NewsGuard, the media rating agency, alleges that Consortium News has published “false content” by reporting that there was a U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 and that ne0-Nazis have significant influence in the country. NewsGuard took issue with a:
“February 2022 article ‘Ukraine: Guides to Reflection,’ [which] asserted, ‘Hence, the inflation of Russian behavior in Ukraine (where Washington organized a coup against a democratically elected government because we disliked its political complexion) … .’
It then wrote:
“The U.S. supported the Maidan revolution that ousted then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanikovych (sic) in 2014 — including a December 2013 visit by John McCain to Kyiv in support of protesters — but there is no evidence that the U.S. ‘organized’ a ‘coup.’ Instead, it has the markings of a popular uprising, precipitated by widely covered protests against Yanukovych’s decision to suspend preparations for the signing of an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union.”
Viktor Yanukovych was democratically elected as president of Ukraine in 2010 in an election certified by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a fact not mentioned in NewsGuard’s writings on the change of government in Ukraine. Even though Yanukovych agreed to an EU political settlement and early elections, violence forced him to flee from the capital on Feb. 21, 2014. Reporting that the neo-Nazi Right Sector was at the forefront of the violent overthrow, The New York Times (NewsGuard green check) wrote earlier that day:
“Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector, a coalition of hard-line nationalist groups, reacted defiantly to news of the settlement, drawing more cheers from the crowd.
‘The agreements that were reached do not correspond to our aspirations,’ he said. ‘Right Sector will not lay down arms. Right Sector will not lift the blockade of a single administrative building until our main demand is met — the resignation of Yanukovych.’ He added that he and his supporters were ‘ready to take responsibility for the further development of the revolution.’ The crowd shouted: ‘Good! Good!’
A study on the violence used to overthrow the government, by Prof. Serhiy Kudelia, a political scientist at Baylor University, says the overthrow succeeded because of “the embeddedness of violent groups” in a non-violent protest. The violence began on Dec. 1, 2013 when these violent groups attacked police with “iron chains, flares, stones and petrol bombs” and tried to ram a bulldozer through police lines. The police viciously fought back that day.
As the International Business Times (IBT) (green check) wrote about these groups at the time:
“According to a member of anti-fascist Union Ukraine, a group that monitors and fights fascism in Ukraine, ‘There are lots of nationalists here [EuroMaidan] including Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.
Different groups [of anarchists] came together for a meeting on the Maidan. While they were meeting, a group of Nazis came in a larger group, they had axes and baseball bats and sticks, helmets, they said it was their territory. They called the anarchists things like Jews, blacks, communists. There weren’t even any communists, that was just an insult. The anarchists weren’t expecting this and they left. People with other political views can’t stay in certain places, they aren’t tolerated,’ a member of the group continued.”
The violence by far-right groups was evidently condoned by Sen. John McCain who expressed his support for the uprising by addressing the Maidan crowd later that month. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and then U.S. ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visited the square after the violence had broken out.
NewsGuard’s account of the events of Feb. 21, 2014 says that even though Yanukovych agreed to the early elections, “angry protestors demanded Yanukovych’s immediate resignation,” and he fled on that day after “hundreds of police guarding government buildings abandoned their posts.” NewsGuard then says “protestors took control of several government buildings the next day.”
Government Buildings Seized
Protestors occupied Kiev’s City Hall, replete with Confederate flag. (YouTube)
But protestors had already seized government buildings as early as December 2013. On Jan. 24 protestors broke into the Agriculture Ministry building in Kiev and occupied it. On the same day barricades were set up near the presidential headquarters. Government buildings in the west of the country had also been occupied. The Guardian (green check) reported on Jan. 24:
“There were dramatic developments in the west of the country on Thursday as hundreds of people forced their way into the office of the regional governor in the city of Lviv, and forced him to sign a resignation letter. Oleh Salo, a Yanukovych appointee in a city where support for the president is in the low single digits, later said he signed the letter under duress and was rescinding his resignation.
Thousands also stormed regional administration headquarters in Rivne on Thursday, breaking down doors and demanding the release of people detained in the unrest there, Unian news agency reported. In the town of Cherkasy, 125 miles south of Kiev, about 1,000 protesters took over the first two floors of the main administration building and lit fires outside the building.
Similar action took place in Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Khmelnytsky in western and central Ukraine, as well as parts of the north-east, the Party of the Regions said.”
Protestors had begun occupying Kiev City Hall in December, with a portrait of Ukraine’s World War II fascist leader Stepan Bandera hanging from the rafters. On the night of Feb. 21, the leader of the Neo-fascist Right Sector, Andriy Parubiy, announced that the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), the Presidential Administration, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Internal Affairs had all come under control of the protestors.
Therefore NewsGuard has published “false content” by reporting that government buildings were occupied the day after Yanukovych fled the capital. It should print a correction.
On the day after Yanukovych fled, the Rada voted without the presence of Yanukovych’s party — the largest in the country — to impeach him after the fact of his violent overthrow. NewsGuard omitted the key fact that the impeachment vote was tainted by the absence of Yanukovych’s party and that the impeachment became largely irrelevant after violence forced him to flee the capital.
Democratically-elected leaders are removed by electoral defeat, impeachment or votes of no confidence, not by violence. NewsGuard writes that “hundreds of police guarding government buildings abandoned their posts” on the day Yanukovych was forced out, but doesn’t say why. As Jacobin (NewsGuard green check) magazine reports:
“Whatever one thinks of the Maidan protests, the increasing violence of those involved was key to their ultimate victory. In response to a brutal police crackdown, protesters began fighting with chains, sticks, stones, petrol bombs, even a bulldozer — and, eventually, firearms, all culminating in what was effectively an armed battle in February, which left thirteen police officers and nearly fifty protesters dead. The police ‘could no longer defend themselves’ from protesters’ attacks,’ writes political scientist Sergiy Kudelia, causing them to retreat, and precipitating Yanukovych’s exit.”
NewsGuard calls the events a “revolution,” yet revolutions in history have typically been against monarchs or dictators, not against democratically-elected leaders. For instance, the 1776 American Revolution, the 1789 French Revolution, the 1917 Russian Revolution, the 1952 Egyptian Revolution, the 1979 Iranian Revolution and countless others were against monarchs. Coups have been against both elected and non-elected leaders. Revolutions change political systems, usually from monarchies to republics. Ukraine’s political system was not changed, only its leader.
As a reader, Adrian E.. commented below on this article:
“When a movement that is supported by about half the population and opposed by about half the population violently overthrows a democratically elected government, this may be given different names (e.g. coup), but it is certainly not a “popular revolution”.
The Maydan movement was never supported by more than about half the Ukrainian population. It was supported by a vast majority in Western Ukraine, by very few people in the East and South of the country, with people more evenly split in the center/North. This clearly was not a case of a government that had lost public support to such a degree that there was a general consensus that it should resign. It was the case of one political camp representing about half the country that had lost the last elections imposing its will with brutal deadly violence.”
By any measure, Yanukovych’s ouster was an unconstitutional change in government. His “impeachment” without his party present for the vote came after government buildings had been seized and after violence drove him from the capital.
McCain addressing crowd in Kiev, Dec. 15, 2013. (U.S. Senate/Office of Chris Murphy/Wikimedia Commons)
In its version of these events, NewsGuard only refers to circumstantial evidence of the coup, interpreting it as U.S. “support” for a “revolution” against a democratically-elected president.
NewsGuard fails to point out that McCain, Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) as well as Nuland appeared on stage in the Maidan with Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Neo-fascist Svoboda Party, formerly known as the Social National Party.
NewsGuard does not consider how such events would be seen in the United States if a senior Russian foreign ministry official, two leading Russian lawmakers and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. appeared on stage with a far-right American leader to address a crowd on the Washington Mall seeking to oust an elected U.S. president. If that president were overthrown violently, would Americans think it was a Russian-backed coup?
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NewsGuard discusses Nuland’s 2013 speech in which she revealed that since 1991 the U.S. had spent $5 billion to help bring about Ukraine’s “aspirations.” What it fails to point out is that U.S. aspirations were to turn Ukraine towards the West and away from Russia. And the U.S. had work to do.
In a 2008 poll, 17 years after this U.S. effort began, and the year in which the U.S. said Ukraine would one day join NATO, 50 percent of Ukrainians actually opposed NATO membership against just 24.3 percent who favored it. A 2010 Gallup poll showed that 40 percent of Ukrainians viewed NATO as more threat than protector. Just 17 percent had the opposite view. So building up civil society through U.S.-funded NGOs to favor the West was the U.S. challenge.
NewsGuard does not mention that part of the $5 billion the U.S. spent was to help organize protests. There was genuine popular dissatisfaction with Yanukovych that the NED nurtured and trained. Jacobin reported of the 2014 events:
“US officials, unhappy with the scuttled EU deal, saw a similar chance in the Maidan protests. Just two months before they broke out, the NED’s then president, pointing to Yanukovych’s European outreach, wrote that ‘the opportunities are considerable, and there are important ways Washington could help.’
In practice, this meant funding groups like New Citizen, which the Financial Times reported ‘played a big role in getting the protest up and running,’ led by a pro-EU opposition figure. Journalist Mark Ames discovered the organization had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from US democracy promotion initiatives.”
Writing in Consortium News six days after Yanukovych’s ouster, Parry reported that over the previous year, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which funds NGOs in countries the U.S. targets for regime change, had bankrolled 65 projects in Ukraine totaling more than $20 million. Parry called it “a shadow political structure of media and activist groups that could be deployed to stir up unrest when the Ukrainian government didn’t act as desired.”
The NED, on Feb. 25, the day after the Russian invasion, deleted all projects in Ukraine it funded, which are archived here. The NED meddled in Ukrainian politics in 2004 in the so-called Orange Revolution. The Washington Post (green check) wrote in 1991 that what the C.I.A. once did in secret — destabilizing and overthrowing regimes — the NED was now doing openly.
C.I.A. or NED-led coups are never made up out of whole cloth. The U.S. works with genuine opposition movements within a country, sometimes popular uprisings, to finance, train and direct them. The U.S. has a long history of overthrowing foreign governments, the most infamous examples being Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Chile in 1973.
In September 2013, before the Maidan uprising began, long-time NED head Carl Gerhsman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” in a Washington Post op-ed piece, and warned that “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
In 2016 he said the NED has been involved in Ukraine since the 1980s and he praised the “overthrow of Yanukovych.”
Nuland-Pyatt Tape Omitted
Most significantly, NewsGuard’s attempt to refute U.S. involvement in the coup omits the 2014 intercepted and leaked telephone call between Nuland and Pyatt, the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in which the two discuss who will make up the new government weeks before Yanukovych was overthrown.
On the leaked tape, Nuland and Pyatt talk about “midwifing” a new government; Vice President Joe Biden’s role, and setting up meetings with Ukrainian politicians to make it happen. Nuland says the prime minister should be Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and indeed he became prime minister after the coup.
At the time, the BBC (green check) wrote of the leak: “The US says that it is working with all sides in the crisis to reach a peaceful solution, noting that ‘ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future’. However this transcript suggests that the US has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals.”
The U.S. State Department never denied the authenticity of the video, and even issued an apology to the European Union after Nuland is heard on the tape saying, “Fuck the EU.” Mainstream media at the time focused almost exclusively on that off-color remark as a distraction from the greater significance of U.S. interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
Why did Nuland say, “Fuck the EU”? At the time she said it, France, Germany and Poland were working for the EU on a political settlement with Russia to the Maidan crisis that would leave Yanukovych in power.
Indeed the E.U. brokered a deal with Yanukovych, who agreed to early elections by December 2014, a restoration of the 2004 Constitution and an amnesty for all protestors, clearing the way for no one to be held responsible for the violent ouster. Yanukovych announced the agreement, with E.U. officials at his side in Kiev, on Feb. 21, 2014. Later that day he was violently driven from power.
Leaving the historic role of the NED and the essential Nuland-Pyatt conversation out of its reporting is an omission of evidence by NewsGuard, typical of corporate media. Omitting crucial elements of a story changes its meaning and in this case undermines NewsGuard’s account of the events of 2014.
This is an excellent example of why Parry started Consortium News: to report on crucial information that corporate media sometimes purposely and deceptively leave out to change the meaning of a story. NewsGuard should correct its story about the coup, not Consortium News. NewsGuard invites readers to request corrections by emailing them at email@example.com.
Likely Reasons for the Coup
U.S. enabled Yeltsin’s 1996 reelection.
Wall Street and Washington swept in after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 under a pliable Boris Yeltsin (who received direct U.S. help to win re-election in 1996) to asset-strip the formerly state-owned industries, enrich themselves and a new class of oligarchs and impoverish the former Soviet people.
The ascension of Vladimir Putin to power on New Year’s Eve 1999 gradually began to curb U.S. influence in post-Soviet Russia, especially after Putin’s 2007 Munich Security Conference speech, in which he blasted U.S. unilateral aggression, especially in Iraq.
Eventually Putin restored sovereignty over much of the Russian economy, turning Washington and Wall Street against him. (As President Joe Biden has now made clear on more than one occasion, the U.S. aim is to overthrow him.)
In his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, former U.S. national security adviser ZbigniewBrzezinski wrote:
“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state.”
Thus U.S. “primacy,” or world dominance, which still drives Washington, is not possible without control of Eurasia, as Brzezinski argued, and that’s not possible without control of Ukraine by pushing Russia out (U.S. takeover of Ukraine in the 2014 coup) and dominating Moscow as it did when this was written in the 1990s.
Deep Western involvement in Ukrainian politics and economy never ended from those early post-Soviet days. When Yanukovych acted legally (the Rada authorized it) to reject the European Union association agreement in favor of a Russian economic package on better terms, it threatened to curtail Western economic involvement. Yanukovych became a marked man.
Yanukovych had already made Russian an official language, he had rejected NATO membership, and reversed his pro-Western predecessor’s move to glorify Nazi collaborators. Yanukovych’s predecessor, President Viktor Yuschenko, had made Ukraine’s World War II-era fascist leader Stepan Bandera a “Hero of Ukraine.”
There was genuine popular dissatisfaction among mostly Western Ukrainians with Yanukovych, which intensified and became violent after he rejected the EU deal. Within months he was overthrown.
After the Coup
The U.S.-installed government in Kiev outlawed political parties, including the Communist Party, and stripped Russian as an official language. Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions was banned in several oblasts and eventually collapsed. An American citizen became finance minister and Vice President Joe Biden became Barack Obama’s virtual viceroy in Ukraine.
Videos have emerged of Biden giving instructions to the nominal president at the time, Petro Poroshenko. By his own admission, Biden forced the resignation of Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s prosecutor general.
Shokin testified under oath that he was about to investigate Burisma Holdings, the company on which the vice president’s son was given a lucrative board membership just months after the U.S.-backed coup.
Biden, other U.S. officials, and the media at the time lied that Shokin was removed because he was corrupt. State Dept. memos released this year and published by Just the News (green-check) actually praise Shokin for his anti-corruption work. The question of whether the leader of a foreign nation has the right to remove another country’s prosecutor was buried.
Eight days after nearly 50 anti-coup protestors in Odessa were burned to death on May 2, 2014 by far-right counter-protestors dominated by Right Sector, the coup-resisting provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbass region declared independence from Ukraine. Russia began assisting them and, after a visit to Kiev by then C.I.A. Director John Brennan, Poroshenko launched a war against the separatists that lasted eight years, killing thousands of civilians, until Russia intervened in the civil conflict in February.
After the coup, NATO began arming, training and conducting exercises with the Ukrainian military, turning it into a de facto NATO member. These were not just the interests of part of Ukraine that were being served, but those of powerful foreign actors. It was akin to a 19th century-style colonial takeover of a country.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @unjoe
In Part 1, we discussed the historical background of Technocracy Inc. that briefly found popularity in the US in the 1930s during the turmoil of the Great Depression. Technocracy was rooted in socioeconomic theories that focused upon the efficient management of society by experts (technocrats). This idea briefly held the public’s attention during a period of sustained recession, mass unemployment and growing poverty.
The technological capabilities required for the energy surveillance grid, essential for the operation of a Technate (a technocratic society), were far beyond the practical reach of 1930s America. Consequently, for that and other reasons, public interest in the seemingly preposterous idea of technocracy soon subsided.
However, in recent decades, many influential policy strategists—most notably Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger—and private philanthropic foundations, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, recognised that advances in digital technology would eventually make a Technate feasible. As founding and leading members of the Trilateral Commission, a policy “think tank,” they saw China as a potential test bed for technocracy.
We will now consider their efforts to create the world’s first Technate in China.
These articles build upon the research found in my 2021 publication Pseudopandemic, which is freely available to my blog subscribers.
In the West we often have difficulty understanding or even conceptualising Chinese mores. We tend to see the world in our own terms and are able to describe it only in reference to the principles and philosophical concepts that we are familiar with. Perhaps we forget that the Western perspective is not the only one in the world.
For example, as pointed out by students of the Chinese political philosophy of tianxia, there is no ontological tradition in China. In the Chinese philosophical mind, the question is not “What is this thing” but “What path does this thing suggest?”
Datong lies at the heart of “the Great Way,” first described in the Liyun chapter of the “Book of Rites” (the Liji), written more than 2,000 years ago. Recounting the teachings of Confucius, the chapter depicted a utopian society of the ancient past this way:
When the Great Way was practised, the world was shared by all alike. The worthy and the able were promoted to office and men practised good faith and lived in affection. Therefore they did not regard as parents only their own parents, or as sons only their own sons.
The “Rites” (or “li”) are the formal etiquette and behavioural conduct that underpin Chinese social order. Li also compasses the ceremony and rituals that reinforce normative standards.
Datong, which can be translated as “the Great Unity,” represents the central political and moral philosophy of the ideal Chinese society. In datong, everyone respects “the li” and is imbued with the Confucian virtue of “ren.” This love and benevolence (ren) is founded in human empathy. It first manifests within the family but extends to the whole of society.
Datong implies a society where the most able and virtuous lead, with ren foremost in their hearts and minds. All resources are shared equitably for the common good. In the Liyun chapter, the expression “the world is shared by all alike” is written as “tianxia weigong.” This can be translated as “all under Heaven is held in common” or “all under Heaven is publicly held.”
There is no place for private property in datong, because communities meet the needs of all. There is no conflict of interest. The Great Way is one of “Universal Harmony.”
The opening passage of the Liyun chapter also described xiaokang, the “lesser prosperity,” in which society still maintained li and ren but differed from datong in an important regard:
The world is the possession of private families. Each regards as parents only his own parents, as sons only his own sons; goods and labour are employed for selfish ends.
While datong describes a world where resources are “shared by all alike,” in xiaokang resources are in “the possession of private families.” Xiaokang was not seen as opposed to datong but rather on the path toward it, for li and ren were still observed. But there is a warning in the Liyun chapter that private property and the control of resources by private interests present a risk:
Therefore intrigue and plotting come about and men take up arms.
Kang Youwei’s book “Datong shu” (The Great Commonwealth) was published posthumously in 1935. Kang wrote it as a series of lecture notes, the earliest dating to 1884. Rather than view datong only as a lost utopia, Kang proposed datong as a future society that could be constructed. He viewed ren as the path toward establishing the common good for all, attainable by eliminating suffering and creating happiness.
Kang noted that ren was applicable not only to humanity but to the universe and all within it, and he called this “jen.” Jen gave rise, he said, to creation and to the establishment of universal order. Therefore, order should be based upon the same principle of the “compassionate mind.”
He drew upon the work of the Confucian scholar He Xiu, whose Gongyang theory of history described sociopolitical development as a path consisting of incremental, progressive stages. Kang built upon Gongyang’s work to plot a course toward the Great Unity.
In essence, Kang suggested that society could be reverse-engineered to achieve datong in the future. He identified “nine boundaries” of human suffering that needed to be deconstructed in order to reach datong. He said that datong could be attained once nation-states, social class, racism, sexism, families, private property, injustice, environmental destruction, and poverty (the result of social inequality and oppression) were abolished.
“Sages” or “persons of jen” would be needed to lead, Kang maintained. He acknowledged that the sages had to operate in the social, economic and political circumstances of their day and that the resultant laws and institutions might be oppressive and cause suffering. Therefore, the objective of the “person of jen” (sage) should be to reform the laws and organisations of the state with a view to eradicating the nine boundaries of suffering.
With the abolition of the nation state, Kang’s proposed path toward the Great Way extended far beyond China. He favoured a global society where a world government would rule over a planet that was divided into regional districts.
In this global society, there would be no class or private property, and all would strive to deliver the common good and benefit everyone. Specifically, all resources would be deployed for the benefit and happiness of all. Public institutions, not families, would raise children. And the children would be trained to become citizens who would provide free services, such as health care and education, for all.
The only distinction between people would be the badges of honour worn by those deemed to have great ren, or knowledge—that is, the sages. Ultimately, once datong exists, there would be complete harmony with nature, which in turn would mean that all human beings are vegetarians and that euthanasia would be practised with ren, for the common good.
The ideology of datong, as Kang expounded it, and the hope of following the Great Way have strongly influenced Chinese political philosophy throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Xi Jinping has been heard on numerous occasions to repeat the phrase, “When the Great Way prevails, the world is for everyone.”
Seen from the Chinese philosophical perspective, the best anyone can hope for today is xiaokang. Thus, xiaokang sages must be free to reform the institutions of the state on the path toward removing the nine boundaries, achieving datong and leading the Great Way.
There are many parallels between this path and the socioeconomic theory underpinning technocracy. For those who wished to establish a global technate, China was a natural choice for their pilot project.
While there is a lot of debate about the extent of “legitimate” technocratic governance in the West’s supposedly liberal representative democracies, governance is just one aspect of technocracy. In other words, technocratic governance alone is not technocracy.
As discussed previously, a technocracy is a “governance of function.” The overarching goal is to run the whole of society as efficiently as possible. The Technocracy Inc. Study Course states:
The basic unit of this organization is the Functional Sequence. A Functional Sequence is one of the larger industrial or social units, the various parts of which are related one to the other in a direct functional sequence. Thus among the major Industrial Sequences we have transportation (railroads, waterways, airways, highways and pipe lines); communication (mail, telephone, telegraph, radio and television); agriculture (farming, ranching, dairying, etc.); and the major industrial units such as textiles, iron and steel, etc. Among the Service Sequences are education (this would embrace the complete training of the younger generation), and public health (medicine, dentistry, public hygiene, and all hospitals and pharmaceutical plants as well as institutions for defectives).
Each “Functional Sequence” is overseen by a directorate. For example, the Distribution Sequence collects all the data gathered from the “Energy Certificates,” which are allocated to the citizens to be exchanged for goods and services. The “Price System” is abolished. There is no private property. The entire Technate is controlled by one body: Continental Control.
Like Kang’s “sages,” and in a fashion similar to guidance of the population toward the Great Way, a technocracy creates a rigid hierarchical structure to ensure that all are working for the common good. In the language of technocracy, the citizen contributes toward the appropriate service function.
Effectively, this creates a pyramid-like sociopolitical structure:
The personnel of all Functional Sequences will pyramid on the basis of ability to the head of each department within the Sequence, and the resultant general staff of each Sequence will be a part of the Continental Control. A government of function! The Continental Director, as the name implies, is the chief executive of the entire social mechanism. On his immediate staff are the Directors of the Armed Forces, the Foreign Relations, the Continental Research, and the Social Relations and Area Control. [. . .] The Continental Director is chosen from among the members of the Continental Control by the Continental Control. Due to the fact that this Control is composed of only some 100 or so members, all of whom know each other well, there is no one better fitted to make this choice than they.
Class is abolished in technocracy. Child care is provided by the Technate. Rather than having “great ren,” the general staff of the Technate are said to possess “peck-rights.” That is, they are the most suited to be at the top of the pyramid because a “governance of function” works most efficiently when “the right man is in the right place” to serve the common good.
Like the ideas presented in “Datong shu,” the intention of technocracy is essentially altruistic. The small cluster of engineers, economists, sociologists and other academics brought together by the Rockefellers and Howard Scott wanted to construct a society that would deliver “lives of abundance” to all.
It must be admitted that the Technocracy Inc. Study Course made some valid criticisms of a number of social problems. Unfortunately, the offered solution of a Technate is both arrogant and naïve.
It assumes, much as does the notion of a Great Way, that authority can be exercised by some human beings over other human beings for the common good. Further, it imagines that there is some social or political mechanism that can produce leaders who are omniscient and capable of defining what that “common good” is.
Both datong and technocracy would require human nature to undergo a fundamental transformation. Avarice, malevolence, narcissism, psychopathy and every other deleterious failing would need to be expunged from humanity. Until they are, power will continue to be sought by those who want to control others. The most ruthless among us will ultimately succeed—often not because they are the most suited but because they are prepared to do what others won’t in order to gain the power they crave. This situation will persist for as long as we believe that someone or some organisation needs to have absolute authority over our lives in order for us to be able to cooperate effectively.
To imagine that concentrating all power in the hands of a tiny, select band of experts or sages will solve the problems caused by the unscrupulous and frequently violent and immoral use of authority is ridiculous. You can’t fix a kakistocracy by investing more power in the “kakistocrats.”
For the global public-private partnership (G3P), which operates a compartmentalised, hierarchical, pyramid-like power structure, the most enticing aspect of technocracy is the extreme centralisation of power and authority over vast swaths of the humanity. That is why, as soon as technological development permitted and the opportunity arose, the G3P set about assisting the development of a Technate in China.
Technate: governance of function
The formal story of Henry Kissinger’s “secret” 1971 discussions with Chinese Premier Chou En-lai—officially acknowledged in 2001—is that US President Richard Nixon sent Kissinger to normalise relationships with the Chinese government as a counterbalance to the Soviet Union. What is mentioned less frequently, though, is Kissinger’s relationship with the Rockefellers.
In 1956, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund commissioned Kissinger to convene its Special Studies Panels. The panels investigated emerging global challenges and trends and suggested how US foreign policy might adapt to meet them. In the 1961 publication of the six panel reports, Prospect for America (subtitled “The problems and opportunities confronting American democracy—in foreign policy, in military preparedness, in education, in social and economic affairs”), the Rockefeller Brothers Fund outlined how public-private partnership would be key to this projected future:
Corporations, whose operations extend through many nations[,] [. . .] through which a considerable and essential part of the world’s economic activities is carried on, must be able to compose diversities, adjust conflicts of interest, and adapt their operations to the needs of the country in which they operate. In doing so they represent a further example of multinational solutions to common problems.
The authors of these reports regarded private finance as essential not only for developing international markets but also for guiding the social and political development of the target nation:
Rapid economic growth can be achieved only if local savings and public foreign investment are supplemented by an increasing inflow of private foreign investment. Such investment performs two key functions: it adds to the capital resources of the host nation and it is the chief mechanism through which the managerial and technical skills and the creative and catalytic quality can contribute to economic development in less developed areas. [. . .] Private philanthropic capital can also play an important role in economic development.
The panels that provided the analysis for Prospect for America were convened in the aftermath of McCarthyism. They needed to appeal to a US polity still obsessed with the perceived threat of international communism. Thus, the reports eulogise so-called democracy throughout.
However, there are numerous indications that the Rockefeller foreign policy strategists were willing to diplomatically suggest alternatives:
The American pattern of private enterprise and voluntary association is not the only mold for a free society.
It is clear that these strategists sought to both exploit the differences between nation-states for their development potential and amplify the importance of global issues as a means of uniting nations, regardless of their model of government, under a system of global governance. They considered scientific and technological development one way to do just that:
In the field of science, international cooperation on a world scale is most readily achievable. [. . .] [T]he United States should, therefore, seek to develop a series of agreements, looking toward the stimulation of scientific interchange and the fostering of scientific progress on a world scale. [. . .] The Communist nations should be invited to participate.
The panels, which effectively formed a temporary Rockefeller-funded think tank, were not opposed to colonialism on moral grounds but they highlighted its tactical flaws. Inherent in their critique of colonialism was an acknowledgement that alleged democratic values have nothing to do with hard-nosed geopolitics or with expansive foreign policy ambitions:
While colonialism exacted a human and political toll, it also represented one of the greatest conversions in history. As the ideals of the British, French and American revolutions became diffused, partly through the very spread of colonialism, the seeds were sown for the destruction of colonialism itself. The more successful the teachings of the colonial powers, the more untenable grew their position. Almost without exception, the leaders of independence movements fought their rulers in terms of the rulers’ own beliefs. They asked them to live up to their own principles.
The Rockefellers, being one of the leading families at the head of the G3P’s compartmentalised hierarchy, had worked with the Chinese authorities for generations. John D. Rockefeller Sr. was trading kerosene in China in 1863. The family’s philanthropic foundation had long fostered strong ties with the Chinese government. For example, it helped advance the use of Western allopathic medicine in China by establishing the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) and by making other philanthropic investments.
It’s safe to say that the Rockefellers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic supporters of the Chinese government. Not surprisingly, they were also knowledgeable and enthusiastic supporters of the technocracy movement in the US, maintaining their keen interest in it despite its lack of public support. They understood the potential of social engineering to create a governance of function (a Technate):
Changes in technology have always been a major cause of change in government, economic relations and social institutions. But technological innovation is no longer the work of isolated, ingenious inventors; it is the product of organised scientific enterprise and is constant, insistent and accelerating. One of its notable effects is upon the tempo of social change itself, which is enormously quicker than it has been, and which subjects every inhabitant of a technological society to its pressures. Technological innovation thus poses a series of issues with which our society will have to deal. [. . .] The growth of technological society has changed the traditional society in which men have enjoyed freedom. Large and complex organisations have become the order of the day. [. . .] Programs for the preservation and strengthening of individual freedom must assume the existence and the inevitability of such organisations.
The Rockefellers had a nuanced appreciation of the potential for technological development to act as the catalyst for change. Despite the report’s primary focus on the US relationship with the Soviet Union, the Rockefellers obviously recognised the ripe opportunities in China:
It [China] has a rapidly growing population, a shortage of resources, and a fanatical ideology. Around a large part of its perimeter exists “soft” situations, making infiltration, subversion, and outright conquest seem easy or inviting prospects. The present relations between Soviet Russia and Red China [. . .] may not always be drawn together by common interests. [. . .] We must avoid, wherever possible, courses that seem to drive China closer to the Soviets.
As founders of the Trilateral Commission, the Rockefellers’ and their fellow Trilateralists’ goal was to infiltrate China by extending the hand of cooperative friendship through public-private investment in technological and thus financial and economic development. The Sino-Soviet split was seemingly the window of opportunity they wished to lever open.
China’s society, its political history and government structure was already amenable to the introduction of technocracy, as it was to communism. The Trilateralists were apparently eager to avoid the mistakes of Western colonialists, who extolled the democratic ideals and associated legal concepts which had come back to bite them. These ideals were, in any event, antithetical to the Trilateralists’ project.
Following Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping rose to power, becoming the Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1978. Just two weeks after assuming power, on January 1, 1979, he became the first communist Chinese leader to conduct a formal state visit to the US.
He was received with full state honours by the administration of Jimmy Carter, whose National Security advisor was Trilateralist Zbigniew Brzezinski—and who was himself a Trilateralist.
Deng Xiaoping immediately set about instigating a series of social and economic reforms, which were called “reform and opening up” in China and “the opening up of China” in the West.
Deng was one of a group of eight high-ranking Chinese officials who had survived the brutal repressions of cultural revolution. The reverently named “Eight Immortals” were credited with turning the Chinese economy from an unstable mess, riven with extreme poverty, into the thriving economic engine it is today.
Despite the hopes of datong, and far from being the sages that Kang Youwei dreamed of, the sons and daughters of the Eight Immortals, who are collectively known as the Princelings, hoovered up China’s state assets to effectively create a new dynasty, just as corrupt as its predecessors. Such is the nature of kakistocracy.
The scale and pace of the economic transformation in such a vast country would have been impossible without the considerable inward investment and the transfer of technology which China received from the G3P. This G3P investment was the initial source of China’s economic growth miracle. In late 2019, The World Economic Forum (WEF) reported:
High levels of government spending and foreign investment have enabled China to roughly double the size of its economy every eight years since the introduction of economic reforms in 1979.
CITIC (China International Trust & Investment Corp, renamed CITIC Group) was effectively China’s state–run investment arm. Kissinger’s visit to China had opened up investment banking opportunities for Rockefeller’s Chase Group (Chase Manhattan Bank at the time.) In June 1980, CITIC Chairman Rong Yiren attended a meeting with David Rockefeller and the representatives of 300 Fortune 500 companies in the Chase Manhattan offices in New York.
The purpose of the meeting between CITIC and the G3P representatives was:
[To] identify and define those areas of the Chinese economy most susceptible to American technology and capital infusion.
Kissinger and Rong reportedly established an investment company, with Trilateralist Kissinger appointed as a special advisor to CITIC. The initial phase of China’s economic transformation consisted of banking reforms that allowed much greater Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in China.
FDIs aren’t just capital investments. They typically come with a transfer or sharing of expertise, technology and even workforce. Common types of FDIs are mergers, acquisitions, management services and logistical and manufacturing agreements.
From the mid 1980s onwards the G3P began to pour into Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD). By 2009 there were 114 Western companies with a substantial presence and established investments in Beijing and beyond. By 2020 there were 238 Fortune 500 companies in Beijing. Today, Beijing CBD (called the Functional Area) now houses the regional headquarters of 105 multinational corporations and more than 4,000 foreign-invested enterprises. The CBD is one of six “high-end industrial functional areas in Beijing.”
According to Chinese state media, between 1983 and 1991 FDI in China went from a value of $920 million to $4.37 billion. By 2019 total FDI had risen to more than $2.1 trillion. At the same time, the transition economy of China, just like many other economies, rapidly expanded its money supply.
All of this monopoly money, a mixture of FDI and domestic (digital) currency printing, fuelled the economic and technological development of China. In exchange for access to its market, the Chinese government required that investors sign so-called Forced Technology Transfer (FTT) agreements. Simultaneously, the Western mainstream media (MSM) began constantly pushing the notion of the “rising threat” of China and frequently accused China of alleged industrial espionage and “technology theft.“
Like so much propaganda aimed at Western populations by their MSM, these charges were just a fabrication. In truth, no one was forcing anyone to transfer technology to China. In fact, Trilateralists like President Bill Clinton went to considerable lengths to make sure China could get hold of the technology, including military technology, it needed.
In 1994 the Clinton administration scrapped Cold War export controls, thereby enabling more sensitive technology to be transferred to China. Claiming that they would not allow defence technology, such as supercomputer or potential uranium enrichment technology, to go to China (or Russia), they soon lifted this restriction via a work-around that shifed oversight from the departments of State and Defense to the Department of Commerce.
One only has to look at the near identical design of US and Chinese defence systems and weaponry to see that a massive amount of “sensitive” technology is common to both countries. The asinine explanation we are given is that this is all the result of Chinese espionage, even though the US government has amended legislation to make such transfers possible.
The Israeli government and Israeli defence contractors have consistently acted as facilitators for the transfer of the most sensitive Western defence and surveillance technology to China. As soon as “reform and opening up” began in 1979, Israeli multibillionaire—then a humble billionaire—Saul Eisenberg flew a delegation of defence contractors to arrange military supply contracts with the Chinese government.
While the West’s MSM parrots the intelligence agencies’ overwhelmingly baseless claims that China represents an “immense threat,” the US government and others have maintained deep defence ties with the Israeli government for generations. In the full and certain knowledge that Israel is passing defence technology to China, the US and other NATO allies continue to provide Israel with the latest defence technology.
Occasionally a story surfaces claiming that Washingtion is “angered” by this habitual practice. If we look beyond the propaganda, the fables simply reaffirm that which is blatantly obvious. The Israeli government, its defence contractor and tech corporation partners, have consistently acted as a conduit for the transfer of “sensitive” defence, fintech, surveillance and communication technology from the West to China. Between 1992 and 2017 the volume of overall trade between Israel and China multiplied 200 times over.
Another Western propagandist myth is that China has “stolen” jobs from Western economies. While it is true that manufacturers took advantage of cheaper labour costs in China, leading to job losses in the West, the practice of offshoring jobs had been ongoing for decades. Companies are in the business of maximising profits for shareholders and staying competitive. No one was forcing Western corporations to offshore. It was simply an economic expediency, largely the consequence of G3P efforts to modernise China’s economy.
Often the focus of G3P investment in China has been Research and Development (R&D). In 1994 China ranked 30th in terms of US overseas R&D investment; by 2000 it was 11th. Between 1994 to 2001 multinational corporation (MNC) investment in China quadrupled. As a ratio of overseas R&D investment, the G3P were providing thrice the amount of “technology infusion” into China compared to anywhere else.
While the pseudopandemic sharpened the decline in total global FDI, that figure continued to rise in China. The 4% increase of FDI in China in 2020 saw it temporarily surpass the US as the world’s leading recipient of direct investment. In 2020, while FDI in other advanced economies collapsed, China benefited from FDI valued at $163 billion.
In addition to the huge growth stimulus pumped into the Chinese economy over the last four decades, a significant number of foreign/Chinese industrial R&D alliances were established. These were separate business organizations that targeted specific research or technological development projects. They were formed through collaboration between academic and scientific research establishments, NGOs, government institutions and private enterprise.
Between 1990 and 2001 the US government established 105 such alliances. In the same time period, Japan had the second largest number of R&D partnership alliances (26), followed by Germany (15), the UK (14), Singapore (12), and Canada (11). The overwhelming majority of these R&D collaborations operated in China.
From 2001, to the financial crash in 2008, both FDI in R&D and China’s own R&D investment really took off. While the explosive pace of FDI growth slowed from 2010 onward, by 2016 China’s own outward foreign investment had surpassed the FDI it received. That was an astounding economic turnaround in less than 40 years. A 2019 report by the World Bank stated:
China’s spending on research and development (R&D) rose to 2.18 percent of GDP in 2018, up from 1.4 percent in 2007[.] [. . .] Its spending on R&D accounts for around 20 percent of the world total, second only to the United States. Its number of patents granted annually for inventions increased from 68,000 in 2007 to 420,000 in 2017, the highest in the world. [. . .] China is also a hotbed for venture capital in search of the next technology. [. . .] China has evolved from being a net importer of FDI to a net exporter. [. . .] China remains an attractive destination for foreign investments due to its large domestic market. Foreign enterprises such as BASF, BMW, Siemens, and Tesla have recently announced new or expanded investments in China.
A focus of apparent Western concern has been China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This enormous infrastructure project, known in China as One Belt, One Road, or OBOR, is establishing a network of modern trade routes across Eurasia, linking Asia, Africa, Europe, South East Asia and Australasia, easing both international trade and, in particular, Chinese exports.
Beyond China’s borders there are 140 countries involved in the BRI to one degree or another. In its 2018 research paper looking at FDI in a BRI-related project, the World Bank referred to those countries directly involved in its construction as BRI nations. China’s own investment in BRI nations has grown, but the majority of its FDI goes to non-BRI nations. These, according to the World Bank, are nations that are not inviolved in the BRI.
China is the leading single nation investor in BRI nations but it does not account for the bulk of total investment. China took the lead after the 2008 financial crisis saw non-BRI nations (such as the US and the UK) pull back on their FDI deals in BRI nations. The investment from the non-BRI nations picked up again as quantitative easing (money printing) monetary policies in Western countries took effect post-2010.
The World Bank reported:
The majority of BRI countries’ [those who are part of the One Belt, One Road project] FDI inflow comes from non-BRI countries.
That is to say, BRI nations—Italy, Saudi Arabia, Austria, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore, etc.—are net recipients of FDI from non-BRI nations, such as the US, UK, France and Germany.
The majority of the investment, expertise and technology that is building the BRI infrastructure comes from the non-BRI G3P partners. The notion that Western politicians, corporations and financial institutions are worried about the Belt and Road Initiative is just an MSM story. In reality, they are working hard to construct it in partnership with China.
China: The World’s First Technate
China has developed an overt system dedicated to the social engineering of society. As noted in Part 1, the definition of technocracy is:
The science of social engineering, the scientific operation of the entire social mechanism to produce and distribute goods and services to the entire population.
The focus of technocracy is to direct the population to maximise the efficiency of all “functions” of society, primarily through control of the allocation of resources.
