Russia

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The Ukraine Safari

I don’t usually write about cultural products from my own country, but I must make an exception for Slovenian filmmaker Miran Zupanič’s new documentary Sarajevo Safari, which details one of the most

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Where Does Russia Receive Its Aid From?

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

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No end in view for Ukraine war

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The US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s meetings with Ukrainian leaders, including President Vladimir Zelensky, in Kiev has created a lot of confusion and misperceptions. One one side, the White House maintains that the trip aimed “to underscore the United States’ steadfast support to Ukraine and its people.” The readout stated that Sullivan also affirmed “the continued provision of economic and humanitarian assistance, as well as ongoing efforts with partners to hold Russia accountable for its aggression.” 

However, unnamed US officials gave the spin that Sullivan’s real mission was to “nudge” Zelensky to negotiate with Moscow and urge that “Kyiv must show its willingness to end the war reasonably and peacefully.” Politico later reported that Zelensky indeed heeded Sullivan’s “soft nudging”. The US media also reported that the US officials have been nudging the Ukrainians for sometime. 

The Washington Post reported last week that the Biden administration privately encouraged Ukrainian officials to show they are willing to engage in dialogue with Russia, in an acknowledgment of the growing frustration in the US and some of its allies at the cost and duration of the war. But, apparently, the Ukrainians pushed back.  

Sullivan also added some spice to the media speculation by claiming on Monday that the US has channels to communicate with Russia at senior levels. The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported, citing unnamed US and Western officials, that Sullivan had allegedly held a series of confidential meetings recently with Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev on the conflict in Ukraine. (Moscow has not reacted to these reports.) 

The heart of the matter is that Sullivan has been on a PR exercise in the run-up to the midterms in the US (November 8) in a concerted strategy aimed at countering the growing criticism among the Democrats and Republicans that the Biden Administration is avoiding the diplomatic track to try to end the war in Ukraine. That apart, Sullivan’s theatrics also achieved the purpose of distorting the perception that it is Zelensky who is recalcitrant about dialogue and peace talks — not Biden.

In fact, all indications are that the Biden Administration is preparing for the long haul in Ukraine. Stars and Stripes reported on Wednesday that a three-star general will lead a new Army headquarters in Germany called the Security Assistance Group Ukraine, or SAGU, that will include about 300 US service members responsible for coordinating security assistance for Ukraine. On Sunday, The New York Times had reported last Friday that Lt. Gen. Antonio Aguto Jr., head of the First US Army headquarters at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, was a leading candidate for the new job. 

The SAGU will be based out of US Army Europe and Africa headquarters in Wiesbaden. Sabrina Singh, the deputy Pentagon press secretary, told reporters the new command will “ensure we are postured to continue supporting Ukraine over the long term.” She added the US remains “committed to Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

It is improbable that Moscow has fallen for Sullivan’s dissimulation. There is reason to believe that Sullivan who is a thoroughbred neocon from the Clinton clan would only have urged Zelensky to expedite the planned Ukrainian offensive on Kherson, which has been in the making for quite a while as a decisive battle for the Crimea and control of the Black Sea/Azov Sea ports and is critical for Ukraine’s long-term viability as a prosperous nation and of vital interest to the US and NATO for the encirclement of Russia.

Above all, the Biden Administration is badly in need of a success story from Ukraine as the newly-elected Congress convenes in January with a likely  Republican Party majority in the House of Representatives. 

No doubt, the Russians are taking the Ukrainian offensive in Kherson seriously. In a stunning announcement in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered a troop pullout from the western side of the Dnieper River in the Kherson Region. The fact that the Kremlin is risking criticism from the Russian public opinion for ordering such a retreat (from a region that Putin decreed is an integral part of Russia) underscores the gravity of the Ukrainian military threat and the imperative needs to strengthen the defence line.

Zelensky is forcing Moscow to literally eat its words about the “demilitarisation” of Ukraine! He continues to be in a belligerent mood. On Monday, Zelensky did make a peace offer but with five conditions for a settlement:  

  • Restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity; 
  • Russia respecting UN Charter on sovereignty and territorial integrity;
  • Russia paying off all war reparations; 
  • Punishing each war criminal; and,  
  • Guarantees that such an invasion and atrocities will not happen again.

The only “concession” Zelensky made is that he didn’t mention his earlier precondition that President Vladimir Putin should relinquish office before any negotiations. It is a non-starter. 

