On January 8, 2023 the US has to release a federal prisoner who is known as one its most notable opponents of treatment of Cuba since its revolution. She is Ana Belén Montes, and she will be freed after over 21 years in a federal military prison.
She was a top official on Latin America in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who, solely out of moral conviction, gave Cuba information on top secret US military plans and operations. Unrepentant in her trial, she defended herself saying, “I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. … I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.”
Ana Belén is one of the many Americans who have taken a moral stance in opposition to the actions of their government, and who were subsequently hunted as traitors or spies. Edward Snowden was another such figure, having exposed how the National Security Agency’s spying on the US population and leaders of other countries. Rather than spend much of his life in a federal prison, Snowden has opted to live in exile in Russia.
While the US movement in defense of Cuba did not champion the case of Ana Belén as with the very similar situation of the Cuban Five, she is recognized as a hero in Cuba. In 2016, the famed Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez dedicated a song to her, explaining, “The prisoner I mentioned yesterday… is Ana Belén Montes and she was a high official of the US secret services. When she knew that they were going to do something bad to Cuba, she would pass on the information to us. That is why she is serving a sentence of decades…Much evil did not happen to us because of her. Freedom for her.”
Silvio Rodríguez le dedicó esta canción a la presa política del imperialismo Ana Belén Montes, quien saldrá libre este fin de semana después de pasar 20 años de prisión en aislamiento total #FreeAnaBelen #FreeLeonardPeltier #FreeJulianAssange #FreeAlexSaab pic.twitter.com/4OphzkUXVp
— Roi Lopez Rivas (@RoiLopezRivas) January 4, 2023
Ana Belén did not receive any money from Cuba for her 16 years of work. Knowing the dire risks she faced, she acted out of a belief in justice and solidarity with Cuba. For over 60 years, the country has suffered under a US blockade – repeatedly condemned by the United Nations – imposed in retaliation for choosing national sovereignty over continued neocolonial status. US supported terrorism against Cuba has killed 3,478 and caused 2,099 disabling injuries over the years.
One of the charges brought against Ana Belén was having helped assure Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that Cuba represented no military threat to the US, and therefore contributed to avoiding another US regime change war that would have meant the death of countless Cubans. She also acknowledged having revealed the identities of four American undercover intelligence officers working in Cuba.
“The Queen of Cuba” hailed from a family of feds
Born in West Germany on February 28, 1957, a Puerto Rican citizen of the United States, and a high official in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ana Belén was convicted as a spy for alerting Cuba to the interventionist plans that were being prepared against the Cuban people.
In 1984 while working as a clerk in the Department of Justice, Ana Belén initiated her relationship with Cuban security. She then applied for a job at the DIA, the agency responsible for foreign military intelligence to the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The DIA employed her in 1985 until her arrest at work 16 years later. She became a specialist in Latin American military affairs, was the DIA’s principal analyst on El Salvador and Nicaragua, and later Cuba.
Because of her abilities, Ana Belén became known in US intelligence circles as “the Queen of Cuba”. Her work and contributions were so valued that she earned ten special recognitions, including Certificate of Distinction, the third highest national-level intelligence award. CIA Director George Tenet himself presented it to her in 1997.
“She gained access to hundreds of thousands of classified documents, typically taking lunch at her desk absorbed in quiet memorization of page after page of the latest briefings,” which she would later write down at home and convey to Cuba.
Avoiding capture through discretion, until the intercept came
On February 23, 1996, the Cuban Ministry of Defense asked visiting American Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll to warn off Miami Brothers to the Rescue planes that planned to again fly over Havana. Carroll immediately informed the State Department.
Instead of ending the provocations, the US let the planes fly, and two “Brothers to the Rescue” planes were shot down over Cuba the next day. The US exploited the flare-up to sabotage the growing campaign to moderate the US blockade of the island. The US official who arranged Admiral Carroll’s meeting was Ana Belén. Her explanation that the date was chosen only because it was a free date on the Admiral’s schedule was accepted.
Nevertheless, a DIA colleague reported to a security official that he felt Ana Belén might be under the influence of Cuban intelligence. He interviewed her, but she admitted nothing. She passed a polygraph test.
Ana Belén had access to practically everything the intelligence community collected on Cuba, and helped write final reports. Due to her rank, she was a member of the super-secret “inter-agency working group on Cuba”, which brings together the main analysts of federal agencies, such as the CIA, the Department of State, and the White House itself.
The Washington Post reported, “She was now briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council and even the president of Nicaragua about Cuban military capabilities. She helped draft a controversial Pentagon report stating that Cuba had a ‘limited capacity’ to harm the United States and could pose a danger to U.S. citizens only ‘under some circumstances.'”
Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a US agent in Cuba’s Ministry of Interior that Cuba had uncovered and imprisoned, was released and traded for three of the Cuban 5 in 2014. He had “provided critical information that led to the arrests of those known as the “Cuban Five;” of former State Department official Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers; and of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top Cuba analyst, Ana Belén Montes.”
In 1999 the National Security Agency intercepted a Cuban communication. It revealed a spy high in the hierarchy, who was associated with the DIA’s SAFE computer system. It meant the spy was likely on staff of the DIA. The suspect had also traveled to Guantánamo Bay in July 1996. Coincidentally, Ana Belén worked in the DIA and had traveled to the Bay on DIA business. The spy was using a Toshiba laptop, and it was discovered she had one. A decision was taken to break into her flat and copy the hard drive.
Since the case being put together indicated she was providing information to Cuba, she was arrested by FBI agents on September 21, 2001 while in her DIA office. She was charged with conspiracy to commit espionage for Cuba. “She told investigators after her arrest that a week earlier she had learned that she was under surveillance. She could have decided then to flee to Cuba, and probably would have made it there safely.” But her political commitment made her feel “she couldn’t give up on the people (she) was helping.”
Nigerian commentator Owei Lakemfa presented ten reasons he thought Ana Belén Montes avoided detection during her 16 years in the DIA. Among the most important was that she was extremely discreet and kept to herself. She lived alone in a simple apartment north of the US capital, and memorized documents, never taking any home. And she never received unexplainable funds.
Ironically, her brother was an FBI special agent, and her sister an FBI analyst who “played an important role in exposing the so-called Wasp Network of Cuban agents [the Cuban 5 and 7 others] operating in Florida.”
Ana Belén avoided the death penalty for high treason, highly likely in the post September 11 atmosphere, by pleading guilty before the US federal court handling her case. Since she acknowledged her conduct, and told the court how she worked, she was sentenced to “only” twenty-five years. However, she was imprisoned in conditions designed to destroy her, as the case with Julian Assange today. She was sent to special unit of a federal prison for violent offenders with psychiatric problems.
“I obeyed my conscience rather than the law”
In her October 16, 2002 trial statement, she declared that she obeyed her conscience:
“There is an Italian proverb that is perhaps the one that best describes what I believe: The whole world is one country. In that ‘world country’, the principle of loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself, is an essential guide for harmonious relations between all our ‘nation-neighborhoods’.
This principle implies tolerance and understanding for the different ways of others. It mandates that we treat other nations the way we wish to be treated – with respect and compassion. It is a principle that, unfortunately, I believe we have never applied to Cuba.
Your Honor, I got involved in the activity that has brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. Our government’s policy towards Cuba is cruel and unfair, deeply unfriendly; I feel morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.
We have displayed intolerance and contempt for Cuba for four decades. We have never respected Cuba’s right to make its own journey towards its own ideals of equality and justice. I do not understand how we continue to try to dictate how Cuba should select its leaders, who its leaders cannot be, and what laws are the most appropriate for that nation. Why don’t we let Cuba pursue its own internal journey, as the United States has been doing for more than two centuries?
My way of responding to our Cuba policy may have been morally wrong. Perhaps Cuba’s right to exist free of political and economic coercion did not justify giving the island classified information to help it defend itself. I can only say that I did what I thought right to counter a grave injustice.
My greatest wish would be to see a friendly relationship emerge between the United States and Cuba. I hope that my case in some way will encourage our government to abandon its hostility toward Cuba and work together with Havana in a spirit of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.
Today we see more clearly than ever that intolerance and hatred – by individuals or governments – only spreads pain and suffering. I hope that the United States develops a policy with Cuba based on love of neighbor, a policy that recognizes that Cuba, like any other nation, wants to be treated with dignity and not with contempt.
Such a policy would bring our government back in harmony with the compassion and generosity of the American people. It would allow Cubans and Americans to learn from and share with each other. It would enable Cuba to drop its defensive measures and experiment more easily with changes. And it would permit the two neighbors to work together and with other nations to promote tolerance and cooperation in our one ‘world-country,’ in our only world-homeland.”
Brutal prison conditions aimed to destroy Ana Belén
Jürgen Heiser of the German solidarity Netzwerk-Cuba reported that “Ana Belén has been isolated in conditions that the UN and international human rights organizations describe as ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ and torture. Her prison conditions were further exacerbated after her trial, when she was placed in the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Carswell, outside of Fort Worth, Texas. The FMC is located on a US marine compound and previously served as a military hospital… It includes a high security unit set aside for women of “special management concerns” that can hold up to twenty prisoners. A risk of “violence and/or escape” are specified as grounds for incarceration in the unit. This is where the “spy” Ana Belén is being held in isolation, in a single-person cell.”
Her cell neighbors have included one who strangled a pregnant woman to get her baby, a longtime nurse who killed four patients with massive injections of adrenaline, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Charles Manson follower who tried to assassinate President Ford.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram has regularly covered the abuses against the women inmates at Fort Carswell Carswell prison, which has also housed two other political prisoners Reality Winner and Aafia Siddiqui. Detainees have suffered gross violations of their human rights, including documented cases of police abuse, suspicious deaths where the investigations into them have been blatantly obstructed, deaths due to the denial of basic medical attention, rape of prisoners by guards, and exposure to toxic substances. In July 2020, 500 of the 1400 prisoners had Covid. The Star Telegram reported “the facility showed a systemic history of covering misconduct up and creating an atmosphere of secrecy and retaliation…”
Ana Belén wrote, “Prison is one of the last places I would have ever chosen to be in, but some things in life are worth going to prison for, or worth doing and then killing yourself before you have to spend too much time in prison.”
She has been subjected to extreme conditions in that prison, akin to those imposed on Assange. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has reported that:
She can only have contact with her closest relatives, since her conviction is for espionage.
No one can inquire about her health or know why she is in a center for people with mental problems, when she does not suffer from them.
She cannot receive packages. When her defenders sent her a letter, it has been returned by certified mail.
Only people on a list (no more than 20 who have known her before her incarceration and have been approved by the FBI) can correspond, send books, and visit Ana. Few people have visited her besides her brother and niece.
She cannot interact with other detainees in jail, and was always alone in her cell.
She is not allowed to talk on the phone, except to her mother once a week for 15-20 minutes.
She could not receive newspapers, magazines or watch television. After a dozen years in prison, the restrictions were slightly relaxed.
Karen Lee Wald noted in 2012, “If she is taken out of her cell in the isolation unit for any reason, all other prisoners are locked in their cells so they cannot speak to her. Basically, she has been buried alive.”
David Kovics, the renowned leftist songwriter, was moved to pay tribute to her in song. Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was jailed by the US during his fight for Puerto Rican independence, said, “I think that every Puerto Rican who loves justice and freedom should be proud of Ana Belén. What she did was more than heroic. She did what every person who believes in peace, justice and freedom and in the right of every nation to govern itself in the best possible way and without the intervention or threat of anyone, would have done.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe
On December 15, the night that the Biden administration released some of the remaining JFK files while withholding others with another half-assed excuse, Tucker Carlson, the most-watched cable news television host, delivered a monologue about the JFK assassination. It garnered a great deal of attention.
Although I don’t watch Carlson’s television show, I received messages from many friends and colleagues, people I highly respect, about his monologue’s great significance, so I watched that episode. And then I watched it many more times.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a man whom I hold in the highest esteem, tweeted that it was “the most courageous newscast in 60 years. The CIA’s murder of my uncle was a successful coup d’état from which our democracy has never recovered.”
While I completely agree with his second sentence, I was underwhelmed by Carlson’s words, to put it mildly. I thought it was clearly “a limited hangout,” as described by the former CIA agent Victor Marchetti:
Spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting, sometimes even volunteering, some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.
Or listens carefully.
Carlson surely said some things that were true, and, as my friends and many others have insisted, he was the first mainstream corporate journalist to say that “the CIA was involved in the assassination of the president.”
But “involved” is a word worthy of a lawyer, a public relations expert, or the CIA itself because it can mean something significant or nothing. Or a little of both. It is a weasel word.
And the source for Carlson’s claim was an anonymous source, someone who he said “had access” to the JFK files that were never released. We know, of course, that when The New York Times and its ilk cite “anonymous sources,” claiming that they have told them this or that, this raises eyebrows. Or should. Anyone who closely follows that paper’s claims knows that it is a CIA conduit, but now, those who know this are embracing Tucker Carlson as if he were the prophet of truth, as if a Rupert Murdock-owned Fox TV host who is paid many millions of dollars, has become the Julian Assange of corporate journalism.
In a 2010 radio interview, Mr. Carlson said, “ I am 100 % his bitch. Whatever Mr. Murdoch says, I do.”
The obvious question is: Why would Fox News allow Carlson to say now what many hear as shocking news about the JFK assassination?
So let me run down exactly what Carlson did say.
For five minutes of the 7:28 minute monologue, he said things that are obviously true: that Jack Ruby killed Oswald and that the claim that both acted alone is weird and beyond any odds; that the Warren Commission was shoddy; that the CIA weaponized the term “conspiracy theory” in 1967 according to Lance De Haven-Smith’s book Conspiracy Theory in America; that the CIA’s brainwashing specialist psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West visited Jack Ruby in jail and declared him insane, contrary to all other assessments of Ruby’s mental state; and that the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that there was probably a conspiracy in the president’s assassination.
All of this is true but not news to those knowledgeable about the assassination. Nevertheless, it was perhaps news to Carlson’s audience and therefore good to hear on a corporate news site.
But then, the next few minutes – the key part of his report, the part that drew all the attention – got tricky.
Carlson said that just that day – December 15, 2022 – when all the JFK documents were due to be released but many were withheld, “we spoke to someone who had access to these still hidden CIA documents.” Who would have such access, and how, is left unaddressed, but it is implied that it is a CIA source, but maybe not. It is strange to say the least.
Carlson then said he asked this person, “Did the CIA have a hand in the murder of John F. Kennedy?” And the answer was “I believe they were involved.” Carlson goes on to say, “And the answer we received was unequivocal. Yes, the CIA was involved in the assassination of the president.”
Note the words “hand,” “believe,” “involved,” and then “unequivocal.”
“Hand” can mean many things and is very vague. For example, in front of his wife, a man tells his friend, “I had a hand in preparing Christmas dinner.” To which his wife, laughing, replies, “Yes, he did, he put the napkins on the table.”
To “believe” something is very different from knowing it, as Dr. Martin Schotz, one of the most perceptive JFK assassination researchers, has written in his book, History Will Not Absolve Us: Orwellian Control, Public Denial, and the Murder of President Kennedy
On Belief Versus Knowledge
It is so important to understand that one of the primary means of immobilizing the American people politically today is to hold them in a state of confusion in which anything can be believed but nothing can be known, nothing of significance that is.
And the American people are more than willing to be held in this state because to know the truth — as opposed to only believe the truth — is to face an awful terror and to be no longer able to evade responsibility. It is precisely in moving from belief to knowledge that the citizen moves from irresponsibility to responsibility, from helplessness and hopelessness to action, with the ultimate aim of being empowered and confident in one’s rational powers.
“Involved,” like the word “hand,” can mean many things; it is vague, slippery, not definitive, and is used by tabloid gossip columnists to suggest scandals that may or not be true.
“Unequivocal” does not accurately describe the source’s statement, which was: “I believe.” That is, unless you take someone’s belief as evidence of the truth, or you wish to make it sound so.
Note that nowhere in Carlson’s report does he or his alleged source say clearly and definitively that the CIA/National Security State murdered President Kennedy, for which there has long been overwhelming evidence. Such beating-around-the-bush is quite common and tantalizes the audience to think the next explosive revelation will be dispositive. Yet no release of documents is needed to confirm that the CIA killed Kennedy, as if the national security state would allow itself to be pinned for the murder.
Waiting for the documents is like waiting for Godot; and to promote some hidden smoking gun, some great revelation is to engage in a pseudo-debate without end. It is to do the killers’ bidding for them. And it is quite common. There are many well-known “dissident” writers who continue to claim that there is not enough evidence to conclude that the CIA/national security state killed the president. And this is so for those who question the official story. Furthermore, there are many more pundits who maintain that Oswald did the deed alone, as the Warren Report concluded and the mainstream corporate media trumpet. This group is led by Noam Chomsky, whose acolytes bow to their master’s ignorant conclusions.
Maybe we’ll know the truth in 2063.
While it is true that some people change dramatically, Tucker Carlson, the Fox Television celebrity, would be a very unlikely candidate. He defended Eliot Abrams and praised Oliver North; supported the Contras against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua; went to Nicaragua to support those Contras; smeared the great journalist Gary Webb while defending the CIA; supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq; and much more. Alan MacLeod chronicled all this in February of this year for those who have known nothing of Carlson’s past, including his father’s work as a U.S. intelligence operative as director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), the body that oversees government-funded media, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Martí and Voice of America – all U.S. propaganda outlets.
Now we are being asked to accept that Carlson is out to show how the CIA is “involved” in the murder of JFK. Why would so many fall for such rhetoric?
No doubt any crumb of national news coverage about the CIA and the assassination by a major corporate player elicits an enthusiastic response from those who have tried for many years to tell the truth about JFK’s murder. One’s first response is excitement. But such reactions need to tempered by sober analyses of exactly what has been said, which is what I am doing here. I, too, wish it were a breakthrough but think it is more of the same. Much ado about nothing. A way to continue to foster uncertainty, not knowledge, about the crime.
I see it as a game of false binaries in the same way the Democrats and Republicans are portrayed as mortal enemies. Yes, there are some differences, but all-in-all they are one party, the War Party, who agree on the essential tenets of U.S. imperial policy. They both represent the interests of the upper classes and are financed by them. They both work within the same frame of reference. They both support what Ray McGovern, the former CIA analyst, rightly calls the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex (MICIMATT).
If one asks a dedicated believer in the truthfulness of The New York Times Corporation or NPR, for example, what they think of Tucker Carlson, they will generally dismiss him with disdain as a right-wing charlatan. This, of course, works in reverse if you ask Carlson’s followers what they think of the Times or NPR. Yet for those who think outside the frame – and they are all non-mainstream – a different picture emerges. But sometimes they are taken in by those whose equivocations are extremely lawyerly but appeal to what they wish to hear. This is exactly what a “limited hangout” is. Snagged by some actual truths, they bite on the bait of nuances that don’t mean what they think they do.
Left vs. right, Fox TV vs. The New York Times, NPR, etc.: Just as Carlson’s father Dick Carlson ran the CIA-created U.S. overseas radio propaganda under Reagan and George H. W. Bush, so too the present head of National Public Radio, John Lansing, did the same under Barack Obama. See my piece, Will NPR Now Change its Name to National Propaganda Radio. Birds of a feather disguised as hawks and sparrows in a game meant to confuse and create scrambled brains.
Lastly, let me mention an odd “coincidence.” On December 6 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., nine days before the partial JFK files release and Tucker Carlson’s monologue, the Mary Ferrell Foundation, an organization devoted to JFK research, gave a presentation showcasing what was advertised as explosive new information about the Kennedy assassination. The key presenter was Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter and prominent JFK assassination researcher who has sued the CIA for documents involving Lee Harvey Oswald and CIA operative George Joannides.
On November 22 Morley had published an article titled “Yes, There is a JFK Smoking Gun.” It was subtitled: It will be found in 44 CIA documents that are still “Denied in Full.” The documents he was referring to allegedly concern contacts between Oswald and Joannides in the summer and fall of 1963 in New Orleans and in Mexico City. “They [the CIA] were running a psychological warfare operation, authorized in June 1963, that followed Oswald from New Orleans to Mexico City later that year,” wrote Morley.
Well, the “smoking gun” documents were not released on Dec 15, although on November 20 and then again at The National Press Club on December 6, Morley spoke of them as proving his point about the CIA’s involvement with Oswald, which has been obvious for a long time. Although he said he hadn’t seen these key documents but was awaiting their release, he added that even if they were not released that will still prove him correct. In other words, with this bit of legerdemain, he was saying: What I don’t know, and may not soon not know, supports what I’m claiming even though I don’t know it. And even if the files were released, he writes, “As for the conspiracy question, the massive withholding of documents makes it premature to draw any conclusions. The undisclosed Oswald operation was not necessarily part of a conspiracy. It might indicate CIA incompetence, not complicity. Again, only the CIA knows for sure.” So the smoking gun is not a smoking gun and the waters of uncertainty roll on and on into the receding future.
CIA incompetence, not complicity. Of course. It ain’t necessarily so. Or it is, or might be, or isn’t.
Morley is one of many who still cannot say that the CIA killed the president. Tucker Carlson can speak of its “involvement” just like Morley. We need more information, more files, etc. But even if we get them, we still won’t know. Maybe by 2063.
My question for Tucker Carlson: Who was your anonymous source? And did your source see the documents that were never disclosed? What specific documents are you referring to? And do they prove that the CIA killed Kennedy or just suggest “involvement”?
Finally, as I said before, even as there has long been a mountain of evidence for the CIA’s murder of JFK (and RFK as well, although that is never mentioned), many prominent people continue to play as if there is not. Listen to this video interview between Chris Hedges and former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It is all about the nefarious deeds of the CIA. Right toward the end of the interview (see minutes 32:30-33:19), Hedges says, “So I have to ask [since he has to answer] this question since I know Oliver Stone is convinced the CIA killed JFK … I’ve never seen any evidence that backs it up …” and they both share a mocking laugh at Stone as if he were the village idiot when he knows more about the JFK assassination than the two of them put together, and Kiriakou says he too has not seen such evidence. It’s a disgusting but typical display of arrogance and a “limited hangout.” Criticize the CIA only to make sure you whitewash them for one of their greatest achievements: the murder of President John F. Kennedy. This is straight from Chomsky’s playbook.
Beware double-talkers and the games they play. They come in different flavors.
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.
The Ukrainian president addressing the G20.
I was talking to an open-minded leader of the European Parliament in Brussels ten days ago, and I listened to him tell me that the Ukrainian conflict was certainly complex, but that the most obvious thing was that Russia had invaded that country. I replied by observing that international law obliged Germany, France and Russia to implement resolution 2202, which Moscow alone had done. I continued by reminding him of the responsibility to protect the populations in case of failure of their own government. He cut me off and asked me: "If my government complains about the fate of its citizens in Russia and attacks that country, will you find that normal? Yes," I said, "if you have a Security Council resolution. Do you have one? » Disconcerted, he changed the subject. Three times I asked him if we could talk about the Ukrainian "integral nationalists". Three times he refused. We parted courteously.
The question of the responsibility to protect should have been nuanced. This principle does not allow for a war, but for a police operation, conducted with military means. That is why the Kremlin is careful not to refer to this conflict as a "war", but as a "special military operation". Both terms refer to the same facts, but "special military operation" limits the conflict. As soon as his troops entered Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that he did not intend to annex this territory, but only to liberate the people persecuted by the Ukrainian "Nazis". In a previous long article, I pointed out that, if the expression "Nazis" is correct in the historical sense, it does not correspond to the way these people call themselves. They use the expression: "integral nationalists". Let’s remember that Ukraine is the only state in the world with an explicitly racist constitution.
The fact that international law gives Russia the upper hand does not mean that it has a blank check. Everyone must criticize the way it applies the law. Westerners still find Russia "Asian", "savage" and "brutal", even though they themselves have been far more destructive on many occasions.
Reversal of the situation
Now that the Russian and Western points of view have been clarified, it is clear that several events have prompted a Western shift.
We are entering winter, a harsh season in Central Europe. The Russian population is aware, since the Napoleonic invasion, that it cannot defend such a large country. Therefore, they learned to use the vastness of their territory and the seasons to defeat their attackers. With winter, the front is frozen for several months. Everyone can see that, contrary to the discourse that the Russians are defeated, the Russian army has liberated the Donbass and part of Novorussia.
Before winter fell, the Kremlin withdrew the liberated population living north of the Dnieper, and then withdrew its army, abandoning the part of Kershon located on the north bank of the Dnieper. For the first time, a natural border, the Dnieper River, marks a border between the territories controlled by Kiev and those controlled by Moscow. However, during the interwar period, it was the absence of natural borders that brought down all successive powers in Ukraine. Now Russia is in a position to hold on.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Ukraine has been able to count on unlimited aid from the United States and its allies. However, the mid-term elections in the USA have removed the majority of the Biden administration in the House of Representatives. From now on, Washington’s support will be limited. Similarly, the European Union is also finding its limits. Its populations do not understand the rising cost of energy, the closure of certain factories and the impossibility of heating normally.
Finally, in some circles of power, after admiring the talents of the actor Volodymyr Zelensky as a communicator, they begin to wonder about the rumors about his sudden fortune. In eight months of war, he became a billionaire. The imputation is unverifiable, but the scandal of the Pandora Papers (2021), makes it credible. Is it necessary to bleed to the four veins not to see the donations arrive in Ukraine, but disappear in offshore companies?
The Anglo-Saxons (i.e. London and Washington) wanted to turn the G20 in Bali into an anti-Russian summit. They had first lobbied for Moscow to be excluded from the Group, as they had succeeded in doing at the G8. But if Russia had been absent, China, by far the world’s largest exporter, would not have come. So it was Frenchman Emmanuel Macron who was responsible for convincing the other guests to sign a bloody declaration against Russia. For two days, Western news agencies assured that the matter was in the bag. But in the end, the final statement, while summarizing the Western point of view, closed the debate with these words: "There were other points of view and different assessments of the situation and the sanctions. Recognizing that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we know that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy. » In other words, for the first time, the West has failed to impose its worldview on the rest of the planet.
