Putin

BRICS/SCO sow panic in Exceptionalistan

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in RT on July 13, 2015

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As austerity-ravaged Europe watches its undemocratic “institutions” grapple with the Greek tragedy, and the US backtracks on a fair nuclear deal with Iran, geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting in the Urals.

Can you feel an inchoate multipolar world? Well, just look right here at the BRICS 2015 Ufa declaration. The EU is hardly featured in the BRICS declaration and not by accident.

Forget about the dead on arrival G7. This – the joint BRICS/SCO summit – is the real deal in 2015. Russia’s diplomatic masterstroke was to merge two summits – BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – with a third, informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). 

After all, some nations with leaders present in Ufa are members of at least one of these organizations. But the absolute key point is that getting BRICS, SCO and EEU leaders in one place packs a graphic punch about the emergence of a coordinated, Eurasia-wide, and in some aspects worldwide drive towards a more equitable world order not dictated by exceptionalists.

And then there’s Iran. President Rouhani met President Putin in Ufa to discuss a formidable range of topics. Not least the coming acceptance of Iran as a member of the SCO, assuming there is a deal in Vienna and after UN sanctions are lifted. 
Right on cue, and also not by accident, US President Barack Obama issued marching orders to Secretary of State John Kerry to backtrack from some positions the entire Iran/P5+1 diplomatic corps was already taking for granted – as a top Iranian negotiator confirmed to me in Vienna.

So here’s the not-so-veiled message to Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif: Iran will be “punished” for getting too close to Moscow.

Have strategy, will travel


Only Russia is a member of all three organizations – BRICS, SCO and EEU. Russia and China are key members of two – BRICS and SCO. The Russia-driven EEU is slowly but surely merging with the China-driven New Silk Roads. The key structural framework is the ever-solidifying Russia-China strategic partnership.

As the Pentagon remains self-absorbed in its 2002-concocted Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, Russia and China counterpunch with full spectrum cooperation on politics, economics, finance, diplomacy and defense.

The endgame – which will be the apex of the current New Great Game in Eurasia – is a new global geopolitical structure anchored on Eurasian integration. Thus the importance of Iran: no matter what happens in Vienna, Iran is the vital hub/node in Eurasia.

The road has been long for the SCO. I remember when Euro-bureaucrats only a few years ago dismissed it as a mere talk shop. What started as a security forum to integrate the Central Asian “stans” so they would not be ravaged by terrorism and extremism evolved into a serious economic/political organization.

So now the SCO is starting to add to, and draw upon, the BRICS’s ever expanding economic cooperation, which features two essential pillars: the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB). As for the EEU, it is also indirectly linked to China, as part of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

This will all translate in the next few years into a complex maze of economic and trade/commerce networks traversing Eurasia. Call it the road map of the myriad New Silk Road(s).

Faster! Dust up our war plans!

Here’s just a sample of what has been decided in Ufa: Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping actively discussed, face-to-face, interlinks in the New Silk Road(s); India will become a full member of the SCO next year; Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was appointed chairman of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), which will finance infrastructure projects not only in the five BRICS countries, but in other developing nations as well. And all that based in their own currencies, bypassing the US dollar.

The NDB has the potential to accumulate as much as $400 billion in capital, according to bank head KV Kamath. The parent capital is $100 billion.

Currency swaps are the way to go. It already applies to Russia and China on trade in futures, and Putin has dubbed its expansion to other nations as “interesting.”

A strategy for BRICS economic partnership has been devised that “touches upon the responsibility of different ministers and requires high-level coordination,” according to Russia’s Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev, which means in essence easier trade between BRICS nations.

Both the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB are headquartered in China. However, they won’t compete with each other; they will add to and complement one another.

Russia’s Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) signed a memorandum of understanding with the other BRICS. Significantly, China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s IDFC (Infrastructure Development Finance Company) are key partners.

Russia will lift restrictions on Chinese banks working in Russia, accelerating Beijing’s drive to invest in all sectors of the Russian economy.

Russia proposed a roadmap for investment cooperation. Crucially, that includes the possibility of an energy association, according to Putin, as well as an international energy research center.

The subject of energy brings us to Greece. Russia’s Turkish Stream pipeline – yet another diplomatic/energy counterpunch after the EU scored a proverbial own goal by scotching the South Stream – will be linked to Greece.

No wonder that elicited panic in Exceptionalistan. What if Syriza’s “flirting with Moscow” becomes a strategic shift, thus causing NATO’s eastern flank to fall to pieces?

It doesn’t matter that Russia wants a strong EU – and the EU won’t be strong without Greece, as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized in Ufa.

So what does NATO propose to seduce anyone across Eurasia away from all the frantic BRICS, SCO and EEU politico/economic activity? Nothing less than an obsession with a “strategy rethink.” In other words, detailed “secret” scenarios for a war on European soil.

That’s all one needs to know about who wants what in the new, emerging geopolitical order.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

St. Petersburg in the heart of the action: SPIEF

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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spief-20151.si

Originally published in Asia Times on June 20, 2015

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The dogs of western fear and sanctions bark, while the Eurasian caravan passes.

And no caravanserai could possibly compete with the 19th edition of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Thousands of global business leaders – including Europeans, but not Americans; after all, President Putin is “the new Hitler” – representing over 1,000 international companies/corporations, including the CEOs of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, hit town in style.

Fascinating panels all around – including discussions on the BRICs; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); the New Silk Road(s); the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU); and of course the theme of all themes, “The Making of the Asia-Pacific Century: Rebalancing East,” with former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Predictably, there’s been plenty of anticipation regarding the BRICs New Development Bank, with big news coming next month at the BRICs summit in Ufa. Brazilian Paulo Nogueira Batista, the new vice-president of the bank, looks forward to the first meeting of the governors.

And on another key theme — bypassing the US dollar — it was up to Anatoliy Aksakov, chairman of the Duma Committee on Economic Policy, Innovative Development and Entrepreneurship, to cut to the chase; “We need to transition to conducting mutual settlements in national currencies, and we believe that all the conditions are already in place for this.”

The action was not only rhetorical. Here’s just a fraction of the deals clinched at SPIEF. Predictably, it’s been a Pipelineistan show all around.

– The pipes for the Turkish Stream pipeline under the Black Sea will start to be laid down this month, or at latest by July, according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

– Gazprom’s CEO Aleksey Miller and Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis practically clinched the extension of Turkish Stream to Greece. They are “preparing an appropriate intergovernmental memorandum,” according to Gazprom.

– Gazprom also announced it will build a new double pipeline from Russia to Germany, across the Baltic Sea, in partnership with Germany’s E.ON, Anglo-Dutch Shell and Austria’s OMV.

In another crucial Eurasian front, India signed a framework agreement to create a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union. Indian Minister of Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman was euphoric: “The two regions are big, anything done together should naturally lead to bigger outcomes.”

Oh, and those were the days of Bandar Bush threatening to unleash jihadis on Russia.

Instead, a remarkable meeting took place, between Putin and Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister (the actual conductor of the war on Yemen). This was the logical conclusion of Putin being in touch, for weeks, with the new master of the House of Saud, King Salman.

The House of Saud politely spun it as a discussion on “relations and aspects of cooperation between the two friendly countries.” Facts on the ground included Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil ministers discussing a broad cooperation agreement; the signing of six nuclear technology agreements; and the Supreme Imponderable; Putin and the deputy crown prince discussing oil prices. Could this be the end of the Saudi-led oil price war?

If that was not enough, on the Asian front the superstar executive chairman of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, went no holds barred to say: “It is high time for market players to invest in Russia.” Beijing, by the way, currently estimates the value of signed and almost signed agreements with Russia at a whopping $1 trillion. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov preferred to hold a “humbler” estimate.

Well, if only other sanctioned and “isolated” nations – because of their “aggression” – could be capable of such a business performance.

And where were the Masters?

Before the St. Petersburg forum, Putin was delivering an invariable message every time he met a western leader. He would talk about bilateral trade, and then remark things could be way, way better. At the forum, it’s beyond evident that the EU’s policy of sanctioning Russia is a disaster – whatever the European Council decides next week.

Those masters of Kafkaesque bureaucracy at the European Commission (EC) keep swearing Europe is not suffering. Who’re you going to believe? EC bureaucrats who only care about their fat retirement pensions, or this Austrian study?

And then there was The Big Meeting on the sidelines of SPIEF: Putin with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The question here is not Greece becoming a BRICs member tomorrow, for instance. Yves Smith at her Naked Capitalism blog may have succinctly nailed it; “The objective risk of a new Greece-Russia alliance … is whether Europeans are worried enough about this risk to change course.”

There’s no evidence – yet – there will be a change of course. Iron Chancellor Merkel is now openly brandishing the Russia card – as in Moscow getting a foothold in the EU — to keep other EU nations in tune with the German austerity obsession.

As for the Last Word at the forum, it was hard to beat Tsipras; Europe “should stop considering itself the centre of the universe, it should understand that the center of world economic development is shifting to other regions.”

So were there any real Masters of the Universe present at SPIEF?

In the real world, there are a number of institutions and conferences that serve as the basis for “coordination” policies. But the Masters of the Universe are not there. They pull the strings of the marionettes that attend the meetings — and then whatever they decided is coordinated below.

Putin did not miss anything by being snubbed at the G7 in the Bavarian Alps (actually G1 + “junior partners”). He would be meeting with figureheads, anyway.

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), featuring the key central bankers, they meet once a month for “coordination purposes.” The Bilderberg group, the Trilateral Commission, and Davos also meet for coordination purposes. A case can be made that SPIEF is now the key coordination forum for Eurasia. Masters of the Universe – real or self-perceived – may snub it at their own peril.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

American Dreaming – From G1 To Bilderberg

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar

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Published on Russia Today on June 11, 2015

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What’s the connection between the G7 summit in Germany, President Putin’s visit to Italy, the Bilderberg club meeting in Austria, and the TTIP – the US-EU free trade deal – negotiations in Washington?

We start at the G7 in the Bavarian Alps – rather G1 with an added bunch of “junior partners” – as US President Barack Obama gloated about his neo-con induced feat; regiment the EU to soon extend sanctions on Russia even as the austerity-ravaged EU is arguably hurting even more than Russia.

Predictably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande caved in – even after being forced by realpolitik to talk to Russia and jointly carve the Minsk-2 agreement.

The hypocrisy-meter in the Bavarian Alps had already exploded with a bang right at the pre-dinner speech by EU Council President Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland and certified Russophobe/warmonger: “All of us would have preferred to have Russia round the G7 table. But our group is not only a group (that shares) political or economic interests, but first of all this is a community of values. And that is why Russia is not among us.”

So this was all about civilized “values” against “Russian aggression.”

The “civilized” G1 + junior partners could not possibly argue whether they would collectively risk a nuclear war on European soil over a Kiev-installed ‘Banderastan’, sorry, “Russian aggression.”

Instead, the real fun was happening behind the scenes. Washington factions were blaming Germany for making the West lose Russia to China, while adult minds in the EU – away from the Bavarian Alps – blamed Washington.

Even juicier is a contrarian view circulating among powerful Masters of the Universe in the US corporate world, not politics. They fear that in the next two to three years France will eventually re-ally with Russia (plenty of historical precedents). And they – once again – identify Germany as the key problem, as in Berlin forcing Washington to get involved in a Prussian ‘Mitteleuropa’ Americans fought two wars to prevent.

 

As for the Russians – from President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov downwards – a consensus has emerged; it’s pointless to discuss anything substantial considering the pitiful intellectual pedigree – or downright neo-con stupidity – of the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration policy makers and advisers. As for the “junior partners” – mostly EU minions – they are irrelevant, mere Washington vassals.

It would be wishful thinking to expect the civilized “values” gang to propose alternatives for the overwhelming majority of citizens of G7 nations getting anything other than Mac-jobs, or barely surviving as hostages of finance-junkie turbo-capitalism which only benefits the one percent.Rather easier to designate the proverbial scapegoat – Russia – and proceed with NATO-infused fear/warmongering rhetoric.

Iron Lady Merkel also found time to pontificate on climate change – instilling all and sundry to invest in a “low-carbon global economy.” Few noticed that the alleged deadline for full “decarbonization” was set for the end of the 21st century, when this planet will be in deep, deep trouble.

 

G7 summit at the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (Reuters / Christian Hartmann)

 

 

 

 

 

G7 summit at the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (Reuters / Christian Hartmann)

 

Achtung! Bilderberg!

Obama’s neocon-induced newspeak continues to rule that Russia dreams of recreating the Soviet empire. Now compare it to what President Putin is telling Europe.

Last week, Putin found time to give an interview to the Milan-based Corriere della Sera at 2 am; the interview was published as the Bavarian Alps show went on, and ahead of Putin’s June 10 visit to Italy. Russia’s geopolitical interests and US- Russia relations are depicted in excruciating detail.

So Putin was a persona non grata at the G1 plus junior partners? Well, in Italy he visited the Milan Expo; met Prime Minister Renzi and Pope Francis; reminded everyone about the “privileged economic and political ties” between Italy and Russia; and stressed the 400 Italian companies active in Russia and the million Russian tourists who visit Italy every year.

Crucially, he also evoked that consensus; Russia had represented an alternative view as a member of the G8, but now “other powers” felt they no longer needed it. The bottom line: it’s impossible to have an adult conversation with Obama and friends.

And right on cue, from Berlin –where he was displaying his sterling foreign policy credentials, Jeb Bush, brother of destroyer of Iraq Dubya Bush, fully scripted by his neocon advisers, declared Putin a bully and rallied Europe to fight, what else, “Russian aggression.”

 

 

The rhetorical haze over what was really discussed in the Bavarian Alps only began to dissipate at the first chords of the real sound of music; the Bilderberg Group meeting starting this Thursday at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol in Austria, only three days after the G1 plus junior partners.

Possible conspiracies aside, Bilderberg may be defined as an ultra-select bunch of elite lobbyists – politicians, US corporate honchos, EU officials, captains of industry, heads of intelligence agencies, European royals – organized annually in a sort of informal think tank/policy-forming format, to advance globalization and all crucial matters related to the overall Atlanticist agenda. Call it the prime Atlanticist Masters of the Universe talkfest.

To make things clear – not that they are big fans of transparency – the composition of the steering committee is here. And this is what they will be discussing in Austria.

Naturally they will be talking about “Russian aggression” (as in who cares about failed Ukraine; what we need is to prevent Russia from doing business with Europe).

Naturally they will be talking about Syria (as in the partition of the country, with the Caliphate already a fact of post-Sykes-Picot life).

Naturally they will be talking about Iran (as in let’s do business, buy their energy and bribe them into joining our club).

But the real deal is really the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the alleged “free trade” deal between the US and the EU. Virtually all major business/finance lobbyists for the TTIP will be under the same Austrian roof.

And not by accident Bilderberg starts one day before “fast track” presidential authority is to be debated at the US Congress.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets Pope Francis during a private meeting at Vatican City, June 10, 2015 (Reuters / Gregorio Borgia)

 

 

 

 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets Pope Francis during a private meeting at Vatican City, June 10, 2015 (Reuters / Gregorio Borgia)

 

WikiLeaks and a ton of BRICS

Enter WikiLeaks, with what in a fairer world would be a crucial spanner in the works.

The fast track authority would extend US presidential powers for no less than six years; that includes the next White House tenant, which might well be ‘The Hillarator’ or Jeb “Putin is a bully” Bush.

This presidential authority to negotiate dodgy deals includes not only the TTIP but also the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

WikiLeaks, just in time, published the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” chapter of the TPP, along with each country’s negotiating position. No wonder this draft is secret. And there’s nothing “transparent” about it; it’s an undisguised hold-up of national healthcare authorities by Big Pharma.

The bottom line is that these three mega-deals – TTP, TTIP and TiSA – are the ultimate template of what could be politely described as global corporate governance, a Bilderberg wet dream. The losers: nation-states, and the very concept of Western democracy. The winners: mega-corporations.

Julian Assange, in a statement, succinctly nailed itIt is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the West versus the rest. This 'Great Treaty' is described by the Pentagon as the economic core to the US military's 'Asia Pivot.' The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support."

 

So this is the real Atlanticist agenda – the final touches being applied in the arc spanning the G1 + added junior partners to Bilderberg (expect a lot of crucial phone calls from Austria to Washington this Friday). NATO on trade. Pivoting to Asia excluding Russia and China. The West vs. the rest.

Now for the counterpunch. As the show in the Bavarian Alps unrolled, the first BRICS Parliamentarian Forum was taking place in Moscow – ahead of the BRICS summit in Ufa next month.

Neocons – with Obama in tow – knock themselves out dreaming that Russia has become “isolated” from the rest of the world because of their sanctions. Since then Moscow has signed major economic/strategic contracts with at least twenty nations. Next month, Russia will host the BRICS summit – 45 percent of the world’s population, a GDP equivalent to the EU, and soon bigger than the current G7 – as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, when India and Pakistan, currently observers, will be accepted as full members.

G1 plus junior partners? Bilderberg? Get a job; you’re not the only show in town, any town.

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Putin Eats Babies

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Crisis on March 12, 2015

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Lies, damned lies, and psyops

Google Ngram’s results for “propaganda”. The term seems to have been most popular in a period that went from the 1940 to the 1970s, gradually losing interest in the following years. Of course, however, propaganda didn’t disappear – it just went undercover.