Published in 2014, the State Council Notice for planning a Social Credit System (SCS) outlined the Chinese government’s rationale for its social credit system:
The social credit system is an important component of the Socialist market economy system and the social governance system; [. . .] its foundation is a complete network covering the credit records of all members of society and the credit infrastructure; [. . .] its reward and punishment mechanisms are incentivizing trustworthiness and restricting untrustworthiness. [. . .] The establishment of a social credit system is an important foundation for comprehensively implementing the scientific viewpoint of development. [. . .] Accelerating and advancing the establishment of the social credit system is an important precondition for promoting the optimized allocation of resources.
This is a description of pure technocracy.
Western commentators often focus upon the technological aspects of China’s social credit system. China certainly operates a dystopian surveillance society, but this complements the social credit system which, as the name suggests, is an overarching system for “implementing the scientific viewpoint of development.”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported that the supposedly “terrifying system doesn’t exist” in China:
[T]he system that the central government has been slowly working on is a mix of attempts to regulate the financial credit industry, enable government agencies to share data with each other, and promote state-sanctioned moral values.
MIT and its funding partners, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, have consistently highlighted the potential merits of the social credit system (SCS). When reading that material, we must separate the rhetoric of the engineers of the social credit system from its practical application.
Like the Great Way or technocracy or communism, the political philosophy underpinning the social credit system is presented by its advocates as progressive, humanitarian and benign. Naturally, the people who impose this system would also need to be progressive, humanitarian and benign, right?
Yet, while the social credit system is effectively a massive bureaucracy, combining the digital sharing of information with legislation and various paper-shuffling exercises, there are many aspects of it that are extremely concerning. For one thing, it creates a public-private partnership that, by rewarding good behaviour, fosters public faith in the mechanisms of the state. For another, it punishes those who aren’t duly faithful.
The SCS removes access to “privileges” from people who have broken the law and even from those who haven’t. The concept of Joint Disciplinary Action in the SCS introduces the idea that, if found “untrustworthy,” a citizen or organisation so labelled will face broader social consequences, from having their right to fly removed to restricting their ability to book “high-class” tickets on trains to impeding their employment or business opportunities.
The SCS sets up a blacklist for those deemed to have committed “misdeeds.” Thus far it has predominantly punished those who have failed to pay court fines or those considered bad debtors.
Chinese state media have praised the courts’ partnership with tech giants like Sesame Credit—the credit-scoring system of the Alibaba Group subsidiary Ant Financial. Chinese government data, gathered from the courts and elsewhere, has been combined with private data, gathered from social media, for the purpose of lowering the financial credit score of millions of people who have been “blacklisted.”
Public humiliation and shaming are commonly used to change the blacklisted’s behaviour. The Supreme Court maintains a database of “discredited individuals” (laolai). Tech companies like TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., publish laolai lists from the publicly available data to inform its users which companies and individuals have been “discredited.”
Technology enhances the social credit system. To register a SIM cards and new SMART phones, Chinese users must by law use face scan technology. This biometric data then informs China’s already extensive and rapidly expanding national network of facial recognition cameras. The surveillance grid, allowing entry to everything from bus depots to safari parks, is integrating with alleged emotion-recognition technology to assess an individual’s mood and “predict” their behaviour.
China’s internet is highly regulated via the “Measures on the Administration of Internet Information Services.” The government prohibits news bloggers from commenting on any policies or political developments without a license from the Cyberspace Adminstration of China (CAC).
Again, this system operates as a public-private partnership. There are eight licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in China registered with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), but censorship largely occurs through the state’s partnership with fintech companies and social media platforms. The censorship is overseen by the Internet Information Office.
The Chinese have to register their personal details to use the popular social media platforms. The independent sale of SIM cards and network adapters is prohibited; the cards and adapters require similar registration upon purchase and prior to use. The Chinese authorities can block foreign websites, restricting citizens access to information from outside China, and it is a crime for anyone to facilitate the illegal flow of prohibited information into China. The Chinese authorities have effectively created the crime of information-smuggling.
Beyond inciting crimes or advocating violence or terrorism, Article 12 of China’s Cybersecurity Law outlines the other types of information that Chinese people are not permitted to share:
[Users] must not use the Internet to engage in activities endangering national security, national honour, and national interests; they must not incite subversion of national sovereignty, overturn the socialist system, incite separatism, break national unity, [. . .] create or disseminate false information to disrupt the economic or social order, or information that infringes on the reputation, privacy, intellectual property or other lawful rights and interests of others, and other such acts.
In other words, no one is permitted to question the state in China. This doesn’t stop the people from doing so, but the associated risks are high. Political dissidents can certainly expect to be censored by the social media platforms, and prison sentences are a distinct possibility for those who speak out too vociferously.
Among the major geopolitical powers, China is leading in the development of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). CBDC is “programmable money” and the issuer can insert “smart contracts” to control what can be bought, where it can be used and who can use it.
Bo Li, the former Deputy Governor of the Bank of China and the current Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), speaking at the Central Bank Digital Currencies for Financial Inclusion: Risks and Rewards symposium, clarified smart contracts further:
CBDC can allow government agencies and private sector players to program [CBDC] to create smart-contracts, to allow targetted policy functions. For example[,] welfare payments [. . .], consumptions coupons, [. . .] food stamps. By programming, CBDC money can be precisely targeted [to] what kind of [things] people can own, and what kind of use [for which] this money can be utilised. For example, [. . .] for food.
At the 2022 World Economic Forum’s Davos gathering, the president of the Chinese Alibaba Group, J. Michael Evans, announced that the global tech corporation would soon roll out its personal “carbon footprint tracker.”
We’re developing, through technology, an ability for consumers to measure their own carbon footprint [. . .] That’s where they’re travelling, how they are travelling, what are they eating, what are they consuming on the platform. [. . .] So, individual carbon footprint tracker, stay tuned! We don’t have it operational yet, but this is something we’re working on.
During the initial COVID-19 lockdowns, China’s government required all businesses and public services to install Covid status app scanners, connected to the internet. In order to access shops, restaurants, libraries, hospitals, etc., and to move between the newly created urban “zones,” the Chinese have to use their Covid app. In conjunction with the SIM and SMART phone registration requirements, combined with the biometric facial recognition technology, the public movements of the urban Chinese can be tracked 24/7 in real time by China’s public-private partnership.
The foundations for “the scientific operation of the entire social mechanism” have already been built in China. One of the major cities conducting some of its business in CBDC is Shanghai. In Shanghai’s Pudong “smart city” district, an AI integrated monitoring system is able to access the feeds from 290,000 surveillance cameras. The deputy director of the smart city, Sheng Denden, explained the systems value to the Chinese government:
For the government, this is a tool for more efficient administration in the city.
China is not communist. It is a technocracy. It is the world’s first Technate.
The China Blame Game
As we have already discussed, the idea that Western governments are “opposed” to China’s government is frankly ridiculous. This is not to suggest that there aren’t tensions, but these spring from competition not trenchant animosity. China’s government, and its tech giant partners, are as much a part of G3P as any other nation. The propaganda, from both the West and the Communist Party of China, serves as a surface narrative designed to divide and rule the global population, and to exert control over the respective domestic populations.
The Trilateralists who worked tirelessly to ensure that China was able to construct a Technate are seemingly proud of their claimed achievements. In 2001, Hedley Donovan, one of the founding members of the Trilateral Commission alongside Brzezinski and the Rockefellers, wrote:
It’s no exaggeration to describe the current regime as a technocracy. [. . .] You might say that technocratic politics is a natural fit with the Chinese political culture. [. . .] During the 1980s, technocracy as a concept was much talked about, especially in the context of so-called ‘Neo-Authoritarianism.’ [. . .] The basic beliefs and assumptions of the technocrats were laid out quite plainly: Social and economic problems were akin to engineering problems and could be understood, addressed, and eventually solved as such. [. . .] Scientism underlies the post-Mao technocracy, and it is the orthodoxy against which heresies are measured.
The self-congratulation was largely misplaced. That China’s government developed a Technate owes more to that nation’s circumstances and political and social history and belief systems than it does to the ambitions of the Trilateralists.
Technocracy is intended to be a sociopolitical system where individual rights are sacrificed to communitarianism. This is contrary to the Western liberal tradition. Technocracy represented less of a culture shock to the Chinese people. Certainly this fact was another impetus for the Trilateralists to pilot technocracy in China.
Just as we in the West generally believe in individual liberty and freedom from the state, so the Chinese people largely hold that the state should strive to rule with ren along the path to the Great Way and equality for all. In both cases, the people continue to be deceived and disappointed by the “kakistocrats,” who clearly have no intention of living up to any of those principles or expectations.
The mass and widespread Chinese demonstrations against the human cost of the government’s harsh Covid lockdown measures shows that the people are not willing to simply allow the state to do whatever it likes. While isolated protests in China are not unusual, the scale and coordination of these protests are testament to the Chinese people’s determination to resist oppression.
The Western investment in Chinese technocracy was made with a view to developing a global system, not one restricted to China. From the surveillance network and social credit to censorship and social control using CBDC, having seen what can be achieved in China, Western governments are busy trying to impose exactly the same model of technocracy upon their own people.
The Western political class cannot help but openly admire China’s technocracy. The only difference is that China’s system is publicly discussed—although rarely acknowledged as “technocracy” by name—while the rapidly emerging technocracy in the West is denied and concealed.
The G3P is ostensibly colonising Western populations yet remains eager to avoid the errors of 19th century colonialists. The Rockefellers’ research in the late 1950s highlighted the need to first justify the necessary destruction of democratic values—something all Western governments are working hard to do.
For its part, the Chinese government has had its own reasons for allowing technocracy to flourish. Technocracy fits well with China’s domestic policy ambitions. That said, there is no reason to think that the Chinese government ever intended to “export” technocracy to other nations.
Technocracy is being installed globally. This suits China’s oligarchy, accustomed as it is to operating a Technate. The Chinese government has no reason to stand in the way of the global adoption of technocracy. It is merely aligned with the global transformation, not leading it.
China’s government is not forcing other nations to adopt technocracy. Rather, all governments are collaborating to that end.
The Chinese people are not our enemy, and China is not a foe to be fought. We, the people of the Earth, are all under attack by our own G3P governments.
We are being rapidly transitioned into a new system of centralised, authoritarian global governance. This system is designed to be a technocracy, and, as such, it is truly totalitarian.
Totalitarianism is a form of government that attempts to assert total control over the lives of its citizens. It is characterized by strong central rule that attempts to control and direct all aspects of citizens’ lives through coercion and repression. It does not permit individual freedom. Traditional social institutions and organizations are discouraged and suppressed. As a result, citizens succumb to being merged into a single unified movement. Totalitarian states typically pursue a special goal to the exclusion of all other goals. They direct all resources toward the attainment of that goal, regardless of the cost.
In the case of today’s totalitarian system, technocracy, that “special” goal is called “sustainable development.” In the pursuit of that goal, no cost, either financial or humanitarian, is too great.
Technocrats insist that sustainable development is the way we can successfully tackle the alleged “climate crisis” facing our planet. In reality, their charge that humans are causing climate change is simply an excuse for implementing sustainable development. It is through the technocrats’ global policy commitment to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that technocracy is being installed.
A technocratic society is referred to as a “Technate.” In this two-part article, we will explore the world’s first Technate: China. We will look at how this system was constructed in China, who was behind it, and why technocracy is now being foisted upon all of humanity.
Global Technocratic Governance
In order for technocrats to roll out their vision of a global technocracy, they need to be in control of everything at the global level. In other words, authority has to be consolidated and centralized at the top of the pyramid of power. To achieve this goal, most of the world’s governments and intergovernmental organisations and multinational corporations have collaborated to form a global public-private partnership (G3P).
The G3P network has been knit together throughout the 20th and 21st centuries for the purpose of constructing a single system of global governance. For it is only through global governance that technocrats can distribute their influence worldwide. They count on the top government officials of each nation-state to convert their 17 SDGs into national policy commitments.
Many components of global technocratic governance have already been established.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) now delivers global governance of public health.
- The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) metes out global access to technological development.
- The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) coordinates economic policies between nation-states.
- The World Trade Organisation (WTO) monitors and controls global trade through the international agreements it oversees.
- The Bank For International Settlements (BIS) coordinates global monetary policy and the flow of capital.
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) steers the direction of education, academia, the sciences and cultural development.
- Other UN bodies are responsible for the seizure of the global commons and the “financialisation” of nature—through natural asset companies and other mechanisms. These goals are nearing completion.
The 17 SDGs are primarily controlled by the UN Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme—UNDP and UNEP, respectively.
Meanwhile, the necessary global scientific consensus on climate change is centrally administered—and the appropriate research funding streams allocated—by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The powerful individuals who are pushing the G3P project forward include a motley crew of mass polluters, robber barons, land grabbers and the world’s leading exponents of worker exploitation, market manipulation, monetary extortion (usury) and oppression. They form what would otherwise be considered a criminal cartel, but they have greenwashed their reputations through their publicly proclaimed commitment to so-called “sustainable development.”
Though often referred to as “the elite,” a more fitting description of this collection of thieves is “the parasite class.”
The G3P has managed to convince billions of citizens around the world that it is committed to sustainable, “net zero” environmentalism and that its foremost desire is to “save the planet.”
In truth, though, the G3P is all about empowering global governance and enforcing technocracy upon humanity through the SDGs and associated policy agendas.
Regardless of what you think about the causes of climate change or the level of risk climate change presents, SDGs do nothing to address it. Rather, they are designed to serve only the G3P partners and their selfish interests.
In order to requisition, commodify, audit and ultimately divide up the Earth’s resources among themselves, the stakeholder capitalists who are at the heart of the G3P also need technocratic control of humans everywhere. Thus, even when the bulk of humanity finally figures out what has happened, technocracy will enable the G3P to shut down all resistance through literal population control.
Under this control, every human being will be individually monitored by Artificial Intelligence (AI) networks that will punish or reward them, depending upon their behaviour.
“How will the G3P get away with taking away human rights worldwide?” you may ask. The justifications for our enslavement have already been set in place: Biosecurity risks and environmental devastation that will result if we don’t obey our global overlords are the two main excuses. We have already seen these two excuses used in the pseudopandemic and the fake climate scare.
Much like the quack pseudo-science of eugenics, which many G3P “thought leaders” seem to believe, Technocracy, Inc., a movement spawned in the early 1900s, was the social science certainty of its day. Although it subsequently faded from public consciousness, technocracy, like eugenics, it is still avidly pursued by the G3P’s hierarchy. Most people don’t recognize technocracy in their lives because it has been purposely compartamentalised—that is, kept out of sight.
In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor, who was arguably the world’s first management consultant, published The Principles of Scientific Management.
Taylor’s work came at the culmination of the Progressive Era in the United States. This was a period marked by political activism of the middle class, who sought to address the underlying social problems, as they saw them, of excessive industrialisation, immigration and political corruption. “Taylorism,” fixated on the imminent exhaustion of natural resources and advocating efficient “scientific management systems,” was in the spirit of the age.
In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first. [. . .] The best management is a true science, resting upon clearly defined laws, rules, and principles. [. . . ] The fundamental principles of scientific management are applicable to all kinds of human activities, from our simplest individual acts to the work of our great corporations.
Taylorism advocated science-driven efficiency reforms across society. An efficient system should not be run by politicians or religious leaders but by “experts,” such as engineers, scientists, logistical experts, economists and other academics. The focus, according to Taylorism, should always be on systemic efficiency and the proper use of precious resources, including labour.
Though Taylor was influenced by Social Darwinism, he was not a eugenicist. However, his ideas were adopted by eugenicists, for they “fitted” with eugenicists’ belief in their unassailable right to rule.
Just as eugenicists—who are inherently technocrats—could optimise and control the human population, so could they employ experts to make socioeconomic and industrial systems more efficient. They could promote these systems as beneficial to “the public good” while at the same time consolidating their own power and reaping a greater financial harvest from a more efficient industrialised society.
Taylor’s principles of scientific management chimed with the theories of economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen. The latter proposed that economic activity wasn’t just a function of supply and demand, utility, value and so forth, but that economic activity also evolved with society and was thus shaped by psychological, sociological and anthropological influences.
Both Taylor and Veblen focused upon improving the efficiency of industrial and manufacturing processes. But they also recognised that their theories could be extended to the wider social context. Not surprisingly, it was the more expansive application of their ideas that beguiled the parasite class.
Veblen famously spoke of “conspicuous consumption”—a description of how the affluent displayed their social standing through their ability to engage in pursuits and buy items that were essentially purposeless and wasteful. This “conspicuous leisure” and “consumption” cascaded down through the class structure, as those aspiring to signal their own status emulated the wealthy.
He argued that this excess was a major contributor to unacceptable resource waste and inefficiency. A consumer society, he thought, ultimately produced more goods and services than it needed simply to meet the artificial demand created by extravagant social climbers.
In short, Veblen was strongly opposed to this inefficient use of resources, which he blamed on the “business classes” and financiers. Though he valued their contribution to the industrial age, he felt they were no longer capable of managing modern industrial society.
Initially, Veblen argued that the workers must therefore be the architects of the necessary social change that would create economic and industrial reform. Later, in the Engineers and the Price System, he shifted his focus away from workers towards technocratic engineers as the drivers of change.
He called for a thorough analysis of the institutions that maintained social stability. Once that analysis was understood, he opined, those with technological expertise should reform the institutions and thereby engineer society and improve efficiency. Veblen referred to these social change agents as a “soviet of technicians.”
In 1919, Veblen became a co-founder of the John D. Rockefeller-funded private research university in New York called the New School for Social Research. From there he create the Technical Alliance, a fledgling technocratic organisation composed of scientists and engineers—including, notably, Howard Scott.
Scott didn’t like Veblen’s description of a “soviet of technicians” and reportedly called it “a cockeyed thing.” He saw that the term’s association with communism wasn’t welcome from a PR perspective and felt it undermined what he was trying to achieve with the technocracy movement.
Veblen’s involvement with the Technical Alliance was relatively brief, and some have suggested that his contribution to technocracy was minimal, accrediting Scott as the great mind behind it. Regardless of the extent of Veblen’s personal involvement in the movement, though, his socioeconomic theories permeate technocracy.
In 1933, the Technical Alliance reformed after an enforced hiatus that was prompted by Scott’s exposure as a fraudster (he had falsified his engineering credentials). The group renamed itself Technocracy Inc.
Despite his public humiliation, Scott was a skilled orator and remained the spokesman for Technocracy Inc. He worked with, among others, M. King Hubbert, who would later become globally renowned for his vague and generally inaccurate “peak oil” theory.
Scott and Hubbert collaborated to write The Technocracy Inc. study course, a formal introduction of technocracy to the world. At the time, their proposals were technologically impossible to achieve, so sounded crazy.
Technocracy finds that the production and distribution of an abundance of physical wealth on a Continental scale for the use of all Continental citizens can only be accomplished by a Continental technological control, a governance of function, a Technate.
There’s the word used in the opening of this article: Technate.
The Technate, to Hubbert and Scott, was a technocratic society envisaged to encompass the North American continent. It would be administered by a central planning body formed of scientists, engineers and other suitably qualified technocrats. They believed technocracy would require a new monetary system based upon a calculation of the Technate’s total energy usage. People would be allocated an equal share of the corresponding “energy certificates” (as a form of currency) denominated in units of energy (Joule or erg, etc.):
[I]ncome is granted to the public in the form of energy certificates. [. . .] They are issued individually to every adult of the entire population. [. . .] The record of one’s income and its rate of expenditure is kept by the Distribution Sequence, [the envisaged ledger of transactions] [. . .] so that it is a simple matter at any time for the Distribution Sequence to ascertain the state of an unknown customer’s balance. [. . .] Energy Certificates also contain the following additional information about the person to whom issued: whether he has not yet begun his period of service, is now performing service, or is retired [where service to the Technate is rewarded with Energy Certificates] [. . .] sex [that is, gender], [. . .] the geographical area in which he resides, and [. . .] job at which he works.
They envisioned a new price system, with all commodities and goods valued according to the energy cost of their production. Purchases made with “energy certificates” would then be reported back to the appropriate department of the technocratic central planning committee. The transactions would be catalogued and analysed, enabling the central planners to precisely calculate the rolling energy balance—the balance between energy production and consumption—for the entire Technate.
In order for this system to work, all consumers’ energy expenditure (including all daily transactions) would need to be recorded in real time; the national inventory of net energy production and consumption would have to be constantly updated, around the clock; and a registry of every commodity and product needed to be scrupulously maintained, with every individual living in the Technate allocated a personal energy account. This would be updated to record their energy usage and personal net energy balance.
We are being rapidly transitioned into a new system of centralised, authoritarian global governance. This system is designed to be a technocracy, and, as such, it is truly totalitarian.
Totalitarianism is a form of government that attempts to assert total control over the lives of its citizens. It is characterized by strong central rule that attempts to control and direct all aspects of citizens’ lives through coercion and repression. It does not permit individual freedom. Traditional social institutions and organizations are discouraged and suppressed. As a result, citizens succumb to being merged into a single unified movement. Totalitarian states typically pursue a special goal to the exclusion of all other goals. They direct all resources toward the attainment of that goal, regardless of the cost.
In the case of today’s totalitarian system, technocracy, that “special” goal is called “sustainable development.” In the pursuit of that goal, no cost, either financial or humanitarian, is too great.
Technocrats insist that sustainable development is the way we can successfully tackle the alleged “climate crisis” facing our planet. In reality, their charge that humans are causing climate change is simply an excuse for implementing sustainable development. It is through the technocrats’ global policy commitment to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that technocracy is being installed.
A technocratic society is referred to as a “Technate.” In this two-part article, we will explore the world’s first Technate: China. We will look at how this system was constructed in China, who was behind it, and why technocracy is now being foisted upon all of humanity.
Hubbert and Scott made it clear that, for technocracy to work, an all-pervasive energy surveillance grid would be required. All citizens would be individually identified on the grid and every aspect of their daily lives monitored and controlled by the technocratic central planners.
Technocracy, as we can see, is a totalitarian form of surveillance-based, centralised, authoritarian governance that abolishes national sovereignty and political parties. Freedoms and rights are replaced with a duty to behave in the interest of a common good, as defined by the technocrats. All decisions about production, allocation of resources, technological innovation and economic activity are controlled by a technocracy of experts (Veblen’s “soviet of technicians”).
In 1938, in Technocrat Magazine Vol. 3 No. 4 (to give its technocratic specification), technocracy was described as:
The science of social engineering, the scientific operation of the entire social mechanism to produce and distribute goods and services to the entire population.
For the parasite class and its G3P stakeholder partners, technocracy was obviously an irresistible idea. Technocracy potentially enables the precise engineering of society through the control of resources and energy through the mechanism of a linked, centrally planned and monitored economic and monetary system.
Or, as the Technocracy Inc. Study Course puts it:
The significance of this, from the point of view of knowledge of what is going on in the social system, and of social control, can best be appreciated when one surveys the whole system in perspective. First, one single organization is manning and operating the whole social mechanism. This same organization not only produces but distributes all goods and services. Hence a uniform system of record-keeping exists for the entire social operation, and all records of production and distribution clear to one central headquarters.
To control everything, the only thing that members of the parasite class would need to do is whisper in the ear of a few hand-picked technocrats. There would be no need to corrupt politicians or orchestrate international crises anymore.
While in the 1930s the Technate was an impracticable proposition, it was still something to inspire the G3P and a goal toward which it has been assiduously working.
Scott Speaking at a Technocracy inc. Rally
The Technocratic Opportunity
Understanding that technological development would eventually enable the Technate to be realised, in 1970 Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928–2017) wrote Between Two Ages: America’s Role In The Technetronic Era. At the time, Brzezinski was a professor of political science at Columbia University, where Scott had first met Hubbert in 1932. He had already been an advisor to both the Kennedy and Johnson presidential campaigns and would later become National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter (1977–1981).
Brzezinski was a significant influence on late-20th-century US foreign policy, far beyond his years in the Carter administration. Though he was the Democrat counterpart to Republican Henry Kissinger, Brzezinski was a centrist whose deep dislike of the Soviet Union often placed him on the right of Kissinger on related issues. He supported the Vietnam War and was instrumental in “Operation Cyclone,” which saw the United States arm, train and equip Islamist extremists in Afghanistan.
He was a member of numerous policy think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Le Cercle. And he was a regular attendee at the annual parasite class soiree, the Bilderberg conference. In 1973, Brzezinski and David Rockefeller formed the Trilateral Commission, a policy think tank with members from the US, Europe and Japan.
In short, Brzezinski was very much part of the Deep State milieu and the G3P.
Zbigniew Brzezinski (March 28, 1928 – May 26, 2017)
Between Two Ages is a geopolitical analysis and practical set of policy recommendations born from Brzezinski’s view that digital technology would transform society, culture, politics and the global balance of political power. It also provides us with a clear view of the mindset of the parasite class.
Brzezinski didn’t reference technocracy directly. Perhaps he was wary of its rather sketchy reputation following Scott’s disgrace. However, he did describe it in detail throughout the book. For example, he wrote:
Technological adaptation would involve the transformation of the bureaucratic dogmatic party into a party of technocrats. Primary emphasis would be on scientific expertise, efficiency, and discipline. [. . .] [T]he party would be composed of scientific experts, trained in the latest techniques, capable of relying on cybernetics and computers for social control.
He theorised about what he called the “Technetronic Age” and offered a vision of the near future from the perspective of the 1970s. He predicted that the “Technetronic Age” would arise out of the Technetronic Revolution—the “Third Revolution” to follow the Industrial Revolution. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, would later call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Brzezinski also wrote:
The post industrial society is becoming a ‘technetronic’ society: a society that is shaped culturally, psychologically, socially, and economically by the impact of technology and electronics—particularly in the area of computers and communications.
He then went on to describe what he thought life in the Technetronic Age would be like for ordinary men, women and their families. He foretold how political and industrial control would be replaced by psychological control mechanisms, such as the cult of personality, and that these new control mechanisms would steer humans towards behaviour change. Our lives, he predicted, would be managed through computing power and, in the parlance of today, led by science:
Both the growing capacity for the instant calculation of the most complex interactions and the increasing availability of biochemical means of human control augment the potential scope of consciously chosen direction. [. . .] Masses are organized in the industrial society by trade unions and political parties and unified by relatively simple and somewhat ideological programs. [. . .] In the technetronic society the trend seems to be toward aggregating the individual support of millions of unorganized citizens, who are easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities, and effectively exploiting the latest communication techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.
He also explained how technology would enable extensive behaviour modification and manipulation of the population. He foresaw (suggested) how this modification and manipulation could be weaponised:
It may be possible—and tempting—to exploit for strategic political purposes the fruits of research on the brain and on human behavior. [. . .] [O]ne could develop a system that would seriously impair the brain performance of very large populations in selected regions over an extended period.
Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote enthusiastically, through a paper-thin veil of caution, about how a “global scientific elite” could not only use extreme, all-pervasive propaganda and economic and political manipulation to determine the direction of society but could also exploit technology and behavioural science to genetically alter and brainwash the population.
Describing the form of this society and the potential for technocratic control, he wrote:
Such a society would be dominated by an elite whose claim to political power would rest on allegedly superior scientific know how. Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control.
He claimed that the “Technetronic Age” he described was inevitable. Therefore, he asserted, the future of the United States (and the planet) must be centrally planned. These planners would eventually displace “the lawyer as the key social legislator and manipulator.”
Brzezinski warned that other nations—he meant the Soviet Union, which he hated—wouldn’t hesitate to embark on this dark social engineering path. Therefore, he urged, US geopolitical strategists needed to be the first to develop this network of planners—aka, technocracy. This would be done, Brzezinski wrote, by fusing government with academia and private corporations: the G3P.
His Between Two Ages made it clear that political parties would become increasingly irrelevant, replaced by regional structures pursuing “urban, professional, and other interests.” These could be used to “provide the focus for political action.” The author understood the potential for this localised, technocratic administrative system:
In the technetronic age the greater availability of means permits the definition of more attainable ends, thus making for a less doctrinaire and a more effective relationship between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be.’
He also suggested a redefinition of freedom. Liberty would be achieved through centrally planned public commitment to social and economic equality. The “public good” was thus defined by the technocrats.
The positive potential of the third American revolution lies in its promise to link liberty with equality, according to Brzezinski.
Brzezinski recognised that it would be impossible to impose world government directly. Rather it should be gradually constructed through a system of global governance comprised of treaties, bilateral agreements and intergovernmental organisations:
Though the objective of shaping a community of the developed nations is less ambitious than the goal of world government, it is more attainable. [. . .] It [global governance] attempts to create a new framework for international affairs not by exploiting these divisions [between nation-states] but rather by striving to preserve and create openings for reconciliation.
One “opening” that he was particularly interested in was China. Tensions between Russia and China had continued to rumble on, and, as Brzezinski wrote in Between Two Ages, they had spilled over into a border conflict. He saw that the Sino-Soviet split had created an opportunity to shape China’s modernisation:
In China the Sino Soviet conflict has already accelerated the inescapable Sinification of Chinese communism. That conflict shattered the revolution’s universal perspective and—perhaps even more important— detached Chinese modernization from its commitment to the Soviet model. Hence, whatever happens in the short run, in years to come Chinese development will probably increasingly share the experience of other nations in the process of modernization. This may both dilute the regime’s ideological tenacity and lead to more eclectic experimentation in shaping the Chinese road to modernity.
These ideas were firmly in Brzezinski’s mind when he and committed eugenicist David Rockefeller, whose family had been bankrolling technocratic initiatives for more than 50 years, first convened the Trilateral Commission. The two were eventually joined by other so-called “thought leaders”—namely, population control expert Henry Kissinger, Club of Rome environmentalist Gro Harlem Brundtland, US presidents (Bill Clinton, for one) and Council on Foreign Relations head Richard Haass, who more recently wrote World Order 2.0.
Rockefeller (left) and Brzezinski
Constructing The Technate In China
Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” saw 40 million people brutalised and starved to death in just three horrific years (1959–1961). Apologists claim this was all a terrible mistake. But it was nothing of the kind.
In the certain knowledge that food supplies were running out, in 1958 Mao insisted that “to distribute resources evenly will only ruin the Great Leap Forward.” Later the same year, he asserted:
When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half the people die so that others can eat their fill.
In his zeal to create a communist utopia, Mao presided over a system that seized food from starving millions and exported it to fund his political reforms and support his determination to rapidly industrialise the economy. It wasn’t an error or an unfortunate oversight. While many were so terrified that they submitted fake reports of surpluses that didn’t exist, it is clear that the leadership of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) knew exactly what the human costs were. They just didn’t care.
Mao and Rockefeller’s view of the Great Leap Forward
Nor did David Rockefeller, as evidenced by his 1973 op-ed for The New York Times. He and his Chase Group banking empire delegation had visited Maoist China. In his account of the trip, Rockefeller dismissed the mass murder of millions as “whatever.” It was only the product of genocide that Rockefeller was interested in:
One is impressed immediately by the sense of national harmony. [. . .] There is a very real and pervasive dedication to Chairman Mao and Maoist principles. Whatever the price of the Chinese revolution it has obviously succeeded, not only in producing a more efficient administration, but also in fostering. [. . .] a community of purpose.
The Trilateralist Rockefeller could see the opportunity the Chinese dictatorship presented the parasite class. In full agreement with Brzezinski, he wrote:
Too often the true significance and potential of our new relationship with China has been obscured. [. . .] In fact, of course, we are experiencing a much more fundamental phenomenon. [. . .] The Chinese, for their part, are faced with altering a primarily inward focus. [. . .] We, for our part, are faced with the realization that we have largely ignored a country with one-fourth of the world’s population.
The “we” Rockefeller referred to was not us. He meant the G3P and his fellow “stakeholder capitalists” and Trilateralists.
The totalitarian order he saw in China impressed him, as he had hoped it would. Not that Rockefeller was the only Trilateralist to see the technocratic possibilities in China. So did others, naturally, for the sheer scale of the market was an enticing prospect, and the promise of the “Technetronic Age” raised the real potential to build the world’s first Technate.
Completely discounting the appalling loss of human life, Rockefeller wrote:
The social experiment in China under Chairman Mao’s leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history. How extensively China opens up and how the world reacts to the social innovation [. . .] is certain to have a profound impact upon the future of many nations.
A look at the Great Leap Forward
The G3P’s task was to crack open the Chinese market while supporting the country’s ongoing totalitarian rule. China would need help with its economic development and technical support to build the technological infrastructure necessary for technocracy to work. This process had already begun, but with Rockefeller, Brzezinski, Kissinger and other Trilateralists committed to the cause, the target of constructing a Technate was firmly in the Trilateral Commission’s sights.
The Trilateralists set about assisting China to develop both economically and technologically, while remaining careful to avoid applying too much pressure for political reform. Totalitarianism was a system they supported and wanted to exploit. In their 1978 Paper No. 15 on East-West Relations, they suggested:
To grant China favourable conditions in economic relations is definitely in the political interest of the West. [. . .] [T]here seems to exist sufficient ways for aiding China in acceptable forms with advanced civilian technology.
In the same paper, the Trilateralists announced that they weren’t entirely averse to helping China modernise its military capability, though they stressed this should be only for defensive purposes.
They accepted that a modern, militarised China might turn to expansionism and seek to regain territory it historically claimed as its own—in particular, Taiwan. They judged this was a reasonable risk to take.
They were playing the great game. Human lives—except their own and the lives of their families, of course—were of no concern.
In Part 2 we will look at how they set about constructing the world’s first Technate in China.
Please note: This research is available in my book – Pseudopandemic
While we react with fear to the resurgence of fascist, Nazi or Japanese imperial groups, we fail to see that it was not these ideologies that provoked World War, but the alliance of rulers ready for the worst. The same configuration is about to be repeated with other groups. In a few months, if we do not react now, a Third World War may be possible.
The Second World War can serve as a lesson to us. It did not appear in a serene sky. It was not a battle of the Good guys against the Bad guys. It was just triggered by an unforeseen gathering of forces capable of destroying everything.
After the economic crisis of 1929, the whole world was convinced, and rightly so, that the capitalism of that time was over. The Soviet Union alone offered an alternative, Bolshevism. Soon the United States came up with a second alternative, the structural reforms of the New Deal, and then Italy promoted a third alternative, fascism. The great Anglo-Saxon capitalists chose to support a new regime, close to fascism, Nazism. They thought that Germany would attack the USSR, thus preserving their interests threatened by both Bolshevik collectivisations and US economic reforms. However, nothing worked out as planned, since Italy, Germany and Japan formed the Axis with their own logic and the war was not started against the Soviets, but against the great fortunes that prepared it.
In the collective imagination, we do not hold responsible the great Anglo-Saxon capitalists who supported Nazism at its beginning. On the contrary, we remember the British and American people as having participated in the victory.
From this experience we must learn that the most skilful plans can escape their promoters. Peace was threatened by the alliance of three very different regimes, Fascism, Nazism and Hakkō ichiu. None of the international relations scholars and other geopoliticians of the time foresaw this union. All of them, without exception, were wrong.
What these three ideologies had in common was that they wanted to change the world order without regard to the human consequences of their actions. This does not mean that their opponents were democratic and peaceful, far from it, but only that they refrained from exterminating entire peoples.
Let’s not mistake the adversary. We must be very vigilant, not to a particular type of political regime, but to the fact that states governed by men capable of the worst ever unite. The current danger is neither fascism, nor Nazism, nor Hakkō ichiu, three ideologies marked by their time and which do not correspond to anything today. What we must protect ourselves from, above all, is a global alliance between ideologies capable of the worst.
This is exactly what is about to happen: the current leaders of the US State Department, the government in Kiev and the next government in Tel Aviv have no limits. The union of the "Straussians", the Ukrainian "integral" nationalists and the Israeli "revisionist Zionists" can, without any qualms, plunge the world into a Third World War. Fortunately, the CIA does not share their ideas, the government in Kiev is constrained by Russian military intervention, and the Israeli Prime Minister’s coalition has not yet formed its government.
Professor Leo Strauss (1899-1973). Although he wrote extensively on natural law and Jewish philosophy, he left nothing about his political conceptions, which he reserved for certain of his students. Numerous testimonies have made his "oral" thought known to us.
The U.S. "Straussians”
This small group of about a hundred people controls the foreign policy of the United States, including the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, his deputy, Victoria Nuland, and the National Security Advisor, Jacob Sullivan.
It is in line with the thinking of the Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss "Russia declares war on the Straussians” for whom democracies showed their weaknesses during the 1930s. The only way to ensure that the next anti-Semitic regime does not massacre them is for the Jews to set up their own dictatorship; to be on the side of the hammer and not of the nail.
The "Straussians" have already shown what they are capable of by organizing the 9/11 attacks and by launching various wars to destroy the "wider Middle East".
It is amazing that, despite the controversies that tore the US ruling class apart during the Bush Jr. administration, most of today’s politicians are unaware of who the Straussians are.
The poet Dmytro Dontsov (1883-1973). He created a mythology that inspired millions of Ukrainians to fight the Russians. A secret agent of the Second and Third German Reichs, he participated in the supervision of the extermination of Jews and Gypsies in Europe as administrator of the Reinhard Heydrich Institute, before being whitewashed by the Anglo-Saxon secret services.
The Ukrainian "integral nationalists”
This is a group comprising hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions. It originated in the First World War, but solidified during the interwar period, the Second World War and the Cold War “Who are the Ukrainian integral nationalists ?”.
They identify with the poet and criminal against humanity Dmytro Dontsov. They see themselves as Vikings ready to fight the last battle against evil, that is, according to them, against Russian civilization.
The term "integral nationalist" should not be misleading. Dontsov chose it in reference to the thought of the Frenchman Charles Maurras. Dontsov was never a patriot, nor a nationalist in the classical sense. He never defended either the Ukrainian people or the Ukrainian land. On the contrary.
The Ukrainian "integral nationalists" have, since 1919, shown what they are capable of. They have murdered more than 4 million of their fellow citizens, including 1.6 million Jews. Since 2014, they have waged a civil war that has cost the lives of about 20,000 of their fellow citizens. They also, in 1921, amputated their land from Galicia and Volhynia to pay in advance the Polish army against the USSR.
They made an alliance with the Straussians, in 2000, during a big congress in Washington, where the Straussian Paul Wolfowitz was the guest of honor.
It is very dangerous to claim, as NATO does, that the "integral nationalists" are marginal in Ukraine. Certainly, in the spirit of this organization, it is only a question of discrediting Russia’s discourse and mobilizing for Ukraine. But these people are now murdering, without trial, those of their fellow citizens who find themselves in Russian culture.
It is particularly dangerous to participate in the delirium of the "integral nationalists" as the Bundestag has just done by adopting a resolution on the "Holodomor", i.e. the "genocide by hunger". The famine of 1932-33 was by no means caused by the Soviets in general, nor by Joseph Stalin in particular. It affected many other regions of the USSR than Ukraine. It is a climatic catastrophe. Moreover, in Ukraine itself, it did not affect the cities, but only the countryside because the Soviets decided to manage this shortage by feeding the workers rather than the peasants. To give credence to the myth of a planned genocide is to encourage anti-Russian hatred as the Nazis once encouraged anti-Jewish hatred.
Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940), founder of the Jewish Legion, then of the Irgun. He called for Israel to extend over the entire British Mandate territory, i.e. over the current State of Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the Kingdom of Jordan.
Israeli "revisionist Zionists”
The "revisionist Zionists" represent about 2 million Israelis. They have managed to form a parliamentary majority by uniting several political parties behind Benjamin Netanyahu.
They claim to be inspired by the Ukrainian Vladimir Jabotinsky, the man who claimed that Palestine is "a land without a people, for a people without a land". In other words, Palestinian Arabs do not exist. They have no rights and must be expelled from their homes.
In September 1921, Jabotinsky formed a secret alliance with the Ukrainian "integral nationalist" anti-Semites, the first link in the developing Axis. This union aroused the indignation of the entire Jewish diaspora and Jabotinsky was expelled from the World Zionist Organization. In October 1937, Jabotinsky formed a new alliance with the anti-Semites of Marshal Rydz-Smigly, number 2 in Poland behind Józef Piłsudski. He was again rejected by the Jewish diaspora.
At the very beginning of World War II, Jabotinsky chose Bension Netanyahu, Benjamin’s father, as his private secretary.
It is appalling that, 75 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, most people continue to lump together different, and often opposing, views solely on the basis of the religion of those who profess them.
Revisionist Zionism" is the opposite of the Zionism of Nahum Goldman and the World Jewish Congress. It has no concern for the Jewish people and has therefore not hesitated to form alliances with anti-Semitic armed forces.