Worse: the West imposed a video intervention by Volodymyr Zelensky as they had done on August 24 and September 27 at the United Nations Security Council. However, while Russia had tried in vain to oppose it in September in New York, it accepted it in November in Bali. At the Security Council, France, which held the presidency, violated the rules of procedure to give the floor to a head of state by video. On the contrary, at the G20, Indonesia held an absolutely neutral position and was not likely to accept giving him the floor without Russian authorization. This was obviously a trap. President Zelensky, who does not know how these bodies work, fell into it.
After having caricatured Moscow’s action, he called for its exclusion from the... "G19". G19 ". In other words, the little Ukrainian gave an order on behalf of the Anglo-Saxons to the heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers of the 20 largest world powers and was not heard. In reality, the dispute between these leaders was not about Ukraine, but about whether or not to submit to the American world order. All the Latin American, African and four Asian participants said that this domination was over; that the world is now multipolar.
The Westerners must have felt the ground shake under their feet. They were not the only ones. Volodymyr Zelensky saw, for the first time, that his sponsors, until now absolute masters of the world, were letting him down without hesitation in order to maintain their position for a while longer.
It is likely that Washington was in league with Moscow. The United States realizes that things are turning against it on a global scale. It will have no hesitation in blaming the Ukrainian regime. William Burns, director of the CIA, has already met Sergei Narychkin, the director of the SVR, in Turkey. These meetings follow those of Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Advisor, with several Russian officials. However, Washington has nothing to negotiate in Ukraine. Two months before the conflict in Ukraine, I explained that the core of the problem had nothing to do with this country, nor with NATO. It is essentially about the end of the unipolar world.
So it is not surprising that a few days after the G20 slap in the face, Volodymyr Zelensky contradicted his American sponsors for the first time in public. He accused Russia of having launched a missile at Poland and maintained his words when the Pentagon indicated that he was wrong, it was a Ukrainian counter-missile. The idea, for him. was to continue to act in line with the Treaty of Warsaw, concluded on April 22, 1920, by Symon Petlioura’s integral nationalists with the regime of Piłsudski; to push Poland to go to war against Russia. This was the second time Washington rang a bell in his ears. He did not hear it.
Probably, these contradictions will no longer manifest themselves in public. Western positions will soften. Ukraine has been warned: in the coming months it will have to negotiate with Russia. President Zelensky can plan his escape now, because his bruised compatriots will not forgive him for deceiving them.
Stella Assange, wife of Julian Assange, talks about his incarceration in Belmarsh maximum security prison
Matt Kennard sits down with Stella Assange, wife of Julian Assange, to talk about his incarceration in Belmarsh maximum security prison, his case against extradition to the U.S., his persecution by Washington and the state of the UK judiciary.
More bad news: the newly created U.S. coordination center in Stuttgart for Ukraine operations as a landmark on the way to WWIII
Earlier today I received an email from my good friend Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Francis A. Boyle regarding the creation in Stuttgart of a new U.S. coordination center for war operations in Ukraine headed by a 3-star general. The news item seems to have been sidelined this past week by Western mainstream coverage of the Russian withdrawal from Kherson and entry of Ukrainian forces into that city. However, judging by Boyle’s interpretation, there is every reason to put a spotlight on this issue and to seek the broadest possible discussion in Alternative News electronic and print media.
I offer the following quote from Boyle’s email with his permission:
The story below is a pure cover story by the Pentagon. You do not need a 3 Star General and a Staff of 300 to keep tabs on U.S. Weapons in Ukraine. This is a War Command to wage war against Russia. The last time I dealt personally with a 3 Star General was when I lectured at West Point on “Nuclear Deterrence” in their Senior Conference on that subject in front of, among others, the 3 Star General in Charge of War Operations at the Pentagon. The Pentagon puts a 3 Stars General in Charge of War Operations—not Inventory. And you do not need a Headquarters Staff of 300 to do an Audit. It’s a War Headquarters Staff. We are going to war against Russia unless the American People can figure out some way to stop it!
Francis A. Boyle
Professor of Law
STUTTGART, Germany — A three-star general will lead a new Army headquarters in Germany that will include about 300 U.S. service members responsible for coordinating security assistance for Ukraine, a senior U.S. military official said this week.
I refer those unfamiliar with Francis Boyle to his brief biography in the University of Illinois website:
https://law.illinois.edu/faculty-research/faculty-profiles/francis-boyle/ To that I can add, that his ‘political science’ studies for the Masters and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard were primarily in Russian/Soviet affairs, and that in his time at Harvard he worked under many of the same professors as did I. In this sense, Boyle is a well qualified Russia expert, even if his primary listing at Illinois is as defender of human rights. He is also particularly noteworthy this year for his efforts to promote among several key Congressmen the articles of impeachment against President Biden that he has drafted; the charges – waging undeclared war on Russia in violation of the Constitution. So far that has gained little traction, but when the new Congress with Republican majority takes its seats in 2023 the prospects of finding sponsors may be significantly improved.
Notwithstanding the worrisome or alarming news above, I close this essay with a glimmer of hope that the world has not yet gone completely mad. From my volunteer translator in Germany, I have learned about the start of what should be a nationwide “Ami Go Home” movement in the Federal Republic. It will begin with mass demonstrations in the East German city of Leipzig on 26 November. The protests are inspired by the thinking of Oskar Lafonteine, a German politician who held leading positions in the SPD and later in Die Linke: namely the notion that it is high time for the United States occupation forces to leave Germany so that the country may recover its sovereignty. Those new to German politics may more easily identify Lafonteine as the husband of the eloquent Opposition member of the Bundestag Sahra Wagenknecht. It behooves me to add that per the advice of my translator when he forwarded to me news about the ‘Ami Go Home’ demonstration that the actual organizers are not on the German Left but, on the contrary, on the Hard Right. This interpretation has been reconfirmed by a well informed reader living in Berlin. Call this yet another ‘impersonation’ or imposter phenomenon if you will. We are living through interesting times.
Last week on October 19 the US Navy announced that “General Michael ‘Erik’ Kurilla [lead image, lower right] , commander of CENTCOM, conducted a visit aboard the USS West Virginia [top], a U.S. Navy Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine at an undisclosed location at sea in international waters in the Arabian Sea. Kurilla was joined on the USS West Virginia by Vice Admiral Brad Cooper [lower left], commander of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and NAVCENT.”
The Fifth Fleet and the Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) are headquartered at Bahrain on the Persian Gulf. From Bahrain down the Gulf to the Masirah Island airbase, off Oman, is a flight distance of 1,047 kilometres. From Masirah to the West Virginia and its escort was within helicopter flight range.
Two days later, the Pentagon reported that “on October 21, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke by phone with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu. Secretary Austin emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid the ongoing war against Ukraine.” They spoke again on October 23, according to Austin’s spokesman, because Shoigu had “requested a follow up call.”
Less than 24 hours elapsed before Austin telephoned his Kiev counterpart, Alexei Reznikov, to “reiterate[d] that the United States rejects the public and false allegations by Russia about Ukraine and any attempt to use them as a pretext for further Russian escalation of its unlawful and unjustified war against Ukraine.”
The same day, in the Moscow evening, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a communiqué confirming that “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke with Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov today by phone. The military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern and agreed to keep the lines of communication open. In accordance with past practice, the specific details of their conversation will be kept private.” RIA, the Russian state news agency, reported that in their conversation the generals “discussed the possibility raised by Moscow that Ukraine might use a ‘dirty bomb’.”
“The call took place shortly after a similar conversation between Gerasimov and his British counterpart.”
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the British chief of staff, announced that Gerasimov had requested their conversation. According to Radakin, he had “rejected Russia’s allegations that Ukraine is planning actions to escalate the conflict, and he restated the UK’s enduring support for Ukraine. The military leaders both agreed on the importance of maintaining open channels of communication between the UK and Russia to manage the risk of miscalculation and to facilitate de-escalation. The conversation followed the Defence Secretary’s call with his Russian counterpart yesterday and a call between the Foreign Ministers of France, the UK, and the USA last night.”
That preceding call of foreign ministers, involving Secretary of State Antony Blinken for the US, produced a joint statement of “committ[ment] to continue supporting Ukraine’s efforts to defend its territory for as long as it takes. Earlier today, the defense ministers of each of our countries spoke to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu at his request. Our countries made clear that we all reject Russia’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory. The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation. We further reject any pretext for escalation by Russia.”
Blinken then telephoned his Kiev counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, to repeat both parts of the message – that the Ukraine should not escalate to using a nuclear weapon, and that Russia should do likewise.
In case there was hardness of hearing or weakness of command and control in Kiev, or ambiguity between what Reznikov and Kuleba thought they were hearing from Washington and London, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had met Austin at the Pentagon on October 18. They then telephoned to talk again on Sunday, when they “reaffirm[ed] the U.S.-UK defense relationship and the importance of transatlantic cooperation. Their conversation today was a continuation of their discussion at the Pentagon last week, which covered a wide range of shared defense and security priorities, including Ukraine.”
Austin telephoned Kiev again yesterday to repeat to Reznikov that he should make sure the allegation of a Ukrainian nuclear weapon escalation was “false”; and that the allies had given Moscow this assurance in exchange for Moscow’s undertaking against “further escalation” – read Russian nuclear response.
At the same time yesterday, Vzglyad, the Moscow security publication, published its assessment of the escalating nuclear threat to Russia from the US, as the Kremlin, Defence Ministry, General Staff and the Stavka see it now. A translation into English follows.
Left to right: General Valery Gerasimov; General Mark Milley; Admiral Sir Tony Radakin; General Lloyd Austin.
The US has shown its readiness to launch a nuclear strike on Russia.
October 24, 2022
Text: Alexander Timokhin
Does the United States have the ability to instantly, within a few minutes, launch a disarming and unreciprocated nuclear strike on Russia? For decades, it was assumed that no, any US attack would cause an immediate similar response from the Russian armed forces. But now there is reason to believe that Washington has come to a different conclusion – and brazenly demonstrates it.
On Thursday, October 20, an exceptional event took place in the Arabian Sea. It was publicly announced that Michael Kurilla, commander of the US Central Command, paid a visit to the Ohio-class West Virginia SSBN (submarine with ballistic nuclear missiles), which specially surfaced in the Arabian Sea. This submarine, like all its ‘sister ships’, is armed with 24 Trident II ballistic missiles, each of which can carry 10 warheads at a maximum, which in total gives the vessel an ammunition supply of 240 strategic nuclear warheads.
But the fact is that the purpose of such vessels is always to be secretive and never to reveal the location of their patrol. The fact that now the location of this SSB [ballistic missile submarine] is expressly highlighted, it is impossible to understand otherwise than a special signal. It is difficult to remember when earlier in this way any American military commander so clearly and openly visited a boat at sea on combat duty. All this is directly related to the nuclear deterrence system that exists between Russia and the United States.
Nuclear deterrence and nuclear attack
Nuclear war, the preparation for it and its conduct, is not as simple as the average person thinks. Let’s briefly list the key concepts.
When two sides – in this case, Russia and the United States – both have nuclear weapons, and the means of their delivery to enemy territory, a missile attack warning system, and the technical capability to launch ballistic missiles after this system detects the launch of enemy missiles, then a simple missile attack becomes suicide for the attacker. If the United States or Russia launches their ballistic missiles at the enemy, the enemy will be able to launch their missiles before the attacking side’s missiles reach their target.
Such a strike, when a counterattack is carried out before the enemy’s missiles have reached target, is called a ‘counter-counter’ [ответно-встречным]. It is applied with the help of intercontinental ballistic missiles based in deep underground silos and ready to launch immediately.
The problem is that the interval from launch command to the counter-strike takes time. And besides, it is necessary that someone from among the leaders who have the authority to order such a strike would be physically able to do it — that is, would be alive, conscious, and so on.
This vulnerability can be exploited by delivering a so–called обезглавливающий удар (for Americans, the term is decapitation strike). A strike aimed at destroying the leadership. There are various ways to prevent or to balance the consequences of such a strike — we will not list them, nor the methods of their application (not only by missile strike).
In addition to the decapitating blow, there is such a thing as a disarming blow (удар обезоруживающий — counterforce strike). Its goal is to attack the nuclear arsenal of the victim country in such a way that the enemy, even with a workable leadership, simply does not have time to launch its missiles in response. To do this, the time for which the blow is struck should be less than the enemy needs to make a decision and pass the order to the launchers.
Therefore, in addition to providing a retaliatory nuclear strike, the country’s nuclear forces have been invested with the means of ensuring the guaranteed possibility of a retaliatory strike. Which will be produced even if the enemy struck first, and all his missiles hit their targets before at least something was launched in response. The most common way to ensure a retaliatory strike is strategic submarines. As a result, the enemy’s attack in any case causes a counter-counter or retaliatory strike. Nuclear war turns out to be a dead end; it cannot be won; and even the initiator who has attacked successfully also dies.
This principle is called “mutually assured destruction”. It was this, and not anything else, that guaranteed the absence of major wars on our planet since 1945.
However, today the situation is somewhat different. The number of nuclear warheads has become such that the exchange of nuclear strikes cannot lead to the guaranteed death of all living things. The number of carriers of nuclear weapons has fallen to such numbers that even after a massive, all-out strike, wildlife, untouched cities and towns, and people will remain in the Northern Hemisphere. A nuclear war without the death of all participants has become possible.
The second problem is the combat stability of the Russian nuclear forces in their current configuration. Russia was able to revive the Missile Attack Warning System (SPRN). The missiles that are supposed to retaliate and counter-strike are regularly updated.
But now our fleet has fewer ships than Japan. There is no possibility to intercept or block all dangerous waters with the operations of Russia’s anti-submarine forces. And this means that, as in the case of the Arabian Sea, the Americans and the British who can hold the area, will be free to manoeuvre there in order to strike from locations where the missiles can reach us too quickly. For example, in the Northern, Norwegian, Barents, Mediterranean and Arabian Seas.
Russian strategic submarines are few in number today compared to the Soviet times. Together with the qualitative superiority of the US Navy, this creates an environment where the Americans can destroy our submarines immediately before the attack begins. This, alas, is a fact known to specialists. At the same time, 44% of all strategic nuclear warheads in Russia are placed on submarines. And almost all of them are in two (!) fleet bases vulnerable to the first strike. The Russian strategic aviation has never learned to fight like the American one, and it is not a means of guaranteed retaliation.
The combination of these factors creates a technical opportunity for the United States to launch a successful disarming nuclear strike against Russia without receiving a significant blow in response. At the same time, the intensity of anti-Russian propaganda is such that the western man in the street will not have to justify anything — from that perspective everything is already prepared. And right now there is the hint of the possibility of such a strike when the West Virginia surfaced in the Arabian Sea.
Chinese factor, flight time and impact mechanics
Some experts believe that the American SSB was carrying out tasks to put pressure on China during the CPC [Chinese Communist Party] Congress. On the one hand, it is indeed easy to attack China from the Arabian Sea ‘from the rear’ – the approach of missiles to its populated areas will be from its deserts in the west of the country.
But there is no logic in such pressure. The Americans don’t know exactly where the Chinese have missiles. In addition, China does not have its own full-fledged SPRN [missile attack warning system]. The Americans can organize a sudden strike on this country with Pacific submarines from other directions. They simply do not need to threaten China from the Indian Ocean, and without this, they have a full array of threats.
In contrast to China, the coordinates of Russian underground launchers and the corridors along which mobile installations moved until recently are known to the Americans extremely accurately. We gave them all the information ourselves during mutual inspections of each other’s missile positions. Thus, the strategic missile submarine in the Arabian Sea is a hint not to China, but to Russia. At the very least we should not rule it out.
In order for the strike on our country to be successful, it must be delivered faster than we will have an alarm, an assessment of the situation for the command to launch. To do this, the distance from which the strike is carried out must be about 3,000 kilometres, otherwise the flight time of the missiles will be too long. So now let’s look at the map.
When the SSB is deployed in the northern part of the Arabian Sea, it just happens to be at about such a distance from the installations of the 31st Missile Army of the RVSN [Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, HQ Orenburg] and some parts of the 33rd Guards Army of the RVSN [Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, HQ Omsk], which allows the submarine to deliver the same disarming blow in the minimum flight time.
It is clear that such a task cannot be solved by one submarine. And it is clear that such a task cannot be solved solely from the Arabian Sea. But no one is talking about ‘one’ and ‘only’. The deployment of SSBMS in this sea area is not a preparation for a strike against Russia. But this is a demonstration that technically the United States can strike such a blow if it sees fit. And they’re not bluffing.
There is one technical aspect that is little-known to the layman. A ballistic missile can fly not only along the normal trajectory for itself, when the payload is lifted into the upper point of the trajectory and drops down from there. In addition to ballistic trajectories, missiles can also fly along the so-called flat (depressed in English terminology). The meaning of the flat trajectory is that the rocket goes very low, not even rising to 300 kilometres. With such a trajectory, ranges and accuracy suffer greatly, the dispersion of combat warheads increases, but this turns out to give a serious gain in flight speed to the target and a very small flight time.
If during a strike from the Arabian Sea, for example on the 13th missile division [13th Orenburg Red Banner Rocket Division] in the Orenburg region, employing a conventional trajectory, the flight time of the missiles is comparable to the time required for making a decision and passing the command for a counter-strike. However, when striking from there by a flat trajectory, the picture changes dramatically, and not in our favour.
At the same time, there are ways to compensate for the dispersion of interceptors. Firstly, these are the new fuses in the W76-2 combat warheads, which allow for time-synchronized detonation of the warheads, preventing them from flying past the target. Secondly, there is the mutual overlap of the affected areas when working on a target from several submarines. Thirdly, the US has made progress in hypersonic gliding attack warheads.
A clear sign of the ambition of the United States to deliver such disarming strikes sometime in the future would be evidence that they are firing missiles along flat trajectories, and there is such evidence. Since 2015, three videos of such tests have been filmed by random eyewitnesses – and have become publicly available.
The Americans are clearly working on launching missile strikes using such schemes. And now they are showing us their readiness to bring a strategic submarine to the point of a salvo ‘at point-blank range’. Across Russia.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. One still needs to deploy a sufficient number of submarines to strike. It is necessary not to frighten the enemy and not to cause an emergency exit to the sea of all its strategic missile carriers, not to cause the dispersal of strategic bombers, tankers and cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. What is necessary is that that the mobile ground-based missile systems do not have time to ‘run away’ too far for the inconspicuous B-2 and B–21 bombers, which will go in the second wave to mop up those remnants of the strategic missile forces that would have survived the missile strike – unless the [US] launch team still did not pass through the [Russian] system known as Perimeter [western name, Dead Hand] or otherwise.
It’s all very complicated, and the risks of loss of surprise are very high. But their chances of success are not zero. With the visit of West Virginia to our ‘soft underbelly’, the Americans clearly show how far they are willing to go if they deem it necessary. The Americans are sending an extremely clear signal – for them, nuclear war is no longer unthinkable, and not impossible.
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.
- Nazi “hero” of Ukrainian nationalists murdered 100,000 Poles
- The Banderites’ unspeakable torture and mass murder of civilians
- US supports neo-Nazis resurrecting Bandera’s reign of terror
“The Snake From His Lair.” Ukrainian poem. Photo credit: Public domain
**“The Snake from his Lair”
Do you recognize this snake?
The bloody devouring beast is crawling.
His protection is a spidery sign,
His name is Stepan Bandera.
His name is Judas, Cain.
These are the deeds of his snaky hands:
Fires and blazes over our land,
The spilled blood of innocent children.
And the people stood up to defend.
The country gave its verdict:
To crush the serpent in his lair
And pull out his sting and fangs.**
The above poem, written in Ukrainian on a poster in the years following World War Two, provides only dark glimpses of a time many in this age appear to have forgotten.
Generations after the end of that bloody war, which claimed an estimated 27 million Soviet lives, the fangs of the murderous Nazi, Stepan (or Stefan, or Stephan) Bandera maintain their venomous grip on Ukraine.
Even Bandera’s Wikipedia page, at the time of this writing, still notes that Bandera, a leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), was a mass murderer, though his devotees, the Banderites, seem to be doing all they can to scrub information about his pogroms from the internet.
Screen-print of Stepan Bandera’s Wikipedia page.
Indeed, today Bandera is practically worshipped by Ukrainian nationalists, who have named streets after him and erected statues in his honor, in some cases on the very pedestals where statues once memorialized the Soviets who gave their lives driving the Nazis back to Berlin. Bandera’s cold eyes even gaze out from Ukrainian postage stamps, a fact not missed by purveyors of internet memes.
Ukrainian postage stamp featuring Bandera, used in a meme.
Statue of Bandera in Ukraine. Photo Credit: The Times of Israel
This may not mean much to you if you are American or even western European. But to those in many former Soviet republics whose grandparents and great-grandparents sacrificed everything to rid the land of Bandera’s ilk, and to Jewish descendants of Holocaust survivors, the honoring of this Nazi collaborator said to be responsible for the mass murder of 100,000 people in Poland is offensive beyond words.
The poorly-reasoned argument that “Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is a Jew, so how can he be a Nazi,” is a figurative slap in the face of Jews outraged about the resurrection of Nazi heroes in Ukraine. A simple cursory search on Google reveals reams of horrified headlines in Israeli media concerning the rise of nationalism in Ukraine and the honoring of Bandera and other Nazi leaders.
In 1941, Bandera mobilized Ukrainian troops, outfitted them in standard Wehrmacht infantry uniforms with the blue and yellow ribbon of Ukraine on their shoulders, and followed them as they rolled into Poland on June 22, 1941, launching Operation Barbarossa.
And that was only the beginning of Bandera’s reign of terror.
Polish victims of a massacre committed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the village of Lipniki, Wołyń, 1943. Photo credit: Public domain
Between 1943 and 1945, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (abbreviated UPA in Ukrainian) slaughtered thousands of Poles in towns and villages throughout Wołyń, a region in Nazi-occupied Poland that is now part of present-day Ukraine.
It’s estimated that during this period, more than 100,000 Poles died at the hands of radical Ukrainian separatists, members of Bandera’s OUN and its military arm, the UPA. Their goal was simple: Eradicate all non-Ukrainians from future Ukrainian lands.
On June 16th, 1944, the UPA attacked a train carrying women and children. Few survived. Photo credit: IPN
Victims of the train attack taken away to be buried. Photo credit: KARTA Center
The most horrific genocidal massacre, known as “Bloody Sunday,” was carried out on July 11, 1943 when right at dawn, Ukrainian insurgent detachments, aided by local Ukrainians, simultaneously surrounded and attacked 99 Polish villages in the Kowel, Włodzimierz Wołyński, Horochów and Łuck districts. They brutally slaughtered Polish civilians and destroyed their homes.
Whole villages were burned to the ground and property was looted. Investigators estimate that as many as 8,000 people — mostly women, children, and elderly — were killed on that day alone.
Their remains are still being found today.
The remains of an estimated 300 people were found by archaeologists in 2011 at a mass grave in the village of Ostówek in Ukraine where they were massacred in 1943 by the UPA. Photo credit: Darek Delmanowicz/PAP
And it didn’t end there.
It didn’t even end when Hitler’s armies withdrew in 1944.
The mass murders continued. Between 1943 and 1945, Poles were murdered in 1,865 different places in the Wołyń region. Hundreds of Poles were murdered in each of the communities of Wola Ostrowiecka, Gaj, Ostrówki and Kolodno.
The murders were carried out with shocking brutality. People were burned alive or thrown into wells. Axes, pitchforks, scythes, knives and other farming tools were used instead of guns to make the massacres look like spontaneous peasant uprisings.
The Ukrainians tortured their victims with a cruelty scarcely imaginable. People were scalped. Their noses, lips and ears were chopped off. Their eyes were gouged out, hands cut off, heads squashed in vices. Women’s breasts were sliced off and pregnant women were bayonetted in the belly. Men’s genitals were cruelly hacked off with sickles.
The Polish “Association of Memory of Victims of Crimes of Ukrainian Nationalists” (SUOZUN) is putting together a forensic reconstruction of the events surrounding the Wołyń Massacre. The evidence they have collected is shocking, revealing children that were run through with stakes, people’s throats sliced open, their tongues pulled out through their necks. People sawn in half with a carpenter’s saw. A child nailed to a door.
One woman, in an advanced stage of pregnancy, had her abdomen cut open, the fetus removed and replaced with a live cat, which was sewn inside of her. Another pregnant woman’s uterus was cut open and filled with broken glass.
According to some Polish historians, even the German butchers were shocked by these atrocities and began to protect the Poles from the Ukrainian “axe.”
The bloody frenzy of torture and murder continued well after the Nazis had left the region, only now the Ukrainian militants attacked citizens of Soviet Ukraine, specialists such as agronomists, engineers, doctors, and teachers sent in by the government to restore the republic after the war. Though the majority of these people were ethnic Ukrainians, the nationalists killed them and any villagers who cooperated with them.
These atrocities were ordered by the head of the UPA, a former Wehrmacht captain named Roman Shukhevich, who is now idolized by many Ukrainians. “The OUN should act so that all those who recognized the Soviet government are destroyed. Not intimidated, but physically destroyed! Do not be afraid that people will curse us for cruelty. Let half of the 40 million Ukrainian population remain — there is nothing terrible in this,” he wrote.
Wołyń is a region that was once part of Nazi-occupied Poland and is now part of present-day Ukraine. Photo credit: Public domain
Stepan Bandera. Photo Credit: Public domain
Polish President Andrzej Duda lays a wreath at the Wołyń Massacre memorial in Warsaw, 2019. Photo credit: Tomasz Gzell/PAP
In July of 2019, Polish President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath at the Wołyń Massacre memorial in Warsaw and gave a speech about the future of Polish-Ukrainian relations:
“If we are talking today about the building of relations between our nations, between the Polish and Ukrainian people, between our states — and let me stress here, that we want […] these to be the best possible relations — there is one thing known for sure. We need remembrance so that what happened then, will never repeat itself between our nations and our people.”
