready to proceed with an independent foreign policy agenda and European-centered military strategy became evident in the EU Defense Ministers’ meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

In a position that is increasingly representing a wider EU stance, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell Fontelles, articulated the Bloc’s prevailing sentiment: “The experience from Afghanistan has shown that our inability to respond comes at a price. The EU must therefore strengthen its strategic autonomy by creating the first entry force capable of ensuring stability in the EU’s neighborhood.”

Despite assurances that this ‘first entry force’ will not represent an alternative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but rather ‘complement’ its role, chances are this new army will serve as a stepping stone for Europe’s coveted independence from the US foreign policy agenda.

Just marvel at these statements by top European, including British, officials and analysts to appreciate the crisis underway in NATO. Remember that 51 NATO members and partner countries had rushed to aid the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, following the invocation of the common-defense clause, Article 5.

“Nobody asked us whether it was a good idea to leave that country in such … a way,” Johann Wadephul, a deputy caucus leader for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said, with reference to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the absence of any coordination with Washington’s NATO allies.

Former British Prime Minister, Theresa May, questioned everything, including Europe’s blind allegiance to the US: “Was our intelligence really so poor? Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge on the ground so inadequate? Or did we just think we had to follow the United States and on a wing and a prayer it would be all right on the night?”

Katharina Emschermann, the deputy director of the reputable Berlin-based Center for International Security at the Hertie School, seemed to speak for many European analysts when she said: “Part of the discord that we’re seeing now is probably also rooted in the sense of unease about how things are going to go on in the future.”

This ‘unease’ refers to Europe’s traditional foreign policy, which has been hostage to post-WWII Trans-Atlantic European American partnership. However, Europe itself is changing, together with the world around it. Moreover, the Chinese economy has grown tremendously in recent years. As of last year, it was Beijing, not Washington, that served the critical role of being the EU’s largest trade partner.

Not only has Chinese economic – thus, political and military – clout grown exponentially, Europe’s share of the global economy has shrunk significantly, and not only because of the Brexit ordeal. According to NBC news, citing the British accounting firm PwC, “in 1960, the countries that would form the E.U. made up a third of the global economy. By 2050, the bloc is projected to account for just 9 percent”.

The growing realization among European countries that they must engineer an eventual break-up from the US is rooted in legitimate fears that the EU’s interest is hardly a top American priority. Hence, many European countries continue to resist Washington’s ultimatums regarding China.

It was also Macron, while elaborating on the concept of the European army, who rejected the US China agenda. “We cannot accept to live in a bipolar world made up of the US and China,” he said.

Macron’s once ‘controversial’ view is now mainstream thinking in Europe, especially as many EU policy-makers feel disowned, if not betrayed, by the US in Afghanistan. If this trajectory of mistrust continues, the first step towards the establishment of a European army could, in the near future, become an actuality.

The post Following Afghanistan Defeat: Can EU Win Own ‘Independence’ from the US? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Road to Totalitarianism

People can tell themselves that they didn’t see where things have been heading for the last 17 months, but they did. They saw all the signs along the way. The signs were all written in big, bold letters, some of them in scary-looking Germanic script. They read …

“THIS IS THE ROAD TO TOTALITARIANISM.”

I’m not going to show you all those signs out again. People like me have been pointing them out, and reading them out loud, for 17 months now. Anyone who knows anything about the history of totalitarianism, how it incrementally transforms society into a monstrous mirror image of itself, has known since the beginning what the “New Normal” is, and we have been shouting from the rooftops about it.

We have watched as the New Normal transformed our societies into paranoid, pathologized, authoritarian dystopias where people now have to show their “papers” to see a movie or get a cup of coffee and publicly display their ideological conformity to enter a supermarket and buy their groceries.

We have watched as the New Normal transformed the majority of the masses into hate-drunk, hysterical mobs that are openly persecuting “the Unvaccinated,” the official “Untermenschen” of the New Normal ideology.

We have watched as the New Normal has done precisely what every totalitarian movement in history has done before it, right by the numbers. We pointed all this out, each step of the way. I’m not going to reiterate all that again.

I am, however, going to document where we are at the moment, and how we got here … for the record, so that the people who will tell you later that they “had no clue where the trains were going” will understand why we no longer trust them, and why we regard them as cowards and collaborators, or worse.

Yes, that’s harsh, but this is not a game. It isn’t a difference of opinion. The global-capitalist ruling establishment is implementing a new, more openly totalitarian structure of society and method of rule. They are revoking our constitutional and human rights, transferring power out of sovereign governments and democratic institutions into unaccountable global entities that have no allegiance to any nation or its people.

That is what is happening … right now. It isn’t a TV show. It’s actually happening.