The "revisionist Zionists", including Menahem Beguin and Ariel Sharon, have shown what they are capable of with the Nakba; the forced expulsion of the majority of the Arab population of Palestine in 1948. It is this crime, whose memory haunts both Arabs and Israelis, that makes peace in Palestine impossible to this day.
Benjamin Netanyahu formed an alliance with the Straussians in 2003 at a large closed-door congress in Jerusalem «Sommet historique pour sceller l’Alliance des guerriers de Dieu». Since the election of Volodymyr Zelensky, of whom he has become a personal friend, Netanyahu has also renewed Jabotinsky’s alliance with the "integral nationalists".
The Axis is constituted.
The common ideology of the new Axis
Just as Italian Fascism, German Nazism, and Japanese Hakkō ichiu had little to do with each other, so did the Straussians, the "integral nationalists," and the "revisionist Zionists" think differently and pursue distinct goals. Only the Nazis were so anti-Semitic as to seek to kill an entire people. The fascists despised the Jews, but did not seek to exterminate them. The Japanese never engaged in this hatred and even protected the Jews in their own country and in the territories they occupied. In the same way, today if the "integral nationalists" are obsessively against Russian culture and wish to kill all Russians, men, women and children, the Straussians despise them without wishing to exterminate them, and the "revisionist Zionists" pursue other objectives.
Each of these three isolated groups represents a danger to specific populations, but all three together threaten all of humanity. They share a cult of violence and power. They have shown that they can engage in wars of extermination. All three consider that their time has come. However, not only do they have to overcome their internal oppositions, but their axis is still uncertain. For example, the Straussians have just warned the "revisionist Zionists" about the possible expansion of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.
Recently, I argued that Russia was provoked into beginning the ‘special military operation’ (SMO) by a series of events stretching from initial NATO claims of its goal to expand to Ukraine, NATO-Ukrainian cooperation, the Western-cultivated and ex post facto fully supported Maidan revolt (despite the neofascist Ukrainian element’s false flag snipers terrorist attack) to which Putin responded by annexing Crimea, Western support for Kiev’s attack on Donbass (including civilians), deeper Western and NATO involvement in Ukraine, Kiev’s failure to implement its obligations under the Minsk Donbass peace accords, and much else [see Gordon M. Hahn, Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the ‘New Cold War’ (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Books, 2018); https://gordonhahn.com/2022/02/24/coercive-diplomacy-phase-2-war-and-iron-curtain-descended/; https://gordonhahn.com/2016/01/21/report-the-russian-american-reset-nato-expansion-and-the-making-of-the-ukrainian-crisis/; https://gordonhahn.com/2016/03/09/the-real-snipers-massacre-ukraine-february-2014-updatedrevised-working-paper/; and https://www.academia.edu/37784742/Shooting_of_Maidan_Protesters_from_Maidan_Controlled_Locations_Video_Appendix_C_2018_?email_work_card=title%5D. As far as I am concerned, the ‘West/NATO expansion provoked the Ukrainian crisis and war’ is an incontrovertible fact.
More recently, I also argued, Putin decided to call off coercive diplomacy begun in spring 2021 and escalated in autumn through January 2021 by massing tropps at the Ukrainian border, when the West rejected Moscow’s appeals to end NATO expansion and sign a draft treaty on security agreements for Kiev and a European security architecture (https://gordonhahn.com/2022/01/31/putins-coercive-diplomacy/). The West’s rejection was accompanied by a major escalation in the Ukrainian military attacks along the Donbass line of contact and a threat by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to abandon the Budapest Memorandum, implying an attempt to acquire nuclear weapons (https://gordonhahn.com/2022/02/24/coercive-diplomacy-phase-2-war-and-iron-curtain-descended/). Zelensky said at the annual meeting of the Munich Security Conference on February 19, 2022: “I, as president, will do it for the first time. But Ukraine and I are doing it for the last time. I am launching consultations within the framework of the Budapest Memorandum. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been asked to convene them. If they do not happen again or if their results do not guarantee the security of our country, Ukraine will have the right to think that the Budapest Memorandum is not working and that all the comprehensive decisions of 1994 are being questioned” (“Speech by Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the 58th Munich Security Conference”, by Volodymyr Zelensky, Voltaire Network, 19 February 2022). The Munich conference is attended by all the leaders of the NATO alliance and other parties interested in European security issues, and yet not one Western leader questioned the appropriateness of what would be a violation not just of the Budapest Memorandum but of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That these immediate provocations were a direct cause of Putin’s decision to begin the SMO is not possible to prove, but the thesis is highly plausible if not likely a fact. Putin responded to Zelenskiy’s nuclear demache, saying that the only thing Ukraine needs is a uranium enrichment system, but this technical issue “is not an insoluble problem” for Ukraine, especially given the support Kiev enjoys from some nuclear powers (www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/putin-says-minsk-agreement-on-ukraine-exists-no-more/2510573). Incidentally, this is not only pertinent to Putin’s February decision but also provides some context for the struggle surrounding the Zaporozhe Nuclear Power Plant.
Now new evidence suggests that perhaps, perhaps, the West and Kiev intentionally or not engaged in additional provocations that prompted Putin’s SMO on 24 February 2022. For example, former President Petro Poroshenko has suggested that Kiev never intended to follow through on the Minsk accords and sought only to buy time for Ukraine to strengthen its military through training and weapons supplied by the West for an offensive to take back Donbass and Crimea. In a June interview to Radio Free Europe’s Ukrainian language service and the German Deutsche Welle, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the Minsk accords were intended to “delay the war” and “create powerful armed forces”: “Our goal was to, first, stop the threat, or at least to delay the war – to secure eight years to restore economic growth and create powerful armed forces” (www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/272589263/minsk-deal-was-used-to-buy-time-ukraines-poroshenko). Then in an August 2022 interview advisor to Zelenskiy and his Office of the President of Ukraine, Aleksei Arestovich revealed that in December 2021 the Ukrainian armed forces deployed additional troops to the Donbass contact line under the cover of a training exercise “despite the damage (the deployment) did to the economy” (https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/8504). Perhaps this is what led Zelenskiy to tell the Ukrainian tntelligence services a month before Putin’s SMO began the following: “”We have learned to deter and counter external aggression quite effectively. I am convinced that the time has come to move to offensive actions to defend our national interests” (www.president.gov.ua/en/news/zovnishnya-rozvidka-vidigraye-vazhlivu-rol-u-protidiyi-zagro-72517). Then throw into the mix the aforementioned exponential increase in firing across the contact line undertaken by Ukrainian forces first and Zelenskiy’s threat to pursue nuclear capability.
I am saying ‘provoked Putin intentionally or not’ because we do not know what Moscow knew about these new deployments. Moscow did claim that Ukraine was preparing an attack on Donbass, especially after the SMO began, even claiming that it discovered documents proving Kiev was planning an attack. But it remains unclear whether these Russian claims pertain to the newly revealed secret depoloyment. Certainly, Moscow would had Donbass and Ukraine crawling with intelligence operatives and well-covered with electronic and satellite data collection and would likely have observed the ‘secret’ deployment. Then the issue might be whether Kiev and/or the West wanted Moscow to uncover the deployment, so as to provoke Putin into attacking. Or perhaps they did not want this, but Russian intelligence nevertheless did discover it, which along with other immediate challenges noted above prompted Putin’s decision to begin the SMO.
If the provocation theory is correct than it would also be correct that the West wanted Putin to invade, and if that is so then it would be logical that the West would want the war to continue. We now know that the West directly intervened with Zelenskiy to prevent Russia and Ukraine from finalizing a tentative agreement that would have ended the war in April. A recent article in the establishment flafship foreign policy journal Foreign Affairs written by two rusologists with deep ties to the ruling Democrat Party-state revealed this: “According to multiple former senior U.S. officials we spoke with, in April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries” (https://archive.ph/kxfbG and https://raheemkassam.substack.com/p/russia-and-ukraine-came-to-peace?fbclid=IwAR0n03z7v-tJOjIOFC4_eXZCjvzyJbwzcgjycFbFigo9a9LV_FOA439_o74). This is one piece of evidence that the West wants the war to continue. NATO expansion and weakening Russia trump international security and Ukrainians’ well-being. The West’s massive supply of weapons, intelligence, military expertise, training, strategic planning, and financial support and Washington’s and Brussels’s lack of any effort in the diplomatic sphere to encourage negotiations further demonstrate that the West wants the war to continue.
At the same time, there is reason to believe that Zelenskiy himself may have been manipulated by the West, there is a new video circulating that shows French President Emmanuel Macron in discussion over the phone with Zelenskiy as the Russian invasion began on February 24th. Zelenskiy can be heard pleading with Macron to organize US President Joe Bden and European leaders to make a phone call to Putin and urge him to stop the military action, claiming that if this is done, then Putin “will stop” (https://t.me/stranaua/62507). On the other hand, Zelenskiy’s suspicions regarding Biden’s and other US officials’ claims of an imminent invasion and reports that Russia engaged in a massive bribery and recruiting campaign among Ukrainians before the war, which would have almost certainly led to some reporting the effort to the authorities and tipping off the possibility of a Russian invasion suggest that the Ukrainian leadership should have been well aware of the likelihood of an attack. Yet Zelenskiy showed no desire to negotiate with Putin on the key issues Moscow sought to have addressed: NATO expansion, direct talks between Kiev and the Donbass, the incomplete Minsk peace process, and so on.
In sum, there is some reason to believe that the escalation of the Donbass war ordered by Putin in February has a more interesting pre-history and causal chain than might be assumed even those who understand that Putin did not wake up one morning and decide to seize Ukraine in some master plan to ‘reestablish the Soviet Union’ and other such delusions. At any rate, the new war’s start needs more investigation and its origins are likely only to be revealed many years from now.
About the Author
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu
Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.
Some readers have commented in direct emails to me that they have taken comfort from my writings insofar as I have been a moderate voice, avoiding alarmism over the often troublesome daily news in and around the Russian war with Ukraine, or more properly speaking today, Russia’s proxy war with NATO in and about Ukraine.
For this very reason, I hesitated whether to share with readers the deep pessimism that overcame me a couple of days ago over our chances of avoiding nuclear Armageddon. This followed my watching the latest Solovyov political talk show on Russian state television. I have used this show regularly as a litmus test of the mood of Russian social and political elites: that mood has turned black.
Whereas in the past, going back six months or more, I had reported on the open contempt which leading and highly responsible Russian academics from university circles and think tanks were showing for the American political leadership in their statements on the political talk shows, this contempt has moved into an actionable phase, by which I mean that serious, God-fearing Russians are so furious with the rubbish propaganda coming out of Washington, repeated with bullhorns in Europe that if given the chance they would personally “press the button” and unleash nuclear attacks on the United States and Britain, in that order notwithstanding the possibility, even probability of a return strike, which, however enfeebled, would be devastating to their own country. That is to say, deterrence as a policy is fast losing its psychological impact on the Russian side of the argument.
Whatever the words of the Biden Administration about nuclear war being ‘off the table,’ America’s aggressive and threatening behavior, including the ongoing ‘training in nuclear weapons’ currently going on in Europe under U.S. direction, has made rational and very serious Russians ready to give it a try.
One of the most sober-minded international affairs experts to appear on the Solovyov show, Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Institute of the Near East think tank, contained his rage with some difficulty, saying only that while he had once held some sympathy for the United States, he would see its utter destruction now with little regret; he left no mention where his feet are pointed when he added that he could say no more on air for fear that he will be censored and his words removed from the video.
For these reasons, I have given to this essay addressed to the Collective West, and in particular to the fomenters of world disorder in Washington and London, a title that fits the current situation.
As we have seen from even before the launch of the ‘special military operation,’ Russian talk programs identify by name individuals in the Biden team whose outstanding stupidity, obtuseness and rank ignorance they find unbearable, with the likes of Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan and Lloyd Austin among those coming in for special mention. We are left with the impression that when Biden calls in his advisers to the Oval Office, he, senile dimwit that he is, is the bright light in the room. The Russians conclude from this that they have no one to negotiate with.
Now the naming of idiots in high places carries over to all discussion of European Union and British leaders. The denunciation of incompetence, rank stupidity and, yes, neo-colonialist or fascist mindsets among European leaders was well reflected in the latest Solovyov show. The most discussed whipping boy was the EU’s commissioner on external action, Josep Borrell, who seems to be speaking to the world daily and acknowledges no limits on what he may proclaim, as if it were official EU policy in defense as well as diplomacy.
The Solovyov show put up on screen a brief video recording of Borrell expounding smugly on Europe’s privileged position as ‘a garden of liberal democracy, good economic prospects and social solidarity’ which is surrounded by ‘the jungle.’ That jungle reference fits in well, Solovyov remarked, with the colonialist mindset of Rudyard Kipling and is deeply offensive to the Rest of the World, of which Russia is a part. More to the point, Borrell was also notorious in Russia this past week for his statement that any use by Russia of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be met by a massive non-nuclear attack from Europe which would ‘annihilate’ the Russian army. However, Borrell was not alone in the stocks: other European leaders who were decried for their stupid policies this past week included German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emanuel Macron.
So you have no bomb shelter? Then, as the Russians said decades ago, it is high time to throw a bed sheet over your shoulders and slowly walk to the nearest cemetery.
One of the two latest fake news stories being disseminated simultaneously and ubiquitously in Western major media this past week is that Russia is considering using against Ukraine ‘tactical nuclear weapons,’ meaning warheads with a destructive force equivalent to the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombs mounted on cruise or medium range ballistic missiles. Our print and electronic media speculate on the numbers of warheads Russia currently possesses (2,000 or more), as if that would make any difference in an assault on Ukraine.
Rubbish say the Russians on Solovyov’s show: we have no need of nuclear arms to finish off the Ukrainians. The only nuclear forces we would deploy in the current situation are strategic arms, and they are directed against….Washington with the help of the Sarmat and Poseidon delivery systems.
The other major fake news disseminated massively by Western media in recent days was the allegation that the Russians are seeking to freeze the Ukrainians to death by their strikes against power generation infrastructure. Images of Stalingrad were evoked by our broadcasters. A similar freeze is said to be inflicted on Western Europe by the cut-off of Russian energy supplies to the EU.
More rubbish say the panelists on the Solovyov program. The attack on the electricity grid in Ukraine is not directed against civilians per se; it is intended to halt rail deliveries of advanced weapons systems and munitions coming into Ukraine at the Polish border and being moved by train to the fronts in the east and south of the country. Without these inputs, the Ukrainian army will be kaput and the war can come to an early conclusion with the capitulation of Kiev. As regards the EU, whatever chill out may be coming this winter is due solely to the unprofessional and ignorant decisions of the Commission on imports of Russian hydrocarbons that have been blindly followed by the Member States without due consideration of consequences for their own populations.
The Collective West speaks of ‘sham’ referendums in the four Ukrainian oblasts that have now been reintegrated into (or annexed by, depending on your politics) the Russian Federation. In this spirit, in the middle of the past week the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a U.S. sponsored resolution refusing to recognize the legality of this annexation. Among those who voted against Russia were such prominent ‘friendly states’ as Serbia and Hungary. One hundred forty states voted with the United States; four states, including the pariah regimes in Venezuela and North Korea, joined Russia in voting ‘nyet,’ and thirty-five states abstained.
The United States trumpeted this victory at the UN over the mischievous and rules-breaking Russians. EU chief of diplomacy Borrell was also gloating, though he expressed regret that 20% of the member states had not voted for the resolution.
The Russians, for their part, insist that this vote was a sham, given the carrots and sticks that U.S. and European diplomats used to get the results desired. Blackmail of all kinds was applied, say the Russians. Morever, the number of states in each tally tells only part of the story: among the 35 abstaining countries were India and China, which between them alone account for 35% of humanity.
Meanwhile, over in Europe, on the next day the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg adopted a resolution condemning Russia for its alleged aggression against Ukraine with a bill of particulars several pages long and including a call for the 46 member states to declare Russia a ‘terrorist state’ as Zelensky had requested of them. The vote as published was said to be 99 for the resolution, 1 opposed. No mention was made in the announcement of vote results that the actual number of deputies in PACE is 306. The point was not missed by the Solovyov panel, who here too cried ‘foul.’
Putting aside these two votes that garnered so much attention in the propagandistic Western media, there were other international developments bearing on the relative standing of Russia in the global community which Western media chose to ignore, but Russia media, featured prominently.
I think in particular of the three days of summitry in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The first of these gatherings brought together 27 heads of state from across Asia, running from Israel and Palestine, Qatar and the Emirates in the west to Korea in the east. Let us remember that a goodly number of the participants were from countries that voted against Russia in the UN General Assembly. Their presence in Astana gave the lie to the notion that they were expelling Russia from polite society.
The key personality at the meeting of 27 was clearly Vladimir Putin. Film footage on Russian television showed him in animated conversation with these leaders in group and bilateral formats. Of these the most significant was likely the face-to-face with Turkish president Erdogan, during which the two discussed immediate steps to implement the Russian proposal that a new pipeline be added to Turk Stream so as to greatly increase possibilities for delivering gas to Europe by this southern route through the Balkans. In this concept, Turkey will become a major gas hub, which represents fulfillment of a long-held dream by the Turkish leader.
In its capacity as hub, Turkey would be able to mix Russian gas with flows from Azerbaijan and possibly later from Turkmenistan, so that the product sold as a Turkish export would be bullet proof against American or European sanctions. The additional line could probably be laid down within a year, that is to say, more quickly than the problematic repairs to the damaged Nord Stream 1 pipelines.
The next day in Astana, another summit was held between leaders of the Community of Independent States. This reduced circle of members was also of great importance insofar as it confirms Russia’s standing as facilitator of diplomatic solutions between member states experiencing armed conflict with one another, the Azeris and Armenians being first in line. And the final summit, among the leaders of Central Asian republics with Russia had yet another important agenda: agreeing security measures to defend against spillover into their region of the developing civil war in Afghanistan, where the U.S. and Britain are aiding extremist groups seeking to overthrow Taliban rule. From the body language of leaders, it would seem that Putin’s ear was much in demand. Relations with Kazakhstan leader Tokaev appeared to be solid once again after a trying period of several months earlier in the year.
In considering the meaning of these gatherings, I think that a remark made several days ago on another Solovyov show and with regard to the decision of the Saudis and Gulf States to snub the insistent demands of Biden that oil production be raised: the decision to make common cause with Russia came not out of pity for the weak but out of Realism, namely the assessment that Russia will win the military contest with NATO/Ukraine. These rulers in Opec, like the rulers who came to Astana this past week, back winners not prospective losers.
If I may draw any positive conclusions from the otherwise bleak analysis in the foregoing, they are that Russia is successfully resisting massive U.S. and E.U. pressures, and that the world is realigning before our eyes in a more multi-polar and democratic direction. And yet, the fears of miscalculations on one side or another in this tense and unparalleled contest mean Armageddon constantly threatens in the background.
Dear readers, to my great regret, I am once again duty bound to walk the streets bearing the sign ‘The End of the World is Nigh’.
I watched the news digest program Sixty Minutes yesterday on Russian state television’s smotrim.ru platform. Before turning the microphone over to the panelists in talk show format, the first 30 minutes of the show presented a hair-raising video montage of excerpts from US, German, European, British news reporting about dirty bomb accusations, about the current exercises of the aircraft carrier George Bush Sr. in the Eastern Med and its loud message to Mr Putin about nuclear attack capabilities, about the 2400 American ground assault troops just delivered to Romania and placed at the border with Moldova, ready to move in there and, one may safely assume, to continue up into Ukraine to face off with Russians around Odessa – Nikolaev at a moment’s notice. Well, the impression of this pending escalation was overwhelmingly that we are on the cusp of the war to end all wars. The US is game for it, whatever Biden mutters to the contrary reading from his teleprompter. The Russians are game for it. And so here we go!
On a less dramatic note but one from the same musical composition, I have just felt obliged to add a Postscript to my last essay on Rushi Sunak, noting that I was wrong about the kind of marching orders he has from the City of London: while he replaced most of the Truss cabinet ministers, he has retained Ben Wallace at Defense. Note that Wallace is calling for large increases in defense spending to support Britain’s contribution to the Ukrainian armed forces at the same time that Sunak is about to wield the knife on social services in the name of a balanced budget and austerity in times of inflation. The Sunak premiership will not last a year, assuming we have a year ahead of us before all hell breaks loose. He shares with Macron a background in working for US international bankers and the fact of being the youngest head of government in his respective country in two centuries. He also apparently shares the status of political lightweight, but unlike Macron, his position is very fragile because of British constitutional practices. I say that these developments fall in line with the general musical composition, because they show that the marching orders he had received from those who installed him in power, the City of London, are as ideologically driven as the newspaper they all read daily, the viciously anti-Russian Financial Times. And so I conclude that in the U.K., too, Capital is as removed from the real world as the lightweight and incompetent politicians who rule over us on the Continent.
What I cannot understand is how India, China and other big, serious players on the world stage do not take note that the rising escalation in the Russia-NATO confrontation and the lurch towards nuclear exchange will mean the end of life on the planet, their lives as well as ours. Why are they all silent? And where is the United Nations before the looming Armageddon? When General Assembly votes are dictated by one global hegemon and its lackeys, the U.N.’s relevance to keeping the peace is vitiated.
The avoidable tragedy of WWI is something that is foremost in my thoughts every time I stay in my Pushkin apartment outside Petersburg. We live 200 meters away from an entrance to the Catherine Palace park and less than a kilometer from the separate palace which Nicholas II used as a family home. Each time there I wonder to myself how they could have been so foolish as to throw European civilization to the winds, and, as regards the tsarist family, to throw away their own lives. Now I see similar foolishness daily watching the news, whether it is Russian news or Western mainstream broadcasters. I see the growing likelihood of our collective suicide in the weeks if not months before us.
Among patriotic Russians, there has long been a lot of criticism about the way the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine has been waged. People say that Putin has been too soft on the Ukrainians, that he should have destroyed the energy infrastructure in the first days of March, without waiting seven months and allowing the escalation to reach its present critical point. However, that is to ignore the political dimension of war making. And it is to ignore the reality that public opinion is a major restraint on what its President can or cannot do, irrespective of constitutional provisions and supposed authoritarianism at the top.
The Russian public was not ready to accept an all-out war on Ukraine in February. The personal, familial and historic ties binding the Russian and Ukrainian peoples together were simply too strong. Russians, including those in power, could hold out the hope that once the campaign ended, the sides would kiss and make up. It took all this time, it took the crossing of all Russian red lines in terms of attacks on the Russian homeland by artillery and rockets from across the border with Ukraine, it took the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines and the terrorist attack on the Kerch bridge for the Russian people to be psychologically prepared to murder Ukrainians by the tens of thousands of soldiers on the battlefield as you do in any normal war and to inflict great hardships on the civilian population.
However, the Kremlin cannot be let off so easily for its share of the blame as the world teeters towards nuclear war. I find it incredible that the professional intelligence analyst Vladimir Putin, whom all of our biographers describe only in relation to his KGB career, could have allowed himself to be so misled by his own intelligence advisers about Ukrainian capabilities and intentions before he decided to go in and denazify, demilitarize Ukraine on 24 February. That was a miscalculation of colossal proportions that resulted in serious military setbacks in the opening weeks of the war, which in turn emboldened United States and NATO decision-makers to go for the jugular and finally ‘take out’ Russia. I will say no more.
In the first part of this essay, I gave my interpretation of the background of the current confrontation in Korea. I argued that, while the past is the mother of the present, it has several fathers. What I remember is not necessarily what you remember; so, in this sense, the present also shapes or reshapes the past.
A nuclear test detonation carried out in Nevada on April 18, 1953.
In my experience as a policy planner, I found that only by taking note of the perception of events as they are differently held by the participants could one understand or deal with present actions and ideas. I have tried to sketch out views of the past as we, the North Koreans and the South Koreans, differently view them in Part 1 of this essay.
Now I want to undertake a refinement of the record I have laid out. I want first to show how our perception, the interpretation we place on the events that swirl past us, adds a new and formative element to them. Whether consciously or not, we tend to put events into a pattern. So the pattern itself becomes part of the problem we face in trying to understand events. Staking out a path – an interpretation or a theory of what random bits and pieces mean or how they will be interpreted and acted upon by others — is a complex and contentious task.
Getting it wrong can lead us astray or even be very dangerous. So the interpreter, the strategist, must always be tested to see if his interpretation makes sense and the path he lays out is the one we want to travel. I will make this explicit below.
My experience in what was certainly the most dangerous situation America ever experienced, the Cuban Missile Crisis, led me to believe that at least in a crisis how we think about events and what we remember of the past often determines our actions and may be the deciding difference between life and death. So here I will begin with the mindset that underlay American policy for the last half century.
Anyone who reads the press or watches TV is beset with countless scraps of information. In my experience in government service, the deluge of information was almost paralyzing. Some of my colleagues joked that the way to defeat our adversaries was to give them access to what passed over our desks every day. It would immobilize them as it sometimes immobilized us.
How to separate from the flow the merely interesting from the important and how to relate one event to others were demanding tasks. Making them useful has been undertaken by strategists time after time over the last several thousand years. Machiavelli is the best known among us, but he was far from the first. [I have dealt with these issues in detail in Neighbors and Strangers: The Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).]
Theory of Deterrence
The latest and arguably the most persuasive recent attempt to develop a sort of framework or matrix to bring some sense of order and some ability to understand events has been the theory of deterrence. While “just a theory,” it set American policy toward the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It was developed to understand and deal with the Soviet Union in the Cold War, but it will determine much of what America tries to do with North Korea today.
President John F. Kennedy addressing the nation regarding the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
To simplify and summarize, Cold War strategists led by such men as Henry Kissinger, Thomas Schelling and Bernard Brodie believed that ultimately relationships among nations were mathematical. Deterrence thus meant gathering the elements that could be added up by both sides. If country “A” had overwhelming power, country “B” would be deterred in its own interest from actions that were detrimental to them. Failure to “do the sums” correctly in the “game of nations” was to “misplay.”
Emotion and even politics had no role; in the real world. It was realpolitik that governed. Put another way, the weak would add up their capabilities and would necessarily give way to the strong to avoid being destroyed.
The great Greek historian Thucydides long ago set the tone: “Right, as the world goes,” he wrote, “is only in question between equals in power; the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” Only by acting in this mindset would the national interests, the real interests, of each country be preserved and peace among nations be achieved.
Deterrence worked reasonably well up to and including the Cuban Missile Crisis. But during that crisis, as some of the theory’s critics had long held, a potentially fatal flaw became evident.
The flaw is that “national interest” – what can be added up or quantified as the assets and what gives it its strength — is not necessarily always coincident with “interest of government.” That is, governments may not always be guided by a rational calculation of national interest. There are times when leaders cannot afford, even if they precisely add up the figures, to act according to such slow-moving impulses as national interest. They may be subject to quite different and more urgent impulses. They may be emotional or otherwise be irrational, fearful of their lives or worried that they would lose their positions, or they may be driven by public opinion or by the different calculations of such other centers of power as the military. Being guided by the abstract calculation of national interest may then be impossible.
Let me illustrate this from my experience in the Cuban Missile Crisis, then in a war game the Department of Defense (DOD) organized to reexamine the Missile Crisis and finally in a meeting in Moscow with my Russian counterparts.
In the Missile Crisis, both President Kennedy (certainly) and Chairman Khrushchev (probably) were under almost unbearable pressure not only in trying to figure out how to deal with the events but also from the warnings, importuning and urging of their colleagues, rivals, supporters and from their military commanders. Whether either leader was in danger of overthrow of his regime or assassination is still unknown, but both were at least potentially at risk because the stakes were, literally, the fate of the world and opinions on how to deal with the possibility of ruinous war were strongly held.
Obviously, the loss to both of their nations in the event of a nuclear exchange would have been catastrophic so the national interest of both was clear: it was to avoid war. But how to avoid it was disputatious. And it was not nations that were making decisions; it was the leaders, and their interests were only in part coincident with national interest.
We were lucky that at least Kennedy realized this dilemma and took steps to protect himself. What he did is not well understood so I will briefly summarize the main points. First, he identified General Lyman Lemnitzer, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), as the main hawk. Lemnitzer was pushing him toward a nuclear war and had shown his hand by presenting a “black” plan (“Operation Northwoods”) to be carried out by the JCS to trigger war with Cuba.
[Curiously, “Operation Northwoods” is hardly known even today. It was described by the eminent scholar on intelligence James Bamford in Body of Secrets (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 82 ff, as the “launching [of] a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an-ill-conceived war they intended to launch against Cuba.” Provocations were to be manufactured: hijacking of aircraft, murders and the explosion of the rocket that was carrying astronaut John Glenn into space. Lemnitzer lied to Congress, denying the plan’s existence, and had many of documents destroyed. Although he was dismissed as chairman of the JCS by Kennedy, the organization he formed within the JCS continued to plan covert actions. It would have been surprising if Kennedy did not worry about a possible attempt on his government.]
Fearing a Coup d’Etat
Apparently realizing that the plan could easily have been turned into a coup d’état, Kennedy removed Lemnitzer as far from Washington as he could (to Europe to be the NATO commander). Kennedy also assembled a group of elder statesmen, most of whom had served under the Eisenhower and Truman administrations in positions senior to the current military commanders and were identified as conservatives — far from Kennedy’s image as a liberal.
President John F. Kennedy meeting with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev on June 3, 1961, in Vienna. (State Department photo)
Ostensibly, he sought their advice, but in practice what he sought was their approval of his decisions. He also was careful to instruct the public in his speech on the Monday, the first public acknowledgement of the crisis, that he was firmly in control and was determined to protect American interests.
Then, in the solution to the crisis, removing the American missiles from Turkey, he pretended that their removal was not a price he had to pay to end the crisis. Thus, in several ways, he neutralized potential critics, at least during the crucial time of the Crisis. But, not long afterwards, he was assassinated by persons, forces, or interests about whom and whose motivation there is still much controversy. At minimum, we know that powerful people, including Lemnitzer, thought Kennedy had sold out national interest in pursuit of the interest of his administration.
At the same time in Moscow, Mr. Khrushchev probably risked his life by accepting the humiliation imposed on his regime by the forced withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba. Apparently, for of course we do not know, he felt less immediate danger than Kennedy because the Soviet system had always distrusted and guarded against its military commanders. A Lemnitzer there would probably have been “disappeared,” not just sent into a polite exile. And hovering beside each of the senior officers of the Soviet army was a political commissar who was responsible to the civilian administration – that is, to the Communist Party leadership – for the officer’s every move, every contact, almost every thought. The military did what the civil leadership told it to do.
I presume Khrushchev believed that he had his colleagues with him, but that cannot have been very reassuring given the record of the Politburo. And, when he died, Khrushchev or at least his reputation paid a price: he was refused the supreme accolade of Soviet leadership; he was not buried with other Soviet heroes in the Kremlin Wall. That we know; what we cannot know is whether or not he thought he was, or actually was, in danger of being overthrown.
What is clear is that he was strong enough – and faced with no blatant or destructive action by America – that he was able to surmount the “interest of government” to protect “national interest.” In short, he was not backed into a corner.
Were it not for the strength and bravery of both men, we might not have survived the Missile Crisis. Obviously, we cannot always be so served. Sometimes, we are apt to be dependent on weaker, more timorous and less steady men. This is not an abstract issue, and it has come back to haunt us in the Korean confrontation as it surely will in other confrontations. Understanding it may be a matter of our survival. That was not just my view but was also was even then the nagging worry of the DOD.
Thus, in the aftermath of the crisis, the DOD sought reassurance that deterrence had worked and would continue to work. That is, it sought to test the theory that leaders would add up the sums and be governed by what they found rather than by political, emotional or other criteria.
A Nuclear War Game
To this end, the DOD commissioned the conflict strategist Thomas Schelling to design and run a politico-military war game to push the experience of the Missile Crisis to the extreme, that is to find out what the Russians would they do if they were dealt a severe, painful and humiliating nuclear blow?
A scene from “Dr. Strangelove,” in which the bomber pilot (played by actor Slim Pickens) rides a nuclear bomb to its target in the Soviet Union.
Schelling’s game pitted two small teams of senior, fully-briefed U.S. government officers against one another in the Pentagon. Red Team represented the USSR and Blue Team the U.S. Each was provided with all the information Khrushchev would have had. Shortly after assembling, we were told that Blue team destroyed a Red Team city with a nuclear weapon. What would Red Team do?
Since it was far weaker than the United States, by the deterrence theory it would cave in and not retaliate.
To Schelling’s exasperation, the game proved the opposite. It showed that action only in part depended on a rational calculation of national interest but rather in circumstances of crisis, would be governed by the political imperatives faced by the government. I have discussed this in detail elsewhere, but in brief, the members of Red Team, who were among the most experienced and gifted men from the State Department, the White House, the CIA and the DOD, chaired by the very conservative admiral who was Chief of Naval Operations, decided unanimously that Red Team had no option but to go to general war as fast and as powerfully as it could.
Shelling stopped the game, saying that we had “misplayed” and that if we were right he would have to give up the theory of deterrence. We laid out the reasons for our decision.
That decision was taken on two grounds: the first was that acquiescence was not politically possible. No government, Russian or American or other, could accept the humiliation of the loss of a city and survive the fury of those who felt betrayed. Even if at ruinous cost, it would strike back. This is a lesson apparently still unlearned.
Indeed, it could cause the death of each person reading this essay if applied in real life in a nuclear first strike as I will shortly make clear in discussing the Korean crisis.
The second basis for the decision was that, despite Kissinger, Schelling and other “limited nuclear war” advocates, there is no such thing as limited nuclear war in the real world. A nuclear strike would inevitably lead to retaliation, nuclear if possible, and that retaliation would lead to counter-retaliation.
In the war game, Red Team realized that if Mr. Khrushchev were to retaliate for America’s destruction of Baku by incinerating St. Louis, it would have posed a challenge, regardless of who was at fault or what the odds of success were, that Kennedy could not have ducked. He would certainly have been overthrown and almost certainly assassinated if he had not responded. He almost certainly would have destroyed a second Russian city.
Tit-for-tat had no stopping point. Each response would lead to the next and quickly to general war. So Red Team went immediately to the best of its bad options: hitting back immediately with everything it had: in short, we opted for general war.
Fortunately that scenario was not tested. In the real Cuban Missile Crisis, no city was incinerated. Neither Kennedy nor Khrushchev was pushed beyond “calculation.” But it was a very close call. My own hunch, from having been one of the 25 or so civilians closely involved in the real-life crisis, is that Kennedy and his team could not have held firm much longer than the Thursday or Friday of that terrible week.
The implications are clear – and terrifying – but neither Shelling nor other Cold Warriors have accepted them. We are still today approaching the conflict in Korea with the mindset that our war game showed was fatally flawed.
The last test of the result of the war game came when I lectured on strategic planning and participated in a seminar on the Missile Crisis with the members of the then principal advisory group to the Politburo, the Institute of World Economy and International Affairs of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. In a word, my opposite numbers there agreed with the analysis I have just laid out: Khrushchev could not have accepted an American nuclear attack. He would have responded even though he realized that the overwhelming advantage – the “numbers” – were against him.
They also agreed that in practical terms there was no such thing as limited nuclear war. A “limited” nuclear strike would be, inevitably, the first step in a general war.
Lacking Wise Leaders
I will speculate below on how the actual events of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the result of the war game might apply to the current conflict in Korea. Here let me anticipate by saying that we have no reason to believe that the men who will decide the issue are of the caliber of Kennedy and Khrushchev.
President Donald Trump, speaking in Warsaw, Poland, on July 6, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)
Both Kennedy and Khrushchev were strong, pragmatic, experienced and well supported men. In today’s conflict between the United States and North Korea, neither Donald Trump nor Kim Jong Un evince similar attributes. Some critics even question their sanity. But, they will make the decisions, so I focus on them, their motivations and their capacities. I begin with Mr. Trump.
I have never met Mr. Trump and our backgrounds are very different so I am driven to two, admittedly incomplete and questionable, ways of understanding him. The first of these is his own description of his thought process and way of acting. The three characteristics that seem to me most germane to foreign affairs and particularly to the confrontation in Korea are these:
–On November 12, 2015, Mr. Trump declared, “I love war.” In fact, as the record showed, he went to considerable trouble to deny himself the pleasures of going into harm’s way during the Vietnam War. And, now, should he decide to take America to war, he would not put his own life in danger.
In my time in Washington, such “war-lovers from afar“ were often referred to as “chicken-hawks.” They loved to talk about war and to urge others to get into it, but, like Mr. Trump, they never volunteered for action and never, in their pronouncements, dwelt on the horror of actual combat. For them war was another TV episode where the good guys got a bit dusted up but always won.
Mr. Trump presumably meant by the word “war” something very different from real war since he explained, “I’m good at war. I’ve had a lot of wars on my own. I’m really good at war. I love war, in a certain way but only when we win.”
For Mr. Trump, as his actions show, every business deal was a sort of war. He conducted it as what military strategists call a zero-sum game: the winner took all and the loser got nothing. There was little or no negotiation. “Attack” was the operational mode and his opponent would be driven to defeat by the threat of financial ruin. This was the “certain way” he called his many “wars on my own.”
The record bears him out. He overwhelmed rivals with lawsuits against which they had to defend themselves at ruinous cost, convinced them that if they did not acquiesce he would destroy them and was unrelenting. He was very good at it. He made his fortune in this form of “war.” He seems to believe that he can apply his experience in business to international affairs. But nations are not so likely to go out of business as the rivals he met in real estate transactions and some of them are armed with nuclear weapons.
–On several occasions, Mr. Trump set out his understanding of the role of nuclear weapons. In 2015, as a candidate, he was quoted as saying, “For me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.” But I find no evidence that he realizes what “devastation” really means. It is one thing to drive a business rival into bankruptcy and quite another to oversee the burning to death of hundreds of thousands or millions of people and relegating still more to homelessness and starvation in a ruined environment.
One supposes that he is aware of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they are misleading. Modern nuclear weapons are far more powerful: a one megaton weapon, for example, is about 50 times as powerful as the weapon that destroyed Hiroshima. Those of us who dealt with the threat of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis were aware of the effects of such “standard” weapons.
I see no evidence that Mr. Trump knows what a nuclear war would actually do. Indeed, he is quoted as saying, “what is the point of having nuclear weapons if you don’t use them?” He will find advisers who will tell him that they must be used. The ghost of General Lemnitzer hovers near the Oval Office.
Proud of Unpredictability
–Mr. Trump prides himself on unpredictability. Unpredictability was his business strategy. As he told an interviewer from CBS on January 1, 2016, “You want to be unpredictable … And somebody recently said — I made a great business deal. And the person on the other side was interviewed by a newspaper. And how did Trump do this? And they said, he`s so unpredictable. And I didn`t know if he meant it positively or negative. It turned out he meant it positively.”
Graphic for “The Celebrity Apprentice” when it was starring Donald Trump.
Another time Trump said on TV “I want to be unpredictable.” The record shows his use of the ploy, but perhaps it is more than just a ploy. Perhaps it is a manifestation of his personality, so I want to probe its meaning.
Years ago, I was informed that the CIA maintained a staff of psychoanalysts to profile foreign leaders. If the office still exists, the doctors presumably do not practice their arts on American officials, and certainly not on the President. As part of their professional code, psychiatrists are not supposed to diagnose anyone they have not personally examined, and I doubt that anyone will be able to get Mr. Trump to lie down on the coach.
But, as psychiatrists Peter Kramer and Sally Satel have pointed out, Mr. Trump has shown himself to be “impulsive, erratic, belligerent and vengeful” so “many experts believe that Mr. Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder.” Reacting to having such a leader with his hand on the nuclear trigger, Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin introduced a bill to establish an “Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity” (H.R. 1987) as authorized by the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. It has not been acted upon and it allows the President latitude to “pardon” himself.
Since his actions and the efforts of others do not offer much insight, I suggest his actions lend themselves to a perhaps instructive analogy, the game of “chicken.”
–In “chicken,” two drivers aim their speeding cars at one another. The one who flinches, turns aside, or (as Secretary of State Dean Rusk put it to me during the Cuban Missile Crisis) “blinks,” is the chicken. The winner is the driver who convinces the loser that he is irrational, deaf to all appeals and blind to danger. He cannot get out of the way.
