Why Calling US a ‘Democracy’ Is Both False & Dangerous to Do

Why Calling US a ‘Democracy’ Is Both False & Dangerous to Do

ERIC ZUESSE | 15.03.2019 | WORLD / AMERICAS

Why Calling US a ‘Democracy’ Is Both False & Dangerous to Do

It’s false because it is definitely untrue, and that’s not merely because America has a higher percentage of its residents in prison than does any other nation on this planet, but also because the only scientific studies that have been done of the matter show — they prove scientifically — that the US is a dictatorship by its very wealthiest residents, against all the rest of the population. Traditionally, that’s called an “aristocracy,” not a democracy, but ever since Mussolini in the 1920s, it came to be called “fascism,” which is the successor to “feudalism” and thus is merely the modernized form of feudalism. What used to be called by such terms as “monarchy” or “aristocracy” is thus now called “fascism” but the leopard is the same regardless of what it is labeled, and what it really is a dictatorship. Mussolini sometimes instead called fascism “corporationism” and it certainly is today’s United States Government, even if some people choose to call it ‘democracy’. It’s what the US Government has been scientifically proven to be: dictatorship, by the richest few (the controlling owners of the international corporations), against the entire public.

But even worse than being only false, calling the US a ‘democracy’ is also itself extremely dangerous to the entire world, and here is why:

Every time that the US perpetrates a coup (such as it’s trying now to do against Venezuela) or a military invasion (such as it did to Iraq 2003 and Libya 2011 and Syria 2012- and to Yemen 2015-, and many others) the US regime and its propagandists call it an action ‘for humanitarian purposes’, and for regime-change ‘to bring democracy and human rights’ to that country, and it’s always lies, which wouldn’t even be believed by anyone who knows that the US itself is actually a dictatorship, which it is. So, the lie of calling the US a ‘democracy’ is actually okaying a lying dictatorship by using, for it, the term “democracy,” which this particular dictatorship chooses to refer to itself, for PR purposes.

Calling the US a ‘democracy’ is to support this government that the entire world (in the only polls that have been done of the matter) recognizes to be the most aggressive and dangerous regime on Earth. To smear the good name of “democracy” that way, by calling the world’s most rapacious Government a ‘democracy’, is to assist in corroding that high term of praise, “democracy,” and turning it instead into an insult, which applies to what is actually the globally recognized most aggressive and dangerous nation on this planet.

The United States of America used to be a limited democracy, but now it’s no longer even that, and to call it a ‘democracy’ at all is not only false, but it encourages the world’s most dangerous and harmful regime and sets it as a model for other nations. To encourage evil by lying to say it’s not that but is instead good, is itself evil, or else rabidly ignorant and deceived; but, in any case, it is a very wrong thing to do.

On March 7th the liberal US billionaire who owns Bloomberg News was so much opposed to the over-the-top, far too overtly fascist, billionaires who now control the country, so that Bloomberg News headlined “Pence Asked Merkel to Provoke Russia by Sending Warships to Crimea”, and their reporters opened:

The US leaned on German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month to conduct a naval maneuver in Russia’s backyard aimed at provoking President Vladimir Putin, according to three people familiar with the talks. At a Feb. 16 meeting at the Munich Security Conference, US Vice President Mike Pence urged Merkel to send German warships through a narrow channel between the Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia to show Putin that Western powers won’t surrender their access to those waters, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The German leader refused, they said.

On March 8th, RT (a reliably truthful news-site that the US regime calls ‘fake news’ because it reports truths the US rulers don’t want the public to know) headlined “Caving in to the US? Brussels kills its own money laundering ‘blacklist’ after Washington criticism” and reported that the US regime objected to the EU’s European Commission including in its proposed list of 11 additional money-laundering centers four US territories, after which “the Council of the European Union, which consists of the ministers representing all 28 EU members, justified its decision to reject the document with the arguments that seemed strikingly similar to those employed by the US Treasury.” Page 11 of the European Commission’s 36-page detailed explanation of its proposed list said: “Based on the review of additional information sources, the Commission’s analysis has concluded that 11 additional jurisdictions present strategic deficiencies for the purposes of Article 9 of Directive (EU) 2015/849. Those jurisdictions are the following: Afghanistan, American Samoa, Guam, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, US Virgin Islands, Samoa.” The objective of the additions was to make more difficult the laundering of proceeds from crime. A legal advisory from a law firm representing US international corporations explained that “The US Treasury Department has objected to the inclusion of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands on the grounds that the European Commission did not follow the methodology used by FATF in developing its own list of high-risk third countries, and that FATF standards apply to all US territories.”

Supposedly, the methodology of FATF was more ‘transparent’ than that set forth in the European Commission’s 36-page detailed explanation of its proposed 11 additions. The European Council arrived at its rejection of the 11 additions to the list on the grounds that “The consultation ended on 28 February 2019, with the required majority of delegations having declared their intention to object to the delegated act in question, in particular on the basis that the act was not established in a sufficiently transparent way.” The European Council thus accepted without question the US regime’s undocumented allegation that the US regime’s chosen methodology is more ‘transparent’ than the European Commission’s is. In a press release, the European Council justified its decision on the grounds that it “cannot support the current proposal that was not established in a transparent and resilient process that actively incentivises affected countries to take decisive action while also respecting their right to be heard.” In short: BS. How can either the US regime, or the one in the EU, reasonably claim to be ‘transparent’? It’s ridiculous. That’s merely a relationship between the imperial nation and its vassal-states. They’re all dictatorships, they’re a hierarchy of dictatorships. But only the US dictatorship has been scientifically proven.

Anyone who opposes America’s dictatorship of the world will call the US regime what it is: a dictatorship. This cat is now out of the bag and roaming wildly, almost everywhere, trying now even for Venezuela, the Kerch Strait and the South China Sea. (Calling the South China Sea and Kerch Strait ‘disputed waters’ is like calling the surrounding waters of the US ‘disputed waters’; but only the international bully-regime is deliberately trying to “provoke” other nations in order to get them to buckle to its international dictatorship — which is the US regime, which regime Obama had called “the one indispensable nation,” meaning that all others are ‘dispensable’. It’s clearly not only Trump that’s the problem. It’s the regime, which is the dictatorship, and it outlasts any particular ruler.)

The US is no democracy. It clearly is a dictatorship, by its richest. To call that a ‘democracy’, is to insult democracy itself. Maybe America’s actual rulers would therefore like that.

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The Other Ukraine

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by arras for The Saker blogThe Other Ukraine

Ukraine is a country in the Eastern Europe, which doesn’t require introduction to most readers as it was and still is filling pages of the newspapers and screens of a TVs. Courtesy of ongoing geopolitical conflict between the United States and the Russian Federation there. Some say, this is a conflict between East and West and thus suggesting that it is not just a place of competition between the world great powers, but between cultures and civilizations.

This conflict isn’t new to Ukraine. Ukraine is one of those places, where history never falls asleep it merely takes short naps. After the last nap, which we call the Cold War, history is back in Ukraine, writing new pages full of dramatic lines.

However, Ukraine has a sister. It was on the front pages of the newspapers as well not long time ago and it is also rich with dramatic history. The fate and history of both, including the most recent history, bears remarkable similarity and many parallels. Parallels that I intend to show you.

The name of the “other” Ukraine is Krajina and a reader might remember it as a place in the Balkans, which was one of the frontlines of the civil war in Yugoslavia. Krajina is a part of Croatia, but historically it was inhabited by the Serbs. The name of Ukraine in the native Slavic languages is “Ukrajina” and thus the difference in the name is just a prefix “U”. That’s not by a coincidence. Ukrajina and Krajina are the virtually same word, just pronounced slightly different in different Slavic languages. In English, it means “edge”, “margin”, “frontier” or “borderland” and that’s exactly what Ukraine and Krajina were. They were one of those places where realms, cultures, civilizations and empires converged and clashed. Seems they still are, and because of that, Ukraine and Krajina were not just ordinary frontiers, they were military frontiers. Romans used to call such places as “limes” and in the Western Medieval Europe, they were called as “march” or “mark” – ruled by “marquis” and of the same etymological origin as the word “margin”.

