by Pepe Escobar
RT.com / Op-Edge (December 14 2016)
Did President-elect Donald Trump turn a ten-minute phone call with the president of Taiwan into a Hellfire missile, instantly vaporizing the US’ ‘One China’ policy? Of course not.
This is a riddle inside an enigma. Let’s start with a cool-headed interpretation, as published in a report by the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Beijing’s Renmin University, which for three years has been advising the Chinese leadership.
Yang Qijing, the author of the report, cuts to the chase:
The unspoken words behind ‘Make America Great Again!’ is that China’s economy, especially its manufacturing industry, is making the US not so great as before … So we should not question [the determination of the] Trump administration to mobilize any political, economic and military resources to protect and advance US economic interest, or even make it its first priority.
In a nutshell, Taiwan will be used as a Trump bargaining chip to close some package deal with China.
Now for the hardline interpretation, as voiced by the Global Times, which in a popular, no-holds-barred way, is always allowed to formulate out loud what the Beijing leadership is discussing behind closed doors.
An editorial with shades of The Sopranos states,
Beijing will never drag out an ignoble existence by paying into a protection racket. The strength gap between China and the US for the moment is the narrowest in history. What reason do we have to accept a most unfair and humiliating deal from Trump?
Is it hubris – as in the “narrowest strength gap in history”? Not really. The Global Times is suggesting a Sun Tzu maneuver; China “should dare to make surprise moves and create a new pattern over the relationship with the US – while you play your game, I play mine.”
So expect Chinese President Xi Jinping to play the game at a whole new level.
The Meaning of “One China”
Last Sunday, on Fox News, Trump made the strategic mistake of laying all his cards on the table, stressing,
I fully understand the “one China policy”, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a “one China policy” unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.
So Beijing has duly registered the message: Taiwan is now officially a bargaining chip.
Trump also said,
we’re being hurt very badly by China with devaluation; with taxing us heavy at the borders when we don’t tax them; with building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn’t be doing; and, frankly, with not helping us at all with North Korea.
Trump may be slightly off on those three counts. Beijing does not want the yuan to devalue further; it is aiming at an appreciation. Conflicts in the South China Sea will eventually be solved within the ASEAN framework, as the Philippines and Malaysia, for instance, are already hinting. Nothing can be done about North Korea if there’s no real, formal end to the Korean War, still to be signed between Washington and Pyongyang.
Trump at least somewhat deflected his adversarial tone by nominating Xi Jinping’s “old friend” Terry Branstad as the new US Ambassador to China.
Trump’s advisors, in parallel, should inform him what “One China” means to Beijing. That’s the foundation stone of national unity – encompassing sovereignty and territorial integrity; in sum, the Holy Grail. Even though Washington has recognized “One China” since 1979 – with Beijing as “the sole legal government” of China – an exceedingly ambiguous position remains on the political status of Taiwan.
For Washington, Taiwan is not a state. What is it then? That remains “undetermined”, thus implying that Washington does not really admit that Taiwan is part of China. Washington maintains relations with a government – in Taipei – that is not officially recognized, under an “undetermined” status.
What Trump seems to be aiming at is to rock this – uneasy – boat. Well, the late, great Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping made it very clear that the crowning achievement to erase China’s “century of humiliation”, after the handover of Hong Kong and Macau in the late 1990s, would be the return of Taiwan, in a sort of “one country, three systems” arrangement, before 2040.
Watch the Global Supply Chains
“Bargaining chip” Taiwan entered the geopolitical fray linked to Trump’s campaign promise to bring US jobs back, an extremely hard act to pull off. The US-based Economic Policy Institute estimates the US lost five million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2014. In a nutshell, that’s “collateral damage” to agile supply chains performing under turbo-charged globalization.
A report by the Nikkei Asian Review has revealed how the Apple supply chain in Taiwan is worried Trump will insist on more iPhone components are made in the USA. That will inevitably mean more than double the cost. Not to mention the US lacks the necessary infrastructure – as in clusters of suppliers – and the necessary skilled workers to make it happen, as Apple CEO Tim Cook told 60 Minutes a year ago. The only way out: Trump ordering the US government to subsidize local companies.
The hard fact is that Trump cannot afford a trade war with China. His campaign promise to slap a 45 percent tariff on made in China products is just rhetorical. And even if that happened, Beijing would not see it as a disaster.
Xi Jinping’s drive – the complex tweaking of the Chinese export model – is focused on raising Chinese consumer spending levels, as in developing the huge internal market. China’s production costs are rising? Chinese factories are delocalizing all across Southeast Asia and further away to Africa? No problem; China is relentlessly moving up in the value-added chain – see, for instance, the Huawei attack on the luxury mobile phone market. Even if Trump imposed additional US tariffs on Chinese manufactured products, global consumers would not be bothered.
And China will keep growing anyway; Bloomberg has estimated that with a 6.7 percent GDP growth, valued at $730 billion, China added “one Netherlands” to itself in 2016; and with a projected 6.4 percent GDP growth for next year, it will add more than “one Switzerland”.