In Mr. Trump’s strategy of war, the irrational man wins because he cannot be reached with any warning, argument or advice. Knowing this, the other man loses precisely because he is rational. Three things follow from this analogy. They seem evident in Mr. Trump’s approach to the issues or war or peace:
The first is that irrationality, ironically becomes a rational strategy. If one can convince his opponents that he is cannot be reasoned with, he wins. This has worked for years in business for Mr. Trump. I see no reason to believe that he will give it up.
The second is that the driver of the car does not need information or advice. They are irrelevant or even detrimental to his strategy. So, we see that Mr. Trump pays no attention to the professionals who man the 16 agencies set up by previous administrations to provide information or intelligence.
One example where his professed plan of action flies in the face of the intelligence appreciation is Iran. As the former deputy director of the CIA David Cohen found “disconcerting,” Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that Iran was not abiding by the terms of the Iranian-American deal on nuclear weapons before “finding the intelligence to back it up.” But that is inherent in Trump’s strategy of confrontation. He surely knows – but does not care — that the entire intelligence community holds that Iran has abided by the deal.
In Trump’s mind, intelligence analysts are “back seat drivers” and should keep quiet. By questioning his blindness, they suggest to the driver of the other car that Mr. Trump might swerve aside. Thus, they threaten to destroy the irrationality that is the essence of his strategy.
And, third, what Mr. Trump, the “driver” of the car in the “chicken” confrontation, does need is absolute loyalty. Those who sit beside him must never question how he is driving. Any hint of their trying to dissuade his actions threatens to destroy his strategy. So, as we see almost daily, at any hint of disagreement, he pushes his copilots out of the car. Indeed, at least one hardly even got into the “car” before being pushed out the door.
His actions both in business and in the presidency illustrate these points. He takes pride in irrational actions, shifting from one position to another, even its opposite, on what appears to be a whim. He disdains advice even from the intelligence services and also from presumably loyal members of his inner circle. What he demands is absolute loyalty.
Finally, it seems to me that Mr. Trump has understood, far better than most of us, that the public likes to be entertained. It is bored by consistency. It doesn’t pay much attention to explanation or analysis. And as the financially successful record of the TV industry and the sorry record of the book publishing industry show, the public wants entertainment. Mr. Trump caters to popular taste: every episode is new; every remark, simple; every threat, dramatic; and, perhaps most powerfully of all, he echoes angers, disappointments, hurts, desires that many of his supporters also feel.
This mode of operation worked for Trump in the business world. His image of ruthlessness, determination and even irrationality caused some of the biggest potential rivals to get out of his way and many others to accept his terms rather than risk a collision. It is not Trump or his mode of operation that has changed but the context in which he operates. Citibank with which he clashed did not have nuclear weapons; North Korea does. So how does Kim Jong Un measure up?
Measuring Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un is the third generation of the North Korean leadership. That position is almost beyond the comprehension of modern Westerners. Ruling dynasties went out of fashion in the First World War. But perhaps consideration of “dynasty” can be made to yield useful insights. One who tried to learn what dynastic succession could tell us was the great medieval North African philosopher of history, Ibn Khaldun.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Observing Berber and Arab societies, Ibn Khaldun found that the first dynasty, sweeping in from the desert, was made up of men who were rough and vigorous; their sons still remembered times of struggle and retained their hardihood, but the third generation grew use to ease and settled into luxury. Its leaders kept power by relying on outside forces. The fourth generation lost it all.
The fit to Korea is far from exact, but it is provocative. Kim Il-sung was a guerrilla warrior, not unlike the warring tribal leaders with whom Ibn Khaldun dealt. Sweeping in from Siberia he took power (admittedly with Soviet help), ruled for nearly half a century and established the dynasty; in the second generation, his son Kim Jong-Il came seamlessly to power on his death in 1994. While he shared little of his father’s war-like experiences, he seems to have been a hard man, as Ibn Khaldun expected. But he gives just a hint of the growth of the enjoyment of the new environment. The luxury he enjoyed was exactly what Ibn Khaldun would have predicted. He took as his mistress a beautiful dancer. From this union came Kim Jong Un, the personification of the third dynasty.
Young Kim Jong Un grew up in what was, in Korean terms, the lap of luxury and as a child was allowed to play the child’s game of soldiers. His soldiers, however, were not toys; they were real. There is no certain information, but it is believed that he was made a senior officer in the North Korean army when he was just a child. When he was 12 years old, his father sent him to a private school in Switzerland. Being provided with a personal chef to cook Korean dishes as well as a tutor and a driver/bodyguard, he does not seem to have really been “in” Europe.
He was taken out of the Swiss school when he was 15 and put into a public school in Korea. Those few who knew him have commented that he was intensely patriotic. At his father’s choice, although he was not the elder son, he was singled out as the successor, the man of the third generation.
Despite this unusual background he seems remarkably like an ordinary American schoolboy: he loved sports, particularly basketball, spent a lot of time watching movies and was an indifferent student. This is just about all know about his background. He did not emerge in public until about the time his father was dying.
In 2009, he is thought to have married a beautiful young women who has been variously described as a singer in a popular music group, a cheerleader in a sports event and a doctoral candidate in a Korean university. When his father finally died in 2011, the 32-year-old Kim Jong-un became North Korea’s leader. But on assuming power, he showed himself a more ruthless, determined and absolute ruler than Ibn Khaldun would have predicted.
Almost immediately, he purged his father’s top general among other senior officials, and allegedly he ordered or tolerated the murder of his elder brother whom he must have seen as a potential rival. More generally, he proved himself skillful in organizing the bitter memories of the Korean War among his people to support his regime.
To explain in part the inconsistency of what he did and what was expected of the third generation, I suggest that that he must have constantly had before him lesson of Saddam Husain who lacked nuclear weapons, could not defend himself and was hanged. Watching these events as a young man, Kim Jong Un must have been convinced that he could not afford to give himself up to luxury. As his opponents charge, he may have many vices but sloth is not one of them.
From this sketchy background of the two men whose hands are on the nuclear trigger, I turn to what their choices are. That is, what is the range of policies they must be considering or enacting to accomplish what they say are their objectives.
A map of the Korean Peninsula showing the 38th Parallel where the DMZ was established in 1953. (Wikipedia)
As I understand his objectives, the ruler of North Korea is determined to protect his regime (and of course his own life) and believes he can do so only if he has the capacity to deliver a blow sufficiently painful to any attacker that would deter him.
As Siegfried Hecker, the former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory who has visited North Korea seven times and toured its nuclear facilities, has written (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 7 August 2017), Kim Jong Un “is determined to develop an effective deterrent to keep the United States out.” His answer is a missile-carried nuclear weapon.
Contrariwise, President Trump’s announced objective (which in general echoes that of previous administrations) is to get the North Korean government to stop its development of both nuclear weapons and missiles. He has, theoretically, a range of policies to effect his objective.
Taking back my former role as a policy planner, I would divide the possible courses of American action, the cost of each and its likelihood of being accomplished as follows:
–The first possible policy is what could be called “bluster and threat without armed action.” This is what President Trump is doing today. His outbursts apparently go over well with his loyal supporters but his words have not apparently at least so far affected Kim Jong Un.
However his words have delivered the worst possible result: it has increased North Korean fear of U.S. invasion, has increased Kim Jong Un’s determination to develop a deliverable nuclear weapons capability and has probably stoked the war fever of the Koreans.
Thomas Schelling, with whom I disagreed on other issues, got this one right. As he wrote in The Strategy of Conflict, “madmen, like small children, can often not be controlled by threats” and “if he is not to react like a trapped lion, [an opponent] must be left some tolerable recourse. We have come to realize that a threat of all-out retaliation gives the enemy every incentive, in the event he should choose not to heed the threat, to initiate his transgression with an all-out strike on us; it eliminates lesser courses of action and forces him to choose between extremes.”
In making that choice, Kim Jong Un hears President Trump. threatening “fire and fury, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” (Kim responded with the threat to bomb America’s air base on Guam island “to teach the U.S. a severe lesson.”)
Mr. Trump said America was “locked and loaded” and its “patience is over.” And, in addition to remarks on the internet and to audiences all over America, he authorized a simulated war exercise (known as Foal Eagle 2017) by some 300,000 troops armed with live ammunition in and around South Korea which, of course, the government of the North regarded as provocative. But the U.S. did not alert its troops in South Korea nor its aircraft on Guam nor its ships at sea that an outbreak of hostilities was imminent. In short, the threat appeared all talk but no action.
Sen. John McCain, a man with some experience in combat, commented that President Trump’s recent fiery rhetoric on North Korea would only ratchet up the heat for a possible confrontation but nothing else.
As the conservative political commentator Anthony Cordesman wrote on August 5, 2017, “One would hope that the North Korean ‘crisis’ is moving away from bluster and counter bluster … [since] gross overreaction and issuing empty threats discredits the U.S. in terms of allies support and is not a meaningful bargaining tool in dealing with fellow blusterers like Kim Jong Un.”
Conclusion: the likelihood of this line of action accomplishing the stated objective of American policy is near zero, but the costs are twofold: first, the threat of intervention forces the North Korean government to accelerate its acquisition of the very weapons America wishes it to relinquish and serves to keep its armed forces on alert lest the Americans convert threat to attack or stumble into war; the second cost is that such a policy undercuts the image Americans wish to project as the upholders of peace and stability even if not always of democracy and independence.
The Limited Strike Option
–The second possible policy would be to attack selected targets, including members of North Korea’s government, with Special Forces and/or drones. Employment of such tactics even in less organized societies, such as Somalia, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, have created chaos but have not produced what their advocates predicted.
Near the ceasefire line between North and South Korea, President Barack Obama uses binoculars to view the DMZ from Camp Bonifas, March 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
North Korea is a regimented state with a high level of “security” comparable to China. In the 1960s, I once was ordered to find out what the CIA might be able to do with this or a similar option to slow down Chinese nuclear development. The CIA was then sending agents into China from secret bases on Quemoy and Matsu. I asked what they found out. The responsible CIA officer replied that he did not know because none ever returned. That experience would probably be repeated in Korea.
Conclusion: the likelihood of such action accomplishing the stated objective of American policy is near zero, but the cost could be catastrophic: An American attack, even if denied and covert, almost certainly would trigger a North Korean response that might provoke an American counterstroke that could escalate to nuclear war.
–The third possible policy would be to encourage North Korea’s neighbors to attempt to coerce it to disarm and/or to scale back its military policy. Such a policy could aim to get China to control the North Koreans and possibly then encourage or allow Japan and/or South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons and so, themselves, pose a threat to North Korea and indirectly to Chinese interests.
Mr. Trump has several times called on the Chinese to effect the American policy on North Korea and has expressed his disappointment that they have not done so. When their own interests were at stake, the Chinese did impose sanctions and cut back on the import of Korean coal, iron ore and seafood. But China can hardly be expected to lend itself to be a tool of American policy. It too has memories of the Korean War and of attempts to weaken or overthrow it. Today, it also sees the U.S. as its rival in the Pacific. So, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump’s saying that “they do Nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue” — will win Chinese support.
If not the Chinese, what about the Japanese? As I have pointed out in Part 1 of this essay, Japan is tarred by the nearly half century of its brutal regime in Korea. Korean “comfort women,” sexual slaves, are still seeking compensation for the misery inflicted on them and their plight is standard fare in Korean media.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been pushing for Japanese rearmament and is known for his hard line on North Korea, is not a good choice to convince North Korea to cooperate with America. Encouraging militarism in Japan will raise bitter memories all over East Asia.
Moreover, were Japan to rearm itself with nuclear weapons or were South Korea to be given them, as Mr. Cordesman thinks Mr. Trump may feel forced to do, the overall and long-range objectives of the United States would be severely damaged: the “cure would be worse than the malady.”
We don’t need more nuclear weapons powers; the political history of South Korea gives little assurance of a “responsible” nuclear policy; and there is no reason to believe that a nuclear-armed South Korea or a nuclear-armed Japan would be more successful than a nuclear-armed America.
Worse, if South Korea and Japan were to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, such action might set off a scramble by other nations to acquire them. The world was already deadly dangerous when only two states had nuclear weapons; the danger of use by design or accident was multiplied when five more states acquired them and if the number keeps on growing accidental or deliberate use will become almost inevitable.
To spread weapons further is against America’s national interest although some of President Trump’s advisers apparently discount the danger and believe enhanced nuclear power at home and selective spread aboard is to the interest both of the nation and of his administration.
Conclusion: the likelihood of getting others to successfully accomplish American objectives vis-à-vis North Korea is near zero. Faced with nuclear-armed South Korea and Japan, North Korea would logically accelerate rather than cut back its weapons program. China has its own policies and is unlikely to serve as an American proxy. Moreover, the costs of giving South Korea and Japan nuclear weapons is potentially enormous.
The Nuclear Option
–The fourth theoretical policy option would be an American or American-led “coalition” attack on North Korea similar to our two attacks on Iraq and our attack on Afghanistan. America could hit the country with almost any level of destruction it chose from total annihilation to targeted demolition. Knowing that they could not prevent attacks, the North Koreans have adopted a policy that sounds very like America’s Cold War strategy against the Soviet Union, mutual assured destruction or MAD. What would this amount to in the Korean conflict?
North Korean missile launch on March 6, 2017.
The cost of war to North Korea would be almost unimaginable. If nuclear weapons were used, much of North Korea would be rendered unlivable for a generation or more. General Douglas MacArthur had wanted to use the nuclear bomb during the first Korean War in the early 1950s, but even with only conventional weapons used in that conflict, the Koreans suffered casualties, reportedly, of about one in each three persons.
If the U.S. used nuclear weapons this time, millions, perhaps as many as 8 million to 12 million, would be killed and many of the rest of the 26 million inhabitants would be wounded or afflicted with radiation sickness. Once initiated, the attack would have done this damage in minutes or hours. So how would the North Koreans respond?
Their government would order them to retaliate. That is what they are constantly being trained to do. As the Korean War demonstrated, the North Koreans are determined fighters. It would be foolish to expect them to surrender.
The North Korean army is said to be the fourth largest in the world, roughly 1 million men, and is backed up by an active reserve about 5-6 times that many from a potential enrollment of about 10 million. This force is equipped with perhaps 10,000 tanks and self-propelled cannon.
The numbers are impressive but, as in chess, it is position that counts in war. The North is believed to have about 12,000 cannon and roughly 2,300 rockets within range of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Seoul has a population of somewhat more than 10 million people and, in the event of an American attack on North Korea, the North Koreans have said they would obliterate it.
As David Wood wrote on April 18, 2017, “In a matter of minutes, these heavy, low-tech weapons could begin the destruction of the South Korean capital with blizzards of glass shards, collapsed buildings and massive casualties that would decimate this vibrant U.S. ally and send shock waves through the global economy.”
In addition to the South Koreans who would suffer and die, there are about 30,000 US troops in the armistice zone. They, and the hundreds of thousands of dependents, supporters and families of the troops living in Seoul, are hostages to U.S. policy. They also would suffer terrible casualties.
Could the North Koreans carry out such massive counterstrikes? There seems little or no doubt that they could, even if they were subjected to massive first strikes even with nuclear weapons. The North Koreans learned from the first Korean War to use mobile, hard to detect or target, launchers and to go underground to prepared firing points.
Probably many of the North Korean weapons would be destroyed, but there are so many that the surviving pieces could inflict massive casualties. Almost incredible photos, from North Korean television, published in The Sun on April 26, 2017, showed demonstration by hundreds of North Korean artillery pieces and rocket launchers firing into the sea. In the event of war, they would be firing into Seoul.
Then there are the missiles. Japan generally and U.S. bases in Japan and on the island of Guam are within the range of North Korean mid-range rockets. And Alaska and the U.S. West Coast are either already or soon will be within range. Would North Korea use them as a counterstrike? On August 7, as Business Insider reported, “North Korea issued a stark warning to the US: If you attack us, we will retaliate with nuclear weapons.”
Judging from my experience in the Cuban Missile Crisis, I am sure that we would have done so. It is unlikely that Kim Jong Un would do less than John F. Kennedy.
Losing Los Angeles
If in reply to an American attack, the North Koreans struck the United States what would be the result? Loren Thompson speculated in the August 30, 2017 issue of Forbes on “What a Single North Korean Nuclear Warhead Could Do To Los Angeles.” He picked Los Angeles because it is or soon will be in range of North Korean missiles and would be an obvious choice against which to threaten retaliation. With a population of more than 13 million, it is the second largest city in America.
Illustration by Chesley Bonestell of nuclear bombs detonating over New York City, entitled “Hiroshima U.S.A.” Colliers, Aug. 5, 1950.
As I write this, North Korea appears to have demonstrated a somewhat less powerful thermonuclear weapon, about seven times the power of the bomb that obliterated Hiroshima, but Thompson speculates on the result of Los Angeles being hit by a bomb that North Korea presumably will soon have, about 33 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.
Hit by it, all structures, no matter how securely built with reinforced concrete, within a radius of half a mile from ground zero “would be either totally destroyed or rendered permanently unusable.” The enormous pressure created by the fireball would heavily damage the adjoining circle of 2½ to 3 miles. Virtually all civic facilities (electrical grids, water mains, transport facilities, etc.) would be rendered inoperative and civil services (fire departments, police, hospitals, schools) would be destroyed or severely damaged.
A cloud of radioactive materials would be spread over a far larger area. And perhaps as many as a million people would have been burned to death immediately with many more grievously wounded and unable to get help. And that would be only in the first hours or days. In the following days, the wounded, often suffering from burns, hungry, thirsty, terrified and desperate, would limp out of the core area into the suburbs and surrounding towns, overwhelming their facilities.
Los Angeles would be only one target. North Korea would have nothing to lose by using all of its missiles and bombs. Some might go astray or malfunction, but some might hit San Francisco, Seattle, perhaps Denver and more remotely St. Louis, Dallas and perhaps Chicago. If one reached New York, the damage would be far greater than in Los Angeles.
Conclusion: As Steven Bannon, President Trump’s former “Chief Strategist” is quoted as saying, “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
That may explain why he was fired. And retired Lt. General James Clapper, who as the former Director of National Intelligence was not in danger of losing his job, told CNN, we must “accept the fact that they are a nuclear power.”
An attack on North Korea, while almost certainly devastating to North Korea, would be prohibitively expensive for America. Moreover, while it would temporarily prevent North Korea from posing a nuclear threat, it would create another area of chaos, like those created in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Afghanistan. Attacking North Korea is not a rational policy choice.
Trying to Talk
–The remaining policy option is negotiation. What would be negotiable and what not? What would be the modalities? What would constitute success and what would be the result of failure? How could a result be made believable and how could it be enforced?
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres (left) addresses the Security Council ministerial-level meeting on the nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs of North Korea. At right is U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, Behind Tillerson is U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)
I think we must begin by recognizing that it would be irrational for North Korea to give up missiles and nuclear weapons. Despite the horror with which I view nuclear weapons, they are very attractive to small nations. They level the playing field. A Texas saying from my youth sums it up: Mr. Colt’s invention of the cowboy’s pistol “made all men equal.” The nuclear weapon is pistol writ large. It is the ultimate defense.
For Kim Yong Un to give up his nuclear weapons, while we keep ours and have announced that we intend to overthrow his regime, would be tantamount to his committing suicide. He may be evil, as many believe, but there is no reason to believe that he is a fool.
Could not America offer in the course of negotiations a series of graduated steps in which over time a slow-down and ultimate elimination of missiles and nuclear weapons could be traded for ending of sanctions and increased aid? The answer, I think, is “yes, but.” The “but” is that Kim Yong Un would almost certainly insist on three things: the first is that he would not give up all his weapons and so would insist that North Korea be recognized as a nuclear power; the second is that he not be humiliated in the negotiated cut; and the third is that some formula be worked out to guarantee the deal. I have dealt with the first two issues above; I turn now to the third, how to guarantee the agreement.
The Bush administration invasion of Iraq in 2001 showed that America could create excuses to void any commitment it might make and provide excuses for any action it wished to take. The current push by the Trump administration to renege on the treaty made with Iran and written into American law by the Senate must convince the North Koreans that a treaty with America is just a scrap of paper. He must be convinced that America cannot be trusted.
But, if China and Russia were prepared to guarantee the deal and Japan and South Korea acquiesced to it and also gave up their option to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, that could be the first step in a phased series of steps that might be productive. At the same time, America would have to give up its ineffective sanctions, stop such provocative acts as the massive war game on the frontier and the barrage of threats and undertake a sort of Marshall Plan to lift North Korea out of poverty and hunger.
Conclusion: I am convinced that it will not be possible in the foreseeable future to get Kim Jong Un or any conceivable successor to give up deliverable nuclear weapons. Thus, there can be no “success,” as described in current policy statements by the Trump administration. But, arrangements can be created – by enlisting China and Russia as partners in negotiations and by renouncing threats and such damaging (and ineffective) policies as sanctions – to gradually create an atmosphere in which North Korea can be accepted as a partner in the nuclear “club.”
Failure to move in this direction will leave us, at best, in the limbo of fear and the possibility of stumbling into war. This is obviously a gambit that may fail. What is clear, however, is that none of the alternatives has worked or is likely to work. To embark on this path will require a degree of statesmanship, which we may not have.
How to Do It
If the United States government should decide to try this option, I think the following steps will have to be taken to start negotiations:
First, the U.S. government must accept the fact that North Korea is a nuclear power;
Second, it must commit itself formally and irrevocably to a no-first-strike policy. That was the policy envisaged by the Founding Fathers when they denied the chief executive the power to initiate aggressive war;
Third, it must remove sanctions on North Korea and begin to offer in a phased pattern aid to mitigate the current (and potentially future) famines caused by droughts and crop failures; helping North Korea to move toward prosperity, and reducing fear; and
Fourth, stop issuing threats and drop the unproductive and provocative war games on the DMZ.
Will, or even can, any American administration move in this direction? I think the answer will depend in large part on the education of the government leaders and the public among both of whom the level of ignorance of the real costs of war, especially nuclear war, is politically crippling.
As I have suggested, Mr. Trump has shown no comprehension of the costs of war in a nuclear context. Nor has the general public. The pictures of children on Guam being told not to look at the flash of the fireball reminds one of the ridiculous advice to school children in America in the Cold War to take refuge under their desks.
The reality of a modern war must be explained and taught. I do not know if Korean children are so taught, but their parents or grandparents knew it firsthand. This generation of Americans has never seen war up-close in America although some of their fathers saw it in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, memories fade and Americans today do not want to be informed of the danger of a new war. Escapism is one of the great dangers we face.
In the American tradition, the President is the nation’s teacher. We must insist he perform that task or we could pay the supreme price of falling off the edge into the dark void of nuclear war.
William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.
The U.S. and North Korea are on the brink of hostilities that if begun would almost certainly lead to a nuclear exchange. This is the expressed judgment of most competent observers. They differ over the causes of this confrontation and over the size, range and impact of the weapons that would be fired, but no one can doubt that even a “limited” nuclear exchange would have horrifying effects throughout much of the world including North America.
A Korean girl carries her brother on her back, trudging past a stalled M-26 tank, at Haengju, Korea., June 9, 1951. (U.S. military photo)
So how did we get to this point, what are we now doing and what could be done to avoid what would almost certainly be the disastrous consequences of even a “limited” nuclear war?
The media is replete with accounts of the latest pronouncements and events, but both in my personal experience in the closest we ever came to a nuclear disaster, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and from studying many other “flash points,” I have learned that failure to appreciate the background and sequence of events makes one incapable of understanding the present and so is apt to lead to self-defeating actions. With this warning in mind, I will recount in Part 1 how we and the Koreans got to where we are. Then in Part 2, I will address how we might go to war, what that would mean and what we can do to stay alive.
Throughout most of its history, Korea regarded China as its teacher. It borrowed from China Confucianism, its concepts of law, its canons of art and its method of writing. For these, it usually paid tribute to the Chinese emperor.
With Japan, relations were different. Armed with the then weapon of mass destruction, the musket, Japan invaded Korea in 1592 and occupied it with more than a quarter of a million soldiers. The Koreans, armed only with bows and arrows, were beaten into submission. But, because of events in Japan, and particularly the decision to give up the gun, the Japanese withdrew in less than a decade and left Korea on its own.
Nominally unified under one kingdom, Korean society was already divided between the Puk-in or “people of the North” and the Nam-in or “people of the South.” How significant this division was in practical politics is unclear, but apparently it played a role in thwarting attempts at reform and in keeping the country isolated from outside influences. It also weakened the country and facilitated the second intrusion of the Japanese. In search of iron ore for their nascent industry, they “opened” the country in 1876. Hot on the Japanese trail came the Americans who established diplomatic relations with the Korean court in 1882.
American missionaries, most of whom doubled as merchants, followed the flag. Christianity often came in the guise of commerce. Missionary-merchants lived apart from Koreans in segregated American-style towns, much as the British had done in India earlier in the century. They seldom met with the natives except to trade. Unlike their counterparts in the Middle East, the Americans were not noted for “good works.” They spent more time selling goods than teaching English, repairing bodies or proselytizing; so while Koreans admired their wares all but a few clung to Confucian ways.
It was to China rather than to America that Koreans turned for protection against the Japanese “rising sun.” As they grew more powerful and began their outward thrust, the Japanese moved to end the Korean relationship to China. In 1894, the Japanese invaded Korea, captured its king and installed a “friendly” government. Then, as a sort of byproduct of their 1904-1905 war with Russia, the Japanese seized control, and, in accord with the policies of all Western governments, they took up “the White Man’s burden.” American politicians and statesmen, led by Theodore Roosevelt, found it both inevitable and beneficial that Japan turned Korea into a colony. For the next 35 years, the Japanese ruled Korea much as the British ruled India and the French ruled Algeria.
A map of the Korean Peninsula showing the 38th Parallel where the DMZ was established in 1953. (Wikipedia)
If the Japanese were brutal, as they certainly were, and exploitive, as they also were, so were the other colonial powers. And, like other colonial peoples, as they gradually became politically sensitive, the Koreans began to react. Over time, they saw the Japanese intruders not as the carriers of the “white man’s burden” but as themselves the burden. Some Koreans reacted by fleeing.
Best known among them was Syngman Rhee. Converted to Christianity by American missionaries, he went to the West. After a torturous career as an exile, he was allowed by the American military authorities at the end of the Second World War to become (South) Korea’s first president.
But most of those who fled the Japanese found havens in Russian-influenced Manchuria. The best known of these “Eastern” exiles, Kim Il-sung, became an anti-Japanese guerrilla and joined the Communist Party. At the same time Syngman Rhee arrived in the American-controlled South, Kim Il-sung became the leader of the Soviet-supported North. There he founded the ruling “dynasty” of which his grandson Kim Jong-un is the current leader.
During the 35 years of Japanese occupation, no one in the West paid much attention to Syngman Rhee or his hopes for the future of Korea, but the Soviet government was more attentive to Kim Il-Sung. While distant Britain, France and America played no active role, the near-by Soviet Union, with a long frontier with Japanese-held territory, had to concern itself with Korea.
It was not so much from strategy or the perception of danger that Western policy (and Soviet acquiescence to it) evolved. Driven in part by sentiment, America forced a change in the tone of relations with the colonial world during the Second World War and, driven by the need to appease America, Britain and France acquiesced. It was the tide of war, rather than any preconceived plan, that swept Korea into the widely scattered and ill-defined group of “emerging” nations.
As heir to the dreams of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed that colonial peoples deserved to be free. Korea was to benefit from the great liberation of the Second World War. So it was that on December 1, 1943, the United States, Britain and (then Nationalist) China agreed at the Cairo Conference to apply the revolutionary words of the 1941 Atlantic Charter: “Mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea,” Roosevelt and a reluctant Churchill proclaimed, they “are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.”
At the April-June 1945 San Francisco conference, where the United Nations was founded, Korea got little attention, but a vague arrangement was envisaged in which Korea would be put under a four-power (American, British, Chinese and Soviet) trusteeship. This policy was later affirmed at the Potsdam Conference on July 26, 1945, and was agreed to by the Soviet Union on August 8 when it declared war on Japan. Two days later Russian troops fanned out over the northern area. It was not until almost a month later, on September 8, that the first contingents of the U.S. Army arrived.
Aftermath of War
Up to that point, most Koreans could do little to effect their own liberation: those inside Korea were either in prison, lived in terror that they soon would be arrested or collaborated with the Japanese. The few who had reached havens in the West, like Syngman Rhee, found that while they were allowed to speak, no one with the power to help them listened to their voices. They were to be liberated but not helped to liberate themselves. It was only the small groups of Korean exiles in Soviet-controlled areas who actually fought their Japanese tormentors. Thus it was that the Communist-led Korean guerrilla movement began to play a role similar to insurgencies in Indochina, the Philippines and Indonesia.
As they prepared to invade Korea, neither the Americans nor the Russians evinced any notion of the difference between the Puk-in or “people of the North” and the Nam-in or “people of the South.” They were initially concerned, as least in their agreements with one another as they had been in Germany, by the need to prevent the collision of their advancing armed forces. The Japanese, however, treated the two zones that had been created by this ad hoc military decision separately.
As a Soviet army advanced, the Japanese realized that they could not resist, but they destroyed as much of the infrastructure of the north as they could while fleeing to the south. On reaching the south, both the soldiers and the civil servants cooperated at least initially with the incoming American forces. Their divergent actions suited both the Russians and the Americans — the Russians were intent on driving out the Japanese while the Americans were already beginning the process of forgiving them. What happened in this confused period set much of the shape of Korea down to the present day.
The Russians appear to have had a long-range policy toward Korea and the Communist-led insurgent force to implement it, but it was only slowly, and reluctantly, that the Americans developed a coherent plan for “their” Korea and found natives who could implement it. What happened was partly ideological and partly circumstantial. It is useful and perhaps important to emphasize the main points:
The first point is that the initial steps of what became the Cold War had already been taken and were quickly reinforced. Although the Yalta Conference included the agreement that Japan would be forced to surrender to all the allies, not just to the United States and China, President Truman set out a different American policy without consulting Stalin.
Buoyed by the success of the test of the atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, he decided that America would set the terms of the Pacific war unilaterally; Stalin reacted by speeding up his army’s attack on Japanese-held Korea and Manchuria. He was intent on creating “facts on the ground.” Thus it was that the events of July and August 1945 anchored the policies – and the interpretations of the war – of each great power. They shaped today’s Korea.
Arguments ever since have focused on the justifications for the policies of each Power. For many years, Americans have argued that it was the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, not the threat or actuality of the Soviet invasion, that forced the Japanese to surrender.
Spoils of War
In the official American view, it was America that won the war in the Pacific. Island by island from Guadalcanal, American soldiers had marched, sailed and flown toward the final island, Japan. From nearby islands and from aircraft carriers, American planes bombed and burned its cities and factories. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the final blows in a long, painful and costly process.
The mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.
Truman held that the Russians appeared only after the Japanese were defeated. Thus, he felt justified – and empowered – to act alone on Japan. So when General Douglas MacArthur arranged the ceremony of surrender on September 2, he sidelined the Russians. The procedure took place on an American battleship under an American flag. A decade was to pass before the USSR formally ended its war with Japan.
The second crucial point is what was happening on the peninsula of Korea. There a powerful Russian army was present in the North and an American army was in control of the South. The decisions of Cairo, San Francisco and Potsdam were as far from Korea as the high-flown sentiments of the statesmen were from the realities, dangers and opportunities on the scene. What America and the Soviet Union did on the ground was crucial for an understanding of Korea today.
As the Dutch set about doing in Indonesia, the French were doing in Indochina and the Americans were doing in the Philippines, the American military authorities in their part of Korea pushed aside the nationalist leaders (whom the Japanese had just released from prison) and insisted on retaining all power in their own (military) government. They knew almost nothing about (but were inherently suspicious of) the anti-Japanese Koreans who set themselves up as the “People’s Republic.” On behalf of the U.S., General John Hodge rejected the self-proclaimed national government and declared that the military government was the only authority in the American-controlled zone.
Hodge also announced that the “existing Japanese administration would continue in office temporarily to facilitate the occupation” just as the Dutch in Indonesia continued to use Japanese troops to control the Indonesian public. But the Americans quickly realized how unpopular this arrangement was and by January 1946 they had dismantled the Japanese regime.
In the ensuing chaos dozens of groups with real but often vague differences formed themselves into parties and began to demand a role in Korean affairs. This development alarmed the American military governor. Hodge’s objective, understandably, was order and security. The local politicians appeared unable to offer either, and in those years, the American military government imprisoned tens of thousands of political activists.
Cold War in Vitro
Although not so evident in the public announcements, the Americans were already motivated by fear of the Russians and their actual or possible local sympathizers and Communists. Here again, Korea reminds one of Indochina, the Philippines and Indonesia. Wartime allies became peacetime enemies. At least in vitro, the Cold War had already begun.
At just the right moment, virtually as a deux ex machina, Syngman Rhee appeared on the scene. Reliably and vocally anti-Communist, American-oriented, and, although far out of touch with Korean affairs, ethnically Korean, he was just what the American authorities wanted. He gathered the rightist groups into a virtual government that was to grow into an actual government under the U.S. aegis.
Meanwhile, the Soviet authorities faced no similar political or administrative problems. They had available the prototype of a Korean government. This government-to-become already had a history: thousands of Koreans had fled to Manchuria to escape Japanese rule and, when Japan carried the war to them by forming the puppet state they called Manchukuo in 1932, some of the refugees banded together to launch a guerrilla war. The Communist Party inspired and assumed leadership of this insurgency. Then as all insurgents – from Tito to Ho Chi-minh to Sukarno – did, they proclaimed themselves a government-in-exile.
The Korean group was ready, when the Soviet invasion made it possible, to become the nucleus of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The USSR recognized it as the sole government of (all) Korea in September 1948. And, despite its crude and often brutal method of rule, it acquired a patina of legitimacy by its years of armed struggle against the Japanese.
Both the USSR and the U.S. viewed Korea as their outposts. They first tried to work out a deal to divide authority among themselves. But they admitted failure on December 2, 1945. The Russians appeared to expect the failure and hardly reacted, but the Americans sought the help of the United Nations in formalizing their position in Korea. At their behest, the U.N. formed the “Temporary Commission on Korea.” It was supposed to operate in all of Korea, but the Russians regarded it as an American operation and excluded it from the North. After a laborious campaign, it managed to supervise elections but only in the south, in May 1948.
The elections resulted in the formation on August 15 of a government led by Syngman Rhee. In response, a month later on September 9, the former guerrilla leader, Communist and Soviet ally Kim Il-sung, proclaimed the state of North Korea. Thus, the ad hoc arrangement to prevent the collision of two armies morphed into two states.
The USSR had a long history with Kim Il-sung and the leadership of the North. It had discreetly supported the guerrilla movement in Manchukuo (aka Manchuria) and presumably had vetted the Communist leadership through the purges of the 1930s and closely observed them during the war. The survivors were, by Soviet criteria, reliable men. So it was possible for the Russians to take a low profile in North Korean affairs. Unlike the Americans, they felt able to withdraw their army in 1946. Meanwhile, of course, their attention was focused on the much more massive tide of the revolution in China. Korea must have seemed something of a sideshow.
The position of the United States was different in almost every aspect. First, there was no long-standing, pro-American or ideologically democratic cadre in the South.
The Rise of Rhee
The leading figure, as I have mentioned, was Syngman Rhee. While Kim Il-sung was a dedicated Communist, Rhee was certainly not a believer in democracy. But ideology aside, Rhee was deeply influenced by contacts with Americans. Missionaries saved his eyesight (after smallpox), gave him a basic Western-style education, employed him and converted him to Christianity. Probably also influenced by them, as a young man he had involved himself in protests against Korean backwardness, corruption and failure to resist Japanese colonialism. His activities landed him in prison when he was 22 years of age. After four years of what appears to have been a severe regime, he was released and in 1904 made his way into exile in America.
South Korean leader Syngman Rhee
Remarkably for a young man of no particular distinction – although he was proud of a distant relationship to the Korean royal family – he was at least received if not listened to by President Theodore Roosevelt. Ceremonial or perfunctory meetings with other American leaders followed over the years. The American leaders with whom he met did not consider Korea of much importance and even if they had so considered it, Rhee had nothing to offer them. So I infer that his 40-year wanderings from one university to the next (BA in George Washington University, MA in Harvard and PhD in Princeton) and work in the YMCA and other organizations were a litany of frustrations.
It was America’s entry into the war in 1941 that gave Rhee the opportunity he had long sought: he convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to espouse at least nominally the cause of Korean independence. Roosevelt’s kind words probably would have little effect — as Rhee apparently realized. To give them substance, he worked closely with the OSS (the ancestor of the CIA) and developed contacts with the American military chiefs. Two months after the Japanese surrender in 1945, he was flown back to Korea at the order of General Douglas MacArthur.
Establishing himself in Seoul, he led groups of right-wing Koreans to oppose every attempt at cooperation with the Soviet Union and particularly focused on opposition to the creation of a state of North Korea. For those more familiar with European history, he might be considered to have aspired to the role played in Germany by Konrad Adenauer. To play a similar role, Rhee made himself “America’s man.” But he was not able to do what Adenauer could do in Germany nor could he provide for America: an ideologically controlled society and the makings of a unified state like Kim Il-sung was able to give the Soviet Union. But, backed by the American military government and overtly using democratic forms, Rhee was elected on a suspicious return of 92.3 percent of the vote to be president of the newly proclaimed Republic of Korea.
Rhee’s weakness relative to Kim had two effects: the first was that while Soviet forces could be withdrawn from the North in 1946, America felt unable to withdraw its forces from the South. They have remained ever since. And the second effect was that while Rhee tried to impose upon his society an authoritarian regime, similar to the one imposed on the North, he was unable to do so effectively and at acceptable cost.
The administration he partly inherited was largely dependent upon men who had served the Japanese as soldiers and police. He was tarred with their brush. It put aside the positive call of nationalism for the negative warning of anti-Communism. Instead of leadership, it relied on repression. Indeed, it engaged in a brutal repression, which resembled that of North Korea but which, unlike the North Korean tyranny, was widely publicized. Resentment in South Korea against Rhee and his regime soon grew to the level of a virtual insurgency. Rhee may have been the darling of America but he was unloved in Korea. That was the situation when the Korean War began.
Resumption of War
The Korean War technically began on June 25, 1950, but of course the process began before the first shots were fired. Both Syngman Rhee and Kim Il-sung were determined to reunite Korea, each on his own terms. Rhee had publicly spoken on the “need” to invade the North to reunify the peninsula; the Communist government didn’t need to make public pronouncements, but events on the ground must have convinced Kim Il-sung that the war had already begun. Along the dividing line, according to one American scholar of Korea, Professor John Merrill, large numbers of Koreans had already been wounded or killed before the “war” began.
In this July 1950 U.S. Army file photograph once classified “top secret,” South Korean soldiers walk among some of the thousands of South Korean political prisoners shot at Taejon, South Korea, early in the Korean War. (AP Photo/National Archives, Major Abbott/U.S. Army, File)
The event that appears to have precipitated the full-scale war was the declaration by Syngman Rhee’s government of the independence of the South. If allowed to stand, that action as Kim Il-sung clearly understood, would have prevented unification. He regarded it as an act of war. He was ready for war. He had used his years in power to build one of the largest armies in the world whereas the army of the South had been bled by the Southern rulers.
Kim Il-sung must have known in detail the corruption, disorganization and weakness of Rhee’s administration. As the English journalist and commentator on Korea Max Hastings reported, Rhee’s entourage was engaged in a massive theft of public resources and revenues. Money intended by the foreign donors to build a modern state was siphoned off to foreign bank accounts; “ghost soldiers,” the military equivalent of Gogol’s Dead Souls, who existed only on army records, were paid salaries which the senior officers pocketed while the relatively few actual soldiers went unpaid and even unclothed, unarmed and unfed. Bluntly put, Rhee offered Kim an opportunity he could not refuse.
We now know, but then did not, that Stalin was not in favor of the attack by the North and agreed to it only if China, by then a fellow Communist-led state, took responsibility. What “responsibility” really meant was not clear, but it proved sufficient to tip Kim Il-sung into action. He ordered his army to invade the South. Quickly crossing the demarcation line, his soldiers pushed south. Far better disciplined and motivated, they took Seoul within three days, on June 28.
Syngman Rhee proclaimed a fight to the death but, in fact, he and his inner circle had already fled. They were quickly followed by thousands of soldiers of the Southern army. Many of those who did not flee, defected to the North.
