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[l] at 1/24/22 1:50pm
What links Britain’s own migrant crisis from France’s shores and British squaddies in Mali? Unwanted asylum seekers. Russian private military contractors propping up a military junta which France originally supported has now led even France to pull its own troops out. So what the hell are British soldiers doing there risking their lives? The deployment of British soldiers in the West African country of Mali has reached a new farcical level, prompting the question why did Boris Johnson send them there in the first place? In theory at least, 300 British troops of two regiments were sent there in February of last year to boost a UN operation fighting international terrorism. But in reality, they there to give tacit support to the French who have vital business interests in their former colony and need help in both preventing Islamic terrorists from harming those operations and protecting French nationals working for them. But if that wasn’t farcical enough, in recent days, it has been revealed by the French press that Macron is actually withdrawing French troops from the UN operation, which initially had 5000 French soldiers leading it. His reason? The presence of Russian private military contractors in Mali, believed to be there to support the military junta which took power in a coup in 2020 followed by a second one last year to oust a civilian government. In fact, Macron has been quietly reducing his own troops from Mali since June of last year but this initiative is expected to be accelerated when the news of around 400 Wagner private military contractors had been hired by the Mali junta. In recent days, the tension has reached fever pitch. A senior French diplomat said that alleged Wagner-group activity in Mali was still being assessed. “It is still unacceptable for Wagner to deploy to Mali,” the diplomat said, adding that the group’s presence creates security risks. “The problem we have in Mali is first of all a political problem,” he said. “There is a junta which has staged a coup, which exercises power illegitimately and which, to save itself, resorts to Wagner’s services.” And so, if you’re struggling to grasp how or why 300 British squaddies are fighting Islamic terrorists there to ostensibly keep the status quo in the country which helps France and its investment, you might be wondering what the hell Boris is doing now keeping them there given recent announcements from the Elysee. As France speeds up a massive withdrawal of its own troops from its former colony is Britain expected to deal with terrorists having the edge now? And what about the Russian private military contractors? Will British soldiers have to accept them as a dominant military power on the ground? Clearly Boris Johnson, who is facing a political revolt from his own backbenchers, would be wise to take a second look at the Mali situation and Britain’s relations with France given Macron’s pugnacious attitude towards Brexit Britain. Many will argue that enough is enough from Macron who has deliberately allowed record numbers of migrants in France to make the crossing into UK. France’s own navy won’t hold illegal immigrants on flimsy dinghies from making the channel crossing – which puts a strain on housing resources, leaving some Brits out in the cold – let alone exasperating tensions within the cabinet as Priti Patel looks increasingly useless at dealing with the crisis. So what links Britain’s own migrant crisis from France’s shores and British squaddies in Mali? In fact, they’re both two sides of the same coin. Unwanted asylum seekers. Is the British military is expected to help France with its own potential immigration problem if Mali sinks into the abyss and thousands of its citizens head to France for asylum? This is the heart of the matter. Macron cannot afford politically new immigration flows from Mali and so begged the international community for help there to boost the UN mission. But the hypocrisy is stunning. Many will surely argue that given our all-time record low relations with Macron, that the abusive nature of the relationship has now reached new level of travesty and that British troops really shouldn’t be helping keep terrorists at arms length from the military regime in Bamako when even France itself no longer wants to prop it up. The reality is that aside from the press on both sides of the channel bashing one another’s governments, Boris and Macron have a bold vision of teaming up on playing the world’s policemen in the troubled hotspots, with a garnish of peace keeping and humanitarian work thrown in to keep the PR boys happy. This is the real reason why Boris made the decision to help Macron in Mali and why he is so servile to the French president. But we may well be at breaking point. Heaven forbid the day a British soldier is seriously wounded or killed and it transpires that the incident was as a result of a vacuum left by France’s retreat. Does Britain have to keep law and order in Mali just so France can cling to the absurd idea that it is still the colonial power there? The leader of the opposition and Johnson’s own backbenchers now need to be asking questions in the Commons as to the wisdom of the decision to send British troops to Mali. This madness has to come to an end. Or are they hoping for the draped coffins at Britain’s RAF base Brize Norton which would be the final nail in Boris’s coffin? In the coming weeks and months Boris has a number of major hurdles to jump, namely a massive tax rise and local elections in spring. If he can survive the present debacle over office parties, most of the main hacks in Westminster are betting on these two events being his downfall. But it may well be long before that, when Russians in Mali become a huge news story and Boris struggles once again to give a coherent answer to why British soldiers are there. Cue ‘This is the End’ by The Doors and watch the murky water rise.

