Vladimir Putin

Who’s afraid of US troops in Ukraine?

369 views
4 mins read

Very innocuously, the Biden Administration has ‘sensitised’ the world opinion that American troops are indeed present on Ukrainian soil in Russia’s immediate neighbourhood. Washington made a “soft landing” with an unnamed senior Pentagon official making the disclosure to the Associated Press and the Washington Post. 

The official gave an ingenious explanation that the US troops “have recently begun doing onsite inspections to ensure” that Ukraine is “properly accounting” for the Western weapons it received. He claimed that this was part of a broader US campaign, announced last week by the State Department, “meant to make sure that weapons provided to Ukraine don’t end up in the hands of Russian troops, their proxies or other extremist groups.” 

In effect, though, President Biden is eating his own word not to have ‘boots on the ground’ in Ukraine under any circumstances.  There is always the real danger that the clutch of Americans on tour in Ukraine may come under fire from the Russian forces. In fact, the US deployment comes against the backdrop of intense Russian missile and drone attacks currently on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. 

Plainly put, wittingly or unwittingly, the US is going up the escalation ladder. So far, the US intervention involved deployment of military advisors to the Ukrainian military command, supply of intelligence in real time, planning and execution of operations against Russian forces and allowing American mercenaries to do the fighting, apart from steady supply of tens of billions of dollars worth weaponry. 

The qualitative difference now is that the proxy war may turn into a hot war between the NATO and Russia. The Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said today at a joint board meeting of the Russian and Belarusian defence ministries that the number of NATO forces in Eastern and Central Europe had risen by two and a half times since February and might increase further in the near future.

Shoigu underscored that Moscow understands fully well that the West is pursuing a concerted strategy to destroy Russia’s economy and military potential, making it impossible for the country to pursue an independent foreign policy. 

He flagged that NATO’s new strategic concept suggested moving from containing Russia “through forward presence” to creating “a full-scale system of collective defence on the eastern flank,” with the bloc’s non-regional members deploying troops to the Baltic countries, Eastern and Central Europe, and new multinational battalion tactical groups being formed in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. 

It may not be a coincidence that Washington acknowledged the presence of its military personnel in Ukraine at a point when the Russians have alleged the participation of British intelligence in the recent sabotage act on the Nord Stream pipelines and the drone strikes on Saturday at the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

There are grey areas, historically speaking, in the so-called “special relationship” between the US and the UK. The chronicle of that relationship is replete with instances of the tail wagging the dog at critical moments. The point is, interestingly enough, on the attack on Sevastopol, Moscow is pointing the finger more at the MI6 operatives than at Kiev. (here and here)

The US-UK calculus was originally to get the Russians bogged down in a quagmire in Ukraine and to incite an insurrection within Russia opposing ‘Putin’s war.’ But it failed. The US sees that over 300,000 trained ex-military personnel from Russia are being deployed to Ukraine for launching a major offensive to end the war in the coming 3-4 months. 

That is to say, the roof is coming down on the entire edifice of lies and deceptive propaganda that formed the western narrative on Ukraine. The defeat in Ukraine could have disastrous consequences for the US’ image and credibility as a superpower not only in Europe but on the global stage, undermine its leadership of the transatlantic  alliance and even disable NATO. 

Curiously, however, it cannot be lost on Washington that even at this juncture, Moscow is nudging Kiev to resume the negotiation process. In fact, in a significant development on Tuesday, Ukraine gave written guarantees to the joint coordination centre in Istanbul (comprising Turkey, Russia and the UN) that the humanitarian corridor and Ukrainian ports designated for the export of agricultural products for military operations will not be used henceforth against the Russian Federation. Kiev assured that “the maritime humanitarian corridor will be used only in accordance with the provisions of the Black Sea Initiative and the related JCC regulation.”

In retrospect, the Biden Administration made a terrible mistake in its estimation that the war would lead to a regime change in Russia following a collapse of the Russian economy under the weight of western sanctions. On the contrary, even the IMF admits that the Russian economy has stabilised. 

The Russian economy is expected to register growth by next year. The comparison with the western economies that are sinking into high inflation and recession is far too glaring to be missed by the world audience. 