Deutsche Bank Chief Economist Zhiwei Zhang got it essentially right, in value-added terms, China accounts for only sixteen percent of the US deficit, slightly ahead of Japan and Germany. So a Trump trade war on China “would be a war against all participants in the global supply chain, including US companies”. Trump may throw Taiwan at the table, but Beijing is already playing another game entirely.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of Globalistan (2007), Red Zone Blues (2007), Obama does Globalistan (2009), Empire of Chaos (2014), and 2030 (2015), all published by Nimble Books.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Santa Obama delivered a wonderful Christmas present to Israel when the United States opted not to veto Friday’s United Nation Security Council vote condemning settlement policy.
by Amir Oren
http://www.haaretz.com (December 26 2016)
Friday’s UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies may not result in immediate changes on the ground, but it does signal that the international community has not changed its expectations that any future peace agreement will involve an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
Santa Obama delivered a wonderful Christmas present to Israel when the United States opted not to veto Friday’s United Nation Security Council vote condemning settlement policy.
The passage of the resolution won’t result in the immediate dismantling of any West Bank settlements, but the world is beginning to come to the rescue and try to save Israeli from itself.
And the passage of the resolution by a vote of fourteen in favor with one abstention – that of the United States – shows that finally the United Nations is uniting. Among the fifteen votes cast, that American abstention, instead of a veto, was the most important vote cast.
About a year ago a document from Israel Defense Forces (“IDF”) Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot spelling out IDF strategy warned of worrying trends in the West. Support for the use of military force, it warned, would be more difficult to obtain and more selective and limited than in the past when it comes to maintaining Israeli control in the territories, in contrast to the defense of Israel proper.
The concerns that the IDF expressed are coming to fruition. Even without sanctions from the United Nations, European countries can now rely on Friday’s resolution, Resolution 2334, to justify disrupting Israeli wartime efforts such as delaying weapons shipments from their ports or airspace. The failure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy with regard to the Security Council Resolution is crystal clear.
Forty-nine years and one month after the post-Six-Day War adoption of Resolution 242, which called for an exchange of territory for peace, the world, that same world, is actually not against Israel. It remains in our favor but against the millstone around our necks.
The international community is signaling that no creation of purported facts on the ground, in the form of settlement construction, will change expectations of an Israeli withdrawal as part of a peace agreement.
The settlements may be part of the domestic Israeli rules of the game, but they have no sway anywhere else in the world. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights have not received any international support.
By the same token, the Knesset could legislate that there are 25 hours in a day, and it would have the same effect for the rest of the world.
Residents of West Bank Jewish settlements such as Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg may have achieved the highest ranks of public office in Israel, but as the rest of the world sees it, these people are accessories to a violation of international norms.
As the government faces the relocation of residents of the unauthorized outpost of Amona, how will it now build alternative West Bank housing for them when any settlement construction has now been deemed as a violation of Friday’s UN Security Council resolution?
On the tactical level as well, the UN vote is a resounding defeat for the Israel government, as Netanyahu earns himself a place of infamy in the diplomatic hall of fame. This saga will become a lesson that new recruits to the Israeli foreign service will have to study in the context of how not to conduct foreign policy.
Netanyahu’s frequent digs at the Democratic Party in the United States and President Barack Obama in particular will be held against him in the long term, and shall be dredged up at the appropriate time.
Netanyahu has been playing a diplomatic chess game recently with Obama that will end in a checkmate. Netanyahu scored a temporary and illusory victory on Thursday when he lobbied to get the vote on the resolution deferred. Obama left it up to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi to decide whether his country would have the resolution put to a vote.
Netanyahu outflanked him with the help of President-elect Donald Trump, who put pressure on Sissi. The Egyptian president held back for a day, got a commitment from Trump to reexamine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but then faced the refusal of four other Security Council member states to go back on the plan.
Netanyahu made Trump look helpless, in practice extracting a promise for a more balanced policy than Trump’s proposed move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, followed by his choice of settlement advocate David Friedman as ambassador to Israel.
With his impulses and ignorance, Trump, a man who is dangerous to world peace and stability, sounded over the weekend like a trader hoarding his wares – the settlements in this case – only as a bargaining chip, for that major deal in the future in which he will forgo them for the right price. For the time being, however, Trump is the one barking while Obama is biting.
Netanyahu’s man in Washington, that Florida Republican turned Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, couldn’t restrain himself until January 20 and was already celebrating Trump’s victory and Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
In fact, the prime minister’s chief representatives in the United States, Dermer, UN ambassador Danny Danon and Israeli Consul General in New York Dani Dayan are all right-wing settlement supporters.
They don’t reflect the aspirations of Israelis for a peace compromise. They also haven’t had the leverage to lobby the administration to assist countries that in the past admired Israel’s power on Capitol Hill.
Israel under Netanyahu has been portrayed as an empty vessel. In one of his moments of euphoria amid the fear, Netanyahu boasted that he always gets what he wants.
But he wraps up his eight years with Obama with a resounding 0-2 loss in the championships against both Iran and Palestine. This is the same Netanyahu who following his oratory record as Israel’s ambassador to the UN took the Likud by storm, as the party was convinced that his Boston-Philadelphia-accented turns of phrase would charm the world.
Those were the years of the administration of Ronald Reagan and is highly pro-Israel secretary of state, George Shultz. If we are to believe the PR, they were Bibi’s best friends.
But as soon as Reagan’s vice president, George H W Bush, was elected president, and before he was even sworn in, Reagan and Shultz launched a dialogue with Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat.
So much for appearances.
Netanyahu has had a wealth of diplomatic experience in the course of his career of thus far, eleven years as prime minister. But he has also wrecked what little was left of the Foreign Ministry. And the combination of foolish policy and poor management are among the signs of collapse of Netanyahu’s diplomatic infrastructure.
Maybe Friedman, the American ambassador-designate, who was Trump’s personal bankruptcy lawyer, can provide him with some advice.
