Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging Russia-EU Superstate? by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.
Archive for the ‘Foreign Affairs’ Category
The New Yorker ran a long article about Russian propaganda and how the Russian government sees propaganda as a weapon of war.
The article, though one-sided, contains interesting information. My problem with it is that the writers treat propaganda—including truthful propaganda—as the equivalent of war.
The U.S. government during the past 15 years has waged war by means of aerial bombardment, targeted assassinations, economic sanctions, arming terrorists and warlords and actual invasions of foreign countries that do not threaten us. Russia has done some of the same things, although on a smaller scale.
There is a strong possibility of a military confrontation between Russia and the United States that could risk a nuclear war.
Russian attempts to influence American and European public opinion seem fairly benign in contrast.
Twenty years ago, the U.S. government intervened in Russia’s election to put Boris Yeltsin in power.
He told how the Clinton administration managed his election campaign, and the International Monetary Fund pumped money into Russia to keep the Russian government going.
With the guidance of economists from Harvard University, Yeltsin sold off Russia’s national assets to foreign corporations and Russian individuals who became the oligarchs who dominate Russia today. With U.S. approval, he shut down the Russian parliament and concentrated power in his own hands. Independent journalists were murdered. Oligarchs took over the independent press.
The Russian people were reduced to a state of misery not seen since Stalin’s rule in the 1930s. The death rate soared and the birth rate fell. Eventually even the Russian stock market crashed.
Vladimir Putin was Yeltsin’s right-hand man. The U.S. government accepted him as a reliable successor to Yeltsin. But when Putin refused to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. turned against him.
I wrote in a previous post that Vladimir Putin is a killer. But every abuse of power by Putin was made possible by Yeltsin.
Boris Yeltsin in fact was more of a killer than Putin, but the American government didn’t care because he was willing to subordinate Russia’s national interests to the interests of American and other foreign corporations.
Steve Bannon is President Trump’s most trusted adviser. He is the second most powerful person in the Trump administration.
He is guided by a dangerously wrong philosophy.
He thinks that Judeo-Christian civilization is at war with the Moslem world abroad, and with secularists and Muslims at home.
He expects a shooting war with China and as well as a shooting war in the Middle East.
He sees himself as part of a global nationalist movement that includes the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France and similar movements across Europe.
Trump owes him. He and Jared Kushner, through their skilled use of data mining and social media, are responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 Election.
His idea that Americans are engaged in both a civil war and a global war could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Steve Bannon, born in 1953, has had a varied career as U.S. Naval officer, mergers and acquisitions specialist for Goldman Sachs, and executive producer in Hollywood. He has degrees from Virginia Tech, Georgetown University and Harvard University.
He was a little-known but influential figure even before he joined the Trump campaign. Among his films are documentaries on Ronald Reagan, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin and an expose of Occupy Wall Street. He was on the board of directors of Breitbart News and became executive chair when founder Andrew Breitbart died in 2012. Another Bannon organization sponsored opposition research on Hillary Clinton which resulted in the book, Clinton Cash, and many articles in mainstream newspapers about the Clintons’ conflicts of interest.
In a word, yes.
Vladimir Putin is clearly implicated in killings of Russian citizens.
It is true that Barack Obama also initiated a policy of killing individuals he deemed a threat to the United States, and a couple of those were American citizens. It is true that the U.S. supports dictatorships that use death squads. But changing the subject to the U.S. doesn’t change the facts about Putin.
Is the fact that Vladimir Putin is a killer a reason not to have diplomatic relations with Russia? It certainly is a reason not to be naive in dealing with Putin. It is a reason not to regard him as a friend.
But President Franklin Roosevelt formed an alliance with Joseph Stalin, one of the greatest mass killers of the 20th century, in order to defeat Nazi Germany. President Richard Nixon flew to China to open U.S. relations with Mao Zedong, another mass killer, in order to checkmate Soviet Russia.