He added: “The Ukrainian side should permit the exhumations, which are necessary to mark the graves, so that the descendants [of victims] can know the places, where they can go to light a candle. And this is the condition under which the massacre could be commemorated in Wołyń.”
Bandera’s Vile Legacy Continues
Ukrainian nationalists today are not exhuming the victims of Bandera, they are resurrecting Bandera himself, perpetuating his sadistic crimes upon the blood-stained fields and communities of Eastern Ukraine.
Russian media and independent journalists have reported a wide range of atrocities committed against Russian-speaking civilians and Roma people as well as the tortures inflicted upon Russian prisoners of war.
There is video evidence of Russian captives screaming in pain as they are shot in the legs and left to bleed out and die with no medical assistance. One Russian soldier was crucified and then burned alive. The luckier ones have returned to Russian-controlled lands bearing the scars of their torture, like swastikas carved or burned into their flesh, and nightmarish memories which will never fully fade away.
The footage of these atrocities is only shocking to those unfamiliar with the brutal and inhumane tactics of the Banderites, who are picking up from where they left off in the 1950’s after the Soviet occupation of Ukraine forced their movement underground.
Civilians in the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk have been struggling for independence from their Banderite overlords since 2014, when the coup known as Maidan tore Ukraine apart. The Russian-speaking population which makes up the majority in the region known as the Donbas, in Eastern Ukraine, have been under attack for eight years by the neo-Nazis in Western Ukraine, who spread the ideology of Bandera and the Nazis, with support from the United States and other NATO countries.
If you want evidence of US involvement, there is no lack of that to be found. You can begin with the leaked conversation, intercepted by Russian intelligence, of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, where they plan the Maidan coup as casually as you might plan a dinner party.
Western media reacted to Victoria’s explosive comment, “Fuck the EU,” but ignored the real meat of the conversation, which was the naming of the puppet leaders subsequently installed in Kiev.
And there was certainly nothing casual about the bloodletting inflicted on minorities of Ukraine once the Banderites seized power.
Anti-government protesters clash with police at Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev. Photo credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images
The initial Maidan protests were violent and terrifying. Video footage and photographs from the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” show police bullied and attacked, in some cases shielded by medics who were trying to prevent the mob from massacring them. A TV channel captured another medic, a supporter of the revolutionaries, refusing to allow people to call an ambulance for a police officer who had lost an eye in the fighting.
Kiev journalist Sergey Rulev described his brutal torture at the hands of the Banderites:
“Four people beat me. There was a woman in a headscarf with them, who kicked me in the groin without saying a word. Then they dragged me to the occupied Ministry of Agriculture, where they searched me, took away my documents, a press pass, accreditation to the Verkhovna Rada, business cards, two phones, and two cameras. When they dragged me back to Khreshchatyk, I started screaming and calling for help. I fell to the ground and was kicked again, but no one reacted. At about noon, I was dragged into the burned-out House of Trade Unions. In the lobby, I was immediately beaten up. In the courtyard, unknown people in camouflage fatigues bound my hands, stripped me to my underwear, and continued to beat me… After that, the four of them pinned me to the floor, injected something into my arm again, and said, ‘Now you’re going to talk to us, bitch! Which special services do you work for?’”
While he was tied up, a woman began ripping out Sergey’s nails with pliers. He later identified her as Amina Okuyeva, a medic in the “Eighth Hundred” who was later awarded the title “People’s Hero of Ukraine,” after she joined what Ukrainian nationalists refer to as the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” and fought for the neo-Nazi Kiev-2 and Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalions.
Young people take part in a nationalist march on Stepan Bandera’s 109th birthday, in Lvov. Photo Credit: Sputnik/Stringer
From the first days of its existence, horror stories emerged about the so-called “Anti-Terrorist Operation” and atrocities committed by the Banderites in Donbas. Though authorities and media ignored these stories at first, eventually the cries of international human rights organizations could no longer be silenced and some of the most egregious cases had reached the courts.
Though there were some convictions in those days, a lot of people got away with serious crimes on the grounds that they were “Patriots of Ukraine.” For example, a “Right Sector” nationalist named Sergey Sternenko who was convicted of abducting one man and killing another, had his seven-year sentence reduced to one year probation on the merits of his “patriotism.”
Given this climate, it’s not surprising that 48 people were burned alive in the Trade Union Building in Odessa in May of 2014. And those responsible still await justice.
Perhaps the most horrifying crime committed by the Banderites was the creation of a “prison” in the refrigerator of the airport in Mariupol in June of 2014, which jailers referred to as “the library.” Inside, residents of Mariupol were raped, beaten or tortured to death if they were suspected of harboring any sympathies for Russia or the unrecognized republics in Donbas. The “library” was run by members of “Right Sector” and “Svoboda” (Freedom) party. One of them named Yuri Mikhalchishin, a nationalist who goes by the pseudonym “Nahtigal88” (referring to the letters “HH,” denoting Heil Hitler), openly asserts that he has followed the teachings of Mein Kampf since he was 16.
The United States’ decades-long support of the Banderites
The US political agenda in Ukraine is no secret. You can read all about it in a study produced by RAND Corporation, a DC think-tank which explored how NATO could over-extend Russia by applying economic sanctions and using Ukraine, Syria and other countries to stage proxy wars. You can download the extensive 354-page study for free, directly from RAND Corp’s site, or you can download the 12-page briefing here.
Cover of the RAND Corporation briefing “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia.” Photo credit: RAND Corp.
An excerpt from the RAND Corporation briefing “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia.” Photo credit: RAND Corp.
Bear in mind that this study was published in 2019, well before Russia began its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine in February of this year, and yet it explores the possibilities of providing lethal aid to Ukraine.
But US support of neo-Nazis in Ukraine goes back much further, to the years following World War Two. And you can find the evidence of that on the CIA’s own website.
Secret documents declassified in 2007 tell of the Banderites’ association with the CIA in the years following the war, of the CIA’s early interest in retaining Bandera as an asset followed by their eventual discard. His followers’ blatant loyalty to the recently-defeated Nazis of the Third Reich was a political millstone around the CIA’s neck, which in those days was not as robust and muscular as it is now, to brazenly support neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
The entire sordid story of the CIA’s affair with Bandera is encapsulated in a thirty-three-page “draft working paper,” which is great late-night reading if you enjoy having nightmares about Nazis.
I leave you with the following screen prints taken from that document, and I will continue this investigative report on Stepan Bandera in my next article.
To be continued…
About the author:
Deborah Armstrong currently writes about geopolitics with an emphasis on Russia. She previously worked in local TV news in the United States where she won two regional Emmy Awards. In the early 1990’s, Deborah lived in the Soviet Union during its final days and worked as a television consultant at Leningrad Television.
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.
The UK and Commonwealth may be mourning the passing of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday. I am in mourning as well, but for a very different reason: the gathering of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in the Ramstein air base in Germany yesterday reshuffled the deck on Western military and financial assistance to Ukraine, raising contributions to the ongoing holy crusade against Russia from still more nations and adding new, still more advanced precision strike weapons to the mix of deliveries to Kiev. It was an open summons to the Kremlin to escalate in turn, as were the test firing the same day of a new intercontinental rocket, the Minuteman III, from Vandenberg air base in California and the unannounced visit to Kiev yesterday of not only Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was featured in Western media accounts, but also other top officials of the Biden administration. The most notorious member of this delegation was surely Blinken’s deputy, Victoria Nuland, who had stage managed the February 2014 coup that put in power in Kiev the Russia-hating regime that Zelensky now heads.
The Russians may be compelled to take the bait due to the course of military action on the ground. As now becomes clear, they have just suffered some losses in very heavy ground and artillery fighting these past few days around Kharkov. The Ukrainian gains were facilitated by the advanced weaponry recently arrived from NATO countries, by the targeting data they are receiving from the U.S. and from off-stage tactical direction from NATO officers. By ‘take the bait,’ I mean the Russians may escalate to all out war on Ukraine. This question figured prominently in yesterday’s major news and political talk show programs of Russian state television. I will go into these matters in some detail below.
Regrettably, all of the foregoing also obliges me to revisit the critique I published a couple of weeks ago on the latest essay in Foreign Affairs magazine by John Mearsheimer. His overarching message on the dangers of our stumbling into a nuclear war is better substantiated by the latest developments, even though I believe that Mearsheimer failed to identify the several successive steps that lie ahead before we find ourselves in such a war. Mearsheimer oversimplified Russian options to deal with setbacks on the ground. This also will be a central issue in my narrative below.
Finally, in this essay I will direct attention to the second dimension of the ongoing confrontation between Russia and the entire Collective West: the economic war being waged on the Russian Federation via sanctions, which now far outnumber those directed against any other country on earth. This war, as I will argue, is going well for the Russians. More importantly for us all, it is the sole area in which the peoples of Europe may have a say in putting an end to the mad policies being pursued by their national governments under the direct pressure of Washington.
Over the past ten days, we have witnessed the start of the Ukrainian counter-offensive which was preceded by so much anticipation in Western media. A reversal of Russian fortunes in the war was predicted, leading to the stalemate or outright defeat for Russia which Mearsheimer and some other analysts in the US foreign policy community feared would trigger a nuclear response from the Kremlin.
In fact, the Ukrainian counter-offensive got off to a very bad start. It opened in the south, in the Kherson region. Kherson, which is predominantly Russian-speaking, was the first major Ukrainian city to fall to the Russians and it has strategic importance for ensuring Russian domination of the Black Sea littoral. However, first results of the Ukrainian attacks there were disastrous for the Ukrainian armed forces. It soon was obvious that they had deployed new recruits who had little or no military experience. The infantry attacked across open terrain where they were easily destroyed in vast numbers by the Russian defenders of Kherson. I have heard the figure of 5,000 Ukrainian casualties in the Kherson counter offensive. Obviously the Russians were jubilant, though there were reports of some Ukrainian reservists being withdrawn from the field of action for redeployment elsewhere.
What followed was something the Russians evidently did not expect, namely a well prepared and implemented assault on their positions around the northeastern city of Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city. Kharkov was briefly surrounded by Russian forces at the start of the war, but was left in relative peace as the Russians refocused their strategy on taking the Donbas and avoiding major urban warfare except in one place, Mariupol. Exactly what the Russian game plan has been was recently explained in a remarkable paper published by a certain ‘Marinus’ in the Marine Corps Gazette. See https://www.imetatronink.com/2022/08/a-former-us-marine-corps-officers.html
A couple of days ago I picked up the following amidst the chatter of panelists on Evening with Vladimir Solovyov: “yes, we made some mistakes, but it is inevitable in a war that mistakes are made.” As from the latest news on the apparent loss of Balakliya and surrounding villages on the outskirts of Kharkov, we can see that the Ukrainian tactics were precisely those which Russia had been using so effectively against them from day one of the ‘special military operation,’ namely a feint in one war zone followed by all-out attack on a very different region. Of course, the ‘feint’ around Kherson, if that is what it was, entailed the cynical sacrifice of thousands of young and not so young Ukrainian foot soldiers. But the resultant distraction prevented the Russians from bringing up sufficient manpower to successfully defend their positions around Kharkov, which include the strategically important city of Izyum.
Izyum is close to the Russian-Ukrainian border southeast of Kharkov and is a major logistical base for munitions and weaponry that are sent onward to support the Donbas operation. The latest information on the Russian side appears to be that the Russians have now dispatched large numbers of reservists to this area to hold their positions. They also speak of intense artillery duels. We may well assume that both sides have experienced heavy loss of life. As yet, the outcome is unforeseeable. Meanwhile, Russian war correspondents on the ground in Donetsk insist that the Russian advance towards Slavyansk, in the center of the former Donetsk oblast, is continuing without pause, which suggests that the strikes on their munitions stores claimed by the Ukrainians have not been totally effective. If Slavyansk is taken in the coming few weeks, then Russia will quickly assume control of the entire territory of the Donbas.
In last night’s talk show program, host Vladimir Solovyov said that this latest push in the Ukrainian counter-offensive was timed to coincide with the gathering at the Ramstein air base, Germany of top officials from NATO and other allies under the direction of the visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. If the Ukrainian efforts were failing in the field, then the cry would go up: we must provide them with more weapons and training. And if the Ukrainian efforts in the counter-offensive were succeeding, those in attendance at Ramstein would hear exactly the same appeal to aid Kiev.
Though Evening with Solovyov, on air from about 23.00 Moscow time, offered viewers some few minutes of video recordings from the opening of the Ramstein gathering, far more complete coverage was provided to Russian audiences a few hours earlier by the afternoon news show Sixty Minutes. Here, nearly half an hour on air was given over to lengthy excerpts from CNN and other U.S. and European mainstream television reporting about Ramstein. Host Yevgeni Popov read the Russian translation of the various Western news bulletins. His presentation clearly sought to dramatize the threat and to set off alarm bells.
For his part, Vladimir Solovyov went beyond presentation of the threat posed by the United States and its allies to analysis of Russia’s possible response. He spoke at length, and we may assume that what he was saying had the direct approval of the Kremlin, because his guests, who are further removed from Power than he is, were, for the most part, allowed only to talk blather, such as the critique by one panelist of a recent pro-Ukraine, anti-Russia article in The New York Review of Books by Yale professor Timothy Snyder, who counts for nothing in the big strategic issues Russia faces today.
So, what did Solovyov have to say? First, that Ramstein marked a new stage in the war, because of the more threatening nature of the weapons systems announced for delivery, such as missiles with accuracy of 1 to 2 meters when fired from distances of 20 or 30 kilometers thanks to their GPS-guided flight, in contrast to the laser-guided missiles delivered to Ukraine up till now. In the same category, there are weapons designed to destroy the Russians’ radar systems used for directing artillery fire. Second, that Ramstein marked the further expansion of the coalition or holy crusade waging war on Russia. Third, that in effect this is no longer a proxy war but a real direct war with NATO and should be prosecuted with appropriate mustering of all resources at home and abroad.
Said Solovyov, Russia should throw off constraints and destroy the Ukrainian dual use infrastructure which makes it possible to move Western weapons across the country to the front. The railway system, the bridges, the electricity generating stations all should become fair targets. Moreover, Kiev should no longer be spared missile strikes and destruction of the ministries and presidential apparatus responsible for prosecution of the war. I note that these ideas were aired on the Solovyov program more than a month ago but then disappeared from view while the Russians were making great gains on the ground. The latest setbacks and the new risks associated with the Western policies set out at Ramstein bring them to the surface again.
Solovyov also argued that Russia should now use in Ukraine its own most advanced weapons that have similar characteristics to what NATO is delivering to the other side. As a sub-point, Russia should consider neutralizing in one way or another the GPS guidance for U.S. weapons. Of course, if this means destroying or blinding the respective U.S. satellites, that would mean crossing a well-known U.S. red line or casus belli.
Next, in the new circumstances, Russia should abandon its go-it-alone policy and actively seek out complementary weapons systems from previously untouchable countries, such as Iran and North Korea. Procurements from both have till now been minimal. On this issue, a couple of panelists with military expertise were allowed to explain that both these countries have sophisticated and proven weapons that could greatly assist Russia’s war effort. Iran has unbeatable drones which carry hefty explosive charges and have proven their worth in operations that are unmentionable on public television. And North Korea has very effective tanks and highly portable field artillery which are both fully compatible with Russian military practice, because the designs were based on Chinese weapons, which in turn were copies of Russia’s own. These weapons also have shown their worth in the hands of unnamed purchasers in the Middle East. Moreover, North Korea has a vast store of munitions fully compatible with Russian artillery. It was also mentioned in passing that insofar as Kiev has mobilized in the field many Western mercenaries and covert NATO officers, Russia should also recruit from abroad, as for example, whole brigades from North Korea available for hire.
If any of these ideas put out by Solovyov last night are indeed implemented by the Kremlin, then the present confrontation in and over Ukraine will truly become globalized, and we have the outlines of what may be called World War III. However, I note that the use of nuclear weapons, tactical or otherwise, does not figure at all in the set of options that official Moscow discusses in relation to the challenges it faces in its Ukraine operation. Such a possibility would arise only if the NATO forces being sent to the EU’s ‘front line states’ grew in number by several times those presently assigned and appeared to be preparing to invade Russia.
Before Ramstein, before the news of Ukrainian successes on the ground in the Kharkov sector, I had plans to write about a very different development this past week that coincided with a different calendar: the end of summer vacations and return to work of our national governments. With the return, our presidents and prime ministers would finally have to address the critical state of the European economies, which are facing the highest inflation rates in decades and an energy crisis brought about by the sanctions on Russian hydrocarbons. Speculation was rife on what exactly they would do.
I was particularly struck by several articles in the 7 September edition of The Financial Times and planned to comment on them.
For months now, the FT has been the voice of Number 10, Downing Street, at the vanguard of the Western crusade to crush Russia. Their editorial board has consistently backed every proposal for sanctions against Russia, however hare-brained. And yet on the 7th their journalists ran away with the show and cast doubt on the basic assumptions held by their bosses. One article by Derek Brower in the “FT Energy Source” newsletter has the self-explanatory title “The price cap idea that could worsen the energy crisis.” As we saw today, Brower’s concern was misplaced: finally, the EU could not agree a price cap policy. This notion, promoted from the United States by none other than the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, is in full contradiction with the practices of the global hydrocarbon market, as even a few EU leaders understood, depriving the initiators from the Baltic States of their hoped for consensus.
Another article of the 7th in FT, by Valentina Pop, Europe Express Editor, analyzed quickly and competently the problems facing European policy-makers in their bid to alleviate the pain to households and industry that the latest electricity and heating bills would otherwise present, given that they are several times higher than just a year ago and are unaffordable by large swathes of the population. Pop identified the key issue thus: how to provide aid quickly to those most in need given the constraints and resources available to the various government bureaucracies: “Some capitals will take many months in determining which households require help” she says. Of course, ‘many months’ of patience in the broad population will not be there.
But the most surprising article in this collection from the 7th was in the “Opinion Lex” section of the paper which was nominally about how Russian banks have weathered the storm that broke out when the EU sanctions on their industry first were laid down shortly after the start of Russia’s ‘special military operation.’ Indeed, VTB and other major Russian banks have returned to profitability despite it all. The author finds that ‘sanctions are biting less than western politicians hoped.’ Not only did the expected banking crisis not materialize, but the ruble is at five-year peaks and inflation is falling. Moreover the official Russian financial data behind these generalizations is said to be sound by independent and trustworthy market observers. The key conclusions are saved for last: “Russia has shown it can bear the pain of western sanctions. Western Europe must endure reprisals as robustly, or concede a historic defeat.’ The ‘reprisals’ in question are the complete shutdown of Russian gas deliveries through Nord Stream I until Europe lifts its sanctions.
It is interesting that even the Opinion article by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg published on the 7th in FT carries the following grim warning: “We face a difficult six months, with the threat of energy cuts, disruptions and perhaps even civil unrest.’ [emphasis mine]
To be sure, here and there in Europe, there are a few clever administrators who find promising solutions to the pending crisis of energy bills. In her first day in office, Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss announced one such solution: to immediately freeze the maximum energy bill per household at the present level of 2500 pounds sterling per year and then to turn around and agree with the power companies a subsidy for them to cover their losses.
This is fine for nipping in the bud possible ‘civil unrest.’ But the question remains how Britain will finance the estimated 150 billion pounds this will cost in the first year alone. If a similar solution were approved in the EU, the overall cost would surely approach the 800 billion euros of assistance borrowed to cover losses attributable to the Covid pandemic a year ago. But whereas the Covid aid was financed by collective borrowing of the EU, no such solidarity is likely to deal with the energy crisis, given that Germany, the Netherlands and other northern Member States oppose this becoming a general practice and will apply a veto. The British solution, however clever it may be, will hardly be available to many countries in the EU on their own given their high state indebtedness.
Then there is the second question of what to do to assist industry. Failure to give industry proper relief will result in company closures and rampant unemployment, which finally also sparks political protest. In any case, such solutions do not deal with the knock-on effects of vastly increased government borrowing to finance the energy subsidies, something which in the best of times always reduces capital available for other government services and capital available to private business for investment and job creation.
These various problems in dealing with the energy crisis that Europe created for itself by imposing sanctions on Russia may well be intractable and may well lead to spontaneous protests in a number of European countries this fall.
There is,no anti-war movement on the Old Continent to speak of. So popular protests over the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma being imposed from the chanceries on the people without anything resembling public debate may be the salvation of us all if they induce war mongering politicans to resign.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022
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
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.
A long and ranty piece. Excerpted here of some of the rantiest parts. Still long, but not quite so long.
1. Is Operation Z (The Invasion Of Ukraine) Explicable By “Putin Is Evil?”
I cannot agree with what seems to be the dominant explanation in the West that the Russian invasion of Ukraine occurred because Putin is evil. The ‘explanation’ is usually accompanied by claims that Putin is a megalomaniac and a Russian criminal; that his rulership lacks all legitimacy; that Ukrainians are the victims of his overriding ambition to restore Russia’s imperial place in the world; and that Putin is pushing the world to the brink of a third world war and hence must be stopped.
“What are we going to do about Putin?” as an old friend, in her late sixties, full of existential distress and brimming with moral fervor, exclaimed at a recent lunch. The same sentiments have also been repeated by scholars I admire deeply and have often found common cause with, in this very magazine. Thus, in an email chain I am part of, a historian, whom I consider one of the finest of our times, wrote in support of Ryszard Legutko’s condemnation of Putin in the European Parliament that he spoke “for all of us.” Given that I have recently written very enthusiastically on Legutko’s book on freedom here in the Postil, as well as having written an open letter condemning his appalling treatment at the hands of his fellow colleagues and students at his university, I wish that I did see things like him. But I cannot unsee what I see, and what I see comes from my readings and thought gathered over my adult life as a university teacher, where amongst other things, I taught International Relations.
Likewise, the very friend who introduced me to the Postil, and whose writings I have also applauded in these pages, Zbigniew Janowski, sent me his essay, “Ukraine And The West’s National Interest,” about the Ukraine war for comment. That and the request by another friend to share my take on this war have led me to set out my considerations.
War today is mass death, and horrific suffering, but I find all of the above “diagnosis,” to put it mildly, not only lacking in analytical seriousness but contributing to the mindset that has cried out in support of what—each and every time—have turned out to be disastrous military interventions which have only added chaos in regions which were bad enough before the toppling of regimes said to be guilty of “killing their own people”—a turn of phrase that people utter with such seriousness, as if its very formulation gives the situation a special kind of moral significance that we might otherwise be silly enough to conflate with any other kind of mass killing.
Thus, it is now that the people wanting to line up to morally address this geopolitical tragedy—why I formulate it thus shall become evident—have mostly been silent on Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Many, though far from all, who want NATO to “teach Putin a lesson” (said at the same lunch, where the woman’s husband squared up, “Putin is a bully who must be taught a lesson”) had also supported the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. I confess to having been ambivalent back then—in the case of Iraq, at least when it seemed that the CIA had definite proof about the WMD’s; and now seeing I was utterly wrong to believe that these operations were, at best, anything more than massive strategic blunders (leaving aside the whole “blood for oil” dimensions) that made things far worse than they were—and has only highlighted the deficiencies of the armed forces of the West.
This “essay”—if essay it be—is really a collection of considerations that bring together aspects of the tumult of the times which most would think irrelevant—and they are certainly irrelevant to the narrative-thematics mentioned above—but which for me are critical for any serious response to the war. It is a response that eschews the search for a single cause—because, like everything historically important, such searches are as futile as they are distracting and wrong-headed. That means that it is also not a search for moral culpability as such—for as is very evident to me and as I shall lay out, there is plenty of culpability to go around—though it does seem that plenty of people, including journalists, are either ignorant of, or silent about, all matter of circumstances and players that are pertinent to the disaster of this war. Geopolitical questions are never adequately answered by “He did it!” And yes of course Putin ordered the invasion. But the question that must always be posed to an event is: How has the “who” come to be doing the “what?” And what exactly does the “what” involve?
As much as the whole gang in a sane world would be players in some Aristophanean farce, we are living in a Western cold civil war and issues that people generally treat as separate are not separate at all. For while the issues that cause division vary from climate to biology to virology, the sociology of race, ethnicity, to political theology and to domestic politics and geopolitics—the pitch and consequence is the same: families and friends, classes and nations turn against each other with ferocity; and the West is in a phase of ideological divisiveness, reminiscent of the political chaos in the post-First World War period. Putin cannot be blamed for any of this. In this civil war, the technocratic lords and their minions are winning in the West (I am sure though that their victory though will be pyrrhic). There are plenty of indications that the “glorious future” (of Western developed societies) will be one of total surveillance. All matters, from climate to environmental issues, to everything social, political, and economic will be in the hands and minds of specialists.
Thinkers of the left (Marcuse in One Dimensional Man) and the right (Heidegger in too many places to mention) envisaged and warned against this almost a century ago. Now one does not need to be a philosopher to make sense of the future, as it takes shape before our eyes, and we witness the transformation of politics into the mere administration of things, including humanity, as Saint-Simon initially formulated it. Food, water and air—all of life—become the “things” to be treated as part of one great calculable planning and trading system by the global oligarchs, political elite and technocrats working on behalf of their version of the good of human kind.
These considerations are neither fanciful, nor off-point. On the contrary, the idea that what is happening in Ukraine can even be remotely considered apart from what else is happening in the Western world strikes me as mad—or, in less polemic terms, methodologically deficient.