There is no end in view for the war in Ukraine. By the way, although the midterm elections are typically the point in a US presidential cycle where one expects to see top Cabinet members being replaced, but there is no sign of that happening to Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. 

Austin, 69, being a critical voice in the Ukraine conflict, who mobilised billions of dollars worth of military aid from around the world for Kiev, Biden anticipates that the war effort may only become more entrenched and this is not the time to change the top ranks of the Pentagon.

Indeed, the ground situation shows that the ongoing Russian operations in the areas of Ugledar and Bakhmut in Donetsk have run into strong resistance from Ukrainian forces, contrary to the Russian narrative that Kiev’s military is in a shambles and is a demoralised lot. 

In particular, the advance of the Russians around Ugledar got stuck in the mud in the village of Pavlovka, located on the important crossroads, and in a fierce battle three days ago, reportedly, there were heavy casualties on both sides. Putin’s decision to retreat in Kherson was probably with the hope of avoiding a similar fate, as the Russians are experiencing logistical difficulties to supply their forces on the western side of Dnieper river. 

Of course, this seamy picture is not the whole picture insofar as the phase of regrouping and resupplying following the Russian mobilisation is still a work in progress and the ongoing fighting in Donbass and Kherson is at the tactical level and does not involve large movements of troops. 

Equally, the intensive Russian strikes on Ukrainian depots, command centres and artillery and air-defence systems plus the destruction of Ukraine’s military-industrial facilities and energy system are yet to impact Kiev’s capacity to wage the war.  

Meanwhile, the situation on the front lines in Kherson region remains extremely tense for the Russians. The Ukrainian forces are on the prowl poking the Russian defence line incessantly to break through to advance toward the city of Kherson. A large-scale Ukrainian offensive backed by western advisors and mercenaries is to be expected any day. So far, Russian are holding their positions, repelling the ongoing Ukrainian attacks and fortifying their defences. 

From Kherson city, Ukrainian artillery can threaten Crimea. In the prognosis of Moscow’s close ally, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, “Challenging times are ahead of us. Next winter will be even harsher than this one because we’re facing the Battle of Stalingrad, the decisive battle in the conflict in Ukraine, the battle for Kherson.” He predicted that both sides are likely to deploy thousands of tanks, aircraft and artillery pieces in the struggle for the key city.

Vucic said, “The West thinks it’ll be able to ruin Russia that way, while Russia believes it’ll be able to defend what it secured at the start of the war and bring it to an end.” 

Stop World War III – Now

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In 1799, Marshall Alexander Suvorov led a Russian army and all its cannons across the Alps in the dead of winter.  A plaque near Gotthard still commemorates this epic military feat.

In March 1814, Russia’s emperor Alexander I entered Paris at the head of his Imperial Guard, ending Napoleon’s rule.

In 1945, Russian forces under Marshalls Zhukov and Konev fought their way into Berlin. The Red Army destroyed 75% of all German and Axis forces.

Russians are great warriors.  They are courageous, often heedless of death, and masters of the art of war. 

So, what has happened to the Russian Army in Ukraine?  It has fought poorly, moved at the speed of ox carts, blundered around and suffered heavy casualties and heavy loss of armored and air forces.

Start with Russia’s military hierarchy. It’s led by a civilian, Sergei Shoigu, a crony of Putin and a man without any military training or experience. But he’s loyal to Putin.

He reminds me of poor, old Egyptian field marshal, Abdel Hakim Amer, Nasser’s buddy, who misled his nation’s armed forces into the 1967 catastrophe.  When Israeli warplanes attacked, using US satellite data, Amer was smoking dope in his airplane.

Putin was a KGB officer. He had no military background beyond ruthlessly crushing the second Chechen uprising – with US help.  Chechen chief Ramzan Kadyrov has blasted Shoigu and called for his head.  There has been far too much political interference with Russia’s military. 

Putin wanted a limited ‘military action,’ not a full-scale war against what was not so long ago an integral part of Russia.  Hence the once formidable Red Army was kept on a leash, deprived of Russia’s most modern weapons, and ordered to go easy on the rebellious Ukrainians.

Russia’s artillery, the Queen of battle, ran out of ammunition.  The Red Air Force was ordered not to risk its expensive Sukhoi fighter-bombers.  Its space-based targeting was jammed or degraded by the US and NATO.

