Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

The case for peace in Ukraine

May 16, 2022

We are told that the Russian invasion is a failure, that Putin completely miscalculated, that Russian forces are crumbling and Ukraine’s victory is just around the corner.

We also are being told the USA needs to send another $40 billion in aid to Ukraine pronto and to completely disrupt world trade in grain, oil and gas.  Otherwise Russia may win.   Even so, some of our military leaders are saying the war will go on for years.

The independent military analyst Scott Ritter says the last is a real possibility.  Although he had been predicting a Russian victory, he now says that if the Ukrainian army can train in Poland and Germany, and receive potentially unlimited numbers of U.S. and other NATO arms, there is no telling how long they can hold out.

I consider Ritter an authority on the Russian military and on military science in general.  What his reassessments tell me is that war is, by its nature, unpredictable.  If the outcomes of wars could be foreseen with certainty, no nation would go to war in the first place.

Leaders of the USA and Russia should be concerned should be thinking about what they hope to achieve in war, and whether it will be worth the cost and the risks.

Biden’s stated war aim is not just to save Ukraine.  It is to weaken Russia to the point where it is no longer capable of waging war.  Also, to pressure Russians into replacing Putin with a leader wiling to beg for mercy.   

Putin’s stated war aim is not just to save the Russians in the Donbas.  It is to roll back NATO so that it is no longer capable of threatening Russia.

If neither of them gives in, it is very possible the result will be the bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy of the USA, Russia and many other countries, including some neutral countries, with Ukraine, including its Donbas region, left as a blood-soaked wasteland.  That is not the worst-case scenario.  The worst case would be a nuclear holocaust of most of Russia, Europe and the USA..

The best possible outcome would be a truce and a ratification of the previous status quo—neutrality for Ukraine, autonomy for Donbas, continuing Russian control of strategically vital Crimea.

Since only some of Russia’s perceived threats involve Ukraine, there would have to be a restoration of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty and a ban on missile forces from countries bordering Russia. 

Commentary by the Saker and Moon of Alabama’s Bernhard , and also the commentary by Scott Ritter and Ray McGovern on the video above, make me aware of why Vladimir Putin thinks Russia has been backed into a corner by the USA and NATO.

My readings of the Russian Dissent substack, Mezuda news service and Alexey Navalny videos also make me aware of the authoritarianism, corruption and cronyism of the Putin administration, and of misgivings about the war by ordinary Russians.

Russia and Ukraine may be separate countries, but many Russians and Ukrainians are related by friendship, lineage and marriage.  They don’t want war with each other.

Both Russia and Ukraine are cracking down on dissent, so it is impossible for outsiders to know how much potential opposition there is to the war on either side.

Here in the USA, the widening war in Ukraine provides an excuse to step up official and unofficial censorship, and to put off dealing with the pandemic, climate-related catastrophes, inflation, rising debt, business monopoly, labor abuses, and financial crime.

All the Democrats I would have hoped might stand up for peace—Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ihan Omar, etc.—supported the $40 billion appropriation for the war.

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Rich and poor on peace and war

May 6, 2022

LINK

Majority of wealthy Americans want U.S. military involvement in European war by Leonardo Briceno for The Post Millennial.  Rasmssen Reports itself is behind a paywall.

Ukraine war collateral damage and food prices

April 28, 2022

I’m stocking up on nonperishable food and other supplies in order to be prepared for scarcity this fall.

Both the fighting war and the sanctions war over Ukraine are disrupting world food supplies, and I think it can only get worse. Ukraine and Russia are important exporters of food, and also of diesel fuel, which is important in making fertilizer.

Food prices are already going up. Reasons for this include drought and floods in food-producing regions, disruption of supply chains due to the coronavirus pandemic and the power of monopoly agribusiness.

What this means is that there is no buffer to escape the disruption caused by war.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have little to lose by being prepared. It is better to do too much than to learn the hard way I’ve done too little.

I also expect the war’s collateral damage to affect food prices, but there’s little I can do personally about that.

Russians will be affected by rising food and fuel prices, but both the USA and Russia have enough reserves and resources to avoid actual starvation.  The worst impact will be on poor small nations that depend in food imports. 

The price of wheat on world markets

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Noam Chomsky on moral equivalence

April 19, 2022

Noam Chomsky in an interview condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine.  He said it is not only morally wrong, but a violation of international law.

He also said that Russia has not done anything that the USA has not done.  The invasion of Iraq was no less wrong than the invasion of Ukraine.  The bombing of Fallujah caused at least as much death and suffering as the bombing of Mariupol’.

Neither the Russia nor the USA accepts the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  In 1984, the court condemned the United States for mining the harbors of Nicaragua as part of its covert war against that country, the U.S. government shrugged off that decision.

In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed a law authorizing the U.S. government to take military again to prevent any American or allied citizen from being tried as a war criminal.  President Biden has no standing to call for President Putin to be tried for violating international law the USA does not respect.

I believe that many consider it out of bounds for me, or for Prof. Chomsky, to weigh the crimes of the U.S. government in the same balance as the crimes of other governments.  This is “moral equivalence” or “whataboutism.”  Instead you’re supposed to be silent about U.S. crimes unless you have first researched and condemned every other wrong that may have been worse.

It can be argued that a murderer who kills one person is less of a murderer who kills ten people, but the first is a murderer just the same.  And the fact that one murderer gets away with their crime does not generate an entitlement to commit murder.

