A new poll conducted by Pew in May and released last week, shows that a majority of U.S. war veterans, along with a majority of Americans in general, don’t believe that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria have been worth fighting. A graphic representing the results is here:
Bryan MacDonald relayed the results of a recent survey of Russians from the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The survey asked Russians their view of democracy and Russia’s relations with the west. According to the results: 48 percent of Russians want a change in their country’s governance and 62 percent believe that some form of democracy is necessary, but western-style liberal democracy was not looked upon as desirable for Russia as 45 percent thought it would bring “chaos and destruction” to their country. As for overall relations with the west, only 24 percent thought they could ever be friendly as opposed to distrustful.
This leads me to believe that my long-standing view of Washington’s foreign policy being counter-productive and in need of a change is as true as ever. Rather than throwing our weight around and bullying the rest of the world to accept our definition of democracy at the end of a gun barrel, we should get our own house in order and provide a more inspiring example to everyone.
The people actually living in a country know better than we do what kind of government and economic system will work best for them, according to their culture and history.
We’ve all known that certain someone in our families or neighborhoods, etc. who constantly dominates, meddles and thinks they know what’s best for everyone else. They also tend to pontificate constantly and never shut up long enough to learn from anyone else.
We should strive not to be that person in the form of a country.
On July 12th, a rocket propelled grenade attack was launched at a TV station in Kiev that was scheduled to air an award-winning documentary by Oliver Stone called Revealing Ukraine. The documentary attempts to follow Ukraine’s path from independence in 1991 to today. It included information from Dr. Ivan Katchanovski, a Canadian-Ukrainian academic who has done the most thorough analysis of the Maidan sniper attacks in March of 2014. As readers of this blog may recall, Katchanovski’s work discredits the Maidan government and Washington’s account – which the MSM has accepted without question – that the scores of people, both protesters and police, killed on the Maidan on March 21st, were murdered by the forces of the Yanukovich government. Katchanovski’s work shows that the deadly shots came from buildings that were controlled by the Maidan forces.
Katchanovski said the following regarding the attack:
#Ukraine TV cancels US documentary broadcast after #Terrorist attack & threats by far right to attack it, by Prosecutor General to launch state treason & terrorism financing investigation & by National Television & Radio Broadcasting Council to sanction it
Popular #Ukrainian TV channel is shelled from grenade launcher in order to prevent its broadcast today of US #Documentary by @TheOliverStone. It would reveal involvement of #Maidan snipers in Maidan massacre. Would there be any reaction from US government?
Apparently there were threats of stopping the broadcast of the documentary prior to the attack:
The National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of #Ukraine states that it would monitor this US #documentary and threatens sanctions against a popular Ukrainian news TV channel for showing it
Footage of the attack is below. There are no reported casualties.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, immediately condemned the attack:
“I condemn the attack on channel 112 Ukraine premises today in Kyiv. Hopefully nobody was wounded but such violence and threats against media cannot be tolerated. This is an unacceptable act of intimidation which could have had dramatic consequences,” Désir said, welcoming the swift response of law enforcement officials in the case.
“I call on the Ukrainian authorities to thoroughly investigate this attack, and to bring those responsible for this crime to justice,” Désir said.
Apparently, a lot of potential Democratic party voters have stated in a recent poll that their most important concern is nominating a candidate for president who can defeat Trump because they think he’s particularly dangerous. Political analyst, Kim Iversen, explains in this video that the most dangerous behavior that a president can exhibit is killing. Given that a president has the most power in his/her role as Commander in Chief, his/her decision of whether to unleash the U.S. military on human beings anywhere in the world who are perceived as enemies or to talk to them is a critical criteria for determining how dangerous they are. Based on that criteria, Trump has actually been less dangerous than other presidents who had a more pleasant and less volatile demeanor. She encourages potential Democratic voters to think more deeply about the Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination and whether they are potentially much more dangerous than Trump.
I totally agree with Iversen. But I fear that most people will not use her criteria in making voting decisions. The death and destruction that our president may rain down on other human beings via our military typically happens on the other side of the world and – thanks to a craven media – we hardly ever see the image of the results. Also, only a small percentage of the population is affected by these wars due to the volunteer military force. Therefore, the death and destruction becomes an abstraction that does not resonate and does not factor into voting decisions the way that immediate issues like health care and jobs do. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about this and would like as many people as possible to hear Iversen’s well-articulated argument.
As we all know by now, the Mueller Report found no evidence to support the allegation that Trump colluded with Russia to win election as president. However, it continued to claim that the Russian government interfered in our election, which is being repeated everywhere as flat fact. However, veteran Russiagate journalist, Aaron Mate – who systematically debunked a lot of the collusion nonsense in real time – takes a deep dive into this claim as well. A summary of points from his lengthy article for Real Clear Investigations includes:
The [Mueller] report uses qualified and vague language to describe key events, indicating that Mueller and his investigators do not actually know for certain whether Russian intelligence officers stole Democratic Party emails, or how those emails were transferred to WikiLeaks.
The report’s timeline of events appears to defy logic. According to its narrative, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the publication of Democratic Party emails not only before he received the documents but before he even communicated with the source that provided them.
There is strong reason to doubt Mueller’s suggestion that an alleged Russian cutout called Guccifer 2.0 supplied the stolen emails to Assange.
Mueller’s decision not to interview Assange – a central figure who claims Russia was not behind the hack – suggests an unwillingness to explore avenues of evidence on fundamental questions.
