Why I Don’t Support the Latest Impeachment Effort

President Trump
President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Nancy Pelosi recently announced that an impeachment inquiry would be initiated against President Trump over a recent phone call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he discussed several domestic political issues, including the Crowdstrike report and a brief mention of the Mueller investigation. Trump also brought up the Ukrainian prosecutor who was fired in 2016 at the behest of then-vice president Joe Biden and asked Zelensky to look into what Biden had done with respect to the prosecutor.

In 2014, Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, had been appointed to the Board of Directors of Burisma – a Ukrainian natural gas company that had been under investigation for corruption – and was being compensated at $50,000 a month for his position. No one with two brain cells to rub together believes that Hunter – who had no qualifications or experience for this position – would have gotten it if his father hadn’t been Joe Biden who happened to be serving as the equivalent of a colonial administrator over Ukraine as the west had just supported a coup in that country only months before. This is nepotism and nepotism is a form of political corruption. If this had been Trump and one of his children, the same people who are arguing with me on Twitter that Biden didn’t do anything wrong would be singing a different tune.

Joe Biden has admitted that he threatened the Ukrainian leadership with the withholding of $1 billion in aid if they didn’t fire the prosecutor in power at the time. It’s possible that part of of his motivation in doing so was to torpedo investigation into the company for which his son was currently serving on the Board.

What Trump did in this phone call was inappropriate – requesting help from a foreign power to help him get dirt on a political rival. A censure by Congress would be appropriate. But, for the following reasons, I believe impeachment is not.

First, there is a credibility gap and Trump will easily be able to use it to his advantage. It has been clear from the moment that Trump was elected that most of the political class, including the Democratic Party establishment, the establishment media, and a segment of the educated professional class was repulsed. They have subsequently engaged in a series of actions to try to deny Trump’s legitimacy by accusing him of colluding with a foreign power to win his position and teaming up with the notorious intelligence community to engineer a case for impeachment. For over two years the American public was subjected to a divisive farce in the hopes of impeaching Trump as essentially a traitor. The whole thing backfired as the Mueller report was forced to acknowledge that there was no evidence for collusion and Mueller’s personal testimony before Congress amounted to what journalist Matt Taibbi described as the equivalent of a guy “wandering in traffic.”

Now, less than two months after that debacle ended, we have another dubious attempt to initiate an impeachment process. While Trump did do something inappropriate here, the Democrats do not have clean hands with respect to similar kinds of election shenanigans as Ukrainian government officials have admitted actively helping the Clinton campaign in 2016. Where is the outrage and sanctimonious hand-wringing about this?

All of this makes it appear that the Democratic Party establishment is simply deadset on pursuing impeachment in a vindictive manner against Trump. Trump will, in turn, be able to spin this to his base as the following: “These people couldn’t beat me at the ballot box in 2016 and they are afraid they won’t be able to beat me at the ballot box in 2020, so they have to keep trying to impeach me.”

It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that there will not be sufficient votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to convict Trump and force him from office. So, it’s hard to see what the point of this whole exercise is, especially considering that the inappropriate behavior in question is relatively minor compared to many other transgressions.

This leads me to my second point. Lest impeachment simply be turned into a partisan weapon to go after inappropriate behavior that can be found by politicians in both parties – including presidents – it needs to be reserved for the most egregious crimes. War crimes or assassinating an American without due process of law are two examples that would rise to such a level. But Nancy Pelosi herself is on video in 2006 “pledging” that impeachment was off the table for George W. Bush in the case of the Iraq war.

So, according to Nancy Pelosi, if a president starts an illegal war based on lies which leads to the killing of hundreds of thousands (or even more than a million, depending on which estimates you look at) and the destabilization of an entire region, impeachment will not be considered. Period. But if a president goes after one of her party’s leaders in an inappropriate manner, then the impeachment option will be used.

Let that sink in for a moment.

If impeachment is not reserved for the most egregious crimes then – as analyst Kim Iverson has noted – the American people will simply view it as a message from the political class: “you made the wrong choice and we’re going to step in and fix it for you.”

Don’t be surprised if this whole affair backfires when Trump is not convicted or removed from office, leaving his base fired up and Trump rubbing it in Democrats’ faces that their extra-electoral tricks to effectively overturn the 2016 election results have been a failure. In the meantime, it will have served as another lengthy distraction away from emphasis on real concrete issues that candidates like Sanders, Warren, Gabbard and Yang want to focus on while the media and Democratic establishment use the impeachment circus to suck all the air out of the room during debates and news coverage.

Bottom line: Instead of focusing on partisan Kabuki theater, the Democrats need to be focused on nominating a strong candidate who can defeat Trump in 2020 and come into office with a substantive policy mandate. Unless, of course, they’re not truly interested in beating Trump with such a candidate.

