Military Diplomacy

Ukraine: Scapegoat of NATO expansion

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Nearly a year in, the war in Ukraine has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and brought the world to the brink of, in President Joe Biden’s own words, “Armageddon.” Alongside the literal battlefield, there has been a similarly bitter intellectual battle over the war’s causes.

Commentators have rushed to declare the long-criticized policy of NATO expansion as irrelevant to the war’s outbreak, or as a mere fig leaf used by Russian President Vladimir Putin to mask what former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently called “his messianic mission” to “reestablish the Russian Empire,” in a Washington Post opinion piece. Fiona Hill, a presidential adviser to two Republican administrations, has deemed these views merely the product of a “Russian information war and psychological operation,” resulting in “masses of the U.S. public… blaming NATO, or blaming the U.S. for this outcome.”

Yet a review of the public record and dozens of diplomatic cables made publicly available via WikiLeaks show that U.S. officials were aware, or were directly told over the span of years that expanding NATO was viewed by Russian officials well beyond Putin as a major threat and provocation; that expanding it to Ukraine was a particularly bright red line for Moscow; that such action would inflame and empower hawkish, nationalist parts of the Russian political spectrum; and that it could ultimately lead to war.

In a particularly prophetic set of warnings, U.S. officials were told that pushing for Ukrainian membership in NATO would not only increase the chance of Russian meddling in the country but also risked destabilizing the divided nation—and that the United States and other NATO officials pressured Ukrainian leaders to reshape this unfriendly public opinion in response. All of this was told to U.S. officials in both public and private by not just senior Russian officials going all the way up to the presidency, but by NATO allies, various analysts and experts, liberal Russian voices critical of Putin, and even, sometimes, U.S. diplomats themselves.

This history is particularly relevant as U.S. officials now test the red line China has drawn around Taiwan’s independence, risking military escalation that will first and foremost be aimed at the island state. The U.S. diplomatic record regarding NATO expansion suggests the perils of ignoring or outright crossing another military power’s red lines and the wisdom of a more restrained foreign policy that treats other powers’ spheres of influence with the same care they extend to the United States.

An Early Exception

NATO expansion had been fraught from the start. The pro-Western, then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin had told then-U.S. President Bill Clinton he “[saw] nothing but humiliation for Russia if you proceed” with plans to renege on the verbal promises made years earlier not to extend NATO eastward, and warned that this move would be “sowing the seeds of mistrust” and would “be interpreted, and not only in Russia, as the beginning of a new split in Europe.” Just as containment architect George Kennan had predicted, the decision to go ahead with NATO expansion helped inflame Russian hostility and nationalism: The Duma (the Russian parliament) declared it “the largest military threat to our country over the last 50 years,” while the leader of the opposition Communist Party called it “a Treaty of Versailles for Russia.”

By the time Putin became president the day before the new millennium, “the initial hopes and plans of the early ’90s [were] dead,” a leading liberal Russian politician declared. The first round of NATO enlargement was followed by the organization bombing Yugoslavia in 1999, which was done without the UN Security Council authorization, and triggered Russia to cut off contact with the alliance. By 2000, the revised Russian national security strategy warned that NATO’s use of force beyond its borders would be seen as “a threat of destabilization of the whole strategic situation,” while military officers and politicians started claiming “that if NATO expands further, it would ‘create a base to intervene in Russia itself,’” the Washington Post reported.

Ironically, there would be one exception to the next two decades’ worth of rising tensions over NATO’s eastward expansion that followed: the early years of Putin’s presidency, when the new Russian president defied the Russian establishment to try and make outreach to the United States. Under Putin, Moscow reestablished relations with NATO, finally ratified the START II arms control treaty, and even publicly floated the idea of Russia eventually joining the alliance, inviting attacks from his political rivals for doing so. Even so, Putin continued to raise Moscow’s traditional concerns about the alliance’s expansion, telling NATO’s secretary-general it was “a threat to Russia” in February 2001.

“[I]f a country like Russia feels threatened, this would destabilize the situation in Europe and the entire world,” he said in a speech in Berlin in 2000.

Putin softened his opposition as he sought to make common cause with then-President George W. Bush administration. “If NATO takes on a different shape and is becoming a political organization, of course, we would reconsider our position with regard to such expansion, if we are to feel involved in the processes,” he said in October 2001, drawing attacks from political rivals and other Russian elites.

As NATO for the first time granted Russia a consultative role in its decision-making in 2002, Putin sought to assist its expansion. Then-Italian President Silvio Berlusconi made a “personal request” to Bush, according to an April 2002 cable, to “understand Putin’s domestic requirements,” that he “needs to be seen as part of the NATO family,” and to give him “help in building Russian public opinion to support NATO enlargement.” In another cable, a top-ranking U.S. State Department official urged holding a NATO-Russia summit to “help President Putin neutralize opposition to enlargement,” after the Russian leader said allowing NATO expansion without an agreement on a new NATO-Russia partnership would be politically impossible for him.

This would be the last time any Russian openness toward NATO expansion was recorded in the diplomatic record published by WikiLeaks.

Allies Weigh In

By the middle of the 2000s, U.S.-Russian relations had deteriorated, partly owing to Putin’s bristling at U.S. criticism of his growing authoritarianism at home, and to U.S. opposition to his meddling in the 2004 Ukrainian election. But as explained in a September 2007 cable by then-President of New Eurasia Foundation Andrey Kortunov, now director general of the Russian International Affairs Council—who has publicly criticized both Kremlin policy and the current war—United States mistakes were also to blame, including Bush’s invasion of Iraq and a general sense that he had given little in return for Putin’s concessions.

“Putin had clearly embarked on an ‘integrationist’ foreign policy at the beginning of his second presidential term, which was fueled by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and good relations with key leaders like President Bush” and other leading NATO allies, Kortunov said according to the cable. “However,” he said, “a string of perceived anti-Russian initiatives,” which included Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and “further expansion of NATO,” ultimately “dashed Putin’s hopes.”

What followed was a steady drumbeat of warnings about NATO’s expansion, particularly regarding neighboring Ukraine and Georgia, much of it from Washington’s NATO allies.

“[Former French presidential diplomatic adviser Maurice] Gourdault-Montagne warned that the question of Ukrainian accession to NATO remained extremely sensitive for Moscow, and concluded that if there remained one potential cause for war in Europe, it was Ukraine,” reads a September 2005 cable. “He added that some in the Russian administration felt we were doing too much in their core zone of interest, and one could wonder whether the Russians might launch a move similar to Prague in 1968, to see what the West would do.”

This was just one of many similar warnings from French officials that admitting Ukraine and Georgia into NATO “would cross Russian ‘tripwires’,” for instance. A February 2007 cable records then-French Director General for Political Affairs Gérard Araud’s recounting of “a half-hour anti-U.S. harangue” by Putin in which he “linked all the dots” of Russian unhappiness with U.S. behavior, including “U.S. unilateralism, its denial of the reality of multipolarity, [and] the anti-Russian nature of NATO enlargement.”

Germany likewise raised repeated concerns about a potentially bad Russian reaction to a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine and Georgia, with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel stressing that Ukraine’s entry was particularly sensitive. “While Georgia was ‘just a bug on the skin of the bear,’ Ukraine was inseparably identified with Russia, going back to Vladimir of [Kyiv] in 988,” Nikel recounted, according to the cable.

Other NATO allies repeated similar concerns. In a January 2008 cable, Italy affirmed it was a “strong advocate” for other states’ entry into the alliance, “but is concerned about provoking Russia through hurried Georgian integration.” Norway’s then-Foreign Minister (who is now the prime minister) Jonas Gahr Støre made a similar point in an April 2008 cable, even as he insisted Russia mustn’t be able to veto NATO’s decisions. “At the same time he says that he understands Russia’s objections to NATO enlargement and that the alliance needs to work to normalize the relationship with Russia,” reads the cable.