Suffice to say, the US and its allies have run out of sanctions to hit Russia. The Russian leadership, on the other hand, is consolidating by pushing ahead with the shift to a multipolar world order challenging the US’ century-old global dominance.

Fundamentally, it is the capitalist system itself which is responsible for this crisis. We are currently suffering under the effect of the longest and deepest crisis the system has known since the redivision of the world that took place in World War II. The imperialist powers are once again preparing for war to redivide the world in the hopes of getting out of their crisis, much as they prepared prior to World War II. 

The big question is what Russia’s response is going to be. It is all but certain that Moscow hasn’t been caught by surprise at the revelation in Washington regarding the presence of US troops in Ukraine. It is highly unlikely that Russia will resort to knee-jerk reaction. 

The so-called ‘counter-offensive’ by Ukraine has fizzled out. It made no territorial gains or any significant breakthrough. But the Ukrainian military suffered heavy casualties in the thousands and huge losses in military  equipment. Russia has gained the upper hand and it is conscious of that. All along the frontline, it is becoming evident that the Russian forces are steadily seizing the initiative.  

Neither the US nor its NATO allies are in a position to fight a continental war. Therefore, it will be entirely up to the American troops moving around in the steppes of Ukraine auditing the US-made weaponry to stay out of trouble and keep their body and soul together. Who knows, the Pentagon may even decide to work out a ‘deconfliction’ mechanism with Moscow, as in Syria!  

That said, seriously, from the Russian perspective, the auditing of US weaponry on Ukrainian soil per se may not be a bad thing. There is real danger that the weapons supplied by the US may reach Europe and turn that beautiful manicured garden into a jungle (like Ukraine or America) — to borrow the stunning metaphor used by Josep Borrell, EU’s foreign policy chief, recently.  

Ukraine: Zelensky’s Politics of Contrast

518 views
6 mins read

According to a New York Times report of March 1985, former president Ronald Reagan had this to say about the infamous Nicaraguan Contras (guerrillas) who were opposing the Sandinista Communists in that Central American country:

“Speaking about Nicaragua, Mr. Reagan called the rebel forces “our brothers” and ”freedom fighters.And we owe them our help,” he said. ‘You know the truth about them, you know who they’re fighting and why. They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance.”We cannot turn away from them,” he said. ”For the struggle here is not right versus left, but right versus wrong…In making his speech today, against the backdrop of a campaign for renewed Congressional financing for the rebels, the President also sought to provide assurances against United States military involvement in the region.

Fast forward to a report in Associated Press in April 2022:

“President Joe Biden pledged an additional $1.3 billion Thursday for new weapons and economic assistance to help Ukraine in its strong but increasingly difficult battle against the Russian invasion, and he promised to seek much more from Congress to keep the guns, ammunition and cash flowing.The latest military aid, Biden said, will be sent “directly to the front lines of freedom“…Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin, because we’re sending a lot of those, Biden said, paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt and referring to an anti-tank missile system.”

Biden has referred to sanctions as a new form of Statecraft. No, it’s just robbing nations of their money.

Same Old Song and Dance

I’ve been thinking to myself, where have I seen the current Russia-Ukraine war verbiage/template before with the same presidential speeches, the insidious censorship? Hey! It is the return of the pro-Contras format, except the Ukrainians are a million miles away and they have flags with the colors of the National Football League’s Los Angeles Rams.

The Washington Post and the New York Times—and the former military talking heads on NBC, CBS and CNN portray Zelensky as pure of heart, courageous, and leading the charge on the Donbass frontlines. And according to General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, saving the Western way of life is at stake, or at least Europe’s, and on Zelensky’s broad shoulders this task must fall (until he has to exercise the US promised Golden Parachute on his exit).

“What’s at stake is the security of Europe,” Milley said, adding that Russia’s invasion “is the greatest challenge to the security of Europe since the end of World War II…And indeed, you can easily make the case that what’s at stake is the global international security order that was put in place in 1945,” reported Business Insider in April 2022.

“Milley said the post-war world order has prevented great power war, and underlining that entire concept is the idea that large nations will not conduct military aggression against smaller nations, and that’s exactly what’s happened here, an unprovoked military aggression by Russia against a smaller nation.”