**Below is an in-depth interview with Aaron Mate regarding this latest impeachment imbroglio on the Jimmy Dore show:

Craig Murray Reports that European Court of Human Rights Ruling Undermines Bill Browder’s – and U.S. Establishment’s – Narrative of Magnitsky Story, But Murray Still Gets Some Things About Russia Wrong

British whistleblower and former ambassador to Uzbekistan, turned writer, Craig Murray has reported an important ruling by the European Court of Human Rights with respect to the case of Sergei Magnitsky, an associate of financier Bill Browder, who died in a Russian jail years ago.

In a September 16th blog post, Murray reported the following:

The conscientious judges of the European Court of Human Rights published a judgement a fortnight ago which utterly exploded the version of events promulgated by Western governments and media in the case of the late Mr Magnitskiy. Yet I can find no truthful report of the judgement in the mainstream media at all.

The myth is that Magnitskiy was an honest rights campaigner and accountant who discovered corruption by Russian officials and threatened to expose it, and was consequently imprisoned on false charges and then tortured and killed. A campaign over his death was led by his former business partner, hedge fund manager Bill Browder, who wanted massive compensation for Russian assets allegedly swindled from their venture. The campaign led to the passing of the Magnitskiy Act in the United States, providing powers for sanctioning individuals responsible for human rights abuses, and also led to matching sanctions being developed by the EU.

However the European Court of Human Rights has found, in judging a case brought against Russia by the Magnitskiy family, that the very essence of this story is untrue. They find that there was credible evidence that Magnitskiy was indeed engaged in tax fraud, in conspiracy with Browder, and he was rightfully charged. The ECHR also found there was credible evidence that Magnitskiy was indeed a flight risk so he was rightfully detained. And most crucially of all, they find that there was credible evidence of tax fraud by Magnitskiy and action by the authorities “years” before he started to make counter-accusations of corruption against officials investigating his case.

Murray has often been a voice of reason when it comes to all of the mud slung at the Russian government, much of which turns out to be false or at least very questionable in terms of what Washington and the establishment media want us to believe: Russiagate, the audacious attempted murder of an ex-spy and his daughter in Britain with poison that has unique and notorious qualities except that the poison in this instance didn’t act in the usual unique and notorious manner, and the big bad Russian government harassed and locked up an innocent “lawyer” who worked for the long-suffering Bill Browder.

And I for one am grateful for Murray’s courage and sharp analysis. However, if one reads Murray’s piece in its entirety, they will also read this paragraph:

Where the Court did find in favour of Magnitskiy’s family is that he had been deprived of sufficient medical attention and subject to brutality while in jail. I have no doubt this is true. Conditions in Russian jails are a disgrace, as is the entire Russian criminal justice system. There are few fair trials and conviction rates remain well over 90% – the judges assume that if you are being prosecuted, the state wants you locked up, and they comply. This is one of many areas where the Putin era will be seen in retrospect as lacking in meaningful and needed domestic reform. Sadly what happened to Magnitskiy on remand was not special mistreatment. It is what happens in Russian prisons.

Now, as I’ve acknowledged in other posts, I’m not suggesting that Russian jails are nice places or that Russia doesn’t have any problems in its criminal justice system. However, Murray’s characterization that the entire criminal justice system in Russia is a “disgrace,” that judges pretty much rubber stamp the government’s charges in locking everyone up, and that Putin has done little to nothing in terms of reform of the justice system in Russia is just plain false.

As part of my research for my forthcoming book, I looked into the state of the justice system in Russia during the Putin era and found many important reforms made since 2000. I published an excerpt in a post earlier this year. Here are some relevant points from that post:

The 1993 constitution guarantees the presumption of innocence for criminal defendants as well as the right to counsel (Henderson 2011).  During Putin’s first two terms as president, he introduced or oversaw the implementation of the rights of habeas corpus and trial by jury, and increased rights to exculpatory evidence (Petro 2018).  After certain reforms made by Putin to the criminal code, acquittal rates in bench trials (only heard by a judge) doubled and acquittal rates in jury trials tripled, contributing to a 40 percent drop in the overall  incarceration rate and a 95 percent drop in the juvenile incarceration rate since 2001 (Petro 2018). 

He also introduced the role of bailiffs and Justices of the Peace (JP’s) into the system (Petro 2018).

JP’s act as judges in the lowest tier of courts and preside over approximately 75 percent of civil cases and 45 percent of criminal cases – most of the latter are resolved through plea bargaining (Hendley 2017). University of Wisconsin Professor Kathryn Hendley concluded in her years-long study of Russia’s court system, Everyday Law in Russia, that JP’s demonstrate independence – in other words, they base their decisions on the written law – in the vast majority of cases before them.  Exceptions involve the very small percentage of cases that are politically sensitive, particularly to the Kremlin.  In these instances the JP’s will often go along with power as a matter of being socialized into the system rather than being overtly told to do so….

Hendley also found that overall, in civil and administrative cases, the Russian government often loses.

