Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Zelensky favors preemptive strikes on Russia

October 7, 2022

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky believes that “NATO should make it impossible for Russia to use nuclear weapons.”

“Preemptive strikes are needed so that they know what awaits them if they use nuclear weapons.  Not the other way around, waiting for Russia’s nuclear strikes and then saying, ‘oh, you’ve done that, then get this’,” he said on Thursday, speaking via video link at Australia’s think tank, the Lowy Institute.

NATO, Zelensky said, “should reconsider how it uses its pressure.”

Source: InterFax Ukraine.

You might say Zelensky is willing to fight to the last American.

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These may be the last days of NATO

August 9, 2022

We still cannot break the advantage of the Russian army in artillery and in manpower, and this is very felt in the battles, especially in the Donbass – Peski, Avdiivka, and other directions. It’s just hell. It can’t even be described in words.   ==Volodymyr Zelensky.

∞∞∞

Back in December, Russia issued an ultimatum to the United States and NATO that consisted of the following demands:

  • No more NATO expansion towards Russia’s borders. Retraction of the 2008 NATO invitation to Ukraine and Georgia.
  • Legally binding guarantee that no strike systems which could target Moscow will be deployed in countries next to Russia.
  • No NATO or equivalent (UK, U.S., Pl.) ‘exercises’ near Russian borders.
  • NATO ships, planes to keep certain distances from Russian borders.
  • Regular military-to-military talks.
  • No intermediate-range nukes in Europe

At the time these were understood to be fighting words.  John Helmer has helpfully provided maps of NATO installations that are covered by the ultimatum.

NATO bases in Poland

NATO base near Kaliningrad

NATO installation in Rumania

The U.S. government can’t say it wasn’t warned.  Vladimir Putin had been complaining about the eastward expansion of NATO for decades, and his complaints were ignored.  

The result is that the Russian government is no longer interested in negotiating with the USA.   Putin is done complaining.  He has decided to impose his demands by force.

So far he is succeeding.  Ukraine is in retreat.  Its U.S.-trained and U.S.-equipped army is faring no better than U.S.-trained and U.S.-equipped armies in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and South Vietnam.

The Russian strategy is based on use of artillery.  Ukrainian forces, brave as they might be, are being annihilated by  constant bombardments.

The Russian army reportedly has fired more artillery shells than U.S. forces fired during the whole invasion and occupation of Iraq.  But Russians claim to be manufacturing them faster than they are being used up.

Russia is only using a fraction of its military manpower.  A rule of thumb is that an invading force suffers heavier casualties than a defending force, and needs a three to one advantage.  But the Russian force is only one-third the size of the Ukrainian force.  

The Russians are fighting and winning with, figuratively speaking, one hand tied behind their back.

This means Russia has forces in reserve to enforce the other parts of its ultimatum.  It also has the power to escalate if the U.S. steps up its support for Ukraine.

In the early stages of the conflict, President Biden expressed the hope that Russia’s might could be destroyed by sanctions.  But the sanctions war has backfired.  European nations now realize they need Russia’s oil and gas to get through the winter.  Even we in the USA see rising prices and empty store shelves (not all due to sanctions, to be sure).

We Americans face the possibility of a great national humiliation in Ukraine.  The longer the war goes on, the greater the humiliation will likely be.  The more the conflict expands, the greater the humiliation will be.

There is no honorable way out.  It is dishonorable to encourage Ukrainians, Poles and other allies to fight and then refuse to fight by their sides.  Abandonment is shameful.  Using allies as cannon fodder is shameful.  Directly fighting Russians in a ground war, aside from the danger of nuclear war, is something we Americans are not prepared to do.

Ukraine could have had peace up to the end of last year by agreeing to withdraw from NATO, accept Russian control of Crimea and recognize the autonomy of Luhansk and Donetsk.  Now the only agreement on offer is terms of surrender.

What comes after a Ukraine defeat?  Poland and Rumania may accept the ultimatum, or they may resist.  If they resist, there is no reason to think that the United States can do for them what it could not do for Ukraine.

Either way NATO will be shattered.  It may continue to exist, but its guarantees will have been shown to be meaningless.  

