Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Why Crimean Tatars fear Russian rule

April 11, 2014

The Crimean Tatars, the indigenous population of the Crimean peninsula, are afraid for their future under Russia’s re-annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

crimean_tatars_They enjoyed a freedom under independent Ukraine that they did not have in Tsarist or Soviet Russia, and they fear that freedom is in jeopardy.  Many protested the Russian takeover, and one of their leaders has been murdered, apparently by pro-Russian forces.

They  were the inhabitants of the Crimean peninsula before it was annexed by Russia under Catherine the Great in 1783.   They had been a semi-independent part of the Ottoman Empire, and, in Russia’s wars with Ottoman Turkey, they were regarded as disloyal.  Many fled to Turkey after the Crimean War of 1853-56, in which the British, French and Turks unsuccessfully invaded Crimea, and Turkey still has a large Ukrainian Tatar population.

During the Second World War, Crimean Tatar loyalties were divided.  Some fought for the Germans, some joined the Red Army, some fought in the partisan resistance against the German occupation.  But in 1944, Stalin ordered the deportation of the Crimean Tartars to Central Asia and Siberia without exception — women, children, old people, crippled people and veterans of the Red Army and partisan resistance.   Later they were allowed to return, but there still is a large Crimean Tatar population in Central Asia.

They now are more 12 percent of the population of Crimea, and many of them object to being reincorporated into Russia.   Their fears have a real basis, based on history and on the resurgence of Russian ethnic nationalism.

It is not realistic to hope that the Russian Federation, having re-annexed Ukraine, will give it up.  The goal of Russian statecraft, from Peter the Great and before, was to have “warm-water ports” on the Baltic and Black Seas for merchant shipping and the Russian navy.   Crimea was ruled by Russia for longer than Louisiana and Florida have been part of the United States.  No Russian government will willingly allow control of its main naval base on the Black Sea by an anti-Russian government.

The best that can be hoped for is an easing of tensions and a winding down of extreme Russian and Ukrainian nationalism, so that non-Russian and non-Ukrainian minorities can live in peace without being persecuted.  The best thing the U.S. government can do is to stop trying to use Ukraine as a proxy for an anti-Russian foreign policy


Neo-conservatives, neo-liberals and Ukraine

April 9, 2014

American foreign policy during the past couple of decades has been directed by two groups of people — the so-called neo-conservatives (who are not conservative) and the so-called neo-liberals (who are not liberal).  They are part of the deep state, the part of the government that is not affected by election results.

The goal of the neo-conservatives is to make the United States the dominant world military power by, among other things, keeping Russia weak and preventing China from growing strong.  They say that the only way the United States can be save is by preventing the emergence of any country with the power to threaten it.

1_hryvnia_2005_front1The goal of the neo-liberals is to free corporations and banks from the control of all governments, including the United States government, and to force nations to repay their debts to international banks at whatever cost to the well-being of the citizens.  They say this is the only path to a world that is prosperous and free.

Sometimes these groups work at cross purposes, and the Ukraine situation is a good example.

ukrainian-hryvniaAs Prof. Bill Black was written, if the U.S. government and the European Union wanted to stabilize the current Ukrainian government and detach it from Russian influence, the best way to do it would be to refinance their debt to the International Monetary Fund so that it could be repaid at low interest and in hryvnia, the Ukraine’s currency, rather than dollars or euros.

But evidently this is not on the table.   US and EU policy is to insist Ukraine accept the IMF terms, even though this means higher taxes, cuts in government services, higher prices and, most importantly, the selloff of Ukrainian national assets at bargain prices.

The Ukraine crisis: Links & comments 3/30/14

March 30, 2014
Crimean Tatar women protest breakup of Ukraine

Crimean Tatar women protest breakup of Ukraine

Elections are scheduled in Ukraine for May 25.   I don’t know how free and fair the elections will be or whether Ukrainians will have meaningful choices.  But it matters little, because the present unelected government of Ukraine has committed the nation to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that no elected government would ever agree to.  It is an example of Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine” in action.

The Ukraine government will sell off national assets at bargain prices, raise gas prices and cut public services as a condition for its loans to foreign banks to be paid off.  Yet I don’t read anything meaningful about this aspect in the national press.  Here are summaries of what is going on in Ukraine that are better than anything Americans are likely to read in their local newspapers or see on their local TV news programs.