“State agencies are frequent litigants in civil cases, both as plaintiffs and defendants.  Both in JP courts and other courts, they are more likely to lose these cases than are private actors.  Their victory in administrative cases involving private citizens, such as traffic violations and fines for noncompliance with various laws, is far from automatic.  The same is true in the business setting.  Economic actors’ challenges to their treatment by the tax and other regulatory authorities are frequently successful (Hendley 2017).”

Court rulings in civil cases favoring private plaintiffs over the government occur at a rate of approximately 70 percent (Petro 2018). 

Furthermore, during Putin’s second term, courts ruled that individuals arrested without merit must be compensated and compensation limits for government negligence were struck down, making it more meaningful when the Russian government comes out on the losing end of such cases (Petro 2018). 

Foreign businesses operating in Russia have benefited from the improved state of the legal system.  Lawsuits on behalf of foreign businesses have tripled since 2014 and favorable judgments have increased from 59 percent to 83 percent (Petro 2018).  Many Russians are reluctant to take a dispute to court, citing time, inconvenience, and “the difficulty of proving one’s case.” But as incomes increase and the traditional informal methods of resolving disputes become less relevant, more Russians are utilizing the court system, increasing from one million in 1998 to over seventeen million in 2016 (Petro 2018).  Hendley found many of these Russians to be generally satisfied with their experiences, which largely take place in the JP system, regardless of whether they won or lost.  80 percent of Russians find JP’s to be “well trained and competent” with only 10 percent believing their JP was biased (Hendley 2017). 

 (Sources are listed in the original post. )

People are entitled to their opinions about Russia and Putin, but they should be based on credible and current information, not misinformation or outdated information. I’ve sadly come to expect whopping inaccuracy from the establishment media about Russia, but find it particularly disappointing when it’s perpetuated by someone like Murray.

Chilling Video Shows How “Limited” Nuclear Attack Could Quickly Spiral Out of Control, Killing Tens of Millions; 2/3’s of Americans Support Extension of New START Treaty; European Political, Diplomatic & Military Leaders Call on UN General Assembly to Address Need for Nuclear Diplomacy & Disarmament

Princeton University’s Science and Global Security Lab published a study in response to the Pentagon’s recent Nuclear Operations report in which they indicated their belief that the use of “tactical” or “limited” nuclear weapons could be effectively used to the U.S.’s benefit in a military conflict. The report was later removed from the U.S. government’s website, but had been saved by a member of the Federation of American Scientists and posted on their website.

The Princeton study revealed that the use of nuclear weapons – even “limited” use – would most likely lead to escalation in short order, causing close to 100 million immediate casualties and rendering swathes of the planet destroyed. This would also lead to nuclear winter and starvation. The study was accompanied by a video illustrating the probable escalation, with a conflict between Russia and NATO as the initiating event.

The week after the Princeton study was released, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported on a poll in which 66 percent of Americans across the country supported extension of the New START Treaty which expires in 2021:

Of course, it is no wonder that New START is popular; it has been indisputably effective at reducing US and Russian nuclear forces, improving transparency, and reducing nuclear risk. What’s more, both sides have faithfully complied with the treaty. In the Data for Progress press release, Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, wrote that a treaty extension—which Russian President Putin has indicated he supports and which US President Trump could sign without congressional involvement—is a “no-brainer.”

Ahead of the UN General Assembly’s meeting last week, a group of 100 plus European leaders in the areas of politics, military and diplomacy released a statement under the umbrella of the European Leadership Network calling on the world body to “address rising nuclear risk, and renew commitments to international nuclear diplomacy and arms control.”

An excerpt of the statement reads as follows:

As world leaders prepare to meet this month at the United Nations in New York, we call on them to take urgent steps to reduce the risks of nuclear confrontation. We join a growing number of international leaders in raising the alarm over new nuclear dangers.

Last month we witnessed the end of the landmark US-Russia Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Today, there are grave doubts over the future of the only remaining agreement that limits and regulates Washington and Moscow’s strategic nuclear weapons, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). And new challenges confront the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Stability is eroding and risks are rising. North Korea has grown its nuclear weapon stockpile, tests missiles, and continues to feel threatened. The fate of inter-Korean and US-DPRK dialogue remains uncertain. Tensions are flaring between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. And, following Washington’s unilateral breach and resumed sanctions, Iran may walk away from the nuclear deal that constrains its ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Moreover, new military technologies threaten to destabilise global and regional nuclear confrontations. These technologies are rapidly evolving and entirely uncontrolled.

The risks of nuclear accident, misjudgement or miscalculation have not been higher since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Complacency should not be an option. It is not only European security at stake.

Read the full statement in English here. The statement is also available in Russian here.