General Milley, what about Vietnam, Panama and Grenada? I mean, you are a Princeton graduate.

So, how did that Nicaragua thing work out? A CIA led war in and out of that country, plus a nifty CIA campaign to sell drugs in the USA to make money to buy weapons and supporting material for the Contras;  the Iran Contra Scandal out of which came the sentences placed on US officials Elliot Abrams, John Poindexter, and Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger (they all were pardoned by Reagan’s successor, former president George H.W. Bush).

According to the Harvard Crimson reporting in March 1986;

“…it is clear now that the Contras are entirely a creation of U.S. foreign policy–dependent on their paymaster for their limited ability to inflict malicious harm on the Nicaraguan people.There should also be little surprise at the Contras’ brutal methods. Reports from Nicaraguans who have left the rebel organization indicate that 46 of 48 Contra field commanders are former members of late dictator Anastasio Somoza’s National Guard. And, as if their experience in oppression were not enough, CIA advisers supplied the exiles with a training manual which encourages political assassination and details methods of torture.”

Ditto for the Ukrainians too!

Gary Webb, RIP

Gary Webb of the Mercury News wrote a series called Dark Alliance which exposed alleged CIA involvement in supporting drug running in the USA which was then used to funnel cash proceeds to the Contras. Webb was pilloried by the New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times and was basically “canceled” his career ended when he resigned from the Mercury News.

Think of it. US officials were pardoned (see above) for their roles in the Iran Contra scandal and Gary Webb’s journalism career was tanked in what was a USGOV-MSM setup to discredit him. Controversy still remains over Dark Alliance but it shows how powerful the USGOV-MSM is when it decides to eliminate a journalist who causes trouble. Who is going to be the next Gary Webb?

With the current mainstream media blackout over any criticism of Ukraine—which is the direct result of an effective US military information support operation (MISO) deployed to shape global environments/opinions— no notable MSM reports on Ukraine black market weapons sales, Ukraine using lunatic World War 1-style infantry attacks, crushing opposition parties, censoring criticism and media, attacks on Kherson repeatedly repulsed by the Russians, etc. All we get is MSM visiting the front lines with the 101st Airborne in Romania which is ready to fight yesterday!

It is probably one of the better US government propaganda efforts; well, then again, there are so many US campaigns to choose from. But they all have the same set of lies that support them, always with the words freedom, from the Contras to the Ukrainians. But here is the reality:

“Even before the war erupted, there were ugly examples of authoritarianism in Ukraine’s political governance. Just months after the 2014 Maidan revolution, there were efforts to smother domestic critics, which accelerated as years passed. Ukrainian officials also harassed political dissidents, adopted censorship measures, and barred foreign journalists whom they regarded as critics of the Ukrainian government and its policies. Such offensive actions were criticized by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other independent observers. The neo‐​Nazi Azov Battalion was an integral part of President Petro Poroshenko’s military and security apparatus, and it has retained that role during Zelensky’s presidency.

Indeed, some repressive measures deepened under Zelensky even before the outbreak of war with Russia. In February 2021, the Ukrainian government closed several (mostly, but not entirely pro‐​Russia) independent media outlets. They did so on the basis of utterly vague, open‐​ended standards. Zelensky has now used the war as a justification for outlawing 11 opposition parties and nationalizing several media outlets. Those are hardly appropriate measures in a democracy, even in wartime,” according to a report in the American Conservative Magazine in October 2022.

West Seeks to Expunge a Civilization

And why the longing to expunge Russia from the face of the earth? Why the hiding behind “I am a minority and my ancestor was killed by the Soviets? Is every Russian guilty of the past? I mean, give me a break. When Russia’s mobilization officials started to call up the wrong citizens and botched up the first steps of the process, it was the Russian people and the media that protested. The president of Russia Valdimir Putin owned up to the error and it was fixed.

I just can’t figure out the basis for the hatred of Russia unless it is that US political and military leaders are so incompetent they don’t know how to deal with an emerging multipolar world.