If working with Putin can eliminate the danger of nuclear war over Ukraine or defeat the Islamic State, that would be a good thing, not a bad thing.
President Donald Trump made specific promises in his inaugural address. He should be judged on whether or not he keeps these promises. Here are the promises:
We will bring back our jobs.
We will bring back our borders.
We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example.
We will shine for everyone to follow.
We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
Source: Ian Welsh
If Donald Trump could accomplish these goals, he would go down in history as one of the great Presidents.
I will store this away and re-post it in 2020 if he runs again, and if this blog still exists. I don’t think he will keep these promises and I don’t think he can keep them, but I would be pleased to be proved wrong.
President-elect Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress say they want to cancel the agreement for controls on Iran’s nuclear program.
This would have two bad results.
It would strengthen the hard-liners in Iran who want their country to have nuclear weapons capability, and who opposed the agreement in the first-place.
It would undermine one of Trump’s announced goals, which is to form an alliance dedicated to fighting the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL), Al Qaeda and their offshoots.
Juan Cole, a historian of the Middle East, reported that many Iranians are happy about the election of Trump. Trump is friendly with Iran’s ally, Russia, and wants to aid another Iranian ally, the Assad government in Syria, against its enemies, the Sunni extremist rebels fighting Syria.
So if the United States is an ally of Iran’s allies, and an enemy of its enemies, the U.S. should be an ally of Iran. Isn’t that logical?
And, in any case, resuming sanctions against Iran would not produce a better deal.
The unclassified CIA-FBI-NSA report asserts that they have “high confidence” that Russian intelligence agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign in order to elect Donald Trump.
But the report presents no actual evidence that this happened. All it says is that Vladimir Putin hoped Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton, which is plainly true, and that this is the sort of thing that Putin would do, which might well be true. Most of the report is devoted to analysis of anti-Clinton reporting by RT News, a Russian-funded TV news broadcaster.
It’s possible that the conclusion is true, but the report does not consider alternative explanations, such as leaks by a disgruntled DNC employee. It does not describe the scope of the investigation—for example, whether the FBI had access to the DNC e-mails, or relied on the word of the DNC contractor, or whether it used NSA signal intelligence.
Maybe the classified version of the report does answer the unanswered questions. I look forward with great interest to the congressional investigation.
President Obama seems hell-bent on spending his 20 remaining days in office in pushing the United States into a cyber-war with Russia.
In terms of domestic partisan politics, this may be smart. Foreign policy toward Russia is a wedge issue between Republican war hawks in Congress and President-elect Donald Trump.
In terms of the national interest, this is irresponsible as well as improper.
Much of the U.S. press it takes for granted that Russian intelligence services obtained confidential DNC e-mails and transferred the information to Wikileaks. This may or may not be true.
The determination as to what happened and what to do about it should be made by the incoming administration, which will have the responsibility for dealing with the consequences.
I do not have confidence in President-elect Trump’s judgment, but he does have sense enough to see that there is no fundamental conflict of interest between Russia and the USA (except maybe over access to the oil and gas resources of the Arctic, which is not currently an issue).
One good thing which I hoped to see in a Trump administration was a détente with Russia.
Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and in her campaign record seemed hell-bent on a military confrontation with Russia, the one country with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the United States, over issues that matter very little to the American people.
It looks like this hope will be fulfilled. Unfortunately Trump seems hell-bent on a military confrontation with China, and also with Iran. This, too, could turn out badly for the United States and everybody else, although for different reasons.
President Trump isn’t even in office yet, and his lifetime success strategy is based on being unpredictable, so I don’t claim to be able to foresee what he will do.
But based on his appointments and his rhetoric, it appears as if he intends to intensify the “pivot to Asia” begun under the Obama administration.
The problem with this, from the U.S. standpoint, is that China is a stronger economic power than the United States. By some measures, it has a larger gross domestic product. It has a stronger manufacturing economy. The United States has a trade deficit with China. The U.S. government probably could finance its budget deficit without selling some of its Treasury bonds to China, but it would be more difficult.
