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Russia Acknowledges That All Cooperation with NATO Has Been Halted; General Scaparrotti & Others Say NATO and Russian Military Need to Talk More; General Dunford Says Everything is Russia’s Fault; Congress Introduces Another Insane Anti-Russia Bill

Anti-NATO protest rally in Munich
Sputnik Images

On April 14th, the Associated Press ran an article quoting several western military leaders about the dangers of the low level of relations between Russia and NATO in general, and the higher risk of nuclear war based on miscalculation or misunderstanding more specifically. General Curtis Scaparrotti, who in his role as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe has only met with his Russian counterpart twice, said the following:

During the Cold War, we understood each other’s signals. We talked. I’m concerned that we don’t know them as well today.

….I personally think communication is a very important part of deterrence. So, I think we should have more communication with Russia. It would ensure that we understand each other and why we are doing what we’re doing.

But even in the midst of making this crucial point, Scaparotti knows it’s somehow considered politically gauche to even suggest this modest and reasonable step, and seeks to temper it by adding, “It doesn’t have to be a lot.”

The article goes on to mention the law passed by Congress in 2016 hindering military-to-military cooperation between the U.S. (the dominant force in NATO) and Russia. It was amended in 2018 to allow military communications with the intent of “reducing the risk of conflict.”

Retired U.S. Navy admiral and Commander of NATO in Europe from 2009 to 2013 James Stavidris, doesn’t have a problem with challenging Russia over what the west sees as Moscow overstepping its bounds (e.g. Ukraine and Syria), but he believes that it’s critical for the west and Russia to have dialogue on nuclear arms control issues:

“We are in danger of stumbling backward into a Cold War that is to no one’s advantage,” he said in an email exchange. “Without steady, political-level engagement between the defense establishments, the risk of a true new Cold War rises steadily.”

Former senator Sam Nunn, who co-authored the Nunn-Lugar bill to cooperate with Russia on nuclear disarmament and safety after the end of the Cold War, also expressed concern about the extent of politicization of relations with Russia and the possible consequences:

“You can’t call time out,” he said in an interview. “The nuclear issues go on, and they’re getting more dangerous.”

Nunn co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently with former Secretary of State George Schultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry in which they state:

“A bold policy shift is needed to support a strategic re-engagement with Russia and walk back from this perilous precipice. Otherwise, our nations may soon be entrenched in a nuclear standoff more precarious, disorienting and economically costly than the Cold War.”

However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford was dismissive of these concerns, claiming that the modest senior-level military contacts he has with the head of the Russian military, General Valery Gerasimov, are sufficient and claims that any problems between the west and Russia are due to Russia’s aggression, making it difficult to have relations:

It’s very difficult for us to have normal relationships with a country that has not behaved normally over the last few years. There are major issues that affect our bilateral relationship that have to be addressed, to include where Russia has violated international laws, norms and standards.

Someone from Washington citing Russia’s violation of international law as a justification for cutting or minimizing critical communication. Let’s see, considering that the U.S. invaded Iraq in violation of international law and has been conducting military operations in Syria in violation of international law (it wasn’t authorized by the UN or invited in by the internationally recognized government of Syria, although Russia was) – well, I’ve had fudge that ain’t that rich. Maybe they’re talking about Crimea – oh wait, there was Kosovo which didn’t even have a referendum. Hmmm…..

I do like the idea of international law, but Washington isn’t in any moral position to advocate for it when it has made clear by its own actions that it holds international law in contempt when it is an obstacle to what it wants to do. And no one else on the world stage that is capable of acting independently is going to take such arguments seriously by Washington either. Wouldn’t it be nice if the journalist from the AP would have brought up this inconsistency to General Dunford or at least reminded readers of it in the article? Maybe they could have also reminded Dunford that the U.S. has allied with all kinds of unsavory characters since WWII who have violated international law, like the leaders of Israel and General Suharto of Indonesia. You know, just throw caution to the wind for a moment and conduct a true act of journalism, just for the experience.

Okay, back to reality….

An official from the Russian foreign ministry was quoted in the AP article as reiterating Moscow’s readiness to engage in dialogue to reduce risks.

The next day, the Moscow Times reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, who also served as Moscow’s permanent representative to NATO between 2012 and 2018, publicly acknowledged that Russia had ceased all cooperation with the U.S.-led alliance.

In what appeared to be a response to Scaparotti and Stavridis’s comments, Grushko reiterated the dangers of the abysmal state of current relations and increased risk of armed conflict:

“[A]ll sensible people hope it doesn’t happen. It would be a humanitarian catastrophe. I’m sure they understand that in Washington and Brussels.”

Let’s hope so. But…

As if all of this saber-rattling and lack of communication wasn’t bad enough coming from the military and intelligence establishment, Congress seems to be competing for who can come up with the more insane and provocative policy toward the world’s other nuclear superpower. Philip Giraldi reports in a recent article for Unz Review about a new anti-Russia bill introduced in the Senate:

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

Call your senators and tell them to oppose this nonsense right out of the gate. You can reach your senators by calling 202-224-3121. Ask the operator to connect you to the individual office. Thanks.