[Category: Africa, Europe, World, France, Mali, Private Military Contractors, United Kingdom]

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[l] at 1/24/22 1:18pm
Imagine for a moment if Hollywood, the mainstream media and the three-letter federal agencies spent as much time and cash in the war against pedophiles as they do in their perennial propaganda war against Russia. While the Western media hyperventilates over its own phony news of ‘Russian aggression’ and imminent invasions, the Kremlin has quietly turned its sights on an altogether different target: pedophilia. Imagine for a moment if Hollywood, the mainstream media and the three-letter federal agencies spent as much time and cash in the war against pedophiles as they do in their perennial propaganda war against Russia. At the very least, the West would be fighting a real enemy and not one that has been concocted at some cluttered cubicle inside of the Ministry of Truth. Thus, it’s up to Russia, the global spiritual superpower of last resort, to fight this worthy battle mostly alone. Last week, when many Western governments were trampling on the civil rights of their subjects due to a viral strain with a better than 99 percent survival rate, Russian lawmakers adopted – and without excessive fanfare and fainting spells Law #1248305-7 that imposes life imprisonment for “crimes against the sexual integrity of minors.” The document extends the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for pedophiles. Currently in Russia, repeat child molesters who have previously been convicted of violating a child under the age of 14 faces a life sentence. According to the updated legislation, which heads to the Kremlin next month for President Putin’s signature, a repeat offender found guilty of assaulting a minor above the age of 14 could receive a life sentence. The Duma’s efforts to broaden the fight against pedophilia comes at a time when the world is struggling against a Western invasion of ‘progressive’ thought that is totally at odds with what defines a healthy and sane state. That is not to suggest that homegrown sexual deviants do not exist in Russia, or that Russia drafted these laws specifically with questionable Western values in mind. Nevertheless, Russia is fully aware of the radical progressive tendencies that have begun devouring Western capitals. And as most people can appreciate, ideas have no respect – especially in the age of the internet for national borders, nor do they require passports. Outside BBC right now a man is trying to smash up Eric Gill statue while another man live streams talking about paedophiles. Gill’s horrific crimes are well known. But is this the way? pic.twitter.com/IzFUBIJfwT — Katie Razzall (@katierazz) January 12, 2022 In the not-so-distant past, most people at least among the mentally stable would agree that pedophilia is a crime of the highest magnitude against society’s most vulnerable members. Nowadays, such a statement of ‘certainty’ finds no shortage of cynical detractors. Although the Western world has not come out and pledged its allegiance to child molesters, or added a ‘P’ to the LGBTQ+ parade, there are some unmistakable signs that such a day is just over the horizon. Already we’ve crossed several Rubicons that were previously unimaginable. As things stand, public libraries are proudly hosting (taxpayer funded) Drag Queen Story Hours; a 13-year-old transgender boy named ‘Desmond is Amazing’ is touted in the media as the ideal role model for children; and medical practitioners are strongly discouraged from challenging those children who say they want to ‘transition’ to the opposite sex, a decision involving hormones and surgical procedures that many people go on to regret later in life. Whether intentional or not, the Western establishment is slowly conditioning people to accept the notion that very young children can make critical life decisions for themselves – up to and including what sex they may identify as (an incredibly complicated and unproven concept that is oftentimes planted in young and impressionable minds courtesy of social media). That’s not a very far leap from arguing that children should also reserve the right to decide at what age it is appropriate for them to enter into sexual relations, and with whomever they want. In other words, there is no longer any need for parental guidance, it is believed, in this bizarre new world order. The mainstream media, Hollywood, public schools and social media have taken over the shop. This slow-drip indoctrination process has been gathering momentum for a long time in various publications. In 2017, for example, BBC ran with an article entitled, Paedophiles need help, not condemnation I should know. Here the reader is introduced to an anonymous 60-something male who opens his confessional by proclaiming: It’s a long time since I’ve described myself as a paedophile. Paedophilia is a disorder, a deeply distressing sexual orientation. For me, its triggered by traumatic experiences in childhood. USA TODAY TRIES TO “UNDERSTAND” PEDOPHILES!!! To me (and probably anyone who has been watching) this is nothing more than the first step of trying to normalize this kind of behavior. https://t.co/aiI77pxGri — Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 11, 2022 Did you catch it? The author has said that pedophilia, as opposed to being a mental affliction, is yet another harmless “sexual orientation.” Just so we’re all on the same page, the World Health Organization (still) lists pedophilia under the category of ‘Disorders of Sexual Preference.’ Yet that has not stopped people who should know better from turning the tide against common sense. Just this month, USA Today published an article entitled, ‘What the public keeps getting wrong about pedophilia’ where the boneheaded argument was made that a “pedophile is an adult who is sexually attracted to children, but not all pedophiles abuse kids, and some people who sexually abuse kids are not pedophiles.” Thankfully, the author did not attempt to explain exactly who or what child molesters are thought to be, but it’s probably safe to guess, considering the state of the modern liberal mindset, they’d fall somewhere on the spectrum between ‘victim’ and ‘martyr’. In any case, it is clear where this game of linguistic gymnastics of turning predators into victims is heading. The world must stand firm with Russia at this great turning point in history and demonstrate its intolerance to the ongoing effort to normalize the most egregious crime of them all. Children deserve nothing less than society’s pledge of full protection.

[Category: Society, Criminal, Crisis, Russia, West]

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[l] at 1/24/22 1:00pm
The German admiral’s frank remarks contradict the war hysteria being drummed up by the U.S. and Britain, Joe Lauria reports. By Joe LAURIA Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, the head of the German navy, has resigned after saying talk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine was “nonsense” and that Russia was merely seeking “respect” for its security concerns in Europe. “It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,” Schönbach told a meeting of a think tank in New Delhi on Friday. “My minister asked me what does Russia really want?” the vice-admiral said. “Is Russia really interested in having a small, tiny strip of Ukrainian soil to integrate into their country? No. This is nonsense. I think Putin is putting pressure on it because he knows he can do it. And he splits the European Union. But what he really wants is respect. He wants on a high-level, respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost. So if I were asked, it is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves. Russia is an old country. Russia is an important country.” Schönbach also acknowledged that “the Crimean peninsula is gone. It will never come back. This is a fact.” That contradicted NATO’s official position. German navy chief resigns over Ukraine & Putin comments Germany’s Navy chief, vice-admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, has vacated his post on Saturday evening – just a day after he said that Crimea will never come back”, and that Putin and Russia “deserve respect.” pic.twitter.com/nB2Ew3v5EZ — Ben Schaack (@BuyingStrength) January 22, 2022 On Saturday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called in Germany’s ambassador in Kiev to protest “the categorical unacceptability” of Schönbach’s remarks. After a likely rebuke from the German Defense Ministry, Schönbach resigned on Saturday, saying he wanted “to avoid any more damage being done to the German navy and above all, to the German federal republic.” The German defense ministry accepted Schönbach’s resignation with “immediate effect,” saying his remarks did not represent Germany’s official position. However, Germany has continued its refusal to allow German weapons to be shipped to Ukraine, ostensibly to help defend Ukraine from Russia, but very likely to arm Kiev for an offensive against the east of the country. “Weapons deliveries would not be helpful at the moment – that is the consensus within the government,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Saturday. That led Kubela to condemn Germany, saying on twitter that “the German partners must stop undermining unity with such words and actions and encouraging Vladimir Putin to launch a new attack on Ukraine.” Calling Germany “partners” seems to reveal Ukraine’s thinking that it considers itself a de facto member of NATO. Russia is seeking legally-binding agreements with the U.S. and NATO that would create a new European security arrangement, rolling back NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders, keeping Ukraine out of the Western alliance