Adam Curtis is a documentary filmmaker for the BBC who uses archival footage to remind viewers of forgotten facts and to make connections that others wouldn’t see.
This documentary does not quite add up to a connected whole, but within it is a fascinating history of the evolution of suicide bombing, starting with the attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1982, the Iran-Iraq war, Palestinian terrorism, the 9-11 attacks and Islamic State (ISIS) terrorism.
Along with it is a history of American and British deception and self-deception in their policies toward Syria and Libya.
Suicide bombing, according to Curtis, as a military tactic by Syria’s ruler Hafiz al-Assad to offset American military power in his region. Now it is used by ISIS to sow sectarian strife in Iraq and Syria, and bring down Assad’s son, Bashir al-Assad.
He documents how Muammar Qaddafi was set up by American policy-makers as a scapegoat for the crimes of Hafiz al-Assad because he was a more vulnerable foe.
This film is not the whole story of recent Middle Eastern history. Curtis appears to think that the American and British governments seriously intended to bring democracy to the Middle East, for example. But he brings out many fascinating facts, some forgotten and some new (at least to me).
I recommend viewing just those parts of the documentary dealing with Syria, suicide bombing and the Middle East, and fast-forwarding through the rest, which consists of disconnected material about Curtis’s long-term concerns about technological manipulation, technological utopianism and the decline of the democratic process.
Click on HyperNormalization if the YouTube version doesn’t work. Click on The Century of the Self and All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace for Curtis’s best documentaries about his meta concerns.
The Russian Federation is in economic crisis.
The economy is shrinking. Although unemployment is low, poverty is increasing, Inflation is at double-digit rates. The exchange rate for the ruble is falling. Russia’s trade deficit is widening. The Russian government is cutting spending on public services.
While Russia has serious internal economic problems, the immediate cause of the crisis is the economic war being waged by its foes.
- The United States and European Union boycott many Russian individuals and institutions, including cutting off credit to Russian banks and cutting off sales of equipment to Russian oil companies.
- Saudi Arabia has stepped up production of oil, driving down oil prices worldwide and hurting Russia’s oil exports.
- The United States has begun a new arms race with Russia, forcing the Russian government to either divert resources from the civilian economy or admit inferiority.
In waging economic war against Russia, the United States and its allies hurt themselves as a price of hurting Russia more.
- Europe and Russia are natural trading partners, with Europeans buying Russian gas and oil and Russia buying Europe’s, especially Germany’s industrial products. Cutting off this trade hurts both.
- Saudi Arabia is using up a large but limited resource at a fast rate without getting the best price for it.
- The United States, too, is diverting resources from our civilian economy and domestic needs.
In many ways, this is a replay of the economic war waged against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
My experience and knowledge of foreign countries is limited, but I try to understand foreign leaders by putting myself in their place, and imagining what I would do if I were them.
Peter Hitchens, a Briton who was a foreign correspondent in Moscow for many years, invites us to imagine how we would feel if we were Russians, a nation that, unlike the USA, has been invaded not once, but many times, and lost millions, not thousands, of lives to invaders within living memory.
Safety, for Russians, is something to be achieved by neutralizing a danger that is presumed to exist at all times. From this follows a particular attitude to life and government.
If the U.S. had China on the 49th Parallel and Germany on the Rio Grande, and a long land border with the Islamic world where the Pacific Ocean now is, it might be a very different place. There might even be a good excuse for the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
If Russia’s neighbors were Canada and Mexico, rather than Germany, China, Turkey, and Poland, and if its other flanks were guarded by thousands of miles of open ocean, it might have free institutions and long traditions of free speech and the rule of law. It might also be a lot richer.
As it is, Russia is a strong state with a country, rather than a country with a strong state. If it were otherwise, it would have gone the way of the Lithuanian Empire or, come to that, the Golden Horde.