Assange Wins EU Journalism Award; Kevin Gozstola Analyzes FBI Affidavit in Assange Case – Government Criminalizing Journalism; Assange’s Mother Passes on Request from Julian for What Supporters Can Do For Him Right Now

Julian Assange

Julian Assange has just been awarded the European Parliament’s
2019 GUE/NGL Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers & Defenders of the Right to Information. The award, started last year in honor of slain Maltese journalist Daphne Galizia, was accepted on Julian’s behalf by Mairead Maguire, the Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner. As reported by Australia’s Herald Sun on April 16th:

The award is given to individuals “uncovering the truth and exposing it to the public” and to honour “individuals or groups who have been intimidated and/or persecuted for uncovering the truth and exposing it to the public”.

Also on April 16th, Shadowproof’s Kevin Gozstola published an analysis of an FBI affidavit against Assange showing that the Justice Department is, in fact, trying to criminalize journalism with respect to its case against the Wikileaks founder:

An affidavit from the United States Justice Department’s prosecution of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange shows prosecutors are focused on criminalizing the publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs.

The focus on the publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs is baselessly linked to an alleged “password cracking agreement” that prosecutors believe existed between Assange and Pfc. Chelsea Manning, who disclosed over a half million documents to WikiLeaks.

….FBI Special Agent Megan Brown, who was assigned to the “counterespionage squad” at the Washington Field Office in the District of Columbia, was tasked with sifting through information to compile the “basis” for a case against Assange.

Using language derived from the Espionage Act, which has been wielded by the Justice Department to aggressively crack down on whistleblowers, Brown contended, “Manning and Assange had reason to believe that public disclosures of the Afghanistan War reports and Iraq War reports would cause injury to the United States.”

Read the full article here.

It is also being reported that additional charges are likely to be added by the U.S. government – which is predictably keeping the legal process under wraps as much as possible, stating that documents filed will be redacted. This is expected by many to lengthen the extradition process in the UK which is theoretically opposed to the adding of charges after the initial request by the country seeking extradition. However, a recent article by Reese Ehrlich reveals a few different factors that could complicate the process, some of which could favor Assange and some of which would not.

If the extradition is not carried out by the time of elections for prime minister in the UK, then a Jeremy Corbyn victory might very well see a blocking of the extradition. However, if Assange is ordered to be extradited, no one in the executive branch blocks it, and the UK leaves the EU before his appeal could be brought before the European Court of Human Rights, then the UK would not be bound by any favorable decision that could arise from that court. Legal experts that Ehrlich spoke to for his article were split on what kind of chance Assange had of getting a fair legal shake in either the UK or the U.S.

Read Ehrlich’s complete article here.

Meanwhile, Julian’s mother Christine, has tweeted the following message to let Julian’s supporters know what he has requested be done to help him right now:

Letters to Julian

As Julians life is at risk he requests you send:

A SHORT personal NOTE

Attatched to: A copy of an ACTION youve taken to protect him (See my pinned tweet)

Thank you for respecting his wishes

Julian Assange

HMP Belmarsh

Western Way

Thamesmead

London SE280EB

Want to Help Improve U.S.-Russia Relations? Travel to Russia as a Citizen Diplomat This September

Alexander’s Column, Palace Square, St. Petersburg; Photo by Natylie S. Baldwin, 2015

The following is a message from my friend and mentor Sharon Tennison, co-founder and head of Center for Citizen Initiatives. Sharon has been leading delegations of U.S. citizens to Russia since the 1980’s. She has an extensive network of Russian friends and colleagues all over the country and escorted me on my very first trip to the country in 2015.

Like many of us, Sharon recognizes that U.S.-Russia relations have reached a dangerously low point. In response, Sharon has revived her delegations of citizen diplomacy over the past couple of years. This September, she is organizing one of her most ambitious ever – 100 Americans. Below is more information from Sharon about this trip. Please consider participating in this important work or pass this on to someone else who may be interested. Thanks. – Natylie

…. In my 35 years of traveling throughout Russia, I have never before witnessed such a vast gap between what the average American ‘believes’ about Russia and Russia’s reality on the ground today.

CCI’s earlier Russia travelers describe their trips as life-changing … possibly because there’s nothing so relieving as “traveling to meet the enemy” and finding no enemies on arrival. We find differences, yes, different histories, different cultural norms and many other differences, but when understood, none of these are destructive to Americans.