I distinctly remember one day when I was – maybe – twelve; when my father saw me reading something that was lavishly illustrated with red flags and with hammers and sickles. He looked at that, very worried, then he relaxed. “Oh…, ” he said, “that’s fine: it is our propaganda.” At that time, in the 1960s, my father was active in politics and the house was full of pamphlets of the Christian Democratic party.

What I was reading was one of those pamphlets, full of vivid images of the deformed faces of Soviet communists crushing women and children under their booted feet. Those papers have disappeared from the house long ago, but examples of that old propaganda are easy to find on the Internet. You can see one on the right; it is an image that goes back to 1944, but the style and the message are the same of the time when the cold war was in full swing. Note how the caption says “Dad, save me!” echoing the well known slogan that “communists eat children”.

Of course, also the other side, that of the communists, was using the same kind of naive propaganda methods and neither side seemed to think there was something wrong with that. My father, for instance, found natural and legitimate that his political side would openly engage in propaganda. It was “our” propaganda, fighting for us in the political struggle, just as “our” artillery was fighting for us in war. In a war, nobody would claim that the guns on their side were shooting flowers at the enemy.

It was only in later times that propaganda changed its face. The term never disappeared from usage, but it slowly fell out of fashion, at least in the sense that it became politically incorrect to say that one’s faction was using propaganda. It was only something used by “them,” not by us. “Our” side would never debase itself by using propaganda.

In part, the term “propaganda” was replaced by more neutral terms, such as “consensus building” and “public relations.” In large part, however, in the West, propaganda went undercover; fully exploiting Baudelaire’s observation that “the finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” It became refined, unobtrusive, subtle. And it was incredibly successful in convincing Westerners that it didn’t exist – maybe for a while it even disappeared for real! Perhaps it wasn’t needed any more during the period of Fukuyama’s “End of History,” when everybody got genuinely convinced that the collapse of the “evil empire”, the Soviet Union, had shown the superiority of economic liberism At that time, everyone knew that we just needed to sit down and relax to enjoy the goods that free markets would bring to us. There was no need any more to be told over and over that our enemies were dangerous, baby-eating monsters.

But, in recent times, something has changed. Propaganda is back with a vengeance. Here is just an example:

You see? No matter how you see the recent crisis in Ukraine, you have to admit that, in terms of propaganda, we are back to the methods of the 1950s and the 1960s, just a bit more sophisticated in graphical terms, but still based on the same simple theme: our enemies are baby-killing evil monsters. It is an accusation that has been fashionable and effective from the times when the Romans accused their Cartaginese enemies to sacrifice children to their god, Baal. Note how, in the image, they have managed to put the image of a child close to the title, “Putin’s killed my son,” even though they are completely unrelated stories (that shows, incidentally, the contempt they feel for their readers.)


We are not yet arrived to accusing Vladimir Putin of eating babies, but – as things stand – we may not be far away from that. Look at the image, here, titledBloodymir;” where Putin is shown with blood on his mouth, as if he had just finished his breakfast of child meat. And these are just a few examples of the new wave of propaganda that is invading the Western media. It is amazing how these simple tricks worked in the 1950s and 1960s and still seem to work today. And it seems that they are being used to take us straight to a new war. A lot of people, indeed, seem to be reasoning today just in the same way people reasoned in the 1950s: it is “our” propaganda, hence it must be good.

We can see propaganda as one of the several failed technologies of the 20th century, just like nuclear powered cars and weekend trips to the Moon for the whole family. Propaganda never promised to take us to the Moon, but, at the beginning it, was touted as a way to build informed consensus in a democratic society. That was the theme, at least, of Edward Bernays’ 1928 book, titled “Propaganda,” where he stated that that propaganda is not just good, but essential for democracy: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.

Evidently, something went wrong with these ideas. In its commercial version, propaganda became an instrument to convince us to buy things we don’t need, while, as a political tool, it turned itself into the evil form we call today “psyops,” the deliberate dissemination of lies to cast an enemy in a bad light. It is a form of black magic; powerful but extremely limited and often backfiring. Psyops can only create enemies, not friends. In the end, the effect is the opposite of what it was supposed to do in Bernay’s times: by casting an external or internal opponent as “evil”, consensus is destroyed, not created.

Nevertheless, Bernays had a good point: we need consensus. Of course, we don’t need the forced uniformity that can be achieved by a dictatorship, but, without consensus on some basic points, it would not be possible to keep a democratic society going. The rule of the law, the need of due process, people’s basic rights, are all part of this consensus. And there never was a moment as today in which we are so badly in need of consensus on such vital subjects as climate change and resource depletion which threaten the very existence of human civilization. But we are not achieving a significant consensus on these critical issues; what passes for “debate,” today, is a sterile clash of absolutes were psyops have been used with great effect to destroy the credibility of a whole generation of climate scientists.

So, we are stuck: we need to manage a planet, but we don’t know how to do it. Will we ever be able to find an agreement on something important that doesn’t involve hating or bombing someone? Maybe there are ways, but we haven’t found them, yet.

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(*) Maybe you are curious to know what was the effect of a massive exposure to right-wing propaganda on a teenager (me) in the 1960s. Well, it is a long story, but I can tell you that too many and too blatant lies can badly backfire. The story of my very wavering juvenile political positions is not so interesting, but I can say that one of the reasons that led me to become a scientist was to search for an unbiased truth, somewhere, perhaps the result of the overexposure to propaganda I experienced in my youth. Over the years, I found that even science is not without biases, but, at least, in scientific debates we don’t accuse our colleagues of eating babies. 

Dead Man on the Side of the Road

Off the keyboard of Steve Ludlum

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Published on Economic Undertow on March 6, 2015

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Somebody shot Boris Nemtsov to death late last Friday evening as he was walking along a street in downtown Moscow with his girlfriend. The couple were making their way toward his apartment near the Kremlin when an unknown assailant ran up from behind and emptied a pistol into Nemtsov before fleeing in a car. The girlfriend, Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya was unhurt.

According to her account, she was waiting for Mr. Nemtsov since 10 pm at the Bosco-café of the GUM shopping mall at the Red Square right across the Kremlin.The couple had dinner at around 11 pm Moscow time and then left the mall and went for a walk toward Vasilievsky embankment right by the Kremlin walls. Their intended destination was the posh building half a mile away from the Kremlin where the murdered politician had an apartment.

As they were crossing the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, an unidentified man ran out of the underpass of the bridge and shot Mr. Nemtsov multiple times. Then he jumped into the passing white car without a license plate.

Mr. Nemtsov died on the scene.

Nemtsov was deputy Prime Minister in the Yeltsin government, an implementer along with Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais of the Washington Consensus, ‘shock therapy’ and market reforms of the Soviet economy. At the time, the charismatic minister was briefly considered as a potential alternative to Vladimir Putin. He most recently opposed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nemtsov killing is the latest in a long line of unsolved politically related murders in Russia that have punctuated the Putin regime.

Part of the mystery is how such a lurid crime could take place in one of the most tightly guarded areas in the World, under constant surveillance with hundreds of security officers nearby. The easy answer is that the officers themselves, acting covertly under orders, were responsible. Nemtsov clearly felt comfortable walking in plain view without escorts or entourage; he expected to be followed closely and under constant scrutiny by agents of the FSB. Nobody knows anything for certain, no group has come forward to claim responsibility.

Because the majority of ordinary Russians support are distracted by both Putin and Russian territorial expansion it is hard to imagine Nemtsov as anything other than an sideshow/irritant. Gunning down celebrity activists risks making martyrs out of them; this is reason for governments to be cautious. Yet, none of the Kremlin’s alleged crimes to date have triggered a backlash: like Nemtsov before his final stroll, the government — if indeed it was directly involved — appears to feel secure in its actions.

Nemtsov’s death is a component of the onrunning collapse of the Soviet Union.

Many of the places that are suffering unrest and war were components of- or client states of the USSR during its heyday: Libya (client), Egypt (a Soviet client before becoming an American client), Somalia (client), Eritrea (client), Afghanistan (client) Yemen (client), Syria (long-term client), Iraq (client); Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, Dagestan, Nagorno-Karabakh (all components of USSR); also Vietnam, Laos, Angola and North Korea (all Soviet clients but wars have ended in these countries) … also Russia itself. Seen from a long-term perspective, the end of the Soviet Union government turns out not to be the bloodless event as was advertised, the rotting empire still has some collapse left in it.

One of the duties of the Economic Undertow is to turn conventional historic narratives on their heads, to where they begin make sense. What Americans have been fed about the demise of the Soviet Union is a self-serving, political/ideological fairy tale: that the United States under the direction of Ronald Reagan’s brilliant conservative leadership outspent the USSR in an arms race that eventually — along with collapsing oil prices caused by new oil on the markets from Prudhoe Bay and the North Sea — bankrupted the Communist government. Once the economic and ideological fault lines were revealed, the various client/satellite states that made up the Soviet empire peaceably went their own way without interference from Moscow. All of this ‘revealing’ and ‘peaceable-ness’ took place over a remarkably short period of time in the early 1990s: here today, gone the next.

The more realistic narrative has Soviet intelligence agencies — perhaps collaborating with those of the West along with Western interests (banks) — gaining control over Russian assets, shifting them to well-connected insiders, with the decrepit- and ossified Communist government powerless to do anything about it. This process began before- or during the Brezhnev period with matters well underway by the time of Gorbachev … Perestroika being a (feeble) attempt on the part of the Communist establishment to regain both credibility and some measure of control. What happened in Russia was not reform and the end of communism was an accident: what actually took place was the greatest crime of the modern era, the theft of an empire by the country’s intelligence services and criminal associates.

This outcome was a natural consequence of the Soviet Union as a regimented national security state with outsized spy agencies … as well as the slow commercial opening with the West beginning during the Khrushchev era. Within the immense ganglia of the Soviet intelligence- and internal security apparatus there was a kind of singularity or dawning self-awareness … the managers grasped in an instant they had access to the levers of control outside the reach of the Party, the Politburo and the Red Army. The rise of the agencies’ power was a consequence of Stalin’s paranoia; the Stalinist Russia was built on a foundation of intrusive spying and control/liquidation of potential internal enemies. Stalin held the agencies in check by way of periodic purges, no group of operatives could become too comfortable or entrenched, they had to constantly look over their own shoulders. Once ‘Uncle Joe’ was gone there were no further checks on spy agency power, they could act with impunity and did: what occurred was a silent coup d’etat with the KGB state first emerging publicly under Yuri Andropov. Once the looting and undermining was well-established in the center it spread out and took hold among the clients with consequences that can be seen clearly today.

At the same time, contact with the West, as tentative as it was, informed the Russian intelligence elite what was possible … that the Western standards for wealth and success were both qualitatively- and qualitatively superior to what was available under egalitarian communism. In 1975, to be wealthy and successful as a Swiss or Londoner far exceeded what was possible in Leningrad or Kiev.

Under this scenario, ‘Nemtsov the reformer’ was either a co-conspirator — or, more likely a tool of intelligence services and/or Western business interests; an operative within the looting scheme along with Gaidar, Chubais and others. Instead of being the heir to Stalin’s strongman legacy, Putin recedes to become the technocratic figurehead who serves to distract public attention as the Russian Mario Monti or Antonis Samaras … meanwhile, the stealing takes place in the background. The context for the Nemtsov hit becomes much murkier with a wider range of potential adversaries, not necessarily Putin but unknown ‘others’ deep within intelligence nebulae … and for possibly more prosaic reasons such as an unpaid debt. It is also likely that the Ukrainian ‘model’ had something to do with Nemtsov’s death as well; perhaps she was bait, leading him by the hand to a carefully mapped kill zone.

No doubt Nemtsov had more to do with running Russia into the ground than Western media lets on, his Yeltsin- era associates have bona-fides that raise questions:

From 1998 to 2008, he (Chubais) headed the state-owned electrical power monopoly RAO UES. A 2004 survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Financial Times named him the world’s 54th most respected business leader. Currently, he is the head of the Russian Nanotechnology Corporation RUSNANO. He has been a member of the Advisory Council for JPMorgan Chase since September 2008 and a member of the global board of advisers at the Council on Foreign Relations since October 2012.

Honore de Balzac famously remarked, “Behind every great fortune is a great crime;” hovering near the crimes is the criminal banker. Readers can come to their own conclusions about Chubais; regarding Gaidar, (Pravda – 2006):

Litvinenko’s death, Gaidar’s poisoning and Politkovskaya’s murder may have the same rootsDoctors in Moscow said yesterday that the former Russian prime minister, Yegor Gaidar, had been poisoned with an unidentified toxic substance on a recent visit to Ireland , adding a new twist to the Alexander Litvinenko affair.

Mr Gaidar, an economist and one of the “young reformers” responsible for privatising Russia in the early 1990s, lost consciousness and was rushed to hospital last Friday during a conference near Dublin. Last night his daughter said she believed it was “a political poisoning”. Doctors saw “no other grounds” for his sudden illness, she told the BBC’s News 24.

Gaidar died in Moscow in 2009 of coronary artery disease. He was 53; while it is not unheard of for a person to die of heart trouble at a relatively young age, the circumstances of his death … like Chubais’ relationship with JP Morgan-Chase … is suggestive.

Regarding public perception of Nemtsov within Russia, (National Interest):

In a 2011 survey of twenty-three Russian political experts, a lack of fresh faces, ideas, or practical programs aimed at helping ordinary citizens were cited as the primary reasons for the perennial failure of Russian liberalism. Along with Anatoly Chubais and Egor Gaidar, Nemtsov was named as one of those most directly responsible for discrediting liberal discourse in Russia, Unlike Chubais and Gaidar, however, Nemtsov was not regarded as being an intellectual driving force for liberalism, but rather a pure politician. For a person of such staunch principles, it must of been particularly galling to be regarded as a mere politician.

Perhaps less galling than being regarded as a spy … a stalking horse for uncertain international business interests.

The new, improved narrative fits into the theory of, ‘Zero Government’, which postulates a transition from a functioning government to technocracy as the means to loot national assets. Technocracy is the last step before default/repudiation of non-payable debts. After technocracy comes the void: ‘zero-government’; the capitulation of the establishment, its dissolution into factions and chaos. This is part of post-petroleum transition, the breakdown of the status quo. The process runs like this:

Government => Technocracy => Zero Government

The process is easy to remember for even simple- minded business tycoons and their agents, also easy enough to set into motion particularly when the thermodynamic headwinds are blowing in the world’s face.

In Russia, the Soviets made up the last, functioning government, what followed was the relatively long technocracy that was born as Perestroika and ‘Shock Therapy’ that continues under Putin. The ordinary citizens’ collective wealth was swindled away- or hyperinflated into worthlessness. Entire industries and resources were stolen- or handed off to well-positioned opportunists. Russia itself is a gigantic country with massive resources, it has taken a lot of time to steal it all, the thefts are ongoing. To fill the vacuum left by the vanished wealth there is bread and circuses: demonstrations of Russian ‘power’ and evanescent ‘personal mobility’. What comes next is economic and political breakdown — already underway — then dissipation when there is nothing left to steal = zero government.

The zero-government dynamic is not necessarily political, rather it is a component of decline in energy throughput. Governments and ideological ‘operating systems’ are nothing more than mechanisms to allocate- and manage the costs associated with energy surpluses; as the costs multiply the ideologies are stranded. Conventional wasting regimes are unable to adapt to straitened conditions where waste cannot be easily financed: zero-government is a manifestation of ‘Conservation by Other Means ™’.

Triangle of Doom 030315

Figure 1: Oil industry has become a dead man on the side of the road: WTI forward continuous contract by TFC Charts (click on for big). As Russian bosses steal everything the citizens are bankrupted => the price of crude declines. At the same time, the ability of the Kremlin to function properly unravels; citizens are murdered a few feet away from Red Square even as war rages in Ukraine next-door. The marginal oil consumer turns out be as likely a Russian as a Japanese. Under the circumstances, with increase of marginal deadbeats worldwide, it is hard to see oil prices ever increasing, certainly not to the level that would allow extraction of expensive unconventional fuels.

We can see what zero-government looks like because some of the ex-Soviet clients have already crossed the River Styx into oblivion: Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Libya. In these countries effective government is a myth, the countries themselves are ruins. In Syria, hundreds of different militias operate without rhyme or reason, some claim regions within the country such as Rojava Kurds or Islamic State; others control a neighborhood or a few blocks in a city … or they control nothing at all! Syria has descended to bellum omnium contra omnes, Hobbes’ war of all against all. At this point, whether Syria has resources or not is particularly relevant because there are no means or opportunity to extract them.

The militaries of a dozen Western- and allied nations operate with impunity within Syria’s territory without any legal basis, declaration of war, absent any aggression on the part of Syria in complete disregard of the country’s (non-existent) sovereignty. It is the concept of sovereignty itself that is disintegrating right under everyone’s nose; even putative states offer non-state alternatives to conventional nationality. Syria’s armed trespassers include Iran, Jordan, Israel, UAE, Qatar, UK, US, France, Hezbollah/Lebanon; last week, Turkey. Bashar al-Assad is ‘leader’ in name only, and that in only within a relatively small part of the country. Even if he were to somehow magically make the militias vanish overnight he would not be able to govern. Syria has been so reduced by violence and natural disaster that it has become unmanageable. Assad is damaged goods, anyway … credibility he might have at one time possessed has been destroyed along with the cities his air force has flattened with barrel bombs.