Source: Peter Hitchens | First Things
That is not to say that life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia is good, or that Putin is a benign ruler. But he is no worse than many of the despots with whom the United States is allied, and life in the Russian Federation is infinitely preferable to live in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republicans.
Far from being a new Hitler, Hitchens wrote, his goal is to keep territories formerly controlled by the USSR from joining anti-Russian alliances. Whatever you think of this, it is not a threat to the United States or any other Western nation.
Ted Rall, who has traveled in Central Asia, had this to say about the death of Uzbekistan’s ruler Islam Karimov.
Given Uzbekistan’s tremendous oil, gas and mineral wealth and its geographically and geopolitically strategic importance, its citizens ought to enjoy a high standard of living. Instead, the average Uzbek subsists on $3 to $8 per day.
Where does all that energy wealth go? Karimov, his family and cronies steal it. Gulnara Karimova, the deceased despot’s flamboyant chanteuse daughter, is accused of breaking in over $1 billion in bribes from telecommunications companies seeking permits to do business. Another daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, is linked to shell companies that own gaudy multimillion estates in the U.S. [snip]
Uzbekistan is routinely awarded the world’s “Worst of the Worst” status for its extreme corruption and violations of fundamental human rights. Phones are tapped and militsia goons shake down motorists at innumerable checkpoints. Print and broadcast media are completely state-controlled. There’s a zero tolerance policy toward political opposition. [snip]
At least 10,000 political prisoners are rotting in the nation’s prisons. Torture is standard and endemic; Team Karimov landed a rare spot in the news for boiling dissidents to death. In 2005, President Karimov asked security forces confronting protesters in the southern city of Andijon to wait for his arrival from the capital of Tashkent so he could personally witness and coordinate their massacre. An estimated 700 to 1200 Uzbeks were slaughtered. “People have less freedom here than under Brezhnev,” a U.S. official admitted. [snip]
Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, who died a few days ago, was a ruthless dictator comparable to the Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
A holdover from the Soviet era (appointed by Mikhail Gorbachev, no less), Karimov was known for his repression of the Muslim religion and of dissent of all kinds, and for forced child labor in cotton fields, his country’s chief export industry.
Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, said growing a beard or being seen praying five times a day could be enough to get you thrown in jail or to “disappear” mysteriously.
Yet Karimov was courted by Russia, China and the USA as an ally against radical Islamic terrorism. Uzbekistan was an important transit point for supplies going to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
What should US policy have been? Should our government be like China’s, which scrupulously refrains from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, no matter how odious their governments?
Or should the US have armed Karimov’s opponents, as was done in Libya and Syria, to being about a change in the regime?
President Mauricio Macri of Argentina has agreed to a U.S. military base in Tierra del Fuego at Argentina’s southern tip and is discussing another in Misiones province at the border with Paraguay and Brazil.
From what threat are these bases supposed to protect the United States?
Opponents of the deal say that these are intended to give the U.S. control over water resources—a big underground aquifer in the north and the portion of the Antarctic ice cap that Argentina claims.
This is not as fantastic as it sounds. Fresh water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. There are those who say one reason for the invasion of Libya was to get control of the water infrastructure built during the Qaddafi regime.
Another rationale could be to conduct operations against drug traffickers in the interior of South America. I don’t think that would be any more successful that U.S. operations against drug traffickers in Mexico, Colombia and other countries.
Donald Trump admires Vladimir Putin and wants better a partnership with Russia.
Hillary Clinton has compared Putin with Hitler, and is willing to risk war with Russia.
This is a big difference, and an important campaign issue.
With Hillary Clinton, you have the likelihood of more war and useless bloodshed, and the real possibility of a nuclear that will leave much of North American and northern Eurasia in smouldering, radioactive ruins.
With Donald Trump, you have the likelihood of a President of the United States, whose judgment is erratic to begin with, and who is under the influence of a wily and ruthless foreign ruler.
I don’t agree with either, but, of the two, I think Clinton represents the greater danger. Russian influence could be checkmated and rooted out. A nuclear war would be the end of everything.