and preventing long-range U.S. missiles from being deployed there. Accompanying these demands have been Russian troop deployments in the vicinity of the Ukraine border, which the U.S. and its NATO partners are portraying not as a negotiating tactic but evidence of an “imminent” Russian invasion. Anglo-American Intentions Macron leaving European Parliament last Wednesday. (European Parliament) Germany appears to be joining France in trying to lower the temperature and put the breaks on an Anglo-American rush to war. In an address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to show Russia the kind of respect Schönbach was talking about. He said: “Europe needs to build a collective security order on our continent. Our continent’s security requires a strategic reinforcement of our Europe as a power of peace, a balancing power, particularly in its dialogue with Russia. I have been advocating this dialogue for several years. It is not optional, for our history and our geography are stubborn, both for ourselves and for Russia. For security in our continent, which is indivisible. We need this dialogue…. What we need to build is a European order founded on principles and rules to which we have committed, and which we established not against or without Russia, but with Russia.” The dissension by the German admiral and the French president to the U.S. position highlights the war hysteria being stirred up daily over Ukraine as a mostly Anglo-American endeavor. Britain has begun playing an increasing role with the United States in preparing its populations for war, reminiscent of the lead-up to the 2003 U.S-U.K. invasion of Iraq. On Saturday, the British Foreign Office said Russia is planning to “install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine.” The Foreign Office named several Ukrainian politicians it said Russia was considering. “The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement. The Russian foreign ministry reacted swiftly. “The misinformation spread by the British Foreign Office is another evidence that these are the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, that are escalating tensions around Ukraine. We call on the British Foreign Office to stop provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense …,” a foreign ministry spokesman told TASS. The Ukrainian people already installed a pro-Russian leader through the ballot box, Viktor Yanukovych. He was overthrown in an actual U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014, leading to the continuing crisis. Britain produced no evidence to back up its claim (though it was prominently spread by Western media), unlike the evidence that was produced of the U.S. coup in Kiev. It came in the form of a leaked telephone call between then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in which they discussed who the new Ukrainian leader would be, weeks before the coup happened. Britain has released no such intercepts to back its allegation. via @NYTimes You mean the way the voters did legally before the coup? This is the Nuland story in reverse, except without the evidence. https://t.co/6GkWvIY9fz — Joe Lauria (@unjoe) January 22, 2022 Spreading Fear of World War But Britain has gone a step further. It is spreading alarm that the standoff can lead to a world war. Truss, the British foreign secretary, traveled as far as Australia to raise fears that China might join the war by attacking Taiwan if Russia “invaded” Ukraine. An interview she gave to The Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline: “Aggressors working together: UK’s Truss warns China could follow Russia into war,” began: “China could use a Russian invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity to launch aggression of its own in the Indo-Pacific, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned. ‘I don’t think we can rule that out,” Ms Truss said. … “Russia is working more closely with China than it ever has. Aggressors are working in concert and I think it’s incumbent on countries like ours to work together.’” Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, trying to inject a measure of sobriety into the debate, wrote: “Remarks by the British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss that China could engage in military aggression in the Pacific, encouraged by Russia’s contingent moves against Ukraine, are nothing short of demented. Not simply irrational, demented. … The underlying story is the government’s desperate promotion of Britain as a strategic partner of Australia in a policy of containment of China. The reality is Britain does not add up to a row of beans when it comes to East Asia. Britain took its main battle fleet out of East Asia in 1904 and finally packed it in with its ‘East of Suez’ policy in the 1970s. And it has never been back. Britain suffers delusions of grandeur and relevance deprivation. But there they were at Admiralty House kidding the rest of us that their ‘co-operation’ added up to some viable policy. Australia’s great Foreign ‘non minister’, Marise Payne, supported by the increasingly strident Defence Minister Peter Dutton, standing beside the British Foreign Secretary looking wistfully for Britain’s lost worlds of the 19th and 20th centuries. Really.” Meanwhile, the Americans and Russians continue to talk past each other over the crisis. Russia demanded the round of diplomacy calling for a new security arrangement in Europe, while U.S. and British leaders and their loyal media think the talks are only about preventing what they alone say is an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine. consortiumnews.