Has Putin Finally Had Enough of Israel’s Shenanigans?; Most Europeans Would Prefer Neutrality in a Conflict Between the US & Russia; Consortium News Has 4 Hours of Quality Analysis on Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Has Putin finally decided that he’s had enough of Netanyahu’s shenanigans, bombing middle eastern countries – especially Syria where Russia has military personnel and equipment – at whim? Judging from a recent article in the Jerusalem Post, which was itself sourced from a British-Arab news outlet called Independent Arabia, one might conclude that to be the case:

According to the report, Moscow has prevented three Israeli air strikes on three Syrian outposts recently, and even threatened that any jets attempting such a thing would be shot down, either by Russian jets or by the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. The source cited in the report claims a similar situation has happened twice – and that during August, Moscow stopped an air strike on a Syrian outpost in Qasioun, where a S-300 missile battery is placed.

Moreover, it was claimed that another air strike was planned for a week later on a Syrian outpost in the Qunaitra area and a third one on a sensitive area in Latakia. This development is what pushed Netanyahu to have his quick visit in Russia to try and convince Putin to ignore Israel’s attacks in Syria. According to the Russian source, Putin let Netanyahu know that his country will not allow any damage to be done to the Syrian regime’s army, or any of the weapons being given to it, because giving such a permission would be seen as giving Israel leniency – something that contradicts Russia’s goal of assisting the Syrian regime.

According to this report, in the meeting between Netanyahu and the Russian president last Friday in Sochi, Netanyahu attempted an unsuccessful charm offensive to get Putin to relent on his drawing a line in the sand. Independent Arabia reported that Israel’s bombing of parts of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon (the latter country being the home base of Hezbollah) over the past weeks has reportedly made Russia look bad in the eyes of its allies in the fight against jihadists in Syria. Sources with direct knowledge of the meeting and previous communications between the two stated that Putin expressed his unhappiness particularly at Israel’s violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty: “Putin further stated that someone is cheating him in regards to Syria and Lebanon, and that he will not let it go without a response. According to him, Netanyahu was warned not to strike such targets in the future.”

Isn’t it great that a major world leader is finally trying to put a leash on Netanyahu? Well, not so fast says John Helmer, a free-lance journalist who has the most years of experience reporting from/about Russia of any other in the west. According to him, Independent Arabia is an “information operation” by the wealthy Russian business man Alexander Lebedev, co-owner of Novaya Gazeta and co-owner of the London Independent, working with Saudi Arabian interests.

Moreover, Helmer said that Putin had disagreements with his defense and foreign policy ministers on Israeli actions.

Putin kept Netanyahu waiting for several hours during which time the Isreali PM spoke to Defense Minister Shoigu and Foreign Minister Lavrov who expressed their displeasure at Israel’s recent bombing spree across three countries in the region, among other things. However, when Putin arrived on the scene, he proceeded to unconditionally endorse Netanyahu for re-election. Helmer reports:

Netanyahu’s flying visit to Sochi was an election stunt, according to most Israeli press reports [9].  Had Putin wanted to send Netanyahu a clear message that he endorses the warnings against IDF attacks in Syria from the Russian General Staff, he would have refused the meeting. This has happened before, at the insistence of the General Staff and Shoigu; for more details, click here [10]  and here [11].  

This time there was a sharp debate [12] between Putin and the Stavka. Putin insisted on receiving the Israeli; the Stavka settled on a compromise – Putin would meet Netanyahu after Shoigu had delivered the Stavka message. General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff, did not attend this time.

Helmer further explains pointedly that Lavrov and the Russian Foreign Ministry put out a public statement about the meeting with Netanyahu separate from Putin’s about 4 hours later:

“We put a special emphasis on the need – and in this regard, the Israelis fully agree with us – to respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in actual practice rather than only in word. In this sense, we upped the ante by urging assistance to the Syrian authorities and the Syrians at large in returning to peaceful life. It was stressed that the sanctions, which the US and the European countries had introduced against the legitimate government of Syria, were wholly counterproductive.”

Shoigu and Lavrov, whose ministry photograph shows him in the open air in Sochi, know perfectly well the Israelis do not “fully agree with us”.  That’s an irony directed at Putin for announcing “we have absolutely identical positions.”

It’s understandable that Putin wants to try to maintain good relations with all parties in the region in order to be an arbiter for peace and stability. It is also understandable that Putin recognizes that Israel is home to many Russian Jews. However, I would have to side with Shoigu and Lavrov on this one.

Israel has been allowed to rampage around the Middle East for far too long, bombing other countries at will on whatever pretexts Netanyahu decides, and systematically making any 2-state resolution of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian issue non-viable due to continual Israeli settlements, with Netanyahu now promising annexations of the West Bank if re-elected. Israel has also been straight up murdering and gravely injuring Palestinian civilians in cold blood with snipers for months. How much more can the Palestinians be crapped on by the Israelis, with an international community that enables it? And Putin endorses the one doing the crapping. It’s hard to understand how a lawyer like Putin who has publicly called for adherence to international law and stability in numerous public fora in the past can keep supporting such a recalcitrant violator of international law and underminer of regional stability like Netanyahu.

If anyone else has some insight into Putin’s rationale here, feel free to offer it up in the comments section. I’m really failing to see it.

