Director of U.S. National Intelligence: Identity of DNC Email Server Hacker Not Established Yet

Kremlin Wall, Red Square, Moscow; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin
Kremlin Wall, Red Square, Moscow; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin

As reported at The Duran, James Clapper, Director of U.S. National Intelligence, has publicly acknowledged that the identity of the hacker of the DNC’s email server has not been definitively established and even expressed surprise at the hyperbolic characterization of the story by the press:

Clapper did not say Russia was behind the leak.  Though he did not clear Russia, he says US intelligence has not yet established the identity of the hacker.   He says that there was nothing especially difficult or complex about the hack, meaning that any of many parties could have done it.  He has pointed out that both the US and Russia routinely hack each other, and that they have been engaged in this sort of thing ever since the start of the Cold War, and that only “the tools have changed”.  He says he is “taken aback” by all the “hyperventilation” that has surrounded the story.

This reiterates some of the main points made by Glenn Greenwald in an interview last week with CNN:

This is all effectively serving as a classic and convenient means of misdirection, distracting attention away from the content of the hacked emails which cast a dark shadow on the Democratic Party’s antics during the primary.  And using the well-established bogeyman Putin, to boot.

The editors of The Nation have expressed concern at the McCarthyist era style of smearing at work in this manner of deflecting attention away from the real scandal implied in the emails:

Let us recall that McCarthyism impugned the loyalty of American citizens by accusing them of allegiance to the Soviet Union. This political defamation—often a joint undertaking of Congress and the media—suppressed democratic debate over alternative policies and ideas, and in the process destroyed lives by stigmatizing those whose views were deemed insufficiently loyal to Cold War–era orthodoxies. The overall effect was to poison, chill, and censor the political discourse of the nation.

….While Trump himself has hardly been damaged by today’s revival of McCarthyism, the same cannot be said for our national debate. Over the past month alone, establishment voices like Franklin Foer, Paul Krugman, Jeffrey Goldberg, Josh Marshall, and Jonathan Chait, among others, have Kremlin-baited Trump in lieu of reasoned argument and factual critique. On July 21, The Atlantic’s Goldberg informed readers that “The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” Krugman followed this up on July 22 by asking in The New York Times: “If elected, would Donald Trump be Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House?” Krugman then answered his own baseless question: “Mr. Trump would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.”

….This neo-McCarthyism now threatens to derail a vital debate over the substance of the 20,000-plus e-mails, made public by WikiLeaks on July 22, that reveal the purportedly neutral Democratic National Committee’s derision and contempt for Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign—as well as several aborted attempts to tip the scales against him. While the FBI has launched an investigation, as of press time, nobody has conclusively proven who hacked into the DNC’s network, much less demonstrated what their motives were. But that didn’t stop Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook from appearing on CNN on July 24 to allege that Russia was behind the hack. “Sources are saying the Russians are releasing these e-mails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump,” said Mook. To no one’s great surprise, he neglected to tell CNN who his sources were. Nevertheless, liberal-media elites have joined with the Clinton campaign in promoting the narrative of a devious Russian cyber-attack, which Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Adam Johnson correctly points out “is being used to outweigh the damning substance of the leak itself.”

Pre-Soviet Philosophical Thought & Contemporary Russia – Part I of III

Church on Spilt Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia; Photo by Natylie S. Baldwin, 2015
Church on Spilt Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia; Photo by Natylie S. Baldwin, 2015

 

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, much has been written about “the Russian idea.”  Subsumed under this term are the very issues – moral, religious, and national/cultural – that [Dmitrii] Merezhkoskii treated in the works we have discussed.  In a replay of the fin de siecle, Russians are again discussing how to make Christianity relevant to life in this world, Christian attitudes toward sex, Christian art, and the proper relation of church and state.  They are trying to define a postcommunist Russian identity and to find the organizing principles by which they can reconstruct their world.

(page 143, Merezhkovskii’s Readings of Tolstoi by Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal)

Russian Thought After Communism: The Recovery of a Philosophical Heritage is a book of essays by various contributors (edited by James P. Scanlan), published in 1994, elaborating on the work and thought of several Russian philosophers of the pre-Soviet era and how this heritage is influencing the post-Soviet era. Rosenthal’s essay is about Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, who was a philosopher, playright, historical novelist and literary critic.  He was active in the years just prior to and during Russia’s revolutions of the early 20th century and focused much of his attention on the thought and work of the great Russian literary writers, namely Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy.  However, the focus over the years would center on Tolstoy to the point of near obsession, representing a complex – often contradictory – assessment of whether Tolstoy was a prophetic saint or a nihilistic hypocrite.

Around 1900, he published a study and contrast of the two preeminent novelists, Tolstoi and Dostoyevskii, LIfe and Art.  A Study.  With a deep interest in morality and Christianity, Merezhkovskii believed that literature – which, at its best, can serve as a vehicle for exploring important moral and philosophical issues in all of their complexity and nuance – should be a guiding force in the inevitable choice between good and evil.  He was correct that Russians were about to face a momentous choice of paths to follow in the form of reform versus communist revolution.  Merezhkovskii believed that communism, particularly the Bolshevik manifestation, was the equivalent of evil, largely due to its atheism and repression of religion and spirituality.

Merezhkovskii’s apocalyptic Christianity was said to be a reaction to Nietzsche’s “God is dead” nihilism with Jesus serving in Merezhkovskii’s mind as the countervailing “Superman” who would return to earth offering a “Third Testament” that would reconcile paganism with Christianity and the spiritual with the earthly life.

In this study, Merezhkovskii held Dostoyevsky in high regard and “deconstructed” Tolstoy as having a “slave morality” and conducted a lengthy contrast between Tolstoy and the poet Pushkin, whom Merezhkovksii lionized, stating that where Pushkin represented harmony, successful integration of artist and intellectual, and reconciliation of the cultured man and the proud Russian, Tolstoy represented “rupture,” emotional and spiritual dearth, and advocacy of an “abstract cosmopolitanism” that rejected Russian patriotism.

