Russia

Edward Snowden: A Russian Citizen

484 views
2 mins read

Yesterday Edward Snowden was granted Russian citizenship. Snowden had to flee his country, because he released information that proved that the NSA was, and still is, illegally spying on US citizens.  The presstitutes will use Snowden’s grant of citizenship as proof that he was a Russian spy, not a patriotic whistleblower trying to alert his countrymen to their danger.

 I would like to give some background. Edward Snowden was the second American who blew the whistle about illegal NSA spying on American citizens.

William Binney was the first.  Binney was a Russian specialist with the National Security Agency.  He developed the spy program that was supposed to be used against America’s enemies, but was illegally used against the American population.  Binney, despite being the NSA Geopolitical World Technical Director, a high position, blew the whistle on the illegal activity, comparing it to activities of the KGB, Stasi, Gestapo, and SS.

As a consequence, the US government decided to destroy him.  In July 2007 a dozen heavily armed FBI Gestapo broke into his home and arrested him while he was taking a shower.  His economic livelihood was destroyed, and the government attempted to prosecute him.

However, Binney exposed the illegal spying internally through the official whistleblower program, and he did not take any documents as proof of the illegal spying on US citizens. As a result of these precautions, Binney could not be prosecuted, and the information that the US government was illegally spying on its own citizens did not get out.

Speaking before the German Bundestag in July 2014, Binney said that NSA was using totalitarian methods that previously had only been used by dictatorships. He said that Washington’s goal was to monitor the whole American population, including those abroad, which stands in contradiction of the US Constitution.

As Binney had taken no documents, he could supply no proof, and the US media disposed of him as a crackpot who turned against his country.

Consequently, Edward Snowden who knew first-hand that the NSA was illegally and unconstitutionally spying on US citizens took and released the documents to prove it. This effort to wake up insouciant Americans meant that he would be arrested on national security grounds. Snowden realized that and released the documents to Glenn Greenwald in Asia and escaped capture by China permitting his passage to Russia. The whore US media used Snowden’s escape via China to Russia as proof that he was a spy, and used this false story to prevent Americans from understanding that it was their own government, not Snowden, who was betraying them.

That Russia has belatedly granted Snowden citizenship will be used by the US presstitute media as proof that he is a Russian spy out to discredit the NSA.  Many Americans, the least educated and aware of all peoples, will fall for this story.

What does this tell us?

It tells us that it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, for even high government officials who turn whistleblower to awaken the American people.  

Americans have no idea of anything that is really happening in the world. They only get officially approved narratives handed to a media that serves only as a Ministry of Propaganda.  I am a former editor at the Wall Street Journal.  There is no one in American print and TV media today that has enough integrity for them to be hired by the WSJ four decades ago when I was an editor.

In the United States today dissent from the official narratives that serve secret agendas implies that you are a kook conspiracy theorist and more recently that you are a foreign operative against your country.  It will not be long in the US before any disagreement from official narratives is grounds for arrest.

So, to be clear, in the US today facts not only do not matter, but they are dangerous to those who speak them.  

Our Military Plan will Not Adjust – Putin

/
409 views
5 mins read

In conclusion of his visit to Uzbekistan, Vladimir Putin answered journalists’ questions. Following excerpts adapted from the press release published by Kremlin

Question: Now that the SCO summit is over, summing it up, can you tell us how you regard the SCO’s development prospects and what the most important thing is for Russia in the SCO?

Vladimir Putin: The most important thing always and everywhere is economic development. And the SCO, cooperation with the SCO countries, creates conditions for the development of the Russian economy, and thus for the social sphere and for resolving the tasks related to improving the living standards of our citizens.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation includes countries whose population, as has been said many times, comprises almost or even slightly more than half of humanity. It is 25 percent of world GDP. And, most importantly, the national economies in the region, those of the SCO member states, are developing much faster than others in the world.

Now we had a separate meeting. I sat next to the Prime Minister of India at the working dinner. India’s GDP grew by 7 percent, China’s by more than 5 percent. China was in the lead for quite a time and its potential is tremendous. Our trade with these countries is growing fast. If these rates are preserved, and they are bound to be for many objective reasons, we will be one of these countries, next to them, ensuring our interests. This is what we are doing and this is the main point.

Question: This question is certainly worrying very many people in our country. People have already developed certain concerns over the course of the special military operation in Ukraine. We are increasingly seeing strikes, raids and acts of terror even on Russian territory. We are hearing all the time very aggressive statements that the final goal of Kiev and the West is Russia’s disintegration. Meanwhile, many think that Russia’s response to all of this is very restrained. Why is that?

Vladimir Putin: There is nothing new about this. Frankly, I find it even a bit strange to hear your question because Western countries have cultivated the idea of the collapse of the Soviet Union and historical Russia and Russia as such, its nucleus.

I have already cited these statements and studies by some figures in Great Britain during World War I and after it. I cited excerpts from Mr Brzezinski’s writings in which he divided the entire territory of our country into specific parts. True, later he changed his position a bit in the belief that it was better to keep Russia in opposition to China and use it as a tool to combat China. It will never happen. Let them address their own challenges as they see fit. But we are seeing how they are handling them and, most likely, they are doing harm to themselves in the process. Their tools are no good.

But they have always been seeking the dissolution of our country – this is very true. It is unfortunate that at some point they decided to use Ukraine for these purposes. In effect – I am answering your question now and the conclusion suggests itself – we launched our special military operation to prevent events from taking this turn. This is what some US-led Western countries have always been seeking – to create an anti-Russia enclave and rock the boat, threaten Russia from this direction. In essence, our main goal is to prevent such developments.

