All posts by natyliesb

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

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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/

 

 

 

Veteran Intelligence Professionals Send Memo to Chancellor Merkel Urging Her to Quell Tensions at Upcoming NATO Summit; Putin to Western Press: “I don’t know how to get through to you anymore.”; US Conference of Mayors Decry Nuclear Tensions and Weapons

(NATO Flag; http://www.mapsofworld.com/flags/nato-flag.html)

Members of the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which includes numerous veterans of the CIA, NSA, and military intelligence divisions, has written a memorandum addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, warning of the dangerous tensions between NATO and Russia and urging her to use her influence at the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland on July 8th to quell these tensions.

 

An excerpt follows:

 

We longtime U.S. intelligence officers again wish to convey our concerns and cautions directly to you prior to a critically important NATO summit – the meeting that begins on July 8 in Warsaw. We were gratified to learn that our referenced memorandum reached you and your advisers before the NATO summit in Wales [in 2015], and that others too learned of our initiative via the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which published a full report on our memorandum on Sept. 4, the day that summit began.

Wales to Warsaw

The Warsaw summit is likely to be at least as important as the last one in Wales and is likely to have even more far-reaching consequences. We find troubling – if not surprising – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement at a pre-summit press event on July 4 that NATO members will agree to “further enhance NATOs military presence in the eastern part of the alliance,” adding that the alliance will see its “biggest reinforcement since the Cold War.”

The likelihood of a military clash in the air or at sea – accidental or intentional – has grown sharply, the more so since, as we explain below, President Obama’s control over top U.S./NATO generals, some of whom like to play cowboy, is tenuous. Accordingly we encourage you, as we did before the last NATO summit, to urge your NATO colleagues to bring a “degree of judicious skepticism” to the table at Warsaw – especially with regard to the perceived threat from Russia.

Many of us have spent decades studying Moscow’s foreign policy. We shake our heads in disbelief when we see Western leaders seemingly oblivious to what it means to the Russians to witness exercises on a scale not seen since Hitler’s armies launched “Unternehmen Barbarossa” 75 years ago, leaving 25 million Soviet citizens dead. In our view, it is irresponsibly foolish to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not take countermeasures – at a time and place of his own choosing.

Putin does not have the option of trying to reassure his generals that what they hear and see from NATO is mere rhetoric and posturing. He is already facing increased pressure to react in an unmistakably forceful way. In sum, Russia is bound to react strongly to what it regards as the unwarranted provocation of large military exercises along its western borders, including in Ukraine.

Before things get still worse, seasoned NATO leaders need to demonstrate a clear preference for statesmanship and give-and-take diplomacy over saber-rattling. Otherwise, some kind of military clash with Russia is likely, with the ever-present danger of escalation to a nuclear exchange.

Extremely worrisome is the fact that many second-generation NATO leaders seem blithely unaware – or even dismissive – of that looming possibility. Demagoguery like that coming from former Polish President Lech Walesa, who brags that he would “shoot” at Russian jets that buzz U.S. destroyers assuredly are not at all helpful. Walesa’s tone, however, does reflect the macho attitude prevailing today in Poland and some other NATO newcomers.

We believe Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was correct to point out that military posturing on Russia’s borders will bring less regional security. We applaud his admonition that, “We are well advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.”

Read the full memo at Consortium News:

 

Merkel Urged to Temper NATO’s Belligerence

 

A video excerpt from Putin’s Q&A with the western press last month at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum highlights his concern and frustration at western journalists’ lack of discernment and probing about the actions of Washington and NATO, its potential grave consequences and the justifications provided that do not add up.

 

“We know year by year what’s going to happen, and they know that we know. It’s only you that they tell tall tales to, and you buy it, and spread it to the citizens of your countries. You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger – this is what worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? While they pretend that nothing is going on. I don’t know how to get through to you anymore.”

1.5 minute video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PgSX-WD96Q

 

 

Fortunately, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) seems to be aware of and understand the risk of nuclear weapons and the current tensions as reflected in a resolution passed condemning president Obama’s decision to spend $1 trillion upgrading the entire American nuclear arsenal, while the basic infrastructure of the country comes in at a D+ rating by engineers.

 

Antimedia reported on the resolution:

In a unanimous decision at their 84th annual conference, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) passed a resolution condemning President Barack Obama’s decision to set the U.S. on track to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to “maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads, production facilities, delivery systems, and command and control.”