He criticized Tolstoy’s characters for being passive contemplators and victims rather than heroes with a sense of agency.  He also expressed disdain for what he saw as Tolstoy’s “rational Christianity” lacking any sense of the mystical, mysterious or experiential, and attributed these shortcomings to a profound fear of death on Tolstoy’s part.  This fear, Merezhkovskii claimed, prompted him to view man’s relationship to God as “the criminal sentenced to death, and God is the executioner.” (p. 128)

Merezhkovskii also felt Tolstoy did not have a proper appreciation of the cause and effect patterns of history, stating “his Christianity did not grow from Russian or west European soil but fell from the heavens already prepared.” (p. 129)

Merezhkovskii’s views of Tolstoy would evolve over the years with Tolstoy’s excommunication by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in 1901.  By 1905, Merezhkovskii’s religious and political views had changed in a way that made them compatible with a re-examination of Tolstoy.  Advocating “religious revolution,” Merezhkovskii now recast Tolstoy as “a prophet of Christian anarchism” but criticized his rejection of the 1905 revolution (which decreased the Czar’s rule from that of an autocrat, at least on paper), and Dostoyevsky was now “a prophet of the Russian Revolution” but open to criticism for his theocracy. (p. 131)

As disillusionment with the 1905 revolution in the areas of society and culture set in, Merezhkovskii saw Tolstoy’s doctrinaire moralism no longer with disdain but with qualified acceptance.

A common theme in Russian philosophy of the 19th and early 20th century involved trying to reconcile difference forces and influences.  To some extent, these are universal concerns for most cultures at various points in their development, but for Russia, it is perhaps even more so due to the nation’s particular geography, climate and history.  The country is vast, situated between the West (represented by Europe) and the East (represented by Asia), multiethnic and multiconfessional, with a history filled with foreign invasions, natural disasters, and social upheaval that creates a yearning for security and stability.

After 70 years of relative cultural and philosophical stagnation under the Soviet system, Russians find they are grappling with many of the same issues that their pre-Soviet thinkers did with respect to religion, culture and the nature of the state.  Consequently, they have been getting reacquainted with these thinkers over the past 25 years.  Much has been made among the usual western pundits who have little depth of understanding when it comes to Russia, yet sally forth onto the pages of western newspapers and magazines anyway, about Vladimir Putin’s assignment of the works of 3 pre-Soviet Russian philosophers to be read by all the regional governors during the 2014 Winter holiday.  Those 3 philosophers were Vladimir Solovyev, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Ivan Ilyin.  This book includes essays dealing with all 3 of those philosophers and, due to their contemporary relevance to Russian political thought, the remainder of this review will focus on them.

Vladimir Solovyev

Solovyev has been categorized as one of the early Slavophiles, along with Ivan Kirveevskii, Alexei Khomiakov, and Nicolai Fedorov who were considered trailblazers of Russian philosophy in general.  The basic elements that underpinned early Slavophile philosophy included being pioneers of a philosophy that was unique and original to Russia, fitting with its culture and experience.

Pre-Slavophile Russian philosophers are typically ignored or dismissed by the Slavophiles, according to Scanlan, as being too heavily influenced by external intellectual forces.

Scanlan cites Russian philosophy expert,  Zinaida Smirnova, in pointing out that Slavophiles accepted some “bourgeoisie tendencies” like free speech and free hired labor, but opposed bourgeoisie views of absolute private property ownership, condemned individualist orientation and alienation, and advocated social ties based on custom rather than contract, law or constitutionalism. (p. 38)

To some degree, these preferences can still be seen in contemporary Russia in which surveys reflect majorities supporting socioeconomic equality over individual success and a nuanced but prominent role for religion in society compared to the more strident secularism and relativist values of the West.

As Andrey Shirin, assistant professor of divinity at the John Leland Center for Theological Studies, recently explained:

Of course, by and large, Russians appreciate the newfound individual freedoms and opportunities afforded by the influence of Western values.  Nevertheless, to many in Russia these individual callings can find a sense of completion only in a larger communal context.

As a consequence of these values, Slavophiles revered the Russian village commune as a model institution rooted in an authentic collectivist tradition – appropriate to Russia at the time as the rural Russian village life was not yet perceived to be tainted by money, capitalism and industrialization.

Slavophiles also believed in sobornost or the universal, mystical nature of the Orthodox Church – often rejecting or struggling to reconcile with “rationalist” approaches to theology.

However, in the case of Solovyev’s Slavophilism, it appears to be more complicated.  He acknowledged the intuitive as well as the rational. He was friends with Dostoyevsky but had disagreements over Orthodoxy since Solovyev was an advocate of ecumenism and healing the schism between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.  Furthermore, he is credited with influencing Nicolai Berdyaev, Rudolf Steiner and the Russian Symbolists, among others.  He admired the Greek goddess Sophia who he characterized as the “merciful unifying feminine wisdom of God.”  Solovyev was adept at integrating several spiritual strands, such as Greek philosophy, Buddhism, Kabbalah, and Christian Gnosticism.

His view of sobornost was that it was an organic and spontaneous order through integration.  He believed that all bodies of knowledge and disciplines of thought could be reconciled through logic, reason and fusing all concepts into a single system.

Solovyev’s debates with his Slavophile contemporary, Fedorov, highlight his views on the nature of spirituality and integration – believing that humans needed to recognize that they were a part of nature and seeking to elevate spiritual development within the world as opposed to Fedorov’s inclination toward wanting to control nature via technological fixes such as cloning and conquering death through the literal resurrection of the dead.

As one of the book’s essayists, George M. Young, Jr., points out, the debates between Solovyev and Fedorov reflect issues and questions that are just as relevant today:

What happens if technology outpaces morality?  Should we permit some people to enjoy extreme longevity, even approach immortality, while others die after a “natural” span of years?  Can a democratic society undertake a task as grandiose as the resurrection of the dead, or must there be a benevolent autocrat to set and keep us on the long project?  What is the point of space exploration when so many problems exist on earth?

….How much control should man attempt to exert over nature?  How do we alter one part of an ecological system to our benefit without altering other parts to our detriment?  If we insist on individual freedom, what are the alternatives to a pornocratic, parricidal culture? (p. 70)

Young elaborates further on the philosphical differences between Solovyev and Fedorov and their implications:

Our technological progress has made Fedorov’s thought more plausible.  On the other hand, with Solovyev, the lack of spiritual advancement over the last century may be one reason for the renewed interest in his thought that we find in today’s Russia.  Solovyev offers practical steps for precisely the kind of spiritual development that has been missing in the cage of Soviet Marxist thought. (p. 69)

It is interesting to note that, of all the early Slavophile philosophers, Putin chose the one who was the least strident and most open to the synthesis of differing values and viewpoints.

Moreover, Solovyev is generally considered by both Russians and western academics as one of Russia’s greatest philosophers ever, despite the fallacious denigration heaped upon him by the likes of David Brooks, Mark Galeotti and Maria Snegovaya after learning of the Russian philosophers that Putin had assigned the regional governors to read.  The articles by these writers reveal them to be either tendentious or lacking any substantive understanding of the philosophers they are criticizing.

As Paul Grenier writes in his insightful article, “Distorting Putin’s Favorite Philosophers”:

Up until these articles in March-April of 2014, I do not recall reading a single negative assessment of either of these Russian thinkers [Solovyev or Nicolai Berdyaev], at least not among Western specialists, nor a single one accusing them of being hostile to the West, nor a single one suggesting that they are friendly to Russian chauvinism or nationalism.