U.S. intelligence officials cannot make definitive conclusions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computer servers because they did not analyze those servers themselves. Instead, they relied on the forensics of CrowdStrike, a private contractor for the DNC that was not a neutral party, much as “Russian dossier” compiler Christopher Steele, also a DNC contractor, was not a neutral party. This puts two Democrat-hired contractors squarely behind underlying allegations in the affair – a key circumstance that Mueller ignores.
Further, the government allowed CrowdStrike and the Democratic Party’s legal counsel to submit redacted records, meaning CrowdStrike and not the government decided what could be revealed or not regarding evidence of hacking.
Mueller’s report conspicuously does not allege that the Russian government carried out the social media campaign. Instead it blames, as Mueller said in his closing remarks, “a private Russian entity” known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).
Mueller also falls far short of proving that the Russian social campaign was sophisticated, or even more than minimally related to the 2016 election. As with the collusion and Russian hacking allegations, Democratic officials had a central and overlooked hand in generating the alarm about Russian social media activity.
John Brennan, then director of the CIA, played a seminal and overlooked role in all facets of what became Mueller’s investigation: the suspicions that triggered the initial collusion probe; the allegations of Russian interference; and the intelligence assessment that purported to validate the interference allegations that Brennan himself helped generate. Yet Brennan has since revealed himself to be, like CrowdStrike and Steele, hardly a neutral party — in fact a partisan with a deep animus toward Trump.
None of this means that the Mueller report’s core finding of “sweeping and systematic” Russian government election interference is necessarily false. But his report does not present sufficient evidence to substantiate it.
On July 9th, Mate tweeted out the following details on a ruling just made by a federal judge in DC regarding whether Mueller adequately made the case of the IRA – a St. Petersburg-based troll farm that put out click-bait on various social media platforms in 2016 – being connected to the Russian government:
Federal judge has issued a significant rebuke of a core Mueller claim. Mueller claims that the IRA — a Russian troll farm — was the 2nd of “two principal interference operations” by Russian gov’t. But as judge notes, Mueller’s implied link between IRA & Russian gov’t was false:
This is a major blow not just to Mueller but to the entire “Russian Active Measures” talking point. As the judge acknowledges, the IRA (which, btw, put out juvenile clickbait mostly unrelated to the election) is a private entity & Mueller never establishes a Kremlin connection.
This inconsistency, confirmed by a DC judge, raises new Qs about the validity of Mueller’s claim of a “sweeping and systematic” Russian gov’t interference campaign. If Mueller was disingenuous in falsely trying to link it to Russian gov’t, what else was he disingenuous about?
And Russia-based journalist Bryan MacDonald tweeted on July 8th that Russian news agency Tass is reporting that Ukrainian president Zelensky is requesting multi-lateral talks with Russia, US, UK, Germany and France regarding the Donbas conflict:
New Ukrainian President Zelensky has proposed settlement talks with Putin on Crimea & Donbas. He wants the summit held in Minsk with Trump, Merkel, Macron & the next UK PM present. The Kremlin says it will consider the offer.
Meanwhile, a defense magazine is reporting that the U.S. is retrofitting Ukrainian naval ports to accommodate U.S. and NATO warships just miles away from Crimea:
Centered at the Ochakiv Naval Base and the military facility at Mykolaiv — 40 miles east of Odessa and less than 100 northwest of Crimea — the American-funded effort includes reinforcing and upgrading existing piers and adding a new floating dock, security fencing around the bases, ship repair facilities, and a pair of brand-new Maritime Operations Centers from which Ukrainian and NATO forces can direct exercises and coordinate activities….
…While Ukraine isn’t a NATO member, it does receive training from NATO forces and is currently hosting the annual Sea Breeze exercise that includes US and allied warships and several hundred Marines….
…Romania, which sits just 150 miles across the water from Crimea, is buying the Patriot air defense system from the US, and Romanian and American forces recently held a series of air defense drills in the Black Sea that simulated shooting down drones.
During the Cold War and after, estimates of the number of deaths that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was responsible for had numbered 20 million and even as high as 60 million. The following is an excerpt from “Chapter 3: The Stalin Era and WWII” of my forthcoming book. This excerpt discusses updated estimates based on more recently available material, including from the Soviet/Russian archives, as well as where the original inflated estimates originated. The famines of 1930 – 1933, including in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, are discussed in more detail in a later part of the chapter. – Natylie
Stalin’s Terror and the Gulags
The Soviet labor camps were first established in 1919 and housed aristocrats and former members of the Provisional Government (Gulag Museum 2017). But the gulags, in which prisoners toiled in extreme weather conditions with insufficient provisions, were greatly expanded under Stalin’s rule, swelling during the Great Purge of 1936 – 1938 when 1.5 million were arrested. Approximately 750,000 were executed during this same period (Gulag Museum 2017).
A very high proportion of the arrestees were party officials, including military officers, party secretaries and factory managers (Harris 2016). By January of 1938, it was already being acknowledged within the Central Committee that the scale of the arrests was becoming counter-productive as the fear they elicited among party officials was undermining job performance (Harris 2016).
It is recognized that Stalin’s head of
the NKVD (political police and pre-cursor to the KGB), Nikolai Yezhov, was
largely responsible for carrying out the Great Terror of 1936 – 1938 as well as
shaping Stalin’s understanding of the alleged conspiracies to undermine the
Soviet government. As James Harris
explains in The Great Fear: Stalin’s
Terror of the 1930’s:
His commitment to break the conspiracies against the regime and root out enemies was doomed to fail because the conspiracies and enemies were largely chimaeric products of a misguided reading of flawed intelligence. Accelerating the patterns of arrests, interrogations, execution and exile deepened the appearance of conspiracy and enemy activity. Because the NKVD acted overwhelmingly on the content of denunciations or “confessions” obtained under torture, and not on physical evidence of counterrevolutionary conduct, they could never get to the “bottom” of conspiracy (Harris 2016).