None of this is a justification for the invasion of Ukraine.  The ordinary people of Ukraine did not invade Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are not responsible for the persecution of Julian Assange.  They do not deserve to be killed, maimed and terrorized because of what the U.S. government has done.

The U.S. government has an obligation to provide the Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves, Chomsky said.  But he said it also has a duty to try to bring both sides to the negotiating table before Ukraine is completely ruined.  He’s right.

LINKS

Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Scahill on the Russia-Ukraine War, an interview for The Intercept.

Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III, an interview for Current Affairs.  [Added 04/20/2022]

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Ukraine is part of a broader three-way Cold War

April 15, 2022

The war in Ukraine is not just between Ukraine and Russia.  It is part of a larger three-way struggle between three rival imperialisms—the established imperialism of the USA and the rising imperialisms of China and Russia..

The struggle is not exclusively or even mainly a military struggle.  It is also a diplomatic and propaganda struggle.  But it is mainly an economic struggle.

The United States is the world’s most extensive military power and the world’s leading financial power.  Its aim is to keep on being the world’s only superpower—militarily, politically and financially.  Its means is threats of military intervention and financial sanctions.

Source: The Diplomat. Click to enlarge.

The People’s Republic of China is the world’s leading manufacturer and exporter.  Its aim is to dominate its immediate region politically and militarily and to become the world’s leading power economically.  The means is investing in physical infrastructure and human capital, and winning friends by offering economic benefits.  Its master plan is the Belts and Roads initiative, a system of infrastructure construction projects intended to weave together the economies of interior Eurasia.

Russia is less powerful than the USA or China, but it is an important producer of food, fuel and vital raw materials. Its aim is to be recognized as a great power and to dominate its immediate region politically and militarily

The United States has a worldwide network of military bases and alliances, which gives it the power to engage in military and covert actions on every continent.  It dominates the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions and its banks have a chokehold on the world financial economy.

The basis of that power is the supremacy of the U.S. dollar as the world’s medium for doing business, and the replacement of gold by U.S. Treasury bonds as a store of value.

This enables the U.S. to finance its endless wars, to shrug off trade deficits and to impose crippling sanctions on nations that defy it.  But American leaders have foolishly allowed the source of its financial power, its strength as a manufacturing and exporting country, to fade away.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an attack on the U.S.-dominated NATO alliance. Its aim is to keep Ukraine out of NATO, to bar nuclear missile systems from Poland and Rumania and to roll back western NATO troops to their 1997 positions.

The U.S. aim is to get Russia bogged down in a long quagmire war, while meanwhile trying to wreck the Russian economy through economic sanctions—that is, seizing Russian financial assets held in the U.S. allied countries, cutting Russia off from the dollar-based world financial system and blocking Russian imports and exports as much as possible.

With the aid of China, Russia is finding ways to engage in world trade using the ruble and other non-dollar currencies, thus helping to undermine U.S. financial power.  

Then again, with sanctions, the U.S. is already undermining itself.  It is teaching nations they need to figure out how to survive economically without ties to the United States or the dollar-based system.

This economic war is a real war.  People will suffer as a result of it.  Some die.  Some European nations depend on Russian gas.  Many nations depend on Russia for food and fertilizer exports.  Food and fuel prices are already rising as a result of the war and are expected to rise further.  

The most likely result of the conflict is a worldwide economic depression.  The worst possible result is nuclear war.  I don’t see any possible outcome that is of net benefit to the people of any of the three countries.

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Vladimir Putin is not a madman

April 11, 2022

I never thought Vladimir Putin would order a full-scale invasion of Ukraine 

My reasoning was that it was not in Putin’s or Russia’s interest to take responsibility for a country that, by most accounts, was even poorer than Russia itself and almost as corrupt.  Nor did it make sense for Russia to risk getting bogged down in a long quagmire war as it did in Afghanistan.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, had elected as a peace candidate with more than 70 percent of the vote, so there seemed like a possibility of negotiating the status of the Donbas secessionists and other issues.  

I thought Putin would take some limited action that would demonstrate Ukraine’s vulnerability and NATO’s lack of unity.

As a result of the invasion, members of NATO are more united against Russia than ever.  Sweden and Finland have abandoned their neutrality and may formally join NATO.  Countries not willing to fight Russia with troops are waging economic warfare against Russia.

So why did he do it? Was he crazy?

One of my rules of thumb is that when someone who seems highly intelligent does something that makes no sense to me, that person may have reasons that I do not understand.

I believe Putin has made this high-stakes gamble because he believes the actual existence of Russia is at risk.  I believe he further believes that the danger is growing and he had to act before time runs out.   

He has been saying for years that the goal of the U.S.-led alliance is to put itself in a position to be able to successfully attack Russia.  He may be mistaken, but he has reason to think so.

Notice that the ultimatum he issued last year is not limited to Ukraine.  It contains for main demands (1) Ukraine neutrality, (2) autonomy of Donetz and Luhansk, (3) no missiles in Poland or Rumania and (4) NATO troops back to 1991 limits.

Notice also that Russia has not used its full military might in invading Ukraine.  That means Putin may be holding back troops to enforce the rest of his ultimatum.

∞∞∞

When Russia withdrew its troops from East Germany and other satellite countries in Eastern Europe in 1989, Secretary of State James Baker allegedly promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO troops would not move “one inch” to the east.  There’s argument as to what he really said.  But many people, myself included, hoped for a new era when the USA and Russia were at peace with each other.

In 1999, NATO expanded.  Putin protested and was ignored.  In 2004, NATO expanded again.  Putin protested and was ignored.