The whole point of joining NATO was to gain U.S. protection and deter invasion from Russia.  If NATO bases instead bring on an invasion, and the United States is helpless to protect you, what is the point?

I fear how my fellow Americans will react.  We’ve retreated before – from Vietnam and Afghanistan – but that was on a timetable of U.S. choosing after Americans had tired of carrying on these wars.  That’s different from being defeated on the battlefield.  In history, such defeats have been preludes to revolutions and coups.  I fear our morale and our political system are too weak to absorb  such a defeat.

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Why isn’t Ukraine an economic powerhouse?

June 15, 2022

I’ve always known that Ukraine was rich in economic resources.  And I’ve always known that’s why American and other foreign corporations have wanted to get their hands on Ukraine’s resources.  But I never realized how rich until I read the statistics in this post.

UKRAINE IS:

🌐 1st in Europe in proven recoverable uranium ore reserves;
2nd place in Europe and 10th place in the world in titanium ore reserves;
2nd place in the world in terms of explored reserves of manganese ores (2.3 billion tons, or 12% of world reserves);
The 2nd largest iron ore reserves in the world (30 billion tons);
2nd place in Europe in mercury ore reserves;
🌐 3rd place in Europe (13th place in the world) in terms of shale gas reserves (22 trillion cubic meters)
🌐 4th place in the world in terms of the total value of natural resources;
7th place in the world in coal reserves (33.9 billion tons)

Ukraine is an important agricultural country:
🌐 1st in Europe in terms of arable land area;
🌐 3rd place in the world by the area of chernozem [a kind of fertile black soil] (25% of the world volume);
🌐 1st place in the world in the export of sunflower and sunflower oil;
2nd place in the world in barley production and 4th place in barley export;
🌐 3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of corn in the world;
🌐 The 4th largest potato producer in the world;
The 5th largest rye producer in the world;
5th place in the world for honey production (75,000 tons);
8th place in the world in wheat exports;
9th place in the world in the production of chicken eggs;
🌐 16th place in the world in cheese exports.

Ukraine can meet the food needs of 600 million people.

Ukraine was an important industrially developed country:
🌐 1st in Europe in ammonia production;
The 2nd and 4th largest natural gas pipeline systems in the world;
🌐 3rd largest in Europe and 8th in the world in terms of installed capacity of nuclear power plants;
3rd place in Europe and 11th in the world in terms of the length of the railway network (21,700 km);
🌐 3rd place in the world (after the USA and France) in the production of locators and navigation equipment;
🌐 3rd largest iron exporter in the world;
🌐 The 4th largest exporter of turbines for nuclear power plants in the world;
🌐 The world’s 4th largest manufacturer of rocket launchers;
🌐 4th place in the world in clay exports;
🌐 4th place in the world in titanium exports;
8th place in the world in the export of ores and concentrates;
9th place in the world in the export of defense industry products;
🌐 The 10th largest steel producer in the world (32.4 million tons).

So why are Ukrainians so poor?:

Ukraine is one of the worst off countries after the collapse of the USSR.  It is the poorest country in Europe despite having a huge aerospace industry, natural resources and some of the most fertile land for agriculture.  During the communist era, Ukraine was the breadbasket of the Soviet Union.  Despite all this, Ukrainians have experienced terrible famines such as the Stalinist Holodomor.

Today, the situation is not much better. Apart from enduring a war with Russia, its political system is particularly corrupt. Almost the entire economy is in the hands of big oligarchs: millionaires who amass fortunes thanks to their connections with political power.

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Life and death in Ukraine under Nazi rule

April 26, 2022

HARVEST OF DESPAIR: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff (2004)

Ukraine was the scene of two of the most murderous episodes of 20th century history.

The first was the Holodomor, which was the systematic starvation of Ukrainian and other peasants by Joseph Stalin in 1929-1933 as part of the drive to collectivize agriculture, combined with the suppression of Ukrainian culture.  Nobody knows for sure how many people died as a result, but the consensus is that they numbered more than 3 million.  Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow documents this event in its full horror.

The second was the Nazi occupation of Ukraine in 1941-1944.  The Nazis’ immediate objective in Ukraine was to use it as a breadbasket to feed the German army and people.  Its long-range objective was to depopulate Ukraine, by means of starvation and killing, so as to open it up for German pioneer settlers, with only a remnant of the Ukrainian people left to serve as slaves of the occupiers.