I was in Russia in 2014 roaming around by myself from Moscow to Crimea and I saw nothing that would threaten me except running out of US dollars, which I did, as US sanctions took effect in the summer of 2014. I could not use my credit card either due to the sanctions. I was in a fix so a history professor that was showing me around Crimea—who worked for the tour company that booked all my flights and hotels—lent me $100 on behalf of the company on a handshake with a promise I would send cash when I returned to Virginia. I did that one day after I got back. Anywhere I went I was usually asked where I was from. I’d say the United States of America. No one attacked me. I was treated with respect and a helping hand wherever I went.

Perhaps the most interesting place to visit was a former Soviet-era nuclear submarine pen in Crimea. It was turned into a tourist attraction. Talk about capitalism!

According to Vladimir Putin who spoke for hours at the recent Valdai Club (can any US politician do that plus Q&A, or can any US citizen listen for hours), the West has gone crazy, indeed:

The very liberal ideology today has changed beyond recognition. If initially classical liberalism understood the freedom of every person as the freedom to say what you want, to do what you want, then already in the 20th century liberals began to declare that the so-called open society has enemies – it turns out that an open society has enemies – and the freedom of such enemies can and should be limited, if not abolished. Now they have reached the point of absurdity, when any alternative point of view is declared subversive propaganda and a threat to democracy.

Whatever comes from Russia is all the “intrigues of the Kremlin”. But look at yourself! Are we all that powerful? Any criticism of our opponents – any! – is perceived as “the machinations of the Kremlin”, “the hand of the Kremlin”. This is some nonsense. What have you fallen to? At least move your brains, state something more interesting, state your point of view somehow conceptually. It is impossible to blame everything on the machinations of the Kremlin.”

XI Jinping and Putin are now the villains of peace

//
548 views
3 mins read

There seem to be a number of things in common between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin. 

Whatever may be the electoral practice in  China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Putin have declared themselves as life President of their respective countries.  Both of them are presidents of countries which have enormous landscapes and huge mineral deposits and agricultural production.  Above all, both of them have huge greed for territorial expansion of their countries by fair or foul means and do not hesitate to use force and aggression to realise their greed. Further, it has now become obvious that both of them are merciless leaders and do not mind slaughtering innocent people in comparatively weak countries if such forceful actions would enable them to achieve their greed and ambitions.

China forcefully entered Tibet and slaughtered innocent and peace-loving Tibetans and is now ruling  Tibet by suppressing freedom China has imposed an iron curtain over Tibet.    China has entered into war with India more than once and is now occupying thousands of kilometres of Indian territory and is claiming that Arunachal Pradesh, a province in India should be part of China. China is threatening to invade Taiwan, while it is suppressing the demand for freedom in Hong Kong with a heavy hand. China’s atrocities in suppressing the Uighurs in China have been widely reported and condemned all over the world.  Not only this, China is having disputes with Japan over Senkaku island and with other southeastern countries with regard to the South China Sea. Cleverly, it has brought several developing countries under it’s control by extending loans which they cannot repay.

Xi Jinping-led China is now seen as villain of peace by several affected countries and discerning observers all over the world and they seem to feel helpless.

Putin launched aggression against Ukraine, saying that it has to do this to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO which, according to Putin, would be a threat to  Russia’s territorial integrity. However, the fact is that NATO has not taken any decision to admit Ukraine as a member in NATO  and Putin’s stand that Ukraine would be a NATO member is a figment of his imagination. Obviously, Putin wants to occupy Ukraine as part of his territorial expansion scheme. In the last several months of the war, several thousands of Ukraine citizens have lost their lives, many of them have left Ukraine as refugees and infrastructure facilities in Ukraine have been extensively destroyed.

Putin-led Russia is now seen as villain of peace by several countries and discerning observers all over the world and they do not know how Russia’s aggression can be stopped.

What is noteworthy here is that both Xi Jinping and Putin do not care about world opinion and have no commitment to world peace. They are totally unconcerned about the sufferings of others due to their greed for territorial expansion and aggressive military actions.

In recent memory, the only person who can be compared to Xi Jinping and Putin is Hitler and there seem to be a lot of things in common between Hitler, Xi Jinping and Putin.

Tibet and Ukraine seem to be in the same boat now, as both these countries have become the victims of greed and merciless offence by Xi Jinping in the case of Tibet and Putin in the case of Ukraine.