In 2008, NATO announced an intention to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.  Putin said that was a red line that Russia would not tolerate.  

I can understand why.  If you look at a map of Europe showing the peak of German conquests during World War Two, and compare it with a map of NATO with Ukraine and Georgia, you will see they are almost the same.

In 2014, a pro-American faction seized power in Ukraine. Since then, Ukraine has been a NATO member in all but name.

A missile defense system is being placed in Poland and Romania, which could be made capable of launching nuclear missiles. The U.S. meanwhile has exited the Anti-Ballistic Missile agreement and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement.

Soon the United States will have duplicated Russia’s hypersonic missile, which means that a nuclear warhead launched from Poland or Rumania could hit Moscow in a few minutes.

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The search for truth in the Ukraine war

April 9, 2022

I think the world is at a major historical turning point.  China and Russia, with their allies and vassals, have begun an attack on a system of economic and military power dominated by the United States, which probably will succeed.  The Russian attack on Ukraine is a ramping up to that larger conflict.

That is why I am so obsessively focused on the war in Ukraine.  Trying to understand the conflict allows me to overcome my feeling of helplessness in the face of the coming catastrophe.

This video interview of Scott Ritter from last Wednesday is a good summary of the situation in Ukraine, which is different from the propaganda version in most U.S. newspapers and broadcast networks.  The meat of the interview begins at the seven-minute mark.  You don’t have to watch the whole thing to get something out of it.  

I think that Scott Ritter, Michael Hudson and the Naked Capitalism bloggers have the best handle on what’s going on.  Both Ritter and Hudson are giving video interviews to virtually anybody who will talk to them, and these interviews should be easy to find.  

Of course what they (and I) say is based on uncertain and incomplete knowledge.  The verdict of history may be different from what I (or you) think now.  But time spent trying to learn and understand is not time wasted.

LINKS

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Perspective by Scott Ritter for Energy Intelligence.

The American Empire Self-Destructs by Michael Hudson.

It seems Ukraine will never join NATO…

March 24, 2022

This video interview was given March 19.

Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN Sunday that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO or the European Union.  In that case, what is the fighting about?  Here is the CNN report:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that if his country had been admitted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance earlier, then Russia would not have invaded the country.

“If we were a NATO member, a war wouldn’t have started. I’d like to receive security guarantees for my country, for my people,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on “GPS,” adding that he was grateful for the aid NATO has provided since the invasion began. “If NATO members are ready to see us in the alliance, then do it immediately because people are dying on a daily basis.”

He continued, “But if you are not ready to preserve the lives of our people, if you just want to see us straddle two worlds, if you want to see us in this dubious position where we don’t understand whether you can accept us or not — you cannot place us in this situation, you cannot force us to be in this limbo.

“I requested them personally to say directly that we are going to accept you into NATO in a year or two or five, just say it directly and clearly, or just say no,” Zelensky said.

“And the response was very clear, you’re not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open,” he said.

If Ukraine is never going to be admitted to NATO, what is Russia fighting to prevent?  And why does the USA publicly insist on Ukraine’s right to do something it is not going to be allowed to do?

I think Scott Ritter’s interview above provides the answer.  Ukraine is not part of NATO, but it is a vassal of NATO.  By vassal, I mean a person or community that serves an overlord, and in return serves protection from that overlord.

Since the new pro-American government took power in 2014, Ukraine’s military forces have been receiving NATO training and NATO equipment.  For practical purposes, Ukraine is a member of NATO in every respect except having a voice and a vote. 

The same is true of the European Union.  Ukraine signed an Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014 and received an International Monetary Fund loan.  This took down certain trade barriers between the EU and Ukraine, opened up Ukraine to EU investment and also required Ukraine to align its foreign and military policies with the EU as a whole.

So businesses in the European Union have essentially got what they want from Ukraine—access to its rich farmland and natural resources.  According to Wikipedia, the EU has replaced Russia as Ukraine’s main trading partner.

The bottom line: Formal NATO membership for Ukraine is a red herring.  The real issue is whether Ukraine will be a vassal of the USA or a vassal of Russia.

The best thing for Ukraine would be neutral, and have good relations with all nations.  As an American, I would be fine with that.  But this is not a choice on offer.

How the mentally unfit became cannon fodder

March 23, 2022

The blogger known as Nikolai Vladivostok called my attention to a book entitled McNamara’s Folly: the Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War by Hamilton Gregory (2015).  It’s shocking.  Here’s a review, by Arnold Isaacs for the Modern War Institute at West Point.

On the day in 1967 when Hamilton Gregory reported to a Tennessee induction center to begin his service in the U.S. Army, a sergeant presented him to another young man who was also headed to Fort Benning, Georgia, to start basic training.

The other new soldier’s name was Johnny Gupton, or so Gregory calls him. “I want you to take charge of Gupton,” the sergeant told Gregory.  Before they boarded the bus to the airport, the sergeant handed Gregory Gupton’s paperwork along with his own, to carry on the trip.

In the next hours and days, Gregory discovered why the sergeant had put Gupton in his care. Gupton could not read or write. He didn’t know his home address or what state he was from, so he could not send the pre-stamped postcard the new recruits were given at Benning to tell their families they had arrived.  He didn’t know his next of kin’s full name, didn’t know that there was a war in Vietnam, and couldn’t tie the laces on his combat boots.

How did a man so obviously unfit for service get drafted? A slipup? Far from it. Gupton was one of more than 350,000 other young men drafted during the Vietnam war under a deliberate policy requiring that nearly a third of all military recruits should be drawn from men with general aptitude test scores at the bottom or for a certain percentage below the minimum standard.

