Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Eurasian Big Bang

How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington

by Pepe Escobar

Tom Dispatch (July 23 2015)

Let’s start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible future attack on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with Nato) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations – the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS’ New Development Bank) – whose acronyms you’re unlikely to recognize either. Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.

Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees. They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran’s “nuclear weapons program”.  And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia – a place you’ve undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the US.  And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.

The Eurasian Silk Road

With the Vienna deal, whose interminable build-up I had the dubious pleasure of following closely, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his diplomatic team have pulled the near-impossible out of an extremely crumpled magician’s hat: an agreement that might actually end sanctions against their country from an asymmetric, largely manufactured conflict.

Think of that meeting in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan, as a preamble to the long-delayed agreement in Vienna. It caught the new dynamics of the Eurasian continent and signaled the future geopolitical Big Bangness of it all. At Ufa, from July 8th to 10th, the 7th BRICS summit and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit overlapped just as a possible Vienna deal was devouring one deadline after another.

Consider it a diplomatic masterstroke of Vladmir Putin’s Russia to have merged those two summits with an informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Call it a soft power declaration of war against Washington’s imperial logic, one that would highlight the breadth and depth of an evolving Sino-Russian strategic partnership. Putting all those heads of state attending each of the meetings under one roof, Moscow offered a vision of an emerging, coordinated geopolitical structure anchored in Eurasian integration. Thus, the importance of Iran: no matter what happens post-Vienna, Iran will be a vital hub/node/crossroads in Eurasia for this new structure.

If you read the declaration that came out of the BRICS summit, one detail should strike you: the austerity-ridden European Union (EU) is barely mentioned. And that’s not an oversight. From the point of view of the leaders of key BRICS nations, they are offering a new approach to Eurasia, the very opposite of the language of sanctions.

Here are just a few examples of the dizzying activity that took place at Ufa, all of it ignored by the American mainstream media. In their meetings, President Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked in a practical way to advance what is essentially a Chinese vision of a future Eurasia knit together by a series of interlocking “new Silk Roads”. Modi approved more Chinese investment in his country, while Xi and Modi together pledged to work to solve the joint border issues that have dogged their countries and, in at least one case, led to war.

The NDB, the BRICS’ response to the World Bank, was officially launched with $50 billion in start-up capital. Focused on funding major infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations, it is capable of accumulating as much as $400 billion in capital, according to its president, Kundapur Vaman Kamath. Later, it plans to focus on funding such ventures in other developing nations across the Global South – all in their own currencies, which means bypassing the US dollar.  Given its membership, the NDB’s money will clearly be closely linked to the new Silk Roads. As Brazilian Development Bank President Luciano Coutinho stressed, in the near future it may also assist European non-EU member states like Serbia and Macedonia. Think of this as the NDB’s attempt to break a Brussels monopoly on Greater Europe. Kamath even advanced the possibility of someday aiding in the reconstruction of Syria.

You won’t be surprised to learn that both the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the NDB are headquartered in China and will work to complement each other’s efforts. At the same time, Russia’s foreign investment arm, the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), signed a memorandum of understanding with funds from other BRICS countries and so launched an informal investment consortium in which China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s Infrastructure Development Finance Company will be key partners.

Full Spectrum Transportation Dominance

On the ground level, this should be thought of as part of the New Great Game in Eurasia. Its flip side is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Pacific and the Atlantic version of the same, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, both of which Washington is trying to advance to maintain US global economic dominance. The question these conflicting plans raise is how to integrate trade and commerce across that vast region. From the Chinese and Russian perspectives, Eurasia is to be integrated via a complex network of superhighways, high-speed rail lines, ports, airports, pipelines, and fiber optic cables. By land, sea, and air, the resulting New Silk Roads are meant to create an economic version of the Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” – a vision that already has Chinese corporate executives crisscrossing Eurasia sealing infrastructure deals.

For Beijing – back to a seven percent growth rate in the second quarter of 2015 despite a recent near-panic on the country’s stock markets – it makes perfect economic sense: as labor costs rise, production will be relocated from the country’s Eastern seaboard to its cheaper Western reaches, while the natural outlets for the production of just about everything will be those parallel and interlocking “belts” of the new Silk Roads.

Meanwhile, Russia is pushing to modernize and diversify its energy-exploitation-dependent economy. Among other things, its leaders hope that the mix of those developing Silk Roads and the tying together of the Eurasian Economic Union – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – will translate into myriad transportation and construction projects for which the country’s industrial and engineering know-how will prove crucial.

As the EEU has begun establishing free trade zones with India, Iran, Vietnam, Egypt, and Latin America’s Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela), the initial stages of this integration process already reach beyond Eurasia. Meanwhile, the SCO, which began as little more than a security forum, is expanding and moving into the field of economic cooperation. Its countries, especially four Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan) will rely ever more on the Chinese-driven Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB. At Ufa, India and Pakistan finalized an upgrading process in which they have moved from observers to members of the SCO. This makes it an alternative G8.

In the meantime, when it comes to embattled Afghanistan, the BRICS nations and the SCO have now called upon “the armed opposition to disarm, accept the Constitution of Afghanistan, and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations”. Translation: within the framework of Afghan national unity, the organization would accept the Taliban as part of a future government. Their hopes, with the integration of the region in mind, would be for a future stable Afghanistan able to absorb more Chinese, Russian, Indian, and Iranian investment, and the construction – finally! – of a long-planned, $10 billion, 1,420-kilometer-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that would benefit those energy-hungry new SCO members, Pakistan and India. (They would each receive 42% of the gas, the remaining sixteen percent going to Afghanistan.)

Central Asia is, at the moment, geographic ground zero for the convergence of the economic urges of China, Russia, and India. It was no happenstance that, on his way to Ufa, Prime Minister Modi stopped off in Central Asia. Like the Chinese leadership in Beijing, Moscow looks forward (as a recent document puts it) to the “interpenetration and integration of the EEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt” into a “Greater Eurasia” and a “steady, developing, safe common neighborhood” for both Russia and China.

And don’t forget Iran. In early 2016, once economic sanctions are fully lifted, it is expected to join the SCO, turning it into a G9. As its foreign minister, Javad Zarif, made clear recently to Russia’s Channel One television, Tehran considers the two countries strategic partners. “Russia”, he said, “has been the most important participant in Iran’s nuclear program and it will continue under the current agreement to be Iran’s major nuclear partner”. The same will, he added, be true when it comes to “oil and gas cooperation”, given the shared interest of those two energy-rich nations in “maintaining stability in global market prices”.

Got Corridor, Will Travel

Across Eurasia, BRICS nations are moving on integration projects. A developing Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor is a typical example. It is now being reconfigured as a multilane highway between India and China. Meanwhile, Iran and Russia are developing a transportation corridor from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the Caspian Sea and the Volga River. Azerbaijan will be connected to the Caspian part of this corridor, while India is planning to use Iran’s southern ports to improve its access to Russia and Central Asia. Now, add in a maritime corridor that will stretch from the Indian city of Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and then on to the southern Russian city of Astrakhan. And this just scratches the surface of the planning underway.

Years ago, Vladimir Putin suggested that there could be a “Greater Europe” stretching from Lisbon, Portugal, on the Atlantic to the Russian city of Vladivostok on the Pacific. The EU, under Washington’s thumb, ignored him. Then the Chinese started dreaming about and planning new Silk Roads that would, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, extend from Shanghai to Venice (and then on to Berlin).

Thanks to a set of cross-pollinating political institutions, investment funds, development banks, financial systems, and infrastructure projects that, to date, remain largely under Washington’s radar, a free-trade Eurasian heartland is being born. It will someday link China and Russia to Europe, Southwest Asia, and even Africa. It promises to be an astounding development. Keep your eyes, if you can, on the accumulating facts on the ground, even if they are rarely covered in the American media. They represent the New Great – emphasis on that word – Game in Eurasia.

Location, Location, Location

Tehran is now deeply invested in strengthening its connections to this new Eurasia and the man to watch on this score is Ali Akbar Velayati. He is the head of Iran’s Center for Strategic Research and senior foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Velayati stresses that security in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Caucasus hinges on the further enhancement of a Beijing-Moscow-Tehran triple entente.

As he knows, geo-strategically Iran is all about location, location, location. That country offers the best access to open seas in the region apart from Russia and is the only obvious east-west/north-south crossroads for trade from the Central Asian “stans”. Little wonder then that Iran will soon be an SCO member, even as its “partnership” with Russia is certain to evolve. Its energy resources are already crucial to and considered a matter of national security for China and, in the thinking of that country’s leadership, Iran also fulfills a key role as a hub in those Silk Roads they are planning.