The worst thing that an American President could do is to provoke a nuclear war with Russia.
I think that, based on her record and rhetoric, Hillary Clinton would put the USA at greater risk of nuclear war than her predecessors.
As adviser to her husband in the 1990s and as Secretary of State, she was a voice for war. Her campaign web site is about her credentials as a war hawk. It is no coincidence that so war hawks of the George W. Bush support her for President.
Her protege, Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, promotes economic warfare and covert warfare against Russia, while promoting regime change in Ukraine and attempting to draw Ukraine and Georgia into an anti-Russian alliance. This is as dangerous as Khrushchev’s placing missiles in Cuba in 1962.
Pro-Russian news sources predict war if Hillary Clinton is elected. I think Russian fears are significant because they could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think somebody is poised to attack you, you’re going to be ready to strike at them before they do.
Bernie Sanders, in (sort of) conceding the primary election campaign to Hillary Clinton, gave an excellent speech Thursday night about what Americans need from their government.
And the decision to give priority to defeating Donald Trump is an honorable decision.
The problem with this speech is that he said nothing whatsoever about military intervention, the threat of nuclear war or the quest for peace.
I think that Sanders might be more hesitant than Clinton or Trump to go to war. But he said nothing, and nothing during his campaign, about the war system.
He criticized Clinton for voting to authorize President Bush to use military force against Iraq—which, by the way, was also supported by Al Gore and John Kerry. But Sanders has been much less critical of military interventions conducted under Democratic administrations.
I don’t oppose Clinton because of her vote on Iraq intervention, but that she has not learned anything from that mistake. She replicated the mistakes of Iraq in Libya, she supported radical jihadists trying to overthrow Assad in Syria, she supported the coup in Honduras, and she brought the United States into confrontation with Russia in Ukraine.
The main innovation of the Obama administration is to carry on the Bush administration policies without large scale use of American troops, by means of special operations teams, flying killer robots and subsidies to foreign fighters.
The killing of harmless people in foreign countries continues. Brown lives matter. All lives matter, not just American lives.
I don’t mean to deny Sanders credit for his courageous campaign, for rallying support for important domestic reforms and for enabling all sorts of disparate reform groups to join in a common cause. I am proud that I voted for Sanders in the New York primary. I recommend listening to the full speech, or reading it, because it sets forth the domestic agenda that Americans need.
But unless there is peace, it is hard to push domestic reform. If there is war with Russia, domestic issues will not matter.
The danger of a U.S. nuclear war with Russia is real and growing.
The risk is not that an American or Russian President would deliberately start a nuclear war. The risk is that U.S. policy is creating a situation in which a nuclear war could be touched off by accident.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has cancelled the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, installed a missile defense system in Rumania and is in the process of installing a system in Poland.
What is the harm of a defensive system? It is that the ruler of a country with a missile defense system might be tempted to launch a missile attack, in the hope that the enemy’s retaliatory missiles might be stopped.
A defense system that is not strong enough to stop an enemy’s first strike attack might be strong enough to defend against retaliation from an attack, since much of the enemy’s weapons will have been destroyed. So, strange as it may seem, setting up a missile defense system can seem like an aggressive act.
Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian history at Princeton and NYU and a contributing editor of The Nation, said in a broadcast that Donald Trump is the only major-party candidate who raises certain fundamental and urgent foreign policy questions:
- (First) why must the United States lead the world everywhere on the globe and play the role of the world’s policeman, now for example, he says, in Ukraine? It’s a question. It’s worth a discussion.
- Secondly, he said, NATO was founded 67 years ago to deter the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union ended 25 years ago. What is NATO’s mission? Is it obsolete? Is it fighting terrorism? No, to the last question, it’s not. Should we discuss NATO’s mission?
- Thirdly, he asks, why does the United States always pursue regime changes? Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and now it wants a regime change in Syria, Damascus. When the result is, to use Donald Trump’s favorite word, the result is always “disaster.” But it’s a reasonable question.