This while draft boards around the country made it shockingly easy for middle class, better educated men to avoid serving — just ask Bill Clinton or Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh.  The policy was known as Project 100,000.  Its principal promoter was Lyndon Johnson’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara.

Hamilton Gregory — who was not drafted but enlisted voluntarily — was troubled and outraged by his experience with Johnny Gupton and subsequent encounters with other low-IQ draftees. During his Army service he raised questions about the policy with various superiors, and after his discharge, while making a career as a journalist and author, he kept on tracking down official documents and seeking out personal accounts.

The evidence he accumulated over more than 40 years makes the story he tells in McNamara’s Folly not just convincing but ironclad.  Its conclusion is ironclad too: U.S. draft policy during the Vietnam war was a moral atrocity.

Project 100,000 troops were killed or wounded in Vietnam at higher rates than in the U.S. force as a whole, but the unfairness didn’t stop there. More than half left the service with less than honorable discharges — not surprising, for men who weren’t mentally fit to be soldiers to begin with.

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Many Russians open to use of N-weapons

March 21, 2022

A Ukrainian company conducted a public opinion poll of Russians about the Ukraine invasion.  The poll found that 40.3 percent of those answering think the Russian government would use nuclear weapons to protect its interests, and only 25.5 percent would not.  The rest were unsure.

I think the poll should be interpreted with caution.  If I were a Russian, I probably wouldn’t give my honest opinion to an anonymous pollster.  I suspect a lot of the non-committal answers were from people who had doubts about their government’s actions.

A recent Pew Research poll indicated that 35.5 percent of Americans are willing to take military action against Russia even at the risk of nuclear war.  

[I should have noted that there is an important difference between being willing to risk nuclear war and being willing to initiate nuclear war.]

None of this indicates Russians or Americans as a whole favor nuclear war.   It does indicate that a large fraction of both do not find nuclear war unthinkable.  This is disturbing.

Here are the rest of the Russian poll results.

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Who’s winning in Ukraine?

March 14, 2022

Not Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces are outnumbered and outgunned.  President Zelensky is arming untrained civilians, including convicts, and calling for volunteers to come help, including anti-Russian jihadists from Syria.  This is evidence of desperation, like the German arming of teenagers and the elderly during the last days of World War Two.

Until now, Russians have held back, in the false hope they could accomplish a relatively—I said, relatively—bloodless conquest and reconcile Ukrainians to defeat.  Military analyst Scott Ritter said the Russians wanted to give Ukrainians one last chance to surrender.  If that fails, Russians will wage war as they did in Afghanistan and Chechnya, which, as he said, will turn Ukraine into “hell on Earth.”

Not Russia

Hardly anybody expected a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, because hardly anybody outside President Putin’s circle thought it would make sense.  Evidently Putin expected a weak resistance, after which the Ukrainian government would surrender and agree to stay out of NATO, recognize the independence of the Donbas republics, and accept Russian rule of Crimea.

This didn’t happen.  Putin is using Chechen and even Syrian fighters against his supposed Ukrainian brothers.  So much for Russian-Ukrainian brotherhood!  This is a sign of lack of Russian enthusiasm for the war.

Probably Russia will defeat the Ukrainian forces in the end.  Then Russians will face a protracted resistance movement in Ukraine, supported by the Western powers, and a long period of economic warfare that will strain Russian society to the limit.

Not the USA

The clash between Russia and the USA involves much more than Ukraine.  Russia’s aim is to challenge the military security structure that makes the U.S. the world’s dominant military power, and the financial structure which makes the U.S. the world’s dominant financial power.  The present conflict may stretch that power to its limit.

No nation in Latin America, Africa or Asia, with the exceptions of Japan and South Korea, has been willing to join the United States is imposing economic sanctions against Russia.  Russia can count on the support of China, the world’s most powerful manufacturing nation, and others who’ve been alienated from the U.S. system.

Russia has been planning for years on how to withstand a siege.  The USA is unprepared.  President Biden has swallowed his pride and asked for help from Iran and Venezuela, two nations he and his predecessors have literally been trying to destroy with economic sanctions.  What will we Americans do a year or so from now, if gasoline costs double or triple or ten times what it does now?

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One side or another may claim victory, by some criterion.  But all will be worse off than they are now.

“A strange game,” said the machine intelligence in the movie, War Games.  “The only way to win is not to play.”

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Why are there U.S. bio-labs in Ukraine?

March 14, 2022

In my morning newspaper, I read an Associated Press article about the White House has accused Beijing “of spreading false Russian claims that Ukraine was running biological weapons labs with U.S. support.”

What do we the American public know about these laboratories?

  1.  There are U.S. biological research laboratories in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics.
  2.  They are operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, not by the Centers for Disease Control or any other independent medical or scientific institution.
  3.  They are using materials that Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland is afraid of falling into Russian hands.
  4.  The U.S. government has not explained their purpose.

None of these facts are proof that the U.S. government is conducting biological warfare research.  But it is natural that the Russians and Chinese would think so, and I’m having a hard time coming up with an innocent explanation.

For example, I don’t think it is likely that, after all these years, the U.S. military would still be helping to dismantle bio-warfare labs left over from the Soviet era.

The best alternative I can come up with is that the U.S. government is conducting non-military research that would be illegal in the United States because of safety concerns, such as U.S. collaboration in gain-of-function research on the COVID-19 virus allegedly conducted in Wuhan, China.

