All posts by natyliesb

Video: The NATO Conquest of Eastern Europe

This neat little 10 minute video gives an overview of how NATO evolved into a never-ending military juggernaut that it was not originally intended to be. The video provides footage of Dwight Eisenhower – NATO’s first commander – explaining that if the alliance was still in existence 10 years hence, it would mean that it had failed in its objective.

The video goes over how the alliance expanded after the dissolution of its Soviet counterpart, the Warsaw Pact, and despite promises that it would not expand “one inch east” beyond a unified Germany. The video ends with AP State Department reporter Matt Lee taking then-State Department spokesman John Kirby to task during a press conference for suggesting that it was Russia at NATO’s doorstep when it was NATO that had expanded to Russia’s border. I remember this exchange when it occurred several years ago. It’s an example of what a real journalist is supposed to do: hold those in power to account for their words and actions, not simply be a mindless stenographer.

The NATO Conquest of Eastern Europe

Moscow Lifts Most Covid Restrictions as Glimmers of Economic Recovery Appear; Media Reports US Troops to Leave Germany, Russia Deploys More Troops to Western Border

The Gagarin Monument, Moscow

Beginning yesterday, the city of Moscow lifted most of its Covid-related restrictions. According to TASS:

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has lifted most restrictions imposed on city residents due to the coronavirus pandemic, including self-isolation rules and digital travel permits. Hair salons will reopen on June 9, sidewalk cafes, museums and dental clinics on June 16, and restaurants and gyms on June 23. However, the wearing of face masks and gloves in public remains mandatory. The mayor attributed the move to a downward trend in coronavirus cases. Experts consider it to be a political decision stemming from lockdown fatigue, Kommersant writes.

The Moscow Times recently reported that Moscow authorities stated that the date when the first Covid case appeared in the country had been moved back from March to January.

“I don’t know how anyone noticed when [Covid-19] came to Moscow, but in reality it was in mid-to-late January. When China was making its first announcements there … in fact, [Covid-19] was already here,” the Moscow administration’s IT chief Eduard Lysenko told the Khabr news outlet in a YouTube interview Tuesday.

Various media outlets have been reporting since Friday that the U.S. has ordered a draw-down of 9,500 troops from Germany, which would leave around 25,000 remaining. However, German authorities have stated that they have received no formal communication from the U.S. about the troop reduction and their only knowledge of it is via media reports. The removal of U.S. troops is popular with the German public.

Apparently, these reports did not dissuade the Russian military from deploying more troops to its western front on the same day to counter what it sees as intensified and provocative NATO actions near its borders, including the scaled down Defender 2020 exercises that had initially been postponed to the pandemic. Newsweek reported:

The Western Military District press service said Friday that the Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Sevastopol Red Banner Brigade was included in Moscow’s Novomoskovsky Administrative District, joining the Guards Red Banner Tank Army “to perform tasks on ensuring the defense of the Russian Federation in the Western strategic direction,” according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

The motorized rifle units are equipped with “more modern weapons and specialized vehicles,” including the T-90A tanks, BTR-82A armored carriers, BMP-3 combat vehicles, and 9A34 Strela-10 and 2S6M Tunguska air defense systems, the Russian military said.

The moves came just days after Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian General Staff slammed “anti-Russian” activities conducted by the U.S. and allied states of the 29-member NATO defense pact near his country’s borders. The largest deployment of U.S. troops in a quarter-century was scaled down due to novel coronavirus concerns in March, but the U.S. still stepped up its presence through other maneuvers.

My first thought on hearing about the removal of troops from Germany is: where are they going? I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that they end up in Poland who would be more than happy to host them. This idea is reinforced by the actions of U.S. diplomats to Germany and Poland last month. As Scott Ritter discussed in an article right afterwards:

Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and the acting director of national intelligence, put matters into motion by writing an OpEd for the German newspaper Die Welt, criticizing politicians from within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition who were openly calling for the US to withdraw its nuclear weapons from German soil.

Adding fuel to the fire, the US ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, tweeted out two days later that “If Germany wants to diminish nuclear capability and weaken NATO, perhaps Poland – which pays its fair share, understands the risks, and is on NATO’s eastern flank – could house the capabilities here.”

Granted, this was specifically in reference to nuclear capabilities but it likely reflects the overall thinking by Washington of possibly shifting military resources around Europe to keep the pressure on Russia. Needless to say, these kinds of actions would not go down well in Moscow.

On a more positive note, there were some signs last week of the beginning of a gradual economic rebound for Russia, including a modest increase in the price of oil. Ben Aris from Business New Europe’s Intellinews reported the following:

Oil prices have also recovered remarkably quickly, driven by optimism over a new OPEC++ production cut deal that will reduce the production of oil by 9.7mn barrels per day (bpd) that was signed on April 13. The price of oil broke back above $40 briefly on June 3, which is once again in the Kremlin’s comfort zone.

So far Russia and most of the other cartel members are sticking to the new deal. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has said that it will cut even more than it committed to in the deal to help prices recover even faster….

…According to the OPEC+ agreement signed in April, production cuts should ease on July 1 from a cumulative 9.7mn bpd to 8mn bpd. The Wall Street Journal reports that Saudi Arabia wants to extend the current 9.7mn bpd quota up until the end of the year, while Russia wants to increase output in July. The two countries reportedly see September as a middle ground and are close to reaching an agreement.

Russia’s official position is now that supply and demand in the oil market could finally be balanced by June or July. That is partly why it is reluctant to extend the OPEC++ production cut deal to the end of the year and wants to ramp up production as early as July. But the Kremlin appears willing to compromise. President Vladimir Putin held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) last week and pledged “close co-ordination” between their respective energy ministers. Saudi needs oil prices to be closer to $80 for its budget to balance.

Recovery already feeding through to the capital markets

Step back a moment and mull those changes. With oil prices at $40 Russia Inc. is back in business, as the budget more or less breaks even.

And with the ruble trading at RUB68 it even gains some competitiveness on exports as well as seeing budget revenues (which are denominated in rubles) improve from the increased revenues from the recovering oil price (which are converted from dollars). One of the quirks of the Russian budget is it is actually one of the biggest winners of ruble devaluations, as it gets more rubles to meet its obligations in the budget (which are not adjusted for devaluations), even if those rubles are worth less.

Indeed, Russia closed out the first quarter with a triple surplus – trade ($3.8bn), current account ($1.8bn) and federal budget (0.2%). While the budget will also certainly go into deficit in the second quarter – especially after the government just announced a new RUB7.3 trillion National Recovery Plan – the drain on the RUB9 trillion Russia holds in its National Welfare Fund (NWF) reserve fund to cover budget deficits in times of crisis will be greatly reduced.

That is not to say the economy has not been hurt by the coronacrisis. Russia’s economy will contract by 5% in 2020 and will start to recover at the end of the year, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said in a statement published on May 22.

Russiagate and Captain Queeg’s Search for the Elusive Key

In the midst of over 40 million people out of work – 1/3 of whom haven’t been able to access unemployment benefits due to dysfunctional application systems – a pandemic and unrest in the streets all over the country, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960’s, the Democratic Party establishment has decided to respond by trotting out a variation of the completely discredited Russiagate narrative yet again.