Obama assumed office with a demand for an Israeli settlement construction freeze. Netanyahu was afraid of the new president and gave in. Obama is ending his presidency in similar fashion. As expected, the president waited until after the US election.
It would be easy to imagine what would have happened if the steps at the Security Council had been taken in September or October and had been followed by Clinton’s loss to Trump.
In more creative times under David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres, Levi Eshkol and Yitzhak Rabin, the interregnum between the election of a new leader and his taking office provided an opportunity, not only in the United States.
Peres, as Ben-Gurion’s emissary, obtained outgoing French Prime Minister Maurice Bourges-Maunoury’s agreement to supply Israel with the nuclear reactor at Dimona.
As Eshkol’s representative in the transitional period between the end of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and the beginning of Richard Nixon’s, Rabin secured Phantom jets for Israel without an Israeli commitment to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
In Netanyahu’s case, however, he’s a hawk who has little to show for himself.
by Paul Craig Roberts
http://www.paulcraigroberts.org (December 22 2016)
Dear Donors, thank you for your support in 2016. Although you have kept me working yet another year, I find it encouraging that there are some Americans who can think independently and who want to know. As Margaret Mead said, it only takes a few determined people to change the world. Perhaps some of you will be those people.
My traditional Christmas column goes back to sometime in the 1990s when I was a newspaper columnist. It has been widely reprinted at home and abroad. Every year two or three readers write to educate me that religion is the source of wars and persecutions. These readers confuse religion with mankind’s abuse of institutions, religious or otherwise. The United States has democratic institutions and legal institutions to protect civil liberties. Nevertheless, we now have a police state. Shall I argue that democracy and civil liberty are the causes of police states?
Some readers also are confused about hypocrisy. There is a vast difference between proclaiming moral principles that one might fail to live up to and proclaiming immoral principles that are all too easy to keep.
Liberty is a human achievement. We have it, or had it, because those who believed in it fought to achieve it. As I explain in my Christmas column, people were able to fight for liberty because Christianity empowered the individual.
The other cornerstone of our culture is the Constitution. Indeed, the United States is the Constitution. Without the Constitution, the United States is a different country, and Americans a different people. This is why assaults on the Constitution by the Bush and Obama regimes are assaults on America that are far worse than any assaults by terrorists. There is not much that we can do about these assaults, but we should not through ignorance enable the assaults or believe the government’s claim that safety requires the curtailment of civil liberty.
In a spirit of goodwill, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a successful New Year.
Paul Craig Roberts
The Greatest Gift for All
Christmas is a time of traditions. If you have found time in the rush before Christmas to decorate a tree, you are sharing in a relatively new tradition. Although the Christmas tree has ancient roots, at the beginning of the twentieth century only one in five American families put up a tree. It was 1920 before the Christmas tree became the hallmark of the season. Calvin Coolidge was the first President to light a national Christmas tree on the White House lawn.
Gifts are another shared custom. This tradition comes from the wise men or three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus. When I was a kid, gifts were more modest than they are now, but even then people were complaining about the commercialization of Christmas. We have grown accustomed to the commercialization. Christmas sales are the backbone of many businesses. Gift giving causes us to remember others and to take time from our harried lives to give them thought.
The decorations and gifts of Christmas are one of our connections to a Christian culture that has held Western civilization together for 2,000 years.
In our culture the individual counts. This permits an individual person to put his or her foot down, to take a stand on principle, to become a reformer and to take on injustice.
This empowerment of the individual is unique to Western civilization. It has made the individual a citizen equal in rights to all other citizens, protected from tyrannical government by the rule of law and free speech. These achievements are the products of centuries of struggle, but they all flow from the teaching that God so values the individual’s soul that he sent his son to die so we might live. By so elevating the individual, Christianity gave him a voice.
Formerly only those with power had a voice. But in Western civilization people with integrity have a voice. So do people with a sense of justice, of honor, of duty, of fair play. Reformers can reform, investors can invest, and entrepreneurs can create commercial enterprises, new products and new occupations.
The result was a land of opportunity. The United States attracted immigrants who shared our values and reflected them in their own lives. Our culture was absorbed by a diverse people who became one.
In recent decades we have lost sight of the historic achievement that empowered the individual. The religious, legal and political roots of this great achievement are no longer reverently taught in high schools, colleges and universities or respected by our government. The voices that reach us through the millennia and connect us to our culture are being silenced by “political correctness” and “the war on terror”. Prayer has been driven from schools and Christian religious symbols from public life.
Constitutional protections have been diminished by hegemonic political ambitions. Indefinite detention, torture, and murder are now acknowledged practices of the United States government. The historic achievement of due process has been rolled back. Tyranny has re-emerged.
Diversity at home and hegemony abroad are consuming values and are dismantling the culture and the rule of law. There is plenty of room for cultural diversity in the world, but not within a single country. A Tower of Babel has no culture. A person cannot be a Christian one day, a pagan the next and a Muslim the day after. A hodgepodge of cultural and religious values provides no basis for law – except the raw power of the pre-Christian past.
All Americans have a huge stake in Christianity. Whether or not we are individually believers in Christ, we are beneficiaries of the moral doctrine that has curbed power and protected the weak.
Power is the horse ridden by evil. In the twentieth century the horse was ridden hard, and the 21st century shows an increase in pace. Millions of people were exterminated in the twentieth century by National Socialists in Germany and by Soviet and Chinese communists simply because they were members of a race or class that had been demonized by intellectuals and political authority. In the beginning years of the 21st century, hundreds of thousands of Muslims in seven countries have already been murdered and millions displaced in order to extend Washington’s hegemony.