That story is told in Karel C. Berkhoff’s Harvest of Despair,  a history of Reichskommissariat Ukraine, the short-lived colony the Nazis set up on Ukrainian soil.

Berkhoff’s best estimate is that one million civilians and prisoners of war were deliberately killed or starved to death by the Nazi occupiers of Ukraine.

The dead mainly included (1) Jews and Roma (gypsies), (2) prisoners of war, (3) urban populations the Nazis deemed useless and (4) people killed during the German retreat in 1944 as part of a scorched earth policy.

Of course these killings are a small part of what would have happened if Nazi rule had become permanent.

I had a notion that this book would provide an explanation of present-day Ukrainians’ admiration for the Nazi-like Stepan Bandera.  My idea was that Ukrainians’ hatred for Russians arose during the Holodomor and was the reason for their admiration for Bandera, a nationalist who thought he could use the Nazis to create an independent Ukrainian state.

Berkhoff’s book provides no support whatsoever for my notion.  He said the basic attitudes of Ukrainians, despite their great suffering, were unchanged during the period he wrote about.

Ukrainians were so demoralized by Soviet rule that most of them were incapable of organized resistance.  Stalin’s rule had created a culture of mistrust and denunciation.  Anybody could denounce anybody else for what they allegedly said or did.   You could not trust anyone outside your immediate family or your closest friends.  This universal suspicion continued under Nazi rule.

Ukrainians during this period did not hate Russians, but regarded them as fellow victims of Soviets and Nazis, Berkhoff wrote.  When they spoke of “our people,” they meant both Ukrainians and Russians.

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The beautiful architecture of Ukraine

March 19, 2022

There’s more to Ukrainian tradition than the Holodomor, Stepan Bandera and its tragic, bloody history.  Here are some pictures taken in Ukraine before the Russian invasion that helped me appreciate that country’s architectural traditions.  A culture that can create such beauty is worth preserving and defending.

Independence Square in Kiev. Source.

A view of Kiev. Source.

Church of St. Nicholas on the Water, Kiev.  Source.

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Examples of sanity in a mad world

March 18, 2022

Sister Cities of Rochester responds to war in Ukraine by Peter Lovenheim for the Rochester (N.Y.) Beacon.

Russia and Wrath by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

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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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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Is this 1914 all over again?

February 28, 2022

[Updated 2022/3/1]

As I look around, I’m surprised at how everyone in the West seems almost to welcome war with Russia.  And I assume the feeling is much the same in Russia, although, unlike in the West, there have been peace protests, which have ruthlessly been put down.

Those of us distant from the battlefield don’t expect to fight ourselves.  But economic war, covert war and propaganda war are real forms of war, and we will pay a price for submitting to them.  It means we will be expected to accept austerity, authoritarianism and lies.

What surprises me is how eager some of our European allies have been to jump into the fray.  Don’t they realize the economic war will hurt them much more than it does Russia or us Americans?

It reminds me of what I read about the outbreak of the First World War.  Almost everyone thought it would end quickly.  Many thought it would be a glorious adventure.

In the years prior to World War One, just as at present, it had been a long time since there was a major war in Europe.   I think there are many leading frustrating lives who think war is a force that gives life meaning.

Both wars began with a large country (Austria, Russia) attacking a troublesome small neighboring country (Serbia, Ukraine) with a powerful sponsor (Russia, USA) in order to settle a problem for once and for all.  

They also began with the leaders of one country (Germany, Russia) feeling that they were being encircled, and had to fight to break out, and the leaders of the most powerful country (UK, USA) feeling their power was being threatened.

If the leaders had known what they were in for, they’d have found a way to compromise.  But once war began, compromise became impossible.  Too much had been sacrificed to settle for anything less than victory.

I don’t want to push the comparison too far.  To reverse something Mark Twain may have said, history rhymes, but it doesn’t repeat.

If we in the USA and UK are lucky, the actual fighting will be confined to what historian Timothy Snyder called the Bloodlands—Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Russia and the other killing fields of the 1930s and 1940s.  