Yehzov was eventually hoisted on his own
petard when a backlog of appeals against NKVD convictions mounted and
compromising materials against him surfaced.
This was compounded when an NKVD colleague stationed in Japan defected,
which led to suspicions that Yehzov was going after innocent citizens while
protecting real enemies in his midst.
Stalin fired Yehzov in November of 1938, replacing him with Lavrenti
Beria, and used him as a scapegoat for the recent excesses, although Stalin
himself had personally overseen and approved lists of citizens to be arrested
and executed. By 1939, the number of
arrests had tapered off (Harris 2016).
It should be noted that the number of
deaths that Stalin was purportedly responsible for during his long reign was greatly
inflated during the Cold War era when Robert Conquest’s 1968 book The Great Terror first estimated approximately
20 million deaths (NYT 2015). Conquest,
a former British intelligence officer, admitted that he was an unapologetic
Cold Warrior who thought that the Soviet Union and Stalin could best be
understood as a science fiction story world and character (Fitzpatrick 2019). Cold War propagandizing and caricaturized
thinking likely played a role in this characterization of Stalin as Conquest
generalized out from various sources, including claims by Soviet defectors
Even popular historian Timothy Snyder, who shows little sympathy for Russia, estimates that Stalin is likely responsible for closer to 6 – 8 million deaths (Snyder 2011), based on research for his 2010 book Bloodlands. According to Snyder, with the exception of the war period from 1941 – 1945, the vast majority of prisoners left the gulags alive. The total number of Soviet citizens who died in the gulags for the entire Stalinist period is between 2 and 3 million, which is still an astounding number (Snyder 2011).
Snyder’s overall figure includes estimates for the famines of 1930 – 1933 of which the famine that specifically took place in Ukraine, often referred to as The Holodomor, is estimated at 3.3 million out of the total of 5 million (Snyder 2011).
My visit to the Gulag Museum in Moscow, May/2017;
Harris, James. The Great Fear: Stalin’s Terror of the 1930’s. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK. 2016;
Update: I’ve been contacted by a reader who stated the following: “If over 30 years 0.33% of the adult population – so one in 300 annually – experienced some sort of police violence, you can get to 10%. “ Fair enough. But if one has to stretch back 30 years in order to make the figures credible, then that would include the entire “Wild West” Yeltsin era. – Natylie
On June 26th – 27th, the western-owned Moscow Times, The Independent (UK), and the U.S.-government funded RFE/RL all published articles about a poll put out by the independent (i.e. western funded) Levada Center claiming that 10 percent of all Russians have been tortured by Russian authorities.
I’m not suggesting that Russia is Candyland or that police there don’t abuse their authority. I’m aware that there are problems in their criminal justice system – as there are in many other nations, including in the west. If the claim would have been that 10 percent of all prisoners in Russia had been tortured, it would have certainly been in the realm of the plausible. But 10 percent of the entire population of Russia smelled fishy to me.
Now, I’m no math whiz, but I really can’t surmise how one can make the numbers work.
Russia has an overall population of just under 145 million people. 10 percent of that would equal just over 14 million people. It sounds like the Levada poll is claiming that 14 million Russians have been tortured. According to prisonstudies.org, just over a half million Russians (552,188) were being criminally detained in Russia as of January of 2019. That figure includes pre-trial detainees and remanded prisoners. Additionally, the incarceration rate in Russia has been steadily declining since 2008.
It’s extremely unlikely that every Russian who has ever been detained in Putin-era Russia has been tortured, so considerably more than 14 million people had to have been detained by the authorities. Again, how does this add up?
Unfortunately, I don’t read Russian so I can’t read the original poll that was linked to. I’d be interested to know who was included in the sample population and how torture was defined, among other things.
If any readers have specialized knowledge of the Russian criminal justice system and can help me to understand how this could be accurate, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
From what I have studied of the Russian criminal justice system, this doesn’t fit the gradual trend in the Putin era of trying to clean up the system and provide more protections for prisoners and the accused. That’s not to say that more doesn’t still need to be done, but there is a trend toward improvement.
Until I see credible evidence making this add up, I’m going to have to consider this claim to be very dubious.
On June 27th, Putin sat down for an in-depth interview with the editor of the Financial Times, Lionel Barber, as well as its Moscow Bureau Chief, Henry Foy. Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall, but I’ve included some important excerpts below with a bit of my own commentary in italics. I have quoted Putin at length to convey his thoughts more clearly and accurately. What he says is so often misrepresented and/or taken out of context in western media.
Rules of International Relations During Cold War vs. Now; Now is More Dangerous
Putin: [D]uring the Cold War, the bad thing was the Cold
War. It is true. But there were at least some rules that all participants in
international communication more or less adhered to or tried to follow. Now, it
seems that there are no rules at all. In this sense, the world has become more
fragmented and less predictable, which is the most important and regrettable
On Disagreements with Previous U.S. Presidential Administrations Since 2000 – Particularly on Abrogation of ABM Treaty
Putin was asked to discuss his relationships with all 4 different U.S. presidents that he has dealt with since he took office in 2000. He mentions that there were plenty of times that he had disagreements – “debates” and similar language is a diplomatic way of saying there were arguments or conflicts. He specifically mentions the abrogation of the ABM Treaty by the Bush II administration. This is probably because it is seen as paving the way for the continuing dismantlement – at Washington’s behest – of the nuclear arms control apparatus.