With regard to our restrained response, I would not say it was restrained, even though, after all, a special military operation is not just another warning, but a military operation. In the course of this, we are seeing attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks and damage our civilian infrastructure.

Indeed, we were quite restrained in our response, but that will not last forever. Recently, Russian Armed Forces delivered a couple of sensitive blows to that area. Let’s call them warning shots. If the situation continues like that, our response will be more impactful

Terrorist attacks are a serious matter. In fact, it is about using terrorist methods. We see this in the killing of officials in the liberated territories, we even see attempts at perpetrating terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation, including – I am not sure if this was made public – attempts to carry out terrorist attacks near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants in the Russian Federation. I am not even talking about the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant.

We are monitoring the situation and will do our best to prevent a negative scenario from unfolding. We will respond if they fail to realise that these approaches are unacceptable. They are, in fact, no different than terrorist attacks.

Question: Kiev recently published draft security guarantees for Ukraine. What can you tell us about this, and what is your assessment of this project?

Vladimir Putin: Frankly, I am not familiar with what they have come up with this time. We, in fact, started with this when we were negotiating with the incumbent Kiev authorities and, in fact, completed this negotiating process in Istanbul with the well-known Istanbul agreement, after which we withdrew our troops from Kiev in order to create the proper conditions for concluding this agreement. Instead of concluding an agreement, Kiev immediately turned down all agreements, shoved them into a box and said they would not seek any agreement with Russia, but instead would pursue victory on the battlefield. Let them try. They are just now trying to do this with the counteroffensive. Let’s see how it ends.

As for security guarantees, and these were fairly tough security guarantees, they were required from our side, from the main NATO countries and regional states, including Turkiye. Overall, we agreed with this – to a large extent. There were some things that required minor adjustments but overall we agreed and these were quite serious requirements. However, the Kiev authorities shelved them.

What have they come up with? I don’t know because they change their position on every issue almost every day. I must have a look.

I would like to recall in this connection that before the start of the special military operation, we talked about security principles and measures on ensuring the security of Russia itself but nobody deemed it necessary to respond to this. Unfortunately.

Q: Could you please share your opinion on the course of the special military operation? Is it necessary to adjust the plan?

Vladimir Putin: No, the plan will not be adjusted. The General Staff takes real-time decisions in the course of the operation and some are considered a key, the main goal. The main goal is to liberate the entire territory of Donbass.

This work continues despite the attempts of the Ukrainian army to launch a counter-offensive. We are not stopping our offensive operations in Donbass itself. They continue. They continue at a slow pace but consistently and gradually, the Russian army is taking more and more new territory.

I must emphasise that we are fighting not with a full army but only with part, with contracted forces. But, of course, this is linked with certain personnel parameters and so on. This is why we are not in a rush in this respect. But essentially, there have been no changes. The General Staff considers some objectives important and others secondary but the main task remains the same and it is being carried out.

Question: Did President of Turkiye Erdogan make proposals on your meeting with Zelensky at this meeting?

Vladimir Putin: He always suggests meeting with Zelensky. He has been doing this for a long time and there is nothing bad about it. The President of Turkiye is making a substantial contribution to normalising the situation, including resolution of the food problem. The export of Ukrainian grain via Odessa is largely the result of his work. So, he is really making a tangible contribution to resolving a number of serious issues that are arising in connection with this crisis. And, of course, it is only natural that he also suggests meeting with President Zelensky, thinking that it may produce some positive result. He did not raise it at this meeting.

Question: On what conditions could there be dialogue with Ukraine now, if it is possible at all?

Vladimir Putin: But they refuse. The first condition is that they agree to it. But they do not want it. Mr Zelensky has publicly announced – I do not know where exactly, but he said it publicly – that he is not ready and does not want to talk to Russia. Well, if he is not ready, fine.

Click here to read the rest of this press interaction

Farewell Gorbachev

/
460 views
2 mins read

It was an unforgettable evening in Moscow.

I was taken by Russian friends to the city’s then largest cathedral which had been closed for decades by Stalin’s orders.

Amid clouds of incense and the glow of countless candles, a chorus sang the old Orthodox liturgy. Most of the worshippers openly wept. This was the first time that Russians had been allowed to celebrate Orthodox Christmas mass since the 1930’s. Though not myself religious, I was swept away by the deep emotions and beauty of the moment.

The new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, had allowed his nation’s churches to reopen. This historic act, and a host of other liberalizations, restored Russia to its cultural roots and brought a dawn to the benighted Soviet Union after the dark Communist times.

Mikhail Gorbachev, a soft-spoken bureaucrat from the rural Stavropol region, seemed unlikely to assume leadership of the mighty Soviet Union. But three previous chairmen of the Union had died from age-related infirmities. The Communist Party’s ruling circles decided that their nations needed youth, rejuvenation and a battle against corruption.

So Gorbachev was named the new party chairman. He wasted no time in unleashing a torrent of reforms known a ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika.’ Gorbachev was hugely aided in this revolution by the tough KGB chief of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze whose primary role in Gorbachev’s revolution was not understood by the west. We used to call him ‘Chevy Eddy.’ He enjoyed this sobriquet.

Gorbachev wanted a Europeanized, liberal Russia living in harmony with the western powers. He partly dismantled the fearsome KGB, guardian of the communist party. I interviewed the KGB’s two most senior officers at the notorious Lubyanka Prison and learned of their tentative support for Gorbachev’s reforms.