But our economy, our government and our fundamental rights will be subordinated to the priority of winning the war.  And not just us Americans.   All the countries who are drawn into this war will be losers, including the nominal winners.

Our leaders in the USA will have an excuse to ignore the need to rebuild our manufacturing industry, to fix our dysfunctional government, to deal with the coming climate catastrophes, and we’ll take it.  National bankruptcy will be one of the bad possibilities.  Civilization-ending nuclear war is the worst.

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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.

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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Russia has a strategy, the USA doesn’t seem to

January 27, 2022

Richard Hanania, an international relations scholar, said the difference between the Russia and the USA over Ukraine is that Russia has an objective and a plan, and the USA has neither.

Instead, he wrote, U.S. policy is the result of conflicting political forces—the interests of foreign governments, the national security bureaucracy and weapons manufacturers, and also U.S. culture wars, including the conflict over gay rights.

Russia is not one of the 71 countries that outlaw gays, Hanania said.  But, in 2012, the Russian government sentenced two members of Pussy Riot, a lesbian performance art collective, to three years in prison for sacrilegious acts during Sunday religious services in a Moscow cathedral.  And, in 2013, Russia passed a law outlawing gay advocacy to minors.

This was the start of Vladimir Putin being defined as an enemy of Western freedom and democracy, Hanania said.  Of course Putin never was a champion of freedom and democracy, but he was no different in 2014 from what he was in 2012, when President Obama’s re-election campaign ridiculed Mitt Romney for trying to restart the Cold War.

Hanania said Russia and also Hungary provoke the ire of the American liberal elite because they claim to be defenders of Christian civilization against secular liberalism.   Unlike persecution of gays in, say, Saudi Arabia, this plays into the U.S. culture war at home.  

That’s only one factor, but I think it is a real one.

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Putin’s ultimatum and the U.S. response

January 14, 2022

President Vladimir Putin has threatened “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures” if the USA does offer written guarantees of no military activities in Eastern Europe, no NATO membership for any post-Soviet country and no new military bases on the territory of former Soviet states.

This is what President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker promised President Mikhail Gorbachev in return for allowing reunification of Germany and withdrawing Soviet troops from Eastern Europe.

Subsequent U.S. presidents said this was just an informal verbal agreement and not binding. Russia had to submit because it was weak. Since then Russia has become powerful and is in a position to demand that the former promise can be kept. And this time put it in writing!

For Russia, this is a matter of national security.  For the USA, it is not.  For us Americans, it is a question of avoiding humiliation, not a question of survival.

Russia does not now threaten the U.S. homeland. But this could change.

Russia has not ruled out putting troops and missiles into Cuba and Venezuela, nor deploying submarines with its new hypersonic nuclear weapons into North American coastal waters.  What is much more likely is that Russian subs would be allowed to refuel in Cuba or Venezuela.

There is no reason to think Russia plans to invade and occupy Ukraine or any other country.  That would be foolish.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken does not claim Russia threatens the U.S. homeland.  He says Russia is a threat to the new “rules-based international order.”

Russia, along with China and Iran, do threaten this U.S.-dominated international order.  But ordinary Americans have no stake in it.  This new international order does not benefit American working people. It does benefit the managers and stockholders of those countries.

The real Hunter Biden scandal

October 24, 2020

The least curious people in the country right now appear to be the credentialed news media, a situation normally unique to tinpot authoritarian societies.

With the Hunter Biden Expose, Suppression Is a Bigger Scandal Than the Actual Story on Reporting by Matt Taibbi.

What the impeachment report really said

February 3, 2020

U.S. Senate holds impeachment trial

Michael Tracey of Real Clear Politics is probably one of the few people who read the House Judiciary Committee’s 658-page impeachment report.

The basis of the report is not just that President Trump abused the power of his office to harm his political rival, Joe Biden.  It is that his pause of military aid to Ukraine was actually a “betrayal of the nation” because it helped Russia.

The rhetoric reminds me of Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s and his “twenty years of treason.”  McCarthy said U.S. foreign policy toward the Soviet Union was not only wrong, but a conscious betrayal by Communist sympathizers, up to and included General George C. Marshall.

The impeachment report contains the same rhetoric.  According to Tracey, the report uses the phrase “impeachable treason” and states, “At the very heart of ‘Treason’ is deliberate betrayal of the nation and its security.”