According to a new report by the European Council on Foreign Relations, reported on last week by Quartz, a majority of Europeans surveyed, including 60,000 people in 14 EU member states, said they favored a neutral stance in terms of Washington’s conflicts, including with Russia and China. The authors of the report attributed the shift in European opinion to the Trump administration’s behavior leading to distrust in the trans-Atlantic relationship and a desire for more independence.

Consortium News just posted their 9th episode of CN Live in which Joe Lauria and Elizabeth Vos interview journalists and analysts on the top issues in their news headlines. This episode provides comprehensive coverage of Russia and U.S.-Russia relations and includes interviews with former CIA analyst specializing in Russia George Bebbe, retired CIA analyst/Russia expert Ray McGovern, journalist Patrick Lawrence, retired weapons expert Scott Ritter, and Moscow-based analyst Mark Sleboda.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (left) and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (in light jacket), leave their meeting at Bad Godesberg, on Sept. 23, 1938. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/cc)

In honor of the 80th anniversary earlier this month of the start of WWII, I am posting this excerpt from the chapter about WWII of my forthcoming book. I will be posting a status update on this project within the coming weeks. – Natylie

By 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt and some of his advisers had recognized the serious threat to world peace that Hitler’s Germany posed.  They also realized why Stalin signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with the Nazis, though FDR made a personal last-minute appeal to Stalin not to (Butler 2015).

Stalin was well aware of Hitler’s anti-Slavic views as reflected in Mein Kampf and subsequent speeches by the German leader.  Along with Jews, Slavs were considered sub-human.  Shortly after taking power in Germany, Hitler’s Nazi party implemented an anti-Soviet propaganda campaign and physically attacked Soviet diplomatic personnel and trade representatives in Germany (Carley 2019). 

Stalin hoped to establish trade with the U.S. in order to obtain materials that might be useful in the event of war with Germany.

But however sympathetic FDR might have been on the matter, he faced domestic obstacles that included strong isolationist sentiment and possible accusations of being a communist sympathizer.

The desire of the Bolshevik leadership for trade and cordial relations with the U.S. to balance out anti-Russian dynamics in Europe and in the Pacific started with Lenin as early as 1919, despite Wilson’s sending U.S. troops to assist the counterrevolutionary cause.  Lenin still advocated for such a policy in 1921 (Butler 2015).  After his death in 1924, Stalin proceeded to seek official recognition of the Soviet government and only succeeded after Roosevelt took office in 1933.

After Hitler had taken Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Sudetenland, Stalin vigorously sought a security pact with Britain and France to counter any potential German aggression.  But Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain continually rebuffed such offers.  The fact that the British (Sykes 2017) and French elites tended to be fearful of communism and even sympathetic to fascism as a bulwark against it didn’t help matters (Carley 2016).  Britain, in particular, actually enabled the early stages of Germany’s aggression at several key points. 

When in 1936 Hitler marched into the Rhineland – a neutral territory established by the Versailles Treaty as a buffer between Germany and France – Britain made it clear that it would not assist France in repelling the German invasion.  Hitler admitted that Germany would have had to retreat if the French would have fought them in the Rhineland (Freeman 2019).  Britain again declined to help the French defend the Sudetenland as France was obligated to do by treaty with Czechoslovakia.  The Soviet Union was intentionally left out of the infamous Munich conference later in the year where Czechoslovakia was divided up (Freeman 2019).

In terms of the Soviets being able to defend border countries, it was also a problem that the Polish leadership would not agree to Soviet troops on its soil even in the event of a German invasion (Butler 2015).

Finally, at the end of July of 1939, diplomats from France and Britain were sent to the Soviet Union, but Chamberlain had them placed on a slow freighter instead of quicker transport that was available.  Upon arrival, a further delay occurred when it was realized that the British diplomat did not have documents authorizing him to officially negotiate.  When Soviet officials were finally told that Britain had minimal divisions available for potential military operations, the Soviets concluded that Britain was not acting in good faith (Butler 2015; Carley 2016).

It is believed by some historians that the British leadership didn’t foresee any potential for a pact between Germany and the Soviet Union and felt that the approaching autumn/winter weather would preclude any possibility of a German attack.  Thus, the mere appearance of negotiations between Britain and the Soviet Union were thought to be a sufficient deterrent (Butler 2015).  Other historians say that the British leadership was hoping that Germany would eventually destroy the Soviet Union and its communist experiment (Freeman 2019).  

Meanwhile, FDR saw the decision of Britain and France to not ally with the Soviet Union to counter Germany as a grave miscalculation and thought a war was inevitable.  Consequently, he “quietly” signed orders creating military infrastructure that could be utilized for action in the future. He also attempted to persuade key senators to repeal the American Neutrality Act so as to allow transfer of weapons to vulnerable European nations based on diplomatic information from Belgium that such a move would make Hitler think twice about further aggression. But he was unsuccessful in those efforts.