The most important action taken by Gorbachev was his refusal to use force against ethnic nationalists in the Baltic states, Ukraine, Central Asia and, increasingly, Eastern Europe. Force and fear had held the old Soviet Union together. Once removed, the union quickly began to disintegrate.

Gorbachev also sought to end the Cold War confrontation with the US and its allies, rightly understanding that the USSR could not sustain a ruinous military confrontation with the western powers. Russia at one time had 50,000 tanks and 5,000 nuclear warheads but no food in its miserable markets.

So Gorbachev bravely called an end to the Cold War and embarked on nuclear disarmament programs. He ended the hopeless war in Afghanistan and recalled the Red Army. As rebellions erupted in East Germany, the Baltics and Central Asia a bunch of drunken Communist Party bigwigs tried to overthrow Gorbachev in August 1991 while he was vacationing in Crimea. The coup was a comic fiasco, but it ended Gorbachev’s authority. Boris Yeltsin, secretly supported by the US and Britain, seized power.

The USSR collapsed, splintering into pieces. Gorbachev and his allies were unwilling to employ brute force to stop the process. Had they done so, nuclear war with the US and NATO would have been likely. While Gorbachev avoided war and allowed the historic reunification of Germany, the US invaded Iraq. Many Russians warned that the US was determined to destroy the Russian Union. Washington’s vows not to expand NATO east turned out to be untruths that delivered the final fatal blow to Gorbachev. He became the most reviled man in Russia, an outcast in his own country. His lovely, cultured wife Raisa was denounced as a snob, but she would form the model for modern Russian women, transformed from dumpy versions of Mrs. Khrushchev into stunning beauties.

Former President Mikhail Gorbachev died last week aged 91 after a long illness. Like the late US president Jimmy Carter, he struggled to spare the world from the threat of nuclear war. He made many mistakes, but Gorby was a great man, a great statesman and a great human being.

Rest in peace, Mikhail Sergeyevich. I salute you.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2022

The Legacy of Gorbachev: International Peacemaker or National Resentment?

//
339 views
4 mins read

Another influential figure passes from the genus of the living and into the memories of the lost. As the month of August completed its timely lapse, the final leader of the Soviet Union passed away at the ripe old age of 91.

At the news of his death, political leaders of the West remembered Mikhail Gorbachev for his distinguished character, his unflinching faith in peace, and his tiring efforts for reformation. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid tribute to the Soviet leader commenting that he was ‘a one-of-a-kind statesman who changed the course of history’, while US President Joe Biden hailed him as ‘a man of remarkable vision’. Nevertheless, while he is being praised by the ascendancies of the Western political camp, he was even denied a state funeral in his own nation for his responsibility in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev led a distinguished and unconventional life that earned him international reverence but national revilement. When he acceded to power as General Secretary in 1985, he presided over one of the most powerful countries in the bipolar world order of the 1980s. However, when he resigned, he left a disintegrated and weak Russian state that had become the fallen pole in the emerging unipolar world of the 1990s.

The rise of Gorbachev was glorious and unprecedented in the history of the USSR. This dynamic and charismatic leader was to bring the idea of reformation to the rigid administrative structure of the Union. His famous slogans ‘perestroika’ (rebuilding) and ‘glasnost’ (openness) were the fundamental ideologies used as the guiding tenets that were to bring the Soviet edifice to heightened prosperity and opulence. The United States and its allies welcomed him with open arms as they foresaw the opportunity that the capitalist machine could reap from a communist leader having democratic ideals.

The ideals of Gorbachev, however, were no doubt based on the noble principles of well-founded intentions. He visioned the bringing of a peaceful reformation from within, yet his ideas proved too idealistic to be true. The effort to hold the Empire together without the regressive control of central authority was a futile attempt. As the Empire opened up, multiple European and Baltic satellite states under the Kremlin began calls for independence. When Gorbachev refused to use force to repress the protests, the fall of the Empire became inevitable – a drastic similarity to the fall of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the face of the JVP-led regime change operation in Sri Lanka.

As Gorbachev’s biographer William Taubman wrote; ‘he was a good man, he was a decent man. I think his tragedy is in a sense that he was too decent for the country he was leading’. The failure of Gorbachev remains an example of how a top-down approach for a rapid transformation of an oligarchical system is not possible along a peaceful road. Such efforts to pressurise change more often lead to violent push-back from the status quo even if the proponent of that change is one of them.

The strategy of Gorbachev worked in the international sphere where he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for playing a leading role in ending the Cold War between the US and USSR. But of course, wide speculation exists on whether the Peace Prize was given as a ‘Thank You’ token for allowing the United States to win against the Soviets. The nuclear arms race was a leading concern in the 1980s as the looming risk of nuclear war between the world powers was a constant possibility that could cause unimaginable destruction across the world. The combined efforts of Gorbachev of the USSR and Ronald Reagan of the US helped in the voluntary reduction in nuclear arsenals of both countries. The Reagan Foundation and Institute looked back and described Gorbachev as ‘a man who once was a political adversary of Ronald Reagan’s who ended up becoming a friend’.

On the global stage of diplomacy, Gorbachev was praised as a peacemaker. However, in his homeland, he faced scathing criticism. The political career of Gorbachev could not survive the disintegration of the USSR as it was seen as a humiliation brought upon the people of the former Soviet Union. He was not only blamed for the hyperinflation and food insecurity that followed, but also for the very failure to uphold the tenets of the Empire that were structurally in place for more than half a century. Soon after he resigned in 1991 on the eve of the Soviet collapse, the Kremlin was once again reclaimed by the Russian hardliners. In his resignation speech in December 1991, Gorbachev proclaimed that the ‘old system collapsed before the new one had time to begin working, and the crisis in the society became even more acute’. When he tried to return to power in 1996, it was too late and he received only 1% of the vote from the constituents of the collapsed Union.