- Fourthly, why do we treat Russia and Putin as an enemy when he should be a partner?
- Fifth Trump asks, about nuclear weapons – and this is interesting. You remember he was asked, would he rule out using nuclear weapons – an existential question. He thought for a while and then he said, “No, I take nothing off the table.” And everybody said he wants to use nuclear weapons! In fact, it is the official American nuclear doctrine policy that we do not take first use off the table. We do not have a no first use of nuclear weapons doctrine. So all Trump did was state in his own way what has been official American nuclear policy for, I guess, 40 or 50 years.
Source: John V. Walsh | Counterpunch
Hillary Clinton is proud of bringing about the downfall of Muammar Qaddafi of Libya.
Supposedly his rule was so evil, or so much of a threat to the United States, that his downfall and death were necessary.
Just what did Qaddafi do that was so bad and so threatening?
Qaddafi in many ways was like Fidel Castro.
He was definitely a dictator, although by all accounts a popular one. Although he listened to advice from popular assemblies, he also crushed opposition. As in Cuba, there were neighborhood watches to identify opponents of the regime. He supported revolutionary and terrorist movements, including the Provisional IRA, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. He sent troops to defend the odious Idi Amin of Uganda.
He was a thorn in the side of U.S. foreign policy. Libya was a founding member of OPEC, and an initiator of the Arab oil embargo of 1973. He was accused of direct involvement in many terrorist attacks himself.
The best you can say of the crimes of Qaddafi’s government is that he was guilty of few things that the U.S. government was also not guilty of, and of nothing that U.S. allies have not been guilty of.
In the past 25 years, the United States has waged war openly against five nations.
The U.S. has waged economic and covert war against two other nations:
Hillary Clinton supported all of them.
What’s noteworthy about this list is that the governments of all of these countries, except Afghanistan, was or is threatened by Al Qaeda and other Islamic jihadist groups. The U.S. war effort is directed more against the terrorists’ enemies than the terrorists.
In every case except Afghanistan, the U.S. actually supported jihadist groups against the incumbent government, just as it did against the pre-Taliban Russian-backed regime in Afghanistan.
I believe that the reason for this strange policy is the American Deep State—the parts of government not affected by elections—is more concerned about maintaining global corporate economic supremacy and U.S. military supremacy than it is about protecting American citizens from possible terrorist attacks.
Among the political candidates, Hillary Clinton is the most highly committed war hawk. She has supported every war on this list, and also favors military confrontation with China. I don’t think the Iran sanctions deal would have been negotiated if she had remained as Secretary of State.
Bernie Sanders supports existing U.S. policies with reservations.
In many ways, I agree with Donald Trump more than I do Clinton. He wants to stop the cold war against Putin’s Russia, and he recognizes how counterproductive the attacks on Syria and Libya have been.
Seymour Hersh’s writings always remind me of how little I know about what is really going on.
I am better informed as a result of reading his work and watching this video, and you may be, as well.
Russia, China and now North Korea have renounced “first use” of nuclear weapons. The United States has never done so.
I believe North Korea’s leaders because they would be fools to launch a nuclear attack, knowing that their nation would literally be obliterated by the USA in response.
They also would be fools to give up nuclear weapons so long as they are threatened by the USA. Only possession of nuclear weapons prevents North Korea from meeting the fate if Iraq and Libya.
The United States has never renounced “first use” of nuclear weapons because US conventional forces are not a match for Russia’s in eastern Europe and possibly not for China’s in the South China Sea.
The U.S. government seeks to be the dominant military power in every region of the globe. The tools for doing this are sea power, air power, flying killer drones, Special Operations troops and subsidized foreign fighters.
But the ultimate backup consists of nuclear weapons, and the power to make a credible threat to use them. So long as this is U.S. policy, no other nation with nuclear weapons will disarm. So long as this is U.S. policy, a global nuclear holocaust is still a possibility, just as in the days of the Cold War.