Some Thoughts on State Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How We All Benefit from Improved US-Russia Relations

Atomic bomb explosion

by Natylie Baldwin

Originally appeared at Oped News on 5/13/20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the U.S. the Norma Desmond of the World Stage?

Classic movie buffs may remember a 1950’s film noir called Sunset Boulevard starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond.

Norma is a woman beyond her prime and living in the past. She cannot accept the fact that she is not the beautiful and feted movie star that she was 20+ years before, that no one hangs on her every move anymore, and no more leading roles will be forthcoming – in short, the world has moved on. To push away the pain of this rejection – as well as the courage and effort it would take to rebuild her life on a different basis, she creates an elaborate delusion to live in. Within this delusion – which is enabled by a number of others still in her orbit, namely her butler – Norma has tons of fans who still adore her and Cecil B. DeMille is going to call her any moment to give her a big role.

With the delusion having been set for a long time, everyone must tiptoe around Norma, careful not to upset the charade.  They sense to do so would be dangerous.  When a ne’er do well writer who has latched on to Norma, played by William Holden, decides he’s had enough of her, he says something very blunt and direct to pierce her delusion during a fight. Norma flips out and shoots him dead.  The last scene of the movie is classic, showing just how insane she’s become, still failing to recognize how she has destroyed herself and others. 

The final scene of Sunset Boulevard, 1950, Paramount Pictures

As a fan of old movies in general and Sunset Boulevard in particular, I keep coming back to how the psychological profile of Norma Desmond’s character seems so reminiscent of the United States right now – or more precisely the political class that dictates its policies and the narrative used to maintain the illusion.  After the end of the Cold War, Washington was the grand dame on the world stage, at the peak of her powers economically and militarily. And she wielded her power without apology for years, becoming entitled to wield it – making demands and bossing others around whom she perceived to be lesser lights.

She’s declining now but doesn’t accept it – continuing to bomb other nations without remorse, assassinating foreign military leaders, sanctioning 1/3 of the world’s population, dotting every corner of the globe with military bases, and engaging in brinksmanship – all while continuing to proclaim her greatness, exceptionalism and indispensability. Other players on the world stage seem to see through the masquerade, but still feel the need to tiptoe around her.

Having a population whose life expectancy is decreasing, an infrastructure that rates a D+ from civil engineers, doesn’t manufacture much of its essential needs, and who can’t even competently handle a public health crisis doesn’t upset the story that America continues to tell herself. Rather than accept her declining stature and use whatever influence she still has to engineer a soft landing domestically and work with the rest of the world toward a multi-polar order that values peaceful co-existence, America seems to have chosen the Norma Desmond path: very entitled, very narcissistic, and dangerously deluded.  

NOW IN PRINT – “The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations”

The print edition is now available for purchase at Bookshop. Due to the pandemic, Amazon is not making new book titles available in print until further notice.

Here is the book description:

Russia is the world’s other nuclear superpower – the only country that has the ability to wipe the United States off the map within 30 minutes.

With Russia and the U.S. currently having 1,700 nuclear weapons pointed at each other on hair trigger alert, our relationship with Russia is one of the most critical, requiring a rational policy.

In order to conduct a rational foreign policy, we must understand the other country’s point of view. That doesn’t mean one must agree with it, but we must know how Russia perceives its own interests so we can determine what they may be willing to risk or sacrifice on behalf of those perceived interests. It’s also essential to determine areas of common cause and cooperation. Understanding the Russian viewpoint means understanding Russia’s history, geography and culture. The western corporate media – and even some of our alternative media – has a very poor track record in providing this crucial service with respect to many of the nations with whom we’ve already gone to war. The so-called experts they consult often have conflicts of interest, nefarious agendas, and lack an objective understanding of the nation they are speaking about. This has certainly been the case when it comes to reporting on Russia, a country with which the stakes are potentially much higher for the entire world.

This book fills the void left by much of our media in understanding the Russian point of view, which can help us formulate a reasoned policy toward the world’s other nuclear superpower.

New Yorker Correspondent in Moscow Tells Democracy Now! That Russians Aren’t Getting Much Economic Support During the Pandemic – How True is This?

Pedestrian thoroughfare in Krasnodar. Photo by Natylie Baldwin, Oct. 2015

As I reported in a previous post, Putin’s announcement in April of quarantines and “work holidays” throughout Russia in response to Covid-19 included promises of these work holidays being paid, along with a package of measures to provide some economic support to Russian households. The economic support included faster and additional payments to families with young children as well as unemployment benefits.

On the May 7th edition of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and her team interviewed the New Yorker‘s Moscow correspondent, Joshua Yaffa, who stated that “there frankly haven’t been many [economic safety net] measures at all.” Before I dissect how that statement is misleading, I will acknowledge here that Yaffa’s report on Russia was overall not bad in comparison to a lot of the trash that passes for such in the US/UK media. He did not jump to sensationalist conclusions when asked about the deaths of 3 doctors recently in the country. Additionally, it has been well-established for several years that Russia’s attempted “reforms” of the health care system have often created more problems than they solved in the regions farther out, particularly in terms of access. The results of Russia’s modernization of its health facilities have been uneven. These conditions are, of course, as Yaffa explains, going to make things more difficult during a public health crisis like Covid-19.

