Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Russia turning down the gas on Europe

January 15, 2015


Russia cut natural gas shipments to Europe by 60 percent, and announced plans to eventually cut off shipments through Ukraine altogether.

The Urkainian route will be replaced with a new pipeline through Turkey, which will take a couple of years to build.  The European Union will need to build its own infrastructure to take the gas from the Greek border to the rest of Europe.

If the Europeans don’t get their new pipelines built in time, Russia will send its gas elsewhere, the head of Gazprom said.  Russia is working on gas deals not only with China, but with India.

Vladimir Putin is not a helpless victim of economic sanctions and falling oil prices.  He is willing and able to use Russia’s economic power to damage Ukraine and the European nations.

Nobody benefits from this cycle of tit-for-tat retaliation.  It’s an economic form of mutually assured destruction.

Russia Fires Ukraine as Natural Gas Transit for Europe by Michael Collins for Op-Ed News [added 1/16/2015]


The passing scene: January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

The SAT is Corrupt.  No One Wants to Know by educationrealist.

Anybody with sufficient money or sufficient computer skills can obtain answers to the questions on Scholastic Aptitude Tests.  Yet the results of these tests can determine a person’s whole future.

4 Things to Know Before Your Water Is Privatized by Rachel Dovey for Next City.

Some 50 million Americans get their tap water from private companies.  This is supposed to be a cure for poor maintenance by public systems, which is a serious problem, but the cure is not necessarily better than the disease.

NYPD’s de Blasio Protest: Why the Police Turned Their Backs on the City by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic.

Police work over the years has grown progressively safer.  Why do the American public and American police need to believe that police work under constant threat?


The passing scene: January 6, 2015

January 6, 2015

2015: Grounds for Optimism by Dmitry Orlov for ClubOrlov.

Dimtry Orlov is hopeful that the world, including the USA and the rest of the English-speaking world, is starting to reject Washington’s propaganda version of reality.

Beijing chums up to Washington by Francesco Sisci for Asia Times.

Wang Yang, vice president of China, made a speech saying that the United States is the guide of the world and China is willing to join its system.  I don’t know what to make of this or how seriously to take it. [1]

Social protest rising in Ukraine as gov’t approves harsh austerity budget by Roger Annis for The New Cold War: Ukraine and Beyond [Hat tip to Bill Harvey].

Ukraine is being forced to raise taxes, cut services, raise prices and, most important, sell off its national assets at bargain prices in order to pay its debts.  Acquisition of those assets is what the struggle over Ukraine is all about.

Chain restaurants are killing us: Billionaire bankers, minimum wage toilers and the nasty truth about fast-food nation by Thomas Frank for Salon.

Thomas Frank wrote about how the fast-food industry is automating the process of processing and serving food, how the franchise system holds down wages, and how fast-food franchises are another plaything of Wall Street speculators.

Methane plume over western US illustrates climate cost of gas leaks by Joby Warrick for the Washington Post [via The Guardian]

Police union pushes for cop killings to be included in hate crimes law by Liz Goodwin for Yahoo News, with a comment on Psychopolitik.

Michael Brown case grand juror sues St. Louis County prosecutor, asking to speak out on case by Joel Currier and Michael Patrick for the St. Louis Post Dispatch.


There are no good guys in the Ukraine conflict

January 2, 2015

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me links to a couple of articles with good information about U.S. policy in Ukraine and the folly of the U.S. covert war, economic war and military confrontation against Russia.  But, by omission, they imply an overly favorable impression of Vladimir Putin and Putin’s Russia.

The Russian Federation is dominated by a corrupt financial oligarchy, as was Ukraine before last year’s overthrow.   The original Maidan protests were a thoroughly justified movement representing a broad base of Ukrainian society and including ethnic Tatars, Jews and other minorities as well as ethnic Ukrainians and Russians.

The government in Moscow is as chauvinistic as the government in Kiev and neither has the best interests of the Ukrainian people at heart.

Pro-Russian bloggers such as Dmitry Orlov inadvertently illustrate Russian chauvinism when they say on the one hand that Ukrainians are no different from Russians, and, at the same time, dismiss Ukrainians as an inferior people with no culture worthy of respect.  Ukrainians have good reason to want to be free of Russian domination.

I oppose President Obama’s risky confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, and hope for compromise peace—but I don’t see President Putin as a liberator.  Quite the contrary.


Obama Says He Is Improving the World by Eric Zuesse for RINF Alternative News.  (Bill Harvey)

U.S. National Public Radio Propagandizes Against Putin, for Regime Change in Russia by Eric Zuesse for RINF Alternative News.  (Bill Harvey)

An American named Ukraine’s finance minister

December 9, 2014
Natalie Jaresko

Natalie Jaresko

Natalie Jaresko, an American citizen of Ukrainian heritage, was appointed Ukraine’s minister of finance last week, a news development I’d probably have missed except for Joseph Cannon’s Cannonfire web log.