Almost Complete Consensus

The thinkers and analysts that U.S. officials conferred with likewise made clear that the anxieties of Russian elites over NATO and its expansion, and the lengths they might go to counteract it. Many were transmitted by then-U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns, who is presently Biden’s CIA director.

Recounting his conversations with various “Russian observers” from both regional and U.S. think tanks, Burns concluded in a March 2007 cable that “NATO enlargement and U.S. missile defense deployments in Europe play to the classic Russian fear of encirclement.” Ukraine and Georgia’s entry “represents an ‘unthinkable’ predicament for Russia,” he reported six months later, warning that Moscow would “cause enough trouble in Georgia” and counted on “continued political disarray in Ukraine” to halt it. In an especially prescient set of cables, he summed up scholars’ views that the emerging Russia-China relationship was largely “the by-product of ‘bad’ U.S. policies,” and was unsustainable—“unless continued NATO enlargement pushed Russia and China even closer together.”

Cables record Russian intellectuals across the political spectrum making such points again and again. One June 2007 cable records the words of a “liberal defense expert Aleksey Arbatov” and the “liberal editor” of a leading Russian foreign policy journal, Fyodor Lukyanov, that after Russia had done “everything to ‘help’ the U.S. post-9/11, including opening up Central Asia for coalition anti-terrorism efforts,” it had expected “respect for Russia’s ‘legitimate interests.’” Instead, Lukyanov said, it had been “confronted with NATO expansion, zero-sum competition in Georgia and Ukraine, and U.S. military installations in Russia’s backyard.”

“Ukraine was, in the long term, the most potentially destabilizing factor in U.S.-Russian relations, given the level of emotion and neuralgia triggered by its quest for NATO membership,” stated the counsel of Dmitri Trenin, then-deputy director of the Russian branch of the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a Burns-authored February 2008 cable. For Ukraine, he said prophetically, it would mean “that elements within the Russian establishment would be encouraged to meddle, stimulating U.S. overt encouragement of opposing political forces, and leaving the United States and Russia in a classic confrontational posture.”

Indeed, opposing NATO’s enlargement eastward, particularly in Ukraine and Georgia, was “one of the few security areas where there is almost complete consensus among Russian policymakers, experts and the informed population,” stated a cable of March 2008, citing defense and security experts. Ukraine was the “line of last resort” that would complete Russia’s encirclement, said one defense expert, and its entry into NATO was universally viewed by the Russian political elite as an “unfriendly act.” Other experts cautioned “that Putin would be forced to respond to Russian nationalist feelings opposing membership” of Georgia, and that offering MAP to either Ukraine or Georgia would trigger a cut-back in the Russian military’s genuine desire for cooperation with NATO.

From Liberals to Hardliners

These analysts were reiterating what cables show U.S. officials heard again and again from Russian officials themselves, whether diplomats, members of parliament, or senior Russian officials all the way up to the presidency, recorded in nearly three-dozen cables at least.

NATO enlargement was “worrisome,” said one Duma member, while Russian generals were “suspicious of NATO and U.S. intentions,” cables record. Just as analysts and NATO officials had said, Kremlin officials characterized NATO’s designs on Georgia and Ukraine as especially objectionable, with the Russian Ambassador to NATO from 2008 to 2011, Dmitry Rogozin, stressing in a February 2008 cable that offering MAP to either “would negatively impact NATO’s relations with Russia” and “raise tension along the borders between NATO and Russia.”

Then-Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin “underscored the depth of Russian opposition” to their membership, a different March 2008 cable stated, underlining that the “political elite firmly believes” “that the accession of Ukraine and Georgia represented a direct security threat to Russia.” The future, Karasin said, rested on the “strategic choice” Washington made about “‘what kind of Russia’” it wanted to deal with—‘a Russia that is stable and ready to calmly discuss issues with the U.S., Europe and China, or one that is deeply concerned and filled with nervousness.’”

Indeed, numerous officials—including then-Director for Security and Disarmament Anatoly Antonov, who is currently serving as Russia’s ambassador to the United States—warned pushing ahead would produce a less cooperative Russia. Pushing NATO’s borders to the two former Soviet states “threatened Russian and the entire region’s security, and could also negatively impact Russia’s willingness to cooperate in the [NATO-Russia Council],” one Russian foreign ministry official warned, while others pointed to the policy to explain Putin’s threats to suspend the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. “CFE would not survive NATO enlargement,” went a Russian threat in one March 2008 cable.

Maybe most pertinent were the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at the time a veteran diplomat respected in the West, and who continues to serve in the position today. At least eight cables—many, though not all of them, written by Burns—record Lavrov’s expressions of opposition to expanding NATO to Ukraine and Georgia over the course of 2007-2008, when Bush’s decision, over the objections of allies, to publicly affirm their future accession led to a spike in tensions.

“While Russia might believe statements from the West that NATO was not directed against Russia, when one looked at recent military activities in NATO countries… they had to be evaluated not by stated intentions but by potential,” went Burns’s summary of Lavrov’s annual foreign policy review in January 2008. On the same day, he wrote, a foreign ministry spokesperson warned that Ukraine’s “likely integration into NATO would seriously complicate the many-sided Russian-Ukrainian relations” and lead Moscow to “have to take appropriate measures.”

Besides being an easy way to garner domestic support from nationalists, Burns wrote, “Russia’s opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia is both emotional and based on perceived strategic concerns about the impact on Russia’s interests in the region.”

“While Russian opposition to the first round of NATO enlargement in the mid-1990s was strong, Russia now feels itself able to respond more forcefully to what it perceives as actions contrary to its national interests,” he concluded.

Lavrov’s criticism was shared by a host of other officials, not all of them hardliners. Burns recounted a meeting with former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, a Gorbachev protégé who had negotiated over NATO’s first expansion with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who warmly eulogized him years later as a pragmatist. The U.S. push for MAP for Georgia and Ukraine “‘infuriated’ Russians and threatened other areas of U.S.-Russia strategic cooperation,” Primakov had said, according to Burns, mentioning Primakov was asked later that day on TV about rethinking Crimea’s status as Ukrainian territory. “[T]his is the kind of discussion that MAP produces,” he said—meaning that it inflamed nationalist and hardline sentiment.

“Primakov said that Russia would never return to the era of the early 1990s and it would be a ‘colossal mistake’ to think that Russian reactions today would mirror those during its time of strategic weakness,” Burns’s cable stated.

This went all the way to the top, as U.S. officials noted in cables reacting to a famously strident speech Putin gave at the Munich Security Conference in February 2007, which saw Putin assail NATO expansion and other policies as part of a wider, destabilizing U.S. abuse of its sole-superpower status. Putin’s tone may have been “unusually sharp,” Primakov told Burns, but its substance “reflected well-known Russian complaints predating Putin’s election,” shown by the fact that “talking heads and Duma members were almost unanimous” in supporting the speech. A year later, a March 2008 cable reported then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s farewell, two-hour-long meeting with Putin, in which he “argued strongly” against MAP for Ukraine and Georgia.

Putin’s Exit

Any illusions this stance would evaporate with Putin leaving the presidency were quickly dispelled. Such warnings continued and, if anything, grew more intense after Putin was replaced by his liberal successor, Dmitry Medvedev as president of Russia, whose ascent sparked hopes for a more democratic Russia and an improved U.S.-Russian relationship.

Under Medvedev, officials from the Russian ambassador to NATO and various officials in the foreign ministry to the chairman of the Duma’s international affairs committee made much the same warnings, cables show. In some cases, as with Karasin and Lavrov, it was the same officials making these long-standing complaints.

