A possible strategy for peace

September 28, 2022

Source

by Gav Don

We now await the results of the referenda in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhiya and Kherson to request membership of the Russian Federation. In the first three regions the result is a foregone conclusion. In Kherson the vote is also likely to be for membership, in spite of the fact that Kherson’s pre-war population was a majority ethnic Ukrainian one, but the margin may be closer. Many, indeed probably most, of Kherson’s pre-war Ukrainians have, though, left the region as refugees, and will not vote in the referendum by virtue of their absence. President Putin stated in a recent speech that Russia will immediately accept the applications for membership of the Federation that follow.

In parallel Moscow announced this week that Russia will call up army reservists for service. Russian army reserves include men in a wide range of preparedness, from people who had completed conscripted service long ago to a much smaller number of “active” reserve formations similar to western reserve formations – i.e. ones which meet regularly for paid training with regular forces. These latter are a relatively new addition to Russia’s ground forces.

RAND reported in 2019 that “active” reserves totalled only 5,000 men. In 2021 Moscow announced a plan to increase the active reserve under the headline BARS-2021 to 100,000, but no information has reached the public domain since then on how well (or not) that strategy performed. Subsequent clarification stated that reserves called up will undergo months of refresher and update training. Interpolating the limited data suggests that this reserve call-up might bring 20,000-40,000 men with material fighting power to Russia’s Orbat in the short term.

Mr Putin made no reference to the number of men (and women, presumably) to be called up, but within minutes of his speech being broadcast the number of 300,000 appeared throughout western media coverage. The most likely source for that very large number is the media briefers retained by Kyiv.

Prior to this week’s reserve call-up Moscow was already in the process of creating a new unit, the 3rd Army Corps (Luhansk and Donestk militias form the 1st and 2nd Army Corps), comprising some 40 Battalion Tactical Groups. When fully formed the 3rd Army Corps would therefore contain some 35,000 – 40,000 men, but at present is probably less than half that complement, and in an early state of formation and training which will limit its combat power to low-intensity and defensive operations only for several months to come.

Reserves are not the only news: a third insight to Moscow’s objectives has come to light, in one of Mr Putin’s replies in a Q and A at Samarkand, and again in his “reserves” speech. In both he referred for the first time to the Russia’s “main objective” in Ukraine as the full occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. This is the first time since February that Moscow has made an unequivocal statement about its objectives.

It is tempting to extrapolate that Russia’s lesser objectives must be smaller than its main objective. That extrapolation would rule out the taking of much more ground than Russia already occupies, including Odesa (or even Mikolayev), Kharkiv or the ground between the western border of Donetsk and the Dnepr River.

Building on that tentative conclusion leads to another conclusion, that Moscow’s strategic objective now is to conclude the remnants of the peace deal agreed to (and then reneged on) by President Zelensky in Istanbul in March. Much of the rest of Mr Putin’s “reserves” speech was expressing Russia’s defensive rights and plans – the protection of Russian territory and Russian people from Ukraine and the greater west. There was no talk of extending Russian occupation of Ukraine beyond Donetsk and Luhansk.

Last week, the day after the reserves announcement, President Zelensky made a recorded address to the United Nations which Moscow is likely to find discouraging for a peace deal. Mr Zelensky’s first words were a demand for “just punishment” for Russia’s aggression: “Ukraine demands punishment for trying to steal our territory”.  Mr Zelensky stated four preconditions for peace:

·         Punishment (of Russia) for the crime of aggression, to continue (a) until the borders are returned to 2013 line and (b) full financial compensation has been paid for all physical damage. The punishments, to be administered by a special tribunal, specifically include a trade embargo, suspension of Russia from the UN and of its veto, a travel ban on all Russians, and a system to obtain financial compensation from Russia.

·         “The protection of life by all available means”. It was not made clear what this term means in detail.

·         “The restoring of security and territorial integrity” – which must mean a return to 2013 borders.

·         Security guarantees for Ukraine enacted in a suite of bilateral and multilateral treaties, to supplement existing treaties (so, probably not membership of NATO per se). The new guarantees will be written to provide pre-emptive action rather than reactive action (like that in the Atlantic Charter).

To these Mr Zelensky added a fifth precondition, which had no actual provisions or form but appeared to be a call for firm adherence to the four explicit conditions to punish aggression.

Mr Zelensky finished with “I rule out the possibility a settlement can happen on a different basis than the [this] Ukrainian peace formula”.

Ukraine’s position depends entirely on continued materiel and financial support from Washington, London and Brussels. Since it will be immediately clear to even the most Russophobic members of those administrations that the only practically obtainable component of President Zelensky’s formula will be financial compensation from Russia’s frozen foreign reserves, there is probably a different peace deal, which might be imposed on Kyiv by the West. What might those preconditions be?

They would probably include:

·         A clear demonstration by the people living in the four Oblasts that they no longer wish to be part of Ukraine;

·         Clear evidence that the Kharkiv offensive is a one-off, and that it has no practical chance of being repeated elsewhere;

·         Acceptance by the voters of Europe and the United Kingdom that a bad peace is more attractive than a continued war (the voters of the United States are almost completely indifferent to the war and have already lost interest);

·         Acceptance by Prime Minister Truss and Commission President von der Leyen that the economic price of continued conflict with Russia is higher than they will, or even can, pay;

·         Acceptance by the US State Department that the EU Commission and Downing Street are no longer willing to send money and weapons to Ukraine (Mr Biden’s cognitive decline more or less rules him out of the decision process, and the Pentagon has been against the war since February);

It is possible to map last week’s Russian events and announcements against this list of preconditions.

The popular will in the occupied territories

Three of the four referenda are guaranteed to return a strong desire for a transfer from Ukraine to Russia. The fourth, Kherson, may return a less equivocal desire, though a majority for Russia is likely. Moscow may be setting up the surrender of west-bank Kherson to Ukraine as the price of peace.

The western popular consciousness (in so far as it exists as a single “thing”) readily accepts the principle of self-determination where clearly and fairly expressed. Indeed, rather more than half of the people of Europe are independent or unified by virtue of that principle (this would include all Germans, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Greeks, Italians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Slovenes, Croats, Montenegrans, Dutch, Danes, Maltese, Kosovans, Macedonians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Finns, Irish, and, outside the EU, Norwegians, and in future perhaps Scots and Catalans, and of course Ukrainians themselves). Why, then, spend large amounts of money and incur acute economic pain to resist the clearly expressed desire for self-determination by ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine?

In the debate which might follow this line Moscow will undoubtedly call in aid the referendum in Kosovo, supported by the western alliance against Russian ally Serbia, as a precedent for the moral right to choose one’s parent state. It will find support from the 2010 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case, that “…international law contains no ‘prohibition on declarations of independence” (the caveats and specific circumstances of the Advisory Opinion are unlikely to gain much traction with public opinion).

So, it is possible at least that bringing the referenda forward to now is a step towards undermining popular support for the war in greater Europe.

Clear evidence that the Kharkiv success is a one-off

I covered the Kharkiv offensive here, concluding that a successful attack by some 20,000 men against a space held by 4,000 low-grade troops says little about future military prospects for Ukraine. Most of the rest of the Line of Contact is held in substantially greater force by Russian and allied troops of substantially higher fighting power. Moscow’s announcement of reserves mobilisation will shortly add to that fighting power and deepen the thinly-held Contact Line that runs west from Donetsk to Zaporizhiya.

Moscow’s change of strategy by attacking Ukrainian civil power assets for the first time simultaneously restricts Kyiv’s ability to concentrate force and demonstrates Russia’s willingness to use more violence if and when required.

Kyiv is still capitalising on the glow of the Kharkiv offensive, hoping to use it to persuade an international audience that its goal of returning to its 2013 borders is a realistic one. Indeed, the Kharkiv offensive forms a key foundation stone for President Zelensky’s plan for a peace deal articulated to the United Nations last week.

If the Kharkiv offensive is indeed a one-off and not repeatable it will take time for that truth to prevail in the strategic calculus of Washington, London and Brussels.

The economic price of resistance

The European Commission’s sanctions on Russian gas supplies (shuttering Nordstream 2, forbidding EU states from paying for gas in Roubles, obstructing Nordstream 1 by sanctioning its turbines and supporting Kyiv in its shuttering of pipelines for reasons with little engineering validity) have increased gas prices in Europe and the UK by a factor of roughly ten times, and consequently increased power prices by factor of around five times.

Spiking energy prices undercut popular support for the war while at the same time threatening almost all parts of greater Europe’s industrial and commercial sector, rendering large parts of commerce and industry unprofitable overnight (and catastrophically loss-making in the case of low-margin energy intensive primary industries).

Brussels and London have been forced to respond with a combination of massive subsidies, price controls and windfall profit taxes. In the case of the UK Ms Truss’s emergency plan has an initial (6-month) budget of some £65 bn – 2.5% of GDP to be borrowed and spent in half a year alone. While the Commission’s plan for windfall taxes and targeted subsidies is considerably more sensible, both the EU and the UK are looking at sharp GDP contractions as a result of the energy price spike alongside large adverse swings in international payments balances. The value of Sterling has crashed to its lowest level against the dollar since American independence. The Euro has also dropped by some 20% against the dollar.

Europe will weather the price spike better than the UK, which is facing another economic disaster generated by the inflation-linked coupons on some £500 bn of its government debt. With inflation running at 10-12% per year (depending on which measure is chosen), UK debt interest will leap this year from approximately £48 bn in 2019 to a likely £110 bn in 2022.

UK government debt interest will be yet higher in 2023, when, if the war and EU sanctions on Russian gas continue, the United Kingdom will need to borrow a net £200 bn (plus half as much again to roll over existing maturing debts), with a weak currency, high inflation and a shrinking economy. This toxic combination will further weaken the pound, import more inflation through rising import prices, further increase the cost of index-linked government debt, and drive the government’s budget deficit to around 10% of GDP. Unable to raise taxes (because she has promised not to) and unable to cut government spending (because an election looms in 2024) Ms Truss will be at risk of sinking under a tide of debt.

The question is how long will Downing Street accept the costs of its unequivocal support for Ukraine?

The European Commission’s plans for handling the energy price spike are more sensible than London’s, and it starts from a position of having zero debt (though European members all owe large amounts). There is a possibility of a split emerging between the strategic desires of London and the Commission, with the latter welcoming acute economic pain for the UK as part of the “punishment regime” for the UK’s departure from the European Union. Moscow may try to use that divided agenda to detach the UK from Ukraine’s life support system.

Popular rejection of support for the war

Throughout the war European and UK popular support for Ukraine has been solid. Indeed it is almost impossible to find any voice in either mainstream or niche media that is anything other than entirely on the side of Kyiv (not completely impossible – a small community of dissident thinkers and analysts does exist, led by this website, but with a repeating audience that barely breaks half a million people it has little real-world impact).

Popular support has flowed in roughly equal parts from a latent fear of and dislike for Russia born of the Cold War, from a collective view that states should not invade each other, from perhaps the most successful information war ever waged (by Kyiv) and in part from the reality that so far support has cost Europeans personally nothing in either blood or treasure.

The coming price in treasure is discussed above. It is likely that Mr Putin’s remarks this week on the circumstances in which Russia would be prepared to use nuclear weapons were deliberately intended to alarm European and British citizens with the concept that the distant war might become a very non-distant reality if it is allowed to continue.

Moscow can rely on Europe’s media and politicians to misrepresent and exaggerate its statements (conflating tactical with strategic weapons, eliding the question of use against armed forces or civilians, ignoring the fact the Mr Putin’s remarks were expressly preceded by a reference to Ms Truss’s bellicose statement of her willingness to use nuclear weapons during her election campaign, and neatly ignoring the subtlety of whether Russian weapons might be used in Ukraine, Russia or Europe) to cultivate panic among peoples who had more or less forgotten that nuclear weapons still exist and have no clear idea of what they do or how they work.

If that is what Moscow’s talk of nuclear weapons was intended to spark then it has quickly succeeded – the nuclear threat is now top and centre of mass media discussion, and may be creating the space within which Brussels and London can press Kyiv to a negotiated peace, however uncomfortable.

American guns and money

The final piece of the puzzle is how to persuade the US that it should stop sending weapons and cash to Kyiv.

American support for Ukraine does not require popular consent since the price is small by comparison with total US government spending, and its budgets are readily approved by Congress.

American popular consciousness is also much less responsive to the rattling of nuclear sabres, by virtue of distance, by familiarity with life in the front-line of nuclear brinkmanship and because of innate popular confidence in the size and power of US retaliative capabilities. There is no media panic about possible use of nuclear weapons in the US.

Indeed, Ukraine barely breaks into the national mainstream media consciousness, which is preoccupied with inflation, racial tensions expressed by police killings, and the “threat” posed by to US hegemonic power by China, and specifically to Taiwan.

Meanwhile the methane price spike will generate extraordinarily high profits for US LNG producers.

That combination of US circumstances presents Moscow with a wicked problem. There may be one solution to how US opinion should be persuaded to abandon Ukraine.

US popular consciousness firmly believes that Europe (including the UK) has freeloaded on US defence spending for two generations. There are few things the average American dislikes more than a freeloader.

The charge contains an element of truth. Total defence spending by the EU plus UK and Turkey was about Euros 220 bn in 2021. Total US defence spending in the same year was approximately Euros 600 bn. Even allowing for those parts of the budget allocated to strategic nuclear weapons (about 15%), Carrier Strike Groups and amphibious warfare capabilities (10%), and US power projection in Asia and the Middle East (probably another 20%), US defence spending still exceeds Europe’s by about half.

If Moscow can manipulate either or both of the Commission and Downing Street into abandoning support for Ukraine that would leave Washington paying the bill alone. It is not the size of that bill which might undercut support for guns and money, but the fact that it has been forwarded on by decadent and cynical Europeans, which could make US support for Ukraine unacceptably unpopular.

Whatever the American voter thinks, the American neocon will not be persuaded to accept a peace deal with Russia. Indeed, the US is escalating. Last night the pressures in Nordstream 1 and Nordstream more or less simultaneously fell to 7 Atmospheres, and a large gas leak was observed off the Danish Island of Bornholm. 7 Atmospheres is the ambient pressure of the seabed off Bornholm under which both pipelines pass – at 70 metres of water depth. There is only one possible explanation for this event – an attack on both pipelines by an unidentified submarine.

The reliable rule of Cui Bono applies here. A US (or UK, on request from the US) attack on the pipelines secures the EU LNG market for US exporters against possible future competition from Russia after a peace deal, renders Europe dependent on US LNG supplies (in the short term at least), and serves to remove a major possible Russian contribution to peace in the form of cheap gas. It is staggering to see how far US policy-makers will go to promote a continued war.

A possible strategy for peace

Notwithstanding the Nordstream attacks it is possible to see, inside the announcements and moves that have emerged this week, the skeleton of a Russian strategy towards a negotiated peace with Kyiv. An uncomfortable one, to be sure, but peace nevertheless.

If a negotiated peace is not available Moscow can still opt for an imposed one, in which it would complete the occupation of Donetsk Oblast and call a unilateral halt to offensive operations.

Presented with that fait accompli Kyiv is likely to continue its present policy of shelling civilians in Russian-occupied territory wherever its guns can reach – a policy in blatant breach of the Law of Armed Conflict but one which has been consistently and thoroughly ignored by the major media channels in both Europe and the USA, and even by Turkish and Iraq media. An enforced peace would therefore require Russia to create and police an effective artillery “no fire” zone for some 20 kms west of its new imposed border with Ukraine, and a “no-rocket” zone for another 50 kms on top.

Russia’s present artillery and rocket forces cannot do that, since Ukrainian artillery can evade counterbattery fire by the tactic of “shoot and scoot”. Russian air forces are also unable to enforce a no-fire zone because at high altitude they are vulnerable to a SAM shoot-down, and at low altitude to the widespread presence of Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS).

To create an effective no-fire zone Russia needs a force of unmanned drones capable of delivering 20-40 kgs of high explosive within 2 metres of their targets, both stationary and evading counterfire in “scoot” mode. These drones would have to be sufficiently numerous to give saturation coverage day and night, working in pairs (so that one of the pair can engage MANPADS and SAM launchers which target the other member of the pair), and cheap enough to be disposable.

At the start of the war Russia did not have a drone with those specifications, but now it does. The 1,000 or so Shahed 136 drones ordered this month are beginning to arrive (the first examples of 136 wreckage with their distinctive wingtips have now appeared in Ukraine). Russia has renamed the model the Geranium.

The 136 is an ideal candidate for enforcing a deep no-fire zone. Its 36 kg warhead can completely destroy a heavy artillery piece, a mortar or a Multiple Launch Rocket launch truck. The 136 can loiter for some 20 hours at heights well above the reach of MANPADs, before being dived onto the target by its operator. It can also carry out a chase of a moving target (it was a 136 which hit the bridge of the merchant ship Mercer Street while under way off Oman last year), and can break away and re-attack repeatedly if the target evades successfully.

One limitation is that control systems are line-of-sight, so require the drone controller to use a very high aerial to operate the drone successfully deep behind the Line of Contact, but the 136’s operating depth is likely in most circumstances to be greater than the effective range of most of its targets.

Moscow’s drone purchase also reportedly includes an estimated forty Shahed 129 drones. The 129 is a 400 kg aircraft theoretically capable of carrying guided ground attack munitions but more likely to be used for its electro-optical reconnaissance capability to identify targets for the 136s. The 129 too has a line-of-sight control link, which also limits its operational depth capability.

With sufficient numbers of these two drones, backed up by conventional artillery and MLRS systems, Russia should be able to enforce an effective artillery no-fire zone in defence of the occupied territories.

Amidst the uncertainty one thing is certain – there is a zero probability that Moscow will entertain President Zelensky’s UN peace proposals. It may not even respond to them, on the basis that they rest on a strategic fantasy. Equally likely is that President Zelensky will not respond to peace proposals which include the detachment of the four Oblasts. At least, not until pressured to do so by at least two of his three western backers.

The most likely outcome therefore looks to this author to be a frozen conflict, once the balance of Donetsk Oblast has been taken (slowly) by Russian forces. At the current rate of progress – a few hundred metres per day – that may not happen until the spring or even summer of 2023.

‘If not me, who?’: Mikhail Gorbachev ended Cold War and saved the world, but failed to save Soviet Union FEATURE

30 Aug, 2022

It is hard to imagine that anyone could have dismantled the Soviet Union from the inside faster or more comprehensively than Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who had no such intention. Its crumbling is both Gorbachev’s singular achievement and his personal tragedy.

It is also the most important moment in history since 1945.

Popular perceptions have transformed the former Soviet leader into a kitschy icon, remembered as much for starring in an advert for no-crust pizza, as for picking up a Nobel Peace Prize.

But in the demise of ‘The Evil Empire’ he was no naïf, nor a catalyst for generic historic inevitabilities. Almost every single event in the countdown to the fall of communism in Russia and beyond is a direct reflection of the ideals, actions and foibles of Mikhail Gorbachev and those he confronted or endorsed.

This is the story of a farm mechanic who managed to penetrate the inner sanctum of the world’s biggest country, an explanation of what drove him once he reached the top, and an attempt to understand whether he deserves opprobrium or sympathy, ridicule or appreciation.

First president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev before a parade marking the 69th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War.
RIA Novosti.
The first president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev signs autographs during the presentation of his new book “Alone with Myself” in the Moskva store.
RIA Novosti.

If not me, who? And if not now, when?
— Mikhail Gorbachev

CHILDHOOD

Growing up a firebrand Communist among Stalin’s purges

Born in 1931 in a Ukrainian-Russian family in the village of Privolnoye in the fertile Russian south, Mikhail Gorbachev’s childhood was punctuated by a series of almost Biblical ordeals, albeit those shared by millions of his contemporaries.

His years as a toddler coincided with Stalin’s policy of collectivization – the confiscation of private lands from peasants to form new state-run farms – and Stavropol, Russia’s Breadbasket, was one of the worst-afflicted. Among the forcible reorganization and resistance, harvests plummeted and government officials requisitioned scarce grain under threat of death.

Gorbachev later said that his first memory is seeing his grandfather boiling frogs he caught in the river during the Great Famine.

Yet another grandfather, Panteley – a former landless peasant — rose from poverty to become the head of the local collective farm. Later Gorbachev attributed his ideological make-up largely to his grandfather’s staunch belief in Communism “which gave him the opportunity to earn everything he had.”

Panteley’s convictions were unshaken even when he was arrested as part of Stalin’s Great Purge. He was accused of joining a “counter-revolutionary Trotskyite movement” (which presumably operated a cell in their distant village) but returned to his family after 14 months behind bars just in time for the Second World War to break out.

Just in time for the Second World War to break out. For much of the conflict, the battle lines between the advancing Germans and the counter-attacking Red Army stretched across Gorbachev’s homeland; Mikhail’s father was drafted, and even reported dead, but returned with only shrapnel lodged in his leg at the end of the war.

Although Sergey was a distant presence in his son’s life up to then and never lived with him, he passed on to Mikhail a skill that played a momentous role in his life — that of a farm machinery mechanic and harvester driver. Bright by all accounts, Mikhail quickly picked up the knack — later boasting that he could pick out any malfunction just by the sound of the harvester or the tractor alone.

But this ability was unlikely to earn him renown beyond his village. Real acclaim came when the father and son read a new decree that would bestow a national honor on anyone who threshed more than 8000 quintals (800 tons or more than 20 big truckloads) of grain during the upcoming harvest. In the summer of 1948 Gorbachev senior and junior ground an impressively neat 8888 quintals. As with many of the agricultural and industrial achievements that made Soviet heroes out of ordinary workers, the exact details of the feat – and what auxiliary efforts may have made it possible – are unclear, but 17-year-old Gorbachev became one of the youngest recipients of the prestigious Order of the Red Banner of Labor in its history.

Having already been admitted to the Communist Party in his teen years (a rare reward given to the most zealous and politically reliable) Mikhail used the medal as an immediate springboard to Moscow. The accolade for the young wheat-grinder meant that he did not have to pass any entrance exams or even sit for an interview at Russia’s most prestigious Moscow State University.

With his village school education, Gorbachev admitted that he initially found the demands of a law degree, in a city he’d never even visited before, grueling. But soon he met another ambitious student from the countryside, and another decisive influence on his life. The self-assured, voluble Raisa, who barely spent a night apart from her husband until her death, helped to bring out the natural ambition in the determined, but occasionally studious and earnest Gorbachev. Predictably, Gorbachev rose to become one of the senior figures at the university’s Komsomol, the Communist youth league — which with its solemn group meetings and policy initiatives served both as a prototype and the pipeline for grown-up party activities.

STAVROPOL

Party reformist flourishes in Khruschev’s Thaw

Upon graduation in 1955, Gorbachev lasted only ten days back in Stavropol’s prosecutor’s office (showing a squeamishness dealing with the less idealistic side of the Soviet apparatus) before running across a local Komsomol official. For the next 15 years his biography reads like a blur of promotions – rising to become Stavropol region’s top Komsomol bureaucrats, overseeing agriculture for a population of nearly 2.5 million people before his 40th birthday.

All the trademarks of Gorbachev’s leadership style, which later became famous around the world, were already in evidence here. Eschewing Soviet officials’ habit of barricading themselves inside the wood-paneled cabinets behind multiple receptions, Gorbachev spent vast swathes of his time ‘in the field’, often literally in a field. With his distinctive southern accent, and his genuine curiosity about the experiences of ordinary people, the young official a struck chord as he toured small villages and discussed broken projectors at local film clubs and shortages of certain foodstuffs.

His other enthusiasm was for public discussion, particularly about specific, local problems – once again in contrast with the majority of officials, who liked to keep negative issues behind closed doors. Gorbachev set up endless discussion clubs and committees, almost quixotically optimistic about creating a better kind of life among the post-war austerity.

POLITBURO

Cutting the line to the throne

By the 1970s any sign of modernization in Soviet society or leadership was a distant memory, as the country settled into supposed “advanced socialism”, with the upheavals and promises of years past replaced by what was widely described as ‘An Era of Stagnation’ (the term gained official currency after being uttered by Gorbachev himself in one of his early public speeches after ascending to the summit of the Soviet system).

Without Stalin’s regular purges, and any democratic replacement mechanisms, between the mid-1960s and 1980s, almost the entire apparatus of Soviet leadership remained unchanged, down from the increasingly senile Leonid Brezhnev, who by the end of his life in 1982 became a figure of nationwide mockery and pity, as he slurred through speeches and barely managed to stand during endless protocol events, wearing gaudy carpets of military honors for battles he never participated in. Predictably, power devolved to the various factions below, as similarly aged heavyweights pushed their protégés into key positions.

The Kremlin Palace of Congresses (now the State Kremlin Palace). The XXV Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Feb. 24-March 5, 1976). CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev delivering speech.
RIA Novosti.

Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov, CPSU CC Politbureau member, CPSU CC secretary, twice Hero of Socialist Labor.
RIA Novosti.Leonid Brezhnev, left, chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium and general secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, with Alexei Kosygin, chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, on Lenin’s Mausoleum on May 1, 1980.
RIA Novosti.The Soviet Communist Party’s politburo member Konstantin Chernenko and central committee member Yury Andropov attend the Kremlin Palace of Congresses’ government session dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the USSR.
RIA Novosti.Yuri Andropov (1914-1984), General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee (since November 1982).
RIA Novosti.

With a giant country as the playground, the system rewarded those who came up with catchy programs and slogans, took credit for successes and steered away from failures, and networked tirelessly to build up support above and below. Gorbachev thrived here. His chief patrons were Brezhnev himself, purist party ideologue Mikhail Suslov, who considered Stavropol his powerbase, and most crucially the hardline head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov. The security chief referred to the aspiring politician as ‘My Stavropol Rough Diamond’ — another rejoinder to those seeking to paint Gorbachev as a naïve blessed outsider, a Joan of Arc of the Soviet establishment.

After being called to Moscow in 1978 to oversee Soviet agriculture — an apocryphal story suggests that he nearly missed out on the appointment when senior officials couldn’t find him after he got drunk celebrating a Komsomol anniversary, only to be rescued by a driver at the last moment — Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed to the Politburo in 1980.

The Politburo, which included some but not all of the ministers and regional chiefs of the USSR, was an inner council that took all the key decisions in the country, with the Soviet leader sitting at the top of the table, holding the final word (though Brezhnev sometimes missed meetings or fell asleep during them). When Gorbachev became a fully-fledged member he was short of his 50th birthday. All but one of the dozen other members were over sixty, and most were in their seventies. To call them geriatric was not an insult, but a literal description of a group of elderly men – many beset by chronic conditions far beyond the reach of Soviet doctors – that were more reminiscent of decrepit land barons at the table of a feudal king than effective bureaucrats. Even he was surprised by how quickly it came.

Brezhnev, who suffered from a panoply of circulation illnesses, died of a heart attack in 1982. Andropov, who was about to set out on an energetic screw-tightening campaign, died of renal failure in 1984. Konstantin Chernenko was already ill when he came to leadership, and died early in 1985 of cirrhosis. The tumbling of aged sovereigns, both predictable and tragicomic in how they reflected on the leadership of a country of more than 250 million people, not only cleared the path for Gorbachev, but strengthened the credentials of the young, energetic pretender.

Leonid Brezhnev’s funeral procession at Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum.
RIA Novosti.

The decorations of General Secretary of the CPSU Leonid Brezhnev seen during his lying-in-state ceremony at the House of Unions.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and the last Soviet president (second left in the foreground) attending the funeral of General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Konstantin Chernenko (1911-1985) in Moscow’s Red Square.
RIA Novosti.The funeral procession during the burial of Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the CPSU central committee, chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet.
RIA Novosti.The funeral of Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The coffin is placed on pedestal near the Mausoleum on Red Square.
RIA Novosti.The funeral procession for General Secretary of the CPSU Konstantin Chernenko moving towards Red Square.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the Central Comittee of CPSU Mikhail Gorbachev at the tribune of Lenin mausoleum during May Day demonstration, Red square.
RIA Novosti.

On 11 March 1985, Gorbachev was named the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR.

REFORMS NEEDED

Overcoming economic inefficiency with temperance campaigns

As often in history, the reformer came in at a difficult time. Numbers showed that economic growth, which was rampant as Russia industrialized through the previous four decades, slowed down in Brezhnev’s era, with outside sources suggesting that the economy grew by an average of no more than 2 percent for the decade.

The scarcity of the few desirable goods produced and their inefficient distribution meant that many Soviet citizens spent a substantial chunk of their time either standing in queues or trading and obtaining things as ordinary as sugar, toilet paper or household nails through their connections, either “under the counter” or as Party and workplace perks, making a mockery of Communist egalitarianism. The corruption and lack of accountability in an economy where full employment was a given, together with relentless trumpeting of achievement through monolithic newspapers and television programs infected private lives with doublethink and cynicism.

A line of shoppers outside the Lenvest footwear shop.
Ria Novosti.