An investigative journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, revealed the scope of the U.S. military’s biological research programs back in 2018.

U.S. military-backed biological research labs (2018)

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Ideals and realities in the Ukraine crisis

March 7, 2022

When World War One began, most people in Great Britain thought that the sold cause of the war was German aggression.  We Americans had to be propagandized a good bit before we came around to that view.

The reality was more complicated.  Some of other causes were the French desire to avenge their previous defeat, Russian intrigue in the Balkans and the Anglo-German naval rivalry.

But after Germany attacked France and Belgium, the question of war guilt didn’t really matter.  The questions become: (1) What would happen if Germany dominated Europe?  (2) What price are we wiling to pay to prevent this?

The answers to these questions are not obvious.  Few in England in 1914 would have accepted a 1920s Europe dominated by the German Empire.  But this would have meant a future without Hitler’s Germany and possibility without Stalin’s USSR.

In today’s Europe, the questions are: (1) What would be the consequences of Putin’s Russia becoming the dominant power in Eastern Europe? (2) What price are we willing to pay to prevent this?

The answers to those questions are not obvious.  It’s early days yet.  It’s important to consider these things dispassionately before the winds of war blow away all possibility of rational discussion.

I of course disapprove of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  I disapprove of a lot of things.  But, in the present situation, I think an imperfect peace that both sides could live with would be better than a long mutually destructive war that would leave one or both sides in ruin.. 

LINK

It’s time to ask: What would a Ukraine-Russian peace deal look like? by Anatol Leiven for The Guardian.

War in Ukraine: Links & comments 2022/3/7

March 7, 2022

The American Empire self-destructs by MIchael Hudson.

The economist MIchael Hudson thinks Russia will benefit from the coming economic war..

What it will do is to force Russia to become more Wself-sufficient than it already is and to detach itself from the U.S.-dominated world financial system, and also to make neutral countries more wary.

Any country who gets on the bad side of the United States is subject to having its national assets confiscated, to the degree that they are in banks in the United States, the United Kingdom or other countries subject to U.S. influence.

This happened to Iran, to Venezuela and many other countries, and now it is happening to Russia.  The U.K. also is confiscating savings and investments owned by Russian individuals.

In the long run, he wrote, this will force not only Russia and its allies, but any nation that doesn’t want to be under the thumb of the United States, to find an alternative financial system, which the Chinese will be glad to provide.  London will cease to be the money-laundering capital of the world.

He said it also will force Russia to invest its revenues from oil, gas and other export industries into building up the nation’s industrial strength, instead of going into the pockets of wealthy oligarchs.

History shows that given a choice between destruction and reform, ruling elites do not necessarily choose reform.

Efforts to decimate Russian economy may boomerang by Sylvan Lane for The Hill.

Economic warfare is mutual destruction.  The United States and its NATO allies are in a position greatly damage the Russian economy, despite the Russians’ decade of trying to build up their defenses against economic warfare.

But the United States and its NATO allies also will pay a price.  Russia is an important exporter of food and fossil fuels.  The first result of an embargo will be big increases in the cost of food, gasoline and natural gas.

Russia’s new foreign policy: the Putin doctrine by Prof. Sergei Karaganov, academic supervisor of the School of International Economics and Foreign Affairs in Moscow.

This is a voice of the Russian academic establishment.

Prof. Karaganov said Vladimir Putin’s policies are the result of a long-term plan to break up the present U.S.-dominated geopolitical order and replace it with one in which the Russian nation and culture are safe.  The war in Ukraine is part of this, but only party.

He said Western society is in the process of self-destruction—economically, politically and morally.  It also is eager to start a new Cold War with Russia.

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Why are Nazis acceptable in Ukraine?

March 4, 2022

Azov Battaltion insignia and Nazi symbols

One of Vladimir Putin’s demands is that Ukraine “de-Nazify.”

These days the word “Nazi” is often a general purpose insult with no specific meaning. except “very, very evil.” But there are Nazis in Ukraine, and they are the real thing.

I don’t want to exaggerate.  

Ukrainian neo-Nazis are few in number. Most estimates put hardo-core Nazis at less than 2 percent of the population.  The extreme nationalist Svoboda and Right Sector parties each received less than 2 percent of the vote in recent presidential elections.  

Volodymyr Zelensky, the current President of Ukraine, is Jewish, and he received more than 72 percent of the vote.  Most of the rest went to the incumbent.

On the other hand the neo-Nazi parties are part of the Ukraine’s governing coalition.  The Azov Battalion, whose members are openly neo-Nazi, is an important part of Ukraine’s fighting force.  The “Overton window”—the range of ideas that are acceptable to discuss—includes neo-Nazis.

To understand how this can be, you have to know about the Holodomor, also known as the Terror-Famine or Great Famine, imposed by Joseph Stalin on Ukraine from 1929 to 1933.  

It was one of the 20th century’s greatest crimes against humanity.  A United Nations report estimates it cost the lives of 3 million to 10 million Ukrainians.  It is officially recognized as genocide by Ukraine and 16  other countries.

Joseph Stalin forced millions in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union to starve to death in order to force the peasants into collective farms and gain control of the food supply.  He also suppressed Ukrainian cultural institutions.

Most historians interpret this as the Soviet Communist Party preemptively destroying all potential sources of resistance to the regime, including farmers who owned their land and individuals loyal to non-Russian cultures.