Putin: .We debated this matter for a long time, argued and suggested various solutions. In any event, I made very energetic attempts to convince our US partners not to withdraw from the Treaty. And, if the US side still wanted to withdraw from the Treaty, it should have done so in such a way as to guarantee international security for a long historical period. I suggested this, I have already discussed this in public, and I repeat that I did this because I consider this matter to be very important. I suggested working jointly on missile-defence projects that should have involved the United States, Russia and Europe. They stipulated specific parameters of this cooperation, determined dangerous missile approaches and envisioned technology exchanges, the elaboration of decision-making mechanisms, etc. Those were absolutely specific proposals.
I am convinced that the world would be a different place today, had our US partners accepted this proposal. Unfortunately, this did not happen. We can see that the situation is developing in another direction; new weapons and cutting-edge military technology are coming to the fore. Well, this is not our choice. But, today, we should at least do everything so as to not aggravate the situation.
About That 2016 Election…
I’ve read and viewed many interviews with Putin over the years and he actually seems to have a pretty good grasp of U.S. history and politics. After the 2008 financial crisis, during speeches in international fora, he also provided a critique of the unequal affects resulting from how global capitalism has been organized. In addition to a law degree, Putin worked on an economics dissertation when he was a young man, so he’s not ignorant of these issues. His analysis of how Trump won is similar to that of others who did not get caught up in partisan diversions.
Putin: Russia has been accused, and, strange as it may seem, it is still being accused, despite the Mueller report, of mythical interference in the US election. What happened in reality? Mr Trump looked into his opponents’ attitude to him and saw changes in American society, and he took advantage of this….
Has anyone ever given a thought to who actually benefited
and what benefits were gained from globalisation, the development of which we
have been observing and participating in over the past 25 years, since the
China has made use of globalisation, in particular, to pull
millions of Chinese out of poverty.
What happened in the United States, and how did it happen? In the United States, the leading US companies -the companies, their managers, shareholders and partners – made use of these benefits. The middle class hardly benefitted from globalisation…The middle class in the United States has not benefited from globalisation; it was left out when this pie was divided up. The Trump team sensed this very keenly and clearly, and they used this in the election campaign. It is where you should look for reasons behind Trump’s victory, rather than in any alleged foreign interference. This is what we should be talking about here, including when it comes to the global economy.
The Russia-China Relationship
Putin was asked if Russia was putting too many of its eggs “in the China basket.”
Putin: First of all, we have enough eggs, but there are not
that many baskets where these eggs can be placed. This is the first point.
… Let me point out that the Friendship Treaty with China was
signed in 2001, if memory serves, long before the current situation and long
before the current economic disagreements, to put it mildly, between the United
States and China….
….Yes, Russia and China have many coinciding interests, this is true. This is what motivates our frequent contacts with President Xi Jinping. Of course, we have also established very warm personal relations, and this is natural. Therefore, we are moving in line with our mainstream bilateral agenda that was formulated as far back as 2001, but we quickly respond to global developments. We never direct our bilateral relations against anyone. We are not against anyone, we are for ourselves.
Putin: However, of course, we have to admit that it is not only about China’s industrial subsidies on the one hand or the tariff policy of the United States on the other. First of all, we are talking about different development platforms, so to speak, in China and in the United States. They are different and you, being a historian, probably will agree with me. They have different philosophies in both foreign and domestic policies, probably.
But I would like to share some personal observations with you. They are not about allied relations with one country or a confrontation with the other; I am just observing what is going on at the moment. China is showing loyalty and flexibility to both its partners and opponents. Maybe this is related to the historical features of Chinese philosophy, their approach to building relations.
Therefore I do not think that there would be some such threats from China. I cannot imagine that, really. But it is hard to say whether the United States would have enough patience not to make any rash decisions, but to respect its partners even if there are disagreements. But I hope, I would like to repeat this again, I hope that there would not be any military confrontation.
The Future of the New START Treaty
As has been documented here over the course of several weeks, Putin is again pointing out that Washington is showing no interest in preserving what little is left of the nuclear arms control agreements. It is being reported that John Bolton is gunning for the destruction of the New START treaty as would be expected.
Putin: We said that we are ready to hold talks and to extend this treaty between the United States and Russia, but we have not seen any relevant initiative from our American partners. They keep silent, while the treaty expires in 2021. If we do not begin talks now, it would be over because there would be no time even for formalities.
Our previous conversation with Donald showed that the Americans seem to be interested in this, but still they are not making any practical steps. So if this treaty ceases to exist, then there would be no instrument in the world to curtail the arms race. And this is bad.
China’s “Military Buildup”
Putin: You mentioned the build-up of naval forces in China. China’s total defence spending is $117 billion, if memory serves. The US defence spending is over $700 billion. And you are trying to scare the world with the build-up of China’s military might? It does not work with this scale of military spending. No, it does not.
Putin: Any decision-making process is accompanied by risk. Before taking one’s chances, one has to meticulously assess everything. Therefore, risk based on an assessment of the situation and the possible consequences of the decisions is possible and even inevitable. Foolish risks overlooking the real situation and failing to clearly comprehend the consequences are unacceptable because they can jeopardise the interests of a great number of people.
On Assad Stepping Down in Syria
Putin: When we discussed this matter only recently with the previous [Obama] administration, we said, suppose Assad steps down today, what will happen tomorrow?
They said, “We don’t know.” But when you do not know what happens tomorrow, why shoot from the hip today? This may sound primitive, but this is how it is.
Therefore, we prefer to look at problems thoroughly from all possible angles and not to be in any hurry. Of course, we are perfectly aware of what is happening in Syria. There are internal reasons for the conflict, and they should be dealt with. But both sides should do their bit. I am referring to the conflicting parties.