2. The Bigger Picture, Or The Great Contestation Of Our Time
The political contestation today that matters in the Western world, and thereby impacts upon the entire planet—and the only one that is really about making the future—is between those who are with a program of global leadership and compliance to the narratives of rights, sustainability, censorship, population control, and the complete technocratization of life, and those who oppose it. The lines of division are not lines that most people are even conscious of (which is typical of people in a phase of an event whose meaning is yet to become known even to the inside players—i.e., the makers of it). But in our age of crisis building upon crisis, the lines always come down to more or less the same people, providing the same methods, for the same kinds of solutions—and all based in moral principles that are ostensibly and fortuitously congruent with “the science,” and which will supposedly lead to a more equal and emancipate world (even though they actually lead to a world of greater conformity and compliance, greater censorship and control and an unprecedented scale of inequality). On this last point, consider how Western COVID policies have impacted on the economies of impoverished countries.
The Ukraine war is one more component of an assemblage of a technocratic globalist world outlook that has multiple open organs of articulation and instantiation. This outlook is widely publicized and broadly crafted. It is not a conspiracy, if one means that there is a plan that is hatched secretly and well executed. The plan—and the vocabulary in which it is formulated—is publicly aired in multiple forums from the UN to the World Economic Forum, from corporate CEOs to NGOs, from newspapers and television stations, and in university and primary school class-rooms.
If, however, one means that a group of players seeks to impose their will upon others to control the direction of resources and the organization and administration of life is a conspiracy—stated thus, then all politics is a conspiracy. Those who believe that “the science,” and hence a technocratic elite, are both necessary to solve the problems of the species and the planet then have to accept that the consequences of implementation are and will be extremely violent. It is very understandable why people think that population control, green energy, universal income etc. are very good outcomes, just as it is very understandable why peasants and workers in Russia and China thought that the solution of communism would be a very good thing. The problem with their position is not only what the world will be like if it arrives to where it is being led (see above), but the horrific costs involved in getting from this world to that future “world.” Those who are challenging this globalist vision believe that this arrival can only be achieved by a level of destruction, and domination that will make the totalitarianism of the twentieth century seem but a prelude to a greater horror.
The “to come” is the messianic formulation that a number of philosophers have used to invoke this future, which will ostensibly emancipate every oppressed group. It is just a fancy name for what Marxists-Leninist used to call “the glorious future” and the “New Man.” Its greatest obstacle is not (as endlessly repeated) the privilege and prejudices of dominators who ideologically indoctrinate the dominated—but traditions which give most people a thicker identity than the thinner ones of race, ethnicity (the very issue that has been the tinderbox in Ukraine), gender, sexuality—all distorted and self-serving ideas of intellectuals who advocate the globalist “view” of emancipation and personhood. The victims of these ideas are primarily the working classes.
Amongst the intelligentsia, it is a tiny and insignificant group of outcasts who are coming to see that any allegiances to the old alliances of left and right (liberal-conservative) have not the slightest relevance at all—because states, corporations and NGOs are equally culpable, being fully integrated into the program, which is (to use a term of that Parisian enthusiast of “nomad thinking,” Gilles Deleuze) rhizomic in its “logic” and evolution, rather than arboreal. This program is a contagion in which the makers of “the future” act in concert, without even realizing what it is that they are making or what the program even is. This too is simply the way events generally transpire, and how we all live, i.e., mostly unaware of what we are doing whilst we do it. It is global in the variety of interests, ideological preferences and types of people that are drawn into its epicentre.
Those who are being drawn in, come from every corner of the globe, and one should not underestimate the attractive “goods” that are promised—prosperity, which given the technological potential unlocked by the fusion of global forces, resources and techniques, enable the chosen ones to live as gods (no wonder the dream is to find technologies to defeat not only sickness but death itself), and pleasure, including the most intense sexual pleasures and array of pleasurable possibilities (the most widely cited philosopher of our time, Michel Foucault, was both prophet and avatar of this new “higher” type).
In most traditional societies those who seek to live their lives pursuing such pleasures have been either outlawed outright, though mostly left to seek their pleasures in hidden, draped and private spaces. But to fabricate entire life identities around a sexual act or preference, so that it becomes a means for the complete overturning of traditional institutions and the touchstone of value is insane, not least because it cannot create the same kinds of sacrificial bonds of solidarity that enable societies to persist over long period of times.
Lest anyone think I am overstating the significance of sexual identity politics, consider the public head of MI6, who came out saying at the very beginning of the Ukraine war that the real difference between Russia and the West is to be seen in how they respectively respond to LGBTQ rights.
Like pretty well every political leader in the non-Western world, not to mention the Islamic world (is it Islamophobic to mention that rainbow flags do not fly atop government buildings in Islamic countries?), Putin does not want to allow sexual identity/diversity politics to flourish in Russia; and it is one reason he is hated so much by liberals in the Western world.
It is not that I support Putin as if he and the Russians are to be likened to a team I follow, but I am very sure that much of what I am seeing is seen by Putin, as it is by a philosopher, Alexander Dugin, whose thought is gaining increasing exposure as the true source of Putin’s evil thoughts—as if apart from Dugin’s Taking over the World for Dummies, Putin’s library might resemble Pelossi’s bookshelf, and he does not have enough information-flow just by observing the world he is in. Is it being a Putin lackey to suggest if there were a test in political history and geo-politics Putin might blow away any world western leader including Boris, who one would expect to fare well in the Classics bit, but not so great in the final question, “What is going on now and what are you going to do about it?”
Apart from the ridiculousness of this cartoonish division of the world into this hybrid monster (supposedly knowing about Dugin is a sign that one really understands the mechanics of evil coming out of Russia ) and the innocent rest, what I am seeing is not something I want to see—nor is it something that I think Putin and Dugin want to see. Or to say it another way—if one looks at speeches or writings by Dugin and Putin, it is clear that they see the West in its death throes—last October Putin likened the West under the dominion of identity politics to Russia under communism, and (in spite of Putin really being a commie) that was not praise.
When Putin rebukes the West for being an “Empire of Lies” (I take up the problem of widespread Western lies—and the matter of “Russian lies” is simply not relevant to the lies of the West)—I do not know how one can deny that he has seen the rottenness that has become simply part of the day-to-day reality in the West—the fabrication, denunciation and persecution now usual in the West. I do not consider someone either wrong or an enemy, if they show me a character flaw; and I cannot see how the West can begin to heal the rifts that threaten to break it other than by addressing the lies that its elite states about itself, its opponents, and the world at large.
3. International Relations 101: The Russian-Ukraine War
International conflicts are driven by all manner of reasons, from conflict over resources, to ideological or faith-driven decisions, to prestige. Often wars are the explosive resolutions of entanglements that have occurred over protracted periods of time and past decisions which cannot be unmade without tragic collisions. The history of nations and their interests are not, at least for the most part, as in one’s own life, the result of principles and wisdom, but of circumstances that involve our own and our forefathers’ oversights, missteps, sins and crimes, as well as our and their better judgments and qualities.
In spite of the Western media coverage of this war as a clear-cut case of good vs. evil, I find the position of those who depart from that narrative more compelling. There is John Mearsheimer, International Relations Professor, who, for many years, has been warning that the United States and NATO have been creating an intolerable geopolitical threat to Russia that would result in war.
There is the former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter whose time in active service in the first Iraq war gave him important insights into the regime of Saddam Hussein and why the claims being made about Hussein’s army and the weapons of mass destruction were false.
There is Jacques Baud who has an important essay in the Postil; and Colonel Douglas McGregor, who sums up the situation in terms of whether the USA has a legitimate and genuine national interest in what is a regional conflict.
As counter positions to the mainstream, I have also found 21st Century Wire, Patrick Henningsen podcasts, UK Column, George Galloway, Lee Stranahan, the Duran, Richard Medhurst, the Grayzone to be amongst those I tune into quite regularly and find informative. Anyone familiar with these podcasts and figures will know they fall on opposing sides on some important issues about states and markets—i.e., the left and right. But, as I state above, anyone who thinks that the demarcation between left-right, liberal-conservative, is living in a “literary reality.”
The analyses the aforementioned people provide comes from people challenging the mainstream media line (oozing out of our screens, earbuds and pages) that anything that does not support the Ukrainian cause and narrative is Russian propaganda. The most basic lesson one learns in International Politics is that peoples have different stakes to protect, and live in different “worlds” and they generally wish to protect their livelihoods and ways of being in the world—that is, people have different interests; and the word interest is synonymous with the how and why of life lived within a particular place and time. That is why it is important not just to listen to what Zelensky and the Ukrainians are saying and what we believe them to be doing, but also to what Putin and the Russians are saying and doing.
Putin has said that the invasion is to de-Nazify Ukraine—i.e., destroy the ultra-ethnic nationalist elite whose insignificant electoral representation is no indication of its social and institutional influence, and end NATO expansion.
None of the criticisms I have read against these claims takes these words seriously, though plenty try and deny that there is a neo-Nazi problem; or that the US ever conceded it would stop NATO expansion (a claim Putin often makes); or that there is any reason why Russia should be fazed by NATO expansion. I cannot take these “critical” claims seriously; and in any case, the issue is not what you or I think about how Putin should react to the number of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and the power they have garnered institutionally in pressing their interests, or about NATO expansion—what matters is how Putin and the Russian government think—and it would be wise to commence with the proposition that what they think is what they say, and if there is a mismatch between their words and deeds then interpret accordingly. I don’t think there is a mismatch. What I do see is a lot of people not listening, or not taking their words seriously.
On the matter of Russian expansion, I am inclined to defer to two figures who did foresee where NATO expansion into the East would lead, as they strongly advised against ignoring Russia’s concerns about that expansion—the architect of the US Cold War policy, George Kennan and the former ambassador to Ukraine, and career ambassador, and former ambassador to the Russian Federation William Burns. A similar position has also been aired by Peter Ford, a former UK ambassador to Syria, who has first-hand experience of that ongoing debacle of supplying arms to jihadists who were supposedly our friends and who helped in the creation of ISIS.
But NATO expansion aside, the immediate occasion of the invasion was the mass positioning of Ukrainian troops and the imminent threat of even greater escalation by the Ukrainians of border disputes arising out of the Maidan. The establishment of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, like the secession of Crimea, are the direct result of attacks upon Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Though, if the Western media is to be believed, the escalation of violence against Russian-speakers, like everything else that Russians say, was mere propaganda and it was simply an open-and-shut case of invasion.
In the Donbas, a civil war has cost many thousands of lives (14000 is the common number bandied around), most of which are Russian-speakers. This too has received scant (albeit occasional) Western media attention, though Patrick Lancaster has been living there and reporting on this unknown civil war for eight years.
But forgive me if I am somewhat sceptical—what I see is that a huge number of Ukrainians have the very good sense to simply want to get out of the place. And while the Ukrainian army is sizable and well-armed, there are also reports of the government distributing tens of thousands of assault rifles to civilians. This is, as the Russian media and government rightly point out, in breach of international law, requiring the clear demarcation between civilians and combatants. While the Western media has no problem finding stories about unwilling Russian troops, we are supposed to believe that Ukrainians still in Kiev, one and all, are noble, patriotic freedom fighters. Sorry, but I grew up a long time ago, and in spite of the absurd, albeit widespread depiction within anti-Russian media, of Russia as the USSR and Nazi German redux, such analogies do not hold up to even the most cursory of examinations.
There have also been stories coming out of Mariupol of Ukrainian soldiers using civilians as human shields. Like all inconvenient stories about the war they are immediately denied, without investigation by Western journalists and said to be Russian propaganda. But, I ask, why would the non-combatants want to stay in the city, and why would the battalions that Russian soldiers are intent on destroying not be prepared to save themselves at any cost? The military tactics of the Russians do indicate that the objectives of Russia are what Putin says they are—to demilitarize Ukraine and not simply erase it. Thus, it seems plausible that any captured Ukrainian soldier found to have links with the Azov battalion or any other ethnic ultra-nationalist Ukrainian group will in all likelihood be executed immediately.
Whatever we say about Zelensky, he was as incapable of building peace in Ukraine as he was in reducing corruption. In spite of all the media hoopla he receives for his courage in standing up to a tyrant, and speeches that look like they come from US hack-tv drama writers, he was no statesman. He is either truly child-like or has so little knowledge of relatively recent history that he really thought that Russia would simply standby and wait for the Minsk agreements to continually be ignored and watch as Ukrainian forces were got ready to launch a final defeat of the Russian-speaking resistance in the Donbas.
If, by the way, anyone thinks that ethnic-nationalist militias killing Russian first language speakers with impunity, and infiltrating the various institutions of Ukraine, including the military is untrue, which is now the Western media default position, you should go back and read/watch reports in the Guardian and BBC when they were not just outlets of propaganda. You might also turn to a paper, put out by the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University just last September, by Oleksiy Kuzmenko, “Far Right Group Made its Home in Ukraine’s Major Western Military Training Hub.” And if you do not think providing a de facto, if not de jure, front for NATO’s strategic advancement, and threatening Russia with nuclear war, is not brinkmanship, I hazard to guess what would be.
In any case, Mr. Zelensky has had the kind of lesson in geopolitics that those who had the temerity to defy the United States have often had to learn to their peril. And while the United States and other European Nations desist from direct military involvement at least for the moment—though engaging in the now widely accepted practice of asset-seizures of Russian nationals (the future consequences of this policy bode very ill indeed for the world’s economy generally, as well as a future peace, or even the West’s economic power and credibility) as well as the sackings of Russians from all manner of jobs, from teaching to the arts—Mr. Zelensky berates the West for not being brave enough to have a full scale war.
As for the innocence of Saint Zelensky, I have said he is a tragic figure. But as he calls ever more desperately to bring the entire world into war, I cannot see him as anything other than a man who has stumbled blindly into this like a drunk with a match in the aforementioned nitroglycerine factory, panicking for his own survival; or, I will grant him this, possibly a place in the pantheon of the nation’s heroes, right alongside Stepan Bandera, that anti-Soviet Nazi ally and mass-murderer of Jews, Poles, and Russians.
If Western journalists stopped for a moment and realized that Putin does not care what they think of his actions, but he understands Russia and the events and figures within Russia’s historical memory. Putin understands that when President Yushenko posthumously awarded the medal of Hero of the Ukraine in 2010 to Bandera, and when the extremely crooked and much-hated President Pyotr Poroshenko, who emerged out of the Maidan, signed a law in 2015 glorifying the neo-fascist OUN and the UPA, this was a signal of support to Bandera neo-Nazi supporters and an acknowledgment of the need for the support of this influential power block.
Gone are the days when I, at least, could trust anything I see on the BBC. And yet again this prejudice I have developed was confirmed not just to be sheer prejudice, when a friend of mine sent me today a BBC report about how insignificant the Azov battalion and other neo-Nazi groups are in Ukraine and hence Putin was—yet again—telling lies that the roving intrepid BBC journalist was exposing. The “exposure” consisted of loosely tossing around some figures and speaking with Ukrainians who said: No there was no Neo-Nazi problem, there were hardly any of them; and in any case, they were good fighters, and their ideology was personal—akin to being a Seventh Day Adventist. One person who provided important evidence to discredit mad bad Vlad was good old Honest Poroshenko himself—who merely had to roll his eyes when asked of the existence of Ukrainian neo-Nazis.
The heroic leader Zelensky, as he is portrayed in the West, looks like he is in an all-or-nothing situation. And the millions of dollars he has stashed away overseas, thanks to his former media mogul boss, oligarch—and all-round gangster—political backer, also the former employer of Hunter Biden, Ihor Kolomoyskyi (yes, he was the real owner of Burisma) won’t help him much. In the midst of a country mired in corruption (a little more of which anon), Zelensky, like his predecessor, has been completely played by the US and the EU for their own interests.
Unfortunately, the Ukrainians, who are caught in the midst of the horrors, are learning what I think is the kind of thing anyone learns about in IR or IP classes 101, at least those classes that (admittedly becoming rare) are not taught by some eager beaver social justice warrior reducing geopolitics to race, class and gender. (If you think I am joking, check out how big a field feminist International Relations is now.)
In a world where one would not be denounced as a traitor or apologist of evil for thinking about national interests, International Politics teachers, when trying to understand Russia’s position and role in this event, would, I think, typically (and I have a seen a number of people more or less raise this same example) ask their students to imagine that the US has returned large parts of land annexed by Texas and California in the 19th century to Mexico.
Imagine then that the predominantly English-speaking groups within those territories found themselves disputing about regional resource extraction and distribution with Spanish-speaking groups, most of whom lived on the other side of the country. Then these ethnic tensions culminated in a coup, partly enabled by Chinese meddling in internal affairs. The regions that had formerly been parts of Texas and California became embroiled in a civil war.
The Texan and Californian Mexicans were being continuously bombed by the Mexican government—they were hearing true stories of the government closing down media outlets sympathetic to their cause, and forbidding the English language being taught in Mexican schools—just as the English did with the Irish and Welsh (and has been done in Quebec).
Then China wanted to put rockets on Mexican soil, and were sending in troops on the ground to train Mexican troops; and then the Mexican President said he wanted to build up the country’s nuclear capacity as well as have a more formal security alliance with China which it was desperate to join with other allies of China.
If a student in discussing this scenario were to pipe up and say, “The US President not only should, but would accept all this, and that any President who took military action to intervene on behalf of the persecuted ethnic Anglo-Americans and push back against Chinese meddling in its sphere of influence, would be proof of him being an evil megalomaniac”—any IR teacher would be thinking, “I have completely failed this student—he (sorry, I meant it) has no clue.”
But this all is meant to sound reasonable when we just insert the words “Putin,” “Russia,” “Ukraine” and the “USA.” It reminds me of how our educated elite think it perfectly acceptable to say that “white men are exploiters, thieves, privileged, undeserving etc.,” but were the “white men” replaced with “Jews,” “women,” “blacks,” there would be mass outrage.
The thinking that ignores geopolitical “realities” (and they are realities because of forces that have accrued over a protracted period of time; they are delicately poised; and the failure of statesmen to balance them come with massive consequences)—enables mass death. And in spite of the voluntarist metaphysical tendency that has completely seized the Western mind, these realities do not wilt under the glare of a moral(izing), that is to say, hypocritical, conscience.
4. “A Thug In The Kremlin?” Or, Comparative Politics 101
The history of political philosophy can roughly be broken down into two schools—one consists of thinkers like Aristotle, such as Montesquieu, Burke, and in some important ways G.W.F. Hegel, and de Tocqueville, who are driven by the comparative method which takes account of historical and social conditions which dictate the choices available to statesmen and peoples. The other school takes its bearing from norms, rational principles, arguments and ideal standards, Plato is their founder; and its modern exponents include John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau (who in his less known and better political observations drops it), Immanuel Kant, J.G. Fichte, the neo-Hegelians and (once one unveils the fog and contradictions of historical materialism) Marxist-Leninists, John Rawls, and (also once one gets through the thicket of fog) the post-structuralists—and George Bush and the neo-cons, Barack Obama and the liberal world order more generally.
As you can see, this second group is ideologically very diverse (hence I suppose some clown in university administration can satisfy themselves that this would be a good thing—hell, there is even a black guy in the list, and plenty of feminist theorists to fill the bill). Unfortunately, their position is built upon inferences rather than detailed knowledge of circumstance, which is also why their position is a great platform for making noble-sounding speeches; but when it comes to political action is either irrelevant (the cause of very bad decisions and inevitable failure to get the outcomes that accord with the principles, which inevitably leads to charges of outright hypocrisy), or catastrophic. This latter method, if method it really be, is easy to grasp once one adopts a first principle, an unassailable idea, which, of course, can be done with greater (as in Immanuel Kant or J.G. Fichte) or lesser sophistication, like the mainstream Western journalists and commentariat reporting on this war.
In keeping with this ‘idea-ist’ (sic.) approach, most arguments and reports about the war are framed as ethico-political denunciations of Russia—and the idea that if some fact harms the war effort of our team it must be Russian propaganda—and I have no doubt that this essay will be dismissed by many who skim it as pure Russian propaganda …oh well, this is the world we now live in.
The denunciations tend to assume one or both of the following: (a) Russia is a tyranny while the West is the font of freedom; and (b) Ukraine is really like the West both culturally and politically.
First, let us briefly consider “the money”—that variable which is so widely used to identify a people’s welfare—as in GDP per capita. In Ukraine, the official GDP per capita in 2020 was $(US) 3,800 (adjusted for ppp $12, 100). In Russia, in 2020, GDP per capita had declined by some 30 percent, since its peak in 2013, but it was still over $10, 000, and rendered in ppp almost $ (US) 26,500.
Figures such as these never tell the whole story, but I think it symptomatic of a fact that I think is indisputable—since the demise of the Soviet Union there has never been a government in the Ukraine that has not been plagued by corruption, or, and this follows inexorably from the scale of the country’s corruption, that has managed to retain great popular support. Nor one that has been able to sufficiently rein in the power of the oligarchs that Ukraine could achieve even a moderate level of economic well being.
Before addressing Russia’s “authoritarian government,” I will state another fact that I think will not appeal to people whose image of Putin comes exclusively from Western main-stream media outlets. Putin has the kind of support base in the population that Western politicians only dream of, and the reason for that is not primarily because he is a thug/criminal/stand-over merchant.
The circumstances and challenges in Ukraine and Russia, in the aftermath of communism, were somewhat similar, though Ukraine was economically the poorer, with GDP per capita being $ (US) 1257 – but had halved by 2000; in 1993 Russia’s was a tad over $ (US) 3000, and had almost halved by 2000. The geographical distribution of resources in the country had created what many might consider a very undesirable state of things—the West was more dependent upon the East for its wealth, which is also why the Crimea and the Donbas were not just a matter of national pride for the various governments operating out of Kiev.
By the turn of the millennium the GDP per capita of both had roughly halved. Then, in the Putin years there came astonishing growth in Russia, around 10 percent until 2014. This was the kind of growth which is impossible to retain for protracted periods; and not only did it slow, with a combination of sanctions and a drop in oil prices, there was a steep decline. And though it has risen since 2014, it is still not back to the figures of 2010. But compared to the previous decade substantial improvements had been made in the material conditions of most Russians.
In Ukraine the take off point occurs around the same time, but the rise is far less substantial, also followed by decline and moderate rise. Also noteworthy is the telling figure that in 2021 remittances made up 12 percent of GDP in Ukraine, foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2021 was a third of that—estimates at the beginning of the war, based upon the large outflow of refugees, were that remittances would increase by 8 percent. Yes, that increase in remittances as a percentage of GDP may be laid at the door of the Russians, but the figure of 2021 is the kind of figure that one associates with a country with economic opportunities which make leaving a smart economic move.
The other important part of the story is corruption. We hear much of Putin and his Russian oligarch cronies in the West—but I am astonished how poorly informed are most people, who are otherwise well educated, about oligarchs in Ukraine and the problems of corrupt government. As with Russia, state assets were dissolved into vouchers, and the vouchers were bought at bargain basement prices, or simply stolen by those with the know-how or muscle to do so.
Katya Gorchinskaya’s six part report, “A Brief History of Corruption” identifies the major players and plays which have left Ukrainians amongst Europe’s poorest and most corrupt nations. It begins with President Kravchuk, the first to hold power in post-Soviet Ukraine, presiding over the economic privatisation and resource gobbling.
Amongst those doing the gobbling were two Ukrainian Prime Ministers, one of whom would be successfully prosecuted in the US for money-laundering, fraud and extortion; another, Yulia Tymoshenko, would become the attractive poster face—along with Victor Yushchenko—of the Orange Revolution. Tymoshenko would eventually be prosecuted for a range of crimes, from embezzlement to involvement in the murder of another oligarch, Yevhen Shcherban, with Yushchenko himself being a witness against her.
Tymoshenko was found guilty of profiting from gas contracts signed with Russia. Although she found support amongst European human rights organizations (Yuschchenko begged to differ with their defence of her). During the 1990s she and her family had made their fortunes in energy and controlled the United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU). It was Ukraine’s largest gas trader, “supplying gas from Russia’s Gazprom to seven of Ukraine’s large industrial and agricultural regions.”
While the initial distribution of vouchers had initially enabled the oligarchs’ rise to power, Gorchinskaya sees the biggest asset grab as the work of politicians in 1998. As she writes: “The list of parliamentarians reads like the yellow pages of Ukraine’s future oligarchy.”
Politics and corruption are common bed-fellows. I hazard the obvious conjecture: the difference between them and Russian and Western politicians, who have made spectacular amounts of money after decades of public service, is that in Ukraine and Russia there was a brief moment of a bonanza round of assets available to them that made the usual grift seem like child’s play.
The scandals surrounding every President in the Ukraine parliament are easily discovered, and I don’t need to enter into more detail. In any case the headline from a piece in the Guardian in February 2015 sums it all up: “Welcome to Ukraine, the most corrupt nation in Europe.” It showed the West what everyone who lived there knew—that in spite of the victory over the Russian stooge/crook Yanukovich, in spite of the deaths, the noble speeches, the visits of US and European dignitaries, and promises of support, in spite of the flags, songs, international media coverage Ukraine was an economic and crime ridden dump—with magnificent scenery and a capital as beautiful as any city in the world. The article also pointed out that while “officials from the general prosecutor’s office, who were interviewed by Reuters, claimed that between 2010 and 2014, officials were stealing a fifth of the country’s national output every year,” nothing had improved.
Later that same year, a writer in Forbes magazine wrote a piece “Corruption is Killing Ukraine’s Economy.” As with Poroshensko, Zelensky, like the Presidents before him, was elected on the promise of ending corruption—though he also indicated he was the man to mend fences with Russia. He didn’t, and he wasn’t.
It is not simply the corruption I wish to underscore; it is that since the dismantling of the Soviet Union Ukraine has had two “revolutions,” and achieved nothing other than an outright civil war and a war with a great power. I don’t know how anyone who is impartial and not blinded by the patriotic fog and fervour accompanying the avoidance of the basics of international diplomacy can see it otherwise. And need I say that none of these problems—with the obvious exception of the war itself—can be traced back to Putin.