During an interview with CNN on May 31st in which former Obama-era National Security Adviser Susan Rice – who’s also in the running as Joe Biden’s VP – provided her opinion on the dynamics behind the George Floyd protests that were heating up throughout the nation. And what grand insight did Ms. Rice offer? Russia done it. Here’s part of the exchange:

“I’m not reading the intelligence today, or these days — but based on my experience, this is right out of the Russian playbook,” Rice, who served as national-security adviser to president Obama, said in a CNN interview on Sunday. “But we cannot allow the extremists, the foreign actors, to distract from the real problems we have in this country that are longstanding, centuries old, and need to be addressed responsibly.”

Anchor Wolf Blitzer responded, “you’re absolutely right on the foreign interference.” Blitzer then asked Rice if she thought the Russians were attempting to “embarrass” the U.S. by “promoting the racial divide in our country.”

“Well we see it all the time, we’ve seen it for years, including on social media where they take any divisive, painful issue . . . and they play on both sides,” Rice said. “I would not be surprised to learn that they have fomented some of these extremists on both sides on social media . . . [or] that they’re funding it in some way, shape, or form.”

Note that Rice admits she’s not basing this on any actual evidence – “I’m not reading the intelligence today, or these days” – but that she’s basically just spit-balling this ludicrous idea that Russia is behind massive protests involving hundreds of thousands of Americans in every major city in the country and even some smaller ones. Let’s see, I guess that all-powerful and pernicious Putin decided, in the middle of dealing with a public health crisis and economic recession in his own country, that he was going to get into a time machine and create the slave trade, Jim Crow, lynching, and police brutality mixed with a poorly handled economic and health crisis and dilapidated infrastructure in the U.S. Damn, he’s good.

This constant flogging of a phantom Russian conspiracy to destroy the U.S. reminds me of Captain Queeg’s obsessive and paranoid quest to find an elusive key to explain the imaginary theft of a quart of strawberries aboard ship in The Caine Mutiny, ordering his officers to search the entire vessel and all the men to find it.

Here is the scene from the 1954 movie, starring Humphrey Bogart, in which Queeg convinces himself that someone stole a portion of leftover strawberries:

This is comparable to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment convincing themselves of a conspiracy to explain their embarrassing loss to Trump in 2016, kicking off the Russiagate scandal.

Here is the scene where Queeg orders his officers to toss the ship in search of an imaginary key he thinks is at the center of an elaborate scheme to break into the icebox and steal the strawberries:

This is the equivalent of the Mueller investigation and the unhinged rantings of Representative Adam Schiff who kept insisting that he was privy to evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. Eventually the Mueller investigation ended with a whimper and not the bang we’d been promised for months. Now that the transcripts of closed-door interviews between Congress and members of the intelligence and security community as well as the CEO of Crowdstrike have been released, we know that Schiff was lying. There was no evidence of collusion or that the DNC had been hacked, much less by Russia. The Democratic Party establishment had no problem turning Washington upside down looking for the symbolic key that would prove their election strawberries had been stolen.

It’s becoming clear how the cynical political class will be shaping the narrative around the George Floyd protests for the upcoming election. The Democrats will blame Russia, while the Republicans blame the radical left (“antifa”). Though they will blame different parties, the bipartisan consensus will conveniently be that they don’t really have to offer anything to meaningfully help the American people – universal health care, a jobs program, UBI, and an end to the wars will be off the table.

Unlike this sad fiasco, The Caine Mutiny was based on good literature and Queeg, as it turns out, really did believe his own paranoid delusions, making him a pitiful character who elicited sympathy rather than the despised ogre he’d seemed throughout the story.

Book Excerpt: Foiling Predictions, Russians Did Not Go Hungry After 2014

2019 view of Moscow International Business Center. (Dzasohovich, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Natylie Baldwin, Originally Published at Consortium News, 6/3/2020

A common response in the Anglo-American media to Russia’s counter-sanctions against agricultural imports from the United States and EU in 2014 was that Russians would go hungry and were, therefore, shooting themselves in the foot. Within a matter of days of the announcement, however, numerous Latin American countries, namely Argentina and Brazil, got in line to fill the gap, as well as China, which started selling produce directly to Russia.

More importantly, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Russia ranked as one of the top three producers in the world for a range of agricultural products at the time, from various fruits and vegetables to grains, potatoes and poultry. As of 2018, it was the world’s top exporter of wheat. The government has also had plans in place since 2013 to significantly boost the country’s already respectable production of organic produce from small farms and gardens. 

Natural Society reported in May 2014 that 35 million Russian families are growing an impressive percentage of Russia’s fruits and vegetables on 20 million acres:

According to some statistics, they grow 92% of the entire countries’ potatoes, 77% of its vegetables, 87% of its fruit, and feed 71% of the entire population from privately owned organic farms or house gardens all across the country. These aren’t huge Agro-farms run by pharmaceutical companies; these are small family farms and less-than-an-acre gardens.

By autumn 2017, Vladimir Putin had publicly set a goal for Russia to become the world’s top producer and exporter of organic agriculture. In the summer of 2018, the Russian president signed legislation creating official standards, labeling and certification procedures for organic products produced for commercial sale in Russia that went into effect in 2020. Government support will be available to organic farmers, and a public registry will be created listing certified producers.

The agricultural sanctions created some immediate problems, mainly temporary shortages of some meat products and price increases due to the need to work out infrastructure issues to accommodate imports from countries at greater distances.

But Russians did not go hungry, as I witnessed plenty of food in markets, from street vendors, and in restaurants in all cities I visited during my trips in 2015 and 2017. There was, however, concern over price increases.

Author Sharon Tennison, who has traveled throughout Russia extensively since 1983, reported the general attitude of most Russians toward Western sanctions during her trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg in September 2014:

The general outlook of Russians I spoke with is one of quiet confidence, saying that sanctions will turn out good for Russia in the long run––that Russia must become self-sufficient––remarking that Russia became infatuated with foreign products in the 1990s. At that time they felt Russia didn’t need to manufacture high-end products that they could purchase them from other countries. However, the situation has changed. Today production has become the “in” discussion wherever one goes. The sanctions have helped bring this about. Several Russians remarked that they hoped the sanctions lasted for three years or more, since that would give Russians sufficient time to learn to manufacture formerly imported items themselves. The Russian government is offering financial support to entrepreneurs who are ready to move into consumer production.

Sanctions Imposed

In March of 2014, the U.S. and the European Union (EU) began imposing sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its “annexation” of Crimea. These initial sanctions were largely comprised of asset freezes and visa restrictions on certain Russian officials. As the situation in Eastern Ukraine escalated, with rebels taking over local government buildings and demanding autonomy from what they perceived as a coup government in Kiev, the list of individuals targeted for sanctions grew.

After the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 in July 2014, the west imposed more wide-ranging sanctions, which included several Russian banks as well as the defense and energy sectors. In March of 2018, there were diplomatic “sanctions” (expulsions) for the alleged Skirpal poisoning, which Russia responded to with its own expulsions. That same month, there were business/personal sanctions against a number of Russians for their alleged interference in the 2016 elections.