She worked in the U.S. State Department in the 1990s on Ukrainian and economic policy.  In 2001, she started an investment fund, Horizon Capital, which invested in Ukraine with funds lent by the U.S. government.

Last week she renounced her American citizenship to join the Ukrainian government.

The Ukrainian government said the reason they appointed a foreigner is because she would be better able to clean up corruption.

Maybe so.  I’m curious to know more about what she’s been doing in Ukraine, and specifically whether her activities were part of the $5 billion that Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state, said that the U.S. government spent since 1991 trying to influence Ukraine politics.


An American Abroad by Joseph Cannon on Cannonfire.

Meet and Greet Natalia Jaresko, U.S. Government Employee, Ukraine Finance Minister by independent reporter John Helmer.

Ukraine’s Made-in-USA Finance Minister by Robert Parry for Consortium News.

Ukraine, allies refuse to condemn Nazi symbols

December 4, 2014
The Azov battalion, a Ukrainian militia fighting separatists

The Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian militia operating against separatists

Photo via Libertarian Nation

Last Nov. 22, the United Nations General Assembly voted, 115 to 3, with 55 abstentions, to condemn the glorification of Naziism and the display of Nazi and neo-Nazi symbols.

The three opponents were the United States, Canada and Ukraine, and the members of the European Union all abstained.

The resolution was introduced by the Russian Federation, with the obvious intent of embarrassing Ukraine and its allies, but there is nothing in it that refers specifically to Ukraine or any of its political parties or militias.

Hitler’s intentions in Ukraine were to starve and massacre large number of the population, and enslave the rest, in order to provide “living room” for the population.

imagesIt is incredible to me, given this history, that there could be Ukrainians sympathetic to Hitler’s ideals, but this is the case.  Evidently they are blinded by hatred of Russians, Poles and Jews, and by their historic memory of Stalin’s crimes, as if it were necessary to choose between Hitler and Stalin.

Supporters of Ukraine point out that many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation itself, have a neo-Nazi lunatic fringe, and supporters of Ukraine say that the Ukrainian neo-Nazi movement is no different.

But if they are merely a fringe, making public statements to condemn them should not be a problem.  It would be as if an American politician were not willing to condemn the Ku Klux Klan.  It would show that the Klan, like the neo-Nazis in Ukraine, were too powerful a force to risk offending.

It is true that the ultra-nationalist Svoboda and Right Sector parties did poorly in the last election, but they nevertheless seem powerful in government and on the street.

Right-wing Ukrainian nationalists, when interviewed, say they have nothing against other nationalities, but that Ukraine should be for Ukrainians alone.  The implication is that non-Ukrainians should be driven out, or worse.

I find it humiliating, as an American, that somebody like Vladimir Putin, who is an authoritarian nationalist himself, should occupy the moral high ground compared to my own country.  But in this case, he does.


How scared should we be of Vladimir Putin?

December 2, 2014

Vladimir Putin is the authoritarian leader of a nation dominated by a corrupt oligarchy.  He is influenced by an ideology opposed to the ideals of freedom and democracy.  He appeals to Russian nationalism in a successful attempt to distract attention from his country’s unsolved problems.  I do not like Putin or what he stands for.

Putin_Valdaiclub.jpegAt the same time I think it is a big mistake for the United States to wage a proxy war with the Russian Federation in Ukraine or, worse, to risk nuclear war.

I have a good friend who has lived in Russia, understands and speaks Russian and watches Russian-language television.  She thinks Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a threat to the nations formerly under Soviet domination, to Europe as a whole and ultimately to the United States.  She tells me I am naive and misguided.

I don’t agree, but neither can I simply dismiss her arguments.  In this post I’ll put what I think are the strongest arguments for an anti-Putin foreign policy in bold face and my answers in italic.

Vladimir Putin justified Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of anti-Ukrainian rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk on the grounds that he is coming to the aid of fellow Russians.  This was the justification given by Hitler for occupying the Rhineland in 1936 and annexing the Sudetenland, the German-speaking border area of Czechoslovakia, in 1938. 

This is just the start of Putin’s territorial demands, just as it was for Hitler.  The time to stop him is now, rather than later.