Another important aspect of the situation is the desire of certain neo-conservatives in the U.S. government to draw Ukraine into an anti-Russian alliance.   Vladimir Putin could not more tolerate the possibility of nuclear-armed American warships docking in Crimea than John F. Kennedy could tolerate Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Economic sanctions against Russia have a price that some countries – for example, Germany – may not be willing to pay..

That doesn’t mean that Ukrainians, including Russian speakers and ethnic Russians, necessarily want to be “rescued” by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Dmitry Orlov gives a Russian perspective on his ClubOrlov blog.

Pepe Escobar of Asia Times has sharp commentary on the geopolitical implications of the Ukraine crisis.   Read his articles to get an idea of how U.S. policy seems to the outside world.

There are links to the latest from Ian Welsh, Pepe Escobar and Dmitry Orlov on my Blogs I Like page.

Who in Ukraine will benefit from an IMF bailout?

March 23, 2014

Economists Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers, in this informative interview with the Real News Network, said that most people in Ukraine will suffer, because the condition for an IMF loan will be lower living standards for a country already poor by European standards, higher taxes and fewer public services and a bankruptcy sale of the Ukraine’s rich farmland and other assets at bargain prices.

IMF loans never go to the people of the country receiving the loan.  They go to pay off the country’s creditors.  An IMF loan to a country is like a debt consolidation loan to a private individual.  In the case of Ukraine, the country’s creditors fall into two groups — the Russian Federation and its Gazprom natural gas company, to which Ukraine has billions of dollars owing and which no longer will sell Ukraine gas at a below-market price; and banks in western Europe and the United States, which have made billions of dollars in loans to the previous government.   Whichever group to which the IMF loans flow (I’m not betting on the Russian Federation), they won’t go to help ordinary Ukrainians.

Ukraine will then be in debt to the IMF, which will demand repayment by squeezing the money out of the Ukrainian people and by selling off Ukrainian national assets at bargain prices.  Rich Ukrainians may acquire some of these assets.  They will be the only Ukrainians who will benefit.

Hudson and Sommers pointed out that U.S. energy companies are planning for a disruption in Russian natural gas exports to western Europe, and building LNG (liquified natural gas) terms in U.S. ports so as to be able to sell gas in Europe.


The elusive facts about the Ukraine conflict

March 11, 2014


I have been trying for a couple of weeks to educate myself about the political conflict in Ukraine, and I am not sure even of basic facts.

Consider these two articles, each of which I would believe contained the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, if I hadn’t read the other.

A Petition by Scholars: Don’t Brand Kiev Maidan Protestors as Extremists.

The Crimean “Crisis” and Western Bias by Outlook Zen.  Hat tip to ClubOrlov.

About the only thing I feel sure of is that the Russian Federation, United States and other governments are trying to turn the Ukrainian political factions into their proxies in their global competition for geopolitical and economic power.

Three questions about self-determination

March 9, 2014
A woman lights a candle in Kiev in memory of protesters who died

A woman lights a candle in Kiev in memory of protesters killed in February

I think it is good for us Americans to hear points of view we don’t hear from the so-called mainstream press and broadcasters.  Here is Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economics at the University of Athens, on the right of self-determination, as applied to Ukraine.

Let us accept (as I do) the principle that national minorities have the right to self-determination within lopsided multi-ethnic states; e.g. Croats and Kosovars seceding from Yugoslavia, Scots from the UK, Georgians from the Soviet Union etc.

Awkward question no. 1: On what principle can we deny, once Croatia, Kosovo, Scotland and Georgia have come into being, the right of Krajina Serbs, of Mitrovica Serbs, of Shetland Islanders and of Abkhazians to carve out, if they so wish, their own nation-states within the newly independent nation-states in the areas where they constitute a clear majority?

Awkward question no. 2: On what principle does a western liberal deny the right of Chechens to independence from Russia, but is prepared to defend to the hilt the Georgians’ or the Ukrainians’ right to self-determination?