Equally important, the conflict in Ukraine has already turned into a mini-World War Three as the US and its key allies struggle to deliver the coup de grace to the Russian federation.

This war is not about freedom for Ukraine – as potent western propaganda incessantly tells us.  It’s about crushing the last remnants of former Soviet power and turning the fragments into docile mini states dominated by Washington and London.

Since CIA overthrew Ukraine’s pro-Russian regime in 2014 – which cost an estimated $50 billion – Moscow and Kiev have been at daggers drawn.  Putin’s Russia refuses to recognize Ukraine as an independent state.  Kiev, backed by tens of billions of dollars and a massive arsenal of arms from the west, rejects Russian hegemony.

The US wants to see the Balkanization of Mother Russia. The next targets may be Russia’s Far East or the Russian Urals.  The war party in Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike, appears determined to crush the life out of what’s left of Russia and achieve the strategic goal of America’s neocons of eradicating any potential military opponent of absolute worldwide US power.  Once Russia is laid low, China will be the next target – in fact, it likely already is.

The Biden administration has already poured close to $100 billion of aid and huge amounts of arms into Ukraine, a staggering and risky sum for a nation with a $31 trillion deficit. Add billions more from Canada and US allies in Europe who would prefer to see this war end.

The current wave of high inflation has been ignited in large part by Washington’s reckless spending over Ukraine. This is money the US Treasury does not have, and must borrow, fueling roaring inflation.

A decade ago, President Putin proclaimed that Russia would cut conventional military spending and increasingly rely on nuclear arms. 

Yet we are surprised now that the Kremlin is rattling its nuclear weapons. We should not forget that before the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine held and produced substantial numbers of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. These were supposedly all junked, but Ukraine probably holds a few nukes in secret.

Meanwhile, western forces are openly operating in Ukraine against Russian forces.  The full panoply of US power is witnessed there:  space intelligence and air-born intelligence; naval operations blocking the Russian Black Sea Fleet; vast amounts of artillery, electronic warfare, conventional land warfare conducted by special units from Poland, the US, Britain and Germany. 

As this column has been saying for years, the prime duty of the United States, the world’s premier power, is to avert any possible nuclear confrontation in Eastern Europe.  Diplomacy, not more arms, is the answer.

The answer is clear: stop trying to draw Ukraine into NATO, stop trying to fragment Russia. Let the rebellious Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine join Russia if they so desire.  Pull western forces out of the region and resume quiet diplomacy.  Let France lead this sensible effort.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2022

Russia’s homage to Nord Stream pipelines

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David Brinkley, the legendary American newscaster with a career that spanned an amazing fifty-four years from World War II once said that a successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him. How many American statesmen ever practised this noble thought inherited from Jesus Christ remains doubtful.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stunning proposal to Turkish President Recep Erdogan to build a gas pipeline to Turkiye to create an international hub from which Russian gas can be supplied to Europe breathes fresh life into this very “Gandhian” thought.

Putin discussed the idea with Erdogan at their meeting in Astana on October 13 and since spoke about it at the Russian Energy Week forum last week where he proposed creating the largest gas hub in Europe in Turkey and redirecting the volume of gas, the transit of which is no longer possible through the Nord Stream, to this hub.

Putin said it may imply building another gas pipeline system to feed the hub in Turkiye, through which gas will be supplied to third countries, primarily European ones, “if they are interested.”

Prima facie, Putin does not expect any positive response from Berlin to his standing proposal to use the string of the Nord Stream 2, which remained undamaged, to supply 27.5 billion cu. metres of gas through the winter months. Germany’s deafening silence is understandable. Chancellor Off Scholz is terrified about President Biden’s wrath.

Berlin says it knows who sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines but won’t reveal it as it affects Germany’s national security! Sweden too pleads that the matter is far too sensitive for it to share the evidence it has collected with any country, including Germany! Biden has put the fear of God into the minds of these timid European “allies” who have been left in no doubt what is good for them! The western media too is ordered to play down Nord Steam saga so that with the passage of time, public memory will fade away.

However, Russia has done its homework that Europe cannot do without Russia gas, the present bravado of self-denial notwithstanding. Simply put, the European industries depend on cheap, reliable supplies of Russian for their products to remain competitive in the world market.