Adolf Hitler laid out his plans in Mein Kampf.  He stated that he intended to wage war against France to reverse the outcome of the 1914-1918 war, then to conquer Poland, Russia and other Slavic lands to create living space for the German people.  There’s no such master plan in the writings or public statements of Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir-Putin_4Putin’s actions regarding Ukraine can be understood as a response to an anti-Russian government coming to power, and the potential threat this represents to Russian security.  The United States during the past 10 years invaded Iraq and threatens an attack on Iran based on the possibility them acquiring weapons of mass destruction and becoming a potential threat. 

From the Russian point of view, an American alliance with Ukraine would be much more of a potential threat than that.  The USA already has weapons of mass destruction, and, if Ukraine were to join NATO, they would be within striking distance of Moscow and other Russian cities. 

When Nikita Khrushchev attempted to introduce Soviet nuclear weapons into Cuba, the United States risked war to prevent this threat from becoming real.  If I were Putin, I would regard the possibility of U.S. nuclear submarines or aircraft carriers off Crimea in the same way.

Ukraine is a sovereign nation, and has the right to make what alliances it chooses.  History gives the Ukrainians good reason to fear the Russians. 

The same is true of the Poles, the people of the Baltic states and all the other former subjects of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union.  They all fear Russian aggression, and with good reason.


The passing scene: Links & comments 11/18/14

November 18, 2014

Why US fracking companies are licking their lips over Ukraine by Naomi Klein for The Guardian (hat tip to Bill Harvey)

American oil and gas companies are using the Ukraine crisis to press for an increase on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and construction of LNG (liquified natural gas) terminals at U.S. seaports.

Supposedly this will enable the United States to export gas to Europe as a substitute for Russian gas cut off by sanctions.  The problem with this, as Naomi Klein pointed out, is that the Ukraine crisis probably will be long over by the time the LNG terminals are constructed.

This is an example of what Klein calls the “shock doctrine”—use of crises by special interests to manipulate people into agreeing to do things they don’t want to do.

The siege of Julian Assange is a farce by Australian journalist John Pilger.

Julian Assange has been living in a room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for two years to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer questioning in a sexual misconduct case because he fears re-extradition to the United States for prosecution on his Wikileaks disclosures.

Pilger showed the case against Assange is bogus and his fears are well-founded.  Assange’s alleged victims haven’t accused him of any crime nor did the original investigators.  There is ample precedent for Swedish investigators to come to London to question Assange if they wish.  And the U.S. and Swedish governments have discussed his re-extradition.

Afghan Opium Production Hits All-Time High by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

The CIA would rather see Afghanistan dominated by drug lords than by the Taliban.

The foreign scene: November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014

EU unblocks ‘unprecedented levels’ of cash to secure gas for Ukraine on the EurActiv news site.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Ukraine Dips Into Dwindling Reserves to Pay Gazprom by Kenneth Rapoza for Forbes.

The International Monetary Fund will lend Ukraine the money needed to buy gas from Russia’s Gazprom, which will continue to sell gas to Ukraine at a subsidized rate.  This means Ukrainians, but European Union members who depend on Russian gas, will get safely through the winter.

It also means Ukraine will be in hock to the IMF, which will have to impose austerity on the Ukrainian people and sell off national assets, such as agricultural land, to pay back the IMF loan.  It is a win-win deal for everyone except the unfortunate Ukrainian people.

Dr. Adadevoh

Dr. Adadevoh

Doctor Stella Adadevoh Isolated Ebola Case, Stopped Nigaria Outbreak by Jonathan Cohn for The New Republic.

Nigeria is free of new Ebola outbreaks, and has been for more than six weeks.   This is an important accomplishment.  It would not have been the case except for a brave Nigerian physician, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, who acted promptly to isolate an Ebola carrier and lost her own life to infection.

North Korea’s Gulags: a horror “without any parallel in the contemporary world” by Max Fisher for Vox.

The biggest CIA-drug money scandal you never read by Mark Ames for Pando Daily.


Vladimir Putin’s ambitions and Ukraine’s future

October 29, 2014

I don’t know Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine, but I don’t see anything that threatens the United States or is worth risking war over.

_77307916_ukraine_voters_regions_624mapUkraine held elections Sunday which evidently were won by anti-Russian, pro-European parties.  But the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk districts did not take part, and will hold their own elections this coming Sunday.

The government in Kiev objects to the Donetsk-Lugansk vote, but spokesmen for the Russian government say they’ll honor its results.

A smart Ukrainian-American friend of mine said Putin’s policy to Ukraine is the same as Hitler’s policy toward Czechoslovakia.  Hitler’s demand was to annex the Sudetenland border region, where Germans were in the majority.  But Hitler went on to annex the whole of the country and then to attack Poland, launching the Second World War.