The death of Gorbachev comes at a disoriented juncture for the Russians as it remains deep in war against its former republic state of Ukraine. The failure of Gorbachev to become the linchpin for the Soviet Empire resulted in the perceived victory of the Western camp in winning the Cold War. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Union, the United States and its allies began inundating former Soviet states into the Western sphere of influence. Highly influential former Soviet republics began switching teams with the United States. Poland, Hungary and the Czechs joined the American NATO in 1999 while Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined in 2004. The ever-creeping US ideological machine continues to thrust Eastward. America’s attempt to bring Ukraine into its direct sphere of influence triggered Putin’s war machine that launched its invasion of Ukraine to thwart any attempts to install a NATO power in Russia’s backyard.

The policy adopted by hardliners like Vladimir Putin is the opposite of Gorbachev’s so-called peace policy. They blame Gorbachev for the Soviet Union’s fall from grace. While Gorbachev attempted to rule in the American style of governance that led to failure, Putin appears to remain vigilant and downright rejects the Americanisation of the former Soviet Empire. This is in no way to opine that the Russian style of governance is superior to its American counterpart, but simply a comment on the rather colossal ideological confrontation that continues to burn. In 2005, the Russian president called the break-up of the USSR ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century’.

Gorbachev’s life and the collapse of the Soviets continue to stand as examples of the use of Western liberal practice in non-Western nations as a style of governance. Like the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, the disintegration of the Union transpired as a result of replacing stalwart control with liberal-backed suspended governance. The legacy of Gorbachev will remain a silent reminder of a somewhat liberal Russia – one that encouraged individualism and accepted the limitations of collectivism. Yet the question persists if the overwhelming praise of Gorbachev in Western media could ever conceal the marginal ostracism that he suffered on the home front. Gorbachev’s life will remain a consequential pillar in the annals of history in the great East-West control for influence. Rest easy, Mr Gorbachev; rest easy.

Where Does Russia Receive Its Aid From?

/
639 views
5 mins read

On August 24, Ukraine’s independence day, the U.S. provided a $3 billion military aid package to the country. The additional assistance adds to more than $80 billion worth of support that Kyiv has already received between January 24 and August 3, the majority of which was provided by the U.S., the UK, and the EU. In addition to gaining access to Western weapons systems, military data, and training, the Ukrainian armed forces have further been augmented by foreign volunteers serving in the International Legion.

With third parties caught aiding Russia risking the imposition of financial penalties by the U.S., open support for the Kremlin has been largely limited to rogue states already isolated from Washington and Brussels. Russia’s seclusion was documented in a UN Resolution on March 2, where 141 countries voted to deplore Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 35 abstained, and just four—Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Eritrea—supported the Kremlin.

Even most of Russia’s key post-Soviet allies belonging to its international organizations, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), have avoided supporting Moscow. Kazakhstan, for example, a member of both institutions, took steps in July to begin exporting its oil across the Caspian Sea, bypassing Russian-controlled oil pipelines. This directly undermines the Kremlin’s strategy of restricting oil to Europe to compromise the region’s energy security.

The key exception among post-Soviet states has been Belarus. Over the last decade, President Alexander Lukashenko has steered Belarus further into Russia’s orbit. Enticed by cheap Russian oil and gas and lucrative transit fees as both these commodities continue on to Europe, Lukashenko has also increasingly relied on Russian security forces to enforce his rule—notably evident during the 2020 Belarusian protests.

Lukashenko’s response to the popular protests in 2020 essentially cut off all avenues for cooperation with the West. But growing Belarusian support for Russia against Ukraine has been evident for years. In 2017, Belarusian authorities detained a 19-year-old Ukrainian man who had traveled to Belarus and deported him to Russia to face terrorism charges. It was therefore no surprise when Lukashenko allowed Russian troops to invade Ukraine from Belarusian territory in February 2022.

Belarus continues to aid the Russian military campaign, including permitting Russia “to fire ballistic missiles from the Belarusian territory, enabling transportation of Russian military personnel and heavy weapons, tanks, and military transporters, allowing Russian military aircraft to fly over Belarusian airspace into Ukraine, providing refueling points, and storing Russian weapons and military equipment in Belarus,” stated the European Council.

Belarus has also repeatedly conducted its own troop movements near the Ukrainian border since the beginning of Russia’s invasion to distract Ukrainian forces. And though Belarus has not committed its armed forces to the Ukraine conflict, Russia has had access to a stream of foreign volunteers, largely from Europe, since Russia’s initial military action in 2014 in Crimea.

Russia’s volunteer strategy has evolved since the launch of Russia’s invasion. Though a far cry from Western think tank estimates of as high as 40,000 Syrian fighters making their way to Russia in March, hundreds of mercenaries from Syria and Libya, where the Russian military is also engaged, were active in Ukraine by April. Rotating allied forces alleviates the Kremlin’s need for more soldiers without resorting to conscription.

Additionally, the Syrian government recognized the independence of Russian-supported eastern Ukraine breakaway republics, Luhansk and Donetsk, in June.

The Iranian government, meanwhile, declared in July that it supported Russia’s war in the face of NATO aggression. Heavily sanctioned by the West, Iran’s armed forces have been fighting alongside the Russian military in Syria since 2015. The two countries have also expanded bilateral relations through energy and weapons deals since the Ukraine invasion, building on years of growing ties in both these areas.