But this still does not describe the drab and constraining feel of the socialist command economy lifestyle, not accidentally eschewed by all societies outside of North Korea and Cuba in the modern world. As an example, but one central to the Soviet experience: while no one starved, there was a choice of a handful of standardized tins — labeled simply salmon, or corned beef — identical in every shop across the country, and those who were born in 1945 could expect to select from the same few goods until the day they died, day-in, day-out. Soviets dressed in the same clothes, lived in identical tower block housing, and hoped to be issued a scarce Lada a decade away as a reward for their loyalty or service. Combined with the lack of personal freedoms, it created an environment that many found reassuring, but others suffocating, so much so that a trivial relic of a different world, stereotypically a pair of American jeans, or a Japanese TV, acquired a cultural cachet far disproportionate to its function. Soviets could not know the mechanisms of actually living within a capitalist society — with its mortgages, job markets, and bills — but many felt that there were gaudier, freer lives being led all around the world.

And though it brought tens of millions of people out of absolute poverty, there was no longer an expectation that the lifestyles of ordinary Soviets would significantly improve whether a year or a decade into the future, and promise of a better future was always a key tenet of communism.

Several wide-ranging changes were attempted, in 1965 and 1979, but each time the initial charge was wound down into ineffectual tinkering as soon as the proposed changed encroached on the fundamentals of the Soviet regime — in which private commercial activity was forbidden and state control over the economy was total and centralized.

Moscow, Russia. Customers at the Okean [Ocean] seafood store. 1988.
Ria Novosti.

Gorbachev deeply felt the malaise, and displayed immediate courage to do what is necessary — sensing that his reforms would not only receive support from below, but no insurmountable resistance from above. The policy of Uskorenie, or Acceleration, which became one of the pillars of his term, was announced just weeks after his appointment — it was billed as an overhaul of the economy.

But it did not address the fundamental structural inefficiencies of the Soviet regime. Instead it offered more of the same top-down administrative solutions — more investment, tighter supervision of staff, less waste. Any boost achieved through rhetoric and managerial dress-downs sent down the pyramid of power was likely to be inconsequential and peter out within months.

His second initiative, just two months after assuming control, betrayed these very same well-meaning but misguided traits. With widespread alcohol consumption a symptom of late-Soviet decline, Gorbachev devised a straightforward solution — lowering alcohol production and eventually eradicating drinking altogether.

Doctor Lev Kravchenko conducting reflexotherapy session with a patient at the Moscow Narcological Clinical Hospital #17.
RIA Novosti
Stolichnaya vodka from the Moscow Liqueur and Vodka Distillery.
RIA Novosti.

“Women write to me saying that children see their fathers again, and they can see their husbands,” said Gorbachev when asked about whether the reform was working.

Opponents of the illiberal measure forced Russian citizens into yet more queues, while alcoholics resorted to drinking industrial fluids and aftershave. Economists said that the budget, which derived a quarter of its total retail sales income from alcohol, was severely undermined. Instead a shadow economy sprung up — in 1987, 500 thousand people were arrested for engaging in it, five times more than just two years earlier.

More was needed, and Gorbachev knew it.

PERE­STROIKA

“We must rebuild ourselves. All of us!”

Gorbachev at his zenith

Gorbachev first uttered the word perestroika — reform, or rebuilding — in May 1986, or rather he told journalists, using the characteristic and endearing first-person plural, “We must rebuild ourselves. All of us!” Picked up by reporters, within months the phrase became a mainstay of Gorbachev’s speeches, and finally the symbol of the entire era.

Before his reforms had been chiefly economic and within the existing frameworks; now they struck at the political heart of the Soviet Union.

The revolution came from above, during a long-prepared central party conference blandly titled “On Reorganization and the Party’s Personnel Policy” on January 27, 1987.

In lieu of congratulatory platitudes that marked such occasions in past times, Gorbachev cheerfully delivered the suspended death sentence for Communist rule in the Soviet Union (much as he didn’t suspect it at the time).

“The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its leaders, for reasons that were within their own control, did not realize the need for change, understand the growing critical tension in the society, or develop any means to overcome it. The Communist Party has not been able to take full advantage of socialist society,”
said the leader to an audience that hid its apprehension.

“The only way that a man can order his house, is if he feels he is its owner. Well, a country is just the same,” came Gorbachev’s trademark mix of homely similes and grand pronouncements.” Only with the extension of democracy, of expanding self-government can our society advance in industry, science, culture and all aspects of public life.”

“For those of you who seem to struggle to understand, I am telling you: democracy is not the slogan, it is the very essence of Perestroika.”

Gorbachev used the word ‘revolution’ eleven times in his address, anointing himself an heir to Vladimir Lenin. But what he was proposing had no precedent in Russian or Soviet history.

The word democracy was used over 70 times in that speech alone.
The Soviet Union was a one-party totalitarian state, which produced 99.9 percent election results with people picking from a single candidate. Attempts to gather in groups of more than three, not even to protest, were liable to lead to arrest, as was any printed or public political criticism, though some dissidents were merely subjected to compulsory psychiatric care or forced to renounce their citizenship. Millions were employed either as official KGB agents, or informants, eavesdropping on potentially disloyal citizens. Soviet people were forbidden from leaving the country, without approval from the security services and the Party. This was a society operated entirely by those in power, relying on compliance and active cooperation in oppression from a large proportion of the population. So, the proposed changes were a fundamental reversal of the flows of power in society.

General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachyov making his report “October and perestroika: the revolution continues” in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses at a joint session of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Supreme Soviet, devoted to the 70th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
RIA Novosti.

Between Gorbachev’s ascent and by the end of that year, two thirds of the Politburo, more than half of the regional chiefs and forty percent of the membership of the Central Committee of Communist Party, were replaced.

Gorbachev knew that democracy was impossible without what came to be known as glasnost, an openness of public discussion.

“We are all coming to the same conclusion — we need glasnost, we need criticism and self-criticism. In our country everything concerns the people, because it is their country,”
said Gorbachev, cunningly echoing Lenin, at that January forum, though the shoots of glasnost first emerged the year before.

From the middle of 1986 until 1987 censored Soviet films that lay on the shelves for years were released, the KGB stopped jamming the BBC World Service and Voice of America, Nobel Peace Prize winner nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov and hundreds of other dissidents were set free, and archives documenting Stalin-era repressions were opened.

A social revolution was afoot. Implausibly, within two years, television went from having no programs that were unscripted, to Vzglyad, a talk show anchored by 20 and 30-somethings (at a time when most Soviet television presented were fossilized mannequins) that discussed the war in Afghanistan, corruption or drugs with previously banned videos by the Pet Shop Boys or Guns N’ Roses as musical interludes. For millions watching Axl Rose, cavorting with a microphone between documentaries about steel-making and puppet shows, created cognitive dissonance that verged on the absurd. As well as its increasing fascination with the West, a torrent of domestic creativity was unleashed. While much of what was produced in the burgeoning rock scene and the liberated film making industry was derivative, culturally naïve and is now badly dated, even artifacts from the era still emanate an unmistakable vitality and sincerity.

Rock for Peace concert in Moscow, 1988.
RIA Novosti.

“Bravo!” Poster by Svetlana and Alexander Faldin. Allegorically portraying USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, it appeared at the poster exposition, Perestroika and Us.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, talking to reporters during a break between sessions. The First Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR (May 25 — June 9, 1989). The Kremlin Palace of Congresses.
RIA Novosti.

Many welcomed the unprecedented level of personal freedom and the chance to play an active part in their own country’s history, others were alarmed, while others still rode the crest of the wave when swept everything before it, only to renounce it once it receded. But it is notable that even the supposed staunchest defenders of the ancien régime — the KGB officers, the senior party members — who later spent decades criticizing Perestroika, didn’t step in to defend Brezhnev-era Communism as they saw it being demolished.

What everyone might have expected from the changes is a different question — some wanted the ability to travel abroad without an exit visa, others the opportunity to earn money, others still to climb the political career ladder without waiting for your predecessor die in office. But unlike later accounts, which often presented Gorbachev as a stealthy saboteur who got to execute an eccentric program, at the time, his support base was broad, and his decisions seemed encouraging and logical.

As a popular politician Gorbachev was reaching a crescendo. His trademark town hall and factory visits were as effective as any staged stunts, and much more unselfconscious. The contrast with the near-mummified bodies of the previous General Secretaries — who, in the mind of ordinary Soviet citizens, could only be pictured on top of Lenin’s Mausoleum during a military parade, or staring from a roadside placard, and forever urging greater productivity or more intense socialist values — was overwhelming.
Gorbachev was on top — but the tight structure of the Soviet state was about to loosen uncontrollably.

USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev in Sverdlovsk Region (25-28 April, 1990). Mikhail Gorbachev with the people of Sverdlovsk at the Lenin Square.
RIA Novosti.

USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev visits Sverdlovsk region. Mikhail Gorbachev visiting Nizhnij Tagil integrated iron-and-steel works named after V.I. Lenin.
RIA Novosti.CPSU Central Committee General Secretary, USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev in the Ukrainian SSR. Mikhail Gorbachev, second right, meeting with Kiev residents.
RIA Novosti.

COLD WAR ENDS

Concessions from a genuine pacifist

In the late 1980s the world appeared so deeply divided into two camps that it seemed like two competing species were sharing the same planet. Conflicts arose constantly, as the US and the USSR fought proxy wars on every continent — in Nicaragua, Angola and Afghanistan, with Europe divided by a literal battle line, both sides constantly updated battle plans and moved tank divisions through allied states, where scores of bases housed soldier thousands of miles away from home. Since the Cold War did not end in nuclear holocaust, it has become conventional to describe the two superpowers as rivals, but there was little doubt at the time that they were straightforward enemies.

“The core of New Thinking is the admission of the primacy of universal human values and the priority of ensuring the survival of the human race,” Gorbachev wrote in his Perestroika manifesto in 1988.

At the legendary Reykjavik summit in 1986, which formally ended in failure but in fact set in motion the events that would end the Cold War, both sides were astonished at just how much they could agree on, suddenly flying through agendas, instead of fighting pitched battles over every point of the protocol.

“Humanity is in the same boat, and we can all either sink or swim.”

General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan (right) during their summit meeting in Reykjavik.
RIA Novosti.

Landmark treaties followed: the INF agreement in 1987, banning intermediate ballistic missiles, the CFE treaty that reduced the military build-up in Europe in 1990, and the following year, the START treaty, reducing the overall nuclear stockpile of those countries. The impact was as much symbolic as it was practical — the two could still annihilate each other within minutes — but the geopolitical tendency was clear.

President Reagan: Signing of the INF Treaty with Premier Gorbachev, December 8, 1987

Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the US president Ronald Reagan.
RIA Novosti.
Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and the US president Ronald Reagan signing an agreement in the White House. Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the official visit to the USA.
RIA Novosti.

Military analysts said that each time the USSR gave up more than it received from the Americans. The personal dynamic between Reagan — always lecturing “the Russians” from a position of purported moral superiority, and Gorbachev — the pacifist scrambling for a reasonable solution, was also skewed in favor of the US leader. But Gorbachev wasn’t playing by those rules.

“Any disarmament talks are not about beating the other side. Everyone has to win, or everyone will lose,” he wrote.

The Soviet Union began to withdraw its troops and military experts from conflicts around the world. For ten years a self-evidently unwinnable war waged in Afghanistan ingrained itself as an oppressive part of the national consciousness. Fifteen thousand Soviet soldiers died, hundreds of thousands more were wounded or psychologically traumatized (the stereotypical perception of the ‘Afghan vet’ in Russia is almost identical to that of the ‘Vietnam vet’ in the US.) When the war was officially declared a “mistake” and Soviet tanks finally rolled back across the mountainous border in 1989, very few lamented the scaling back of the USSR’s international ambitions.

Last Soviet troop column crosses Soviet border after leaving Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.

Driver T. Eshkvatov during the final phase of the Soviet troop pullout from Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.Soviet soldiers back on native soil. The USSR conducted a full pullout of its limited troop contingent from Afghanistan in compliance with the Geneva accords.
RIA Novosti.The convoy of Soviet armored personnel vehicles leaving Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.

In July 1989 Gorbachev made a speech to the European Council, declaring that it is “the sovereign right of each people to choose their own social system.” When Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, soon to be executed by his own people, demanded — during the 40th anniversary of the Communist German Democratic Republic in October 1989 — that Gorbachev suppress the wave of uprisings, the Soviet leader replied with a curt “Never again!”

“Life punishes those who fall behind the times,” he warned the obdurate East German leader Erich Honecker. Honecker died in exile in Chile five years later, having spent his dying years fending off criminal charges backed by millions of angry Germans.

Russian tanks did pass through Eastern Europe that year — but in the other direction, as the Soviet Union abandoned its expensive bases that were primed for a war that neither side now wanted.

Graffitti at the Berlin Wall.
RIA Novosti.
East German citizens climb the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate after the opening of the border was announced early November 9, 1989. REUTERS/Herbert Knosowski BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE.
Reuters.
A big section of the Berlin Wall is lifted by a crane as East Germany has started to dismantle the wall near the Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin, February 20, 1990.
Reuters.

By the time the Berlin Wall was torn down in November, Gorbachev was reportedly not even woken up by his advisors, and no emergency meetings took place. There was no moral argument for why the German people should not be allowed to live as one nation, ending what Gorbachev himself called the “unnatural division of Europe”. The quote came from his 1990 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

ETHNIC TENSIONS

Smoldering ethnic conflicts on USSR’s outskirts flare up

Ethnic tensions on the outskirts of the empire lead to full-scale wars after USSR’s collapse. Towards the end of his rather brief period as a Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev had to face a problem many thought of as done and dusted; namely, ethnic strife, leading to conflict and death.

By the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union was officially considered by party ideologists to be one multi-ethnic nation, despite it being comprised of 15 national republics and even more internal republics and regions, with dozens of ethnic groups living there in a motley mixture. The claim was not completely unfounded as the new generation all across the country spoke Russian and had basic knowledge of Russian culture along with Marxist philosophy. In fact, the outside world confirmed this unity by calling all Soviet citizens “Russians” — from Finno-Ugric Estonians in the West to the Turkic and Iranian peoples of Central Asia and natives of the Far East, closely related to the American Indians of Alaska.

Demonstration on Red Square. The International Labor Day. “Long live the brotherly friendship of the peoples of the USSR!” reads the slogan under the USSR national emblem surrounded by flags of 15 of the Union republics carried at a May Day demonstration in 1986.
RIA Novosti.

At the same time, the concept of the single people was enforced by purely Soviet methods — from silencing any existing problems in the party-controlled mass media, to ruthless suppression of any attempt of nationalist movements, and summary forced resettlement of whole peoples for “siding with the enemy” during WWII.

After Gorbachev announced the policies of Glasnost and democratization, many ethnic groups started to express nationalist sentiments. This was followed by the formation or legalization of nationalist movements, both in national republics and in Russia itself, where blackshirts from the “Memory” organization blamed Communists and Jews for oppressing ethnic Russians and promoted “liberation.”

Neither society nor law enforcers were prepared for such developments. The Soviet political system remained totalitarian and lacked any liberal argument against nationalism. Besides, the concept of “proletarian internationalism” was so heavily promoted that many people started to see nationalism as part of a struggle for political freedoms and market-driven economic prosperity. At the same time, the security services persisted in using the crude Soviet methods that had already been denounced by party leaders; police had neither the tools nor the experience for proper crowd control.

As a result, potential conflicts were brewing all across the country and the authorities did almost nothing to prevent them. In fact, many among the regional elites chose to ride the wave of nationalism to obtain more power and settle old accounts. At the same time, the level of nationalism was highly uneven and its manifestations differed both in frequency and intensity across the USSR.

In February 1988, Gorbachev announced at the Communist Party’s plenum that every socialist land was free to choose its own societal systems. Both Nationalists and the authorities considered this a go-ahead signal. Just days after the announcement, the conflict in the small mountain region of Nagorno-Karabakh entered an open phase.

Nagorno-Karabakh was an enclave populated mostly, but not exclusively, by Armenians in the Transcaucasia republic of Azerbaijan. Relations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis had always been strained, with mutual claims dating back to the Ottoman Empire; Soviet administrative policy based purely on geography and economy only made things worse.

In spring 1989, nationalists took to the streets in another Transcaucasian republic — Georgia. The country was (and still is) comprised of many ethnic groups, each claiming a separate territory, sometimes as small as just one hill and a couple of villages, and the rise of nationalism there was even more dangerous. Georgians marched under slogans “Down with Communism!” and “Down with Soviet Imperialism.” The rallies were guarded and directed by the “Georgian Falcons” — a special team of strong men, many of them veterans of the Afghan war, armed with truncheons and steel bars.

“Down with Communism!”

“Down with Soviet Imperialism.”

This time Gorbachev chose not to wait for clashes and a Spetsnaz regiment was deployed to Tbilisi to tackle the nationalist rallies. Again, old Soviet methods mixed poorly with the realities of democratization. When the demonstrators saw the soldiers, they became more agitated, and the streets around the main flashpoints were blocked by transport and barricades. The soldiers were ordered to use only rubber truncheons and tear gas, and were not issued firearms, but facing the Georgian Falcons they pulled out the Spetsnaz weapon of choice — sharp shovels just as deadly as bayonets.

At least 19 people were killed in the clashes or trampled by the crowd that was forced from the central square but had nowhere to go. Hundreds were wounded.

Soviet tanks are positioned on April 9, 1989 in front of the Georgian government building where pro-independence Georgians were killed as paratroopers moved in to break up a mass demonstration. An anti-Soviet demonstration was dispersed on April 9th by the Soviet army, resulting in 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries. In independent Georgia “April 9” is an annual public holiday remembered as the Day of National Unity.
AFP PHOTO.

Moscow ordered an investigation into the tragedy and a special commission uncovered many serious mistakes made both by the regional and central authorities and party leaders. However, at the May Congress of People’s Deputies, Gorbachev categorically refused to accept any responsibility for the outcome of the events in Tbilisi and blamed the casualties on the military.

Further on, the last Soviet leader persisted in the kind of stubbornness that inevitably must have played a part in his fall. In February 1990, the Communist Party’s Central Committee voted to adopt the presidential system of power and General Secretary Gorbachev became the first and last president of the USSR. The same plenum dismantled the Communist Party’s monopoly of power, even though the country had no grassroots political organizations or any political organizations not dependent on the communists save for the nationalists. As a result, the urge for succession increased rapidly, both in the regional republics and even in the Soviet heartland — the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

In 1990, the Republic of Lithuania was the first to declare independence from the Soviet Union. Despite his earlier promises, Gorbachev refused to recognize this decision officially. The region found itself in legal and administrative limbo and the Lithuanian parliament addressed foreign nations with a request to hold protests against “Soviet Occupation.”

In January 1991, the Lithuanian government announced the start of economic reforms with liberalization of prices, and immediately after that the Supreme Soviet of the USSR sent troops to the republic, citing “numerous requests from the working class.” Gorbachev also demanded Lithuania annul all new regulations and bring back the Soviet Constitution. On January 11, Soviet troops captured many administrative buildings in Vilnius and other Lithuanian cities, but the parliament and television center were surrounded by a thousand-strong rally of protesters and remained in the hands of the nationalist government. In the evening of January 12, Soviet troops, together with the KGB special purpose unit, Alpha, stormed the Vilnius television center, killing 12 defenders and wounding about 140 more. The troops were then called back to Russia and the Lithuanian struggle for independence continued as before.

A Lithuanian demonstrator stands in front of a Soviet Army tank during the assault on the Lithuanian Radio and Television station on January 13, 1991 in Vilnius.
AFP PHOTO.

Vilnius residents gather in front of the Lithuanian parliament following the takeover of the Radio and Television installations by Soviet troops.
AFP PHOTO.An armed unidentified man guards the Lithuanian parliament on January 19, 1991 in Vilnius.
AFP PHOTO.Vilnius residents holding a Lithuanian flag guard a barricade in front of the Lithuanian parliament on January 20, 1991.
AFP PHOTO.Soviet paratroopers charge Lithuanian demonstrators at the entrance of the Lithuanian press printing house in Vilnius. January, 1991.
AFP PHOTO.

Gorbachev again denied any responsibility, saying that he had received reports about the operation only after it ended. However, almost all members of the contemporary Soviet cabinet recalled that the idea of Gorbachev not being aware of such a major operation was laughable. Trying to shift the blame put the president’s image into a lose-lose situation — knowing about the Vilnius fighting made him a callous liar, and if he really knew nothing about it, then he was an ineffective leader, losing control both of distant territories and his own special forces.

The swiftly aborted intervention — troops were called back on the same day — was a disappointment both to the hardliners, who would have wanted Gorbachev to see it through, and to the democratic reformers, horrified by the scenes emerging from Vilnius.

This dissatisfaction also must be one of the main factors that provoked the so-called Putch in August 1991 — an attempt by die-hard Politburo members to displace Gorbachev and restore the old Soviet order. They failed in the latter, but succeeded in the former as Gorbachev, isolated at his government Dacha in Crimea, returned to Moscow only because of the struggles of the new Russian leader Boris Yeltsin. When Gorbachev returned, his power was so diminished that he could do nothing to prevent the Belovezha agreement — the pact between Russia, Belarus and Ukraine that ended the history of the Soviet Union and introduced the Commonwealth of Independent States. All republics became independent whether they were ready to or not.

This move, while granting people freedom from Soviet rule, also triggered a sharp rise in extreme nationalist activities — the stakes were high enough and whole nations were up for grabs. Also, in the three years between Gorbachev’s offering of freedom and the collapse of the USSR, nothing was done to calm simmering ethnic hatred, and with no directions from Moscow or control on the part of the Soviet police and army, many regions became engulfed in full-scale civil wars, based on ethnic grounds.

Things turned especially nasty in Tajikistan, where fighting between Iranian-speaking Tajiks and Turkic-speaking Uzbeks very soon led to ethnic cleansing. Refugees had to flee for their lives to Afghanistan, which itself witnessed a war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance.

Government soldiers aim at positions of armed opposition groups in the border area of Afghanistan 08 June 1993. The civil war between pro-communist forces and the opposition has left thousands dead and turned hundreds of thousands of people into refugees in the last year.
AFP PHOTO.

Two fighters of the Tajik pro-Communist forces engage in a battle with pro-Islamic fighters 22 December 1992 in a village some 31 miles from the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.
AFP PHOTO.Tajik women cry over the dead body of a soldier 29 January 1993. The soldier was killed during fighting between Tajikistan government troops and opposition forces in Parkhar.
AFP PHOTO.

The long and bloody war in Georgia also had a significant ethnic component. After it ended three regions that were part of the republic during Soviet times — Abkhazia, Adzharia and South Ossetia – declared independence, which was enforced by a CIS peacekeeping force. At some point, Georgia managed to return Adzharia but when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, backed and armed by Western nations, attempted to capture South Ossetia in 2008, Russia had to intervene and repel the aggression. Subsequently, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations.

YELTSIN’S CHALLENGE

New star steals limelight

As Stalin and Trotsky, or Tony Blair and Gordon Brown could attest, your own archrival in politics is often on your team, pursuing broadly similar — but not identical aims — and hankering for the top seat.

But unlike those rivalries, the scenes in the fallout between Mikhail Gorbachev, and his successor, Boris Yeltsin played out not through backroom deals and media leaks, but in the form of an epic drama in front of a live audience of thousands, and millions sat in front of their televisions.

The two leaders were born a month apart in 1931, and followed broadly similar paths of reformist regional commissars – while Gorbachev controlled the agricultural Stavropol, Yeltsin attempted to revitalize the industrial region of Sverdlovsk, present-day Yekaterinburg.

Yet, Yeltsin was a definitely two steps behind Gorbachev on the Soviet career ladder, and without his leg-up might have never made it to Moscow at all. A beneficiary of the new leader’s clear out, though not his personal protégé, Yeltsin was called up to Moscow in 1985, and the following year, was assigned the post of First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party, effectively becoming the mayor of the capital.

Yeltsin’s style dovetailed perfectly with the new agenda, and his superior’s personal style, though his personal relationship with Gorbachev was strained almost from the start. Breaking off from official tours of factories, the city administrator would pay surprise visits to queue-plagued and under-stocked stores (and the warehouses where the consumables were put aside for the elites); occasionally abandoning his bulletproof ZIL limo, Yeltsin would ride on public transport. This might appear like glib populism now, but at the time was uncynically welcomed. In the first few months in the job, the provincial leader endeared himself to Muscovites — his single most important power base in the struggles that came, and a guarantee that he would not be forgotten whatever ritual punishments were cast down by the apex of the Communist Party.

Boris Yeltsin, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party’s Moscow City Committee, at the official meeting celebrating the 70th anniversary of the October revolution.
RIA Novosti.

Boris Yeltsin, left, candidate member of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee, at lunch.
RIA Novosti.Voters’ meeting with candidate for deputy of the Moscow Soviet in the 161st constituency, First Secretary of the CPSU Moscow Town Committee, Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet, Boris Yeltsin, centre.
RIA Novosti.People’s deputy Boris Yeltsin. Algirdas Brazauskas (right) and chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council Mikhail Gorbachev on the presidium.
RIA Novosti.

But Yeltsin was not just a demagogue content with cosmetic changes and easy popularity, and after months of increasing criticism of the higher-ups, he struck.

During a public session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in October 1987, the newcomer delivered a landmark speech.

In front of a transfixed hall, he told the country’s leaders that they were putting road blocks on the road to Perestroika, he accused senior ministers of becoming “sycophantic” towards Gorbachev. As his final flourish, Yeltsin withdrew himself from his post as a candidate to the Politburo — an unprecedented move that amounted to contempt towards the most senior Soviet institution.

The speech, which he later said he wrote “on his lap” while sitting in the audience just a few hours earlier, was Yeltsin in a nutshell. Unafraid to challenge authority and to risk everything, with a flair for the dramatic, impulsive and unexpected decision (his resignation as Russian president in his New Year’s speech being the most famous).

Footage shows Gorbachev looking on bemused from above. He did not publicly criticize Yeltsin there and then, and spoke empathetically about Yeltsin’s concerns, but later that day (with his backing) the Central Committee declared Yeltsin’s address “politically misguided”, a slippery Soviet euphemism that cast Yeltsin out into the political wilderness.

Gorbachev thought he had won the round — “I won’t allow Yeltsin anywhere near politics again” he vowed, his pique shining through — but from then on, their historical roles and images were cast.

Gorbachev, for all of his reforms, now became the tame, prissy socialist. Yeltsin, the careerist who nearly had it all, and renounced everything he had achieved at the age of 54 and re-evaluated all he believed in. Gorbachev, the Politburo chief who hid behind the silent majority, Yeltsin the rebel who stood up to it. Gorbachev, the politician who spoke a lot and often said nothing, Yeltsin, the man of action.

Historically, the contrast may seem unfair, as both were equally important historical figures, who had a revolutionary impact for their time. But stood side-by-side, Yeltsin — with his regal bearing and forceful charisma — not only took the baton of Perestroika’s promises, but stole the man-of-the-future aura that had hitherto belonged to Gorbachev, who now seemed fidgety and weaselly by comparison.

While he was stripped of his Moscow role, Yeltsin’s party status was preserved. This had a perverse effect. No one stopped Yeltsin from attending high-profile congresses. No one prevented him from speaking at them. It was the perfect situation — he had the platform of an insider, and the kudos of an outsider. Tens of deputies would come and criticize the upstart, and then he’d take the stage, Boris Yeltsin vs. The Machine.

On June 12, 1990 Russia declared sovereignty from the USSR. A month later, Yeltsin staged another one of his dramatic masterclasses, when he quit the Communist Party on-stage during its last ever national congress, and walked out of the cavernous hall with his head held high, as loyal deputies jeered him.

In June 1991, after calling a snap election, Yeltsin became the first President of Russia, winning 57 percent — or more than 45 million votes. The Party’s candidate garnered less than a third of Yeltsin’s tally.

By this time Gorbachev’s position had become desperate. The Soviet Union was being hollowed out, and Yeltsin and the other regional leaders were now actively colluding with each other, signing agreements that bypassed the Kremlin.

The Communists and nationalists — often one and the same — had once been ambivalent about Gorbachev’s reforms, and anyway had been loath to criticize their leader. But inspired by Gorbachev’s glasnost, and with the USSR’s long term prospects becoming very clear, they now wanted their say as well. A reactionary media backlash started against him, generals pronounced warnings of “social unrest” that sounded more like threats, and some had begun to go as far as to earnestly speculate that Gorbachev was working for the Cold War “enemy.”

USSR IMPLODES

Failed coup brings down faded leader of fractured country

The junta that tried to take power in the Soviet Union on the night of August 18th is one of the most inept in the history of palace coups.

On August 18, all phones at Gorbachev’s residence, including the one used to control the USSR’s nuclear arsenal, were suddenly cut off, while unbeknownst to him, a KGB regiment was surrounding the house. Half an hour later a delegation of top officials arrived at the residence in Foros, Crimea, walked past his family to his office, in their briefcases a selection of documents for Gorbachev to sign. In one scenario, he would simply declare a state of emergency, and proclaim control over all the rebel republics, in another he would hand over power to his deputy Gennady Yanaev, due to worsening health.