Organized by the United States, the United Nations Security Council – taking advantage of the absence of the Soviet delegation – voted on June 27, just before the fall of Seoul, to create a force to protect the South. Some 21 countries led by the United States furnished about three million soldiers to defend the South. They were countries like Thailand, South Vietnam and Turkey with their own problems of insurgency, but most of the fighting was done by American forces. They were driven south and nearly off the Korean peninsula by Kim Il-sung’s army. The American troops were ill-equipped and nearly always outnumbered. The fighting was bitter and casualties were high. By late August, they held only a tenth of what had been the Republic of Korea, just the southern province around the city of Pusan.
The Chinese Prepare
Wisely analyzing the actual imbalance of the American-backed southern forces and the apparently victorious forces commanded by Kim Il-sung, the Chinese statesman Zhou Enlai ordered his military staff to guess what the Americans could be expected to do: negotiate, withdraw or try to break out of their foothold at Pusan. The staff reported that the Americans would certainly mobilize their superior potential power to counterattack.
Seriously wounded North Korean soldiers lie where they fell and wait for medical attention by Navy hospital corpsmen accompanying the Marines in their advance. September 15, 1950. (Photo by Sgt. Frank Kerr, USMC)
To guard against intrusion into China, Zhou convinced his colleagues to move military forces up to the Chinese-Korean frontier and convinced the Soviet government to give the North Koreans air support. What was remarkable was that Zhou’s staff exactly predicted what the Americans would do and where they would do it. Led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Americans made a skillful and bold counterattack. Landing at Inchon on September 15, they cut the bulk of the Northern army off from their bases. The operation was a brilliant military success.
But, like many brilliant military actions, it developed a life of its own. MacArthur, backed by American Secretary of State Dean Acheson and General George Marshall — and ordered by President Truman — decided to move north to implement Syngman Rhee’s program to unify Korea. Beginning on September 25, American forces recaptured Seoul, virtually destroyed the surrounded North Korean army and on October 1 crossed the 38th parallel. With little to stop them, they then pushed ahead toward the Yalu river on the Chinese frontier. That move frightened both the Soviet and Chinese governments which feared that the wave of victory would carry the American into their territories. Stalin held back, refusing to commit Soviet forces, but he reminded the Chinese of their “responsibility” for Korea.
In response, the Chinese hit on a novel ploy. They sent a huge armed force, some 300,000 men to stop the Americans but, to avoid at least formally and directly a clash with America, they categorized it as an irregular group of volunteers — the “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.” Beginning on October 25. the lightly armed Chinese virtually annihilated what remained of the South Korean army and drove the Americans out of North Korea.
Astonished by the collapse of what had seemed a definitive victory, President Truman declared a national emergency, and General MacArthur urged the use of 50 nuclear bombs to stop the Chinese. What would have happened then is a matter of speculation, but what did happen was that MacArthur was replaced by General Matthew Ridgeway who restored the balance of conventional forces. Drearily, the war rolled on.
During this period and for the next two years, the American air force carried out massive bombing sorties. Some of the bombing was meant to destroy the Chinese and North Korean ability to keep fighting, but Korea is a small territory and what began as “surgical strikes” grew into carpet-bombing. (Such bombing would be considered a war crime as of the 1977 Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions).
The attacks were enormous. About 635,000 tons of high explosives and chemical weapons were dropped – that was far more than was used against the Japanese in the Second World War. As historian Bruce Cumings has pointed out, the U.S. Air Force found that “three years of ‘rain and ruin’” had inflicted greater damage on Korean cities “than German and Japanese cities firebombed during World War II.” The North Korean capital Pyongyang was razed and General Curtis LeMay thought American bombings caused the deaths of about 20 percent — one in five — North Koreans.
Carpet-Bombing the North
LeMay’s figure, horrifying as it is, needs to be borne in mind today. Start with the probability that it is understated. Canadian economist Michel Chossudovsky has written that LeMay’s estimate of 20 percent should be revised to nearly 33 percent or roughly one Korean in three killed. He goes on to point to a remarkable comparison: in the Second World War, the British had lost less than 1 percent of their population, France lost 1.35 percent, China lost 1.89 percent and the U.S. only a third of 1 percent. Put another way, Korea proportionally suffered roughly 30 times as many people killed in 37 months of American carpet-bombing as these other countries lost in all the years of the Second World War.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay
In all, 8 million to 9 million Koreans were killed. Whole families were wiped out and practically no families alive in Korea today are without close relatives who perished. Virtually every building in the North was destroyed. What General LeMay said in another context – “bombing them back to the Stone Age” – was literally effected in Korea. The only survivors were those who holed up in caves and tunnels.
Memories of those horrible days, weeks and months of fear, pain and death seared the memories of the survivors, and according to most observers they constitute the underlying mindset of hatred and fear so evident among North Koreans today. They will condition whatever negotiations America attempts with the North.
Finally, after protracted battles on the ground and daily or hourly assaults from the sky, the North Koreans agreed to negotiate a ceasefire. Actually achieving it took two years.
The most significant points in the agreement were that (first) there would be two Koreas divided by a demilitarized zone essentially on what had been the line drawn along the 38th parallel to keep the invading Soviet and American armies from colliding and (second) article 13(d) of the agreement specified that no new weapons other than replacements would be introduced on the peninsula. That meant that all parties agreed not to introduce nuclear and other “advanced” weapons.
What needs to be remembered in order to understand future events is that, in effect, the ceasefire created not two but three Koreas: North, South, and the American military bases.
The North set about recovering from devastation. It had to dig out from under the rubble and it chose to continue to be a garrison state. It was certainly a dictatorship, like the Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam and Indonesia, but close observers thought that the regime was supported by the people. Most observers found that the memory of the war, and particularly of the constant bombing, created a sense of embattlement that unified the country against the Americans and the regime of the South. Kim Il-sung was able to stifle such dissent as arose. He did so brutally. No one can judge for certain, but there is reason to believe that a sense of embattled patriotism remains alive today.
South’s Military Dictatorships
The South was much less harmed by the war than the North and, with large injections of aid and investment from Japan and America, it started on the road to a remarkable prosperity. Perhaps in part because of these two factors – relatively little damage from the war and growing prosperity – its politics was volatile.
To contain it and stay in power, Syngman Rhee’s government imposed martial law, altered the constitution, rigged elections, opened fire on demonstrators and even executed leaders of the opposing party. We rightly deplore the oppression of the North, but humanitarian rights investigations showed little difference between the Communist/Confucian North and the Capitalist/Christian South. Syngman Rhee’s tactics were not less brutal than those of Kim Il-sung.
Employing them, Rhee managed another electoral victory in 1952 and a third in 1960. He won the 1960 election with a favorable vote officially registered to be 90 percent. Not surprisingly, he was accused of fraud. The student organizations regarded his manipulation as the “last straw” and, having no other recourse, took to the streets. Just ahead of a mob converging on his palace — much like the last day of the government of South Vietnam a few years later — he was hustled out of Seoul by the CIA to an exile in Honolulu.
The third Korea, the American “Korea,” would have been only notional except for the facts that it occupied a part of the South (the southern perimeter of the demilitarized zone and various bases elsewhere), had ultimate control of the military forces of the South (it was authorized to take command of them in the event of war) and, as the British had done in Egypt, Iraq and India, it “guided” the native government it had fostered. Its military forces guaranteed the independence of the South and at least initially, the United States paid about half the costs of the government and sustained its economy.
At the same time, the United States sought to weaken the North by imposing embargos. It kept the North on edge by carrying what the North regarded as threatening maneuvers on its frontier and, from time to time, as President Bill Clinton did in 1994 (and President Donald Trump is now doing), threatened a devastating preemptive strike. The Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff also developed OPLN 5015, one of a succession of secret plans whose intent, in the words of commentator Michael Peck, was “to destroy North Korea.”
And, in light of America’s worry about nuclear weapons in Korea, we have to confront the fact that it was America that introduced them. In June 1957, the U.S. informed the North Koreans that it would no longer abide by Paragraph 13(d) of the armistice agreement that forbade the introduction of new weapons. A few months later, in January 1958, it set up nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching Moscow and Peking. The U.S. kept them there until 1991. It wanted to reintroduce them in 2013 but the then South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won refused.
As I will later mention, South Korea joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1975, and North Korea joined in 1985. But South Korea covertly violated it from 1982 to 2000 and North Korea first violated the provisions in 1993 and then withdrew from it in 2003. North Korea conducted its first underground nuclear test in 2006.
There is little moral high ground for any one of the “three Koreas.”
South Korean leader Park Chung-hee
South Korean leader Park Chung Hee
New elections were held in the South and what was known as the Second Republic was created in 1960 under what had been the opposition party. It let loose the pent-up anger over the tyranny and corruption of Syngman Rhee’s government and moved to purge the army and security forces. Some 4,000 men lost their jobs and many were indicted for crimes. Fearing for their jobs and their lives, they found a savior in General Park Chung-hee who led the military to a coup d’état on May 16, 1961.
General Park was best known for having fought the guerrillas led by Kim Il-sung as an officer in the Japanese “pacification force” in Manchukuo. During that period of his life, he even replaced his Korean name with a Japanese name. As president, he courted Japan. Restoring diplomatic relations, he also promoted the massive Japanese investment that jump-started Korean economic development. With America he was even more forthcoming. In return for aid, and possibly because of his close involvement with the American military – he studied at the Command and General Staff school at Fort Sill – he sent a quarter of a million South Korean troops to fight under American command in Vietnam.
Not less oppressive than Rhee’s government, Park’s government was a dictatorship. To protect his rule, he replaced civilian officials by military officers. Additionally, he formed a secret government within the formal government; known as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, it operated like the Gestapo. It routinely arrested, imprisoned and tortured Koreans suspected of opposition. And, in October 1972, Park rewrote the constitution to give himself virtual perpetual power. He remained in office for 16 years. In response to oppression and despite the atmosphere of fear, large-scale protests broke out against his rule. It was not, however, a public uprising that ended his rule: his chief of intelligence assassinated him in 1979.
An attempt to return to civilian rule was blocked within a week by a new military coup d’état. The protests that followed were quickly put down and thousands more were arrested. A confused scramble for power then ensued out of which in 1987 a Sixth Republic was announced and one of the members of the previous military junta became president.
The new president Roh Tae-woo undertook a policy of conciliation with the North and under the warming of relations both North and South joined the U.N. in September 1991. They also agreed to denuclearization of the peninsula. But, as often happens, the easing of suppressive rule caused the “reformer” to fall. Roh and another former president were arrested, tried and sentenced to prison for a variety of crimes — but not for their role in anti-democratic politics. Koreans remained little motivated by more than the overt forms of democracy.
Relations between the North and the South over the next few years bounced from finger on the trigger to hand outstretched. The final attempt to bring order to the South came when Park Geun-hye was elected in 2013, She was the daughter of General Park Chung-hee who, as we have seen, had seized power in a coup d’état 1963 and was president of South Korea for 16 years. Park Geun-hye, was the first women to become head of a state in east Asia. A true daughter of her father, she ruled with an iron hand, but like other members of the ruling group, she far overplayed her hand and was convicted of malfeasance and forced out of office in March 2017.
The Kim Dynasty
Meanwhile in the North, as Communist Party head, Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and president from 1972 to his death in 1994, Kim Il-sung ruled North Korea for nearly half a century. His policy for his nation was a sort of throw-back to the ancient Korean ideal of isolation. Known as juche, it emphasized self-reliance. The North was essentially an agrarian society and, unlike the South, which from the 1980s welcomed foreign investment and aid, it remained closed. Initially, this policy worked well: up to the end of the 1970s, North Korea was relatively richer than the South, but then the South raced ahead with what amounted to an industrial revolution.
North Korean leader Kim Il-sung
Surprisingly, Kim Il-sung shared with Syngman Rhee a Protestant Christian youth; indeed, Kim said that his grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. But the more important influence on his life was the brutal Japanese occupation. Such information as we have is shaped by official pronouncements and amount to a paean. But, probably, like many of the Asian nationalists, as a very young man he took part in demonstrations against the occupying power. According to the official account, by the time he was 17, he had spent time in a Japanese prison.
At 19, in 1931, he joined the Chinese Communist Party and a few years later became a member of its Manchurian fighting group. Hunted down by the Japanese and such of their Korean collaborators as Park Chung-hee, Kim crossed into Russian territory and was inducted into the Soviet army in which he served until the end of the Second World War. Then, as the Americans did with Syngman Rhee, the Russians installed him as head of the provisional government.
From the first days of his coming to power, Kim Il-sung focused on the acquisition of military power. Understandably from his own experience, he emphasized training it in informal tactics, but as the Soviet Union began to provide heavy equipment, he pushed his officers into conventional military training under Russian drillmasters. By the time he had decided to invade South Korea, the army was massive, armed on a European standard and well organized. Almost every adult Korean man was or had been serving in it.
The army had virtually become the state. This allocation of resources, as the Korean War made clear, resulted in a powerful striking force but a weakened economy. It also caused Kim’s Chinese supporters to decide to push him aside. How he survived his temporary demotion is not known, but in the aftermath of the ceasefire, he was again seen to be firmly in control of the Communist Party and the North Korean state.
The North Korean state, as we have seen, had virtually ceased to exist under the bombing attack. Kim could hope for little help to rebuild it from abroad and sought even less. His policy of self-reliance and militarization were imposed on the country. On the Soviet model of the 1930s, he launched a draconian five-year plan in which virtually all economic resources were nationalized. In the much-publicized Sino-Soviet split, he first sided with the Chinese but, disturbed by the Chinese Cultural Revolution, he swung back to closer relations with the Soviet Union.
In effect, the two neighboring powers had to be his poles. His policy of independence was influential but could not be decisive. To underpin his rule and presumably in part to build the sense of independence of his people, he developed an elaborate personality cult. That propaganda cult survived him. When he died in 1994 at 82 years of age, his body was preserved in a glass case where it became the object of something like a pilgrimage.
Unusual for a Communist regime, Kim Il-sung was followed by his son Kim Jong-Il. Kim Jong-Il continued most of his father’s policies, which toward the end of his life, had moved haltingly toward a partial accommodation with South Korea and the United States. He was faced with a devastating drought in 2001 and sequential famine that was said to have starved some 3 million people. Perhaps seeking to disguise the impact of this famine, he abrogated the armistice and sent troops into the demilitarized zone. However, intermittent moves including creating a partly extra-territorialized industrial enclave for foreign trade, were made to better relations with the South.
Then, in January 2002, President George Bush made his “Axis of Evil Speech” in which he demonized North Korea. Thereafter, North Korea withdrew from the 1992 agreement with the South to ban nuclear weapons and announced that it had enough weapons-grade plutonium to make about 5 or 6 nuclear weapons. Although he was probably incapacitated by a stroke in August 2008, his condition was hidden as long as possible while preparations were made for succession. He died in December 2011 and was followed by his son Kim Jong-un.
With this thumbnail sketch of events up to the coming to power of Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, I will turn in Part 2 of this essay to the dangerous situation in which our governments – and all of us individually – find ourselves today.
William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.
Betty and Andrew Windsor with the King of Bahrain at the 2019 Windsor Horse Show
Originally published in Counterpunch magazine, 2021
The first article in this series looked at the ‘domestic’ role of the British monarchy, suggesting that they served as a ‘counter-revolutionary backstop’, a feudal remnant kept artificially alive in order to prop up bourgeois rule through the bypassing of parliament and the establishment of rule by decree in the event of serious popular unrest and revolt. In a nation as deeply saturated with colonial wealth and outlook as Britain, however, this is more of an ‘insurance policy’ than an active and ongoing role. In the realm of foreign policy, however – where the revolutionary overthrow of Britain’s colonial proxies is a real and ever-present danger – their role is much more active and visible. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Arab world.
Following the taxonomy deployed by the legendary Ghanaian revolutionary, Kwame Nkrumah, the Arab states can be divided into two main camps: those which are under the effective control of the former colonial powers and their allies (which he termed ‘neocolonial’ states), and those which are not. In the former camp are states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE, all of them creations of the British empire and to this day still controlled by the ruling families handpicked by Britain at the height of empire. The consolidation and reinforcement of the relationships between Britain and these families, and the shoring up of their power, is a core part of the role of the British royal family, and much of their time is taken up with hosting and visiting these families. This is especially important at times when their rule is under threat, providing an expression of solidarity at the highest level, an assurance that the British state will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with whatever repression is deemed necessary to hold onto power.
Whilst this symbolic royal solidarity is offered to leaders of Britain’s neocolonial proxy states the world over, it is the relationships with the ruling families of the Arab world specifically that are considered to be paramount. To understand why this is so, it is essential to appreciate the fundamental importance of Arabia both to the neocolonial system – the channelling of wealth generated in the global South to the western states – in general, and to British economic and political power in particular.
The Gulf region’s importance to the neocolonial world system derives primarily from its strategic location and its energy resources. Even before the discovery of oil, the region was particularly coveted by the British state due to its proximity to India. Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 sent British officials scurrying for control of the Arabian peninsula in order to close the Gulf to the French navy; to this end, the first Anglo-Arabian treaty was signed that year, with the Sultan of Muscat. Others followed soon after, such that the British were virtual hegemons in the region by the middle of the nineteenth century. The thrust of these treaties was always the same – British security guarantees for the ruling families in exchange for British control of their foreign policy, with securing the trade and military route to India the fundamental objective. Urgency was added to this aim in 1911, when Winston Churchill decreed that the navy would switch from coal to oil, meaning that not only British economic strength, but British naval power too, was now dependent on imports from the East (which, since the opening of the Suez canal in 1882, could now make their journey to Europe purely by way of cargo ship through the Red Sea).
This geostrategic imperative for British control of the Gulf region remains operational today. Three of the world’s eight ‘transit chokepoints’ – narrow waterways through which a large proportion of global trade passes daily – surround the Arabian peninsula – the Suez canal to the Northwest, the Strait of Hormuz to the east, between Arabia and Iran, and the Bab el-Mandab Strait to the west, linking Yemen, Eritrea and Djibouti. Control of these chokepoints is considered crucial, therefore, not so much to British energy security (as the Gulf region supplies less than 4% of Britain’s oil and only 13% of its gas), but to Anglo-America’s ability to control the flow of energy to other countries – in other words, to the leverage provided by such control. The ability to cut off energy supply to whoever it chooses is a key element of western global power. As Bush advisor Zalmay Khalilzad put it back in 1995, “the US position in the Gulf…helps the United States to prevent the rise of another global rival. And should one arise, Washington’s position in the Gulf would be a great advantage.” With East Asia, in particular, increasingly dependent on energy imports from the Middle East, it is easy to see how control of these chokepoints could be used as another weapon in the West’s escalating economic war against China.
Yet the strategic location of the Arab world is only part of the story. The other key element is oil, and in particular, the link between oil, currency and global power. In his book The City, Tony Norfield identifies the international status of a country’s currency as one of four factors essential to global power, with the status of sterling thus crucial to Britain’s continued imperial role. And the value of sterling fundamentally depends on Gulf oil wealth.
This was already true in the immediate postwar era when “maintaining the strength of the pound sterling was an absolute strategic priority for British policymakers… and Britain’s interests in Gulf oil were crucial to London’s success in this regard.” (David Wearing, paraphrasing Steven Galpern.) Back then, taxes paid by British-owned oil companies like BP and Shell in Iran and Kuwait helped finance the government’s domestic spending, whilst the foreign currency they earnt allowed Britain to finance imports without building up a trade deficit, as well as building up reserves which could be used to defend the pound when necessary. They also, of course, allowed Britain to import oil without using up precious foreign reserves; all of which helped keep sterling’s value from collapse.
Following the oil crisis of 1973, when oil producing states turned to western banks to house their newly acquired petrodollars, however, a new role began to emerge for Gulf wealth. Says Wearing, “As well as direct investment in the British economy and investment opportunities for British industry in the Gulf, Whitehall sought a wider influx of surplus oil revenues into the financial system, whereby recycled petrodollars would play a similar stabilising function to the recently expired Bretton Woods system of managed exchange rates.” By the end of the decade, those banks were the repositories for $154billion of petrodollars. This new source of capital allowed for a fundamental transformation in the structure of the British economy, and a new type of imperialism – neoliberalism. Whereas the imperialism of Lenin’s day had been predicated on the export of capital by imperial states based on a manufacturing economy, this new type came to rely on the import of capital, in turn facilitating the ‘offshoring’ of production to the global South.
In an excellent article on the blog paradigmchange.net, neoliberalism is described as an economic model that is predicated on a shift “from production to finance” and “based on consumption not accompanied by an adequate level of production…The resulting shortfall in income needed to sustain consumption is then replaced with debt, and the trade deficits are paid for by attracting capital into the City.” Imperialism has always been parasitic, but neoliberalism, based on the influx of consumer goods without any corresponding production of exports, is openly and brazenly so – and Arab wealth is essential to the financing of this parasitism. Whilst the capital imports which finance the debt on which neoliberal consumerism is based comes from all over the world, a significant amount comes from the Gulf. In 2012, UK Foreign Office minister Lord Howell claimed that the (Qatari owned) Shard was “the tip…of a very large iceberg” with “ a significant proportion” of GCC capital inflows “channeled into financial assets.” Kuwait and Saudi Arabia each have around £100billion invested through the City of London, with another £30billion from Qatar. It recently emerged that Gulf wealth is considered so important for Britain’s financial health that the UK government had established a secret Whitehall unit – Project Falcon – to attract investment from the UAE alone. Tony Blair was a lobbyist for the group. Says David Wearing, “on the status of the pound sterling, it is clear that Gulf capital inflows make an important indirect contribution by helping to maintain the strength of the pound, and thus its attractiveness as an international currency. This is because, on the balance of payments, the GCC region plays a very significant role indeed… on these key measures, the Gulf region is not merely important to the UK compared to other leading economies (such as the BRICS) but important even compared to major economies in the global North.” Put simply, Gulf capital shores up the pound enough to offset the potentially destabilising impact of ever growing mountains of household debt. Keeping Gulf wealth flowing into the counting houses of the City of London, then, is an essential prop for Britain’s ailing imperial economy. It is also a key mechanism by which the wealth and labour of the global South continues to be extorted by the West, both through the horrifically exploited and abused South Asian migrant workforce on which all the Gulf economies depend, and through the money paid for Gulf oil from the world’s – and particularly Asia’s – heavily import-dependent energy infrastructure. In other words, the US and Britain’s ability to consume more than they produce is dependent on the threefold process of, firstly, the super-exploitation of Asian migrant labour in the Gulf economies; secondly, the channelling of global South wealth into the Gulf states through oil sales in western denominated currencies; and thirdly, the investment of the income thus gathered into US and British banks.
Ensuring this wealth continues to flow depends on two things: firstly, ensuring that the ruling families of the Gulf states continue to direct their Sovereign Wealth Funds to invest in the US and Britain, and, secondly, and more fundamentally, ensuring that those families are not overthrown. These two tasks are linked, for, alongside the economic incentives for Gulf investment in London (the Treasury and Bank of England’s commitment to guaranteeing ever rising asset prices through QE and house price manipulation) are the political incentives: bolstering the political and military alliance with the UK to ensure regime survival. And when the economic incentives are waning, as they seem to be daily, it becomes ever more imperative for the UK to ensure that those political incentives – securing the family dictatorships – are made very clear. This is where the Windsors come in.
One of the problems of the neocolonial era is that those charged with securing British interests abroad – the rulers of comprador global South states – must become masters at decoding the contradictory diktats of the western powers. One day, these gentlemen will proclaim themselves champions of liberal freedoms, willing to slaughter millions of people and burn trillions of dollars at its altar; the next, they will declare themselves as standing shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism with the most illiberal states the mind can concievably imagine. How is an Arab ruler to know, the next time he feels the need to crush an emerging dissident movement, whether to expect a shower of hellfire missiles for his troubles, or a hearty slap on the back?
This is when a red carpet at Windsor Palace can be very reassuring, and it is no coincidence that the most frenetic hosting of high level state visits seems to occur at precisely those moments when Gulf autocracies are facing the most resistance from their own people. Over the past ten years, for example, when the Arab monarchies have confronted perhaps the biggest popular threat to their rule since the height of Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 60s (when British-created monarchs were overthrown in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Libya), they have met with leading members of the British royal family over two hundred times, with Charles alone undertaking ninety-five such visits. Bahrain, home to the most important British and US naval bases in the region, is a case in point.
The al-Khalifas, the ruling clan in Bahrain for the past 200 years, originally hailed from Iraq, but were expelled by the Ottomans due to the disruption to trade caused by their frequent banditry. They briefly seized control of Bahrain in 1783 as Persian control began to crumble, but their falling out with the Wahhabi sect, on whom their power had relied, ended their rule twenty years later. It was only the treaty they signed with the British in 1820 – in which Britain guaranteed the family’s reign in return for their obedience to imperial designs – which restored them to power, and has kept them there – latterly with the addition of US support – until this day. Only gaining formal independence from Britain in 1971, the director-general of its state security directorate was a Brit – Ian Henderson, a former colonial official in Kenya – right up until 1998. Like the other Gulf states, their military and security apparatuses remain utterly dependent on US and British support.
Yet the al-Khalifas’ position has been permanently unstable, due to both their obvious role as a facilitator of subordination to foreign domination and their persecution of the majority Shia population. A major workers’ revolt was crushed by the British in 1965, whilst the newly-elected national assembly was closed down by the Emir after just two years in operation in 1975 due to its demands for women’s votes, the nationalisation of oil resources, and the expulsion of foreign bases. “Since then”, says the author of a recent academic piece on the country, “the rule of the Khalifa family has become increasingly authoritarian.” This growing anti-democratic trend has coincided with an increase in the visible support of the British royal family. In 1979, there was particular anxiety in Britain that the revolutionary wave sweeping Iran would extend to the Gulf Arab states. Thus, within weeks of the Shah’s departure, the Queen was duly dispatched on her first official tour of the region in a clear expression of British solidarity with the Gulf rulers against their people. Bahrain was a particular concern, but the schedule of cosy engagements with the Emir, including horse racing, a banquet at the palace, and a return dinner on the royal Yacht Britannia, would have done much to reassure the Emir that British support for his “increasingly authoritarian” regime was unwavering. In 1984, a “glittering banquet” was organised by the Lord Mayor of the City of London in honour of the Emir of Bahrain, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Kent on the Queen’s behalf; whilst Prince Charles and his wife visited Bahrain two years later to attend a banquet in the Emir’s royal palace in Manama. Here they presented the Emir with the Order of St Michael and St George, the highest honour that can be bestowed for services to British imperialism, neatly symbolised by its insignia of a white child standing on the head of a prostrate Black man.
But it was in 2011, when mass protests against the Khalifa dictatorship threatened to overwhelm the regime, that British royal support really went into overdrive. The mass movement that had been bubbling away since the mid-eighties broke out onto the streets in an unprecedented show of strength, involving at its height an estimated one third of the population, demanding the most basic political freedoms. The Khalifas brutally crushed the demonstrations, their weakness demonstrated by their dependence on Saudi armed forces to do so. The British government’s response was not only to step up the arms exports needed to shore up the regime, and to invite the country’s interior minister to the British foreign office to gather “lessons learnt from our experience in Northern Ireland,” but also to use the royal family to consolidate the Anglo-Bahraini alliance. In May 2012, King Hamad was a guest of honour at the Queen’s jubilee dinner at Windsor castle, and institutional links between the two families have been cemented by the Windsor and Khalifas’ joint sponsorship of the Windsor Horse Show. This event has become an occasion for an annual hobnobbing between the two heads of state, sharing the royal box and jointly hosting the awards ceremony. Commented the human rights group Reprieve during the 2017 event, shortly after the Khalifas began executing dissidents following a six-month hiatus, “Make no mistake, visits like [the Windsor Horse Show] gift the Bahraini government a royal cloak of acceptability, while the Kingdom mercilessly executes political prisoners and uses torture to extract ‘confessions.” It is a gift which is intentional, and clearly appreciated by the Khalifas; indeed, Hamad skipped a meeting with US President Obama in order to attend the show in 2015. In 2016, Hamad was given the most prestigious seat possible at the Queen’s ninetieth birthday dinner, right by her side. Yet even with the full might of British and US imperialism behind them, the Khalifas have still not been able to stop the Bahrainis’ courageous struggle.
Bahrain is not an exception; the wheeling out of the royals to bolster British-sponsored regimes threatened by popular movements has a long history. In 1952, as the ousting of the British-imposed King Farouk by Colonel Nasser in Egypt ignited republican sentiment across the region, King Faisal of Iraq was invited to Balmoral, the Queen’s private estate in Scotland, in a demonstration that Britain would stand shoulder to shoulder against these anti-monarchical currents wherever they emerged. It wasn’t enough to shore up Faisal’s rule, however; he too was ousted six years later. 1987 saw the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada, the biggest uprising in the West Bank and Gaza since they were first occupied thirty years earlier, lasting until 1993. The Israelis responded with massive violence, including a policy of breaking the bones of child protesters; the royals showed their support for the repression with an official state visit for the Israeli President Chaim Herzog that same year. In 2007, when the Saudi criminal justice system was under unprecedented international scrutiny following the sentencing of two gang rape victims to imprisonment and 90 lashes the previous year, British approval for the regime was signalled by the King Abdullah’s invitation to a state banquet with the queen. “Contacts between our two families have been regular and close,” noted Elizabeth Windsor in her speech welcoming the king, adding that “Many British people have benefited from Saudi hospitality over the years as traders, experts and advisors,” a reference to the British military officers, arms traders, oil men and bureaucrats with whom the Saudi state is riddled. As the Arab Spring began to get under way in late 2010 – and with it, Britain’s twofold policy of using the protests as cover to launch wars against the region’s republican socialist states (Libya and Syria) whilst drowning in blood the peninsula’s anti-monarchical movements, all the region’s Arab collaborators were treated to the royal red carpet treatment: the Al Thanis of Qatar at Windsor castle in October 2010; the Queen in Abu Dhabi the following month; the Emir of Kuwait at Windsor castle in November 2012 and of the Emirates the following year, to name just the visits made by the Queen herself. The relationship with the al-Sauds was and is especially important given the Saudis leading role in facilitating Britain’s genocidal war against the Yemeni revolution.
What I am not saying here, it should be made clear, is that the British royals are somehow sullying themselves by association with these Arab ‘dictators.’ This is all-too-often the implicit line of the British colonial left when, for example, it protests such visits as those outlined above. If anything, the criticism is the other way round – that the real crime of the al-Khalifas, the al-Thanis and the Al-Sauds is their willingness to prostitute themselves and their countrymen to the diktat of the genocidal British state, to do the dirty work of empire. As for the British royal family, they are no different from their counterparts in the Gulf: an artificial creation of the imperialist bourgeoisie, made up of reactionary feudal remnants on life support whose role is the suppression of democratic freedoms wherever the masses threaten property relations. And yet, as the Yemenis, Bahrainis and Palestinians are proving daily, and as the Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans and Iranians have long since shown, their days are numbered, all of them, and these childish institutional fantasies will soon reveal themselves as but castles in the sand. Godspeed the day.
Part one: counter-revolutionary backstop
Originally published in Counterpunch magazine, 2021
The death of Elizabeth Windsor’s husband Philip Mountbatten earlier this year prompted an establishment-led frenzy of monarchism across Britain, with wall-to-wall sycophantic TV and radio coverage and Covid public information boards replaced with Philip’s portrait. The standard view of the British monarchy is that they are no more than symbolic figureheads lacking any real power; mere ornaments adorning the British political system. But the truth is that Philip and his family were and are crucial pillars in the maintenance of the class power of the British imperialist bourgeoisie, both domestically and globally.
To begin with, the Sovereign still has a significant place in the British political system. The government is still known as ‘her majesty’s government,’ there to govern on her behalf. It is she who appoints the prime minister, not just in the UK, but in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and twelve other countries. And it is only by convention that she appoints the leader of the winning party following an election – as Gough Whitlam discovered in 1975 when the monarch’s representative in Australia dismissed him from office, despite his party having won the previous year’s elections, and appointed in his place the leader of the losing party, deeming the winners too radical. In the UK, she has weekly meetings with the prime minister to discuss government business, and her approval is required before any legislation passed by parliament can become law. Whilst it is true that this approval – known as Royal Assent – has been granted to all Acts of Parliament since 1707, what is more commonly withheld is the lesser known ‘Queen’s Consent.’ For bills affecting the Queen’s private interests, as well as those impinging on the royal prerogative powers (executive powers which can be used without consulting parliament), the Queen’s permission must be granted before it can be put to parliament. Such ‘Queen’s Consent’ (or ‘Prince’s Consent’ in the case of bills affecting the Prince of Wales’ private interests) was sought 146 times between 1970 and 2013 according to former government minister Norman Baker. Any bill that might affect the income from the monarch and her son’s private estates, for example (the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster, comprising some of the most lucrative real estate in the London, the Strand, as well as Balmoral and Sandringham) is subject to veto by the Crown. And here, unlike for Royal Assent, the Queen is neither obliged by convention to give her consent, nor to act in accordance with advice from her ministers – she is free to use her discretion. All laws affecting income or land tax, for example, or employment rights, require Queen’s Consent, as did the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, because it granted inspectors the right to go onto private estates to investigate claims of animal abuse. To prevent the bill being vetoed by the Crown, the Labour government agreed that the Windsors’ private estates would be exempt from the legislation – literally putting them above the law. Queen’s Consent even had to be sought for the 2008 Child Maintenance Act as it affected payments to the Queen’s private staff. And the Queen is uniquely exempt from a 1973 Act of Parliament requiring shareholders to identify themselves, allowing her to anonymously hold shares in companies of dubious repute. This exemption may well have been a condition for giving consent to the bill in the first place – we cannot know for sure, because no record is kept of when and how Queen’s Consent is used, and the negotiations go on behind closed doors before the first draft of the bill is ever published.
‘Queen’s Consent’ is not only a tool for the personal enrichment of the Windsors, however. Bills which affect the Royal Prerogative powers (powers exercised on behalf of the monarch by government ministers) also require Queen’s Consent, and in this case, unlike in the case of bills where her personal interests are involved, the Queen will simply give or withhold consent according to advice from her ministers. This allows the government to use the Queen to prevent certain private members’ bills, for example, from even being discussed in parliament. Norman Baker’s excellent book on royal powers, “And What Do You Do?”, from which much of the material for this article was garnered, notes that the Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill in 1999 was blocked after the Queen withheld her consent, as was the 1964 Titles (Abolition) Bill and the 1969 Rhodesia Independence Bill, amongst others.
But this use of Queen’s Consent is just one way in which the residual powers of the monarch are used by the government to avoid public or parliamentary debate and scrutiny. The Royal Prerogative powers, exercised by government ministers on behalf of the monarch, mainly pertain to foreign relations, and can be exercised without the consultation of parliament. This allows the prime minister to deploy troops and agree treaties without even informing, let alone consulting, parliament. The use of the Royal Prerogative occurs through the Privy Council, a group of current and former members of the government, senior members of the opposition, and senior members of the royal family, including the Queen. Members are sworn to secrecy, and the body has the power to secretly create legislation, known as ‘Orders of Council’. In the first half of 2000, over 250 such Orders were issued, around ten per week – including, says Baker (who was made a Privy Councillor by virtue of his position a junior minister in the Conservative-Liberal Coalition government) “an Order relating to the Saint Helena Act 1833, an amendment to a naval pension scheme, an Order relating to sanctions on Yemen – the sort of thing thing that the Commons ought to have had the chance to debate – and an amendment to the misuse of drugs act 1971, which I knew nothing about despite having been the drugs minister for a year until shortly before.” And these were just those passed in one meeting. Baker broke his oath to reveal this information, but such revelations are highly unusual, and the passage of such laws willo rarely reach the public domain.
Yet the most important aspect of monarchical power in British politics is not the Windsors’ role in day-to-day government so much as their function as a kind of ‘counter-revolutionary backstop’. Globally, this is an ongoing and active role, as will be explored in part two of this series. In the domestic arena, however, it is more as a potential, a ‘force of last resort,’ should popular unrest ever get seriously out of hand.
Of fundamental importance here is the oath of loyalty sworn by members of the armed forces. This oath commits them to the defence, not of the constitution or the elected parliament, but of the monarch and her successors, and to do so “against all enemies,” including, therefore, domestic enemies – such as, for example, any future parliament that attempted to abolish them. It also commits them to “obey all orders of her majesty, her heirs and successors.” Were, for example, a genuinely radical parliament to be elected in Britain, the armed forces would be a priori committed to support an armed overthrow of such a parliament should the monarch command them to do so. Baker suggests that we “suppose Hitler had invaded England, and suppose Edward the Eighth, with his Nazi sympathies, were restored to the throne as a sort of puppet, a scenario that certainly existed in Hitler’s mind. If the restored Edward the Eighth had called on the armed forces to lay down their weapons and accept a sort of Vichy Britain with him at the head, they may well have done so, whatever the elected government may have thought. I know members of the armed forces who take their oath to the Queen very seriously, and for them this allegiance trumps any democratic considerations. The fact that members of the royal family occupy senior positions right across the military only reinforces this.”
Nor is it only the armed forces who are made to swear such an oath – it is also a condition of entry into the British police force, judiciary, and parliament, as well as (since 2003) British citizenship itself, for those applying for it. This means that when (and it is indeed a matter of when, not if) the proverbial shit hits the fan in the UK, should the ruling class feel the need to impose military rule and rule by diktat, this oath ensures the army, the police and the entire criminal justice system, will be committed in advance to support such a measure, so long as the Windsors are on board. As Baker has noted, “the Queen herself on her accession took an oath to govern the country and uphold the rights of bishops. Parliamentarians take an oath to the Queen. Nobody takes an oath to uphold democracy.”
The key to understanding the role of the monarchy in a bourgeois society like Britain is to go back to its origins, which lie, not deep in antiquity, but in the tumultuous events of the seventeenth century. There has not been seamless continuity or evolution when it comes to royal power, but rather three distinct major monarchical epochs, separated by violent upheavals. First was the feudal monarchy that existed prior to 1485, in which the monarchy was the head of an aristocratic-ruled state. Second was the monarchy that was established under Henry the Seventh in 1485, at the head of an alliance between the aristocracy and the rising bourgeoisie, an era that was decisively ended with the execution of Charles I and the creation of the English republic in 1649. Our current monarchy, under bourgeois domination, took shape between 1660 and 1689, and though it was ushered in with the so-called ‘Restoration’ of Stuart power, when the deposed Charles’ son, Charles II, was invited to take the throne, it was in reality an entirely new institution (as Charles’ brother James II learnt to his cost when he attempted to challenge the new dispensation and was swiftly replaced). The question is – why did this third epoch of monarchism even come about? When the bourgeoisie had so decisively defeated the aristocratic power that the monarchy represents, why did they then re-create the institution? And the answer is – the fear of popular revolution.
Cromwell had mobilised the masses in his war against Charles I, but their demands – as exploited, land hungry, peasants, and even as small traders and artisans – went far beyond his as a merchant landowner. What Cromwell sought was not the abolition of exploitation, but the extension of the absolute right to exploit, from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie, via an end to the aristocratic monopolies on foreign trade and land ownership. Radical trends within the republican movement, however – including, crucially, within Cromwell’s army itself, such as the Levellers – sought genuine social equality – equal access to land, political participation, and a toppling of the very hierarchical pyramid that Cromwell had been fighting for the right to ascend. Cromwell had their leaders executed but the fear of a resurgence remained – and in the late 1650s, when rising prices were leading to growing unrest and agitation, the bourgeoisie reasoned that, though their power seemed secure for now, the time may yet come when they would need to call on the defeated aristocracy to help suppress a renewed popular uprising. And this is what the current British monarchy is: the artificial keeping alive of feudal remnants (along with their symbolic counterpart in the human psyche) as a potential counter-revolutionary ally of an insecure bourgeoisie.
That this is so can be seen clearly in the waxing and waning of royal privilege over the years. Here, a clear pattern emerges whereby, in periods where the bourgeoisie feel more secure, and less in need of their feudal allies, royal privileges are limited or revoked; whilst in periods of real or potential unrest, they are extended. If the army are loyal to the monarch, the ruling class need to be sure that the monarch is willing to do its bidding. And that costs money.