That growing web of literal roads, rail lines, and energy pipelines, as TomDispatch has previously reported, represents Beijing’s response to the Obama administration’s announced “pivot to Asia” and the US Navy’s urge to meddle in the South China Sea. Beijing is choosing to project power via a vast set of infrastructure projects, especially high-speed rail lines that will reach from its eastern seaboard deep into Eurasia. In this fashion, the Chinese-built railway from Urumqi in Xinjiang Province to Almaty in Kazakhstan will undoubtedly someday be extended to Iran and traverse that country on its way to the Persian Gulf.

A New World for Pentagon Planners

At the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum last month, Vladimir Putin told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Moscow and Beijing had always wanted a genuine partnership with the United States, but were spurned by Washington. Hats off, then, to the “leadership” of the Obama administration. Somehow, it has managed to bring together two former geopolitical rivals, while solidifying their pan-Eurasian grand strategy.

Even the recent deal with Iran in Vienna is unlikely – especially given the war hawks in Congress – to truly end Washington’s 36-year-long Great Wall of Mistrust with Iran. Instead, the odds are that Iran, freed from sanctions, will indeed be absorbed into the Sino-Russian project to integrate Eurasia, which leads us to the spectacle of Washington’s warriors, unable to act effectively, yet screaming like banshees.

Nato’s supreme commander Dr Strangelove, sorry, American General Philip Breedlove, insists that the West must create a rapid-reaction force – online – to counteract Russia’s “false narratives”. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter claims to be seriously considering unilaterally redeploying nuclear-capable missiles in Europe. The nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Commandant Joseph Dunford, recently directly labeled Russia America’s true “existential threat”; Air Force General Paul Selva, nominated to be the new vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, seconded that assessment, using the same phrase and putting Russia, China and Iran, in that order, as more threatening than the Islamic State (ISIS). In the meantime, Republican presidential candidates and a bevy of congressional war hawks simply shout and fume when it comes to both the Iranian deal and the Russians.

In response to the Ukrainian situation and the “threat” of a resurgent Russia (behind which stands a resurgent China), a Washington-centric militarization of Europe is proceeding apace. Nato is now reportedly obsessed with what’s being called “strategy rethink” – as in drawing up detailed futuristic war scenarios on European soil. As economist Michael Hudson has pointed out, even financial politics are becoming militarized and linked to Nato’s new Cold War 2.0.

In its latest National Military Strategy, the Pentagon suggests that the risk of an American war with another nation (as opposed to terror outfits), while low, is “growing” and identifies four nations as “threats”: North Korea, a case apart, and predictably the three nations that form the new Eurasian core: Russia, China, and Iran. They are depicted in the document as “revisionist states”, openly defying what the Pentagon identifies as “international security and stability”; that is, the distinctly un-level playing field created by globalized, exclusionary, turbo-charged casino capitalism and Washington’s brand of militarism.

The Pentagon, of course, does not do diplomacy. Seemingly unaware of the Vienna negotiations, it continued to accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. And that “military option” against Iran is never off the table.

So consider it the Mother of All Blockbusters to watch how the Pentagon and the war hawks in Congress will react to the post-Vienna and – though it was barely noticed in Washington – the post-Ufa environment, especially under a new White House tenant in 2017.

It will be a spectacle. Count on it. Will the next version of Washington try to make it up to “lost” Russia or send in the troops? Will it contain China or the “caliphate” of ISIS? Will it work with Iran to fight ISIS or spurn it? Will it truly pivot to Asia for good and ditch the Middle East or vice-versa? Or might it try to contain Russia, China, and Iran simultaneously or find some way to play them against each other?

In the end, whatever Washington may do, it will certainly reflect a fear of the increasing strategic depth Russia and China are developing economically, a reality now becoming visible across Eurasia. At Ufa, Putin told Xi on the record: “Combining efforts, no doubt we [Russia and China] will overcome all the problems before us”.

Read “efforts” as new Silk Roads, that Eurasian Economic Union, the growing BRICS block, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization, those China-based banks, and all the rest of what adds up to the beginning of a new integration of significant parts of the Eurasian land mass. As for Washington, fly like an eagle? Try instead: scream like a banshee.

Links: The original version of this article, at the URL below, contains links to further information not included here.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times, an analyst for RT and Sputnik, and a TomDispatch regular. His latest book is Empire of Chaos (2014).

Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: US Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa (2015), and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (2014).

Copyright 2015 Pepe Escobar

(c) 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

So You Say You Don’t Want a Revolution?

by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (July 21 2015)

Over the past few months we have been forced to bear witness to a humiliating farce unfolding in Europe. Greece, which was first accepted into the European Monetary Union under false pretenses, then saddled with excessive levels of debt, then crippled through the imposition of austerity, finally did something: the Greeks elected a government that promised to shake things up. The Syriza party platform had the following planks, which were quite revolutionary in spirit.

* Put an end to austerity and put the Greek economy on a path toward recovery.

* Raise the income tax to 75% for all incomes over 500,000 euros, adopt a tax on financial transactions and a special tax on luxury goods.

* Drastically cut military expenditures, close all foreign military bases on Greek soil and withdraw from Nato. End military cooperation with Israel and support the creation of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders.

* Nationalize the banks.

* Enact constitutional reforms to guarantee the right to education, health care and the environment.

* Hold referendums on treaties and other accords with the European Union.

Of these, only the last bullet point was acted on: there was a lot made of the referendum which returned a resounding “No!” to EU demands for more austerity and the dismantling and selling off of Greek public assets. But a lot less was made of the fact that the results of this referendum were then ignored.

But the trouble started before then. After being elected, Syriza representatives went to Brussels to negotiate. The negotiations generally went like this: Syriza would make an offer; the EU officials would reject it, and advance their own demands for more austerity; Syriza would make another offer, and the EU officials would reject it too and advance their own demands for even more austerity than in the last round; and so on, all the way until Greek capitulation. All the EU officials had to do to force the Greeks to capitulate was to stop the flow of Euros to Greek banks. Some revolutionaries, these! More like a toy poodle trying to negotiate for a little more kibble to be poured into its dish, if it pleases the master to do so. Stathis Kouvelakis (a Syriza member) summed up the Greek government’s stance: “Here’s our program, but if we find that its implementation is incompatible with keeping the euro, then we’ll forget about it”.

It is not as if revolutions don’t happen any more. Just one country over from Greece there is a rather successful revolution unfolding as we speak: what used to be Northern Iraq and Syria is controlled by the revolutionary regime variously known as ISIS/ISIL/Daash/Islamic Caliphate. We can tell that it is a real revolution because of its use of terror. All revolutionaries deserving of the name use terror – and what they generally say is that their terror is in response to the terror of the pre-existing order they seek to overthrow, or the terror of their counterrevolutionary enemies. And by terror I mean mass murder, expropriation, exile and the taking of hostages.

Just so that you understand me correctly, let me stress at the outset that I am not a revolutionary. I am an observer and a commentator on all sorts of things, including revolutions, but I choose not to participate. Remaining an observer and a commentator presupposes staying alive, and my personal longevity program calls for not being anywhere near any revolutions – because, as I just mentioned, revolutions involve mass murder.

Good old Uncle Joe.
The kids loved him.

In the case of the French revolution, it started with liberte-egalite-fraternite and proceeded swiftly to guilliotine. The Russian revolution of 1917 remains the gold standard for revolutions. There, thanks to Uncle Joe, so-called “red terror” went on and on, eventually claiming millions of victims. Mao and Pol Pot are also part of that revolutionary pantheon. The American revolution wasn’t a revolution at all because the slave-owning, genocidal sponsors of international piracy remained in power under the new administration. Nor does the February 2014 putsch in the Ukraine qualify as a revolution; that was an externally imposed violent overthrow of the legitimate government and the installation of a US-managed puppet regime, but, as in the American Colonies, the same gang of thieves – the Ukrainian oligarchs – continue to rob the country blind just as before. But if the Nazi thugs from the “Right Sector” take over and kill the oligarchs, the government officials in Kiev and their US State Dept./CIA/Nato minders, and then proceed with a campaign of “brown terror” throughout the country, then I will start calling it a revolution.

* * * * *

The fact of mass murder does not automatically a revolution make: you have to make note of who is getting killed. So, if the dead consist of lots of volunteers, recruits, mercenaries, plus lots of nondescript civilians, that does not a revolution make. But if the dead include a good number of oligarchs, CEOs of major corporations, bankers, senators, congressmen, public officials, judges, corporate lawyers, high-ranking military officers, then, yes, that’s starting to look like a proper revolution.