Genuinely angry at their disloyalty, the Soviet leader called them “chancers”, and refused to sign anything, saying he would not have blood on his hands. He then showed them out of the house with a lengthy tirade — clearly recollected by all present in their memoirs — in which he crowned the plotters a “bunch of cocks.”

The plotters were not prepared for this turn of events. Gathering once again back in Moscow, they sat around looking at their unsigned emergency decree, arguing and not daring to put their names on the typewritten document. As midnight passed, and more and more bottles of whisky, imported from the decadent West they were saving the USSR from, was brought in, the patriots found their courage, or at least persuaded Yanaev to place himself at the top of the list of signatories. The Gang of Eight would be known as the State Committee on the State of Emergency. Accounts say that by the time they were driven to their dachas — hours before the most important day of their lives — the plotters could barely stand. Valentin Pavlov, he of the unpopular monetary reform, and the prime minister, drank so much he had to be treated for acute alcohol intoxication, and was hospitalized with cardiac problems as the events of the next three days unfolded.

But orders were issued, and on the morning of the 19th tanks rolled into Moscow. While news suggested that nothing had gone wrong — and at this point it hadn’t — the junta made it seem as if everything had. Not only were there soldiers on street, but all TV channels were switched off, with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake iconically played on repeat. By four o’clock in the afternoon, most of the relatively independent media was outlawed by a decree.

But for all their heavy-handed touch the putsch leaders did nothing to stop their real nemesis. Unlike most coups, which are a two-way affair, this was a triangular power struggle – between Gorbachev, the reactionaries, and Yeltsin. Perhaps, like Gorbachev, stuck in their mindset of backroom intrigue the plotters seemed to underrate Yeltsin, and the resources at his disposal.

Russia’s next leader had arrived in Moscow from talks with his Kazakhstan counterpart, allegedly in the same merry state as the self-appointed plotters. But when his daughter woke him up with news of the unusual cross-channel broadcasting schedule, he acted fast, and took his car straight to the center of Moscow. The special forces soldiers placed around his dacha by the conspirators were not ordered to shoot or detain him.

Yeltsin’s supporters first gathered just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin walls, and then on instruction marched through the empty city to the White House building, the home of the rebellious Russian parliament. There, in his defining moment and as the crowd (although at this early hour it was actually thinner than the mythology suggests) chanted his name, Yeltsin climbed onto the tank, reclaimed from the government forces, and loudly, without the help of a microphone, denounced the events of the past hours as a “reactionary coup.” In the next few hours, people from across Moscow arrived, as the crowd swelled to 70,000. A human chain formed around the building, and volunteers began to build barricades from trolleybuses and benches from nearby parks.

Military hardware in Kalininsky prospect after imposition of a state of emergency in August 1991.
RIA Novosti.
Muscovites block the way for military weaponry during the GKChP coup.
RIA Novosti.

Moscow residents building barricades next to the Supreme Soviet during the coup by the State EmergencyCommittee.
RIA Novosti.Thousands of people rallying before the Supreme Soviet of Russia on August 20, 1991.
RIA Novosti.

Though this seemed as much symbolic, as anything, as the elite units sent in by the junta had no intention of shooting, and demonstrated their neutrality, freely mingling with the protesters. Their commander, Pavel Grachev, defected to Yeltsin the following day, and was later rewarded with the defense minister’s seat. The Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov also supported Yeltsin.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin waves from the balcony of the Russian Parliament to a crowd of demonstrators protesting against the overthrow of Soviet President Gorbachev during the brief coup in August 1991, in Moscow August 20, 1991. The result, ironically, was the dissolution of the Soviet Union. REUTERS/Michael Samojeden IMAGE TAKEN AUGUST 20, 1991.
Reuters.

Realizing that their media blackout was not working, and that they were quickly losing initiative, the plotters went to the other extreme, and staged an unmoderated televised press conference.

Sat in a row, the anonymous, ashen-faced men looked every bit the junta. While Yanaev was the nominal leader, he was never the true engine of the coup, which was largely orchestrated by Vladimir Kryuchkov, the KGB chief, who, with the natural caution of a security agent, did not want to take center stage. The acting president, meanwhile, did not look the part. His voice was tired and unsure, his hands shaking — another essential memory of August 1991.

From left: the USSR Interior Minister Boris Pugo and the USSR Vice-President Gennady Yanayev during the press conference of the members of the State Committee for the State of Emergency (GKCP).
RIA Novosti.
From left: Alexander Tizyakov, Vasily Starodubtsev, Boris Pugo, Gennady Yanayev, and Oleg Baklanov during the press conference of the State of Emergency State Committee (GKCP) members at the USSR Foreign Ministry.
RIA Novosti.

In another spectacularly poor piece of communications management, after the new leaders made their speeches, they opened the floor to an immediately hostile press pack, which openly quoted Yeltsin’s words accusing them of overthrowing a legitimate government on live television.

Referring to Gorbachev as “my friend Mikhail Sergeevich,” Yanaev monotoned that the president was “resting and taking a holiday in Crimea. He has grown very weary over these last few years and needs some time to get his health back.” With tanks standing outside proceedings were quickly declining into a lethargic farce in front of the whole country.

Over the next two days there was international condemnation (though Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat supported the coup) the deaths of three pro-Yeltsin activists, and an order by the junta to re-take the White House at all costs, canceled at the last minute. But by then the fate of the putsch had already been set in motion.

Meanwhile, as the most dramatic events in Russia since 1917 were unfolding in Moscow, Gorbachev carried on going for dips in the Black Sea, and watching TV with his family. On the first night of the coup, wearing a cardigan not fit for an nationwide audience, he recorded an uncharacteristically meek address to the nation on a household camera, saying that he had been deposed. He did not appear to make any attempt to get the video out of Foros, and when it was broadcast the following week, it incited reactions from ridicule, to suspicions that he was acting in cahoots with the plotters, or at least waiting out the power struggle in Moscow. Gorbachev likely was not, but neither did he appear to exhibit the personal courage of Yeltsin, who came out and addressed crowds repeatedly when a shot from just one government sniper would have been enough to end his life.

On the evening of August 21, with the coup having evidently failed, two planes set out for Crimea almost simultaneously from Moscow. In the first were the members of the junta, all rehearsing their penances, in the other, members of Yeltsin’s team, with an armed unit to rescue Gorbachev, who, for all they knew, may have been in personal danger. When the putschists reached Foros, Gorbachev refused to receive them, and demanded that they restore communications. He then phoned Moscow, Washington and Paris, voiding the junta’s decrees, and repeating the simple message: “I have the situation under control.”

But he did not. Gorbachev’s irrelevance over the three days of the putsch was a metaphor for his superfluousness in Russia’s political life in the previous months, and from that moment onward. Although the putschists did not succeed, a power transfer did happen, and Gorbachev still lost. For three days, deference to his formal institutions of power was abandoned, and yet the world did not collapse, so there was no longer need for his dithering mediation.

Gingerly walking down the steps of the airstair upon landing in Moscow, blinking in front of the cameras, Mikhail Gorbachev was the lamest of lame duck leaders. He gave a press conference discussing the future direction of the Communist Party, and inner reshuffles that were to come, sounding not just out-of-touch, but borderline delusional.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the Extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federation in Moscow in this August 23, 1991 file photo.
Reuters.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev touch hands during Gorbachev’s address to the Extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federation in Moscow, August 23, 1991. REUTERS/Gennady Galperin (RUSSIA).
Reuters.

Gorbachev resigned as the President of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991.

“The policy prevailed of dismembering this country and disuniting the state, which is something I cannot subscribe to,” he lamented, before launching into an examination of his six years in charge.

“Even now, I am convinced that the democratic reform that we launched in the spring of 1985 was historically correct. The process of renovating this country and bringing about drastic change in the international community has proven to be much more complicated than anyone could imagine.”

“However, let us give its due to what has been done so far. This society has acquired freedom. It has been freed politically and spiritually, and this is the most important achievement that we have yet fully come to grips with.”

AFTERMATH

Praised in West, scorned at home

“Because of him, we have economic confusion!”

“Because of him, we have opportunity!”

“Because of him, we have political instability!”

“Because of him, we have freedom!”

“Complete chaos!”

“Hope!”

“Political instability!”

“Because of him, we have many things like Pizza Hut!”

Thus ran the script to the 1997 advert that saw a tableful of men argue loudly over the outcome of Perestroika in a newly-opened Moscow restaurant, a few meters from an awkward Gorbachev, staring into space as he munches his food alongside his 10 year-old granddaughter. The TV spot ends with the entire clientele of the restaurant getting up to their feet, and chanting “Hail to Gorbachev!” while toasting the former leader with pizza slices heaving with radiant, viscous cheese.

The whole scene is a travesty of the momentous transformations played out less than a decade earlier, made crueler by contemporary surveys among Russians that rated Gorbachev as the least popular leader in the country’s history, below Stalin and Ivan the Terrible.

The moment remains the perfect encapsulation of Gorbachev’s post-resignation career.

To his critics, many Russians among them, he was one of the most powerful men in the world reduced to exploiting his family in order to hawk crust-free pizzas for a chain restaurant — an American one at that — a personal and national humiliation, and a reminder of his treason. For the former Communist leader himself it was nothing of the sort. A good-humored Gorbachev said the half-afternoon shoot was simply a treat for his family, and the self-described “eye-watering” financial reward — donated entirely to his foundation — money that would be used to go to charity.

As for the impact of Gorbachev’s career in advertising on Russia’s reputation… In a country where a decade before the very existence of a Pizza Hut near Red Square seemed unimaginable, so much had changed, it seemed a perversely logical, if not dignified, way to complete the circle. In the years after Gorbachev’s forced retirement there had been an attempted government overthrow that ended with the bombardment of parliament, privatization, the first Chechen War, a drunk Yeltsin conducting a German orchestra and snatching an improbable victory from revanchist Communists two years later, and an impending default.

Although he did get 0.5 percent of the popular vote during an aborted political comeback that climaxed in the 1996 presidential election, Gorbachev had nothing at all to do with these life-changing events. And unlike Nikita Khrushchev, who suffered greater disgrace, only to have his torch picked up, Gorbachev’s circumstances were too specific to breed a political legacy. More than that, his reputation as a bucolic bumbler and flibbertigibbet, which began to take seed during his final years in power, now almost entirely overshadowed his proven skill as a political operator, other than for those who bitterly resented the events he helped set in motion.

Other than in his visceral dislike of Boris Yeltsin — the two men never spoke after December 1991 — if Gorbachev was bitter about the lack of respect afforded to him at home, he wore it lightly. Abroad, he reveled in his statesmanlike aura, receiving numerous awards, and being the centerpiece at star-studded galas. Yet, for a man of his ambition, being pushed into retirement must have gnawed at him repeatedly.

After eventually finding a degree of financial and personal stability on the lecture circuit in the late 1990s, Gorbachev was struck with another blow — the rapid death of Raisa from cancer.

A diabetic, Gorbachev became immobile and heavy-set, a pallor fading even his famous birthmark. But his voice retained its vigor (and accent) and the former leader continued to proffer freely his loquacious opinions on politics, to widespread indifference.

Gorbachev’s legacy is at the same time unambiguous, and deeply mixed — more so than the vast majority of political figures. His decisions and private conversations were meticulously recorded and verified. His motivations always appeared transparent. His mistakes and achievements formed patterns that repeated themselves through decades.

Yet for all that clarity, the impact of his decisions, the weight given to his feats and failures can be debated endlessly, and has become a fundamental question for Russians.

Less than three decades after his limo left the Kremlin, his history has been rewritten several times, and his role bent to the needs of politicians and prevailing social mores. This will likely continue. Those who believe in the power of the state, both nationalists and Communists, will continue to view his time as egregious at best, seditious at worst. For them, Gorbachev is inextricably linked with loss — the forfeiture of Moscow’s international standing, territory and influence. The destruction of the fearsome and unique Soviet machine that set Russia on a halting course as a middle-income country with a residual seat in the UN Security Council trying to gain acceptance in a US-molded world.

Others, who appreciate a commitment to pacifism and democracy, idealism and equality, will also find much to admire in Gorbachev, even though he could not always be his best self. Those who place greater value on the individual than the state, on freedom than on military might, those who believe that the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the totalitarian Soviet Union was a landmark achievement not a failure will be grateful, and if not sympathetic. For one man’s failure can produce a better outcome than another’s success.

RAISA

Passion and power

The history of rulers is littered with tales of devoted wives and ambitious women pulling strings from behind the throne, and Raisa was often painted as both. But unlike many storybook partnerships, where the narrative covers up the nuances, the partnership between Mikhail and Raisa was absolutely authentic, and genuinely formidable. Perhaps the key to Mikhail’s lifelong commitment, and even open deference to his wife, atypical for a man of his generation, lay in their courtship.

Raisa Gorbacheva, wife of the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev, in Paris during their official visit to France. Ria Novosti.

In his autobiography, Gorbachev recollects with painful clarity, how his first meeting with Raisa, on the dance floor of a university club, “aroused no emotion in her whatsoever.” Yet Gorbachev was smitten with the high cheek-boned fellow over-achiever immediately, calling her for awkward dorm-room group chats that went nowhere, and seeking out attempts.

— Raisa Gorbacheva
“We were happy then. We were happy because of our young age, because of the hopes for the future and just because of the fact that we lived and studied at the university. We appreciated that.”

It was several months before she agreed to even go for a walk through Moscow with the future Soviet leader, and then months of fruitless promenades, discussing exams at their parallel faculties. With candor, Gorbachev admits that she only agreed to date him after “having her heart broken by the man she had pledged it to.” But once their relationship overcame its shaky beginnings, the two became the very definition of a Soviet power couple, in love and ready to do anything for each other. In the summer vacation after the two began to go steady, Gorbachev did not think it below him to return to his homeland, and resume work as a simple mechanic, to top up the meager university stipend.

The two were not embarrassed having to celebrate their wedding in a university canteen, symbolically, on the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on November 7, 1953. Or put off when the watchful guardians of morality at Moscow State University forbid the newlyweds from visiting each other’s halls without a specially signed pass. More substantial obstacles followed, when Mikhail’s mother also did not take to her daughter-in-law, while Raisa agreed to a medically-advised abortion after becoming pregnant following a heavy bout of rheumatism. But the two persevered. Raisa gave birth to their only child in 1955, and as Gorbachev’s star rose, so did his wife’s academic career as a sociologist. But Raisa’s true stardom came when Gorbachev occupied the Soviet leader’s post.

Soviet President and General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party’s Central Committee, Mikhail Gorbachev, 2nd right, and Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbacheva, right, at the meeting with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, left, at the Soviet Embassy in London.
RIA Novosti.

Raisa Gorbacheva, the wife of the Soviet leader (left), showing Nancy Reagan, first lady of the U.S., around the Kremlin during U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s official visit to the U.S.S.R.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (center left) and his spouse Raisa Gorbacheva (second from left) seeing off US President Ronald Reagan after his visit to the USSR. Right: The spouse of US president Nancy Reagan. The Hall of St. George in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
RIA Novosti.Raisa Gorbacheva (left), wife of the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and Barbara Bush (right), wife of the U.S. president, attending the inauguration of the sculptured composition Make Way for Ducklings near the Novodevichy Convent during U.S. President George Bush’s official visit to the U.S.S.R.
RIA Novosti.Soviet first lady Raisa Gorbacheva meets with Tokyo residents during Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachyov’s official visit to Japan.
RIA Novosti.The meeting between Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, President of the USSR and the heads of state and government of the seven leading industrial nations. From left to right: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, Norma Major, Raisa Maksimovna Gorbacheva and John Major.
RIA Novosti.Soviet president’s wife Raisa Gorbacheva at the 112th commencement at a female college. The State of Massachusetts. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev’s state visit to the United States.
RIA Novosti.

In a symbol as powerful as his calls for international peace and reform at home, the Communist leader was not married to a matron hidden at home, but to an urbane, elegantly-dressed woman, regarded by many as an intellectual equal, if not superior to Mikhail himself. Gorbachev consulted his wife in every decision, as he famously told American TV viewers during a Tom Brokaw interview. This generated much ill-natured mockery throughout Gorbachev’s reign, but he never once tried to push his wife out of the limelight, where she forged friendships with such prominent figures as Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.

Raisa was there in the Crimean villa at Foros, during the attempted putsch of August 1991, confronting the men who betrayed her husband personally, and suffering a stroke as a result. It was also Raisa by Gorbachev’s side when they were left alone, after the whirlwind settled in 1991. Despite nearly losing her eyesight due to her stroke, Raisa largely took the lead in organizing Mikhail’s foundation, and in structuring his life. In 1999, with his own affairs in order, not least because of the controversial Pizza Hut commercial, and Russians anger much more focused on his ailing successor, Gorbachev thought he could enjoy a more contented retirement, traveling the world with his beloved.

CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa at Orly Airport, France.
RIA Novosti.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (center), Soviet first lady Raisa Gorbacheva (right), Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Kazakh first lady Sara Nazarbayeva during Gorbachev’s working visit to Kazakhstan.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and his spouse Raisa Gorbachev (center) at a friendship meeting in the Wawel Castle during a visit to Poland.
RIA Novosti.Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa during his official visit to China.
RIA Novosti.An official visit to Japan by USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. He with wife, Raisa Gorbachev, and Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu near a tree planted in the garden of Akasaka Palace.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev (center), daughter Irina (right) and his wife’s sister Lyudmila (left) at the funeral of Raisa Gorbachev.
RIA Novosti.Last respects for Raisa Gorbacheva, spouse of the former the USSR president in the Russian Fond of Culture. Mikhail Gorbachev, family and close people of Raisa Gorbacheva at her coffin.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev at the opening of the Raisa exhibition in memory of Raisa Gorbacheva.
RIA Novosti.

— Raisa Gorbacheva
“It is possible that I had to get such a serious illness and die for the people to understand me.”

Then came the leukemia diagnosis, in June of that year. Before the couple’s close family had the chance to adjust to the painful rhythm of hope and fear that accompanies the treatment of cancer, Raisa was dead. Her burial unleashed an outpouring of emotion, with thousands, including many of her husband’s numerous adversaries, gathering to pay their sincere respects. No longer the designer-dressed careerist ice queen to be envied, resented and ridiculed, now people saw Raisa for the charismatic and shrewd idealist she always was. For Gorbachev it made little difference, and all those around him said that however much activity he tried to engage in following his wife’s death, none of it ever had quite the same purpose.

“People say time heals. But it never stops hurting – we were to be joined until death,” Gorbachev always said in interviews

For the tenth anniversary of Raisa’s death, in 2009, Mikhail Gorbachev teamed up with famous Russian musician Andrey Makerevich to record a charity album of Russian standards, dedicated to his beloved wife. The standout track was Old Letters, a 1940s melancholy ballad. Gorbachev said that it came to him in 1991 when he discovered Raisa burning their student correspondence and crying, after she found out that their love letters had been rifled through by secret service agents during the failed coup.

The limited edition LP sold at a charity auction in London, and fetched £100,000.

Afterwards, Gorbachev got up on the stage to sing Old Letters, but half way through he choked up, and had to leave the stage to thunderous applause.

The Conflict Between The West And Russia Is A Religious One

August 23, 2022

Source

by Emmet Sweeney

The war currently underway in Ukraine, which pits Ukraine as a proxy for the collective West against Russia, is primarily an ideological or religious one, with Russia representing what is left of Christian Europe, and “the West” representing a totalitarian ideology that abhors religion in general and Christianity in particular. This statement may sound strange, given the fact that some Westerners – though fewer every day – still see “the West,” (basically Europe and North America) as Christian, and Russia as Communist, or crypto-Communist. But this is no longer the case, and has not been for some considerable time. In fact, the thirty years that have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union, has seen a complete reversal of roles; the collective West is now a totalitarian and aggressively anti-religious power-block that seeks to export its anti-Christian and anti-human ideology onto the rest of the world. And Russia is loathed by the West’s ruling elite precisely because it has resisted this process and moreover has gone in the opposite direction: having once been an active proponent of “scientific materialism” and atheism, Russia has reverted to its Orthodox Christian roots and has rolled back the more pernicious policies and attitudes of the Soviet era.

In order to demonstrate the truth of this, we need to look at the history of Russia and its interaction with the West since the early 1990s.

By 1991, when the Soviet Union was officially abolished, it was clear that the West had won the Cold War. Russia itself, under its new president Boris Yeltsin, openly proclaimed the end of all hostilities. Russia’s satellites in Eastern Europe were permitted to go their own way, and autonomous republics within the Soviet Union were allowed to declare themselves independent countries. The old Soviet system of state ownership was officially abolished, and almost everything was privatised. The press and media in general were freed of all censorship and could now say whatever they wanted. Russia under Yeltsin reached out the hand of friendship to the West – a gesture that was not reciprocated and ultimately snubbed by the West.

The euphoria of 1991 soon gave way and the1990s turned out to be a catastrophic decade for Russia and her people. First and foremost, the policy of privatisation turned out to be disastrous. A law was passed which forbade foreigners from buying Russian utilities and industries; only Russians could do so. Unfortunately, nobody in Russia, hitherto a Communist country, had any money. However, certain groups within the country – mainly ethnic Jews – had important and wealthy connections abroad. These arranged to have funds sent into Russia for the purpose of purchasing the country’s state-owned industries. Desperate for any dollars and euros it could lay its hands on, the Yeltsin administration sold these industries for a tiny fraction of their true value. (Russia’s natural resources alone make it potentially one of the wealthiest countries on the planet). The buyers of said industries became the notorious “oligarchs,” who systematically plundered the country for almost ten years, in what has been described as the biggest act of looting in history. Rather than plow some of the profits back into the businesses, the oligarchs exported almost all of them, impoverishing both their employees and the country in general. The result was that large segments of the population began to experience severe hardship. Many came close to starvation and many died of hypothermia during the bitter Russian winters. Some state employees were paid in cabbages, and it is estimated that Russia suffered over five million excess deaths between 1991 and 2000. The majority of these were caused by simple diseases such as influenza, which developed into pneumonia for want of funds to buy an antibiotic. But deaths from all causes, including murder, suicide, alcoholism, and drug addiction, rocketed. Russia was a country falling apart, and the population began to plummet.

During this time, a Chechen independence movement, spurred on by funds from Saudi Arabia and (allegedly) the West, launched a violent campaign against the Russian authorities. A savage war followed, which claimed tens of thousands of lives, and eventually resulted in 1997 in Yeltsin’s recognition of a semi-independent Chechnya. Independence movements began to appear in other autnomous regions and it was clear that Russia itself stood on the verge of disintegration.

During all of this, the attitude of the West, or of those who control the West, was striking. Western media, by that time in the hands of a few mega-corporations, was almost gleeful in its reporting of Russia’s trauma. In their suffering, the Russian people became the butt of the West’s shadenfreude. And it should be borne in mind that it was precisely in the 1990s that American corporations commenced massive “outsourcing” of their industries to other, and less expensive, locations. Entire factories, together with their machinery and technology, were exported en masse, primarily to China. Almost nothing went to Russia. This in spite of the fact that China continued to be a Communist and indeed totalitarian country. Not even the massacre of Tiananmen Square (1989) and the subsequent brutal repression could halt the American plutocracy’s enthusiasm for exporting work and business. So Russia, which had held out the hand of friendship to the West, and had permitted the subjugated peoples to go free, continued to be treated as an enemy, and was effectively plundered by Western interests, whereas China, which did no such thing, was now treated as a favored trading and business partner. How to explain such an astonishing disparity?

There seems to be no logical explanation other than to assume an underlying cultural/religious antipathy towards Russia and her people on the part of a very large segment of the West’s ruling plutocracy. I suggest that this is the case, and it is Russia’s religion that is at the root of it.

During the Communist era, Christianity was suppressed in Russia and throughout the Soviet block. At its worst, under Lenin and Stalin, the Communist regime massacred millions of Christians. Victims were mainly Orthodox, but Christians of every denomination suffered. Even after the death of Stalin and into the 1980s religion continued to be persecuted. All children were required to attend lessons in atheism, during which Christianity and religious faith in general was mocked. By the end of Communism, the Orthodox Church was a small remnant of its former self under the Tsars, but that soon began to change. Hardship birthed a spiritual revival; by the mid-1990s the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as other branches of Christianity, began to experience noticeable growth. It was not however until the first decade of the twenty-first century, and the presidency of Vladimir Putin, that this movement became really significant.

Putin had occupied a senior position in the Yeltsin administration, and he was no doubt viewed by the oligarchs, at that time the real rulers of Russia, as a safe pair of hands who could be relied upon to continue the policies which had allowed them to plunder the country for almost a decade. He was appointed Prime Minister on 9th August 1999 and, just four months later, in December, acting President of Russia, following the unexpected resignation of Boris Yeltsin. A presidential election on 20th March 2000 was easily won by Putin with 53% of the votes. One reason for Putin’s popularity was that he was seen as a strong leader during the Second Chechen War, which commenced on 7th August 1999, just two days before his appointment as Prime Minister. The war ended in April 2000, with Chechnya again part of the Russian Federation, a victory which enhanced Putin’s reputation as a strongman, willing and able to restore stability and enforce the law.

Over the next five years, Putin showed that the ruling plutocrats were very much deceived had they imagined him to be under their control and part of their team. On the contrary, the new president set about breaking their power. The next decade witenessed a series of legal cases and trials which left some of the oligarchs in prison and others forced to pay substantial compensation. Others, arguably the most criminal, fled the country and their assets were confiscated. The breaking of the oligarchs’ power, together with that of the “Russian mafia” which enforced their corrupt rule, began to restore some form of normality.

In parellel with his economic reforms, Putin oversaw a revival of the Russian Orthodox faith. In an act heavy with symbolic import, he made a visit to the great Orthodox monastic settlement of Mount Athos in Greece in 2001, just one year into his presidency. Although this attempt had to be aborted owing to a storm which grounded his helicopter, and a second attempt in 2004 similarly shelved when he had to return to Russia to deal with the Beslan School siege, he finally made it to the Holy Mountain in 2005. There he established a bond with the monks that transformed their community and impacted the lives of ordinary Russians. A major program of church-construction commenced, and the numbers attending church began to grow. Putin made it clear that he regarded Orthodoxy as Russia’s national religion and the Church was accorded a favored legal position. And such symbolic gestures were backed by new legislation which began to transform Russian society: the country’s abortion laws, hitherto some of the most liberal in the world, were tightened. In October 2011, the Russian Parliament passed a law restricting abortion to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception up to 22 weeks if the pregnancy was the result of rape. The new law also made mandatory a waiting period of two to seven days before an abortion could be performed, to allow the woman to “reconsider her decision.”

During this period, the portrayal of Russia in the Western media moved from one of condescension to outright hostility. As early as 2005, scholars Ira Straus and Edward Lozansky remarked upon a pronounced negative coverage of Russia in the US media, contrasting negative media sentiment with largely positive sentiment of the American public and US government. As Russia displayed increasing signs of a Christian revival, so the media reporting in the West became increasingly hostile. Only rarely however did journalists openly attack Russia for its “Christianization”; normally, columnists, conscious of the fact that large numbers of people in the West continued to describe themselves as Christian, portrayed their anti-Russian commentary as a result of Russia’s “aggression,” “corruption,” or “lack of democracy.” All that however changed with the new abortion law of 2011. Now the attacks against Russia became explicitly ideological. The Russians, we were told, were oppressing women and turning their backs on “progress.”

It was not until 2013 however that the anti-Russian rhetoric went hyperbolic. In that year, the Russian parliament passed its so-called “Gay Propaganada” law. The bill, described as “Protecting Children from Information harmful to their Health and Development,” explicitly banned Gay Pride parades, as well as other forms of LGBT material, such as books and pamphlets, which attempted to normalize homosexuality and to influence children in their attitudes to homosexuality. In actual fact, since around 2006 many districts in Russia had been imposing their own local bans on such material, though these rules had no power outside their own jurisdiction. The bill, which was signed into law by Putin on June 30 2013, was extremely popular, and passed through the Russian Parliament unanimously, with just one abstention. But the impact upon the Western nomenklatura who form the gatekeepers of acceptable opinion, was immediate. Almost unanimously, Western media outlets now began to compare Putin with Adolf Hitler; he was a “thug,” a “fascist,” a “murderer.” Between bouts of seething rage, he became the butt of scathing satire. He was cast in the role of a caricature James Bond villain, routinely murdering and torturing those he held a grudge against. There is even evidence, admittedly somewhat circumstantial, that Western Intelligence bodies, such as the CIA and MI5, became actively involved in anti-Russian propaganda.