The tragedy that has overtaken Syria … that has rendered millions of its citizens into refugees … has many more years to run according to those who are in the best position to know.

There is little difference in Iraq where the south of the country has become a de-facto province of Iran, where the Baghdad government is made up of Iranian spies … all of this taking place with the acquiescence/participation the United States, nominally Iran’s adversary. The tapeworm process that was perfected in the Soviet Union has been applied without mercy to the Iraqis … with dire consequences. One only needs to examine both countries together to see the process play out. Unlike Russia, theft in Iraq has been accompanied with wanton, high-tech devastation. The country has been bombed and rocketed flat, then lavished with artillery with over a million deaths. Roaming across the north-western and central parts of the country is an alphabet soup of militant groups bent on outdoing each other in corruption and barbarity. Like Syria, Iraq has become a free-for-all Western militaries and their regional allies all acting without restraint … except those imposed by their own onrushing bankruptcy.

Ukraine has been looted by a succession of corrupt post-Soviet governments, what remains is to fight over the scraps. The country is fast becoming a Syria on Europe’s doorstep, a theater of operation for countless militant battalions fighting each other for ‘gains’ that evaporate as soon as they are obtained. Ukraine, like the other countries — and Libya too — has resources, but ‘zero-government’ leaves these in the ground … this is what conservation by other means ™ amounts to.

When the wars finally die out due to exhaustion of combatants, these countries will become sparsely inhabited wastelands.Without economic growth/business expansion, without the increased flows of energy, without decrease of energy efficiency that drives all business expansion, there are no means to recover after wars- or other disasters. Managers either understand the implications completely and are too corrupt to care … or they refuse to understand because the implications are too frightening.

The zero-government world that we are now entering into is not at all like the one that the human race has occupied for the past five-hundred and fifty odd years, there is no more growth to it. For Syria or others to rebuild some prosperous countries such as France or Canada — or China — must fall into ruin; for anyone to gain others must lose. If this is not serious business then such a thing does not exist.

Zero-government is literally what it says it is; a one way state of existence whereby a country is rendered into an administrative vacuum that convention cannot occupy. The rot of technocracy leading to zero-government is plainly evident not only in Russia but in the West as well: the American and European governments are riddled with corruption and self-dealing, irrelevance and denial. Ballooning intelligence services and ‘internal security’ agencies gain ascendency/tighten their grip. What saves the West so far is that its property is already mostly owned by the thieves; they can only steal from each other. Issues are disregarded or waved away; there are no more statesmen only advertising managers and shallow demagogues offering blatant lies/crowd-pleasing distractions. Meanwhile, in the background a thermodynamic process that cannot be negotiated with is steadily and relentlessly underway …

Heroes and Villains

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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-Anthony Freda

Illustration: Anthony Freda

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation March 2, 2015

The poet W.B. Yeats was right in 1919 when he said the center cannot hold, as if, following the first great industrial slaughter of modern times, he discovered the lethal vacuum at the center of modernity itself. There was a lot to be nervous about after the First World War. And right away, of course, enter, stage-right, Adolf Hitler. We’re still trying to explain that cat to ourselves, and not just the Germans, either. Who cannot be awed by the appearance of genuine evil in the world?

Although, perhaps most remarkable in our time is not merely the presence of evil, but the eerie dearth of heroes, and by that I do not mean supernatural gym rats in spandex outfits swinging from the Frank Gehry condos on cords of spider silk. I mean living, breathing humans willing to engage with great and implacable forces. American sniper Chris Kyle was one of the rarees, and he was a strange case, really. Not just because of his alleged frailties, his tendency to play up his exploits, brag, maybe lie a little, but because he carried out his lethal deeds mostly at a remove — up there on the dusty rooftops of Fallujah, where he could reach out with his sniper-scope and swat human flies from a position of relative safety. Yet it is not hard to identify with his mission to kill “bad guys” — especially two years after his loopy martyrdom on a Texas gun range at the hands of a deranged fellow soldier driven mad on his own wartime mission.

The more interesting hero to me is Snowden. The purity of his name alone kind of says it all. The documentary movie about his brush with history, Citizen Four (by Laura Poitras, also a hero), is now showing on cable TV. It follows Snowden during the days of spring 2013 when he went rogue on the National Security Agency and revealed to the public the extent to which the American government was prying and worming its way into everybody’s electronic life — ignoring the pain-in-the-ass constitutional limits on such mischief, and setting the USA up to be a police state beyond the frontiers of anything George Orwell dreamed about in his darkest nights of the soul.

It is more than ironic that Snowden was also Mr. Ed, because if you take his comportment on film at face value, never was there such an exemplary and seemingly normal American young man. His heroism resided largely in his amazing composure under the strain of events. He spoke English clearly and calmly, and reacted to the weighty events he set in motion with startling equanimity. He appeared to know exactly what he was doing, and with quiet, unshakable moral commitment. And then he disappeared down the gullet of America’s modern times nemesis, Russia, where he continues to taunt with his very existence, the NSA gameboys, lizard-lawyers and puppet-masters who cordially invite him back home to face, ho-ho, our vaunted justice system. Of course any six-year-old understands that they would love to jam Snowden down some federal supermax memory hole as an example to any other waffling NSA code-jockey having second thoughts about reading your grandpa’s phone records.

And then, strangest of all to relate, there is Putin. Our guys are moving heaven and earth to jam him into a red-hot Satan suit but it’s not working. The pitchfork they want him to brandish looks strangely like a sword of justice. Even Americans of modest intelligence, when not locked into the Kardashian trance, can detect something false in all our official handwringing over Ukraine — the made-in-the-USA failed state now eating itself alive on Russia’s border. Before February 2014, Ukraine was just a struggling, marginal demi-nation still economically dependent on Russia, of which it had effectively been a province for centuries. Mr. Obama and his haircut-in-search-of-a-brain Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry, thought it would be a good idea to make Ukraine our client state instead. They couldn’t have botched the operation more completely. I have to say, Vlad Putin’s composure in the face of this perfidious idiocy is really something to behold, regardless of the roughness of the polity he rules. Our guys, in contrast, look like something less than sheer clueless rogues. They look like empty suits.

 

***

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.

From Minsk to Brussels, it’s all about Germany

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to France's President Francois Hollande during a meeting with the media after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to France’s President Francois Hollande during a meeting with the media after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

Originally published in RT on February 13, 2015

Germany holds the key to where Europe goes next. A fragile deal may have been reached on Ukraine, but there’s still no deal with Greece. In both cases, there’s much more than meets the eye.

Let’s start with the grueling Eurogroup negotiation in Brussels over the Greek debt.

Greek officials swear they never received a draft of a possible agreement leaked by Eurogroup bureaucrats to the Financial Times. This draft, crucially, referred to an agreement “amending and extending and successfully concluding,” the current austerity-heavy bailout.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble cut off “amending”. This is the draft that was leaked. But then Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called Prime Minister Tsipras – and the statement, still not signed, was rejected. So this was a top Tsipras decision.

Tsipras could not possibly balk – not after previously raising the stakes – as in promising to boost the Greek minimum wage and halt privatizations. He’s still betting the house that the Troika won’t allow a ‘Grexit’. Yet he may be wrong; the possibility of ‘Grexit’ is hovering around 35 percent to 40 percent, and it will be much higher if no deal is reached on the next crunch meeting, Monday.

Tsipras and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem at least agreed that Greek officials and the Troika (EC, ECB, IMF) should start talking “at a technical level.” Translation: they will be comparing the current austerity nightmare with new Greek proposals.

Athens essentially has only two choices. Either the Troika accedes to some form of debt repudiation – real or as a sleight of hand (that’s Syriza’s proposal – an arrangement that fosters growth); or ‘Grexit’ ensues, with Athens creating its own central bank and currency as an independent nation. There’s no third choice; a debt of 175 percent of Greece’s GDP is totally unpayable.

As much as the Troika and its institutional derivatives spin ‘Grexit’ won’t be a big deal, the fact is a Greek debt default could have a more devastating effect than the Lehman Brothers case. It was not the fundamentals at Lehman that caused widespread panic when it went down; but the fear that their derivative exposures would bring down the system.

And cutting through all the spin, what remains, essentially, is what European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Le Figaro a few days ago; it’s out of the question to suppress the Greek debt and, most of all, “there can be no democratic option against European treaties.” There it is, crystal clear: EU institutions work against democracy.

Plan B remains a distinct possibility. Moscow has already invited Tsipras to meet with Putin. And Beijing has invited Tsipras to meet with Prime Minister Li Keqiang. These are the “R” and the “C” in BRICS in action.

It’s worth remembering Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos when he articulated if not a majority view, at least a substantial perception among Greek public opinion; “We want a deal. But if there is no deal, and if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow Europe apart, then we will have to go to Plan B… We have other ways of finding money. It could be the United States at best, it could be Russia, it could be China or other countries.”

Alea jacta est. Troika or RC?

And it’s all about NATO

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

Then there’s Minsk. What was achieved after nearly 17 hours of a grueling marathon is not exactly, in French President Francois Hollande’s words, a “global” agreement and a “global ceasefire” in Ukraine.

There’s every possibility the ceasefire will be nullified only a few minutes after its implementation at midnight this Saturday – irony of ironies, at the end of Valentine’s Day. Significantly, the final statement bears no important signatures: Putin, Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko.

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was cautious, warning Minsk 2.0 is not exactly a breakthrough, but at least de-escalates matters. Merkel preferred to spin that Putin had to pressure the Eastern Ukraine federalists of the DNR and the LNR to agree to the ceasefire.

Predictably, like clockwork, even before the ceasefire, the IMF – under Washington’s orders – suddenly announced it would continue to rape, sorry, help bailout bankrupt, failed state Ukraine with a tranche of$17.5 billion, part of a large $40 billion, four-year “rescue” package. Translation: Kiev’s goons now have fresh cash to throw at a war they don’t want to give up on.

Poroshenko himself took no time to torpedo the ceasefire – spinning there’s no autonomy granted to the areas controlled by the federalists, and refusing to confirm Putin’s assertion that Kiev has agreed to terminate the vicious economic blockade of Donbass.

The precise contours of the demilitarized zone – bordering one frontline in September and a very different frontline five months later – remain a mystery. And Washington immediately turned the “withdrawal of foreign forces” clause into a joke. The Pentagon has already announced it will begin training Ukraine’s National Guard next month.

Minsk 2.0 hardly qualifies as a band-aid. Ukraine is unredeemable. It would only come back from the dead if a tsunami of cash – almost equivalent to the cost of German reunification – were poured in. Needless to add, no one in Europe wants to dish out even a few devalued euro.

This was, remains, and will continue to be, essentially about NATO expansion. Washington and the Kiev marionettes will never allow any constitutional reform that lets the Donbass block NATO embedded in Ukraine. So the ‘Empire of Chaos’, in a nutshell, won’t cease from using Ukraine to bully Russia. The ‘Empire of Chaos’ is not exactly in the business of nation building – quite the contrary.

Crossing the German bridge

And that brings us to the crucial role played by Germany – with France as sidekick.

Chancellor Merkel had to go to Moscow to negotiate with Putin because she saw which way the wind was blowing – counterproductive sanctions; Ukrainian economy in free fall; Kiev’s goons defeated on the battlefield. That was as much an imperative as a crucial demarcation away from the imperial NATO expansion obsession.

As Immanuel Wallerstein has observed Moscow is pursuing “a careful policy. Not totally in control of the Donetsk-Lugansk autonomists, Russia is nonetheless making sure that the autonomists cannot be eliminated militarily. The Russian price for real peace is a commitment by NATO that Ukraine is not a potential member.”

So Merkel may have defused the Obama administration’s drive to weaponize Kiev – but only for a moment. There’s no evidence – yet – that the Obama administration and its embedded neo-con cells have admitted that the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR) are essentially “lost” to Kiev’s influence.

Hollande provided the perfect cover for Merkel. It was Hollande who publicly supported autonomy – as in federalization – for the DPR and the LPR. At the same time, both Merkel and Hollande know that Kiev will never de facto accept it (and even a substantial portion of the Donbass only accepts federalization as a stepping stone to eventual secession and union with Russia.)

Merkel – at least in terms of German public opinion – did manage to achieve her goal, emerging as a victor (“The world chancellor,” as the tabloid Bild coined it) after her frequent-flyer marathon. Putin also emerged a victor of sorts – as Merkel essentially rehashed proposals he made months ago. So yes, whichever angle we look at it, this was in fact a Moscow-Berlin deal.It’s easy to see who is extremely disgruntled and will do everything to bomb it; Washington, Kiev, London, Warsaw and the hysterical “Russia is invading” Baltic states.

Last but not least, let’s call attention to the monumental white elephant in the room. Minsk 2.0 was conducted in the total absence of the ‘Empire of Chaos’ and the (increasingly irrelevant) “special relationship” British minions.

Slowly but surely, public opinion across Europe – and especially Germany – is experiencing a tectonic shift. The obsession by the ‘Empire of Chaos’ to further weaponize Kiev has horrified millions – resurrecting the specter of a war in Europe’s eastern borderlands. Not only in Germany but also in France, Italy, Spain, there is a growing continental consensus against NATO.

Even at the height of a vicious Russia demonization campaign unleashed by virtually the whole German corporate media, a Deutschland Trend survey revealed that most Germans are against NATO troops in Eastern Europe. And no less than 49 percent would rather see Germany position itself as a bridge between East and West. The leadership in Beijing definitely took note.

So it’s tempting to hop on the Merkel/Hollande peace train as the heart of Europe finally exercising their sovereignty and frontally defying the ‘Empire of Chaos’. Perhaps that could be the embryo of a German-French partnership for peace in Europe and even beyond, from the Middle East to Africa.

That would frontally antagonize NATO’s screenplay – which implies the ’Empire of Chaos’ ruling uncontested over Europe, the Middle East and even across Eurasia, with continental European powers, especially Germany, France and yes, Russia, at the margins.

Sooner or later European politicians will have to wake up and smell the coffee; the notion of a German-French-Russian pan-European peace/trade partnership is way more popular than reflected in failed corporate media.

Now it’s up to Germany to clean up its act on Greece. The choice is stark. The EU may embark on a quadruple-dip recession as the ECB further destroys what is left of the European middle class. Or Germany, reflecting the thinking among its captains of industry, may tell the EU – Troika included – that the way to go is to shift the strategic, trade and political focus from West to the East. That would start by stuffing the corporate US-devised TTIP treaty – that’s NATO on trade. After all, this is going to be the Eurasian century – and this train has already left the station.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Imperial Collapse Playbook

Off the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov

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Putin-chessPublished at Club Orlov on December 30, 2015

Some people enjoy having the Big Picture laid out in front of them—the biggest possible—on what is happening in the world at large, and I am happy to oblige. The largest development of 2014 is, very broadly, this: the Anglo-imperialists are finally being forced out of Eurasia. How can we tell? Well, here is the Big Picture—the biggest I could find. I found it thanks to Nikolai Starikov and a recent article of his.

 Now, let’s first define our terms. By Anglo-imperialists I mean the combination of Britain and the United States. The latter took over for the former as it failed, turning it into a protectorate. Now the latter is failing too, and there are no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over for it. But throughout this process their common playbook had remained the same: pseudoliberal pseudocapitalism for the insiders and military domination and economic exploitation for everyone else. Much more specifically, their playbook always called for a certain strategem to be executed whenever their plans to dominate and exploit any given country finally fail. On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. “Poison all the wells” is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.

• When the British got tossed out of their American Colonies, they did all they could, using a combination of import preferences and British “soft power,” to bolster the plantation economy of the American South, helping set it up as a sort of anti-United States, and the eventual result was the American Civil War.

• When the British got tossed out of Ireland, they set up Belfast as a sort of anti-Ireland, with much blood shed as a result.

• When the British got tossed out of the Middle East, they set up the State of Israel, then the US made it into its own protectorate, and it has been poisoning regional politics ever since. (Thanks to Kristina for pointing this out in the comments.)

• When the British got tossed out of India, they set up Pakistan, as a sort of anti-India, precipitating a nasty hot war, followed by a frozen conflict over Kashmir.

• When the US lost China to the Communists, they evacuated the Nationalists to Taiwan, and set it up as a sort of anti-China, and even gave it China’s seat at the United Nations.

The goal is always the same: if they can’t have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve. And so if you see Anglo-imperialists going out of their way and spending lots of money to poison the political well somewhere in the world, you can be sure that they are on their way out. Simply put, they don’t spend lots of money to set up intractable problems for themselves to solve—it’s always done for the benefit of others.

Fast-forward to 2014, and what we saw was the Anglo-imperialist attempt to set up Ukraine as a sort of anti-Russia. They took a Slavic, mostly Russian-speaking country and spent billions (that’s with a “b”) of dollars corrupting its politics to make the Ukrainians hate the Russians. For a good while an average Ukrainian could earn a month’s salary simply by turning up for an anti-Russian demonstration in Kiev, and it was said that nobody in Ukraine goes to protests free of charge; it’s all paid for by the US State Department and associated American NGOs. The result was what we saw this year: a bloody coup, and a civil war marked by numerous atrocities. Ukraine is in the midst of economic collapse with power plants out of coal and lights going off everywhere, while at the same time the Ukrainians are being drafted into the army and indoctrinated to want to go fight against “the Muscovites.”