Citizen diplomacy is finally being discussed as a viable pursuit by officials in the U.S. and in Russia today. THIS IS NEW. No doubt this is due to failed official diplomacy and nuclear treaties being scrapped in the very recent past. The current situation is extremely dangerous since we and Russia have nuclear weapons on high alert and ready to fire at each other. One accidental launch of a missile could bring a volley of returning missiles that would destroy both countries and likely the world within a short time. How can our military brass, congress members and media talk so glibly about nuclear war? It’s horrifying! How to pull our countries back from the brink of nuclear war? Let us educate ourselves ASAP regarding Russia with our own eyes and ears. Let us ask questions, listen, ponder … and educate others as rapidly as possible….

Consider traveling with us on this “one-of-a-kind” trip. It will be CCI’s most intensive diplomacy effort ever. Travelers will meet with and question a dozen Russian Experts in Moscow including Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Pozner. The meetings are usually two-hour sessions. Our two videographers will capture the Expert meetings and much of the entire trip. Following Moscow meetings, we travel in triads to 30 regional cities to explore average Russian citizens’ interests, their thoughts and concerns, and how they carry out their lives far from the centers of power. We will share similar topics with them. Following these visits we reconvene in St. Petersburg where we will spend the first full day listening to and learning from fellow travelers’ experiences in their regional cities. YouTube videos, articles and stats will result from this data dump. With our important work completed, we will enjoy St. Petersburg’s unparalleled classical culture and meet with numerous CCI alumni from our former business management training programs. During these and regional traveling days we will have had face-to-face discussions with thousands of Russians across 10 time zones.  We need more Americans to travel on this CCI fact-finding diplomatic mission….

For more trip details please email us. Many thanks!

Click here to see CCI’s official trip flyer.

Sharon Tennison
President and Founder (1983 – to present)
Center for Citizen Initiatives
sharon [at] ccisf.org
ccisf.org

Julian Assange Arrested by British Police as Ecuador Breaks its Legal Obligations Under International Asylum Law

What many of us who’ve been paying attention have suspected for some time has finally come to pass. British police have arrested Wikleaks founder and former editor Julian Assange at the invitation of the Ecuadorian government of Lenin Moreno. Footage of the arrest is provided by Ruptly and can be viewed below. Assange, whom no one should have expected to go quietly, can be heard shouting, “UK Must Resist.”

Assange was granted asylum and Ecuadorian citizenship in 2012 by then-president Rafael Correa who had this to say upon learning the news of Assange’s arrest:

The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.

Assange will be brought before a British magistrate regarding charges of jumping bail. There is also reportedly an extradition request by the U.S. on charges of conspiring with Chelsea Manning to hack into classified government computers. Supposedly, Washington has agreed to take the death penalty off the table. How generous of them.

An in-depth discussion of the arrest and charges and the implications for journalism and a free press are discussed in this Democracy Now! segment with Glenn Greenwald, Jessalyn Radack, and two members of Assange’s legal team:

Edward Snowden responded on Twitter with the following comment:

Images of Ecuador’s ambassador inviting the UK’s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of–like it or not–award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.

Indeed it is. Popular Resistance.org has put out a call for protests at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. as well as other British embassies around the country. I will post any other calls for action I hear about in the future. I will close with a message from Assange’s mother, Christine, which she posted to Twitter after she heard of Julian’s arrest:

I have just spoken to one of Julians lawyers. Julian is likely to appear before a UK Magistrate within 24 hrs re (old defunct) “bail warrant” UK likely to seek max prison term of 12 months in higher court. Our focus is as always to STOP a U.S. Extradition! Let’s get to it!

Vladimir Lenin: The Shaping of a Revolutionary (Part IV of IV)


Lenin in July 1920. Photo by Pavel Zhukov.


“Revolution is a dirty job. You do not make it with white gloves.” – Lenin

Lenin mostly lived abroad from 1900 to 1917 (Salisbury 1977).  During the early years of this period he started a revolutionary journal called Spark and had begun using the surname he would become famous under (Krausz 2015).  He, along with Plekhanov and Julius Martov – another Marxist – were the principal contributors to Spark.  

In 1903, an official split occurred during the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.  This party had formed in 1898 to unite the revolutionary movement in Russia.  The split resulted in the Bolsheviks (meaning “majority” in Russian) led by Lenin and the Mensheviks (meaning “minority” in Russian).  Plekhanov would eventually side with the latter, headed by Martov (Cavendish 2003).   

The Mensheviks advocated a loosely-organized structure that could exercise the option of allying with the liberal bourgeois , while the Bolsheviks wanted a centrally controlled and disciplined conspiratorial organization of full-time revolutionaries.  The Bolshevik wing represented the ideas for spreading Marxism and inciting revolution among the working class that had been laid out in Lenin’s 1902 pamphlet, What is to be Done? , borrowing the title of Chernyshevsky’s novel.  

A fight over the editorial board of Spark also ensued which the Mensheviks lost, leaving Lenin in virtual control of the publication.  However, the organization’s Foreign League convened a meeting in Geneva a few months later in which the Mensheviks prevailed and Lenin announced his resignation from Spark and the organization’s party council (Cavendish 2003). 