Other than big huge pools of blood littered with the corpses of high-ranking representatives of the ancien regime, a revolution also requires an ideology – to corrupt and pervert. In general, the ideology you have is the ideology you make revolution with. It stands to reason that if you don’t have an ideology, it’s not really a revolution. For instance, the American Colonists had no ideology – just some demands. They didn’t want to pay taxes to the British crown; they didn’t want to maintain British troops; they didn’t want limits on the slave trade; and they didn’t want restrictions on profiting from piracy on the high seas. That’s not an ideology; that’s just simple old greed. With the Ukrainian “revolutionaries”, their “ideology” pretty much comes down to the statements “Europe is wonderful” and “Russians suck”. That’s not an ideology either; the former is wishful thinking; the latter is simple bigotry.

Taking the example of ISIS/ISIL/Daash/Islamic Caliphate, they are Islamists, and so the ideology they corrupt and pervert is Islam, with its Sharia law. How? Islamist scholars have been most helpful by compiling this top-ten list:

1. It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as “People of the Scripture”.

2. It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.

3. It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.

4. It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.

5. It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions.

6. It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat Christians or any “People of the Scripture”.

7. Jihad in Islam is a purely defensive struggle. It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose, and the right rules of conduct.

8. It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats  –  hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.

9. Loyalty to one’s nation is permissible in Islam.

10. It is forbidden in Islam to declare a Caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.

But, as Lenin famously put it, “If You Want to Make an Omelet, You Must Be Willing to Break a Few Eggs”. And if you want to make a revolution, then you must be willing to pervert your ideology. Those Islamist scholars who eagerly exclaim “That’s not Islam! Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance!” are missing the point: the ideology of ISIS/ISIL/Daash/Islamic Caliphate is still Islam – revolutionary Islam.

The example of ISIS/ISIL/Daash/Islamic Caliphate is germane to the topic of Greece, because it is a contemporary example of what is definitely a revolution, and it is taking place just one country over from Greece. But the ideology of Syriza is not Islam – it’s socialism, and philosophically they are Marxists. And so a better example for Syriza to follow, were they to suddenly stop being Europe’s pathetic poodles and don the mantle of fearless, heroic revolutionaries, is still the good old Russian revolution of 1917.

* * * * *

As I mentioned, one of the most important tools of a revolution is terror. In Russia, revolutionary terror was called “red terror”, which, the revolutionaries claimed, arose in opposition to “white terror” of the Russian imperial regime, with its racist bigotry (Jews weren’t allowed in any of the major cities), numerous forms of oppression, some major, some quite petty, and rampant corruption. An interesting feature of the Russian revolution is that the terror started several years prior to the event.

Let us pause for a second to consider why revolutionary terror is necessary. A revolution is a drastic change in the direction of society. Left alone, society tends to worsen its worst tendencies over time: the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the police state becomes more oppressive, the justice system becomes more riddled with injustice, the military-industrial complex produces ever less effective military hardware for ever more money, and so on. This is a matter of social inertia: the tendency of objects to travel in a straight line in absence of a force acting at an angle to its direction of motion. The formula for momentum is


where p is momentum, m is mass and v is velocity.

To make a radical course change, revolutionaries have to apply force, counteracting the social inertia. To make it so that it is within their limited means to do this, they can do two things: reduce v, or reduce m. Reducing v is a bad idea: the revolution must not lose its own momentum. But reducing m is, in fact, a good idea. Now, it turns out that, with regard to social momentum, most of the mass that gives rise to it resides in the heads of certain classes of people: government officials, judges and lawyers, police officers, military officers, rich people, certain types of professionals and so on.

The rest of the population is much less of a problem. Suppose some revolutionaries show up and tell them that

* they don’t have to worry about paying taxes (because we are confiscating the property of the rich),

* medicine and education are now free,

* those with mortgages can stop making payments; they automatically own their real estate free and clear

* renters now automatically own their place of residence,

* employees are automatically majority stockholders in their businesses,

* they should fill out an application if they want a free (newly liberated) parcel of land to farm,

* there is a general amnesty and their loved ones who have been locked up are coming home,

* ration cards are being issued to make sure that nobody ever goes hungry again,

* the homeless are going to be moving in with those whose residences are deemed unduly spacious,

* they are now their own police and are in charge of patrolling their neighborhoods with the revolutionary guards available as back-up, and

* if any non-revolutionary authorities, be they the former police or the former landlords, come around and bother any of them, then these traitors and impostors shall face swift, on-the-spot revolutionary justice.

Most regular people would think that this is a pretty good deal. However, government officials, the police, military officers, judges, prosecutors, rich people whose property is to be confiscated, corporate officers and shareholders, those living on fat corporate or government pensions, et cetera, would no doubt think otherwise. The revolutionary solution is to take them as hostages, exile them, and, to make an example of the most recalcitrant and obstructive, kill them. This dramatically reduces m, allowing the revolutionaries to effect drastic course changes even as v increases. I compiled this list because it would be such an easy sell – piece of cake, a slam-dunk, a no-brainer. But I lack the uncontrollable desire to smash eggs and the insatiable appetite for omelets. As I mentioned, I am no revolutionary – just an observer.

In the run-up to the Russian revolution, from 1901 through 1911, there were 17,000 such casualties. In 1907, the average toll was eighteen people a day. According to police records, between February 1905 and May 1906, there were among those killed:

Eight governors

Five vice-governors and other regional administrators

21 chiefs of police, heads of municipalities and wardens

Eight high-ranking police officers

Four generals

Seven military officers

79 bailiffs

125 inspectors

346 police officers

57 constables

257 security personnel

55 police service personnel

Eighteen state security agents

85 government employees

Twelve clergy

52 rural government agents

52 land-owners

51 factory owners and managers

54 bankers and businessmen

Good old Zinka
Schoolteacher, Revolutionary, Assassin

Clearly, these terrorist acts must have had some not inconsiderable effect in softening the target, making the government overthrow easier. This was not an accident but a matter of well-articulated revolutionary policy. The concept of “red terror” was first introduced by Zinaida Konoplyannikova, a rural schoolteacher who first got on the police radar for being an atheist and was later convicted as a terrorist for shooting a notorious general-major at point-blank range. At her trial in 1906, she said this: “The [Socialist-Revolutionary] Party has decided to counter the white, yet bloody, terror of the government with red terror …” She was executed by hanging that same year, aged 26.

After the revolution, red terror became government policy. Here is Lenin’s response to being questioned by Communist party members about his “barbaric methods”:

I reason soberly and categorically: what is better – to imprison a few tens or hundreds provocateurs, guilty or innocent, acting consciously or unconsciously, or to lose thousands of soldiers and workers? The former is better. Let them accuse me of any deadly sins and violations of liberty – I plead guilty, but the interests of the workers win.

Grandpa Lenin belting out a tune
Grandpa Trotsky going wild on the harmonica

Trotsky produced a particularly crisp definition of “red terror”. He called it “a weapon to be used against a social class that has been condemned to extinction but won’t die”.

Estimates of the exact number of victims of “red terror” vary. Robert Conquest claimed that between 1917 and 1922 the revolutionary tribunals executed 140,000 people. But the historian O B Mozokhin, after an exhaustive study of the data available from government archives, put the number at no more than 50,000. He also noted that executions were the exception rather than the rule, and that most of those executed were sentenced for criminal rather than political acts.

But this was nothing compared to what Stalin unleashed later on. The ideological foundation of Stalin’s terror was “intensification of class struggle at the culmination of the building of socialism”, which he articulated at the plenum of the Central Committee in July of 1928. According to his logic, USSR was economically and culturally underdeveloped, surrounded by hostile capitalist states, and as long as there remained the threat of foreign military intervention with the goal of reestablishing the bourgeois order, only the preventive destruction of the remnants of “bourgeois elements” could guarantee the security and independence of the USSR. These elements included former police officers, government officials, clergy, land-owners and businessmen. The peak of Stalin’s repression occurred in 1937 and 1938. During these two years 1,575,259 people were arrested, of which 681,692 were shot.

You may be forgiven for thinking of Stalin as a psychopathic murderer, because he was certainly that, but more importantly he was a competent, and sufficiently ruthless, head of a revolutionary state. For a revolutionary regime, killing too many people is rarely a problem, but killing too few can easily prove fatal. To play it safe, a revolutionary should always err on the side of murder. This attitude tends to pervade the entire power pyramid: if you give Stalin a memorandum recommending that 500 priests get shot, and Stalin crosses out 500 and pencils in 1000 in red pencil, then you better find 500 more priests to shoot, or the number becomes 1001 and includes you.

This guarantee of security and independence did seem to hold. After all, there was a subsequent invasion by a hostile bourgeois capitalist state (Germany) and bourgeois order was temporarily reestablished on the territories it occupied. But there was nobody left to instigate anti-revolutionary rebellion elsewhere in the USSR because most of the would-be counterrevolutionaries were by then dead.