But, if you notice, things didn’t go quite as planned. First, Russia succeeded in making a nice little example of self-determination in the form of Crimea: if it worked for Kosovo, why can’t it work for Crimea? Oh, the Anglo-imperialist establishment wishes to handle these things on a case-by-case basis, and in this case it doesn’t approve? Well, that would be a double-standard, wouldn’t it? World, please take note: when the West talks about justice and human rights, that’s just noise.

Next, the Russians provided some amount of support, including weapons, volunteers and humanitarian aid, to Ukraine’s eastern provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, which declared themselves People’s Republics and successfully fought Ukraine’s so-called “anti-terrorist operation” to a stalemate and an imperfect, precarious cease-fire. Very significantly, Russia absolutely refused to get involved militarily, has withheld official recognition of these republics, has refused to consider breaking up Ukraine, and continues to insist on national dialogue and a peace process even as the bullets fly. According to Putin, Ukraine must be maintained as “a contiguous political space.” Thus, the Russians have responded to the Anglo-imperialists’ setting up of an anti-Russia in the form of Ukraine by setting up an anti-Ukraine in the form of DPR and LPR, thereby shunting the Anglo-imperialist attempt to provoke a war between Ukraine and Russia into a civil war within Ukraine.

You might also notice that the Anglo-imperialists have been getting very, very angry. They have been doing everything they can to vilify Russia, comparing Putin to Hitler and so on. This is because for them it’s all about the money, and they didn’t get what they paid for. What the Anglo-imperialists were paying for in corrupting Ukraine’s politics was a ring-side seat at a fight between Ukraine and Russia. And what they got instead is a two-legged stool at a bar-room brawl between Eastern and Western Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine accounts for a quarter of the Ukrainian economy, produces most of the coal that had formerly kept the lights on in the rest of the country, and contains most of the industry that had made Ukraine an industrialized nation. Western Ukraine is centered on the unhappy little rump of Galicia, where the political soil is so fertile for growing neo-Nazis. So, paying billions to watch a bunch of Ukrainians fight each other inconclusively while Russia gets to play peacemaker is not what the Anglo-imperialists wanted, and they are absolutely livid about it. If they don’t get the war they paid for PDQ, they will simply cut their losses, pack up and leave, and then do what they always do, which is pretend that the country in question doesn’t exist, which, the way things are going in the Ukraine, it barely will.

Note that leaving, and then pretending that a place doesn’t exist, is something the Anglo-imperialists have been doing a lot lately. When they left Iraq, they did succeed in setting up a sort of anti-Iraq in the form of Iraqi Kurdistan, but that all blew up in their face. Their attempts to set up an anti-Syria or an anti-Libya died in their infancy, and they don’t seem to have any plan at all with regard to Afghanistan, unless it is to repeat every single blunder the Soviets made there as carefully and completely as possible.

What’s more, it’s starting to look like they are about to get kicked out of Eurasia altogether. Most of the major Eurasian players—China, Russia, India, Iran, much of Central Asia—are cementing their ties around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which the United States isn’t even admitted as an observer. As for the European Union, the current crop of EU politicians is very much bought and will be paid for upon retirement by the Anglo-imperialists, but the only reason they are still in power is that there are lots of older voters in Western Europe, and older people tend to cling to what they know even after it stops working—for them or, especially, for their kids. If it was up to the young people, the Anglo-imperialists would face open rebellion. In fact, the trends in voting patterns show that their departure from the region is a matter of time.

Here is a preview of possible coming attractions. On their way out, the Anglo-imperialists will of course try to set up an anti-Europe, and the obvious choice for that is Britain. Of all the European nations, it is the most heavily manipulated by their Anglo cousins from across the pond. It would take minimal effort for them to hurt Britain economically, then launch a propaganda campaign to redirect the blame for the bad economy toward the continent. They wouldn’t even have to hire translators for their propaganda—a simple “spelling-chequer” (or whatever) would suffice. And so, to make sure that their efforts to provoke a large-scale, hugely destructive, festering conflict between Britain and Europe fail, Europe would do well to set up an anti-Britain within Britain.

And the obvious choice for an anti-Britain is of course Scotland, where the recent independence referendum failed because of… the recalcitrance of older voters. A dividing line between the Anglo empire and Eurasia running through the English Channel/La Manche would be a disaster for Europe and moving it somewhere west of Bermuda would pose a formidable challenge. On the other hand, suppose that line ran along Hadrian’s Wall, with the traditionally combative and ornery Scots, armed with the remnants of North Sea oil and gas, aligning themselves with the Continent, while England remains an ever-so-obedient vassal of the Anglo-imperialists? That would reduce the intercontinental conflict to what Americans like to call a “pissing contest”: not worth the high price of admission. Yes, there would be some strong words between the two sides, and some shoving and shouting outside of pubs, and even some black eyes and loose teeth should diplomacy fail, but that should be the extent of the damage. That I see as the best-case outcome.

So that’s the big picture I see heading into 2015, which I am sure will be a most tumultuous year. Not to make a prediction as to timing (don’t worry, you won’t ever get one out of me!) but 2015 could be the year the Anglo-imperialist franchise finally starts shutting down in obvious ways. We know it will have to shut down eventually, because failing all the time is not conducive to its survival. The bonus question is, what sort of anti-America will these parasites set up inside America before they abandon their host and scatter to their fortified compounds in undisclosed locations around the world? Or will they not even bother, and just provoke a war of all against all?

I would think that they would at least try to leverage their expensively engineered red/blue divide within the United States. This fake cultural/political divide, with all the pseudoliberal/pseudoconservative indoctrination and university- and church-based brainwashing that put it in place, cost them a pretty penny. It was engineered to produce the appearance of choice at election-time while making sure that there isn’t any. But could it not be pressed into service in some more extreme manner? How about leveraging it to organize some sort of rabidly homophobic racist fundamentalist separatist enclave somewhere down south? Or perhaps one somewhere in the north, where zoophilia is de rigeurwhile heterosexual intercourse requires a special permit from a committee stocked with graduates in women’s studies? Now, fight, you idiots! Don’t you see how well that could work in practice? Would they waste such a nice opportunity to set up a system of controlled mayhem? I think not!

I leave all of that up to you to imagine.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Ruble Run Insanity

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on December 18, 2014

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Run, Ruble, Run…

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Snippet:

…In the matter of a couple of days here, the financial INSANITY game being played has gone from senile dementia to psychotic, and instead of gradually deteriorating to the point the various players in the game can’t remember who they are, instead they are all out there on the financial markets suffering all the classic sypmtoms of schizophrenia, Delusions, Hallucinations, Disoraganized Thinking and Speech and assorted other Negative Symptoms. For example, the person appears to lack emotion, such as not making eye contact, not changing facial expressions, speaking without inflection or monotone, or not adding hand or head movements that normally provide the emotional emphasis in speech. Does this sound like Super Mario Dragon making a speech or WHAT? LOL.

The rapid Insanity escalation hasn’t occurred in the Yen Basket Case or the Euro Fruit Loops, no instead it SNAPPED with the Ruskie Rouble. In the last 24 hours or so, first all trading was halted in the Rouble, and then shortly after that the Ruskie Credit Card was cut off from virtually ALL liquidity from the Western Banking system, which essentially renders the Ruble worthless outside of Mother Russia. If you have a pile of Rubles in your Swiss Bank Account, they are about as good now as Confederate Dollars, anywhere outside of Mother Russia anyhow…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Note: For non-native speakers of English and Diners who prefer to read rather than listen, the transcript of this Rant will be available HERE on Saturday.  Remind me if I forget to publish it.

Washington plays Russian roulette

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

first on the ground

Originally published in Asia Times on November 21, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

These are bleak times. I’ve been in serious conversation with some deep sources and interlocutors – those who know but don’t need to show off, privileging discretion. They are all deeply worried. This is what one of them, a New York strategic planner, sent me:

The propaganda attack against Putin equating him with Hitler is so extreme that you have to think that the Russians cannot believe their ears and cannot trust the United States anymore under any circumstances.

I cannot believe how we could have gotten ourselves into this situation to protect the looters in the Ukraine that Putin would have rid the Ukraine of, and even had the gall to place in a leadership role one of the worst of the thieves. But that is history. What is certain is that MAD [mutually assured destruction] is not a deterrent today when both sides believe the other will use nuclear weapons once they have the advantage and that the side that gains a decisive advantage will use them. MAD is now over.

That may sound somewhat extreme – but it’s a perfectly logical extension, further on down the road, of what the Russian president intimated in his already legendary interview with Germany’s ARD in Vladivostok last week: the West is provoking Russia into a new Cold War. [1]

Mikhail Gorbachev just stressed a few days ago the new Cold War is already on. Princeton’s Stephen Cohen says the Cold War in fact never left. The Roving Eye reported about Cold War 2.0 months ago. Brits – still stranded in the 19th century new Great Game – prefer to spin the “strident toxic personality” of “diminutive Putin”; [2] he is the “ruthless, charming and ultimately reckless” man who “put the cold war back in vogue”. The Council on Foreign Relations, predictably, mourns the end of the post-Cold War world, blasts the current “disorder”, and dreams of the good ol’ unchallenged exceptionalist days. [3]

For arguably the best detailed background on how we came to this perilous state of affairs, it’s hard to beat Vladimir Kozin of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies. [4] Read him carefully. And yes, it’s Cold War 2.0, the double trouble remix; between the US and Russia, and between NATO and Russia.

Seeing red
In his ARD interview, Putin stuck to actual facts on the ground: “NATO and the United States have military bases scattered all over the globe, including in areas close to our borders, and their number is growing ? Moreover, just recently it was decided to deploy special operations forces, again in close proximity to our borders. You have mentioned various [Russian] exercises, flights, ship movements and so on. Is all of this going on? Yes, it is indeed.”

For the Russia-demonizing hordes, it’s always convenient to forget that NATO expansion to Georgia and Ukraine was clinched at a NATO meeting in Bucharest in April 2008. The Georgia op spectacularly failed in the summer of 2008. Ukraine is a work in progress.

Crucially, in the ARD interview, Putin also told the EU coalition of the clueless/vassals/puppets/ that Russia can bring down the Ukraine House of Cards in a flash; Moscow just needs to emphasize it’s time to collect the humongous amounts of cash it is legally owed.

Putin also made it very clear Moscow won’t allow – and that was categorical: won’t allow – Donbass to be overrun/smashed/ethnic-cleansed by Kiev: “Today there is fighting in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian central authorities have sent the armed forces there and they even use ballistic missiles. Does anybody speak about it? Not a single word. And what does it mean? What does it tell us? This points to the fact, that you want the Ukrainian central authorities to annihilate everyone there, all of their political foes and opponents. You want that? We certainly don’t. And we won’t let it happen.” [5]

According to Kiev’s own figures, no less than 65% of residential buildings and 10% of schools and kindergartens in Donbass have been destroyed. Over 40,000 medium-sized companies are paralyzed. Unemployment – Ukraine-wide, is over 40%. External debt may reach US$80 billion – and don’t expect the International Monetary Fund, which now owns Ukraine, to go philanthropic. Most of all, Kiev can’t pay its billionaire gas bills to Gazprom because it spends a fortune terrorizing eastern Ukraine citizens. This Poroshenko rant sums it all up – with the US and EU fully complicit.

So NATO has been warned about Russia’s real red lines. Still, substantial sectors of the Washington/Wall Street elites can’t get enough of war. And they like it hot. [6] No one should ever underestimate the unlimited stupidity of the Return of the Living Neo-con Dead using their favorite pulpit, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

The “logic” behind Cold War 2.0 – now in full swing – couldn’t give a damn about European stability. The Obama administration launched it – with NATO as the spearhead – to in fact prevent Eurasian integration, building a New Berlin Wall in Kiev. The immediate target is to undermine Russia’s economy; in the long run, regime change would be the ultimate bonus.

So the logic of escalation is on. The economically devastated EU is a joke; the only thing that counts for the US is NATO – and the overwhelming majority of its members are in the bag, sharing the prevailing mood in Washington of treating Putin as if he were Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi. There are no signs whatsoever Team Obama is willing to de-escalate. And when the Hillarator President-in-Waiting ascends to the throne, all bets are off.

Notes:
1. Putin’s Sunday Interview on German TV (Dubbed + Transcript), Russian Insider, November 19, 2014.
2. The new cold war: are we going back to the bad old days?, The Guardian, November 19, 2014.
3. The Unraveling: How to Respond to a Disordered World, foreignaffairs.com, December 2014 issue.
4. See here.
5. The broken-down beauty of Eastern Ukraine, 25 years after the end of the USSR, Quartz, November 15, 2014.
6. The Wall Street Journal Wants the US to Go To War in Ukraine, Russia Insider, November 18, 2014.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Anti-Empire Report #134

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report November 19, 2014

Russia invades Ukraine. Again. And again. And yet again … using Saddam’s WMD

“Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday [August 27], sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory. The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week.”

None of the photos accompanying this New York Times story online showed any of these Russian troops or armored vehicles.

“The Obama administration,” the story continued, “has asserted over the past week that the Russians had moved artillery, air-defense systems and armor to help the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. ‘These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway’, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said. At the department’s daily briefing in Washington, Ms. Psaki also criticized what she called the Russian government’s ‘unwillingness to tell the truth’ that its military had sent soldiers as deep as 30 miles inside Ukraine territory.”

Thirty miles inside Ukraine territory and not a single satellite photo, not a camera anywhere around, not even a one-minute video to show for it. “Ms. Psaki apparently [sic] was referring to videos of captured Russian soldiers, distributed by the Ukrainian government.” The Times apparently forgot to inform its readers where they could see these videos.

“The Russian aim, one Western official said, may possibly be to seize an outlet to the sea in the event that Russia tries to establish a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine.”

This of course hasn’t taken place. So what happened to all these Russian soldiers 30 miles inside Ukraine? What happened to all the armored vehicles, weapons, and equipment?

“The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.”

Where are these photographs? And how will we know that these are Russian soldiers? And how will we know that the photos were taken in Ukraine? But most importantly, where are the fucking photographs?

Why am I so cynical? Because the Ukrainian and US governments have been feeding us these scare stories for eight months now, without clear visual or other evidence, often without even common sense. Here are a few of the many other examples, before and after the one above:

  • The Wall Street Journal (March 28) reported: “Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another [sic] major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, US officials said.”
  • “The Ukrainian government charged that the Russian military was not only approaching but had actually crossed the border into rebel-held regions.” (Washington Post, November 7)
  • “U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove told reporters in Bulgaria that NATO had observed Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops enter Ukraine across a completely wide-open border with Russia in the previous two days.” (Washington Post, November 13)
  • “Ukraine accuses Russia of sending more soldiers and weapons to help rebels prepare for a new offensive. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied aiding the separatists.” (Reuters, November 16)

Since the February US-backed coup in Ukraine, the State Department has made one accusation after another about Russian military actions in Eastern Ukraine without presenting any kind of satellite imagery or other visual or documentary evidence; or they present something that’s very unclear and wholly inconclusive, such as unmarked vehicles, or unsourced reports, or citing “social media”; what we’re left with is often no more than just an accusation. The Ukrainian government has matched them.

On top of all this we should keep in mind that if Moscow decided to invade Ukraine they’d certainly provide air cover for their ground forces. There has been no mention of air cover.

This is all reminiscent of the numerous stories in the past three years of “Syrian planes bombing defenseless citizens”. Have you ever seen a photo or video of a Syrian government plane dropping bombs? Or of the bombs exploding? When the source of the story is mentioned, it’s almost invariably the rebels who are fighting against the Syrian government. Then there’s the “chemical weapon” attacks by the same evil Assad government. When a photo or video has accompanied the story I’ve never once seen grieving loved ones or media present; not one person can be seen wearing a gas mask. Is it only children killed or suffering? No rebels?

And then there’s the July 17 shootdown of Malaysia Flight MH17, over eastern Ukraine, taking 298 lives, which Washington would love to pin on Russia or the pro-Russian rebels. The US government – and therefore the US media, the EU, and NATO – want us all to believe it was the rebels and/or Russia behind it. The world is still waiting for any evidence. Or even a motivation. Anything at all. President Obama is not waiting. In a talk on November 15 in Australia, he spoke of “opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine – which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17”. Based on my reading, I’d guess that it was the Ukranian government behind the shootdown, mistaking it for Putin’s plane that reportedly was in the area.

Can it be said with certainty that all the above accusations were lies? No, but the burden of proof is on the accusers, and the world is still waiting. The accusers would like to create the impression that there are two sides to each question without actually having to supply one of them.

The United States punishing Cuba

For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We haven’t heard that for a very long time. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):

Year Votes (Yes-No) No Votes
1992 59-2 US, Israel
1993 88-4 US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay
1994 101-2 US, Israel
1995 117-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1996 138-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1997 143-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1998 157-2 US, Israel
1999 155-2 US, Israel
2000 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2001 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2002 173-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2003 179-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2004 179-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2005 182-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2006 183-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2007 184-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2008 185-3 US, Israel, Palau
2009 187-3 US, Israel, Palau
2010 187-2 US, Israel
2011 186-2 US, Israel
2012 188-3 US, Israel, Palau
2013 188-2 US, Israel
2014 188-2 US, Israel

This year Washington’s policy may be subject to even more criticism than usual due to the widespread recognition of Cuba’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.