In the years following the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution,’ however – when, in 1688, Parliament called on the Dutch King William of Orange to depose King James II and take the crown for himself, on the strict understanding that his position would be subordinate to Parliament – bourgeois rule seemed impregnable. The 1690s saw the formation of the Bank of England, the tearing up of the Royal trading monopolies – heralding a commercial frenzy, especially in the trafficking of kidnapped Africans – and the dispossession of Ireland. With the English merchant class triumphant, they had little need to make concessions to a monarchy that, after all, they themselves had placed into position, and was effectively their mouthpiece. Thus, in 1697, did the Crown agree to surrender even the income it gained from the Duchy of Cornwall.
This era of untrammelled security did not last long, however. The failure of William and Mary, as well as her sister Anne, to produce any surviving offspring, had led Parliament to pass the Act of Settlement in 1701, decreeing that the Crown would pass to the (Protestant) Hanoverians. Their claim to the throne by virtue of royal bloodline was shaky to say the least – but the newly empowered merchant class were determined to prevent a Catholic restoration, with all the resultant continental political realignments and reversals that would entail. This seemingly arbitrary passing around of the Crown for political convenience was a step too far for many, however, and the Jacobite movement – which called for the continuation of the Stuart monarchy, in line with established hereditary principles – was born. Thus it was in 1721, two years after the third major Jacobite rising, at a time when the schemes of the government were under serious threat from inter-ruling class rivalry, that the mechanism of ‘King’s Consent’ – whereby the monarch gets veto power on any bill affecting his private interests – was introduced.
Once the threat dissipated, however, the monarch’s fortunes were reversed. In 1745, the Jacobite movement was decisively defeated, and the bourgeois ascendancy seemed, once again, triumphant – and in no need of feudal backup. Thus, in 1760, did the entirety of the Crown estates (with the supposed exception of the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster) pass into the hands of the state, finally stripping the king of his position as ‘landowner-in-chief,’ the basic tenet of monarchical power since 1066. It was not without some benefit for the monarch, as, along with the estates, he also gave up responsibility for funding the growing costs of the state, which would now be taken on by the government directly. The king also negotiated a hefty annual subsidy from the state coffers, set initially at £800,000 per year and still in operation today, known as the ‘civil list.’ Yet the ban on the monarch’s ownership of private property that accompanied the deal was, by any standards, a reduction in power. It was not to last.
The earth shattering events of the 1790s – in France and Haiti primarily, but with planet-wide reverberations that continue to this day – struck terror once again into the hearts of the English ruling class, and over the decades that followed, various forms of emergency rule and suspension of liberties became the norm. Lacking the legitimising cloak of liberal niceties, the legitimising cloak of regal bullshit took on a new importance for government. The monarch’s value to the imperilled bureaucracy grew, and the ban on his ownership of private property was lifted. And not only that – an argument was made that the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall were already private estates of the monarch, exempt from the 1760 agreement that surrendered the rest of the Crown estates. The reasoning? They had not been explicitly mentioned in that agreement, and were therefore not covered by them. The compelling legal argument that this was so precisely because, since 1697, the Duchies were already understood to be public assets (their income streams having been handed over at that date) was trampled underfoot by the cavalry charge of the counter-revolutionary war and its need for maximum unity against the Jacobins. Two hundred years later, the income streams from this desperate act of political expediency remain exceptionally lucrative: the holdings of the Duchy of Lancaster alone amount to over half a billion pounds, with annual profits reaching £20 million in 2018, and the Duchy of Cornwall not far behind, including a particular bonanza in 2012 from the auctioning of tungsten and iridium mining rights on Duchy land.
The pattern continued throughout the nineteenth century. As tumult grew in Ireland, Jamaica and both rural and urban Britain between 1829 and 1831 – resulting in major concessions on all three islands – the Duchy of Lancaster was, in 1830, again exempted from a bill formalising the government takeover of royal income streams. As Baker noted, “with the great reform bill on the stocks, the government did not want to alienate the king unnecessarily.” The same year, the two Duchies also secured an exemption – alone in the country – from the abolition of the feudal practice of landowners taking over the estates of anyone who dies on their land without relatives. This would prove particularly lucrative for George VI, who got a bonanza from all those killed on Duchy land during World War Two, and continues to bring in additional income for the Windsors to this day.
The Great Reform Act was eventually passed in 1832, successfully breaking the middle class-working class alliance that had shaken the country in previous years. The wealthier middle classes had been enfranchised by the Act, and now happily supported the repression of their erstwhile proletarian comrades. Bourgeois rule was secure, and again the need to buy royal favour declined. In 1842, income tax was introduced for the first time, and the monarch was not exempt. From now on, taxes would be paid not only on royal income – including on the civil list subsidy, and on Duchy profits – but on royal land and property also. This was confirmed in the Crown Private Estates Act of 1862 (during another period when the British ruling class were feeling secure, when the country’s industrial monopoly had birthed a labour aristocracy following the defeat of the Chartists). The Act was unambiguous: “The private estates of her majesty,her heirs or successors, shall be subject to all such rates, duties, assessments, and other impositions, parliamentary and parochial, as the same would have been subject to if the same had been the property of any subject of the realm.”
Yet even during this period, royal privileges ebbed and flowed in line with the degree of feared unrest. In 1848, proletarian revolution broke out across the continent, and the Chartists planned a march on London. Although the demonstration was ultimately outnumbered by pro-government volunteers, the state took no chances, and shored up its favour with the King through the establishment of ‘Prince’s consent’, extending the existing veto rights over legislation affecting the King’s private interests to his eldest son. No legal justification for this anti-democratic provision was even attempted; threat of revolt demanded royal concessions, the practice was established, and that was that. Again, it is a practice that continues until today.
In the period 1865-7, near-simultaneous risings again broke out again across Jamaica, England and Ireland. Then, In 1873, the great economic boom which had begun in the 1850s ground decisively to a halt, just when Britain had lost its industrial monopoly to Germany and the USA. The depression lasted until 1896, and a new wave of militant trade unionism amongst the lowest paid broke out. Foreseeing a time when the monarch’s collaboration in the suspension of civil government might be required, the government during this period ramped up the civil list payments, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Writes Baker, “As a result of Albert’s pleadings of poverty they [Victoria and Albert] were given more than they needed to enable Victoria to carry our her constitutional duties, but then hung onto the cash which had been obtained under false pretences and invested it in property.” In 1889, a parliamentary select committee noted that Victoria had siphoned off almost £1 million from her civil list ‘expenses,’ which had been used to purchase the private estates of Balmoral, Sandringham and Osborne (in the Isle of Wight). Philip Hall, in his book Royal Fortune, estimates that a total of £67million has been saved by the monarch from civil list payments over the last five reigns, making the MPs’ expenses scandal look like a parking violation. But the point is, this subsidy has been willingly granted by an insecure ruling class as an insurance policy against (so-called) democracy.
In the years before the First World War, this insecurity went into overdrive – and so too did the ‘insurance payments’ to the royals. Revolutionary trade unionism was spreading like wildfire across Britain, with major strikes taking place in key industries such as minings, docking, building and transport, many of them successful. The ruling class were terrified: Conservative cabinet minister Leo Amery recorded in his diary at the time that he went to purchase a revolver to arm himself against the revolutionary threat, but found they had all sold out. The value – and so the price – of royal backup thus increased again; already by 1903, Edward VII had wrangled his way out of paying income tax on his civil list payments (despite the existence of very clear laws on the matter), and in 1910 prime minister Lloyd George agreed to exempt the monarch from paying income tax at all. In 1913, this tax exemption was extended to the Duchy of Cornwall. Says Baker, “Despite the fact that the inland revenue had gone into the matter of the Duchy’s status quite exhaustively and concluded there was no case for its exemption from taxes, the government’s law officers, in a very short ruling, and one without any explanatory arguments, disagreed, and that was that.” In 1911, another unprecedented – and legally indefensible – ruling exempted royal wills from public scrutiny. To this day, royal wills are the only wills that can be kept private, enabling the extent of royal wealth to remain forever secret. This means that the amount of wealth stolen from civil list payments can be kept hidden, as can the extent of ‘gifts’ – which must, by law, be turned over to the state when given in connection with public duties – amassed by the monarch and her family. Says Baker, “if it became publicly known how much had been bequeathed, the public might begin to question afresh the level of taxpayers’ support the royal family benefits from, or indeed begin asking how it was possible to accumulate such wealth in their lifetimes without seemingly having any external means to do so.” The 1911 ruling thus effectively sanctioned the siphoning off of civil list payments for private gain, giving legal cover to what had already become standard practice. Thus, by the time of Elizabeth Windsor’s sister Margaret’s death in 2002, she was believed to have amassed a fortune of £20 million. “Where did Princess Margaret get £20 million from?,” asks Norman Baker, “Even the generous largesses provided by taxpayers through the civil list cannot explain that.” Elizabeth’s mother, meanwhile, is believed to have left a fortune of £70 million, well beyond what she is believed to have inherited herself. And yet her spending far exceeded the £634,000 per year she received from the civil list, her private staff wage bill alone coming to £1.5 million per year. Comments Baker, “What is certain is that the sealing of royal wills does not allow the proper checks to be made to ensure that what properly belongs to the state has not slipped across into private property [of the Windsors].”
Popular unrest did not cease in the years after the war, and there was genuine fear of Bolshevism spreading throughout Europe following the epic events in Russia. 1919 saw a police strike in Liverpool, the growth of the militant ‘tripartite’ alliance between the dockers, railwaymen and miners’ unions, and the establishment of a workers’ Soviet in Glasgow, prompting Lloyd George to send in the tanks. The price of royal backup appreciated further. In 1921, just as the ‘Geddes Axe’ fell, decimating public services, the Prince of Wales was granted further tax concessions, enabling him to stash away £1million by the time he became King Edward VIII in 1936. In the 1930s, too, as the Great Depression took hold, King George V stopped paying tax on Duchy of Lancaster profits, with his entire tax levy dropped in 1937. Writes Baker, “Overall in the interwar period, royal taxes dropped while those for everyone else rose. This dichotomy became even more pronounced during World War Two.”
The end of the Second World War saw Soviet prestige at an all time high, a powerful workers’ movement (with military experience) across Europe, and anti-colonial insurgencies across the globe, a situation that largely pertained until well into the 1960s. In 1952, when Elizabeth Windsor took the throne, the civil list payments were extended from the monarch and her spouse to their entire extended family, today covering over 40 people. At the same time, the monarch was no longer required to pay tax on her investments. Up until George VI, monarchs had always paid such taxes, although George began the dubious practice of reclaiming it. In 2001, it was calculated that the Treasury had lost out an estimated £1 billion revenue in lost payments on the £200million stock market investment made by the Queen in 1952 alone. Also in 1952, it was agreed that the wages of workers employed on the upkeep of the palaces should be transferred from the monarch to the Ministry of Works, as well as further tax exemptions such as taxes on agricultural profits, a major windfall for the Duchies.
The era of neoliberalism, however, saw a reversal of workers’ power, and, especially after the defeat of the miners in 1985 and the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, bourgeois supremacy once again seemed guaranteed. The need for a royal coup seemed far off, and the period saw a corresponding limitation of handouts to the monarchy. In 1992, following a major fire at Windsor castle, the royals were left to fork out their own cash for the repairs, and a year later, Charles and Elizabeth actually started to pay income tax, including on their investment income. The Memorandum of Understanding that initiated this spelt out that this was a purely voluntary arrangement that the could rescind whenever they chose, but nevertheless, the fact it was agreed at all suggested that the royals had become aware that their financial privileges were now at risk. In 2000, the civil list payments were frozen for a period of ten years, with some expenditure previously paid for by government departments now to come out of those payments. This amounted to a real-terms cut, the closest the list had ever come to an actual cut.
The ‘neoliberal (domestic) peace’ did not last. The buildup to the war on Iraq would ultimately lead to the biggest ever demonstrations in British history, and the biggest backbench rebellion for 150 years. Luckily for the Blair government, the colonial left leadership of the Stop the War movement prevented this anger from being channelled into effective resistance, but such resistance had been a real possibility. Had even a fraction of the crowds that amassed in 2003 stayed for ongoing protest outside parliament, or heeded the anarchists’ calls for direct action at airbases, the situation could have quickly got out of hand. Thus in 2002, the era of containment of royal finances came to an end, and the convention banning the public from viewing royal wills was secretly – and without legal precedent or justification – made into law. Also during this period, some very dubious accounting practices – such as including the wages of 28 members of Charles’ personal staff, along with the jewellery, clothes, horses and bodyguards of his mistress Camilla, as tax deductible – were discretely ‘overlooked’ by the inland revenue. The result was that, by 2012, Charles was paying less than half a million pounds tax on £18 million of Duchy profits; the 1993 Memorandum of Understanding had now been virtually revoked in all but name.
The 2007-8 financial crisis was the biggest financial crash since the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and triggered a global slump from which the world has still not recovered. The danger of mass unrest suddenly became very real. To add to the fears, the election of 2010 was indecisive, threatening political stability just as economic and social stability was already on a knife-edge. The coalition government that emerged took the opportunity to restore owning-class fortunes through a massive attack on public spending through their flagship policy of ‘austerity.’ Cuts led to riots in 2010 and in 2011 following the police execution of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, at the same time as uprisings across the Gulf threatened the ruling families placed in power by the British. The threat to bourgeois order was as high as it had been at any time since the miners’ strike. Emergency powers suddenly did not seem so unthinkable.
Thus in 2011 was royal collaboration with such a path ensured by the biggest hike in royal finances since at least 1952. The Sovereign Grant Act finally overturned the 1760 deal with George III entirely, ushering in a massive and ongoing hike in taxpayer payments to the royals. For the first time since that deal, the link between royal fortunes and the Crown Estates was reestablished, with the civil list payments no longer based on an estimate (however fraudulent) of the legitimate expenses of the royals, but instead calculated as a proportion (15%, later increased to 25%) of the income from the (former) ‘Crown Estates’ that had been in effective public ownership since 1760, a massively retrograde step at a time of deepening mass poverty. In the first year – a time of severe wage cuts for the population at large – the civil list payments rose by well over 50% from just under £8million to almost £14 million. Similar rises followed year on year, taking the payment to a staggering £82.8 million by 2019, a more than tenfold increase from the pre-austerity amount. Furthermore, it was written into the Act that these payments could never be reduced, making permanent any temporary good fortune in the value of their estates, and immunising the royals against any collapse in the value of British real estate. The forthcoming auction of windfarm sites on Crown Estate land (which covers hundreds of miles of coastline) alone is likely to produce a windfall of hundreds of millions for the royals.
Since the bourgeois monarchy was first established in 1660, then, the pattern has been clear: when the capitalist order is under threat, the stock of the royals – as the ultimate counter-revolutionary backstop and ‘legitimising’ force for the imposition of rule by decree – increases. When the order is secure, it declines. The fact that royal handouts have increased tenfold in recent years, then, should be seen as a sign not so much of a ruling class so powerful it can plunder public funds with impunity, but of one with a desperate fear of the future, and of the masses, and with a total lack of faith in its own ability to rule by consent. Either way, the case for republicanism has never been clearer.
An interpretation of Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes, Celts who lived in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion (Image by Kate Spitzmiller). She lived at the same time as the more commonly remembered Queen Boudica, who fought the Romans. Cartimandua, instead, was what we would call today a "collaborationist". You might also call her a traitoress of her people, but so goes history. Can we learn something from the way the Romans subdued the Britons and incorporated them into their empire? As usual, history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot.
Martys' Mac argues in a recent post that the American Empire had some special characteristics that make it different from other empires, especially the Soviet one. According to him, the US has been more benign, more open, more willing to let its client states develop independently, both economically and culturally.
Marty's Mac is a sharp observer but, in this case, I think he missed some basic points. Empires (and states, as well) are all very similar to each other, and the US and the USSR are not exceptions, as noted for instance by Dmitry Orlov. Not that I pretend to know more than anyone else about the old Soviet Union, but I suggest caution when discussing such wide-ranging issues. The Soviet Union was a complex reality that, in the West, remained largely unknown, shadowed by a barrier of language and propaganda. And we must be careful about falling into the trap of thinking that anything real looks in any significant way like the portrait that propaganda paints of it.
This said, let's discuss Marty Mac's position. He starts with:
A traditional empire does not seek to enter into mutually beneficial economic arrangements with its neighbors, but to suck up neighboring resources for its own benefit.
Which is, by all means, true. But it describes not just empires, but also states and kingdoms. There is a general law called "the rich get richer" that creates a centralization phenomenon. In all states, resources move from the periphery to the center. Think about France, which is not an Empire, but where the size of the capital, Paris, is so much larger than any other French city that it is outside the normally used statistical models. To the point that a specific term has been invented for it, "The Dragon King."
The argument Marty Mac's makes is mostly based on a comparison between the Marshall plan that the US enacted after WW2 was over, with the equivalent for the Soviet Union, the less well-known Molotov plan.
The Soviet Union imposed severe reparations on its conquered territories. Romania was obligated to pay $300 million (in 1938 dollars, i.e., prior to war inflation) to its new Soviet masters; Hungary was also obligated to pay $300 million (200 to the USSR and 100 to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia). The on-paper equivalent of the Marshall Plan within the Soviet sphere was the Molotov Plan, which officially offered aid to conquered Eastern European nations. However, this assistance was meager at best (nations like Romania and Hungary still suffered under their war debts), and could reasonably be understood as a public relations effort at countering the Marshall Plan.
It is true that the Soviet Union was considerably more stingy toward its client states than the United States with theirs. But why did the two empires behave so differently? We could argue that it was because of some ideological differences, but also, more simply, structural ones. The Soviet Union was a rival of the American Empire, but it was also smaller and poorer. The population of the Warsaw Pact countries (Soviet Union+allies) was around 400 million, that of the NATO alliance (US+allies) was over 600 million. Then, in terms of GDP and expenses, I wrote in a previous post that,
...in order to survive, the Soviet Empire had to match the rival Western Empire in military terms. But the Soviet economy was much smaller: we can roughly estimate that it always was no more than about 40% of the US economy, alone. To match the huge Western economic and military machine, the Soviet Union needed to dedicate a large fraction of its economic output into the military system. Measuring this fraction has never been easy, but we can say that in absolute terms the Soviet military expenses nearly matched those of the US, although still remaining well below those of the NATO block. Another rough estimate is that during the cold war the Soviet Union spent about 20% of its gross domestic product on its military. Compare with the US: after WW2, military spending went gradually down from about 10% to the current value of about 2.4%. In relative terms, during the cold war, the USSR would normally spend at least four times more than the US for its military.
In short, the Soviet Union just could not afford costs equivalent to the Marshall plan. So, the behavior of the US empire was, and remains, dictated by practical factors rather than ideological ones. When the US had a considerable surplus, it could afford an extravaganza such as the Marshall plan. Not just an extravaganza, though. It was also a good investment since the European states were a much better barrier against a possible Soviet attack if they were economically strong. Note also that the economic aid of the Marshall plan didn't come without strings attached. To have the money, the Western European states had to cut all ties with the Soviet Union and with the states of the Warsaw Pact. And the local communist parties, at that time still relatively strong, were to be kept outside government coalitions.
Now, of course, things have changed a lot. In the grip of a terrible crisis, probably in its last gasps, the US empire can't even remotely conceive a new Marshall plan. On the contrary, it is behaving like the old Soviet Empire. The whole West is turning into a police state, where the government controls all the media and criminalizes dissent. Then, it is not surprising that the imperial center is extracting resources from its client states in Western Europe to the point of beggaring them.
The discussion could be long and detailed, and Marty's Mac post is much more detailed than the few concepts I have reported here. But I think that, as usual, we can find much food for thought in the behavior of past empires. In particular, I think that a good illustration of the behavior of empires is given by how the Romans dealt with the Britons during the period that goes from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD. We see how the annexation of the Britons was only in part obtained by a military invasion. Mostly, it was a question of assimilation. The Romans "romanized" the Britons, making them appreciate such things as Roman money and the luxury items that money could buy. Then, they tricked them into borrowing money from Rome and, finally, when they could not repay the debt, they used that as an excuse to seize their assets and their lands. The similarities between the behavior of the US empire with Western Europe are evident. First, they offered money to the Europeans to rebuild their economy, and now they are squeezing Europe dry.
It is the typical way of Empires: they work like pushers. First, they offer you cheap drugs, then if you don't pay for more doses, they may beat the pants off you, or kill you. In this, they are helped by the traitors that they can place at the top of the states they want to incorporate. Also here, we have an example in the story of Britannia, with Queen Cartimandua as a symmetric equivalent of Queen Boudicca. Whereas Boudicca is seen as a heroine who rebelled against the Romans, Cartimandua allied herself with them. History, as usual, rhymes. A modern incarnation of the collaborationist (or traitoress) Queen Cartimandua could be found in Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.
Below, a post that I published about Queen Boudica that illustrates the mechanism of corruption and assimilation that the Romans used to incorporate Britannia into their Empire.
The Queen and the Philosopher: War, Money, and Metals in Roman Britain
We know very little about _Queen Boudica of the Iceni (20 AD (?) - 61 AD) and most of what we know is probably deformed by Roman propaganda. But we may still be able to put together the main elements of her story and how it was that she almost threw the mighty Roman Legions out of Britain. Above, a fantasy interpretation of the Celtic Queen from "galleryhip.com" (This post was inspired by a note from Mireille Martini)_
You probably know the story of Queen Boudica. Tall, strong, and terrible, she was the embodiment of the fierce warrioress who fought - bravely but unsuccessfully - to defend her people from the oppression of an evil empire, that the Romans. It all happened during the reign of Emperor Nero, 1st century AD.
The passage of time has turned these events into legends, deformed by the lens of propaganda. But maybe we can still discern the reasons for Boudica's rebellion and learn something relevant for our times. As it often happens in history, to understand why something happens, you only need to follow the money. In this particular case, it is curious that the money that triggered the war may have been provided by no one else than Lucius Annaeus Seneca, yes, the Stoic philosopher. But it is a story that needs to be told from the beginning.
First of all, why were the Romans in Britain at the time of Queen Boudica? Simple: because of the British mineral resources. Britain had a long story of mining that went back to the Bronze Age and to even earlier times. The British mines could provide copper, tin, iron, lead, and even precious metals: gold and silver. These were all vital resources for the Roman Empire which used precious metals for coinage and all sort of metals for its various technologies.
The Romans already set foot in Britain at the time of Julius Caesar, in 55 BC. They set up a full-fledged invasion only in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius. But even before invading, according to Strabo's Geography, there was a brisk commercial network that connected Rome to Britain. The Britons exported metals and imported luxury goods of all sorts, silk, olive oil, food, slaves, and more.
It was all part of the way the Romans managed their empire. Their expansion was not simply a question of a blitzkrieg war machine. Invading a foreign kingdom was preceded by a long period of cultural and commercial assimilation and it was attempted only when it could provide a financial return. That required a certain degree of economic development of the regions being assimilated. It didn't work with the Germans, who had no mines and only a relatively primitive economy. And they were also a tough military force, able to defeat even the mighty Roman war machine - they did that at Teutoburg, in 9 AD. So, the Romans shifted their attention to the wealthier and metal-rich Britain. It worked: the invasion of 43 AD was relatively easy in military terms. Afterward, the mines increased their production by means of Roman technology, commerce boomed, new Roman settlements were built, and Britain started being romanized.
But something went badly wrong in 60 AD, when the Romans suddenly faced a major rebellion of the Iceni people living in Eastern England, led by their redoubtable queen, Boudica. At the end of this post, you can read the details of the story as we know it, told by Jason Porath in a light-hearted style. Summarizing, when Boudica's husband, King Prasotagus, died, the Romans intervened, seized his lands, had his widow flogged, and his daughters raped. The queen was not amused and the rebellion started with all the associated atrocities. Eventually, the Romans managed to get the upper hand and Boudica killed herself.
But what made the Romans behave in a way that was nearly sure to spark a rebellion? Maybe it was just their lust for power, but there is a detail told by Dio Cassius (vol VIII, Cassius Dio, Roman History, 62.2) that can help us understand what happened. Cassius says that Seneca (yes, he was a philosopher, but also a rich man) had lent to the Iceni a large sum of money and that the Iceni were unable to return it. That suggests that the key to the story was money.
According to Dio Cassius, we are talking of 40 million sesterces. What kind of money is that? It is not so easy for us to visualize this sum, but we know that in those times a Roman legionary was paid nine hundred sestertii per annum. So, 40 million sesterces could pay some 50 thousand troops for a year - a large military force for the time. From this and other data, we could say - very roughly - that the value of a sesterce was of the order of 50 dollars. So, 40 million sesterces could be compared to some two billion dollars today. Clearly, we are discussing of a large sum for a small economy such as that of the Iceni tribe had to be.
We don't know what King Prasotagus had in mind to do with that money, but we know that something went wrong. Dio Cassius faults Seneca himself for having precipitated the rebellion by insisting to have his money back. That Seneca did that out of personal greed seems to be unlikely, as discussed by Grimal. Cassius was writing more than a century after the events and he may have wanted to cast Seneca in a bad light for ideological reasons. But that's just a detail, what matters is that the Iceni (or, better said, the Iceni elite) defaulted on a large debt they had with the Romans.
In ancient times, defaulting on one's debt was a serious crime, so much that the early Roman laws punished it by having the debtor drawn and quartered. In Imperial times, there were considerably more lenient laws - but these laws very valid only for Roman citizens and Boudica was not one. In this light, flogging doesn't sound like an exaggerated punishment for defaulting on a large debt (2 billion dollars!). Even the rape of her daughters was not something unusual as a punishment for non-Roman citizens in those times. In any case, it is likely that the Romans didn't do what they did because they enjoyed torturing and raping women -- they used the default as an excuse to seize the Iceni kingdom. We can't even exclude that the loan was engineered from the beginning with the idea of annexing the kingdom to the Roman Empire.
Be it as it may, at this point, the Iceni elite had little choice: either lose everything or rebel against the largest military power of their time. Neither looked like a good choice, but they chose the one that turned out to be truly disastrous.
All that happened afterward was already written in the book of destiny - the archeological records tell us of cities burned to the ground, confirming the reports of initial Iceni victories told to us by Roman historians. Standard propaganda techniques probably caused the Romans to exaggerate the atrocities performed by the Iceni, just as the number of their fighters in order to highlight their own military prowess. Even Boudica herself was portrayed as a larger-than-life warrioress, but we can't even be completely sure that she actually existed. In any case, the revolt was bound to fail, and it did. In a few centuries, Boudica was forgotten by her own people: we have no mentions of her in the records from Celtic Britain. The Roman Empire faded, but the Roman influence on British customs and language remains visible to this day (and the ghost of the old queen may be pleased by the Brexit!).
What's most interesting in this story is the light it sheds on the inner workings of Empires. We tend to think that Empires exist because of their mighty armies - which is true, in part - but armies are not everything and in any case, the soldiers must be paid. Empires exist because they can control money, (or capital if you prefer). That's the real tool that builds empires: No money - no empire!
And that takes us to the current empire, the one we call the "American Empire" or "the "Western Empire." It does have mighty armies but, really, the grip it has on the world is all based on money. Without the mighty dollar, it is hard to think that the large military and commercial network we call "globalization" could exist.
So, can we think of a modern equivalent of the Iceni rebellion? Surely we can: think of the end of the Soviet Union. It was brought down in 1991 not by military means but by financial ones. The debt the Soviet Union had with the West is estimated at US$ 70 billion, in relative terms probably not far from the 40 million sesterces the Iceni owed to the Romans. Unable to repay this debt, the Soviet elites had only two choices: dissolve or fight. They made an attempt to fight with the "August Putsch" in 1991, but it rapidly fizzled out. There was no chance for the Soviet Communists to make a mistake similar to the one Queen Boudica made, that is starting a full-fledged military rebellion against a much more powerful enemy. That was good for everybody on this planet since the Soviet Union had nuclear warheads which might have been used in desperation. Fortunately, history doesn't always repeat itself!
But, if history doesn't repeat itself, at least it rhymes and the ability of the Western Empire to use financial means to bring countries into submission is well documented. Another, more recent, case, is that of Greece: again a nation that couldn't give back the money it owed to the imperial powers. For a short moment, in 2015, it looked like the Greeks had decided to rebel against the empire but, in the end, the Greek elites chose to submit. The punishment for the Greek citizens has been harsh but, at least, their country was not bombed and destroyed, as it happens rather often nowadays when the Imperial Powers that Be become angry.
But for how long will the Western Empire remain powerful? Just like for the Roman Empire, its destiny seems to be a cycle of growth and decline - and the decline may have already started as shown by the failure of the attempt of bankrupting the heir of the Soviet Union, Russia (again, fortunately for everybody, because Russia has nuclear weapons). The globalized empire seems to be getting weaker and weaker every day. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, only time will tell.
Beginning in 1949, the German Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss taught at the University of Chicago. He soon formed a small group of Jewish disciples from among his students. He taught them orally, which was quite different from his writings. According to him, the democracies had shown their inability to protect the Jews from the Nazi final solution. To prevent this tragedy from happening again and the hammer from falling on them, his disciples had to be on the other side of the handle.
He advised them to build their own dictatorship.
Organizing his followers, Leo Strauss called them his "hoplites" (soldiers of Sparta). He trained them to disrupt the classes of some of his fellow teachers.
Several of the members of this sect have held very high positions in the United States and Israel. The operation and ideology of this grouping were the subject of controversy after the attacks of September 11, 2001. An abundant literature has opposed the supporters and opponents of the philosopher. However, the facts are indisputable .
Anti-Semitic authors have wrongly lumped together Straussians, Jewish communities in the Diaspora and the State of Israel. However, the ideology of Leo Strauss was never discussed in the Jewish world before 9/11. From a sociological point of view, it is a sectarian phenomenon, not at all representative of Jewish culture. However, in 2003, Benjamin Netanyahu’s "revisionist Zionists" made a pact with the US Straussians, in the presence of other Israeli leaders . This alliance was never made public.
One of the characteristics of this group is that they are ready for anything. For example, they wanted to return Iraq to the stone age. This is indeed what they did. For them, all sacrifices are possible, including for themselves, as long as they remain the first; not the best, the first !
In 1992, an advisor to the Secretary of Defense, the Straussian Paul Wolfowitz, wrote the Defense Planning Guidance. It was the first official US document reflecting the thinking of Leo Strauss [(#nb4 "The 1976 report of the "B Team" accusing the USSR of wanting to dominate (...)")]. Wolfowitz was introduced to Strauss’ thought by the American philosopher Allan Bloom (a friend of the Frenchman Raymond Aron), but he himself only briefly knew the master at the end of his teaching in Chicago. However, the US ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, recognized him as "one of the great Straussian figures" .
In the context of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Wolfowitz developed a strategy to maintain US hegemony over the entire rest of the world.
The Defense Planning Guidance should have remained confidential, but the New York Times revealed its main lines and published extracts . Three days later, the Washington Post revealed further details . In the end, the original text was never made public, but a version edited by the Secretary of Defense (and future Vice President), Dick Cheney, was circulated.
It is known that the original document was based on a series of meetings in which two other people, all three Straussian, participated: Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon’s "thinker" (who was replaced three years after his death by Arthur Cebrowski), Albert Wohlstetter, the thinker of the atomic deterrence strategy, and his son-in-law Richard Perle, the future director of the Defense Policy Board. The Defense Planning Guidance was written by a student of Wohlstetter, Zalmay Khalilzad (future ambassador to the UN).
The document speaks of a new "world order [...] ultimately supported by the United States", in which the sole superpower would only have temporary alliances, depending on the conflict. The UN and even NATO would be increasingly sidelined. More broadly, the Wolfowitz Doctrine theorizes the need for the United States to block the emergence of any potential competitor to U.S. hegemony, especially "advanced industrial nations" such as Germany and Japan. Particularly targeted is the European Union: "While the United States supports the European integration project, we must be careful to prevent the emergence of a purely European security system that would undermine NATO, and particularly its integrated military command structure. The Europeans will thus be asked to include in the Maastricht Treaty a clause subordinating their defense policy to that of NATO, while the Pentagon report recommends the integration of the new Central and Eastern European states into the European Union, while giving them the benefit of a military agreement with the United States that would protect them against a possible Russian attack .
For thirty years, this document has been patiently implemented.
– The Maastricht Treaty includes a paragraph 4 in Title V, Article J4, which stipulates: "The policy of the Union within the meaning of this Article shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework. These provisions have been included in the various texts up to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union.
– The former Warsaw Pact member states have almost all joined the European Union. This decision was a choice imposed by Washington and announced by Secretary of State James Baker just before the European Council meeting that endorsed it.
In 2000, Paul Wolfowitz was, together with Zbignew Brzezinki, the main speaker at a large Ukrainian-US symposium in Washington, organized by Ukrainian "integral nationalists" who had taken refuge in the USA. There he pledged to support independent Ukraine, to provoke Russia to go to war with it, and ultimately to finance the destruction of the resurgent rival of the USA .
These commitments were implemented with the passage of the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 on April 28, 2022 . Ukraine is now exempt from all arms control procedures, including end-use certificates. Very expensive weapons are leased by the USA to the EU to defend Ukraine. When the war is over, the Europeans will have to pay for what they have consumed. And the bill will be heavy.
Victoria Nuland and Anthony Blinken in John Kerry’s office
Although the European elites have benefited from their alliance with the United States so far, they should not be surprised that the United States is now trying to destroy them under the Defense Planning Guidance. They have already seen what Washington was capable of after the 9/11 attacks: Paul Wolfowitz forbade countries that had expressed reservations about the war, such as Germany and France, to conclude contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq .
At present, the rise in the price of energy sources and their increasing scarcity threaten not only the heating and transportation of individuals, but above all the survival of all their industries. If this phenomenon continues, it is the economy of the European Union as a whole that will suddenly collapse, taking its population back at least a century.
This phenomenon is difficult to analyze because the prices and availability of energy sources vary according to many factors.
First, prices depend on supply and demand. As a result, they have risen with the overall economic recovery from the end of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Second, energy sources are the main targets of speculators. Even more so than currencies. The world price of oil can be multiplied by 2.5 just by the effect of speculation.
So far, everything is usual and known. But the Western sanctions against Russia, following its application of the Minsk II Agreement, for which it was the guarantor before the Security Council, have broken the world market. From now on, there is no longer a global price, but different prices according to the countries of the sellers and the customers. There are still prices quoted on the stock exchange in Wall Street and the City, but they bear no relation to those in Beijing and New Delhi.
Above all, oil and gas, which were abundant in the European Union, are starting to run out, while globally they are still in overabundance.
All our reference points have been turned upside down. Our statistical tools, designed for the global market, are not at all adapted to the current period. We can therefore only make assumptions, without any means of verifying them. This situation allows many people to talk nonsense with an air of authority; in fact, we are all evolving at a guessing pace.
One of the current factors is the reflux of dollars which were used for trade and speculation and which are no longer usable for these transactions in certain countries. This mostly virtual currency is leaving Russia and its allies to go to or return to the countries where it is still used. This is a gigantic phenomenon that the Federal Reserve and the US military have always wanted to avoid, but which the Straussians in the Biden administration (Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his deputy Victoria Nuland) have deliberately provoked.
Wrongly convinced that Russia has invaded Ukraine and is trying to annex it, the Europeans forbid themselves to trade with Moscow. In practice, they still consume Russian gas, but they are convinced that Gazprom will cut off their gas supply. For example, their press announced that the Russian company was closing the Nord Stream pipeline, although it had announced a three-day technical interruption. Normally, gas pipeline deliveries are interrupted for maintenance for two days every two months. Here, Gazprom was hampered in its maintenance by the Western blockade, which prevented the return of the turbines it had sent for repair to Canada. However, the population understood that the evil Russians had cut off their gas on the eve of winter.
The European propaganda aims to prepare public opinion for a definitive closure of the gas pipeline and to put the responsibility on Russia.
In this case, the leaders of the Union are simply implementing the directives of the Straussians. In doing so, they are scuttling European industry to the detriment of their citizens. Already some energy-intensive factories have reduced their production or even closed.
The process of decrepitude of the European Union will continue as long as no one dares to oppose it. To everyone’s surprise, a first pro-Russian demonstration was held on September 3 in Prague. The police admitted to 70,000 people (for a country of 10 million), but there were probably many more. Political commentators despise them and consider them "Putin’s useful idiots". But these insults do not mask the unease of European elites.
Energy experts consider power cuts throughout the Union inevitable. Only Hungary, which has previously obtained exemptions, could escape the rules of the single energy market. Those who can produce electricity will have to share it with those who cannot. It doesn’t matter whether this inability is the result of bad luck or short-sightedness.
Brussels should start with voltage reductions, then cut off at night, and finally during the day. Individuals will have difficulties to maintain elevators, to heat their homes in winter, to cook if they use electric plates and, those who use trains, buses or electric cars, should have difficulties to move. Energy-intensive businesses, such as blast furnaces, are expected to close. Infrastructures are expected to become impassable, such as long tunnels that can no longer be ventilated. Above all, electronic installations designed for continuous operation will not be able to withstand repeated interruptions. This will be the case, for example, for antennas that are essential for cell phone networks, which will be thrown away after three months of this treatment.
In third world countries where electricity is scarce, battery powered leds are used for lighting and UPS to power low consumption machines, such as computers or televisions. But these materials are currently not available in the EU.
The EU’s GDP has already fallen by almost 1%. Will this recession continue as the Straussians plan, or will the citizens of the Union interrupt it, as part of the Czech people are trying to do?
The Straussians will go all the way. They have taken advantage of the decadence of the United States to take over the real power. Since a junkie, never elected, can use official planes galore to do business all over the world , they have quietly moved into the shadow of President Biden and are governing in his place. European leaders, on the other hand, are either blind or too committed to stop, acknowledge their thirty years of mistakes and turn back.
What to remember:
- The Straussians are a fanatical sect ready to do anything to maintain the supremacy of the United States over the world. They imagined the wars that have plagued the world for the past thirty years and the one in Ukraine today.
- They persuaded the European Union that Moscow wanted to annex first Ukraine and then all of Central Europe. With that, they convinced Brussels to stop all trade with Russia.
- The energy crisis that is beginning is leading the European Union towards electricity and power cuts that will wreak havoc on the way of life of its citizens and on its economy.
In October 2011 and February 2012 the US-led NATO organisation, with the backing of the Gulf autocracies, tried to secure UN Security Council resolutions, which in all probability would have served as a pretext for an invasion of Syria.
These efforts replicated the deceptive game that America, Britain and France had played in obtaining a resolution regarding Libya, on 17 March 2011, which they immediately violated in bombing that country. By the autumn of 2011, Russia and China knew that US-NATO were attempting the same subterfuge again, in their desire to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Moscow and Beijing therefore vetoed the resolutions.
Not put off by these setbacks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lobbied heavily in 2012 for an attack on Syria. Clinton said she had the support of former CIA director Leon Panetta, and felt the Americans should have been “more willing to confront Assad”; she stressed “I still believe we should've done a no-fly zone”, the green light for a US-NATO invasion as was the case in Libya.
Clinton said she wanted to “move aggressively” against Syria and drew up a plan to do so, but it was never implemented (1). She had previously supported the US-led invasions of Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011).
In their policies towards Syria, Washington and NATO were adopting a similar stance to terrorist organisations like Al Qaeda, which was supporting the drive to oust Assad. On 27 July 2011, the new Al Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri outlined his solidarity with the extremists. Zawahiri called for Assad to go, and expressed regret that he could not be in Syria himself. “I would have been amongst you and with you” he said, but he continued that “there are enough and more Mujahideen and garrisoned ones” present in Syria already. He described Assad as “America's partner in the war on Islam”. (2)
Zawahiri did not mention that the Syrian president had opposed the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Assad was, in fact, the first Arab leader other than Saddam Hussein to condemn the attack. Less than 10 days into the invasion Assad predicted, “The United States and Britain will not be able to control all of Iraq. There will be much tougher resistance”. He said of the Anglo-American forces “we hope they do not succeed” in Iraq “and we doubt that they will – there will be Arab popular resistance and this has begun”. (3)
The revolts that began in Syria, during the spring of 2011, would have lasted for only a couple of months but for outside intervention that radicalised it (4). Syria did not have to endure the ensuing years of warfare, yet the foreign powers – notably the imperial triumvirate of America, Britain and France – had sustained it with the assistance of their allies from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, not to mention the jihadist groups. The opening protests in March 2011 were not against Assad to start with, but had been directed towards deficiencies at the provincial level.