Grenier goes on to describe Solovyev’s ideas and how they contradict the characterization presented by Brooks, et al.:

How can Solovyev be described as a “nationalist” when his magnum opus, The Justification of the Good (the book which Putin is said to have urged his governors to read), states precisely the opposite?  It is hard to imagine a more absolute condemnation of national exceptionalism than that contained in Solovyev’s definitive work of ethics:

“It must be one of the other.  Either we must renounce Christianity and monotheism in general, according to which ‘there is none good but one, that is, God,’ and recognize our nation as such to be the highest good that is, put it in the place of God – or we must admit that a people becomes good not in virtue of the simple fact of its particular nationality, but only in so far as it conforms to and participates in the absolute good.”

This same anti-nationalist theme runs through Solovyev’s entire corpus.  He argued bitterly against the Slavophile nationalists of his day.

The spiritual aspects of pre-Soviet Russian Slavophile philosophers and the revival of the Orthodox Church may appeal to a general human spiritual need, particularly in the aftermath of the chaos, trauma and social dislocation of the 1990’s, as well as the need for social cohesion.

Putin appears to grasp this on some level as is evidenced by his Address to the Federal Assembly in 2012 in which he lamented a shortage of empathy and solidarity in Russian society:

Colleagues, today, in our cities and villages, we are seeing the results of what has been happening in our nation, in society, in schools, in the media, and in our heads for the past fifteen to twenty years. And this is understandable. That was the time when we discarded all ideological slogans of the previous era. But unfortunately, many moral guides have been lost too. We ended up throwing out the baby with the bath water. Today, this is often manifested in people’s indifference to public affairs, willingness to tolerate corruption, brazen greed, manifestations of extremism and offensive behaviour. And all of this occasionally takes an ugly, aggressive, provocative form; I’ll go even further and say that it creates long-term threats to the society, security and even integrity of Russia.

It is painful for me to say this, but I must say it. Today, Russian society suffers from apparent deficit of spiritual values such as charity, empathy, compassion, support and mutual assistance. A deficit of things that have always, throughout our entire history, made us stronger and more powerful; these are the things we have always been proud of.

Putin appears to be in touch with the average Russian view of this as recent surveys of Russian opinion indicate that Russians believe in separation of church and state but believe that the church should have influence over social and cultural life.   Also, revealed is that most Russians identify as Orthodox Christian, but do not necessarily attend services, reflecting a desire for a spiritual and cultural anchor but not necessarily a shrill or fundamentalist form of religiosity.

Part II will cover the part of the book pertaining to Nicolai Berdyaev. 

 

 

How Russian Journalists Have Fared Under Putin “The Autocrat” vs. Yeltsin “The Democrat”

From flickr.com/photos/47422005@N04/12369023935/: Vladimir Putin - Caricature

(Vladimir Putin – Caricature
(image by DonkeyHotey)
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Pursuant to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists, murders of journalists in Russia have actually decreased under Putin’s era of governance compared to Yeltsin’s era of governance in the 1990’s.

According to the research of Anatoly Karlin over at Unz Review*:

Moreover, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists – hardly a bastion of Putin apologists – journalist murders have plummeted in Russia under the reign of the Dark Lord of the Kremlin relative to the “free” and “democratic” 1990s when the US was best buddies with Russia, or at least the oligarchs pillaging it, and for that matter whacking any journalists who dared report on their activities.

Literally MORE Russian journalists were murdered for their reporting under 8 years of Yeltsin than 15 years under Putin. (emphasis in original)

During the Yeltsin era, American mainstream media outlets didn’t seem particularly concerned about the plight of Russian journalists, even though it was worse.  They were too busy singing Yeltsin’s praises and characterizing him as a democrat, despite the fact that he had the Parliament building bombed and ordered Russian troops to fire on protesters during a constitutional crisis in 1993, resulting in around 1500 casualties.

Putin, whatever his faults, has never done anything remotely like this.

I will leave it to the reader to ponder the implications of this paradox.

(*Note:  I don’t necessarily agree with everything Karlin says in his article and I certainly don’t endorse Trump; however, Karlin succinctly stated the problem about the hypocrisy inherent in the way that the American corporate media characterizes Putin vs. Yeltsin on this issue, and he provided links to primary sources)

Russia’s Most Recent Economic Figures (Inflation, Consumer Confidence, Industrial Growth, Gray Economy)

Moscow Street Life
Moscow Street Life; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin

A study from Russia’s largest bank, along with government statistics, indicates that, while still slow,  both consumer confidence and year-on-year figures on industrial output, are trending in a positive direction.

As reported by Business New Europe’s Intellinews, Sberbank’s regular survey of consumer attitudes showed an uptick in consumer optimism in all the 6 areas that are surveyed on:

The sixteenth installment of the survey, compiled by Russia’s biggest bank, has for the first time shown an increase in each of its six indices, with confidence in prospects of personal wealth, country wealth, and the ability to make big ticket purchases all improving in the second quarter of 2016 compared with the first quarter.

….Rising wages and lower unemployment were the driving forces behind the mood improvement in Russia, with Sberbank noting that 25% of respondents got a pay rise in 2016, while unemployment fell from 12.1% last quarter to 11.3% in the latest round of polling. Job security has also improved, with the 39% of Ivanovs who are afraid of being fired down from 44% last quarter.

While conditions for the average Russian family have eased in the last three months, the index suggests that few Russians believe that the economy is completely out of the woods, with the “big purchase conditions” index still deep in negative territory, at -26%.

Intellinews also notes that the lowering of inflation played a significant role in fueling consumer optimism.  Another report over at Russia Direct goes into more detail about how the inflation rate soared in 2014-2015, particularly with respect to food prices, and how it has been steadily decreasing since the end of 2015.  Credit is given to the policies of Elvira Nebuillina, head of the Russian Central Bank.  (Note:  This analysis leans toward a neoliberal slant – NB)

The Central Bank pursues a consistent policy of inflation targeting, trying to use monetary methods to control price dynamics – and in particular, adjusting the prime rate, which during the crisis, the Central Bank has changed 10 times, and which now stands at 10.5 percent. To a large extent, it was the policy of the Central Bank that has contributed to the sharp slowdown in the country’s inflation rate.

The Central Bank of Russia considers this slowing down in the growth of prices as a long-term trend. In any case, given the current positive price dynamics, it has lowered its forecast for the inflation rate at the end of 2016 to 5-6 percent.

The Ministry of Finance agrees with this forecast, predicting by the end of 2016, the lowest inflation rate in Russia’s recent history – 6 percent.