“The Obama administration has […] reduced the US nuclear stockpile less than any post-Cold War presidency,” the resolution, passed in Indianapolis on June 27, reads.

The resolution is supportive of the 1970 international nuclear agreement known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but the USCM chastised the Obama administration’s drift from NPT principles by contrasting it with another international agreement to which the administration has held steadfast.

Referencing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) joint-military exercise in Eastern Europe, known as Anaconda 2016, the USCM said:

“The largest NATO war games in decades, involving 14,000 US troops, and activation of US missile defenses in Eastern Europe are fueling growing tensions between nuclear-armed giants.”

Noting 94 percent of the more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world are held by the U.S. or Russia — and that most of those are “orders of magnitude more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs” — the USCM pushed for a nuclear weapons spending reduction “to the minimum necessary,” arguing in favor of more financial focus on “deteriorating” and “crumbling” infrastructure within the U.S., instead.

“[F]ederal funds are desperately needed in our communities to build affordable housing, create jobs with livable wages, improve public transit, and develop sustainable energy sources,” the resolution said.

 

Russians Ask “Why Do You Demonize Us When We Are So Much Like You?”

Russian kids attending a youth camp called Artek in Crimea.

(Russian kids attending a youth camp called Artek in Crimea.)

 

This was posted at the website of the Center for Citizen Initiatives, which sponsored the 20-person delegation of citizen diplomats to Russia last month.  If you are interested in attending the Center’s next delegation to Russia, scheduled for September, please contact me at natyliesb [at] gmail.com.

 

The following piece was written by CCI trip participant Ann Wright based on her experiences during the just-concluded CCI Russia trip.

OpEdNews.com
This article is a composite of the comments and questions that were asked to our 20-person delegation and to me as an individual. I do not attempt to defend the views but offer them as an insight into the thinking of many of the persons we came into contact with in meetings and on the streets.I’ve just ended two weeks visiting cities in four regions of Russia. The one question that was asked over and over was, “Why does America hate us? Why do you demonize us?” Most would add a caveat — “I like American people and I think YOU like us individually but why does the American government hate our government?”

None of the questions, comments or views tell the full story, but I hope they give a feel for the desire of the ordinary Russian that her country and its citizens are respected as a sovereign nation with a long history and that it is not demonized as an outlaw state or an “evil” nation. Russia has its flaws and room for improvement in many areas, just as every nation does, including for sure, the United States.

New Russia Looks Like You — Private Business, Elections, Mobile Phones, Cars, Traffic Jams

One middle-aged journalist in the city of Krasnodar commented, “The United States worked hard to make the Soviet Union collapse, and it did. You wanted to remake Russia like the United States — a democratic, capitalist country in which your companies could make money — and you have done that.

“After 25 years, we are a new nation much different from the Soviet Union. The Russian Federation has created laws that have allowed a large private business class to emerge. Our cities now look like your cities. We have Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks and malls filled with a huge number of totally Russian business ventures for the middle class. We have chain stores with merchandise and food, similar to Wal-Mart and Target. We have exclusive stores with top-of-the-line clothing and cosmetics for the richer. We drive new (and older) cars now just like you do. We have massive rush hour traffic jams in our cities, just like you do. We have extensive, safe, inexpensive metros in all of our major cities, just like you have. When you fly across our country, it looks just like yours, with forests, farm fields, rivers and lakes — only bigger, many time zones bigger.

“Most people on buses and in the metro are looking at our mobile phones with internet, just like you do. We have a smart youth population that is computer literate and most of whom speak several languages.

“You sent your experts on privatization, international banking, stock exchanges. You urged us to sell off our huge state industries to the private sector at ridiculously low prices, creating the multi-billionaire oligarchs that in many ways mirror the oligarchs of the United States. And you made money in Russia from this privatization. Some of the oligarchs are in prison for violating our laws, just as are some of yours.

“You sent us experts on elections. For over 25 years we have held elections. And we have elected some politicians you don’t like and some that we as individuals may not like. We have political dynasties, just like you do. We don’t have a perfect government, nor perfect government officials — which is also what we observe in the U.S. government and its officials. We have graft and corruption in and outside of government, just as you do. Some of our politicians are in jail for violating our laws, just like some of your politicians are in jail for violating your laws.