Medvedev himself “reiterated well known Russian positions on NATO enlargement” to Merkel on his first trip to Europe in June 2008, even as he avoided bringing up MAP for Ukraine and Georgia specifically. “Behind Medvedev’s polite demeanor, Russian opposition to NATO enlargement remained a red-line, according to both conservative and moderate observers,” one June 2008 cable reads, a view shared by a leading liberal analyst. Even critics to his right read Medvedev’s words as “an implicit commitment to use Russian economic, political and social levers to raise the costs for Ukraine and Georgia” if they moved closer to the alliance. The cable’s author, then-Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow Daniel Russell, concluded he “agree[d] with the common wisdom.”

By August 2008, following the war with Georgia, Medvedev started to sound a lot more like his predecessor, threatening to cut ties with the alliance and restating grievances about encirclement. A cable from after the end of the five-day war between Russia and Georgia—which an EU-commissioned report would later blame the Georgian government for starting—stated that “even the most pro-Western political experts” were “pointing the finger at the U.S.” for jeopardizing the U.S.-Russian relations, with U.S.’s dismissal of Russia’s concerns over, among other things, NATO expansion being a key part of their analysis. Echoing Burns, one analyst argued that Russia finally felt “strong enough to stand up to the West” when it ignored its concerns.

Those concerns were central at a roundtable of Russian analysts months later— a January 2009 cable showed—who explained to a group of visiting U.S. congresspeople Russians’ “deep displeasure” with the U.S. government, and stressed the “bitter divorce” between Russia and Georgia would be even uglier with Ukraine. Pushing MAP for the country “helped the ‘America haters come to power’ in Russia and gave legitimacy to the hard-liners’ vision of ‘fortress Russia,’” said one Russian analyst.

Increasingly, cables show, such warnings came from liberals, even those who hadn’t previously viewed NATO and the United States as Russia’s chief threats. An August 2008 cable described a meeting with Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Ambassador Vladimir Lukin—described as “a liberal on the Russian political scene, someone disposed toward cooperation with the U.S.”—who explained Medvedev’s post-war recognition of the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions, which he had at first opposed, as a security-driven response to NATO’s drift toward Russia’s borders. Because escalations like the 2008 U.S.-Poland missile defense agreement showed anti-Russia actions “would not stop,” he said, “Moscow had to show that, like the U.S., it can and will take steps it deems necessary to defend its interests.”

The cable concluded that Lukin’s views “reflect the thinking of the majority of Russian foreign policy elite.”

Selling NATO to Ukraine

Other than Burns—whose Bush-era memos warning of the breadth of Russian opposition to NATO expansion and that it would provoke intensified meddling in Ukraine have become famous since the Russian invasion—U.S. officials largely reacted with dismissal.

Russian objections to the policy and other long-simmering issues were described over and over in the cables as “oft-heard,” “old,” “nothing new,” and “largely predictable,” a “familiar litany” and a “rehashing” that “provided little new substance.” Even NATO’s ally Norway’s position that it understood Russian objections even as it refused to let Moscow veto the alliance’s moves was labeled a case of “parroting Russia’s line.”

U.S. officials were similarly dismissive of explicit warnings—from Kremlin officials, NATO allies, experts and analysts, even Ukrainian leadership—that Ukraine was “internally divided over NATO membership” and that public support for the move was “not fully ripe.” The east-west split within Ukraine over the idea of NATO membership made it “risky,” German officials cautioned, and could “break up the country.” Ukraine’s three leading politicians all “took foreign policy positions based on domestic political considerations, with little regard to the long-term effects on the country,” one said.

Those very politicians likewise made clear public opinion wasn’t there, whether anti-Russian former Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ogryzko of Ukraine, or more Russian-friendly former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych—later misleadingly painted as a Kremlin puppet and was ousted as president in the 2014 Maidan protests—who boasted to a U.S. diplomat that support for NATO had jumped under his tenure. In response, the cables show, NATO officials pressed Ukrainian leaders to take a firm public stance in favor of joining, and discussed how to persuade Ukraine’s population “so that they would be more favorable [toward] it.” Ogryzko later disclosed to Merkel “that a public education campaign is already underway,” and that Ukraine “had discussed the issue of public education campaigns with Slovakia and other nations that had joined NATO recently.”

This came in spite of acknowledged risks. Cables record liberal Russian analysts cautioning “that [then-Ukrainian President Viktor] Yushchenko was using NATO membership to shore up a Ukrainian national identity that required casting Russia in the role of enemy,” and that “because membership remained divisive in Ukrainian domestic politics, it created an opening for Russian intervention.”

“Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war,” Burns wrote in February 2008. Russia, he further wrote, would then “have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.”

Despite the dismissive attitude of many U.S. officials, parts of the U.S. national security establishment clearly understood Russian objections weren’t mere “muscle-flexing.” The Kremlin’s anxieties over a “direct military attack on Russia” were “very real,” and could drive its leaders to make rash, self-defeating decisions, stated a 2019 report from the Pentagon-funded RAND Corporation that explored theoretical strategies for overextending Russia.

“Providing more U.S. military equipment and advice” to Ukraine, it stated, could lead Moscow to “respond by mounting a new offensive and seizing more Ukrainian territory”—something not necessarily good for U.S. interests, let alone Ukraine’s, it noted.

Warnings Ignored

Nevertheless, in the years, months, and weeks that led up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, successive U.S. administrations continued on the same course.

Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO has “deepened over time,” the alliance itself says today. By the war’s outbreak, the country frequently hosted Western troops at a military base, Ukrainian soldiers received NATO training, it planned two new NATO-linked naval bases, and has received unprecedented sums of U.S. military aid, including offensive arms—a former President Donald Trump policy his liberal predecessor had explicitly rejected, out of concern for provoking a disastrous response from Moscow. Three months before the invasion, Ukraine and the United States signed an updated Charter on Strategic Partnership “guided” by Bush’s controversial Bucharest declaration, which both deepened security cooperation between the two countries and supported Ukraine’s membership aspirations, viewed as an escalation in Moscow.

As U.S. military activity has increased in the region since 2016, sometimes involving Ukraine and Georgia, NATO-Russian tensions have ratcheted up too. While Moscow publicly objected to U.S. missions in Europe that experts feared were too provocative, NATO and Russian forces have experienced thousands of dangerous military encounters in the region and elsewhere. By December 2022, with fears of invasion ramping up, Putin told Biden personally that “the eastward expansion of the Western alliance was a major factor in his decision to send troops to Ukraine’s border,” the Washington Post reported.

None of this means other factors played no role in the war’s outbreak, from Russian domestic pressures and Putin’s own dim view of Ukrainian independence to the copious other well-known Russian grievances toward U.S. policy that frequently appear in the diplomatic record, too. Nor does it mean, as hawks argue, that this somehow “justifies” Putin’s war, any more than understanding how U.S. foreign policy has fueled anti-American terrorism that “justifies” those crimes.

What it does mean is that claims that Russian unhappiness over NATO expansion is irrelevant, a mere “fig leaf” for pure expansionism, or simply Kremlin propaganda are belied by this lengthy historical record. Rather, successive U.S. administrations pushed ahead with the policy despite being warned copiously for years—including by the analysts who advised them, by allies, even by their own officials—that it would feed Russian nationalism, create a more hostile Moscow, foster instability and even civil war in Ukraine, and could eventually lead to Russian military intervention, all of which ended up happening.

“I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” Biden said in the lead-up to the invasion, as his administration rejected negotiations with Moscow over Ukraine’s NATO status. We can only imagine the world in which he and his predecessors had.

This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord.

Myanmar’s audacious military coup: Two Years On

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5 mins read

Today is 1st February 2023. The daring military takeover in Myanmar two years ago on February 1 will be remembered as the start of the most oppressive administration in recent memory on February 1, 2023. The situation in Myanmar has deteriorated drastically since February 2021, and a civil war between the military and the pro-democracy front is still raging. The years 2021 and 2022 were sad for the state of human rights as the military, often known as the Tatmadaw, used excessive violence to put an end to the call for democracy.

A resolution was vetoed in the UN Security Council because to Chinese and Russian support for the Tatmadaw, therefore it might be said that the situation has reached this point as a result of the lackluster response and insufficient strict steps of the international community.