….Last year, the main drivers of inflation were growing food prices – something painfully felt by the population. Now the situation has changed. In its reports, the Central Bank has noted that food prices grew moderately in May, on an annual basis, in comparison with the prices being charged for industrial goods and services. This was made possible by the “high level of supply of agricultural products, and the successful active implementation of the import substitution program in the food industry.”

Another Intellinews report discusses the most recent year-on-year industrial output numbers, which showed better than expected growth.

Russia’s industrial output put in  unexpected ahead of consensus growth in June,  increasing by 1.7% y/y and 0.3% m/m in seasonal and calendar adjusted terms, according to a Rosstat report published on July 14.

….The growth beat the Reuters consensus expectation of 0.6% y/y growth in June and the Ministry of Economic Development’s forecast of 0.3% y/y growth.

….Most notably, manufacturing output growth continued to strengthen in June, posting 1.6% y/y growth versus 0.3% y/y seen in May and making the fastest monthly y/y rate in two years.

….Sberbank sees import substitution and a moderate recovery in investment demand as the main growth drivers in the manufacturing sector, with the food industry being the main benefactor from ruble depreciation in terms of output. But textiles, clothing, footwear, and production of pulp and wood also gained.

….”We would also like to point out the growth in the output of tractors (15.6% y-o-y in 1H16) and trucks (4.4%), which may point to an improvement in investment,” Sberbank CIB notes, reiterating its generally positive views that the Russian economy will see a moderate upturn in the second half of the year.

….The usually more conservative Alfa Bank also welcomed the “strong improvement” of the industrial output in June, beating the bank’s 0.5% y/y growth expectations.

The “gray” economy – or the number of people earning a living off the record by being paid under the table –  is a major issue in Russia.   It adversely affects the government’s budget via lower tax revenue.  By some estimates, the gray economy comprises as much as 46% of GDP.  As Bloomberg reports, the Putin government is looking into way to address the issue.

Legalizing the shadow workforce alone would boost GDP by one percentage point, according to Boris Titov, the Kremlin’s business ombudsman. No longer limited to retail trade, Titov says it’s becoming a hive of small-scale manufacturing, developing into an “economy of simple things.” Businesses can be tempted into the open if the government can ensure fewer regulatory checks and a patent system catering to the self-employed, Titov said.

The hurdles are many. While Russia has surged by 61 spots in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index since 2013 to 51st this year, dealing with construction permits still takes almost nine months Its property rights, judicial independence and the burden of government regulation were all rated below the 100th spot among 140 nations in the World Economic Forum’s 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness Report.

The government plans to adopt a law this fall freeing several categories of self-employment from taxes and easing their way to registration, leaving them to pay social levies only, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said in an interview.

“We understand that only the Tax Service will lead them out of the shadows,” he said. “Now everything is being automatized, financial discipline is increasing. I think that in a couple of years, evading taxes will be extremely difficult.”

Among the most far-reaching ideas yet for nudging businesses out of the shadow economy is a proposal by the Finance Ministry to cut the payroll tax that employers pay on salaries, three officials familiar with the discussions said last month. If a lower levy is accompanied by an increase in the value-added tax, the measures could help authorities collect about 30 percent of the amount of salaries companies pay in cash, which the Finance Ministry has estimated is costing the government as much as 2 trillion rubles a year in lost taxes.

The need to shrink the size of the shadow economy was the subject of a meeting held at the Finance Ministry on Tuesday, which discussed fighting under-the-table salaries to increase tax collection.

By creating the conditions that would motivate entrepreneurs to come clean, Russia may pave the way for a revival of small and medium-sized businesses, whom Putin sees as a foundation for the economy. Such companies employ a fifth of the workforce, far short of the government’s goal to raise the level to at least half the total.

 

Timeless Wisdom from George F. Kennan; Stephen Cohen Tells John Batchelor Obama Plans to Propose New Nuclear Arms Treaty to Russia Before Leaving Office; Interview with Russian Foreign Policy Adviser; Kerry Leaves Moscow Empty-Handed; Religious March for Peace in Ukraine

The Gagarin Monument, Moscow
The Gagarin Monument, Moscow; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin

Forms of government are forged mainly in the fire of practice, not in the vacuum of theory. They respond to national character and to national realities….But when Soviet power has run its course, or when its personalities and spirit begin to change (for the ultimate outcome could be one or the other), let us not hover nervously over the people who come after, applying litmus papers daily to their political complexions to find out whether they answer to our concept of “democratic.” Give them time; let them be Russians; let them work out their internal problems in their own manner.  The ways by which peoples advance toward dignity and enlightenment in government are things that constitute the deepest and most intimate processes of national life.  There is nothing less understandable to foreigners, nothing in which foreign interference can do less good.

-George F. Kennan, diplomat and author of U.S. containment policy toward the Soviet Union

****************

 

(https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2015-11-18/stephen-f-cohen-ukrainian-crisis-its-not-all-putins-fault)

Stephen Cohen, in his latest weekly interview with John Batchelor, discusses Obama’s speech at NATO’s Warsaw Summit – the hawkish Obama, and his reported plan to propose a nuclear arms treaty with Russia – the dovish Obama.   In an accompanying article by Cohen in The Nation, the Russia scholar wonders what we are to make of the president’s mixed actions on foreign policy:

In last week’s broadcast, Cohen and Batchelor discussed reports that Obama wants to achieve some kind of rapprochement with “Putin’s Russia” as part of his foreign-policy legacy instead of the new Cold War. Last week’s evidence was confirmed by reports that Obama had proposed to Putin real US-Russian military cooperation against the Islamic State in Syria. This week there was an additional report that Obama is preparing to propose to Putin new mutual steps in the area of nuclear-arms control, including taking warheads off “high alert” status and adoption of a “no-first-use” doctrine by Washington and Moscow. Both measures would considerably reduce the growing risk of nuclear war.

 

Unlike Europe’s pro-détente “dove” leaders, Obama has been extremely inconsistent in words and deeds, both on Syria and in regard to the NATO buildup and Ukraine. His speech at the Warsaw Summit, for example, was extremely hawkish, though overshadowed by his need to respond on television to the events in Dallas. (Cohen wonders how many American viewers asked themselves, “What is he doing there, anyway?”) Whether Obama’s irresolute conduct on these vital issues of war or peace is due to his own irresolute nature in foreign policy or to the high-level struggle we know to be under way inside his own administration is not yet clear.