While Russia has typically supplied weapons to Iran, Russian forces have faced a drone deficit in Ukraine. Russian officials have allegedly repeatedly visited Iranian airfields in recent months to review Iranian-made drones, with the first shipments of these drones from Iran to Russia arriving in August.

According to U.S. officials, Russia asked China for financial and material assistance in March, but these accusations were denied by Moscow and Beijing. Both Russia and Ukraine have been using Chinese drones to target one another, prompting China’s Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), the world’s premier civilian drone maker, to halt sales to both countries in April. However, Russians have continued to access AeroScope, a surveillance software used in DJI drones, to target Ukrainian DJI aircraft along with the position of the drone’s operator.

China has also provided the Russian military with significant aid along with electronic components and raw materials vital to sustaining its campaign in Ukraine. In June, five Chinese companies were accused of aiding the Russian military and were blacklisted by U.S. officials. Chinese military aid may accelerate following U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2, which caused a significant downturn in U.S.-China relations.

Additionally, Chinese loans and access to its consumer markets, particularly in energy, have helped Russia cushion the blow of Western sanctions and falling exports. Despite China’s wariness over the threat of Western sanctions and comparisons between the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its dispute with Taiwan, Beijing’s cautious support for Moscow has been crucial since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and continues to help Russia sustain its confrontation with the West.

North Korea has also provided strong support to Russia, with Pyongyang recognizing Ukraine’s two breakaway republics in July. On August 15, Putin wrote a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un proposing the forging of closer ties. This could include additional North Korean workers being sent to occupied Ukraine to help in reconstruction and other sectors. For decades now, North Koreans have traveled to Russia largely to work in highly competitive construction jobs in Siberia, with roughly 20,000 North Korean workers living there today.

Recent saber-rattling between the U.S. and North Korea in the region has also raised the prospect of North Korean soldiers being sent to Ukraine to fight for Russia. Like Syrian and Libyan mercenaries, they could be funneled into Russia through private military companies. North Korean military advisers have been present in Syria since the 1970s, while North Korean soldiers have been suspected of serving in Syria since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011.

Venezuela, Sudan, Cuba, Nicaragua, and other states harboring anti-U.S. sentiment have all reaffirmed their commitment to Russia since the invasion. But more subtle displays of support have come from around the world—even if countries remain cautious of inviting Western financial penalties and perceptions that they are harming Ukraine by supporting Russia.

The 35 abstentions at the UN vote in March represent more than half of the global population, and during a second resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council in April, 93 countries voted in favor, 58 abstained, and 24 voted against.

Distrust toward the West and acknowledgment of Russia’s position as a primary global energy and food supplier have incentivized sustained cooperation with Moscow throughout the world. India, for example, has continued to purchase weapons from Russia, as well as rapidly increasing its energy imports from Russia. Other Western partners and allies, including Turkey, have refused to take part in sanctioning Russia, alongside countries across the Global South.

Inconsistencies and a lack of clarity between Western states have, meanwhile, hampered the effectiveness of Western sanctions, but entities aligned with the West have also wittingly complemented Russia’s war effort. In June, the U.S. Commerce Department added financial actors from several countries, including Lithuania and the UK, to its list of blacklisted companies for helping Russia bypass sanctions and support its war effort.

Russia’s military campaign would also not be possible without the continued purchase of Russian energy by European countries since the beginning of the invasion.

Thus, while countries opposed to the U.S. order have been more open about their support for Russia, the Kremlin continues to receive, openly and subtly, substantial support from other states. This underlines the notion that the war in Ukraine continues to be a conflict between the West and Russia, with most other countries seeking to avoid being drawn in, and reinforces the influential role that Russia continues to play in global affairs.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Ukraine: Bipolarity Trap

//
451 views
4 mins read

As everyone knows, Volodymyr Zelensky played a Ukrainian president in the television series Servant of the People before becoming Ukraine’s president in real life, and that irony led many not to take him seriously (as if a president who previously served in the KGB is better). But less well known is the basic plot of the series.

Zelensky played Vasily Petrovich Goloborodko, a schoolteacher whose students record him ranting about corruption, share the video online (where it goes viral), and then sign him up as a candidate in the country’s next presidential election. Having unwittingly tapped into Ukrainians’ widespread frustration over corruption, Goloborodko wins, faces a steep learning curve in office, and eventually starts to confront the country’s oligarchy from his new position of power.

The show’s depiction of Ukraine is apt. Of all the post-communist countries in Eastern Europe, it was the hardest hit by economic “shock therapy” (sweeping market reforms and privatization) in the 1990s. For three decades since independence, Ukrainian incomes have remained below where they were in 1990. Corruption has been rampant, and the courts have proven a farce.

As Luca Celada of il manifesto writes, “the ‘conversion’ to capitalism has followed the usual pattern: a class of oligarchs and a narrow elite have enriched themselves disproportionately by despoiling the public sector with the complicity of the political class.” Moreover, financial assistance from the West has always been “strongly tied to reforms that Ukraine was required to implement, all under the banner of fiscal restraint and austerity,” further immiserating much of the population. Such is the legacy of the capitalist West’s engagement with post-independence Ukraine.

Meanwhile, my sources in Russia tell me that President Vladimir Putin has assembled a group of Marxists to counsel him on how to present Russia’s position in the developing world. One can find traces of this influence in the speech he gave on August 16:

“The situation in the world is changing dynamically and the outlines of a multipolar world order are taking shape. An increasing number of countries and peoples are choosing a path of free and sovereign development based on their own distinct identity, traditions, and values. These objective processes are being opposed by the Western globalist elites, who provoke chaos, fanning long-standing and new conflicts and pursuing the so-called containment policy, which in fact amounts to the subversion of any alternative, sovereign development options.”