 However, the difference between Tibet and Ukraine is that Ukraine is getting strong support from NATO countries and USA  to defend itself and sympathy from several other countries, whereas Tibet was left high and dry by every country and leaving Tibet at the mercy of merciless China.

One is not sure whether Tibetans now living in Tibet know about the developments in Ukraine at all, as no one from other countries in the world  is allowed to enter Tibet and Tibetans living in Tibet may not know about the world happenings at all.  However, Tibetans who are now living in several countries around the world can clearly compare the sufferings of the Tibetans at the hands of Xi Jinping-led China and the sufferings of citizens of Ukraine at the hands of Putin-led Russia.

Certainly, world peace is going for a toss now with Xi Jinping-led China and Putin-led Russia are using force to realise their greed and territorial expansion plans they do not care as to what many members of UNO say and many people in the world think about them.

It appears that the peace in the entire world is now at the mercy of Xi Jinping and Putin, who have emerged as the villains of peace.

Ensuring liberation of Tibet from Xi Jinping led China’s control and ensuring territorial integrity of Ukraine by stopping Russia’s aggression are the two most desirable expectations and hopes of peace-loving citizens all over the world.

Views expressed are personal

The Ukraine Safari

/
2546 views
3 mins read

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?

534 views
2 mins read

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.

Pentagon to create “Ukraine command”

805 views
1 min read

This is a serious development.

As I have said over and over, the Kremlin’s go-slow limited military operation is a fatal mistake resulting in a wider war. An operation that should have been concluded in a week is now in its seventh month and seems destined to continue indefinitely as the Kremlin does nothing to disrupt the Ukrainian government’s war effort or the endless supplies of weapons that the West pours into Ukraine. The long-running conflict has allowed Western propaganda to portray the Russian military as unsuccessful and to convince Western decision-makers that Russia can be defeated in Ukraine. This conviction has led to ever higher states of Western involvement.

With the Pentagon’s creation of a “Ukraine Command,” we move closer to the introduction of US troops. In fact, US military forces are already involved. They train Ukraine’s soldiers at the US Army’s European Headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany, thus committing Germany to the intervention in Ukraine. US military personnel provide targeting information for Ukraine’s attacks on Russian positions. Yet, despite the growing involvement of US/NATO, the Kremlin holds on to its limited operation, dangerous in its failure and miscalculation, as Russia’s dilly-dallying has convinced the West that the Kremlin has no stomach for real conflict, encouraging Washington to take another step toward sending troops by forming a “Ukraine Command.”

Putin’s emphasis on legalisms might be the undoing of Russia. The Kremlin could have avoided the Ukraine conflict by doing in 2014 what it is doing, belatedly, in 2022–accept the Donbass Russians’ request to be returned to Russia. The Kremlin could have avoided the US/NATO military commitment to Ukraine by knocking out Ukraine before the West had time to react.

Blunders have a cost, and the cost of the Kremlin’s blunders is developing into direct conflict between US and Russian soldiers.

Our Military Plan will Not Adjust – Putin

/
529 views
5 mins read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the rest of this press interaction

Ukraine: The Missing Link

917 views
4 mins read

I once asked my younger son if he could pass the salt, only to be met with the response, “Of course I can!” When I repeated my request, he snapped back: “You asked me if I could do it, and I answered you. You didn’t tell me that I should do it.”

Who was freer in this situation – me or my son? If we understand freedom as freedom of choice, my son was freer, because he had an additional choice about how to interpret my question. He could take it literally, or he could interpret it in the usual sense, as a request that was formulated as a question out of politeness. By contrast, I effectively renounced this choice and automatically relied on the conventional sense.

Now, imagine a world where many more people acted in everyday life the way my son did when he was teasing me. We would never know for sure what our partners in conversation wanted to say, and we would lose an immense amount of time pursuing pointless interpretations. Is this not an apt description of political life over the last decade? Donald Trump and other alt-right populists have capitalized on the fact that democratic politics relies on certain unwritten rules and customs, which they have violated when it suits them, while avoiding accountability by not always explicitly breaking the law.