************

Seregei Karaganov, Russian foreign policy advisor (Wikipedia)

Seregei Karaganov, Russian foreign policy advisor (Wikipedia)

 

 

German Newspaper Der Spiegel conducted an interview, published on July 13th, with Sergey Karaganov, who is the “honorary head of the influential Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, which develops geopolitical strategy concepts for Russia. In May, the council issued new foreign policy premises. The council includes politicians, economists and former military and intelligence officers. Karaganov is an advisor to Vladimir Putin’s presidential administration and deacon of the elite Moscow college National Research University Higher School of Economics.”

In the interview, Karaganov reiterates the lack of trust among the Russian political elite toward the west as a result of NATO expansion, provocations, and harsh propaganda:

We currently find ourselves in a situation where we don’t trust you in the least, after all of the disappointments of recent years. And we are reacting accordingly. There is such a thing as tactical surprise. You should know that we are smarter, stronger and more determined.

With respect to the recent mobilization of troops to Poland and the three Baltic states, Karaganov said:

This chatter that we intend to attack the Baltics is idiotic. Why is NATO stationing weapons and equipment there? Imagine what would happen to them in the case of a crisis. The help offered by NATO is not symbolic help for the Baltic states. It is a provocation. If NATO initiates an encroachment — against a nuclear power like ourselves — it will be punished.

On the NATO-Russia Council, Karaganov dismissed it as virtually useless:

It is no longer a legitimate body. Plus, NATO has become a qualitatively different alliance. When we began the dialogue with NATO, it was a defensive alliance of democratic powers. But then, the NATO-Russia Council served as cover for and the legalization of NATO expansion. When we really needed it — in 2008 and 2014 — it wasn’t there.

Read the full interview here.

***********

It appears that Kerry has concluded his 3-hour talks with Putin and 8-hour talks with Lavrov regarding “cooperation” in Syria and, according to Alexander Mercouris, the lack of a public statement or substantive joint press conference, indicates a deadlock:

As we reported before, the US offer to Russia – essentially an offer of a junior place in a US led coalition against Jabhat Al Nusra and Daesh in return for Russia’s agreement to the eventual overthrow of President Assad – was hardly one to appeal to Moscow.  The Russians, in what look like difficult talks, will have pointed this out. 

Though reports of the talks are sketchy, it seems the Russians instead tried to pressure Kerry and the US to return to the course the two sides agreed back in February: a “cessation of hostilities” between the Syrian government and its opponents excluding terrorist groups like Daesh, Jabhat Al Nusra and their affiliates, the separation of US backed rebels from Jabhat Al Nusra, and an exchange of information between the US and the Russians to enable each of them to continue with their respective bombing campaigns against Jabhat Al Nusra and Daesh without either interfering with the other.  

It is now clear that that course is no longer acceptable to the hardliners in the US because it leaves Syrian President Assad in place and hands the initiative to the Russians.  That is why Kerry went to Moscow: to get the Russians to agree to scrap the February agreement by dangling them an offer which would enable the US to achieve its objectives in Syria in return for what were actually no more than symbolic concessions to the Russians. 

It is possible the Russians also sought to build on the February agreeing by suggesting – in a counter to Kerry’s proposal – that the US and the Russians actually exchange targeting information so as to guide each other’s bombers, thereby in effect merging their bombing campaigns whilst however maintaining their separate chains of command.  However that would have made Russia an equal partner of the US in the military campaign in Syria, an idea that is most unlikely to appeal to the US, and which would have meant the US effectively abandoning their effort to overthrow President Assad.  If the Russians did make such a proposal, Kerry would almost certainly have rejected it.

********

In Ukraine,  the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarch – as compared to the break-away Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarch which started in 1992, planned a procession of peace in the country, with one portion of the procession set to start from the east of the country on July 3rd and another from the west on July 10th, converging in Kiev on July 26th.

Canadian academic Halyna Mokrushyna, who has written several on-the-ground reports from Ukraine provided more details:

An all-Ukrainian cross procession for peace, initiated by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate -MP), is taking place in Ukraine. Many thousands of people have joined the procession in the polarized regions of eastern and western Ukraine in an expression of peace, civil reconciliation and an end to the civil war that has wracked eastern Ukraine. The procession started from two opposite parts of Ukraine. In the East, processioners departed from the Holy Assumption Sviatohirsk Lavra in Donetsk region (approximately 150 km to the north of Donetsk city) on July 3. On July 9, another procession started in Western Ukraine, from the Holy Assumption Pochaiv Lavra in Ternopil region. The two processions will meet in Kyiv on July 26, 2016. They will join on Vladimir Hill and will walk together to Holy Assumption Kyiv-Pecherska Lavra, where solemn masses will be held.

….The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate emerged in 1992 as the result of a schism within Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This was an effort to create an independent, truly ‘Ukrainian’ Orthodox church. Prior to 1992, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church existed within the Moscow Patriarchate as a self-governing church with the rights of wide autonomy, which it preserves today. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate is headed by Patriarch Filaret, a former Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In 1995, he proclaimed himself “Patriarch of Kyiv and of all Rus-Ukraine”. In 1997 he was excommunicated from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate for his schismatic actions.

According to the 2011 data of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) remains the largest in Ukraine. It has 12,340 parishes, 191 monasteries and employs 9,922 clerics. By contrast, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate has 4,482 parishes, 49 monasteries and 3,088 clerics. It is not recognized as a canonic church.

Since the beginning of civil war in eastern Ukraine in April 2014, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate took a neutral position, not taking sides and serving the needs of parishioners on both sides of the conflict. Many experts believe that the church of the Moscow Patriarchate is one of few institutions which could preserve Ukraine as a country. Because of its pacifist position, the church has been harshly criticized by ‘patriotic’ Ukrainian politicians and public figures for being an ‘agent’ of Kremlin, an outpost of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

….The Union of Orthodox Journalists reports that over 10,000 people started the procession on July 9, 2016 from Pochaiv Lavra in Western Ukraine. Video can be seen here. Around 1,000 people started the procession from Sviatohirsk Lavra on July 3. Video can be seen here.

On July 10, the cross procession from the east reached Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. Over 10,000 people walked through the streets of the city wearing icons. Old, men, women with little kids and babies walk for peace in Ukraine.

Ultra-nationalists, however, expressed displeasure at the planned procession and possible disruptions were announced, stating that the procession was a provocation of the Kremlin.

Interfax Religion (a private Russian media outlet), reported that Neo-Nazis activists from Right Sector have, in fact, attacked and harassed the procession:

As the website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate reported, a total of 20 nationalists marched in a parallel to the Christians and interrupted the prayer for peace with shouts and insults. Moreover, the far-right extremists drove in constant close proximity to the sacred procession.

The nationalists marched parallel to the procession holding red and black banners. According to witnesses, the radicals shouted slogans, alternating them with obscenities addressed towards the participants in the procession.