Qatar’s energy minister Saad al-Kaabi said last week that he cannot envisage a future where “zero Russian gas” flows to Europe. He noted acerbically, “ If that’s the case, then I think the problem is going to be huge and for a very long time. You just don’t have enough volume to bring (in) to replace that (Russian) gas for the long term, unless you’re saying ‘I’m going to be building huge nuclear (plants), I’m going to allow coal, I’m going to burn fuel oils.’”

Quintessentially, Russia plans to replace its gas hub in Haidach in Austria (which Austrians seized in July.) Conceivably, the hub in Turkiye has a ready market in Southern Europe, including Greece and Italy. But there is more to it than meets the eye.

Succinctly put, Putin has made a strategic move in the geopolitics of gas. His initiative rubbishes the hare-brained idea of the Russophobic European Commission bureaucrats in Brussels, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, to impose a price cap on gas purchases. It makes nonsense of the US’ and EU’s plans to put down Russia’s profile as a gas superpower.

Logically, the next step for Russia should be to align with Qatar, the world’s second biggest gas exporter. Qatar is a close ally of Turkey, too. At Astana recently, on the sidelines of the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Putin held a closed-door meeting with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. They agreed to follow up with another meeting soon in Russia.

Russia already has a framework of cooperation with Iran in a number of joint projects in the oil and gas industry. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak recently disclosed plans to conclude an oil and gas swap deal with Iran by the end of the year. He said that “technical details are being worked out – issues of transport, logistics, price, and tariff formation.”

Now, Russia, Qatar and Iran together account for more than half of the world’s entire proven gas reserves. Time is approaching for them to intensify cooperation and coordination on the pattern of the OPEC Plus. All three countries are represented in the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF).

Putin’s proposal appeals to Turkiye’s longstanding dream to become an energy hub at the doorstep of Europe. Unsurprisingly, Erdogan instinctively warmed up to Putin’s proposal. Addressing the ruling party members in the Turkish parliament this week, Erdogan said, “In Europe they are now dealing with the question of how to stay warm in the coming winter. We don’t have such a problem. We have agreed with Vladimir Putin to create a gas hub in our country, through which natural gas, as he says, can be delivered to Europe. Thus, Europe will order gas from Turkey.”

Apart from strengthening own energy security, Turkiye also can contribute to Europe’s. No doubt, Turkiye’s importance will take a quantum leap in the EU foreign policy calculus, while also strengthening its strategic autonomy in regional politics. This is a huge step forward in Erdogan’s geo-strategy — the geographic direction of Turkish foreign policy under his watch.

From the Russian viewpoint, of course, Turkiye’s strategic autonomy and its grit to pursue independent foreign policies works splendidly for Moscow in the present conditions of western sanctions. Conceivably, Russian companies will start viewing Turkiye as a production base where western technologies become accessible. Turkiye has a customs union agreement with the EU, which completely removes customs duties on all industrial goods of Turkish origin. (See my blog Russia-Turkey reset eases regional tensions, Aug 9, 2022)

In geopolitical terms, Moscow is comfortable with Turkiye’s NATO membership. Clearly, the proposed gas hub brings much additional income to Turkiye and will impart greater stability and predictability to the Russia-Turkey relations. Indeed, the strategic links that tie the two countries together are steadily lengthening — the S-400 ABM deal, cooperation in Syria, the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, Turk-stream gas pipeline, to name a few.

The two countries candidly admit that they have differences of opinion, but the way Putin and Erdogan through constructive diplomacy keep turning adverse circumstances into windows of opportunity for “win-win” cooperation is simply amazing.

It does need ingenuity to get the US’ European allies source Russian gas without any coercion or boorishness even after Washington buried the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the depths of the Baltic Sea. There is dramatic irony that a NATO power is partnering Russia in this direction.

The US foreign policy elite drawn from East European stock are rendered speechless by the sheer sophistication of the Russian ingenuity to bypass without any trace of rancour the shabby way the US and its allies — Germany and Sweden, in particular — slammed the door shut on Moscow to even take a look at the damaged multi-billion dollar pipelines that it had built in good faith in the depths of the Baltic Sea at the instance of two German chancellors, Gerhard Schroeder and Angela Merkel.

The current German leadership of Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks very foolish and cowardly– and provincial. The European Commission’s Ursula von der Leyen gets a huge rebuff in all this which will ultimately define her tragic legacy in Brussels as a flag carrier for American interests. This becomes probably the first case study for historians on how multipolarity will work in the world order.