Power that is secularized and cut free of civilizing traditions is not limited by moral and religious scruples. V I Lenin made this clear when he defined the meaning of his dictatorship as “unlimited power, resting directly on force, not limited by anything”. Washington’s drive for hegemony over US citizens and the rest of the world is based entirely on the exercise of force and is resurrecting unaccountable power.
Christianity’s emphasis on the worth of the individual makes such power as Lenin claimed, and Washington now claims, unthinkable. Be we religious or be we not, our celebration of Christ’s birthday celebrates a religion that made us masters of our souls and of our political life on Earth. Such a religion as this is worth holding on to even by atheists.
As we enter into 2017, Western civilization, the product of thousands of years of striving, hangs in the balance. Degeneracy is everywhere before our eyes. As the West sinks into tyranny, will Western peoples defend their liberty and their souls, or will they sink into the tyranny, which again has raised its ugly and all devouring head?
Copyright (c) 2016 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.
by Andre Vltchek
CounterPunch (December 16 2016)
Working in shoe factory outside Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam
Some fifteen years ago, when I lived in Hanoi, I used to come very often to the rooftop bar at the Meritus Hotel for an evening drink, just to feel the gentle breeze and to spot ancient cargo boats majestically sailing on the surface of the Red River. Sometimes the river could be clearly visible, but often it was covered by fog, like in an old Vietnamese painting.
There were villages on the horizon, consisting mainly of simple “tunnel” houses, and I could also see a few skyscrapers in the center of the city. Far below, the buildings on the shores of the “Little Lake” were colorful, nostalgic and picturesque.
Hanoi was melancholic and poor, but it was what it was, and one could love it or hate it, but never be indifferent to it.
It was also the capital of a socialist country, a proud country, which defeated both French and US imperialists. It was a symbol of resistance, a beacon of hope for many poor and struggling countries, and like Cuba, a living proof that a determined and proud nation could dare to stand up and even win against the mightiest and the most venomous enemies.
At some point, Meritus changed its name and its owner. It became Sofitel and just recently was converted again, this time to Pan Pacific. The rooftop bar survived. The skyscrapers grew all around the city. They now cover almost the entire horizon; suddenly Hanoi has a real skyline. You look into the distance, and what you see could be anywhere else: in Shanghai or Dallas, Bangkok or Johannesburg … but only with half-closed eyes.
Enthusiastic Communist posters have survived, or at least some of them. Others mutated and migrated to new huge modern digital billboards. They are shining into the night, and the images are constantly changing: Uncle “Ho”, pioneer children, workers and soldiers ready to defend their country.
“Is Vietnam still a Communist country?” I keep asking wherever I go, for years. I ask the same question in deep villages and major cities. It is because the answer seems to be essential to me. It is because so many millions of Vietnamese people died, fighting for their country and then trying to fulfill their dream of a social homeland.
The answers I receive are often evasive. For some reason, the eyes of many are downcast.
“What happened, Vietnam?” I want to ask, but Vietnam is one great and long stretch of land following the seashore; it does not speak, it does not reply to rhetorical questions. Most of its people are free to speak, they are able to reply, but for some reason they don’t. Are they confused as much as I am?
The more I feel that the answer should be positive and optimistic, the more evasive the replies I get. I keep thinking, why?
I never give up; never stop asking, because I feel that it is essential to know.
A renowned artist George Burchett, son of the great Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett, was born in Vietnam and now, for several years he is living with his family in Hanoi. His love for this country is passionate and unconditional. He observes many changes occurring around him, and finds most of them positive:
Life in Vietnam is gradually improving. You can walk around Hanoi or drive throughout the countryside: there is no brutal misery here. People are optimistic. Life is improving.
He also explains that after this year’s Vietnam Communist Party 12th National Congress, there is a path taken by the Politburo in a non-Western political direction.
Some people I speak to, as well as several analysts, have no doubt that after the sacking of anti-Beijing and pro-market Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the Communist Party of Vietnam has been adopting a much friendlier policy towards China, whilst not abandoning its own form of socialism (should it be called “Socialism with Vietnam characteristics?”). However, after travelling for almost two weeks all over Central Vietnam, it is undeniable that the market forces are still playing a very important role, often trying to dictate in which direction the country is developing.
“I like those huge cranes, construction sites and turbines”, I joke while walking through the Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi, where, on the second floor, some great works of Vietnamese socialist realism are exhibited.
“Yes, me too”, replies one of my pals sardonically. “But many of these cranes are now building shopping malls and luxury condominiums for the rich”.
I spent almost three years living in Vietnam, when it was still poor, between 2001 and 2003. The determination of the people to build a much better country was truly admirable.
Every year I kept returning, travelling to virtually all corners of the nation. Vietnam was doubtlessly changing, but in many ways it was retaining its socialist spirit. Strong central planning under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam ensured that the evolution towards a mixed economy never turned to chaos and pro-market anarchy. The country’s spirit and patriotic symbolism were Marxist, but also with deep national roots.
Even as the new foreign companies were building their assembly lines here, the government was insuring that there would be no desperate and deplorable working conditions like those that have been prevailing in the Philippines, Indonesia or Cambodia. I visited several garment and apparel factories in the South: they were all clean, well ventilated, with medical posts, canteens and decent transportation for workers.
In the countryside, working and living conditions have been improving as well, often dramatically.
However, not unlike in many countries of Latin America, the Western propaganda operating through its own media outlets and through the local “blogs” and social media began relentlessly attacking the Communist Party leadership and the entire political and social system of Vietnam.