But, of course, two details spoil this “Marxist” critique. First, sovereignty “based on their own distinct identity, traditions, and values” implies that one should tolerate what the state is doing in places like North Korea or Afghanistan. Yet that is completely out of step with true leftist solidarity, which focuses squarely on antagonisms within each “distinct identity” in order to build bridges between struggling and oppressed groups across countries.

Second, Putin objects to “the subversion of any alternative, sovereign development options,” even though that is exactly what he is doing in Ukraine by seeking to deprive its people of self-determination.

Putin is not alone in pushing this pseudo-Marxist line. In France, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen now presents herself as the protector of ordinary working people against multinational corporations, which are said to be undermining national identities through the promotion of multiculturalism and sexual depravity. In the United States, the alt-right succeeds the old radical left with its calls to overthrow the “deep state.” Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon is a self-proclaimed “Leninist” who sees a coalition of the alt-right and the radical left as the only way to end the reign of financial and digital elites. (And, lest we forget the progenitor of this model, Hitler led the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.)

More is at stake in Ukraine than many commentators seem to appreciate. In a world beset by the effects of climate change, fertile land will be an increasingly valuable asset. And if there is one thing Ukraine has in abundance, it is chernozem (“black earth”), an extraordinarily fertile soil with high concentrations of humus, phosphoric acids, phosphorus, and ammonia. That is why US and Western European agrobusiness firms have already bought up millions of hectares of Ukraine’s farmland – with just ten private companies reportedly controlling most of it.

Well aware of the threat of dispossession, the Ukrainian government imposed a moratorium on land sales to foreigners 20 years ago. For years thereafter, the US Department of State, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank repeatedly called for this restriction to be removed. It was only in 2021 that the Zelensky government, under immense pressure, finally started allowing farmers to sell their land. The moratorium on sales to foreigners remains in place, however, and Zelensky has said that lifting it must be put to a national referendum, which would almost certainly fail.

Nonetheless, the cruel irony is that, before Putin launched a war to colonize Ukraine by force, there was some truth to the Russian argument that Ukraine was becoming a Western economic colony. If the conflict has any silver lining, it is that the neoliberal project has been put on hold. Since war demands social mobilization and a coordination of production, it offers Ukraine a unique chance both to halt its expropriation by foreign corporate and financial entities and to rid itself of oligarchic corruption.

In pursuing this opportunity, Ukrainians must bear in mind that it is not enough simply to join the European Union and catch up to Western living standards. Western democracy itself is now in deep crisis, with the US veering toward ideological civil war, and Europe being challenged by authoritarian spoilers from within its own ranks. More immediately, if Ukraine can achieve a decisive military victory (as we should all hope), it will find itself deeply indebted to the US and the EU. Will it be able to resist even greater pressure to open itself up to economic colonization by Western multinationals?

This struggle is already playing out beneath the surface of Ukraine’s heroic resistance. It would be tragic if Ukraine defeated Russian neo-imperialism only to yoke itself to Western neoliberalism. To secure genuine freedom and independence, Ukraine must reinvent itself. While being a Western economic colony is certainly better than being absorbed into a new Russian empire, neither outcome is worthy of the suffering Ukrainians are now enduring.

Copyright © Project Syndicate [ Click here to read the original version of this article ]

Where is Russia now in Ukrainian war?

/
532 views
2 mins read

Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, turning an eight (8) year annexation of Crimea, into a full-scale war.

Almost six months later, what began as a provocation, an invasion in all but name, has created a refugee and humanitarian crisis, the impact of which is being felt as far as Sri Lanka.

The causes of this war and the historical relationship between the two countries, who are really Slav brothers, are pathetic.

I can remember Ukraine was part of the sprawling Soviet Union until the Iron Curtain fell and it has been an acknowledged independent state, since 1991.

But President Putin has maintained that history shows Ukraine has no tradition of genuine statehood.

What we are seeing now?

Linking past and present, we see how this war now connects with the United States and the West and their plan to drag on this war to cripple, if not destabilise Russia.

Ukrainian resistance goes back to Zaporozhe Cossack days. It is legendary. Ukraine is no doubt an independent country. It is no pushover. They are resilient people; no immediate surrender.

President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has literally left Russia, increasingly dependent on China, both economically and politically.

Does everyone know?

China as many knows has provided Russia with a market for Russian products, after sanctions made Russia severely restricted, to sell its wares/goods/exports around the world.

Now people in Russia are having to settle for poor quality substitutes, for imported, now banned Western goods amid the hefty sanctions. But sanctions, nobody will admit is a scissor grip. It is hurting the West as much, if not more than it is paralysing Russia.

Of course, global firms are pulling out of Russia. We are told, real wages in Russia have fallen by 6.1% and in April 2022 (the last authentic date of statistics) they had dropped to 7.2%. We are informed that Russia’s foreign exchange reserves blocked by Western nations is worth an estimated US$ 419 billion. The exit of foreign companies has resulted in less working hours and a lower average wage. It has anticipated a reduction in production in the automotive and transport industries. Substituted goods may be cheaper, but of lower quality.

This is nothing new, as Russians have over decades grown accustomed to shortages of goods. If anyone says, it will cause civil unrest, it is only they who hold this jaundiced view, are fooled. But, as the war drags on, the pain is felt more.

What can happen soon?

Another day, another week, another month, perhaps, another year could see another Ukrainian city falling to the Russian arms.