Turning to Russia, everyone of a certain age will recall that between the end of the Soviet Union and the Yeltsin years, Russia and the fall-out from its empire were in free-fall. Yeltsin had gone from being a hero of the people to a corrupt drunken buffoon. Oligarchs had taken over all the most important resources; and gangsters simply took over apartments; and the streets were not safe. The poverty was widespread and wretched.
And the reality of post-Soviet Russia made the drab days of Brezhnev and Andropov look like the golden years.
While people in the West were still celebrating Gorbachev and talking about him being a great man who changed the course of history, most Russians cursed him for creating the havoc they were living through. One cannot begin to understand Putin’s popularity if one does not concede the hell of Russia in the Yeltsin years—captured in videos of the period by images of the extremes of the old and recently rendered destitute standing on the streets huddled around a fire in the snow and ice with their knickknacks and baubles and pleading eyes; or the new phenomenon of Russian prostitution for export—the international sex trade really takes off with the end of communism—and the oligarchs and mafia with their great fur-coats, cruising by in their convoys of Western cars, and armies of protection. Stalin would not have allowed this, they reasoned. And you can say what you will about him, but he not only dressed with moderation, but he never draped his great big fur coats with gold chains, while pushing aside beggars on the way to the night club to snort blow and be blown by a girl who had drifted into the city to make some money.
Western journalists seem to think that when Putin speaks of the most terrible event being the end of the Soviet Union, that he is saying he loved communism. That is nonsense. He saw a once respected leading world power, a power, that for all its shockingness did export resources and training to those who fought on its side and from whom it saw geopolitical strategic advantage—I don’t want to get all maudlin about a system and regime that was ultimately a massive mass-murdering experiment and monstrous disaster (in no small part paid for by Western capitalists, as Anthony Sutton meticulously demonstrated). But I think to see that it was not only all for nothing; that whatever slim achievements it had made (and it would have made far more had it just been left to the autocrats prior to the Bolsheviks) had vanished along with the Soviet Union. In its place was a beggarly, broken state, of utter disorder— nothing resembling the Western commercialized sheen and shine images that one might have seen on television – but then again the sprawling tents of the homeless and junkies in Portland and San Francisco today bespeak a world resembling a similar kind of corruption, and ineptitude that Yeltsin and his mates were tolerating in Russia.
It is an odd thought, I know. But maybe what Putin said was rhetorically done for political purpose. But irrespective whether he is a “murdering swine,” as old an friend, Political Science ex-colleague, and mentor has posted on Facebook, Putin understood the rage of the humiliated, of a people who had been tricked out of the relative security—with all its scarcity—that the communist state provided, and thrown out of work and onto the streets. And he could see, as could the rest of the population, that all of this chaos was facilitated by the IMF and the Harvard Russian Project crew.
Moreover, aside from ex-party officials and their friends with their on-the-ground advantage and the armed to the teeth “wise guys” snapping up for peanuts, resources (energy and media/ communications being prime targets) worth billions and conning Russians out of, when not simply stealing, the vouchers, which were supposedly designed to distribute Soviet assets to “the people”—were Western grifters (like Bill Browder discussed below). It was a free for all in free-fall.
And on top of this were the Chechnyan terrorists and their bombs, deliberately killing innocent school children as well as adults. What made matters even worse was that Chechnyan rebels had been trained and funded by the CIA. That is a fact that Western journalists no doubt would like to put down to Russian propaganda. By the way, and lest I am sounding like the kind of left-wingers I usually take issue with for their blindness to the nature of markets, I have never been anti-everything the US does to protect its interests. But the incompetence of the US as a military and strategic power has become increasingly breathtaking, and its funding of such groups has brought nothing but havoc and understandable hatred of the West.
And, then, in the midst of this, Putin, who had been working for the mayor of Saint-Petersburg, facilitating foreign investments, and suspected of masterminding a kick-back scheme worth tens of millions of dollars, receiving a PhD for a work that had, in part at least, been plagiarised, were it even written by him, looked like just another junior on the grift “yes man” political operator had been given the nod by Yeltsin and backed by the oligarch Berezovsky, who came to regret misreading Putin’s character till the end of his life. Though, almost every Western documentary or biography depict Putin with the same sneering disbelief that this little jump-start still has power and struts around the world stage killing people, while great philanthropists and lovers of liberty like Berezovsky himself or Khodorkovsky were banished so that Putin could get nearly all of the pie.
In any case, not long after the tap on the shoulder Putin took on the oligarchs. Or, more precisely, sided with one bunch of oligarchs against another. It is fanciful to think that any political leader in Russia would have been able to survive without finding factional support amongst oligarchs— men who whose control extended to “armies” to do their bidding, protect their wealth, and trade (from arms running, to sex and drug trafficking, to gas and information). I think even the moralising denouncers of Putin don’t doubt that the level of criminality and the scale of violence of Russia’s oligarchy, and that that had touched ever part of Russia’s social fibre.
Quiz question: How would you have stopped it?
The manner in which the oligarchs accumulated their wealth as well as the tactics they deployed in defending it were all carried out in a manner befitting the kinds of weapons, financial conduits and systems, goods and services demand and supplies and political racketeering that are as mod con as mod con can possibly be: international banks laundered their money; politicians did their bidding by making deals and enacting laws that benefit them; shipping, planes and transport systems moved the girls and drugs, and immigrants with enough money to pay for their forged passports and relocation. Their computers and codes, and bank accounts in far-away lands, their hotels and majestic villas, clubs and casinos, private jets and helicopters, and yachts, their weapons and preferred drugs may have spoken of the unprecedented quality of the spoils of ill-gotten gain. But the motivation and operation were not really different from ancient tribes, or ancient and modern nations or empires seizing land and resources from enemies, or lords and kings providing their protection in return for services rendered (protection included their preparedness to not simply take everything from those they might crush were their offers of protection refused, to fighting off others desirous of those lands), or the cattle barons and robber barons, or the mafia, or those like Joe Kennedy who made a fortune out of prohibition. We accept that no one running for the presidency in the United States could be successful without finding wealthy political donors—or, at least, being an extremely rich person. But as with state foundations, the older the money the more likely it was to be founded in blood.
The way politics and wealth form a bond may vary by location, but the bond is universal, and the difference between what counts as corruption tends to also be bound up with merely how things gets done, and the wealthy get to keep their wealth and pay others to help them acquire more, and enact processes that assist their political preferences and priorities. “Not that there is anything wrong with that”—but journalists in the West tend to sleep at the wheel when it comes to following up leads that might bring down those who represent their political interests. People in far-away lands whose doings may safely be reported—even if the doings, as in the case of Putin, often (albeit not always) come from sources who also have their interests, which involve being rid of Putin.
In any case, the influence of oligarchs is no less decisive in the United States than it is in Russia. Yes, there is a rule of law, but while we may find exceptions, money generally still makes the laws.
The decisive difference between the West now and the Russia in which Putin came to power and outplayed his enemies is not in the role played by those who have the greatest wealth/control of the nations resources, it is in the timing: the violence and usurpation which provided the original sources of great wealth occurred generations back (not that long really in the USA, generally longer in the UK). And then—yes, I am really happy to go left when it is true—there was the piracy, the slavery, the colonialism. And of course it is not all in the past, where modern US “interventions” fit may vary, energy (and I don’t mean solar and wind farms) is a major factor in the West’s strategic and geopolitical decisions involving the Middle East.
The people Putin went after were amongst, or would become, the richest, the most influential people on the planet—not only financially, but also in terms of the importance of the resources they controlled for shaping the world; the other two most famous examples, apart from Berezovsky, being the media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, who would go on to pose as a kind of religious and spiritual beacon by becoming the Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress (a gesture that would give all the Russian anti-Semites evidence to sit alongside their copies of The Protocols of Elders of Zion; he had previously cofounded and become President of the Russian Jewish Congress), and the banker, energy magnate, convicted, imprisoned and then pardoned criminal, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Like Berzovsky, they spend much time in exile, screaming loudly about Putin’s unprecedented wickedness (comparable, so they said to… yes, of course, who else? Adolf Hitler) to a media ready to quote them on the latest body or scandal that could be attributed to Putin and his henchmen. It seemed that Putin had nothing better than do to send out armed assassins all over the globe to silence all his critics and political opponents, because he was not only completely paranoid but his whole view of the world was picked up from KAOS in Get Smart.
Khodorkovsky has been lauded as a man of great principle by standing to face trial. This did present him with the opportunity to portray himself as a political martyr, going to prison for his belief in the sanctity of human rights and the future of democracy. The West lapped it up and lauds him still. I have a bridge with a spectacular harbour view to sell you at a discount price of ten million dollars if you actually believe Khodorkovsky has turned his life around to become a human rights activist from being a gangster and in all likelihood a murderer. It would be interesting to actually do a comparative body count between them if we could locate them.
As we skim over Putin and his “autocratic” government, let us keep before us what I consider the one issue that is both indisputable and all important—Putin drastically improved the lives of most Russians. No matter how much more peaceful and prosperous the Russians may have been under the political leadership of Tony Blair, or Boris Johnson, or Joe Biden, or George Bush Jr, or Bill Clinton—does anyone seriously think these men have the kind of competence that would mend a fallen state? Putin was the guy at the head who turned things round. If we were doing moral examinations of politicians, I am happy to concede that Vladimir would probably have to get an F—though among Western moral paragons, I don’t see any who would get a Pass in those circumstances.
Given what we know about Russia’s rapid advances and modernization and economic growth just prior to the Great War, and given what we know about the scale of murder inflicted by the Bolsheviks, did the Czar’s failure of will (and that of his generals) contribute to the tens of millions who died after? The answer is not difficult—yes it did. Posed so starkly, the issue of the sheer ability to stomach the infliction of more violence upon “one’s own people” (there’s that phrase again) is irrelevant. Perhaps the failure of will came from a sense of moral horror at what world the Tzar was making and the choices he had to make, or perhaps it came from an inability to see who and what this new elite political elite were.
In any case, he relinquished power, to be sure not quite to those as violently wilful as Lenin, but still to those who themselves were not strong enough to do anything but pass the power that they had not come by legitimately to those with political wills of steel, though recall Lenin’s famous phrase that “found power lying in the streets and simply picked it up.” They were capable of killing more “of their own people” in a few months than the Czars had killed in a century. In short, tens of millions of lives might have been saved had the autocracy in Russia been prepared to kill more people, possibly hundreds of thousands more, possibly millions. In any case, the gap between body counts would have been huge, and the autocracy would have also spared Russia not only from the gulags but communism itself—which as an old joke goes was the longest way of getting from capitalism to capitalism.
Unlike philosophers in their classrooms and studies, rulers in times of great crisis, stand at crossroads where the alternate paths to the future, each with its own trials and troubles awaiting, are completely covered by the fog of the present– the consequences may be untold millions of deaths; the choice maybe—as it was for the Czar, then, as I think it is for Putin, certainly as I think he sees it. It is a choice between steeling one’s political will even though the circumstances of the time offer only differences in the amount of blood to be shed. And there is simply no way of knowing for sure how much blood there must be and where it will end.
When rulers get it wrong they are but stepping names toward players and events which are recorded on account of the scale of their horror. The horrific event prevented, though, remains invisible, so the statesman who is successful in preventing the event rarely is recognized (Kennedy is one of the few perhaps who is renowned for a successful preventative call—but that call was on a palpably visible enemy with immediate consequence that were not hard to imagine). This is the situation of Putin now toward Ukraine, and it is another reason why the various moral denouncements bespeak a smugness and assuredness that comes from the safeness of the study or newsroom.
When considering Putin’s actual body count, on any possible measure—including the Chechen War which he can be credited with winning, and this one which is fading day by day from the West’s interests (Will Smith punching Chris Rock seems to be the big story of the moment), we can say without equivocation the numbers pale into insignificance when compared to the untold millions of dead in the Iraq and Afghan wars, in Yemen, and Syria, and in the bombing of Belgrade. My point was primarily that to believe that Putin has done more evil than the motley crew who rule over us, and who we are supposed to consider to be morally superior to Putin. That Putin is Hitler and our leaders are saints? In the case of the Bushes, Clinton, Blair et. al. they have achieved nothing; they have saved no people’ they have left behind more ruin. This is not even a moral judgment; it is merely a statement of fact that these men made disastrous geopolitical choices, that they, not Putin, are largely responsible for why China, Russia, Iran, etc. do not want to be part of the international order. Need I say they are all globalists? That their regime change dream/drive was a grotesque fantasy? And I am supposed to believe that Putin’s hostility to NATO is unwarranted? That he is really Hitler?
I know there were plenty of journalists who criticized the Bushes and Blair (Clinton bombing of Serbia not so much), though they generally cheered on Trump’s swift response to Assad supposedly using chemical weapons in Syria (I think Trump was really played on that one—see reports from Vanessa Beeley). But it is one thing to be anti-war on some moral principle because you have a conscience, as opposed to being the person dealing with the fate of nations. There the question is never answered by the principle: war is evil, therefore I should abolish the army along with prisons, and while at it take a knee. It is only answered by an ability that is a gift of few and is completely uncanny: knowing in spite of all the fog, all the hostility (consider Churchill), that one is right and that action must be taken. And when the action is taken, it must be successful. I may have seen the Afghan and Iraq Wars very differently if they were fought for people that shared a common sense of spiritual purpose with their “liberators” (which they never did) and if they really did assist in nation-building, which it did not know how to do because there was neither common purpose nor real plan.
Of the War in Ukraine I cannot be sure that Putin will come out well—I have no crystal ball; but it is not all in his hands. He has calculated that the West will not respond with nuclear weapons, or act in such a way that he sees that there is no other alternative. He shares common purpose with the breakaway republics and Crimea—it seems that as long as Ukraine becomes a buffer state, and does what that requires then war will stop. But that is no easy matter for those Ukrainians who since the Maidan have been able to fuel their dreams of a new nation devoid of its Russian presence and past, who have exercise influence in institutions they will no longer have: they either have to retreat back into the obscurity of every-day life, and hope they are not informed upon, or face imprisonment if not execution. They have much to fight for. But so does Russia.
Both the matters of Putin’s rise to power and this war and its meaning also serve to remind us of the importance of an idea that seems largely lost to the modern imagination with that entirely false “theolo-philosophical” doctrine that human beings are basically good. The untruth of this proposition has bought in its train the psychological malformation of so many modern youth who believing in their original innocence believe that all the sins of their forefather can be washed away by moral pronouncements and denunciations of the forefathers who helped accrue the ill-gotten gains that have contributed to the wealth of the nation in general, and their global “privilege.”
The culture wars, which as I have indicated are but a prelude to blood wars, are an example of what befalls a people when it fails to see what it is doing because of its ambition and pride. Had the children of the 1960s not believed in their own perfectness, and in their own innocence what we are living through in the West may not have come to pass. This sense of innocence and the existential privilege that has come from the doing of their forefathers is a major factor in t – The Postil Magazinehe shallowness of their perspective on every serious subject, including this one. They are a generation for whom moral decisions and appraisals on each and every topic come as natural as breathing.
And this generation has entered swiftly into the fray: Ukrainian flags abound on social media; anti-Russian sentiments and slogans along with pro-Ukrainian and anti-Russian podcasts are everywhere. Mainstream media has finally found a topic where even Fox and CNN and the rest find complete common cause—sanctifying Zelensky/Ukraine; demonizing Putin/Russia. Making an eternal enemy of Russia will be on the head of this generation who holds power, but knows not how to exercise it, and a younger generation who only want to pull the nature of power ever more in a direction that makes the United States even more hateful to its enemies. All in all, it is done by a powerful idiocracy who do not know where they are heading, nor about what they speak—but they do know what pronoun they should be addressed by.
When considering Ukraine, we saw that it was one failed political leader after another; and to state what I think is obvious but which goes against the consensus of the moment, Zelensky is by far the worst because of his recklessness and failure to preserve the peace—which is one of the key variables of evaluation of political leadership.
Given Russia’s conditions after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, and the state of the institutions still in operation, and the mentality of Russia’s population—and the crooks running the place—had it not been Putin it would have had to have been someone of much the same ilk who would have risen to power, if there were to be secure stability in Russia. If not Putin—Khodorkovsky? Would he have been a better political leader? Would someone more like the Ukrainian ineffectual and corrupt politicians be better?
Putin emerged out of the failed state—and the problems that he faced were not of his own making. Were his choices the best? I doubt that any politician would make the best choices. Even if it were the case that Putin may be guilty of all accusations against him—from plundering state funds to murder—in his political fights with oligarchs controlling media and energy and banks, I think it very understandable why the majority of Russians are prepared to look past the accusations levelled at him, and, Western media to the contrary, not think that they would be better off under the kind of “democracy” that a Khodorkovsky might engineer.
One might respond, but without an open society how would you know? And my only response is—an “open society” is a neat phrase, for each and every society has as much openness as its culture, institutional development, and social historicity, and political ruling class have.
After what I have witnessed in the West in the time of COVID, the mass destruction of small businesses here in Australia, the destruction of the livelihoods and right to protest by truckers in Canada, the toleration of mass burnings, and looting in the United State, on the one hand, with, what a mere few years back, would have been unimaginable with the draconian and haphazard treatment, charges and sentences of some of the January 6 protestors and rioters, and the extent of censorship and corporate and state control over speech.
And just as in Russia, large numbers of people support authoritarian decisions which they think suits their interests. To claim that the West is an “open society” is hard to take seriously. We live in a society that once was fairly open, but is now closing up, second by second, right before our eyes, Russians live in a society whose brief period of openness was one of plunder, assassinations and general mayhem.
Failed states don’t and indeed cannot simply turn into democracies—as if democracies, that are not just nominal facades for oligarchical vote-buying, election-rigging, paramilitaries, etc., are not themselves the result of the evolution of a sufficiently widespread dispersion of power blocks and class resource pooling. Consider how the working-class democratic parties evolved at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The damage that liberal democracies are now doing to themselves is shocking. But the damage the United States and its allies have done in countries, where the choice was not and could not have been between democracy and non-democracy but between one strong man or another, is even more shocking in the sheer number of deaths that it has facilitated, along with the battles and wars still raging.
Finally, failed states inevitably break down into war-lordism, and the securing of strong foundations is the result of the formation of bonds of social, economic, cultural, and political solidarity. These need time. Until then, the struggle between the warlords continues; and I do not deny for a second this is not happening—on the contrary, it is because it is happening that Russia—and countries with histories extremely different from the West, including Ukraine—will continue to get low scores on human rights and various other indices of freedom.
But to acknowledge that Putin has strong control over the media is not to say that the West should be spending billions trying to destabilize this regime. Yes Putin controls a media landscape formerly controlled by oligarchs wanting to destroy him (as now do Western media oligarchs). Prior to Trump’s election I would have agreed the United States safeguarded freedom of expression that made it a free country which Russia is not. When people now want to end this kind of equivocation and bluntly ask: where would you rather live? Leaving aside the obvious wealth gap between my country and Russia and the standard of living I enjoy here in Australia—which is a matter of very different political and economic histories—when it comes to where I would feel freer, I think it is really is a matter of what the issue is.
I believe that were I still employed by an Australian university and this paper came to light, I would most definitely lose my job. Indeed, certainly in Anglo speaking Western countries, there are now a far greater array of topics—all of which connect with a globalising-technocratic-identity based view of life—which now require strict conformity and compliance than I think is the case in Russia. But it is not only freedom of speech that has been lost.
Indeed, with the help of corporations, government reach has extended into ever space once considered part of one’s private property, extending from one’s bank account to one’s own body. Is it really any wonder why there is such a very large number of writings claiming the Pandemic was a “Plandemic?” Certainly, there is overwhelming evidence that the Bill Gates Foundation was preparing itself for a pandemic that would require a vaccine to stop it – and Peter McCulloch has plausibly asked why were so many resources put into vaccines rather than in the study of preventative methods and cures. Certainly, there are questions about the source of COVID. And the answer to anyone who want to dig away is: “You are a conspiracy theorist.”
Once upon a time when there was an old left (which I have always thought had more going for it in terms of critiquing geopolitical overreach, military overread, corporate criminality etcetera than identity progressivism), it was considered reasonable to ask questions about the machinations of corporations and the state. In today’s world, merely asking such questions in the West is evidence of being the dupe and purveyor of a conspiracy theory. Is this not a degree of mind control far beyond anything that occurs in Russia?
Russia, under Putin, is an obstacle to globalism and hence to the raison d’être of what the West has become (not what it is becoming, but what it is in essence now) for one main reason: it refuses to follow the globalist technocratic dream—as with China, where it is technocratic it is not globalist. That Russia has been seen by the United States Government as a patient in need of the cure of Westernization has never been a secret, but Victoria Nuland put a figure on the amount spent on the “cure” in 2015 when she said: “The United States alone has spent more than $20 billion dollars since 1992 to help Russia strengthen and open its economy.”
Would anyone other than a “factchecker” seriously think that a substantial amount of that money was not used for “regime change?” Which brings me to the final part of this lengthy essay—the lies. As Putin famously quipped the West is an “empire of lies.” I wish it were not so.
4. The Empire Of Lies
We are presently confronted with all sorts of images and reports about the war which are meant to convince that Russia is being outfought; the Russian state on the brink of regime change; its brutality almost beyond measure as it targets civilians and schools and hospitals; its soldiers despondent and on the verge of revolt; and that Russia indulges in false flag operations and sells fake news to its people; defeat is imminent.
Other sources, some of which I have mentioned above, tell a very different story, a story in which the Ukrainians are providing plenty of fake images and false narratives, lots of “wag the dog” to Western media outlets. These sources are inevitably countered with “that’s just Russian propaganda.” It is “us” versus “them,” and “they” are liars. The biggest lie thus far concerns the West and which the media, working in conjunction with politicians, have tried to cover. It has to do with the US funded biolabs operating in Ukraine.
A report in the Daily Mail (a real rag, I grant, but one that occasionally goes against the grain of consensus) reported yesterday that Hunter Biden’s laptop (remember that suppressed story that was supposed to be Russian disinformation, but, as anyone who digs around knows, was not) seems to confirm the claim that Hunter Biden helped finance a US military “bioweapons” research program in Ukraine. And there we were all thinking that between the coke, the hookers, that stuff with Beau’s widow, and some other fishy stuff that really riled up some family members about Hunter’s sexual transgressions, and the graft that Hunter was not up to much at all, except perhaps convincing his pop that blacks needed free crack pipes.
Whether this connection turns out to be true or not is not the main issue though, because whatever Hunter did to get the money for sitting on the board at Burisma (in any case most of those who knew what was on his laptop though was far less of a scandal than the Biden China money), the evidence for the existence of US funded biolabs is overwhelming—nothing less than official US documents. Their existence confirms the investigations of Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who in 2018 reported that “The US Army regularly produces deadly viruses, bacteria and toxins in direct convention on the prohibition of Biological Weapons.”
Victoria Nuland—now the current Under Secretary of State—blew her chance Marco Rubio offered when fishing for her to give an unequivocal denial about the labs, when she said that it would be a very dangerous thing if the research from the labs were to fall into Russian hands. Honestly, it just goes to show what a brainless bunch are running this shitshow. Maybe they are just as dumb on Putin’s team. I have no clue. But let’s go back to the lies and murk surrounding the event that kicked off the Ukrainian civil war, the Maidan—or, for those wanting the whole thing to have amounted to something noble, “The Revolution of Dignity.”
Whatever one calls it and however one views it—the Maidan created far more problems than it solved. It was not really a step into Europe. You will recall that the EU had all manner of looming problems, including the rumbling discontents that led to Brexit; and the EU was in no position to embrace a country of such poverty, with such a sizable population. It was also not the 1980s, and, Russia aside, there was no Soviet empire, which was a serious threat as opposed to a fabricated one.
There were still consequences from the financial crisis, a debt problem spearheaded by Greece (who were starting to depict their German EU masters as Nazis), and Central and Eastern Europeans were often ungrateful and difficult members for an organization that had made Germany the geopolitical hegemon of Western Europe (even Mutti was such a sweety, how could anyone question her führerschaftliche—sorry we must use the English now—leadership skills). And that was not even taking into account the inevitable Russian response, which was also why, in spite of all the love between Ukraine and NATO, it is true, as critics of Russia’s invasion say, Ukraine was not, de jure at least, invited into NATO. It did oust one corrupt President only to replace him with another, and it raised the wrath of Russia, led to the secession of the Crimea (some prefer the word “invasion,” which I think is simply a misuse of a good word), and created an ongoing Civil War; as well the carrying out of various acts of persecution and media censorship of Russian-speaking media outlets. If that is a success, I don’t know what failure would be like.
In any case, if the Maidan were a “Revolution of Dignity,” it is difficult to see in what exactly that “Dignity” consisted of? Getting some bundles of money from foreign governments and foreign NGOs, money that disappeared into the vast coffers of the oligarchs and their political cronies? Yes, we have pictures of Victoria Nuland, then the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, and (at last check) wife of leading Republican neo-con, Robert Kagan (please tell me there is no swamp or political ruling class), handing out coffee and cookies, or sandwiches to the protestors in 2014. So maybe some people got something substantial out of it. But, in the main, what was acquired were slogans and a public image of a nation of “heroes” fighting for their “dignity.”
The event itself had many layers and players. The West primarily saw pictures of the floods of protestors “spontaneously” (as if any protest does not require communication, organization and when, it is protracted in nature, funding) seeking to overthrow an elected government—even if a corrupt one. But if the sheer scale of public protest were the critical issue, would any Western government that has had to deal with widespread protests have survived? Maggie Thatcher at the time of the Falklands War or the poll tax? Macron with the Yellow Vests? Trump or Biden with everyone on the other side? Trudeau with the truckers, etc.? Was Yanukovych really more vicious in suppressing the protestors than Trudeau or Macron? How one answers that very much depends on who one thinks was doing the sniping at the protestors that moved the event into another level of international outrage.