The common strategy of destabilization (similar to that which used to target Eastern Europe during the Cold War and Latin America and China now) was determinately applied. Countless NGO’s and “human rights” organizations got promptly involved. Many local intellectuals joined the ranks of the foreign critics; some of them began getting “funding” and “sponsorship” from foreign agencies, “cultural institutions” and even governments.
The great achievements of the state were purposefully dwarfed, while such topics like corruption and social woes, got excessively highlighted. An entire “anti-establishment culture” got designed, manufactured and unleashed. For educated urbanites, to support the Communist Party and the “system” became thoroughly “uncool”, almost shameful.
Interaction with foreign tourists often didn’t lead to anything positive either.
In the ancient town of Hoi An, I encountered a hotel waitress, originally a village girl, who almost immediately after I sat down at a table, began, in her passable English, to recite a long litany so beloved by many European travellers: how terribly tough things are in Vietnam, how high the school fees are in her country (thorough nonsense, there are no school fees here, although there are, unfortunately, some “hidden costs”), and how desperate is the situation in local hospitals (in fact, the situation significantly improved in recent years, as I was told by several Vietnamese citizens). She then, in a well-trained manner, asked a question, which was supposed to please me: “How are things, the education and medical care, in your country?”
“We are always looking up at other countries, particularly at those in the West”, my long-time friend, a Vietnamese administrator who for many years has worked for the United Nations, told me. “We are rarely happy with what we have … or given. There is always something to complain about.”
She is correct. The question remains: who is actually manufacturing and promoting such mindsets? Working all over the world, I actually find this to be increasingly “stereotypical” and “mass produced”, manufactured “in certain countries”; concretely “designed and manufactured” in the West, and then implanted into the socialist countries, in Central and South America, in South Africa, China, Russia and increasingly in Vietnam.
To simplify things, I call such an approach: “spreading of nihilism, pessimism, depression and cynicism”. Its main goal is to seed discontent, to vilify functioning socialist systems, to divide entire nations, undermine patriotism and finally, to grab demoralized nations for close to nothing.
I already described such “efforts” in colorful details, in my 840-page book Fighting Against Western Imperialism (2014).
On so many occasions, during my visits to the country, I met those Vietnamese citizens who are now increasingly rubbing shoulders with the “outside world”, as well as with those who outright sold out for some mercantile crumbs like recognition, funding and jobs in international companies and organizations
Such people should not be allowed to derail the country; they should be determinately stopped! Vietnamese people stood tall for decades. They fought and defied some of the mightiest enemies on earth – French colonialists and the US imperialists. They rebuilt their country literally from ashes. In the process, millions of lives were lost, but the nation finally managed to unite; it became as strong as steel, and prevailed against all odds.
If Vietnam now succumbs to foreign propaganda, sabotage and its own “fifth column”, all that great sacrifice would have been made in vain.
In recent years and decades, some serious mistakes were made, but the country is marching forward, life is improving and prospects are bright. To deny it would be either a clear demonstration of ignorance, or of extremely hostile intentions. This “bottom-line” should never be lost, never overlooked and never taken for granted!
by Michael Jabara Carley
Strategic Culture Foundaton (November 29 2016)
Historians interpret and reinterpret history. It is a normal process … except when politicians do the reinterpreting. Their interests are not intellectual but rather political. They seek justification for their politics by evoking the past, history as they need it to be.
The origins and waging of World War Two are of special interest to western politicians, past and present. This was true even early on. In December 1939 the British government decided to lay a white paper on the Anglo-Franco-Soviet negotiations during the spring and summer of that year to organise a war-fighting alliance against Hitlerite Germany. Foreign Office officials carefully picked out a hundred or so documents to show that they and the French had been serious about organising an anti-German alliance and that the USSR was principally responsible for the failure of the negotiations. In early January 1940 the white paper reached the stage of page proofs. Nearly everyone in London was impatient to publish it. All that was needed was the approval of France and the Polish government in exile. Much to the surprise of British officials, France opposed the publication of the white paper, and so did the Polish government in exile. This may also come as a surprise to present day readers. Why would French and Polish officials be opposed to a publication considered “good propaganda” by the British to blacken the reputation of the Soviet Union?
Let’s allow the French ambassador in London to explain in his own words. “The general impression which arises from reading [the white paper]”, he wrote in a memorandum dated 12 January 1940, “is that from beginning to end the Russian government never ceased to insist on giving the agreement [being negotiated] the maximum scope and efficacy. Sincere or not, this determination of the Soviet government to cover effectively all the possible routes of a German aggression appears throughout the negotiations to collide with Anglo-French reluctance and with the clear intention of the two governments to limit the field of Russian intervention.”
And the French ambassador did not stop there. He observed that critics who felt that the USSR had been forced into agreement with Nazi Germany by Anglo-French “repugnance” to make genuine commitments in Moscow would find in the white paper “a certain number of arguments in their favour”/ The language used here was in the finest traditions of diplomatic understatement, but the Foreign Office nevertheless got the message. The more so because there was this further, telling irritatant to Gallic sensibilities that the documents selected for the white paper failed to show that they, the French, had been more anxious to conclude with Moscow than their British allies. What would happen, the French wondered, if the Soviet government published its own collection of documents in reply to a white paper? Who would public opinion believe? The French were not sure of the answer.
As for the Poles in exile, they could not much insist, but they too preferred that the white paper not be published. Even in those early days Polish exiles were not anxious to publicise their responsibilities in the origins of the war and their swift defeat at the hands of the Wehrmacht.