“And we have the poor just like you do. We have villages, towns and small cities that are struggling with migration to the big cities with people moving in hopes of finding jobs, just like you do.

“Our middle class travels throughout the world, just like you do. In fact, as a Pacific nation just like the U.S., we bring so much tourism money with us on our trips that your Pacific island territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas have negotiated with the U.S. Federal government to allow Russian tourists to enter both of those U.S. territories for 45 days without the time-consuming and expensive U.S. visa.

“We have a strong science and space program and are a key partner in the International Space Station. We sent the first satellite into space and the first humans into space. Our rockets still take astronauts to the space station while your NASA program has been curtailed.”

Dangerous NATO Military Exercises Threatening our Borders

“You have your allies and we have our allies. You told us during the dissolution of the Soviet Union that you would not enlist countries from the Eastern block into NATO, yet you have done that. Now you are placing missile batteries along our border and you are conducting major military exercises with strange names such as Anaconda, the strangling snake, along our borders.

“You say that Russia could possibly invade neighboring countries and you have big dangerous military exercises in countries on our borders with these countries. We did not build up our Russian military forces along those borders until you continued to have ever increasingly large military ‘exercises’ there. You install missile ”defenses’ in countries on our borders, initially saying they are to protect against Iranian missiles and now you say Russia is the aggressor and your missiles are aimed at us.

“For our own national security, we must respond, yet you vilify us for a response that you would have if Russia would have military maneuvers along the Alaskan coast or the Hawaii islands or with Mexico on your southern border or with Canada on your northern border.”

Syria

“We have allies in the Middle East including Syria. For decades, we have had military ties to Syria and the only Soviet/Russian port in the Mediterranean is in Syria. Why is it unexpected that we help defend our ally, when the stated policy of your country is for ‘regime change’ of our ally — and you have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for Syrian regime change?

“With this said, we Russia saved the U.S. from an enormous political and military blunder in 2013 when the U.S. was determined to attack the Syrian government for “crossing the red line” when a horrific chemical attack that tragically killed hundreds was erroneously blamed on the Assad government. We provided you documentation that the chemical attack did not come from the Assad government and we brokered a deal with the Syrian government in which they turned over their chemical weapons arsenal to the international community for destruction.

“Ultimately, Russia arranged for the chemicals to be destroyed and you provided an especially designed U.S. ship that carried out the destruction. Without Russian intervention, a direct U.S. attack on the Syrian government for the mistaken allegation of use of chemical weapons would have resulted in even greater chaos, destruction and destabilization in Syria.

“Russia has offered to host talks with the Assad government about power sharing with opposition elements. We, like you, do not want to see the takeover of Syria by a radical group such as ISIS that will use the land of Syria to continue its mission to destabilize the region. Your policies and financing of regime change in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and Syria have created instability and chaos that is reaching all over the world.”

Coup in Ukraine and Crimea Reuniting with Russia

“You say that Crimea was annexed by Russia and we say Crimea ‘reunited’ with Russia. We believe that the U.S. sponsored a coup of the elected Ukrainian government that had chosen to accept a loan from Russia rather than from the EU and IMF. We believe that coup and the resulting government was illegally brought to power through your multi-million dollar “regime change” program. We know that your Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland described in a phone call that our intelligence services recorded the pro-West/NATO coup leader as ‘our guy-Yats.’

“In response to that US sponsored violent government take-over of the elected government of the Ukraine with a presidential election scheduled within a year, Russians in the Ukraine, particularly those in the eastern part of the Ukraine and those in Crimea were very afraid of the anti-Russian violence that had been unleashed by neo-fascist forces that were in the militia arm of the takeover.

“With the takeover of the Ukrainian government, ethnic Russians who composed a majority of the population of Crimea in a referendum participated by over 95 percent of the population of Crimea, 80 percent voted to unite with the Russian Federation instead of staying with Ukraine. Of course, some citizens of Crimea disagreed and left to live in Ukraine.

“We wonder whether citizens of the United States realize that the Southern Fleet of the military of the Russian Federation was located in the Black Sea ports in the Crimea and in light of the violent take over of Ukraine that our government felt it was vital to ensure access to those ports. On the basis of Russian national security, the Russian Duma (Parliament) voted to accept the results of the referendum and annexed Crimea as a republic of the Russian Federation and gave federal city status to the important seaport of Sevastopol.”