Speaking before the General Assembly before last year’s vote, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez declared: “The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion.” He added that the blockade “has been further tightened under President Obama’s administration”, some 30 US and foreign entities being hit with $2.446 billion in fines due to their interaction with Cuba.

However, the American envoy, Ronald Godard, in an appeal to other countries to oppose the resolution, said:

The international community … cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly, impedes independent journalism and, despite positive reforms, continues to prevent some Cubans from leaving or returning to the island. The Cuban government continues its tactics of politically motivated detentions, harassment and police violence against Cuban citizens.

So there you have it. That is why Cuba must be punished. One can only guess what Mr. Godard would respond if told that more than 7,000 people were arrested in the United States during the Occupy Movement’s first 8 months of protest in 2011-12 ; that many of them were physically abused by the police; and that their encampments were violently destroyed.

Does Mr. Godard have access to any news media? Hardly a day passes in America without a police officer shooting to death an unarmed person.

As to “independent journalism” – What would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control most of the media worth owning or controlling?

The real reason for Washington’s eternal hostility toward Cuba has not changed since the revolution in 1959 – The fear of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model; a fear that has been validated repeatedly over the years as many Third World countries have expressed their adulation of Cuba.

How the embargo began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted its suffocating embargo against its everlasting enemy.

The United States judging and punishing the rest of the world

In addition to Cuba, Washington currently is imposing economic and other sanctions against Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, China, North Korea, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, Mexico, South Sudan, Sudan, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, India, and Zimbabwe. These are sanctions mainly against governments, but also against some private enterprises; there are also many other sanctions against individuals not included here.

Imbued with a sense of America’s moral superiority and “exceptionalism”, each year the State Department judges the world, issuing reports evaluating the behavior of all other nations, often accompanied by sanctions of one kind or another. There are different reports rating how each lesser nation has performed in the previous year in areas such as religious freedom, human rights, the war on drugs, trafficking in persons, and sponsors of terrorism. The criteria used in these reports are often political. Cuba, for example, is always listed as a sponsor of terrorism whereas anti-Castro exile groups in Florida, which have committed literally hundreds of terrorist acts over the years, are not listed as terrorist groups or supporters of such.

Cuba, which has been on the sponsor-of-terrorism list longer (since 1982) than any other country, is one of the most glaring anomalies. The most recent State Department report on this matter, in 2012, states that there is “no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.” There are, however, some retirees of Spain’s Basque terrorist group ETA (which appears on the verge of disbanding) in Cuba, but the report notes that the Cuban government evidently is trying to distance itself from them by denying them services such as travel documents. Some members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been allowed into Cuba, but that was because Cuba was hosting peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government, which the report notes.

The US sanctions mechanism is so effective and formidable that it strikes fear (of huge fines) into the hearts of banks and other private-sector organizations that might otherwise consider dealing with a listed state.

Some selected thoughts on American elections and democracy

In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, thinking they will be more comfortable.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

  • 2012 presidential election:
    223,389,800 eligible to vote
    128,449,140 actually voted
    Obama got 65,443,674 votes
    Obama was thus supported by 29.3% of eligible voters
  • There are 100 million adults in the United States who do not vote. This is a very large base from which an independent party can draw millions of new votes.
  • If God had wanted more of us to vote in elections, he would give us better candidates.
  • “The people can have anything they want. The trouble is, they do not want anything. At least they vote that way on election day.” – Eugene Debs, American socialist leader (1855-1926)
  • “If persons over 60 are the only American age group voting at rates that begin to approximate European voting, it’s because they’re the only Americans who live in a welfare state – Medicare, Social Security, and earlier, GI loans, FHA loans.” – John Powers
  • “The American political system is essentially a contract between the Republican and Democratic parties, enforced by federal and state two-party laws, all designed to guarantee the survival of both no matter how many people despise or ignore them.” – Richard Reeves (1936- )
  • The American electoral system, once the object of much national and international pride, has slid inexorably from “one person, one vote”, to “one dollar, one vote”.
  • Noam Chomsky: “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars. Their professional concern in their regular vocation is not to provide information. Their goal, rather, is deceit.”
  • If the Electoral College is such a good system, why don’t we have it for local and state elections?
  • “All the props of a democracy remain intact – elections, legislatures, media – but they predominantly function at the service of the oligarchy.” – Richard Wolff
  • The RepDem Party holds elections as if they were auctions; indeed, an outright auction for the presidency would be more efficient. To make the auction more interesting we need a second party, which must at a minimum be granted two privileges: getting on the ballot in all 50 states and taking part in television debates.
  • The US does in fact have two parties: the Ins and the Outs … the evil of two lessers.
  • Alexander Cockburn: “There was a time once when ‘lesser of two evils’ actually meant something momentous, like the choice between starving to death on a lifeboat, or eating the first mate.”
  • Cornel West has suggested that it’s become difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic society, without great concentrations of corporate power, would look like, or how it would operate.
  • The United States now resembles a police state punctuated by elections.
  • How many voters does it take to change a light bulb? None. Because voters can’t change anything.
  • H.L. Mencken (1880-1956): “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
  • “All elections are distractions. Nothing conceals tyranny better than elections.” – Joel Hirschhorn
  • In 1941, one of the country’s more acerbic editors, a priest named Edward Dowling, commented: “The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”
  • “Elections are a necessary, but certainly not a sufficient, condition for democracy. Political participation is not just a casting of votes. It is a way of life.” – UN Human Development Report, 1993
  • “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!” I reply, “You have it backwards. If you DO vote, you can’t complain. You asked for it, and they’re going to give it to you, good and hard.”
  • “How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at it. It’s superb.” – Gore Vidal
  • We can’t use our democracy/our vote to change the way the economy functions. This is very anti-democratic.
  • What does a majority vote mean other than that the sales campaign was successful?
  • Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”
  • We do have representative government. The question is: Who does our government represent?
  • “On the day after the 2002 election I watched a crawl on the bottom of the CNN news screen. It said, ‘Proprietary software may make inspection of electronic voting systems impossible.’ It was the final and absolute coronation of corporate rights over democracy; of money over truth.” – Mike Ruppert, RIP
  • “It’s not that voting is useless or stupid; rather, it’s the exaggeration of the power of voting that has drained the meaning from American politics.” – Michael Ventura
  • After going through the recent national, state and local elections, I am now convinced that taxation without representation would have been a much better system.
  • “Ever since the Constitution was illegally foisted on the American people we have lived in a blatant plutocracy. The Constitution was drafted in secret by a self-appointed elite committee, and it was designed to bring three kinds of power under control: Royalty, the Church, and the People. All were to be subjugated to the interests of a wealthy elite. That’s what republics were all about. And that’s how they have functioned ever since.” – Richard K. Moore
  • “As demonstrated in Russia and numerous other countries, when faced with a choice between democracy without capitalism or capitalism without democracy, Western elites unhesitatingly embrace the latter.” – Michael Parenti
  • “The fact that a supposedly sophisticated electorate had been stampeded by the cynical propaganda of the day threw serious doubt on the validity of the assumptions underlying parliamentary democracy as a whole.” – British Superspy for the Soviets Kim Philby (1912-1988), explaining his reasons for becoming a Communist instead of turning to the Labour Party
  • US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941): “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”
  • “We don’t need to run America like a business or like the military. We need to run America like a democracy.” – Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate 2012

Notes

  1. Democracy Now!, October 30, 2013
  2. Huffingfton Post, May 3, 2012
  3. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba(1991), p.885 (online here)
  4. For the complete detailed list, see U.S. Department of State, Nonproliferation Sanctions
  5. U.S. Department of State, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism,” May 20, 2013

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

China’s silky road to glory

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

Map-New_Silk_Road

Originally published in Asia Times on November 14, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

If there were any remaining doubts about the unlimited stupidity Western corporate media is capable of dishing out, the highlight of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing has been defined as Russian President Vladimir Putin supposedly “hitting” on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife – and the subsequent Chinese censoring of the moment when Putin draped a shawl over her shoulders in the cold air where the leaders were assembled. What next? Putin and Xi denounced as a gay couple?

Let’s dump the clowns and get down to the serious business. Right at the start, President Xi urged APEC to “add firewood to the fire of the Asia-Pacific and world economy”. Two days later, China got what it wanted on all fronts.

1) Beijing had all 21 APEC member-nations endorsing the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) – the Chinese vision of an “all inclusive, all-win” trade deal capable of advancing Asia-Pacific cooperation – see South China Morning Post (paywall). The loser was the US-driven, corporate-redacted, fiercely opposed (especially by Japan and Malaysia) 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). [See also here.)

2) Beijing advanced its blueprint for “all-round connectivity” (in Xi’s words) across Asia-Pacific – which implies a multi-pronged strategy. One of its key features is the implementation of the Beijing-based US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. That’s China’s response to Washington refusing to give it a more representative voice at the International Monetary Fund than the current, paltry 3.8% of votes (a smaller percentage than the 4.5% held by stagnated France).

3) Beijing and Moscow committed to a second gas mega-deal – this one through the Altai pipeline in Western Siberia – after the initial “Power of Siberia” mega-deal clinched last May.

4) Beijing announced the funneling of no less than US$40 billion to start building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Predictably, once again, this vertiginous flurry of deals and investment had to converge towards the most spectacular, ambitious, wide-ranging plurinational infrastructure offensive ever attempted: the multiple New Silk Roads – that complex network of high-speed rail, pipelines, ports, fiber optic cables and state of the art telecom that China is already building across the Central Asian stans, linked to Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Indian Ocean, and branching out to Europe all the way to Venice, Rotterdam, Duisburg and Berlin.
T768776_01Now imagine the paralyzed terror of the Washington/Wall Street elites as they stare at Beijing interlinking Xi’s “Asia-Pacific Dream”way beyond East Asia towards all-out, pan-Eurasia trade – with the center being, what else, the Middle Kingdom; a near future Eurasia as a massive Chinese Silk Belt with, in selected latitudes, a sort of development condominium with Russia.

Vlad doesn’t do stupid stuff
As for “Don Juan” Putin, everything one needs to know about Asia-Pacific as a Russian strategic/economic priority was distilled in his intervention at the APEC CEO summit.

This was in fact an economic update of his by now notorious speech at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi in October, followed by a wide-ranging Q&A, which was also duly ignored by Western corporate media (or spun as yet more “aggression”).

The Kremlin has conclusively established that Washington/Wall Street elites have absolutely no intention of allowing a minimum of multipolarity in international relations. What’s left is chaos.

There’s no question that Moscow pivoting away from the West and towards East Asia is a process directly influenced by President Barack Obama’s self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine, a formula he came up with aboard Air Force One when coming back last April from a trip to – where else – Asia.

But the Russia-China symbiosis/strategic partnership is developing in multiple levels.

On energy, Russia is turning east because that’s where top demand is. On finance, Moscow ended the pegging of the rouble to the US dollar and euro; not surprisingly the US dollar instantly – if only briefly – dropped against the rouble. Russian bank VTB announced it may leave the London Stock Exchange for Shanghai’s – which is about to become directly linked to Hong Kong. And Hong Kong, for its part, is already attracting Russian energy giants.

Now mix all these key developments with the massive yuan-rouble energy double deal, and the picture is clear; Russia is actively protecting itself from speculative/politically motivated Western attacks against its currency.

The Russia-China symbiosis/strategic partnership visibly expands on energy, finance and, also inevitably, on the military technology front. That includes, crucially, Moscow selling Beijing the S-400 air defense system and, in the future, the S-500 – against which the Americans are sitting ducks; and this while Beijing develops surface-to-ship missiles that can take out everything the US Navy can muster.

Anyway, at APEC, Xi and Obama at least agreed to establish a mutual reporting mechanism on major military operations. That might – and the operative word is “might” – prevent an East Asia replica of relentless NATO-style whining of the “Russia has invaded Ukraine!” kind.

Freak out, neo-cons
When Little Dubya Bush came to power in early 2001, the neo-cons were faced with a stark fact: it was just a matter of time before the US would irreversibly lose its global geopolitical and economic hegemony. So there were only two choices; either manage the decline, or bet the whole farm to consolidate global hegemony using – what else – war.

We all know about the wishful thinking enveloping the “low-cost” war on Iraq – from Paul Wolfowitz’s “We are the new OPEC” to the fantasy of Washington being able to decisively intimidate all potential challengers, the EU, Russia and China.

And we all know how it went spectacularly wrong. Even as that trillionaire adventure, as Minqi Li analyzed in The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy, “has squandered US imperialism’s remaining space for strategic maneuver”, the humanitarian imperialists of the Obama administration still have not given up, refusing to admit the US has lost any ability to provide any meaningful solution to the current, as Immanuel Wallerstein would define it, world-system.

There are sporadic signs of intelligent geopolitical life in US academia, such as this at the Wilson Center website (although Russia and China are not a “challenge” to a supposed world “order”: their partnership is actually geared to create some order among the chaos.)

And yet this opinion piece at USNews is the kind of stuff passing for academic “analysis” in US media.

On top of it, Washington/Wall Street elites – through their myopic Think Tankland – still cling to mythical platitudes such as the “historical” US role as arbiter of modern Asia and key balancer of power.

So no wonder public opinion in the US – and Western Europe – cannot even imagine the earth-shattering impact the New Silk Roads will have in the geopolitics of the young 21st century.

Washington/Wall Street elites – talk about Cold War hubris – always took for granted that Beijing and Moscow would be totally apart. Now puzzlement prevails. Note how the Obama administration’s “pivoting to Asia” has been completely erased from the narrative – after Beijing identified it for what it is: a warlike provocation. The new meme is “rebalance”.

German businesses, for their part, are absolutely going bonkers with Xi’s New Silk Roads uniting Beijing to Berlin – crucially via Moscow. German politicians sooner rather than later will have to get the message.

All this will be discussed behind closed doors this weekend at key meetings on the sidelines of the Group of 20 in Australia. The Russia-China-Germany alliance-in-the-making will be there. The BRICS, crisis or no crisis, will be there. All the players in the G-20 actively working for a multipolar world will be there.

APEC once again has shown that the more geopolitics change, the more it won’t stay the same; as the exceptional dogs of war, inequality and divide and rule keep barking, the China-Russia pan-Eurasian caravan will keep going, going, going – further on down the (multipolar) road.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Lame-duck Obama’s brave new world

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

Industry-welcomes-new-US-free-trade-agreements_strict_xxl

Originally published in Asia Times on November 7, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Fresh out of his latest Congressional election shellacking delivered by the minority who bothered to vote in the United States, the formerly most powerful leader in the world, US President Barack Obama, will star in a thriller this weekend, appearing in the same room with China’s Xi Jinping, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and – fasten your seat belts – Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

What a drag – the Bomber-In-Chief must be musing. The global economy is mostly a disaster. China, even growing at “only” 7% a year, keeps eroding his “indispensable nation” aura. Japan has decided to copy the Federal Reserve and embark on its own kamikaze version of quantitative easing. Numerous Southeast Asian nations keep freaking out about a few rocks in the South China Sea.

And last but not least, Obama’s nemesis, pesky Vlad “the Hammer” Putin, has just been crowned Most Powerful Leader in the world – even if for the most stupid reasons (“unpredictable” head of a “rogue state”) [1] – while he, the Nobel Peace Prize leader of the exceptionalist, indispensable nation, is now nothing but a pitiful lame duck.

The get-together, extended to Monday and Tuesday, will be the highlight of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing – actually, outside of Beijing, so presumably unpolluted blue skies may also have a chance at the photo op. This is APEC’s 25th birthday. And the 20th birthday of the Indonesian summit in Bogor – I happened to be there – which, under Bill Clinton’s flowery charm, set the 21-member APEC nations a goal of “free” and open trade and investment by 2020. “Free” as in US corporations dictating the rules, of course.

What the whole planet really wants to know about APEC is whether The Lame Duck with meet The Bear face to face, one on one. The White House remains mum. The Kremlin did not rule it out. Well, there’s always Plan B: the Group of 20 summit on November 15-16 in Brisbane, Australia.

What the whole planet already knows is that the new slimy show premiering on Capitol Hill on January 2015 has a top priority: the Republicans will do everything in their power to make the lame duck cry for mercy over and over again. So what will this mean in terms of Obama’s self-styled “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine, which that 2016 juggernaut known as “The Hillarator” has already derided as a “non-organizational principle”? Just extra layers of cosmic stupidity, or something more substantial?

That old axis of evil
Let’s start with The Caliph, aka Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Obama already said, after his shellacking, he is going to seek Congressional authorization for his coalition of the cowards bombing IS – aka Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh, the jiahdi outfit’s Arabic acronym

Now that’s not a dumb move. If Republican-ruled Congress says “yes”, they will be responsible for the fiasco (and it’s already a fiasco). If they say “no”, the fiasco can be attributed to their irresponsibility.

Republicans are immersed in their own internal split – the boots-on-the-ground favored by the establishment against the non-interventionist Tea Party. So in the end, the lame duck may profit from it after all.

Iran is a much dicier proposition. It all depends on a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) being reached in a little over two weeks, on November 24. That’s a taller-than-the-Himalayas order, although feasible. The Obama administration is desperate for a deal – as the leak of a “secret letter” from Obama to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei attests. But a deal under Washington’s terms, which for Tehran is unacceptable. [2]

The new US Senate only takes over in January. Obama has already stressed he won’t ask the Senate to ratify the deal. Once again, the problem is what deal? Obama’s idea of a grand design in the Middle East is to use a “responsible” – according to US standards – Tehran to balance the Sunni-Shi’ite divide and get rid of the current proxy wars, the whole thing arbitrated by Washington. This is a pipe dream. But it’s what the lame duck wants.