Neil Quilliam, a scholar who specialises in the Middle East, said of the disharmony in Syria which began in the southern town of Daraa: “The rebellion as it started was very localized. It was much more to do with local grievances against local security chiefs – it was about corruption at the local level” (5). The unrest was erroneously depicted in the West as aimed at Assad's government. It was then exploited by the US-NATO powers to attempt regime change in Syria for geopolitical reasons.
Israel's military intelligence website, DEBKAfile, reported that since 2011 special forces from the British SAS and MI6 were training anti-Assad militants in Syria itself. Other UK personnel from the Special Boat Service (SBS) and the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), units of the British Armed Forces, had also been training combatants in Syria from 2011. Moreover, that same year French foreign agents of the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), and the Special Operations Command, were encouraging unrest against Assad. (6)
As 2011 advanced, the anti-Assad revolts were infiltrated by rising numbers of Al Qaeda fighters. On 12 February 2012, in an eight minute video Zawahiri urged jihadists in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan to come to the aid of their “brothers in Syria” and to give them “money, opinion, as well as information”. Zawahiri said that the America was insincere in demonstrating solidarity with them. (7)
Also in February 2012, Hillary Clinton admitted that Zawahiri “is supporting the opposition in Syria” and she intimated that the US was on the same side as him (8). Clinton promised that the Americans would continue to provide logistical help to the insurgents, so as to co-ordinate military operations.
Zawahiri's demand for jihad against Syria was supported by Al Qaeda's number two, Abu Yahya al-Libi. He was an extremist from Libya who had participated in the recent conflict against Muammar Gaddafi, alongside numerous other terrorists. Al-Libi said in a video from 18 October 2011, “We call on our brothers in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey to go to help their brothers [in Syria]” (9). By late 2011, there were links between the jihadists who overthrew Gaddafi, and those attempting to inflict a similar fate on Assad.
With the Russian and Chinese vetoes on the UN resolutions, Washington was unable to launch a large-scale invasion of Syria, but the goal of president Barack Obama and his allies remained that of regime change. Through 2011 and beyond, the leaders of America (Obama), Britain (David Cameron), France (Nicolas Sarkozy) and Germany (Angela Merkel) separately called for Assad to leave, disingenuously raising concerns over the Syrian people's plight.
Merkel for example, who had supported the US invasion of Iraq, said on 18 August 2011 that Assad should “face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people”. This allegation was repeated by other Western leaders, and likewise the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. It was completely false.
Less than six months later the English journalist Jonathan Steele, citing a reliable poll, noted that 55% of Syrians wanted Assad to remain as president. Steele wrote that this inconvenient reality “was ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country whose government has called for Assad to go”. (10)
For the West and its allies, as envisaged, Assad's fall would increase US power in the Mediterranean and Middle East, while delivering a blow to Russian, Iranian and Chinese influence. The Kremlin would have to abandon its naval base in Tartus, western Syria, pushing Russia out of the Mediterranean. Supply routes through which weaponry was delivered to Hezbollah, in nearby Lebanon, would also be eliminated.
With a Western-friendly regime in Syria, the noose would have been closed tighter around Iran. There are vast amounts of oil and gas beside the Syrian coastline in the Levantine Basin. However, Syria was a more difficult and complicated problem for US-NATO than the likes of Libya. In Syria the West was confronting the interests of Russia, China and Iran, three countries with ample resources and powerful militaries.
Meanwhile, the terrorists were starting to wreak havoc. Germany's intelligence agency BND informed the Bundestag (parliament) that, from late December 2011 until early July 2012, there were 90 terrorist attacks perpetrated in Syria by organisations tied to Al Qaeda and other extremist groups (11). The “moderates” were unleashing suicide and car bombings against Syrian government forces and civilians. One suicide raid on 18 July 2012 killed Assad's brother-in-law, General Assef Shawkat, and the Syrian defence minister, General Dawoud Rajiha. The Free Syrian Army, supported by US-NATO and the Gulf autocracies, claimed responsibility for this atrocity. (12)
The jihad only harmed and delegitimised the insurgents' aims, and effectively that of the West. The Syrian public could see, about a year into the war, that considerable numbers of those trying to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic were extremists. The terrorism ensured that defections to the opposition almost came to a halt.
From now on, the majority of military personnel remained loyal to Assad. More terrorist assaults in early October 2012 killed 40 people, consisting of four car bombings which damaged Aleppo's government district. This further undermined the insurgents. Al-Nusra Front, tied to Al Qaeda, took responsibility for these insane acts which served no purpose but to inflict bloodshed on innocent people. Suicide bombings grew in frequency.
The atrocities shocked Syria's populace and bolstered sympathy for Assad. The Syrian president undoubtedly reacted to the terrorist rampages with an iron fist; his response may have been influenced too by the ongoing threat of a US-NATO invasion, as Western politicians continued to call for his resignation.
Israel's head of military intelligence, Major-General Aviv Kochavi, informed the Israeli parliament in mid-July 2012 that “radical Islam” was gaining a foothold in Syria. Kochavi said, “We can see an ongoing flow of Al Qaeda and global jihad activists into Syria”. He was worried that “the Golan Heights could become an arena of activity against Israel” which was “as a result of growing jihad movement in Syria” (13). The Golan Heights, 40 miles south of Damascus, is Syrian territory under Israeli occupation since 1967. Kochavi felt that Assad “won't survive the upheaval”.
The Western-backed Free Syrian Army in part comprised of mercenaries recruited from Libya, along with Al Qaeda, Wahhabi and Salafist extremists. As the Al Qaeda boss Zawahiri had demanded, the radicals entered Syria from neighbouring Lebanon and NATO state Turkey, and were focused on prosecuting a sectarian war – through massacring Syria's ethnic groups such as the Alawites, Christians, Shia and Druze; that is, those mostly supportive of Assad whom the jihadists considered to be heretics.
The Syrian National Council (SNC), an anti-Assad entity based in Istanbul, Turkey, was established in August 2011. It had been organised by the special services of the Western powers, and was supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Turkey's leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to replace secularism with Islamism in Turkey, and he became centrally involved in fanning the flames of war in Syria. The Turks were acting as a US-NATO proxy force.
Erdogan allowed the Free Syrian Army to use Turkish bases in Antakya and Iskenderun, located in the far south of Turkey and beside the Syrian frontier. With Turkey's assistance, NATO arms were smuggled to the terrorists waging holy war on the Syrians. US intelligence agents were active in and around the southern Turkish city of Adana. (14)
Islamic jihadists arrived in Syria from distant European countries, such as Norway and Ireland; 100 of them alone entered Syria originating from Norway. Radical muslims of Uyghur ethnicity from Xinjiang province, north-western China, were fighting in Syria at the side of Al Qaeda from May 2012. The Uyghur militants belonged to the terrorist group, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), and also the East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association, the latter organisation centred in Istanbul. Al-Libi, Al Qaeda's second-in-command, publicly championed the TIP's terrorist campaign against China's authorities in Xinjiang.
In all, jihadists from 14 African, Asian and European countries were estimated to be present in Syria from early in the conflict (15). They came from such states as Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc. This was partly a consequence and spillover of the March 2011 US-NATO invasion of Libya. In early 2012, more than 10,000 Libyan mercenaries were trained in Jordan, bordering Syria to the south. The militants were each paid $1,000 a month by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in order to encourage them to participate in the war on Syria. The Saudis were shipping weapons to the most extreme elements in Syria, something which Riyadh never denied.
In early August 2012, Assadist special forces captured 200 insurgents in an Aleppo suburb in north-western Syria. Government soldiers found Saudi and Turkish officers commanding the mercenaries. During early October 2012, in another district of Aleppo (Bustan al-Qasr), Assad's divisions repelled an attack and killed dozens of armed militia. They had entered Syria through Turkey and among them were four Turkish officers. Beside the American air base at Incirlik in southern Turkey, the jihadists received special training in modern weapons of war: anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, grenade launchers and US-made stinger missiles.
NATO aircraft, flying without insignia or coat of arms, were landing in Turkish military bases near Iskenderun, beside Syria's border. They carried armaments from Gaddafi's arsenals, as well as taking Libyan mercenaries to join the Free Syrian Army. Instructors from the British special forces continued to co-operate with the insurgents. The CIA, and contingents from the US Special Operations Command, were dispensing with and operating telecommunications equipment, allowing the “rebels” to evade Syrian Army units (16). The CIA was flying drones over Syria to gather intelligence.
In September 2012, nearly 50 high-ranking agents from the US, Britain, France and Germany were active along the Syrian-Turkish frontier (17). The Germans, at the behest of their intelligence service BND, were operating a spy service boat 'Oker (A 53)' in the Mediterranean, not far from Syria's western coastline. On board this vessel were 40 commandos specialising in intelligence operations, using electromagnetic and hydro-acoustic equipment. As Germany is a NATO member, these activities were most probably undertaken in agreement with Washington.
The Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) stationed two other intelligence ships in the Mediterranean, 'Alster (A 50)' and 'Oste (A 52)', collecting intelligence on Syrian Army positions. The BND president Gerhard Schindler confirmed of Syria that Berlin desired “a solid insight into the state of the country”. (18)
The German ships' point of support was Incirlik Air Base, which is home to 50 US nuclear bombs and hosts the Anglo-American air forces. The German vessels' mission was to decipher Syria's telecommunications signals, intercept messages from the Syrian government and chiefs of staff, and to uncover Assadist troop locations up to a radius of 370 miles off the coast, through satellite images.
Germany had a permanent listening post in Adana, southern Turkey, where they could intercept all calls made in Syria's capital Damascus (19). Merkel's government inevitably denied accusations that the German Navy was spying in the Mediterranean; it is the type of activity that few countries claim responsibility for.
1 The Week, “Hillary Clinton: I would have taken on Assad”, 7 April 2012
2 Joby Warrick, “Zawahiri asserts common cause with Syrians”, Washington Post, 27 July 2011
3 Jonathan Steele, “Assad predicts defeat for invasion force”, The Guardian, 28 March 2003
4 Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira, The Second Cold War: Geopolitics and the Strategic Dimensions of the USA (Springer 1st ed., 23 June 2017) p. 283
5 Sarah Burke, “How Syria's 'geeky' president went from doctor to 'dictator'”, NBC News, 30 October 2015
6 Bandeira, The Second Cold War, p. 246
7 Martina Fuchs, “Al Qaeda leader backs Syrian revolt against Assad”, Reuters, 12 February 2012
8 Wyatt Andrews, “Clinton: Arming Syrian rebels could help Al Qaeda”, CBS News, 27 February 2012
9 Reuters, “Islamist website posts video of Al Qaeda figure”, 13 June 2012
10 Jonathan Steele, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from Western media”, The Guardian, 17 January 2012
11 Bandeira, The Second Cold War, p. 269
12 Matt Brown, “Syrian ministers killed in Damascus bomb attack”, ABC News, 18 July 2012
13 Space Daily, “Assad moving troops from Golan to Damascus: Israel”, 17 July 2012
14 Bandeira, The Second Cold War, p. 264
15 Ibid., p. 265
16 Philip Giraldi, “NATO vs. Syria”, The American Conservative, 19 December 2011
17 Hürriyet Daily News, “There are 50 senior agents in Turkey, ex-spy says”, 16 September 2012
18 Thorsten Jungholt, “The Kiel-Syria connection”, Die Welt, 20 August 2012
19 Bandeira, The Second Cold War, p. 268
Dmitry Trenin: Six months into the conflict, what exactly does Russia hope to achieve in Ukraine? — RT Russia & Former Soviet Union
For about six years after the second Minsk Agreement was signed in 2015, the Kremlin tried hard to get that accord implemented. It would have ensured the autonomous status of Donbass within Ukraine and given the region influence on national politics and policies, including in the issue of the country’s geopolitical and geo-economic orientation. From the very start, however, Kiev was unwilling to cooperate on the deal’s implementation, seeing it as a win for Moscow. Washington, in pursuit of a policy to contain Russia, encouraged such an obstructionist stance, while Berlin and Paris, formally the guarantors of the agreement (alongside Russia), had no leverage in Kiev and ended up embracing the Ukrainian position.
Vladimir Zelensky’s election to Ukraine’s presidency in 2019 initially appeared to be an opening for peace, and President Putin made a serious effort to get the Minsk agreement off the ground. Kiev, however, soon backtracked and took an even more hardline position than before. Nevertheless, until mid-2021 the Kremlin continued to see as its goals in Ukraine a resolution of the Donbass issue essentially on the basis of Minsk, and the eventual de facto recognition of Crimea’s Russian status. In June of last year, Vladimir Putin, however, published a long article on Russian-Ukrainian relations which made it clear that he viewed the current situation as a major security, political, and identity issue for his country; recognized his personal responsibility; and was resolved to do something to strategically correct it. The article did not give away Putin’s game plan, but it laid out his basic thinking on Ukraine.
Last December, Moscow passed on to Washington a package of proposals, which amounted to a list of security guarantees for Russia. These included Ukraine’s formal neutrality between Russia and NATO (“no Ukraine in NATO”); and no deployment of US and other NATO weapons and military bases in Ukraine, as well as a ban on military exercises on Ukrainian territory (“no NATO in Ukraine”). While the US agreed to discuss some military technical issues dealt with in the Russian paper it rejected Moscow’s key demands related to Ukraine and NATO. Putin had to take no for an answer.
Just before the launch of its military operation, Moscow recognized the two Donbass republics and told Kiev to vacate the parts of Donetsk and Lugansk then under Ukrainian control – or face the consequences. Kiev refused, and hostilities began. Russia’s official reason for unleashing force was defending the two newly recognized republics which had asked for military assistance.
Shortly after the start of hostilities Russia and Ukraine began peace talks. In late March 2022 at a meeting in Istanbul, Moscow demanded that Zelensky’s government recognize the sovereignty of the two Donbass republics within their constitutional borders, as well as Russia’s own sovereignty over Crimea, which was formally incorporated into the Russian Federation in 2014, plus accept a neutral and demilitarized status for territory controlled by Kiev. At that point, Moscow still recognized the current Ukrainian authorities and was prepared to deal with them directly. For its part, Kiev initially appeared ready to accept Moscow’s demands (which were criticized by many within Russia as overly concessionary to Ukraine), but then quickly reverted to a hardline stance. Moscow has always suspected that this U-turn, as on previous occasions, was the result of US behind-the-scenes influence, often aided by the British and other allies.
From the spring of 2022, as the fighting continued, Moscow expanded its aims. These now included the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, meaning not only the removal of ultra-nationalist and anti-Russian elements from the Ukrainian government (increasingly characterized by Russian officials now as the “Kiev regime”), but the extirpation of their underlying ideology (based around the World War Two Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera) and its influence in society, including in education, the media, culture and other spheres.
Next to this, Moscow added something that Putin called, in his trademark caustic way, the “de-Communization” of Ukraine, meaning ridding that country, whose leadership was rejecting its Soviet past, of the Russian-populated or Russian-speaking territories that had been awarded to the Soviet Ukrainian republic of the USSR by the Communist leaders in Moscow, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev. These include, besides Donbass, the entire southeast of Ukraine, from Kharkov to Odessa.
This change of policy led to dropping the early signals about Russia honoring Ukraine’s statehood outside Donbass, and to establishing Russian military government bodies in the territory seized by the Russian forces. Immediately following that, a drive started to de facto integrate these territories with Moscow. By the early fall of 2022, all of Kherson, much of Zaporozhye and part of Kharkov oblasts were being drawn into the Russian economic system; started to use the Russian ruble; adopted the Russian education system; and their population was offered a fast-track way to Russian citizenship.
As the fighting in Ukraine quickly became a proxy war between Russia and the US-led West, Russia’s views on Ukraine’s future radicalized further. While a quick cessation of hostilities and a peace settlement on Russian terms in the spring would have left Ukraine, minus Donbass, demilitarized and outside NATO, but otherwise under the present leadership with its virulently anti-Russian ideology and reliance on the West, the new thinking, as Putin’s remarks in Kaliningrad suggest, tends to regard any Ukrainian state that is not fully and securely cleansed of ultranationalist ideology and its agents as a clear and present danger; in fact, a ticking bomb right on Russia’s borders not far from its capital.
Under these circumstances, in view of all the losses and hardships sustained, it would not suffice that Russia wins control of what was once known as Novorossiya, the northern coast of the Black Sea all the way to Transnistria. This would mean that Ukraine would be completely cut off from the sea, and Russia would gain – via referenda, it is assumed – a large swath of territory and millions of new citizens. To reach that objective, of course, the Russian forces still need to seize Nikolaev and Odessa in the south, as well as Kharkov in the east. A logical next step would be to expand Russian control to all of Ukraine east of the Dnieper River, as well as the city of Kiev that lies mostly on the right bank. If this were to happen, the Ukrainian state would shrink to the central and western regions of the country.
Neither of these outcomes, however, deals with the fundamental problem that Putin has highlighted, that is to say, of Russia having to live side-by-side with a state that will constantly seek revenge and will be used by the United States, which arms and directs it, in its effort to threaten and weaken Russia. This is the main reason behind the argument for taking over the entire territory of Ukraine to the Polish border. However, integrating central and western Ukraine into Russia would be exceedingly difficult, while trying to build a Ukrainian buffer state controlled by Russia would be a major drain on resources, as well as a constant headache. No wonder that some in Moscow would not mind if Poland were to absorb western Ukraine within some form of a common political entity which, Russia’s foreign intelligence claims, is being surreptitiously created.
Ukraine’s future will not be dictated, of course, by someone’s wishes, but by the actual developments on the battlefield. Fighting there will continue for some time, and the final outcome is not in sight. Even when the active phase of the conflict comes to an end, it is unlikely to be followed up by a peace settlement. For different reasons, each side regards the conflict as existential – and much wider than Ukraine. This means that what Russia aims for has to be won and then held firmly.
We are pleased to bring you this fresh interview with Jacques Baud, in which we cover what is now happening in the geopolitical struggle that is the Ukraine-Russia war. As always, Mr. Baud brings deep insight and clear analysis to the conversation.
The Postil (TP): You have just published your latest book on the war in Ukraine—Operation Z, published by Max Milo. Please tell us a little about it—what led you to write this book and what do you wish to convey to readers?
Jacques Baud (JB): The aim of this book is to show how the misinformation propagated by our media has contributed to push Ukraine in the wrong direction. I wrote it under the motto “from the way we understand crises derives the way we solve them.”
By hiding many aspects of this conflict, the Western media has presented us with a caricatural and artificial image of the situation, which has resulted in the polarization of minds. This has led to a widespread mindset that makes any attempt to negotiate virtually impossible.
The one-sided and biased representation provided by mainstream media is not intended to help us solve the problem, but to promote hatred of Russia. Thus, the exclusion of disabled athletes, cats, even Russian trees from competitions, the dismissal of conductors, the de-platforming of Russian artists, such as Dostoyevsky, or even the renaming of paintings aims at excluding the Russian population from society! In France, bank accounts of individuals with Russian-sounding names were even blocked. Social networks Facebook and Twitter have systematically blocked the disclosure of Ukrainian crimes under the pretext of “hate speech” but allow the call for violence against Russians.
None of these actions had any effect on the conflict, except to stimulate hatred and violence against the Russians in our countries. This manipulation is so bad that we would rather see Ukrainians die than to seek a diplomatic solution. As Republican Senator Lindsey Graham recently said, it is a matter of letting the Ukrainians fight to the last man.
It is commonly assumed that journalists work according to standards of quality and ethics to inform us in the most honest way possible. These standards are set by the Munich Charter of 1971. While writing my book I found out that no French-speaking mainstream media in Europe respects this charter as far as Russia and China are concerned. In fact, they shamelessly support an immoral policy towards Ukraine, described by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico, as “We provide the weapons, you provide the corpses!”
To highlight this misinformation, I wanted to show that information allowing to provide a realistic picture of the situation was available as early as February, but that our media did not relay it to the public. My goal was to show this contradiction.
In order to avoid becoming a propagandist myself in favor of one side or the other, I have relied exclusively on Western, Ukrainian (from Kiev) and Russian opposition sources. I have not taken any information from the Russian media.
TP: It is commonly said in the West that this war has “proven” that the Russian army is feeble and that its equipment is useless. Are these assertions true?
JB: No. After more than six months of war, it can be said that the Russian army is effective and efficient, and that the quality of its command & control far exceeds what we see in the West. But our perception is influenced by a reporting that is focused on the Ukrainian side, and by distortions of reality.
Firstly, there is the reality on the ground. It should be remembered that what the media call “Russians” is in fact a Russian-speaking coalition, composed of professional Russian fighters and soldiers of the popular militias of Donbass. The operations in the Donbass are mainly carried out by these militias, who fight on “their” terrain, in towns and villages they know and where they have friends and family. They are therefore advancing cautiously for themselves, but also to avoid civilian casualties. Thus, despite the claims of western propaganda, the coalition enjoys a very good popular support in the areas it occupies.
Then, just looking at a map, you can see that the Donbass is a region with a lot of built-up and inhabited areas, which means an advantage for the defender and a reduced speed of progress for the attacker in all circumstances.
Secondly, there is the way our media portray the evolution of the conflict. Ukraine is a huge country and small-scale maps hardly show the differences from one day to another. Moreover, each side has its own perception of the progress of the enemy. If we take the example of the situation on March 25, 2022, we can see that the map of the French daily newspaper Ouest-France (a) shows almost no advance of Russia, as does the Swiss RTS site (b). The map of the Russian website RIAFAN (c) may be propaganda, but if we compare it with the map of the [French Military Intelligence Directorate](https://www.defense.gouv.fr/sites/default/files/ministere-armees/Situation Ukraine au 25 mars.pdf) (DRM) (d), we see that the Russian media is probably closer to the truth. All these maps were published on the same day, but the French newspaper and the Swiss state media did not choose to use the DRM map and preferred to use a Ukrainian map. This illustrates that our media work like propaganda outlets.
Figure 1 – Comparison of the maps presented in our media on 25 March 2022. It is this way of presenting the Russian offensive that has led to the assertion that the Russian army is weak. It also shows that the information provided by the Russian media seems closer to reality than that given by Ukraine.
Thirdly, our “experts” have themselves determined the objectives of the Russian offensive. By claiming that Russia wanted to take over Ukraine and its resources, to take over Kiev in two days, etc., our experts have literally invented and attributed to the Russians objectives that Putin never mentioned. In May 2022, Claude Wild, the Swiss ambassador in Kiev, declared on RTS that the Russians had “lost the battle for Kiev.” But in reality, there was never a “battle for Kiev.” It is obviously easy to claim that the Russians did not reach their objectives—if they never tried to reach them!
Fourthly, the West and Ukraine have created a misleading picture of their adversary. In France, Switzerland and Belgium, none of the military experts on television have any knowledge of military operations and how the Russians conduct theirs. Their “expertise” comes from the rumours from the war in Afghanistan or Syria, which are often merely Western propaganda. These experts have literally falsified the presentation of Russian operations.
Thus, the objectives announced as early as February 24 by Russia were the “demilitarization” and “denazification” of the threat to the populations of Donbass. These objectives are related to the neutralization of capabilities, not the seizure of land or resources. To put it bluntly, in theory, to achieve their goals the Russians do not need to advance—it would be enough if Ukrainians themselves would come and get killed.
In other words, our politicians and media have pushed Ukraine to defend the terrain like in France during the First World War. They pushed Ukrainian troops to defend every square meter of ground in “last stand” situations. Ironically, the West has only made the Russians’ job easier.
In fact, as with the war on terror, Westerners see the enemy as they would like him to be, not as he is. As Sun Tzu said 2,500 years ago, this is the best recipe for losing a war.
One example is the so-called “hybrid war” that Russia is allegedly waging against the West. In June 2014, as the West tried to explain Russia’s (imaginary) intervention in the Donbass conflict, Russia expert Mark Galeotti “revealed” the existence of a doctrine that would illustrate the Russian concept of hybrid warfare. Known as the “Gerasimov Doctrine,” it has never really been defined by the West as to what it consists of and how it could ensure military success. But it is used to explain how Russia wages war in Donbass without sending troops there and why Ukraine consistently loses its battles against the rebels. In 2018, realizing that he was wrong, Galeotti apologized—courageously and intelligently—in an article titled, “I’m Sorry for Creating the Gerasimov Doctrine” published in Foreign Policy magazine.
Despite this, and without knowing what it meant, our media and politicians continued to pretend that Russia was waging a hybrid war against Ukraine and the West. In other words, we imagined a type of war that does not exist and we prepared Ukraine for it. This is also what explains the challenge for Ukraine to have a coherent strategy to counter Russian operations.
The West does not want to see the situation as it really is. The Russian-speaking coalition has launched its offensive with an overall strength inferior to that of the Ukrainians in a ratio of 1-2:1. To be successful when you are outnumbered, you must create local and temporary superiorities by quickly moving your forces on the battlefield.
This is what the Russians call “operational art” (operativnoe iskoustvo). This notion is poorly understood in the West. The term “operational” used in NATO has two translations in Russian: “operative” (which refers to a command level) and “operational” (which defines a condition). It is the art of maneuvering military formations, much like a chess game, in order to defeat a superior opponent.
For example, the operation around Kiev was not intended to “deceive” the Ukrainians (and the West) about their intentions, but to force the Ukrainian army to keep large forces around the capital and thus “pin them down.” In technical terms, this is what is called a “shaping operation.” Contrary to the analysis of some “experts,” it was not a “deception operation,” which would have been conceived very differently and would have involved much larger forces. The aim was to prevent a reinforcement of the main body of the Ukrainian forces in the Donbass.
The main lesson of this war at this stage confirms what we know since the Second World War: the Russians master the operational art.
TP: Questions about Russia’s military raises the obvious question—how good is Ukraine’s military today? And more importantly, why do we not hear so much about the Ukrainian army?
JB: The Ukrainian servicemen are certainly brave soldiers who perform their duty conscientiously and courageously. But my personal experience shows that in almost every crisis, the problem is at the head. The inability to understand the opponent and his logic and to have a clear picture of the actual situation is the main reason for failures.
Since the beginning of the Russian offensive, we can distinguish two ways of conducting the war. On the Ukrainian side, the war is waged in the political and informational spaces, while on the Russian side the war is waged in the physical and operational space. The two sides are not fighting in the same spaces. This is a situation that I described in 2003 in my book, La guerre asymétrique ou la défaite du vainqueur (Asymmetric War, or the Defeat of the Winner). The trouble is that at the end of the day, the reality of the terrain prevails.
On the Russian side, decisions are made by the military, while on the Ukrainian side, Zelensky is omnipresent and the central element in the conduct of the war. He makes operational decisions, apparently often against the military’s advice. This explains the rising tensions between Zelensky and the military. According to Ukrainian media, Zelensky could dismiss General Valery Zoluzhny by appointing him Minister of Defence.
The Ukrainian army has been extensively trained by American, British and Canadian officers since 2014. The trouble is that for over 20 years, Westerners have been fighting armed groups and scattered adversaries and engaged entire armies against individuals. They fight wars at the tactical level and somehow have lost the ability to fight at the strategic and operative levels. This explains partly why Ukraine is waging its war at this level.
But there is a more conceptual dimension. Zelensky and the West see war as a numerical and technological balance of forces. This is why, since 2014, the Ukrainians have never tried to seduce the rebels and they now think that the solution will come from the weapons supplied by the West. The West provided Ukraine with a few dozen M777 guns and HIMARS and MLRS missile launchers, while Ukraine had several thousand equivalent artillery pieces in February. The Russian concept of “correlation of forces,” takes into account many more factors and is more holistic than the Western approach. That is why the Russians are winning.
To comply with ill-considered policies, our media have constructed a virtual reality that gives Russia the bad role. For those who observe the course of the crisis carefully, we could almost say they presented Russia as a “mirror image” of the situation in Ukraine. Thus, when the talk about Ukrainian losses began, Western communication turned to Russian losses (with figures given by Ukraine).
The so-called “counter-offensives” proclaimed by Ukraine and the West in Kharkov and Kherson in April-May were merely “counter-attacks.” The difference between the two is that counter-offensive is an operational notion, while counter-attack is a tactical notion, which is much more limited in scope. These counterattacks were possible because the density of Russian troops in these sectors was then 1 Battle Group (BTG) per 20 km of front. By comparison, in the Donbass sector, which was the primary focus, the Russian coalition had 1-3 BTG per km. As for the great August offensive on Kherson, which was supposed to take over the south of the country, it seems to have been nothing but a myth to maintain Western support.
Today, we see that the claimed Ukrainian successes were in fact failures. The human and material losses that were attributed to Russia were in fact more in line with those of Ukraine. In mid-June, David Arakhamia, Zelensky’s chief negotiator and close adviser, spoke of 200 to 500 deaths per day, and he mentioned casualties (dead, wounded, captured, deserters) of 1,000 men per day. If we add to this the renewed demands for arms by Zelensky, we can see that the idea of a victory for Ukraine appears quite an illusion.
Because Russia’s economy was thought to be comparable to Italy’s, it was assumed that it would be equally vulnerable. Thus, the West—and the Ukrainians—thought that economic sanctions and political isolation of Russia would quickly cause its collapse, without passing through a military defeat. Indeed, this is what we understand from the interview of Oleksei Arestovich, Zelensky’s advisor and spokesman, in March 2019. This also explains why Zelensky did not sound the alarm in early 2022, as he says in his interview with the Washington Post. I think he knew that Russia would respond to the offensive Ukraine was preparing in the Donbass (which is why the bulk of his troops were in that area) and thought that sanctions would quickly lead to Russia’s collapse and defeat. This is what Bruno Le Maire, the French Minister of the Economy, had “predicted.” Clearly, the Westerners have made decisions without knowing their opponent.
As Arestovich said, the idea was that the defeat of Russia would be Ukraine’s entry ticket to NATO. So, the Ukrainians were pushed to prepare an offensive in the Donbass in order to make Russia react, and thus obtain an easy defeat through devastating sanctions. This is cynical and shows how much the West—led by the Americans—has misused Ukraine for its own objectives.
The result is that the Ukrainians did not seek Ukraine’s victory, but Russia’s defeat. This is very different and explains the Western narrative from the first days of the Russian offensive, which prophesied this defeat.
But the reality is that the sanctions did not work as expected, and Ukraine found itself dragged into combats that it had provoked, but for which it was not prepared to fight for so long.
This is why, from the outset, the Western narrative presented a mismatch between media reported and the reality on the ground. This had a perverse effect: it encouraged Ukraine to repeat its mistakes and prevented it from improving its conduct of operations. Under the pretext of fighting Vladimir Putin, we pushed Ukraine to sacrifice thousands of human lives unnecessarily.
From the beginning, it was obvious that the Ukrainians were consistently repeating their mistakes (and even the same mistakes as in 2014-2015), and soldiers were dying on the battlefield. For his part, Volodymyr Zelensky called for more and more sanctions, including the most absurd ones, because he was led to believe that they were decisive.
I am not the only one to have noticed these mistakes, and Western countries could certainly have stopped this disaster. But their leaders, excited by the (fanciful) reports of Russian losses and thinking they were paving the way for regime change, added sanctions to sanctions, turning down any possibility of negotiation. As the French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire said, the objective was to provoke the collapse of the Russian economy and make the Russian people suffer. This is a form of state terrorism: the idea is to make the population suffer in order to push it into revolting against its leaders (here, Putin). I am not making this up. This mechanism is detailed by Richard Nephew, head of sanctions at the State Department under Obama and currently Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, in his book entitled, The Art of Sanctions. Ironically, this is exactly the same logic that the Islamic State invoked to explain its attacks in France in 2015-2016. France probably does not encourage terrorism—but it does practice it.
The mainstream media do not present the war as it is, but as they would like it to be. This is pure wishful thinking. The apparent public support for the Ukrainian authorities, despite huge losses (some mention 70,000-80,000 fatalities), is achieved by banning the opposition, a ruthless hunt for officials who disagree with the government line, and “mirror” propaganda that attributes to the Russians the same failures as the Ukrainians. All this with the conscious support of the West.
TP: What should we make of the explosion at the Saki airbase in the Crimea?
JB: I do not know the details of the current security situation in Crimea. . We know that before February there were cells of volunteer fighters of Praviy Sektor (a neo-Nazi militia) in Crimea, ready to carry out terrorist-type attacks. Have these cells been neutralized? I don’t know; but one can assume so, since there is apparently very little sabotage activity in Crimea. Having said that, let us not forget that Ukrainians and Russians have lived together for many decades and there are certainly pro-Kiev individuals in the areas taken by the Russians. It is therefore realistic to think that there could be sleeper cells in these areas.
More likely it is a campaign conducted by the Ukrainian security service (SBU) in the territories occupied by the Russian-speaking coalition. This is a terrorist campaign targeting pro-Russian Ukrainian personalities and officials. It follows major changes in the leadership of the SBU, in Kiev, and in the regions, including Lvov, Ternopol since July. It is probably in the context of this same campaign that Darya Dugina was assassinated on August 21. The objective of this new campaign could be to convey the illusion that there is an ongoing resistance in the areas taken by the Russians and thus revive Western aid, which is starting to fatigue.
These sabotage activities do not really have an operational impact and seem more related to a psychological operation. It may be that these are actions like the one on Snake Island at the beginning of May, intended to demonstrate to the international public that Ukraine is acting.
What the incidents in Crimea indirectly show is that the popular resistance claimed by the West in February does not exist. It is most likely the action of Ukrainian and Western (probably British) clandestine operatives. Beyond the tactical actions, this shows the inability of the Ukrainians to activate a significant resistance movement in the areas seized by the Russian-speaking coalition.
TP: Zelensky has famously said, “Crimea is Ukrainian and we will never give it up.” Is this rhetoric, or is there a plan to attack Crimea? Are there Ukrainian operatives inside Crimea?
JB: First of all, Zelensky changes his opinion very often. In March 2022, he made a proposal to Russia, stating that he was ready to discuss a recognition of Russian sovereignty over the peninsula. It was upon the intervention of the European Union and Boris Johnson on 2 April and on 9 April that he withdrew his proposal, despite Russia’s favorable interest.
It is necessary to recall some historical facts. The cession of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 was never formally validated by the parliaments of the USSR, Russia and Ukraine during the communist era. Moreover, the Crimean people agreed to be subject to the authority of Moscow and no longer of Kiev as early as January 1991. In other words, Crimea was independent from Kiev even before Ukraine became independent from Moscow in December 1991.
In July, Aleksei Reznikov, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, spoke loudly of a major counter-offensive on Kherson involving one million men to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity. In reality, Ukraine has not managed to gather the troops, armor and air cover needed for this far-fetched offensive. Sabotage actions in Crimea may be a substitute for this “counter-offensive.” They seem to be more of a communication exercise than a real military action. These actions seem to be aimed rather at reassuring Western countries which are questioning the relevance of their unconditional support to Ukraine.
TP: Would you tell us about the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility?
JB: In Energodar, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), has been the target of several attacks by artillery, which Ukrainians and Russians attribute to the opposing side.
What we know is that the Russian coalition forces have occupied the ZNPP site since the beginning of March. The objective at that time was to secure the ZNPP quickly, in order to prevent it from being caught up in the fighting and thus avoid a nuclear incident. The Ukrainian personnel who were in charge of it have remained on site and continue to work under the supervision of the Ukrainian company Energoatom and the Ukrainian nuclear safety agency (SNRIU). There is therefore no fighting around the plant.
It is hard to see why the Russians would shell a nuclear plant that is under their control. This allegation is even more peculiar since the Ukrainians themselves state that there are Russian troops in the premises of the site. According to a French “expert,” the Russians would attack the power plant they control to cut off the electricity flowing to Ukraine. Not only would there be simpler ways to cut off the electricity to Ukraine (a switch, perhaps?), but Russia has not stopped the electricity supply to the Ukrainians since March. Moreover, I remind you that Russia has not stopped the flow of natural gas to Ukraine and has continued to pay Ukraine the transit fees for gas to Europe. It is Zelensky who decided to shut down the Soyuz pipeline in May.
Moreover, it should be remembered that the Russians are in an area where the population is generally favorable to them and it is hard to understand why they would take the risk of a nuclear contamination of the region.
In reality, the Ukrainians have more credible motives than the Russians that may explain such attacks against the ZNPP. , which are not mutually exclusive: an alternative to the big counter-offensive on Kherson, which they are not able to implement, and to prevent the planned referendums in the region. Further, Zelensky’s calls for demilitarizing the area of the power plant and even returning it to Ukraine would be a political and operational success for him. One might even imagine that they seek to deliberately provoke a nuclear incident in order to create a “no man’s land” and thus render the area unusable for the Russians.
By bombing the plant, Ukraine could also be trying to pressure the West to intervene in the conflict, under the pretext that Russia is seeking to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid before the fall. This suicidal behavior—as stated by UN Secretary General António Guterres—would be in line with the war waged by Ukraine since 2014.
There is strong evidence that the attacks on Energodar are Ukrainian. The fragments of projectiles fired at the site from the other side of the Dnieper are of Western origin. It seems that they come from British BRIMSTONE missiles, which are precision missiles, whose use is monitored by the British. Apparently, the West is aware of the Ukrainian attacks on the ZNPP. This might explain why Ukraine is not very supportive of an international commission of inquiry and why Western countries are putting unrealistic conditions for sending investigators from the IAEA, an agency that has not shown much integrity so far.
TP: It is reported that Zelensky is freeing criminals to fight in this war? Does this mean that Ukraine’s army is not as strong as commonly assumed?
JB: Zelensky faces the same problem as the authorities that emerged from Euromaidan in 2014. At that time, the military did not want to fight because they did not want to confront their Russian-speaking compatriots. According to a report by the British Home Office, reservists overwhelmingly refuse to attend recruitment sessions . In October-November 2017, 70% of conscripts do not show up for recall . Suicide has become a problem. According to the chief Ukrainian military prosecutor Anatoly Matios, after four years of war in the Donbass, 615 servicemen had committed suicide. Desertions have increased and reached up to 30% of the forces in certain operational areas, often in favor of the rebels.
For this reason, it became necessary to integrate more motivated, highly politicized, ultra-nationalistic and fanatical fighters into the armed forces to fight in the Donbass. Many of them are neo-Nazis. It is to eliminate these fanatical fighters that Vladimir Putin has mentioned the objective of “denazification.”
Today, the problem is slightly different. The Russians have attacked Ukraine and the Ukrainian soldiers are not a priori opposed to fighting them. But they realize that the orders they receive are not consistent with the situation on the battlefield. They understood that the decisions affecting them are not linked to military factors, but to political considerations. Ukrainian units are mutinying en masse and are increasingly refusing to fight. They say they feel abandoned by their commanders and that they are given missions without the necessary resources to execute them.
That’s why it becomes necessary to send men who are ready for anything. Because they are condemned, they can be kept under pressure. This is the same principle as Marshal Konstantin Rokossovki, who was sentenced to death by Stalin, but was released from prison in 1941 to fight against the Germans. His death sentence was lifted only after Stalin’s death in 1956.
In order to overshadow the use of criminals in the armed forces, the Russians are accused of doing the same thing. The Ukrainians and the Westerners consistently use “mirror” propaganda. As in all recent conflicts, Western influence has not led to a moralization of the conflict.
TP: Everyone speaks of how corrupt Putin is? But what about Zelensky? Is he the “heroic saint” that we are all told to admire?
JB: In October 2021, the Pandora Papers showed that Ukraine and Zelensky were the most corrupt in Europe and practiced tax evasion on a large scale. Interestingly, these documents were apparently published with the help of an American intelligence agency, and Vladimir Putin is not mentioned. More precisely, the documents mention individuals ” associated ” with him, who are said to have links with undisclosed assets, which could belong to a woman, who is believed to have had a child with him.
Yet, when our media are reporting on these documents, they routinely put a picture of Vladimir Putin, but not of Volodymyr Zelensky.
Figure 2 – Although he is not mentioned in the Pandora Papers, Vladimir Putin is consistently associated with them. Whereas Volodymyr Zelensky is never mentioned in our media, even though he is widely implicated.
I am not in a position to assess how corrupt Zelensky is. But there is no doubt that the Ukrainian society and its governance are. I contributed modestly to a NATO “Building Integrity” program in Ukraine and discovered that none of the contributing countries had any illusions about its effectiveness, and all saw the program as a kind of “window dressing” to justify Western support.