On Defining and Imposing Democracy Abroad
Putin: Incidentally, the President of France said recently that the
American democratic model differs greatly from the European model. So there are
no common democratic standards. And do you, well, not you, but our Western
partners want a region such as Libya to have the same democratic standards as
Europe and the United States? The region has only monarchies or countries with
a system similar to the one that existed in Libya.
But I am sure that, as a historian, you will agree with me at heart. I do not know whether you will publicly agree with this or not, but it is impossible to impose current and viable French or Swiss democratic standards on North African residents who have never lived in conditions of French or Swiss democratic institutions. Impossible, isn’t it? And they tried to impose something like that on them. Or they tried to impose something that they had never known or even heard of. All this led to conflict and inter-tribal discord. In fact, a war continues in Libya.
Putin: But when a
person enters a square, raises his eyes to the sky and proclaims himself
president? Let us do the same in Japan, the United States or Germany. What will
happen? Do you understand that this will cause chaos all over the world? It is
impossible to disagree with this. There will be pure chaos. How could they act
like this? But no, they started supporting that person from the very outset.
He may be a very good person. He may be just wonderful, and his plans are good. But is it enough that he entered a square and proclaimed himself president? Is the entire world supposed to support him as president? We should tell him to take part in elections and win them, and then we would work with him as the state leader.
Liberalism – Immigration
Probably the most talked about portion of the interview involved Putin’s discussion of liberalism. He talked about different aspects of liberalism: immigration, gender and sexuality, and as part of the diversity of ideas. I have divided up the quotes accordingly.
As some context, it should be remembered that the Soviet Union was a closed off society for 70 years. Typically, Soviet citizens could not travel outside of the country. When a society has been closed off for a long time, it’s to be expected that the society will be socially and culturally conservative. Moreover, after Soviet society disintegrated, many Russians became interested in their pre-Soviet culture in which the conservative Orthodox Church played an important role. This pre-Soviet Russian cultural heritage has also been looked to as a form of social cohesion, some form of which was necessary to hold the country together as it tried to find its way out of the crisis of the 1990’s/early 2000’s and toward stability.
Putin: What is happening in the West? What is the reason for the Trump phenomenon, as you said, in the United States? What is happening in Europe as well? The ruling elites have broken away from the people. The obvious problem is the gap between the interests of the elites and the overwhelming majority of the people.
Of course, we must always bear this in mind. One of the
things we must do in Russia is never to forget that the purpose of the
operation and existence of any government is to create a stable, normal, safe
and predictable life for the people and to work towards a better future.
There is also the so-called liberal idea, which has outlived
its purpose. Our Western partners have admitted that some elements of the
liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable.
When the migration problem came to a head, many people
admitted that the policy of multiculturalism is not effective and that the
interests of the core population should be considered. Although those who have
run into difficulties because of political problems in their home countries
need our assistance as well. That is great, but what about the interests of
their own population when the number of migrants heading to Western Europe is
not just a handful of people but thousands or hundreds of thousands?
…. As for the liberal idea, its proponents are not doing
anything. They say that all is well, that everything is as it should be. But is
it? They are sitting in their cosy offices, while those who are facing the
problem every day in Texas or Florida are not happy, they will soon have
problems of their own. Does anyone think about them?
Liberalism – Gender and Sexuality
Putin: So, the liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population. Or take the traditional values. I am not trying to insult anyone, because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia as it is. But we have no problems with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish. But some things do appear excessive to us.
They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles. I cannot even say exactly what genders these are, I have no notion. Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.
Liberalism Within the Diversity of Ideas
Various ideas and various opinions should have a chance to
exist and manifest themselves, but at the same time interests of the general
public, those millions of people and their lives, should never be forgotten.
This is something that should not be overlooked.
Then, it seems to me, we would be able to avoid major
political upheavals and troubles. This applies to the liberal idea as well. It
does not mean (I think, this is ceasing to be a dominating factor) that it must
be immediately destroyed. This point of view, this position should also be
treated with respect.
…. For this reason, I am not a fan of quickly shutting, tying, closing, disbanding everything, arresting everybody or dispersing everybody. Of course, not. The liberal idea cannot be destroyed either; it has the right to exist and it should even be supported in some things. But you should not think that it has the right to be the absolute dominating factor. That is the point.
In a recent post, I mentioned the Congressional debate over authorizing and funding the use of “low-yield” or usable nukes, which has many worried that the threshold for the utilization of nuclear weapons would be significantly lowered. On June 11th, the Pentagon released its new policy doctrine on war fighting. As Antiwar.comnoted, the U.S. has had a difficult time achieving anything resembling military victory in its numerous wars after 9/11 against much less technologically advanced adversaries, so now it appears that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are considering the use of nuclear weapons.
Experts and observers are worried that this is another attempt to get the idea of using nuclear weapons accepted in conflicts where nuclear weapons have not been used first by the opponent – indeed the opponent may not even possess them. According to The Guardian the doctrine was inspired by the theories of Cold War ideologist Herman Kahn, who is believed to have been the inspiration for the iconic Dr. Strangelove character:
The document, entitled Nuclear Operations, was published on 11 June, and was the first such doctrine paper for 14 years. Arms control experts say it marks a shift in US military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war – which they believe is a highly dangerous mindset.
“Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” the joint chiefs’ document says. “Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”
At the start of a chapter on nuclear planning and targeting, the document quotes a cold war theorist, Herman Kahn, as saying: “My guess is that nuclear weapons will be used sometime in the next hundred years, but that their use is much more likely to be small and limited than widespread and unconstrained.”
Within a week, the document was removed from the Pentagon’s website, but not before it was downloaded and copied by Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), which has made the document available on its website (linked to above under “Nuclear Operations.”)
