Donetsk

Hemingway of the Donbass

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 24, 2016

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A couple of months ago while doing my usual web surfing to find collapse related newz stories to drop on the Diner Newz Channels and our r/globalcollapse Reddit sub, on the Greanville Post I ran into a video produced by Essence of Time telling the tale of an Amerikan who had joined up with the militia in the Donbass region of Ukraine to fight in the ongoing Civil War there, attempting to break away from Fascist rule in Kiev sponsored by the FSoA Goobermint.  The man's name: Russell Bonner Bentley. Subsequently, I found more articles about him on Greanville, and the story just fascinated me.

http://www.greanvillepost.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Screen-Shot-2015-12-08-at-12.36.43-PM-1.jpg

80 years ago now, in 1936 there was a Civil War in Spain which pitted the forces of Fascism against the forces of Communism, a prelude to the even bigger war of WWII which followed on its heels.  It was a brutal fight, one which inspired the Guernica Painting by Pablo Picasso,memorializing one of the first aerial bombardments of a city, dropping the Death from Above that has become commonplace now in the wars fought since that day.

http://www.museoreinasofia.es/sites/default/files/obras/DE00050_0.jpg

Many more since that day of course, from the Fire Bombing of Dresden; to the Incineration of Hiroshima & Nagasaki with the Nuke Puke of Fat Man and Little Boy; to the smell of Napalm in the Morning in Jungles of Vietnam.

In Spain in 1936, fighters from all over the world came to volunteer in Spain to fight against Fascism, one of those men was Ernest Hemingway which he later recounted in a novel, "For Whom the Bell Tolls", later still to be made into a movie starring Gary Cooper and the young Ingrid Bergman.

I determined to get in touch with Russell, to get more of his back story and a better understanding of what drove him to leave his life here in the Land of Good & Plenty to go fight on the battlefields of the Donbass, to put his life on the line for people he had never known.  I tracked down his email, and after a couple of false starts I ran across a line in one of his blogs I recognized.  "No brag, just fact."  That line comes from an old television series, "The Guns of Will Sonnett" starring Walter Brennan as an aging Gunfighter.

Lot's of folks out there talk a good game, but very few actually go out and prove their courage and their convictions as Russell Bentley has.  Truly, he doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk.  In the interview, I believe you will find that to be as true as I did.

My gratitude to my fellow Admin here on the Diner Surly, who compiled the clips to go along with the interview, and to Essence of Time, the video unit that did the recordings in the warzone that go along with this interview.

We will air part 2 of the interview in March.

Whose Client State?

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 12, 2014
My country can cry all it likes about yesterday’s referendum vote in eastern Ukraine, but we set the process in motion by sponsoring the overthrow of an elected Kiev government that was tilting toward Russia and away from NATO overtures. The president elected in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych, might have been a grifter and a scoundrel, but so was his opponent, the billionaire gas oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko. The main lesson that US authorities have consistently failed to learn in more than a decade of central Asian misadventures: when you set events in motion in distant lands, events, not policy planners at the State Department, end up in the driver’s seat.

And so now they’ve had the referendum vote and the result is about 87 percent of the voters in eastern Ukraine would prefer to align politically with Russia rather than the failing Ukraine state governed out of Kiev. It’s easy to understand why. First, there’s the ethnic divide at the Dnieper River: majority Russian-speakers to the east. Second, the Kiev government, as per above, shows all the signs of a failing state — that is, a state that can’t manage any basic responsibilities starting with covering the costs of maintaining infrastructure and institutions. The Kiev government is broke. Of course, so are most other nations these days, but unlike, say, the USA or France, Ukraine doesn’t have an important enough currency or powerful enough central bank to play the kind of accounting games that allow bigger nations to pretend they’re solvent.

Kiev owes $3.5 billion to Russia for past-due gas bills and Moscow has asked Kiev to pre-pay for June deliveries. This is about the same thing that any local gas company in the USA would demand from a deadbeat customer. The International Monetary Fund has offered to advance a loan of $3 billion, of which Kiev claims it could afford to fork over $2.6 billion to Russia (presumably needing the rest to run the country, pay police salaries, et cetera). Ukraine is in a sad and desperate situation for sure, but is Russia just supposed to supply it with free gas indefinitely? As wonderful as life is in the USA, the last time I checked most of us are expected to pay our heating bills. How long, exactly, does the IMF propose to pay Ukraine’s monthly gas bill? In September, the question is liable to get more urgent — but by then the current situation could degenerate into civil war.

The USA and its NATO allies would apparently like to have Ukraine become a client state, but they’re not altogether willing to pay for it. This kind of raises the basic question: if Russia ultimately has to foot the bill for Ukraine, whose client state is it? And who is geographically next door to Ukraine? And whose national histories are intimately mingled?

I’m not persuaded that Russia and its president, Mr. Putin, are thrilled about the dissolution of Ukraine. Conceivably, they would have been satisfied with a politically stable, independent Ukraine and reliable long-term leases on the Black Sea ports. Russia is barely scraping by financially on an oil, gas, and mineral based economy that allows them to import the bulk of their manufactured goods. They don’t need the aggravation of a basket-case neighbor to support, but it has pretty much come to that. At least, it appears that Russia will support the Russian-speaking region east of the Dnieper.

My guess is that the Kiev-centered western Ukraine can’t support itself as a modern state, that is, with the high living standards of a techno-industrial culture. It just doesn’t have the fossil fuel juice. It’s at the mercies of others for that. In recent years, Ukraine has even maintained an independent space program (which is more than one can say of the USA). It will be looked back on with nostalgic amazement. Like other regions of the world, Ukraine’s destiny is to go medieval, to become a truly post-industrial agriculture-based society with a lower population and lower living standards. It is one the world’s leading grain-growing regions, a huge advantage for the kind of future the whole world faces — if it can avoid becoming a stomping ground in the elephant’s graveyard of collapsing industrial anachronisms.

Ukraine can pretend to be a ward of the West for only a little while longer. The juice and the money just isn’t there, though. Probably sooner than later, the IMF will stop paying its gas bills. Within the same time-frame, the IMF may have to turn its attention to the floundering states of western Europe. That floundering will worsen rapidly if those nations can’t get gas from Russia. You can bet that Europe will think twice before tagging along with America on anymore cockamamie sanctions. Meanwhile, the USA is passing up the chance to care for a more appropriate client state: itself. Why on earth should the USA be lending billions of dollars to Ukraine when we don’t have decent train service between New York City and Chicago?

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

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