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Crisis, Diplomacy, Germany, NATO, Ukraine, War]

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[l] at 1/24/22 12:56pm
By Johannes STERN, Alex LANTIER Yesterday evening, the New York Times reported that the Biden administration is discussing plans to deploy thousands or tens of thousands of troops to the borders of Russia and Ukraine. Despite the Biden administration’s threadbare attempt to present this as a defense of Ukrainian sovereignty against Russia, it is apparent that Washington is preparing a military escalation aiming to provoke Russia, a major nuclear power, into a war. Biden apparently discussed plans with Pentagon strategists to deploy 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Romania and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This could be increased up to tenfold, to 50,000 troops. This comes after Washington announced plans to provide the Ukrainian government with armaments to build bases for missile systems that could launch strikes on Moscow in a matter of a few minutes. The New York Times’ story on the report acknowledged that this would be a “major pivot for the Biden administration … moving away from its do-not-provoke strategy.” It also cited calls for a former top Pentagon planning official, Jim Townsend, calling for a massive military build-up across Europe predicated on the assumption that war with Russia would erupt. “It’s likely too little too late to deter Putin,” Townsend claimed. “If the Russians do invade Ukraine in a few weeks, those 5,000 [US soldiers] should be just a down payment for a much larger US and allied force presence. Western Europe should once again be an armed camp.” Yesterday, Washington ordered US diplomats’ families and advised US citizens to leave Ukraine, “due to the continued threat of Russian military action,” a measure usually taken if war is imminent. US Colonel Alexander Vindman, an officer involved in top-level talks between Washington and the Ukrainian regime, bluntly spelled out US calculations yesterday. Calling for provocative NATO weapons deliveries to Ukraine, directly on Russia’s border, Vindman told MSNBC: “These things are already moving. It’s almost certain that this is going to occur, and now is the time to take those last-minute steps.” Declaring that NATO is “almost locked into a course of action,” Vindman endorsed plans for war with Russia. He said, “Why is this important to the American public? It’s important because we’re about to have the largest war in Europe since World War II. There’s going to be a massive deployment of air power, long-range artillery, cruise missiles, things that we haven’t seen unfold on the European landscape more than 80 years, and it is not going to be a clean or sterile environment.” The pretext on which this war is being launched—that NATO is defending Ukrainian democracy and national sovereignty—is a fraud. The far-right Ukrainian regime in Kiev was installed by a US- and German-backed putsch in February 2014 that toppled a pro-Russian government. Since then, Washington and the other NATO powers have been systematically moving to arm Ukraine as a base for operations against Russia. These plans are now being dramatically escalated. Today, NATO is beginning war games in the Mediterranean, “Neptune Strike 22,” that will last until February 4, involving the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman. US defense department spokesman John Kirby on Friday claimed it had nothing to do with “scenarios” that “could play out with regard to Ukraine.” However, he then made clear the exercise aims to threaten Moscow over Ukraine. Russia’s positioning of troops on Russian soil near the Ukrainian border, he said, “continues to be concerning … We’re going to make sure that we have options ready to reassure our allies, particularly on NATO’s eastern flank. If there’s another incursion and if they need that reassurance, if they need the capabilities to be bolstered, we’re going to do that.” Neptune 22 is one of a series of NATO war games surrounding Russia with vast forces. On February 20, the “Dynamic Manta 22” anti-submarine exercise in the Mediterranean