Ukraine was a borderland between Russia, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Crimean Khanate which itself was a remnant of the mighty Mongol Empire and at that time, it was a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire. Today Poland and Lithuania might seem like small countries compared to Russia while Crimean Khanate doesn’t even exist, but back in medieval and early modern era these were powerful realms vying for control over the whole region of the Eastern Europe. Krajina together with the similar region called Vojvodina on the other hand was a borderland between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. These places, were such powerful states, even religions and civilizations met weren’t the most peaceful ones and not very well suited for long prosperous life. They were in the state of almost perpetual conflict and war, because even if realms were in formal peace, irregular forces and local chieftains and feudal lords carried raids across the border seeking plunder or revenge, often with the silent consent of their sovereigns. Today we call it a hybrid war and plausible deniability. For that reason, such military frontiers had special status and were organized according to the military rather than civilian principles. Their purpose was to serve as a buffer zone, which was supposed to shield deeper inland territories from enemy attacks and raids and as a staging place for own attacks and raids against the enemy. Traditionally military settlers who had special status populated such territories. These settlers were typically freemen, as opposed to serfs in more secure territories and were exempt of taxes. Instead, they were obliged to carry military service on the border. Being half soldiers, half farmers, these men weren’t the best trained, equipped and disciplined comparing to the regular troops, but they were always available on the spot and required little or no pay as they supported themselves from their land which they supplemented with plunder from lands of the enemy.

These military settlers were often recruited from refugees. In the case of Ukraine, these were the peasants fleeing wars between Russia and Mongol Golden Horde in the east on the one hand and on the other advancing feudalization of Russia itself, which saw farmers being forced in to serfdom in the increasing numbers. Refugees were fleeing to the areas away from the main conflict and out of the reach of the central authorities. Here they begun to organize in to small communities and as soon as the situation in the central parts of Russia was consolidated and Russia has emerged victorious from the wars with Golden Horde and its successor khanates, these communities came in to attention of the Russian authorities who begun to utilize them as military settlers, giving them lands and tax exemption in return for the military service. Thus famous Cossacks were born. The word Kazak, which is Russian for Cossack, is of Turkic, not Slavic origin, and it is assumed to be originally describing nomadic mercenaries hired by the Russian princes to fight in their wars. Later it was used to describe men for hire, both in civilian and military roles and that is likely how it was originally applied to the people we now know as Cossacks.

It should be noted however that modern Ukraine is not identical to historical Ukraine. Historical Ukraine was much smaller compared to modern Ukraine and it never was official name of some administrative region with definitive borders. Not until the creation of the modern Ukraine at the end of the First World War. This term was vaguely applied to the lands that were bordering Russia, Poland-Lithuania and Crimean Khanate, border that kept changing with the fortunes in wars. Moreover, Russia did not had just one Ukraine, there were several ukraines and “little” ukraines (ukrajinka) all along Russia’s sensitive borders. There were ukraines in the west, on the territory of contemporary Belarus, there were ukraines in the south near Caucasus Mountains and there were ukrainas in the Eastern Siberia. Only in the north where Russia shared a border with polar bears, Russia did not have ukraine. However, as Russia kept growing in power, securing its borders or expanding them further, most of the other historical ukraines disappeared and the one that was left longest became The Ukraine. Consequently, Cossacks did not exist only in Ukraine, there were and in some cases still are other Cossacks. Cossacks on the rivers Volga and Don, Siberian Cossacks and Terek Cossacks in the Caucasus to name the most notable ones. Russians were not the only ones who recognized usefulness of Cossacks either, Poles and Tatars were actively using them as well. Cossacks themselves were keen on exploiting conflicts between those powers to extract political and economic advantages for themselves.

Delineatio Generalis Camporum Desertorum vulgo Ukraina cum adjacentibus Provinciis-General Draving of the Deserted Fields, vulgarly known as Ukraine together with its neighbouring Provinces by French cartographer Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan (1600-1673), note that North is down and South is up): source: Wikipedia

Military settlers in Krajina on the other hand were recruited mostly from Serbs, Vlachs (Romanians) and Croats fleeing Ottoman Turks who conquered Constantinople, capital of the East Roman Empire (also known as Byzantium) and defeated the kingdom of Serbia and the fragments of Bulgarian empire in the Balkans and were aggressively pushing north towards the Central Europe engaging with Hungarians and Austrians. That’s how Krajina got its Serbian population. Just like in Russia, historical Krajina does not necessarily copy the borders of what is considered Krajina in Croatia today. And just like in Russia, there are other krajinas elsewhere in Balkans. Bosanska Krajina near Banja Luka, Timocka Krajina between Serbia and Bulgaria, to name a few. In 1881, with the danger of Ottoman incursions all but disappearing, Austrian Emperors dissolved Krajina as an administrative region and incorporated it in to the kingdom of Croatia.

Map of the Krajina (in red) cca 1800:source: Wikipedia

While Cossacks are widely known as famous horsemen, a few people know that Krajina, and neighboring regions of Balkans are where the other most famous light cavalry of Europe comes from. Not less famous Hussars. Hussars were originally irregular cavalry from Balkans. Hungarian kings and Austrian emperors who employed them in their armies introduced them to the Western Europe, where they were quickly copied and adopted by the other armies for their effectiveness. With the advent of firearms, European knights in their shining expensive armors, riding heavy warhorses were gradually withdrawn from the battlefields as European armies begun to appreciate less heavily armed cavalry in their place, which substituted speed and agility for direct protection and ambushes and flanking for charges in to the enemy front lines. And that’s where experience of combating Turks and Tatars of Asia who always preferred lighter cavalry came in handy. Through centuries of constant fighting, Cossacks and Hussars adapted themselves to the fighting methods of their opponents and adopted many elements of their equipment and tactics. Not everybody though served in the cavalry and contrary to popular belief, most Cossacks served as infantrymen. Horse, especially saddle horse back in those days was something that only the wealthiest Cossacks could afford.

Hungarian hussar in the 16th century. Woodcut by Jost Amman:source: Wikipedia

When Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires collapsed in the flames of the Balkan Wars and the First World War, which had aroused from the conflict over the Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia joined Yugoslavia, a new state that supposed to unite all the Slavic people of the Balkans. Krajina ceased to be a province on the edge and it seemed that history there would slow down. Nevertheless, history just took a nap. On April 1941, German army invaded Yugoslavia under Adolf Hitler’s orders and Yugoslavia quickly fell apart. In Croatia, with the support of the Germans, puppet state with the pro-German fascist political party of Ustashe in power was established. Ethnic cleansing campaign and persecution of Serbs and other minorities followed, and lasted until the defeat of Nazi Germany in the WWII. The exact number of Serbs who perished in those repressions is unknown, estimates vary between 300,000 and 500,000. About 50,000 alone died in one of the concentration camps in Jasenovac.

With the National Socialist Germany and their allies defeated, Yugoslavia was reinstated under the leadership of the Communist party and a war hero Josip Bros Tito. Whereas survived Nazi collaborators found a shelter under the wings of the US and British secret services in the West Germany, Canada, USA and Australia. Unlike Nazi scientists, they did not possess any great knowledge or technical skills, but experience of political repression and anti-guerrilla warfare were of the value for the CIA in the upcoming Cold War. The end justifies the means. Interestingly enough, Ustashe from Balkans found themselves thriving at the same centers and under generous tutelage of the same secret services of the same governments as Nazi collaborators from Ukraine – the infamous UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) and its political leaders like Stephan Bandera. In some instances, political and cultural institutions of the Ustashe and UPA were located on the same streets, sometimes even inside the same buildings of Western cities like Munich. Just like Ustashe, the WWII records of UPA are full of the ethnic cleansings, mass murders and war crimes against civilian population that did not fit UPA’s racial and ethnic standards. Now they were to be sustained like bacteria of a biological weapon on a Petri dish in CIA laboratories, waiting for their time.

Ironically, their time did not come during the Cold War, even when there were some failed attempts to utilize them. Their time came with the end of the Cold War and fall of the Communist rule in the Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The easiest way to destroy multinational country is to start ethnic conflicts between the peoples of a country itself and let them destroy it themselves. Under Tito, who himself was from mixed Croat-Slovenian family, stability was maintained between the various ethnic groups dwelling in Yugoslavia, but that balance was fragile and rested to a large extend on the authority of Tito himself. With his death, the institutions of the state and the way Yugoslavia was constructed came for a test.

Yugoslavia was constructed as a federation in such a way, as to prevent any one of the constituent nations from dominating the state. Serbs were always the most numerous and therefore strongest nationality in Yugoslavia and other nationalities, particularly Croats and Slovenians feared that Serbs would dominate the state. Not without a good reason either as interwar Yugoslavia indeed ended up being dominated by the Serbs and their elite. To prevent that, in post war Yugoslavia, Serbia was divided in to four parts: republics of Serbia and Montenegro and autonomous regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina. Later three had significant non-Serbian ethnic minorities. That accomplished the goal of creating a balance between the powers of national republics inside Yugoslavia, but it inevitably created feeling of injustice among the Serbs. It was only Serbia which was divided and weakened in such a way, neither Croatia, nor Bosnia or Macedonia were divided even if they too had regions with ethnic minorities present. Serbs in Krajina were an example and Bosnia was heterogeneous to such extent, that it was sometimes nicknamed as Little Yugoslavia.