In the same way, he said, Putin’s aim is to first annex Donetsk and Lugansk, then take over the whole of Ukraine and then move against Poland and the Baltic states.

worldaccordingtoputinAnother friend, who speaks Russian and watches Russian television, agrees with this assessment.  She said Putin is an extreme Russian nationalist and imperialist.  Russians despise other nationalities, and especially look down on Americans as naive and weak, she said; it is important to stop Russia in Ukraine and nip Putin’s ambitions in the bud.

My impression of Vladimir Putin is that he is a tough and ruthless, but realistic.  He may lie, but he doesn’t deceive himself.  As a Russian nationalist, he no doubt regards himself as the protector of Russians wherever they are, including Russians in Ukraine and northern Kazakhstan.  Putin is trying to organize something called the Eurasian Union, an economic bloc consisting of the republics of the former Soviet Union, as a rival to the European Union.  No doubt, like all Russian statesmen before him, he thinks it essential that Russia have access to the Baltic and Black seas.

I don’t see anything in this that threatens the interests of the United States or the European Union, and certainly not anything worth risking war over.


The passing scene: Links & comments 9/16/14

September 16, 2014

Ukraine Offers Amnesty to Rebels by Mike Shedlock on Mish’s Global Trend Analysis (via Naked Capitalism).

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine made a peace offer to separatist rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk, consisting of amnesty to helps, help in rebuilding, free local elections Nov. 9, limited self-rule for at least three years and the right to use Russian in official documents.

To me, an outsider ignorant of internal Ukrainian politics, this looks like a reasonable offer.   But it is opposed by Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who came to power with the backing of neo-conservatives in the U.S. State Department.

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent by Nick Bilton for The New York Times.  (Via Mike the Mad Biologist)

Most CEOs of Silicon Valley companies set strict limits on how much time their children can spend in front of computer screens or use social media.  Instead they encourage their children to read printed books and engage in face-to-face conversation.   Consumers of their products should follow their example.

Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks by Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore for The New York Times. (Via Avedon’s Sideshow)

Non-profit research organizations such as the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Atlantic Council are supposed to provide expert and objective advice.  But how objective can they be if they take money from foreign governments?

John Crawford Shooting: Open Carry for Whites, Open Season on Blacks by Albert L. Butler for The Root.

Doubts cast on witness’s account of black man killed by police in Walmart by Jon Swaine for The Guardian.

Police in Ohio shot and killed a black man in a Walmart store in Ohio because they thought the toy gun he was holding was real.  But Ohio is an “open carry” state.  If he had been carrying a real gun, it would have been perfectly legal under state law.

The Eurasian scene: Links & comments 9/15/14

September 15, 2014

Russia fears the eastward spread of the ‘jihadist cancer’ by Vitaly Naumkin for Al-Monitor.

The Islamic State (ISIS) has, according to this writer, established a stable government in the area it controls.  ISIS successfuly operates oil wells, sells oil in international black markets, provides jobs and keeps order, at least for those willing to submit to its rules.  Its horrible atrocities frighten poorly-disciplined and poorly-motivated troops of its enemies.

The Russian government is worried about the growing power of ISIS, especially in Syria.  Unlike the United States, Russia supports the Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian regime.  Moscow hopes for success of all-Syria peace talks, but is prepared to support Syria’s government by any means short of sending Russian troops.

Uzbekistan: Rattled by Russian Expansionism, Tashkent Looks East by Joanna Lillis for

Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s tyrannical ruler, worried that the Maidan protests in Ukraine would encourage would-be protesters in his country.  But now he’s more worried about the precedent set by Russian incursions in Ukraine.

Too offset Russia, Karimov is strengthening Ukraine’s ties in China, other east Asian countries and the Persian Gulf states.  This is a blow to Vladimir Putin’s hopes of creating a Eurasian Union, a Russian-dominated economic union of former Soviet nations to offset the European Union.

China’s Island Factory by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes for BBC News.

China is building artificial islands on reefs in the South China Sea in territorial waters that also are claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.  These islands will become offshore Chinese air bases and naval bases.

The world scene: Links & comments 7/8/14

September 8, 2014

Rigged Rules: A Rogue Corporation in the World Bank’s Rogue Tribunal by Robin Broad and John Cavanaugh for Triple Crisis.  (via Naked Capitalism)

The government of El Salvador has denied a license to an Australian-Canadian company, Pacific Rim, to mine for gold because their operations would discharge arsenic and cyanide into streams from which half the population gets its drinking water.

Pacific Rim has sued El Salvador for $300 million under the “investor-state” provisions of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the case will be decided by the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, D.C.

Similar provisions to override national sovereignty are part of the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and 28-nation Tranatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka TAFTA) now being negotiated by the United States.

Losing Credibility: The IMF’s New Cold War Loan to Ukraine by Michael Hudson for Naked Capitalism.