Of course, this took a terrible toll on society. Here is what Putin had to say on the subject of “red terror”:

Think of the hostages who were shot during the civil war, the destruction of entire social strata – the clergy, the prosperous peasants, the Cossacks. Such tragedies have recurred more than once during the history of mankind. And it always happened when initially attractive but ultimately empty ideals were raised above the main value – the value of human life, above the rights and liberties of man. For our country this is especially tragic, because the scale was colossal. Thousands, millions of people were destroyed, sent to concentration camps, shot, tortured to death. And these were primarily people who had their own opinions, who weren’t afraid to voice them. These were the most effective people – the flower of the nation. Even after many years we feel the effect of this tragedy on ourselves. We must do a great deal to make sure that this is never forgotten.

Given that the price is so high, perhaps it would be better after all if we just sat quietly, allowed the rich get richer as the poor get poorer, watched listlessly as the environment got completely destroyed by capitalist industrialists in blind pursuit of profit, and eventually curled up, kissed our sweet asses good-bye and died? Good luck selling that idea to young radicalized hotheads who have nothing to lose – except maybe you, if you happen to stand in their way as they change the world! No, revolution is here to stay, and one of its main weapons is terror. No matter how well we remember, the annihilation of counterrevolutionary social elements is bound to recur.

* * * * *

Getting back to Greece and Syriza: what if Syriza were not just a particularly fluffy breed of miniature Europoodle but actual honest-to-goodness revolutionaries, ready to do whatever it takes? How would they act differently? And what would be the result?

Well, one thing that comes to mind immediately is that they wouldn’t try to stay in the Eurozone – they would seek to destroy it. The solution is simple: no Eurozone – no Euro-debt – no problem. There is a general principle involved: never accept responsibility for that which you cannot control. Speaking from experience, suppose you invite a plumber to fix your toilet, and the plumber finds that the toilet has been Mickey-moused in multiple ways by an incompetent amateur. In this situation, the professional thing for the plumber to do is to completely obliterate that toilet. Now the solution becomes simple: install a new toilet.

Here’s a very simple one-two punch which Greece could have delivered instead of futile attempts at negotiation:

1. Immediately announce an open-ended moratorium on all debt repayment, taking the position that Greece has no legitimate creditors within the Eurozone – it’s all financial fraud at the highest levels. After a few months, the fake bail-out financial entities that magically convert garbage Eurozone debt into AAA-rated securities (because they are guaranteed by Eurozone governments) are forced to write off Greek debt. In turn, Eurozone governments, being pretty much broke, balk at refinancing them out of their national budgets, showing to the world that their guarantees aren’t worth the paper they are written on. There follows a bond implosion. Shortly thereafter, the Euro goes extinct, and along with it all Eurozone debt.

2. Start printing Euros without authorization from the European Central bank. When accused of forgery, make the forgery harder to detect by changing the letter at the front of the serial number from Y (for Greece) to X (for Germany). Flood Greece and the rest of the Eurozone with notionally counterfeit (but technically perfect) Euro notes. As the Euro plummets in value, institute food rationing and issue ration cards. Eventually convert from the now devalued and debased Euro to a newly reintroduced Drachma and reestablish trade links with the now “liberated” former Eurozone countries using trade deals based on barter and local currency swaps with gold reserves used to correct any minor imbalances.

Could this have been done without any “red terror”? I doubt it. Greece is very much oligarch-ridden; even the celebrated former Syriza FM Yanis Varoufakis is the son an industrial magnate. The Greek oligarchs and the rich would have had to be rounded up and held as hostages. Numerous people in the government and in the military have a split allegiance – they work for Europe, not for Greece. They would have had to be sacked immediately and held incommunicado, under house arrest at a minimum. No doubt foreign special services would have run rampant, looking for ways to undermine the revolutionary government. This would have called for drastic preemptive measures to physically eliminate foreign spies and agents before they could have had a chance to act. And so on. This wouldn’t have been a job for fluffy mini-poodles. As Stalin famously put it, “Cadres are the key to everything”. You can’t make revolution without revolutionaries.

But is this a job for anyone? Anyone at all? I leave this question as an exercise for the reader.

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America: Addicted to War, Afraid of Peace

2015/07/25 3 comments

by Gregory A Daddis

The National Interest (July-August 2015)

EARLIER THIS year, West Point’s Defense and Strategic Studies Program invited me to participate in a panel discussion on the future of warfare. For historians, and particularly for Vietnam War students like me, such requests seem fraught with peril. Given the contentious debate that continues to surround America’s involvement in Vietnam, now fifty years after Lyndon Johnson’s fateful decision to send ground combat troops to Southeast Asia, commenting on the future of warfare obliges conjecture without much evidence. Yet for uniformed officers considering strategic issues and the use of military force, these questions surely are as sensible as they are unavoidable. How can soldiers prepare for future war without thinking about its latest incarnations?

The guidance for the panelists underlined two questions: “What will be the dominant trend in warfare from 2015 to 2035?” and “How should the US military and government prepare for this trend?” Perhaps shying away from such an imposing query, I found myself dissecting the question itself. The prompt contained a host of assumptions and deeper questions. Would there be, for instance, only one dominant trend over the next twenty years? Could one find in the United States’ last thirteen and a half years of war a certain trajectory of technological or political developments hinting at the future of warfare?

Most importantly, the question seemed to assume, almost reflexively, that the United States would be at war over the next twenty years. (Peace, apparently, was not likely to be a dominant trend.) Such assumptions should give us pause. Yet preparing for war – even engaging in war – without asking why war is necessary has arguably become part of our national psyche. In a large sense, the United States has been at war for so long that, collectively, its citizens and leaders have become uncomfortable with, if not frightened by, the very idea of peace. After decades of being at war, we have come to the point where we can’t live without it.

This willing acceptance of perpetual war offers a congenial (and lucrative) market for national-security visionaries who glance into the future and offer advice on defense-related topics ranging from cyberwarfare to the use of drones. Pundits offer advice on the “militarization of cyberspace” and the likely arms race that will ensue given the United States’ reliance on drone technology in counterterrorism operations. Other oracles, such as David Kilcullen, have placed their forecasts within an operational environment they see as increasingly crowded, urban and connected, much different from the remote and rural Afghanistan in which Americans have been bogged down for over a decade. Still others, like former British Army officer Robert Johnson, have highlighted Western military officers’ concerns over the legal aspects of wars in which they “will be too constrained to maneuver at all in the future”.

Of course, we should not conflate war and defense. Arguably all nations require a defense strategy, even in times of peace. Yet too few of the predictions on war’s future offer meaningful explanations of the necessity of perpetual war. Rather, they content themselves with statements about national vulnerabilities, the need to meet impending threats (real or hypothetical), or military requirements to keep the country safe. The 2015 National Security Strategy, published in February, offers a case in point. While acknowledging America’s growing economic strength and the benefits of moving beyond the large ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the document stresses the “risks of an insecure world”. Despite its global power and reach, the United States, we are told, faces a “persistent risk of attacks”. The escalating challenges are manifold – threats to the nation’s cybersecurity, aggression by Russia, rising violent extremism and an evolving danger posed by the catchall menace of “terrorism”. We live in a dangerous world, the document’s authors say, one in which only vigilant nations – led, naturally, by the United States – preemptively rooting out evil can survive.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, explanations of the necessity of war have tended to downplay the economic aspects of global engagement. Americans traditionally have been uncomfortable with the word “empire”, even if its current form suggests securing economic access abroad rather than promoting traditional colonialism. Andrew J Bacevich’s diagnosis that the purpose of American grand strategy, since at least the early 1990s, has been to create “an open and integrated international order based on the principles of democratic capitalism, with the United States as the ultimate guarantor of order and enforcer of norms” can seem jarring. Rather more appealing to most are President George W Bush’s remarks on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 2001, attacks. In three paragraphs alone, the president employed the word “freedom” ten times. Terrorists feared freedom. Evil enemies, we were told, hated freedom, rejected tolerance and despised dissent. Americans, however, were “advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism”. War meant liberty triumphing over evil rather than promoting the nation’s economic interests abroad. And so on.

IF OUR compulsion for war cannot be explained fully using the lofty terms of liberty and freedom, some scholars highlight the potential consequences of a growing divide between civilian policy makers and a professional military caste. The volunteer armed forces of the United States, increasingly professional and isolated from civilian Americans, have become, in the words of Peter D Feaver, Richard H Kohn and Lindsay P Cohn, “more alienated from, disgusted with, and even hostile to civilian society”. Sentiments such as these preceded more than a decade of war in which US soldiers increasingly have defined themselves as a special, if not exceptional, community apart from, or even superior to, the larger population they have been entrusted to defend. The implications of this civil-military gap on the propagation of war are not inconsequential.