will begin, and on February 22 the “Dynamic Guard” exercise in Norway. This will transition into Cold Response 2022. The largest Norwegian-led military maneuver since the 1980s is to involve 35,000 troops from 26 nations, including 14,000 soldiers, 13,000 seamen, as well as 8,000 air force personnel and staff. The first troops are reportedly already on site and have begun exercises. NATO claims that Russia is driving this confrontation are absurd on their face. It is denouncing Russia for having troops located on its own soil, while it is sending NATO troops and lethal weaponry up to Russia’s borders. A substantial faction of the ruling elite in the NATO countries is pushing for a war with Russia, speculating about Russian intentions while fabricating accusations in order to concoct a case for war. The British government, reeling from a scandal over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, launched a further provocation against Moscow yesterday. On Saturday, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss and the British Foreign Office released a statement accusing Moscow of preparing a coup to install a pro-Russian regime in Kiev. This charge, for which London released no evidence, was a provocation that fell apart under the weight of its own incoherence. “We have information that indicates the Russian government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine. The former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate,” Truss declared. Truss’ statement continued: “The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking. … As the UK and our partners have said repeatedly, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.” This claim was soon discredited: Murayev, the supposed leader of London’s hypothetical coup, pointed out that he faces a state ban in Russia and his assets there have been seized. “You’ve made my evening. The British Foreign Office seems confused,” he told Britain’s Observer. “It isn’t very logical. I’m banned from Russia. Not only that but money from my father’s firm there has been confiscated.” Nonetheless, the US National Security Council embraced this claim to again denounce Russia. Its spokeswoman, Emily Horne, said, “this kind of plotting is deeply concerning. The Ukrainian people have the sovereign right to determine their own future, and we stand with our democratically-elected partners in Ukraine.” The Russian foreign ministry, for its part, denied the story. “The spread of disinformation by the British foreign ministry,” it declared, “is one more piece of evidence that NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, are escalating tensions around Ukraine. We call on the British foreign ministry to stop its provocative activities.” The campaign is not only a continuation of US-NATO interventions against Russian allies in Ukraine and in Syria, where NATO has fought a decade-long proxy war. It is also a reckless attempt to deal with internal class and social tensions that are reaching explosive levels as the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Desperation increasingly dominates the calculations of major capitalist governments. The NATO powers as well as the post-Soviet capitalist kleptocracy in Russia have all imposed a disastrous policy of “living with the virus” on the working class. There have been over 2 million COVID-19 deaths in the NATO states and over 326,000 in Russia. Last week alone saw over 13 million new cases and 28,000 COVID-19 deaths in NATO, and at least 270,000 cases and 4,799 deaths in Russia. Yet governments across the region are ending public health measures to restrict the contagion and instead allow the virus to spread even faster. Since the year began, mass protests and strikes have erupted against official pandemic policies in the United States, Greece, France and Italy. It is clear that, as they seek to impose further policies of mass infection and death upon rising working class opposition, the major imperialist powers are accelerating a turn towards militarism, police-state rule and wars that could threaten millions or billions of lives. To prevent the ruling class from plunging the planet into the abyss, the growing opposition among workers and youth internationally must be mobilized based on a socialist perspective in a movement to oppose war and to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Control over the resources of society must be taken out of the hands of an irresponsible and historically condemned ruling elite. This requires the revolutionary mobilization of the working class against the capitalist system. wsws.org

[Category: Editor's Choice, Eastern Europe, Joe Biden, NATO, United States, War]

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[l] at 1/23/22 8:31am
The world is in search of the next cargo revolution and Russia has a unique idea. Watch the video and read more in the article by Tim Kirby.