The International Monetary Fund violates its own rules by lending the Ukrainian government more money than it has any reason to think can be paid back, in order to finance the Ukrainian governments war with eastern Ukrainian separatists.

Economist Michael Hudson says the IMF’s real objective is to force Ukraine to sell off its agricultural land and to open itself up to fracking for natural gas.

‘Why Not Kill Them All?’ by Keith Gessen for the London Review of Books.

Keith Gessen, reporting from Donetsk, described the Ukrainian war as a conflict between fascistic Russian-backed separatists and a fascistic Ukrainian government, with sincere democratic reformers and ordinary people left without any options.

Three Reasons Why Putin Laughs At Impotent America by Eamonn Fingleton for Forbes.

Once the United States was the world’s leading manufacturing nation, the world’s leading creditor nation and the world’s leading trading nation.   We Americans have thrown away all these advantages.

Now American companies have off-shored production to foreign countries, which means that the USA is losing our old American know-how.  The USA as a whole, not just our government, is in debt, which means foreigners are buying up national assets.  And we open our market to foreign companies unconditionally, rather than using this as a lever to gain advantage.

The world still must reckon with our huge military forces and our dominance of international financial institutions, but these are the afterglow of our past power.

It’s not President Obama as an individual who is weak.  It is the USA as a whole.

Only Cool Heads Can Defeat ISIS by Patrick J. Buchanan for The American Conservative.

The tide is turning against the bloodthirsty so-called Islamic State, which has suffered defeats by the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga militia.  ISIS is vastly outnumbered by the armies of Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

If ISIS is U.S. Enemy No. One, then it doesn’t make sense to be trying to destroy the enemies of ISIS—Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, the Kurdish PKK fighters in Turkey and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

ISIS would like the U.S. government to unilaterally send troops into another Middle East quagmire war.   President Obama is wise to not play into their hands.

How Obama’s Non-Strategy ISIS Strategy Works by Leon Hadar for The American Conservative.

President Obama is wise to hold back and allow Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries to take the lead in attacking ISIS.  The flaw in Obama’s policy is the idea that the U.S. can wage a proxy war against the Syrian government and the ISIS forces in Syria at the same time.



A hope for peace in Ukraine

September 4, 2014
Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk.  Source: NBC News

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk.    Source: NBC News

I hope the proposed cease-fire in Ukraine takes effect, and I hope President Obama accepts this life-line out of the crisis.

A deal that recognizes the autonomy of Donetsk and Lugansk without breaking up Ukraine would be in the best interests of everyone.   The industrial resources of eastern Ukraine would be remain part of the overall Ukrainian economy.  But Russian language and culture in Ukraine would no longer be under attack.

While President Putin would not want to give up control of the Russian naval base in Ukraine, it  is not in his interest for Russia to annex eastern Ukraine.  Keeping Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Ukraine would be insurance that Ukraine as a whole does not join NATO.

It is undoubtedly true, as President Putin said, that the Russian army could take Ukraine in a week.  The question of whether the Russian army could successfully occupy Ukraine is another matter.   The American army defeated the army of Saddam Hussein very quickly.  Successfully occupying the country was a different matter.

It would not be in Russia’s interest to annex eastern Ukraine, if it meant an anti-Russian Ukrainian government in western Ukraine joining NATO.  A neutral Ukrainian buffer state would be in the interest of both countries, and would not threaten any vital interest of the United States.

Or so it seems to me.  This is, however, not based on any special knowledge of Russia and Ukraine, but on what I imagine I would think and do if I were in President Putin’s place.  Does this make sense?   What do you think?


NATO and Ukraine: Links & comments 8/22/14

August 22, 2014

ENGLISH GRAPHIC - DER SPIEGEL 48/2009 Seite 47The Ukraine, Corrupted Journalism and the Atlanticist Faith by Karel van Wolferen, a respected Dutch journalist, for the Unz Review.

Van Wolferen thinks NATO has outlived its usefulness.  Once an alliance to protect western Europe from the Red Army, it is now, he wrote, a means by which the United States drags Europeans into wars that are none of their concern.

When NATO was created, Europe had not fully recovered from the devastation of the Second World War, and would not have been able to stop a Soviet invasion.   We had a great debate here in the United States about whether we wanted to make this commitment, or go back to our traditional isolationist ways.  We decided that safety lay in collective security against aggression.

These conditions no longer apply.  European nations are rich and prosperous, and well able to protect themselves.  We should gradually shift the burden of defending Europe to the Europeans themselves.  If Europeans differ from Americans about what their defense needs are, that is their decision to make.