This only turned out to be a minor setback for Lenin who became noted among the intelligentsia for his knowledge of economic thought.   In 1904, he started another journal, Forward. He also wrote an acclaimed book called The Development of Capitalism in Russia which was in a second print run by 1905 (Krausz 2015). 

Around this time, colleagues observed an increasing ideological rigidity and intolerance in Lenin.  He had acquired the tactics of ignoring and insulting rather than refuting the arguments of other revolutionaries with whom he disagreed.  This was not unknown in the revolutionary movement but it marked a transition toward behavior that was antithetical to those he was taught growing up.  Moreover, he began acting more on the Machiavellian approach that had gained a foothold within the more extreme strands of the movement, rationalizing the use of individuals who engaged in dishonest and/or criminal behavior as long as it was perceived to be facilitating the goal of revolution (Salisbury 1974).

Soon after the October Manifesto was issued after the 1905 revolution, Lenin returned to St. Petersburg. He had raised the issue of armed resistance publicly for the first time just prior to his return to Russia and continued a period of prolific writing. 

In May of 1906, he made his first speech in front of a mass rally in St. Petersburg, billed as a “leader of the Bolsheviks” – though he’d only just begun a meaningful association with the organized Russian Bolsheviks a few months before.  He wouldn’t make another appearance at a mass meeting until 1917. 

Due to police pressure in response to his increased organizing activities, he left Russia for Europe again in December of 1907 (Krausz 2015), not to return again until 1917 (Deutscher 1964).

References:

  1. Salisbury, Harrison E.  Black Night, White Snow:  Russia’s Revolutions 1905 – 1917.  De Capo Press. New York, NY. 1977;
  2. Krausz, Tamas.  Reconstructing Lenin:  An Intellectual Biography.  Monthly Review Press.  New York, NY.  2015;
  3. The Bolshevik-Menshevik Split” by Richard Cavendish.  History Today.  November, 2003;
  4. The Mensheviks:  George Plekhanov” by Isaac Deutscher.  The Listener.  4/30/1964.

Poll: Majority of Americans Accept Mueller Conclusion of No Collusion with Russia, Think Dems Should Move On; NATO Secretary General Addresses Congress in PR Blitz on Eve of Alliance’s 70th Anniversary

Front Left of Monument to Siege of Leningrad, St. Petersburg; photo by Natylie Baldwin, May 2017

According to a Harvard/Harris poll, a majority (64%) of Americans accept the conclusion of the Mueller report that the Trump campaign/administration did not collude with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election. 68% of respondents think the Democrats should also accept the conclusion and move on. Amen.

Meanwhile, in celebration of NATO’s 70th anniversary this year, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was invited to address a joint session of the House and Senate today.

Stoltenberg spoke for 40 minutes (video embedded below). He started his speech by stating that the founders of NATO had lived through two devastating world wars. This is ironic because in researching WWI for my work-in-progress, it stands out how – even though all the major players who went to war in 1917 had long-standing tensions – it was the entanglement of alliances that prompted the greatest death and destruction then known to man (16 million deaths) after an assassination in a small nation provided the spark.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg address a joint session of Congress on April 3, 2019.

With 29 members, including many small nations who were formerly part of the Soviet Union and have varying degrees of historical axes to grind with Russia, NATO has turned itself from an alliance meant to prevent the now-dead Soviet Union from exercising any expansionist ambitions its leaders may or may not have had in the rest of Europe into an alliance that could precipitate a similar conflict as we saw in WWI.

With Article V obligating all members of NATO to fight if any member is attacked, could a provocative act in, say, Lithuania be the spark that starts another world war? In an age of nuclear weapons, might NATO’s continued expansion right up to Russia’s borders and courting of nations whose political elites have an interest in continuing to use Russophobia as a diversion for their lack of implementing solutions to the many domestic problems they face be unwise? Might it even provoke the very thing its supporters claim it exists to prevent, a devastating war?

He goes on to claim that NATO has been a force for peace. He clearly hasn’t asked the citizens of Serbia, Afghanistan, and Libya what they think of this assertion.

He also didn’t hesitate to repeat debunked or unproven allegations against Russia: use of a nerve agent in the UK, that it had attacked power grids and interfered in elections in Europe (France and Germany’s own governments came out and refuted these accusations).

Stoltenberg also claims that NATO has been striving to have a better relationship with Russia. But he doesn’t give a single example of NATO doing this. Probably because there isn’t one.

He also repeats the allegation that Russia was violating the INF Treaty before Washington abrogated it, though this was never proven. He also fails to mention some important context to the controversy over INF Treaty violations as the U.S./NATO has had Aegis-ashore missile systems in Romania since 2016 and has had plans to place them in Poland for years, which effectively violates the treaty as MIT professor Theodore Postol has explained. It has also been recently reported that the U.S. has been designing other missiles that would be in violation of the treaty since 2017. So Washington and NATO are not the innocent victims in the INF Treaty controversy that they are claiming to be.