Unprecedented agony and hardship for the people of Myanmar resulted from the military’s unrelenting violence and repression in 2022.

Aung San Suu Kyi was one of the prominent leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who was detained by the Tatmadaw two years ago after they attempted a coup and made the absurd claim that elections had been rigged. Despite the fact that the NLD won the election with an overwhelming majority of seats and 83 percent of the vote overall, Tatmadaw, the “King Maker,” rejected the outcome out of concern for its continued control over Myanmar politics. The general populace of Myanmar protested against the coup and denounced it. The demonstration quickly evolved into the civil disobedience movement (CDM), in which professionals from all fields refused to report to work and sought the return of democracy.

The Tatmadaw’s choice to satiate the demand with bullets covered Myanmar’s streets in blood. According to the Thailand-based human rights organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the Tatmadaw has killed roughly 1,500 people and detained up to 9,000 others in the past year (Burma). Additionally, the Tatmadaw employed stringent monitoring techniques to stifle protestors’ voices. 120 journalists have been detained under the recently implemented harsh provision, Section 505A of the penal code, of whom 15 have been found guilty and 50 are still awaiting trial. Seven media outlets’ licenses as well as those for satellite television have been revoked.

After the People’s Defence Force (PDF) was established as the political branch of the National Unity Government in the midst of the bloody crackdown, the CDM changed into an armed resistance group (NUG). Even though NUG has the least power over the force, former NLD officials and pro-democracy fronts founded NUG and PDF as their armed wings. PDF and NUG gradually became one of the main political groups in Myanmar. To combat PDF, Tatmadaw has increased its level of aggression, whereas PDF prefers guerrilla warfare. According to UN estimates, at least 406,000 people have been displaced due to the increasing civil war.

Myanmar’s economy has also been destroyed by political unrest. Foreign companies’ withdrawal and currency depreciation have stifled the nation’s economic expansion.

Even while previous military coups encountered the least resistance and protest, this one resulted in a hitherto unheard-of movement against the dictatorship. The youth of the nation have demonstrated a strong belief in democracy and have remained in the forefront of the protest. The “Five Twos,” often referred to as Myanmar’s “Generation Z,” have taken the Tatmadaw and the rest of the world by surprise. Their political awareness is commendable, and they exhibit an unwavering spirit of resistance.

The Tatmadaw started to experience an image crisis after the youth rebellion was violently put down, and they now worry about maintaining power in the face of unabated popular hatred. Outside of Myanmar, the Tatmadaw has substantial backing from mighty nations like China and Russia.

On the other hand, the people of Myanmar rely on the international world to change things and bring back democracy. With the military’s withdrawal from power, it is clear that the situation will change for the better, necessitating the major engagement of the international community. Ironically, there has been no progress toward resolving this political problem by the international community, which is still bitterly split.

The lives of Myanmar’s residents and ethnic communities are wretched and perpetually unstable due to the lackluster responses of the international community, the geopolitical alignment of major countries, the lengthy history of military rule, and the Tatmadaw’s counter-insurgency operations. Torture, famine, and displacement are the three main pillars of modern-day Myanmar society.

The Tatmadaw has not been significantly impacted by major corporations leaving the country in protest of violations of human rights, such as Chevron and Total. The causes of humanity, genocide, and ethnic cleansing are not what drive the global world; rather, it is geopolitical interests. Although many people believed NUG would have international assistance to drive the Tatmadaw out, in reality, it has not succeeded in securing the backing of significant international players beyond mere lip service.

Situations like these, ranging from the Rohingya catastrophe to the Middle East conflict, have demonstrated how keenly global powers have focused on securing their own interests through strategic realignments and readjustments. Bangladesh is affected by the military takeover in Myanmar and the subsequent political developments in that country since the repatriation of 1.1 million Rohingyas from Bangladesh has been put on hold.

The Tatmadaw’s violence, repression, and civil war in Myanmar have left people living in perpetual fear and uncertainty. The international community must restore democracy to Myanmar’s youth and give displaced people like the Rohingyas new hope. Before it’s too late, the international community must respond in a concerted and strict manner. The Tatmadaw would gain strength as a result of the great nations failing to act, prolonging the agony and vulnerability of the people of Myanmar in 2023 and beyond.

We honor the lives lost over the previous year, especially those of women, children, humanitarian workers, human rights advocates, and nonviolent protestors, on this second anniversary of the coup. We vehemently condemn the country’s widespread human rights abuses and breaches committed by the military dictatorship, especially those committed against Rohingya and other racial and religious minorities. We express our deep concern about the verifiable reports of sexual and gender-based violence as well as torture. We are really concerned about the additional more than 400,000 people who have fled their homes since the coup. We further express our serious concern for the worsening humanitarian situation throughout the nation and call on the military regime to grant immediate, complete, and unrestricted access to vulnerable communities for humanitarian purposes, including COVID-19 immunization.

We express our severe concern with the enormous number of people who have been jailed without warrants as well as the sentencing of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

All members of the international community are urged to support initiatives aimed at promoting justice for the people of Myanmar, to hold those accountable for abuses and violations of human rights accountable, to stop providing the military and its representatives with arms, equipment, and technical assistance, and to continue assisting them in meeting immediate humanitarian needs.

We want to be clear that we support the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus and the Special Envoy of ASEAN in his efforts to promote a peaceful resolution that serves the needs of the people of Myanmar. In order to ensure that the ASEAN Special Envoy has access to all stakeholders in Myanmar, including pro-democracy organizations, we urge the military administration to actively participate in ASEAN’s efforts to achieve complete and urgent implementation of the Five-Point Consensus. We also applaud the work of the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar and call on the military government to cooperate constructively with her.

Burkina Faso Ejects French Troops

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On January 18, 2023, the government of Burkina Faso made a decision to ask the French military forces to depart from the country within a month. This decision was made by the government of Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who staged the second coup of 2022 in Burkina Faso in September to remove Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who had seized power in a coup d’état in January. Traoré, now the interim president of Burkina Faso, said that Damiba, who is in exile in Togo, had not fulfilled the objectives of the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration, the name of their military group. Traoré’s government accused Damiba of not being able to stem the insurgency in the country’s north and of colluding with the French (alleging that Damiba had taken refuge in the French military base at Kamboinsin to launch a strike against the coup within a coup).

France entered the Sahel region in 2013 to prevent the southern movement of jihadist elements strengthened by the war in Libya, prosecuted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In the past few years, anti-French sentiment has deepened in North Africa and the Sahel. It was this sentiment that provoked the coups in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), Guinea (September 2021), and then in Burkina Faso (January 2022 and September 2022). In February 2022, Mali’s government ejected the French military, accusing French forces of committing atrocities against civilians and colluding with jihadi insurgents. Burkina Faso has now joined Mali.

The ejection of France does not mean that there will be no NATO countries in the region. Both the United States and Britain have a large footprint from Morocco to Niger, with the United States trying to draw African countries into its contest against China and Russia. Regular trips by U.S. military leaders—such as U.S. Marine Corps General Michael Langley (commander of U.S. Africa Command) to Gabon in mid-January – and by U.S. civilian leaders—like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Senegal, South Africa, and Zambia—are part of a full-court press to ensure that African states forge closer ties with the United States and its allies over China. The designation of Russia’s Wagner Group—which is said to be operating in the Sahel—as a “transnational criminal organization ” by the United States and the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, held in mid-December, are both attempts to draw African states into a new cold war.

Almost half of the Burkinabé population lives below the poverty line, and “more than 630,000 people are on the brink of starvation,” in the country, according to the UN. The country is, however, not poor with its gold export reaching $7.19 billion in 2020. These gains do not go to the Burkinabé people but go to the large mining companies. Ejection of the French military will not be the answer to these deep-seated problems faced by Burkina Faso.