Sensing the futility of his attempts to ally with Britain and France, Stalin fired the pro-British Maxim Litvinov as Foreign Minister and appointed Molotov who was more sympathetic to Germany.  Stalin also knew that as the Soviet official who was by far the closest to him, he would get more detailed reports of negotiations from Molotov. Talks on trade with Germany were eventually begun and those on political issues soon followed (Butler 2015).

When Stalin signed the non-aggression pact with Germany on August 24, 1939, he believed that he was buying time to prepare for any invasion.  He clung to the delusion that Germany would seek to take out Britain first and Hitler intentionally gave that impression (Butler 2015; Carley 2016).


  1. Butler, Susan.  Roosevelt & Stalin:  Portrait of a Partnership.  Alfred A. Knopf.  New York, NY. 2015.
  2. Just Trudeau Needs a History Lesson” by Michael Jabara Carley.  Voltaire.net.  9/1/19.
  3. How British High Society Fell in Love with the Nazis” by Tom Sykes.  The Daily Beast.  4/14/17.
  4. History as Propaganda:  Why the USSR Did Not Win World War II:  Part I” by Michael Jabara Carley.  Strategic Culture Foundation.  3/19/16[(Title Intentionally Ironic].
  5. History as Propaganda:  Why the USSR Did Not Win World War II:  Part II” by Michael Jabara Carley.  Strategic Culture Foundation.  3/20/16[Title Intentionally Ironic].
  6. Re-Reflections on the Start of World War II” by Robert Freeman.  Common Dreams.  9/1/19.

Russia & Ukraine Exchange Prisoners, Macron Announces Future Normandy Four Summit; Pentagon Wants to Police Internet News & Analysis

A successful prisoner swap occurred this past weekend between Moscow and Kiev. The exchange included 24 Ukrainian sailors involved in the Kerch Strait incident last November as well as 10 others, including Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov who had been held by Russia on terrorism charges since 2015. An equal number of Russians held prisoner in Ukraine were also part of the exchange but there has been less fanfare about them, even in Moscow (more on that point in the video below).

The exchange is intended to build trust to facilitate future negotiations for ending the Ukraine crisis that erupted after the Maidan coup in 2014, leading to civil war in the country’s eastern region known as the Donbas.

The OSCE Chair and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, Miroslav Lajčák made the following statement on Saturday:

“This exchange has the potential to build up confidence between the two countries, as well as lead to exchange of all detainees, as provided in Minsk agreements,” said Lajčák adding that no effort should be spared to solve the conflict and end the suffering of people. “The OSCE and the Slovak Chairmanship stand ready to assist in any way possible.”

The exchange marked an important moment for Zelensky, the new Ukrainian president, as he can point to obtaining concrete positive actions out of Moscow. Zelensky and Putin held a telephone conference after the exchange in which the Kremlin reported that both sides stressed the importance of making progress on the Donbas problem, particularly using the Normandy format. RT reported:

They both agreed that the swap is an important step to mending ties between the two countries, the Kremlin press service said. Putin and Zelensky also discussed the prospects of solving the crisis inside Ukraine and putting the lengthy conflict between Kiev and the breakaway Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to an end.

The two presidents talked about have also discussed the prospects of a new meeting in the Normandy Four format, that comprises leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany. The process has been somewhat stalled since 2016, but since his election in April 2019 Zelensky urged for leaders to meet. Such an event must be thoroughly prepared to yield some results in regards to actually implementing the Minsk agreements, Putin stressed.

A link to the statement put out by the Kremlin on the phone call can be found here.

The next day, Putin had a telephone conversation with French President Macron after which Macron announced that a summit would take place in the Normandy Four format of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany to revive the Minsk Agreement, but no date was set.

Commentary on the prisoner exchange can be viewed below from Bryan MacDonald – one of the best English-speaking journalists based in Russia.

This morning a diplomatic meeting was held between the French and the Russians with respect to paving the way for more engagement between the two countries, particularly with the goal of resolving the Ukrainian civil war. AFP reported the following:

France said Monday that the time had come to start easing tensions with Russia as senior ministers held four-way talks in Moscow not seen since the crisis over Ukraine broke out.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was a “window of opportunity” for resolving the Ukraine conflict after a landmark prisoner exchange on Saturday, but that it was too soon to talk of lifting sanctions on Russia.

Le Drian and French Defence Minister Florence Parly were in Moscow for talks under the so-called “2+2” format that been suspended since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine….

…Lavrov said progress on rebuilding ties with Europe was “possible and necessary”.


Well, we’re at the point where they’re not even trying to be subtle about it. The Pentagon is now coming right out and saying that it wants to be able to essentially police the news that Americans get on the internet…because they don’t trust us rubes with democracy – especially that freedom of speech thing.