The congressional speech was just the last leg of the Secretary General’s big PR blitz over the past couple of weeks leading up to NATO’s 70th anniversary tomorrow.

On March 25th, Stoltenberg reiterated on a visit to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, inaugurating a joint military exercise between Georgia and NATO, that the country would eventually become a full-fledged member of the military alliance. Stoltenberg dismissed Russia’s concerns as reported by RFERL:

Speaking alongside Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, he said that the 29 NATO member states had “clearly stated that Georgia will become a member of NATO.”

“We will continue working together to prepare for Georgia’s NATO membership,” Stoltenberg said, adding that no country has the right to influence NATO’s open-door policy.

“We are not accepting that Russia or any other power can decide what members can do,” he said.

Stoltenberg followed up with a tweet later that day singing Georgia’s praises and extolling the virtues of the country’s partnership with NATO:

Delighted to observe the joint NATO-Georgia exercise with PM
& honoured to meet veterans & serving soldiers. Georgia is a unique partner for #NATO & we are stepping up our cooperation.

In spite of the reverence with which the alliance is often treated by Washington, the media establishment and the political elites of various nations near Russia that think NATO represents the cat’s pajamas in terms of security, there are some indications that perhaps NATO isn’t all that.

On March 25th, Professor Walter Russell Mead published an oped (behind a paywall) in the Wall Street Journal asking if “NATO is Dying?” Mead thinks the alliance may very well be on its last legs. Some facts he cites to support his argument include the German government’s recent decision to maintain 1.25% of its GDP as an annual contribution to the alliance for the next five years rather than the Washington-mandated 2%, and Turkey’s decision to purchase the S-400 defense system from Russia regardless of protestations from Washington that included threats to withhold sale of the F-35 fighter jet. Mead states:

NATO members are less committed to the alliance than they used to be because most worry less about conventional military attacks from Russia. … Countries with the misfortune to be neighbors of Russia are still enthusiastic about NATO. But the anti-Russian zeal of Poland and the Baltic states is something of an embarrassment for Germans eager to cut Nord Stream 2-type deals with Moscow over the heads of their mostly small, poor and importunate eastern neighbors.

He goes on to point out that Russia and China are taking note of these developments and will be waiting to parlay any disillusionment by members of the alliance to their geopolitical advantage.

Veteran investigative journalist Gareth Porter pours his own bucket of cold water on NATO with his recent article in Al Jazeera. Porter reports that the alliance – looking for a purpose so it could stay alive after the Cold War ended – persuaded the Bush II administration to let it take the lead in the Afghan war, believing it could show its continued worth while expanding its geographical mandate. But the move backfired.

The Supreme Allied Commander for Europe at the time, James Jones, pitched the idea to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld between 2003 and 2005 as the solution to the administration’s desire to focus their military action on Iraq.

“Jones sold [Defence Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld on turning Afghanistan over to NATO,” said the officer, adding that he did so with the full support of Pentagon officials with responsibilities for NATO. “You have to understand that the NATO lobbyists are very prominent in the Pentagon – both in the Office of the Secretary of Defence and on the Joint Staff,” said the officer.

Jones admitted in an October 2005 interview with American Forces Press Service that NATO had struggled to avoid becoming irrelevant after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. “NATO was in limbo for a bit,” he said.

But the 9/11 attacks had offered a new opportunity for NATO to demonstrate its relevance.

In order to address the concerns of NATO members whose populations were opposed to an actual combat mission in Afghanistan, Jones convinced them that only “mop up” and nation-building operations would be needed as the Taliban were no longer a significant military threat – even though US intelligence realized that the Taliban was rallying and troops would likely be facing a new insurgency in the south.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the NATO members who agreed to this to realize they were being hornswoggled.

But conflicts immediately arose between the US and NATO member countries over the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Britain, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands had all sold the NATO mission to their publics as “peacekeeping” or “reconstruction” as distinct from counterinsurgency war.

When the Bush administration sought to merge the US and NATO commands in Afghanistan, key allies pushed back, arguing the two commands had different missions. The French, meanwhile, were convinced the Bush administration was using NATO troops to fill the gap left by shifting US troops from Afghanistan to Iraq – a war they strongly opposed.

Eventually, NATO member countries laid down limitations on their participation as the Taliban increased their attacks and improved their position. Later, General Karl Eikenberry – commander of US troops in Afghanistan in 2005 – and then-ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald E. Neumann admitted that NATO’s involvement in the war was to prop up the alliance.

Eikenberry stated in testimony to Congress in 2007 that “The long view of the Afghanistan campaign is that it is a means to continue the transformation of the alliance.”

One former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Canadian Rick Hillier, stated that NATO’s performance in the country was “abysmal” and lacked strategy. As a result, he claims, the alliance has lost credibility among many of its members.

So if NATO’s military performance against a technologically unsophisticated foe like the Taliban leaves something to be desired, how effective would it be in facing a far larger and more advanced opponent like Russia?