The Atlantic’s James Fallows, for example, argues, “America’s distance from the military makes the country too willing to go to war, and too callous about the damage warfare inflicts”. Wastefully spending money on weapons unrelated to “battlefield realities”, our military-industrial complex instead purchases hardware based on an “unending faith that advanced technology will ensure victory”. In collaboration, an uninformed public, estranged from the soldiers who ostensibly protect it, instinctively throws its support behind policy makers harping for increased military spending and an interventionist foreign policy. To do otherwise puts one at risk of being branded weak, cowardly or even un-American.

As the distance between soldiers and civilians has grown, Americans have become less troubled with the idea of permanent war. As early as 1995, the historian Michael Sherry documented the militarization of American life, a decades-long trajectory originating before World War Two in which “war defined much of the American imagination” and “the fear of war penetrated” American society. Though Sherry ended on a guardedly hopeful note – that Americans might “drift away from their militarized past” – more recent critics, like Bacevich, have denounced our society’s increasingly comfortable relationship with war. Extending Sherry’s analysis beyond the events of September 11, Bacevich persuasively maintains that the seduction of war overpowers rational thinking on the possibilities and, more importantly, limitations of military power abroad. Instead, we instinctively equate American superiority with military superiority.

Arguments asserting America’s political and cultural superiority based on its military might surely make for gripping reading. Yet within this line of reasoning rests a good deal of hubris. How many US soldiers recently returned from war convinced they were exceptional, not just from the American public sending them to war, but from the Iraqis and Afghans among whom they fought? Lost in the political debates surrounding Clint Eastwood’s retelling of Chris Kyle’s American Sniper (2013) is the similitude of soldiers’ attitudes toward “the other”. Was Kyle representative of his peers when he deemed his adversaries in Iraq a “savage, despicable evil”? Did most veterans return home believing the world was a “better place without savages out there taking American lives”? It is likely that even soldiers traumatized by their experience in war arrived back in the United States with a renewed sense of superiority for American culture and values.

In this sense, our national infatuation with war can be partly explained by how it appears to ennoble us, even – perhaps especially – on a personal level. This conviction is hardly novel. As Kristin Hoganson has recounted of the Spanish-American War, martial endeavors overseas were seen as a way to “vitalize” American manhood. The nation would profit as tested veterans evolved into model citizens and leaders. Little room was afforded to countervailing views on war’s capacity to build robust men for a strong, globally minded republic. Thus, according to Hoganson, “Imperialists benefited from the widespread tendency to construe opposition to war as a sign of cowardice, weakness, or other supposedly unmanly attributes”.

This seemingly anachronistic rendering of gender norms perseveres within American society. We still believe, based more on conviction than evidence, that war fosters masculine values while promoting freedom at home and abroad. Sebastian Junger, who spent over a year chronicling an American infantry platoon serving at a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan, found that war remains a rite of passage for some teens searching for the surest path to manhood. “An extremely compelling endeavor for a lot of young men”, war supposedly gives their lives meaning. Thus, the powerful narrative of war draws us in, captivates our imagination and offers opportunities to prove our worth. “We all want peace”, Junger asserts, “but we’re all fascinated by the drama of war”.

HERE IS where Junger, and many other pundits and scholars, are mistaken. In reality, we don’t want peace. We’re not just entranced by war. We have come to a point where we fear we can’t live without it. War has become a means to deal with our fears, while our fears have become a justification for more war. War no longer punctuates our history. It has become a deep-seated part of who we are and how we define ourselves. Even if only a fraction of Americans participate in war, too many segments of our society now see war as essential for the good of all. Thus, former secretary of defense Chuck Hagel can speak of “nonstop war” with few Americans flinching at such a prospect or even considering more peaceful alternatives. In short, we have become more afraid of peace than we are of war.

Since at least the end of World War Two, this vicious cycle of fear feeding war has become a mainstay of American life. Throughout the Cold War, military professionals and civilian policy makers alike spoke in apocalyptic terms, with one Eisenhower administration official even contending that “acceptable norms of human conduct” no longer applied. National-security strategists, embracing the containment of Communism as a matter of blind faith, deemed it perilous to move off a permanent war footing. Peace was no longer possible.

In the process, the very purpose of war became distorted. American policy makers, while parroting Clausewitzean principles about war’s relation to political ends, increasingly tended to see war as an end unto itself. One 1950 propaganda poster, published by the Defense Department’s Office of Public Information, tellingly depicted a resolute Uncle Sam holstering an ivory-handled pistol. “Why We Fight”, the placard declared. “For all the things we have”. War was now indispensable, not just for defending against the evils of Communism but also, and just as crucially, for preserving the American way of life, a way of life dependent on maintaining a material advantage over the rest of the world.

Though scholars like Sherry may have perceived a glimmer of hope as the Cold War ended that the United States might renounce the militarization to which it had become accustomed, Americans found it too unnerving to kick their addiction to war. Even throughout the 1990s, as American soldiers engaged in “peacemaking” and “peacekeeping” operations across the globe, US foreign policy was becoming ever more militarized. The September 11 2001, attacks simply confirmed for many Americans what they already knew. Talk of peace was naive at best, mortally threatening at worst.

THUS, PERHAPS we should not be startled that peace never comes. (Is it possible we don’t want it to come?) The gravest threat looms continuously on the horizon, which recedes as you advance toward it. Even before the last American convoy left Iraq in December 2011, senior officials in the Obama administration already were speaking of a “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region for fears that American absence there might feed regional instability. China, anxious over what looked to be a new American policy of containment, stoked further fears simply by contesting US notions of unimpeded access around the globe. Easily dismissed were critiques that this new policy might actually compound Beijing’s insecurities, feed China’s aggressiveness and, ultimately, undermine regional stability. A fresh danger to national security demanded a recommitment to military preparedness.

Our national infatuation with war has exceeded what might be considered pragmatic preparedness. Though economic and security considerations should rightfully inform any nation’s foreign policy, larger anxieties seem to govern the United States’ relationship with the outside world. In a deep sense, we are afraid of no longer being the indispensable nation. The result is what the philosopher Kelly Oliver calls “paranoid patriotism”. Even as President Barack Obama was telling the West Point graduating class of 2014 that not every problem has a military solution, he felt compelled to trumpet America’s unique responsibility to lead. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being”, the president declared.

To maintain this exceptional status at all costs, however, has made us suspicious of any state, any entity that might challenge our self-affirmed global position. Consequently, our paranoid patriotism feeds our addiction to war. We are afraid the symptoms of withdrawal might do irreparable damage to the body politic.

So afraid have we become that when our allies seek to curtail their defense spending, we cry foul. In March, US Army chief of staff Raymond Odierno said he was “very concerned” about the falling proportion of Britain’s national wealth devoted to the military. “As we look at threats around the world”, Odierno maintained, “these are global issues and we need to have multinational solutions”. Our sense of vulnerability now extends to our allies’ shores. Not only must we be perpetually at war, but we also demand that our allies follow suit and embrace our fears. Maintaining America’s special place in the world is a multinational effort.

Sustaining American exceptionalism also requires support from our own armed forces, and here institutional anxieties feed our larger national fears. Notwithstanding media attention on the stress and psychological strain that a decade of war has placed on US soldiers, the military has surely profited greatly from being at war. Media outlets after 9/11 proclaimed that veterans were the “real one percenters” whose acts of selfless courage have afforded them a special place in our society. Promotion rates soared among the military ranks, yet when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down, numerous officers clamored over being forcibly separated from a downsizing army that no longer required their services. War might be traumatic, but it provides job security.

HAS THIS persistent fighting made us any more secure? Certainly we don’t feel that way. After more than a decade at war, we seem more afraid than ever. Perhaps, then, the time has come for us to challenge our fear-based assumptions about war, conjectures that have trumped thoughtful discussion about global responsibilities, national resources and the utility of force in the modern era. Given the experience of American wars since 1945, perhaps we should reconsider how well US military efforts solve overseas problems. More serious consideration of what’s attainable from our wielding of power might compel us to challenge our notions of the advantages war supposedly offers.

Part of this reflection should include a reexamination of how we evaluate threats to our national security. The rise of the Islamic State, for instance, has engendered alarmist calls for action, with US senators and congressmen citing the group’s supposed goal of the “destruction of the United States of America” as a rationale for increased military force abroad. Yet does the Islamic State truly pose an existential threat? Its claims of being “ready to redraw the world upon the Prophetic methodology of the caliphate” do not equate to capabilities. And, as Graeme Wood recently suggested in The Atlantic, our ignorance of the Islamic State should not propel us into yet another Middle East incursion. “The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself”, Wood claimed, as a new overseas occupation would confirm suspicions of US interventionism and bolster recruitment for the group’s ranks.