After period of unsuccessful Communist experimenting with creating single Yugoslav supranational identity, which would replace individual nationalities, Tito and his Communists went the other way and in the new constitution of 1974 tried to placate nationalist sentiments by bestowing more power on to the republics and strengthening autonomy of the regions. In Voivodina, Montenegro and Kosovo that led to an increasing cultural, economic and political pressure against Serbs who became convinced that system inside Yugoslavia works at their expense and they are loosing. In Kosovo where Albanian population was steadily increasing due to immigration from Albania and higher birth rates, issue was especially sensitive because Serbs consider Kosovo to be historical cradle of their civilization.

But any attempts to change the situation by the Serbs, inevitably led to the reaction in the other republics creating endless spiral of increasing suspicion and tensions between the republics. With the economy and central institutions weakened by the gradual decline in the power of the Communists and change of the political and economic situation in the whole of Eastern Europe, it required only a gentle push from the outside to spark ethnic conflict. That’s were Ustashe and other similar groups been held in the reserve during the Cold War in the West were finally put to a good use. Under disguise of democracy and freedom of speech, they were re-imported back in to their countries of origin along with the literature and propaganda created around their ideologies in the Cold War exile thanks to the generous US and German sponsorship. Money from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries played similar role in the Muslim communities of Yugoslavia.

Eventually it brought yields. Spinning in spasms, in 1990 Yugoslavia has arrived at the cliff when constitutional crisis completely paralyzed federal institutions, including Communist party itself. Republics were fighting each other. The only significant federal institution left willing to defend Yugoslavia was its army. However, army required an order from politicians to start acting, and there was no one to issue it. Yugoslavia was going to dissolve. The only question was how and when.

Anybody remotely familiar with Yugoslavia, knew, that if it would be done in unilateral uncontrolled manner, it would lead to a war. Only in Slovenia, the administrative borders were identical to the ethnic borders. The rest of Yugoslavia had ethnic minorities living all over the place. This was also well known in Washington and Berlin. Despite, or may be because of it, Washington and Berlin chose exactly this option even against the warnings from other European capitals. Berlin was the first to recognize independent Slovenian and Croatian states and hence British diplomats unofficially named the war that begun immediately in Croatia as “Gensher’s war“, after German foreign minister at that time Hans-Dietrich Gensher.

Single picture that explains civil war in Yugoslavia:source: Wikipedia

When Croatian government declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Serbs of Krajina in response declared their own independence from Croatia. All peoples have equal rights for independence. Right? Wrong. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” to paraphrase George Orwell and his famous book. Everybody likes to be independent himself, but not when others want to be independence at his expense. Croats are no different and independence of Republic of Serbian Krajina, which is how Serbs named their new country, was met with more than a strong disapproval in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. A conflict flared almost immediately and it set off bloody civil war that engulfed other parts of Yugoslavia, eventually ending its existence.

When declaring independence, the most important thing isn’t who has the right for independence and who does not, the most important thing is who supports it. And here Serbs of Krajina were placed at a disadvantage because they were supported only by small Serbia, which itself was having plenty of problems inside, while Croats were supported by several world’s most powerful countries – USA, Germany and the entire NATO alliance. Serbs held for several years, but at the end fight was just too uneven. It ended when Croatian forces supported by the USA and Germany overrun Serbian lines manned mostly by local militiamen on August 1995 and proceeded to ethnically cleanse Krajina of its Serbian inhabitants for good. Up to 1500 of them lost their lives, 2/3 of that number were civilians and up to 200,000 had to flee to Serbia and Bosnia. It was one of the two places in former Yugoslavia, where an entire historical region was ethnically cleansed of its population during the civil war. The other region being ethnically cleansed of Serbs was Kosovo, also with the support of the USA and it’s allies. The irony that is still carefully hidden from the public by the politicians and journalists in Washington, London and Berlin who worked tirelessly to convince people in their countries that those are Serbs who perpetrate crime of ethnic cleansing and had to be stopped by noble and smart bombs, enriched with uranium. Everyone else were portrayed as victims. It was a deliberate lie. Even supposed plan of ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo by the Serbs, named “Operation Horseshoe” which served as a pretext for bombing of Serbia itself by the NATO forces, was after the war exposed as entirely fabricated by the German secret service BND with the help of Bulgarian government. To be sure, there were plenty of cases of local ethnic cleansing, perpetrated by all sides of the civil war, Serbian one including, but not on the scale of the entire historical regions like Krajina or Kosovo. Nevertheless, ethnic cleansing wasn’t the real reason for the intervention, the real reason was that USA, Germany and EU wanted Yugoslavia to be gone and Serbs in Krajina and Kosovo stood in their way. Yugoslavia was too large to be incorporated in to the EU and NATO, one has to join the EU and NATO as weak as possible and under the conditions favoring those who are in charge of the EU and NATO. Conditions that demand political, economic and cultural subordination and transfer of the control over national resources and markets to the global corporations. Corporations of the global Empire. Therefore, Serbs of Krajina and Kosovo had to go. All of them. Yugoslavia had to be broken in to small pieces and pieces then digested by the Empire one by one until the whole Balkans had “proper” democracy, endorsed “proper” values and values were “protected” by the US military base or two. Divide et impera, Romans used to say.

The conflict in Ukraine is driven by exactly the same motives and reasons and using the same old methods and the same propaganda tricks. Timed bombs in the form of the arbitrary changes of the administrative borders made by the ruling Communist elite blew up during break up of the USSR too, as well as their policies of creating new Soviet people. Former Nazi collaborationist were also used to instigate ethnic hatred. Place Soviet Union instead of the Yugoslavia, Russians instead of Serbs, Ukraine instead of Croatia, Donbas and Crimea instead of Krajina and Kosovo and the story is almost identical. Ukraine and Krajina share similar history once again. Almost. With the exception that the Soviet Union was much larger than Yugoslavia, Russia is much larger than Serbia, and Russia has powerful allies in the world of its own. A victim turned out to be too big and vital and the Empire appears to suffer major digestive problems as a result. Will Ukraine end up sharing the fate of its sister after all?

Or will Ukraine turn out to be one mouthful too many? One thing is certain, history did not stop. History has no end. Prophets of the Empire has been proven wrong.

arras‘s mini-bio: HIC SVNT LEONES

Russian Shipyards: An overview

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February 27, 2019

Russian Shipyards: An overview

by Nat South for The Saker Blog

Part 1 https://thesaker.is/being-bullish-about-arctic-shipping-the-northern-sea-route-nsr/
Part 2 http://thesaker.is/the-new-silk-route-on-rails/

This is the third part of a series of analyses relating to Russia transport, shipping and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The existing and future strategic role of shipbuilding in Russia is not to be under-estimated despite the prevailing dominance of Asian shipyards. Currently, Russia faces a series of obstacles in relation to the overall development of Russian-flagged shipping, port infrastructure, multimodal logistics and the continued development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) on the global maritime scene.

The main core of Russian shipbuilding is mainly clustered around St Petersburg, Murmansk and the Far East. There are other smaller shipyards in Rybinsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Zelenodolsk and in Crimea. United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) along with Zvezda are the leading major shipbuilders.

In the Doldrums

Russian shipyards have a well-known reputation for having a bad ‘score sheet’ regarding sustained ability and effective building capability especially within the naval shipbuilding sector. Much has been discussed about these aspects within the industry and by experts in recent years. However, the focus of attention in this article is mostly on the civil shipbuilding sector, which is in a poor shape compared to other global shipyards.

The Soviet monolithic naval industries were highly dependent on the “military-industrial complex” demands, all of which vanished practically overnight in the 1990. The hard-hitting demise of the Soviet Union fossilised some shipyards and closed down others. Equipment, skills and know-how were not replaced, apart from a couple of niche sectors which struggled on, (nuclear icebreakers and submarines). Consequently, the entire industry greatly suffered not only during the Yelstin period but also this also continued during the Putin and Medvedev presidencies right up to 2012. New advances in technological and work processes simply did not get carried over into the Russian ship industry in a timely or sufficient manner. A glimpse of this was the need for a partnership between STX France and USC over the building of the Mistral-class ships. Shipbuilding certainly was not seen as a needy strategic priority, unlike other countries especially in Asia.

High-level government policies left out the resurgence of an effective national shipbuilding infrastructure for well over a decade. This meant that Russian shipyards were not capable of trying to keep the inertia going in any way without significant and steady state support, with the USC cluster taking a hefty proportion of state support. Back in 2014, president Putin asserted that Russian shipbuilding should be on a par with foreign producers.

Shipbuilding is a complex affair, mostly based on customer needs, but also including other parameters, such as national political drivers and forecasted economic trends. The West imposed a series of sanctions that had far-reaching repercussions on naval shipbuilding from marine engines, paint coatings and navigational equipment. These also clearly showed up the barriers and threats to Russia. The sanctions sent a signal to the heart of government, paving the way for a fundamental re-evaluation of policies across the board. They acted as a catalyst in gradually reshaping Russian economic policies, including those related to the BRI. Further Western sanctions on the Russian shipbuilding sector are planned.