In the United States, Trump’s Republican Party lackeys are pursuing such a strategy ahead of the next presidential election. According to a fringe legal theory that they have embraced, a loophole in federal election law would permit a state’s legislature to appoint its own presidential electors if the secretary of state decides that he or she cannot certify the result of an election. Republican election deniers are now running for the offices that they will need to override the will of the voters in 2024. The GOP thus is attempting to destroy one of the basic conditions of democracy: that all political participants speak the same language and follow the same rules. Otherwise, a country will find itself on the verge of civil war – an outcome that almost one-half of Americans now expect.

The same conditions apply to global politics. For international relations to work, all parties must at least speak the same language when they talk about concepts like freedom and occupation. Russia obviously is undermining this condition by describing its war of aggression in Ukraine as a “special operation” to “liberate” the country. But Ukraine’s government has also fallen into this trap. Addressing the Israeli Knesset on March 20, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “We are in different countries and in completely different conditions. But the threat is the same: for both us and you – the total destruction of the people, state, culture. And even of the names: Ukraine, Israel.”

Palestinian political scientist Asad Ghanem described Zelensky’s speech as “a disgrace when it comes to global struggles for freedom and liberation, particularly of the Palestinian people.” Zelensky “reversed the roles of occupier and occupied.” I agree. And I also agree with Ghanem that, “every possible support must be given to Ukrainians as they resist [Russia’s] barbaric aggression.” Without Western military support, most of Ukraine would now be under Russian occupation, destroying a pillar of international peace and order: the integrity of borders.

Unfortunately, Zelensky’s Knesset speech was not a singular event. Ukraine regularly takes public positions in support of the Israeli occupation. In 2020, it quit the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; and just last month, its ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, declared that: “As a Ukrainian whose country is under a very brutal attack by its neighbor, I feel great sympathy towards the Israeli public.”

This parallel between Israel and Ukraine is totally misplaced. If anything, the Ukrainians’ situation is closest to that of the West Bank Palestinians’. Yes, Israelis and Palestinians at least acknowledge their adversaries’ otherness, whereas Russia claims that Ukrainians are really just Russians. But not only does Israel deny that the Palestinians are a nation (as Russia does with Ukraine); the Palestinians also have been denied a place in the Arab world (like Ukrainians vis-à-vis Europe before the war). Moreover, like Russia, Israel is a nuclear-armed military superpower that is de facto colonizing a smaller, much weaker entity. And like Russia in the occupied parts of Ukraine, Israel is practicing a politics of apartheid.

While Israel’s leaders welcome Ukraine’s support, they have not returned the favor. Instead, they have oscillated between Russia and Ukraine, because Israel needs Russia’s continuing toleration of its own military strikes on targets in Syria. But Ukraine’s full support for Israel mainly reflects its leaders’ ideological interest in presenting their struggle as a defense of Europe and European civilization against a barbaric, totalitarian East.

This framing of the fight is untenable, because it requires glossing over Europe’s own roles in slavery, colonialism, fascism, and so forth. It is crucial that Ukraine’s cause be defended in universal terms, around shared concepts and interpretations of words like “occupation” and “freedom.” To reduce Ukraine’s war to a struggle for Europe is to use the same framing as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “court philosopher” Aleksandr Dugin, who draws a line between “Russian truth” and “European truth.” Confining the conflict to Europe reinforces Russia’s own global propaganda, which presents the invasion of Ukraine as an act of decolonization – part of the struggle against Western neoliberal domination and a necessary step toward a multipolar world.

By treating Israel’s colonization of the West Bank as a defensive struggle for freedom, Ukraine is validating another power’s aggression and thus compromising its own fully justified struggle for freedom. Sooner or later, it will have to make a choice. Will it be truly European, by participating in the universal emancipatory project that defines Europe? Or will it become a part of the new right’s populist wave?
When Ukraine asked the West, “Can you pass the howitzers?” the West did not cynically quip, “Yes, we can!” and then do nothing. Western countries replied reasonably by sending weapons to fight the occupiers. Yet when Palestinians ask for support of any kind, they receive nothing but empty statements, often accompanied by declarations of solidarity with their oppressor. When they ask for the salt, it is handed to their opponent.

Courtesy: Project-syndicate. Click here to read the original