Fear borne of ignorance, however, has been a staple of American life for decades. In truth, Hagel erred when he suggested that “thirteen years of nonstop war” was “unprecedented in the history of this country”. In reality, we have been at war for a long time, in large part because we have been afraid for a long time. That fear, more often than not, has been disproportionate to the threats posed by our real and imagined adversaries. Was domestic Communism, for example, truly a menace to the consumer-based American way of life in the 1950s? It seems we can gain perspective here from a society fetishizing its fears to the point of national hysteria.

Of course, mobilizing fear and paranoia is politically useful. Senator Joseph McCarthy burnished his anti-Communist credentials and made a career by attacking “high men in this government [who] are concerting to deliver us to disaster”. Domino theories and Munich analogies provide a sense of paternalistic authority and political conviction for those who peddle them. Conscious of the dangers to the Republic, they alone protect the nation from those less prudent and more naive. Only the weak, we are told, do not act in places like Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and, of course, Iran.

PERHAPS IT is time for us to reconsider this notion. Perhaps it is fear and cowardice, not courage, which promote conflict. While care is needed when connecting individual tales to national psyches, two memoirs from the Vietnam War era are instructive here. In his fictionalized autobiography The Things They Carried (2009), Tim O’Brien recounts standing on the Rainy River, beyond which loomed Canada, with his conscription notice in hand. Hating the war (“Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons”), O’Brien contemplated crossing the northern border and dodging the draft. In the end, fearing ridicule, fearing the law, fearing losing his parents’ respect, O’Brien returned home. “I was a coward. I went to the war.” Compare this attitude to that of Jack Todd, whose searing chronicle Desertion: In the Time of Vietnam (2001) tells the tale of a star track athlete at the University of Nebraska who could not accept his nation’s call to serve in Vietnam. “If you wanted to believe in the war, the one thing you could not do was think”. Todd thought hard, deserted and ultimately renounced his citizenship. His memoir is one of the most courageously honest accounts of the turbulent Vietnam era.

Though these two vastly different accounts of Vietnam should not dictate foreign-policy prescriptions, they can offer insights into why we feel pressure to be constantly at war. Those who assert that we must use military force to protect supposed national-security interests in the name of fear might, in reality, be too frightened to reject war. Nonmilitary solutions to international problems take courage. So does peace.

All this will require a more thoughtful reconsideration of the alternatives to war. What does peace mean for us in the twenty-first century? How would peace, depending on how we define such a term, be better than a state of persistent conflict? By what standards do we engage in military action abroad? Does peace require us to challenge our sense of American exceptionalism, to reexamine our assumptions as we attempt to export American ideals abroad? Such questions will no doubt require us all to critically engage with strategies other than those of war. And while we might never eliminate our fears, we would be well served by contemplating the implications of peace, rather than war, becoming a larger part of our national identity.

After more than a decade of war, the time has come for us to move beyond our state of national insecurity. Paranoia does not equal preparedness. The current National Security Strategy contends that we must “resist the over-reach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear”. For our reality to match our rhetoric, however, we need to stop seeing ourselves as so fragile. We need to stop conforming to the relentless militarization afflicting our national mental health. And, above all, we need to stop being so afraid.


Gregory A Daddis is a US Army colonel and a professor of history at the United States Military Academy.

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Greece’s Lesson For Russia

by Paul Craig Roberts

Institute for Political Economy (July 17 2015)

Greece’s debt can now only be made sustainable through debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far.  

–  International Monetary Fund

Greece’s lesson for Russia, and for China and Iran, is to avoid all financial relationships with the West. The West simply cannot be trusted. Washington is committed to economic and political hegemony over every other country and uses the Western financial system for asset freezes, confiscations, and sanctions. Countries that have independent foreign policies and also have assets in the West cannot expect Washington to respect their property rights or their ownership. Washington freezes or steals countries’ assets, or in the case of France imposes multi-billion dollar fines, in order to force compliance with Washington’s policies. Iran, for example, lost the use of $100 billion, approximately one-fourth of the Iranian GDP, for years simply because Iran insisted on its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Russian journalists are asking me if Obama’s willingness to reach a deal with Iran means there is hope a deal can be reached over Ukraine. The answer is No. Moreover, as I will later explain, the deal with Iran doesn’t mean much as far as Washington is concerned.

Three days ago (July 14) a high ranking military officer, General Paul Selva, the third in about as many days, told the US Senate that Russia is “an existential threat to this nation (the US)”. Only a few days prior the Senate had heard the same thing from US Marine commander Joseph Dunford and from the Secretary of the Air Force. A few days before that, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff warned of a Russian “hybrid threat”.

Washington is invested heavily in using Ukraine against Russia. All the conflict there originates with Washington’s puppet government in Kiev. Russia is blamed for everything, including the destruction of the Malaysian airliner. Washington has used false charges to coerce the EU into sanctions against Russia that are not in the EU’s interest. As Washington has succeeded in coercing all of Europe to harm Europe’s political and economic relationships with Russia and to enter into a state of conflict with Russia, certainly Washington is not going to agree to an Ukrainian settlement. Even if Washington wanted to do so, as Washington’s entire position rests on nothing but propaganda, Washington would have to disavow itself in order to come to an agreement.

Despite everything, Russia’s president and foreign minister continue to speak of the US and Washington’s EU vassal states as “our partners”. Perhaps Putin and Lavrov are being sarcastic. The most certain thing of our time is that Washington and its vassals are not partners of Russia.

The Wolfowitz doctrine, the basis of US foreign and military policy, declares
that the rise of Russia or any other country cannot be permitted, because the US is the Uni-power and cannot tolerate any constraint on its unilateral actions.

As long as this doctrine reigns in Washington, neither Russia, China, nor Iran, the nuclear agreement not withstanding, are safe. As long as Iran has an independent foreign policy, the nuclear agreement does not protect Iran, because any significant policy conflict with Washington can produce new justifications for sanctions.

With the nuclear agreement with Iran comes the release of Iran’s $100 billion in frozen Western balances. I heard yesterday a member of the Council for Foreign Relations say that Iran should invest its released $100 billion in US and Europe companies. If Iran does this, the Iranian government is setting itself up for further blackmail. Investing anywhere in the West means that Iran’s assets can be frozen or confiscated at any time.

if Obama were to dismiss Victoria Nuland, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power and replace these neoconservatives with sane diplomats, the outlook would improve. Then Russia, China, and Iran would have a better possibility of reaching accommodation with the US on terms other than vassalage.

Russia and China, having emerged from a poorly functioning communist economic system, naturally regard the West as a model. It seems China has fallen for Western capitalism head over heels. Russia perhaps less so, but the economists in these two countries are the same as the West’s neoliberal economists, which means that they are unwitting servants of Western financial imperialism. Thinking mistakenly that they are being true to economics, they are being true to Washington’s hegemony.

With the deregulation that began in the Clinton regime, Western capitalism has become socially dysfunctional. In the US and throughout the West capitalism no longer serves the people. Capitalism serves the owners and managers of capital and no one else.

This is why US income inequality is now as bad or worse than during the “robber baron” era of the 1920s. The 1930s regulation that made capitalism a functioning economic system has been repealed. Today in the Western world capitalism is a looting mechanism. Capitalism not only loots labor, capitalism loots entire countries, such as Greece which is being forced by the EU to sell off Greece’s national assets to foreign purchasers.

Before Putin and Lavrov again refer to their “American partners”, they should reflect on the EU’s lack of good will toward Greece. When a member of the EU itself is being looted and driven into the ground by its compatriots, how can Russia, China, and Iran expect better treatment? If the West has no good will toward Greece, where is the West’s good will toward Russia?

The Greek government was forced to capitulate to the EU, despite the support it received from the referendum, because the Greeks relied on the good will of their European partners and underestimated the mendacity of the One Percent. The Greek government did not expect the merciless attitude of its fellow EU member governments. The Greek government actually thought that its expert analysis of the Greek debt situation and economy would carry weight in the negotiations. This expectation left the Greek government without a backup plan. The Greek government gave no thought to how to go about leaving the euro and putting in place a monetary and banking system independent of the euro. The lack of preparation for exit left the government with no alternative to the EU’s demands.

The termination of Greece’s fiscal sovereignty is what is in store for Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and eventually for France and Germany. As Jean-Claude Trichet, the former head of the European Central Bank said, the sovereign debt crisis signaled that it is time to bring Europe beyond a “strict concept of nationhood”. The next step in the centralization of Europe is political centralization. The Greek debt crisis is being used to establish the principle that being a member of the EU means that the country has lost its sovereignty.

The notion, prevalent in the Western financial media, that a solution has been imposed on the Greeks is nonsense. Nothing has been solved. The conditions to which the Greek government submitted make the debt even less payable. In a short time the issue will again be before us. As John Maynard Keynes made clear in 1936 and as every economist knows, driving down consumer incomes by cutting pensions, employment, wages, and social services, reduces consumer and investment demand, and thereby GDP, and results in large budget deficits that have to be covered by borrowing. Selling pubic assets to foreigners transfers the revenue flows out of the Greek economy into foreign hands.