Russian ship-building is currently at a stage of not only requiring substantial modernisation programmes but also acceleration of these activities, to stay afloat so to speak. The bottom line is self-sufficiency. With this in mind, the Russian“military-industrial complex” (known in Russian as the oboronnyi-promyshlennyi kompleks, or OPK), still gets a lion’s share of the budget. Therefore, it is of interest to see how this ultimately translates into the civilian sector. The share of civilian production in the shipbuilding sector accounts for 13.5%, with the OPK stating an increase to 30% by 2025. This predominance is not surprising given the increasing asymmetric hostile geopolitical environment that Russia is faced with.

Optimistic measures in form of a “Shipbuilding Industry Development, 2013-2030” programme was introduced in 2012 to boost Russia’s shipbuilding industry. “We must focus on high-tech domestic orders and renounce futile competition with China, Japan and South Korea, which are engaged in large-scale production of multi-service vessels, […] Therefore, we have determined our priority market niches in the programme – naval shipbuilding, the fishing fleet, production of hardware for the Northern Sea Route and development of the shelf, and river shipbuilding,”

” Minister of Industry and Trade Mr. Denis Manturov.

The article “Foresight in civil shipbuilding 2030” outlines the complexities and issues faced by the Russian shipbuilding industry and describes various scenarios in detail. One aspect noted is that “innovative scenarios assume a shift from mass production order to small-scale or even single-unit niche production”. It can be argued that this has happened to many shipyards both in the civil and military oriented sectors. One niche area exploited by the National 2013-2030 programme is the development of offshore support vessels, (OSV) namely small specialised high-tech ships that work in the Arctic or harsh marine environments. Recently Gazprom ordered 4 offshore vessels from Zvezda. Another up-and-coming sector is the building of domestic fishing ships.

The article also provides some figures related to “the ratio of the combined tonnage of the ships produced in one year (in CGT) to the number of employees working at the shipyard is taken into account.” This is part of an assessment of the workforce productivity. Whereas Japan is approximately 180 CGT per person, South Korea not far behind with 145 CGT, but it is only 20 CGT per person in Russia, (Minpromtorg, 2013).

The National Programme is also a driver for associated technological spin-offs, to support the development of civil projects. One such example is marine propulsion. However, the industry is still beset with problems of modern facilities, financial and managerial woes.

The ministry of industry has also a list of requirements for state support for prospective ship operators wanting to build in Russia. This also applies to incorporating domestically produced components such as engines and control systems. Import substitution is also a headache for segments of the civil shipbuilding sector as well as other sectors such as domestic civil aviation programmes. At present, there is reliance on Chinese-made components as a stop-gap measure, however this has resulted in problems with the quality and durability.

There are pitfalls to this kind of carrot and stick approach, as it also gives preferential status to one of two shipyards, as exceptions to the application of the rules will likely go the major players and not to the smaller yards or customers. However, there is a long-term silver lining to these dark clouds, which may have a positive knock-on effect on naval shipbuilding in areas of dual-use technology programmes, but at a greater cost and time delays for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless, a systematic revitalisation of Russian shipbuilding is painstakingly taking shape, with a number of positive stories to report. The Sredne-Nevsky shipbuilding yard is one such success story, responsible for the serial production of minehunters for the navy, it has become a digital shipyard, arising from a modernisation process starting in 2013. Another example is the 30 billion roubles ($459 million) 17-year planned investment in the development of the Krasnaya Kuznitsa shipyard in Arkhangelsk region. This shipyard is part of the Zvezdochka ship repair facility, itself part of USC.

A gradual emphasis is being placed on changes to reflect the need for optimization of technological processes around construction production systems, using advanced machinery such as plasma gas cutting machines. Other crucial aspects logistics, inventory-keeping, document control and more coordinated relationships with suppliers.  Another technology being rolled out is VR prototyping (3-D rooms) systems to help designers improve the quality of documentation. Amur-based ASZ shipyard has been modernising its equipment and machinery. Just one example of several shipyards currently getting a long-awaited overhaul of systems and processes.

The overall goal is to develop a maximum production process per square metre of a given plant.  Russia doesn’t need to look far to see how this is achieved in Chinese shipyards. For example, any aerial photo of Dalian shipyard (DISC) will reflect the intensity and complexity of various commercial and naval ship constructions.

Looking to the Far-East

At the same time as the development of BRI moving progressively westwards, the Russian pivot towards the east is gaining more leverage, on all levels. From schemes to provide land for citizens, to offshore entities based on Rossiky Island are being implemented. One aspect of interest to me is shipping and the industries connected to this sector. The Russian shipbuilding flagship project is the construction and operation of Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorsky Region.

Part of the “Shipbuilding Industry Development, 2013-2030” included geographical clusters, with the northern cluster having an historic advantage. A priority in the far-eastern cluster is the notable development of the construction of a mega shipyard in the Far East, as part of a dedicated shipping cluster, “Zvezda complex”. A project in the making since 2012, the first part of the shipyard’s production facilities was commissioned in 2017 and work started in 2018 on cutting steel for the first ever 114,000t dwt Aframax tanker order. The yard also picked up an order for LNG-fuelled tankers for Sovcomflot in December 2018.

Over $3 billion is already earmarked for the construction of the mega shipyard at Bolshoy Kamen, it will be highly influential project for the region as a whole with an expected 7000 employees working there, once it is finally completed in 2024. The Zvezda mega-yard will comprise of a vast production facilities and workshops and will be used to build marine equipment such as Azipods propulsion units and also ships, including LNG carriers, tankers and potentially nuclear icebreakers. It will certainly will be a boost as a means of cushioning the increasing impacts of Western sanctions on Russia, by having such a big domestic shipyard.

Better late than never, given the extensive existing Chinese and South Korean shipyards in operations for decades. 115 ocean vessels have are planned to be constructed at the Zvezda shipyard. This figure is a tad optimistic I believe, as it is not known how many will actually be built and launched. This depends on the amount of government subsidies obtained by customers.

The Arctic Context

This shipyard is likely to involved in the building of the project 10510 ‘Leader’ class of nuclear icebreakers. This will be done in cooperation with other shipyards for subassemblies and subsystems.

Zvezda had already signed deals with major Russian companies to build large vessels, including LNG gas carriers and shuttle tankers for the Arctic LNG-2 project as a joint venture with South Korean shipbuilders, Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd relating to the transfer of technical know-how competencies in this specialist area, significantly financially supported by the Russian government.

South Korea is certainly an important player in development of the NSR and in working collaboratively on the construction of specialised tonnage. South Korean yards have built and continue to build a number of specialised ice-classed icebreaking tankers as part of the Yamal LNG project.

The Arctic sector could be potentially a key driver for the Russian shipbuilding sector, although this will depend on the steady input of quality R&D and investment into the high-technological aspects that underpin this sector. This has not yet materialised in a sustained way, apart from limited production of ice-class support vessels for the oil and gas sector. More on this in a later analysis dedicated to Arctic shipping.

Shipyard fires and accidents

A nagging headache for Russian shipyards is the risk of shipboard fires. There has been a spate of fires in Russian shipyards including a high-profile incident during the under-construction of the icebreaker ‘Viktor Chernomyrdin’ last November. Likewise, this is another example of a major shipbuilding project that has been hamstrung by delays in schedules and an over-running budget.

As a result of these incidents work is underway to improve and implement nationwide fire standards, in particular bringing in automated fire control and monitoring systems control and mobile fire-fighting systems. However, extensive efforts to improve the overall safety environment is still significantly neglected, as the loss of the huge dry-dock PD-50 in October 2018 with tragic consequences shows.

The workforce

Russia like many other OECD countries is faced with an increasing aging and shrinking population. This presents a dilemma in recruiting and maintaining a skilled workforce. Another tough nut to crack is the issue of a chronic shortage in specialised manpower within the shipbuilding sector, something is also common to other parts of the world. Therefore, it is of interest then to see the creation of military scientific units so as to enable conscripts with the talent and skills to serve for one year on bespoke naval technology and ship building projects. The first technical scientific company was set up in Sevmash in the summer of last year.

Summary

Currently, Russian shipbuilding is still experiencing a period of a slow transition from inherited Soviet-era processes and management. It is considerably lagging behind both West and East shipyards regarding major ship construction projects. Sporadic efforts have been made to modernise and upgrade a number of yards and production processes, although there is still much more to do in a coherent and transparent manner. The main focus is on process upgrades and machinery renewal as part of a package of digital transformation in production, automated work and design practices.

A number of government initiatives have been implemented to re-energise the civil shipbuilding sector, largely left moribund for several decades. The consequences of increased production costs and time delays within the civil shipbuilding are nevertheless hindering renewal and potential growth for the industry. This has led to a steady decline in the number of ships built in Russia in the last decade.