“Such betrayal would not only be unforgivable,” the report’s explication of treason reads, “but would also confirm that the President remains a threat if allowed to remain in office. A President who has knowingly betrayed national security is a President who will do so again. He endangers our lives and those of our allies.”

This language is then imported into the impeachment articles almost verbatim: “Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

The report mostly uses the word “betrayal” rather than “treason” because treason has a specific Constitutional definition.  Treason consists of fighting for an enemy in time of war or giving “aid and comfort” to the enemy in time of war.  Conviction of treason requires confession by the accused or testimony of two independent witnesses of the treasonous act.

Although the Constitution gives the President the authority to determine foreign policy, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate on treaties and major appointments, the report does not recognize that authority.

 It accuses Trump of going against the official “national security policy” of the United States, which supposedly is determined by the national security bureaucracy and not by the President.

This is consistent, it says, with Trump requesting help from Russians in the 2016 election.  So the Russiagate accusations are folded into the new accusations.

Democrats who voted for these impeachment articles voted not simply to punish Trump for soliciting an investigation of Biden.  Rather, they also voted to impeach him for committing treason at the behest of Russia.

And in turn, they ratified a number of extremely fraught New Cold War assumptions that have now been embedded into the fabric of U.S. governance, regardless of what the Senate concludes.

It’s crucial to emphasize that this is the first impeachment in American history where foreign policy has played a central role.

As such, we now have codified by way of these impeachment articles a host of impossibly dangerous precedents, namely:

1) The U.S. is in a state of war with Russia, a nuclear armed power;

2) the sitting president committed treason on behalf of this country with which the U.S. is in a state of war;

3) the president lacks a democratic mandate to conduct foreign policy over the objections of unelected national security state bureaucrats.

So the articles of impeachment are not just an indictment of President Trump.  They are an attempt to define objection to U.S. war policy as treasonous and not subject to debate.

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Why risk war with Russia over Ukraine?

November 15, 2019

The impeachment hearings are about allegations of President Donald Trump’s interference with the criminal justice system in Ukraine..

How and why did the United States become so deeply involved in Ukraine in the first place?  The video above of an interview of Prof. Stephen F. Cohen, a historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, gives a good background of this.

The conflict in Ukraine stems from a U.S. effort to draw Ukraine into an anti-Russian alliance, and from a military coup in 2014 that brought an anti-Russian government to power in Ukraine.

The Russia of Vladimir Putin is not a country I would want to live in.  There are too many unsolved murders of investigative journalists and opposition leaders, too much wealth in the hands of corrupt oligarchs, too much power in the hands of secret intelligence agencies.

But Putin is not paranoid to see a threat to Russia in an American-dominated Ukraine.  Look at a map of the greatest advance of the Nazi armies during World War Two, and then look at a map of a NATO including Ukraine and Georgia and you’ll see why.

President Zelensky of Ukraine is a political unknown who was elected by an overwhelming majority on a promise to seek peace with Russia.  He is hemmed in by his dependence on U.S. aid, and by the anti-Russian faction, including neo-Nazis, in the Ukrainian government.

President Trump wants to be a peacemaker and he also wants to dominate.  But he lacks the knowledge, skill or constancy of purpose to pursue either peace or power effectively.

His foreign policy is incoherent.  He is like a drunkard staggering along a sidewalk, sometimes to in the direction of peace, sometimes in the direction of war.

But when he staggers in the direction of peace, he bumps up against a wall—the war hawks in the Pentagon and CIA and in Congress.  So the likelihood is that he will wind up in the gutter and blunder into war.

The USA and Russia are the main nuclear powers.  Each has the power to totally destroy the other.  I don’t think that President Trump or President Putin desire to go to war, but the present confrontation along Russia’s borderlands creates a danger that it could happen anyway.

LINKS

Ukraine for Dummies by Ray McGovern for Consortium News.  A timeline of recent Ukrainian history.

Why Are We in Ukraine? by Stephen F. Cohen for The Nation.

We’re More at Risk of Nuclear War With Russia Than We Think by George Beebe for POLITICO.