Unregulated naked capitalism, has proven in the 21st century to be unable to produce economic growth anywhere in the West. Consequently, median family incomes are declining. Governments cover up the decline by underestimating inflation and by not counting as unemployed discouraged workers who, unable to find jobs, have ceased looking. By not counting discouraged workers the US is able to report a 5.2 percent rate of unemployment. Including discouraged workers brings the unemployment rate to 23.1 percent. A 23 percent rate of unemployment has nothing in common with economic recovery.

Even the language used in the West is deceptive. The Greek “bailout” does not bail out Greece. The bailout bails out the holders of Greek debt. Many of these holders are not Greece’s original creditors. What the “bailout” does is to make the New York hedge funds’ bet on the Greek debt pay off for the hedge funds. The bailout money goes not to Greece but to those who speculated on the debt being paid. According to news reports, Quantitative Easing by the ECB has been used to purchase Greek debt from the troubled banks that made the loans, so the debt issue is no longer a creditor issue.

China seems unaware of the risk of investing in the US. China’s new rich are buying up residential communities in California, forgetting the experience of Japanese-Americans who were herded into detention camps during Washington’s war with Japan. Chinese companies are buying US companies and ore deposits in the US. These acquisitions make China susceptible to blackmail over foreign policy differences.

The “globalism” that is hyped in the West is inconsistent with Washington’s unilateralism. No country with assets inside the Western system can afford to have policy differences with Washington. The French bank paid the $9 billion fine for disobeying Washington’s dictate of its lending practices, because the alternative was the close down of its operations in the United States. The French government was unable to protect the French bank from being looted by Washington.

It is testimony to the insouciance of our time that the stark inconsistency of globalism with American unilateralism has passed unnoticed.

Copyright (c) 2013 All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

Nato and the West Just Became Irrelevant

by F William Engdahl

New Eastern Outlook (July 22 2015)

The dual summits that took place in Russia’s Ufa beginning 9 July were anything but routine. In fact it may be seen by future historians as a signal event that marked the definitive decline of the global hegemony of European civilization including North America. This is no small event in human history. It’s the most significant shift in relative global economic relations since the Fourth Crusade in 1204 when the Republic of Venice emerged as a world power following their brutal, disgraceful capture and sacking of Constantinople, marking the demise of the Byzantine Empire.

First a look at what transpired. Russia was host to two overlapping summits of emerging alternative organizations, the annual meeting of the BRICS nations as well as the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The larger significance has been all but entirely blacked out by western mainstream media such as The New York Times.

First we look at the results from the BRICS meeting where Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are the five member states. The BRICS formally put their New Development Bank (NDB) into operation. It has world headquarters in Shanghai, China’s banking and financial center with a branch in South Africa to serve the African region.

It is explicitly operating as an alternative to the post-1945 domination of the IMF and World Bank, the heart of Washington’s Dollar System. It has member contributions of $50 billion for infrastructure projects mainly, but not exclusively, in the BRICS states. As well it has created a $100 billion financial defense fund, a so-called Contingent Reserves Arrangement, in event of speculative attacks such as were launched by Washington with the Soros Quantum Fund in 1997 to destroy the independent Asian Tiger economies.

The NDB bank is in business one year after the last BRICS summit agreed to its creation, and the meeting announced that first approved infrastructure projects will begin at the beginning of 2016. That’s an impressive testament to the mutual will to create an alternative to the IMF and World Bank, both of the latter controlled by Washington where they are headquartered. Notably BRICS agreed for the first time to institute formal cooperation with the leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

As well they agreed to meet the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

SCO Adds Major Security Dimension

For its part, the nations of the SCO – Shanghai Cooperation Organization – in addition to formally admitting both India and Pakistan, agreed to increase its role combating terrorism in the region. The SCO was established in 2001 originally to settle border conflicts between China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in the years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is now undergoing an organic metamorphosis into something quite different and, in combination with China’s One Belt, One Road New Economic Silk Road high-speed rail network crisscrossing Russia and all Eurasia, potentially the kernel of an economic region whose growth over the next century and more can pale anything the debt-bloated OECD economies of the west are capable of.

This year the SCO members admitted Pakistan and India as full members, a move that undercuts some seventy years of Anglo-American geopolitics on the Indian Subcontinent by bringing the two bitter enemies into a forum dedicated to resolving border conflicts diplomatically. The Ufa BRICS declaration also stressed the importance of reaffirming the UN Charter and condemned unilateral military intervention, a clear reference to guess who?

That enlargement to include India and Pakistan into the Eurasian SCO has huge implications for China’s New Economic Silk Road high-speed rail infrastructure network across all Eurasia as well as potential gas and oil pipeline routes in the region. Significantly, for an Obama Administration that wants to pit Iran against Russia and China with the signing of the latest nuclear Geneva six-power deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attended the BRICS/SCO summits and held private talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tehran will likely join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after the embargo is withdrawn, perhaps as early as 2016, something that will give the SCO a major presence in the Middle East geographically.

With the planned lifting now of US economic sanctions on Iran, this could mean a huge economic deepening of the Eurasian economic space from Shanghai to Saint Petersburg to Teheran and beyond, the nightmare scenario of US geopolitical actors like Zbigniew Brzezinski or Henry Kissinger.

Notably, the BRICS final declaration also pledged greater cooperation on combating terrorism and dealing with security problems of member states. This overlaps the Russia-initiated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), created in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union to provide some semblance of security from rampant CIA monkey business using veterans of the CIA’s Afghani Mujahideen to “stir up” (to use Brzezinski’s term for it) the peoples of former Soviet states with large Muslim populations across Central Asia, especially Azerbaijan and the Caucasus.

Today, the CSTO is emerging as a far more serious organization and a means by which Russia can legitimately provide direct security expertise to weaker states inside the Eurasian Economic Union such as Kyrgyzstan or Armenia, both of whom have been targets of new US-sponsored Color Revolutions to spread chaos across the emerging Eurasian economic space.

What is notable about the joint BRICS-SCO-Eurasian Economic Union summit hosted by Russia’s Putin in Ufa, a city of some one million at the foot of the Ural mountain range near to Kazakhstan, is not only the degree of harmonizing that is taking place among the three vast organizations. It is also the fact that Russia uniquely is a member of all three, facilitating the harmonization of the three in terms of strategic goals. Moreover the member states have everything and everyone necessary to be fully independent of the dollar world and the dying EU with its misbegotten Euro sham.

As The Saker pointed out in a recent perceptive piece,

the full list of BRICS/SCO members will now look like this: Brazil, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The BRICS/SCO will thus include two Permanent UN Security Council, four countries with nuclear weapons (only three Nato countries have nukes!), it’s members account for a full third of the world’s land area: they produce sixteen trillion dollars in GDP and have a population of three billion people or half of the global world population.

A new architecture of Eurasia is being formed, something which, were they of a mind to, the nations of the EU, above all Germany, France, Italy, could hugely benefit from cooperating with. Yet, what is the response of Washington and her “vassals” in European Nato, to use the term of Brzezinski?

The Nato Washington Response

The response of Washington and Nato to all this is a bleak, pathetic contrast to put it mildly.

The new Obama nominee to become US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, declared Russia to be America’s greatest threat in his Congressional testimony some days ago. Conveniently forgetting all about the “existential threat” from ISIS, an organization US and Israeli intelligence brought into being to spread their chaos, Dunford declared, “If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia”. The alarming thing is there was scarcely a peep of protest aside from blog remarks by retired Congressman Ron Paul and a few others. The tom-toms of bellicosity are pounding louder along the Potomac these days.

The war rage in Washington goes deeper than just one general. The Pentagon just released its Military Strategy of the United States, 2015. There the focus has clearly shifted away from “non-state actors” such as ISIS as being the greatest threat to the US and refocuses on “state actors” that are “challenging international norms”. The Pentagon strategy document goes on to name Russia, China, Iran, North Korea as the greatest threats. What they do not admit is the “threat” is to the continued sole Superpower hegemony of a United States that insists its will is the only valid one as self-appointed guardian of “democracy” and “human rights”, their New World Order as George Bush senior termed it in 1991.

On the economic front, what is emerging across the vast expanse of Eurasia is the greatest infrastructure investment in real physical infrastructure, which in turn will create new markets where today the remote regions of Siberia or Mongolia remain virtually untouched. By contrast, Obama’s Washington, a once-hegemon that has lost its soul, can only offer the US-dominated secret free trade pact, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), for Asian states absent China, as a way to contain China economically, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that offers the same geopolitical dead end for the economies of the EU. Both trade proposals are a desperate attempt by Washington strategists and their corporate backers in agribusiness such as Monsanto or the pharmaceutical industry to dominate world trade and finance.