Needless to say, Republicans – for whom Tehran never left the “axis of evil” – will try to bomb the dream, pipelines and all, for instance by passing legislation preventing the lifting of key sanctions. Sparks will fly. Tehran won’t accept a nuclear deal where Washington just says “take my word for it, we will lift sanctions”; this has to be in the letter of the agreement. After all they have vast experience of dealing with gun-crazy Republicans in power.

Nothing will change on Russia – even as the Obama administration needs Moscow to get a deal with Tehran. The relentless demonization of Putin and the resurgence of the same old Cold War meme, “The Russians are Coming”, are guaranteed to keep propelling stupidity 24/7 to intergalactic spheres.

Capitol Hill will go on overdrive. After all, Russia demonization is a bipartisan sport in Washington. The only “solution” would be regime change. Not only is Putin not going anywhere, but he’s ratcheting up his defiance of the Empire of Chaos. This implies increased problems with Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps appeasing the Americans while German businesses want increased trade with Russia and Eurasia as a whole.

free-trade

Another China win-win? 

On trade, here’s where APEC collides with the two-pronged US version of an economic NATO: the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Asia.

What the Obama administration is fighting for is nothing less than a totally unregulated global marketplace. Imagine the “free” market – as Bill “Bubba” Clinton was already parading in Indonesia two decades ago – setting all sorts of standards on everything from working conditions to the environment. In theory, that’s exactly what Republicans love. So here Obama would be right in their alley, which implies an easy Senate ratification.

It’s actually way more complicated. Republicans simply cannot stomach an Obama victory. That means this upcoming Senate won’t give him the fast track he needs to clinch the TPP deal.

That happens to be exactly what China wants. Beijing will use APEC to promote the road map for its own, anti-TPP trade deal, the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). TPP involves 12 APEC members – but not China. And even inside TPP there’s a monster revolt; Tokyo is battling the US because they Japan is sure its auto industry and agriculture may be devoured by US corporations.

So we’re right into a titanic Transformer-style Battle of the Deals. In fact any deal is problematic, as China, Japan and South Korea may want, in principle, broader economic cooperation. But on trade, in so many levels, they are fiercely competing against each other – as in the auto industry and agriculture, for instance – not to mention that heavy historical baggage between Japan and China and Japan and South Korea.

The Chinese charm offensive at APEC in Beijing is all about “innovative development”, “building infrastructure investment” and “comprehensive connectivity”. It’s all a mirror image of the extremely ambitious New Silk Roads proposed by President Xi to connect Eurasia.

Beijing is proposing a new “connectivity framework” into three key areas – “physical connectivity, institutional connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity”. But still no one knows how this will work out in practice towards Asia integration. Washington doesn’t care; it just wants a “free” unregulated mega-market for US corporations.

Beijing sees Asian economic integration as APEC facilitating an FTAAP by 2025. Needless to say, the US and a few vassals aboard the TPP have been adamant that no regional deal jeopardizes TPP. Washington was betting on TPP being signed before APEC. It didn’t happen. So Plan B is to boycott FTAAP until TPP is signed. And that Beijing won’t allow. The lame duck will have to duck a lot on his one-on-one with Xi in Beijing.

Finally, what about the Obama-Capitol Hill battle on the climate-change field? For the absolute majority of Republicans, climate change and global warming are nothing but an evil conspiracy. End of story.

The lame duck and Capitol Hill at least may agree on – what else – the Global War on Terror. Pentagon supremo Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently said the US should get ready for endless wars, as “tyranny”, “terrorism”, national security challenges and – surprise! – climate change pose a substantial “threat”.

Since 2002, the Pentagon has been saying to anyone who was bothered to listen that Endless War is the only deal in town – or the universe, for that matter. The lame duck might even fraternize about it with his Republican nemeses over the odd round of golf. What a wonderful (lame duck) world this would be.

Notes:
1. Putin Vs. Obama: The World’s Most Powerful People 2014, Forbes, November 5, 2014.
2. Obama Wrote Secret Letter to Iran’s Khamenei About Fighting Islamic State, Wall Street Journal Online (subscription).

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Putin to Western Elites: Play-time is Over

Off the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov

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Published on Club Orlov on October 29, 2014

putin (1)

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

Most people in the English-speaking parts of the world missed Putin’s speech at the Valdai conference in Sochi a few days ago, and, chances are, those of you who have heard of the speech didn’t get a chance to read it, and missed its importance. (For your convenience, I am pasting in the full transcript of his speech below.) Western media did their best to ignore it or to twist its meaning. Regardless of what you think or don’t think of Putin (like the sun and the moon, he does not exist for you to cultivate an opinion) this is probably the most important political speech since Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech of March 5, 1946.

In this speech, Putin abruptly changed the rules of the game. Previously, the game of international politics was played as follows: politicians made public pronouncements, for the sake of maintaining a pleasant fiction of national sovereignty, but they were strictly for show and had nothing to do with the substance of international politics; in the meantime, they engaged in secret back-room negotiations, in which the actual deals were hammered out. Previously, Putin tried to play this game, expecting only that Russia be treated as an equal. But these hopes have been dashed, and at this conference he declared the game to be over, explicitly violating Western taboo by speaking directly to the people over the heads of elite clans and political leaders.

The Russian blogger chipstone summarized the most salient points from Putin speech as follows:

1. Russia will no longer play games and engage in back-room negotiations over trifles. But Russia is prepared for serious conversations and agreements, if these are conducive to collective security, are based on fairness and take into account the interests of each side.

2. All systems of global collective security now lie in ruins. There are no longer any international security guarantees at all. And the entity that destroyed them has a name: The United States of America.

3. The builders of the New World Order have failed, having built a sand castle. Whether or not a new world order of any sort is to be built is not just Russia’s decision, but it is a decision that will not be made without Russia.

4. Russia favors a conservative approach to introducing innovations into the social order, but is not opposed to investigating and discussing such innovations, to see if introducing any of them might be justified.

5. Russia has no intention of going fishing in the murky waters created by America’s ever-expanding “empire of chaos,” and has no interest in building a new empire of her own (this is unnecessary; Russia’s challenges lie in developing her already vast territory). Neither is Russia willing to act as a savior of the world, as she had in the past.

6. Russia will not attempt to reformat the world in her own image, but neither will she allow anyone to reformat her in their image. Russia will not close herself off from the world, but anyone who tries to close her off from the world will be sure to reap a whirlwind.

7. Russia does not wish for the chaos to spread, does not want war, and has no intention of starting one. However, today Russia sees the outbreak of global war as almost inevitable, is prepared for it, and is continuing to prepare for it. Russia does not war—nor does she fear it.

8. Russia does not intend to take an active role in thwarting those who are still attempting to construct their New World Order—until their efforts start to impinge on Russia’s key interests. Russia would prefer to stand by and watch them give themselves as many lumps as their poor heads can take. But those who manage to drag Russia into this process, through disregard for her interests, will be taught the true meaning of pain.

9. In her external, and, even more so, internal politics, Russia’s power will rely not on the elites and their back-room dealing, but on the will of the people.

To these nine points I would like to add a tenth:

10. There is still a chance to construct a new world order that will avoid a world war. This new world order must of necessity include the United States—but can only do so on the same terms as everyone else: subject to international law and international agreements; refraining from all unilateral action; in full respect of the sovereignty of other nations.

To sum it all up: play-time is over. Children, put away your toys. Now is the time for the adults to make decisions. Russia is ready for this; is the world?

Text of Vladimir Putin’s speech and a question and answer session at the final plenary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s XI session in Sochi on 24 October 2014.

It was mentioned already that the club has new co-organizers this year. They include Russian non-governmental organizations, expert groups and leading universities. The idea was also raised of broadening the discussions to include not just issues related to Russia itself but also global politics and the economy.

An organization and content will bolster the club’s influence as a leading discussion and expert forum. At the same time, I hope the ‘Valdai spirit’ will remain – this free and open atmosphere and chance to express all manner of very different and frank opinions.

Let me say in this respect that I will also not let you down and will speak directly and frankly. Some of what I say might seem a bit too harsh, but if we do not speak directly and honestly about what we really think, then there is little point in even meeting in this way. It would be better in that case just to keep to diplomatic get-togethers, where no one says anything of real sense and, recalling the words of one famous diplomat, you realize that diplomats have tongues so as not to speak the truth.
We get together for other reasons. We get together so as to talk frankly with each other. We need to be direct and blunt today not so as to trade barbs, but so as to attempt to get to the bottom of what is actually happening in the world, try to understand why the world is becoming less safe and more unpredictable, and why the risks are increasing everywhere around us.

Today’s discussion took place under the theme: New Rules or a Game without Rules. I think that this formula accurately describes the historic turning point we have reached today and the choice we all face. There is nothing new of course in the idea that the world is changing very fast. I know this is something you have spoken about at the discussions today. It is certainly hard not to notice the dramatic transformations in global politics and the economy, public life, and in industry, information and social technologies.

Let me ask you right now to forgive me if I end up repeating what some of the discussion’s participants have already said. It’s practically impossible to avoid. You have already held detailed discussions, but I will set out my point of view. It will coincide with other participants’ views on some points and differ on others.

As we analyze today’s situation, let us not forget history’s lessons. First of all, changes in the world order – and what we are seeing today are events on this scale – have usually been accompanied by if not global war and conflict, then by chains of intensive local-level conflicts. Second, global politics is above all about economic leadership, issues of war and peace, and the humanitarian dimension, including human rights.

The world is full of contradictions today. We need to be frank in asking each other if we have a reliable safety net in place. Sadly, there is no guarantee and no certainty that the current system of global and regional security is able to protect us from upheavals. This system has become seriously weakened, fragmented and deformed. The international and regional political, economic, and cultural cooperation organizations are also going through difficult times.

Yes, many of the mechanisms we have for ensuring the world order were created quite a long time ago now, including and above all in the period immediately following World War II. Let me stress that the solidity of the system created back then rested not only on the balance of power and the rights of the victor countries, but on the fact that this system’s ‘founding fathers’ had respect for each other, did not try to put the squeeze on others, but attempted to reach agreements.

The main thing is that this system needs to develop, and despite its various shortcomings, needs to at least be capable of keeping the world’s current problems within certain limits and regulating the intensity of the natural competition between countries.

It is my conviction that we could not take this mechanism of checks and balances that we built over the last decades, sometimes with such effort and difficulty, and simply tear it apart without building anything in its place. Otherwise we would be left with no instruments other than brute force.

What we needed to do was to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it the new realities in the system of international relations.

But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this. Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance.

The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.
Pardon the analogy, but this is the way nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies.

We have entered a period of differing interpretations and deliberate silences in world politics. International law has been forced to retreat over and over by the onslaught of legal nihilism. Objectivity and justice have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments have replaced legal norms. At the same time, total control of the global mass media has made it possible when desired to portray white as black and black as white.

In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes. This group’s ambitions grew so big that they started presenting the policies they put together in their corridors of power as the view of the entire international community. But this is not the case.

The very notion of ‘national sovereignty’ became a relative value for most countries. In essence, what was being proposed was the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the world’s sole power centre, the greater this or that ruling regime’s legitimacy.

We will have a free discussion afterwards and I will be happy to answer your questions and would also like to use my right to ask you questions. Let someone try to disprove the arguments that I just set out during the upcoming discussion.

The measures taken against those who refuse to submit are well-known and have been tried and tested many times. They include use of force, economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of ‘supra-legal’ legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes. Of late, we have increasing evidence too that outright blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders. It is not for nothing that ‘big brother’ is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance.

Let’s ask ourselves, how comfortable are we with this, how safe are we, how happy living in this world, and how fair and rational has it become? Maybe, we have no real reasons to worry, argue and ask awkward questions? Maybe the United States’ exceptional position and the way they are carrying out their leadership really is a blessing for us all, and their meddling in events all around the world is bringing peace, prosperity, progress, growth and democracy, and we should maybe just relax and enjoy it all?

Let me say that this is not the case, absolutely not the case.

A unilateral diktat and imposing one’s own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.

Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil. I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia, that is to say, make the same mistake over and over.

They once sponsored Islamic extremist movements to fight the Soviet Union. Those groups got their battle experience in Afghanistan and later gave birth to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The West if not supported, at least closed its eyes, and, I would say, gave information, political and financial support to international terrorists’ invasion of Russia (we have not forgotten this) and the Central Asian region’s countries. Only after horrific terrorist attacks were committed on US soil itself did the United States wake up to the common threat of terrorism. Let me remind you that we were the first country to support the American people back then, the first to react as friends and partners to the terrible tragedy of September 11.

During my conversations with American and European leaders, I always spoke of the need to fight terrorism together, as a challenge on a global scale. We cannot resign ourselves to and accept this threat, cannot cut it into separate pieces using double standards. Our partners expressed agreement, but a little time passed and we ended up back where we started. First there was the military operation in Iraq, then in Libya, which got pushed to the brink of falling apart. Why was Libya pushed into this situation? Today it is a country in danger of breaking apart and has become a training ground for terrorists.

Only the current Egyptian leadership’s determination and wisdom saved this key Arab country from chaos and having extremists run rampant. In Syria, as in the past, the United States and its allies started directly financing and arming rebels and allowing them to fill their ranks with mercenaries from various countries. Let me ask where do these rebels get their money, arms and military specialists? Where does all this come from? How did the notorious ISIL manage to become such a powerful group, essentially a real armed force?

As for financing sources, today, the money is coming not just from drugs, production of which has increased not just by a few percentage points but many-fold, since the international coalition forces have been present in Afghanistan. You are aware of this. The terrorists are getting money from selling oil too. Oil is produced in territory controlled by the terrorists, who sell it at dumping prices, produce it and transport it. But someone buys this oil, resells it, and makes a profit from it, not thinking about the fact that they are thus financing terrorists who could come sooner or later to their own soil and sow destruction in their own countries.

Where do they get new recruits? In Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the state’s institutions, including the army, were left in ruins. We said back then, be very, very careful. You are driving people out into the street, and what will they do there? Don’t forget (rightfully or not) that they were in the leadership of a large regional power, and what are you now turning them into?

What was the result? Tens of thousands of soldiers, officers and former Baath Party activists were turned out into the streets and today have joined the rebels’ ranks. Perhaps this is what explains why the Islamic State group has turned out so effective? In military terms, it is acting very effectively and has some very professional people. Russia warned repeatedly about the dangers of unilateral military actions, intervening in sovereign states’ affairs, and flirting with extremists and radicals. We insisted on having the groups fighting the central Syrian government, above all the Islamic State, included on the lists of terrorist organizations. But did we see any results? We appealed in vain.

We sometimes get the impression that our colleagues and friends are constantly fighting the consequences of their own policies, throw all their effort into addressing the risks they themselves have created, and pay an ever-greater price.

Colleagues, this period of unipolar domination has convincingly demonstrated that having only one power centre does not make global processes more manageable. On the contrary, this kind of unstable construction has shown its inability to fight the real threats such as regional conflicts, terrorism, drug trafficking, religious fanaticism, chauvinism and neo-Nazism. At the same time, it has opened the road wide for inflated national pride, manipulating public opinion and letting the strong bully and suppress the weak.

Essentially, the unipolar world is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries. The unipolar world turned out too uncomfortable, heavy and unmanageable a burden even for the self-proclaimed leader. Comments along this line were made here just before and I fully agree with this. This is why we see attempts at this new historic stage to recreate a semblance of a quasi-bipolar world as a convenient model for perpetuating American leadership. It does not matter who takes the place of the centre of evil in American propaganda, the USSR’s old place as the main adversary. It could be Iran, as a country seeking to acquire nuclear technology, China, as the world’s biggest economy, or Russia, as a nuclear superpower.

Today, we are seeing new efforts to fragment the world, draw new dividing lines, put together coalitions not built for something but directed against someone, anyone, create the image of an enemy as was the case during the Cold War years, and obtain the right to this leadership, or diktat if you wish. The situation was presented this way during the Cold War. We all understand this and know this. The United States always told its allies: “We have a common enemy, a terrible foe, the centre of evil, and we are defending you, our allies, from this foe, and so we have the right to order you around, force you to sacrifice your political and economic interests and pay your share of the costs for this collective defense, but we will be the ones in charge of it all of course.” In short, we see today attempts in a new and changing world to reproduce the familiar models of global management, and all this so as to guarantee their [the US’] exceptional position and reap political and economic dividends.

But these attempts are increasingly divorced from reality and are in contradiction with the world’s diversity. Steps of this kind inevitably create confrontation and countermeasures and have the opposite effect to the hoped-for goals. We see what happens when politics rashly starts meddling in the economy and the logic of rational decisions gives way to the logic of confrontation that only hurt one’s own economic positions and interests, including national business interests.

Joint economic projects and mutual investment objectively bring countries closer together and help to smooth out current problems in relations between states. But today, the global business community faces unprecedented pressure from Western governments. What business, economic expediency and pragmatism can we speak of when we hear slogans such as “the homeland is in danger”, “the free world is under threat”, and “democracy is in jeopardy”? And so everyone needs to mobilize. That is what a real mobilization policy looks like.