The time for people to “wake up” is over. At this point, you either join the fight to preserve what is left of those rights, and that sovereignty, or you surrender to the “New Normal,” to global-capitalist totalitarianism. I couldn’t care less what you believe about the virus, or its mutant variants, or the experimental “vaccines.” This isn’t an abstract argument over “the science.” It is a fight … a political, ideological fight. On one side is democracy, on the other is totalitarianism. Pick a fucking side, and live with it.

Anyway, here’s where we are at the moment, and how we got here, just the broad strokes.

It’s August 2021, and Germany has officially banned demonstrations against the “New Normal” official ideology. Other public assemblies, like the Christopher Street Day demo, one week ago, are still allowed. The outlawing of political opposition is a classic hallmark of totalitiarian systems. It’s also a classic move by the German authorities, which will give them the pretext they need to unleash the New Normal goon squads on the demonstrators tomorrow.

Christopher Street Day demo (Photo Credit: Der Tagesspiegel)

In Australia, the military has been deployed to enforce total compliance with government decrees … lockdowns, mandatory public obedience rituals, etc. In other words, it is de facto martial law. This is another classic hallmark of totalitarian systems.

In France, restaurant and other business owners who serve “the Unvaccinated” will now be imprisoned, as will, of course, “the Unvaccinated.” The scapegoating, demonizing, and segregating of “the Unvaccinated” is happening in countries all over the world. France is just an extreme example. The scapegoating, dehumanizing, and segregating of minorities — particularly the regime’s political opponents — is another classic hallmark of totalitarian systems.

In the UK, Italy, Greece, and numerous other countries throughout the world, this pseudo-medical social-segregation system is also being introduced, in order to divide societies into “good people” (i.e., compliant) and “bad” (i.e., non-compliant). The “good people” are being given license and encouraged by the authorities and the corporate media to unleash their rage on the “the Unvaccinated,” to demand our segregation in internment camps, to openly threaten to viciously murder us. This is also a hallmark of totalitarian systems.

And that, my friends, is where we are.

We didn’t get here overnight. Here are just a few of the unmistakable signs along the road to totalitarianism that I have pointed out over the last 17 months.

June 2020 … The New (Pathologized) Totalitarianism.

August 2020 … The Invasion of the New Normals.

October 2020 … The Covidian Cult.

November 2020 … The Germans Are Back!

March 2021 … The New Normal (Phase 2).

March 2021 … The “Unvaccinated” Question.

May 2021 … The Criminalization of Dissent.

June 2021 … Manufacturing New Normal “Reality.

And now, here we are, where we have been heading all along, clearly, unmistakably heading … directly into The Approaching Storm, or possibly global civil war. This isn’t the end of the road to totalitarianism, but I’m pretty sure we are in the home stretch. It feels like things are about to get ugly. Very ugly. Extremely ugly. Those of us who are fighting to preserve our rights, and some basic semblance of democracy, are outnumbered, but we haven’t had our final say yet … and there are millions of us, and we are wide awake.

So pick a side, if you haven’t already. But, before you do, maybe look back at the history of totalitarian systems, which, for some reason, never seem to work out for the totalitarians, at least not in the long run. I’m not a professional philosopher or anything, but I suspect that might have something to do with some people’s inextinguishable desire for freedom, and our willingness to fight for it, sometimes to the death.

This kind of feels like one of those times.

Sorry for going all “Braveheart” on you, but I’m psyching myself up to go get the snot beat out of me by the New Normal goon squads tomorrow, so I’m a little … you know, overly emotional.

Seriously, though, pick a side … now … or a side will be picked for you.

The post The Road to Totalitarianism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Resisting Nuclear Weapons in a Climate Crisis

Court in Cochem

On July 21, I was walking in the forests surrounding the German Air Force Base at Büchel in the Eifel Mountains with three Catholic Worker friends, Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Susan Crane of Redwood City, California, and Christiane Danowski of Dortmund, Germany. We were there at the end of an “International Week” of protests against the approximately 20 US nuclear gravity bombs known as B61s kept at the base in a “nuclear sharing” agreement with the United States.

In previous days we had visited the entrance gates to the base with our signs and banners and two days before we participated in a “Digging for Life” action outside the fences, near the other end of the runway, where the German pilots liftoff and land their Italian made PA200 Tornado jet fighters, daily training to drop US nuclear bombs on Russia when the order is given. This day we hiked to the other, less accessible, end of the runway, through a forest of dead and dying trees decimated by recent years of drought, unprecedented heat and a massive bark beetle infestation affected by climate change.
In the clearing near where the runway begins, we noticed a couple of “spotters,” hobbyists who got there before us looking to get dramatic photos of the jets taking off. In their company, while we were scouting and imagining potential future protests at the site, we also knew that some action was imminent.