Sanctions on Crimea and Russia — Double Standards

“While the US and European governments accepted and cheered for the violent overthrow of the elected government of the Ukraine, both the US and European nations were very vengeful of the non-violent referendum of people of Crimea and have slammed Crimea with all sorts of sanctions that have reduced international tourism, the main industry of the Crimea, to almost nothing. In the past in Crimea we received over 260 cruise ships filled with international passengers from Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Spain and other parts of Europe. Now, because of the sanctions we have virtually no European tourists. You are the first group of Americans we have seen in over a year. Now, our business is with other citizens from Russia.

“The U.S. and the European Union have put sanctions on Russia again. The Russian ruble has been devalued almost 50 percent, some from the downturn of worldwide price of oil, but some from the sanctions the international community has placed on Russia from the Crimea ‘reunification.’

“We believe you want the sanctions to hurt us so we will overthrow our elected government, just like you put sanctions on Iraq for the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam Hussein, or on North Korea, or on Iran for the people of those countries to overthrow their governments.

“Sanctions have the opposite effect than what you want. While we know sanctions do hurt the ordinary person and if left on a population for a long time can kill through malnutrition and lack of medicines, sanctions have made us stronger.

“Now, we may not get your cheeses and wines, but we are developing or redeveloping our own industries and have become more self-reliant. We now see how the globalization trade mantra of the United States can and will be used against countries that decide not to go along with the U.S. on its worldwide political and military agenda. If your country decides not to go along with the United States, you will be cut off from the global markets that the trade agreements have made you dependent upon.

“We wonder why the double standard? Why haven’t the member states of the United Nations put sanctions on the U.S. since you have invaded and occupied countries and killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

“Why is the U.S. not held accountable for kidnapping, extraordinary rendition, torture and imprisonment of almost 800 persons that have been held in the gulag called Guantanamo?”

Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

“We want the elimination of nuclear weapons. Unlike you, we have never used a nuclear weapon on people. Even though we consider nuclear weapons as a defensive weapon, they should be eliminated because one political or military mistake will have devastating consequences for the entire planet.”

We Know the Costs of War

“We know the terrible costs of war. Our great-grandparents remind us of the 27 million Soviet citizens killed during World War II, our grandparents tell us of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the difficulties arising from the Cold War.

“We don’t understand why the West continues to vilify and demonize us when we are so much like you. We too are concerned about threats to our national security and our government responds in many ways like yours. We do not want another Cold War, a war in which everyone gets frost bitten, or worse, a war that will kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.”

We Want A Peaceful Future

“We Russians are proud of our lengthy history and heritage.”

“We want a bright future for ourselves and our families…and for yours.”

“We want to live in a peaceful world.”

“We want to live in peace.”

Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Wright was also a passenger on the Challenger 1, which along with the Mavi Marmara, was part of the Gaza flotilla. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.” She has written frequently on rape in the military.

 

Still a MAD World: The Insanity of Nuclear Weapons

A dense column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet into the air over the Japanese industrial port of Nagasaki, the result of an atomic bomb, August 8, 1945; http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-33769566

 

In 1994, when [William Perry] became President Bill Clinton’s secretary of defense, the US faced an entirely different set of security problems. The cold war was over, and the nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union were located not only in Russia, but also in three new republics that were not capable of protecting them.  Perry gave these “loose nukes” his highest priority. He was able to arrange for the dismantling of all of the thousands of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. He movingly tells of visiting a silo built for the Soviet SS-19 missile and watching it disintegrate in a cloud of smoke. Earlier he had visited the site and was briefed by young Russian officers on how the hundreds of missiles under their control would have been fired at targets in the United States. Observing a practice countdown at a site that at that very moment was targeted by American missiles, he realized what an absurdity had been created by nuclear competition.

-Jerry Brown, A Stark Nuclear Warning (Review of My Journey at the Nuclear Brink by William J. Perry)

 Jerry Brown provides an excellent and thought-provoking review of William J. Perry’s book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, this month at the New York Review of Books.  Perry’s impressive resume includes a “Ph.D. in mathematics, vast technical training and experience in high-tech business, management of research and weapons acquisition as an undersecretary of defense under President Carter, and deputy secretary and then secretary of defense under Bill Clinton.”