Awkward question no. 3: On what principle is it justifiable that the West acquiesced to the razing to the ground of Grozny (Chechnya’s capital), not to mention the tens of thousands of civilian deaths, but responded fiercely, threatened with global sanctions, and raised the specter of a major Cold War-like confrontation over the (so far) bloodless deployment of undercover Russian troops in Crimea?

Varoufakis stipulated that Vladimir Putin is a dangerous despot, and that the (relatively) democratic values embodied in the European Union are preferable to the authoritarian values of the Putin-sponsored economic bloc, the Eurasian Union (consisting so far of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan).

Unfortunately, he said, Western leaders don’t necessarily have Ukraine’s interests at heart.

The Ukraine is, and was always going to be, the battleground between Russia’s industrial neo-feudalism, the U.S. State Department’s ambitions, and Germany’s neo-Lebensraum policies.

Various [U.S.] ‘Eurasianists’ see the crisis in Kiev as a great opportunity to promote a program of full confrontation with Russia, one that is reminiscent of Z. Brzezinski’s 1970s anti-Soviet strategy.  Importantly, they also see the Ukraine as an excellent excuse to torpedo America’s role in normalizing relations with Iran and minimizing the human cost in Syria.

At the same time, the IMF cannot wait to enter Russia’s underbelly with a view to imposing another ‘stabilization-and-structural-adjustment program’ that will bring that whole part of the former Soviet Union under its purview.

As for Germany, it has its own agenda which pulls it in two different directions at once: securing as much of the former Soviet Union as part of its neo-Lebensraum strategy of expanding its market/industrial space eastwards; while, at the same time, preserving its privileged access to gas supplies from [Russia's] Gazprom.

He believes that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry understand the limits of American power and the danger of an overly hawkish response to events in Ukraine.   I hope he’s right, but I’m not so sure.

Click on Yanis Varoufakis: Ukraine – Three Awkward Questions for Western Liberals and a Comment on the EU’s Role | naked capitalism to read his whole article.

[Update 3/10/14.  I edited this post lightly for clarity.]

Getting set to recreate the old Soviet empire

March 8, 2014

Russia and the former Soviet republics

Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Federation, once said the break-up of the old Soviet Union was a geopolitical catastrophe.  Now laws are being enacted that will make it easier to put the pieces back together.

President Putin

President Putin

The Russian Federation has changed its citizenship procedures so that speakers of Russian, who have lived for three years in any of the former Soviet republics, can obtain citizenship in as little as three months.

Precedence will be given to highly-trained professionals and Prime Minister Medvedev said the law is intended to bolster the economy of Russia.  But it obviously applies to the many Russian speakers not only in Ukraine, but Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics.

The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, is considering a law to allow annexation of territory against the opposition of the legal government, provided that the majority of the people of the area want to join Russia.  A vote on this law is being postponed until after Crimea holds a referendum on annexation.

This, too, has implications for other countries besides just Ukraine.


Partition of Ukraine is a truly evil idea

March 7, 2014
Double click to enlarge.  Source: New York Times

Click to enlarge. Source: New York Times

A partition of Ukraine along the lines of ethnicity or language would be a terrible tragedy, a repeat of the breakup of Yugoslavia on a larger scale.

People of different national heritages can live together in peace so long as none of the groups attempts to impose its language and culture on the others.  But when demagogues pit different nationalities against each other, peaceful neighbors can become bloody enemies.

If there were areas of Ukraine that were exclusively Ukrainian and others that were exclusively Russian, then a peaceful partition might be possible.  But the population is so mixed that any partition line would require a bloody ethnic cleansing.

There also are significant numbers of people in Ukraine whose heritage is neither Russian nor Ukrainian.  One such group is the Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority descended from the original inhabitants of the region before it was conquered by Russia in the late 18th century.

Huge numbers of them were killed and starved to death under Stalin’s rule and the rest were deported to Central Asia during World War Two, but they started to trickle back starting in the Khruschev era.   They have justified fears about living in a new Crimea based on Russian ethnic nationalism.


The shock doctrine in Ukraine

March 6, 2014

Naomi Klein, in her book, The Shock Doctrine, told how the global banking system took advantage of crises, and sometimes created crises, in order to force national leaders to accept policies against their will.   This seems to be what is going on in Ukraine.