The participants in the procession were filmed and threatened. Some of the nationalists attempted to break through the procession to the sacred relics, but were prevented from doing so.

Finian Cunningham Asks: Is Obama ‘offer’ for Russian cooperation in Syria too good to be true?; Different Perspectives on the Attempted Coup in Turkey

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow. © Sergey Guneev

(John Kerry arrives in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin; https://www.rt.com/op-edge/351310-obama-offer-russian-cooperation-syria/)

Veteran international journalist, Finian Cunningham, in a recent oped, wonders if the Obama administrations’s latest offer of cooperation between Washington and Moscow in Syria is too good to be true:

Throughout, despite the Western media disinformation campaign, the Kremlin has remained steadfast in its stated mission: To defend the sovereign state of Syria from an array of terror groups.

And quagmire this ain’t. Russia’s military forces, with relatively few losses, have transformed the five-year war in Syria, helping the Syrian army to put the illegally armed militants decisively on the defensive. Syrian state forces have recaptured huge swathes of territory, and the once seemingly formidable head-chopping jihadists and their so-called Caliphate are staring at defeat.

It may be too early to declare “mission accomplished” for Russia. But the situation on the ground certainly vindicates Putin’s strategy.

US media reports quote US officials as saying that the al-Qaeda-linked jihadists are telling their cadres that the Caliphate is on the brink of collapse. Significantly, too, this is also the context in which Turkey has shifted to a conciliatory position towards Russia and is even proffering a normalization of relations with Syria.

Washington and its regional allies, including Turkey, appear to be tacitly admitting that the covert military operation that they have been fueling for regime change in Syria is all but lost.

This is the context by which to read the latest “offer” from the Obama administration to Russia for military cooperation in Syria. After months of deprecating Russia’s intervention and stubbornly refusing to coordinate “anti-terror” efforts, Washington now appears to be reaching out to assist Russia.

….Leaving aside the question about whether Russia really needs “US assistance” in pursuing its own very effective anti-terror operation, the giveaway condition being demanded by Washington is that it wants the Russian-Syrian offensive to be curtailed. And that is the issue.

Western media claims that terror groups like Nusra and Daesh [ISIS] are “embedded” with “moderate rebels” is a charade. The inference is that the “mingling” is an unfortunate accident, whenever in reality there is negligible distinction between most of the illegally armed groups.

What Washington wants therefore in its “offer for cooperation” is to insert some form of restraint over what is an otherwise successful Russian-Syrian anti-terror campaign – a campaign that has salvaged Syria from a foreign-backed covert war for regime change.

The other giveaway to Washington’s real agenda is the second condition for its “cooperation”. Radio Free Europe reports:“Washington also wants Russia to help start a political transition that would ultimately end the Assad family’s four-decade reign.”

In other words, Obama’s “Syria plan” is less about cooperating with Russia to “defeat terror groups” and all about inveigling Russia to assist unwittingly in its overarching strategic objective of regime change in Syria.

**********

(http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-07-16/erdogans-counter-coup-begins-turkey-purges-2745-judges-prosecutors-arrests-hundreds)

Things looked pretty iffy in Turkey going into the weekend as an attempt was made to oust president Erdogan.   It now appears that the coup attempt failed.  Here are two analyses presenting somewhat different takes on the coup.  The first is from Alexander Mercouris at The Duran.  He believes the U.S. had no involvement and that the entire Turkish military supported the failed coup.  His analysis can be read at:

http://theduran.com/turkey-anatomy-coup/

 

The second is from Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge who argues that it was essentially a false flag operation to provide a smokescreen for Erdogan to crack down on critics in the judiciary and other government institutions amid reports of purges of thousands of judges.  That analysis can be read at:

 

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-07-16/erdogans-counter-coup-begins-turkey-purges-2745-judges-prosecutors-arrests-hundreds

The Young Turks had an interesting discussion about the attempted coup as it was unfolding:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeNO3sc6-RQ

 

 

How Russians Define Freedom; Putin Signs Anti-Terrorism Law; Putin Calls Obama re Syria & Ukraine, Then Talks to Merkel & Hollande re Ukraine; More NATO Drills

The Russian Art Museum, St. Petersburg
The Russian Art Museum, St. Petersburg; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin

 

Russia Beyond the Headlines reports that a new poll reveals most Russians view freedom as the ability to pursue the career of one’s choice and freedom of expression.

This as the Russian president signed a new anti-terrorism bill into law, which contains some controversial changes.  RT provided details on some of the main provisions:

The anti-terrorist package of bills was drafted in April 2016 by a group of lower house lawmakers, who described it as a response to the bombing of an A-231 jet liner in Egypt in October 2015 and the terrorist attacks in Paris in November of that year.

 

The document contains a separate criminal article that orders up to 10 years in prison for anyone engaging in international terrorism, and up to 15 years behind bars for anyone found guilty of financing terrorist groups. Attracting new recruits to a terrorist organization was also criminalized, and will be punished with prison terms of between five and 10 years.

 

The new bill also lowers the age threshold for terrorist crimes, such as terrorist attacks and hostage taking, to 14 years from the current 16. Presently the age of minors in Russia is 16, with exceptions made for such crimes as murder, rape, kidnapping and several others. For these, criminals are deemed to be responsible from the age of 14.

 

Another provision stipulates fines of between 300,000 and 1 million rubles ($4,600 – $15,400) or prison terms ranging from five to seven years for public calls to terrorism or justifying terrorist crimes, including via the internet.

 

Among others, the bill drew criticism from Edward Snowden, who has been given refuge in Russia:

#Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia…  Signing the #BigBrother law must be condemned. Beyond political and constitution consequences, it is also a $33b+ tax on Russia’s internet.

 

Parliamentary elections are coming up in September in the lower house (Duma) and Russia will reportedly invite U.S. election monitors to participate in oversight of the polls if Washington agrees to reciprocate and allow Russian monitors to help oversee U.S. elections:

State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin has said that monitors from the United States would be welcomed at Russian polls, but added that such steps required mutuality.

 

We have no secrets from anyone but of course we would like to see decent and honest people observing our elections. It is evident that there are decent and honest people in the United States, including among their parliamentarians, but still this issue needs to be worked on,” RIA Novosti quoted Naryshkin as saying.

 

The Duma chief also told reporters that such steps should be mutual, adding that he personally had doubts about the possibility of such cooperation, given the experience that Russian monitors had with previous US elections.

 

This is difficult to imagine if we recall some episodes from previous US polls when a state prosecutor threatened to arrest us if we did not keep a distance of at least 20 meters from a polling station,” Naryshkin said.