But, the latest news, within hours Turkish President Erdogan and the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres are to visit President Zelensky in a high-profile meeting to “discuss steps that can be taken to end the war.”

The latest attack by Ukraine on supply lines in Crimea

There are three particular aspects of the current phase of the war.

Kyiv is adapting quicker and more effectively than Moscow, in the last few days. Whereas until now, it has been through missile and rocket strikes, Mark Galeotti states, Ukraine has found Russia’s Achilles’ heel in Crimea. The number of explosions will increase and it will increase precisely in occupied Crimea.

Moscow, however, claims the latest explosion in Occupied Crimea was a result of sabotage at an electricity supply station and a fire near the town of Dzhankoi, in the north of the peninsula.

The other two phases are yet to reveal, in full but have to do with the morale of the reinforcements.

Washington Wants a New Cold War—But That’s a Bad Idea

/
552 views
3 mins read

As China unleashed live-fire military exercises off the coast of Taiwan, simulating a real “reunification by force” operation in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ceremonial visit to the island last week, the bipartisan fervor for a new Cold War with China and Russia took greater hold in Washington.

“Leaders in both parties,” Post columnist Josh Rogin reports, “understand that the United States has a duty and an interest in … pushing back against America’s adversaries in both Europe and Asia.” The United States showed that it could take on both China and Russia at the same time, he adds. The Senate voted 95-1 to add Sweden and Finland to NATO. The Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act enjoys bipartisan support. And politicians in both parties scrambled to give the Pentagon even more money than it asked for.

Cold War is America’s comfort zone. We won the last one. We wear the white hats. It’s democracy against authoritarianism. And we’ve got the biggest and best military. Who could object?

But haunting questions remain. Does a new Cold War—taking on Russia and China at once—serve the real security of Americans? Does it further President Biden’s promised “foreign policy for the middle class?” Might most Americans prefer that this country curb our enthusiasm for foreign adventure while focusing on getting our own house in order?

The existential threat to our security now is the extreme weather caused by climate change, which is already costing lives and billions of dollars in destruction from wildfires, floods, plagues and drought. Monkeypox reminds us that the deadliest attacks have come from global pandemics. Throwing money at the Pentagon doesn’t help. Wouldn’t it be better if Special Presidential Envoy John F. Kerry’s journeys got as much attention as Pelosi’s Taiwan performance? Addressing climate change and pandemics can’t be done without Chinese and Russian cooperation, yet the Chinese officially terminated talks on these issues in the wake of Pelosi’s visit.

Biden’s foreign policy team has focused on lining up bases and allies to surround and contain Russia and China. But the Ukraine war has revealed Russia’s military weakness. Meanwhile, sanctions have cut off access to Russian food, fertilizers and minerals vital to countries worldwide and might contribute to a global recession.

China is a true “peer competitor,” as the Pentagon calls it. But its strength is its economy, not its military. It’s the leading trading partner for countries across the globe, from Latin America to Africa to Asia. When Pelosi stopped in South Korea after her visit to Taiwan, South Korea’s president did not receive her. President Yoon Suk-yeol, we learned, was on a “staycation,” attending a play. The snub by a loyal ally, home to nearly 30,000 U.S. troops, is surely a reflection of the fact that China is South Korea’s leading trading partner. The United States would be well advised to focus—as China does—on developing the new technologies that will define the markets of the future, rather than spending more than $1 trillion on items such as a new generation of nuclear weapons that can never be used.

The revived Cold Warriors assert that the U.S. deployment of forces around China and Russia is defensive. But as Stephen Walt notes in Foreign Policy, this ignores the “security dilemma”: What one country considers innocent measures to increase its security, another might see as threatening. U.S. administrations kept asserting Ukraine’s “right” to join NATO as security against the threat posed by Russia. Russia saw the possible basing of NATO forces and U.S. missiles in Ukraine as a threat. Biden’s comment that Putin “cannot remain in power,” echoed by U.S. politicians, and the history of U.S. support for regime change around the world, weren’t exactly reassuring.

Though Washington formally accepts that Taiwan is a province of China, it arms the island and deploys more forces to the Pacific. Pelosi described her visit as an “unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.” Beijing views this as an attack on its national sovereignty, a violation of our official position, and as a provocation designed to spur independence movements in Taiwan.

The Cold Warriors assume that most of the world stands with us. True, our NATO allies rallied against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, but two-thirds of the world’s population, according to the Economist, lives in countries that refuse to sanction Russia. Much of the developing world is skeptical or worse about U.S. claims regarding democracy or the rules-based order. This makes sanctions less effective—China’s purchases of Russian oil and gas, for example, have increased by 72 percent since the Ukraine invasion. It also reflects the growing strength of Chinese “soft power” and the declining currency of the U.S. military force.

Great powers decline largely because of internal weakness and the failure to adjust to new realities. In an era of dangerous partisan enmity, the reflexive bipartisan embrace of a new Cold War is a striking contrast. But the old habits don’t address the new challenges. This is hardly the way to build a vibrant American democracy.

This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with The Nation.

Russia and the European Union Continue Transition to Wartime Economies

/
311 views
5 mins read

Having declared victory over the “economic blitzkrieg” of Western sanctions in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin must contend with continued Western financial support to Ukraine as it combats Russian forces. In addition, the Kremlin will be forced to finance the reconstruction and integration of conquered Ukrainian territory.

With costs mounting, Putin has increasingly promoted the need to fortify the Russian economy’s immediate and long-term position. In April, the head of Russia’s Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, stated that the Russian economy would see a “structural transformation” during the second and third quarters this year to offset inflation, supply chain issues, and reduced imports.