Given that most Westerners knew nothing about the event except what they had seen flickering on their screens, or possibly even read with more diligence in their daily newspapers, the answer was they did not know very much. And in the murky far-away land, the idea that the American government and George Soros, and neo-Nazis played an important role in the event was rarely reported by the mainstream media—and a year or two later even the main stream media released a trickle of stories about the pernicious institutional influence of the Azov Battalion.
But at the time of the Maidan, there was generally little interest in a media landscape still having a love-fest with Obama, and even less interest in a story that would expose a winner of the Nobel Prize for peace as the instigator of a coup. As for Soros, one is immediately consigned to the loony bin marked “conspiracy theorist,” if one merely mentions his name and his financing of the various front organizations he uses around the world to assist in his—very publicly expressed—endgame of creating “an open society.” Some of you may know how he likes to credit the philosopher Karl Popper for his vision and philosophy—poor Karl.
The Soros money-trail is important in the story, which does not mean that the hundreds of thousands of protestors were simply conjured out of thin air and were merely summoned by the dosh: yes the overwhelming number of the protestors were there spontaneously expressing their political will– some though, especially those involved in organizational tactics were on the pay roll. Events like these are occasions for interested players to seek to get their way. Though, invariably the instigators trying to direct the course of history get way, way more than they bargained for—“Hey, we wanted you to kill the Ruskies, Osama, not blow up our Twin Towers you ungrateful #&%^&%^!”
The following is from the Open Society web site, about one of its organizations, the International Renaissance Foundation, in Ukraine: “By 1994, the International Renaissance Foundation was the biggest international donor in the country, with an annual budget of roughly $12 million for projects that ranged from retraining tens of thousands of decommissioned soldiers to the creation of a contemporary arts center in Kyiv. In the early 2000s, the foundation oriented itself around European integration, while mobilizing resources to help those affected by conflict after Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Over its lifetime, the foundation has supported more than 18,000 projects, benefiting millions of people.”
Now, consider again the problems of GDP per capita, corruption, the oligarchs, and the neo-Nazis in Ukraine and ask: Has this foundation achieved anything of lasting value in the country? If your answer is yes, let me raise the bridge-sale prospect again. Also, what exactly does “mobilizing resources” mean? For a man dedicated to creating a more open society, there sure is lots of murk here.
There is plenty of information out there on Soros, though algorithms now make the digging harder. But one can commence with just going through his organizations, investigating what they do, and hunting around to see who are involved. Lee Stranahan, former Huntington Post and then Breitbart journalist, and now at Sputnik News, has done a lot of that digging on Soros and his organizations, and Ukraine, as well as the fake Russia narrative and Ukraine’s role in it. I suggest you dig it up and see for yourselves whether it is just Russian propaganda—his sources are open and checkable.
When the Maidan broke out, one genuinely intrepid journalist who was on the ground, and had a track record of uncovering stories, and not merely repeating what was picked up in press releases and official pronouncements. He had previously broken the Iran-Contra story and blown the lid on the involvement of the CIA in cocaine trafficking. He was Robert Parry (1949-2018). He could scarcely believe the misinformation and outright lies, the sheer propaganda that Western media was publishing. He was there watching it all unfold and wrote regular reports. This is from one the piece “Phony ‘Corruption’ Excuse for Ukraine Coup” (2016):
If Ukraine becomes a flashpoint for World War III with Russia, the American people might rue the day that their government pressed for the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s allegedly corrupt (though elected) president in favour of a coup regime led by Ukrainian lawmakers who now report amassing, on average, more than $1 million each, much of it as cash.
The New York Times, which served as virtually a press agent for the coup in February 2014, took note of this apparent corruption among the U.S.-favoured post-coup officials, albeit deep inside a story that itself was deep inside the newspaper (page A8). The lead angle was a bemused observation that Ukraine’s officialdom lacked faith in the country’s own banks (thus explaining why so much cash).”
There have since been other accounts of the event, most notably the documentaries directed by Igor Lopatonok and produced by Oliver Stone; Ukraine on Fire (that had briefly been de-platformed but now carries the “offensive/ inappropriate” warning, but is available on Rumble) that appeared in 2016; Revealing Ukraine (carries the “offensive/ inappropriate” warning on You Tube; see it on Rumble) in 2018; and most recently, The Everlasting Present. Ukraine: 30 Years of InDependence (sic.) There are numerous comments posted on You Tube saying that Lopatonok’s films are all Russian propaganda bs—though none supply any evidence to prove this.
That there was US meddling is impossible to refute, given Nuland’s infamous conversation with US ambassador to the Ukraine about who was the right man for the top job; and McCain standing alongside Svoboda (the neo-Nazi political party) leader Oleh Tyahnybok, as well as dining with other Neo-Nazis and addressing protestors in the square. Why? For “freedom” and “dignity,” of course.
Back to International Relations 101. Imagine, would the US not have seen the presence of a major Russian political figure publicly encouraging revolt in a country in its sphere as a sign of interference and aggression? Oh, and let’s not forget what was known back in 2016 for those who were following closely that Ukraine played a leading part in the whole Russia-gate lie—a suspicious man might think the Democrats were calling in favours. But how could that possibly be, the Democrats are the moral paragons?
To anyone unfamiliar with the role of Ukraine in what has been the great big porky pie of the Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, as told to the US public by the establishment media, and embellished by congressional hearings, false documents involving urinating prostitutes (apparently to pleasure one of the world’s most famous germaphobe), false testimonies of FBI and CIA agents, false FISA warrants, the spying of one regime upon a potential and then elected president and his team, and books about Trump being cultivated by the Russians, spawning a report—that it seems its overseer, Robert Mueller, did not even read very carefully—a report that came up with… nothing. Well, OK, it came up with the conclusion that the President may have obstructed justice, not bad given how that led to the imprisonment of retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn. But even that didn’t work.
The fact that FBI and CIA agents had been proven to have conspired against the president did not lead any reporters from the big print media to ask, “But what is being claimed here and what is happening exactly?” Given that it was also the media moguls who hated Trump and, most pertinently the anti-globalist direction he was trying to revive (even Rupert did not like him), reporters in most mainstream media (Fox was not all pro-Trump, but it was the one mainstream outlet where pro-Trumpers could tune into hosts expressing their views and concerns) simply did their bidding and skewed the news so that everything globalist was very good, and everything MAGA/populist was very, very bad.
I spoke earlier about IR requiring an understanding of interests—that also involves, in any serious analysis, placing oneself in the picture and identifying one’s own interests, so that one can see the limit of one’s own place in the world and start to comprehend that of others. Any sense of that, which is to say any sense that might have elevated an understanding of the political circumstances, issues, and choices of the hour by asking where the media and its owners and reporters fitted into the larger good of the country’s future was never asked by mainstream reporters themselves.
Thus, ignorance spawned arrogance on a monstrous scale—in part because of the amplificatory nature of the technologies which we now deploy to express our better or worse hearts and minds and souls. The better, more creative part led to the emergence of “citizen journalists” who were not aligned to old power-structures, and who were beholden only to their own sense of what they saw and wished for. It was to the media what the Reformation was to Christendom, but unfortunately there was no equivalent to the reforms, and reinvigoration of Catholicism that was the Counter-Reformation.
Thus, they never even tried to expose the players and machinations involved in a conspiracy infinitely bigger than Watergate (yes, back then one could say that people who conspired to spy on their political opponents had conspired to spy on their political opponents), and possibly even more intricate than the WMDs being a lie, belief in which probably had more to do with CIA incompetence, and a failure to vet sources (because of the desire to get the answer they wanted). They were happy to garner favour with their bosses and repeat whatever someone who was in on it or would benefit from it (the entire Democrat machine—which also, happily, included most reporters) told them.
The lie, though, was spotted very early on by a number of former intelligence officials aware of the technology involved in early parts of the hatching—people like William Binney, and Ray McGovern, who really hated Trump, but who did a ton of stuff having to do with servers and downloads and deliberately misleading server “prints.” Others followed the trails of many of the players—Lee Stranahan was right up there—which is why he turns up again in the documentary about Ukraine in 2018; so were journalists from the Epoch Times. There were also some writers from the Hill—of course, there were far more than I can now recall.
The politics of those doing the exposing varied and the aforementioned leftist journalists also joined in: what they saw and what I saw went far beyond divisions concerning policy. It was horror at the recklessness of what the rulers of commerce, technology, ideas, were doing—it was nothing less than a threat to world peace. Putin had, as if from nowhere become the evilest man on the planet. So much so that even Fox presenters, who hated the Democrats and who night after night denounced and brought on guests exposing the lie, made sure that they established their anti-Putin bona fides.
All this created a completely unnecessary enemy of a man they knew next to nothing about; whose sphere of influence and, more importantly, whose geopolitical priorities were on the other side of the world. And it had done so at a time when people, who only a few years earlier were complaining about their political opponents, now spoke of the coming civil war, or the prospect of state secession. It had succeeded in completely breaking up the spirit of the nation, and with it contributed hugely to the cracks and fractures in the rest of the Western world, produced by the same polarised forces and elite mindset.
Need I repeat the obvious—this had nothing to do with Putin.
I have no way of knowing whether the intention, dated back to before 2014, was always to provoke Russia into a war, as an excuse to try and bring its economy down and bog Russia in another, albeit closer to home, dispute that might eventually bring down that “crook Putin.” I would not put it pass them. It has all the hallmarks of other great disastrous plans. In any case, the fact is that the claim was a lie that the majority of those who voted for the Democrats still think is the truth. And none of the journalists/ talk show people who spread it have ever apologized for misinformation—and of course YouTube, Twitter, Facebook don’t censor the people who continue to tell this Russia lie—a lie which rebooted the Cold War.
One of the people who could barely believe the scale of the “Russia stole the election” lie and who saw that this was an act of madness that would have a disastrous impact upon US/Russian relations was the former Soviet expert and historian (and, incidentally, a Democrat who utterly disliked Trump) Stephen Cohen. He went from being a regular commentator on Russian affairs at CNN to persona non-grata, after initially trying to explain why the expansion of NATO was a bad thing and why what the West was reporting about Ukraine in 2014 was also wrong.
To make matters worse for himself, Cohen had publicly expressed his doubts about some of the crimes that the West had blamed on Putin. He pointed out that even the family of Anna Politkovskay, (author of Putin’s Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy), who were personal friends of his, were certain it was Chechen gangsters not Putin behind her death. Cohen also drew attention to the fact that the other death the media always present as an open-and-shut case of a Putin assassination, Litvenenko, was most likely not one of his either—which was also what Litvenenko’s father said. But the climate was and remains such that any claim can be made about Putin, which involves oodles of cash and bodies, must be true.
Speaking of which, enter William Browder, self-proclaimed Number 1 enemy of Putin. As he tells the story, Putin can’t sleep at night scheming and plotting to get Browder. One wonders how Putin manages to run a country, in between the schemes and dreams of revenge and the poker games with his cronies. Browder is a best-selling author of two books, Red Notice, A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, and (for those who found the previous title just a little too bland) Freezing Order : A True Story of Russian Money Laundering, State-Sponsored Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath. He is also a regular commentator on all the media outlets (Fox loves him), where he pontificates on all things Putin, including the war. According to him, he knows Putin’s mind inside out; he knows where the bodies are buried, and where the cash is stashed. Oh, and he is also a serial liar, hence he fits right into our story and the media empire of lies.
Browder, the grandson of Earl Browder, the general secretary of the US communist party, made a fortune by sweeping up the assets for a fraction of their real prices in the country his grandfather had seen as the future land of hope and plenty. When Bill visited that future in those Wild West days of the 1990s, he had his hopes fulfilled and got plenty. He set up an “investment” company and made so much money that he made himself an Irish citizen (cheaper taxes—America, the land of free enterprise, demands that if its overseas citizens are working, then any gap between the tax paid to their country of residence and the United States must go to Uncle Sam). He was also done for tax evasion in Russia.
In his meeting with Trump in 2018, it was Browder whom Putin was talking about when he spoke of 400 million dollars illegally being sent from Russia to the Clinton campaign. Politifact, in the typical ham-fisted manner that is meant to pass as genuine factchecking, does a meticulously stupid piece wanting to disprove the claim by focusing upon publicly declared monies that were donated to the Clintons. It does not address the really important part, that the 400 millions dollars were unpaid taxes on profits made by Browder’s company. Politifact also assumes Putin must be lying because Browder and the Clintons (who like Putin are also said have buried bodies (see the View’s response to Norm MacDonald on that one). But even saying that is a conspiracy theory, while everything you think you know about bad Vlad must be true) would be incapable of finding ways to launder the money—that is evil Vlad’s specialty.
Though Trump probably did not pick it up, Putin was referring to the money and the event that is at the centre not only of Browder’s Red Notice, but the impetus behind an Act that had already set Russia and the US on a path of serious conflict, the Magnitsky Act, a bi-partisan Bill that came into being under the Obama regime in 2012. It allowed for the freezing and confiscation of assets of those deemed to be violators of human rights—funnily enough, at the time of its implementation, all Russians, and all on the wrong side of Putin versus Khodorkovsky, Lebedev and the other ‘victims’ of Putin’s grand larceny and persecution. Though, what is really funny, is that this bunch of extremely wealthy Russians had managed to get an Irishman to lobby on their behalf. Moreover, however much wealth they had lost, had not made them paupers. The idea that maybe they were just tax frauds never seemed to bother anyone – anyway what right did Putin have to prosecute anyone for tax evasion? It was introduced by Benjamin Cardin and John McCain.
One might recall that back in 2008, when he was running for President, all sorts of dirt had been dug up by the Democrats to the effect McCain had done a lot of singing in the Vietnam cage. The hatred of Vietnam toward McCain blocking their efforts to recover and bring home missing and dead service men is still intense. Trump’s notorious quip about preferring heroes who hadn’t been captured was his nod to the Vets. Dan Bongino from Fox—very anti-Putin—also claimed that Russia-got-Trump-elected elected was a replay of a plan initially hatched back in 2007 in case McCain got in. That might be true or complete nonsense. I have read his book, but not checked his sources; but if true, I don’ think that they would have needed to unload that fabrication because McCain had already become very tight with what the Democrats were brewing up in terms of foreign policy (which was not that different from the neo-con derangement syndrome stuff). He was also sidling up to Browder and Khodorkovsky (who also pushed for the bill) by using his political influence to join the task of taking Putin down. Apart from his stint in the Maidan, Browder’s (and McCain’s) success in crafting and implementing The Act, which was initially limited to the USA and Russian nationals, has since been adopted in the EU, Canada and several other countries. Need I say it, Browder may be a liar, but he is a very powerful man.
One would be very naïve to underestimate the importance of the Magnitsky Act in the straining of international relations between the Western world and Russia, though as it turns out it was but a prelude to the present decision by the US government to freeze assets and impose sanctions on Russia because of its invasion. But I should just mention that we get into some pretty murky stuff when we start looking at US political legislation and Russia.
First, isn’t it weird that the US would introduce legislation instigated by an Irish citizen who has no government position? Browder, by the way is also a business associate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and isn’t it also interesting that it was Joe Biden who introduced S.Res.322—”A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the trial, sentencing and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.”
Back in 2010, Hilary was also very vocally denouncing Russia for finding poor Mikhail and other oligarchs guilty of plundering the country—tax fraud was a topic near and dear to her heart, as was the cause of saving and recruiting billionaire clients for hers and Bill’s noble Foundation. Is it really far-fetched to believe that people as wealthy as Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, would be buying power and influence in the US government and leaving money trails so that politicians will help them bring down their enemy? Like Browder, Khodorkovsky is also talking to anyone who will listen and publishing about Putin’s tyranny and how this war will lead to regime collapse and overthrow—he is calling for demonstrations against the war, and using his considerable media machine influence to prepare Russians for him—or his man— as the next leader of Russia.
Whether orchestrated or not, the players who are intent on taking down Putin stand the most to benefit from Ukraine being in civil war; or, as now, outright war with Russia. Anyone who knows the least bit about the region and its history knows that the fate of Russia is inextricably tied to that of Ukraine (another thing Putin has stated repeatedly). And the US interference in the Maidan was above all a means of destabilizing the region in order to curb the power of Putin, and dismantle the reach of the regime—and, gain is it far-fetched to think that the stated objectives of Putin’s oligarch enemies, regime change, might not be what is the real end-game?
Maybe Khodorkovsky and co. have been trying to spell out the strategy for Joe in ways that he could say it without looking like he was saying it, yet making sure it was being said. If that sounds convoluted, it is because it is and Joe’s recent summersaults around the matter of “regime change” sure sounded convoluted. Besides, crafting legislation to redress the wrongs done to two non-American citizens, Joe also took such a personal interest in Ukraine that he threatened to withhold a billion dollars in military aid if the Ukrainian President did not change his prosecutor in the case against Burisma who also happened to employ his son. Joe’s smirking braggadocio, as he recounts the tale to fawning journalists is available for all to see on YouTube—and again the factchecking on this is as laughable as the idea that Hunter’s lost laptop is a Russian fabrication. Intrigue and murk? I think so.
But what any of us know, who are not actually in the game, is little. Still, there are questions aplenty that need to be asked, and our mainstream reporters are not asking them; and given the connection between the Magnitsky Act and the timing of the Maidan, questions about the Irish man behind an Act that has spread around the globe, and was the prelude to what is now a proxy weapons war and outright economic war against Russia, are definitely worth asking.
One person who ended up digging into that story through his firsthand acquaintance with Browder was the Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, a friend and sometime collaborator with Politkovskay. His CV also includes a string of critical documentaries on Putin and the FSB. Nekrasov was so inspired by Browder’s first book, he decided to do a feature film of it. But as work on the film progressed, he came to the realization that Browder’s fiction wagged the tail of any truth the dog might have had. Nekrasov had intended to tell the story of Browder’s heroism in the face of rogue officials robbing the titles of his business and murdering his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. In the making, it transformed into a documentary about Browder’s lies.
Nekrasov’s loss of faith in the Browder story started with his attempt to recreate the scene in the cell in which Magnitsky had ostensibly been murdered—and which he had received official access to—and discovered that the details, beginning with the size of the cell and number of police involved in the murder, could not possibly have been true. As he gathered more evidence, he reluctantly concluded that the official report about the cause of Magnitsky’s death (natural causes from a pre-existing health condition) was probably accurate. One would think any journalist familiar with how the Magnitsky Act had come into being and has been sold, and what it has meant to US (now Western) Russian relations, might be interested in following up on the fact that the martyr to the story was not, in fact, a martyr. Nor, as it turns out, is another claim about Magnitsky, a claim that is repeated wherever and to whomever Browder tells his story, was Sergei Magnitsky Moscow’s finest lawyer – he wasn’t a lawyer at all but an accountant – assisting Browder in tax fraud.
Watch the numerous videos of Browder’s talks and see how scripted they are. Also note the way in which the pauses and asides come with rehearsed regularity. They are not the gestures and manners of speech of a man whose mind is flooded by the associations that have come from persecution, whose feelings go into turmoil whenever these painful memories come up. They are the manners and gestures of a calculative man, a man who once he has plotted out the story sticks rigidly to the script, lest someone notice the loose threads that may unravel it. Note too, if you can watch this movie that Browder has attempted to banish from ever being publicly shown, like Khodorkovsky he can go from sweet charmer to deadly harmer in the blink of an eye. He is a bully as well as a liar; and as the film unfolds—it begins as a film about the making of the film—Nekrasov is on the receiving end of Browder’s early threatening glares and stares when he seeks clarification about the anomalies in Browder’s story—that also include the location and nature of this great corporation that he has built up.
The film then explosively addresses the centre-piece of Browder’s claim about the raiding and seizure of the deeds of registration and ownership when Nekrasov tracks down the ostensible policeman, supposedly living a life like Browder himself and his friend Mikhail, but who drives an old bomb and lives in a very modest flat, closer to what Browder’s “business dwellings” look like than the swanky places Browder lives in. (The film is worth watching just for the comedy of the scene where Nekrasov “discovers” the exact location of this billion-dollar plus operation, and the “staff” running it).
None with an open mind could watch this film, The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes (available only through a website of that name) and think that Browder’s story was anything other than fake—unless one is either on Browder’s payroll or a hack journalist. The film was denounced as a piece of “agit-prop” by the Washington Post.
For further information discrediting claims that Bill Browder was an innocent victim of crooked Putin, and that he is a great example of Western enterprise and moral courage apart from Lee Stranahan’s many podcasts on the topic, Lucy Komisar written major exposés of Browder’s porky pies.
If Browder is, as he and his publishers, love to tell us, Putin’s Number 1 enemy, it might be worth pausing on the claim: that the Number 1 enemy of Putin are Western lies; and in the broader picture that is also the case for Ukrainians now fleeing a country in which those who have told the lies to induce the war are nowhere to be seen. I might have been pretty scathing of Zelensky, but anyone who has been deceived this badly and who is living in the midst of such a horror—including those who were previously left to suffer in media silence—deserved our pity, and for us to at least try and speak some truth.
I may very well have lost readers on the way through these thickets thinking it is a mere ramble and haphazard rummage and roaming. My digressions about the craziness of our times are intended to highlight the relationships between the events and interests that either are essential to understand the war’s background, foreground, or what is at stake in it. I have merely scratched the surface. I know how little I know—there is so much more than main players know, that we don’t, as well as so much more that they don’t know- like how it will all play out in the immediate and distant future.
I have attempted to express why I cannot help but see this war as but one more “item” in a world divided between those seeking to fabricate a technocratic future and those who fear the mind-numbing conformity and spiritless nature that is required for its creation, as well as the vacuity of its destination. This would be truly an end of history, and an end of man—to use formulae from two ostensibly opposed enablers of this brave new world.
The forces at work both in the making and in the reaction are great; and as I have said throughout, most of those involved do not see exactly what they are doing or making. Hence too it is not unreasonable to fear the explosive consequences that are ever the inevitable accompaniment of great and rapid demographic upheaval through mass waves of immigration and the swift juxtaposition of different cultures.
I mentioned Karl Popper’s influence on George Soros; and to those who think they are being clever by not seeing how powerful this man is, all I can say is read up. Leaving aside Popper’s contribution to the philosophy of science and more generally how knowledge is best gathered and developed for the benefit of society, his great omission, which tends to be an oversight of most liberals, certainly of those in the “idea-ist” camp, is a failure to give sufficient importance to traditions. That is Soros’ failure, and the failure of globalists more generally. The failure is generally hidden, as I have also said, by a dialectical web of enlightened progressivism and Disney-styled romanticism, which wants Muslims, Confucian based tradition, tribal peoples, Hindus, Orthodox and all the world to live like Western, sexually-fluid undergraduates, celebrities and the mega rich. How this horrible stupidity plays, has already been seen in the disastrous attempts at regime change that the US and NATO have precipitated.
It is also being played out in Western Europe between an “indigenous” population, itself deeply divided between those who wish to trade the traditions of millennia for the globalist one depicted above, and a much more recent group of migrants whose appeals and spiritual commitments come from an entirely different set of circumstances and historical memory—these people themselves have their own divisions and pressures coming from the overspill and fallout of conflicts coming out of their former lands.
The problems back in their homelands are many, as are the causes, but the West’s collaboration in their making is something that intensifies the hatred of the West from people and organizations which hope that they may escape the intolerable present by leaping back into the past and hanging on ever more tightly. Only by living ever more faithfully to the stricture of their traditions can they escape the cursed world that they dwell within and they see as caused by the Western devils, whose own worlds are very hell.
This problem, like all serious political problems, is not a moral problem—morals certainly won’t solve it. It is Europe’s inevitable problem. The US, on the other hand, has made for itself another problem, the problem of racial strife. Race is a dangerous genie, when combined with seeing people primarily as racial types, and the world as a place in which there are only the privileged and the oppressed; and when the privileged themselves teach that they are not deserving of their privilege, then they are welcoming their demise. Again, none of my objections to critical race theory are to some kind of moral ideal standard—it is simply to see that the ideas behind it, and identity politics generally, are as stupid as the implications are deadly. Throw in open borders and the rest of the craziness I have touched upon—it is definitely “Good Night Irene.”
I repeat. I do not like what I see. Please convince me otherwise. But I will add one last thing. In any time or place, where serious matters are being discussed, if you are ever tempted, please pause before you reach for the kinds of platitudinous formulae that seem to be manufactured by Globalist Inc. for nincompoops—they who gave you such gems of thoughtlessness as “99 percent of scientists agree that…”; “trust the science;” “our X strives for excellence;” “we are committed to diversity;” “the discredited claim that;” “conspiracy theorists hold that”—and so on. Such formulae, stupid as they all are, do serve a purpose—to stop people asking awkward questions which might destabilize the consensuses required by globalizing technocrats and their minions to bring us all into their future, with them doing the leading. To such formulae we can add: “This war has happened because of the evil Putin;” “We must stop this evil madman;” and “That is just Russian propaganda.”
The US has a long History of Confrontation with Russia
This goes way back to the time of Lenin’s revolution in 1917 to replace the Tsar with a communist government. Along with more than a dozen other countries, in 1918 the US sent 13,000 troops to fight Lenin’s Bolshevik forces. Although this was gross interference in another country’s affairs, more than 250,000 foreign troops took part in the war against the Russian forces. The Russian forces fought with patriotic zeal, and the foreign troops made little progress and were forced to withdraw in 1920.
US Troops in Vladivostok in 1918
The US finally established diplomatic relations with the USSR in 1933 and an icy relationship has continued to the present. When Nazi Germany attacked the USSR in June of 1941, the US position was revealed by then U.S. Senator Harry Truman when he said:
“If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances.”
Primarily through the battles fought by Soviet forces, Nazi Germany was defeated, but instead of gratitude for this historical feat, the US government was persuaded by its embedded faction of Russia-hating officials to embark on a totally different course of action.