 

In late May, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it plans to invite representatives of four international political blocs and organizations to this year’s parliamentary elections. The invitations will be extended to representatives of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Putin had two important phone calls over the past 10 days, the first with President Obama regarding cooperation in Syria as well as addressing the Ukraine conflict, in which there are still sporadic flare-ups which have worsened recently amid reports of an increased build-up by the Kiev government of troops and weapons near the contact line in Donbass.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the conversation focused mainly on Syria:

The two leaders discussed Syria and Ukraine, according to a White House summary of the phone conversation, as well as efforts to settle the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Mr. Obama emphasized U.S. concern that the Syrian regime wasn’t complying with a cease-fire agreement and urged Mr. Putin to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to fully do so. The two also “confirmed their commitment to defeating ISIL and the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria,” the White House said.

A Kremlin summary of the call said the two leaders agreed to intensify military coordination in Syria. A senior Obama administration official said Wednesday the U.S. and Russia aren’t currently “conducting or coordinating military operations with Russia, nor is there an agreement to do so.”

Mr. Putin also urged Mr. Obama to help separate moderate opposition forces from Nusra front and other terrorist groups, the Kremlin said.

The U.S. has proposed that Moscow force Mr. Assad to ground Syria’s air force in exchange for the Pentagon’s help with targeting in Syria.

RT, however, reported that, according to the Kremlin’s account of the conversation, the issue of Ukraine was brought up by the Russian president:

Putin also returned to the topic of the Minsk agreements, concerning Ukraine, and called on Kiev to follow the terms of the 18-month-old treaty, which has still not been fully implemented. Specifically, he has called for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to engage in “direct dialog with Donetsk and Lugansk, carry out an amnesty, and award the regions special autonomous status.”

Shortly afterwards, Putin had a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande regarding increased violations of the ceasefire agreed to at Minsk in 2015.

The Moscow Times had the following details:

Putin stressed the “provocative nature” of Ukraine’s military operations in the Donbass region, and called on Merkel and Hollande to pressure Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko into complying with the Minsk agreements.

 

All three agreed on the need to remove heavy weaponry and the equal withdrawal of forces from the front line.

 

[Neo-Nazi] Andrey Parubiy, the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, warned earlier this week that military activity could soon flare up in the Donbass region, the RBC newspaper reported.

 

“There is a risk that our enemy could strengthen on two fronts. There is an election campaign in the U.S. and Europe is going through a moment of crisis. The Kremlin is also planning to intensify the conflict in this period,” Parubiy said. “On one front we face military attacks and attempts to destabilize the country on the other.”

 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also warned Wednesday that Kiev could be preparing for a new offensive in the Donbass, expressing its concern over the build up of Ukrainian military forces and volunteer battalions along the front line.

 

NATO, meanwhile, is continuing with yet more exercises.  This time it’s the Sea Breeze 2016 naval drills in the Black Sea, described as follows by RT:

As many as 25 military vessels, two planes, two helicopters and some 1,700 personnel are taking part in the exercise conducted in the international waters, reports Sofia New Agency.

 

All NATO member states of the Black Sea region, namely Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, are taking part in the drills, also attended by warships from Greece and Spain. The exercise also involves NATO associates Ukraine and Georgia.

Veteran investigative journalist Robert Parry, over at Consortium News, provides another blistering analysis of the NATO narrative of reality from February of 2014 to the present:

The leaders – at least the key ones – know that there is no credible intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the Ukraine crisis in 2014 or that he has any plans to invade the Baltic states, despite the fact that nearly every “important person” in Official Washington and other Western capitals declares the opposite of this to be reality.

 

But there have been a few moments when the truth has surfaced. For instance, in the days leading up to the just-completed NATO summit in Warsaw, General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, divulged that the deployment of NATO military battalions in the Baltic states was a political, rather than military, act.

 

“It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing,” Pavel told a news conference.

 

What Pavel blurted out was what I have been told by intelligence sources over the past two-plus years – that the endless drumbeat of Western media reports about “Russian aggression” results from a clever demonization campaign against Putin and a classic Washington “group think” rather than from a careful intelligence analysis.

 

Ironically, however, just days after the release of the British Chilcot report documenting how a similar propaganda campaign led the world into the disastrous Iraq War – with its deadly consequences still reverberating through a destabilized Mideast and into an unnerved Europe – NATO reenacts the basic failure of that earlier catastrophe, except now upping the ante into a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

 

The Warsaw communiqué – signed by leaders including President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron – ignores the reality of what happened in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014 and thus generates an inside-out narrative.

Read the complete article at

https://consortiumnews.com/2016/07/11/nato-reaffirms-its-bogus-russia-narrative/

 

The One Lovely Blog Award

 

cropped-Ukraine-Book-FrontCover-Art.jpg

I’ve recently been informed that I’ve been nominated for the “One Lovely Blog” award.  It is basically a share-the-love type chain letter among bloggers who give a shout-out to their favorite blogs.  My friend, J.T., over at Russia Reviewed has bestowed the honor on me.   Each recipient nominates their 3 favorite blogs.  My 3 faves, in addition to Russia Reviewed are:  Pox Americana by Greg Maybury down in Australia, Russia Observer by Patrick Armstrong in Canada, and kulturcritic, who writes on topics ranging from anthropology, ethics and sustainable communities to politics and foreign policy.

 

Me in Moscow, October, 2015
Me in Moscow, October, 2015

 

After nominating other blogs for the award, a nominee is supposed to provide interesting facts about him or herself.  So here are 5 about me:

  1.  I also write fiction.  I have completed one novel, which I will be submitting to agents in a few months, and I am about 2/3 of the way through my second novel.  I tend to revisit variations on the theme of humans’ inclination toward self-destructiveness, on both an individual and collective level.
  2.  I am an animal lover who has a particular fondness for cats, which I’ve had all of my life.  Right now, I have 2:  a fat orange tabby and a more svelte tortoiseshell calico.  They divide their time by eating, sleeping, strutting around and trying to sit on my keyboard.
  3.  I’m an only child.
  4.  When I have time, I like to bake gluten-free, vegan goodies.  No, I’m not a vegan – I just have multiple food allergies.
  5.  My day job is legal secretary.  I was considering law school after graduating from college, but decided against it after working in the field and seeing what being a lawyer really required.  My vision had been to become a lawyer specializing in international law after seeing the film Judgment at Nuremburg.

 

Russia Pushes Back on NATO Expansion

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

Can Russian President Vladimir Putin turn the tables on NATO and the European Union in the Balkan states that are not yet members of the Atlanticist project? According to Filip Kovacevic, a political science professor who specializes in Russia and Eastern Europe, Putin has a plan. Some details were provided in an exclusive report in May on the nascent project by Russia to counter NATO expansion into the remaining Balkan countries that have not yet been swept into the Western alliance.