There is a corruption case against Hunter Biden

September 27, 2019

Joe and Hunter Biden

Ukrainian prosecutors have good reason to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.  And they reportedly have been investigating him since well before President Trump made his controversial telephone call to President Zelensky of Ukraine.

It’s not just that Hunter Biden served on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company, even though he has no special knowledge of the Ukraine or the energy industry, at a time when his father was President Obama’s “point man” for Ukraine policy.

Ukrainian prosecutors told journalist John Solomon that Burma Holdings apparently made unexplained transfers of money to a U.S. company partly owned by Hunter Biden, in possible violation of Ukrainian law.

Hunter Biden hasn’t been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.  But there are objective reasons, not just partisan political reasons, to look further at his record.

Back in January, 2018, Joe Biden boasted to the Council of Foreign Relations about how he pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Special Prosecutor Viktor Shokin by threatening to withhold $1 billion in needed loan guarantees.

Solomon took the trouble to get Shokin’s side of the story and wrote an article about it for The Hill, an on-line news service.

He was told that Ukrainian prosecutors re-opened the investigation following Biden’s speech.  That’s significant, because he wrote his article in April, and President Trump’s controversial phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymer Zelensky about the case was on July 21.

Solomon reported:

The prosecutor … [Biden] got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member.

U.S. banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main U.S. official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia.

The general prosecutor’s official file for the Burisma probe — shared with me by senior Ukrainian officials — shows prosecutors identified Hunter Biden, business partner Devon Archer and their firm, Rosemont Seneca, as potential recipients of money.

Shokin told me in written answers to questions that, before he was fired as general prosecutor, he had made “specific plans” for the investigation that “included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.”

After Shokin was fired, the investigation was wound up without any charges filed against Burisma Holdings or Hunter Biden.

Yury Lutsenko, the current special prosecutor, said that, after Biden’s speech, he re-opened the case.  He told Solomon he found out things he’d be happy to share with Attorney General William Bar.  He didn’t say what these things were.   That, of course is not evidence of anything.  But there is other evidence against Hunter Biden.

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Trump, Biden and Ukraine

September 25, 2019

I wrote a week ago that impeachment of President Donald Trump is a mirage, and now Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has called for an impeachment investigation of the President.  Such are the perils of commenting on breaking news.

The circumstantial  information already available to the public indicates that President Trump has abused the powers of his office.

President Trump

He acknowledged holding back $250 million in military aid that Congress had appropriated for Ukraine.

He acknowledged talking to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine about reopening an investigation of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that paid Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, $50,000 a month to serve on its board of directors.  The younger Biden resigned from the board earlier this year.

The House Judiciary Committee wants the transcript of Trump’s conversation with Zelensky, but even if nothing was said that connects the aid package to the investigation, the implication is clear.

The House has a duty to investigate.  I don’t think it is a good idea to call it an impeachment investigation just yet because calling it that means the investigation will be considered a failure if it does not result in impeachment recommendations.

Impeachment by the House may or may not be justified.  Conviction by the Senate would be next to impossible because it would require unanimity among the 47 Democratic Senators plus support by at least 20 Republicans.

Joe and Hunter Biden

What Republicans will point out is that Vice President Joe Biden threatened to hold up $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine unless the government fired Viktor Shotkin, the prosecutor that was investigating Burisma.

Biden claims that Shotkin was corrupt, and his threat had nothing to do with his son.

I know of no evidence that either Joe Biden or his ne’er-do-well son, Hunter, broke the law.  But it’s obvious that Hunter would not have gotten his position if his father had not been Vice President.

It was a conflict of interest for Biden to be President Obama’s point man for Ukraine after his son took the job.

Biden may suffer more political damage than Trump.  The Trump Organization’s worldwide operations involve more extensive potential conflicts of interest.  But Biden has a reputation to lose and Trump doesn’t.

The greatest reputational damage of all in the whole affair is to the reputation of the United States of America as a whole.  It shows that American political leaders do not respect the sovereignty of allies.  It shows they use American power to advance their personal family and political interests.

So far as political strategy goes, I think that so long as public attention is focused on personalities, Trump benefits, and that Democrats can win only if they focus on policy and governance.  Trump may win if the 2020 election hinges on impeachment, and impeachment fails.

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