It is unlikely that the billions paid by the West to Ukraine will reach the Ukrainian people. A recent CBS News report stated that only 30-40% of the weapons supplied by the West make it to the battlefield. The rest enriches mafias and other corrupt people. Apparently, some high-tech Western weapons have been sold to the Russians, such as the French CAESAR system and presumably the American HIMARS. The CBS News report was censored to avoid undermining Western aid, but the fact remains that the US refused to supply MQ-1C drones to Ukraine for this reason.
Ukraine is a rich country, yet today it is the only country in the former USSR with a lower GDP than it had at the collapse of the Soviet Union. The problem is therefore not Zelensky himself, but the whole system, which is deeply corrupted, and which the West maintains for the sole purpose of fighting Russia.
Zelensky was elected in April 2019 on the program of reaching an agreement with Russia. But nobody let him carry out his program. The Germans and the French deliberately prevented him from implementing the Minsk agreements. The transcript of the telephone conversation of 20 February 2022 between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin shows that France deliberately kept Ukraine away from the solution. Moreover, in Ukraine, far right and neo-Nazi political forces have publicly threatened him with death. Dmitry Yarosh, commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, declared in May 2019 that Zelensky would be hanged if he carried out his program. In other words, Zelensky is trapped between his idea of reaching an agreement with Russia and the demands of the West. Moreover, the West realizes that its strategy of war through sanctions has failed. As the economic and social problems increase, the West will find it harder to back down without losing face. A way out for Britain, the US, the EU, or France would be to remove Zelensky. That is why, with the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, I think Zelensky starts to realize that his life is threatened.
At the end of the day, Zelensky is a poor guy, because his best enemies are those on whom he depends: the Western world.
TP: There are many videos (gruesome ones) on social media of Ukrainian soldiers engaging in serious war crimes? Why is there a “blind spot” in the West for such atrocities?
JB: First of all, we must be clear: in every war, every belligerent commit war crimes. Military personnel who deliberately commit such crimes dishonor their uniform and must be punished.
The problem arises when war crimes are part of a plan or result from orders given by the higher command. This was the case when the Netherlands let its military allow the Srebrenica massacre in 1995; the torture in Afghanistan by Canadian and British troops, not to mention the countless violations of international humanitarian law by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and elsewhere with the complicity of Poland, Lithuania or Estonia. If these are Western values, then Ukraine is in the right school.
In Ukraine, political crime has become commonplace, with the complicity of the West. Thus, those who are in favor of a negotiation are eliminated. This is the case of Denis Kireyev, one of the Ukrainian negotiators, assassinated on March 5 by the Ukrainian security service (SBU) because he was considered too favorable to Russia and as a traitor. The same thing happened to Dmitry Demyanenko, an officer of the SBU, who was assassinated on March 10, also because he was too favorable to an agreement with Russia. Remember that this is a country that considers that receiving or giving Russian humanitarian aid is “collaborationism.”
On 16 March 2022, a journalist on TV channel Ukraine 24 referred to the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and called for the massacre of Russian-speaking children. On 21 March, the military doctor Gennadiy Druzenko declared on the same channel that he had ordered his doctors to castrate Russian prisoners of war. On social networks, these statements quickly became propaganda for the Russians and the two Ukrainians apologized for having said so, but not for the substance. Ukrainian crimes were beginning to be revealed on social networks, and on 27 March Zelensky feared that this would jeopardize Western support. This was followed—rather opportunely—by the Bucha massacre on 3 April, the circumstances of which remain unclear.
Britain, which then had the chairmanship of the UN Security Council, refused three times the Russian request to set up an international commission of enquiry into the crimes of Bucha. Ukrainian socialist MP Ilya Kiva revealed on Telegram that the Bucha tragedy was planned by the British MI6 special services and implemented by the SBU.
The fundamental problem is that the Ukrainians have replaced the “operational art” with brutality. Since 2014, in order to fight the autonomists, the Ukrainian government has never tried to apply strategies based on “hearts & minds,” which the British used in the 1950s-1960s in South-East Asia, which were much less brutal but much more effective and long-lasting. Kiev preferred to conduct an Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in the Donbass and to use the same strategies as the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fighting terrorists authorizes all kinds of brutality. It is the lack of a holistic approach to the conflict that led to the failure of the West in Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali.
Counter-Insurgency Operation (COIN) requires a more sophisticated and holistic approach. But NATO is incapable of developing such strategies as I have seen first-hand in Afghanistan. The war in Donbass has been brutal for 8 years and has resulted in the death of 10,000 Ukrainian citizens plus 4,000 Ukrainian military personnel. By comparison, in 30 years, the conflict in Northern Ireland resulted in 3,700 deaths. To justify this brutality, the Ukrainians had to invent the myth of a Russian intervention in Donbass.
The problem is that the philosophy of the new Maidan leaders was to have a racially pure Ukraine. In other words, the unity of the Ukrainian people was not to be achieved through the integration of communities, but through the exclusion of communities of “inferior races.” An idea that would no doubt have pleased the grandfathers of Ursula von der Leyen and Chrystia Freeland! This explains why Ukrainians have little empathy for the country’s Russian, Magyar and Romanian-speaking minorities. This in turn explains why Hungary and Romania do not want their territories to be used for the supply of arms to Ukraine.
This is why shooting at their own citizens to intimidate them is not a problem for the Ukrainians. This explains the spraying of thousands of PFM-1 (“butterfly”) anti-personnel mines, which look like toys, on the Russian-speaking city of Donetsk in July 2022. This type of mine is used by a defender, not an attacker in its main area of operation. Moreover, in this area, the Donbass militias are fighting “at home,” with populations they know personally.
I think that war crimes have been committed on both sides, but that their media coverage has been very different. Our media have reported extensively about crimes (true or false) attributed to Russia. On the other hand, they have been extremely silent about Ukrainian crimes. We do not know the whole truth about the Bucha massacre, but the available evidence supports the hypothesis that Ukraine staged the event to cover up its own crimes. By keeping these crimes quiet, our media have been complicit with them and have created a sense of impunity that has encouraged the Ukrainians to commit further crimes.
TP: Latvia wants the West (America) to designate Russia a “terrorist state.” What do you make of this? Does this mean that the war is actually over, and Russia has won?
JB: The Estonian and Latvian demands are in response to Zelensky’s call to designate Russia as a terrorist state. Interestingly, they come at the same time a Ukrainian terrorist campaign is being unleashed in Crimea, the occupied zone of Ukraine and the rest of Russian territory. It is also interesting that Estonia was apparently complicit in the attack on Darya Dugina in August 2022.
It seems that Ukrainians communicate in a mirror image of the crimes they commit or the problems they have, in order to hide them. For example, in late May 2022, as the Azovstal surrender in Mariupol showed neo-Nazi fighters, they began to allege that there are neo-Nazis in the Russian army. In August 2022, when Kiev was carrying out actions of a terrorist nature against the Energodar power plant in Crimea and on Russian territory, Zelensky called for Russia to be considered a terrorist state.
In fact, Zelensky continues to believe that he can only solve his problem by defeating Russia and that this defeat depends on sanctions against Russia. Declaring Russia a terrorist state would lead to further isolation. That is why he is making this appeal. This shows that the label “terrorist” is more political than operational, and that those who make such proposals do not have a very clear vision of the problem. The problem is that it has implications for international relations. This is why the US State Department is concerned that Zelensky’s request will be implemented by Congress.
TP: One of the sadder outcomes of this Ukraine-Russia conflict is how the West has shown the worst of itself. Where do you think we will go from here? More of the same, or will there be changes that will have to be made in regards to NATO, neutral countries which are no longer neutral, and the way the West seeks to “govern” the world?
JB: This crisis reveals several things. First, that NATO and the European Union are only instruments of US foreign policy. These institutions no longer act in the interests of their members, but in the interests of the US. The sanctions adopted under American pressure are backfiring on Europe, which is the big loser in this whole crisis: it suffers its own sanctions and has to deal with the tensions resulting from its own decisions.
The decisions taken by Western governments reveal a generation of leaders who are young and inexperienced (such as Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin); ignorant, yet thinking they are smart (such as French President Emmanuel Macron); doctrinaire (such as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen); and fanatical (such as the leaders of the Baltic States). They all share some of the same weaknesses, not least of which is their inability to manage a complex crisis.
When the head is unable to understand the complexity of a crisis, we respond with guts and dogmatism. This is what we see happening in Europe. The Eastern European countries, especially the Baltic States and Poland, have shown themselves to be loyal servants of American policy. They have also shown immature, confrontational, and short-sighted governance. These are countries that have never integrated Western values, that continue to celebrate the forces of the Third Reich and discriminate against their own Russian-speaking population.
I am not even mentioning the European Union, which has been vehemently opposed to any diplomatic solution and has only added fuel to the fire.
The more you are involved in a conflict, the more you are involved in its outcome. If you win, all is well. But if the conflict is a failure, you will bear the burden. This is what has happened to the United States in recent conflicts and what is happening in Ukraine. The defeat of Ukraine is becoming the defeat of the West.
Another big loser in this conflict is clearly Switzerland. Its neutral status has suddenly lost all credibility. Early August, Switzerland and Ukraine concluded an agreement that would allow the Swiss embassy in Moscow to offer protection to Ukrainian citizens in Russia. However, in order to enter into force, it has to be recognized by Russia. Quite logically, Russia refused and declared that “Switzerland had unfortunately lost its status as a neutral state and could not act as an intermediary or representative.”
This is a very serious development because neutrality is not simply a unilateral declaration. It must be accepted and recognized by all to be effective. Yet Switzerland not only aligned itself with the Western countries but was even more extreme than them. It can be said that in a few weeks, Switzerland has ruined a policy that has been recognized for almost 170 years. This is a problem for Switzerland, but it may also be a problem for other countries. A neutral state can offer a way out of a crisis. Today, Western countries are looking for a way out that would allow them to get closer to Russia in the perspective of an energy crisis without losing face. Turkey has taken on this role, but it is limited, as it is part of NATO.
Figure 3 – Countries and organizations that applied sanctions to Russia. Although Switzerland is a neutral country, it stands on the first place. According to own sources, this was done under pressure and blackmail from the United States. Nevertheless, this is a severe blow to the very principle of neutrality that will have consequences in other future conflicts.
The West has created an Iron Curtain 2.0 that will affect international relations for years to come. The West’s lack of strategic vision is astonishing. While NATO is aligning itself with US foreign policy and reorienting itself towards China, Western strategy has only strengthened the Moscow-Beijing axis.
TP: What do you think this war ultimately means for Europe, the US and China?
JB: In order to answer this question, we first must answer another question: “Why is this conflict more condemnable and sanctionable than previous conflicts started by the West?”
After the disasters of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali, the rest of the world expected the West to help resolve this crisis with common sense. The West responded in exactly the opposite way to these expectations. Not only has no one been able to explain why this conflict was more reprehensible than previous ones, but the difference in treatment between Russia and the United States has shown that more importance is attached to the aggressor than to the victims. Efforts to bring about the collapse of Russia contrast with the total impunity of countries that have lied to the UN Security Council, practiced torture, caused the deaths of over a million people and created 37 million refugees.
This difference in treatment went unnoticed in the West. But the “rest of the world” has understood that we have moved from a “law-based international order” to a “rules-based international order” determined by the West.
On a more material level, the confiscation of Venezuelan gold by the British in 2020, of Afghanistan’s sovereign funds in 2021, and then of Russia’s sovereign funds in 2022 by the US, has raised the mistrust of the West’s allies. This shows that the non-Western world is no longer protected by law and depends on the goodwill of the West.
This conflict is probably the starting point for a new world order. The world is not going to change all at once, but the conflict has raised the attention of the rest of the world. For when we say that the “international community” condemns Russia, we are in fact talking about 18% of the world’s population.
Some actors traditionally close to the West are gradually moving away from it. On 15 July 2022, Joe Biden visited Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) with two objectives: to prevent Saudi Arabia from moving closer to Russia and China, and to ask him to increase its oil production. But four days earlier, MbS made an official request to become a member of the BRICS, and a week later, on 21 July, MbS called Vladimir Putin to confirm that he would stand by the OPEC+ decision. In other words: no oil production increase. It was a slap in the face of the West and of its most powerful representative.
Saudi Arabia has now decided to accept Chinese currency as payment for its oil. This is a major event, which tends to indicate a loss of confidence in the dollar. The consequences are potentially huge. The petrodollar was established by the US in the 1970s to finance its deficit. By forcing other countries to buy dollars, it allows the US to print dollars without being caught in an inflationary loop. Thanks to the petrodollar, the US economy—which is essentially a consumer economy—is supported by the economies of other countries around the world. The demise of the petrodollar could have disastrous consequences for the US economy, as former Republican Senator Ron Paul puts it.
In addition, the sanctions have brought China and Russia, both targeted by the West, closer together. This has accelerated the formation of a Eurasian bloc and strengthened the position of both countries in the world. India, which the US has scorned as a “second-class” partner of the “Quad,” has moved closer to Russia and China, despite disputes with the latter.
Today, China is the main provider of infrastructure in the Third World. In particular, its way of interacting with African countries is more in line with the expectations of these countries. Collaboration with former colonial powers such as France and American imperialist paternalism are no longer welcome. For example, the Central African Republic and Mali have asked France to leave their countries and have turned to Russia.
At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, the US proudly announced a $150 million contribution to “strengthen its position in the broader geopolitical competition with China.” But in November 2021, President Xi Jinping offered $1.5 billion to the same countries to fight the pandemic and promote economic recovery. By using its money to wage war, the US has no money left to forge and consolidate alliances.
The West’s loss of influence stems from the fact that it continues to treat the “rest of the world” like “little children” and neglects the usefulness of good diplomacy.
The war in Ukraine is not the trigger for these phenomena, which started a few years ago, but it is most certainly an eye-opener and accelerator.
TP: The western media has been pushing that Putin may be seriously ill. If Putin suddenly dies, would this make any difference at all to the war?
JB: It seems that Vladimir Putin is a unique medical case in the world: he has stomach cancer, leukemia, an unknown but incurable and terminal phase disease, and is reportedly already dead. Yet in July 2022, at the Aspen Security Forum, CIA Director William Burns said that Putin was “too healthy” and that there was “no information to suggest that he is in poor health.” This shows how those who claim to be journalists work!
This is wishful thinking and, on the higher end of the spectrum, it echoes the calls for terrorism and the physical elimination of Vladimir Putin.
The West has personalized Russian politics through Putin, because he is the one who promoted the reconstruction of Russia after the Yeltsin years. Americans like to be champions when there are no competitors and see others as enemies. This is the case with Germany, Europe, Russia and China.
But our “experts” know little about Russian politics. For in reality, Vladimir Putin is more of a “dove” in the Russian political landscape. Given the climate that we have created with Russia, it would not be impossible that his disappearance would lead to the emergence of more aggressive forces. We should not forget that countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland or Georgia have never developed European democratic values. They still have discriminatory policies towards their ethnic Russians that are far from European values, and they behave like immature agents provocateurs. I think that if Putin were to disappear for some reason, the conflicts with these countries would take on a new dimension.
TP: How unified is Russia presently? Has the war created a more serious opposition than what previously existed within Russia?
JB: No, on the contrary. The American and European leaders have a poor understanding of their enemy: the Russian people are very patriotic and cohesive. Western obsession to ” punish ” the Russian people has only brought them closer to their leaders. In fact, by seeking to divide Russian society in an effort to overthrow the government, Western sanctions—including the dumbest ones—have confirmed what the Kremlin has been saying for years: that the West has a profound hatred of Russians. What was once said to be a lie is now confirmed in Russian opinion. The consequence is that the people’s trust in the government has grown stronger.
The approval ratings given by the Levada Centre (considered by the Russian authorities as a “foreign agent”) show that public opinion has tightened around Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. In January 2022, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating was 69% and the government’s was 53%. Today, Putin’s approval rating has been stable at around 83% since March, and the government’s is at 71%. In January, 29% did not approve of Vladimir Putin’s decisions, in July it was only 15%.
According to the Levada Centre, even the Russian operation in Ukraine enjoys a majority of favorable opinions. In March, 81% of Russians were in favor of the operation; this figure dropped to 74%, probably due to the impact of sanctions at the end of March, and then it went back up. In July 2022, the operation had 76% popular support.
Figure 4 – Not all Russians support the special operation in Ukraine, but three quarters of the population do. Ukrainian war crimes, Western sanctions and the good management of the economy by the Russian authorities explain this support. [Source]
The problem is that our journalists have neither culture nor journalistic discipline and they replace them with their own beliefs. It is a form of conspiracy that aims to create a false reality based on what one believes and not on the facts. For example, few know (or want to know) that Aleksey Navalny said he would not return Crimea to Ukraine. The West’s actions have completely wiped out the opposition, not because of “Putin’s repression,” but because in Russia, resistance to foreign interference and the West’s deep contempt for Russians is a bipartisan cause. Exactly like the hatred of Russians in the West. This is why personalities like Aleksey Navalny, who never had a very high popularity, have completely disappeared from the popular media landscape.
Moreover, even if the sanctions have had a negative impact on the Russian economy, the way the government has handled things since 2014 shows a great mastery of economic mechanisms and a great realism in assessing the situation. There is a rise in prices in Russia, but it is much lower than in Europe, and while Western economies are raising their key interest rates, Russia is lowering its own.
The Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova has been exemplified as an expression of the opposition in Russia. Her case is interesting because, as usual, we do not say everything.
On 14 March 2022, she provoked international applause by interrupting the Russian First Channel news program with a poster calling for ending the war in Ukraine. She was arrested and fined $280.
In May, the German newspaper Die Welt offered her a job in Germany, but in Berlin, pro-Ukrainian activists demonstrated to get the newspaper to end its collaboration with her. The media outlet Politico even suggested that she might be an agent of the Kremlin!
As a result, in June 2022, she left Germany to live in Odessa, her hometown. But instead of being grateful, the Ukrainians put her on the Mirotvorets blacklist where she is accused of treason, “participation in the Kremlin’s special information and propaganda operations” and “complicity with the invaders.”
The Mirotvorets website is a “hit list” for politicians, journalists or personalities who do not share the opinion of the Ukrainian government. Several of the people on the list have been murdered. In October 2019, the UN requested the closure of the site, but this was refused by the Rada. It should be noted that none of our mainstream media has condemned this practice, which is very far from the values they claim to defend. In other words, our media support these practices that used to be attributed to South American regimes.
Figure 5 – Darya Dugina marked as “Liquidated.”
Ovsyannikova then returned to Russia, where she demonstrated against the war, calling Putin a “killer,” and was arrested by the police and placed under house arrest for three months. At this point, our media protested.
It is worth noting that Russian journalist Darya Dugina, the victim of a bomb attack in Moscow on 21 August 2022, was on the Mirotvorets list and her file was marked “liquidated.” Of course, no Western media mentioned that she was targeted by the Mirotvorets website, which is considered to be linked to the SBU, as this would tend to support Russia’s accusations.
German journalist Alina Lipp, whose revelations about Ukrainian and Western crimes in the Donbass are disturbing, has been placed on the website Mirotvorets. Moreover, Alina Lipp was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison by a German court for claiming that Russian troops had “liberated” areas in Ukraine and thus “glorified criminal activities.” As can be seen, the German authorities are functioning like the neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine. Today’s politicians are a credit to their grandparents!
One can conclude that even if there are some people who oppose the war, Russian public opinion is overwhelmingly behind its government. Western sanctions have only strengthened the credibility of the Russian president.
Ultimately, my point is not to take the same approach as our media and replace the hatred of Russia with that of Ukraine. On the contrary, it is to show that the world is not either black or white and that Western countries have taken the situation too far. Those who are compassionate about Ukraine should have pushed our governments to implement the agreed political solutions in 2014 and 2015. They haven’t done anything and are now pushing Ukraine to fight. But we are no longer in 2021. Today, we have to accept the consequences of our non-decisions and help Ukraine to recover. But this must not be done at the expense of its Russian-speaking population, as we have done until now, but with the Russian-speaking people, in an inclusive manner. If I look at the media in France, Switzerland and Belgium, we are still very far from the goal.
TP: Thank you so very much, Mr. Baud, for this most enlightening discussion.
There can be few leaders whose reputation at home differs so widely from his reputation abroad as the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev, who died on Monday aged 91. Hailed as a hero in the West for ending the Cold War, liberating the people of Eastern Europe, and bringing democracy and freedom to the nations of the former Soviet Union, he is reviled in Russia as a man who inherited a superpower and then destroyed it, leaving it dismembered and impoverished.
Of peasant stock, Gorbachev grew up in the Stavropol region of Southern Russia and aged only 17 won the Order of the Red Banner of Labour for his success in harvesting grain with his father. A clever and hard working student, he won a place at Moscow State University where he studied law before taking up a career in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). He then rose rapidly up the party’s ranks until in 1985 he assumed the position of General Secretary and as such become the Soviet Union’s de facto leader.
In all these ways, he was a typical party functionary. He differed, though, from the generation of leaders who had gone before him, all of whom had had direct experience of the revolutions of 1917 and of the Second World War. Gorbachev was one of those who were called “Children of the Twentieth Party Congress”—that is to say, communists whose view of the world was shaped by the party congress of 1956 at which Nikita Khrushchev delivered his famous ‘Secret Speech’ denouncing Stalin.
The Children of the Twentieth Party Congress believed in communism—in state control of the means of production, in central economic planning, in the social guarantees granted by the Soviet constitution, in the Soviet Union as a genuine ‘brotherhood of nations,’ and so on. But at the same time, they felt that the system was not living up to its promise. They believed that Stalinism had over-centralized and over-bureaucratized Soviet society, stifling initiative, breeding corruption, and creating a severe disconnect between the claims of Soviet propaganda and the realities on the ground. The solution, they felt, was to return to “Leninist norms,” whatever those might be, and thereby put the USSR back on track to a bright communist future.
On reaching the pinnacle of Soviet power, Gorbachev thus sought not to dismantle the system but to make it function more efficiently. As he told the 27th Congress of the CPSU in 1986, “Our goal is to realize the full potential of socialism. Those in the West who expect us to renounce socialism will be disappointed. We’re not going to give up on socialism. On the contrary, we need more socialism.”
Gorbachev’s problem was that he had very little idea how to do this as well as a faulty understanding of the underlying causes of the USSR’s social and economic difficulties.
In particular, Gorbachev’s grasp of economics was sketchy. He firmly believed in the communist economic model, writing in his 1987 book Perestroika that “Socialism and public ownership, on which it is based, hold out virtually unlimited possibilities for progressive economic processes.” He was therefore unwilling to touch the fundamentals of the Soviet system – state ownership and central planning. Instead, he tinkered with the economy by attempting to meld state planning with certain attributes of free markets in accordance with the ideas of what was called “market socialism.” In this, state ownership and the plan were retained, but enterprises gained more autonomy to determine production and were allowed to keep and reinvest some of their profits.
Market socialism proved a disaster. Instead of making enterprises more efficient, the introduction of market elements simply undermined the few advantages that planning provided. Given the failure of this policy, there were two options left: give up and go back, or press on and move towards a free market economy, or at least some sort of mixed market system. Gorbachev did neither. Going backwards would have been an admission of failure. Moving forward was ideologically beyond him. Instead, he dithered while the economy gradually collapsed around him.
As this happened, Gorbachev looked for someone to blame and his gaze fell upon conservative members of the CPSU, who he believed were deliberately sabotaging his reforms. In typical Russian fashion, his solution to this was to centralize authority in his own hands. This he did by stripping the CPSU of its power and concentrating it in a newly created executive position, that of President of the USSR, a position that Gorbachev then occupied.
Arguably, Gorbachev’s attacks on the party made things worse rather than better, for the party was the primary mechanism that kept the Soviet system functioning more or less smoothly. The more Gorbachev bypassed and undermined the party, the more authority it lost, the less people did as the plan demanded, and the more the system unraveled into anarchy.
In all this, Gorbachev revealed a considerable naivety. To accompany political and economic reform, which went by the name perestroika, he declared a need for more openness (glasnost). Censorship was relaxed and eventually abolished. It would appear that Gorbachev sincerely believed that if given their freedom, the Soviet people would use it in a constructive way, helpfully pointing out problems so that they could be addressed, but not challenging the authorities in the process. This is not what happened. Instead of constructive suggestions, the Soviet people used their new found freedom to publish revelations of the past crimes of the communist state, to attack the country’s leaders, and to demand ever more radical change. The more people learnt about their country’s past and about enormous social problems it was experiencing in the present, the more the system lost its legitimacy. Rather than strengthening the state, glasnost fatally weakened it.
Another failing was that Gorbachev totally misread the mood of many of the minority nationalities within the Soviet Union. In a 1987 speech marking the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution, he declared the nationalities problem “solved.” Nothing was further from the truth. Soviet peoples used the freedom Gorbachev gave them to demand more national autonomy and in the case of the three Baltic states to demand independence. In other cases, minority nationalities sought to increase their own power and territory at the expense of other minorities. Visiting Armenia following a devastating earthquake in December 1988, Gorbachev was shocked to find that locals wanted to speak not about the earthquake but about the status of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (under Azeri control, but claimed by the Armenians). By the time Gorbachev woke up to the seriousness of the Soviet Union’s ethno-national problems it was too late. As central authority collapsed, local elites decided that the best way of preserving their authority was to leap on the nationalist bandwagon. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the eyes of Westerners, Gorbachev’s greatest achievement was to bring an end to the Cold War. The Soviet leader believed that successful reform at home was impossible as long as the USSR was locked in an existential geopolitical struggle with the West. It was therefore necessary to make peace. To this end, he made it clear that the Soviet army would not intervene to prop up the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, each of which fell in turn in rapid succession in 1989. Beyond that, Gorbachev agreed to accept German reunification and to withdraw the Soviet army from Eastern Europe. With this, Soviet-Western relations quickly changed from mutual hostility to something akin to friendship.
More than anything else, this explains the adulation Gorbachev received in the West. Many Russians, though, view the matter very differently, asking themselves what Gorbachev got in exchange for surrendering the Soviet’s empire in Eastern Europe. Most importantly, they note that he failed to get a written guarantee that NATO would not expand eastwards. Historians disagree as to whether NATO leaders gave verbal promises in this regard, but it is certain that nothing was ever put on paper. Rarely has somebody given up so much and got so little in return. The sense of bitterness that resulted has soured Russian-Western relations ever since.
Here again, Gorbachev’s naivety reveals itself. Gorbachev spoke of “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals,” and commented that “Europe is our common home.” But his vision was never that the Soviet Union, or later Russia, should be reduced to a subordinate status within a Europe dominated by NATO. Rather, he envisioned NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact disappearing and being replaced by a new security architecture in which the Soviet Union and Western states would be equal partners. Gorbachev seems to have imagined that if the Soviets dismantled their Cold War infrastructure, the West would do the same. But the West never had any intention of doing such a thing. In the eyes of Gorbachev’s Russian critics, he was, simply put, a dupe.
Mikhail Gorbachev meant well. An idealist, he believed in communism’s humanist potential. Realizing that communism’s practice fell short of its promise, he sought to do something about it. In the process, he unleashed hidden forces that destroyed the system he hoped to revive. For better or for worse, we are still living with the consequences today.
Paul Robinson is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy. He is the author of numerous works on Russian and Soviet history, including Russian Conservatism, published by Northern Illinois University Press in 2019.
When I received a call this morning from Turkish public television TRT asking that I comment on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev in a live broadcast, the first thought which came to mind was the ironic remark of Soviet intellectuals on the place of leading personalities in history: “there is nothing as changeable and unpredictable as the past.”
Of course, this notion is applicable everywhere, not just to Soviet history and personalities. Indeed, history is always being reinterpreted in light of current developments. As I commented in my interview, the achievements and failures of Gorbachev in power must now be reevaluated in light of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which is the largest and most dangerous military conflict on the European continent since 1945.
This war follows directly from the break-up of the Soviet Union, which Gorbachev failed to prevent, though he did his best. Indeed, in the spring of 1991 he oversaw a referendum on the issue and won support from the population for continuation of the USSR. However, his playing off the right and left forces within the Politburo and within the Party at large over a number of years, the deceptions he practiced to get his way, finally caught up with him and laid the way in the summer of 1991 for the Putsch by rightists intent on restoring Soviet orthodoxy, which in turn so weakened Gorbachev that he was easily pushed aside by Boris Yeltsin. Destruction of the Union was Yeltsin’s instrument for achieving the complete removal of Gorbachev from power and setting out on a course of economic reform and de-Communization that was anathema to the leaders of the more conservative Soviet republics.
As we now know, the break-up of the USSR released pent-up animosities within and between the successor states, which had in each substantial ethnic minorities, in particular Russian-speakers, who numbered more than 25 million outside the boundaries of the Russian Federation in 1991. This was the largest such dispossessed ethnic community from the disintegration of empire in history, and its existence did not augur well for tranquility in Eurasia, from the Baltics, to the Caucasus, to Central Asia.
The collapse of the Soviet Union also touched off a very unhealthy wave of national excitement in the United States. It was now the sole surviving superpower, unchecked by any rivals. Fueled by hubris, Washington elites set course on remaking the world through a succession of military interventions and full-fledged wars abroad that has gone on for close to 30 years. Failures in these military missions led to ever greater concern to “contain” any and all possible competitors on the world stage. In practice, this meant containment first and foremost of Russia as it recovered economically and politically in the first decade of the new millennium. And this, expressed in terms of NATO expansion, is what brought us to the present conflict over Ukraine.
In that regard, I direct attention to Gorbachev’s greatest failure which resulted not from the conspiracies of his compatriots but from his own peculiar naivete in his dealings with the United States, meaning with Reagan, with Bush and their minions. The man who had shown such cunning in outfoxing his Politburo colleagues was completely outfoxed by his American and European interlocutors. Had he been more cautious to protect Soviet-Russian interests, he would have demanded and likely received much better terms of compensation for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from all of Eastern Europe and disbanding the Warsaw Pact. Had he been less gullible and more realistic, he would have demanded written treaties setting in concrete the prohibition of NATO expansion to the East and, or, he would have left Soviet garrisons in each of these states to ensure compliance. As it was, the Americans who gave him verbal assurances knew full well that they were meaningless and were perplexed at the Kremlin’s failure to defend strategic national interests.
These are the sins which patriotic Russians hold against Gorbachev today, even as they acknowledge his astonishing feats in freeing Soviet citizens from the totalitarian yoke of the past through glasnost and perestroika.
Of course, it is an open question whether a democratic Soviet Union could have long survived. The economy was hopelessly mismanaged and the entire legacy of Soviet legislation rendered it virtually impossible to escape from violence or the threat of violence to make things work. This is a point over which historical debate will continue for many decades to come.
For today’s interview, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVz4QGouoFQ
The heads of state and government present at the Minsk II Agreement.
For the past seven years, it has been the responsibility of the guarantor powers of the Minsk II Agreement (Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia) to enforce it. They had been endorsed and legalized by the United Nations Security Council on February 17, 2015. But none of these states have done so, despite the rhetoric about the need to protect citizens threatened by their own governments.
While there was talk of possible Russian military intervention, on January 31, 2022, the Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, defied Germany, France, Russia and the UN Security Council by stating, "Compliance with the Minsk agreements means the destruction of the country. When they were signed under the armed threat of the Russians - and under the eyes of the Germans and the French - it was already clear to all rational people that it was impossible to implement these documents" [(#nb1 ""Ukraine security chief: Minsk peace deal may create chaos, Yuras Karmanau, (...)")].
When, after seven years, the number of Ukrainians killed by the Kiev government amounted to more than 12,000 according to the Kiev government and more than 20,000 according to the Russian Investigative Committee, only then did Moscow launch a "special military operation" against the Ukrainian "integral nationalists" (as they claim), who were described as "neo-Nazis".
Russia declared from the start of its operation that it would stick to rescuing the populations and “denazifying” Ukraine, not occupying it. Yet the West accused it of trying to take Kiev, overthrow President Zelensky and annex Ukraine, which they obviously never did. It was only after the execution of one of the Ukrainian negotiators, Denis Kireev, by his own country’s security services (SBU) and the suspension of talks by President Volodymyr Zelensky that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, announced that he was toughening his demands. From now on, the Federation claims Novorussia, that is to say all of southern Ukraine, historically Russian since Tsarina Catherine II, with the exception of thirty-three years.
It should be understood that if Russia did nothing for seven years, it was not because it was insensitive to the massacre of the Russian-speaking population of Donbass, but because it was preparing to face the predictable Western response. According to the classic quotation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tsar Alexander II, Prince Alexander Gortchakov: "The Emperor is determined to devote, preferably, his solicitude to the well-being of his subjects and to concentrate, on the development of the internal resources of the country, an activity which would be poured outside only when the positive interests of Russia would require it absolutely. Russia is reproached for isolating itself and keeping silent in the presence of facts that are not in accordance with either law or equity. Russia is said to be sulking. Russia is not sulking. Russia is taking stock".
This police operation was called "aggression" by the West. One thing leading to another, Russia was portrayed as a "dictatorship" and its foreign policy as "imperialism". No one seems to have read the Minsk II Agreement, which was endorsed by the UN Security Council. In a telephone conversation between Presidents Putin and Macron, revealed by the Élysée Palace, the latter even expressed his lack of interest in the fate of the population of Donbass, i.e. his contempt for the Minsk II Agreement.
Today, the Western secret services are coming to the aid of the Ukrainian "integral nationalists" (the "neo-Nazis" in Russian terminology) and, instead of seeking a peaceful solution, are trying to destroy Russia from within .
In international law, Moscow has only implemented the 2015 Security Council resolution. It can be blamed for its brutality, but neither for rushing (seven years), nor for being illegitimate (resolution 2202). Presidents Petro Poroshenko, Francois Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Angela Merkel had pledged, in a joint statement attached to the resolution, to do the same. If any of these powers had intervened earlier, they could have chosen other modalities of operation, but none did.
Renewing the strategies of Germany during the First World War and of the United States and the Ukrainian integral nationalists during the Cold War, the Westerners have just created a Forum of the free peoples of Russia. The aim is to prolong the break-up of the USSR, to create separatist movements and, ultimately, to proclaim the independence of twenty regions of the country.
The German Empire of William II versus the Russian Empire of Nicholas II
At the beginning of the 20th century, before the world wars, Central Europe was deeply unstable. Two powers clashed in this great plain: in the West, the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, in the East, the Russian Empire. The populations were invited to choose their protector, knowing that the borders had been modified many times and that none seemed definitive.
The Russian Empire had remained blocked for several centuries, leaving its subjects in a situation of ignorance and complete misery, while the German Empire had become the main scientific center of the world and was developing at great speed. Therefore, most Central European intellectuals chose to support Germany rather than Russia.
During the First World War, the German and Austro-Hungarian foreign ministries launched a joint secret operation: the creation of the League of Allogenic Peoples of Russia (Liga der Fremdvölker Rußlands - LFR) . They recruited many high-level intellectuals to lead it. The aim was to implode the Russian Empire by creating separatist movements. The League called on the United States (which did not enter the war until 1917) to liberate the enslaved peoples.
Dmytro Dontsov, the future founder of "Ukrainian integral nationalism" [(#nb2 "In previous articles, I have used the term "Nazi" to describe this school (...)")], supported this movement and even became its employee. He shamelessly directed the Bern branch and edited the monthly Bulletin des nationalités de Russie in French.
The World League for Freedom and Democracy held its last annual congress on January 22, 2022 in Taiwan.
The United States against the Soviet Union
In addition, at the end of World War II, the OSS, and later the CIA, organized the transfer of anti-communist leaders from the Axis to the Third World and recycled them into various governments. They created an Asian Peoples’ Anti-Communist League around the Chinese Chiang Kai-shek, then a World Anti-Communist League (WACL), with the support of the former Ukrainian full nationalist Prime Minister, the Nazi Yaroslav Stetsko . This secret organization, whose headquarters are still in Taiwan, was renamed the World League for Freedom and Democracy in 1990.
It is no coincidence that the war in Ukraine is followed by provocations in Taiwan, but the logical extension of this strategy. The League is always financed by the Taiwanese secret service and its actions are covered by the defense secret.
Dmytro Yarosh, the current advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, founded the Anti-Imperialist Front against the Russian Federation with the Emir of Itchkeria.
Ukrainian integral nationalists against the Russian Federation
Ukrainian integral nationalist Dmytro Yarosh created in Ternopol (Western Ukraine) in 2007 - that is, under the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko - an "Anti-Imperialist Front", an organization aimed at blowing up the Russian Federation. But whereas the attempts of the 1910s were based on the appeal of the German Empire and those of the Cold War on anti-communism, this third operation relied on jihadists .
The first Islamic emir of Itchkeria (Chechnya), Doku Umarov, should have participated, but he was wanted worldwide and could not get out of Russia. He sent a message of support and was elected co-chairman of the organization. In addition to the above-mentioned, he was elected co-chairman of the organization. Jihadists from Crimea, Adygea, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Ossetia came to the meeting.
Dmytro Yarosh and many Ukrainian integral nationalists fought in Chechnya on the side of the Islamic Emirate of Itchkeria. At the time, the Western press spoke of a national liberation movement and ignored the imposition of Sharia law by Doku Umarov.
The Forum of Free Peoples of Russia has distributed this map of the dismantling of the Russian Federation.
The Forum of Free Peoples of Russia
Today, when Dontsov’s works are required reading for the 120,000 soldiers of the Ukrainian integral nationalist militias and Dmytro Yarosh has become an advisor to the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armies, an unidentified sponsor - presumably the German BND, the U.S. CIA and the Ukrainian SBU - organized a Forum of Free Nations of Russia in Prague on July 23-24, 2022 .
It seems that the SBU was reluctant to participate and that this was one of the reasons that led the US to recommend to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to dismiss its director.
The term "Free Peoples" is the one used by Ukrainian integral nationalists, including the Ukrainian economist Lev Dobriansky. Dobriansky founded the National Captive Nations Committee with President Dwight Eisenhower and Yaroslav Stetsko, and later helped found the World Anti-Communist League. His daughter, Paula Dobriansky, played a central role in the propaganda apparatus of the State Department and the Thomson Reuters news agency. She served as Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs during the presidency of George W. Bush. President Donald Trump opposed her appointment as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
The Free Peoples’ Forum of Russia uses the argument of peoples’ self-determination to justify a partition of Russia. When the USSR was dissolved, fifteen separate states were freed, including the Russian Federation. The idea is to extend this partition, this time creating twenty more states. This would not only create new states in the Caucasus, but also completely change the map of Siberia, that is, the marches of China.
However, if there is a real problem of development in some regions of Russia, it is being solved with the creation of new communication routes, first East-West, then for the last ten years, North-South. The peoples that the BND, the CIA and the SBU wish to "liberate" have never expressed their desire to leave the Russian Federation, with the exception of Chechnya, which is now at peace.
Again, it is no coincidence that the Russian army is emphasizing the place of its Chechen units in its special military operation against the Ukrainian "Nazis" in Donbass [I prefer the term "Ukrainian integral nationalists"]. This is a way for her to remind that she has satisfied the Chechen demands after two terrible wars. Similarly, the President of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, calls on his people to take revenge for the abuses committed in his country by Ukrainian integral nationalists.
On August 15, 2022, President Vladimir Putin, who is acutely aware of this Western strategy, announced the convening of a world anti-Nazi conference in Moscow.
 _Liga der Fremdvölker Russlands 1916–1918. Ein Beitrag zu Deutschlands antirussischem Propagandakrieg unter den Fremdvölkern Russlands im Ersten Weltkrieg_, Seppo Zetterberg, Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (1978).
 In previous articles, I have used the term "Nazi" to describe this school of thought. However, this term is incorrect insofar as these are two distinct ideologies. Then, I used the term “banderists”. But it is not more adequate insofar as it refers to the context of the Second World War. I therefore now use the expression "integral nationalists" that those who lay claim to be so claim. It refers to the writings of the Frenchman Charles Maurras and especially to those of the Ukrainian Dmytro Dontsov. However, the first was Germanophobe while the second was Germanophile.
 “The World Anti-Communist League: the Internationale of Crime”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Anoosha Boralessa, Voltaire Network, 12 May 2004.
 “The CIA Coordinates Nazis and Jihadists”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Al-Watan (Syria) , Voltaire Network, 19 May 2014.
 “Declaration about the decolonization of Russia”, Voltaire Network, 24 July 2022.