As Matt Taibbi reports for Rolling Stone magazine, the Pentagon – via its Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – wants to utilize software that can detect “fake news” using some sort of algorithm. Taibbi provides more detail:

One of the Pentagon’s most secretive agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing “custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips.”…

DARPA now is developing a semantic analysis program called “SemaFor” and an image analysis program called “MediFor,” ostensibly designed to prevent the use of fake images or text. The idea would be to develop these technologies to help private Internet providers sift through content.

It’s the latest in a string of stories about new methods of control over information flow that should, but for some reason do not, horrify every working journalist.

Taibbi goes on to point out that the worst examples of “fake news” historically have been propagated by the establishment to either crank up support for a dubious war or a dubious crackdown on the rights and liberties of Americans. Ironically, “fake news” itself is now being used as an excuse to curtail our free speech rights.

If there’s a fake news story out there, it’s the fake news panic itself. It has the hallmarks of an old-school, WMD-style propaganda campaign.

It includes terrifying pronouncements by unnamed “intelligence officials,” unprovable, overblown, or outright fake statistical assertions about the threat (like the oft-cited claim that fake election news had more engagement than real news), open conflation of legitimate domestic dissent with foreign attack, and routine dismissal of experts downplaying the problem (here are two significantstudies suggesting the “fake news” phenomenon is overstated).

Of course, the final, omnipresent ingredient in most major propaganda campaigns is the authoritarian solution. Here, it’s unelected, unsupervised algorithmic control over media. We’ve never had a true news regulator in this country, yet the public is being conditioned now to accept one, without thinking of the consequences.

As social critic Caitlin Johnstone has pointed out, the most powerful tool that the elites have in a society is not control of the money supply, energy or food, but control over the narrative. Control over what you think about what’s going on:

Power is being able to control what happens. Absolute power is being able to control what people think about what happens. If you can control what happens, you can have power until the public gets sick of your bullshit and tosses you out on your ass. If you can control what people think about what happens, you can have power forever. As long as you can control how people are interpreting circumstances and events, there’s no limit to the evils you can get away with.

The “Yang Doctrine” Shows that Andrew Yang Hasn’t Done His Homework on Foreign Policy

I’ll preface this post by saying that presidential hopeful Andrew Yang seems like a decent and authentic guy. He has some interesting ideas on domestic policy (e.g. universal basic income, renewable energy, electoral reform, etc.), so I’m glad that he’s still in the debates and the merits of some of his ideas can be discussed. He seems to have some breakout potential – more than, say, Marianne Williamson. I somehow got onto his email list and I saw that he made the individual donations mark before Gabbard did. He has a passionate following which has adopted the moniker of the “Yang Gang.” I can also picture some establishment types maybe being willing to eventually support him as a guy who has a few unconventional policy ideas but ultimately is more capitalist-friendly than a couple of other popular candidates. He would also satisfy the identity politics requirement that is disproportionately significant to some in the party leadership. That is why I’m taking the time to comment on him.

Unfortunately, whatever independent and out-of-the-box thinking that Yang is capable of on domestic policy doesn’t seem to extend to foreign policy. This is becoming clear as he is starting to develop and publicly discuss a foreign policy agenda. His comments on a “Yang Doctrine” were mentioned in a brief interview he did with a YouTuber who leads a Yang fan club. The Yang Doctrine as laid out in the video below consists of 3 criteria that would have to be met to trigger military intervention by the U.S.: 1) is a vital U.S. interest at stake or is there a humanitarian disaster that needs to be averted?, 2) is there a clear timeline for the commitment?, and 3) are our allies willing to engage and help?

Yang discusses his “Yang Doctrine”

Now, to his credit, Yang acknowledges that we’ve been engaged in too many wars and interventions over the past two decades. He also states that there must be more investment in diplomacy and willingness to talk to “dictators.” Additionally, on his website’s foreign policy page, he commits to rescinding the AUMF and giving Congress back the authority to declare war, except for “emergency military activity.” These are all things that are steps in the right direction.

However, what concerns me is the first point of his Yang Doctrine, which leaves a hell of a lot of wriggle room for aggressive shenanigans. He doesn’t define what a “vital U.S. interest” is. Also, he is embracing humanitarian intervention. There have literally been whole books written about how this often serves as a fig leaf for aggressive regime change wars. Again, Yang does not set out any specific details about what would constitute a “humanitarian disaster.” Would he have gone along with the Libya intervention? Libya was a perfect example of humanitarianism, which manipulates people to support a war, being used as a cover for a regime change agenda. Moreover, the humanitarian claims turned out to be bogus. But that inconvenient truth came out after the fact – after the damage had been done. After Libya was reduced from the most prosperous nation in Africa to a slave-trading, terrorist-infested failed state. How would Yang avoid ravaging another country like this in the future under the guise of humanitarianism?