Ukraine has beem in gave financial difficulties.  Last fall the International Monetary Fund offered Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich a bailout, under conditions that reportedly included a doubling of prices for gas and electricity to industry and homes, the lifting of a ban on private sale of Ukraine’s rich agricultural lands, a sale of state assets, a devaluation of the currency and cuts in funding for schools and pensions to balance the budget.  In return, Ukraine would have got a $4 billion loan, a small fraction of what was needed.

Then the Russian Federation offered a $15 billion loan and a 30 percent cut in gas export prices.  Naturally Prime Minister Yanukovich accepted.  Then all hell broke loose.

Arseny Yatsenyuk

Arseny Yatsenyuk

A mysterious sniper killed peaceful demonstrators in Maidan square in Kiev and, as has happened with mysterious sniper attacks in Venezuela, Thailand and other countries, the killings sparked a violent uprising.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said in a leaked telephone conversation with the Ukraine ambassador that “we” want the former banker, Arseny Yatsenyuk, installed at Yanukovich’s replacement, rather than some more popular politician.  And that’s what happened.

Yatsenyuk said he will do whatever it takes to get IMF financing, even though this probably will make him the most unpopular prime minister in Ukraine history.  He in fact has little choice.  The Russian offer has understandably been withdrawn, and Ukraine is in a much more desperate plight than it was six months ago.

Elections are scheduled for May, but that’s plenty of time for Ukraine to be locked into binding commitments to the IMF.

Ukraine is a country rich in natural resources but poor in money — an inviting target for financial speculators.   Based on what has happened in other countries in like situations, I look for Ukraine’s resources and assets to be sold off at bargain prices.

I don’t see what business a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State has trying to name the head of a foreign government, or how this in any way benefits the American people.  It seems to be an example of the workings of Wall Street as a component of Michael Lofgren’s deep state.


The shock doctrine

Washington’s Man Yatsenyuk Setting Ukraine Up for Ruin by Kenneth Rapoza for Forbes.

The Rape of Ukraine: Phase Two Begins by F. William Engdahl for World News Daily Information Clearing House.


General Motors pivots toward China

March 6, 2014

This video, which has been making the rounds of the Internet for nearly two years, is deeply flawed, as well as possibly out of date.  But the producer, whoever he is, makes a good point.  The managements of General Motors and other big corporations headquartered in the United States are not especially American in their orientation.  They go wherever profit takes them.

I remember reading about some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, fantasizing about the possibility of creating their own nation on an uninhabited island, free of annoyance by the pesky U.S. government and American public.

This is not the case with the management of Chinese corporations.  They are closely aligned with the Chinese government and the goal of making China a rich and powerful nation.  This makes for an unbalanced relationship.

There are many economic reasons, including cheap labor, for U.S. companies to manufacture in China.  One of the reasons is that China is now the world’s largest market for automobiles, and no car manufacturer can afford to ignore the Chinese market.  And the Chinese government, like the governments of many other countries, does not allow foreign companies to sell products in their country unless they have local manufacturing content, and, more importantly, they share their manufacturing know-how.

When I reported on Eastman Kodak Co. and Xerox Corp. for the Rochester, N.Y., newspaper in the 1980s and 1990s, corporate executives explained that this was the reason they set up manufacturing plants in Mexico, Japan and other countries.

The government of the United States, which is the OPEC of consumption, was in a better position than any other to impose such requirements.  But this was not done.

The U.S. government operated under the theory that unrestricted free trade was best for everybody, and if other governments were so foolish as to hurt themselves by restricting trade, that was a problem for them, not for us.

The problem with such arguments is that when manufacturing goes away, the skills and knowledge needed to make things – the so-called human capital – goes away with them.

Instead of the U.S. government imposing domestic content requirements on foreign manufacturers, some of our state governments offer them economic incentives, tax abatements and an anti-union legislation.

To be clear, I don’t think government policy is the only reason, or even the main reason, why auto companies operate where they do, or whether they succeed or fail.  But it is a fact that the governments of most other industrial countries are pro-active in promoting domestic industry.  The U.S. government doesn’t take an interest in the success of its manufacturers until they are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Hat tip to Don Montana for the video.


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