As Common Dreams added in its reporting on the Pentagon document, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute just released a report pointing out the dangers of the new arms race – estimated at a cost of trillions of dollars – between the world’s nuclear superpowers:
FAS’s publication of the Pentagon document comes just days after the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released a report (pdf) on the state of military armaments and weaponry across the world. SIPRI found that “despite an overall decrease in the number of nuclear warheads in 2018, all nuclear weapon-possessing states continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals,” making nuclear conflict more likely than the year before.
Earlier this week, a joint poll by YouGov and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists revealed that 1 in 3 Americans would support a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea if the U.S. discovered that the country had developed a nuclear missile capable of reaching the continental U.S. One could view this as positive that 2/3’s of Americans would not support such an atrocity, but the fact that 1 out of every 3 of my fellow Americans – 1 out of 3 of my neighbors, fellow bus passengers or co-workers – would support it is chilling, especially when the polling found that a significant number would support such a strike even if it killed up to a million North Korean civilians. In reality, it would likely kill many more outside of North Korea if you factor in the effects of nuclear winter, which doesn’t require a lot of nukes to trigger.
The significance of this is brought home to me all the more since I’m at the point in my book where I’m researching the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in depth. During that time, average Americans had more of a consciousness of the dangers of nuclear weapons. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan was within most adults’ living memory and the fact that an arsenal of much more powerful atomic weapons was in the possession of the two superpower rivals was known and discussed in the news and stories about its dangers were regularly seen in popular culture (the novel and film OnThe Beach and episodes of The Twilight Zone, for example).
But we don’t seem to have that consciousness – and the fear and disgust that should go along with it – anymore. This, despite the fact that those dangers have not gone away. Both the U.S. and Russia still have over 1,700 nuclear weapons combined on hair trigger alert. With so much antipathy, rancor and distrust having been recklessly stoked by the political class and much of the media toward Russia over relatively minor (and/or false) issues in the big picture – yes, they are minor in the big picture of a nuclear holocaust – don’t give a lot of reason for optimism if a radar error, renegade launch or some escalation spins out of control.
We survived the Cuban Missile Crisis because Kennedy and Khrushchev both had the courage and were allowed the political maneuvering (whatever previous mistakes they both made that led to the confrontation) to hold back their respective hardliners who encouraged escalation. Eyewitness accounts also reveal that both Kennedy and Khrushchev felt visceral fear in the face of what they might unleash. But a remarkably large part of the reason we survived also had to do with dumb luck as historians (and two of the foremost experts on the Cuban Missile Crisis) James Blight and Janet Lang make clear in their 2018 book, Dark Beyond Darkness: The Cuban Missile Crisis as History, Warning and Catalyst.
Blight and Lang have calculated that if the crisis were run 100 times with the same conditions, 95 times it would end in nuclear war.
With the U.S. now having unilaterally abrogated 2 of the 3 nuclear arms control treaties governing the U.S. and Russia’s arsenals and chest-thumping its own nuclear posture, it is demanding that Russia destroy its 9M729 missile, which U.S./NATO claims is in violation of the INF Treaty. Needless to say, Russia is not going to do any such thing – especially after Washington has already withdrawn from said treaty and has placed Aegis nuclear installations in Eastern Europe that can be easily modified as offensive nuclear weapons. Russia is warning of the dangers of another potential crisis reminiscent of the standoff near the shores of Cuba in 1962 if the U.S. doesn’t dump the hubris that has consumed its political class since the 1990’s and has led to this moment.
That hubris is reflected in our actions against Iran, North Korea, and Russia – tearing up critical agreements, issuing dictums, offering nothing in return, and not getting a constructive resolution. Of course, a resolution wouldn’t be desired by the military-industrial-complex or the irrational ideologues who have influence in Washington. There do appear to be people willing to beg trouble on a nuclear war and simply don’t care about the consequences. People addicted to the greed and power associated with the pursuit of such things are like all addicts in that they don’t care about anything accept feeding their addiction. I can’t think of a better explanation for the pathology of these people.
I encourage everyone to read here what Cuban leader Fidel Castro was thinking during the Missile Crisis in 1962, a perspective that isn’t often given much attention – a dangerous omission. It might provide a window into what the leaders of Iran, North Korea and even Russia might be thinking after enduring constant threats and provocations by the most powerful country in the world that’s armed with a large nuclear arsenal.
The potential consequences of Washington’s inflammatory actions against other nations and its inability to engage in cognitive empathy are not benign.
On the morning of June 20th, I received an OSCE email alert announcing the death of Ukrainian investigative reporter Vadim Komarov, who was beaten unconscious on May 4th and had been in a coma until succumbing last week. According to the OSCE:
VIENNA, 20 June 2019 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, expressed his deep sorrow following the death of journalist and blogger Vadim Komarov, who died last night in the hospital. He had been in a coma since suffering a violent attack on 4 May in Cherkasy, Ukraine.
“I am deeply shocked by the death of Vadim Komarov, who was brutally attacked last month in Cherkasy and suffered from serious head injuries,” Désir said. “Vadim Komarov was a well-known media professional who reported about issues of public importance for many years, including by exposing corruption and uncovering abuses of power.”
As a journalist myself, I’m sensitive to crimes and repressions committed against fellow reporters wherever they may be. As the day wore on, however, I began to wonder why I didn’t hear any mention of this from any of the multiple news outlets I follow. Around 9:00 pm, I decided to do a search for any articles covering the death of Komarov. I placed the terms “Vadim Komarov death” into both a regular Google search engine and a Google News search engine. I also tried the alternative spelling of his first name “Vadym” in the searches. The only western media coverage of this I found was an article by RFE/RL. Nothing else from either the establishment media or the alternative media.