NATO’s Eastward Expansion: Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow? by Uwe Klubmann, Matthias Schlepp and Klaus Wiegrafe for Der Spiegel.

I always took it to be a fact that Secretary of State James Baker promised Mikhail Gorbachev that if the Soviet Union withdraw troops from eastern Europe, NATO would not expand eastward to fill the vacuum.  But the people concerned disagree on who said what.  Too bad for Russia that Gorbachev didn’t get Baker’s alleged promise in writing.

What Do the World Bank and IMF Have to Do With the Ukraine Conflict? by Frederic Mousseau, policy director of the Oakland Institute, for Inter Press Service.

Mousseau described a new report by the Oakland Institute, an independent think tank, that says World Bank and International Monetary Fund are demanding, in return for loans, that Ukraine impose austerity measures that will increase prices, lower wages, increase taxes and open up Ukraine’s rich farmland for acquisition by foreign corporations.

Ukrainians are trapped in a no-win situation.  Neither NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, the Russian Federation and their own crooked politicians and business oligarchs have their interests at heart.

The war in Ukraine: This is no time for proving your point by Olga Allyonova for Russia Behind the Headlines.

 A heartfelt plea for peace by a Russian journalist.

The dangerous escalation of conflict with Russia

August 8, 2014

The conflict over Ukraine is escalating dangerously.

An estimated 700,000 people have fled eastern Ukraine for Russia, creating a major humanitarian crisis.  Russia replied to United States and European Union sanctions with sanctions of its own.  Now the question arises as to whether Russia’s covert support for Ukrainian separatists will escalate into open intervention.

The Vineyard of the Saker is a web log to which I ordinarily don’t link because the Saker’s support for Vladimir Putin is so extreme, but he gave an excellent summary of the far-reaching consequences of Russia’s boycott of food imports from the European Union and other pro-sanctions countries.

Food producers in these countries will not only suffer a loss of Russian markets, but depressed food prices as a result of a glut.  Countries that refused to back sanctions will be rewarded.

Russia’s actions will be a severe blow to many European nations, especially in eastern Europe, but will not affect the USA very much—thus driving a wedge between the NATO allies.

Russia’s own farmers will be able to expand their market without having to worry about competition from subsidized American and European imports.  Overall Russia will have an excuse to disconnect from banks and international organizations dominated by the United States and European Union and follow its own path.

Unlike the Saker, I am not a supporter of Putin, but I admit to a grudging respect for his diplomacy.

I was astonished to learn that there are more than 700,000 displaced people from Ukraine in Russia (plus, according to the United Nations, more than 200,000 internally displaced in Ukraine).  That is nearly a million people.

Will this be enough to cause Putin to openly intervene in Ukraine?  I don’t think so.  Putin’s Russia is bogged down in a quagmire war in Chechnya and public opinion polls indicate that Russians don’t want to get bogged down in another quagmire war in Ukraine.

Pepe Escobar wrote that Russia’s minimum demands are (1) no NATO membership for Ukraine, (2) recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, (3) no U.S. troops on Russia’s borders and (4) cultural autonomy for Russian-speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine.  The last is important because it is a political force to help guarantee the first three.

But if the United States and its European allies insist on bringing Ukraine into NATO, if they refuse to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, if the United States stations troops on Russia’s borders, then there is a real possibility of war with Russia.   And Russia is the only nation on the planet with sufficient nuclear weapons to threaten the existence of the United States.


NATO is desperate for war by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

You want to be Uncle Sam’s bitch?  Pay the price! by The Vineyard of the Saker.


Playing with nuclear fire in Ukraine

August 5, 2014

NATO expansion into Ukraine would open Russia to the threat of invasion.   It would bring an anti-Russian army almost as close to Moscow as Hitler’s armies got in two years of fighting.

NATO countries are in blue.  Click to viewFor the first time in modern history, Russia’s vast distances would cease to be a guarantee of safety against invasion.   Of course NATO is not the equivalent of Hitler’s New Order, and I don’t imagine that the proponents of NATO expansion actually intend to invade Russia—only to weaken Russia by making it vulnerable.

But of course Russia would still have its nuclear arsenal.  Russia’s nuclear arms make it the only nation in the world that might be able to physically destroy the United States.  It is a very bad idea to back Russia’s rulers into a corner in which this is a consideration.

Europe_under_Nazi_dominationUkraine’s inhabitants have as much right to be an independent nation as anyone else, and they have reasons to be wary of Russia.   Tsarist Russian suppressed Ukrainian culture, Stalin’s policies caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainians from starvation and in the Gulag, and Russia is under the sway of extreme nationalists who hold Ukrainians in contempt.