Just as an individual can lose themselves through a trauma, so it’s possible for entire nations, even nations as large and apparently mighty as the United States of America, to lose its soul. Once a nation loses its soul, it loses its ability to do good, to be good. That tragically describes America today. The process has been a slow-motion rot from within, much as the Roman Empire in the Third and Fourth centuries AD. The rot has proceeded over decades.

There were many seminal events we as a people let pass without acting. One such over the past century or more was the US Congress’ surrender of the Constitutional responsibility to control the issue of money, handing it over to a private cabal of Wall Street bankers who named it the Federal Reserve. Another was the perfidy of our turning on our wartime allies in Russia and making them the “new Hitler”, so that Nelson Rockefeller’s national security state, complete with a CIA, could be built to justify the devaluation of the essence of the US Constitution. Another was the decision, well, perhaps you can fill in the blanks there are so many, each seemingly minor, but as a cumulative totality toxic to genuine respect for human life and individual freedom. Then, following the events of September 11 2001 we as a nation, crippled by our fear, stood by silently as the Bill of Rights went into the paper shredder of George W Bush with the misnamed Patriots Act and other police state laws.

Once a people as once-wonderful as the American people lose all that made them good, it takes a conscious decision and determination to regain that goodness. The first essential step is to become conscious of what is bad in us as a people today. David Rockefeller or George H W Bush or Bill Gates or Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush did not do this. We did, and they merely took the use out of our action. There we must begin if we wish to take ourselves seriously again as a nation and as a people. Seeing ourselves as “victims” regardless of what or whoever is a dead end, literally.


F William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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“Two-Faced” Japan Accuses China …

… of Stealing Gas With Sea Rigs

by Tyler Durden

Zero Hedge (July 22 2015)

Over the course of the last several months, China has found itself at the center of a rather spirited international “debate” over the country’s land reclamation efforts in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

To recap, Beijing has created more than 1,500 acres of sovereign territory in the Spratly archipelago by using dredgers to construct man-made islands atop reefs. Although China isn’t the first country to embark on reclamation efforts in the region, its projects have been described by the US and its allies as far more ambitious than those of its neighbors.

The situation escalated rapidly when the Chinese Navy threatened {1} a US spy plane with a CNN crew aboard. Shortly thereafter, the US claimed to have spotted artillery {2} on one of the islands and the entire situation culminated in a hilarious propaganda campaign {3} by the Chinese apparently designed to show that life on its new islands was really all about girls, gardening, pigs, and puppies.

Now, China finds itself at the center of yet another maritime dispute, this time over the construction of oil and gas platforms in the East China Sea. Reuters has more {3}:

China reserves the right to a “necessary reaction” after Japan issued a defense review that called on Beijing to stop building oil and gas exploration platforms close to disputed waters in the East China Sea, the Defense Ministry has said.

In the paper issued on Tuesday, Tokyo expressed concern that Chinese drills could tap reservoirs that extend into Japan’s waters.

“This kind of action completely lays bare the two-faced nature of Japan’s foreign policy and has a detrimental impact on peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region”, China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

China would further evaluate Japan’s defense review, or white paper, when the full text is issued and would then make a “necessary reaction depending on the situation”, it said.

In an escalation of the spat, Japan released aerial photos of China’s construction activities in the area, accusing Beijing of unilateral development and a halfhearted attitude toward a 2008 agreement to jointly develop resources there.

“China’s development activities in the East China Sea have shown no signs of ceasing. Given rising concerns within and outside of Japan over China’s various attempts to change the status quo, we have decided to release what can be released in an appropriate manner”, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference.

Apparently “what can be released” are the following images:

And here is a map showing where the rigs are located in relation to a demarcation line that separates the two countries’ exclusive economic zones.

So what’s the problem, you ask? It seems as though all of the structures are on China’s side of the line. Here’s Bloomberg with more {4}:

Japan’s foreign ministry unveiled a map and photographs of what it said were sixteen Chinese marine platforms close to Japan’s side of the disputed East China Sea.

The platforms are on the Chinese side of a geographical median line that Japan contends should mark the border between their exclusive economic zones. Japan has long expressed concern that such developments could siphon gas out of undersea structures that extend to its own side.

So essentially, Japan believes that China may be attempting to steal from Japan by building rigs right next to the line and sucking undersea gas back to the Chinese side. Or, in other words:

As for Beijing’s take on the matter, the foreign ministry says its exploration activities are “justified, reasonable and legitimate”.

Whatever the case may be, the dispute won’t do anything to help Sino-Japanese relations and although Suga claims the issue won’t derail diplomatic progress, one has to imagine that Beijing has had just about enough of being told what it can and can’t do in what it considers to be territorial waters.

* * *

Full statement from Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs {5}.







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The Real Reasons for the Iran Agreement

by Paul Craig Roberts

Institute for Political Economy (July 18 2015)

Obama is being praised as a man of peace for the nuclear agreement with Iran. Some are asking if Obama will take the next step and repair US-Russian relations and bring the Ukrainian imbroglio to an end?

If so he hasn’t told Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland or his nominee as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Paul Selva, or his nominee as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, or his Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James.

The other day on Ukrainian TV Victoria Nuland declared that if Russia does not “fulfill its obligations”, by which she means to turn all of Ukraine over to Washington including Crimea, a historical Russian province, “we’re prepared to put more pressure on Russia”. During the past week both of Obama’s nominees to the top military positions told the US Senate that Russia was the main threat to the US, an “existential threat” even. With this level of war rhetoric in play, clearly Obama has no interest in reducing the tensions that Washington has created with Russia.

In my last column I wrote that the agreement with Iran does not mean much, because Washington can renew the sanctions at any time merely by making false charges against Iran. Obama knows this even if Lindsey Graham and John McCain pretend that they don’t know it.

The US and its proxies continue to murder people over a large area of the earth. Clearly Obama is not a man of peace, and neither are his European enablers and the United Nations. So what is the reason for the accommodation with Iran after many years of rabid demonization of a country for no other reason than the country insisted on its rights to nuclear energy granted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

If you can free yourself from the brainwashing from the presstitute media, three BIG reasons jump out at you. One is that the neoconservatives’ perception of the threat has shifted from “Muslim terrorists” to Russia and China. Unlike Muslim terrorists, both Russia and China are constraints on Washington’s unilateralism. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington has grown accustomed to being the Uni-Power, able to exercise its will unchallenged in the world. The rise of Russian strength under Putin and Chinese strength under the new policy has destroyed Washington’s Uni-Power privilege. Washington wants the privilege back.

Washington is not in good shape, economically or militarily. According to Nobel Economist Joseph Stieglitz and Harvard University budget expert Linda Bilmes, Washington has wasted at least $6 trillion dollars in its fourteen-year old wars in the Middle East. Despite the extraordinary cost, Washington has been defeated, and is now faced with the Islamic State, a new entity arising out of Washington’s mistakes that is creating a new country partly out of Iraq and partly out of Syria.

Despite its gigantic hubris, Washington has figured out that the US cannot simultaneously take on Russia, China, Iran, and the Islamic State. This realization is one reason for the nuclear agreement with Iran. It removes Iran from the mix.

A second reason for the agreement is that Iran is opposed to the Islamic State and can be employed as an American proxy against the Islamic State, thus freeing Washington for conflict with Russia and China.

A third reason for Washington’s agreement with Iran is Washington’s concern with Europe’s energy dependence on Russia. This dependence is inconsistent with the EU going along with Washington’s sanctions against Russia and with Nato’s military moves against Russia. Washington wants to end this dependence and has hopes that money can bring Iran into becoming a supplier of natural gas and oil to Europe.

The explanation I have provided is realism, not cynicism. All that the agreement with Iran means is that Washington has belatedly realized that the concocted Iranian and Muslim threats are using up time, energy, and resources that Washington needs to apply to Russia and China. Moreover, there were too many threats for the American people to know which was paramount.

One of the reasons that Greece has to be destroyed is to block the entry of Russian natural gas into Europe from the Russian pipeline into Turkey.

Washington has US troops in Ukraine training the Ukrainian military how to subdue the break-away provinces, and the stooge Ukrainian government has taken no steps to comply with the Minsk Agreement. Clearly Washington intends that peace is not in the cards in Ukrainian-Russian relations.

At some point Russia will have to accept defeat or else stop contributing to its own defeat. On more than one occasion when the Russian break-away provinces had the Ukrainian military totally defeated, the Russian government intervened and prevented the collapse of the Ukrainian military. For its consideration, Russia has been rewarded with more demonization and with US aid to the Ukrainian military. When hostilities resume, which they will, Russia and the break-away Russian provinces will find themselves in a worsened position.

The Russian government cannot pursue peace when Washington is pursuing War.

Copyright (c) 2013 All rights reserved.

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