But there are those who see the Holodomor as an attempt by “the Russians” to destroy the Ukrainian race.  I’ve come across this meme serval times over the years while doing Internet research.  And I’ve also come across the meme that it was an attempt by “the Jews” to destroy the Ukrainian race.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s first look at the Ukraine terror-famine in all its horror.

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The war hawks’ view of the Ukraine situation

March 2, 2022

This panel discussion is interesting because it represents the thinking of the U.S. national security establishment.  I watched it with mingled anger and despair, but their ideas and opinions are important to understand.

The panelists point out that Vladimir Putin probably thought the invasion of Ukraine would reveal the weakness and lack of solidarity of NATO, but the result has been just the opposite.

The immediate result  has been to create a new sense of anti-Russian solidarity among the Ukrainian people and the NATO allies.  The NATO countries, particularly Germany, are remilitarizing.

The result of the invasion is the very thing Putin feared, an attack (although not a direct military attack) on Russia itself.  I think they’re right about that.

What the analysts say we can look forward to over the next few years is a long mutually destructive economic war, a dangerous cyberwar and a propaganda war.  But it’s all good, because Russia will suffer most and ultimately be defeated.

The cyberwar threat is the most worrisome.  The USA, other NATO countries, Ukraine and Russia are all dependent on electronic computerized systems that are vulnerable to being hacked, which would result in economic breakdown and chaos.

Both sides have held back because of the mutually assured destruction principle.  But now NATO and Russia are at war, so there is no restraining principle.

The panelists think Ukraine will be defeated militarily after a heroic resistance.  But it’s all good, because it means the U.S. government can support an insurgency, as it did against the pro-Russian government of Afghanistan in the early 1980s.

Even if the result is to leave Ukraine in ruins, it will bleed and destabilize Russia.

The problem, the panelists say, will be maintaining the will to wage economic war, psychological war and cyberwar for a period of years, and, for the Ukrainians and other front-line countries, to continue fighting and dying over the long term.

President Biden or some future president may prioritize his domestic agenda (i.e., the needs and wants of the unimportant American people) or the U.S. rivalry with China. That would be a problem, they say.

I can’t say their predictions are wrong.  I hate how comfortable and even pleased they are with the war, but as a description of the sad reality, they could be right.

But there are things they didn’t talk about.

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Shock and awe in Ukraine

February 25, 2022

Kiev early this morning.

At this point in time, the Russian invasion of Kiev reminds me of the initial phase of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—except that the Russians so far seem to be doing their best to avoid civilian casualties and refraining from destroying the electrical grid, water and sewerage systems and other vital infrastructure.

Looked at purely as a military operation, it looks like a brilliant success.  Of course so did the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in their initial phase.

What made these wars disasters for the United States were the failed occupations and the unsuccessful attempts to establish friendly, self-sustaining governments.

President Vladimir Putin’s rule began with a bloody war to pacify the rebellious Chechen region.  Since then  Russia’s military occupations have been short and decisive.

Putin has stated he does not plan a permanent occupation of Ukraine.  He also says he plans to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine and to bring to justice all those who committed atrocities against Ukraine’s Russian minority.  Taking him at his word, is this possible without a long-term occupation?

The ideal outcome, from the Russian point of view, would be for the Ukrainian government to quickly surrender and agree to Russia’s terms.

What terms of surrender would Russia accept?  Would Ukraine be forced to become a puppet of Russia, like Poland during the Cold War era or the Central Asian countries today?  Or would Russia be willing to settle for neutrality, like Finland and Austria during the Cold War.

The least Russia would demand would be purging of Nazis from the Ukrainian government and armed forces, and turning over accused war criminals to Russia or to international tribunals.

This also would be the best outcome from the point of view of minimizing human suffering.  But it would leave Russia as the strongest—because most feared—power in Europe.

The risk Russia has taken is the possibility of getting bogged down in a long quagmire war, as the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan.

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Why couldn’t the USA and Russia be friends?

February 25, 2022

The video is a 2015 lecture by political scientist John J. Mearsheimer.

After the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings, I thought the Cold War had ended for good, and the USA and post-Communist Russia would be partners.  A lot of other people, in the USA and in Russia, too, expected the same thing.  Why didn’t it happen?

The answer is in the Wolfowitz Doctrine, which was a 1992 policy document prepared by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.  The document said that the way to keep the United States safe was to maintain the U.S. position as top nation and to prevent any other nation from becoming equal in power.

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union.  

This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.  [snip]

The U.S. must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.  

In non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order.  We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.

This is the rationale for transforming NATO from an anti-Soviet alliance into an anti-Russian alliance.  The threat of Russia in the 1990s was not that it was hostile, but that it was potentially powerful.  

Here’s what George F. Kennan, said to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in 1998 about enlarging NATO.

“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” said Mr. Kennan from his Princeton home. ”I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies.  I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves.

“We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.”

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Texts of Putin’s and Biden’s talks

February 22, 2022

Address by the President of the Russian Federation.  Feb. 21, 2022.

Remarks by President Biden Announcing Response to Russian Actions in Ukraine.  Feb 22, 2022.

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Some reactions to the speeches [Added 2022/2/23]

Putin recognizes Donbass republics: what comes next? by Gilbert Doctorow.

The body language of the speech – Putin has repudiated Lenin, Stalin, Gorbachev, Yeltsin & mobilized Russian defense against US attack as never before by John Helmer for Dances With Bears.

Putin’s Century of Betrayal Speech by Branko Milanovic.  [The demon spell-check keeps changing Branko, the author’s first name, to “Frank.”]