Brown takes the reader through Perry’s evolution of thought about the weapons that he was providing research, management and advice on over the course of decades.  He started out as a senior scientist at Sylvania Electronic Defense Laboratories in what is now known as Silicon Valley but was, in the 1950’s, one of the bastions of the defense industry, particularly nuclear weapons.  Brown describes Perry’s first job at Sylvania as providing his first epiphany about the utter insanity and nihilism inherent in nuclear weapons:

 

Perry’s first job at the Electronic Defense Laboratories was “to evaluate a proposed electronic countermeasure system” intended to jam “the guidance signal of an attacking Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).” After careful study, he reported that jamming could successfully reduce fatalities from a medium-size nuclear attack by about two thirds, that is, from 75 million immediate deaths to 25 million. But he later noted that this estimate did not take into account long-term deaths from radiation and “nuclear winter.” Nor did it include the tens of millions of wounded who couldn’t be treated or the total disruption of the economy and the fabric of our society.  This was the moment when Perry concluded that there could be no acceptable defense against a mass nuclear attack, an opinion from which he has never deviated.

At the end of the Eisenhower administration, Perry worked on the team that CIA director Allen Dulles oversaw to determine if the famous “missile gap” with the Soviets actually existed.  Perry had determined that none existed but states in his book that his report was kept secret for years. During the Kennedy administration, Perry served on a committee set up by the CIA and NSA to assess the Soviet Union’s ICBM weapons and was part of the analytical team that studied data and reported the results to the president during the Cuban Missile crisis.  During that period, Perry feared each day that it might be the end.

At this point in the review, Brown relays Perry’s observation that “it was by luck that we avoided a nuclear holocaust in the Cuban crisis.” He describes additional dangers during the crisis that were unknown to many at the time but later came out, such as the fact that, due to communications challenges, Moscow had authorized the commanders of the submarines that were approaching the U.S. blockade of Cuba to fire without further approval.  Of the three commanders on board one of the Soviet submarines that an American destroyer was attempting to force to the surface, one dissented from ordering a launch on the American vessel, averting a nuclear escalation.

Additionally, an American reconnaissance plane strayed into Soviet airspace during the crisis, triggering the scrambling of Soviet attack jets.  Fortunately, the pilot realized his error in a timely manner and was able to exit Soviet airspace before the planes could reach him.

The volume of these near misses has been documented by journalist Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control, and would almost make an atheist believe in the intervention of a higher power in saving humans from their sheer recklessness with respect to the most destructive weapons ever developed.

 

Near Misses

In a 2013 interview with Michael Mechanic for Mother Jones magazine, Schlosser discussed the accidents that served as an inspiration for him to write the book.  This includes a 1961 accident in which a US Air Force plane dropped a hydrogen bomb in a North Carolina town.  It failed to detonate thanks to one remaining safety valve that worked after the other five had failed.

A few of the other accidents included a 1966 collision between a B-52 bomber and a refueling tanker over Spain, resulting in the B-52 breaking apart and dropping its load of 4 hydrogen bombs with 2 partially detonating, polluting the Palomares region with radiation; a 1968 B-52 crashing in Greenland where 3 of its hydrogen bombs contaminated an icy area of roughly a quarter million cubic feet; a 1985 incident in which a weather anomaly set off a Soviet early warning satellite indicating an American launch of 5 ICBMs – miraculously, the watch commander decided it had to be a mistake and chose not to report the alarm further up the chain of command, averting another possible nuclear escalation; and a 1995 incident in which the Russian Federation’s early warning system mistook a Norwegian weather rocket as “an incoming U.S. Trident missile.”  Before the mistake was realized, the Russian military had gone into preparations for a potential counter-attack.

In the Mother Jones interview, Schlosser discussed more recent incidents:

The incident in 2007, when we lost half a dozen hydrogen bombs for a day and a half, was an incredibly serious security lapse:  The fact that nobody was asked to sign for the weapons when they were removed from the bunker, the fact that nobody in the loading crew or on the airplane even knew that the plane was carrying nuclear weapons is just remarkable….A few years ago, they lost communication with an entire squadron of Minutemen missiles – 50 missiles! – for almost an hour.  They had to decertify the maintenance crew that looks after the biggest Air Force storage facility in New Mexico.  Seventeen launch officers were taken off duty earlier this year for safety violations.  There’s a sense of a lack of direction, and mismanagement right now – particularly in the Air Force.  And it’s intolerable.  It’s unacceptable.