The sector faces a number of obstacles, namely increasing impact of sanctions on foreign-produced components. As such, it is a long arduous process of establishing positive image, neutralising the financial burden of technological advances, carrying out digitalisation, and maintaining a highly-specialised workforce.

“THEY JUST WANT ME IN PRISON”: MINT PRESS CONTRIBUTOR EVA BARTLETT INTERVIEWS JAILED UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST KIRILL VYSHINSKY

Russian-journalist-Ukraine_edited-1

The Ukraine courts are still dependent on political authorities, and the special service is used to carry out political schemes and to fight inconvenient points of view and dissent, rather than to protect national security.” — Imprisoned Ukrainian-Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky tells Eva Bartlett.

 –by Eva Bartlett, February 25th, 2019, Mint Press News

KHERSON, UKRAINE (Interview) — Ukrainian-Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky has been imprisoned by Ukraine since his May 2018 arrest on yet unproven allegations of “high treason” and of conducting an “information war” against Ukraine in his role as chief editor of RIA Novosti Ukraine news agency.

To date, Vyshinsky has not been allowed a trial, the Ukrainian authorities instead repeatedly prolonging his pre-trial detention and delaying his right to justice.

In November, 2018, I spoke with journalist Vladimir Rodzianko about the case of Kirill Vyshinsky. In our interview, Rodzianko explained Vyshinsky’s May 2018 arrest, Vyshinsky’s work as an editor, the absurdities of Ukraine’s accusations against Vyshinsky, and the lack of outcry on his imprisonment.

Through intermediaries, I was later able to interview the imprisoned journalist, via email. While his replies came at the end of 2018, my intermediaries just recently were able to provide a translated transcript of Vyshinsky’s words.

More recently, I went to Kiev to interview Vyshinsky’s defense lawyer, Mr. Andriy Domanskyy. That interview will be published in the near future. While conducting the interview with Mr. Domanskyy on February 19, he received a phone call from the Kherson Court informing him that during the February 21 pleading, the court would limit the time during which Vyshinsky and Domanskyy could read the case files–case files amounting to 31 volumes.

Below is my correspondence with Kirill Vyshinsky.

EB: What do you believe was the motivation for the Ukrainian authorities to arrest and detain you?

KV: My detention and arrest represent an attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to bolster the declining popularity of President [Petro] Poroshenko in this election year. How? First, my arrest was used to stoke another scandal involving a story about “terrible Russian propaganda.” I’m a journalist, a citizen of the Russian Federation and Ukraine, and my arrest can be explained as part of the fight against “Russian propaganda.”

Second, from the very first hours of my detention, without a trial and even before pre-trial restrictions were set for me, high-ranking Ukrainian politicians started talking about the need to swap me for a Ukrainian convicted in the Russian Federation. Swaps are a favorite PR topic of the current Ukrainian government, which, in the past five years, has been unable to accomplish anything to benefit the country’s economy, achieve peace in Ukraine, or resolve the civil conflict in Donbass. This government did nothing to improve the well-being and safety of its citizens, so it was looking for other ways to score electoral points. Anti-Russian hysteria and PR around a prisoner swap is one such way.

EB: Had the Ukrainian authorities harassed you prior to May 2018?

KV: Nothing happened before May 2018, this is what amazes me! Accusations
against me in the case investigated by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) are connected with posts on the website that I run dating back to the spring of 2014.
The posts were made in the spring of 2014. According to the SBU, they represented a threat to the national security of Ukraine, but they remembered them only in 2018! And this is despite the fact that the SBU and Ukraine’s Ministry of Press and Information (another supervisory authority) have been regularly publishing lists of websites that were a “threat to national information security,” while my website was never listed!!

And then, in May 2018, I was arrested.

EB: The authorities accuse you of “treason”. How would you counter this? What had you been covering in Ukraine?

KV: I believe that accusing me of treason is false and absurd. None of the posts they are using to incriminate me are under my byline. These texts were submitted by our contributors, who shared their point of view on the developments in Ukraine in the spring of 2014, when the referendum was held in Crimea, and everything was just getting started in Donbass. All these materials are from the Opinion and Point of View sections, and each of them is followed by a disclaimer that “the author’s views do not necessarily represent those of the editorial board.”

From the vast number of texts that were published in the spring of 2014, the SBU picked only about 15 that they deemed “treasonous.” They simply ignored other texts with other views posted on our website and accuse me of conducting “special operations.” Again, they accuse me of conducting an “information war” for the mere fact that we posted a variety of opinions on our website. What does the fact that I impartially let people speak in support of Maidan or against it have to do with special operations?

As for the events that I covered, ours is a news website, and we post many texts on social and political issues. None of the texts that are included in the SBU files were written by me. I’m accused of providing an opportunity to speak about the situation in the country to people whose opinion is inconvenient for official Kiev. That’s all there is to it.

EB: How did your coverage of the proposed autocephaly for a ‘national Ukrainian church’ influence your detention?

KV: This is the most absurd accusation! This is the only episode from 2018. We posted a news piece on our website, in which Ukrainian political scientist Dmitry Korneychuk expressed skepticism about the possibility of granting autocephaly [a form of self-governance exceeding basic autonomy] to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The same news piece included the point of view of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has argued for the need for autocephaly!! It was a classic piece of journalism providing two points of view, for and against, where the reader has to decide which one is more credible.

However, the SBU believed that posting this material was part of my personal war against the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church!! I read this text out more than once in court. In it, the view “against” autocephaly takes up 11 lines, whereas the case “for” autocephaly is laid out in 17 lines, and I’m being accused of conducting a special operation against Ukrainian autocephaly!

EB: How have you been treated in prison? Do you have access to doctors? How has your health been since in detention? Are you allowed visitors and if so, under what conditions?

KV: I consider the prison conditions to be tolerable by Ukrainian standards, although access to medical care is quite limited. The prison medical unit was downsized, and I had to wait for a specialist doctor appointment for months. To alleviate acute neuralgia pain, I was given …diphenhydramine! It’s like treating acute heart pain with vitamin C. It won’t make things worse, but it doesn’t do much to help, either.

I feel pretty good right now, but this is definitely not due to the prison medicine but to the efforts of my lawyers and the medications they passed me. Once a month, my father comes to see me. We talk through a phone, separated by a glass partition.

EB: How many times has your trial been delayed? What were the reasons given for the delay? Do you feel that you will be given a fair trial?

KV: The issue is not about adjourned hearings, but the fact that the SBU keeps extending the investigation all the time, citing the need to conduct some kind of expert analysis in addition to the one that is already filed in the case. That is why I have been in jail for seven months now. The charges are absurd, the evidence does not include any text that was written by me, but the SBU is acting upon a political order issued by the Ukrainian authorities, which is to keep me in prison while the authorities try to net some political dividends from my arrest. It has nothing to do with justice. They just want me in prison.

EB: Have any international bodies supporting journalists, or any international human rights organizations, been in contact with you about your imprisonment?

KV: Yes, the UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the Red Cross office in Ukraine visited me. Representatives of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] mission regularly attend my court hearings in order to stay up to date on my case. Several international journalism organizations — such as the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Press Club Brussels Europe — my colleagues from Russia, and many friends spoke in my support, and I thank everyone so much! I am counting, primarily, on moral support and the ability to get as much information out about my actual case as possible, as opposed to what is published in the Ukrainian media at the behest of the SBU.

EB: Do you have any message you’d like to convey about this entire ordeal?

KV: My main takeaway from the past six months is huge disappointment in the level of political power in Ukraine and the state of its judicial system. Despite declarations about Ukraine’s “European choice,” the courts are still dependent on political authorities, and the special service is used to carry out political schemes and to fight inconvenient points of view and dissent, rather than to protect national security.

Kirill Vyshinsky
December 26, 2018, Kherson Detention Center
See also:

Vladimir Rodzianko On Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, Detained in Ukraine

Media Ignores the Plight of Kirill Vyshinsky: A Russian Journalist Imprisoned Without Trial in Ukraine

Donbass – Military-Political Aspects

Source

February 19, 2019

Donbass – Military-Political Aspects

By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with 
https://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-donbass-military-political-aspects/ 
source:
 http://alternatio.org/articles/articles/item/67719-donbass-voenno-politicheskie-aspekty

 

Donbass, like any frontline territory with a non-determined status, is periodically covered by waves of rumours – the most improbable and the most absurd rumours, which nevertheless are spread with the speed of a virus. Despite their regular repetitiveness and regular falsifiability, they, appearing again and again, invoke trust again and again. The number of people living in Donbass who have a “friend who personally heard from Putin” the latest “artful Russian plans” concerning the fates of the People’s Republics concedes only to the number of those who “heard personally from Pushilin” the same thing.