Views expressed are personal. Click here to read the author’s personal blog

The Ukraine Safari

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I don’t usually write about cultural products from my own country, but I must make an exception for Slovenian filmmaker Miran Zupanič’s new documentary Sarajevo Safari, which details one of the most bizarre and pathological episodes of the 1992-96 siege of the Bosnian capital.

It is well known that Serb snipers in the hills surrounding the city would arbitrarily shoot residents on the streets below, and that select Serb allies (mostly Russians) were invited to fire some shots of their own. Yet now we learn that this opportunity was provided not only as a gesture of appreciation but also as a kind of tourist activity for paying customers. Through “safaris” organized by the Bosnian Serb Army, dozens of rich foreigners – mostly from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy, but also from Russia – paid top dollar for the chance to shoot at helpless civilians.

Consider the special form of subjectivity that such a safari would confer on the “hunter.” Though the victims were anonymous, this was no video game; the perverse thrill lay in the fact that it was real. And yet, by playing the “hunter,” these rich tourists, occupying a safe perch above the city, effectively excluded themselves from ordinary reality. For their targets, the stakes were life or death.

There is something perversely honest in this melding of reality and spectacle. After all, aren’t top politicians and corporate managers also engaged in a kind of safari? From their safe perch in the C-suite, executives often ruin many lives.

Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president who now serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, recently imputed a similar logic to Western political leaders. Dismissing warnings by the US and NATO about the consequences of a Russian tactical nuclear strike, Medvedev argued that:

“[T]he security of Washington, London, Brussels is much more important for the North Atlantic Alliance than the fate of a dying Ukraine that no one needs. The supply of modern weapons is just a business for Western countries. Overseas and European demagogues are not going to perish in a nuclear apocalypse. Therefore, they will swallow the use of any weapon in the current conflict.”

Medvedev has also said that the Kremlin will “do everything” to prevent “hostile neighbors” like “Nazi Ukraine” from acquiring or hosting nuclear weapons, as this supposedly would pose an existential threat to the Russian state. But since it is Russia that is threatening Ukraine’s existence as a state, Medvedev’s logic dictates that Ukraine, too, should have arms – and even nuclear weapons – to achieve military parity.

Recall Putin’s own words this past June: “… there is no in-between, no intermediate state: either a country is sovereign, or it is a colony, no matter what the colonies are called.” Since he obviously views Ukraine as a Russian colony, the West should not treat Ukraine as though it agreed with him. That means rejecting the idea that Western powers should bypass Ukraine and broker a settlement with Russia.

Unfortunately, many Western leftists have been playing directly into Putin’s hands on this issue. Consider Harlan Ullman of the Atlantic Council, who writes: “Clemenceau observed that ‘war is too important to be left to the generals.’ In this case, is Ukraine too important to be left to Zelensky? The US needs a strategy with an off-ramp to seek an end to the violence and the war.”

Leftists from Noam Chomsky to Jeffrey Sachs (not to mention the many Russia apologists on the right) have adopted similar positions. After first insisting that Ukraine cannot win a war against Russia, they now imply that it should not win, because that would leave Putin cornered and therefore dangerous.

But if we had followed the peaceniks’ advice and not sent arms to Ukraine, that country would now be fully occupied, its subjugation accompanied by far greater atrocities than those found in Bucha, Izium, and many other places.

A far better stance has been adopted by the German Greens, who advocate not only full support for Ukraine but also structural reforms to accelerate the transition away from oil and gas, which in turn will steer humanity away from catastrophic climate change. The rest of the Western left has been on safari, refusing an intervention that will challenge its established way of life.

Peaceniks argue that Russia needs a victory or concession that will allow it to “save face.” But that logic cuts both ways. Following Medvedev and Putin’s nuclear threats, it is Ukraine and the West that can no longer compromise and still save face. Recall that Medvedev predicted that the West would refuse to respond militarily to a Russian nuclear strike because it is too cowardly and greedy to do so.

Here, we enter the domain of philosophy, because Putin and Medvedev’s words clearly echo Hegel’s master-slave dialectic. If two self-consciousnesses are engaged in a life-or-death struggle, there can be no winner, because one will die and the victor will no longer have another self-consciousness around who can recognize its own self-consciousness. The entire history of human culture rests on the original compromise by which someone becomes the servant that “averts its eyes” to prevent mutual assured destruction.