Yang’s comments in this interview on the Crimea issue show that he doesn’t have any understanding of Crimea’s historical relationship to Russia and what even happened in 2014. He seems to think that Crimea was reunited with Russia against its will and is being mistreated. Given that our relationship with Russia is one of the most important and contentious bilateral relationships, a candidate should have at least a rudimentary understanding of the issues at play and Yang shows he doesn’t. His recent answers to foreign policy questions posed by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to the Democratic candidates – which I’ll discuss in more detail below – merely reinforces this assessment. Yang stated in his answers that he wants to expand sanctions on Russia even further.  

Yang also made some comments on the Israel/Palestine issue during a media interview earlier this summer that showed he is not inclined to question the entrenched position in Washington of viewing Israel as entitled to the benefits and protections (and none of the accountability) of essentially being the 51st state. In fact, his answer seemed to indicate that he had little understanding of the actual history and dynamics of the conflict itself. This is not exactly an obscure conflict where only a few eggheads firmly ensconced in the deepest recesses of a university are going to understand it.  In his subsequent CFR answers regarding Israel/Palestine, Yang at least acknowledged that Israel has created illegal settlements that might be problematic. He also paid lip service to a 2-state solution but said nothing about the facts on the ground, which have been systematically created by Israel (i.e. settlements) to undermine any credible 2-state solution.  

Yang addressed some other major foreign policy issues with the CFR questions. One of those is Iran. Yang said he would rejoin the nuclear deal, but he still characterizes Iran as a destabilizing force in the region. This, along with his comments on Israel/Palestine, show little understanding of the Middle East, just the repetition of establishment talking points.

With regard to China, Yang again shows little understanding of another major country that represents an important but contentious bilateral relationship. For example, he suggests that China is “becoming more authoritarian” with its embrace of technology to censor and surveil – as if mainland China hasn’t been “authoritarian” for much of its history.  The utilization of recently available (surveillance) technology to reinforce these tendencies is less an example of “increasing authoritarianism” than the western democracies utilizing that same technology in a more gradual but very similar way to undermine pre-existing civil liberties.  The latter is an example of going from less authoritarian to more authoritarian.  China, not so much. If a supposed brainiac like Yang cannot recognize that his comments don’t make logical sense, then we have a problem.   

With respect to Venezuela, he repeats the establishment line that Maduro is “undemocratic” and that outside powers, led by the US, have the right and duty to force him to step down and allow Guaido to be in charge until further elections.  His position reveals that he believes in imposing regime change, just without a military invasion. He also doesn’t mention the deaths caused by our economic sanctions there.  

I understand that it’s still very early on and I also understand that most Americans are concerned with more immediate domestic policies. However, as I’ve said before, given the actual responsibilities that the job of U.S. president entails and the power that presidents wield on foreign policy, a serious candidate cannot simply view foreign policy as some b.s. afterthought. A politically inexperienced candidate who is utterly ignorant on foreign policy can be easily manipulated by the blob into dangerous actions that potentially have consequences for all Americans as well as the entire world.

Yang, along with all of the candidates, is applying for the toughest job in the country and if he – or any of those candidates – can’t show the intellectual grasp, critical thinking skills, and judgment to be commander in chief in addition to the other duties of the office, then they aren’t qualified for the job.  

Oksana Boyko Interviews Mark Galeotti on Russian Politics and US-Russia Relations; Rasmussen Poll: 56% of Americans Think it Would Be Better to Have Russia as a Friend Than a Foe

Oksana Boyko Interviews Prof. Mark Galeotti on Worlds Apart

A few years ago, when I would occasionally read Mark Galeotti’s commentary and analysis of Russia, I’d often disagree with his take, preferring professors Richard Sakwa and Dominic Lieven as the best British experts on Russia. However, Galeotti actually gives a more nuanced and interesting analysis during this interview with Russian journalist Oksana Boyko on Worlds Apart. A lot of what makes this an interesting discussion is Boyko’s pushback on some of the assumptions that Galeotti rolls out about Russia and Putin, which forces Galeotti to backtrack on some of the things he starts to say that, in my opinion, reflect lazy and stereotypical thinking. I think Galeotti knows better, but he’s so used to providing the group think assessment of Russia that the Anglo-American establishment demands that it’s a conditioned response.

Having a more reasonable sounding view of Russia suddenly seems to be gaining popularity. After last week’s G7 meeting – the mutual admiration society of the western liberal democracies – French president Macron made comments acknowledging that western hegemony in its recent iteration since the end of the Cold War is declining. He also acknowledged that western nations needed to change their current attitude toward Russia or risk dangerous and unnecessary strategic errors that are not in the west’s long-term interests, like a Russian partnership with China. Macron also wants to position France as a key arbiter of relations within Europe, filling the void that will be left by Britain’s exit from the EU and Merkel’s declining influence on behalf of Germany.

According to a new Rasumussen poll out last Friday, 56% of likely U.S. voters believe that ” … having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset to the world and an asset to our country, not a liability.” Furthermore, the respondents admitted that Trump was actually being aggressive in his policies toward Russia. This appears to be evidence that the basic premise of the Russiagate narrative has been effectively debunked for a good portion of the electorate.