The effect of this deluge of demonization upon ordinary Westerners soon began to show: Whereas in 2006 only 1% of Americans listed Russia as “America’s worst enemy” by 2019 32% of Americans, including 44% of Democrat voters, shared this view. Only 28% of Republicans however agreed; a remarkable reversal of opinion. During the Cold War, Republican voters, traditionally the more religious and nationalistic element of the American political divide, viewed the Russians as the major threat; now it was the less or non-religious (and more pro-LGBT) Democrats who held this opinion.

But the Western elites did not confine its efforts to irate editorials in the London Times or the Washington Post: Economic sanctions now began to be discussed. There were immediate calls to boycott the Winter Olympics, held in February 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Whilst the call to boycott was generally resisted by athletes, many Western politicians refused to attend, and the Russophobic temperature in the Western media ratcheted up. And things were about to get much worse.

In 2010 Viktor Yanukovych, a native of Russian-speaking Donetsk, was elected President of Ukraine, defeating Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, in what was judged by international observers to be a free and fair election. In November 2013 Yanukovych delayed signing a pending European Union association agreement, on the grounds that his government wished to maintain economic ties with Russia, as well as with the European Union. Russia had in fact offered a more favorable loan bailout than the European Union was prepared to offer. This led to protests and the occupation of Kiev’s Independence Square, a series of events dubbed the “the Euromaidan” by those in favor of aligning Ukraine with the European Union. Whilst at times it looked as if the protests would fizzle out, there is no question that almost from the beginning there was a concerted effort on the part of Western politicians to keep them going. Beginning early in December, several politicians from Berlin and Brussels paid “morale-boosting” trips to the square, and these were followed, on December 15, by the arrival of American Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy. To the assembled crowds, McCain announced that “we are here to support your just cause.” The Russians, for their part, condemned America’s “crude meddling” in Ukraine’s affairs.

Victoria Nuland, at that time Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in the Obama administration, arrived in Ukraine shortly afterwards, and immediately set about fanning the flames of an already volatile situation. In speech after speech she promised the protestors and rioters that America was behind them. The result was the by early February 2014 Ukraine appeared to be on the brink of civil war; violent clashes between anti-government protestors and police left many dead and injured. Fearing for his life, on February 21 Yanukovych fled the capital, initially travelling to Crimea and ultimately to Russia. A new interim government, handpicked by Nuland, and virulently anti-Russian, was immediately installed in Kiev.

When considering the actions of America and the collective West at this time we have to remember that Ukraine was and is a deeply divided society. Half the country, roughly the north and west, regards itself as Ukrainian and is historically antagonistic towards Russia. The other half, predominantly the south and east, is pro-Russian and views itself as simultaneously Ukrainian and Russian. A glance at the electoral map of the country demonstrates this division in a most graphic way, for it was the Russian part of the country, the south and east, which overwhelmingly put Yanukovych into power. In supporting a violent overthrow of the latter, the American government quite deliberately threw its weight behind the anti-Russian half of the population. And it is impossible to believe that the political elite in Washington did not understand what they were doing. They had to have known that they were making civil strife – if not outright civil war – an absolute certainty.

The civil strife was not long in coming. As the anti-government mobs in Kiev were in the process of throwing out Yanukovych, major protests against the coup began to occur in the south and east. Crimea, which was overwhelmingly Russian and had only been transferred to the jurisdiction of Kiev in 1954 by Khruschev, held a referendum, resulting in a 97% vote for reunion with Russia. Putin, infuriated by American actions in Kiev, accepted the result of the vote, and formally announced the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation. Simultaneous with this, cities and towns throughout the south and east of the country, saw massive “anti-Maidan” protests, with many people calling for secession from Ukraine and union with Russia. The new Washington-appointed regime in Kiev reacted with force. Forty-seven pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa were besieged in the city’s Trade Union building and burned to death by a Neo-Nazi mob. Seeing the way things were going, the ethnically-Russian provinces (“Oblasts”) of Lugansk and Donetsk declared independence and prepared to defend themselves. This quickly escalated into full-scale war, and over the next two years or so around 14,000 people, mainly ethnic Russian civilians, died, as the Kiev government fought to return the two provinces to Ukraine.

The fighting in Lugansk and Donetsk (the “Donbas”) de-escalated after the signing of the so-called Minsk 2 Accord in 2015. This deal, brokered by Russia, the US and the UN, provided for a degree of autonomy for the two breakaway provinces, as well as recognition and respect for their Russian language and culture. The deal also called for the immediate halting of all military action.

Had the Minsk agreement been fully implemented, it is quite possible that all hostilities would have ended, but this was never the case. The new government in Kiev, which from May 2014 was headed by Petro Poroshenko, made no attempt whatsoever to abide by the Accord’s provisions. On the contrary, the Russian language, hitherto one of the official languages of Ukraine, was demoted, and Russian culture in general denigrated. Even worse, none of those who had committed murder in Odessa and elsewhere were brought to justice, and the Neo-Nazi militias responsible for these atrocities were actually integrated into the Ukrainian army. Worst of all, sporadic shelling of civilian targets in Lugansk and Donetsk continued – for the next six years.

To repeat; the collective “West” could not have been unaware of the dangers of its interference in the affairs of Ukraine. This was a deeply divided country; to intervene on behalf of one section of the country at the expense of the other could not fail to deepen divisions and ultimately cause the disintegration of the state. That the West took the side of the anti-Russian half of the population was entirely in harmony with the increasingly hysterical tone of anti-Russian rhetoric in the Western media in the years leading up to the Maidan Revolution. And we can take with a pinch of salt the idea that Nuland and the Obama Adminstration was concerned with “corruption” in the Yanukovych regime: America is and always has been on very friendly terms with governments far more corrupt, violent and totalitarian than that of Yanukovych.

I would suggest that the real reason, or certainly an extremely important though unspoken reason, for Nuland’s mission was that Yanukovych’s pivot towards Russia was seen by the “woke” establishment in Washington as a sign that Ukraine would follow Russia into adopting an increasingly Christian-friendly social culture; one that the “liberals” and “progressives” in Washington despised. We should note too that one of Poroshenko’s first actions as President of Ukraine was to provide openings for George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, and to simultaneously support the establishment of LGBT input into the educational system. Gay “Pide” parades became a regular feature of life in Kiev where, though distinctly unpopular with the great majority of the population, they received massive support and protection from the security forces.

Emmet Sweeney is the author of several works dealing with problems in the history of the ancient Near East.

Welcoming speech of the Russian Minister of Defence at the opening of 10th Moscow Conference on International Security

August 17, 2022

The opening of the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security took place at Avangard Centre for Military and Patriotic Education of Youth within the framework of ARMY 2022 IMTF. The Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, addressed the participants of the event:

Ladies and gentlemen!

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security.

This conference comes at a time of radical change in global and regional security. The unconditional dominance of the US and its allies is a thing of the past. On February 24, 2022, the start of the special military operation in Ukraine marked the end of the unipolar world.

Multipolarity has become a reality. The poles of this world are clearly defined. The main difference between them is that some respect the interests of sovereign states and take into account the cultural and historical particularities of countries and peoples, while others disregard them. There have been numerous discussions on this topic during previous sessions of the Moscow conference.

In Europe, the security situation is worse than at the peak of the Cold War. The alliance’s military activities have become as aggressive and anti-Russian as possible. Significant US forces have been redeployed to the continent, and the number of coalition troops in Eastern and Central Europe has increased manifold.

It is important to note that the deployment of additional NATO Joint Force formations on the bloc’s “eastern flank” had already started before the start of the special military operation in Ukraine.

NATO has dropped its masks. The aggressive nature of the bloc was no longer concealed by the wording of the coalition’s purely defensive orientation. Today, the alliance’s strategic planning documents enshrine claims to global dominance. Alliance’s interests include Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim.

In the West’s view, the established system of international relations should be replaced by a so-called rules-based world order. The logic here is simple and ultimatumatic. Either the alliance’s “democratic partner” candidate loses sovereignty and becomes supposedly on the “right side of history”. Or it is relegated to the category of so-called authoritarian regimes, against which all kinds of measures, up to and including coercive pressure, can be used.

Given that the Conference is attended by heads of defence agencies and security experts from different regions of the world, I would like to highlight some aspects of the special military operation in Ukraine.

In Ukraine, the Russian military is being confronted by combined Western forces that run the leadership of that country in a hybrid war against Russia.

The supply of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine is being stepped up, and training of the Ukrainian army is being carried out. Huge financial resources are transferred to maintain the viability of the nationalist regime.

The actions of Ukraine’s armed forces are planned and coordinated by foreign military advisers. Reconnaissance data is supplied from all available NATO sources. The use of armaments is supervised by Western specialists.

NATO’s efforts are aimed at prolonging the agony of the Kiev regime. However, we know for a fact that no one in NATO has any doubt that the goals of the Russian leadership’s special military operation will be achieved, and that plans to strategically and economically weaken Russia are failing. The dollar has not reached the ceiling of 200 roubles, as predicted by the US president, the Russian economy has stood firm.

The special military operation has dispelled the myth of “super-weapons” supplied to Ukraine by the West, which are capable of fundamentally changing the situation on the front. Initially, they were talking about deliveries of Javelin anti-tank systems, some kind of “unique” drones. Lately, the Westerners have been promoting the role of super-weapons with HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems and long-range howitzers. However, these weapons also grind to a halt in battle. They did not make a significant impact. The Russian weapons, for their part, have proved their best qualities in combat.

We are taking a close look at trophy weapons from the West. The features and their specific qualities are taken into account in order to improve the way combat operations are conducted and the effectiveness of Russian armaments.

The supply of NATO weapons to Kiev means that Western countries are responsible for their inhumane use and for the deaths of civilians in Donbass and in the liberated territories. Ukrainian armed forces operations are planned in Washington and London. Not only are the coordinates of the targets to be attacked provided by Western intelligence, but the input of this data into weapons systems is conducted under the full control of Western specialists.

Kiev’s role in the West’s combat approach has been reduced to supplying manpower, which is seen as expendable. This explains the huge loss of personnel in Ukraine’s armed forces and territorial defence formations.

So far, the real figures of dead soldiers and mobilised so-called territorial defence forces have been concealed by the Kiev leadership.

In time, however, this information will become public. The testimonies of POWs of AFU allow us to form a realistic picture of what is happening on the other side of the front. The dismissive attitude towards the loss of foreign soldiers reinforces the thesis that NATO has purely selfish interests in Ukraine. Clearly, Britain’s colonial experience as the main sponsor of the Kiev regime has come in very handy for London in dealing with the current leadership in Kiev.

Against this background, speculation is spreading in the media about the alleged use of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in the special military operation or the readiness to use chemical weapons. All of these information gibberish are lies.

From a military point of view, there is no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine to achieve its goals. The main purpose of Russian nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack. Its use is limited to extraordinary circumstances as defined in the Russian guideline documents, which are open to public inspection.

The allegations about the possible use of chemical weapons in Ukraine are also absurd. Let me remind you that, unlike the US, such weapons were completely destroyed in our country back in 2017 as part of our international obligations. Meanwhile, poisoning provocations have become the hallmark of Western-sponsored so-called civil society organisations such as the White Helmets in Syria.

The information provocations are aimed at distracting attention from the facts discovered in Ukraine that US experts have conducted banned military and biological research.

Currently, a significant amount of data has been accumulated and is regularly made available to the general public. Work will continue in this direction.

US military-biological activities in Ukraine are not exceptional. Pentagon-controlled laboratories have been established and operate in many post-Soviet, Asian, African and Latin American countries. Local authorities generally have no control over research carried out on their premises that poses a lethal threat to the local population. The consequences of epidemics, I believe, were felt by all during the period of the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

I would like to focus separately on the humanitarian aspects of the special military operation. Compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the rules of war has always been and remains the focus of commanders at all levels. Since the beginning of the operation, orders have been issued stipulating the procedures to be followed by soldiers in dealing with civilians and enemy prisoners of war.

In the territories liberated from nationalists, the troops are actively involved in the delivery of humanitarian aid, the restoration of infrastructure and the maintenance of law and order. This was the case in Syria, in Nagorno-Karabakh, and it is also the case in Donbass.

On humanitarian issues, there has been fruitful cooperation with the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. We are grateful for the constructive, depoliticised cooperation of the leaders and staff of these organisations who interact with us. In particular, under the auspices of the UN and with Turkey’s active role, the difficult problem of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports was resolved. The Red Cross specialists carry out an important mediation mission in relation to captured soldiers.

NATO has recently initiated a new phase of alliance enlargement, with Sweden and Finland joining the military bloc. The claim that the reason for this was the Russian special operation is untrue.

The practical rapprochement between these countries and the alliance has been ongoing for many years. In fact, the regional association NORDEFCO (Committee for Nordic Defence Cooperation) is a northern affiliate of NATO and serves as a cover for these countries’ participation in joint military training activities.

Of course, the official involvement of Helsinki and Stockholm in NATO’s strategic planning and the possible allocation of territory to these states for deployment of strike weapons will change the security environment in the Baltic region and the Arctic and will require a reconsideration of approaches to defence of Russian territory.

Certain conclusions have already been reached and are enshrined in the updated Maritime Doctrine approved by the President of the Russian Federation on July 31. Work will continue in this area.

The reinforcement of the NATO military grouping on the “eastern flank” completes the degradation of the trust and arms control mechanisms that emerged in Europe during the Cold War. A few years ago, experts proposed that the European experience should be used to build confidence-building measures, in particular in the Pacific Rim. Now, of all the “baggage” of the Euro-dialogue, only the idea of bloc confrontation is exported to Asia, which has not brought anything positive to security in Europe.

Today, no one remembers the US destruction of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Limitation Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty. Although previously these agreements were crucial for disarmament and confidence-building.

Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was conceived as a platform for dialogue and consideration of different views, has become a generator of anti-Russian narratives.

Vienna Document 2011 remains formally in force, but there are no prospects for practical implementation. In the absence of trust between the parties, the verification mechanism effectively becomes a source of intelligence, which is not in the spirit of this agreement.

The situation with regard to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty is also complicated. The agreement remains in force until 2026. On the Russian side the commitments are fulfilled, the declared levels of carriers and warheads are maintained within the established limits.

U.S. claims that Russia must earn the right to continue dialogue with the U.S. do not resist criticism. Arms control is a two-way street.

The result is only achievable if the interests and commitment of all participants are balanced. I believe that the Russian experience of interaction with the West in the field of disarmament shows that the so-called rules-based peace it promotes does not involve the implementation of treaty obligations in the traditional sense. This fact needs to be taken into account when entering into agreements, especially in the field of security and arms control.

Western opposition to the consolidation of a multipolar world, along with Europe, is most active in the Asia-Pacific region, where the US has begun to dismantle the existing ASEAN-based system of regional cooperation. This started with the announcement of the AUKUS initiative by the US, Australia and the UK. Plans to expand this partnership to include new regional partners have not been concealed. AUKUS is merging with NATO, which in turn claimed a dominant role in the Asia-Pacific region at the June summit. This is despite the fact that all NATO countries are thousands of miles away from the region.

On 2 August, the Russian Federation marked the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s entry into the war with Japan, the occasion for which was Tokyo’s militarist policy. The defeat of Japanese forces in the Far East effectively sealed the end of World War II and provided the start for the liberation of the peoples of Asia from colonial oppression. The assistance of the USSR was of key importance. We remember and are proud of the legacy of our ancestors, including those who laid the foundation for military cooperation between Russia and the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

Another dangerous regional trend is the AUKUS focus on developing a nuclear submarine fleet in Australia. The implementation of this plan would have a complex negative impact on global and regional security, creating the conditions for undermining the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The US claims that nuclear-powered submarines are needed in Australia ostensibly to offset China’s growing naval capabilities. This logic in fact replicates the actions of the US in justifying its exit from the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missile Treaty. The collapse of this agreement was also motivated by the need to offset Russian and Chinese efforts to develop missiles with a range allegedly prohibited by the treaty.

In the global context, the appearance of a nuclear-powered fleet in Australia will provide an excuse for other states to begin developing similar armaments. Pandora’s box will be opened, the global nuclear arms race will resume.

AUKUS has the potential to develop into a politico-military alliance. It cannot be excluded that NATO’s experience with joint nuclear planning and joint “allied” nuclear exercises will also be transferred to the region. The technical basis for this is already being laid by the active promotion of US-made aircraft. The participation of nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states in joint exercises on the use of nuclear weapons is contrary to obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Transferring nuclear training from Europe will blow up the region.

Although it can be assumed that this is precisely the purpose of the US. The provocative landing in Taiwan of a third person of the US bureaucratic hierarchy is another move to destabilise the situation.

Block-less, equal interaction in the region is an achievement that should not be lost due to externally imposed phobias and attempts to counter a multipolar world.

Mechanisms for interaction and dialogue with extra-regional partners are created and are proving their relevance and effectiveness. First and foremost is the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ and Partners’ Meeting, the so-called “ADMM-Plus” format. Its diverse activities focus on security issues of relevance to the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition, there is positive experience of cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, of implementing mutually beneficial projects on a bilateral basis.

As before, we are ready to share our experience of combat training, in particular during the Vostok-2022 strategic exercise to be held in the near future.

Despite significant successes in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, the threat of international terrorist groups taking over the initiative remains. The Syrian military, in cooperation with allies and partners and with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, continues to suppress spikes in terrorist activity. We see a particular danger in using the Kurdish factor to unsettle the situation in Syria.

The engagement of the guarantor countries in the Astana format remains virtually the only legal and effective mechanism to address security concerns in Syria. We welcome the increased engagement between the Syrian leadership and the Arab world. Overcoming contradictions created by outside forces is possible and necessary.

The role of the military in building trust between countries is an important element in the search for political solutions. We expect that the Moscow conference will be one of the rallying points for the stabilisation of the situation in the Near East.

After the rapid withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, the situation in the Central Asian region remains extremely tense. Afghanistan’s new leadership faces serious military and economic challenges. The legacy of two decades of alliance troop presence is a disappointing one. As a result, there remains a high level of terrorist danger in the region.

The security problems of Central Asia can only be solved by coordinated action by all the countries and international organisations concerned. For our part, we will continue to support our Collective Security Treaty Organisation allies in enhancing the capabilities of national armed forces.

It is important to keep the topic of Afghanistan on the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation discussions. Russia, China, India, Iran and Pakistan together could make a significant contribution not only to stabilising the region, but also to preventing the threat from spreading beyond its borders.

The security of each region, despite the general trends of a multipolar world, has its own peculiarities.

For Africa, the specificity lies in the desire of the countries of the collective West to return to the order and rules of engagement typical of the colonial period. Neo-colonialism is imposed through military pressure on governments of sovereign countries and support for separatist and terrorist movements. A case in point is Libya, where statehood has still not been restored after the NATO invasion. Another example is the situation in West Africa, where European troops have been deployed on the pretext of combating terrorism. For decades, these EU missions had been fighting terrorists, training national security forces, until they recognised the utter failure of their own efforts.

I would like to point out that African governments and leaders are holding their own, as they call it, in the context of a multipolar world, to pursue their own agenda of independence, sovereignty, economic development and defence capabilities.

The Russian Ministry of Defence is seeking to expand cooperation with African countries in the field of military and military-technical cooperation. Interest in the participation of national teams and delegations from Africa in the Army International Games and the “ARMY 2022” IMTF has increased significantly. It is very encouraging that prominent military commanders from our friendly states – Burundi, Cameroon, Guinea, Mali, Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Ethiopia and the Republic of South Africa – are present in this hall today. We appreciate your support and intend to increase cooperation on mutually beneficial projects.

Latin America today faces serious security challenges because of the American desire to maintain influence in the region under the provisions of the so-called Monroe Doctrine. Liberal values, whose adherence is seen by the US as agreeing to live in a world based on their rules, in fact mask the true objective – to build up a military presence by blocking the possibility of sovereign development of states.

U.S. policy focuses on deterring engagement by countries in the region with any other pole of power outside Washington’s control. The purpose of this policy is to involve the region in a confrontation with Russia and the PRC, to destroy traditional ties and to block new forms of cooperation in the military and military-technical spheres.

Anti-Russian information campaigns are launched in Latin America, hiding the truth about the causes and course of the special military operation in Ukraine. Analogies can be drawn to the British actions during the conflict in the Falkland Islands. What is happening in the Western media today with the coverage of the Russian special military operation was also happening when the media was chorally broadcasting only one point of view – that of London.

The question arises: are such policies in the fundamental interest of the countries of the region? The answer is clear – no. We hope that during the discussions at the conference we will hear assessments of the situation in Latin America from our partners from Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The Tenth Moscow Conference on International Security has a special importance for the Russian Ministry of Defence as organiser of the forum for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the conference is taking place during the ongoing special military operation in Ukraine. Despite attempts of the US and NATO to isolate Russia once again, your participation in the forum is a visible confirmation that these plans have collapsed. We appreciate your support.

Secondly, a multipolar world is the reality of today. The transition from dominance by a single global leader to several centres of gravity is not an easy one. However, this creates real conditions for the development of sovereign states.

Thirdly, the role of military agencies is changing in the new realities. The military not only guarantees a secure environment for economic development, but through military cooperation it builds predictability and trust between countries.

Finally, this is the tenth anniversary conference, which allows for a kind of review of what has been achieved over the years. It is important to observe how the priorities of the discussions have changed, and which conclusions and recommendations from the forum have been put into practice over the years. A short historical overview, prepared by Russian experts, can be viewed on the monitors between plenary sessions.

I wish you all good health and interesting contacts and discussions during your stay in Moscow.

Thank you for your attention.

source: https://eng.mil.ru/en/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12433677@egNews (which is blocked by western freedom loving democracies, so you need a VPN to access it!)

What War, Mr. Kissinger?

August 13, 2022

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American Diplomacy as a Tragic Drama

July 29, 2022

By Michael Hudson and posted with the author’s permission

As in a Greek tragedy whose protagonist brings about precisely the fate that he has sought to avoid, the US/NATO confrontation with Russia in Ukraine is achieving just the opposite of America’s aim of preventing China, Russia and their allies from acting independently of U.S. control over their trade and investment policy. Naming China as America’s main long-term adversary, the Biden Administration’s plan was to split Russia away from China and then cripple China’s own military and economic viability. But the effect of American diplomacy has been to drive Russia and China together, joining with Iran, India and other allies. For the first time since the Bandung Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in 1955, a critical mass is able to be mutually self-sufficient to start the process of achieving independence from Dollar Diplomacy.

Confronted with China’s industrial prosperity based on self-financed public investment in socialized markets, U.S. officials acknowledge that resolving this fight will take a number of decades to play out. Arming a proxy Ukrainian regime is merely an opening move in turning Cold War 2 (and potentially/or indeed World War III) into a fight to divide the world into allies and enemies with regard to whether governments or the financial sector will plan the world economy and society.

What is euphemized as U.S.-style democracy is a financial oligarchy privatizing basic infrastructure, health and education. The alternative is what President Biden calls autocracy, a hostile label for governments strong enough to block a global rent-seeking oligarchy from taking control. China is deemed autocratic for providing basic needs at subsidized prices instead of charging whatever the market can bear. Making its mixed economy lower-cost is called “market manipulation,” as if that is a bad thing that was not done by the United States, Germany and every other industrial nation during their economic takeoff in the 19th and early 20th century.

Clausewitz popularized the axiom that war is an extension of national interests – mainly economic. The United States views its economic interest to lie in seeking to spread its neoliberal ideology globally. The evangelistic aim is to financialize and privatize economies by shifting planning away from national governments to a cosmopolitan financial sector. There would be little need for politics in such a world. Economic planning would shift from political capitals to financial centers, from Washington to Wall Street, with satellites in the City of London, the Paris Bourse, Frankfurt and Tokyo. Board meetings for the new oligarchy would be held at Davos’s World Economic Forum. Hitherto public infrastructure services would be privatized and priced high enough to include profits (and indeed, monopoly rents), debt financing and management fees rather than being publicly subsidized. Debt service and rent would become the major overhead costs for families, industry and governments.

The U.S. drive to retain its unipolar power to impose “America First” financial, trade and military policies on the world involves an inherent hostility toward all countries seeking to follow their own national interests. Having less and less to offer in the form of mutual economic gains, U.S. policy makes threats of sanctions and covert meddling in foreign politics. The U.S. dream envisions a Chinese version of Boris Yeltsin replacing the nation’s Communist Party leadership and selling off its public domain to the highest bidder – presumably after a monetary crisis wipes out domestic purchasing power much as occurred in post-Soviet Russia, leaving the international financial community as buyers.

Russia and President Putin cannot be forgiven for having fought back against the Harvard Boys’ “reforms.” That is why U.S. officials planned how to create Russian economic disruption to (they hope) orchestrate a “color revolution” to recapture Russia for the world’s neoliberal camp. That is the character of the “democracy” and “free markets” being juxtaposed to the “autocracy” of state-subsidized growth. As Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov explained in a press conference on July 20, 2022 regarding Ukraine’s violent coup in 2014, U.S. and other Western officials define military coups as democratic if they are sponsored by the United States in the hope of promoting neoliberal policies.

Do you remember how events developed after the coup? The putschists spat in the face of Germany, France and Poland that were the guarantors of the agreement with Viktor Yanukovych. It was trampled underfoot the next morning. These European countries didn’t make a peep – they reconciled themselves to this. A couple of years ago I asked the Germans and French what they thought about the coup. What was it all about if they didn’t demand that the putschists fulfil the agreements? They replied: “This is the cost of the democratic process.” I am not kidding. Amazing – these were adults holding the post of foreign ministers.[1]

This Doublethink vocabulary reflects how far mainstream ideology has evolved from Rosa Luxemburg’s description a century ago of the civilizational choice being posed: barbarism or socialism.

The contradictory U.S. and European interests and burdens of the war in Ukraine

To return to Clausewitz’s view of war as an extension of national policy, U.S. national interests are diverging sharply from those of its NATO satellites. America’s military-industrial complex, oil and agriculture sectors are benefiting, while European industrial interests are suffering. That is especially the case in Germany and Italy as a result of their governments blocking North Stream 2 gas imports and other Russian raw materials.

The interruption of world energy, food and minerals supply chains and the resulting price inflation (providing an umbrella for monopoly rents by non-Russian suppliers) has imposed enormous economic strains on U.S. allies in Europe and the Global South. Yet the U.S. economy is benefiting from this, or at least specific sectors of the U.S. economy are benefiting. As Sergey Lavrov, pointed out in his above-cited press conference: “The European economy is impacted more than anything else. The stats show that 40 percent of the damage caused by sanctions is borne by the EU whereas the damage to the United States is less than 1 percent.” The dollar’s exchange rate has soared against the euro, which has plunged to parity with the dollar and looks set to fall further down toward the $0.80 that it was a generation ago. U.S. dominance over Europe is further strengthened by the trade sanctions against Russian oil and gas. The U.S. is an LNG exporter, U.S. companies control the world oil trade, and U.S. firms are the world’s major grain marketers and exporters now that Russia is excluded from many foreign markets.

A revival of European military spending – for offense, not defense

U.S. arms-makers are looking forward to making profits off arms sales to Western Europe, which has almost literally disarmed itself by sending its tanks and howitzers, ammunition and missiles to Ukraine. U.S. politicians support a bellicose foreign policy to promote arms factories that employ labor in their voting districts. And the neocons who dominate the State Department and CIA see the war as a means of asserting American dominance over the world economy, starting with its own NATO partners.

The problem with this view is that although America’s military-industrial, oil and agricultural monopolies are benefitting, the rest of the U.S. economy is being squeezed by the inflationary pressures resulting from boycotting Russian gas, grain and other raw-materials exports, and the enormous rise in the military budget will be used as an excuse to cut back social spending programs. That also is a problem for Eurozone members. They have promised NATO to raise their military spending to the stipulated 2 percent of their GDP, and the Americans are urging much higher levels to upgrade to the most recent array of weaponry. All but forgotten is the Peace Dividend that was promised in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved the Warsaw Pact alliance, expecting that NATO likewise would have little reason to exist.

Russia has no discernable economic interest in mounting a new occupation of Central Europe. That would offer no gain to Russia, as its leaders realized when they dissolved the old Soviet Union. In fact, no industrial country in today’s world can afford to field an infantry to occupy an enemy. All that NATO can do is bomb from a distance. It can destroy, but not occupy. The United States found that out in Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. And just as the assassination Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) triggered World War I in 1914, NATO’s bombing of adjoining Serbia may be viewed as throwing down the gauntlet to turn Cold War 2 into a veritable World War III. That marked the point at which NATO became an offensive alliance, not a defensive one.

How does this reflect European interests? Why should Europe re-arm, if the only effect is to make it a target of retaliation in the event of further attacks on Russia? What does Europe have to gain in becoming a larger customer for America’s military-industrial complex? Diverting spending to rebuild an offensive army – that can never be used without triggering an atomic response that would wipe out Europe – will limit the social spending needed to cope with today’s Covid problems and economic recession.

The only lasting leverage a nation can offer in today’s world is trade and technology transfer. Europe has more of this to offer than the United States. Yet the only opposition to renewed military spending is coming from right-wing parties and the German Linke party. Europe’s Social Democratic, Socialist and Labour parties share American neoliberal ideology.