Medvedev and Putin presume that the decadent, hedonist West will avert its eyes. And that brings us back to the dynamic captured in Sarajevo Safari. Privileged elites feel as though they can intervene in the real world in strategic ways that entail no personal danger. But reality catches up with everyone eventually. When it does, we must not heed the advice of those concerned only with not provoking the beast in the valley.

[This article was originally published in Project Syndicate. Click here to read the original ]

Is Vladimir Putin Making Strategic Mistakes?

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Day after day, military experts, analyzing troop movements, the state of forces, technological options, etc., assure us that Vladimir Putin is making impressive strategic mistakes, and some even venture to promise victory to the Ukrainians these days. Triumphalism? Perhaps. Divine surprise? No doubt. A hoped-for victory of certain principles against a tyrant? Yes, of course.

That we are far from the account, however. The winter arrives. It is, in these regions, rigorous. The forces on both sides are necessarily exhausted without knowing who will finally give in first. Ukraine’s allies still fear the transition to co-belligerency. Beyond the inevitable fragility of these hopes and the agonizing uncertainty of the outcome of this conflict, there is, however, one part that Putin has won, and that we pretend not to see: he has revived the Beast.

“War has returned to Europe after seventy years of peace,” lamented some European heads of state. This is true, and it is false if we think of the Yugoslavian civil war, which was, in the end, war at all. Beyond this return of war, tearing apart the patiently woven fabric of the Pax Europaea, Vladimir Putin is reviving memories and smells that we thought were buried.

For, yes, we had believed after 1945 that humanity, at least in Europe, would be forever inoculated against barbaric unleashing and gratuitous cruelty. But what do we see?

In Ukraine, the return of crimes whose atrocity is beyond comprehension. Rape as a weapon of war, in particular the rape of children under the age of 5, followed by their murder. Mass graves are discovered. The violation of the elementary rules of the right of prisoners is daily. The targeting of civilians is methodical. The use of torture is common. The destruction of cities whose architecture and heritage are reminiscent of Vienna or Prague is systematic. The careful erasure of places of memory, the contempt for the history of peoples and their dignity, hatred as a driving force: this, even more than war, is what is back in Europe.

From this emanates the rancid perfume of the exactions of the Nazi militias, the troubled vision of these German regiments drunk with blood and often rendered half insane by fatigue, violence, and alcohol, ready to deny all humanity, their own and that of their victims. When we don’t see the images, fortunately, we don’t need much imagination to imagine these prisoners emasculated by meeting brutes, these women shot at the edge of the mass grave, as once at Babi Yar the photo of this German soldier firmly leaning on his big legs and laying a woman’s cheek turning her back to him, ardently holding her child against her in a final embrace: in a second they will be dead. We owe to Vladimir Putin the hallucinating reissue of these barbarities that we thought had been abolished. It is as if the genocidal animal that we thought had been eradicated was still lurking in people’s minds, like Fáfnir in his cave.

And we also see, on the Russian side, populations fleeing by the roads, we see men trying to refuse the mobilization by voluntarily breaking a leg, and we see those who could not avoid it going to empty barracks, collecting rusty weapons, being admonished by drunken or moronic instructors. We will soon see them all pierced by the first assault, fathers of families, students, and young soldiers of fortune fallen for no other cause than the folly and error of one man. Then we will see the tears of those 15-year-old boys enlisted in extremis in a routed Wehrmacht. We will inevitably think of the haggard eyes of the German prisoners of 1945 walking in cohorts, looking as if they no longer understand what they are doing there. And we will find ourselves pitying these “despite us” whose sad fate, however, will not entirely redeem the bloody madness of their brothers in arms.

Probably because his historical imagination remained stuck at the stage of post-war ruins and the instincts of revenge that were grafted onto it, Vladimir Putin awakens scenes of another time, the violence of another age, and makes us smell that smell of burnt flesh and charred cities that our grandparents had unfortunately known. The Russians, victorious at Stalingrad, had put a stop to the destruction by the Germans of any notion of humanity. Putin will remain the one who buried the glory of Stalingrad under the ruins of Mariupol.

Edward Snowden: A Russian Citizen

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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

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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

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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?

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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?

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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.