Sanctions are already undermining the foundations of world trade, the WTO rules and the principle of inviolability of private property. They are dealing a blow to liberal model of globalization based on markets, freedom and competition, which, let me note, is a model that has primarily benefited precisely the Western countries. And now they risk losing trust as the leaders of globalization. We have to ask ourselves, why was this necessary? After all, the United States’ prosperity rests in large part on the trust of investors and foreign holders of dollars and US securities. This trust is clearly being undermined and signs of disappointment in the fruits of globalization are visible now in many countries.  

The well-known Cyprus precedent and the politically motivated sanctions have only strengthened the trend towards seeking to bolster economic and financial sovereignty and countries’ or their regional groups’ desire to find ways of protecting themselves from the risks of outside pressure. We already see that more and more countries are looking for ways to become less dependent on the dollar and are setting up alternative financial and payments systems and reserve currencies. I think that our American friends are quite simply cutting the branch they are sitting on. You cannot mix politics and the economy, but this is what is happening now. I have always thought and still think today that politically motivated sanctions were a mistake that will harm everyone, but I am sure that we will come back to this subject later.

We know how these decisions were taken and who was applying the pressure. But let me stress that Russia is not going to get all worked up, get offended or come begging at anyone’s door. Russia is a self-sufficient country. We will work within the foreign economic environment that has taken shape, develop domestic production and technology and act more decisively to carry out transformation. Pressure from outside, as has been the case on past occasions, will only consolidate our society, keep us alert and make us concentrate on our main development goals.

Of course the sanctions are a hindrance. They are trying to hurt us through these sanctions, block our development and push us into political, economic and cultural isolation, force us into backwardness in other words. But let me say yet again that the world is a very different place today. We have no intention of shutting ourselves off from anyone and choosing some kind of closed development road, trying to live in autarky. We are always open to dialogue, including on normalizing our economic and political relations. We are counting here on the pragmatic approach and position of business communities in the leading countries.

Some are saying today that Russia is supposedly turning its back on Europe – such words were probably spoken already here too during the discussions – and is looking for new business partners, above all in Asia. Let me say that this is absolutely not the case. Our active policy in the Asian-Pacific region began not just yesterday and not in response to sanctions, but is a policy that we have been following for a good many years now. Like many other countries, including Western countries, we saw that Asia is playing an ever greater role in the world, in the economy and in politics, and there is simply no way we can afford to overlook these developments.

Let me say again that everyone is doing this, and we will do so to, all the more so as a large part of our country is geographically in Asia. Why should we not make use of our competitive advantages in this area? It would be extremely shortsighted not to do so.

Developing economic ties with these countries and carrying out joint integration projects also creates big incentives for our domestic development. Today’s demographic, economic and cultural trends all suggest that dependence on a sole superpower will objectively decrease. This is something that European and American experts have been talking and writing about too.

Perhaps developments in global politics will mirror the developments we are seeing in the global economy, namely, intensive competition for specific niches and frequent change of leaders in specific areas. This is entirely possible.

There is no doubt that humanitarian factors such as education, science, healthcare and culture are playing a greater role in global competition. This also has a big impact on international relations, including because this ‘soft power’ resource will depend to a great extent on real achievements in developing human capital rather than on sophisticated propaganda tricks.

At the same time, the formation of a so-called polycentric world (I would also like to draw attention to this, colleagues) in and of itself does not improve stability; in fact, it is more likely to be the opposite. The goal of reaching global equilibrium is turning into a fairly difficult puzzle, an equation with many unknowns.
So, what is in store for us if we choose not to live by the rules – even if they may be strict and inconvenient – but rather live without any rules at all? And that scenario is entirely possible; we cannot rule it out, given the tensions in the global situation. Many predictions can already be made, taking into account current trends, and unfortunately, they are not optimistic. If we do not create a clear system of mutual commitments and agreements, if we do not build the mechanisms for managing and resolving crisis situations, the symptoms of global anarchy will inevitably grow.

Today, we already see a sharp increase in the likelihood of a whole set of violent conflicts with either direct or indirect participation by the world’s major powers. And the risk factors include not just traditional multinational conflicts, but also the internal instability in separate states, especially when we talk about nations located at the intersections of major states’ geopolitical interests, or on the border of cultural, historical, and economic civilizational continents.

Ukraine, which I’m sure was discussed at length and which we will discuss some more, is one of the example of such sorts of conflicts that affect international power balance, and I think it will certainly not be the last. From here emanates the next real threat of destroying the current system of arms control agreements. And this dangerous process was launched by the United States of America when it unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, and then set about and continues today to actively pursue the creation of its global missile defense system.

Colleagues, friends, I want to point out that we did not start this. Once again, we are sliding into the times when, instead of the balance of interests and mutual guarantees, it is fear and the balance of mutual destruction that prevent nations from engaging in direct conflict. In absence of legal and political instruments, arms are once again becoming the focal point of the global agenda; they are used wherever and however, without any UN Security Council sanctions. And if the Security Council refuses to produce such decisions, then it is immediately declared to be an outdated and ineffective instrument.

Many states do not see any other ways of ensuring their sovereignty but to obtain their own bombs. This is extremely dangerous. We insist on continuing talks; we are not only in favor of talks, but insist on continuing talks to reduce nuclear arsenals. The less nuclear weapons we have in the world, the better. And we are ready for the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament – but only serious discussions without any double standards.

What do I mean? Today, many types of high-precision weaponry are already close to mass-destruction weapons in terms of their capabilities, and in the event of full renunciation of nuclear weapons or radical reduction of nuclear potential, nations that are leaders in creating and producing high-precision systems will have a clear military advantage. Strategic parity will be disrupted, and this is likely to bring destabilization. The use of a so-called first global pre-emptive strike may become tempting. In short, the risks do not decrease, but intensify.

The next obvious threat is the further escalation of ethnic, religious, and social conflicts. Such conflicts are dangerous not only as such, but also because they create zones of anarchy, lawlessness, and chaos around them, places that are comfortable for terrorists and criminals, where piracy, human trafficking, and drug trafficking flourish.

Incidentally, at the time, our colleagues tried to somehow manage these processes, use regional conflicts and design ‘color revolutions’ to suit their interests, but the genie escaped the bottle. It looks like the controlled chaos theory fathers themselves do not know what to do with it; there is disarray in their ranks.

We closely follow the discussions by both the ruling elite and the expert community. It is enough to look at the headlines of the Western press over the last year. The same people are called fighters for democracy, and then Islamists; first they write about revolutions and then call them riots and upheavals. The result is obvious: the further expansion of global chaos.

Colleagues, given the global situation, it is time to start agreeing on fundamental things. This is incredibly important and necessary; this is much better than going back to our own corners. The more we all face common problems, the more we find ourselves in the same boat, so to speak. And the logical way out is in cooperation between nations, societies, in finding collective answers to increasing challenges, and in joint risk management. Granted, some of our partners, for some reason, remember this only when it suits their interests.

Practical experience shows that joint answers to challenges are not always a panacea; and we need to understand this. Moreover, in most cases, they are hard to reach; it is not easy to overcome the differences in national interests, the subjectivity of different approaches, particularly when it comes to nations with different cultural and historical traditions. But nevertheless, we have examples when, having common goals and acting based on the same criteria, together we achieved real success.

Let me remind you about solving the problem of chemical weapons in Syria, and the substantive dialogue on the Iranian nuclear program, as well as our work on North Korean issues, which also has some positive results. Why can’t we use this experience in the future to solve local and global challenges?
What could be the legal, political, and economic basis for a new world order that would allow for stability and security, while encouraging healthy competition, not allowing the formation of new monopolies that hinder development? It is unlikely that someone could provide absolutely exhaustive, ready-made solutions right now. We will need extensive work with participation by a wide range of governments, global businesses, civil society, and such expert platforms as ours.

However, it is obvious that success and real results are only possible if key participants in international affairs can agree on harmonizing basic interests, on reasonable self-restraint, and set the example of positive and responsible leadership. We must clearly identify where unilateral actions end and we need to apply multilateral mechanisms, and as part of improving the effectiveness of international law, we must resolve the dilemma between the actions by international community to ensure security and human rights and the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of any state.

Those very collisions increasingly lead to arbitrary external interference in complex internal processes, and time and again, they provoke dangerous conflicts between leading global players. The issue of maintaining sovereignty becomes almost paramount in maintaining and strengthening global stability.

Clearly, discussing the criteria for the use of external force is extremely difficult; it is practically impossible to separate it from the interests of particular nations. However, it is far more dangerous when there are no agreements that are clear to everyone, when no clear conditions are set for necessary and legal interference.

I will add that international relations must be based on international law, which itself should rest on moral principles such as justice, equality and truth. Perhaps most important is respect for one’s partners and their interests. This is an obvious formula, but simply following it could radically change the global situation.

I am certain that if there is a will, we can restore the effectiveness of the international and regional institutions system. We do not even need to build anything anew, from the scratch; this is not a “greenfield,” especially since the institutions created after World War II are quite universal and can be given modern substance, adequate to manage the current situation.

This is true of improving the work of the UN, whose central role is irreplaceable, as well as the OSCE, which, over the course of 40 years, has proven to be a necessary mechanism for ensuring security and cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic region. I must say that even now, in trying to resolve the crisis in southeast Ukraine, the OSCE is playing a very positive role.

In light of the fundamental changes in the international environment, the increase in uncontrollability and various threats, we need a new global consensus of responsible forces. It’s not about some local deals or a division of spheres of influence in the spirit of classic diplomacy, or somebody’s complete global domination. I think that we need a new version of interdependence. We should not be afraid of it. On the contrary, this is a good instrument for harmonizing positions.

This is particularly relevant given the strengthening and growth of certain regions on the planet, which process objectively requires institutionalization of such new poles, creating powerful regional organizations and developing rules for their interaction. Cooperation between these centers would seriously add to the stability of global security, policy and economy.  But in order to establish such a dialogue, we need to proceed from the assumption that all regional centers and integration projects forming around them need to have equal rights to development, so that they can complement each other and nobody can force them into conflict or opposition artificially. Such destructive actions would break down ties between states, and the states themselves would be subjected to extreme hardship, or perhaps even total destruction.

I would like to remind you of the last year’s events. We have told our American and European partners that hasty backstage decisions, for example, on Ukraine’s association with the EU, are fraught with serious risks to the economy. We didn’t even say anything about politics; we spoke only about the economy, saying that such steps, made without any prior arrangements, touch on the interests of many other nations, including Russia as Ukraine’s main trade partner, and that a wide discussion of the issues is necessary. Incidentally, in this regard, I will remind you that, for example, the talks on Russia’s accession to the WTO lasted 19 years. This was very difficult work, and a certain consensus was reached.

Why am I bringing this up? Because in implementing Ukraine’s association project, our partners would come to us with their goods and services through the back gate, so to speak, and we did not agree to this, nobody asked us about this. We had discussions on all topics related to Ukraine’s association with the EU, persistent discussions, but I want to stress that this was done in an entirely civilized manner, indicating possible problems, showing the obvious reasoning and arguments. Nobody wanted to listen to us and nobody wanted to talk. They simply told us: this is none of your business, point, end of discussion. Instead of a comprehensive but – I stress – civilized dialogue, it all came down to a government overthrow; they plunged the country into chaos, into economic and social collapse, into a civil war with enormous casualties.

Why? When I ask my colleagues why, they no longer have an answer; nobody says anything. That’s it. Everyone’s at a loss, saying it just turned out that way. Those actions should not have been encouraged – it wouldn’t have worked. After all (I already spoke about this), former Ukrainian President Yanukovych signed everything, agreed with everything. Why do it? What was the point? What is this, a civilized way of solving problems? Apparently, those who constantly throw together new ‘color revolutions’ consider themselves ‘brilliant artists’ and simply cannot stop.

I am certain that the work of integrated associations, the cooperation of regional structures, should be built on a transparent, clear basis; the Eurasian Economic Union’s formation process is a good example of such transparency. The states that are parties to this project informed their partners of their plans in advance, specifying the parameters of our association, the principles of its work, which fully correspond with the World Trade Organization rules.

I will add that we would also have welcomed the start of a concrete dialogue between the Eurasian and European Union. Incidentally, they have almost completely refused us this as well, and it is also unclear why – what is so scary about it?

And, of course, with such joint work, we would think that we need to engage in dialogue (I spoke about this many times and heard agreement from many of our western partners, at least in Europe) on the need to create a common space for economic and humanitarian cooperation stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

Colleagues, Russia made its choice. Our priorities are further improving our democratic and open economy institutions, accelerated internal development, taking into account all the positive modern trends in the world, and consolidating society based on traditional values and patriotism.

We have an integration-oriented, positive, peaceful agenda; we are working actively with our colleagues in the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and other partners. This agenda is aimed at developing ties between governments, not dissociating. We are not planning to cobble together any blocs or get involved in an exchange of blows.

The allegations and statements that Russia is trying to establish some sort of empire, encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbors, are groundless. Russia does not need any kind of special, exclusive place in the world – I want to emphasize this. While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account and for our position to be respected.

We are well aware that the world has entered an era of changes and global transformations, when we all need a particular degree of caution, the ability to avoid thoughtless steps. In the years after the Cold War, participants in global politics lost these qualities somewhat. Now, we need to remember them. Otherwise, hopes for a peaceful, stable development will be a dangerous illusion, while today’s turmoil will simply serve as a prelude to the collapse of world order.

Yes, of course, I have already said that building a more stable world order is a difficult task. We are talking about long and hard work. We were able to develop rules for interaction after World War II, and we were able to reach an agreement in Helsinki in the 1970s. Our common duty is to resolve this fundamental challenge at this new stage of development.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Either you’re the Butcher or the Cattle

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 16, 2014

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Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

I know many people have no interest in watching the boob tube because 99% of the programming is either mindless drivel or government sanctioned propaganda. It’s the 1% that reflects the deeper themes and moods engulfing our society. Television shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead reflect the darkening mood of this intensifying Fourth Turning. I wrote one of my more pessimistic articles called Welcome to Terminus in April regarding the season four finale of the Walking Dead series. I essentially argued we are approaching the end of the line and the world is going to get real nasty.

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In the six short months since I wrote that depressing article, we’ve seen men beheaded on Youtube videos by terrorists no one had ever heard of at the beginning of this year. Somehow a ragtag band of 30,000 Muslim terrorists, using American military equipment supplied to fight Assad in Syria and taken from the Iraqi Army when they turned tail and ran away, have been able to defeat 600,000 Iraqi and Kurd fighters with air support from the vaunted U.S. Air Force. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan descend into never ending religious based warfare. We’ve even had passenger planes mysteriously disappear in Asia with no trace.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine and rejoined Russia, initiating a plan to punish Russia by the western powers. America supported and planned the overthrow of a democratically elected government in the Ukraine, with a predictable push back response by Russia, leading to a bloody civil war in the Eastern Ukraine. We’ve had a false flag shooting down of an airliner over the Ukraine by the Ukrainian government, blamed on Russia and Putin by Obama and his EU co-conspirators. The American corporate media mouthpieces have ignored the cover-up of missing controller transmissions, black box recordings, and physical evidence regarding the murder of hundreds of innocent people by western politicians. Israel and Hamas resumed their endless religious war in Gaza, with thousands of casualties and destruction.

UK fear mongering and financial threats barely averted the secession of Scotland from the UK. Cantalonia continues to push for a secession vote to leave Spain. Violent protests have broken out in Spain, Italy, France and even Sweden. Turmoil, protests and riots in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico have been driven by anger at political corruption, high inflation, and general economic dysfunction. Saber rattling between China and Japan has increased and young people in Hong Kong have been protesting the lack of democratic elections being permitted by China. The world economy, undergoing central bank monetary stimulus withdraw, is headed back into recession as Germany, China and the U.S. join the rest of the world in economic decline. And now the Western Africa outbreak of ebola has gone worldwide, with predictions of an epidemic potentially causing worldwide economic chaos.

What’s happening in the real world makes the dystopian zombie world of Walking Dead seem almost quaint. The writers of this show brilliant use of symbolism and imagery captures the violent, chaotic, inhumane, darkening, brutal world we inhabit as the Fourth Turning crisis period we entered in 2008 deepens on a daily basis. There is a good reason why the first episode of their fifth season drew the biggest cable TV audience in history. The show is clearly tapping into the mood of the masses. Early in the latest episode you realize Terminus has become a processing center run by cannibals. The line between victim and criminal, killer and prey, good and evil, madness and sanity, and moral and immoral is blurred. Everything is relative in the post-pandemic world of the Walking Dead.

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Seeing Wall Street cannibals walk away unscathed after devouring the worldwide economic system in 2008 with their fraudulent financial schemes, corrupt politicians enriched by throwing taxpayers under the bus, militarized police forces trampling the Fourth Amendment, the NSA spying on every American, a private central bank enriching their owners by funneling trillions into their bank vaults, a president trampling on the Constitution by issuing executive orders to bypass the other branches of government, and billions of welfare and tax fraud from the urban ghettos to the penthouse suites in NYC, has convinced a large swath of Americans that everything is relative and nothing matters in our warped dystopian world. Right and wrong no longer matter. Morality is an antiquated concept. Adhering to the Constitution is an outmoded notion. Our society celebrates and condones our dog eat dog economic paradigm. Or zombie eats anything world in the case of Walking Dead.