The plan has its origins in the grassroots movement that arose in the aftermath of the first Cold War, which called for non-alignment and cooperation with both East and West.  Kovacevic describes the movement as follows:

 

“Their members were generally young people who were enthusiastic, honest and genuinely committed to the public good, but were plagued by the lack of funding and faced with frequent media blackout and open discrimination. Nonetheless, their programs articulated the most promising and humane geopolitical vision for the Balkans.  They conceptualized the Balkans as a territorial bridge between the West and the East rather than as the place of persistent confrontation, or the ‘line of fire’ as formulated by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015. They wanted the Balkans to become a force for peace and human dignity in the world. Their vision still remains the best option for the Balkans people.”

This desire for non-alignment is understandable as a continuation of the policy of Tito’s Yugoslavia during the Cold War – the nation that several of the modern day Balkan states were a constituent part of.  However, according to Kovacevic, these groups were easily overwhelmed, in terms of both financial and propaganda resources, in the 1990s by pro-NATO forces in the West.

In addition to providing resources to build up pro-NATO sentiment in the media and NGO sectors of these countries, financial resources and pressure was used to sway a large number of politicians to favor NATO membership, often in opposition to the general population’s views. Some of the unsavory forms of incentive or pressure include what amounts to blackmail and bribery, Kovacevic told me in an email interview:

“This is a long-term process. In the U.S. intelligence community it is called ‘seeding.’ The intelligence scholar Roy Godson defines it as ‘identifying potential agents of influence’ at an early stage and then acting to advance their careers. This is typically done covertly, but there have been the historical examples of overt support. …

“In the Balkans, the key role in the process of ‘seeding’ was accomplished by various institutes, conferences, retreats, grants, etc. For instance, I was told by a confidential source who participated in the same U.S.-NATO program, the long-time foreign minister and one-time prime minister of Montenegro, Igor Luksic, was a product of such a process. Luksic was chosen as a very young man to attend various conferences and retreats in Brussels and Washington and, after that, his political career really took off. All the while, he promoted the NATO agenda in Montenegro, even though this went against the will of the majority of the population.

“Another example is Ranko Krivokapic who was the speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament for over a decade. He traveled on official business to the U.S. a few times every year and boasted to others that he had a lot of friends in the State Department and other institutions of the U.S. government. There are examples like these in Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, etc. All over the Balkans.”

Continue reading this article at Consortium News

NATO Summit in Warsaw Announces 1,000 US Troops to Poland; NATO Protesters Also Come Out in Warsaw & Elsewhere; Slideshow from Citizen Diplomats Trip to Russia

(https://openclipart.org/detail/217629/logo-of-war)

 

On July 8th, NATO began its 2-day summit during which it was announced that 1,000 U.S. troops would be stationed in Poland, a joint declaration on security between NATO and the EU was also unveiled, and heightened cooperation with Sweden and Finland – both of which are not NATO members and whose populations oppose NATO membership.   The Guardian reports:

 

The US troops will constitute one of Nato’s four multinational combat battalions in eastern Europe intended to reassure the region against the threat of Russian encroachment. The UK is sending 500 soldiers for a battalion based in Estonia, and Canada and Germany will lead two more in Lithuania and Latvia.

 

Next year, Obama said, a US armoured brigade would also be deployed in Europewith a base in Poland.

Speaking in the Polish capital after a meeting with EU leaders, he argued against exaggerating the impact of Brexit on the transatlantic partnership.

 

“The vote in the United Kingdom to leave the EU has created uncertainty about the future of European integration. And unfortunately, this has led some to suggest that the entire edifice of European security and prosperity is crumbling,” Obama said.

 

“There have been those who have been questioning ‘what does this mean for the transatlantic relationship?’ Let me just say, as is often the case in moments of change, this kind of hyperbole is misplaced.”

 

The US president emphasised the enduring strength of Washington’s relations with the EU, which he called “one of the greatest economic and political achievements of modern times”.

 

“This is an achievement that has to be preserved,” Obama said, adding that an integrated Europe was a “cornerstone of US relations with the world”.

 

….The Warsaw summit is expected to announced that a US-built missile defence shield based in Romania, Turkey and Spain is initially operational and under Nato command.

 

They insist that the defence system is intended to counter a missile threat from Iran and Syria, not to blunt Russia’s deterrent. But analysts warn that there is a risk of Russia overreacting to Nato’s moves, fuelling escalation on the latter’s tense eastern border.

 

More reporting on the NATO summit is available at New Cold War.org’s website:

Opening on July 8 of NATO war summit in Warsaw, Poland

 

Meanwhile,  protesters hosted a conference in Warsaw to denounce the NATO buildup and saber-rattling.  Protests in other European cities as well as in New York are planned for throughout the weekend.   RT reported the following:

The participants of the anti-war summit in Warsaw consider NATO “an aggressive alliance, which bears responsibility for thousands of victims in various conflicts, as well as for the increasing flow of refugees to Europe that causes the growing hysteria nationalism. This NATO policy will eventually lead to the collapse of the European Union,” Ikonovich warned.

 

“We oppose the deployment of the US and NATO bases in Poland as it will lead to an increased threat to our country,” the activist said, adding that the social sector in Poland will also suffer due to the transfer of funds to military needs.

 

Protests were reported in Paris, Athens, Naples and elsewhere across Europe ahead of the NATO summit in Warsaw, while New York and Lisbon are among the cities where demonstrations are planned for Saturday.

 

“If the course on militarization remains, protests in Poland and around the globe will only increase,” Ilkovsky said.

 

Despite the main topic of the Warsaw Summit being to counter what NATO claims to be a Russian threat, polls reveal that an increased number of Europeans disagree with the bloc’s approach towards dealing with Moscow. Only nine per cent of Germans currently support NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe, a fresh survey by YouGov revealed.

 

Two-thirds of respondents also agreed with Germany’s foreign minister, who earlier said the military alliance should abandon its “saber-rattling” on Russia’s doorstep.

 

In June, the Pew Research Center’s Spring 2016 Global Attitudes Survey showed that most Europeans do not view Russia as a threat, instead naming Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terror group, climate change, economic instability, cyber-attacks and the refugee influx as the main security challenges.

 

The only two countries that spoke in favor of boosting defense spending turned out to be Poland and the Netherlands.

 

Earlier this week, polls in Sweden showed a sharp drop in support for the country’s possible NATO membership, with numbers going down from 41 to 33 per cent in less than a year.

 

The recent delegation of 20 citizen diplomats to Russia, sponsored by the Center for Citizen Initiatives, posted a 3 minute slide show of their trip here:

http://ccisf.org/for-russians-with-love/