Sanctions against Russian gas makes coal “the fuel of the future”

The carbon footprint of bombing, arms manufacturing and military bases is strikingly absent from today’s discussion about global warming and the need to cut back on carbon emissions. The German party that calls itself Green is leading the campaign for sanctions against importing Russian oil and gas, which electric utilities are replacing with Polish coal and even German lignite. Coal is becoming the “fuel of the future.” Its price also is soaring in the United States, benefitting American coal companies.

In contrast to the Paris Club agreements to reduce carbon emissions, the United States has neither the political capability nor the intention to join the conservation effort. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Executive Branch has no authority to issue nation-wide energy rules; only individual states can do that, unless Congress passes a national law to cut back on fossil fuels.

That seems unlikely in view of the fact that becoming head of a Democratic Senate and Congressional committee requires being a leader in raising campaign contributions for the party. Joe Manchin, a coal-company billionaire, leads all senators in campaign support from the oil and coal industries, enabling him to win his party’s auction for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee chairmanship and block any seriously restrictive environmental legislation.

Next to oil, agriculture is a major contributor to the U.S. balance of payments. Blocking Russian grain and fertilizer shipping threatens to create a Global South food crisis as well as a European crisis as gas is unavailable to make domestic fertilizer. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of grain and also of fertilizer, and its exports of these products have been exempted from NATO sanctions. But Russian shipping was blocked by Ukraine placing mines in the sea lanes through the Black Sea to close off access to Odessa’s harbor, hoping that the world would blame the world’s imminent grain and energy crisis on Russia instead of the US/NATO trade sanctions imposed on Russia.[2] At his July 20, 2022 press conference Sergey Lavrov showed the hypocrisy of the public relations attempt to distort matters:

For many months, they told us that Russia was to blame for the food crisis because the sanctions don’t cover food and fertiliser. Therefore, Russia doesn’t need to find ways to avoid the sanctions and so it should trade because nobody stands in its way. It took us a lot of time to explain to them that, although food and fertiliser are not subject to sanctions, the first and second packages of Western restrictions affected freight costs, insurance premiums, permissions for Russian ships carrying these goods to dock at foreign ports and those for foreign ships taking on the same consignments at Russian harbours. They are openly lying to us that this is not true, and that it is up to Russia alone. This is foul play.

Black Sea grain transport has begun to resume, but NATO countries have blocked payments to Russia in dollars, euros or currencies of other countries in the U.S. orbit. Food-deficit countries that cannot afford to pay distress-level food prices face drastic shortages, which will be exacerbated when they are compelled to pay their foreign debts denominated in the appreciating U.S. dollar. The looming fuel and food crisis promises to drive a new wave of immigrants to Europe seeking survival. Europe already has been flooded with refugees from NATO’s bombing and backing of jihadist attacks on Libya and Near Eastern oil-producing countries. This year’s proxy war in Ukraine and imposition of anti-Russian sanctions is a perfect illustration of Henry Kissinger’s quip: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.”

Blowback from the US/NATO miscalculations

America’s international diplomacy aims to dictate financial, trade and military policies that will lock other countries into dollar debt and trade dependency by preventing them from developing alternatives. If this fails, America seeks to isolate the recalcitrants from the U.S.-centered Western sphere.

America’s foreign diplomacy no longer is based on offering mutual gain. Such could be claimed in the aftermath of World War II when the United States was in a position to offer loans, foreign-aid and military protection against occupation – as well as manufactures to rebuild war-torn economies – to governments in exchange for their accepting trade and monetary policies favorable to American exporters and investors. But today there is only the belligerent diplomacy of threatening to hurt nations whose socialist governments reject America’s neoliberal drive to privatize and sell off their natural resources and public infrastructure.

The first aim is to prevent Russia and China from helping each other. This is the old imperial divide-and-conquer strategy. Minimizing Russia’s ability to support China would pave the way for the United States and NATO Europe to impose new trade sanctions on China, and to send jihadists to its western Xinjiang Uighur region. The aim is to bleed Russia’s armaments inventory, kill enough of its soldiers, and create enough Russian shortages and suffering to not only weaken its ability to help China, but to spur its population to support a regime change, an American-sponsored “color revolution.” The dream is to promote a Yeltsin-like leader friendly to the neoliberal “therapy” that dismantled Russia’s economy in the 1990s.

Amazing as it may seem, U.S. strategists did not anticipate the obvious response by countries finding themselves together in the crosshairs of US/NATO military and economic threats. On July 19, 2022, the presidents of Russia and Iran met to announce their cooperation in the face of the sanctions war against them. That followed Russia’s earlier meeting with India’s Prime Minister Modi. In what has been characterized as “shooting itself in its own foot,” U.S. diplomacy is driving Russia, China, India and Iran together, and indeed to reach out to Argentina and other countries to join the BRICS-plus bank to protect themselves.

The U.S. itself is ending the Dollar Standard of international finance

The Trump Administration took a major step to drive countries out of the dollar orbit in November 2018, by confiscating nearly $2 billion of Venezuela’s official gold stock held in London. The Bank of England put these reserves at the disposal of Juan Guaidó, the marginal right-wing politician selected by the United States to replace Venezuela’s elected president as head of state. This was defined as being democratic, because the regime change promised to introduce the neoliberal “free market” that is deemed to be the essence of America’s definition of democracy for today’s world.

This gold theft actually was not the first such confiscation. On November 14, 1979, the Carter Administration paralyzed Iran’s bank deposits in New York after the Shah was overthrown. This act blocked Iran from paying its scheduled foreign debt service, forcing it into default. That was viewed as an exceptional one-time action as far as all other financial markets were concerned. But now that the United States is the self-proclaimed “exceptional nation,” such confiscations are becoming a new norm in U.S. diplomacy. Nobody yet knows what happened to Libya’s gold reserves that Muammar Gadafi had intended to be used to back an African alternative to the dollar. And Afghanistan’s gold and other reserves were simply taken by Washington as payment for the cost of “freeing” that country from Russian control by backing the Taliban. But when the Biden Administration and its NATO allies made a much larger asset grab of some $300 billion of Russia’s foreign bank reserves and currency holdings in March 2022, it made official a radical new epoch in Dollar Diplomacy. Any nation that follows policies not deemed to be in the interests of the U.S. Government runs the risk of U.S. authorities confiscating its holdings of foreign reserves in U.S. banks or securities.

This was a red flag leading countries to fear denominating their trade, savings and foreign debt in dollars, and to avoid using dollar or euro bank deposits and securities as a means of payment. By prompting other countries to think about how to free themselves from the U.S.-centered world trade and monetary system that was established in 1945 with the IMF, World Bank and subsequently the World Trade Organization, the U.S. confiscations have accelerated the end of the U.S. Treasury-bill standard that has governed world finance since the United States went off gold in 1971.[3]

Since dollar convertibility into gold ended in August 1971, dollarization of the world’s trade and investment has created a need for other countries to hold most of their new international monetary reserves in U.S. Treasury securities and bank deposits. As already noted, that enables the United States to seize foreign bank deposits and bonds denominated in U.S. dollars.

Most important, the United States can create and spend dollar IOUs into the world economy at will, without limit. It doesn’t have to earn international spending power by running a trade surplus, as other countries have to do. The U.S. Treasury can simply print dollars electronically to finance its foreign military spending and purchases of foreign resources and companies. And being the “exceptional country,” it doesn’t have to pay these debts – which are recognized as being far too large to be paid. Foreign dollar holdings are free U.S. credit to the Unites States, not requiring repayment any more than the paper dollars in our wallets are expected to be paid off (by retiring them from circulation). What seems to be so self-destructive about America’s economic sanctions and confiscations of Russian and other foreign reserves is that they are accelerating the demise of this free ride.

Blowback resulting from US/NATO isolating their economic and monetary systems

It is hard to see how driving countries out of the U.S. economic orbit serves long-term U.S. national interests. Dividing the world into two monetary blocs will limit Dollar Diplomacy to its NATO allies and satellites.

The blowback now unfolding in the wake of U.S. diplomacy begins with its anti-Russia policy. Imposing trade and monetary sanctions was expected to block Russian consumers and businesses from buying the US/NATO imports to which they had become accustomed. Confiscating Russia’s foreign currency reserves was supposed to crash the ruble, “turning it into rubble,” as President Biden promised. Imposing sanctions against importing Russian oil and gas to Europe was supposed to deprive Russia of export earnings, causing the ruble to collapse and raising import prices (and hence, living costs) for the Russian public. Instead, blocking Russian exports has created a worldwide price inflation for oil and gas, sharply increasing Russian export earnings. It exported less gas but earned more – and with dollars and euros blocked, Russia demanded payment for its exports in rubles. Its exchange rate soared instead of collapsing, enabling Russia to reduce its interest rates.

Goading Russia to send its soldiers to eastern Ukraine to defend Russian speakers under attack in Luhansk and Donetsk, along with the expected impact of the ensuing Western sanctions, was supposed to make Russian voters press for regime change. But as almost always happens when a country or ethnicity is attacked, Russians were appalled at the Ukrainian hatred of Russian-language speakers and Russian culture, and at the Russophobia of the West. The effect of Western countries banning music by Russian composers and Russian novels from libraries – capped by England banning Russian tennis players from the Wimbledon tournament – was to make Russians feel under attack simply for being Russian. They rallied around President Putin.

NATO’s trade sanctions have catalyzed helped Russian agriculture and industry to become more self-sufficient by obliging Russia to invest in import substitution. One well-publicized farming success was to develop its own cheese production to replace that of Lithuania and other European suppliers. Its automotive and other industrial production is being forced to shift away from German and other European brands to its own and Chinese producers. The result is a loss of markets for Western exporters.

In the field of financial services, NATO’s exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT bank-clearing system failed to create the anticipated payments chaos. The threat had been so loudly for so long that Russia and China had plenty of time to develop their own payments system. This provided them with one of the preconditions for their plans to split their economies away from those of the US/NATO West.

As matters have turned out, the trade and monetary sanctions against Russia are imposing the heaviest costs on Western Europe, and are likely to spread to the Global South, driving them to think about whether their economic interests lie in joining U.S. confrontational Dollar Diplomacy. The disruption is being felt most seriously in Germany, causing many companies to close down as a result of gas and other raw-materials shortages. Germany’s refusal to authorize the North Stream 2 pipeline has pushed its energy crisis to a head. This has raised the question of how long Germany’s political parties can remain subordinate to NATO’s Cold War policies at the cost of German industry and households facing sharp rises in heating and electricity costs.

The longer it takes to restore trade with Russia, the more European economies will suffer, along with the citizenry at large, and the further the euro’s exchange rate will fall, spurring inflation throughout its member countries. European NATO countries are losing not only their export markets but their investment opportunities to gain from the much more rapid growth of Eurasian countries whose government planning and resistance to financialization has proved much more productive than the US/NATO neoliberal model.

It is difficult to see how any diplomatic strategy can do more than play for time. That involves living in the short run, not the long run. Time seems to be on the side of Russia, China and the trade and investment alliances that they are negotiating to replace the neoliberal Western economic order.

America’s ultimate problem is its neoliberal post-industrial economy

The failure and blowbacks of U.S. diplomacy are the result of problems that go beyond diplomacy itself. The underlying problem is the West’s commitment to neoliberalism, financialization and privatization. Instead of government subsidy of basic living costs needed by labor, all social life is being made part of “the market” – a uniquely Thatcherite deregulated “Chicago Boys” market in which industry, agriculture, housing and financing are deregulated and increasingly predatory, while heavily subsidizing the valuation of financial and rent-seeking assets – mainly the wealth of the richest One Percent. Income is obtained increasingly by financial and monopoly rent-seeking, and fortunes are made by debt-leveraged “capital” gains for stocks, bonds and real estate.

U.S. industrial companies have aimed more at “creating wealth” by increasing the price of their stocks by using over 90 percent of their profits for stock buybacks and dividend payouts instead of investing in new production facilities and hiring more labor. The result of slower capital investment is to dismantle and financially cannibalize corporate industry in order to produce financial gains. And to the extent that companies do employ labor and set up new production, it is done abroad where labor is cheaper.

Most Asian labor can afford to work for lower wages because it has much lower housing costs and does not have to pay education debt. Health care is a public right, not a financialized market transaction, and pensions are not paid for in advance by wage-earners and employers but are public. The aim in China in particular is to prevent the rentier Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector from becoming a burdensome overhead whose economic interests differ from those of a socialist government.

China treats money and banking as a public utility, to be created, spent and lent for purposes that help increase productivity and living standards (and increasingly to preserve the environment). It rejects the U.S.-sponsored neoliberal model imposed by the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization.

The global economic fracturing goes far beyond NATO’s conflict with Russia in Ukraine. By the time the Biden administration took office at the start of 2021, Russia and China already had been discussing the need to de-dollarize their foreign trade and investment, using their own currencies.[4] That involves the quantum leap of organizing a new payments-clearing institution. Planning had not progressed beyond broad outlines of how such a system would work, but the U.S. confiscation of Russia’s foreign reserves made such planning urgent, starting with a BRICS-plus bank. A Eurasian alternative to the IMF will remove its ability to impose neoliberal austerity “conditionalities” to force countries to lower payments to labor and give priority to paying their foreign creditors above feeding themselves and developing their own economies. Instead of new international credit being extended mainly to pay dollar debts, it will be part of a process of new mutual investment in basic infrastructure designed to accelerate economic growth and living standards. Other institutions are being designed as China, Russia, Iran, India and their prospective allies represent a large enough critical mass to “go it alone,” based on their own mineral wealth and manufacturing power.

The basic U.S. policy has been to threaten to destabilize countries and perhaps bomb them until they agree to adopt neoliberal policies and privatize their public domain. But taking on Russia, China and Iran is a much higher order of magnitude. NATO has disarmed itself of the ability to wage conventional warfare by handing over its supply of weaponry – admittedly largely outdated – to be devoured in Ukraine. In any case, no democracy in today’s world can impose a military draft to wage a conventional land warfare against a significant/major adversary. The protests against the Vietnam War in the late 1960s ended the U.S. military draft, and the only way to really conquer a country is to occupy it in land warfare. This logic also implies that Russia is no more in a position to invade Western Europe than NATO countries are to send conscripts to fight Russia.

That leaves Western democracies with the ability to fight only one kind of war: atomic war – or at least, bombing at a distance, as was done in Afghanistan and the Near East, without requiring Western manpower. This is not diplomacy at all. It is merely acting the role of wrecker. But that is the only tactic that remains available to the United States and NATO Europe. It is strikingly like the dynamic of Greek tragedy, where power leads to hubris that is injurious to others and therefore ultimately anti-social – and self-destructive in the end.

How then can the United States maintain its world dominance? It has deindustrialized and run up foreign official debt far beyond any foreseeable way to be paid. Meanwhile, its banks and bondholders are demanding that the Global South and other countries pay foreign dollar bondholders in the face of their own trade crisis resulting from the soaring energy and food prices caused by America’s anti-Russian and anti-China belligerence. This double standard is a basic internal contradiction that goes to the core of today’s neoliberal Western worldview.

I have described the possible scenarios to resolve this conflict in my recent book The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. It has now also been issued in e-book form by Counterpunch Books.

Text, company name Description automatically generated
  1. “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RT television, Sputnik agency and Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, Moscow, July 20, 2022,” Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, July 20, 2022. https://mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1822901/. From Johnson’s Russia List, July 21, 2022, #5. 
  2. International Maritime Organization, “Maritime Security and Safety in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov,” https://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Pages/MaritimeSecurityandSafetyintheBlackSeaandSeaofAzov.aspx. See Yves Smith, Some Implications of the UN’s Ukraine Grain and Russia Fertilizer/Food Agreements,” Naked Capitalism, July 25, 2022, and Lavrov’s July 24 speech to the Arab League. 
  3. My Super ImperialismThe Economic Strategy of American Empire (3rd ed., 2021) describes how the Treasury-bill standard has provided America with a free ride and enabled it to run balance-of-payments deficits without constraint, including the costs of its overseas military spending. 
  4. Radhika Desai and Michael Hudson (2021), “Beyond Dollar Creditocracy: A Geopolitical Economy,” Valdai Club Paper No. 116. Moscow: Valdai Club, 7 July, reprinted in Real World Economic Review (97), https://rwer.wordpress.com/2021/09/23. 

To Hell or Not to Hell?

July 16, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

The Barbarian West

By the fifth century AD the barbarians had moved into Western Europe in significant numbers, bringing about the fall of Old Rome in what is now Italy in 410. Curiously, the barbarianism they brought with them, combined with the systematic brutality of Old Rome by the most brutal of them, the Franks, survives today. Indeed, we can state quite clearly that many in Western Europe have remained barbarians, knowingly or unknowingly supporting the ‘Frankish’ warlord aristocracy/ oligarchy which administrates (but not controls –control is from elsewhere) the Western world till this day. At first the barbarians took over only Western Europe, but then they expanded to its immediate neighbours in Eastern Europe, the Near East and along the African coasts. However, from 1492 on there began the Western European occupation and exploitation of the New Worlds. Barbarianism had literally gone global.

As we have said, the Franks (literally meaning ‘freemen’, that is, not slaves) (1) led the field among the barbarians, even renaming one country, Gaul, after themselves, as ‘France’. The word ‘Frank’ was generalised after Charlemagne who in the late eighth century massacred other less violent barbarians, the Saxons. Charlemagne founded a ‘Holy Roman Empire’ (in reality an Unholy Frankish Empire), whose intellectuals had been trained by Jews in Spain. Thus, tenth-century Muslims used the word ‘Frank’ to mean an ‘aggressive Western European’, as did eleventh-century Orthodox Christians in New Rome. In 1100 Baldwin I was enthroned in Jerusalem as the ‘first King of the Franks’. In the late eleventh century, Welsh chroniclers called the invading Normans ‘Franks’, as did the Irish and the Scots in the twelfth century, as did the Spanish and Portuguese French invaders, and did Poles and Czechs German settlers. In the sixteenth century the Chinese called marauding Portuguese and Spanish ‘Fo-lang-ki’, taken from the Arabic ‘Faranga’, from the selfsame word ‘Frank’.

Soon after 1492 the second of the two Spanish Borgia/Borja Popes, Rodrigo Borgia, alias Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), defined Non-Catholic European men as non-humans, permitting them to be robbed, enslaved and killed. In the twentieth century, this misogynistic and racist Western culture graciously extended its ‘superiority’ to Western women, then to the Jews, calling their ‘Western civilisation’ ‘Judeo-Christian’, and then extended it to all races (2), but on one condition: that these newcomers accept ‘Western values’ such as ‘democracy’ = a new word for Western supremacy, that is, Nazism. Thus, today Kiev’s barbarian troops, the New Vandals, are doing the same as Western barbarian marauders, the Old Vandals, genociding all who do not accept their Nazi ideology. Russia is fighting the West today, because the barbarians are at its gates in the Ukraine – again, just as they were eighty years ago.

In the Ukraine

In recent months, here and there in various Western European countries, I have seen two or three flags being flown together, the EU One Ring ‘to rule them all’, sometimes the local national flag, and beneath it the Ukrainian one. This represents Western supremacism, the Nazi ideology which proclaims the long-desired Westernisation of the Ukraine. It says that any who do not accept ‘Western values’ are to be destroyed or, as they say now, ’cancelled’ – with Western fake news, Western arms and Western death.

Who are today’s aristocratic warlords, today’s Franks, Lombards, Goths, Vandals and Vikings? They are Stoltenberg, Biden, Johnson, von der Leyen, Blinken, Nuland, Kagan, Scholz, Macron and all the other knowing and unknowing neocons who fly these flags together. The barbarians were there sacking civilisation in August 476 and in August 1914, they were there sacking civilisation in late 1492 and in early 2022. However, the world that started on 12 October 1492 died on 24 February 2022 and a new era has begun.

On 14 July 2022 the Serbian President Vucic said: ‘Now the whole Western world is at war with Russia through Ukrainian intermediaries and today’s armed conflict can almost be called a world war’. ‘I know what awaits us. As soon as Vladimir Putin has finished his work in Seversk, Bakhmut and Soledar and then reaches the second line in Slaviansk-Kramatorsk-Avdeevka, he will make an offer. And if they (the West) don’t accept – and they don’t intend to – we shall take the road to hell’.

After the Barbarians

So what happens if the Western world chooses not to go to hell? What happens after the barbarians, after the final demise of the myths of ‘The West and the Rest’ and ‘The West is Best’? At the moment, the alternative is an alphabet soup of BRI, BRICS, EAEU, SCO etc. BRICS itself is becoming old-fashioned, as it may well soon be joined by Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and maybe Argentina and then, who knows? Does that make BRICSITESAA? An alternative name like ‘The Anti-West’ is purely reactive, negative and refers to the 530 years before 24 February 2022. It is especially inappropriate since the EU is clearly collapsing and it is obvious that, at the very least, countries like Serbia, Hungary (whom the EU elite wishes to expel from the EU) and Germany, if it is to survive, will be joining the to-be-renamed BRICS.

Perhaps we could call the future bloc ‘The Free World’, but that also makes too close a reference to the past. We of course do not know the future name. But we could suggest some more realistic names like ‘The International Alliance’ (IA), or, ‘The Free Alliance of Sovereign Peoples’ (FASP). Such a bloc could help settle long-standing historic injustices, through the formation of new countries, new borders, new constitutions and new prosperity. The fact is that the world has not yet been decolonised. You can still see straight lines on maps, usually the work of tidy-minded colonial bureaucrats a century or so ago in London and Paris, who had little concept of history and geography, of rivers, mountains and the languages of different ethnicities, let alone of humanity, justice and prosperity.

There are still dispossessed peoples waiting to get or get back their own sovereign homelands, such as those in Scotland, Wales, Carpatho-Russia, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Kurdistan, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico. There are still peoples waiting to return to their real homelands, such as those in Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, Taiwan, American Samoa, Belize, French Guiana, the Falklands. There are still artificial countries which may well disappear entirely or else be federated, such as: USA, UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Kosovo, Ukraine, Morocco, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Israel, Lebanon, Kuwait, North Korea, South Korea. Finally, there are countries with disputed borders, not least in Europe, such as Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, the Jordan, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India. If we are to go not towards Hell, let us go to Free and Sovereign Nations, lands for native peoples, and not for colonial powers, and let there be a World Alliance of Free and Sovereign Peoples.

Notes:

1. We are reminded of the anthem of eighteenth-century British slave-traders and slave-owners that they, at least, would ‘never, never, never be slaves’. Of course they would never be slaves, they were ‘Franks’, aggressive Western Europeans.

2. Just as most in the twenty-first century had no problem with Obama (a pale brown, definitely not a black, man and the useful and self-obsessed idiot who started all the problems in the Ukraine) becoming US President, so few have a problem with the idea that a man of Indian extraction is the current frontrunner to be the next UK Prime Minister. After all, the candidacy of Rishi (called by some ‘Richy’) Sunak, until recently UK Chancellor/Minister of Finance, from an Indian/East African merchant family, worked appropriately for Goldman Sachs, married the daughter of the sixth richest billionaire in India, their combined fortune approaching $1 billion, Member of Parliament for a town called, strangely enough, ‘Richmond’, is unsurprisingly supported by the British Establishment’s ‘Financial Times’.

Sergey Lavrov: Presser following talks with Vladimir Makei, Belarus

July 02, 2022

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei following talks, Minsk, June 30, 2022

Esteemed Mr Makei,
Ladies and gentlemen,
As my colleague and friend has just said, our talks took place in a truly friendly atmosphere of trust and were very substantial, as they should be between allies and strategic partners. First, I would like to thank our Belarusian friends once again for their traditional hospitality in the wonderful city of Minsk and for the brilliant, streamlined organisation of our work.

The visit is timed to an important historical date – 30 years of diplomatic relations (June 25). Of course, this is just one more, albeit important, landmark in the centuries-old history of our truly fraternal nations. To mark this occasion, we have just cancelled postal envelopes specially issued for this date and signed an anniversary joint statement that I hope you will read. It is worth it.

We emphasised that in the past few years we have traversed a long road in developing our integration. The foreign ministries of Russia and Belarus provide diplomatic support for implementing 28 union economic integration programmes endorsed by the Supreme State Council of the Union State in November 2021.
Today, we reviewed topical bilateral issues. We also discussed the schedule of forthcoming contacts, including preparations for a joint meeting of the foreign ministry collegiums of Russia and Belarus, scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year. We reviewed implementation of the plan for foreign ministry consultations in 2022-2023.

We believe we have managed to achieve remarkable success in trade, and economic and investment cooperation. Last year, bilateral trade reached about $40 billion. Major joint projects, such as, for example, the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant, are underway. Industrial cooperation is on the up and up, paving the way for new industrial and logistics chains.

We have a high opinion of the vigorous and broad development of interregional ties. Today, the 9th Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions is to kick off in Grodno, where contracts worth an estimated $1 billion, a record-high amount, are expected to be signed.

We spoke at length about regional and international matters and agreed to continue enhancing foreign policy coordination and stand up together for the interests of our two countries in the world arena, in keeping with the two-year programmes on coordinating our actions in foreign policy.

We supported further steps towards more active cooperation in multilateral associations, primarily, in the EAEU, CSTO and the CIS. We have almost identical views on how Eurasian cooperation should develop in the future.

We agreed that we would also continue to coordinate our approaches in other multilateral formats, first and foremost, at the UN and the OSCE. We discussed the progress on the projects that are being carried out in Belarus under the auspices of the United Nations, many of which are being funded by the Russian side. We will vigorously continue to oppose any attempts to politicise human rights issues. We see hopeless attempts like this being made at the UN and the OSCE. The West keeps making them with enviable persistence.

We are seriously concerned about NATO’s activities in close vicinity to our borders, primarily in the Baltic states and Poland. We share the opinion that these activities are openly confrontational and tend to lead to more tensions, as well as the division of the European security and cooperation space, that is, they are producing the results which the establishment of the OSCE was supposed to help prevent. Now they are dismantling all this with their own hands, waiving, among other things, the principle of indivisible security, which was publicly declared at the highest level in the OSCE in the late 1990s and in 2010, when it was said that no country should enhance its security at the expense of others. The West’s actions have buried this principle.

In the light of the manifestly unfriendly steps taken by the United States and its satellites towards our countries, we reaffirmed that we are firmly determined to further preclude any attempts by the West to interfere in our domestic affairs. We agreed to continue to join efforts to oppose illegitimate unilateral actions by Washington, Brussels and their allies in the international arena.

We advised our colleagues of our assessments of the special military operation in Ukraine. We maintain regular dialogue on these issues. Our presidents discussed this topic at a top-level meeting in St Petersburg on June 25.

We are grateful to our Belarusian allies for completely understanding the causes, goals and tasks of the special military operation. President Vladimir Putin discussed these issues in his remarks yesterday concerning the results of the Caspian Five Summit in Ashgabat.

We focused on biological security, while exchanging opinions on strategic stability and arms control. We agree that US activities on post-Soviet space are quite dangerous and non-transparent. The activities of Pentagon’s biolabs in Ukraine highlight the risks they bear. We exposed these facts but failed to obtain a US response. 

[Biological Security] … we initiated a process, stipulated by the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention …

We sent inquiries to countries, parties to this important international treaty. We perceive threats to the national security of Russia and Belarus, the reluctance of the United States to ensure the transparency of its military-biological activities in many countries on post-Soviet space, primarily those around Russia and Belarus. We have an agreement, within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, to establish close and transparent interaction on these issues, in order to counter attempts to advance such projects (that cause concern in our countries) behind the scenes and without due transparency.

We are also cooperating in order to counter the dirty information war unleashed by the collective West against our countries. We agreed to expand and upgrade Russian-Belarusian media cooperation, and you should be particularly interested in this issue.

We are satisfied with the results of the talks. They help advance our foreign policy coordination still further on the basis of allied and strategic partnership for the benefit of our countries and fraternal nations.

Question:  A risky redivision of the world’s energy sector is taking place. What are the United States and the EU counting on, while renouncing Russian imports?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that everyone understands what they are counting on. They have no misgivings about openly discussing this issue. They noted this once again yesterday, at the NATO summit in Madrid. They are expecting all other states to unfailingly obey their will, reflecting their selfish interests, primarily those of the United States. We have repeatedly been convinced that modern Europe, in the form of the EU, is losing its independence or even the signs of independence that it once had. Europe completely obeys positions that the United States imposes on it, including those in the sphere of economic sanctions. It is renouncing Russian imports and demolishing logistic and financial chains that had taken decades to create.

Look at the current list of sanctions. I suggest that you conduct this interesting analysis. Compare restrictions that European countries are imposing on Russia and Belarus with the relevant US restrictions. The United States is sparing itself and is trying not to encroach on various spheres that could seriously damage its own economy. Yes, the United States is also experiencing negative effects from this activity, but Europe is suffering much more. I believe that, apart from “punishing” our countries, the United States wants to weaken the European Union as its rival.