Not only does a mail order package from Victoria’s Secret have more tracking requirements historically than flights with nuclear payloads, but Schlosser also documents that the guardians of the nuclear arsenal are often lackadaisical, inadequately trained and have substance abuse problems:

One of the lessons would be, if you’re going to have nuclear weapons, you must spare no expense in the proper maintenance of them.  The Titan II was widely regarded as obsolete.  They were running out of spare parts.  There were frequent leaks, and the warhead was acknowledged not to have adequate safety devices.  The people working on it were often poorly trained, poorly paid, overworked.  There were shortages of trained technicians.  In retrospect, it was completely irresponsible to have all those things occurring with a missile carrying the most powerful warhead ever put on an Air Force missile.  It’s just extraordinary.  And there were high rates of drug use.  I spoke to people who had been involved in sensitive nuclear positions who were smoking pot all the time.  You don’t want people smoking pot and handling nuclear weapons. [emphasis in original]

Additionally, there are bureaucratic walls between various agencies involved in the design, implementation or oversight of the weapons.  Schlosser describes the occasion when he provided a copy of a document listing “broken arrows” or accidents and less serious nuclear incidents to a famous weapons safety expert, Bob Peurifoy:

He was stunned and very depressed by it, because it was clear that there were many incidents that were not being shared with him.  There was an enormous amount of compartmentalized secrecy, and that was to prevent secrets from being too widely shared and potentially leaked.  But what that meant was people in different parts of the system didn’t have an overall view of how the system was operating – and that can be very dangerous. The people designing the weapons literally didn’t know how they were being handled in the field by the Air Force – and a lot of people in the Air Force didn’t understand some of the dangers.  There’s a very strong element of madness in this.

 

The Hawks and the Merchants of Death

Perry points to another disturbing aspect of the Cuban Missile Crisis that is still with us today.  Military and national security advisers who wanted to escalate the crisis.  As Brown writes:  “[There were] advisers on both the Soviet and U.S. sides who wanted to rush into war.”

As I detailed in my review of JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass, Kennedy was stunned at what he was hearing from some of his advisers early in his administration, including proposals to do a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union, with figures of hundreds of millions of Soviet casualties and tens of millions of American retaliatory casualties tossed around as an acceptable cost-benefit analysis on behalf of vanquishing the “evil empire.” Kennedy described some of these advisers as having a “collective death wish” for humanity.

Perry also notes the insidious role played by the media which “treated the crisis as ‘a drama of winning and losing.'”

As an article in Foreign Affairs in 2006 revealed, a nuclear first strike on Russia is still a dream cherished by certain fanatics in Washington.  Moreover, with Neocons and advocates of Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard still having huge influence on foreign policy in both major parties and the corporate media, regardless of the dangerous crises their interventions and cheerleading have unleashed, one cannot say we’ve left this aberrant mentality behind.

Another pernicious factor recognized by Perry is the profit motive of the military industrial complex.  Perry admitted that his previous work in trying to figure out and counter the Soviet missile and space systems was “exhilarating and highly profitable.”  The development of new technology ensured the increased outsourcing of such work to the private sector:

Historically, the interpretation of intelligence had been exclusively reserved to government agencies, but several of the most critical targets of intelligence had become highly technical.  They included ICBMs, nuclear bombs, ballistic missile defense systems, and supersonic aircraft. To collect data on these sophisticated weapons systems, Perry explains, required technical reconnaissance equally as complex. The federal government began to contract with private companies possessing the requisite knowledge and skills.

Hence, a gaggle of corporations entered or flourished in a market with a profit motive in favor of military conflict.  This, combined with incentives built into the system over the years to overcharge taxpayers – such as cost-plus contracting and no-bidding – the odds of policies favoring disarmament and diplomacy have been at an increasing disadvantage.