Thailand: Civilian façade of military

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Thailand, the favorite destination for Indian tourists, is an instructive case for the study of civil-military relations. Control of the military by civil authority, the accepted democratic norm, is frequently challenged by the Palace, the third player even though monarchy is constitutional. An election is around the corner on 7 May with the parliamentary term ending on 23 March. Currently, a coalition led by the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) the military which includes three Generals, all former Army Chiefs, has ruled the country since 2014. The two Generals in subordinate political positions are senior to the Prime Minister. The billionaire PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, was followed by his sister Yingluck becoming Prime Minister later and now his daughter Paetongtarn is carrying the flag of Pheu Thai Party (PTP). King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Rama X, barred his elder sister, who renounced royalty, from contesting elections with Thaksin’s PTP. Shinawatra according to a report in The Bangkok Post in May 2005 had made arrangements with the Palace to control the Generals.

The PPRP is led by Deputy Prime Minister, Pravit Wongsuwon, the senior most General; Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha juniormost General is PM with Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda. Wongsuwon last month told reporters that his party will decide whether he will be PM but he prefers “military life to political one”. He was confident his party would remain in power as part of a coalition. The Sunday China Morning Post of December 2022 reported that three of four Thais think PTP should be in power and Paetongtarn was the favorite leader to end the decade-old military rule. The National Institute of Development Administration polls showed she was 10 percentage points ahead of Prayuth and PTP ahead of PPRP and other political parties. But unless all political parties unite against the Generals’ PPRP they have no chance of defeating them.

Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch said that the military has made itself invulnerable by framing laws to dissolve the main opposition party, control the Election Commission, and hand-pick the Senate (which decides on government formation) to thwart the will of the people. Wongsuwon publicly stated it is not difficult for his party to form a government as the Senate is ‘controllable’. Thai Generals have taken a leaf out of neighboring absolute military rulers of Myanmar’s 2008 constitution into their 2017 constitution. Only a landslide victory by a single party like the National League of Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi achieved in 2021 (which resulted in the coup) can undo military rule in Thailand. The 2017 constitution allows the nomination of 250 Senators (mostly Army and Police) that can dilute the verdict of the 500-strong House of elected Representatives. Rules have been so framed that the military needs only one-third of the elected house for government formation. The Generals have given a civilian façade to the military government – to put it crudely – like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The military (and police) in Thailand is one of the most politicized entities in this part of the universe. My Thai colleagues at Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth (US) in 1975 mentioned how they made their political choices while in the Military Academy. Recently, the constitution was believed to have been amended to give the King special powers and certain special forces placed under his command. The Army Chief 2018, the son of a former coup leader, led his officers on bended knees and folded hands, to swear an oath of allegiance to the King at Army Headquarters in Bangkok. Gen Prayuth outdid him saying: “I will worship and protect monarchy”. Generals are galore – for every 212 troops one flag rank officer. In India, 21,000 soldiers make one General. The Army has prepared a 20-year Strategic Development Plan which governments are required to follow.

Although absolute monarchy ended in 1932, the constitutional monarchy prevailed with the previous monarch the most revered King who ruled for 70 years, slightly less than the term of Queen Elizabeth II. It is not clear which way the pendulum is swinging in Palace-Military relations at present. South China Morning Post reported that ‘normally the Army proposes and the King disposes of. Very strict laws exist on royal defamation under lese’ majeste – 15 years in jail under Law 112 for expression against Monarchy. Protests for reforming monarchy erupted recently though mostly by youth who use code words to refer to their targets.

Two tragic events occurred last December – the sinking of a Thai warship with several sailors drowned; and the cardiac arrest of the Crown Princess (apparently first in the line of succession) still in a coma. The effects of the pandemic have struck a body blow to tourism, the mainstay of the economy. Fortunately, the tourist footfall in 2022 has crossed the 10mn mark.

India has strong and friendly relations with Thailand with 50,000 Indians gainfully employed from Gaggan Anand’s two Michelin Star restaurants to Gunjan Kumar’s mobile chana jor garam enterprise. Statues of Hindu gods and goddesses are dotted all over Thailand with many beautiful Tamil kovils. There are strong Buddhist links also with Thailand. The Shinawatra scion may give the Generals shivers but the ruling trio of Generals is bound to return for a third term four months from now.

Halt This Crazy Rush to All-Out War

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The finest modern military thinker, Maj. Gen J.F.C. Fuller, wrote “the true objective of war is not military victory but the peace that follows it.’

Amen. Besotted by tribalism and propaganda, we often forget why we are fighting and what changes the current war will bring. We think killing fellow humans is a noble quest rather than the basest Stone Age behavior.

Case in point, the current war in Ukraine. There, ex-Russians now rebranded “Ukrainians” are battling Russia’s not so competent armies.

The United States and its vassals are pouring arms and money galore into the rebellious Ukraine – over $100 billion to date. This is an amazing amount of money considering hardly anyone in the US had ever heard of Ukraine and certainly couldn’t find it on a map, and that this flood of money comes from the US which is itself on the financial ropes and operating on borrowed money.

Getting America so deeply involved in the obscure Ukraine War was thanks to truly monumental propaganda produced by the six US government-controlled TV channels and court newspapers. Its 24-7 happy news about Ukraine and constant vilification of re-demonized Russia.

We are in fact involved in a war that dares not speak its name. Russia denies it’s a war at all and claims to be fighting a recrudescence of Euro fascism. The US and its subservient allies also deny a war is going on, while pouring arms and munition on an almost WWII scale into Ukraine – whose government the US spent $5 billion overthrowing.

Russia won’t call this war a war, still pretending it’s a `police action’ – rather like the past US invasions of Panama, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. But, as western arms and covert troops pour into Ukraine and Russia can’t manage to field adequate troops or weapons, holding on to the ‘police action’ fiction is preposterous.

What’s happening in Washington is that the Democrat neo-liberals smell Russian blood and are intoxicated by the prospect of first Russian defeat in Ukraine, then the collapse of the current Russian federation made up of 83 supposedly sovereign units. Russia is very fragile and vulnerable to foreign-engineered unrest. Russia’s Far East is dangerously exposed between US and Chinese ambitions.

The dramatic transformation of most of the formerly staunch communist republic of Ukraine into an arch-anti-communist Kyiv republic is a dire warning signal for Moscow. Russian leader Dimitry Medvedev just warned that Russia’s defeat in Ukraine would trigger a nuclear war. He could be right.

The leading American neocon, Victoria Nuland, boasted that it cost only $5 billion to overthrow Ukraine’s former inept communist regime and replace it by a TV actor, Volodymyr Zelensky. The Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine don’t even have a capable spokesman.

It’s by now clear that the so-called non-war in Ukraine is dangerously escalating towards a full-scale US-NATO-Russia war that might turn into World War III. The duty of great powers is to keep world affairs calm.

Instead, the US and its European satraps keep pouring fuel on the fire. Ukraine, once infamous as Europe’s most corrupt nation, is happily gulping down the billions from the US and Europe. Swiss banks are making a killing. So too arms manufacturers who had been facing flat or declining sales before this jolly little war.

Germany, the keystone of NATO power, is caught between its sensible goal of keeping good relations with Moscow and its subservience to Washington. If the Ukraine war intensifies, Germany will be caught in the middle – an obvious target for Russian tactical nuclear strikes.

Who in Washington has begun to add up the costs of keeping post-war Ukraine going. Without a steady inflow of billions from the US and its rich allies, Ukraine will likely collapse into warring fiefs. Worse, if Russia is somehow defeated, who will assume its financial upkeep and prevent this nuclear superpower from running amok? Will China sit back and allow its only major ally to be splintered? Would militants in China’s leadership not beat the war drums to re-occupy border regions lost in the 19th century to Imperial Russia?