In fact, all three governments, British, French and Polish, had much to hide, not just their conduct in 1939, but during the entire period following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933. The Soviet government was quick to ring the alarm bells of danger and to propose a defensive, anti-Nazi alliance to France and Britain. And yes, Moscow also made overtures to Poland. The Soviet commissar for foreign affairs, M M Litvinov, even hoped to bring fascist Italy into an anti-Nazi coalition. In Bucharest, the Soviet government made concerted efforts to gain Romanian participation in a broad anti-German alliance redolent of the Entente coalition of World War One.
Were all these Soviet efforts a ruse to dupe the west while Soviet diplomats secretly negotiated with Nazi Germany? Not at all, Russian archives appear conclusive on this point. The Soviet overtures were serious, but its would-be allies demurred, one after the other, except for Poland, which never for a moment considered joining an anti-Nazi alliance with the Soviet Union. Commissar Litvinov watched as Soviet would-be allies sought to compose with Nazi Germany. Poland persistently obstructed Soviet policy and Romania, under Polish and German pressure, backed away from better relations with Moscow. One Soviet ambassador even recommended that the Soviet government not break off all relations with Berlin in order to send a message, especially to Paris and London, that the USSR could also compose with Nazi Germany. The four most important French diplomats in Moscow during the 1930s warned repeatedly that France must protect its relations with the USSR or risk seeing it come to terms with Berlin. In Paris their reports disappeared into the files, ultimately unheeded. The greatest blow to collective security came in September 1938 when France and Britain concluded the Munich accords which sanctioned the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Neither Czechoslovak nor Soviet diplomats were invited to participate in the negotiations. As for Poland, it allied itself with Nazi Germany. “If Hitler obtains Czechoslovak territories”, said Polish diplomats before Munich, “then we will have our part too”.
The greatest blow to collective security came in September 1938 when France and Britain concluded the Munich accords which sanctioned the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia
Could it be a surprise that after nearly six years of failed attempts to organise an anti-Nazi front, that the Soviet government would lose all confidence in the French and British governments and cut a deal with Berlin to stay out of a war, which everyone recognised was imminent? This was the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact signed on 23 August 1939. As for the Poles, in their hubris and blindness, they mocked the idea of an alliance with the USSR right up until the first day of the war.
The Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact was the result of the failure of six years of Soviet policy to conclude an anti-Nazi alliance with the west and not the cause of that failure. The British ambassador in Moscow accused the Soviet government of “bad faith”, but that was just Pot calling Kettle black. Even in the last days of peace, the British and French governments looked for a way out of war. “Although we cannot in the circumstances avoid declaring war”, said one British minister, “we can always fulfill the letter of a declaration of war without immediately going all out”. In fact, France and Britain scarcely raised a finger to help Poland when it was invaded on 1 September 1939. Having brought disaster on itself, the Polish government fled Warsaw after the first days of fighting, its members crossing into Romania to be interned.
If France and Britain would not help the Poles in their moment of desperation, could Joseph Stalin have reasonably calculated that the British and French would have done more to help the Soviet Union, had it entered the war in September 1939? Clearly not. The USSR would have to look to its own defences. No one should be surprised therefore that a few months later the French and Poles in exile would oppose publication of a white paper which could open a Pandora’s box of questions about the origins of the war and their failure to join an anti-Nazi alliance. Better to let sleeping dogs lie and hope that government archives would not be opened for a long time.
After the war, the west launched a campaign accusing Stalin of being Hitler’s “ally”
After the war, however, the fiasco surrounding the British white paper was long forgotten. The sleeping dogs awakened and began to bay. The west launched a campaign accusing Stalin of being Hitler’s “ally”. In 1948 the US State Department issued a collection of documents entitled Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939~1941, to which the Soviet government replied with Falsifiers of History. The propaganda war was on, as was the western especially American attempt to attribute to the USSR as much as to Nazi Germany the responsibility for setting off World War Two.
The American propaganda was preposterous given the history of the 1930s as we now know it from various European archives. Was there ever a gesture of ingratitude greater than US accusations blaming the USSR for the origins of the war and covering up the huge contribution of the Red Army to the common victory against Nazi Germany? These days in the west the role of the Soviet people in destroying Nazism is practically unknown. Few are aware that the Red Army fought almost alone for three years against the Wehrmacht all the while demanding a second front in France from its Anglo-American allies. Few know that the Red Army inflicted more than eighty percent of all casualties on the Wehrmacht and its allies, and that the Soviet people suffered losses so high that no one knows the exact numbers, though they are estimated at 26 to 27 million civilians and soldiers. Anglo-American losses were trivial by comparison.
Ironically, the anti-Russian campaign to falsify history intensified after the dismemberment of the USSR in 1991. The Baltic states and Poland led the charge. Like a tail wagging the dog, they stampeded all too willing European organisations, like the OSCE and PACE and the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, into ridiculous statements about the origins of World War Two. It was the triumph of ignorance by politicians who knew nothing or who calculated that the few who did know something about the war, would not be heard. After all, how many people have read the diplomatic papers in various European archives detailing Soviet efforts to build an anti-Nazi alliance during the 1930s? How many people would know of the responsibilities of London, Paris, and Warsaw in obstructing the common European defence against Nazi Germany? “Not many”, must have been the conclusion of European governments. The few historians and informed citizens who did or do know the truth could easily be shouted down, marginalised or ignored.