 

According to journalist, Andrew Cockburn, this dynamic explains the latest policy out of Washington to spend $1 trillion to completely update our nuclear arsenal, coming from an administration headed by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has periodically invoked a desire toward nuclear disarmament no less:

Ongoing and dramatic programs to invest vast sums in meaningless, useless or superfluous weapons systems are the norm.  There is no more striking example of this than current plans to rebuild the entire American arsenal of nuclear weapons in the coming decades, Obama’s staggering bequest to the budgets of his successors….They serve no useful purpose beyond deterring putative opponents from using them, for which an extremely limited number would suffice….In the Cold War as today, the idea of “nuclear war fighting” could not survive scrutiny in a real world context.  Despite this self-evident truth, the U.S. military has long been the pioneer in devising rationales for fighting such a war via ever more “modernized” weapons systems….The drive to develop and build such systems on the irrational pretense that nuclear war fighting is a practical proposition persists today.

 

Perry sees this thinking as outdated and dangerous, one that inevitably leads to escalation.  He confirms that nuclear weapons cannot actually be used due to “the risk of uncontrollable and catastrophic escalation” being far too high.

 

As Cockburn demonstrates, this does not stop Washington politicians from continuing on with this insanity.

 

One component of the current “modernization” plan is the proposed development of a new “dial-a-yield” version of the venerable B-61 nuclear bomb.  Supposedly capable of delivering explosives of varying strength according to demand, this device will, at least theoretically, be guidable to its target with high degrees of accuracy and will also be able to burrow down into the earth to destroy buried bunkers.  The estimated bill — $11 billion – is a welcome boost for the fortunes of the Sandia and Los Alamos weapons laboratories that are developing it.

 

Cockburn goes on to explain that the cost will likely be far more than the government or the weapons makers estimate as historical studies of the estimated cost versus the actual bill on previous weapons systems reveal, including the F-35 boondoggle – estimated at $35 million each and coming in at actual cost of more than $200 million.  It should be mentioned that the F-35 is in many ways inferior to previous military planes.

 

This phenomena is called the bow wave, “referring to the process by which current research and development initiatives, initially relatively modest in cost, invariably lock in commitments to massive spending down the road.  Traditionally, such waves start to form at times when the military is threatened with possible spending cutbacks due to the end of a war or some other budgetary crisis.”

 

This is what happened in the wake of the first Cold War’s end when congressional representative and House Speaker Jim Wright had convened a committee of fellow representatives to discuss and pass legislation on behalf of an economic conversion, translating into the “peace dividend.”  This included consideration of a bill sponsored by representative Tim Weiss, which called for the establishment of Alternative Use Committees comprised of those from labor and management in the defense industry who would prepare “a complete technical economic plan for the use of the people and facilities following termination of work for the Pentagon.”

 

The legislation would have also mandated occupational retraining for engineers and managers who were veterans of the Pentagon for 10 years or longer to ensure proper training in cost minimizing instead of the entrenched practice of cost-maximizing fostered in the defense industry.  The conversion program would have been overseen by the Commerce Department to encourage all levels of government to prepare their budgets accordingly in support of conversion.

 

In the weeks following the bill’s historic introduction, however, a smear campaign against Speaker Wright was initiated – led by Newt Gingrich, whose district just happened to be home to the headquarters of Lockheed Martin – based on trumped up charges of financial misconduct, forcing Wright’s resignation.

 

With the bill’s most powerful shepherd effectively eliminated, the legislation died quietly.

 

Cockburn cited bow waves happening after pullbacks from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the end of our war in Vietnam.

 

Joe Lauria, a veteran foreign affairs journalist based at the UN since 1990, recently wrote of his conversation with a top European diplomat who privately admitted a similar phenomenon was at work with regards to NATO and hyping the “Russian threat.”

 

Two years ago I was in a background briefing with a senior European ambassador at his country’s U.N. mission in New York and could hardly believe my ears when he said talk about Russia’s threat to Eastern Europe was “all hype” designed to give NATO “a reason to exist.”  Yet this same ambassador in public Security Council meetings would viciously attack Russia.

 

But the hype is about more than just saving NATO.  The fear campaign feeds the American and European military industries and most importantly puts pressure on the Russian government, which the U.S. wants overthrown.

 

To buttress this interpretation of the threat of Russia being a dangerous myth promulgated to prop up the merchants of death and the imperialist ideologues in Washington, the chairman of NATO’s military committee, General Petr Pavel, admitted during a press conference in Brussels in recent weeks that Russia was not considered a threat:

 

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.

 

As Brown concludes in his review of Perry’s book, we seem to be potentially “sleepwalking” into Armageddon.