Biden gives ’em heck & big promises by the Boston Herald editorial page.

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[Added 2022/2/26]  I have trouble linking to official statements on the Russian government web site.  You can find most of these on The Vineyard of the Saker web site, which is maintained by an expatriate Russian living in the USA.

Incapable of making either war or peace?

February 22, 2022

A nation or individual should be capable of fighting if they must and making peace when they can.

The U.S. governing class, at this point in our history, seems incapable of doing either.

NATO & Russia 2017

The NATO alliance was formed to defend the western European nations against a possible Soviet invasion. Each member pledged to come to the aid of any other member that was attacked.

At the height of NATO’s power, there were hundreds of thousands of Americans stationed in Europe who were trained and prepared to fight the Red Army, if necessary.

The United States in the Cold War era was prepared for war, but also capable of negotiating the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which reduced the possibility of nuclear war between the great powers.

During the past 20 years, the U.S. government has grown increasingly belligerent toward Russia.  It canceled the ABM and IRNF treaties.  At the same time it has reduced its war-fighting capabilities in Europe, and we the American people have grown weary of military interventions.

After the 9/11 attacks, NATO allies, including France, sent troops to fight in Afghanistan in fulfillment of the self-defense pledge.  France did not follow the U.S. into Iraq, but some allies did.  Since then NATO allies have been less and less willing to support U.S. wars of choice.

So here we are.  Our government is unwilling to negotiate in any meaningful way with President Putin, but also unwilling to fight, except at arms length, through economic sanctions and shipments of arms.

I don’t justify everything the U.S. government did in the Cold War era.  That’s a topic for another time.  And I’m not a war hawk.  Far from it.  But there was a time when we Americans were capable of waging war, and also capable of negotiating treaties and abiding by them, and this is no longer so.

There are two ways of inviting trouble.  One is being too weak to defend yourself.  The other is going around starting fights.  I think we Americans would be willing and able to defend our homeland, but I don’t think the U.S. is capable of forcing our new “rules-based international order” on the world and I for one do not support it.

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Putin makes his move in Ukraine

February 21, 2022

Well, it didn’t take long for my previous post to be overtaken by events.

Russia has recognized the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk republics.  This almost certainly means that Russian forces will intervene to protect the separatists from Ukrainian forces.  It probably means that Russians will fight to drive Ukrainian forces back to the original borders of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Hopefully, the fighting will be confined to the Donbas region.

The U.S. government is in an embarrassing position, having whipped up war fever while being admittedly unwilling and unable to fight itself.

President Biden said that American troops would not fight in Ukraine because a direct American-Russian clash could escalate into World War Three.

This is true. The other reason is that American troops would be hopelessly outnumbered, and also unprepared to fight in unfamiliar country. This also applies to troops being rushed to Poland and Rumania.

Although this is embarrassing, I think Biden was right to not sacrifice the lives of American troops, just as a gesture.

This leaves the U.S. with only two ways to continue the fight: (1) Arm the Ukrainians and give them moral and economic support.  (2) Impose new economic sanctions on Russia.

The first means encouraging Ukrainians to fight and die in a war in which they are outmanned and outgunned.  The second means asking western Europeans to make serious economic sacrifices.  They might well ask: Why should we be the ones to expend blood and treasure?

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Who is invading who in the Donbas?

February 21, 2022

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is sponsored by 57 countries, has a fact-finding mission in Ukraine.  The maps above show ceasefire violations, mainly explosions, that took place last Friday.

The line on the map is a cease-fire line between Ukrainian government forces and separatist forces, which was agreed to in 2015.  As you can see, most of the explosions happened on the separatist side of the line.

There are three possible explanations for these facts.

The first possibility is that they are an elaborate false-flag operation by Russia to justify a future invasion.  The evacuation of much of the Russian-speaking population of the Donbas would be intended to clear the way for an invasion.

The second possibility is that they are what they seem to be.  The purpose would be to provoke a reaction by Russia that could be used as an excuse to ramp up sanctions, prevent economic ties between Russia and the European Union countries and justify increased U.S. military spending.

When and if the predicted invasion doesn’t happen, the explanation will be that the Russians were deterred by President Biden’s and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s firm stance.

The third possibility is that the forces on both sides of the line are somewhat out of control, the ones on the government side firing somewhat more shells than those on the separatist side.  If this is so, neither side is fully in control of the situation, although both try to use it to their advantage.  This is the most dangerous of the three possibilities.

LINKS

Daily Report 2022 February 19 by the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Who Is Firing at Who and Who Is Lying About It? by Bernhard for Moon of Alabama.

Ukraine: Where to Find the Truth in Enormous Detail by Craig Murray.

Does Abraham Lincoln still deserve his pedestal?

February 14, 2022

Abraham Lincoln statue in Portland, Oregon, on Oct. 11, 2020

THE FIERY TRIAL: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner (2010)

WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen B. Oates (1977)

When Abraham Lincoln was murdered by a fanatical pro-slavery diehard, the nation went into mourning.  His funeral train took 12 days to travel through seven states to his burial ground in Springfield, Illinois.  

An estimated 1.5 million viewed Lincoln’s body and 9 million watched the train or his hearse.  An estimated 25 million attended funeral services for him.  They were rich and poor, black and white, native-born and foreign-born.

A consensus arose, shared by almost everyone for 150 years,  that Lincoln was the greatest American, because his statesmanship preserved the Union from breakup and brought about the emancipation of American slaves.