I think we all know that if this had been a journalist beaten to death in Russia, the news would be all over The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc. , along with oped’s on how it’s just more evidence of how horrible, illiberal and undemocratic Putin’s Russia is compared to the virtuous west, comprised of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Britain and non-Russian Europe.
Some might suggest that it would only be fair because Russia is such a dangerous place for journalists. Everyone knows that reporters are dropping like flies in Russia and rarely from natural causes.
On the other hand, the Maidan “revolution” of 2014 represented a natural rejection of backward Russia and Ukraine’s desire to be unequivocally part of the west whose democratic values it embraced. The fact that Washington may have facilitated a violent ouster of the already democratically-elected government was to be overlooked with a nod and wink on behalf of a greater good.
If so, then how do we square the facts, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists that, since 2014, Ukraine has had an increase in the murder of journalists, now totaling 8 (including Komarov) and Russia has had only 2 in that same period?
While we should certainly care about reporters being murdered, especially because of their work, anywhere, how do we justify the total radio silence on the brutal murder of a journalist in our beloved post-Maidan Ukraine and the utter conniption fit that western media would be having if the same thing happened to a journalist in Russia?
Speaking of media bias and malpractice, below is a video of award-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges interviewing (in 2-parts) Matt Taibbi about his forthcoming book on how the media – particularly TV and cable news – has adopted the professional wrestling model of feeding the target audience’s simplistic worldview of who is a goodie and who is a baddie, selling a warped entertainment product designed to reinforce your anger rather than informing you.
On the heels of last week’s NYT report that the U.S. Cyber Command had carried out cyber attacks within Russia’s domestic infrastructure, Reuters has reported unnamed representatives of the Russian government as stating that the cyber attacks were recognized and thwarted:
The disclosure was made on Russia’s RIA and TASS news agencies days after the New York Times cited unnamed government sources as saying that the United States had inserted potentially disruptive computer code into Russia’s power grid as part of a more aggressive deployment of its cyber tools….
….“We see and note such attempts,” the Russian security source was quoted as saying in response to the report. “However, we manage to neutralize these actions.”
….Foreign intelligence services have stepped up cyber attacks against Russia in recent years and are targeting mainly transport, banking and energy infrastructure, the source told TASS and RIA.
Russia has the engineering and technical savvy to do this as teams from Russia have won the top prize in the IBM- sponsored ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest 6 times in the last 8 years. Here’s a description from 2018 of what contenders are tasked with achieving to win the competition:
ACM ICPC is the premier global programming competition conducted by and for the world’s universities….In the competition, teams of three students tackle eight or more complex, real-world problems. The students are given a problem statement, and must create a solution within a looming five-hour time limit. The team that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts in the least cumulative time is declared the winner. This year’s World Finals saw 140 teams competing. Now in its 42nd year, ICPC has gathered more than 320,000 students from around the world to compete since its inception.
It seems that several times over the past few years, as U.S.-Russia relations have continued to deteriorate in potentially dangerous ways, Putin has attempted to use whatever bully pulpit he may have at public appearances in front of western and international media to plead for a recognition and discussion of what these conditions may portend. Below is an 8-10 minute video of a meeting Putin had at the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum with representatives of the global media. The video also includes a quote some of you may remember from a few years ago when Putin was expressing his frustration with and warning about reckless escalations by the west and how dangerous they could be – “I don’t know how to get through to you.” My only quibble with what Putin says here is his claim that war has existed throughout humanity. Anthropological studies prove that organized war has only been in the human record for the past 10,000 – 13,000 years, coinciding with agricultural settlement and its attendant complex, hierarchical social structure. In any event, it’s a good video, but you do have to sit through an ad for a new documentary channel at the beginning that runs about a minute.
Speaking of the role of media, whose the worst person Facebook could find to serve as their new public policy manager for Ukraine? Well, Kateryna Kruk, who has publicly and unashamedly cheered on ultra-nationalist groups who espouse white supremacy and anti-Russian views would be a good contender. And, guess what? That’s who Facebook just hired for the job. Ben Norton of the Grayzone Project recently wrote an in-depth report on it.
Kateryna Kruk, who has served as Facebook’s first public policy manager for Ukraine since late May, was an active participant in Ukraine’s 2014 US-backed coup, in which far-right ultra-nationalists violently ousted a democratically elected government accused by the West of getting too close to Russia and replaced it with a pro-NATO one.
During the coup, Kruk volunteered with the fascistic Svoboda party, and defended the extreme-right group from criticism. She is a nationalist hardliner who compares Russian President Vladimir Putin to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, reduces all pro-Russian forces in Ukraine to “terrorists,” and opposes any kind of negotiations with Moscow.
Meanwhile, Washington just sent $250 million worth of more deadly weaponry to the Kiev government, including sniper rifles and electronic warfare tools, bringing the total “aid” delivered to the coup government since 2014 to a total value of $1.5 billion.
A matter of days after Putin admitted in an interview with Mir TV that U.S.-Russia relations were deteriorating by the hour, the DIA came out and reiterated its already debunked accusation of a couple of weeks ago that Russia is testing low-yield nuclear weapons.
Additionally, this past Saturday, the NYT reported that the U.S. government has recently escalated cyber intrusions into the Russian power grid:
WASHINGTON — The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.
In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.
According to the article, the Pentagon’s U.S. Cyber Command had been granted significant new leeway by both the president and Congress in 2018, supposedly in preparation for possible election interference from Russia in the mid-term elections.
….The administration declined to describe specific actions it was taking under the new authorities, which were granted separately by the White House and Congress last year to United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world….