Time for the Great American power to act to bring peace and stability, not more war.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis

The Myanmar Tragedy

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When Burmawas ruled by a monarchyin the pre-colonial era, its Army was given the name of ‘Tatmadaw’.In the Burmese language Tatmadaw means Royal Armed Forces.Today the Tatmadaw has lost all its popularity and public support because of its action of deposing the elected government on 1st February 2021. One could understand the public reaction against the Tatmadaw by going through an article of Desmond published in the ‘Irrawaddy’ on 25th May 2022. The writer is of the opinion that the name Tatmadaw must not be used for the present day Myanmar Military because it is not ‘Royal’. “The word is too good for Min Aung Hlaing’s army, which is just a group of armed men killing their own people. There is nothing ‘royal’ about the actions of the present-day Myanmar military. Instead of the term ‘Myanmar Military, the most suitable term would be ‘murderous military’, which captures the true nature of Min Aung Hlaing’s army.” According to the Wikipedia, ‘ Min Aung Hlaing is a Burmese politician and army general who has ruled Myanmar as the chairman of the State Administration Council since seizing power in the February 2021 coup d’état. He took the nominally civilian role of prime minister of Myanmar in August 2021 upon the formation of the Provisional Government.’

On 2nd February 2022, the BBC said in a report on Myanmar Army, “Since it overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in a coup one year ago, Myanmar’s military – known as the Tatmadaw – has gone on to shock the world by killing hundreds of its own civilians, including dozens of children, in a brutal crackdown on protesters.” The report further narrated, “For Myanmar’s citizens, it has been a year of indiscriminate street killings and bloody village raids. In December 2021, a BBC investigation report discovered the Tatmadaw carried out a series of attacks that involved the torture and mass murder of opponents.More than 1,500 people have been killed by security forces since the coup in February 2021.”

Myanmar’s Nobel Peace laureate,Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi had been thecivilian leader of Myanmar since her party won election in 2015 but during all that period the Tatmadaw always remained more powerful and authoritative than the civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It retained control over the armed forces by appointingkey cabinet ministers and its own commander in-chief.Moreover after the National League for Democracy’s landslide in November 2020, Tatmadaw generals refused to accept the outcome, arguing that the results were fraudulent. This stubborn attitude of the Tatmadaw was widely condemned and criticized internationally. Unfortunately, keeping aside all international disliking and criticism, India the ‘biggest democracy’ in the region, gave a warm welcome to the anti-democratic forces in Myanmar.

Between India and the current Myanmar regime,the warm relationship started soon after the coup in February 2021. While the regime was being internationally condemned for its coup, India was careful not to make any direct reference to the military takeover or to condemn it in its statements. Since coup there have been multiple engagements between India and Myanmar Military rulers. At the time when world was distancing itself from Military Junta of Myanmar, India extended invitation to Commander-In-Chief (Navy) Admiral Moe Aung of Myanmar to attend the third edition of Goa Maritime Conclave 2021 in Goa from 7th to 9th November. The Goa Maritime Conclave is hosted by Indian Navy once after every two years. During the visit the Commander-in-Chief had separate one to one meetings with India’s National Security Advisor, Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of the Naval Staff. The Commander-in-Chief participated in discussions on topics like active cooperation between Indian Navy and Tatmadaw maritime security and non-traditional security threats in Indian Ocean.On 22ndDecember 2021, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla paid a two-day official visit to Myanmar. That was country’s first official outreach to the military Junta that seized power in February 2021.

Ignoring all its claims of being caretaker of basic human rights, Indiahas been tryingits best not to antagonize the Junta which has killed more than 2,000 people for rejecting military rule. Despite international condemnation on the regime, India has been openly cooperating with the military Junta, extending diplomatic support and even assistance in organizing a general election that Min Aung Hlaing plans to hold this year. When world talks about isolating Myanmar military regime, discussion of its few allies tends to focus on Russia and China’s engagement with the Junta and support for it on UN Security Council. One country that has been strangely absent from this conversation, however, is India.

India’s support to the Military rule in Myanmar is in fact an effort of giving tough time to Chinese interests in Myanmar. The Aljazeera pointed out in an analysis that the growing conflict in Myanmar is undermining the investment environment for China. According to an analysis paper by the Institute for Strategy and Policy Myanmar, Chinese investments are facing growing risks as the anti-coup conflicts escalate across the country.“Of more than 7,800 clashes recorded nationwide since the coup in February 2021, at least 300 have taken place in areas where major Chinese projects are located or near potential project sites for Chinese investments.” says Aljazeera. By providing support to Myanmar’s military rulers, India is simply discouraging China’s presence in the country.In spite of the fact thatIndia is the major supporter of Myanmar Military regime, the international media remains silent on this pro-dictatorship approach of India. Myanmar is no doubt facing worst situation of human rights violation leading to a very agonizingpolitical chaos. Certainly this is the worst phase of Myanmar’s history, and this all is happening particularly in an era when so-called super powers ever seem determined to discourage all anti-democracy movements.But in case of Myanmar, the world’s self-claimed ‘biggest democracy’ ispatronizing the human rights exploiters.

No Peaceful Multipolar World Anytime Soon: Underestimating US Power is Dangerous

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“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” Sun Tzu

But it turns out there isn’t really any military threat by the United states. Not only [has the U.S] and NATO run out of normal military arms, but America really can’t mount a land war anymore. There will never be another Vietnam. There will never be the United States invading another country, or Europe invading any other country, because you’ll never get a population willing to be drafted, [since] the anti-war movement. And without that, America has only one military leader against other countries: the hydrogen bomb. There is nothing in between a targeted assassination attempt and an atom bomb.” Michael Hudson &Radhika Desai

Both [Russia and China] are strong — and Russia is more advanced technologically than China in their advanced offensive and defensive missile development, and can beat the US in a nuclear war as Russian air space is sealed by layered defenses such as the S-400 all the way to the already tested S-500s and designed S-600s….Beijing’s strategic priority has been to carefully develop a remarkably diverse set of energy-suppliers. If China has so far proven masterly in the way it has played its cards in its Pipelineistan “war,” the US hand — bypass Russia, elbow out China, isolate Iran — may soon be called for what it is: a bluff.Pepe Escobar

****

Come on, Russia “can beat the US in a nuclear war.” Really? Even President Valdimir Putin decried the use of nuclear weapons. According to Reuters, “Putin said…there could be no winners in a nuclear war and no such war should ever be started.”  For how  nuclear war between the two nation states might pan out go visit Princeton University’s Science and Global Security website. There you will find an unsettling computer simulation known as PLAN A that assesses “the consequences of nuclear war under different assumptions. Attack scenarios are constrained by the size and capabilities of existing arsenals and weapons systems including delivery vehicle range, the footprint of the Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) that carry nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles, and hard target kill capability. The simulation tool incorporates an atmospheric transport model to assess nuclear fallout for each attack scenario.

TheNord Stream pipelines have been destroyed. My guess is that it was US Navy DEVGRU guys and a Virginia Class submarine that carried them in. Right up their alley. That was no bluff, I think.

There is no antiwar movement in  the United States that has any influence on US military or political actions. But there are soldiers who are bored, doing drugs and aching for war.  “This is what happens when there is no war, no direction, and an 18-month red cycle with no mission,” a Special Forces soldier said. “So dudes are fucking around…and the craziest drugs. All these lives ruined because people are just bored.”ConnectingVeterans

That young soldier may not have long to wait to cure his boredom on the battlefield killing “the other” in Ukraine.

Cracks in the BRICS

Multipolarity? Belt and Road Initiative? Forget about it for now, or for the foreseeable future. For those notions to be birthed a global war will have to take place to dislodge the United States.

The BRICS? Consider that Brazil has severe internal problems: poverty chief amongst them. There is also the threat of a coup and so it could be tough for the new president (Lula) to hang on. How about China? I doubt it as China fears a confrontation with United States, as it is a large holder of US Treasury notes. If a war came, they would never receive their payout. Further, China has not fought any major wars recently and thus their military is untested. Already, the US is crushing their semiconductor chip market through economic warfare.