Western propaganda claimed that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were “allies”. World War Two was entirely their fault, while France, Britain and Poland were innocent victims of totalitarianism
Thus it was that Hitler and Stalin became accomplices, the two pals and the two “totalitarians”. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were “allies”. World War Two was entirely their fault. France, Britain and Poland were innocent victims of totalitarianism. The OSCE and PACE issued resolutions to this effect in 2009, declaring 23 August a day of remembrance of the victims of the Nazi-Soviet “alliance”, as if the non-aggression pact signed on that day came out of the blue and had no context other than totalitarian evil.
In 2014 after the US and EU supported a coup d’etat in Kiev, a fascist junta took power in the Ukraine, and the propaganda campaign to falsify history intensified. Ukrainian Nazi collaborators like Stepan Bandera were made into national heroes. The Ukrainian paramilitary forces, the so-called Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN/UPA), which fought alongside the Wehrmacht and SS, were likewise transformed into forces of liberation.
After the 2014 putsch, Ukrainian Nazi collaborators like Stepan Bandera were made into national heroes
It looked like Poland and the Baltic states had gained an ally for their ugly anti-Russian campaigns. SS veterans paraded in the Baltic countries, and Polish hooligans vandalised Red Army graves while the Warsaw government bulldozed memorials to the Soviet liberators of Poland. Just this autumn Warsaw has attempted to control the thematic messages of a new museum of the Second World War being opened in Gdansk so that they conform to Polish government propaganda. The ruling Law and Justice Party wants to make Poland into a noble victim and the main story of World War Two. In fact, Poland was a main story of the 1930s though not in any noble role. It was a spoiler of European collective security.
In October of this year the Polish and Ukrainian legislative assemblies passed resolutions vesting responsibility for World War Two in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Given Poland’s role in collaborating with Nazi Germany and obstructing Soviet efforts to create an anti-Nazi alliance in the 1930s, this resolution is surreal. Equally perverse is the Ukrainian equivalent resolution by a government celebrating Nazi collaboration during World War Two.
Ironically, the the Law and Justice Party has its own troubles in its “alliance” with fascist Ukraine. Those Ukrainian collaborators, who fought with the Nazis and committed atrocities against Soviet citizens, also committed mass murder in Poland during the latter part of the war. As mightily as Poland seeks to falsify history, it cannot cover up the atrocities of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators against Poles, remembered in a recently released Polish hit film, “Volhynia”. It looks like a poetic falling out amongst thieves who must bury the history of Ukrainian fascism and Nazi collaboration in order to unite against the common Russian foe. If only the numerous Ukrainians now living in southern Poland would stop putting up illegal monuments to remember Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. The poor Poles are caught between a rock and hard place. It is equally disagreeable to remember that the Red Army liberated Poland and stopped the atrocities of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators.
As mightily as Poland seeks to falsify history, it cannot cover up the atrocities of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators against Poles, remembered in a recently released Polish hit film, “Volhynia”
Will Russia and Poland finally bury the hatchet to rid themselves of the new wave of Ukrainian fascists in their midst? This is unlikely. The Polish government also had to choose in the 1930s between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It chose collaboration with Nazi Germany and spurned an anti-Nazi alliance with the Soviet Union. No wonder history must be falsified. There is so much for western governments and Poland to hide.
The German political hierarchy and major media remain hostile to any detente with Russia, but the ground may be shifting under the feet of Chancellor Merkel and her allies.
by Gilbert Doctorow
Consortium News (December 23 2016)
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is staggered by security lapses that may have permitted a fatal terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, the question many inside and outside Germany are asking is how this may affect the chances of her Christian Democratic Union (“CDU”) party and its junior affiliate in Bavaria (“CSU”) to dominate the 2017 parliamentary elections and form the next government.
Her personal standing has weathered a number of crises in the past year, and polls before the terror attack gave her about a fifty percent approval rating. Moreover, within the CDU itself, she received more than 89 percent backing at the party convention in Essen a couple of weeks ago to remain at the helm and fight for another term as Chancellor next October.
That being said, the party has not done as well as Merkel. It lost several regional elections this past fall and the leader of her Bavarian affiliate, Herr Seehofer, was nipping at her heels over her continued hardline economic sanctions against Russia relating to the Ukraine crisis and more particularly over her lenient admission of around one million Mideast immigrants.
One of the widely noted features of Angela Merkel’s ten-years-plus in office is that she has sidelined all possible competitors, not only within her party but even in the leading opposition party, the Socialists (“SPD”) with whom she has shared a coalition government.
Just what this means in practice I saw firsthand last Friday when I was in Berlin for an event organized and attended by SPD party officials and supporters. The event was a press briefing at the Bundestag announcing the European launch of Detente Now! (or “Neue Entspannungspolitik Jetzt!” in German) after its US debut with an op-ed in The Nation. The launch on two continents was meant to draw attention to the overarching objective of establishing a new peaceful Atlanticism to replace the neocon-dominated Atlantic Alliance that has developed over the past two decades in a malignant way, bringing us into a New Cold War and, in the estimation of some of us, to the brink of a hot war.
Judged as a “press briefing”, the meeting was a failure. Out of the twenty or so participants, there were just three journalists. One came from Deutsche Welle – not to prepare a report or do interviews but to ask insulting questions, such as why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signature was not on the appeal to reinstate the policy of rapprochement with Moscow that German Chancellor Willy Brandt had championed nearly a half century ago.
Explaining the History of Detente
The significance of the event lay elsewhere as several organizers of Detente Now! met with representatives of German church groups, pacifist movements, one former Greens politician, and American friends of the initiative (myself and one other). But the single most important politician in the room was SPD Bundestag member Ute Finckh-Kraemer, a longtime supporter of peaceful coexistence who keeps the memory of detente’s great thinker Egon Bahr shining bright.