This began with the totally unnecessary and criminal decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed and injured at least 200,000 Japanese. Japan had been fully prepared to surrender and because of this, almost all high ranking military officals, including Eisenhower and McArthur, opposed the use of atomic bombs. However, Truman’s inner circle of advisors convinced him to do this. In actuality, this was not to end the war on Japan but to show the USSR that this could happen to them if they wouldn’t follow USA’s dictats.
On September 25, 1975 several previously secret documents from the US War Department, dated September 15, 1945, were declassified.
These documents revealed, in stark tones, that the USA had planned a coordinated unprovoked nuclear attack with 204 atomic bombs to destroy 66 major urban areas in the Soviet Union.
This nuclear assault would have been a diabolical and criminal undertaking on human life. Genocide is an understatement. The main document referred to “the number of atomic bombings which should be available to insure our national security”. These documents are discussed further here.
With respect to “insure our national security,” a sane question would be why the US would be so afraid of a USSR devastated by its war with Nazi Germany that the US would still require a further massive nuclear devastation of Russia in order for the US “to be safe.” The real reason is undoubtedly the American desire to destroy the USSR’s socialist-communist system, which was also the same reason for Hitler’s attack on the USSR.
A further report on this issue states that: According to US generals’ estimates, the attack could have resulted in the death of about 285 to 425 million people. Some of the USSR’s European allies were meant to be completely “wiped out.”
How should history judge the USA’s morality in this regard . . . although not carrying out this onslaught, but just seriously even considering such a course of action?
The Soviets became aware of the USA’s plans and developed their own atomic bomb in 1949. This occurred before the US had their 204 bombs for their attack. And once the USSR had their own bombs, the US realized that if they launched their attack, American cities would be hit as well. The overall result was the ensuing Cold War and a nuclear arms race.
Ukraine History and World War II
With regard to Ukraine, unlike Russia with its more that a 1,000 year history, Ukraine, as a territorial unit, started about 1650 and has a complex historical background. To understand the current conflict, it is important to recall that Russians and Ukrainians once lived in relative harmony, when they were both part of the USSR. This was violently interrupted in 1941, when the Nazis invaded the USSR, by first taking over the territory of Ukraine.
It is important to point out that the vast majority of Ukrainians fought the Nazi invasion, just as the Russians did, and suffered a loss of more than 6 million people, military and civilians. However, it is a historical fact that a portion of the people in western Ukraine supported the Nazis and even formed several divisons of troops to fight the Soviet army. This was done under bizarre delusion that somehow after the war the Nazis would allow them to have an independent state, independent of Russia. Their most prominent leader was Stepan Bandera, a collaborator with Hitler who led the liquidation of thousands of Poles, Jews and other minorities. Ironically, Bandera is now considered a major hero by Zelensky’s government.
In the meantime, on the basis of Nazi racial policy all Slavic people, Jews, Roma and black people were considerd Untermenschen or “subhuman” and “inferior people” who, if at all possible, were to be exterminated in one way or another. Despite this open philosophy of the invading Nazi hordes, a portion of the Ukrainian people in the Galicia region of western Ukraine somehow felt that if they collaborated with the Nazis that after the defeat of the USSR they would somehow acquire an independent Ukrainian state. Total delusion, but a historical fact.
According to John-Paul Himka, a retired professor from the University of Alberta, a quarter of all victims of the Holocaust lived in Ukraine, and Ukrainian ultra-nationalists collaborated with the Nazis in carrying out their horrendous deeds.
As for the invading German Nazi forces, if there were Ukrainians who were prepared to collaborate with them, in a cynical manner, the Nazis accepted them. And in this manner, these Ukrainian Nazi allies proceeded to kill thousands of Polish people in the Lvov area and they participated in killing more then 30,000 Jews whose bodies were then thrown in the Babi Yar ravine near Kiev.
At the end of World War II thousands of these Ukrainian Nazi collaborators managed to retreat to Germany and then somehow managed to get accepted as “refugees” in Canada and the USA. In Ukraine they were dealt with as Nazi collaborators and it’s not certain what happened to them. It’s now 77 years since the war ended, and you’d think the Nazi era is past history, but it seems that some descendants of these collaborators are are still on the scene as “neo-Nazis.” And unfortunately these neo-Nazis continue to promote hatred and white supremacy and attack racial and ethnic minorities, and in some cases are prepared to live in a fascist state.
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
In the course of the turmoil in the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine officially declared itself an independent country on 24 August 1991. At the end of the year, on December 25, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post as president of the Soviet Union, leaving Boris Yeltsin as president of the newly independent Russian state.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the USA dominated the world, and it wasn’t until Vladimir Putin took over as President in 2000 that Russia once again began to have some world influence.
The 2014 EuroMaidan Coup and Its Aftermath
As for Ukraine, after its independence it struggled along, but it wasn’t until 2014 that a cataclysmic event occurred which totally changed the course of history in that country. The USA succeeded in staging a coup d’état which replaced a democratically elected president and installed a regime in which neo-Nazis proceeded to have a major role.
Following this, I had three major articles published on this debacle. One of them was immediately translated into French, German and Spanish. In that article I review the whole course of events that then occurred in Ukraine.
Immediately after the coup, Victoria Nuland gleefully bragged how the US spent five billion dollars to enable the coup to take place. She even had a hand in picking out who should be in the cabinet and who should be the new president…. and if the European union didn’t like it, “Fuck the EU”…. all this is on record.
After the coup, two basically fascist and neo-Nazi parties, Svoboda and Right Sector, held prominent positions in the new government–they formed a third of the cabinet. This is despite the fact that Svoboda had only 8 percent of the seats in the Rada and that the Right Sector didn’t have any elected members. Later the followers of these parties formed the Azov military force, which openly display Hitler’s military regalia.
While the new Ukrainian regime has been busy empowering fascists, they stripped communist parties of their right to participate in elections in 2015 and issued controversial ‘decommunisation’ laws.
These laws ban the display of Soviet symbols and change the status of the May 9 holiday which marked the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War 2. The laws will remove all mentions of ‘the Great Patriotic War’ (a Soviet term for World War 2). Tens of thousands of streets have since been renamed, along with nearly one thousand cities and villages. Over two thousand statues and monuments have also been removed in this anti-communist cultural project. Despite widespread criticism, the current government has refused to revoke the laws.
In actual fact, the United States has continued to work with Ukrainian fascists in their endless destabilization campaigns against Russia. According to CIA specialist Douglas Valentine, “the CIA has been developing fascist assets in the Ukraine for 70 years.” Nazism and fascism are very real factors in Ukraine, and they have been extensively documented.
Given what has happened, it is hardly surprising that Ukraine was the only country, along with the United States, which voted against the UN General Assembly’s draft resolution “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”
The day after the coup government was formed its very first action was to pass a bill to ban the use of Russian in any official capacity and to ban all Russian media in Ukraine. This was done even though one-fifth of Ukraine’s population are ethnic Russians and that about 40% of the population speak Russian. In fact, the eastern part of Ukraine and Crimea are almost totally ethnic Russians, with a Russian history that goes back more than a thousand years. And suddenly their language was banned!
To put this issue in perspective for Canadians, just imagine if a newly installed government in Ottawa would suddenly ban the use of French as an official language in Canada. How long would it take for Quebec to call for a referendum and then proceed to secede from Canada? In actuality, this is exactly what happened in Crimea, where the bulk of the people speak Russian. They conducted a referendum on March 16, 2014 and with a turnout of 83 percent, there was a 97 percent vote to secede from Ukraine. Since ethnic Russians formed only 58 percent of the population, it means that the bulk of Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea also voted to secede from Ukraine. Crimea then appealed to Russia to be accepted into the Russian Federation, and Russia proceeded to do this.
Despite the referendum in Crimea to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, Russia is constantly accused of annexing Crimea, i.e., conducting a forcible acquisition of part of Ukraine’s territory, which is a blatant lie. To add to this lie, no one in the West ever refers to Crimea’s referendum, which was monitored by a team of Western observers. In the meantime, with no referendum, Kosovo was detached from Serbia…. with the full approval of the USA. In fact, the US engineered this.
As for Russia’s decision to intervene militarily in Ukraine, the government and the people still vividly remember that the USSR lost 27 million people fighting the Nazis in the 1940s. It was President Kennedy in his memorable speech on June 10, 1963 at American University who stated:
And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory, including nearly two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland–a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.
To make his point vividly clear to the US public, he compared the devastation in the USSR to the USA: a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.
So now with neo-Nazis basically in control of Ukraine, as well as having it in their constitution to join NATO and with its president talking of acquiring nuclear weapons, it should be no mystery how Russia feels about this. With nuclear weapons in Ukraine, it would take less than 10 minutes to destroy Moscow …. with no possibility of blocking such an attack. Russia and its people are not prepared to undergo another World War II. That is the long and the short of it.
How did it come to this? After the 2014 coup and the law to ban the Russian language in all legal affairs, the new Kiev regime sent a group of their administrators to take over the government offices in the Russian speaking Lugansk and Donetsk regions.
These administrators were promptly sent back to Kiev and these areas continued with their own people in office. The Kiev regime’s response? ….. a military attack was launched on the Donbass area. A vicious war took place for almost a year. These two areas had their own armed forces and there were no Russian troops involved, as acknowledged by Ukraine’s military commander. After a significant defeat of Ukraine’s army in a major battle in 2015, open warfare ceased.
It was at this point that Ukraine agreed to negotiations arranged by Germany, France and Russia in Belarus at the city of Minsk. They signed a 14-point Minsk Accord, later approved by the UN, for the purpose of resolving the Lugansk and Donetsk issue. Ukraine was to negotiate an agreement with these two areas which would give them a degree of autonomy, similar to that of Canadian provinces or US states.
Although Ukraine signed this document, and although Lugansk and Donetsk were fully prepared to negotiate an agreement, Ukraine refused to negotiate with them….in violation of the UN approved agreement they had signed. Instead, the Ukraine military, headed by the neo-Nazi Azov forces (complete with Hitler regalia) proceeded for the next 7 years to regularly shell the civilian areas of Luhansk and Donetsk causing substantial infrastructure damage . . . hospitals, schools, residential areas . . . and killing more than 14,000 people.
Fast forward to the present . . . People are rightly concerned about civilians being killed in Ukraine, but where were they these past 8 years when Ukrainian forces killed more than 14,000 people in eastern Ukraine? And during America’s wars on Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia, Libya, Syria and many other places where millions of people were killed, did any of these currently outraged people ever compare any of the American presidents to Hitler? So what is going on at the present time??
It amazes me that Russia did not intervene sooner to prevent this awful senseless carnage in the Donbass. It seems Russia was hoping that eventually Ukraine would come to its senses and institute the Minsk agreement, which would keep these areas in Ukraine, but with a degree of autonomy. It also appears that this wasn’t done because the USA never approved of the Minsk proposal. Also this agreement was totally opposed by the Azov-Nazis, and they threatened to kill anyone who would attempt to enact it. As such it appears that President Zelensky was so intimidated that it seems he didn’t dare do this.
As an indication of Azov’s strengths and influence in Ukraine, Azov members proved it about a month ago. Right after the first negotiation meeting that Ukraine had with Russia in Belarus, Azov members killed the Ukrainian negotiator who seriously considered a Russian proposal. When the neo-Nazis found out about this, they abducted him from his Kiev home, tortured him and then shot him and left his body on the street in front of Ukraine’s legislative Rada building. A clear warning to Zelensky.
For the record, it should be noted that Zelensky won the presidential election in April of 2019 against the incumbent Poroshenko with 73% of the vote. His election platform was based on establishing good relations with Russia and promising to enact the Minsk agreement with Donetsk and Lugansk. Obviously, this is what the bulk of the Ukrainian population wanted. However, Zelensky totally backed off from these electoral promises, seemingly because of threats to his life by the Azov-Nazis. So this shows the power of these reactionary forces.
It should be noted that Wikipedia has stated that Azov’s founding member Andriy Biletsky, leader of the far right Social-National Assembly (SNA), had stated in 2010 that:
“the historic mission of our nation” was to lead the “white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival […] a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen“, Numerous fighters bear SS tattoos, including swastikas. In 2014, the German ZDF television network showed images of Azov fighters wearing helmets with swastika symbols and “the SS runes of Hitler’s infamous black-uniformed elite corps”.
Despite this, American and Canadian military instructors have conducted lengthy training sessions of Azov military personnel. When confronted with this, they have tried weasel themselves out of this, but the facts remain.
What brought Russia to finally intervene militarily in Ukraine is information leaked to them by someone in the Ukraine military, and later confirmed by official documents, that in mid-March of this year, about 100,000 Ukraine troops were scheduled to attack Donetsk and Lugansk in a Blitzkrieg manner. The plan was to overrun these two areas in a matter of days, which would have involved killing thousands of these Russian-speaking people. The Russian government and President Putin decided that the only way to prevent this from happening is for Russia to take military action.
Russia first recognized Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as separate states and then two days later, on February 24, Russia launched its “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.” That day Russia notified the UN Secretary-General that the military action was “taken in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter in the exercise of the right of self-defence,” actually citing the provision of “anticipatory self-defence” or the right of “interceptive self-defence” in light of Ukraine’s planned attack on Lugansk and Donetsk.
In effect, Russia was acting to stop “neo-Nazis and militias” from killing civilians and to prevent a “genocide” of Russians in Eastern Ukraine.
In their military operation, Russian troops were instructed to do the least possible damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure and civilian population. As such there has been no bombing of any Ukrainian cities, totally unlike the US “Shock and Awe” campaigns such as in Iraq where within a few days they killed tens of thousands of people….and eventually killed more than 1,000,000 Iraqis. Russian attacks were directed at military facilities, fuel and munition depots, and military communications. Also, within a few days, they somehow wiped out practically all of Ukraine’s military aircraft and aircraft bases. They surrounded Kiev, not to attack it, but to maintain Ukrainian troops there. In phase 2, their main objective will be to deal with large number of Ukrainian troops in the Donbass area.
The Azov neo-Nazis had their main base in Mariupol and the Russian forces have now finally captured this centre. Unlike other areas, much of this city has been destroyed through artillery fire, but it seems the Azovs may fight to the last neo-Nazi, often using civilians as human shields.
As for the overall war, now approaching two months, the UN has estimated that there have been “4,450 civilian casualties in the country: 1,892 killed and 2,558 injured.”
When it comes to military casualties, this is totally different. On April 16, Russia updated the number of Ukrainian military fatalities to 23,367, which includes the Ukrainian army, Azov forces and foreign mercenaries. As for Russian losses, they reported that 1,351 soldiers were killed and 3,825 wounded. In the meantime, with no evidence to support his claim, Zelensky is boasting that 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, compared to only 2,500 Ukrainian troops.
Russia has also reported that more than 400,000 Ukrainian civilians had been evacuated to Russia from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
As for the West’s current “Great Hero” Zelensky, he has recently outlawed all left-wing or progressive political parties and openly approves of violent reprisals against the members of these parties. Journalist Max Blumenthal has documented the current political situation in Ukraine.
A few excerpts from Blumenthal’s account are apropos:
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s statement that “there would be consequences for collaborators” indicates that these atrocities have been sanctioned by the highest levels of government.
Western media has looked the other way, however, as Zelensky and top officials in his administration have sanctioned a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination of local Ukrainian lawmakers accused of collaborating with Russia. Several mayors and other Ukrainian officials have been killed since the outbreak of war, many reportedly by Ukrainian state agents after engaging in de-escalation talks with Russia.
Zelensky has further exploited the atmosphere of war to outlaw an array of opposition parties and order the arrest of his leading rivals. His authoritarian decrees have triggered the disappearance, torture and even murder of an array of human rights activists, communist and leftist organizers, journalists and government officials accused of “pro-Russian” sympathies.
At this stage, Russia has withdrawn most of its forces from Kiev and other places and has concentrated them in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas to confront the bulk of the Ukrainian forces. This will be phase 2 in their campaign, and the single most important battle is to take place shortly.
In my concluding comments, I would like to refer to a speech made by Vladimir Putin a while ago in which he went back in history to the time when the USSR was enticed to reunite East and West Germany and to loosen its control over the east European countries that were attached to the USSR following World War II.
During crucial negotiations in 1990 President Gorbachev was assured repeatedly by the US and other NATO leaders that if he agreed to all these reforms, NATO would not move from its boundaries “by one inch,” With such an assurance, Gorbachev allowed the reunification of Germany, and the USSR then relinquished all controls and alliances with the multitude of countries along its western border. Instead of honouring its promise to not advance “by one inch” towards Russia, NATO, led by the USA, absorbed all these countries and then tried to incorporate Ukraine and Georgia into its fold. So the West’s promises at that time were nothing more than lies.
Then on February 28, in discussing the sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of its intervention in Ukraine, Putin referred to the West as the Empire of Lies. And for good historical reasons, this is how Russia may now view the West. Interestingly, since Putin made this comment, this is how the USA is being referred by a number of commentators.
Since this war started in Ukraine, there has been an amazing amount of censorship in our “freedom loving” West, with not only all Russian media being censored but also anyone in the West who is critical of the USA’s or the West’s portrayal of events in Ukraine. We are indeed living in interesting times.
Much more remains to be said, but this is where I will leave it for now.
The Reasons For And Dangers Behind The War In Ukraine
The war in the Ukraine continues but the propaganda hysteria around it seems to have calmed down a bit as reality is setting in.
This gives room from more sane voices to be heard by the public. I will start with the Russian ones.
The Russian ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, was interviewed by Newsweek. He explained Russia's political and judicial reasoning behind the war:
"The special operation in Ukraine is the result of the unwillingness of the Kiev regime to stop the genocide of Russians by fulfilling its obligations under the international commitments," Antonov told Newsweek. "The desire of the NATO member states to use the territory of a neighboring state to establish a foothold in the struggle against Russia is also obvious."
To Russia, Antonov said that the [Maidan] revolution was a "bloody coup d'état instigated by the West" in which "ultranationalist ideas came to power in Kiev." He said that policies viewed by Moscow as hostile such as the removal of Russian as a national language and the rehabilitation of nationalist Ukrainian figures such as Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II, had "taken root in Ukraine under external administration."
Antonov argued that it was the "nationalist frenzy and revanchist sentiments of the Kiev regime" that resulted in the effective death of the Minsk deals as Ukraine chose "the path of rapid militarization" with help from abroad.
"The NATO member countries have commenced a military exploration of Ukraine," Antonov said. "It was flooded with Western weaponry while President Vladimir Zelensky announced Kiev's plans to acquire nuclear weapons which would threaten not only neighboring countries, but also the entire world."
"In this context, Russia had no other choice but to recognize the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics," Antonov said. "Then, in accordance with Chapter VII, Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, with the authorization of the Federation Council of Russia and in execution of the Treaties of Friendship and Mutual Assistance with the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin made a decision to begin a special military operation."
"Its aim is to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine in order to reduce military threats posed by the Western states that are trying to use the fraternal Ukrainian people in the struggle against the Russians," he added.
Sergey Karaganov is a high level Russian political scientist and commentator who is also a presidential advisor in Moscow. He was interviewed (in English) by the Italian Corriere Della Sera
Sergey Karaganov: «We are at war with the West. The European security order is illegitimate»
How can an attack be justified on such grounds?
«For 25 years people like myself have said that NATO expansion would lead to war. Putin said several times that if it came to Ukraine becoming a member of NATO, there would be no Ukraine anymore. In Bucharest in 2008 there was a plan of quick accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO. It was blocked by the efforts of Germany and France, but since that time Ukraine has been integrated into NATO. It was pumped up by weaponry and its troops were trained by NATO, their army getting stronger and stronger day by day. In addition we saw a very rapid increase of neo-Nazi sentiment especially among the military, the society and the ruling elite. It was clear that Ukraine had become something like Germany around 1936-1937. The war was inevitable, they were a spearhead of NATO. We made the very hard decision to strike first, before the threat becomes deadlier».
I recommend to read the whole Karaganov interview to better understand the Russian thinking.
"It was clear that Ukraine had become something like Germany around 1936-1937," said Karaganov. The 'western' public has difficulties to understand that. But it is the prevailing Russian view and when analyzing the developments in the Ukraine over the last years with Russian history in mind one can easily come to the same conclusion.
It is also what the Canadian Russia expert Patrick Armstrong had mentioned as the most important item after he had read Putin's speeches at the start of the war:
Had I been at home I would have read Putin’s speech earlier and understood sooner. What he is talking about is what the Soviet Union tried to do from 1933 onwards: namely to stop Hitler before he got started. This time Russia is able to do it by itself. In other words, Putin feels that he is making a pre-emptive attack to stop June 1941. This is very serious indeed and indicates that the Russians are going to keep going until they feel that they can safely stop.
The Russian view is not really that far fetched.
Here is a recent news agency video of officials of the Ukrainian Security Service SBU in front of a destroyed house seemingly praying with a priest for the deceased.
Note the fascist Right Sector patch the official carries on his arm and back. The SBU has become a kind of Gestapo tasked with eliminating opposition elements in Ukraine. The UN's OHCHR, the OSCE, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International have all reported about the SBU's many crimes.
There is also an 'SS Galizien' patch on the officers back which refers to the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) which fought with Nazi-Germany against the Soviet Union. Like many other SS division the 1st Galician was involved in serious war-crimes but later mostly whitewashed. After the war many of its surviving officers fled to Canada and to the United States.
The offspring of those officers and other immigrants from the Ukraine played a noticeable role in lobbying for the war.
That has been successful as the U.S. had chosen to support extreme elements in Ukraine in opposition to peace. This has, as Aaron Maté writes, moved president Zelensky from an election campaign position of finding peace with Russia to becoming a war maniac:
On a warm October day in 2019, the eminent Russia studies professor Stephen F. Cohen and I sat down in Manhattan for what would be our last in-person interview (Cohen passed away in September 2020 at the age of 81).
"Zelensky ran as a peace candidate," Cohen explained. "He won an enormous mandate to make peace. So, that means he has to negotiate with Vladimir Putin." But there was a major obstacle. Ukrainian fascists, Cohen warned, "have said that they will remove and kill Zelensky if he continues along this line of negotiating with Putin… His life is being threatened literally by a quasi-fascist movement in Ukraine."
Peace could only come, Cohen stressed, on one condition. "[Zelensky] can’t go forward with full peace negotiations with Russia, with Putin, unless America has his back," he said. "Maybe that won’t be enough, but unless the White House encourages this diplomacy, Zelensky has no chance of negotiating an end to the war. So the stakes are enormously high."
Although Trump's impeachment failed to remove him from office, it succeeded in cementing the proxy war aims of its chief proponents: rather than support Zelensky's peace mandate, Ukraine would instead be used to "fight Russia over there."
I had earlier quoted an interview with Dmytro Yarosh, then the leader of the fascist Right Sector, who just a week after Zelenski had become president threatened him with death should he try to make peace with the eastern Ukrainian rebels. Yarosh later became an advisor to the chief general staff of the Ukrainian military. He is the main person behind the ongoing nazification of the Ukrainian military.
As ambassador Antonov has said the war in Ukraine is not only about the Ukraine.
Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, is correctly pointing out the two levels of the war we see:
It is not that the empathy for Ukraine or support for Zelensky’s national resistance is misplaced, but that it has the appearance of being geopolitically orchestrated and manipulated in ways that other desperate national situations were not, and thus gives rise to suspicions about other, darker motives.
This is worrisome because these magnified concerns have acted as a principal way that the NATO West has gone out of its way to make the Ukrainian War about more than Ukraine. The wider war is best understood as occurring on two levels: a traditional war between the invading forces of Russia and the resisting forces of Ukraine as intertwined with an encompassing geopolitical war between the US and Russia. It is the prosecution of this latter war that presents the more profound danger to world peace, a danger that has been largely obscured or assessed as a mere extension of the Russia/Ukraine confrontation.
If this two-level perception is correctly analyzed in its appreciation of the different actors with contradictory priorities, then it becomes crucial to understand that in the geopolitical war the US is the aggressor as much as in the traditional war on the ground Russia is the aggressor.
Falk concurs with professor John Mearsheimer who fears that the larger U.S. Russia conflict hidden behind the war in Ukraine may lead to widening of the conflict into a potential nuclear war.
Summarizing Mearsheimer's recent talk with Katrina vanden Heuvel and ambassador James Matlock, the former CIA analyst Ray McGovern writes:
Speaking at an April 7 webinar, Mearsheimer was, true to form, "offensively realistic". He explained: (1) the root cause lies in the April 2008 NATO summit Declaration that Ukraine (and Georgia) "will become members of NATO"; and (2) that Russia sees this as an "existential threat" and therefore "must win" this one.
For President Joe Biden and the Democrats, even though Ukraine poses zero strategic threat to the U.S., a Russian "win" would be, politically, a "devastating defeat", says Mearsheimer. In that sense, the conflict is a "must-win" for the US as well. Underscoring the obvious, he noted it is impossible for both sides to "win" – at least not in current circumstances.
Noting that US academics and policy makers don’t believe NATO’s designs on Ukraine represent an existential threat to Russia, Mearsheimer is as blunt as his courteous mien permits. "What people in Washington believe is irrelevant. What matters is what Russia believes." He rejects the "mainstream" view that Putin’s Russia is motivated by expansionist aims, and asks the savants in Washington to put concrete evidence behind their claims. Moreover, "There is no evidence in what Putin has said that he wants to make Ukraine part of Russia," Mearsheimer adds.
Towards the end of a talk with Gonzalo Lira former Marine officer and UN Inspector Scott Ritter disputes the potential for escalation. The Pentagon, he says, knows the real situation on the ground and that the Ukrainian army will lose the war. Neither NATO, nor the U.S. nor single countries like Poland have their forces configured in a way that would allow them to successfully wage war against Russia. They would need more time to get ready than Russia will need to win the war in Ukraine.
Ritter predicts that the Pentagon will overrule any escalation the Ukraine warmongers in the State Department and National Security Council may plan and that those responsible for the current mess, Victoria Nuland, Anthony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, will get silenced or removed after the midterms.