Beyond the fence that marked the boundary of the base from the forest, there was a high berm of earth that shielded the nearby Tornados warming up their engines for takeoff from our view. We could not see, but we heard the purr of their engines turn to a roar and we felt the earth shake and we saw and then smelled a wall- acrid and black, a stinking miasma of burnt and unburned jet fuel- rising above the berm and over our heads before the jets screamed off away from us to take to the air to rehearse for the end of everything.

Not far from where these Tornado jets were spewing out more than 13 tons of CO2 per flight hour into the atmosphere, cities and towns in the river valleys were cleaning up from recent rains and floods that left more than 177 dead and hundreds more still missing at the time- in some places the rivers rose to the highest in over 100 years, possibly higher than any seen in the last 1,000 years.

Participation in the annual “International Week” in the COVID pandemic was already hampered by the fact that it was held just days after Germany opened its borders to vaccinated visitors from places like the US, and by July 15, the day after my own arrival by air, many railroads and highways were closed by rising water. We heard harrowing travel stories from those few who were able to join us from various points in Germany. Our numbers were much less than expected and the catastrophe of the floods called us to reassess our plans for the week.

We had planned to have enough people to nonviolently blockade the various gates of the base on Friday July 16th, marking the 76th anniversary of the first atomic bomb detonation at Alamogordo, New Mexico in 1945, and the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 uranium mine waste spill at Church Rock, New Mexico — the largest accidental release of radioactive materials in US history. We recognized that even with our reduced numbers, such an act of civil resistance would distract police from search and rescue work that many of them were doing in flooded places in the region. Members of our group met with local police and the commander of the base to inform them that instead of a blockade there would be a simple quiet vigil with signs and prayers outside the main gate on July 16, the planned “Digging for Life” action scheduled for three days later would go on.

The original concept of the event was to be a symbolic piece of theater around the base’s new highly armed security fence with surveillance cameras, motion sensors and a deep concrete foundation. The plan that some of us would dig with pink shovels with the impossible aim of making a tunnel under the fortification and get onto and close the runway while others would cheer them on from a picnic in the adjoining meadow, had to be adapted to our reduced numbers and in recognition of the devastation that had been unfolding around us in the preceding days.

The vibrant pink shovels were muted with black paint or tied with black ribbons. Banners with more light hearted messages written in pastels were left behind and new ones made more in keeping with the moment, in German, white on black, “STOP THE NEXT CATASTROPHE BEFORE IT BEGINS- ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS!”

As the event unfolded, 14 activists from Germany, the US and the Netherlands were met at the fence by several times that number of civilian and military police, who after an hour arrested four of the most persistent diggers who were soon released without any charges. While especially in light of the $14 million plus spent on the new fence meant to keep people like us out, the civilian police had better things to do and could easily have ignored our clearly symbolic effort, some in the local press and more in social media blamed us for distracting the police and military from dealing with the aftermath of the floods.

In the midst of their national disaster, only about 1,000 of the 150,000 soldiers in the German military were employed in flood relief and on the day we were digging for life at Büchel, Tornado jets were crisscrossing over our heads, causing police, protesters, soldiers and members of the press alike to cover our ears from their deafening roar, illustrating what is often ignored and never mentioned in climate negotiations, the huge part that the militaries of the world play in the climate crisis, the US and its allies more than the rest.

Before the digging began at the fence and under the screaming jets, a police detective called my name and with some ceremony served me with papers from the court informing me that I had been accused, convicted and sentenced to a 900 euro fine or 30 days in prison in response to my actions on my last visit to Germany and to Büchel, two years ago, along with two others, Susan from California and Susan from Amsterdam. It was decided by the court that “through the same act and acting collectively” and “within the scope of the annual meeting and demonstration against nuclear weapons at the airbase of fighter-bomber squadron 33,” I had “gained unlawful access to the military area and its security sector” by cutting holes in the fence. I remember that the military police sergeant who apprehended us was unreasonably upset about the hole we had made, not so much concerned about the weapons of mass destruction that he was guarding nor the violations of the German Constitution and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that they pose. Before leaving Germany, I filed an appeal of my conviction and sentence in the court at Cochem and I hope for the opportunity to argue against the assumed legality of nuclear weapons in a German court.

The United States is preparing to upgrade its current B61 nuclear bombs with the new B61-12, reportedly costing over $20 million each and the German government is looking to soon replace its fleet of Tornados with more sophisticated fighter bombers, both governments spending billions on systems that will significantly lower the threshold of nuclear war and contribute to global warming. There is no solution to the climate crisis and no hope for human life on this planet that does not include disarmament and an end to war.

The post Resisting Nuclear Weapons in a Climate Crisis first appeared on Dissident Voice.