In order to provide the most accurate and comprehensive assessment of the effect of Western sanctions on Russia over the past five years, University of Birmingham professor Richard Connolly, in his 2018 book, “Russia’s Response to Sanctions: How Western Economic Statecraft is Reshaping Political Economy in Russia,” describes how Russia’s economy actually works in order to provide a contextual framework for understanding the success or failure of the West’s policy. He concluded that the ultimate effect of the sanctions is likely not what was intended by Washington policymakers.

Read the full article here.

After “Flattening Curve,” Russia Re-Opens with Some Restrictions Expected to Last Until Vaccine in July/August; Anti-Viral Drug to Be Available for Treatment this Month; Constitutional Vote Set for July 1st; Economic Outlook

Monument to the Soviet Worker, Moscow, Russia; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin

As of last week, Russian officials claimed that the spread of Covid-19 had stabilized throughout Russia, including in Moscow which has been hit the hardest. But some restrictions would remain in place in the capital until a vaccine was ready, which was estimated to be in July or August.

On Monday, the Russian news agency TASS reported:

The coronavirus incidence rate in Russia has decreased by 13 times after lockdowns were imposed and now is about two percent a day, Anna Popova, chief of Russia’s sanitary watchdog, said on Monday.

As of that date, there were 414,878 confirmed cases of the virus and 4,855 deaths.

A new antiviral drug has been approved to treat Covid-19 and will be available later this month according to RT:

On Saturday, the country’s Ministry of Health registered Avifavir, a domestic version of the Japanese drug Favipiravir, which is used against severe forms of influenza. Produced in a joint venture by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the ChemRar group, the drug could be vitally important in the battle to defeat Covid-19.

“Avifavir is not only the first antiviral drug registered against coronavirus in Russia, but it is also perhaps the most promising drug against Covid-19 in the world,” said Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the RDIF.

“It was developed and tested in clinical trials in Russia in an unprecedented short period of time, enabling Avifavir to become the first registered drug based on Favipiravir in the world.”

Meanwhile, Putin has ordered that the referendum on the proposed constitutional changes be scheduled for July 1st. The voting might be spread out over a week but no details were provided for how exactly the logistics would work.

A study by a Russian bank revealed that the country’s retail industry took an even bigger than expected hit from the 2-month lockdown, meaning that it will likely take until well into 2021 to recover:

In April, Russia’s retail trade turnover decreased by 23.4% in annual terms, which turned out to be worse than earlier expert forecasts. According to the Alfa Bank report, the steep decline in Russian retail may be due to the low prevalence of online commerce.

Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted that this year, retail trade and consumer consumption will not be able to return to pre-pandemic levels. “We expect that at the end of 2020, retail trade turnover may be reduced by 10%-15%,” BCS Premier’s Anton Pokatovich said. In his opinion, pre-coronavirus levels might be reached in the second half or even at the end of 2021.

A Fitch ratings analysis reinforced the idea of a significant economic setback:

Russia’s GDP will contract by 5% this year. Fitch first estimated the pandemic to trim 3.3% off of Russia’s already relatively lackluster growth rate. Next year won’t be enough to replace this year’s loss. Fitch is looking at gains of just 3%, meaning Russia will need 2022 to recover from just around three months of forced economic closures in 2020…

….The Russian Ministry of Economy also expects a 5% economic contraction this year, including 9.5% decline in the second quarter versus a year ago. If lockdowns are lifted and Russians are feeling excited to be out and about, then growth will return next year. Russia’s official projections have the economy growing over 3% for 2022 and 2023. If that looks low, Russia was growing at about half that rate for much of the last two years.

Ben Aris of Intellinews confirmed that the economic numbers for the second quarter – which encompassed most of the lockdown period – took a nosedive. However, he reported some positives that Russia has going for it:

Against the bad news, many of the fundamental macro indicators are still faring well. Inflation has not budged, despite the 20% devaluation in the ruble. And the ruble has only devalued by 20% despite an almost 60% fall in the price of oil. Likewise, Russia has actually managed to add to its international FX reserves, bringing them up to $570bn as of the start of May, while incomes – both nominal and real – were still growing in April. And the banking sector remains in good health, although profits are obviously going to be hurt this year. These results suggest the Russian economy is still fundamentally healthy and although it has come to a stop, not that much fundamental damage has been done so far. If the Kremlin can restart the economy now by lifting the lockdown there is a good chance for a strong rebound in 2021.

Guest Post: When Did World War II Actually Begin?

With the recent 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the 76th anniversary of D-Day coming up on June 6th, I’m publishing another guest post by James Chen. This piece discusses the sequence of events leading up to WWII and argues that the recognized start date of the war should be earlier than September 1, 1939.

Please feel free to provide feedback on Dr. Chen’s article in the comments section. – Natylie

By Dr. James Chen

I. A Revelation, not a Revision.

Suppose a fist fight had broken out after class the evening before on the campus of the high school your child attends. Fortunately, everything was caught on the surveillance camera. Today, all the parents are attending a meeting hosted by the principal. The video shows the indisputable:

At 19:31, Student J assaulted Student C.

At 19:36, Students G and J formed a gang against Student S.

At 19:37, Student J started to beat Student C and Student C started to fight back. Student S started to help Student C. And later, Student I joined the gang formed by Students G and J.

At 19:39, Student J and Student S started to fight for a short period of time. Then, Student G started to beat Student P, and Students B and F were coming to Student P’s assistance.

At 19:40, Student G knocked out Student F. Student I joined the fight against Students B and F. Later on, Student A started to help Student C.

At 19:41, Student G started to beat Student S. And later, Student J conducted a sneak attack on Student A and Student A started to fight back. Student G joined Student I to fight Student A.

The principal stops the video and declares that the fight started at 19:39pm when Student G attacked Student P.

If at this moment, you are considering raising your hand to correct the principal’s statement, I recommend that you try to get a refund for your high school education, since you will be told that you were obviously taught wrong regarding the history of WWII.

Let’s look at the indisputable facts here regarding that event:

On September 18, 1931, the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria immediately following the Mukden Incident.

On November 25, 1936, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact.

On July 7, 1937, Japan instigated the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, and started a full scale invasion of China. The Chinese government responded with a full scale resistance.

In August 1937, a month after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the Soviet Union established a non-aggression pact with China. The Republic of China received credits for $250 million for the purchase of Soviet weapons. There followed big arms deliveries, including guns, artillery pieces, more than 900 aircraft and 82 tanks. More than 1,500 Soviet military advisers and about 2,000 members of the air force were sent to China.

On November 6, 1937, Italy joined the Anti-Comintern Pact.

In May, 1939, the Japanese Kwantung Army and the Soviet Army engaged in a fierce battle along the Khalkha River in Mongolia.

On September 1, 1939, the German Army invaded Poland, causing Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany.

The combined forces of the British and French Armies were defeated at Dunkirk in May-June of 1940 and France surrendered to Germany.

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on France and Great Britain.

By December 23, 1940, upon approval by the War Department, State Department, and the President of the United States, an agreement was reached to provide China the 100 P-40B Tomahawk aircrafts, which would be piloted by the American Volunteer Group organized by the American aviator, Claire Chennault.

On June 22, 1941, the German Army invaded the Soviet Union.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, prior to declaration of war. On the second day, the U.S. declared war on Japan, and Germany subsequently declared war on the U.S.