I hope he is right.
This article is a follow-up to :
- "Russia wants to force the US to respect the UN Charter," January 4, 2022.
- "Washington pursues RAND plan in Kazakhstan, then Transnistria," January 11, 2022.
- "Washington refuses to hear Russia and China," January 18, 2022.
- "Washington and London, deafened", February 1, 2022.
- "Washington and London try to preserve their domination over Europe", February 8, 2022.
- “Two interpretations of the Ukrainian affair”, 16 February 2022.
- “Washington sounds the alarm, while its allies withdraw”, 22 February 2022.
- “Russia declares war on the Straussians”, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, 5 March 2022.
- "A gang of drug addicts and neo-nazis”, 5 March 2022.
10 “Israel stunned by Ukrainian neo-Nazis”, 8 March 2022.
- "Ukraine: the great manipulation", March 22, 2022.
Russia’s military operations in Ukraine have been going on for more than a month and Nato’s propaganda operations for a month and a half.
As always, the war propaganda of the Anglo-Saxons is coordinated from London. Since the First World War, the British have acquired an unparalleled know-how. In 1914, they had managed to convince their own population that the German army had carried out mass rapes in Belgium and that it was the duty of every Briton to come to the rescue of these poor women. It was a cleaner version of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s attempt to compete with the British colonial empire. At the end of the conflict, the British population demanded that the victims be compensated. A census was taken and it was found that the facts had been extraordinarily exaggerated.
President Zelensky declared war on Russia by ordering the Banderist troops incorporated into his army to attack Russian citizens in the Donbass from February 17. Then he waved the red rag in front of the political leaders of NATO member countries and declared that he was going to acquire the atomic bomb in violation of international treaties.
This time, in 2022, the British managed to convince the Europeans that on February 24 the Russians had attacked Ukraine to invade and annex it. Moscow was trying to reconstitute the Soviet Union and was preparing to attack all its former possessions in succession. This version is more honorable for the West than evoking the "Thucydides trap" - I will come back to this -. In reality, Kiev’s troops attacked their own population in Donbass on the afternoon of February 17. Then Ukraine waved a red rag in front of the Russian bull with President Zelenski’s speech to the political and military leaders of Nato gathered in Munich, during which he announced that his country was going to acquire nuclear weapons to protect itself from Russia.
Don’t believe me? Here are the OSCE readings from the Donbass border. There had been no fighting for months, but the observers of the neutral organization observed 1,400 explosions per day as of the afternoon of February 17. Immediately, the rebel provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, which still considered themselves Ukrainian but claimed autonomy within Ukraine, moved more than 100,000 civilians to protect them. Most retreated to the interior of Donbass, others fled to Russia.
Number of explosions recorded in Donbass (February 14-22, 2022)
Source: OSCE SMM Daily Report
In 2014 and 2015, when a civil war had pitted Kiev against Donestk and Lugansk, the material and human damage was only a matter of Ukraine’s internal affairs. However, in the course of time, almost the entire Ukrainian population of Donbass considered emigrating and acquired dual Russian citizenship. Therefore, Kiev’s attack on the population of Donbass on February 17 was an attack on Ukrainian-Russian citizens. Moscow came to their rescue, in an emergency, from February 24.
The chronology is indisputable. It was not Moscow that wanted this war, but Kiev, despite the predictable price it would have to pay. President Zelensky deliberately put his people in danger and bears sole responsibility for what they are enduring today.
Why did he do this? Since the beginning of his term, Volodymyr Zelensky has continued the support of the Ukrainian state, which began with his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, for the embezzlement of funds by his American sponsors and for the extremists in his country, the Banderists. President Putin called the former "a bunch of drug addicts" and the latter "a bunch of neo-Nazis" [(#nb1 "See the ninth article in this series: "A bunch of drug addicts and (...)")]. Not only did Volodymyr Zelensky publicly declare that he did not want to solve the conflict in Donbass by implementing the Minsk Agreements, but he banned his fellow citizens from speaking Russian in schools and administrations and, worse, signed a racial law on July 1, 2021, de facto excluding Ukrainians claiming their Slavic origin from the enjoyment of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The Russian army first invaded Ukrainian territory, not from the Donbass, but from Belarus and Crimea. It destroyed all Ukrainian military installations used by Nato for years and fought the Bandit regiments. It is now dedicated to annihilating them in the east of the country. The propagandists in London and their almost 150 communication agencies around the world assure us that, pushed back by the glorious Ukrainian Resistance, the defeated Russian army has given up its initial goal of taking Kiev. However, never, absolutely never, did President Putin say that Russia would take Kiev, overthrow the elected President Zelensky and occupy his country. On the contrary, he has always said that his war aims were to denazify Ukraine and eliminate foreign (NATO) weapons stockpiles. This is exactly what he is doing.
The Ukrainian population is suffering. We are discovering that war is cruel, that it always kills innocent people. Today we are overwhelmed by our emotions and, as we ignore the Ukrainian attack of February 17, we blame the Russians, whom we wrongly call "aggressors". We do not feel the same compassion for the victims of the simultaneous war in Yemen, its 200,000 dead, including 85,000 children, who died of hunger. But it is true that the Yemenis are, in the eyes of the West, "only Arabs".
The fact of suffering should not be interpreted a priori as proof that one is right. Criminals suffer like the innocent.
The Ukrainian delegation to the International Court of Justice succeeded in obtaining not a judgment on the merits, but an order for a provisional measure against Russia.
How is such manipulation of the court possible? [(#nb2 ""Allegation of genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and (...)")] Ukraine referred to the fact that President Putin, during his speech on the Russian military operation, said that the people of Donbass were victims of "genocide". She therefore denied this "genocide" and accused Russia of having used this argument improperly. In international law, the word "genocide" no longer refers to the eradication of an ethnic group, but to a massacre ordered by a government. Over the past eight years, between 13,000 and 22,000 civilians have been killed in the Donbass, depending on whether one refers to Ukrainian or Russian government statistics. Russia, which had sent its plea in writing, argues that it is not relying on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, but on Article 51 of the UN Charter, which authorizes war in self-defence, as President Putin had explicitly stated in his speech. The Tribunal did not attempt to verify anything. It stuck to the Ukrainian denial. It therefore concluded that Russia had improperly used the Convention as an argument. Moreover, as Russia did not consider it necessary to be physically represented at the Court, the Court used its absence to impose an aberrant provisional measure. Russia, sure of its good right, refused to comply and is demanding a judgment on the merits, which will not be given before the end of September.
All this being said, we can only understand the duplicity of the West if we put the events in their context. For a decade, American political scientists have been telling us that the rise of Russia and China will lead to an inevitable war. The political scientist Graham Allison created the concept of the "Thucydides trap" [(#nb3 ""The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?", Graham T. (...)")]. He was referring to the Peloponnesian wars that opposed Sparta and Athens in the fourth century BC.. The strategist and historian Thucydides analyzed that the wars had become inevitable when Sparta, which dominated Greece, realized that Athens was conquering an empire and could replace its hegemony. The analogy is telling, but false: while Sparta and Athens were close Greek cities, the United States, Russia and China do not have the same culture.
China, for example, rejects President Biden’s proposal for trade competition. Instead, it has the opposite tradition of "win-win". In doing so, it is not referring to mutually beneficial trade contracts, but to its history. The "Middle Kingdom" has an extremely large population. The emperor was forced to delegate his authority to the maximum. Even today China is the most decentralized country in the world. When he issued a decree, it had practical consequences in some provinces, but not in all. The emperor therefore had to make sure that each local governor would not consider his decree irrelevant and forget his authority. He then offered compensation to those who were not affected by the decree so that they would still feel subject to his authority.
Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, China has not only taken a non-aligned position, but has protected its Russian ally in the UN Security Council. The United States has wrongly feared that Beijing would send weapons to Moscow. This has never been the case, although there is logistical assistance in the form of prepared meals for the soldiers, for example. China is watching how things are going and deducing how they will go when it tries to get the rebel province of Taiwan back. Beijing has kindly declined Washington’s offers. It is thinking in the long term and knows from experience that if it allows Russia to be destroyed, it will once again be plundered by the West. Its salvation is only possible with Russia, even if it must one day challenge it in Siberia.
Let’s go back to Thucydides’ trap. Russia knows that the United States wants to erase it from the scene. It anticipates a possible invasion/destruction. But its territory is immense and its population insufficiently large. It cannot defend its overly large borders. Since the 19th century, it has imagined defending itself by hiding from its adversaries. When Napoleon, then Hitler, attacked her, she moved her population further and further east. And it burned its own cities before the invader arrived. The latter found himself unable to supply his troops. He had to face the winter without means and, finally, retreat. This "scorched earth" strategy only worked because neither Napoleon nor Hitler had logistical bases nearby. Modern Russia knows that it cannot survive if US weapons are stored in Central and Eastern Europe. That is why, at the end of the Soviet Union, Russia demanded that NATO never expand eastward. French President François Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Köhl, who knew history, demanded that the West make this commitment. At the time of German reunification, they drafted and signed a treaty guaranteeing that Nato would never cross the Oder-Neisse line, the German-Polish border.
Russia set this commitment in stone in 1999 and in 2010 with the OSCE declarations in Istanbul and Astana. But the United States violated it in 1999 (accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to Nato), in 2004 (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia), in 2009 (Albania and Croatia), in 2017 (Montenegro), and again in 2020 (Northern Macedonia). The problem is not that all these states have allied themselves with Washington, but that they have stored U.S. weapons at home. No one is criticizing these states for choosing their allies, but Moscow is blaming them for serving as a rear base for the Pentagon in preparation for an attack by Russia.
Victoria Nuland did not know Leo Strauss personally, but was trained in his thinking by her husband, Robert Kagan. Together they founded the Project for a New American Century, the think tank that called for a Pearl Harbor-like catastrophe in order to impose their policies. The attacks of September 11, 2001 were a "divine surprise" for them. Like the war in Ukraine, these despicable attacks did not shake the US power, but on the contrary allowed it to last.
In October 2021, the Straussian Victoria Nuland , the State Department’s number 2, came to Moscow to urge Russia to accept the deployment of US weapons in Central and Eastern Europe. She promised that Washington would invest in Russia in return. Then she threatened Russia if it did not accept her offer and concluded that he would have President Putin tried before an international tribunal. Moscow responded with a proposal for a treaty guaranteeing peace on the basis of respect for the United Nations Charter on December 17. This is what has caused the current storm. Respecting the Charter, which is based on the principle of the equality and sovereignty of states, implies reforming NATO, whose operation is based on a hierarchy among its members. Caught in the "Thucydides trap", the United States then fomented the current war in Ukraine.
If we admit that their goal is to remove Russia from the international scene, the way the Anglo-Saxons react to the Ukrainian crisis becomes clear. They are not trying to push back the Russian army militarily, nor to embarrass the Russian government, but to wipe out all traces of Russian culture in the West. And secondly, they are trying to weaken the European Union.
They started with the freezing of the assets of Russian oligarchs in the West, a measure that was applauded by the Russian population, which considers them illegitimate beneficiaries of the plundering of the USSR. Then they imposed on Western companies to stop their activities with Russia. Finally, they continued by cutting off Russian banks’ access to Western banks (the SWIFT system). However, if these financial measures were disastrous for Russian banks (but not for the Russian government), the measures against companies working in Russia are on the contrary favorable to Russia which recovers their investments at lower costs. Moreover, the Moscow Stock Exchange, which had been closed from February 25 (the day after the Russian response) to March 24, recorded an increase as soon as it reopened. The RTS index fell by 4.26% on the first day, but it measures mainly speculative stocks, while the IMOEX index, which measures national economic activity, rose by 4.43%. The real losers of the Western measures are the members of the European Union who had the stupidity to take them.
Paul Wolfowitz was introduced to the thought of Leo Strauss by his philosophy professor, Alan Bloom. He later became a student of the master, working directly with him at the University of Chicago. Leo Strauss had convinced him that Jews should not expect anything from democracies. In order not to endure another Shoah, they must build their own Reich. It is better to be on the side of the handle than of the axe.
Already in 1991, the Straussian Paul Wolfowitz wrote in an official report that the USA should prevent a power from developing to the point of competing with it. At the time, the USSR was in tatters. So he named the European Union as the potential rival to be destroyed [(#nb5 "This document was revealed in "US Strategy Plan Calls For Insuring No (...)")]. This is exactly what he did in 2003, when, as number 2 in the Pentagon, he forbade Germany and France to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq . This is also what Victoria Nuland talked about in 2014 when she instructed her US ambassador in Kiev to "fuck the European Union" (sic) .
The European Union has now been ordered to stop its imports of Russian hydrocarbons. If it complies with this injunction, Germany will be ruined and with it the whole Union. This will not be collateral damage, but the fruit of structured thinking, clearly expressed for thirty years.
The most important thing for Washington is to exclude Russia from all international organizations. It has already managed, in 2014, to exclude it from the G8. The pretext was not the independence of Crimea (which it had been demanding since the dissolution of the USSR, several months before Ukraine thought of its own independence), but its membership in the Russian Federation. Ukraine’s alleged aggression provides a pretext for excluding it from the G20. China immediately pointed out that no one could be excluded from an informal forum without a constitution. However, President Biden returned to the charge on March 24 and 25 in Europe.
Washington is increasing its contacts to exclude Russia from the World Trade Organization. In any case, the principles of the WTO are being undermined by the unilateral "sanctions" implemented by the West. Such a decision would be detrimental to both sides. This is where the writings of Paul Wolfowitz come into play. He wrote in 1991 that Washington should not seek to be the best at what it does, but to be the first in relation to others. This implies, he noted, that in order to maintain its hegemony, the United States should not hesitate to hurt itself, if it does much more to others. We will all pay the price for this way of thinking.
The most important thing for the Straussians is to exclude Russia from the United Nations. This is not possible if one respects the UN Charter, but Washington will not bother with it there any more than elsewhere. It has already contacted every member state of the UN with a few exceptions. The Anglo-Saxon propaganda has already succeeded in making them believe that a member of the Security Council has embarked on a war of conquest against one of its neighbors. If Washington succeeds in convening a special UN General Assembly and changing the statutes, it will succeed.
A kind of hysteria has taken hold of the West. Everything Russian is being hunted down without thinking about its links with the Ukrainian crisis. Russian artists are forbidden to perform even if they are known to be opposed to President Putin. Here a university bans the study of the anti-Soviet hero Solzhenitsyn from their curriculum, there another bans the writer of debate and free will Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) who opposed the tsarist regime. Here a conductor is deprogrammed because he is Russian and there Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is removed from the repertoire. Everything Russian must disappear from our consciousness, just as the Roman Empire razed Carthage and methodically destroyed all traces of its existence, to the point that today we know little about this civilization.
On March 21, President Biden made no secret of the fact. In front of an audience of business leaders, he said, "This is the moment when things change. There is going to be a New World Order and we have to lead it. And we have to unite the rest of the free world to do it" . This new order [(#nb9 "« Histoire du "Nouvel ordre mondial" », par Pierre Hillard, Réseau Voltaire, (...)")] should cut the world into two hermetic blocks; a cut such as we have never known, without comparison with the Iron Curtain of the Cold War. Some states, such as Poland, believe that they can lose a lot like the others, but also gain a little. Thus, General Waldemar Skrzypczak has just demanded that the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad become Polish . Indeed, after the world has been cut off, how will Moscow be able to communicate with this territory?
The war in Ukraine is only a bloody pretext, devised by Washington, to exclude Russia from all international organizations, weaken the European Union and, ultimately, preserve Anglo-American domination over the entire West. Don’t be fooled!
I wish to talk to you not about the war in Ukraine, but about the New World Order that the United States is organizing right before your eyes – but without your realizing it – while this war in Ukraine is taking place.
First of all, you should know that since mid-February, the media have been relaying a completely distorted narrative because they do not report all the facts, but only those messages that NATO wants to convey. Since mid-February we have all been “one-eyed”, only seeing half the picture and, consequently, we make the mistake of thinking that we can interpret it.
The second thing you must bear in mind is that your emotions are being manipulated. Every day we are shown Ukrainians who suffer – indeed, it is horrible and we must help them, it is a human obligation to do so. But their suffering does not prove them right. Suffering and being right are two different things.
With that said, let’s get down to the facts.
This war did not start on 24 February with the Russian intervention, but several days earlier, on 18 February, with the intervention of the United States, an intervention that no one has ever told you about.
On 18 February, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - comprising 57 participating states, it was created during the cold war and all European states are members, as well as non-European states, such as the United States: its neutrality is indisputable! - although there had been no fighting in Ukraine, on 18 February fighting resumed between the Ukrainian provinces of Donbass and the rest of Donbass.
The OSCE does not say that the Ukrainian army was responsible, but it could only be the Ukrainian army. The shelling of the Ukrainian population of Donbass began on 18 February. 1,400 shells rained down on the population that day ... 1,400 shells!
A war was started on 18 February! And in a few hours, two days at the most, about 100,000 Ukrainians from Donbass fled from the front line. They retreated to the countryside or crossed over into Russia. All Russia did was to respond to that attack.
But the attack didn’t end there. The Ukrainians acted like someone waving a red flag in front of a bull. The next day, on 19 February, at the Security Conference that brings together political leaders from NATO member countries every year in Munich, President Zelensky announced that he wanted to acquire the atomic bomb enabling him to threaten Russia.
Seen from Moscow: Ukraine engages in war against Russia and announces that it is going to obtain the atomic bomb.
It was clear that there would be a Russian response. Russia had to protect its citizens and you should know that the civil war in Ukraine started in 2014… it is a civil war we are talking about because Ukrainians are pitted against other Ukrainians! And in the past 8 years that war has left, according to the Kiev government, at least 13,000 dead, at least 13,000 dead!... all civilians, in addition to a thousand soldiers, again according to Kiev.
According to the Russian government, which conducted an official investigation on the ground, the number of dead civilians is not 13,000 but 22,000! Whatever the case, the Donbass has been witness to a butchery that doesn’t seem to dismay anyone.
Now back to what I was saying.
For the past 8 years, Russia has granted Russian citizenship to almost the entire population of the Ukrainian Donbass, who since childhood speaks Russian on a daily basis, a population that has now been prohibited by the Kiev government from speaking Russian in schools and public administrations, although this was always authorized in the past. Therefore, on 24 February, the Moscow government stepped in to support this population militarily.
But what us most important is to understand the context.
Why did the United States arm Kiev to attack Donbass?
It’s very simple. For ten years, the domination of the United States has been threatened by the rise of Russia and China.
On Voltaire Network we have argued for a long time that the first military power is no longer the United States but Russia.
This has been an absolutely irrefutable fact since 2018, but the United States refuses to admit it, despite the fact that, on the battlefield – mainly in Syria – it was demonstrable that the Russian army is tactically superior to the military forces sponsored by the United States.
Their technologies cannot be compared. That of the United States dates back 30 years. It is completely obsolete.
The Russians have completely revamped their army and replaced their personnel. The army they had inherited from the Soviet Union frankly consisted of … a gang of alcoholics. Today it is made up of young people, with very good training, with experience in real war situations, taking on jihadists ... jihadist armies! In Syria.
In economic terms, China has long surpassed the United States, which is now only a consumer, not a manufacturer.
Feeling threatened, the United States has itself explained what it calls "the Thucydides trap". Thucydides is an ancient Greek historian who described the confrontation between Sparta and Athens. Sparta dominated all of Greece, but Athens, which was inferior, began to develop an empire abroad, so that Athens had an economic influence that Sparta no longer had, and war between the two cities became inevitable.
US political scientists have been telling us for ten years now that a war between the United States on one side and Russia and China on the other side was going to become inevitable. In the Pentagon there are even people who assert that this war should already have broken out and that it had been planned for 2015.
Over the past few years, the United States has positioned troops and weapons throughout central and eastern Europe. It has done so in violation, firstly, of the German reunification treaty and, secondly, of the Istanbul and Astana declarations adopted within the OSCE.
Let’s fully understand! Russia is a huge country, with the largest land area in the world. To defend itself… Russia must be able to defend its borders, but it does not have enough troops for that. In that sense, it is a small town in a huge country. So to defend itself, Russia uses the scorched earth technique. If an invader penetrates her territory, Russia pulls back her population from the border as far as possible – inside her huge territory – and burns down her own cities so that the invader cannot subsist there. Therefore, the invaders have to take with them everything they need if they want to continue advancing. It is an impossible logistical challenge to solve. Napoleon and Hitler failed at it.
To overcome this problem, the United States has been sending troops and weapons to Central and Eastern Europe.
"You cannot do that, in light of what you signed at the time of the German reunification. You have no right to extend NATO to the East."
But the United States went ahead anyway… on several occasions.
Russia does not dispute the right of Central and Eastern European countries to ally themselves with the United States. It is their prerogative. It is the right of each State. Russia doesn’t dispute it in the case of Ukraine either.
What she challenges is Ukraine’s right to host US military bases, which is an entirely different matter.
In a similar context, General Charles de Gaulle as President of France decided to remove NATO troops from French territory – there used to be American bases in France which are no longer there. But that did not prevent General de Gaulle from maintaining an alliance with the United States. France has always been a signatory to the North Atlantic Treaty. But she wasn’t always a member of NATO’s Integrated Military Command Structure. The French armed forces were not always under the command of an American general, as they are today.
Let’s go back to what I was saying about Russia and China.
Their culture is fundamentally different from the Anglo-Saxon culture. The Chinese, for example, explain that they do not want to compete with the United States. They are not interested in that! They are not competing!
The Chinese say: "We want a relationship in which everyone wins (“win win”).”
It does not involve commercial competition, nor does it mean that each side, when signing a contract, will have a vested interest in that contract. Nothing of the sort! It is in reference to Chinese history.
China is, above all, a country with a gigantic population ... gigantic! The emperor of China was not in a position to know what were the concerns of certain groups of individuals at the opposite end of the country and left the administration of the territory in the hands of regional governors.
This is how it still works in China! The government in Beijing is oblivious to what is happening in the different regions. There is considerable decentralization. No country is more decentralized than China!
But when the emperor issued a decree, he had to make sure that each of the regional governors would grasp the importance of what was at stake. Because if the governor considered that it was not relevant to his province, he would stop paying attention to other decrees, thus failing to recognize the authority of the emperor. Therefore, when the emperor decreed something which could not be applied in one or more provinces, he would grant something extra to the governor of that province so that he would continue to respect the imperial authority.
I am explaining all this because what Russia and China want to create is a multipolar world, a world where there is no power that decides for the others, but where each power decides for itself.
And what Washington wants to do is, on the contrary, preserve the predominance of the United States over the world so that it alone can decide and no one else.
What is the United States doing in the midst of a conflict of its own making in Ukraine?
It is dividing the world in two. It is ejecting Russia from all intergovernmental organizations. It will start with the World Trade Organization [WTO] and end with the United Nations Organization [UN]. Of course, the UN statutes do not allow this, but the United States does not care and will try through thick and thin to achieve its goal.
That process began by explaining that trade with Russia had to end. Stopping trade with Russia! For example, [French car manufacturer] Renault has just decided to shut its factory in Moscow.
But Renault had already closed down its factories in Iran, when it was pressured to do so, and it was an economic catastrophe, an economic catastrophe for Renault. But the United States couldn’t care less! What it wants is for the European Union to undergo an economic shock so that the European Union will be forced to accept US domination.
Paul Wolfowitz had explained it very clearly 30 years ago, in 1991. That “Straussian” [disciple of the philosopher Leo Strauss], who later became the Pentagon’s number two official, explained that the true enemy of the United States – at that time Russia and China posed no real threat – was the European Union and that the European Union had to be prevented from becoming politically and economically independent.
Over time, the European Union developed economically a little, but not much, while Russia and China expanded exponentially. So the United States now wants to erase the very existence of Russia – and very soon that of China – from our field of consciousness and downgrade the European Union.
Just look at the consequences of all the economic and financial sanctions already adopted! They are not “against Russia”. They are directed against the European Union.
The Moscow Stock Exchange closed on 25 February – the day following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. It reopened yesterday, 24 March, and so now we know how the Russian economy has reacted to these sanctions. What can be seen is that all foreign service activities collapsed, especially all Russian international banks.
But production activities in Russia, on the contrary, developed!
In other words, yesterday the Moscow Stock Exchange did not collapse. On the contrary! It was up by 4.5% . That is no small thing!
The United States will not be satisfied with excluding Russia from international organizations. What it wants is to delete her from our minds!
Notice. They expelled all the oligarchs who were staying on the French Riviera. What relationship did they have with Vladimir Putin, who hates them all? None! But they don’t want any Russian patrons on the beaches in the south of France. That’s all!
I am not defending those people. They don’t interest me in the least. But they are unconnected with what is happening. What they are doing to them is illegitimate.
And it will not stop there. Then will come the suppression of all references to Russian culture in the West. Note that they are already banning Russian orchestra conductors … who had no ties whatsoever with the government! And might even be against what Vladimir Putin is doing! But that does not matter! And they are prevented from giving concerts.
Leading universities in the United States have recently prohibited the study of Solzhenitsyn, [Russian writer] who was hailed as a hero against the Soviet Union. The same applies to the work of Dostoevsky, a writer of the Tsarist era!
An exclusively Western, new world order is being established. Above all, don’t be taken in!
We have to remain human beings. We have to remain friends with the Russians and the Chinese.
Don’t think that the Chinese are going to stand for it. They know very well that this begins with Russia now but that they will be next.
Yesterday, at NATO, the request was made for Russia to be excluded from the WTO, the International Trade Organization. But already two days earlier, China had put its foot down, saying that nothing could legitimize such a measure.
The Chinese know that they themselves will be the target of Western imperialism after the Russians. History has already taught them the lesson and they will not allow that to happen again.
So keep all the friends that you may have in Russia and China.
See you soon.