Question: At the Madrid summit, NATO stated that Russia was the main threat to the Alliance according to its new strategic concept. Following this statement and their decision to fortify the eastern flank, does Moscow consider itself bound by its commitments under the Russia-NATO Founding Act, or has this document lost its validity?

Sergey Lavrov: In the legal sense, the Founding Act continues to exist. We did not initiate the procedure for terminating this agreement. In the run-up to the summit, NATO had lengthy and vocal discussions about whether they still needed the Act or whether they would be better off abandoning it. As a result, they decided to let this matter be, but 

[NATO] … their decisions grossly violate the Founding Act …,

primarily with regard to NATO’s commitment not to permanently deploy significant combat forces on the territory of new (Eastern European) Alliance members.

We will analyse the situation and decide on our further moves depending on how and in what form NATO will move forward with the decisions it adopted and announced.

Question: Will it be possible to restore more or less acceptable political and diplomatic relations with EU countries in the future? Will there be another Iron Curtain? Do we have a bloc like NATO or the EU?

Sergey Lavrov (adding after Vladimir Makei): I agree with almost all of that. As for our relations with the EU, Russia has not had them since 2014. Brussels swallowed the humiliating move by the opposition forces which perpetrated a coup in Ukraine in defiance of EU guarantees. In response, the Crimea residents refused to live in a neo-Nazi state. Ukraine’s eastern regions did the same, and the European Union failed to muster enough courage to talk sense into the putschists who carried out an illegal power grab, and in fact began to support them in their attack, including physical, on the people of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. When the referendum took place in Crimea and the DPR and the LPR were proclaimed, the European Union, instead of pushing for compliance with the agreements between President Yanukovych and the opposition it had co-sponsored, sided with the ultranationalist and deep down neo-Nazi regime which proclaimed fighting the Russian language and culture as its goal. In the years that followed, the regimes led by Poroshenko and Zelensky proved Kiev’s loyalty to this particular course.

In 2014, when it all happened, the EU, feeling powerless and aware of its own inability to enforce implementation of its own proposals, said the Russian Federation was to blame. It imposed sanctions on our country and cancelled the Russia-EU summit planned for June 2014, destroyed every other mechanism that it took us decades to create, such as biannual summits, annual meetings between the Russian Government and the European Commission, four common spaces that underlay four road maps, 20 sector-specific dialogues, including a dialogue on visa-free travel and much more. All of that was ruined overnight. Relations have been non-existent since then. There were occasional technical contacts, but nothing major. No wonder there are no relations now, but we never close ourselves off. From now on, we will never trust the Americans or the EU. We are doing our best not to depend on them in the sectors that are critically important for survival of the state, the people and our security. When and if they get over their obsession and come back with some kind of a proposal, we will see what exactly it is about. We will not play along with their self-serving plans. If it comes to resuming the dialogue, we will push for a level playing field for everyone and a focus on balancing the interests of all participants on an equal footing.

With regard to the Iron Curtain, it is already on its way down. They should make sure they don’t get anything caught in it as it goes down.

In all other matters, we have a straightforward position: we are for things being fair.

In 2014, our “partners” refused to hold a summit amid serious events, including a coup, a referendum in Crimea, and a radical change in the situation in the Black Sea region. If you were serious about searching for solutions, this meeting was the way forward. It could have been used to have a candid discussion about the complaints and the counter questions the partners in the Russian Federation had for the EU. The withdrawal from all contacts that took place after March 2014 only goes to show that the EU is not interested in a dialogue, and does not want to understand our interests or listen to what we have to say. What it wants is for everyone to agree with the Brussels’ decisions which are a carbon copy of the decisions made in Washington. We have been able to see that in recent years.

Question: Norway has refused to allow Russian cargo, including food, medicines, and necessary equipment, to Spitsbergen. What steps will be taken to resolve this issue? What might our response be, if any?

Sergey Lavrov: First, we want to see Norway respond to our reaction that immediately followed the incident. We sent an official request demanding clarification as to how this move aligns with Norway’s commitments under the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920. I hope they will respond promptly. Then, we will analyse the situation. And we will act quickly.

You’re either with us or you’re a “systemic challenge”

June 30, 2022

Source

After all we’re deep into the metaverse spectrum, where things are the opposite of what they seem.

By Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

Fast but not furious, the Global South is revving up. The key takeaway of the BRICS+ summit in Beijing,  held in sharp contrast with the G7 in the Bavarian Alps, is that both West Asia’s Iran and South America’s Argentina officially applied for BRICS membership.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has highlighted how BRICS has “a very creative mechanism with broad aspects”. Tehran – a close partner of both Beijing and Moscow – already had “a series of consultations” about the application: the Iranians are sure that will “add value” to the expanded BRICS.

Talk about China, Russia and Iran being sooooo isolated. Well, after all we’re deep into the metaverse spectrum, where things are the opposite of what they seem.

Moscow’s obstinacy in not following Washington’s Plan A to start a pan-European war is rattling Atlanticist nerves to the core. So right after the G7 summit significantly held at a former Nazi sanatorium, enter NATO’s, in full warmongering regalia.

So welcome to an atrocity exhibition featuring total demonization of Russia, defined as the ultimate “direct threat”; the upgrading of Eastern Europe into “a fort”; a torrent of tears shed about the Russia-China strategic partnership; and as an extra bonus, the branding of China as a “systemic challenge”.

There you go: for the NATO/G7 combo, the leaders of the emerging multipolar world as well as the vast swathes of the Global South that want to join in, are a “systemic challenge”.

Turkiye under the Sultan of Swing – Global South in spirit, tightrope walker in practice – got literally everything it wanted to magnanimously allow Sweden and Finland to clear their paths on the way of being absorbed by NATO.

Bets can be made on what kind of shenanigans NATO navies will come up with in the Baltics against the Russian Baltic Fleet, to be followed by assorted business cards distributed by Mr. Khinzal, Mr. Zircon, Mr. Onyx and Mr. Kalibr, capable of course of annihilating any NATO permutation, including “decision centers”.

So it came as a sort of perverse comic relief when Roscosmos released a set of quite entertaining satellite images pinpointing the coordinates of those “decision centers”.

The “leaders” of NATO and the G7 seem to enjoy performing a brand of lousy cop/clownish cop routine. The NATO summit told coke comedian Elensky (remember, the letter “Z” is verboten) that the Russian combined arms police operation – or war – must be “resolved” militarily. So NATO will continue to help Kiev to fight till the last Ukrainian cannon fodder.

In parallel, at the G7, German Chancellor Scholz was asked to specify what “security guarantees” would be provided to what’s left of Ukraine after the war. Response from the grinning Chancellor: “Yes … I could” (specify). And then he trailed off.

Illiberal Western liberalism

Over 4 months after the start of Operation Z, zombified Western public opinion completely forgot – or willfully ignores – that Moscow spent the last stretch of 2021 demanding a serious discussion on legally binding security guarantees from Washington, with an emphasis on no more NATO eastward expansion and a return to the 1997 status quo.

Diplomacy did fail, as Washington emitted a non-response response. President Putin had stressed the follow-up would be a “military technical” response (that turned out to be Operation Z) even as the Americans warned that would trigger massive sanctions.

Contrary to Divide and Rule wishful thinking, what happened after February 24 only solidified the synergistic Russia-China strategic partnership – and their expanded circle, especially in the context of BRICS and the SCO. As Sergey Karaganov, head of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy noted earlier this year, “China is our strategic cushion (…) We know that in any difficult situation, we can lean on it for military, political and economic support.”

That was outlined in detail for all the Global South to see by the landmark February 4th joint statement for Cooperation Entering a New Era – complete with the accelerated integration of BRI and the EAEU in tandem with military intelligence harmonization under the SCO (including new full member Iran), key foundation stones of multipolarism.

Now compare it with the wet dreams of the Council on Foreign Relations or assorted ravings by armchair strategic “experts” of “the top national security think tank in the world” whose military experience is limited to negotiating a can of beer.

Makes one yearn for those serious analytic days when the late, great Andre Gunder Frank penned ” a paper on the paper tiger” , examining American power at the crossroads of paper dollar and the Pentagon.

The Brits, with better imperial education standards, at least seem to understand, halfway, how Xi Jinping “has embraced a variant of integral nationalism not unlike those that emerged in interwar Europe”, while Putin “skillfully deployed Leninist methods to resurrect an enfeebled Russia as a global power.”

Yet the notion that “ideas and projects originating in the illiberal West continue to shape global politics” is nonsense, as Xi in fact is inspired by Mao as much as Putin is inspired by several Eurasianist theoreticians. What’s relevant is that in the process of the West plunging into a geopolitical abyss, “Western liberalism has itself become illiberal.”

Much worse: it actually became totalitarian.

Holding the Global South hostage

The G7 is essentially offering to most of the Global South a toxic cocktail of massive inflation, rising prices and uncontrolled dollarized debt.

Fabio Vighi has brilliantly outlined how “the purpose of the Ukrainian emergency is to keep the money printer switched on while blaming Putin for worldwide economic downturn. The war serves the opposite aim of what we are told: not to defend Ukraine but to prolong the conflict and nourish inflation in a bid to defuse cataclysmic risk in the debt market, which would spread like wildfire across the whole financial sector.”

And if it can get worse, it will. At the Bavarian Alps, the G7 promised to find “ways to limit the price of Russian oil and gas”: if that doesn’t work according to “market methods”, then “means will be imposed by force”.

A G7 “indulgence” – neo-medievalism in action – would only be possible if a prospective buyer of Russian energy agrees to strike a deal on the price with G7 representatives.

What this means in practice is that the G7 arguably will be creating a new body to “regulate” the price of oil and gas, subordinated to Washington’s whims: for all practical purposes, a major twist of the post-1945 system.

The whole planet, especially the Global South, would be held hostage.

Meanwhile, in real life, Gazprom is on a roll, making as much money from gas exports to the EU as it did in 2021, even though it’s shipping much smaller volumes.

About the only thing this German analyst gets right is that were Gazprom forced to cut off supplies for good, that would represent “the implosion of an economic model that is over-reliant on industrial exports, and therefore on imports of cheap fossil fuels. Industry is responsible for 36% of Germany’s gas use.”

Think, for instance, BASF forced to halt production at the world’s biggest chemicals plant in Ludwigshafen. Or Shell’s CEO stressing it’s absolutely impossible to replace Russian gas supplied to the EU via pipelines with (American) LNG.

This coming implosion is exactly what Washington neocon/neoliberalcon circles want – removing a powerful (Western) economic competitor from the world trading stage. What’s truly astonishing is that Team Scholz can’t even see it coming.

Virtually no one remembers what happened a year ago when the G7 struck a pose of trying to help the Global South. That was branded as Build Back Better World (B3W). “Promising projects” were identified in Senegal and Ghana, there were “visits” to Ecuador, Panama and Colombia. The Crash Test Dummy administration was offering “the full range” of US financial tools: equity stakes, loan guarantees, political insurance, grants, technical expertise on climate, digital technology and gender equality.

The Global South was not impressed. Most of it had already joined BRI. B3W went down with a whimper.

Now the EU is promoting its new “infrastructure” project for the Global South, branded as Global Gateway, officially presented by European Commission (EC) Fuhrer Ursula von der Leyen and – surprise! – coordinated with the floundering B3W. That’s the Western “response” to BRI, demonized as – what else – “a debt trap”.

Global Gateway in theory should be spending 300 billion euros in 5 years; the EC will come up with only 18 billion from the EU budget (that is, financed by EU taxpayers), with the intention of amassing 135 billion euros in private investment. No Eurocrat has been able to explain the gap between the announced 300 billion and the wishful thinking 135 billion.

In parallel, the EC is doubling down on their floundering Green Energy agenda – blaming, what else, gas and coal. EU climate honcho Frans Timmermans has uttered an absolute pearl: “Had we had the green deal five years earlier, we would not be in this position because then we would have less dependency on fossil fuels and natural gas.”

Well, in real life the EU remains stubbornly on the road to become a fully de-industrialized wasteland by 2030. Inefficient solar or wind-based Green Energy is incapable of offering stable, reliable power. No wonder vast swathes of the EU are now Back to Coal.

The right kind of swing

It’s a tough call to establish who’s The Lousiest in the NATO/G7 cop routine. Or the most predictable. This is what I published about the NATO summit . Not now: in 2014, eight years ago. The same old demonization, over and over again.

And once again, if it can get worse, predictably it will. Think of what’s left of Ukraine – mostly eastern Galicia – being annexed to the Polish wet dream: the revamped Intermarium, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, now dubbed as a bland “Three Seas Initiative” (with the added Adriatic) and comprising 12 nation-states.

What that implies long-term is a EU breakdown from within. Opportunist Warsaw just profits financially from the Brussels system’s largesse while holding its own hegemonic designs. Most of the “Three Seas” will end up exiting the EU. Guess who will guarantee their “defense”: Washington, via NATO. What else is new? The revamped Intermarium concept goes back all the way to the late Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski.

So Poland dreams of becoming the Intermarium leader, seconded by the Three Baltic Midgets, enlarged Scandinavia, plus Bulgaria and Romania. Their aim is straight from Comedy Central: reducing Russia into “pariah state” status – and then the whole enchilada: regime change, Putin out, balkanization of the Russian Federation.

Britain, that inconsequential island, still invested in teaching Empire to the American upstarts, will love it. Germany-France-Italy much less. Lost in the wilderness Euro-analysts dream of a European Quad (Spain added), replicating the Indo-Pacific scam, but in the end it will all depend which way Berlin swings.

And then there’s that unpredictable Global South stalwart led by the Sultan of Swing: freshly rebranded Turkiye. Soft neo-Ottomanism seems to be on a roll, still expanding its tentacles from the Balkans and Libya to Syria and Central Asia. Evoking the golden age of the Sublime Porte, Istanbul is the only serious mediator between Moscow and Kiev. And it’s carefully micromanaging the evolving process of Eurasia integration.

The Americans were on the verge of regime-changing the Sultan. Now they have been forced to listen to him. Talk about a serious geopolitical lesson to the whole Global South: it don’t mean a “systemic challenge” thing if you’ve got the right kind of swing.

Douglas MacGregor: Its collapsed

June 29, 2022

Gonzalo Lira: IMPORTANT—A Message for Americans

June 18, 2022

 “Vatican Hatred” and Russophobia

May 25, 2022

By Prof. Slobodan Antonic, Department of Sociology, University of Belgrade (Translated for the Saker Blog)

“Vatican hatred” is not a quote from a publication on the Croatian genocide against Serbs between 1941−1945. It is a phrase used by the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thornton Wilder in his novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” to describe a hatred that is strong, deep, persistent, and cruel.

Of course, not everyone in the Vatican hates, nor are all haters Catholics. However, nations belonging to the cultural domain of Eastern Christianity are sometimes genuinely amazed by the depth and intensity of hatred emanating from influential Western ideologues, some powerful institutions, and numerous “voluntary executors” of various extermination projects. Formally they also are European and Christian, but they belong to a slightly different tradition and culture.

Serbs got a taste of it several times in the 20th century. They face it even today. An example is writer and Nobel Prize winner Herta Miller, Romanian-German novelist, who said publicly what most Germans think about Serbs when she endorsed the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. And Germany, at least while Serbia’s current president was prime minister, was said to be our main Western friend. What are our enemies like then?

Serbs, at least when it comes to Eastern Europe, are not the only target of Western hatred. There are, of course, also the Russians. As one American woman of Serbian origin correctly remarked while watching TV over there, “the enemies of the Western world have been stable and unchanged for 30 years: Serbia and Russia. Terrible Orthodox Serbs who, in terror, slaughtered a huge number of peaceful democratic Muslims and no less terrible Russian communists who destroyed democracy and freedom in Chechnya.”

Entire scholarly monographs on the West’s hatred of Russia have been written, and three of them have been translated in our country: “Russophobia: Two Paths to the Same Abyss” (translated in 1993) by Igor Šafarević; “Russophobia” (translated by 2016) by Giulietto Chiesa; and “Russia and the West – a Thousand Years of War: Russophobia from Charlemagne to the Ukrainian Crisis” (translated in 2017) by Guy Methane.

The word “Russophobia” is in the title of all three books. That word can be misleading. Phobias are irrational and unjustified fears, like being scared of a mouse when it jumps on a table (musophobia), even though it is a creature that will not eat us or bite our leg. However, in the case of Russia, it is not a matter of phobia, but of deep and constant hatred – a good example was recently given by James Jatras:

“Moscow could return Crimea to Ukraine, escort Kiev troops to Donbas on a red carpet, and hang Bashar Assad on a flagpole in Damascus. Sanctions imposed by Washington on Moscow would remain, and even gradually intensify. See how long it took us to get rid of the Jackson-Venik law (a law that limited trade relations with the USSR, passed in 1974 and repealed only in 2012). The Russophobic impulse that controls American policy does not come from what the Russians do, but from who they are: Russia delenda est!”

Now, in Serbia, we have a newly-published book that talks about Russia hatred in our country. It is “Russophobia among Serbs 1878−2017″, by Dejan Mirović. Where did the Serbs get this from, given that the Russians helped us get rid of the Turks and rebuild a state, that because of us in 1914 they went to war with Austria-Hungary (and Germany), that in 1944 they helped us get rid of German Nazism, and that today they defend our claim to Kosovo, sometimes better than official Belgrade?

The first source of Russophobia in Serbia, in the last two centuries, is certainly the trickling down of anti-Russianism from the West. Serbia is perceived in the West as a small, Balkan Russia”, a traditional Russian stronghold in the Balkans. That is why all anti-Russian strategic projects allocate significant funds to suppress Russia’s popularity in Serbia, primarily through open anti-Russian propaganda.

Another source of anti-Russianism is the ideology of the local elite, which wants to “modernize” Serbia, but by Westernizing it. That elite, which existed in the 19th and 20th centuries, just as it exists today, wants Serbia to take over not only Western technology but also Western institutions, Western culture, and even the Western frame of mind (“Protestant spirit”). Since the model that Serbia should strive for can only be Western countries – France or Britain in the 19th century, and the EU today – Russia must be portrayed in the worst light, as it could not be a model for anything – not even in art, culture, or religion.

The third source of anti-Russianism in our country, during the last two centuries, were different political interests and different particular interests of the ruling elites of Serbia (Yugoslavia) and Russia (USSR). For example, in the 19th century, Russia wanted to take Constantinople. That is why the Bulgarians who inhabit the eastern Balkans – which could be considered the gates of Istanbul – were more important to her than the Serbs, who were geographically further away, in the west. The Russians, therefore, preferred Bulgarians at the time, supporting a Greater Bulgaria rather than a Greater Serbia. Thus, they endangered Serbian interests not only in Macedonia, but also in south-eastern Serbia. This was the real background of a certain coldness that developed in the policy of Serbian kings Milan and Aleksandar Obrenović towards Russia (a policy given a personal stamp in the “secret convention” concluded between Serbian Prince Milan and Austro-Hungary).

Another example of divergent interests is certainly the Titoist period, 1948−1989. Tito and his associates, after 1948, in fear for the survival of their regime, cruelly persecuted not only Sovietophiles but also Russophiles. A 20-year-old student, Vera Cenic, was tortured for two years (1950-1951) in the Goli Otok concentration camp only because she frequented the Soviet Cultural Center to watch Russian films, loved Russian literature and kept a diary in which she expressed her intimate reservations toward the official policy of keeping a distance from Russia.

Radivoj Berbakov was sentenced in 1980 to two and a half years in prison, which he served in the Sremska Mitrovica prison, for “enemy propaganda.” That consisted, among other things, of being “biased in favor of Russian art and literature, in the sense of exaggerating the merits ​​of art and literature in the USSR,” which fits in with his statement that he “loves Russians and that no one can forbid him to love them.”

Of course, the Titoist nomenklature knew that a political upheaval in Yugoslavia would lead to Titoists losing not only power but also their personal freedom. That is why, at that time, as Mirović shows us in his book, a significant part of the public in Serbia was being soaked not only with anti-Soviet but also outright anti-Russian propaganda and ideology.

When it comes to today’s anti-Russianism in Serbia, its basic source is a combination of the first and second factors. As a result, contemporary anti-Russian manifestations here range from the unconscious absorption of Western ideological and propaganda clichés, to unabashed Russian hatred articulated by pro-Atlanticist, self-hating Serbs.

As an example, a truly dark, threatening and dangerous “Vatican hatred,” of the kind that Thornton Wilder was alluding to, erupts regularly in the texts of some of the columnists of the Western-financed Belgrade daily “Danas”. There, we can read that “Tsarist Russia dragged Serbia into the First World War”, and also that “Russians” took part in the 2003 assassination of the then prime minister Zoran Djindjic, on the spurious premise that “the assassination of the Prime Minister was the first step in returning Serbia to the Soviet orbit.”

In Serbia, according to this view, there is a “quisling attitude towards Russia”, that is, in our country there is a “Russian network” with “extremist groups under the obvious control of Serbian and Russian security services”. The line propounded by these circles is that “Putin’s Russia is robbing us of the remnants of European sovereignty and identity, economic potential and common sense”, warning that an “evolution from Serbian chauvinism to quisling Putinism” is taking place in Serbia.

Their buzzwords are that “Putin’s regime recognizes men as oligarchs and men, and women as either whores or grandmothers”, that “the boss in Moscow is pressuring Serbia to deviate from the democratic international order”, and that for Serbia “EU integration is a priority”.

There is also in Serbia “anti-Russian incitement propaganda,” with preposterous allegations that “half of the ministers seem to have been smuggled in from the Donetsk Republic”. The alleged concept of “Greater Serbia” was initially the object of their disdain. Now they have come up with the idea that Serbia is “in danger of becoming a Russian province”. Serbs are being told that reliance on Russia “destroys our democratic institutions and introduces us to dirty sources of financial capital,” ultimately leading Serbs to “pathological Sovietophilia”, and also enabling “treacherous conduct on the part of government organs, and even circles within the Serbian Orthodox Church”.

Of course, no other privatization project in Serbia but that of NIS has been denounced as questionable for those ideologues. The only problem they see in the area of privatization is the sale of the formerly state-owned petroleum enterprise, NIS, to Russian interests. And there is also the alleged “Putin spy center”, a Russian Emergency Situations outpost located in the city of Nis, accused of “nurturing criminal traditions and destroying fragile democracies in the region.”

The Russophobic lobby maintains that in Serbia “since 2004, the media under the supervision of each government have been preparing public opinion not only for new conflicts with neighbors, but also for World War III, which we will fight on the side of Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela”. The author of this particular diatribe goes on to wonder “how Vučić can possibly position Serbia in the victorious camp in the emerging international conflict.”

Russia and China are, according to this lobby, “factors of world disorder” because, as they absurdly argue, “the annual total of victims of state-party terror in Russia and China is almost equal to the victims of Mauthausen”. Hence, if Belgrade – which according to them is a “stinking sh##hole” opts to side with Russia, “Serbia will remain as the Balkan GDR”.

Don´t you feel a terrible, deep hatred in these words, not only towards Russia but also towards Serbia – just because Serbia is also Slavic, nationalistic, Orthodox and strives to march to its own drummer?

That hatred is unleased primarily in order to turn Serbs into someone else: Western “Protestants” and “citizens”, more precisely a consumerist crowd that lives in a territory, not a country, and which tomorrow can be replaced by some other, more “modern” and “politically correct” population.

Eruptions of such hatred are necessary in order to mould the “Serbian-European”, whose brain is crushed and the terrible “little Russian” within him is torn out. There is no doubt that this is the ultimate goal of Atlanticist policy in the Balkans. But that cannot happen without enthronement in the Serbian society of the equivalent of “Vatican hatred” – deep, systematic and cruel.

It is important to be able to recognize that hatred. It is contrary not only to our essential interests, but also to our civilizational identity that makes us special as a people and as a culture. The general public rejects it intuitively. But in the context of the announced “international conflict” – which will allegedly finally “separate the wheat from the chaff” – it serves as an early announcement of totalitarian repression against each and every one of us who loves his country and thinks for himself.

So each of us must take the risk of falling victim to “Vatican hatred”. Even you who are reading this text, dear reader.

History is Being Written Before our Eyes

May 24, 2022

Source

The Moving Finger writes and, having writ,
Moves on: And neither Devotion, nor Wit
Shall make it cancel a Half-Line of it,
Nor Tears shall wash away a Word or Whit.

Omar Khayyam

By Batiushka

Introduction: The Distant Past

In 1945 the US and the UK betrayed and turned on their ally, the Soviet Union, which was far too victorious against Nazi Germany for their taste (1). For the war-crime bombings of Dresden, ordered by the half-American Churchill, and of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ordered by the full-American Truman, were warnings – issued not to the already crushed Germany and Japan, but to the USSR. Then, from 1945 on, a series of covert and not so covert operations were carried out by Western spies and terrorists in order to undermine further the Soviet Union, notably in the Baltics and above all in the Western Ukraine (right up until 1958). Many so-called ‘former’ Nazis were employed by the Western Powers to do this dirty work for them. (2).

The Near Past

Even after losing its wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2014 the United States organised and financed a violent, anti-democratic regime-change operation in Kiev, at a cost of $5 billion to the US taxpayer. It had now finally bitten off more than it could chew. As a result, the Russian Federation, a Superpower, though mocked and despised at the time by the arrogant Obama as a political and economic ‘regional’ minnow, had to take back the Crimea after its 60-year loan to the Ukraine. Otherwise, it would have lost its key Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol to the Pentagon, just as it had briefly lost it to the Anglo-French Fascists in 1856 and the German Fascists in 1942. It also had to defend Russian-speaking Eastern Ukraine by setting up a buffer zone, so buying itself time to prepare for a possible full-blown campaign of liberation there.

From 2014 on, Russia made eight years of highly meticulous preparations, ideological, political, diplomatic, economic, military, energy and agricultural, implementing a policy of import substitution to increase its independence and sovereignty. For Russia knew that the US would flood the Ukraine with NATO instructors and weapons in order to attack its people there and Russia itself, even if Russia did not launch a campaign to liberate the eastern Ukraine. The US will have a high price to pay for the foolish arrogance of this militarisation, carried out together with its NATO minions. Once the Crimea had voluntarily and democratically returned to Russia after the Western annexation of the Kiev regime territories in 2014, Russia experienced the illegal sanctions imposed on it by the Evil Empire. These would be implemented in even greater numbers, if Russia was forced to take back its ancestral territories of Novorossiya and Malorossiya and again set up a demilitarised and denazified zone in, at the very least, Eastern Europe.

The Present

The names of the neo-feudal elite of this Evil Empire are, like those of the demons, legion: The West/US/UK/EU/NATO/IMF/G7/UN/WTO/WHO/NGOs/ MSM/Anglo-Zionists/Anglo-Saxons/Washington and London/Neocons/New World Order/Globalists/World Bank/Federal Reserve/Banksters/Big Pharma/ Bilderberg/Trilateral/Davos/Soros….The above, who represent not even one billion of the world’s human-beings, are opposed by the Allies, who represent the seven billion human-beings of the Free World, the international community of the True United Nations: Russia, China, India, Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, Free Europe.

Of the Allies of the True United Nations: the Russian Federation is now the ideological, political, military, energy and agricultural leader; China and India are its manufacturing leaders; Iran, the Middle East, Indonesia and Venezuela are energy leaders; Latin America, Brazil and Mexico, Bolivia and Argentina, Peru and Ecuador, are industrial and resource leaders; Africa, from Egypt to South Africa, is a resource leader; Free Europe is about to be launched, with Serbia and Hungary, and perhaps Slovakia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Cyprus and others to follow, are the human leaders of Free Europe. There will be alternatives to the Evil Empire’s obsolete institutions: A true World Bank, a true United Nations, a true European Union, a true WTO, a true West and a true New World Order.

The Near Future

Since the campaign of liberation of the Ukraine was launched on 24 February, the world has changed. Our Great Reset has begun. True, most, though now no longer all, Western ideologues still refuse to accept that their private fantasy of a tyrannical unipolar world order is dead. Despite their delusions, that fantasy has been destroyed, not by those who opposed it, but by their own over-reaching hubris, that is, by their refusal to consider the rest of the world as of equal worth. For the liberation of Ukraine is just the beginning of the collapse of the ‘West is Best’ ideology. The struggle is also economic, as the West through its anti-Russian sanctions (3) is committing economic suicide. And the struggle is also ideological and political in its second, third and fourth phases.

In the second phase, there must follow the denazification of Eastern Europe, especially of the pro-Fascist Baltic State establishments, and the demilitarisation of Europe, initially of Moldova, Romania, Poland, Finland and Sweden, then gradually further west. Only then can the tiny and spiritually isolated European peninsula be integrated back into the Eurasian heartland. In the third phase, the rest of the world will be affected: China will take back Taiwan – and may also colonise and take control of North-Western Australia and the eastern Pacific, moving out from the South China Sea: Korea will be reunited; Syria and Libya will be rebuilt; the Palestinians will have their own homeland; Latin America must receive justice after a century of the disasters of its US-imposed banana leaders.