….But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow….
….Mr. Trump issued new authorities to Cyber Command last summer, in a still-classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13, giving General Nakasone far more leeway to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval….
But the action inside the Russian electric grid appears to have been conducted under little-noticed new legal authorities, slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer. The measure approved the routine conduct of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace, to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.”
Under the law, those actions can now be authorized by the defense secretary without special presidential approval.
It’s interesting that under the (now mostly debunked, unsubstantiated, or grossly exaggerated) hysterical election-interference-by-Russia claims since 2016, some powerful organs of the national security state have gotten even more power to potentially cause all sorts of mischief that could get us into a serious confrontation with the world’s other nuclear superpower. What has been the consequence of these increased powers that the national security state wants to flex?
“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” one senior intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity but declining to discuss any specific classified programs. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”
The critical question — impossible to know without access to the classified details of the operation — is how deep into the Russian grid the United States has bored. Only then will it be clear whether it would be possible to plunge Russia into darkness or cripple its military — a question that may not be answerable until the code is activated.
Furthermore, members of the national security state have acknowledged that they have been reticent in providing details to President Trump of these activities since they fear that he’ll decide to somehow block, modify or mitigate them.
Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.
According to the constitution, however, the president would have the right to use his judgment to do this on behalf of national security goals like leveraging potential diplomatic negotiations. Am I wrong to conclude that the military and intelligence agencies are supposed to ultimately be subservient to the commander in chief and not the other way around? Even if you don’t happen to like a particular commander in chief?
The NYT article continued,
Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.
Is this wise? Where is the debate on this within the media or among presidential candidates about the possible dangers of such escalations between the world’s two nuclear superpowers? Where is the demand for diplomacy? Is Putin standing in the way? According to reports on the Helsinki meeting, Putin proposed an agreement where both countries would promise not to interfere with each other’s domestic elections or infrastructure. Trump – whom we were constantly told is Putin’s bitch – ultimately demurred.
Who benefits from this continual consolidation of powers among the un-elected and unaccountable organs of the national security state, which will no doubt remain in place after Trump leaves and a president more acceptable to the liberal meritocracy camp occupies the White House? How do average Americans possibly benefit from the national security state’s continual game of chicken with Russia?
We’ve all heard of the National Security Council, but how many people actually know much about it? All I’ve ever really known is that it is an executive body comprised of individuals who perform some kind of advisory function to the U.S. president, mostly on foreign policy matters. But what exactly do they do? How many people are on it? Is there a public record one can look up to find out who sits on this council at any given time and what their background is?
The council was created by the 1947 National Security Act signed by Harry Truman, which he did against the advice of his Secretary of State George Marshall who thought it gave too much unaccountable power to the organs of the national security state that it was creating, particularly the CIA.
Its members include relevant cabinet heads and deputies (e.g. Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, National Director of Intelligence, National Security Adviser, etc.), but there’s much more to the National Security Council than meets the eye as Daniel Bessner’s book review of John Gans’ White House Warriors for The New Republic outlines. Bessner describes the crucial yet opaque role of the council as conveyed by former insider Gans as follows:
Compared to its better-known counterparts, the National Security Council remains something of a mystery. Headquartered in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House and a block away from the Council on Foreign Relations, the NSC bridges the gap between the intellectuals and decision-makers of the foreign policy establishment. The council, in short, is a core institution of the “military-intellectual complex,” the network of organizations that since the late-1940s have provided government officials with the ideas they rely on to make foreign policy. If the military-industrial complex builds the weapons of American empire, the military-intellectual complex develops the concepts that determine where such weapons are actually used.
Ultimately, it is a story that underlines the problems with centralizing power in a White House controlled by an unaccountable cohort of “the best and the brightest” whose records suggest they are anything but.
The historical justification for the creation of the National Security Council (NSC), the CIA and the formal Department of Defense in 1947 is that FDR had overseen WWII in an ad hoc fashion that was seen as inefficient and with blurred lines of jurisdiction. With the new Cold War having emerged against the Soviet Union, it was considered especially important to organize and consolidate foreign policy power within the executive branch. Of course, there were other motivations involved in creating these unaccountable institutions than just smoothing out the kinks in administration.
According to Bessner’s review, the NSC didn’t get much attention from the president until the Korean War. It was then that Truman started parlaying the NSC to a larger and more centralized role. Many successive presidents would further this trend, paving the way for the “imperial presidency” that we have today, with the NSC as one of its most powerful tools.
After a recent meeting between Trump and the Polish president, it was agreed that Washington would send 1,000 more logistical troops to the Eastern European country, bringing the total to around 5,000. Although the Polish government has made it clear that it wants to host even more, including a tank division. Reportedly, Poland also agreed to buy 32 of Lockheed Martin’s white elephant F-35 fighter jets. Military exercises in Poland place NATO troops within shouting distance of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad – one of those dubious ideas that the “best and brightest” in Washington keep pushing.
At the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin finally provided some public comments on Ukraine’s newly elected president, expressing caution with respect to Zelensky’s total lack of experience in public office. In response to the question about Zelensky during a panel discussion, Putin gave a very interesting description of the skills needed to be an effective leader, particularly in the foreign policy arena. Watch the 3-1/2 minute video below. By the way, I always encourage people who ask me about Putin to watch or read his interviews directly as much as possible in order to avoid the misinformation often provided by American establishment media and politicians who have their own agenda.
The campaign to help fund the publication of my forthcoming book “The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations” is ongoing. Thank you to Gideon Anthony for his $100 donation.
We still have a ways to go to reach the goal. All donations, large or small, are greatly appreciated in helping me get this book out to the world. Thank you.