The question is why the so-called official version of WWII history chooses September 1, 1939 – when Germany invaded Poland – as the starting date of WWII, rather than July 7, 1937 – when Japan invaded China.  The Japanese invasion of China not only occurred earlier, but also inevitably led to the German invasion of Poland and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The obvious answer is that marking September 1, 1939 as the official start of WWII fits the version the powerful world elites want us to know. If the starting date of WWII were chosen based on facts, logic and reason, many embarrassments, such as the real causes of war and true war crimes would be revealed without reservation. Any responsible human being would like to know the facts they want to keep away from us.

II. The Historical Truths Less Frequently Told.

  1. The rise of the Japanese imperialism, fascism and militarism.

Japan’s ambition to form the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was an imperialist concept created and promulgated for occupied Asian populations from 1931 to 1945 by the Empire of Japan. It extended across the Asia-Pacific and promoted the cultural and economic unity of Northeast Asians, Southeast Asians, South Asians (in particular Indians and Punjabis) and Oceanians. It also declared the intention to create a self-sufficient bloc of Asian nations led by Japan. The idea was announced in a radio address entitled “The International Situation and Japan’s Position” by Foreign Minster Hachiro Arita on June 29, 1940. Two months later, Japanese Prime Minister Matsuoka Yôsuke announced the idea of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in August 1940.

However, the roots of the Co-Prosperity Sphere go back many years prior to its formal announcement. The Japanese envisioned the Co-Prosperity Sphere to be an autarkic bloc of Asian nations led by the Japanese and free of Western powers.

The idea of Japanese cultural superiority over other Asian races had been expounded as early as the late nineteenth century and steadily grew in intensity until the end of World War II. For example, the famous Japanese educator Fukuzawa Yukichi wrote “Japan’s Mission in Asia” in 1882 to support the idea of Japanese imperialism and the “manifest destiny” of Japan to be the leader of Asia. In the early part of the twentieth century, several ultranationalist groups and writers, such as the Black Dragon Society and Kita Ikki gained increasing popularity with their views that Japan should take leadership in Asia to expel foreign powers by means of a righteous war, if necessary. Many of these ultranationalist groups believed that the moral purity of the Yamato race and Japan’s unique ancestry as descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu entitled the Japanese to such a leadership role in Asia. In 1905, Japan became the first Asian country to defeat a Western power, namely Russia, in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, which bolstered Japan’s confidence in its destiny to lead Asia.

Economic factors played a large role in Japan’s announcement of the Co-Prosperity Sphere in 1940. Japan required East Asian raw materials such as oil from the Dutch East Indies and rubber from Indochina in order to keep its manufacturing industry and military in China supplied. The U.S. embargo of oil and steel shipments to Japan and other restrictions on raw materials shipments by Western nations pushed the Japanese leaders to seek sources in Asian countries to ensure Japanese self-sufficiency. The other Asian countries in the Co-Prosperity Sphere also would provide Japan with export markets for its manufactured goods and with land for its surplus population.

In addition to cultural and economic factors, Japan’s international political aspirations also led to the formation of the Co-Prosperity Sphere. Since the late nineteenth century, Japanese leaders believed they had just as much right as Western powers to acquire and maintain colonies in Asia. Japan considered colonies to be a basic prerequisite to achieving international prestige and becoming a first-rate country (ittô koku). The Western imperialist countries also subjected Japan to a series of coercive acts, insults, and provocations, which caused great anger to fester among the Japanese people. For example, the 1921-22 Washington Conference naval treaties forced on Japan an unfavorable battleship ratio of 5:5:3 for the US, Britain, and Japan respectively. In 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference, Western countries rejected the simple Japanese request to have a racial equality clause included in the League of Nations Covenant. In 1924, America passed the Japanese Exclusion Act to shut off Japanese immigration into the US. This series of international affronts to Japanese pride and status provided fuel to Japanese militaristic sentiments and eventually led to Japan attacking the Western powers to establish the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Japanese leaders used the Co-Prosperity Sphere in its propaganda for the people both in Japan and in other Asian countries. The leaders spoke of “Asia for Asians,” the need to liberate Asian countries from Western imperialist powers, and economic co-prosperity for member nations of the autarkic bloc. As Japan occupied various Asian countries, they set up governments with local leaders who proclaimed independence from the Western powers.

The occupied countries soon found out that the reality of the Co-Prosperity Sphere differed greatly from the high-sounding propaganda. The local governments established by the Japanese turned out to be puppet regimes with the Japanese making all significant decisions. The Japanese conducted themselves with great haughtiness and disdain toward the local population, imposing a program of “Japanization” on the people with little or no regard for local customs and beliefs. Many native people of these Asian countries suffered and died from forced labor, torture, and execution. The Co-Prosperity Sphere turned out to be just another form of oppressive imperialism in place of the imperialism previously imposed by Western nations.

  • The British Empire encouraged and supported the rise of Japanese imperialism, fascism and militarism.

The British Empire had been in alliance with the Japanese Empire back to 1855. In an effort to find the Russian fleet in the Pacific Ocean during the Crimean War, a French-British naval force reached the port of Hakodate, which was open to British ships as a result of the Friendship Treaty of 1854, and sailed further north, seizing the Russian-American Company‘s possessions on the island of Urup in the Kuril archipelago. The Treaty of Paris (1856) restituted the island to Russia. (The United States was the only ally the Russian Empire enjoyed in the Crimean War. In reciprocity, the United States received Russian support during the American Civil War, while the British and the French Empires were supporting the Confederates.)

In 1865, Chōshū Domain bought the warship Union from Glover and Co., a British agency of Jardine Matheson established in Nagasaki. In 1869, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh became the first European prince to visit Japan arriving on HMS Galatea on September 4.

In 1902, the Japanese–British alliance was signed in London on January 30. In 1905, the alliance was renewed and expanded. Official diplomatic relations were upgraded, with ambassadors being exchanged for the first time.

In 1909, Fushimi Sadanaru returned to Britain to convey the thanks of the Japanese government for British advice and assistance during the Russo-Japanese War. In 1910, Sadanaru represented Japan at the state funeral of Edward VII, and met the new king George V at Buckingham Palace. In 1911, the Japanese – British alliance was renewed again. In 1913, the IJN Kongō, the last of the British-built warships for Japan’s navy, entered service.

Between 1914–1915, Japan joined World War I as Britain’s ally under the terms of the alliance and captured German-occupied Tsingtao (Qingdao) in mainland China. They also helped Australia and New Zealand capture archipelagos like the Marshall Islands and the Mariana Islands. In 1917, the Imperial Japanese Navy helped the Royal Navy and allied navies patrol the Mediterranean against Central Powers ships.

In 1921, Crown Prince Hirohito visited Britain and other Western European countries. It was the first time that a Japanese crown prince had traveled overseas. Later, in September, the members of the Sempill Mission arrived in Japan, which was a British technical mission for the development of Japanese Aero-naval forces. Over the next 20 years, the British provided the Japanese with secret information on the latest British aviation technology. This espionage work helped Japan rapidly develop its military aircraft and its technologies before the Second World War.

In 1922, Edward, Prince of Wales traveling on the HMS Renown, arrived in Yokohama on April 12th for a four-week official visit to Japan. In 1923, the Japanese -British alliance was only ostensibly discontinued on August 17th in response to U.S. and Canadian pressure.