Conclusion: The Distant Future

Then will come the fourth phase of our Great Reset: the regime changes in the oligarchic territories of the Evil Empire itself, starting in the USA, founded on the Anglo-Saxon elite’s genocide of its native peoples and then a bloody Civil War. However, we should recall that the history of the USA is merely a repetition of the history of Western Europe. For here too, though long, long ago, the present European establishments were founded on the barbarising and feudalising Frankish, Norman and Teutonic elites’ genocides of its native peoples, of Romanised Celts and Gauls, Old Saxons, Old English, Bretons, Basques, Mozarabs etc. And then those establishments reinforced their positions in internecine Civil Wars, atrocities and artificial famines, which patterned the history of Western Europe, almost continually, from the twelfth century on, through the Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War, the English Civil Wars, the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Irish Famine, right up to the First and Second European Wars, which became worldwide. Yes: History is being written before our eyes.

Notes:

1. Only eleven months before the end of World War II, the US and the UK finally launched D-Day. Why so late in the War? Simply because the Western Allies had underestimated the fighting power and sacrifices of the Soviet Union. D-Day took place on 6 June 1944 only because without it the Soviet Union would have liberated all of Continental Europe as far as the Channel coast, reaching not just Berlin and Vienna, but also Copenhagen and Brussels, Paris and Madrid. The Anglo-Saxons would not accept that and it was that realisation which finally prompted them to invade north-western Europe.

2. All of this is detailed by historians, for example in books like: Killing Hope, US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, William Blum, 1995; MI6, Fifty Years of Special Operations, Stephen Dorril, 2001; Overthrow, America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer, 2007.

3. Instead of admitting the truth that it has created the problem, the West blames not its own anti-Russian sanctions for its economic disaster, but instead the Russian liberation of the Ukraine. In the same way it blamed the economic catastrophe of 2020-22 not on its Fascistic lockdowns, but on covid. The West, blinded by the arrogance that comes from its corrupted will and so technical ability to loot and pillage the world, always blames others for its self-imposed predicaments.

Forward to the USSR and Operation Z+

May 04, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

On 28 April 2022 President Lukashenko of Belarus spoke of a possible coming together of various independent countries, former Soviet republics, to join the Russian Federation and Belarus in a ‘Union State’. (https://www.reporter.am/the-former-soviet-republics-may-also-be-part-of-the-union-state-lukashenko/). Then, on 3 May President Putin and President Lukashenko discussed the construction of this Union State further. (https://news.mail.ru/politics/51151818/?frommail=1).

In 1991 the Soviet Union, the successor of the Russian Empire, suddenly collapsed in a remarkably similar way to the way in which the former suddenly collapsed in 1917 and on orders from exactly the same transatlantic financial and political circles. No coincidence. Since then the territory concerned, the heartland of Northern Eurasia, like much of the rest of the world has been in chaos, with poverty, injustice and war. Geopolitically, the formation of a Sovereign Union (not Soviet Union) of the peoples and nations of Northern Eurasia is now perhaps the only way of overcoming the vacuum created, which has been at the root of planetary chaos since 1991.

Northern Eurasia, whatever it has been called, is, like it or not, marked by its central and by far its largest nation, the Russian. This is the only one capable of bringing together the sovereign states of the many and varied peoples who live in this continuous intercontinental land-area for peace and justice. Indeed, many look to Russia to carry out precisely this task and so to rescue them from the present disorder of Western ‘divide and rule’ politics, the resulting Western exploitation of their natural resources and oppression of Western-loving oligarchs.

Speaking to citizens of the former Soviet Union of many nationalities over the last 30 years, some things are certain. Nobody wants to go back to the old Soviet ways, for example, to arrests and imprisonments for criticism of the drab, ultra-centralised system, or simply to the daily queuing to obtain even staple goods, food and clothes, the result of the gross inefficiencies of central planning. Nobody wants to live in a country where sausage meat, appearing at best once a week, was sold out by 10 a.m. and where women could not even obtain sanitary products. Nobody wants to go back to a centralised system, where even minute decisions were made by micro-managing, out-of-touch bureaucrats, working on the basis of falsified statistics in distant Moscow.

On the other hand, whatever happened to free healthcare (even if underfunded), free education, full employment, (modest) homes for all, low crime, social justice, liveable pensions, subsidised high culture and the other benefits of the Soviet Union? Little wonder that there is among many all over Eastern Europe a nostalgia for the old Communist system and many still vote Communist. As one woman said to me in Moscow twelve years ago: ‘Of course, we knew that the Communists were lieing to us about our wonderful life under Communism, but what we did not know is that they were telling us the truth about the awfulness of life under Capitalism. Before we had shortages, but we were secure. Now we do not have shortages, if we have money, but we have no security’.

The old Russian Empire gathered together many peoples beneath its double-headed eagle, looking both ways, uniting both East and West. The old Soviet Empire gathered together many peoples beneath its hammer and sickle, imposing a centralised Union, opposing Capitalism in both East and West. Now, hope against hope, we await the foundation of a successor Union, one which must shun the errors of the past, bravely attempting to provide Justice and Prosperity for all.

A Sovereign Union, composed of sovereign nations with new and just borders, agreed on after referenda, freely co-operating in terms of trade and defence, is possible. These initial sovereign nations, in possible order of membership, could be: The Russian Federation, Belarus, much of the old Ukraine, liberated, with its new name, borders and new government, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Thus would be formed a new USSR, a Union of Sovereign Social Republics, a Sovereign Union (SU). Many would rejoice at this, for the dangerous vacuum, the social injustices, the neo-feudal oligarchs’ kleptocracy and divisions left by the collapse of the old USSR have proved to be extremely destabilising for the whole of Northern Eurasia, one sixth of the Earth’s land surface. And that instability has affected the rest of the world quite profoundly, as we can see at this very moment, which is left shuddering at the possibility, however slight, of World War III.

A unique Sovereign Union from Brest to Vladivostok, from the Arctic to Central Asia, could provide an Alliance not only for the new nations formed thirty years ago, but also with still to-be-liberated nations in Europe. Freeing themselves from the shackles of the Anti-sovereign and Anti-social EU, these nations would include Hungary and Slovakia, Serbia and Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, Montenegro and Macedonia. Perhaps there could be an Alliance with the undeluded elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Asia, in Mongolia, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, and in Africa, and in the ex-Western colonies of the three continents of the New Worlds. Is it really past human ingenuity to live in a system in which there is freedom and social justice for all, in an Alliance, with a Union of Sovereign Social Republics?

A Sovereign Union, standing over the world like a mother stretching out her arms over Eurasia to care for her children, could establish an Alliance of the World’s Nations, a real United Nations, not that corrupt pastiche of one in New York. Everywhere, peoples’ struggles to settle long-standing historic injustices through the abolition of borders drawn up long ago by Colonial Office cultural ignoramuses and natural resource asset-strippers in faraway London, Paris and Washington, would become possible. The formation of new countries, new borders, new constitutions and new prosperity, could gradually be resolved in peace.

After all, what is the alternative? To continue in the present hellish chaos of perpetual war, grinding poverty and cynical injustice? Zorro’s Operation Z, the liberation of the Ukraine, is just the beginning. Operation Z+, the liberation of the world, is the end. Yes, it is a highly unlikely end, but still the only noble one directed towards a worthy New World Order, enough to inspire a direction in even the most disheartened of hearts.

The Ukraine and the End of the History

April 26, 2022

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by Batiushka

Introduction: 1492-2022

The present conflict in the Ukraine is clearly not really about the Ukraine – that artificial collection of territories is only a tragic battlefield between the West and the Rest. The conflict is about the organised violence and extraordinary arrogance of the West, the US/UK/EU/NATO, against the rest of the world, specifically Russia, supported by China, India and indeed all other peoples. Therefore, the coming Russian victory in the special operation in the Ukraine essentially signifies the end of the West’s 500-year long domination of the planet. This is why the tiny Western world, some 15% of the planet, is so virulent in its opposition to the Russian people.

The Russian victory will undermine the remnants of illusory faith in the mythical superiority of the West and above all in the USA, fear of which long discouraged the resistance of the ‘Rest’ to the West. Neither Iran, nor even China risked challenging the USA – Russia has. The Ukraine is the USA’s ‘unsinkable’ Titanic and Russia the iceberg to sink US hubris and overreach. When the world sees the Russian victory, four continents at least, Europe and Asian China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, as well as Latin America and Africa, will vote for freedom from the American Empire. It is the end of Western domination, ‘the end of the history’ of ethnocentric Westerners like Francis Fukuyama. For Russia and Europe themselves we foresee five main consequences. These are:

1. America’s Withdrawal from Europe

The Russian victory will lead to the major reduction or even withdrawal of US forces which have occupied Western Europe since 1945 (the UK since 1942) and Central and Eastern Europe from 1991 onwards. In the US, isolationist sentiments are already strong after the humiliating US routs in Iraq and Afghanistan and violent internal divisions in the United States will only be reinforced. The USA will retreat to its divided island. Transatlantic unity will collapse. Then Western Europe can at last come out of its isolation at the tip of the western peninsula of the Eurasian Continent and rejoin the mainstream of a liberated Eurasia, led by the Russian Federation.

2. The End of the EU

The EU was a US concept in every respect, destined to become a USE, a United States of Europe. There are already a large number of tensions within it. Brexit, the result of English, that is, anti-British and anti-Establishment, patriotism, has taken place. The other tensions will demand solutions following the Russian victory. After that victory, room for any further EU expansion and economic colonisation of Central and Eastern Europe, including in the western Balkans, will end. The end of new colonisation after the loss of the Ukraine, rich in natural resources, will undermine the remains of the already divided EU. Ukraine was a buffer-state and resource centre for the colonial EU. Its liberation means direct EU proximity to Russia and the restoration of Russian influence. With the Russian victory, Western Europe will have to make strategic agreements with Moscow on European security, this time without US meddling.

3. The Renewal of Imperial Russia

The billions spent on bribing treasonous pro-Western puppet elites in former Soviet Republics like the Baltic States, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan and the four other Central Asian ‘stans’ will have been wasted. The myth of Western superiority on which these elites were created will give way to reality. This will put an end to their opportunities to earn dollars and make careers from Russophobia by renting out national territories for US bases, CIA torture facilities or racist germ warfare biolabs to create diseases.  Georgia was the first to understand this in early 2022, refusing to join in anti-Russian sanctions. In Moldova the deadline is approaching, as Russian troops prepare to liberate Odessa and break through the land corridor to unite Transdnistria to Russia.

4. Russian Values to Reshape Central and Eastern Europe

The strengthening of Central and Eastern European identities in nation-states like Hungary, Slovakia and Poland will lead to their rapprochement with Russia. Russia’s victory will mean an increase in sympathy for it in a number of Central and Eastern European nation states, not just in Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, but also in the Baltic States, Austria, the Czech Lands, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Mediterranean Cyprus. Once their venal, anti-patriotic, US-appointed elites have fallen, Russian values will return to these countries as an influential force.

5. Russian Values to Reshape Western Europe

The EU, founded immediately the SU (Soviet Union) had collapsed, was from the outset an artificial construct, built on the rejection of patriotism in favour of a non-existent supranational European identity. Patriotism is an existential threat to Brussels. This is partly why as long ago as Common Market days De Gaulle, who had wanted a confederation of homelands, was overthrown in the US regime change in 1968. Then in 2016 patriots voted for Brexit against the Establishment elite and the Democrat President Obama. The EU was always about the rejection of national identities in favour of post-Christian, indeed anti-Christian, anti-national and anti-family values, mass immigration of paid slaves, the imposition of the LGBT agenda, the restriction of freedoms for anti-EU views etc. These are not Russian values.

Conclusion: Global Denazification

Just as in 1814 Russian troops liberated Paris and in 1945 Berlin, so in the 2020s Brussels will be liberated, or rather will collapse, under the pressure of Russian values. We are talking about the disintegration of the US-created European Union and also of US bases in Eastern Europe and the former eastern Soviet Union. We shall see the emergence of national centres, from Scotland to Cyprus, from Catalonia to Mongolia, from Slovakia to Central Asia. The bubble of Western, US/UK/EU, hubris is being burst by Russia’s liberation and denazification of the Ukraine. In order to preserve its identity as an imperial nation, protect the integrity of the Orthodox Faith and guarantee the peace of the whole multipolar world, Russia will spread this process of denazification to all.

Andrei Martyanov: Nuclear false flag, timing and victory in Ukraine – Geopolitical Reality

April 23, 2022

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Where the West is stuck: The fascism of the 1930s and the ‘fascism’ of the 2020s

April 23, 2022

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Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

by Ramin Mazaheri

Starting in 1917 the same reactionary European nations which attacked in the 7 European Wars Against the French Revolution now transferred this same refusal to make peace with the Soviet Union. The problem has always been an idea – anti-autocracy, the idea from which Socialist Democracy flows (and the Yellow Vests) – not a particular nation.

(This is the seventh chapter in a new book, France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values. Please click here for the article which announces this book and explains its goals.)

There is a clear moment when France definitively handed over its longtime leadership of European progressive politics. It is not 1914, when, unlike the Soviet Bolsheviks, French socialists went along with World War I: it is the creation of the Popular Front (Front Populaire) following the death of 15 people in a right-wing riot in 1934. The idea that committed socialists must be united with everyone from fake-leftists to right-wingers in order to fight fascism proved to be a total catastrophe.

Yet this idea remains the policy of Western leftism today, and it is still producing catastrophes.

The European lesson of the 1930s is that the working and middle class handed power to the socialists and communists – who immediately gave power back to the bourgeois!

Ever since the Brexit vote against the neoliberal and neo-imperial European Union Western democracies are perpetually stuck in 1936: constantly warning of “fascism” and constantly producing failures as bad as the original Popular Front in France.

However, because there is a total misunderstanding of what “fascism” is it is critical for us to end the Western propaganda on the rise of Germanic National Socialism in order to properly understand European history then and now. It is “Germanic” and not just “German” because their adherents were from Austria, Hungary, Prussia and other longtime German language/culture areas.

Germanic National Socialism had something vital in common with socialism: a clear rejection of Western Liberal Democracy, which was first installed in France’s 2nd Republic of 1848. Without elucidating the common thread of post 1789 political history — that Western Liberal Democracy is an oligarchy which has been barely modified from autocracy – European history makes no sense in 1936 or after. We may as well say Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t a leftist revolutionary!

We move from the Paris Commune to 1936 because what occurred in 1936 was extremely similar: In February 1936 the electoral victory of a Popular Front coalition in Spain led to a legal take-over by socialists and anti-monarchists, only to see an international coalition of reactionaries arise to prop up the dictator General Francisco Franco and to foment civil and international war.

The Popular Front in France actually created the disastrous policy of “nonintervention” – the French left created it order to not intervene in the neighbouring Spanish Civil War. Nearly all of Europe signed up to diplomatically isolate and economically blockade the Spanish Republic. Indeed, Western Liberal Democracy wants to talk honestly about the Spanish Civil War as much as they want to they want to talk honestly the Paris Commune, 1848 or the 7 European Wars Against the French Revolution.

In May 1936 what would become the final elections of the French 3rd Republic were held. Amid the Great Depression the centre-left and left finally won control of the government, with 60% of the vote, and via campaigns expressly against the unprecedented power of the historically-new banking oligarchy. In July the Spanish Civil War began, and despite massive French support for the Republican leftists France’s allegedly left-wing government colluded with the British on the policy of non-intervention. Viewed from the new center of progressive politics – Moscow – the Popular Front’s non-intervention confirmed to the USSR that Western Europe was never going to have a socialist revolution; that such an idea had been a fool’s errand for over three decades; that Western Europe was going to side with fascism and go over to it, as Vichy France soon would. The USSR and Mexico would be the only nations to provide armed support to the Spanish Republic.

The Popular Front and Leon Blum, the first Socialist to be Prime Minister in France, would do a U-turn on the promised domestic reforms he was elected to implement. This is exactly what the Socialists François Mitterrand and François Hollande would do in 1983 and 2012, respectively. 1936 marks the point when Western leftists indisputably proved that they have abandoned Socialist Democracy in favor of Western Liberal Democracy – a fundamentally right-wing ideology rooted in monarchism, autocracy and oligarchy – and are thus right-wingers on the global political spectrum.

In April 1938 France’s Popular Front collapsed after failure in almost every sense. Its colossal disappointment after such huge progressive excitement caused massive disillusionment and directly led to the establishment of fascism in France two years later. The Popular Front provided the death knell for Western Liberal Democracy. Rather it should have, but by 1946 fascists, royalists and Western Liberal Democrats would – to steal a phrase from Marx regarding a similar melding for all classes of wealth in the 19th century – “become bourgeois”, i.e. all meld into one in order to stop Socialist Democracy.

This is where the West remains today.

They are totally against Socialist Democracy at home and abroad, and claiming Popular Fronts are needed to elect fake-leftist candidates who inevitably prove to be tools of long-running oligarchies.

In September 1938, now led by the Reformists (this is the most accurate term for the very misleadingly named “Radical Party” of France), the Munich Pact saw France stab the USSR in the back on the Franco-USSR pact of 1935, which stipulated joint military action against German belligerence. The Munich Betrayal, as it’s also known, saw France and the United Kingdom collude with fascist Germany and Italy to hand a huge chunk of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Instead of combatting Germany’s war on Czechoslovakia the Popular Front preferred “appeasement” with fascism.

The collusion would continue: France and the UK recognised Franco in February 1939, even though he held just two-thirds of the country and not Madrid. (The army Franco originally led to start the war was the Spanish Army of Africa, based in Morocco. Much like France with Algeria in 1848, we see the pernicious domestic political effects of Europe’s Old World imperialism once again.)

Because we have located the start of neoliberalism and European neo-imperialism with the Paris Commune we see how these collusions make sense: these are Western Liberal Democratic countries, thus run by an oligarchical elite, thus opposed to any socialist-inspired country. They will always wage war against socialistic ideas which oppose oligarchical Western liberalism which, thanks to the domination of the banker class by the start of the 20th century, is more “globalist” than inter-marrying monarchs ever were. Popular Fronts are inevitably proven to be useless – they are mere safety valves for genuine leftism.

By June 1939 national polls showed that 84% of Britain favored an Anglo-French-Soviet military alliance – Britain’s Western Liberal Democratic politicians had no choice but to give the appearance of an effort. After six weeks of negotiations it became clear to Moscow that Britain’s appallingly minor representations were not interested in any sort of alliance with Socialist Democracy.

Only two days after they left a German delegation arrived in Moscow and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (a non-aggression pact and not any sort of alliance) was concluded precisely because the USSR saw that Western Liberal Democracies would never allow peaceful relations with socialist-inspired systems. Just as the revolutionary Napoleon Bonaparte wasted time in a burnt-down Moscow trying to make peace with an autocrat who never wanted it, so the USSR wasted time trying to make peace with autocrats and oligarchs.

Yellow Vest: “What I want for Christmas is for the Yellow Vests to join France’s social movements to stop Macron’s neoliberalism. But it would be even better if the whole world would become Yellow Vests to stop the ravages of high finance and globalisation.”

(Note: this book intersperses over 100 quotations taken from actual, marching Yellow Vests which were originally published in news reports on PressTV.)

Western leftists (mostly Trotskyists) howled that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a betrayal of leftist ideals. That’s a stunningly opportunistic and hollow claim, considering just how much France’s Popular Front and Western Liberal Democracies failed to defend Spain, and also how Western nations refused make peace with Moscow. Moscow had waited for 19 years for any other European country to turn socialist, but European progressive political thought was spent in Western Europe after 150 years.

Thus the USSR had given up, as it was clearly the eve of war. The Stalinists would certainly be proven right that fascism would sweep Germany, Austria, Spain and France – history clearly exonerates them, and indicts Western Liberal Democracy.

The USSR made a non-aggression pact with Germanic socialism because at the time so many assumed that fascism was going to fully replace totally discredited Western Liberal Democracies. That may seem hard to believe today, but the idea that Western Liberal Democracy was totally dead was a fundamental assumption of leftists, such as Trotsky.

It’s vital to understand this proper timeline of European history leading up to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact because it is entirely in keeping with the overarching theme of European history since 1789: collusion by oligarchical elites to rule in autocratic fashion, and in order to suppress Socialist Democratic ideas.

Of course Western Liberal Democracy has always tried to obscure this history, and they still do: a resolution adopted by the European Union in 2019 stated that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact “paved the way for the outbreak of World War II”, in a shameful rewriting of history. I don’t expect the EU to pass resolutions for the 7 European Wars Against the French Revolution, the failed Revolutions of 1848 or the Paris Commune anytime soon….

The West’s elite is fighting for Western Liberal Democracy, and thus they do not permit honest discussion and honest critiques of Western Liberal DemocracyThis explains why there is no admission regarding the historical reality that Nazism and 1930s European fascism won power precisely because so many people grasped that Western Liberal Democracy was nothing but awful oligarchy.

Denying this historical reality is why Western politics has stopped making sense to the average Westerner: They simply cannot understand what fascism was, what it is, or how it arose – it arose via fascism’s successful, popular condemnation of Western Liberal Democracy.

The problem is that socialists don’t stress this point enough, in their nonsensical fear of being seen as colluding with fascism.

Knowing what ‘fascism’ truly is, and why socialists shouldn’t disavow it completely

Just as monarchy and feudalism was totally discredited to the average European by 1848, so Western Liberal Democracy and “debt feudalism/Bankocracy” was totally discredited by 1939.

This successful condemnation is why it’s simply inaccurate and absurd to say things like the “Nazis had no socialism”. To do so is tremendously counterproductive and simply false. Mussolini was the editor of Avanti!, the official voice of the Italian Socialist Party, and was once a leading Italian socialist. Socialists do not want to admit these things, but the failure caused by not explaining fascism’s relationship with socialism is that we cannot understand Western political history if we relinquish the incredibly necessary democratic criticism of Western Liberal Democracy and “Capitalism With Western Characteristics” as evidenced by fascism’s rise.

Hitler, reader of Marx, summed it up the initial similarities himself in 1922: Without his alleged “essential principle” – race – Nazism “would really do nothing more than compete with Marxism on its own ground”.

However, instead of dispossessing a noble class via class politics he dispossessed races to creat a new noble class… and that is not really socialism, nor anything advocated in Marxism.

Why should socialists fear admitting the Marxism in Germanic socialism? If they do it’s probably because they seek the approval of Western Liberal Democrats. It’s clear that by including race – this is… not truly Marxism or socialism, but something different.

Or when Hitler rejected the class struggle, vital to socialism, by saying: “There are no such things as classes: They cannot be. Class means caste and caste means race.” Well, Nazism may include some Marxist analyses of political and economic historical development but this is… not really socialism, but something different.

Making an alliance with corporate powers, instead of appropriating from the greedy expropriators… this is not really socialism, either.

Choosing central guidance instead of central majority ownership… this is not really socialism.

Hitler was also the least internationalist politician you can think of – he totally rejected the internationalism of the class struggle and replaced it with a “community of the volk”. He only wanted to protect Teutonic citizens in his all-Germanic nation.

We can go on and on pointing out these differences.

But the rejection of Western Liberal Democracy – due to its decades of failures by an oligarchical, corrupt, plutocratic leadership barely different from 18th century monarchy – that actually is the same as socialism. The rejection of Western Liberal Democratic economics – due to the decades of failures by free market capitalism (i.e. the economic component of liberalism) – that is the same as socialism.

The Western Liberal Democrats of today simply do not want to talk about their often democratic rejection by people who feel its failures intimately.

Yellow Vest: “Our media have lost all credibility. Everything that you see on the mainstream media, and all of their reporters are under the boot of the government. For them the Yellow Vests don’t even exist anymore, on both the private and public stations.

So what was German National Socialism and Italian Fascism? It is socialism minus the hopeful egalitarianism and the internationalism, and replaced with pessimistic Darwinian elitism and racism. It’s a right-wing socialism whose only virtue is that it openly opposes the rich-are-smarter-and-should-rule ideology of Western Liberal Democracy, which opposed most of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, won the counter-revolutions of 1848, laid the foundations of the neo-imperial European Union in 1871, colluded to create World War I in order to forestall socialist revolution and which was ruining society in the 1930s just as it does today.

But proponents of elites who rule through a Bankocracy don’t want people to understand that fascism and Germanic National Socialism came to power by opposing the domination of international high finance and liberalism (whether “neo-”, “ultra-” or sans-préfixe it’s all the same: free markets, unregulated capitalism, rights only for those who can afford it), which forever is ultimately cover for an autocratic oligarchy.

So it can’t be stressed enough: Socialism has nothing to fear from free, honest, patient examination of the Nazis’ relationship with socialism. What needs to be rectified is the total disavowal of fascism which excludes its criticisms of Western Liberal Democracy.

However, Western Liberal Democracy has much to fear regarding true discussions of their relationship with the Nazis. They, over and over, allied with fascism against socialism in the 1930s; they colluded with the surviving Nazis and fascists after 1945; they encouraged 3rd-generation Nazis in places like Ukraine in the 21st century. Thus since the 1930s fascism and Western Liberal Democracy has been cooperating for more often than they have been fighting.

Where does fascism fit in the course of European economic development since 1492?

The fascists ultimately came to power by claiming they were different in their economic aims than Western Liberal Democrats.

By the turn of the 20th century industrialisation was no longer a novelty but the defining economic force. Landed wealth, Old World colonisation wealth, sea-trading wealth and mid-late 19th century industrial-financial wealth had been melded together into a banker-dominated financial system in which – of course – old money was predominant. The new banking system they created controlled the means of production and usuriously owned the land on which serfs recently lived. This is a clear timeline of economic history – it is not hard to understand, nor is it eternal.

Fascists promised to expropriate the wealth now held in the stewardship of banks and to do it via a new class – that of the magistrate; of individualist political power.

The word “fascism” stems from “fasces”, which is a bundle of sticks wrapped together topped by an ax. It’s originally an Etruscan symbol which symbolised the power of – not the people wrapped together – the magistrate. What was the magistrate in Rome? He was a high-ranking officer with both executive and judicial powers. Whatever the wealth or justice which Roman magistrates allowed to “trickle-down” was entirely up to them. It was an elitist, 1%-centered system and fascism’s advance was (allegedly) making the 1% class open to competition (which they said begins in one’s DNA) and cutting out the longtime aristocracy and new bankers. We see this is exactly like in Western Liberal Democracy today, and we now see why these two forces have allied together. The seal of the United States Senate, an aristocratic house of lords, features two crossed fasces.

Beyond autocratic powers for a non-monarchical elite, Western Liberal Democracy also mostly agreed with the key plank of the fascist’s economic program. “Central planning” does exist in modern Western countries – it is based around the military. For example, in the United States their economy is guided by the Pentagon, the world’s largest employer. The Pentagon hands out the fruits of their taxpayer-funded research to private companies; enriches their native bourgeoisie with hugely corrupt contracts; provides jobs for the masses terribly ineffectively; but it very effectively enriches their 1%.

Fascism was never for the people but dedicated to the power of those in power; for the status quo; for submission to essentially autocratic magistrates and politicians; against the redistribution of wealth and political power. It is only socialism which reduces the power of the magistrate, who makes him accountable and who improves the person of the magistrate by making sure he is not solely drawn from the elite, grasping class.

Fascism is different from the globalist class of Western Liberal Democracy by insisting on nationalist competition and national sovereignty. The arrival of the European Union, the euro and the Eurogroup, which will supersede national laws without any concern for ideals of democracy, will render these desires essentially irrelevant. The main sin of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, or of Marine Le Pen, is that these two fascist politicians both seek to restore some aspects of national sovereignty.

Trotsky wrote: “Fascism, as we know, is born between the union of the despair of the middle-classes and the terrorist policy of big capital.” Yet the West never takes a class view and elevates big capital to the status of demigods – this is why to them fascism must always be solely race-related and never economic-related. It’s simply a half-truth, and not understanding and combating this dooms Western politics – and their own history – to total misunderstanding.

The 1% and their lackeys immediately called the Yellow Vests fascists because it was a union of the lower and middle classes – like in the Paris Commune it also included a union of the lower class and the proletariat with the petty bourgeois small shopkeeper.

Yellow Vest: “For 10 years we have only created instability. 75% of France has serious economic difficulties. We have closed hospitals, nurseries, schools – everything is being closed, and this can’t go on!”

Due to there insistence on elitism, fascism could have only ever allied with Liberal Democracy – the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact is as far as it ever could have gone. However, if they had somehow allied with the USSR against Liberal Democracy what would they have permanently smashed? Answer: the Bankocracy which rules today.

It’s vital to recognise that, because the current usage of “fascist” completely lacks this historical-economic component.

The fascism of the 2020s is even more right-wing than the fascism of the 1930s

Due to the refusal to honestly talk about fascism – on both the Western left and the Western right – Western politics today are simply a catastrophe of nonsense and misinformation.