But that consensus has been challenged.  Some now say Lincoln was nothing but a garden-variety racist and politician who only acted out of expediency.  Protestors have toppled at least one of his statues, and there have been demands for removal of others.

In order to reassess Lincoln’s legacy, I read these two biographies.  I was reminded that he was a man of an earlier era and not of ours.  Battle lines in his time were drawn differently.  I don’t think he would have known what to make of today’s controversies about race.

The slavery question bedeviled the USA from the earliest days.  The Republic of Vermont abolished slavery in 1777, which was the first abolition of slavery in the Western Hemisphere.  By 1804, all the states north of the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River had abolished slavery.

But outside New England, abolition of slavery did not mean equal rights for black people.  Abolition did not necessarily give black people the right to vote, much less the right to equal treatment.

The motive in abolishing slavery was not predominantly humanitarian.  The great fear of white working people in the Northern states was having to compete with slave labor.

Slaveowners in the South had two great fears.  One was of abolition propaganda, which they feared could spark a slave revolt.  The other was that economic progress and growth in the North could reduce the South to a powerless minority.

Both fears had a basis in reality.  The North outpaced the South in every measure, including economic growth, population growth, education, infrastructure, the material standard of living and opportunity to rise in the social scale.  The poorest white people in the USA were in the areas where slavery was most predominant.  White people in those areas are still the poorest white Americans.  So all other things being equal, the slave states would be eventually left behind.

The South’s aim was to acquire new slave territory and bring new slave states into the Union.  This was partly because plantation agriculture as it was practiced then destroyed the fertility of the soil, and there was a continual need for new land.  New territory also was needed to preserve the balance of power of slave states vs. free states in the Senate.

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War threat’s purpose is to keep U.S. allies in line

February 7, 2022

Click to enlarge.

U.S. policy for the past 10 or so years has been hard for me to understand. Our government has driven Russia, the world’s largest nuclear weapons power, into the arms of China, the world’s largest or second largest industrial power.

Since 2014, our leaders have talked about the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, but, as Scott Ritter has pointed out, they never tried to create a military force in or near Ukraine capable of resisting a Russian invasion.

The economist Michael Hudson has an answer.  U.S. war policy is not primarily about Ukraine or Russia.  Rather it is about the need for a war threat to keep U.S. allies in line.

Economic sanctions are not being imposed for strategic reasons, Hudson wrote recently. Rather the geopolitical struggle is an excuse for cutting off U.S. allies from trade with Russia, China and other designated U.S. enemies.

The U.S. is not pressuring Germany to stop Nord Stream 2 in order to block Russia in Ukraine.  It is whipping up war fever over Ukraine in order to block Nord Stream 2.

Here’s how he put it:

What worries American diplomats is that Germany, other NATO nations and countries along the Belt and Road route understand the gains that can be made by opening up peaceful trade and investment.

If there is no Russian or Chinese plan to invade or bomb them, what is the need for NATO?  And if there is no inherently adversarial relationship, why do foreign countries need to sacrifice their own trade and financial interests by relying exclusively on U.S. exporters and investors?

These are the concerns that have prompted French Prime Minister Macron to call forth the ghost of Charles de Gaulle and urge Europe to turn away from what he calls NATO’s “brain-dead” Cold War and beak with the pro-U.S. trade arrangements that are imposing rising costs on Europe while denying it potential gains from trade with Eurasia.

Even Germany is balking at demands that it freeze by this coming March by going without Russian gas.

Instead of a real military threat from Russia and China, the problem for American strategists is the absence of such a threat.

All countries have come to realize that the world has reached a point at which no industrial economy has the manpower and political ability to mobilize a standing army of the size that would be needed to invade or even wage a major battle with a significant adversary.

That political cost makes it uneconomic for Russia to retaliate against NATO adventurism prodding at its western border trying to incite a military response. It’s just not worth taking over Ukraine.

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Human rights and the impending crisis

January 28, 2022

Vladimir Putin in Western eyes.

The USA in Russian eyes

The U.S. government depicts its current clashes with Russia and China as a struggle of freedom vs. despotism.  

This is a half-truth.  

Russia and China do not accept historic Western ideals of human rights and limited government.  

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin lives in a billion-dollar palace built with embezzled funds.  The man who revealed this was poisoned and then imprisoned.

In China, President Xi Jinping is introducing a new “social credit” system that is intended to monitor the actions of every Chinese and reward or punish them for what they do.  It is a model for authoritarian governments all over the world.

But the USA cannot claim to be a defender of human rights.  It prosecutes Julian Assange and other truth-tellers for revealing war crimes, occupies Iraq against the expressed will of its government, uses economic sanctions to starve opposing nations into submission, etc. 

Instead the U.S. government has adopted a new concept of human rights based on racial and sexual identity and the sexual revolution.

I of course believe that everyone is entitled to equal justice under law, and no-one should be persecuted or prosecuted for being what they are, so long as they don’t harm third parties and so long as they recognize my right to be what I am.

But reasonable people can differ questions of kindergarten sex education, eligibility for men’s and women’s sports teams, male and female bathrooms, etc.  These are not human rights issues.

Leaders of many nations, not just Russia and China, reject U.S. cultural influence, and with reason.  They think U.S. influence means more pornography, consumerism (the idea that increase of material possessions means happiness) and an undermining of the traditional family.

Again, reasonable people can differ about these things.  But it behooves us Americans to have some sensitivity to other cultures, and accept the fact that we’re not in charge of the world.

The best way for us Americans to champion human rights is to set a good example.

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