To alleviate domestic concerns related to the cost of the war, the Kremlin increased the minimum wage and pension payments by 10 percent in May. The initiative also appeared to help muffle any domestic opposition on June 30, when two bills were submitted to the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the Duma, to give the Russian government greater control over the domestic economy.

The first bill will allow the Russian government to compel domestic companies into accepting government contracts and supply the goods and services required for what it calls its “special military operation” to the armed forces. To reassure the business community that this bill would not impact them negatively, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said that the proposed law would “not provide for compulsory conversion of civilian small and medium-sized enterprises for the needs of the armed forces.” Instead, the bill would be primarily aimed at companies in the defense sector that already work with the government.

The second bill, which will introduce changes in the federal labor law, permits the Russian government to overcome potential labor shortages by allowing the government to make employees work overtime, at night, and on weekends and holidays.

Even after agreements are signed, the Russian government will be able to alter the terms of any contract. The Kremlin has indicated that without these “special economic measures,” Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine risks grinding to a halt. After being adopted by the Duma on July 5, the bills now await further review before they can be signed by Putin into law.

These measures are part of Russia’s continuing attempts to stabilize its economy amid rising global economic instability. Despite Western efforts to isolate Russia’s large foreign currency reserves, the Kremlin is also still able to access about half of the $600 billion it built up to protect itself since 2014, after the annexation of Crimea. Russia has attempted to develop rival payment systems and trade networks with China, promoted “a new reserve currency” for international trade to erode the dominance of the U.S. dollar, and supported other similar measures to safeguard its economy.

So far, however, the Kremlin’s saving grace has been the drastic increase in energy prices since it invaded Ukraine in February. Even compared to 2021, which saw relatively high tax revenues for the Russian government, collections were up more than 30 percent in April 2022 compared to April 2021, despite significant reductions in European demand for Russian energy.

European leaders have called for a more assertive response to the global economic instability similar to the decisive actions taken against Russia. On June 13, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that Europe required a “wartime economy” to manage the economic fallout from the conflict and to reinforce its strategic autonomy. On July 6, the French government announced it was nationalizing its nuclear company, Électricité de France (EDF). On July 22, the German government provided a multibillion-euro bailout to the major gas importing company, Uniper, which was the first energy company in the country.

However, these maneuvers are merely a reflection of Europe’s wider economic vulnerability through energy. After the U.S. and China, the 27 EU states form the third-largest energy market in the world. Much of their energy supply comes from non-member states, notably Russia. And even though the West’s economic strength far outstrips Russia’s, money alone cannot solve the issue of dwindling energy supplies stemming from sanctions and Kremlin initiatives to cut energy exports.

In Germany, the “complete and permanent shutoff of the remaining Russian natural gas supplies to Europe” could result in a GDP loss of 4.8 percent between 2022 and 2024 in comparison to the 2021 GDP, states a working paper by the International Monetary Fund. The German government already escalated from level one (“early warning”) of its three-tier emergency gas plan to level two (“alarm”) on June 23. Level three (“emergency”) would allow the German government to impose rationing and to seize control over the allocation of natural gas countrywide. Austria, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and other countries have also recently raised emergency gas measures.

The EU has sought to introduce collective energy-saving measures to alleviate pain among member states and increase institutional solidarity. The meeting of the European Commission on July 19 saw the EU attempt to introduce the right to impose compulsory gas rationing among member states. But such proposals have faced significant resistance from both the more pro-Russian elements within European politics and the wider political class.

On July 13, for example, Hungary announced an energy emergency plan that included restricting the flow of gas and other energy sources to other countries in the European energy market. The decision prompted criticism from European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. On July 21, Spain and Portugal announced they would not support the EU initiative to reduce the bloc’s natural gas usage by 15 percent.

The suggestion by a German parliamentarian in July that Eastern European countries could share gas with Germany also resulted in pushback from several Polish politicians who have previously criticized Germany’s increasing purchases of Russian natural gas since the country’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 until 2022.

As energy concerns push European countries into pursuing self-preservation policies over solidarity, the EU has suggested ambitious price relief initiatives. Alongside the U.S., the EU unveiled a push for a price cap on Russian oil in early July.

Among other issues, however, this would require cooperation with major buyers like China and India, which have already been receiving Russian oil at below-market value, as well as coordination with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has little reason to take steps to lower the oil prices.

Previous international efforts to influence oil flows and prices from major exporters, such as the oil-for-food program in Iraq in the 1990s and the 2011 sanctions exception regime in Libya, have led to significant exploitation that severely undermined these schemes. Attempts to place a price cap on Russian oil will also likely see the Kremlin use its natural gas reserves to exacerbate the global energy crisis by restricting gas supply further.

And like the problems faced by Russia’s military-industrial complex, supply chain and production issues have become apparent to Western militaries seeking to aid Ukraine’s war effort. By May, for example, stockpiles of various U.S. missiles had been depleted, while the Netherlands announced it could no longer send howitzers to Ukraine.

Additionally, Ukraine’s systemic corruption remains a primary concern of Western governments providing the country with financial assistance. The risk of billions of dollars going to waste will only further add to “Ukraine fatigue” that threatens to erode Western support for Kyiv.

Having grown accustomed to sanctions and economic instability since 2014, the Kremlin believes Russia’s threshold for economic pain exceeds the West’s. As winter approaches and energy demand picks up, the EU risks divisions among member states over supply strains. Bringing the war home to European citizens this way may help Russia reach a diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict and reveals the limitations of the EU in its attempts to supersede the national interests of member states.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.