India? They have a long standing territorial rivalry with China and are very wary of Chinese espionage and instigating on its borders. India’s poverty level is off the charts, compared to Brazil’s. It may be the largest democracy on the planet but it society still runs a caste system and tensions between religious sects (Hindi, Islam) is a real problem. And let’s not forget about Kashmir. According to Wikipedia, “Today, the term encompasses a larger area that includes the Indian-administered territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and the Chinese-administered territories of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract.”

And Russia? Well, it is already fighting United States’ weapons systems, operational contractors, ISR aircraft, CIA operatives, and US defense contractors/mercenaries. When the US sets up a no-fly zone over Western and then Eastern Ukraine, it’ll be just a couple of steps, or mistakes, until full scale ground combat between the US and Russia takes place. Already, there are reports that the US is considering arming Ukraine with long range missiles that can reach Crimea. Russia stands alone against the West, a west that does not understand that Russians view the war as an existential crisis. Their way of life is threatened. And the Satanic hatred that Americans and Europeans have toward Russia is astonishing but it is engendered by Western governments and their hatred is broadcast by the MSM, an MSM which is owned by wealthy corporations, who, in fact, tell their populations how to think.

The US Military Just Sits Around?

So, according to critics, the US government/military is a ghost of itself and unprepared for industrial war and/or a per opponent. Let’s check that assumption out. We’ll turn to the US Congressional Research Service’s (CRS) “Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress”

US defense strategy is currently designed to prevent “the emergence of regional hegemons in Eurasia.” That strategy is based on US policy maker’s assessments (dating back to President Obama’s administration) that Eurasia is not “self-regulating” in that the countries of Eurasia can’t be relied upon to use their forces to stop a country that wants to dominate the region. That is viewed as a threat to US policymakers. For example; if China wanted to control, by force, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, who would rally to stop them? Would the Shanghai Cooperation Organization step in the way? No, the USA would.

So, the US defense department’s force structure is designed based on a “policy decision” made in Washington, to inhibit by threat or action an attempt by China or Russia to overrun other nations in Eurasia or the Pacific (think Taiwan). That means it has the capability to deploy military assets far afield from the US mainland (and from forward bases; e.g., Qatar, Bahrain). The package includes long range bombers like the B-2 and B-52; a naval battle group that includes, for example, a Nimitz Class carrier, Virginia Class submarines; Aegis warships; troop transports by air (C-10) and sea (Marine amphibious assault ships), ISR capabilities (RC-135V, satellites and drones).

Fighting Russians in the American Desert

For the past few years now the United States has emphasized planning that focuses on high-end conventional warfare, according to CRS. “Many DOD acquisitions, exercises and warfighting experiments have been initiated, accelerated, increased in scope, given higher priority, or had their continuation justified as consequence of the renewed US emphasis on high-end warfare.” For example, a warfighting experiment is taking place at the US Army’s Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert. A mockup of an urban town you might find in Ukraine , along with open terrain that surrounds the town, has been built. The Red Team uses Russian tactics to try and defeat the US Blue Team using its combined armed tactics (drones and electronic warfare are a key part of the exercise).

A peaceful multipolar world? I don’t think so.

Russia can’t create one alone.

Russia is as ready as it can be for the US boots on the ground in Ukraine. It will stand alone while its “friends” watch. And the USA knows for the first time in decades it will have to fight to get to the fight. Hard times ahead.

It is going to be a violent road to get to a multipolar world where nations don’t act ruthlessly in their own interests. I wish I could live to see how it all ends. Don’t we all?

Find and Read Please, Dig Deeper

How the US military is shaping the environment for Ukraine and wider war: Military Information Support Operations, MISO, Joint Publication 3-13.2

The US has astronomical power. Study them here: Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare. FM 3‐05.130

Sri Lanka and U.S. militaries commence CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka

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The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps began exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 with the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) and Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in Colombo, Jan. 19, 2023.

CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a joint, bilateral maritime exercise taking place ashore in Colombo and at the SLN bases in Trincomalee and Mullikullam. The sea phase will take place in the Laccadive Sea. This year’s exercise includes participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Maldives National Defence Force, and coincides with the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations and partnership between the United States and Sri Lanka.

The exercise commenced with an opening ceremony led by Deputy Chief of Staff / Director General Operations of SLN Rear Adm. Pradeep Rathnayake, and Capt. Sean Lewis, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7.

“CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is designed to exchange ideas as well as tactics,” said Lewis. “We will practice interoperability and strengthen our interpersonal relationships — both at sea and in port.”

Sri Lanka Navy offshore patrol vessels SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627) will meet the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), at sea. Training will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as air defense, small boat operations, and replenishment-at-sea approaches.

“I believe each event perfectly reflects the excellent collaboration between our forces and emphasizes our partnership in promoting regional security, combining knowledge, skill and understanding of goals, cultures and ideals,” said Rathnayake.

The shore phase trainings will consist of classroom subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE), practical education, and a Women, Peace and Security roundtable hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung. Highlights will include a series of public performances and exchanges between both country’s navy bands, a sports day, and a series of community service activities, as well as SMEEs on issues like diving and underwater construction, medical support, and maritime domain awareness.

“For seventy-five years, Sri Lanka and the United States have worked together to preserve an international community in which diverse sovereign states can unite to work with each other while maintaining their own respective identities,” said Rear Adm. Derek Trinque, commander, Task Force (CTF) 76/3. “CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka will help us move in unison toward achieving our shared goals of safety and prosperity.”

Additional participating U.S. assets include a P-8A Poseidon and personnel from U.S. 7th Fleet, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, CTF 73, CTF 76/3, DESRON 7, and Amphibious Squadron 7.

CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a bilateral exercise between Sri Lanka and the United States designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability.

In its 28th year, the CARAT series is comprised of multinational exercises, designed to enhance U.S. and partner navies’ abilities to operate together in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Sweden hustled into military pact with US

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The Biden Administration’s efforts to put on fast track Sweden’s accession as a NATO member petered out as Turkiye balked, exercising its prerogative to withhold approval unless its conditions regarding Stockholm’s past dalliance with Kurdish separatist elements is fully addressed. 

President Biden was bullish and insisted publicly that Sweden’s NATO membership was a foregone conclusion. He underestimated President Recep Erdogan’s tenacity and overlooked the geopolitical ramifications. 

Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg assumed that all that was needed was a face-saving formula to pander Erdogan’s vanity — ie., a few Kurdish militants in Sweden would be extradited and Ankara and Stockholm would thereupon kiss and make up. 

However, as time passed, Erdogan kept shifting the goal post and refined his conditions to include issues such as Sweden lifting its arms embargo against Turkiye, joining Ankara’s fight against banned Kurdish militants as well as extradition of people linked to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Turkish government accuses of masterminding the 2016 failed coup attempt, reportedly with American backing.

Evidently, Swedes didn’t realise that Turkiye had such deep knowledge of the covert activities of their intelligence.  

To cut the story short, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson finally  took the exit route saying on Sunday in exasperation that “Turkey has confirmed that we have done what we said we would do, but it also says that it wants things that we can’t, that we don’t want to, give it.” 

“We are convinced that Turkey will make a decision, we just don’t know when,” he said, adding that it will depend on internal politics inside Turkey as well as “Sweden’s capacity to show its seriousness.” 

Stoltenberg has reacted stoically, saying, “I am confident that Sweden will become a member of NATO. I do not want to give a precise date for when that happens. So far, it has been a rare, unusual and fast membership process. Normally, it takes several years.” 

Meanwhile, Sweden’s defence ministry announced on Monday that negotiations have begun for a bilateral security pact with Washington — so-called Defense Cooperation Agreement — which makes it possible for American troops to operate in Sweden. 

As Defence Minister Pal Jonson put it, “It could entail storage of military supplies, investments in infrastructure to enable support and the legal status of American troops in Sweden. The negotiations are started because Sweden is on its way of becoming an ally of the United States, through the NATO membership.