A new law allows Russia to grant citizenship to anyone born within the boundaries of the old Soviet Union, provided they speak Russian.  Ukrainians recall how Hitler annexed the Sudetenland, the border area of Czechoslovakia, on the excuse of protecting the German-speaking population there.  The annexation left Czechoslovakia defenseless, and unable to resist Germany’s annexation of the whole country.

Ukrainians say this is parallel to how Russia annexed Crimea with the excuse of protecting the Russian-speaking population there, and might try to annex western Ukraine with the same excuse.

But from the Russian point of view, the Ukraine as a whole is Europe’s Sudetenland.  On the pretext of protecting the independence of Ukraine, NATO would put itself in a position to threaten the very existence of Russia.

I don’t think the USA or its NATO allies actually intend a land invasion or would be capable of carrying it out if they tried, although they might help rebels in Russia to destabilize the Russian government.  But the point is not what I think, or even what is the case.  The point is what Russian leaders think and how they would react.


The plan to frack and sell off the Ukrainian land

August 5, 2014

For more background, click on The hidden hands behind East-West conflict in Ukraine by Martin Kirk for Al Jazeera.

The interdependence of Russia and Europe

July 28, 2014

Europe Russia oil gas pipelines map chart

More Signs of Doubt in Europe About the Costs of Siding With Ukraine by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

The Beginning of an End of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance by Mark from Ireland for Ian Welsh.

Hat tip for the map to Vox.

War and peace: Links & comments 7/22/14

July 22, 2014

Lessons from America’s War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich for Notre Dame magazine.

Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations, retired career Army officer and self-described conservative Catholic, talks as much good sense about American military and foreign policy as anybody I know about.

In this article, he traces American policy toward the Middle East from the 1980 Carter Doctrine, which stated that the U.S. would use force to protect access to the oil of the Persian Gulf, down to the present day.  He sees more continuity than differences between the Democratic and Republican administrations.

The policy is based on the hope that, by the application of force, the United States can counter tendencies in the Islamic war that threaten American interests.  The result has been death and destruction, with the result that the people of the Middle East see the United States as the main threat to their freedom and well-being.

Bacevich says its time to stop ignoring reality and attempting the impossible.

Ukraine Open Thread (and Links) on Naked Capitalism.

Fact-Free Zone by Dmitry Orlov on ClubOrlov.

‘It was Putin’s missile’ by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

I don’t know who shot down the MH-17 airliner over Ukraine.  I agree with President Obama that a thorough and complete investigation is needed to determine the facts.  Why, then, is he ramping up a cold war against Russia, as if all the facts were known?

Israel mows the lawn by Mouin Rabbani for the London Review of Books

The author says the policy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to prevent, by any means necessary, the emergence of a Palestinian state that is independent in fact and not just in name.  The last thing Netanyahu wants is a peace process.

Reflections on an Unforgiving Day

July 18, 2014

The following is part of an entry in the Stratfor Geopolitical Diary.

What ties Ukraine, Russia, Israel and Gaza together is that they are all fighting for their lives, or interests that are so fundamentally important to them that they cannot live without them.

They are fighting for their nation and for that nation’s safety in a world where unspeakable things happen and where the only ones who will defend you are your family, friends and countrymen, and where all the well-wishers and advice-givers will quietly take their leave if dangers arise.

There is nothing easier and cheaper than advising others to get along. 

These conflicts are rooted in fear, and fear is always a legitimate emotion.

Others would have approached today by saying that the Russians are evil or the Ukrainians really the oppressors, the Israelis killers or the Gazans monsters.

We are sure we will hear from many condemning our moral equivalency, by which they will claim that the only truly moral position is theirs.

But this is not a moral equivalency that argues that Ukrainians and Russians, Israelis and Palestinians should therefore sit down and recognize that they really haven’t got anything to fight over.

This is a moral equivalency that says these people have a great deal to fight over, but that it is their fight, and that — as when the Romans began wiping out Europe’s Celts — it will be settled by steel and not by kindly advice or understanding.

The problem between these people is not that they don’t understand each other. 

The problem is that they do.

Click on Reflections on an Unforgiving Day to read the whole article.

Reprinted with permission of Stratfor Global Intelligence.   Hat tip to Naked Capitalism.


EU pact makes Ukraine a colony

July 1, 2014

When Poland and the Baltic states joined the European Union, the EU invested in the infrastructure of these countries to bring them closer to the economic level of other European countries.

Economist Michael Hudson said, in an interview with the Real News Network, that the exact opposite is happening with Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU.

Ukraine will not be a member of the EU, will not get any EU investment and will not get any relief from its financial obligations to the International Monetary Fund and European banks, but will open itself up to have foreign investors buy up its assets at bargain prices.