One is left to wonder if NATO serves any meaningful purpose other than being a self-perpetuating bureaucracy that keeps the profits rolling in for the merchants of death while allowing its members to puff themselves up. Simultaneously it is also a dangerous irritant or even a provocation for the nuclear-armed countries which it is aimed at – countries that various NATO members already have long and complicated tensions with.

While Stoltenberg pays lip service to the death and destruction of WWI – which laid the groundwork for the even more devastating WWII – it is clear that he and his ideological fellow travelers, including members of congress who clap like trained seals at every self-serving platitude uttered by a military leader on their team, have learned nothing from it.

More analysis and commentary on NATO in general and Stoltenberg’s speech in particular can be heard from Peter Kuznick and Pietro Shakarian on the Real News Network:

Sharmini Peries Interviews Peter Kuznick and Pietro Shakarian on the Real News Network.
https://therealnews.com/stories/obscene-bipartisan-applause-for-nato-in-congress

Ukrainian Prosecutor Opens Investigation into Allegations of Collusion with Clinton Campaign in 2016; On Eve of its Own Presidential Election, Ukrainians More Pessimistic Than Ever About Their Country; Russia Passes New Law Limiting Online Speech

“This striking composite photo from the riots in Ukraine helps put the extreme devastation occurring in Kiev right now [2014] into perspective. The lighter image on the left is of Independence Square in Kiev before the riots and the seemingly post-apocalyptic half of the image was taken in the same square by Olga Yakimovich for Reuters on Feb. 19th [2014]. (via: Imgur)” – Bored Panda

Ukraine’s Top Prosecutor Yurii Lutsenko told Hill.tv in an interview that his office has opened an investigation into claims from a Ukrainian member of parliament that officials in Kiev had colluded with the Clinton campaign in the 2016 U.S. election. As reported in The Hill on March 20th:

Ukraine’s top prosecutor divulged in an interview aired Wednesday on Hill.TV that he has opened an investigation into whether his country’s law enforcement apparatus intentionally leaked financial records during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in an effort to sway the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.

The leak of the so-called black ledger files to U.S. media prompted Manafort’s resignation from the Trump campaign and gave rise to one of the key allegations in the Russia collusion probe that has dogged Trump for the last two and a half years.

Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko’s probe was prompted by a Ukrainian parliamentarian’s release of a tape recording purporting to quote a top law enforcement official as saying his agency leaked the Manafort financial records to help Clinton’s campaign.

The parliamentarian also secured a court ruling that the leak amounted to “an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” Lutsenko told me. Lutsenko said the tape recording is a serious enough allegation to warrant opening a probe, and one of his concerns is that the Ukrainian law enforcement agency involved had frequent contact with the Obama administration’s U.S. Embassy in Kiev at the time.  

To read the full article and watch the interview with Lutsenko, go here.

For the second year in a row, Ukrainians have the lowest confidence in their national government in the world at 9%, according to a recent Gallup poll. The median percentage in the former Soviet states is 48%.

Tomorrow Ukrainians will go to the polls where they can choose their next leader from among the current president Petro Poroshenko (17.4%), Volodymyr Zelensky – a comedian who is the front-runner (24.9%), or Yulia Tymoshenko (18.8%) – a right-wing populist who is notorious for her own corruption as a former prime minister.

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

On March 18th, President Putin signed into law two bills that will limit freedom of speech on the internet, informally referred to as the laws on “fake news”and disrespect of society, public officials and institutions. According to the OSCE:

According to the first law, the dissemination of deliberately untrue information through the media or online can result in fines of up to 1.5 million roubles (approximately 20,500 euros) and the blocking of the information resource if it does not “immediately” delete this information at the request of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor).

The second law imposes a penalty of up to 300,000 roubles (approximately 4,100 euros) or up to 15 days’ detention for the online dissemination, in an insulting way, of expression that disrespects society, the state, official symbols, the Constitution, and public bodies.

It’s not unusual in Russia for officials to think that an issue needs to be addressed so they write a law addressing the issue, but it will be poorly written or overbroad. This can make the law in question hard to enforce or ripe for abuse by those lower down the food chain who must implement it. Certain aspects of such laws may also turn out to be unpopular. Within a few years, the Duma (lower body of Russian parliament) will realize that the law needs to be amended or revised.

This is what happened with the foreign agents law which was eventually amended to exclude charities. I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar happens with this law down the road.

Russiagate & the Media

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his wife Ann in Washington, D.C.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq WMD, Qaddafi’s Rape Militias, Russiagate. One has to ask how many times can the establishment media demonstrate its lack of professionalism, objectivity and due diligence and still have anyone with a functioning brain take it seriously?

Robert Mueller has finally concluded his 2 and 1/2 year $25 million investigation into whether Donald Trump or anyone associated with his presidential campaign or administration colluded with Russia to win the presidency – or more precisely steal it from the entitled Hillary Clinton.