Recently, in connection with the Ukrainian elections, rumours (which have periodically appeared over five years) became more active again that right now there is the desire to return the DPR/LPR into the structure of Ukraine. This rumour is absurd, since right now (before elections) it’s not only politically unprofitable (Russia doesn’t support Poroshenko) to return Donbass to Ukraine, but it is also technically impossible (there isn’t enough time to implement the necessary procedures).

It is obvious that the activisation of this rumour is partially connected to the recent statement of Medvedchuk, who proposed to Kiev, for the sake of ending the war and preserving Donbass as a part of Ukraine, to change the Constitution for the purpose of creating wide autonomy in Donbass. However, since Medvedchuk plays up to Tymoshenko against Poroshenko, it is clear that Kiev could start the implementation of these ideas no earlier than the elections will conclude if Tymoshenko becomes the president.

At the same time, it is necessary to consider that Yuliya Tymoshenko angrily condemned Viktor Medvedchuk’s proposal, because now she acts from a more radical nationalist position than Poroshenko in order to win the favour and support of nationalist radicals, who will indeed decide the outcome of elections. Therefore, nobody will be able to integrate Donbass anywhere either before presidential elections or immediately after them. And after this parliamentary elections will start. Thus, if there were indeed such plans, then starting their implementation earlier than a year and a half later would be practically unrealistic. For this, as a minimum, the position of Kiev must cardinally exchange. And what will happen to Donbass, Ukraine, and the world in a year’s time only God knows, and even this is with a known amount of conditionality, because he granted every person the right to make a free choice between good and evil, and the fates of countries and civilisations consist of millions of these free choices.

However, the constant sense of danger accompanying the inhabitants of Donbass is based not only on such inadequate interpretations of the bright speeches of Kiev or Moscow politicians. The main irritating factor is the non-determined status. People can’t understand why Russia didn’t take them following the example of Crimea, why the Kiev authorities were recognised in 2014, and for what purpose were the Minsk Agreements reached? Hence the wavering when the rumour about handing over Donbass “already tomorrow” is replaced by the rumour that right now Russia will not recognise the 2019 elections, will capture Kiev, and Donbass will at last enter the structure of the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, the military-political situation that predetermined the fate of Donbass for the nearest years developed in 2014 and hasn’t yet changed. In 2014 a window of opportunities was indeed opened and was far from being exhausted by the return of Crimea to the structure of Russia and the declaration of DPR/LPR.

Before the February coup of 2014 the possibility of the entry of all of Ukraine into the Customs Union was quite real. For this purpose Yanukovych needed to only disperse Maidan and jail all prominent politicians who supported the coup attempt. This decision completely depended on a subjective factor – the personal will of Yanukovych, the level of his intelligence, and his adequacy in his job.

After the coup, during February-April a campaign to Kiev of the uprising Southeast was possible, with the informal support of Russia. In such a variant, Western Ukraine, most likely, would’ve already been lost, Crimea would’ve left for Russia (as it already happened), and the other territories, with a new pro-Russian government, would’ve joined the process of Eurasian integration. A key role in the failure of this opportunity was played by both a subjective factor (the absolute lack of readiness of new, put forward by a popular uprising, leaders of the Southeast to think not in the scale of their region {Kharkov, Donetsk, Odessa}, but in the scale of the country), and an objective factor – the idealistic idea of the masses of a revolt based on the thought that it “will be like it was in Crimea” (we will stand two days, and then “polite tanks”will come and we will go home to go about our own business).

None of the representatives of the uprising mass of the Southeast and their new elites understood that the victory of any revolt is in Kiev (in the capital). Nationalists, by the way, understood well that until they take the capital, they are just rebels, but as soon as they capture government buildings – they are already the authorities, and the mutineers – their opponents. Every region of the Southeast hoped, having marked the revolt and having hid behind Russia, to solve the issue independently and let the neighbour decide for themselves.

Here, of course, a question arises that is often asked not only in Donbass, but also in all of Ukraine: and what, Russia couldn’t liberate Russian lands with Russian people from nominally Banderists, but in reality an American occupation? Evidently, it could. But Russia can “liberate” all of Europe up to the Atlantic (which, by the way, is also under American occupation).

Does this mean that Russia must urgently start “a liberating campaign” in Europe? The question seems to be absurd, but the topic of “a liberating campaign” in Ukraine, which according to its status differs little from Serbia, is constantly discussed by the Russian and the pro-Russia Ukrainian public. Yes, in Ukraine there was a coup. But international law doesn’t provide the possibility of an incursion into an independent state only because of a violent change of power. Yes, our western “partners” often carry out coups and/or interfere in independent states under the pretext of eliminating the consequences of the coup. Nevertheless, even now, when not only the spirit, but also the letter of international law is consciously ignored in most cases by the majority of countries, such invasions/interventions are outwardly given shape in accordance with international law. For example, some local oppositionist is found (or brought, like how the USSR brought Babrak Karmal from Czechoslovakia to Afghanistan), a real or fake resistance movement is formed around them, it then establishes control over some territories, provides the transition of some officials and military personnel to its side, and only after this do foreign troops appear in the country “for the purpose of stopping bloodshed”. The appearance of “polite people” in Crimea was given shape precisely like this. Civil standoff, the threat of mass bloodshed, the non-recognition of the Kiev coup by local parliament – only after this did Russia appear there officially. And everything that was unofficial was already in play.

The corresponding conditions didn’t develop anywhere else across the entire territory of Ukraine. Yes, there were rallies that gathered 1,000/2,000 people. Yes, the regional state administrations were taken by storm. Yes, “people’s governors” were proclaimed. But at the same time, except in Crimea, in no region did the official authorities refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the coup in Kiev. Thus, Russia found itself in front of the formally monolithic unity of a 45-million state, all the authorities of which, including regional ones in the Southeast, refused to recognise Yanukovych as legitimate. But counteraction was demonstrated by several tens of thousands of people over all the country. This counteraction was unorganised, they weren’t able to either reach an agreement among themselves or formulate their aims clearly.

So from the point of view of international law, in 2014 Russia had nobody to stand up for. Those abstract “we were waiting [for Russia to liberate us]” – who indeed were in the millions – couldn’t be considered, counted, and their non-publicly expressed will presented as a justification of a right to intervene by anyone.

Of course, there was an option to spit on the legal justification of actions and to act by the right of might. But for the sake of what? An overland corridor to Crimea? This issue was solved with the help of the Crimean Bridge. Meanwhile it was clear that it won’t be possible to capture all of Ukraine in 2014. In the West (and even in the center) most of the population would be against it. And an appeal to the US, EU, and NATO with a request for help will surely be expressed. And it will be heard.

I.e., the partition of Ukraine was possible, and it’s not a fact that it would be succeeded to take all of Novorossiya and to punch a corridor up to Transnistria. It is rather on the contrary – neither Kiev, nor western “partners” were obviously going to hand over Odessa, the strangling of Transnistria in a situation of military-political chaos was quite real, and it was possible to do it quickly, during a couple of days (so that Russia has no time to react). The most sad thing in this chapter is that a part of the gas pipelines + gas storages would all the same remain under the control of the Banderist government. Only it would speak rightfully about Russian aggression, and for our friends in the EU it would be almost impossible to defend the idea of “Nord Stream-2”.

Russia would thus receive a small territorial accretion with a population that is far from being ready to fit into the Russian political system (this is seen even in the example of the small and most Russian in Ukraine Crimea), but its economic partnership with the EU would be interrupted and political relations would reach a level close to a military confrontation. Those same US bases that so far have appeared in Europe in a very moderate quantity only because most Europeans are against the deployment of new American forces would appear there without problem.

It would be necessary to manyfold strengthen the Western grouping of troops, including in the attached territories. And besides this, for the creation of an effective system of management and control it would be necessary to send a large number of administrative staff from Russia to the attached territories, and also forces of the police and FSB (Ukrainian statehood was almost destroyed, the remaining officials in their majority are incompetent, and the system of management has been destroyed).

It would be a question of the need to resettle in Ukraine hundreds of thousands of people (1-2 million, if to count them with their families) for the long term. These people would be perceived there as “Varangians” who were sent to govern (but after all, we can do it ourselves) and who “prevents us from living” in the way that “we got used to”. Since this moment any problem would be a problem “caused by Russia”, which didn’t give, do, or provide something. After all, the governors are Russian. Soon the era of “European integration” would start being remembered with nostalgia, especially since sharply increasing the standard of living of 20 million people is almost impossible, but forcing everyone to pay taxes (only the lazy in Ukraine didn’t avoid paying them) is actually very easy. Besides this, the freezing in the Ukrainian (and in general in the Western) direction of a considerable (from a third to a half) of the entire military capacity of Russia would block the possibility of pursuing an active foreign policy (including in Syria). There wouldn’t be simply anything left that could offer support.