The Terminus complex is reminiscent of the concentration camp in Schindler’s List. It is complete with railroad cars to hold the prisoners, gates with barbed wire, armed guards, and extermination facilities to “process” the prisoners. Thick black smoke belches into the air. There is a room stacked full of booty, teddy bears, watches, clothes – everything except the gold fillings.The Nazi like precision and attention to detail is reflected in the almost business-like method in which the Terminus administrators go about gutting their prey. The bone chilling efficiency and antiseptic processing facility evoke memories of the holocaust gas chambers. The opening sequence when Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob are among a group of men lined up to be gutted like pigs over a trough in place to collect their spilled blood, might have been the most brutal scene ever put on non-premium cable TV.

The callous and dispassionate way in which the prisoners (cattle) are lined up in front of a stainless steel trough is disconcerting and bone chilling. The victims are hit with a baseball bat and then their throats are slit over the trough by men in protective suits. They have become nothing but cattle to be butchered and consumed by the Terminus cannibals. You see another part of the processing plant where human remains are hanging from hooks like sides of beef. Gareth, the leader of Terminus, supervises the operation like a CEO, berating the butchers for not meeting quotas and following standard operating procedures. Not much different than how our mega-corporations are run today.

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The other fascinating similarity between the dystopian “nightmare of want” setting of Terminus and our modern day dystopian “empire of excess” is the use of false advertising and propaganda to lure “customers” into their web. Their version of billboard advertising was plywood with the hand written messages of “Sanctuary for All”, “Community for All”, and “Those Who Arrive Survive”. The Terminus cannibals would have fit in well on Madison Avenue with the highly paid spin artists, propagandists, and whores for the corporate oligarchs.

The signs along train tracks and radio transmissions from a call center like facility showed the calculated business-like efficiency of the cannibals in systematically and methodically luring victims to their slaughterhouse. It is the same techniques used by the apostles of Edward Bernays to consciously and intelligently manipulate the habits, opinions, tastes, ideas and actions of the masses, in order to control and influence their buying habits, voting decisions, and support of their rulers. The unseen men who constitute the “invisible government” use these techniques to keep the cattle docile, fed, and ignorant, as they are led to slaughter.

The government and lack thereof is always lurking in the murky background of how and why the United States has devolved into an infected world of the walking dead. This episode provided some clues about government labs producing viruses as weapons to be used against some unexplained enemy. The insinuation is that the government somehow lost control of the virus and the ensuing pandemic destroyed our modern world and left the survivors to battle the biters and each other for the remaining scraps. The Federal government caused the societal collapse and is nowhere to be found in rebuilding the nation.

It is unclear how the apocalypse went down, but you can assume it began with fear, which led to panic, chaos, economic collapse, violent upheaval, war, and total breakdown of governmental authority and control. It is ironic that today fear of a worldwide ebola pandemic is coinciding with an inevitable economic implosion, wars raging in the Middle East, violent protests raging around the globe, and trust in governmental authority plunging to all-time lows. The Walking Dead has wittingly or unwittingly captured the ambiance of our turbulent times.

When you are faced with desperate circumstances you can either do whatever you need to survive or you can submissively accept your fate and die. Gareth and his cannibalistic cohorts had been in the same situation as Rick and his posse, but they had somehow turned the tables on their captors. Gareth’s survival of the fittest creed was “either you’re the butcher or you’re the cattle”. Human beings react to intense pressure and life threatening situations in different ways. Some people snap and turn into monsters, like Gareth. Some people snap and lose their minds. Others, like Rick and Carol, summon an inner strength to do whatever it takes to survive while barely maintaining their humanity. Others turn into blind followers of a strong forceful leader, not questioning the morality, legality or humanity of what they are ordered to do. The line between right and wrong, necessary versus unnecessary, vengeance versus justice, and butcher versus cattle is blurred in a world without rules, government or accepted norms.

I believe the “butcher or cattle” analogy is sadly a valid meme for the world we currently inhabit. In the Walking Dead world, individuals must choose to be butcher or cattle. It’s a Darwinian world of kill or be killed. Like minded individuals with common values and goals form communities to protect themselves, provide for themselves, and attempt to bring a semblance of order in a chaotic world. The community of Westbury, led by the governor and the community of Terminus, led by Gareth, are founded upon a foundation of evil and ultimately destroyed. Rick’s community of liberty minded freedom fighters do whatever is necessary to survive, but retain their humanity, decency and desire to create a better world.

Our present day world may not be as brutish as the Walking Dead world, though the line between reality and fiction is often indistinguishable when you turn on the news, but the distinction between butchers and cattle is clear. The elected and non-elected rulers of the deep state are the butchers, sending young men off to die for oil companies and arms dealers, impoverishing the masses through inflation and their control of the currency, and enriching themselves through their complete control of the political, financial, judicial, and economic systems. This establishment, or invisible government as Bernays described, is committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. Its scope, financial resources, and global reach put it in a predator class all by itself.

The common people are the cattle being led to slaughter. We are kept docile with incessant propaganda from the mainstream media; marketing messages to consume from Madison Avenue; filtered, adjusted, manipulated economic data fed to us by government agencies; an endless supply of iGadgets and other electronic distractions; government education designed to keep us ignorant; 24/7 reality TV on six hundred stations to keep us entertained; corporate toxic processed food to keep us obese and tame; and an endless supply of Wall Street supplied debt to keep us caged in our pens with no hope of escape. The butchers of the deep state have maintained control for decades, but we’re entering a new era.

Fourth Turnings result in the tables being turned on the butchers. Some cattle are awakening from their stupor. They can see the bloody writing on the slaughterhouse wall. Anyone who isn’t sensing a dramatic mood change in this country is either a mindless zombie or a functionary of the deep state. The financial shenanigans of the ruling class are again being revealed as nothing but a Ponzi scheme built on a foundation of debt and propped up by delusions and ignorance. When the house of cards collapses in the near future, the tables will turn. When people have nothing left to lose, they will lose it. The butchers will become the cattle. There will be no sanctuary for these evil men. Their reign of terror will be swept away in a whirlwind of retribution, death and destruction. It might even make the Walking Dead look like a walk in the park.

 

It’s SHOWTIME!

Off the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 8, 2014

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A Rant on Ukraine, NATO, Russia, Scotch Independence and the Petrodollar

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…Back over to the Russia-NATO Battle for all the Marbles in Ukraine, where the Saker recently reported that the Separatists were on the verge of taking Mariupol, which would be a huge strategic victory since the city sits smack dab on the land route between Mother Russia and recently annexed Crimea. Apparently something like 40,000 Ukie troops went to the Great Beyond in this battle.

The Clowns & Jokers in Brussels are not taking this lying down, Nosirree Bob! After doing some ineffectual blustering around a Golf Course in the UK surrounded by wire fencing and 9000 Halliburton Mercs, they now have whipped out the Heavy Artillery of dropping down more financial sanctions, this time on the Ruskie Energy Big Boys of Gazprom, Rosneft and Transneft. Inother words, all the Ruskie companies that supply them with 30% of their energy are now not gonna get paid.

Just how long do you think Vlad the Impaler will keep the Gas flowing through Ukraine to Krautland if the Krauts aren’t gonna pay for it? If I was Vlad, I would shut the valves tomorrow…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

The Novorossiyan 300

Off the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 3, 2014

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…However, for a while there the Ukies also had superior equipment, more artillery, tanks etc that were legacy gifts from Mother Russia from the Soviet era. So Novorossiyan  irregulars armed mainly with rifles and RPGs were on the retreat, consolidating inside their home region for a Final Battle for all the Marbles.

You all know the story of the 300 from the film by the same name, which was a fictionalized account of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. From Wiki:

“Both ancient and modern writers have used the Battle of Thermopylae as an example of the power of a patriotic army defending native soil. The performance of the defenders at the battle of Thermopylae is also used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as force multipliers and has become a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds. “

You also may have heard the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charge of the Light Brigade. I will read it in full.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Busybody Nation

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  September 1, 2014

If anyone above a kindergarten pay-grade has figured out America’s vital interest in the Ukraine, it has not been reported — or even leaked from the foundering vessel that is the US State Department. In fact, when you consider the results, it’s hard to understand the rationale behind any recent US foreign policy endeavor. Mr. Putin of Russia summed it up last week, saying, “Anything the US touches turns to Libya or Iraq.” Vlad has a point there, and what he left off the list, of course, was Ukraine, which entered the zone of failing states a few months ago when the US lubricated the overthrow of its previously-elected government.

What complicates things is that Ukraine is right next door to Russia. For many years it was even part of the same nation as Russia. Russia has a lot of hard assets in Ukraine: pipelines, factories, port facilities. Because they were recently part of the same nation, a lot of Russian-speaking people live in the eastern part of Ukraine bordering Russia. The casual observer from Mars might easily discern that Russia has a range of real interests in Ukraine. Especially if the central government of Ukraine can’t control its own economic affairs.

The US claims to have interests in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. These nations are respectively 11,925, 11,129, 10,745, and 10,072, miles away from America — not exactly neighbors of ours. All of them, one way or another, and partly due to our exertions, are checking into the homeless shelter of failed statedom. Afghanistan was, shall we say, a special case, since it was being used thirteen years ago explicitly as a “base” (al Qaeda) for launching attacks on US soil. But that was then. No other war or “war” in US history has lasted as long. And it remains unclear whether our presence there yet today is a “nation-building” project or a mere occupation, in the absence of some better idea of what to do.

President Obama has made noises about pulling US troops out of Afghanistan, but we’re still there. How is the nation-building project working out? With Mr. Osama bin Laden dead and in his watery grave, and the Islamic extremist action moved to other venues, how significant is Afghanistan’s role as a strategic base for Jihad?

How many educated, media-marinated professors in their Ivy League turrets can explain in one paragraph what the necessity of overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi was, exactly? Anyone remember? I suppose, like many actions in history, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. If the idea was to keep the oil and gas flowing to western nations — i.e. the “Carter Doctrine” —well, excuse me while I cough into my sleeve. Production is about one-eighth what it was before Mr. Gaddafi exited the scene. That really worked.

Then, of course, there is ISIS (or the Islamic State or the Caliphate), the most visible outcome of a decade of US foreign policy endeavors in Iraq and Syria. Good show, ladies and gentlemen! You have managed to give the world a political movement arguably more barbaric than even the Nazis. On Sunday, The New York Times stood back in breathless admiration for the accomplishments and skills of that organization in the headline: ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media. Like a mad scientist in thrall to his own creation, the Times appears dazzled by the political Frankenstein monster we have loosed upon the world.

Considering all the current mayhem in the Middle East, and the potential for deadly mischief from it spreading even into the US and western Europe, do we really have any business hassling Putin and Russia about its feckless, floundering next-door-neighbor, Ukraine? In fact, is any other nation in a better position to prevent Ukraine from descending into full-blown failure? Why don’t we just shut up and mind our own business?

 

***

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.

 

The Myth of Russian Aggression

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on August 3, 2014 US-Military-Bases-Worldwide-1-

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August 3, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – The term “Russian aggression” has been inundating headlines across the Western media and even graces the title of a US Senate bill introduce this year – S.2277 – Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014. But what “aggression” is the West referring to? A cursory look at Russian history over the past 500 years compared to say, Britain, France, or even America and its “Manifest Destiny,” portrays Russia as a nation preoccupied within and along its borders, not in hegemonic, global expansion. The idea of far-flung former colonies is one unique to the British, French, Dutch, and Spanish. Even today geopolitical, socioeconomic, and even outright military intervention in these former colonies is exclusively the pursuit of the United States and Europe.

The United States alone has hundreds of military bases around the world, has been permanently occupying Germany and Japan for a half century, Afghanistan for over a decade, and had invaded and occupied Iraq for nearly as long.

“Russian Aggression” is a Marketing Gimmick 

Canadian PM Stephan Harper’s “op-ed” in the Globe and Mail titled, “Our duty is to stand firm in the face of Russian aggression,” fallaciously states:

The world is saddened and rightfully outraged by images of the charred remnants of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, and by the loss of almost 300 people from 11 countries, strewn across fields in eastern Ukraine. While the grim work of identifying victims’ remains and tracking down the perpetrators of this appalling crime is just beginning, the world can be certain of one thing: There can be no weakening of our resolve to punish the Putin regime for threatening the peace and security of eastern and central Europe.

Harper’s disingenuous attempt to link Russia to the MH17 disaster reveals the truth behind “Russian aggression,” a marketing campaign implemented by the West to undermine an obstruction to its very real, very demonstrable global aggression. The fact that Harper presides over the nation of Canada, which is in no way threatened by “Russian aggression” real or imagined, further exposes the disingenuous nature of the narrative peddled by the West.

Aggressors Playing the Victim – From Hitler to NATO

From Libya, to Mali, to Syria, Egypt, Ukraine, and beyond – the West has engaged in direct and indirect geopolitical meddling and manipulation through various forms of force including covert military and intelligence operations to proxy terrorism, and even outright direct military intervention. As the West nears the boundaries of nations capable of defending themselves and a defense is in fact mounted, pundits and politicians have begun framing it as “aggression.” The impediment of Western expansion across Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America is framed as “aggression” just as Adolf Hitler did in regards to nations chaffing against expanding Nazism during the 1930’s.

Ultimately, legitimate claims of “aggression” and “expansionism” could easily be enumerated. A map for instance, of Europe over the past several decades showing the expansion of Russian territory would be such an indicator. However, such a map instead shows precisely the opposite – with NATO visibly encroaching upon Russia’s very borders behind the overt pretense of “a Europe whole and free.”

For pundits and politicians who respond that NATO’s expansion was not executed through “aggression,” but rather through the voluntary will and aspirations of the people within these new NATO members, the US itself admits this isn’t the case. So-called “color revolutions” from Serbia, to Georgia, to Ukraine itself have been engineered, funded, and executed by the US and other members of NATO to overthrow political orders and opposition fronts that oppose NATO, and to install political orders that embrace it – nothing less than what any empire throughout human history has done through viceroys and other forms of proxy imperial administration.

In fact, the Guardian would admit in its 2004 article, “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev,” that (emphasis added):

…while the gains of the orange-bedecked “chestnut revolution” are Ukraine’s, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes. 

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box. 

Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze. 

Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko. 

That one failed. “There will be no Kostunica in Belarus,” the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade. 

But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev. 

The operation – engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience – is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people’s elections.

In other words, from Belarus, to Georgia, to Ukraine, and Serbia, the US has been insidiously overthrowing governments not through outright military aggression, but through covert military, political, and intelligence operations aimed at manipulating elections and overrunning regimes that refuse to accept the subsequently skewed results. Surely, then, regimes resulting from such a practice are not then “voluntarily” joining NATO – and NATO is surely expanding itself through a campaign of insidious, violent, lawless subversion of sovereign nations, one at a time with Ukraine once again in its sights.

Nazis At the Gates (Again)   

The parallels between NATO and Nazi Germany are unfortunately more than merely academic. In Ukraine, the current regime in Kiev backed by NATO and the European Union are quite literally Nazis. From the “Fatherland Party” to the overtly Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party and their various militant wings including the now notorious Right Sector front, ultra-right fascism is once again the leading edge of expansionism into, not out of, Russian territory.

Current attempts by the West to portray Russia’s concern over Ukraine and the Nazi menace festering on their doorstep to Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s invasion of Poland aim to stir up anti-Communist, anti-Soviet fears and hysteria long programmed into the psyches of Western audiences – but incidentally provide a valuable historical parallel. While the invasion of Poland was a violation of Polish national sovereignty and an act of war – it was done to create a barrier between the Soviet Union and the rise of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. Such a barrier was arguably one of several factors that allowed the Soviets to mobilize a counteroffensive to Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of Russia, a counteroffensive that ultimately turned the tide against Hitler and led to the downfall of fascism in Europe.

Besides cause and effect, there are few other similarities between Stalin’s invasion of Poland and the modern day Russian Federation’s political support of eastern Ukrainians who have been fighting the regime in Kiev for months with increasing success. Besides the same variety of dubious accounts the West fabricated against nations like Iraq, Libya, and Syria as a pretext for war, little in terms of evidence has been produced by Washington, London, or Brussels to affirm accusations that Russia is “invading” eastern Ukraine. Russia has instead chosen restraint despite multiple attempts by the West to bait it into overt military intervention in Ukraine – and in this restraint, has secured a growing global consensus long driven weary by the West’s attempts to dress up its own global aggression and expansionism as “democracy promotion” and “humanitarian interventions.”

ANTI-DOLLAR III: Fining Putin

Off the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on August 2, 2014

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…The Financial Warfare game continues to heat up, with the premier Bombshell of the Week dropped down on Vlad the Impaler from a $50B Fine from the Hague in Brussels, which is starting to get into the territory of real money.

Besides that the Italian Gestapo just made a Grab for $150 M in assets from Nomura, which is chump change of course but still a significant development to watch. Then also the Portuguese Holding Company of Espirto Santo is in the process of being carved up for whatever assets it has on its books, which all are likely quite worthless but still significant for Contagion reasons across the banking sector.

In the past I predicted this sort of occurrence, which I label under the category of Pigman vs Pigman, like the old Spy vs Spy from Mad Magazine. You have a variety of different Thieves and Gangstahs all at work here, and now with little left to STEAL from J6P, they are in the process of cannibalizing each other…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!

This Rant is Part III in a series that began with ANTI-DOLLAR and ANTI-DOLLAR II.  Follow the links if you missed those to get the context here.

RE

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