Supposedly the 28 countries of Europe will be opened up as an export market, but, as Hudson asked, what does Ukraine have to export that European countries want?  Formerly Ukraine’s chief exports were military equipment made in Soviet-era factories for Russia.   Now that market is cut off and Russia will build its own armaments factories.

Hudson said the Ukrainians to benefit from the agreement will be that nation’s ruling kleptocrats.

Who will own the Ukrainian breadbasket?

May 19, 2014

SMEs are “small and medium enterprises”

The rich black soil of Ukraine is the nation’s greatest asset.  The soil made Ukraine the breadbasket of Europe and Russia in an earlier era, and while nowadays Europeans import wheat from North America, the Ukrainian land is still a coveted prize.

Click to enlarge.

Note that none of this is certain.  Click to enlarge.

Investment in farmland by wealthy Ukrainians has tripled in the past five years, and the previous Ukrainian government discussed allowing foreigners to purchase Ukraine land.

There was even talk that the Chinese would lease an area larger than Massachusetts for 50 years.  I put this under the heading of “interesting if true.”  The fact that something is discussed doesn’t mean it will happen.  But Chinese have been buying up large amounts of farmland in Africa and Australia, so there is no reason why they wouldn’t be interested in Ukraine.

The conflict with Russia has disrupted both Ukrainian grain exports and the Ukrainian harvest, but this is temporary.  Analysts seek a great potential in Ukraine as a breadbasket, not for Europe and Russia, but for the rising middle class of Asia.

Who will own the breadbasket?  Ukraine has accepted a rescue package for the International Monetary Fund, which typically demands that countries open up their resources to foreign investment.  Presumably, in the current state of affairs, this would not include Russian investment.

The struggle in Ukraine is not only a conflict over language, ethnicity and political ideology; it is a struggle for control of resources.


What Russia gained by its Crimea takeover

May 18, 2014


0518-web-blacksea-artboard_1-0Russia’s annexation of Crimea gives it a dominant position in claiming the oil and gas reserves of the Black Sea.  Crimea’s oil and gas assets, shown in the map above. now belong largely to Russia.

The maps at the right show Ukraine’s and Russia’s claims in the Black Sea before and after annexation.  The red area in the lower map at right shows what Russia gained by taking over Crimea.  Click on the link below for details.

In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves by William J. Broad for the New York Times.

Speaking of Ukraine and Russia, here are links to three articles on the background of the Ukraine crisis that I found to be highly illuminating, and perhaps you will, too.

The Errand-Boys of Europe by Padraig Murphy for The Dublin Review of Books.   A look at the historical roots of Putin’s “Eurasianism,” a political ideology that says Russia should keep apart from Europe and its false philosophies of democracy and individual freedom, but instead be a bridge between Europe and Asia based on a philosophy of authoritarianism.

Fascism Returns to Ukraine by Timothy Snyder for The New Republic.  A well-known historian makes the case that Ukraine is a democratic nation, and that fascism is on the rise, not in Ukraine, but in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.   I think this article contains information and insight that is both true and important, but it is only part of the truth.

The New Cold War’s Ukraine Gambit by Michael Hudson for Naked Capitalism.  This is the other part of the truth: How Ukraine was destabilized by U.S. financiers and militarists and their European allies.

Putin and Russia’s right-wing populist majority

May 15, 2014

Russia has a much greater concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite than the USA does, and a much more thorough surveillance state.  The conflict in Ukraine gives Vladimir Putin the opportunity to draw attention away from the former and beef up the latter.

vladimir-putin-riding-bearAll this was well-described in an article by Mark Ames for PandoDaily, an on-line magazine.  I have no first-hand knowledge of Russia, but what he wrote seems right to me.

He said Putin has lost the support of Moscow’s and St. Petersburg’s managerial and professional class, along with the liberal intelligentsia, and has built a new political power base among Russia’s impoverished masses.   The majority of Russians are even worse off materially than they were under the failed Soviet system, and they blame the urban economic and intellectual elites.

Now if you want to appeal to the masses, and you can’t or won’t adopt policies that will make them better off, you wage a culture war.  That’s how it works in the USA and many other countries, and it is how it works in Russia.

That is why Putin cultivates his manly, tough-guy image.  That is why he has adopted a hard line against the Pussy Riot demonstrators, whom he has made into a symbol of the decadent West.  Ditto for his hard line against gays and lesbians.   He did not initiate the conflict in Ukraine, but it plays into his hands.  It makes him even more popular than he is, and gives him cover for cracking down on the opposition.

He is likely to be in power for a long time, and I don’t think we Americans can do anything about it because, as Ames wrote, Putin’s politics aren’t about us.

What do you think?