 

While many complain of the obvious dysfunction in Washington, few see the incomparably greater danger of “nuclear doom” because it is hidden and out of public consciousness.  Despite an election year filled with commentary and debate, no one is discussing the major issues that trouble Parry.  It is another example of the rigid conformity that often dominates public discourse.  Long ago, I saw this in the Vietnam War and later in the invasion of Iraq; intelligent people were doing mindless – and catastrophic – things.  “Sleepwalking” is the term historians now use for the stupidities that got European leaders into World War I and for the mess they unleashed at Versailles.  And sleepwalking still continues as NATO and Russia trade epithets and build their armies and Moscow and Washington modernize their nuclear overkill.  A new cold war.  Fortunately, Bill Parry is not sleepwalking and he is telling us, in My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, to wake up before it is too late.

 

*Note:  William Perry is currently a member of the American Committee for East West Accord, which seeks détente between the U.S. and Russia

 

 

 

 

 

Russia’s Inflation & Unemployment Rates Low; Putin Warns of Consequences if Finland Joins NATO; Gen. Breedlove’s Emails Show He Actively Sought to Escalate Tensions with Russia Over Ukriane

Monument to the Soviet Worker, Moscow, Russia
Monument to the Soviet Worker, Moscow, Russia; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin, 2015

 

Based on statistics recently released by Russia’s government statistical agency, Rosstat, and the Russian Central Bank, analyst Alexander Mercouris writes that Russia’s current rates of inflation and unemployment are at healthy lows.  Moreover, very modest growth is expected for the rest of the year and into 2017 and 2018, with growth expected to tick up closer to an annual rate of ~4% in 2019:

Contrary to the Central Bank’s earlier predictions the annualised rate of inflation remained steady in June despite claims that it would go above 8% because of the base effect.  The annualised rate of inflation at the end of June instead turned out to be 7.4% compared to 7.3% in the previous months.  The true rate of inflation after eliminating all statistical anomalies remains rock steady at 0.1% per week (between 5 – 6% for the whole year) where it has been for months.  The Central Bank is now admitting that there will probably be deflation in August – a month when inflation in Russia traditionally falls – and that the annualised rate of inflation for the whole year could be as low as 5.5%.  The Economics Ministry more pessimistically predicts 5.9%.

 

….Meanwhile the Central Bank is now also predicting growth in the second and third quarters whilst unemployment – perhaps the strongest single indicator of the state of the economy – fell from 5.9% in April to 5.6% in May – the lowest for 7 months.   Meanwhile PMI for manufacturing in June stood at 51.5 – up from 49.6 in May – with any figure above 50 pointing to expansion and any figure below 50 pointing to contraction.  This is the best PMI outcome for 20 months, and is a further strong indicator of recovery.

 

Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, is not a member of NATO, and had essentially a neutral status during the Cold War.   However, there have reportedly been attempts made since the Ukraine crisis to get Finland to take a harder stance against Russia and perhaps to even consider joining NATO, even though a majority of Finns do not want to join the alliance and wish to continue important trade relations with their big neighbor to the east.  With respect to potential membership of Finland in NATO, Putin said the following at a post-meeting joint press conference, according to Reuters:

 

Finnish armed forces “would become part of NATO’s military infrastructure, which overnight would be at the borders of the Russian Federation”, Putin said after meeting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

 

“Do you think we will keep it as it is: our troops at 1,500 (kilometers, 900 miles) away?”

 

“NATO perhaps would gladly fight with Russia until the last Finnish soldier,” Putin said.

 

“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call.”

 

Journalist Lee Fang reports over at The Intercept, that hacked emails from the Gmail account of retired NATO General Philip Breedlove, show that he actively sought out academics and other high-ranking military officers, such as Colin Powell and Wesley Clark, to help him persuade president Obama to escalate the Ukraine crisis by sending weapons to the coup government in Kiev.

 

“Given Obama’s instruction to you not to start a war, this may be a tough sell,” [The Atlantic Council’s Harlan] Ullman replied a few months later, in another string of emails about Breedlove’s effort to “leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U.S. to react” to Russia.

….Phillip Karber, an academic who corresponded regularly with Breedlove — providing him with advice and intelligence on the Ukrainian crisis — verified the authenticity of several of the emails in the leaked cache. He also told The Intercept that Breedlove confirmed to him that the general’s Gmail account was hacked and that the incident had been reported to the government.