That is to say, the US is no longer waiting for the formalisation of Sweden’s accession as a NATO member but will simply assume it is a de facto NATO ally! 

press release on Monday by US state department said the bilateral security pact will “deepen our close security partnership, enhance our cooperation in multilateral security operations, and, together, strengthen transatlantic security.” It referred to US commitment to “strengthening and reinvigorating America’s partnerships to meet common security challenges while protecting shared interests and values.”  

The crux of the matter is that a security will provide the necessary underpinning for a US deployment to Sweden on an immediate basis, which is not possible otherwise without Stockholm formally jettisoning its decades-old policy of military non-alignment. 

This ingenuous route signifies a monumental shift for Sweden which has a long history of wartime neutrality. Put differently, Russia strongly opposes Sweden’s NATO membership, but Washington is reaching its objective anyway. 

Interestingly, though, Finland, which also had thrown its hand in the NATO ring under US pressure, doesn’t seem to be in a tearing hurry to negotiate a pact with Washington, although it has a 1,340km border with Russia. Finland’s stance is that it would join NATO at the same time as Sweden.

Foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters on Sunday, “Finland is not in such a rush to join NATO that we can’t wait until Sweden gets the green light.” A former Finnish President Tarja Halonen once said, Finland and Sweden are “sisters but not twins.” They have commonalities, but their motivations are not the same.

Unlike Sweden which was all along in the Western orbit and provided secret intelligence to Western powers throughout the Cold War, both bilaterally and through NATO, Finland had a unique relationship with Russia, which was a result of its history. 

Finland positioned itself as a neutral country during the Cold War maintaining good relations with the Soviet Union, riveted on the doctrine enabled by the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (1948) with Moscow, which served well as the main instrument in Finnish-Soviet relations all the way until 1992 when the Soviet Union got disbanded. 

For sure, the 1948 pact granted Finland enough freedom to become a prosperous democracy, while, in comparison, despite Sweden’s public posture of neutrality throughout much of the Cold War, behind closed doors it had become a key partner of NATO in Northern Europe. 

Conceivably, neutrality still could remain an appealing alternative for Finland. Of course, it is a different matter if the balance of power in the region changes dramatically in the event of a large-scale conflict in Europe. 

Sweden’s (or Finland’s) NATO membership isn’t exactly round the corner. Sweden is either unable or unwilling to fulfil Turkiye’s demands. Besides, there are variables at work here. 

Most important, the trajectory of the current Russian-brokered rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus will profoundly impact the fate of the Kurdish groups in the region — and the Kurdish-US axis in Syria. Washington has warned Erdogan against seeking rapprochement with President Bashar Al-Assad. 

What complicates matters further is that presidential and parliamentary elections are due in Turkiye in June and Erdogan’s political compass is set. Any change in his calculus can only happen  in the second half of 2023 at the earliest.

Now, 6 months is a long time in West Asian politics. Meanwhile, the Ukraine war will also have phenomenally changed by summer. 

Finland is ready to wait till summer, but Sweden (and the US) cannot. The heart of the matter is that Sweden’s NATO membership is not really about the war in Ukraine but is about containing the Russian presence and strategy in the Arctic and North Pole. There is a massive economic dimension to it, too. 

Thanks to climate change, the Arctic is increasingly becoming a navigable sea route. The expert opinion is that nations bordering the Arctic (eg., Sweden) will have an enormous stake in who has access to and control of the resources of this energy- and mineral-rich region as well as the new sea routes for global commerce the melt-off is creating. 

It is estimated that forty-three of the nearly 60 large oil and natural-gas fields that have been discovered in the Arctic are in Russian territory, while eleven are in Canada, six in Alaska [US] and one in Norway. Simply put, the spectre that is haunting the US is: “The Arctic is Russian.”

Just look at the map above. Sweden can bring quite a bit to the table to secure the Arctic through NATO. Finland may have a strong icebreaker-ship building industry, but it is Sweden’s highly effective submarine fleet that will be crucial — both for polar defence and for blocking Russia’s access to the world oceans.   

Brazil: US Sponsored Coup d’état against Public Verdict

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The coup attempt is underway in Brazil by supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro. Today, a far right mob numbering in the thousands stormed the headquarters of the Supreme Court, Presidency, and Congress of Brazil in the capital and ransacked them. They are calling for military intervention against the government of president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva of the progressive Workers Party, who defeated Bolsonaro in democratic elections held last year.

Right now, Jair Bolsonaro is in the United States, having fled here right before Lula assumed office last Sunday. Anderson Torres, formerly Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister who was appointed the Minister of Public Security of the capital city Brasilia last week, is also in the United States. Torres appears to have played a key role facilitating today’s attack, and Bolsonaro has clearly been intentionally laying the political basis for such a coup attempt for months with his false claims of election fraud. Neither should be given safe haven by the government of the United States – they should face justice in Brazil for their crimes.

Brazil’s Congress, Presidential Palace, and Supreme Court headquarters are located in a single plaza in Brasilia, whose governor is a Bolsonaro supporter. A mob of thousands with the apparent assistance of some elements of the security forces gathered today and marched on the plaza. Gleisi Hoffmann, the head of the Workers Party, stated that, “The [Federal District] government was irresponsible in the face of the invasion of Brasília and the National Congress. It is a crime against democracy.”

Lula was out of the capital, assisting victims of flooding in the city of Araraquara. Several hours after the attack, he addressed the nation and announced that he was mobilizing federal security forces to reestablish order and defend democracy in the face of this outrageous assault. “Those people we call fascists, the most abominable thing in politics, invaded the [presidential] palace and Congress,” Lula said, and denounced the, “incompetence and bad faith of the people who take care of the security of [Brasilia]”. Earlier in the day, Minister of Justice Flávio Dino pledged that, “This absurd attempt to impose their will by force will not prevail.”

Bolsonaro appears to be isolated internationally, but not because he is an opponent of the United States and other imperial powers — even the Biden administration and other western governments know that openly supporting a Bolsonaro putsch, just after his electoral defeat, would only further destabilize and discredit imperialism in Latin America and worldwide.

This coup attempt comes as Brazilian politics is at a crossroads. From 2019 through the end of last year, Bolsonaro’s government has pursued policies that caused disaster after disaster in Brazil. He is responsible for criminal mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic, anti-worker economic policies, massive environmental destruction, and much more. He has promoted vicious, deadly racism targeting Afro-Brazilians and Indigenous Brazilians, and espouses disgustingly bigoted views against women and LGBTQ people.

Bolsonaro’s fascistic tendencies have deep roots in Brazilian politics – he is a supporter of the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985, which was an ally of the United States. Lula emerged as a national political figure as an opponent of this murderous regime, and the people’s movements of Brazil remain determined to defend hard-won democratic rights.

Bolsonaro’s rise to power was made possible by the parliamentary coup that removed the Workers Party from power in 2016. Then-president Dilma Rousseff was impeached from office on trumped-up charges by the right wing-controlled Congress. And in a plot that has now been exposed to the public, right-wing prosecutors and judges conspired to manufacture bogus corruption charges against Lula, the most popular political figure in the country who had led the first Workers Party administration from 2003 to 2010. In 2018, Lula was sent to prison on these completely baseless accusations. This prevented him from participating in that year’s presidential election, where all the polls predicted him prevailing over Bolsonaro.

But thanks to a mass movement of people in Brazil, joined by supporters the world over, Lula was freed from prison in 2019. He won last year’s presidential election, pledging to rebuild the country after the devastation of the Bolsonaro years, implement social programs to tackle hunger and poverty, and pursue an independent foreign policy that supports the unity of Latin America. The events of today are a desperate attempt by the far right to overturn the democratic will of the majority of Brazilians.

[Article based on the statement issued by the Party for Socialism and Liberation]