In September of 1931, the Japanese Army seized Manchuria, which China had not controlled in decades.  It set up a puppet government. Britain and France effectively controlled the League of Nations, which issued the Lytton Report in 1932, saying that Japan had genuine grievances, but it acted illegally in seizing the entire province. Japan quit the League, Britain and France took no action.

In 1934, the Royal Navy sent ships to Tokyo to take part in a naval parade in honor of the late Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, one of Japan’s greatest naval heroes, the “Nelson of the East”. In 1937, the Kamikaze, a prototype of the Mitsubishi Ki-15, traveled from Tokyo to London, the first Japanese-built aircraft to land in Europe, for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. in July 1939, negotiations between Japanese Foreign Minister Arita Khatira and the British Ambassador in Tokyo, Robert Craigie, led to an agreement by which Great Britain recognized Japanese conquests in China.

  • The Third Reich and the Appeasement.

Nazi Germany, also known as the Third Reich, was the German state between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party controlled the country, transforming it into a dictatorship.

On June 18, 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed between Britain and Germany, regulating the size of the Kriegsmarine in relation to the Royal Navy. It fixed a ratio whereby the total tonnage of the Kriegsmarine was to be 35% of the total tonnage of the Royal Navy on a permanent basis. It was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on 12 July 1935.

The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was an ambitious attempt on the part of both the British and the Germans to reach better relations, but it ultimately foundered because of conflicting expectations between the two countries. For Germany, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was intended to mark the beginning of an Anglo-German alliance against France and the Soviet Union, whereas for Britain, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was to be the beginning of a series of arms limitation agreements that were intended to limit German expansionism. The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was controversial, both at the time and since, because the 35:100 tonnage ratio allowed Germany the right to build a Navy beyond the limits set by the Treaty of Versailles, and Britain had made the agreement without consulting France or Italy.

The pact also permitted Germany to begin rebuilding its navy, including its U-boats, despite the fact that Hitler had already violated the Treaty of Versailles.

On September 29, 1938, after the four powers, Hitler, Chamberlain, French PM Édouard Daladier  and Benito Mussolini, met in Munich, Chamberlain returned to Britain promising “peace for our time“, allowing the annexation of Sudetenland by Germany. Both Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union were not allowed to attend the meeting.

Appeasement was accepted by most of those responsible for British foreign policy in the 1930s, by leading journalists and academics and by members of the royal family, such as King Edward VIII and his successor, George VI. Anti-communism was sometimes acknowledged as a deciding factor, as mass labor unrest resurfaced in Britain, and news of Stalin’s bloody purges disturbed the West. A common upper-class slogan was “better Hitlerism than Communism.” In France, right-wingers could sometimes be heard chanting “Better Hitler than Blum,” referring to their socialist Prime Minister at the time.

  • The British Empire on the Side of the Spanish Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939.

The British government proclaimed neutrality. Preventing a major war by appeasing Italy and Germany was its main foreign policy goal. The leaders believed that the Spanish Republican Government was the puppet of extreme left Socialists and Communists. Accordingly, the British Cabinet adopted a policy of benevolent neutrality towards the military insurgents, with the covert aim of avoiding any direct or indirect help to the Popular Front Government. Public opinion was divided, with a clear majority demanding another great war be avoided. The British establishment was strongly anti-communist and tended to prefer a Nationalist victory. However, Popular Front elements on the left strongly favored the Republican cause.

The ambassador to Spain, Sir Henry Chilton, believed that a victory for Franco was in Britain’s best interests and worked to support the Nationalists. British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden publicly maintained the official policy of non-intervention but privately expressed a preference for a Nationalist victory. Eden also testified that his government “preferred a Rebel victory to a Republican victory.” Admiral Lord Chatfield, British First Sea Lord in charge of the Royal Navy, was an admirer of Franco, while the British Royal Navy in general also favored the Nationalists. As well as permitting Franco to set up a signals base in Gibraltar, a British colony, the Germans were allowed to overfly Gibraltar during the airlift of the Army of Africa to Seville. The Royal Navy also provided information on Republican shipping to the Nationalists, and HMS Queen Elizabeth was used to prevent the Republican navy shelling the port of Algeciras. During the fighting for Bilbao, the Royal Navy supported the Nationalist line that the River Nervión was mined, telling British shipping to keep clear of the area – and were badly discredited when a British vessel ignored the advice and sailed into the city, finding the river unmined as the Republicans had claimed.

The Anglo-French arms embargo meant that the Republicans’ chief foreign source of matériel was the USSR while the Nationalists mainly received weapons from Italy and Germany. The last Republican prime minister, Juan Negrín, hoped that a general outbreak of war in Europe would help his cause compelling Britain and France, to finally help the Republic. Ultimately neither Britain nor France intervened to any significant extent. The British supplied food and medicine to the Republic, but actively discouraged the French government of Léon Blum from supplying weapons. Claude Bowers, the American Ambassador to Spain, was one of the few ambassadors friendly to the Republic. He later condemned the League of Nations Non-Intervention Committee, saying that each of their moves had been made to serve the cause of the rebellion, and that ‘This committee was the most cynical and lamentably dishonest group that history has known.’

Britain and France officially recognized the Nationalist government on February 27, 1939. Labor leader Clement Attlee criticized the way it had been agreed, calling it ‘a gross betrayal … two and a half years of hypocritical pretense of non-intervention’.

  • The U.S. business society benefited from the second Sino-Japanese War.

In a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on April 19, 1939, the acting chairman Sol Bloom interviewed Maxwell S. Stewart, a former Foreign Policy Association research staffer and economist who charged that America’s Neutrality Act and it’s “neutrality policy” was a massive farce which only benefited Japan and that Japan would never have had the capability to invade China without the massive amount of war material America exported to Japan. America exported far more war material to Japan than to China in the years 1937–1940. According to the U.S. Congress, the U.S.’s third largest export destination was Japan until 1940 when France overtook it due to France being at war also. Japan’s military machine acquired all the war materials, automotive equipment, steel, scrap iron, copper, and oil that it wanted from the United States in 1937-1940 and was allowed to purchase aerial bombs, aircraft, and aircraft equipment from America up to the summer of 1938. War essentials exports from the United States to Japan increased by 124% along with a general increase of 41% of all exports from 1936 to 1937 when Japan invaded China.

According to a hearing by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,  the U.S. contributed massively to the Japanese war economy in 1937 with 20% of zinc, 49% of engines and machinery, 60% of iron, 42% of pig iron, 61% of oil, 91% of automobiles and parts, 93% of copper imported from to Japan in 1937. From 1937 to 1940, the US exported a total of $987 million to Japan. The total value of military supplies was $704 million. During the Japanese war against China, 54% of Japan’s weapons and supplies were provided by Americans. 76% of Japanese planes came from the US in 1938, and all lubricating oil, machine tools, special steel, high-test airplane petrol came from the US. In September of 1939, American oil companies unveiled contracts to deliver 3 million barrels of petroleum to the Japanese Navy.

  • The U.S. business class was supportive of the fascist movement all over the world.

It is well known that some of the American industrialists and big corporations were supportive of the Nazi regime in the 1930s.