The conclusion as summarized in a statement by Attorney General William Barr and reported by Reuters, the New York Times and other scions of establishment media, is that Mueller found no evidence for such an allegation. There are no further indictments – either openly or under seal.

Skeptics and those who still conduct real journalism, such as Aaron Mate and Glenn Greenwald, are taking some well-deserved victory laps on social media while the die-hard true believers refuse to admit defeat, moving the goal posts and pinning their hopes on more investigations from Congress, as though there is something that Congress might magically find that Mueller with subpoena power, a whole team of experienced investigators and tens of millions of dollars at his disposal didn’t find. Possible, but highly unlikely.

The NYT comments section is flabbergasted at this outcome after being fed a constant diet of sloppy and biased reporting from the newspaper of record, along with CNN and MSNBC. They are clucking about having the full report made available – which it should be – claiming that the summary must be dishonest, even though neither Mueller nor anyone on his staff has come out and complained that their report has been distorted or misrepresented by Barr.

As investigative journalist Matt Taibbi said in a recent article:

Over the weekend, the Times tried to soften the emotional blow for the millions of Americans trained in these years to place hopes for the overturn of the Trump presidency in Mueller. As with most press coverage, there was little pretense that the Mueller probe was supposed to be a neutral fact-finding mission, as apposed to religious allegory, with Mueller cast as the hero sent to slay the monster.

The Special Prosecutor literally became a religious figure during the last few years, with votive candles sold in his image and Saturday Night Live cast members singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” to him featuring the rhymey line: “Mueller please come through, because the only option is a coup.”

After citing Barr’s kudos to Mueller that he and his team remained professional throughout the investigation, Taibbi asks if the same can be said of the media.

The biggest thing this affair has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star. That’s a hell of a long way from what this business was supposedly about at the beginning, and shame on any reporter who tries to pretend this isn’t so.

The story hyped from the start was espionage: a secret relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spooks who’d helped him win the election.

The betrayal narrative was not reported as metaphor. It was not “Trump likes the Russians so much, he might as well be a spy for them.” It was literal spying, treason, and election-fixing – crimes so severe, former NSA employee John Schindler told reporters, Trump “will die in jail.”

Taibbi goes on to list and link to numerous claims made by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and other “respectable” establishment media outlets regarding this story that turned out to be garbage. He then points out that “None of this has been walked back.” He also observes that it likely never will be walked back. There never is the reckoning that’s needed for those media that have fed Americans lie after lie that has had deadly consequences for millions throughout the world. This time, the lies have greatly contributed to ratcheting up tensions to the highest point in decades between the world’s two nuclear superpowers. It doesn’t get much more irresponsible than that.

We now have millions of people whom the media and the Clinton wing of the Democratic party have hooked with the narcotic of a fairy tale story that a greedy, vulgar, inexperienced and inept president is the result of treason with the Kremlin rather than profound problems with the Democratic Party (and the larger system it operates in) and its failure to address seriously mounting problems among the American people.

Now these millions of people must either cling to that fairy tale to avoid cognitive dissonance or they will have to start asking hard questions about the pathetic state of their political system and their media.

An example of that choice is reflected in the debate held Monday on Democracy Now! between Glenn Greenwald and David Cay Johnston in which Johnston is clearly bristling at his credulousness on the Russiagate story as pointed out to him by Greenwald. He walks back a couple of items, such as his opinion stated on a previous episode of Democracy Now! that he believed Trump was a Russian agent. But he also goes on to falsely conflate what the actual objective of the Mueller investigation was with other issues, goes off on tangents, etc. He doesn’t want to let go of the position that he has invested so much in over the past 2-3 years.

As for some of the people and organizations that have facilitated the Russiagate conspiracy theory, namely keeping it alive every day in the media, Real Clear News Investigations has just published an expose about how powerful Democratic Party operatives, private investigators and their wealthy backers were behind pushing sensational stories to reporters on a near-daily basis that were bogus or lacking in substantive evidence:

The operation’s nerve center is a Washington-based nonprofit called The Democracy Integrity Project, or TDIP. Among other activities, it pumps out daily “research” briefings to prominent Washington journalists, as well as congressional staffers, to keep the Russia “collusion” narrative alive.

TDIP is led by Daniel J. Jones, a former FBI investigator, Clinton administration volunteer and top staffer to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. It employs the key opposition-research figures behind the salacious and unverified dossier: Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Its financial backers include the actor/director Rob Reiner and billionaire activist George Soros.

The project’s work has been largely shrouded in mystery. But a months-long examination by RealClearInvestigations, drawn from documents and more than a dozen interviews, found that the organization is running an elaborate media-influence operation that includes driving and shaping daily coverage of the Russia collusion theory, as well as pushing stories about Trump in the national media that attempt to tie the president or his associates to the Kremlin.

The project also used tactics similar to the stove-piping method employed by Neocons in the run-up to the Iraq war by giving information to one institution (e.g. the media) and then using the published reports that it was the source for as “independent” confirmation of its claims.