Ute Finckh-Krämer is on the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee and is Deputy Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Arms Control and Disarmament. In that context, it was illuminating to hear her response to a somewhat hostile question: namely how can you consider implementing detente with Russia when Putin is doing so many nasty things like flying military aircraft around the Baltic Sea with their transponders turned off?
Finckh-Kraemer reminded the questioner of just how Entspannungspolitik originally came about, not at a time of easy relations with Moscow but amid dangerous tensions. Detente toward Moscow was first implemented by Willie Brandt in 1969 in response to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia the preceding August to oust a reformist regime. Instead of imposing sanctions on the Soviet Union, Brandt sent his assistant, Egon Bahr, to Moscow for extensive talks with the Kremlin with plans to draw closer to them and seek to influence their behavior from within.
Finckh-Kraemer argued that what is urgently needed today is precisely what Brandt undertook in 1969, a policy of de-escalating tensions without preconditions. With her comments, Finckh-Kraemer demonstrated that within the SPD there are very able defenders of detente who understand with great clarity why it’s needed.
The problem is that the party as a whole is enthralled to discipline of the coalition government with the CDU and to its own internal hierarchy, where the most senior voices of the party, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Sigmar Gabriel, lack charisma and seem to lack as well the courage to openly challenge the “group think” coming from Washington and passing down through Merkel to the whole German government.
The apologists for Steinmeier explained that he, like Merkel, helped frame the still-uncompleted Minsk-2 accords regarding the Ukraine crisis in 2015 out of fear that the then-imminent defeat of Ukrainian forces in the Debaltsevo Cauldron might cause the United States to step up its military support for Kiev, risking an all-out proxy war with Russia that could spread the conflagration into Central Europe.
Since then, it would appear that Steinmeier and Merkel have remained fearful of breaking with Washington over the anti-Russian sanctions or over Syria lest the Obama administration do something reckless in its final weeks in office.
That is a different approach from what is happening in France where Republican candidate Francois Fillon – emboldened by Donald Trump’s US victory – made improved relations with Russia a key element in his successful primary campaign in November.
Can Germany Shift?
In Germany, the question is: will the timorous SPD and the pigheaded CDU continue to hold to these New Cold War policies during the fall 2017 federal elections? The answer seems to be yes, unless the issue is seriously addressed now and a constituency arises favoring a more constructive approach toward Russia.
Within the SPD, the two main contenders for party leadership as candidates for Chancellor are Sigmar Gabriel, who is presently serving as Deputy Chancellor for Economics, and Martin Schulz, the outgoing President of the European Parliament. Of the two, Schulz is arguably the more “charismatic” if that is taken to mean outwardly self-confident, even strident. But Schulz brings with him the baggage of his association with the increasingly unpopular European Union bureaucracy.
During his years in the European Union’s institutions, Schulz was a defender of what is called “democracy promotion”, the West’s funding and training of activists who then challenge – through media propaganda and street protests – governments that are regarded as insufficiently liberal. In that context, Schulz has been arrogant and censorious towards Russia, very much in line with the policy that developed in Berlin over the same period.
Gabriel is less involved in foreign policy and lacks his own message regarding future relations with Russia.
Meanwhile, from my correspondence with leading experts on Russia within the SPD’s main think tank, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, I must conclude that people with a distinctly neocon or “liberal interventionist” viewpoint continue to rule the roost there. One does not get very far in the think tank by calling for a change of direction on Russia without being labeled “Putin Versteher”, a pejorative that roughly translates to “Putin sympathizer” and is fatal to any political career.
The same holds true for the Foundation’s foreign relations magazine, Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft (“IPG”). Reading through the issues since the US presidential election, you could easily assume that the journal is edited by frustrated members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Its featured articles and authors are all anti-Trump and anti-detente. With this think tank and magazine, it’s hard to see how the SPD can develop a new foreign policy that deviates from Merkel’s anti-Russian orthodoxy.
Of course, there is more to German politics than the CDU and SPD, which together in the last elections gathered less than sixty percent of the votes. But the other parties also do not give much reason for hope that Germany can change direction.
Die Linke (the Left) has some very courageous thinkers and politicians on the issue of foreign policy, none more so that Bundestag Member Sahra Wagenknecht. But Die Linke is split internally and engaged in petty wrangling, so that its electoral performance remains well below its potential.
Meanwhile, the German Greens have been – from their very beginning, going back to the days of Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Joscha Fischer – a virulently anti-Russian force. There are signs that the party has some dissenting voices today on the Russia issue, but not enough to shift the course of German foreign policy.
That leaves the far-right Alternativ fuer Deutschland (“AfD”), which, like the Front National in France, is unequivocally in favor of normalizing relations with Russia. But the anti-immigration and other social issues espoused by the nationalist and xenophobic AfD puts them out of play for any coalition formations.
For all of the above reasons, it will take a small miracle for the Entspannungspolitik initiative to move forward and capture the imagination of the SPD and win at the polls in the autumn of 2017. That miracle could come either from France, where a veto on current EU foreign policy is virtually certain following the April elections and will position France as a direct competitor to Germany for leadership in the EU. Or it may come from the US, depending on how the Trump administration handles relations with Germany and the EU.
Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of The American Committee for East West Accord Ltd. His latest book is Does Russia Have a Future? (2015). (c) Gilbert Doctorow, 2016