But in terms of Yaffa’s claims about economic support, this obviously didn’t line up with my earlier posting, so I checked with a couple of sources in Krasnodar and Crimea as well as another source who is well-informed about Moscow to find out if Russians were still being paid during quarantine, if businesses were getting any assistance from the government to meet payroll, and if unemployment was easily available to those who may have lost their job during this crisis.

I received general confirmation that state workers are being paid their salaries during the quarantine. Private sector workers are in a more complicated situation. There is government assistance for private businesses if they apply, but it has been noted that the demand is heavy. Unemployment is available to those who have lost their jobs at a rate of 19,000 rubles per month in Moscow and 12,000 rubles per month outside of Moscow. In terms of the purchasing power parity breakdown, this comes out to around $758 per month.

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at these figures. The first is that, according to Jon Hellevig at Awara Group, around 70% of Russians report having enough savings to get them through 1-2 months of a loss of income. Russians also tend to have less personal debt compared to Americans.

Second, the national monthly average salary for Russia in 2018 was $800 per month. That may not sound like much to the average American but the relative cost of living is much cheaper in Russia, with a $1600 monthly salary in Moscow being calculated as equivalent in purchasing power to $6,000 a month in Chicago.

One of my sources in Krasnodar who knows people who have small businesses provided me a description of what he government is offering in terms of asssistance:

They are supposed to get the assistance from the state – that is – get deferred tax payments, postponement of land tax, transport tax, tax on the company property, deferred lease of real estate and land plots in state ownership.

Businesses that are among the industries affected by coronavirus can receive preferential loans. Business owners are supposed to pay monthly salaries to their employees, at least minimum salaries which amount to 12134 (Ru) –equals 150 US dollars). Those business owners who haven’t reduced their personnel may apply to the bank for free loan in order to be able to pay money to the workers. Employees who lost their jobs may apply for the minimum wages as well.

I was further told that small business owners they know do not want to take on loans – even on preferential terms – in the midst of such uncertainty. Many private small business owners are, thus, finding that it makes more sense for them to lay off employees and let those people file for unemployment. The process for filing for unemployment benefits is described as frustrating due to the red tape of having to provide paperwork to prove one has lost their job due to the pandemic. Another obstacle is the fact that many people were employed in the gray economy – in other words, in businesses that aren’t officially registered – or are freelancers. These people are not eligible for unemployment.

My source in Crimea has told me that there are some variations by region, with some state employees there working part-time or being paid partial wages. Certain private sector employees who’ve been affected by the pandemic – such as tourism – are receiving compensation from the government.

Overall, I get the sense that – like in other countries – there is frustration in dealing with the government to access what assistance is available and a sense of insecurity from not knowing how long exactly this unusual situation will last.

In a revelation that surprised even me, the IMF has projected that Russia will now surpass Germany as the largest economy in Europe in terms of purchasing power parity and will be number 5 in the world this year. Something to keep in mind when you encounter the next predictable round – using the Covid-19 crisis – of “Russia is collapsing’ stories from the US/UK media.

Update on Covid-19 Figures in Russia

Thousands of new coronavirus cases were diagnosed in Russia by this past weekend – as many as 10,000 according to some reports. It went up another 10,000 this past Tuesday and another 11,000 yesterday. The totals as reported by The Moscow Times on May 7th was 177,160 confirmed cases and 1,625 deaths, with the vast majority occurring in the western part of the country which also has the majority of Russia’s population.

Russia-based journalist Bryan MacDonald offered the following analysis on May 4th to provide perspective on how Russia’s numbers compare to other parts of the world:

If you measure official cases by capita (countries over one million people): Qatar, Spain & Ireland are the worst, and Russia is outside the top 25. In terms of deaths, per capita, Belgium, Spain & Italy are the top 3, and Russia isn’t even in the top 50.

Anna Popova, Russia’s chief public health doctor, said earlier this week that the virus will continue to spread, despite the public measures that have been put in place. Russian news agency TASS reported Popova’s comments:

“Today it’s impossible to completely stop the circulation of the virus, no matter how closed the country is. Anyway, there is some kind of communication, and there are risks of renewal even if there are no viruses left in the country,” Popova said in an interview with Pavel Zarubin on Russia-24 TV channel on Monday.

The head of Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing noted that the restrictions will remain in place in Russia until there is a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus. “We learn to live in a new way, we learn to live in the environment where there is a virus. By developing certain algorithms, we say that yes, we are removing restrictions here, but at the same time, older people remain at home anyway, people with chronic pathology will still [stay at home],” Popova said.