During the Spanish Civil War, some American businesses supported Franco. The automakers Ford, Studebaker, and General Motors sold a total of 12,000 trucks to the Nationalists. The American-owned Vacuum Oil Company in Tangier refused to sell to Republican ships and at the outbreak of the war, the Texas Oil Company rerouted oil tankers headed for the republic to the Nationalist controlled port of Tenerife, and supplied gasoline on credit to Franco. This was illegal and Texaco was fined $20,000, but this credit arrangement continued until the war’s end. After the war was over, José Maria Doussinague, who was at the time undersecretary at the Spanish Foreign Ministry said, “Without American petroleum and American trucks, and American credit, we could never have won the Civil War.”

President Roosevelt tried, in 1938, to bypass the embargo imposed by Congress and to ship American aircraft to the Republic via France, but failed. The embargo did not apply to non-military supplies such as oil, gas or trucks. The US government was thus able to ship food to Spain as a humanitarian cause and this mostly benefited the Loyalists. The position of the Roosevelt administration is closer to the Soviet Union on this matter, but far away from Germany, Italy, Japan, and the British Empire.

2. The Heartland Theory.

A sophisticated reader at this moment may ask a critical question:  why were the British imperialists and some of the western elites willing to accept such a high risk to support the fascist movement in the 1930s?  The answer lies in the understanding of the Heartland Theory postulated by Halford J. Mackinder in his article, “The Geographical Pivot of History”, submitted to the Royal Geographical Society in 1904.

The Heartland lay at the center of the world island, stretching from the Volga to the Yangtze and from the Himalayas to the Arctic. Mackinder’s Heartland was the area then ruled by the Russian Empire and after that by the Soviet Union, minus the Kamchatka Peninsula region, which is located in the easternmost part of Russia, near the Aleutian Islands and Kurile islands.

Later, in 1919, Mackinder summarised his theory thus:

“Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;

who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;

who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

The vital question was how to secure control for the Heartland. This question may seem pointless, since in 1904 the Russian Empire had ruled most of the area from the Volga to Eastern Siberia for centuries. However, throughout the nineteenth century, the Western European powers had combined, usually successfully, in the Great Game to prevent Russian expansion. Another factor which prevented Russia from commanding the Heartland was that the Russian Empire was huge but socially, politically and technologically backward—i.e., as Mackinder stated, it was inferior in “virility, equipment and organization.” 

Mackinder outlined the following ways in which the Heartland might become a springboard for global domination in the twentieth century:

  • Invasion of Russia by a West European nation (most probably Germany).
  • A Russo-German alliance.
  • Conquest of Russia by a Sino-Japanese empire.

So, in the 1930s, from the British imperialist point of view, supporting an anti-communist Japanese Empire and an anti-Communist Nazi Germany would be serving the best interests of the British Empire.

3. July 7, 1937, a More Accurate Date for the Start of WWII.

There are three more reasons why the designation of July 7, 1937 as the starting date of WWII is more logical and sensible than September 1, 1939.

  1. The Japanese invasion of China inevitably led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the final straw that invited the United States to join the war. The German invasion of Poland, although bringing in two powers, the British Empire and France, would not definitively lead to the largest confrontation of armies in human history – that between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. (Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union is considered one of the most unnecessary and fatal military decisions in human history.)
  2. The Japanese invasion of China directly and instantly involved two big powers, Japan and China, in a fierce total war and almost immediately brought in another big power, the Soviet Union, and eventually another big power, the United States, now making the confrontation of a global scale. The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, ended in less than one month. The real confrontation between the German army and an alliance of the French army and the British expeditionary force didn’t happen until May 1940.
  3. The Japanese invasion of China occurred prior to and was conducive to the German invasion of Poland. The failure of the League of Nations to rectify the Japanese aggression in China emboldened Hitler’s ambition to expand the German territory.

III. Conclusion

There is a cliché:  “If you don’t learn history, you are going to repeat it.” I think it is more accurate to say:  If you learn history wrong, not only you are going to repeat it, you may even make it worse.

It’s obvious why the British imperialists, the Zionists and some American oligarchs want to make people believe that WWII started on September 1, 1939, when the Germans crossed the German-Polish border. However, it is more imperative for the rest of the people in the world, especially, the Americans, who bear our founding fathers’ principles and aspire to continue to be the leader of the world, to interpret the history of WWII correctly and morally.

Otherwise, learning the wrong lessons from history can only create a bad future for humanity. Embarking on the Cold War and the danger of nuclear calamity after the end of the most destructive war the world had ever known reveals the consequences of the continuation of such ignorance.

References (Abridged List):

  • De Bary, William T. (2008). Sources of East Asian Tradition: The modern period. Columbia University Press. 
  • Toland, John (1970). The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 (Modern Library paperback ed.). New York: Modern Library.
  • Dower, John W. (1986). War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1st ed.). New York: Pantheon Books.
  • Anthony Rhodes, Propaganda: The art of persuasion: World War II, pp. 252–253, 1976, Chelsea House Publishers, New York
  • William L. O’Neill, A Democracy at War: America’s Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II. Free Press, 1993.
  • Beasley, William G. (1990). The Rise of Modern Japan. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Levine, Alan J. (1995). The Pacific War: Japan Versus the Allies. Westport: Praeger.
  • Andrew GordonA Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa to the Present
  • “Greater East Asia Conference”World War II Database. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  • Jon Davidann, “Citadels of Civilization: U.S. and Japanese Visions of World Order in the Interwar Period”, in Richard Jensen, et al. eds., Trans-Pacific Relations: America, Europe, and Asia in the Twentieth Century (2003)
  • Aaron Moore, Constructing East Asia: Technology, Ideology, and Empire in Japan’s Wartime Era, 1931–1945 (2013) 226–227
  • Laszlo Sluimers, “The Japanese military and Indonesian independence”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (1996) 
  • Lebra, Joyce C. (1975). Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in World War II: Selected Readings and Documents
  • Anthony Rhodes, Propaganda: The art of persuasion: World War II, p253 1976, Chelsea House Publishers, New York
  • Edwin P. HoytJapan’s War
  • Baskett, Michael (2008). The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 
  •  Weinberg, L. Gerhard. (2005). Visions of Victory: The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders
  • Storry, Richard (1973). The double patriots; a study of Japanese nationalism. Westport: Greenwood Press.
  •  Stephen Turnbull, Fighting ships of the Far East (2), Osprey Publishing
  • Zara Steiner, The Triumph of the Dark: European International History 1933–1939 (Oxford History of Modern Europe) (2013). 
  • “Spain:Business & Blood”Time. 19 April 1937. Retrieved 3 August 2011.  
  • Balfour, Sebastian; Preston, Paul (2009). Spain and the great powers in the twentieth century. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Thomas, Hugh. (2001). The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. London.
  • Beevor, Antony. The Spanish Civil War. 
  • Othen, Christopher. Franco’s International Brigades (Reportage Press 2008)
  • David Deacon, British News Media and the Spanish Civil War (2008) 
  • Richard Overy, The Twilight Years: The Paradox of Britain Between the Wars (2009).
  • Frank McDonough (1998). Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement, and the British Road to War. Manchester UP. 
  • Andrew Roberts, “‘Appeasement’ Review” Wall Street Journal Nov. 1, 2019
  • Clauss, E. M. (1970). “The Roosevelt Administration and Manchukuo, 1933?1941”. The Historian32 (4): 595–611. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1970.tb00380.x.
  • Thomson, David (1957) Europe Since Napoleon, London: Longans Green & Co. p. 691
  • Scott Ramsay. “Ensuring Benevolent Neutrality: The British Government’s Appeasement of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.” International History Review 41:3 (2019): 604-623.  
  • Louise Grace Shaw, The British Political Elite and the Soviet Union (Routledge, 2013).