A hypothetical Ukrainian campaign didn’t correspond to the principle, according to Liddel Hart, requirement of a successful war: “Victory is such a post-war peace that is better than the pre-war one, at least for you”.

But maybe it was possible to integrate at least Donbass into Russia following the Crimean example? No, it wasn’t. As was already said, legitimate regional authorities didn’t support the revolt. Only about a third of the total area of two regions and a half of that territory on which an independence referendum was held appeared in the hands of the revolters. To recognise and integrate them into Russia (and they can’t survive independently) is possible only within the framework of the territory under its control today. Supporting an offensive of the DPR/LPR up to the borders of regions means to start a war that leads to the partition of Ukraine, but Russia will receive even less than the biggest part of Novorossiya – it will be just two regions. The other consequences, perhaps, are a little more soft, but in general they are the same. Besides this, it is necessary to understand that by making peace on the condition of the integration of Donbass, Russia would practically reconcile with the loss of the rest of Ukraine forever (or as far as it is possible to speak about “forever” in politics in principle). I.e., the losses are the same, and the profit is even less, if we avoid saying that there isn’t any in general.

In fact, this situation of a military-political stalemate that developed in the Ukrainian direction by the summer of 2014 forced Russia to opt to freeze the situation in this direction, having transferred the center of gravity of its efforts to more promising, from the point of view of the global standoff with the US, regions – in order to return to the Ukrainian question in general, and to Donbass in particular, in more favourable conditions.

Petro Poroshenko and the Spanish Toad

February 14, 2019

By Rostislav Ishchenko

Petro Poroshenko and the Spanish Toad
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with 
https://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-petro-poroshenko-and-the-spanish-toad/
source: 
https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20190214/1022682814.html

 

There is an old Spanish fairy tale about a “hurrying toad”. It spent 7 years climbing the high stairs to a house, having a rest after each overcome step. It fell from the last one and started to complain: “Why am I in a hurry every time”?

The descendants of Visigoths and Moors laugh together at the stupidity of this amphibian, which took its extraordinary sluggishness for haste. Meanwhile, the small animal isn’t so stupid as it seems. It is quite possible that before the last step the toad didn’t rest sufficiently. As a result, 7 years of work was for nothing. So the statement of the Spanish toad isn’t as direct as it may seem at first sight. In addition, the fact that it pondered the reasons for its defeat and tried to analyse them to the best of its ability (obviously in order to not repeat a mistake) characterises the Spanish toad as intellectual, even if it is ugly and slippery.

Unlike the mentioned fairytale Pyrenean small animal, Ukrainian politicians and “intellectuals”who try to develop a strategic course for the state never once thought about why every time when they want to do something better, things turns out as always.

I understand that for them their personal interests always prevail over the state’s interests, and that they are ready to sell, buy, and again sell their Motherland, but for a higher price. However, even the racketeers of the 90’s, who didn’t go very far from Pithecanthropus (both in terms of appearance and intelligence level), quickly realised that during their lives it is more favourable to milk a prospering point than to milk protected businesses dry one-two times and then tighten one’s belt. Those who didn’t understand this very quickly found themselves six-feet under. I.e., it must be clear to Ukrainian politicians that “stealing from profits” (as Igor Valeryevich Kolomoisky teaches) is more favourable and safe than from losses. And in a prosperous country the situation is stabler, profits are higher, and thus the income is steadier.

And after all, one can’t say that Ukrainian politicians didn’t worry at all about the prosperity of their country and thus business, which they do at the expense of this country. The vast majority of them, not just “Euro-integrators”, sincerely believed that EU accession will bring prosperity to the country, that NATO will defend it from any threats, and in order to achieve these two treasured objectives it is necessary to just regularly follow the instructions of the US, both directly (through the Embassy) and through affiliated structures (for example, the IMF).

They still aren’t confused by the fact that the more zealously and fervently the recommendations of Washington are implemented, the poorer and more insolvent Ukraine becomes. This is a state that 25 years ago laid claim to the title of “the second France”, which participated in the G7+1 format (besides Ukraine, such a format was used around the world by the West on a regular basis only for negotiations with Russia), but turned into a poor excuse of Haiti, and doesn’t just slip deeper into the abyss, but simply nosedives, rejoicing that “the bottom hasn’t been reached yet”.

Here, for example, is the US, which longly and persistently advised [Ukraine – ed] to “diversify”, but in practice to cut strategic trade and economic ties with Russia. Ukraine moved in this direction in the middle of the 90’s. And the further it traveled along the way of “diversification”, the more strongly the economy collapsed. And lastly, by signing the agreement on association with the EU and severing its last ties with Russia (under the pretext of a war that only Ukraine sees and wages), the final blow was dealt to the economy. It won’t be possible to reanimate it any more.

Kiev acted similarly on the gas front. The almost annual, since 2005, “gas wars” (diversification of the gas supply and the transfer of relations with Moscow in this sphere to “European groundwork” was declared as their purpose) led to a 5- to 6-fold (and at peak even more) rise in the gas price for Kiev, which made Ukrainian industry noncompetitive. Of course, at first several people were able to steal many times more than they initially assumed on the back of the growth of gas prices.

But the oligarchy as a whole in this case suffered huge losses, because at first separate enterprises, and then even whole industries – the competitiveness of which was defined by a rather low price of gas – reduced production and then completely stopped their work. Finally, with the death of the industry, the gas consumption also reduced, so even those who sat on dividends from trade in “blue gold” was suffered losses.

One doesn’t need to be a genius in order to guess that the US, pitting Ukraine against Russia, doesn’t at all think about the prosperity of the Ukrainian state, the people, and the oligarchy, but seeks to solve its own problems at someone else’s expense. In their calculations Kiev plays a role of expendable material. Its main task consists of blocking economic ties with Russia and the EU, where an important (and recently, even critical) role is played by the supply of gas, because until recently 80% of gas transit from Russia to the EU went through Ukraine, so Ukraine was a key link in the implementation of the American plans for holding the Old Continent under its economic and political control. What will thus happen to Ukraine didn’t bother the Americans at all.

That’s why, for example, in 2014, after the return of Crimea to Russia, the US for a few months more strenuously signalled to Moscow that they wouldn’t at all be against Russia capturing all of Ukraine. Washington reasonably believed that in this case nothing else will remain for the European Union except to sever all ties with Moscow.

During the last five years since the putsch the US indifferently observes how the pro-American regime that came to power loses internal stability because of the banal lack of funds for the maintenance of the state. At the same time, the maintenance of Ukraine at the level of “so that things don’t become worse” costs about $10 billion of external financing per year. With $30 billion per year it is possible to create a feeling of full wellbeing and absolute happiness among the population. This is not peanuts, but it is about 1/25th of budget of the Pentagon (not taking into account indirect military expenses). For comparison, for rescuing the financial system of Greece (in order to not allow its exit from the Eurozone) the West in two years found more than €300 billion (about $500 billion).

Taking into account the strategic importance of Ukraine in American geopolitical planning, if its integrity (even not prosperity) was recognised as a boundary condition for a solution, then money would be found without problems. If it’s not found, so it means that the US is satisfied with any option: if it will remain intact – okay, if it will collapse – this also okay. But it must do it itself.

Nevertheless, Kiev continues to pick up any American initiative with enthusiasm. Now Ukraine actively fights against “Nord Stream-2”. Moreover, its confidence in the beneficence of American recommendations and their obligatoriness for implementation reaches such a level that the government officials of Kiev (including the Minister of Foreign Affairs) are publicly surprised by, and indignant at, how Germany dares to continue the construction of “Nord Stream-2” if the US already several times repeated that the project is wrong and must be closed? About what such “national interests” do the Germans murmur? Their national interests are better seen from Washington.

Let’s imagine that the pipe dream of Ukrainian politicians comes true and the construction of “Nord Stream-2” is stopped. We won’t try to find out who will lose however much already invested money from it, and also who will owe how much to who. Politics is a severe thing – investments are often lost and debts are rarely paid back. Great Britain, when it was the empress of the seas, often consciously opted for severe financial losses for decades just in order to strangle a dangerous enemy.

But let’s assess the situation from the point of view of the interests of Ukraine. It would seem that everything is all right — the bypassing gas pipeline hasn’t been completed; there is no alternative to Ukrainian transit. Kiev will earn a further 2-3 (and in the long term, maybe, more) billion per year from transit and at the same time terrorise Russia with constant legal proceedings and demands to revise in its own favour the signed contracts. Here is happiness!

However, everything isn’t so benevolent. As we remember, the US fights against “Nord Stream-2” not for the sake of Ukraine and not because of a love for art, but in order to leave its economic competitors in the EU without cheap gas (with the prospect of the death of the primary export branches of European industry) and also to deprive its geopolitical competitors in Russia and China of the European sales market and source of technologies. I.e., with one blow Washington tries to achieve the simultaneous, critical weakening of their three economic and geopolitical competitors, creating the conditions for their return to the position of the world hegemon. More bang for their buck.