The group also feeds information to FBI and congressional investigators, and then tells reporters that authorities are investigating those leads. The tactic adds credibility to TDIP’s pitches, luring big media outlets to bite on stories. It mirrors the strategy federal authorities themselves deployed to secure FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign: citing published news reports of investigative details their informants had leaked to the media to bolster their wiretap requests.

Five days a week, TDIP  emails a newsletter to influential Democrats and prominent Beltway journalists under the heading “TDIP Research” – which summarizes the latest “collusion” news, and offers “points of interest” to inspire fresh stories regarding President Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow.

Read the full article here.

Increasingly, the “news” products being pushed by the establishment media and passed off as news are comparable to pink slime being passed off as meat.

Pentagon Admits Research Began in 2017 on Missile that Would Violate INF Treaty; Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Speaks to Audience at USF

The Pentagon; Getty Images

With the corpse of INF Treaty with Russia barely cold, the Pentagon is now publicly admitting that they will soon begin construction of a missile that it has been researching since 2017 that falls outside of the treaty’s limits.

This seems to indicate that Washington used the unproved accusations against Russia that it was violating the treaty as well as complaints about China (which was never a party to the treaty) as pretexts to abrogate it in order to pursue its own desire to create weapons outside of the treaty’s parameters.

On March 11th The Hill reported:

The Pentagon will start work on making parts for ground-launched cruise missile systems that would fall within the limits of a treaty President Trump suspended compliance with last month, a spokeswoman said Monday.


The Pentagon “will commence fabrication activities on components to support developmental testing of these systems – activities that until February 2 would have been inconsistent with our obligations under the treaty,” Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said in a statement.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Neocons and members of the national security state have been trashing agreements that they see as preventing them from doing whatever they want since the Bush II administration with its unilateral abrogation of the ABM Treaty. Hyper-neocon John Bolton was no doubt influential in this decision.

But a public admission like this with its implications seems pretty brazen, especially this soon.

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Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard spoke to a standing room only crowd last Saturday morning at USF. Her speech followed by a short Q&A is below. The part of the speech covering foreign policy, including the new Cold War and arms race, starts at approximately 13 minutes in. Watch and decide what you think of Tulsi’s comments.

If you’d like Tulsi Gabbard to be able to bring a substantive discussion of foreign policy to the Democratic Party debates in June, make a small donation to her campaign so she can meet the 65,000 donors threshold.

Vladimir Lenin: The Shaping of a Revolutionary (Part III)


Lenin in July 1920. Photo by Pavel Zhukov.



By 1895, Lenin had been exiled to Siberia for a year but was afforded enough freedom to continue his research and writing on revolution and even communication with other revolutionaries.  Upon his release, he visited Europe where he made many significant contacts but most importantly, he met G.V. Plekhanov (Krausz 2015).

Plekhanov was a former Populist who became one of the most well-known Marxists in Russia.  He made considerable headway in getting Marxist socialism accepted as a meaningful alternative to Populism.  He advocated land redistribution and opposed the tactics of Narodnaya Volya, arguing that terrorism served as a pointless catalyst toward increased government repression (Billington 1970). 

Instead of issuing invectives at his philosophical opponents in the revolutionary movement, as was the common practice of the time, Plekhanov relied on the art of persuasion.  He acknowledged the Populists’ desire to mix with the masses and work on behalf of their hoped-for political awakening, while explaining the practical shortcomings of this approach. 

As a Marxist, Plekhanov was a strict materialist who believed in the possibility of “absolute objectivity.”  This undeniable objectivity would supposedly resolve the perennial tendency within the revolutionary movement toward splintering.  Furthermore, unlike many other theorists, by 1884 Plekhanov was arguing that Russia was already in a condition of capitalism, albeit in the form of state capitalism. He saw this as evidence of the inevitability of a revolutionary clash between the social classes within Russia and the eventual triumph of the proletariat (Billington 1970).  

By this time, Plekhanov saw the peasant commune, held up as proof of a socialist legacy in Russia and a foundation for socialist revolution by the Populists, as falling apart.  As it turns out, Russia was not so unique that it could bypass the industrial capitalist stage on its road to socialist revolution.  He saw an emerging bourgeois class as playing a major role in revolution and advocated fighting alongside the liberal bourgeois and opposing them after the revolution, if necessary (Deutsch 1964). 

Plekhanov would go on to have a complicated relationship with Lenin, whom he saw as a protégé and one who could ultimately execute his ideas (Deutscher 1964).  It was later generally recognized that Lenin’s overarching talent was indeed his ability to marry revolutionary political theory and practice.

To be continued

References:

  1. Krausz, Tamas. Reconstructing Lenin: An Intellectual Biography. Monthly Review Press. New York, NY. 2015.
  2. Billington, James. The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture. Vintage Books. New York, NY. 1970.
  3. The Mensheviks:  George Plekhanov” by Isaac Deutscher.  The Listener.  4/30/1964.