Their lack of knowledge allows them to obscure the fact that modern Western “fascists” are even more right-wing than Hitler, who was quite reliant on the Marxist explanation of 19th century history and economics. However, the modern right wing has expunged Marxism, and thus they cannot be actual fascists. Racism and fascism cannot be mere synonyms for each other – unless the goal is to neuter them of all meaning.

Being more right-wing than Hitler… that seems like something which should be understood, no? However, Western Liberal Democracy doesn’t want anything but propaganda regarding other systems and regarding its own failures and treasons.

The best term for today’s alleged “fascists” would be “Nalis” – Nationalist Liberalists: they have all the jingoism, militarism, authoritarianism and imperialism of 1930s fascists but combine it with right-wing Liberalist political structures, economic inequality and historical analyses.

It’s a simple and accurate political description, but only socialist-inspired countries which have fully rejected Western Liberal Democracy would ever apply the term “Nali”: Just as uninformed socialists don’t want to admit any ideological similarities with Nazism, so uninformed Western Liberal Democrats don’t want to admit that they are actually fighting internecine wars with their “National Liberalist” brethren. The use of “Nazi” or “fascist” is a way to distance themselves from each other despite the obvious similarities between each other.

And what do Western Liberal Democrats care if calling far-right Ukrainians “Nazis” in 2022 unfairly tarnishes socialism and spreads misinformation – both wings of Liberalists (one nationalist, the other globalist) are united in their anti-socialism.

Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen are two example of open Nalis, but so are two enemies – Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky. The Russian military operation in Ukraine has been a catastrophe of misinformation on both sides regarding who is a “fascist” and who is a “liberal”, and precisely because neither can admit that fascism and liberalism coincide and almost always ally, historically. Thus this battle between two Nali states is either a historical anomaly or, as I predict, Russia’s invasion will mark a step away from their Nalism since 1991 and back towards Socialist Democracy. If Russia continues to insist that “Russophobia” totally equates with “Nazism”, then this will herald their failure to return the fold of progressive politics.

In France, by 2017 the Great Financial Crisis – just the latest periodic failure of liberalism – had inflamed the masses too much for every single politician to ignore: Marine Le Pen thus dropped the Reaganism of her father and made it to the second round of the presidential election. She defended economic ideas which were both similar to the French left and to the Germanic National Socialists of the 1930s. In the 2022 campaign Le Pen reverted back to far-right economics, dropping all her promises for things like a “Frexit” vote within six months of election and for repudiating banker debt, yet the mainstream media called her “fascist” throughout the entire time.

The modern French and Western model was essentially created from 1928-1945, and what it took from fascism and Germanic National Socialism is that economic planning must be limited to the military, and that xenophobia, identity politics and security are spectacles just big enough to dominate the headlines, and thus to ignore liberalism’s failures. To put it in 2022 presidential candidate Eric Zemmour’s terms: France’s economic problem is Muslim welfare, not banker welfare. It’s a pathetic intellectual analysis. When the unrest in Ukraine began France immediately realised that and Zemmour’s popularity quickly halved.

Yellow Vest: “If you look around here you see people of all colours and religions. For me it goes beyond questions of origin – it’s really a question of social justice, regardless of someone’s ethnicity or religion.”

During the 2022 campaign the convicted racist Zemmour said he was, “here to save the French people and France…not here to save the world.” It’s a telling, semi-messianic remark because it is truly straight out of Adolf Hitler’s platform in the 1930s.

But such a comparison was never made by the mainstream media, and it could never be made. Many have heard of Godwin’s Law, or the rule of Nazi analogies: an Internet adage asserting that as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope), the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Adolf Hitler approaches. However, an important corollary is that whenever someone compares someone or something to Nazism – that person has lost the argument and/or the argument is summarily over.

Essentially, the world is to accept that all discussions of Western politics cannot discuss the anti-Western Liberalism ideology which was Germanic Nazism.

Thus it was impossible for them to accurately describe a 2022 French election where the four top candidates were all on the far-right – either economically, politically, culturally or all three. In the two-week interim between their two rounds of voting any criticism of Emmanuel Macron’s record was immediately shouted down in the mainstream media as “support for fascism” – voters wondered which candidate they were referring to. The failure to delineate fascism from Western Liberal Democracy means that we also cannot understand where they have reconciled a century later, just as how liberalism and monarchy eventually reconciled.

The Western right is stuck in falsely believing that the right of 2020 is the same as in the 1930s, despite all the anti-racist gains made since then; the Western left is stuck in falsely believing that their “Popular Front” tactic is actual leftism, despite being neutered of Marxism and socialism. This is why Western versions of history and their political discourse today simply make no sense. It only makes sense if we remember that obscuring political truths is a hallmark of Western Liberal Democratic history, and thus their versions are not truthful nor complete at all.

Not wanting to accurately define fascism or liberalism, but certain in their rejection of Socialist Democracy, after the first round vote in 2022 all the losing candidates (except Zemmour) immediately called for a Popular Front against Le Pen, just as they did in 2017. What’s vital and new is that the Yellow Vests empathically refused this form of class-collaborationism. The People’s Front tactic must be seen for what it is: not an effort to fight fascism but as a way to cement fake-leftism.

Trotsky wrote: “The racists pillage the Marxist program, successfully transforming certain of its sections into an instrument of social demagogy. The ‘Communists’ (?) as a matter of fact refuse their own program, substituting for it the rotten refuse of reformism. Can one conceive of a more fraudulent bankruptcy?”

Trotsky wrote that in 1935 but anyone can see that this is where the West is stuck, still:

Racists reject certain sections of Western Liberal Democrat economics in order to preserve White citizens from the united Bankocrats, while left-wingers hysterically prop up right-leaning moderates who only seek to refine Liberalism into an ever-more unequal system. Can you conceive of a more fraudulent ideological bankruptcy than modern Western politics?

If “Nali” ever did catch on one thing is certain: it would be a huge improvement.

<—>

Upcoming chapter list of the brand-new content in France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values. The book will also include previous writings from 2018 through the 2022 election in order to provide the most complete historical record of the Yellow Vests anywhere. What value!

Publication date: June 1, 2022.

Pre-orders of the paperback version will be available immediately.

Pre-orders of the Kindle version may be made here.

Pre-orders of the French paperback version will be available immediately.

Pre-orders of the French Kindle version may be made here.

Chapter List of the new content

Yemen & Ukraine: A tale of two wars

1 April 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

Fra Hughes 

The media tries to make us believe that black is white, that the aggressors are the victims, and the oppressed are the villains.

Yemen & Ukraine: Compare and contrast a tale of two wars

Two very distinct and separate wars are concurrently happening in West Asia and Eastern Europe.

Both wars have their origins in people fighting to free themselves from a corrupt government.

The Yemini people rose in a popular revolution against a corrupt regime that acted in the interests of regional and international power blocks and not in the interests of its people.

The people of Ukraine found themselves the victim of a regime change operation in 2014 resulting in a coup that forced the democratically elected leader Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych to flee for his life as a fascist junta was installed.

While the people of Yemen fought for independence and free sovereignty, the people of Ukraine were facing a government led by neo-Nazis, Russophobic ultra-nationalists who were determined to destroy one-third of the population who are Russian-speaking Ukrainians. The specter of the Great Patriotic war loomed over the people as echoes and ghosts from 1941 returned to haunt the people who had defeated fascism in Ukraine and liberated the country from the Nazi occupation.

So we have a tale of two wars.

When the people led the revolution of Yemen threatened the Saudi favored government, the incumbent President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi fled to Riyad and with the help of mercenaries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, planes armed with American and British bombs directed and controlled by “Israel”i American and British military advisers, Hadi continued his war against the Yemeni people to regain power.

Yemen armed forces and the popular mobilization units of the Ansurallah resistance movement have resisted all the efforts to date by Hadi, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, America, and the West to reinstall his puppet regime.

In Ukraine, we had a popular resistance to a foreign installed coup when the people of Donbas and Crimea fought for autonomy and the universal basic human right to live free from an unelected undemocratic fascist government hell-bent on destroying their culture and ethnicity and even their very lives of those who dared to resist.

Two separate conflicts both with similar origins and one common enemy 

In Yemen, the people fought a corrupt foreign-backed government. In Ukraine, the people fought against a foreign installed government. 

America backed the unpopular and elected unopposed President of Yemen.

America also backed financed directed and controlled the coup in Ukraine.

In the geopolitical machinations of American foreign policy, they effectively created both wars;

The war on Yemen presently occurring has the backing of the Biden administration as they help reinforce the illegal inhuman siege of the country while they also arm and direct the aerial bombing campaign which destroys Yemeni lives, infrastructure, hospitals, schools, roads and bridges. They also prevent food, aid medicine and fuel from being delivered, to alleviate the worst excesses of the war which they control.

It is a proxy war on Iran led by America Saudi Arabia the EU Britain and “Israel”. Every death has been and continues to be avoidable, if only the political will existed to hold a ceasefire and end the violence.

But the alliance of the unholy does not want peace, because war sells.

It sells weapons and it sells shares.

The military-industrial complex which finances and supports the American political system is making vast profits.

Profits that help bolster election campaigns and private bank accounts.

In Ukraine, after the people of Donbas and Crimea secured their freedom, a continued low-level conflict was encouraged to keep the drums of war beating,

Kiev refused to implement the Minsk Agreements of 2014 and 2015 which recognized the Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk and was the basis of a bilateral ceasefire that was constantly broken by Ukrainian shelling along the contact line killing thousand and injuring many more over the last 8 years.

Biden was the Vice President in 2014 when the coup was installed in Kiev.

Since his return to power as President, he has supplied the Ukrainian fascist forces with modern state-of-the-art armaments and encouraged Zelensky to saber rattle for war with Russia.

Biden has used Ukraine in a proxy war with Russia.

Putin and the elected government of Russia supported by Belarus and Georgia among others of the Russian Federation sent the army into Ukraine to prevent a potential massacre of the people of Donbas and Crimea as 120,000 Ukrainian battle-ready troops prepared to invade.

We have millions of displaced Ukrainians. We have thousands dead and wounded and a prospect of a long war between a resupplied Ukrainian army in the west of Ukraine and the now liberated areas of east Ukraine under Russian protection.

In Yemen, we have hundreds of thousands dead and injured. Millions of refugees and up to 25 million people face famine, death through starvation 

It is reported a Yemeni child dies every ten minutes from this sanction-induced man-made famine.

America Britain NATO and increasingly “Israel” are involved in both conflicts.

Western imperialism and American unipolar hegemony are increasingly leading to war conflict death displacement and starvation on a global scale.

While the poorest Arab country defends its sovereignty against a coalition of some of the richest countries on the planet, Yemen with its increasingly sophisticated drone and ballistic missile capacity equips its military with the expertise to target anywhere in Saudi Arabia the Emirates and even further afield, it is only a matter of time before Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates realized that their war which has already failed, may very well lead to the destruction of the Saudi and Emirati economies.

In Ukraine, the fallout from the Russian invasion has already led to fuel price hikes in America and Europe with more economic hardships to be suffered not by the rich elite who are fueling these wars but by the people already struggling under neoliberal austerity measures so much favored by the IMF and the privatization sector in western governmental structures that reinvents itself with each new administration.

While Yemen’s lives count for nothing in West Asia and Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Russia are invisible, we witness the propaganda machine, which brooks no dissent, savagely attacks Russia as the aggressor and promotes western Ukrainians as the victims.

While Yemen is portrayed as the aggressor and Saudi Arabia as the victim much like the Palestinians are terrorists and the “Israel” is are just a peace-loving nation that desires only to live without fear.  

The media tries to make us believe that black is white, that the aggressors are the victims, and the oppressed are the villains.

These may be two conflicts but it has one origin.

American foreign policy has no regard for morality, humanity, dignity or life, it is directed by the corporate desire to control the world markets, create division and profit, in equal measure, destroy any dissent and control the sovereign resources of other nations.

They used to do it by military occupation directly as they did in Iraq, Vietnam, and Ireland but now its proxy wars using unilateral coercive measures, financial sanctions, proxy wars and regime change black operations through the CIA and NGOs.

We must all stand with Yemen, Donbas and Crimea, Palestine and Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, Lebanon and Syria, North Korea and Nicaragua, indeed everywhere that stands against imperialism and for a multipolar world.

The destruction of the global south which sees the wealth of those nations flow to the Northern hemisphere must stop.

We are living in an ever-changing world.

I pray for the death of imperialism and the triumph of socialism in a multi-polar global economy where wealth and resources are shared for the benefit of the people, for all mankind, and not the elite.

Eat the rich, end the wars, support the resistance. 

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

The Prospect of Peace and its Enemies

 

BY GILAD ATZMON

The USA, Britain and NATO  believe that the war in Ukraine makes Russia weak, reduces Putin into an Amalek figure, makes NATO strong and will lead to an extensive boost to the USA’s military industrial complex. Accordingly, Biden, Johnson and NATO want an indefinite continuation of the war. 

 

It is time to identify who needs the war to continue as Biden is not alone on that front.  Zelensky also wants the war to continue. He knows that any agreement with Russia would make his situation ‘very complicated.’ Ukrainian nationalists who appear  to be bravely fighting  the Russian army and are lauded by every Western MSM outlet, won’t accept a single territorial concession. It is hard to imagine the war coming to an end without such a concession especially given Russia’s clear territorial gains in the south, the east and the north.   And Zelensky, the actor, knows that his current theatrical role is, beyond doubt, the peak of his career. From now on it is downhill. For Zelensky, the war ought to continue forever. 

 

And what about the Ukrainian people, do they want the war to end? It depends who you ask. If you follow the British and American press you are given the impression that Ukrainians are united behind their leader in a collective and suicidal mission. But the truth is that four million have left the country, ten million have been displaced within Ukraine and these numbers are increasing daily. The country is being systematically destroyed, some of its cities reduced to dust. If this is what the  people want, as the BBC wants us to believe, the war will never end.  If, instead, the Ukrainians are ordinary human beings, which is more likely and an intelligent assumption, they must be very tired of the disaster inflicted on them by their leader and the warmongering West. As ordinary human beings, Ukrainians care for the future of the land, their kids, their cities, their culture, their heritage –  they may well want to preserve it all rather than to die in the ‘name of it.’

 

We often read that Zelensky pleads with Israel to broker a peace deal with Russia despite the fact that Israel isn’t exactly the most  natural candidate as a broker for harmonious coexistence. A lot has been written in recent years about the Israeli and Ukrainian fantasy of replacing Russia as  Europe’s primary suppliers of  gas. The current  war in Ukraine positions Israel as the potential primary European gas supplier. This week  Israel’s prominent news channel N12 stated that  “Israel will help Europe to cut itself off from Russian gas.” N12 reports that in a Paris International Energy Agency conference the Israeli Energy Minister began discussions regarding the immediate export of Israeli gas to Europe.   

 

Why did Putin rush to save Syria and the Assad regime? One answer is that Russia needed a Mediterranean  port for its navy. Why would the Russians need such a port on the Eastern Mediterranean shore? One possible answer: Putin understood that he might have to interfere with a potential  underwater gas pipe from Gaza’s seashore to Greece. The port of Latakia places the Russian Navy in a crucial strategic position to undermine such a project.   In other words, despite his current collaboration with Israel on Syria, Putin has known for a while that a naval conflict with Israel is inevitable.  Of course, the Israelis also know that.

 

But Israel’s enthusiasm for the ‘peace negotiator role’ has other crucial ingredients. Israel’s current economic strength is largely the outcome of the Jewish state establishing itself as a safe haven for Russian oligarchs’ mammon, and many of these oligarchs are Jewish and also Israeli citizens. If Israel becomes  a ‘peace broker’  then Israel, due to neutrality,  won’t have to participate in the sanction carnival against Russia.  If the war goes on indefinitely, Israel won’t just maintain the constant flow of Russian wealth into its banks, it will actually become the primary escape route for Russian money. For the obvious reasons, Zelensky insists peace talks resume in Jerusalem under the auspices of PM Bennett. Putin, however,  doesn’t seem enthusiastic about the Jerusalem option. He may grasp by now what Israel is like and what it is after.

 

Putin is a living riddle. I have  good reason to believe that he isn’t mentally unstable  as he is often described in Western MSM. More likely, this experienced tactician has some geo-political  and militarily objectives in mind. But the problem is that no one seems to know what these objectives are. I, for instance,  don’t believe that Putin intended  to invade Kyiv or any other large Ukrainian city except perhaps strategic assets such as Mariupol.   I am also convinced that Putin didn’t plan to ‘impose regime change’ in Ukraine. Putin probably saw a growing military danger from Ukraine and its expanding Western inclinations. He most likely wanted to obliterate  Ukraine’s military ability and by doing so, deliver a clear message to every Eastern European country. Putin wanted and still desires  to eventually settle the conflict with Ukraine’s  democratically elected leader, i.e. Zelensky. More than anyone around, Putin needs Zelensky well and alive at least until the conclusion of his military manoeuvre.

 

As such Putin  may be the only  player  in this horrid deadly theatre with a clear exit strategy and a plan for future coexistence.  He may be the only world leader who envisages an end to this conflict. His vision may be unacceptable to the entire West at this stage. It may be very unpopular in Ukraine and for obvious reasons. But as it seems no one in the West has dared to challenge Russia militarily and I guess that this is partially because no one in the Western military elite really buys into the popular narrative of the Russian army being ‘weak’ and ‘defeated.’   

 

It occurs to me that when Biden called for Putin’s removal in Poland yesterday, it is because Putin is aiming at a conclusive end to this tragic drama in Ukraine, hopefully soon, while Biden and his many partners see a benefit to prolonging  this disaster forever.  

Today’s Ukraine War was Made in the West Yesterday

March 19, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the US Congress. (Photo: via MEMO)

By Issa Khalaf

War is the dark side of the human species, its rationalizations and justifications ubiquitous. Ukraine seems like a victim, the asymmetrical underdog. Those who care about Palestine (and elsewhere) have a deep knowledge of violent oppression and injustice, of innocent anguish.  Upon critical scrutiny, virtually no war can be judged to be just.  All of us, seeing the victim’s humanity in ourselves, instantly, emotionally side with the little guy and our outraged disgust rises at this activity of collective, organized violence.

These emotions, however, can be particularly misleading and exclude a whole set of critical analyses.  There are legal, political, historical, philosophical and moral dimensions to any conflict or dispute; favorable moral and legal comparison of Ukraine and Palestine not only do not comport to definitive observation, analysis, and conclusion, but the prevailing Western narrative towards Russia is vehemently iniquitous and completely out of touch with reality.

The nauseating hypocrisy of those who’ve ruled the world in the “modern period” is clearly on display for the vast majority of peoples and most states in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, who sense the disarray, even crumbling, of the Western-dominated international order.  They are not alone: US intelligence analyses see the impending great shift in power centers from West to (Eurasian) East and even give a prognosticative date of 2030.

In this article, I will discuss only the Russia/Ukraine/West war.  I plan the following one that will argue the case that, in fact, Ukraine is neither morally nor legally equivalent to Palestine, support for Ukraine and Palestine is not required to maintain consistency of political, legal and moral principles and does not undermine advocacy for Palestine, on the contrary.

The war in Ukraine, like any war’s attendant horror, upheaval, unpredictability, and civilian anguish, should not have happened and could have been avoided even until recent months.  Factually, Russia did not want it, has no ambitions or capacity for a rebooted Soviet Union, contrary to what many puerile, propagandistic Western detractors assert, but has repeatedly warned and entreated about US/NATO expansion eastward. (Yes, Moscow emphatically desired a stable, secure, normal Europe.)  This expansion and its ramifications absolutely pose an existential threat to Russia.  Unlike the warring by others against fragile states and vulnerable societies in faraway lands on the pretext of national security threat, Russia’s fears are not a fantasy or a diabolical pretext, and its national security peril is literally at its doorstep.

The Ukrainian state is US/Western controlled and, in its alliance and arming, is effectively NATO-like.  Washington, according to coup-happy Victoria Nuland in 2014, pumped some $5 billion into Ukraine since the Western-intelligence induced “Orange” revolution in 2004; an additional $15-$18 billion in arms, loans, and grants (from the US and EU) were poured into Ukraine since the 2013-2014 CIA-backed, far-right enforced regime change of the democratically elected Ukrainian government and until before the war began.

With on-the-ground CIA direction, power in Ukraine was consolidated among a small sociopolitical base of venal Russophobes, political pluralism representing genuinely alternative visions to the essentially nationalist, ultranationalist, pro-NATO parties disbanded.  The Ukraine army, neo-fascist death squads, and small, Nazi-throwback extreme right-wing parties, celebrated by the new leaders and incorporated into the Ukrainian state, went on a repression spree, a terror campaign, to crush protests and dissent against those who were unhappy with what transpired and to erase all things Russian, including an eight-year shelling and sniping war on civilians designed to create terror and ethnic cleansing in eastern Donbass.  This was not a democracy but a monopoly on power to consolidate a vociferously, fanatically anti-Russian state.

Ukraine is (or now, was) merely a platform for a Western proxy war against Russia, a forward operations base, a front line state, its “foreign policy” directed by the American proconsul, its institutions “advised” by American/Western intelligence functionaries and embassy officials, whose job since 2014 was to ensure continuing aggravation and antagonism in Donbass to elicit, in fact, a Russian response justifying long-prepared sanctions, escalation and pretext for “confronting” Russia.

Rather than seeking good relations with both Russia and the West to achieve neutrality, stability, and prosperity, remain free of geopolitical blocs and nuclear capability, reduce suspicions and hatreds, the deeply corrupt and fragile Ukrainian state since the 2014 coup eagerly went along with the West.  In all of its glorious irrationality and myopia, the regime miscalculated miserably, believing the US actually cared about Ukraine other than a forward base for its own ends and that NATO would risk war with Russia over it.

Rather than seeking and facilitating, finally, a secure, stable, prosperous Europe after the Cold War by transforming European security to include Russia and attenuating historical animosities and suspicions between Russia and both its Eastern and Western European neighbors, the US would have none of it.  The US and Russia do not share European-like historical, cultural and psychological pathologies towards each other and potentially could have had very good relations.  Instead, we were led to the bankrupting, empire-exhausting chimerical caprice of unipolarity, exceptionalism, and full-spectrum dominance.

Today is the result of such arrogance, vanity and folly.  The “collective” West essentially caused this horrible war.  The objective threat that ignited it was not Russia to Ukraine or Eastern Europe, but NATO (i.e., the US) to Russia.  Lest we forget, Russia is a great power, and it should be clear to any neutral observer, it will not tolerate such an imminent threat, and further, has been the recipient of Western invasions, via the Ukrainian plains, that, in the case of the German onslaught, cost 25-30 million Russian lives, the vast majority civilian, and untold suffering and destruction.  In the Russian memory and psyche, this will never be allowed to happen again.

The Russian offensive, therefore, occurred for a much more ominous reason than the Ukrainian state terrorism visited upon eastern Donbass: the US/West’s wordless wish is no less than demoralizing, weakening, bankrupting, and territorially fragmenting the Russian Federation, controlling its markets and resources, indebting its people and rendering them dependent on US-dominated financial institutions, and bringing Russia under American dependency.

A pivotal principle of American hegemony is to obstruct and destroy friendly, normal ties, much less integration, between Russia and Europe, Germany being the fulcrum.

More simply, the strategic US/CIA goal is to ensnare Russia in a protracted war, deplete it, damage it, regime-change it, install a supine leader—all as a prelude to the big fantasy: bringing down China.

The multifaceted war on Russia has been ongoing since at least the late 1990s, but really, it never stopped with the Soviet state’s disappearance.  This veiled hostility and aggression certainly existed when Boris Yeltsin was in power (a good vassal according to Washington, this silly and funny man that made Bill Clinton laugh) but took off around 2005, after Washington understood that Vladimir Putin was putting Russia on an independent course, reversing the conditions overseen under the preceding, deplorable Yeltsin era, including steep economic, social, military, and developmental decline and the immiseration of the vast majority of the population, looting oligarchs, and economic “liberalization” designed in Washington.

From Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barak Obama to Donald Trump, Central and Eastern European states were gathered into the offensively retooled NATO, aggressive wars were initiated ranging from southeastern Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, arms control agreements were systematically dismantled, missiles deployed as far east as Romania and Poland aimed at Russia, and a client regime was installed in Ukraine.

Damn the continuous Russian protests, requests, warnings for the last twenty-five years about erosion of mutual trust.  Examples of provocations in recent years: 2003 “Rose” revolution in Georgia, its military offensive in 2008.  Incessant air (including B-52s) and naval incitement on Russia’s Black Sea coast in recent years, threats to Russia’s Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol, in the Crimea.  Unrelenting savagery against Donbass.  Dismissal, scoffing at Russia’s final effort for sanity, the late 2021demands for legal indivisible security guarantees in Eastern Europe, among other aspects.

The Russian responses at each of these critical junctures were predictable and desired by the US: Georgia was beaten back; the 2014 overthrow in Ukraine led to Crimea’s accession to Russia; and the Kiev regime became ever-more aggressive, militarized, and in breach of its neutrality commitments, its leader, under American tutelage, hinting at acquiring nuclear weapons at the most recent Munich Security Conference, leading to the offensive against Ukraine.

Of course, this is not just Russia reacting; it’s also Russia playing the long game to correct, no less, than the strategic imbalance of power, the historic Western political and economic domination.

At stake here is the potential Western subjugation of the Middle East for generations and the complete extinguishing of freedom for Palestine.

What the US has done since the Cold War’s end is characterized as a foreign policy blunder, as misguided, mistaken, perhaps reckless and irresponsible, even violating the tenets of realist politics, but benign, well-intentioned.  This logic is deficient, inconsistent with actual behavior.  The US has deliberately, unrelentingly, knowingly pushed eastward, moving Europe with it.

Take away, renege, refuse to renew the incredibly important security infrastructure and nuclear treaties, including those that protect Europe itself (e.g., the INF), indulge in illegal wars with impunity, violate the UN Charter, international law and international humanitarian law, severely degrade diplomacy, negotiations, genuine peacemaking and render the world into a frightfully, recklessly, unstably dangerous place, is no problem when practiced by the West.  Clearly, the ensuing conditions are the inevitable result of laws of the jungle foisted by those who claim to be the paragons of peace, human rights, freedom, democracy, virtue, and so on.

Russia has literally allowed itself to be cornered since 2014, though it needed time to achieve a conventional and nuclear deterrent.  It’s not hard to see reality: Russia is given no quarter, no voice, its real concerns and grievances dismissed, its leader demonized, its marginalization doggedly pursued at every level of international and bilateral social and cultural interactions.  No appeal to reason, to international law, to security, to evidence will do for the West, no amount of patient legal argument, explanation of Russian concerns, appeals, professional warnings, consummate diplomacy and transparency of Russian interests made an impression.  Instead, the Western response was and is always to double down.

For Russia, its offensive is protecting itself against external threats, imminent within the next few years at most.  What should it do?  Wait until the Ukrainian regime initiated its planned offensive in the southeast (having amassed over 60,000 troops there) by the end of February?  Until hypersonic Pershing II missiles are deployed literally at Russia’s western borders?  Until nuclear weapons are deployed, with US help?  Until Russia’s attacked?  Undertake a limited operation in Donbass and simply allow pretext for NATO/Ukraine regime to deploy vast forces/lethal weaponry at the front lines?

With decades of particularly US/UK cheating, lying, prevarication and intolerable gamble.

What better argument to American/Western publics—especially a timid Germany that, because of its Nazi past, is forever insecure to demonstrate its civilized, Western cultural bona fide in relation to the Other, the European east—for standing up to “Putin’s aggression” than this?

Why this insanity?  The neoliberal economic system is in deep trouble and Western power is in relative decline, hence the frenetic US-led Western activity to arrest its deterioration.  It seems to me that Russia (or China for that matter) seeks a world in which a new security architecture (and global economic development and prosperity for all) is implemented in Europe and worldwide and that respects the security needs of all parties.

Finance capitalism, the system of speculative bubbles, derivatives, debt, declining standards of living, and hyperinflation, is ruining Western economies, states and societies, destroying the middle classes. The US cannot tolerate Eurasian integration and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, determined to stop any alternative development model to hyper-capitalism enriching the few, cannibalizing the many; that reduces the US to one of a handful of important multipolar players.

Washington’s grave mismanagement of international relations, its self-defeating policies, has actually weakened genuine American interests and national security and the well-being and safety of the American people, a phenomenon that cannot be naively attributed to Democrats or Republicans, this or that president. Instead, the war-state is deeply embedded in the American political economy, in factions such as the “intelligence community,” the military-industrial complex, influential establishment neo-cons, and liberal interventionists, all living in a world of yesterday.

We are rushing headlong into extremely dangerous times in which facts are a threat to the state narrative and any dissent or differing opinion is treachery. Fascism does not come from below, always from the top.

-Issa Khalaf has a Ph.D. in political science and Middle East Studies from Oxford University. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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