This strategy doesn’t at all assume that Russian gas will go through Ukraine. It assumes that gas won’t get to Europe at all. Unless its American liquefied, and in insufficient quantities and at an ultra-high price. Therefore, it is necessary to stop Ukrainian transit after “Nord Stream-2”. There are three ways of solving this problem.

The first option – hope that Russia will take offence, sulk and, as certain “hyper patriots” advise, will stop delivering gas to Europe through Ukraine. This option would be the cheapest and most effective for the US, but Washington already in the 90’s understood that it won’t have such an option.

The second option – provoke a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Fleeing nationalists will have the time to destroy if not all the gas transit infrastructure, then at least a major part of it. And again, it will be possible to put pressure on Europe, demanding to stop any relations with the “aggressor”. This option also allows to solve the American problem mainly at the expense of the geopolitical opponents and allies of Washington. But as the practice of 2014 and the subsequent years showed, this is also not realistic. Russia avoids the “honour” of solving the Ukrainian problem alone, persistently involving leading EU countries in process. So the provocations of Kiev even assist in the gradual political rapprochement of Moscow and Berlin (and also some other European capitals).

The third option assumes the disintegration of the Ukrainian state into conflicting uluses – the Americans will hint to their leaders that the destruction of the gas transit infrastructure will relieve them of many dangers and will create problems for their neighbour. The average Ukrainian politician will easily understand that if the gas going through their territory to the neighbouring hostile region (controlled by a competing oligarch or alternative gang) is used to heat houses and maintenance the work of industry, then there is a need to blow up the gas pipeline. Well, and for those who won’t understand or will decide to play their own game, there are the snipers of the CIA.

Thus, if “Nord Stream-2” is stopped, Russia and the EU will indeed suffer very serious financial-economic and geopolitical losses. But the definitive realisation of American interests doesn’t assume that after this a Ukrainian state will exist. On the contrary, the more victims and destruction there will be, the longer and deeper the chaos on the territory of Ukraine will be, and the better it will be for the Americans. If this territory will turn into an uninhabitable desert, then for Washington it will be a celebration even more so.

So instead of assenting to Americans and dreaming about the crash of the bypassing streams project, Ukraine should cherish it as the apple of their eye, propel “Nord Stream-2”, and even insist that “Nord Stream 3” and “Nord Stream-4” are built.

In such a case, a Ukraine that is growing poor, needed by nobody, forgotten by all, and missing two thirds of its population will be able to survive in the form of an agrarian single-crop Bantustan. The crash of the streams project brings death and destruction to Ukraine and its population. And no other prospect. But for Americans in this case, it’s “nothing personal, just business”. So it isn’t necessary to hurry to jump onto the last step. The Spanish toad can vouch for it.

Talk of Western intervention in the Black Sea is pure fantasy

January 19, 2019

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)Talk of Western intervention in the Black Sea is pure fantasy

Crimea is essential to Russia strategically and economically, but speculation over Ankara helping to boost the US presence in the Black Sea is far-fetched given Turkey’s energy deals with Moscow.

A power struggle over the Black Sea between Russia and the US plus NATO has the potential to develop as a seminal plot of the 21st century New Great Game – alongside the current jostling for re-positioning in the Eastern Mediterranean.

By now it’s established the US and NATO are stepping up military pressure from Poland to Romania and Bulgaria all the way to Ukraine and east of the Black Sea, which seems, at least for the moment, relatively peaceful, just as Crimea’s return to Russia starts to be regarded, in realpolitik terms, as a fait accompli.

After a recent series of conversations with top analysts from Istanbul to Moscow, it’s possible to identify the main trends ahead.

Just as independent Turkish analysts like Professor Hasan Unal are alarmed at Ankara’s isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean energy sphere by an alliance of Greece, Cyprus and Israel, Washington’s military buildup in both Romania and Bulgaria is also identified as posing a threat to Turkey.

It’s under this perspective that Ankara’s obstinance in establishing a security “corridor” in northern Syria, east of the Euphrates river, and free from the YPG Kurds, should be examined. It’s a matter of policing at least one sensitive border.

Still, in the chessboard from Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, Turkey and Crimea, the specter of “foreign intervention” setting fire to the Intermarium – from the Baltics to the Black Sea – simply refuses to die.

Ukraine Russia map

‘Russian lake’?

By the end of the last glacial era, around 20,000 years ago, the Black Sea – separated from the Mediterranean by an isthmus – was just a shallow lake, much smaller in size than it is today.

The legendary journey of Jason and the Argonauts, before the Trojan war, followed the Argo ship to the farther shore of Pontus Euxinus (the ‘Black Sea’) to recover the Golden Fleece – the cure for all evils – from its location in Colchis (currently in Georgia).

In Ancient Greece, steeped in mythology, the Black Sea was routinely depicted as the boundary between the known world and terra incognita. But then it was “discovered” – like America many centuries later – to the point where it was configured as a “string of pearls” of Greek trading colonies linked to the Mediterranean.

The Black Sea is more than strategic, it’s crucial geopolitically. There has been a constant drive in modern Russian history to be active across maritime trade routes through the strategic straits – the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus and Kerch in Crimea – to warmer waters further south.

As I observed early last month in Sevastopol, Crimea is now a seriously built fortress – incorporating S-400 and Iskander-M missiles – capable of ensuring total Russian primacy all across the eastern Black Sea.

A visit to Crimea reveals how its genes are Russian, not Ukrainian. A case can be made that the very concept of Ukraine is relatively spurious, propelled by the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of the 19th century and especially before World War I to weaken Russia. Ukraine was part of Russia for 400 years, far longer than California and New Mexico have been part of the US.

Now compare the reconquest of Crimea by Russia, without firing a shot and validated by a democratic referendum, to the US “conquests” of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Moreover, I saw Crimea being rebuilt and on the way to prosperity, complete with Tatars voting with their feet to return; compare it to Ukraine, which is an IMF basket case.

Crimea is essential to Russia not only from a geostrategic but also an economic point of view, as it solidifies the Black Sea as a virtual “Russian lake”.

It’s immaterial that Turkish strategists may vehemently disagree, as well as US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker who, trying to seduce Turkey, dreams about increasing the US presence in the Black Sea, “whether on a bilateral basis or under EU auspices.”

Under this context, the building of the Turk Stream pipeline should be read as Ankara’s sharp response to the rampant Russophobia in Brussels.

Ankara has, in tandem, consistently shown it won’t shelve the acquisition of Russian S-400 missile systems because of American pressure. This has nothing to do with pretentions of neo-Ottomanism; it’s about Turkey’s energy and security priorities. Ankara now seems more than ready to live with a powerful Russian presence across the Black Sea.

It all comes down to Montreux

Not by accident the comings and goings on NATO’s eastern flank was a key theme at last summer’s biennial Atlanticist summit. After all, Russia, in the wake of reincorporating Crimea, denied access over the eastern Black Sea.

NATO, though, is a large mixed bag of geopolitical agendas. So, in the end, there’s no cohesive strategy to deal with the Black Sea, apart from a vague, rhetorical “support for Ukraine” and also vague exhortations for Turkey to assume its responsibilities.

But because Ankara’s priorities are in fact the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkish-Syrian border, east of the Euphrates river, there’s no realistic horizon for NATO to come up with permanent Black Sea patrols disguised as a “freedom of navigation” scheme – as much as Kiev may beg for it.

What does remain very much in place is the guarantee of freedom of navigation in the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits controlled by Turkey, as sanctioned by the 1936 Montreux Convention.

The key vector, once again, is that the Black Sea links Europe with the Caucasus and allows Russia trade access to southern warm waters. We always need to go back to Catherine the Great, who incorporated Crimea into the empire in the 18th century after half a millennium of Tatar and then Ottoman rule, and then ordered the construction of a huge naval base for the Black Sea fleet.

By now some facts on the ground are more than established.

Next year the Black Sea fleet will be upgraded with an array of anti-ship missiles; protected by S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems; and supported by a new “permanent deployment” of Sukhoi SU-27s and SU-30s.

Far-fetched scenarios of the Turkish navy fighting the Russian Black Sea fleet will continue to be peddled by misinformed think tanks, oblivious to the inevitability of the Russia-Turkey energy partnership. Without Turkey, NATO is a cripple in the Black Sea region.

Intriguing developments such as a Viking Silk Road across the Intermarium won’t alter the fact that Poland, the Baltics and Romania will continue to clamor for “more NATO” in their areas to fight “Russian aggression”.

And it will be up to a new government in Kiev after the upcoming March elections to realize that any provocation designed to drag NATO into a Kerch Strait entanglement is doomed to failure.

Ancient Greek sailors had a deep fear of the Black Sea’s howling winds. As it now stands, call it the calm before a (Black Sea) storm.

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