James J. Chen has had a life-long interest in history, politics, and the humanities. He has begun writing on these topics, with a particular emphasis on the the U.S.’s role in the evolution of the modern world.  He lives and practices medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area. His website address is: https://jamesjchen.wixsite.com/save-the-country.

Some Thoughts on State Violence

As fires burn and unrest continues all over the country, it has been difficult for me to do the usual posts about Russia. My focus was closer to home this past week and it seemed entirely appropriate. Although, as I will explain, our foreign policy is not separate from the problems that have precipitated the current upheaval we are witnessing on American streets.

For years now, I have noted stories from all over the United States about police using excessive force and killing unarmed people, usually people of color, but not always. As a white person who was greatly disturbed by these continually mounting stories, I couldn’t imagine how it made the communities most directly affected feel as so often the police officers involved in these incidents don’t even get charged with a crime. In the rare cases when they do, they are typically acquitted, even when there is video evidence of their deeds.

The killing of George Floyd, a 46 year old black man, on Memorial Day in Minneapolis showed how utterly blatant police officers have become in using unjustified deadly force. The pleas of numerous bystanders to stop their deadly force on this unarmed and handcuffed man lying face-down on the pavement not only went unheeded, but the the officer pressing his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck had a subtle look of sadistic pleasure on his face. Knowing that there is video evidence being recorded and broadcast to the world doesn’t even cause these officers to flinch. These are the actions of people who are supremely confident of their impunity to inflict grievous bodily injury to the point of death on the civilian population.

Further video evidence from nearby surveillance cameras showed that Floyd did not appear to be resisting arrest as the officers tried to claim. The cops appear to have lied about the incident, trying to absolve themselves of their crime. How many times does this happen when there isn’t any videotape of the incident?

So how is it that officers get acquitted even on the rare occasions that they are charged and tried for killing unarmed people whom are not perceived as a threat to most witnesses to or people who watch a video of a police killing? It has to do with court rulings in the past three or four decades about the standard for the use of force – a standard that seems to amount to a get-out-of-jail-free card for police officers when they invoke it. As a Vox article from 2014 on the issue summed it up: “{B]roadly, police officers are allowed to use force if they reasonably perceive a threat even if a threat is not actually present.”

As a retired police officer told me about the standard established by these rulings in the late 1980’s:

This is the beginning of the troubles. When I was a cop deadly force was only justified to prevent imminent and serious injury or death and as a LAST RESORT. This bullshit of ‘I feared for my life’ is just a license to kill and a get out of jail card.

Keep in mind that these rulings were handed down years after the U.S. government declared a war on drugs. The political class in this country apparently lacks the imagination to deal with any problem outside of declaring war on it. If drug abuse seems to be a problem, they declare war on it. In the 1990’s they declared a war on crime by implementing draconian legislation that encouraged the continual increase of the incarceration of low-income people, mostly of color, for drug possessionas well as mandatory minimums for non-violent offenses. Parenthetically speaking, the role of prosecutors at the local level – who are typically elected officials and therefore political actors – is often over-looked in terms of the amount of discretion they have in bringing charges against suspects. The same goes for the profit motive that the private prison industry has in lobbying for laws that result in more incarceration.

Getting back to the militarization aspect, If you’re going to go to war, then you have to look and act the part. Police in recent decades began donning military-style clothing, carrying assault weapons and rolling through American streets in armored vehicles that look like they belong in a combat zone. The federal government has established programs to provide surplus military weapons and material to our domestic police forces. As Matt Purple said in a recent article for The American Conservative:

At issue is the Pentagon’s so-called 1033 program, which allows police to obtain military surplus equipment from the Defense Department. Among the gear that’s been transferred over the years are grenade launchers, armored troop carriers, M16 rifles, and helicopters. And while it’s difficult to find data on the Minneapolis PD specifically, the Star Tribune reported six years ago that police in Minnesota had received about $25 million in defense hardware. (It’s worth pointing out that not all of the military-grade equipment used by law enforcement comes from the Pentagon—some of it is privately purchased by the departments themselves.)

The result has been the creeping militarization of our police. This trend made national headlines in 2014 after cops in Ferguson, Missouri, used armored vehicles to suppress riots sparked by the death of Michael Brown. That next year, President Obama signed an executive order that stopped the Pentagon from transferring some hardware to police departments. This forced Ferguson to send back, among other things, two Humvee armored trucks.

Alas, President Trump reversed Obama’s order in 2017, allowing Pentagon equipment to proliferate once again.

Journalist Rania Kkalek discusses the evolution of the militarization of our police forces more in the video below:

I had a conversation a couple of months back with a gregarious Lyft driver who was also an NRA member who taught gun safety classes and has a legal permit to carry. Of course, there were things we disagreed on but one point of common ground in our conversation was how out of control our police forces are in this country. He told me a disturbing story that reflects an all too common attitude among our domestic police officers.

One day, in a parking lot, he saw a man wielding a knife at a terrified woman with a baby stroller. He said he calmly walked up closer – but still at a safe distance – and let the man know that he was legally carrying a concealed gun and asked if there was a problem. While he had the man distracted, the woman was able to get away and call the police. In effect, he was able to “talk him down” by the time the police arrived. He never once had to even reach for his gun. When the police arrived, one of the officers asked him, “Why didn’t you shoot him? I would have shot him.”

My driver was mortified at the attitude of these officers. He was a military veteran and said that he often was very upfront with people in his gun safety classes about the idea of shooting another human being. He knew from combat what it was like to shoot someone and said that you’re never the same afterward if you’re a normal person to begin with.

The truth of the matter is – we can’t have a violent imperial culture that enables our citizens to go around the world visiting massive violence on other human beings on behalf of profits and a self-righteous missionary agenda and not expect it to boomerang back onto the home front. This is perhaps best captured in the scene last night of members of the National Guard and Minneapolis Police Department marauding through a residential neighborhood, shooting paintball canisters on law-abiding citizens’ front porches while exclaiming “Light ’em up”.

Recall that “light ’em up” was also the cry of the US soldiers as they rained down death and destruction upon Iraqis, including children and journalists, as captured in the Collateral Murder video.

Russia Gradually Re-Opens Economy; Sovereign Wealth Fund to Finance Mass Production of Drug to Treat Covid-19

(Old) Arbat Street, Moscow; photo by Natylie Baldwin, May 2017

As of May 12th, the federal Russian paid holiday came to an end as the Russian economy began to re-open. It was reported that Russia’s fourth largest city, Yekaterinburg, was re-opening shopping centers, parks and outdoor patios of restaurants earlier this week.

Though Putin’s political opponents criticized the move for being premature and motivated more by economics than science, polling showed that 80% of Russians supported sending people back to work and 89% supported partial re-opening of important sectors of the economy as long as precautions were taken. Another poll suggested that around 1/3 of Russians had been affected by reduced income during the crisis.

As of yesterday, there were over 317,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Russia with 3,099 deaths, still mostly concentrated in Moscow. The rate of infections seems to have stabilized in the last few days.