“The main thing today, what is very important, is that these two weeks and later when restrictions will be lifted after a certain time anyway, people will have to observe all the necessary rules to make this regime milder and milder,” she said.

Expectations are that the virus will peak in the middle of this month.

Yesterday, Putin participated in a video conference in which it was discussed how a gradual reopening of the economy would look. It would happen in 3 stages but there was no date given for when it would be implemented or how long each stage would last. There is a 3-minute video about it below:

China’s Security Minister Advises Xi That Risk of Direct War Between US & China Highest Since 1989; US Flies Sorties Over South China Sea

U.S. Military Bases Surrounding China, 2017
Foreign Policy Journal

Amid continued sensationalist media reporting on Covid-19 and China, tensions mounted as the US flew sorties over the South China Sea late last week. According to reporting from Air Force

US Indo-Pacific Command has confirmed that two airforce bombers have conducted a 32- hour round-trip sortie over the South China Sea.

The operation included two US Air Force B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

The sortie was undertaken as part of a joint US Indo-Pacific Command and US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission, to reaffirm US Air Force presence in this contested region and reassure its allies.

In a statement, US Indo-Pacific Command said: “This operation demonstrates the US Air Force’s dynamic force employment model in line with the National Defense Strategy’s objectives of strategic predictability with persistent bomber presence, assuring allies and partners.”

This exercise followed a similar bomber run conducted jointly the week before with Japan. noted that provocative US military actions in the South China Sea have tended to come from the Navy and that the use of air bombers appears to represent an escalation:

With the US Navy constantly strained, the use of planes might be a more convenient option for the US. At the same time, US planes flying deep into Chinese territory to challenge China creates an even bigger risk of a confrontation in the area.

Officials are presenting these as “deterrence missions” as a way to justify them. The US military almost certainly wouldn’t consider comparable operations from China over US territory a “deterrence,” however, and if anything these are deliberately provocative.

These escalations are occurring a month after Chinese president Xi Jinping was reportedly presented with a report from his security minister warning that, amid the barrage of anti-China rhetoric coming from the US media and political class regarding the coronavirus – now including calls for an international commission to investigate China and WHO, the risk of conflict between the two countries was higher than at any time since the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989. According to Reuters, which originally reported on the existence of the warning to Xi:

BEIJING (Reuters) – An internal Chinese report warns that Beijing faces a rising wave of hostility in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that could tip relations with the United States into confrontation, people familiar with the paper told Reuters.

The report, presented early last month by the Ministry of State Security to top Beijing leaders including President Xi Jinping, concluded that global anti-China sentiment is at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the sources said.

As a result, Beijing faces a wave of anti-China sentiment led by the United States in the aftermath of the pandemic and needs to be prepared in a worst-case scenario for armed confrontation between the two global powers, according to people familiar with the report’s content, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

Read the full article here.

Reporting yesterday in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post confirmed that the Chinese political class has now accepted that both countries are in the midst of a new Cold War.

“The United States and China are actually in the era of a new Cold War,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at China’s Renmin University and an adviser to China’s State Council, effectively the country’s cabinet.

“Different from the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, the new Cold War between the US and China features full competition and a rapid decoupling. The US-China relationship is no longer the same as that of a few years ago, not even the same as that of a few months ago.”

….Yu Wanli, deputy director at the Lian An Academy think tank in Beijing, agreed that US-China relations were at their lowest point since the Tiananmen crackdown.

“I had always been optimistic about the US-China relationship until recently. In the past, you could always find pro-China voices on the US political spectrum, but there is no such voice in the Trump administration,” Yu said, pointing to a recent Pew poll of 1,000 Americans which found that 66 per cent of respondents held an unfavourable view of China.

Read the full article here.

“The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations” Now Available on Amazon Kindle

Now available for purchase at Amazon Kindle. The soft cover print edition will be available in the coming weeks. At that time, I will send out another post and an official press release Here is the book description:

Russia is the world’s other nuclear superpower – the only country that has the ability to wipe the United States off the map within 30 minutes.

With Russia and the U.S. currently having 1,700 nuclear weapons pointed at each other on hair trigger alert, our relationship with Russia is one of the most critical, requiring a rational policy.

In order to conduct a rational foreign policy, we must understand the other country’s point of view. That doesn’t mean one must agree with it, but we must know how Russia perceives its own interests so we can determine what they may be willing to risk or sacrifice on behalf of those perceived interests. It’s also essential to determine areas of common cause and cooperation. Understanding the Russian viewpoint means understanding Russia’s history, geography and culture. The western corporate media – and even some of our alternative media – has a very poor track record in providing this crucial service with respect to many of the nations with whom we’ve already gone to war. The so-called experts they consult often have conflicts of interest, nefarious agendas, and lack an objective understanding of the nation they are speaking about. This has certainly been the case when it comes to reporting on Russia, a country with which the stakes are potentially much higher for the entire world.

This book fills the void left by much of our media in understanding the Russian point of view, which can help us formulate a reasoned policy toward the world’s other nuclear superpower.