Last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was diagnosed with the virus and is being treated in the hospital. The mercurial Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been hospitalized as a suspected case in recent days. Prime Minister Mishustin has recovered and returned to work earlier this week.

Intellinews reported last week that Russia will use its Sovereign Wealth Fund to finance mass production of an antiviral drug said to demonstrate effectiveness against the coronavirus:

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, is ready to start the mass production of a drug it claims is effective in the treatment of the coronavirus (COVID-19) together with Russian pharmaceutical company ChemRar Group, the fund said on May 13.

Together RDIF and ChemRar have developed a drug called Favipiravir that is based on a drug developed in Japan that was used against influenza, but was tested for use against COVID-19 and found effective….

….As bne IntelliNews reported the fund has already invested into, and is producing, a state-of-the-art briefcase-sized testing kit that can determine if a person is infected with the COVID-19 that was supposed to go into mass production in April. The kit was developed with the participation of Japanese scientists and Russia’s leading virology institute Vektor, based in Novosibirsk.

Now the RDIF, together with ChemRar Group, has announced the positive first interim results of a “multi-centre randomised open comparative clinical trial” of the drug Favipiravir on patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

“According to the data received, 60% of the 40 patients who took Favipiravir have tested negative for coronavirus after five days of treatment, which is two times higher than in the standard therapy group. The data is consistent with the results of studies conducted in China, which also showed a reduction in the disease duration from 11 days to 4-5 days,” the RDIF said in a statement.

The drug is still undergoing extensive clinical trials, including at six leading Russian institutes in Moscow, Smolensk and Nizhny Novgorod. In total, 30 medical centres in eight Russian regions will conduct studies on 330 patients with confirmed coronavirus infection, the RDIF said.

This morning there were reports out of Russia that the first round of testing on a vaccine had shown positive results: immunity appeared to be established with no negative side effects so far.

CIA Expert Douglas Valentine Discusses the Agency’s 70 Years of Continuing Operations in Ukraine

Douglas Valentine is an author who specializes in the study of the CIA. His most famous book – the one that started Valentine on his road to focusing on the notorious intelligence agency – is The Phoenix Program. The title is a reference to the CIA’s program to “neutralize” the Viet Cong and its sympathizers throughout the Vietnamese countryside. His new book is called The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World. The following is a 9-minute clip from a longer video interview with Valentine by Regis Tremblay about the history of the CIA and its operations. This clip focuses on the CIA’s 70-year history of secret operations in Ukraine against the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation.

Note: I plan to post the entire interview at a later time.

How We All Benefit from Improved US-Russia Relations

Atomic bomb explosion

by Natylie Baldwin

Originally appeared at Oped News on 5/13/20

The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded many of us of our vulnerability and mortality. It has also led some to realize that perhaps our nations should cooperate on behalf of the greater good. The world’s two nuclear superpowers, the U.S. and Russia, have both delivered aid to each other over the past six weeks. Moreover, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin released a joint statement honoring the 75th anniversary of the U.S. and Soviet armies meeting up at the bridge over the Elbe River in Germany during WWII, in which both countries allied to defeat Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Many of us who grew up during the subsequent Cold War, with the specter of nuclear annihilation always looming in the background, heaved a sigh of relief when the two superpowers seemed to call a halt in 1989, with several nuclear arms control treaties having been negotiated. As our media and culture moved on to other problems, one might have thought nuclear weapons were no longer a danger.

But, in fact, the U.S. and Russia together still have 1700 nuclear weapons pointed at each other on hair trigger alert. Several scientific studies have indicated that, in addition to killing millions in the immediate aftermath of the explosions, even a limited exchange of these weapons would lead to nuclear winter within a year, wiping out much of our global agriculture and killing billions of people through starvation.

The U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019. It now appears that the remaining arms control agreement known as New START is in danger of expiring in February, despite Moscow’s repeated announcements that it is ready to renew it without preconditions. Since the U.S. Congress has passed legislation that hamstrings the president in terms of withdrawing some or all of the sanctions as a tool in any negotiations with Russia, it is imperative that the administration agree to the extension of New START, which would require no congressional action.

In response to these setbacks on arms control, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved their doomsday clock to 100 seconds to midnight in January. Later that month, the U.S. deployed its first “usable” low-yield nuke onto a submarine on patrol in the Atlantic. Last month, in response to a U.S. State Department paper suggesting that the fielding of such weapons could help counter Russia and China, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated unequivocally that any use of such low-yield nukes against Russia would be met with full retaliation. The Russians have also stated their fear that the deployment of a “missile defense system” in Eastern Europe by Washington has the capability of being used for a potential first strike against it.

Although it’s unlikely that either Washington or Moscow would decide to intentionally start a nuclear war, there is a documented history of accidents and close calls throughout the nuclear era that were averted by a combination of luck and cooler heads prevailing. In current conditions where controversial military exercises by both NATO and Russia occur within short distances of each other, adding “usable” nukes and dubious “defense shields” into the mix presents even greater risks.

With increased tensions and hostility between the nuclear superpowers in recent years – often enabled by sensationalist media reporting and domestic partisan fights – what might happen if a political leader or military officer in Russia had to make a quick decision on how to interpret an early warning system telling them there are incoming nuclear missiles from the U.S.? This actually happened in September of 1983 when Soviet Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov received such a message. The message was erroneous, but he couldn’t know that for certain at the time. He technically violated military protocol – and was reprimanded for it – by not reporting the warning up the chain of command, which would have set in motion a retaliatory nuclear strike on the U.S.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, John Kennedy had to deal with hardliners on his national security team who were encouraging escalation in response to the installation of Soviet nuclear missile sites in Cuba. Kennedy opted for a naval blockade rather than an attack on the island. The fact that the Kennedy administration was operating on a mistaken CIA analysis, which had concluded that nuclear warheads had not yet been delivered to Cuba, makes Kennedy’s restraint all the more critical in retrospect. Nikita Khrushchev, who had to keep his own hardliners at bay, also showed restraint when he ordered Soviet ships that were approaching the U.S. blockade to stop. The confrontation ended when Khrushchev accepted a deal conveyed by Robert Kennedy to the Soviet ambassador that, in exchange for Khrushchev withdrawing nuclear weapons systems from Cuba, the U.S. promised not to attack Cuba and to surreptitiously remove nuclear weapons in Turkey on the Soviet border.

During the crisis, both American navy forces and Soviet nuclear submarines were in the Caribbean. At one point, the Americans detonated non-lethal depth charges in the vicinity of the B-59 Soviet submarine. Cut off from communication and believing they were under attack, two officers on the B-59 wanted to fire their nuclear torpedo. But Vasili Arkhipov, the third officer who had to grant permission for the order to be carried out, refused, thereby averting WWIII.

Historians James Blight and Janet Lang, two of the foremost experts on the Cuban Missile Crisis, have calculated that if the crisis were run 100 times with the same conditions, 95 times it would end in nuclear war. How many times will we luck out?

We should all welcome the opening that the pandemic has provided, giving both the U.S. and Russia the opportunity to make cooperative gestures in order to gradually build trust, which could lead to the repair of the tattered safety net we’re currently relying on when it comes to the still profound danger of nuclear weapons.