[Category: Belt and Road Initiative, China, Economy, Russia, Transport]

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[l] at 1/23/22 7:37am
Three aint a crowd: The Iran-Russia summit this week, concurrent with RIC military drills in the Sea of Oman, in advance of a Xi-Putin meeting in two weeks, suggests a rapidly-advancing strategic vision for the three Eurasian powers. By Pepe ESCOBAR The official visit to Russia by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, at the invitation of Vladimir Putin, generated one of the most stunning geopolitical pics of the 21st century: Raisi performing his afternoon prayers at the Kremlin. Arguably, more than the hours of solid discussions on geopolitical, geoeconomic, energy, trade, agriculture, transportation and aerospace dossiers, this visual will be imprinted all across the Global South as a fitting symbol of the ongoing, inexorable process of Eurasian integration. Raisi went to Sochi and Moscow ready to offer Putin essential synergy in confronting a decaying, unipolar Empire increasingly prone to irrationalism. He made it clear at the start of his three hours of discussions with Putin: our renewed relationship should not be “short-term or positional – it will be permanent and strategic.” Putin must have relished the torrents of meaning inbuilt in one of Raisi’s statements of fact: “We have been resisting the Americans for more than 40 years.” Yet, much more productive, was “a document on strategic cooperation” between Iran and Russia that Raisi and his team presented to Russian officials. Raisi emphasized this road map “can determine the prospect for at least 20 years ahead,” or at least clarify “the long-term strategic interaction between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation.” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian confirmed that both presidents tasked their top diplomats to work on the roadmap. This is, in fact, an update of a previous 20-year cooperation treaty signed in 2001, originally meant to last for 10 years, and then twice extended for five years. A key item of the new 20-year strategic partnership between the two neighbors is bound to be a Eurasian-based clearing network designed to compete with SWIFT, the global messaging system between banks. Starting with Russia, Iran and China (RIC), this mechanism has the potential to unite member-nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), ASEAN, BRICS and other regional trading/security organizations. The combined geoeconomic weight of all these actors will inevitably attract many others across the Global South and even Europe. The basis already exists. China launched its Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) in 2015, using the yuan. Russia developed its System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS). To build an independent Russian-Chinese financial system by linking the two should not be a problem. The main question is to choose the standard currency – possibly the yuan. Once the system is up and running, that’s perfect for Iran, which badly wants to increase trade with Russia but remains handicapped by US sanctions. Iran has already signed trade agreements and is involved in long-term strategic development with both Russia and China. The new roadmap When Amir-Abdollahian described Raisi’s visit to Russia as a “turning point in the policy of good neighborliness and looking to the East,” he was giving the short version of the roadmap followed by the new Iranian administration: “a neighbor-centered policy, an Asia-centered policy with a focus on looking to the East, and an economy-centered diplomacy.” In contrast, the only ‘policy’ de facto deployed by the collective West against both Russia and Iran is sanctions. Nullifying these is therefore on top of the agenda for Moscow and Tehran. Iran and the EAEU already have a temporary agreement. What they need, sooner rather than later, is to become full partners in a free trade area. While Amir-Abdollahian praised the resolution of disputes with neighbors, such as Iraq and Turkmenistan, and a reconfiguration of the diplomatic chessboard with Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, and even Saudi Arabia, President Raisi – in addressing the Duma – chose to detail complex foreign plots to dispatch networks of Takfiri terrorists to “new missions from the Caucasus to Central Asia.” As Raisi said, “experience has shown that only pure Islamic thought can prevent the formation of extremism and Takfiri terrorism.” Raisi was unforgiving on the Empire: “The strategy of domination has now failed, the United States is in its weakest position, and the power of independent nations is experiencing historic growth.” And he certainly seduced the Duma with his analysis of NATO: “NATO is engaged in penetration into the geographical spaces of various countries under the pretext of cover. Again, they threaten independent states. The spread of the Western model, opposition to independent democracies, opposition to the self-identification of peoples – this is precisely on the agenda of NATO. It is only a deception, we see the deception in their behavior, which will eventually lead to their disintegration.” Raisi’s main theme is ‘resistance,’ and that was imprinted in all of his meetings. He duly emphasized the Afghan and Iraqi resistances: “In modern times, the concept of resistance plays a central role in deterrence equations.” The Islamic Republic of Iran is all about that resistance: “In different historical periods of Iran’s development, whenever our nation has raised the banner of nationalism, independence, or scientific development, it has faced sanctions and pressures of the Iranian nation’s enemies,” Raisi emphasized. On the JCPOA, with the new round of negotiations in Vienna for all practical purposes still bogged down, Raisi said, “the Islamic Republic of Iran is serious about reaching an agreement if the other parties are serious about lifting the sanctions effectively and operationally.” University of Tehran Professor Mohammad Marandi, now in Vienna as a high-level advisor to the Iranian delegation, compares his experience with the original JCPOA negotiations in 2015, when he was an observer. Marandi notes that as far as the Americans are concerned, “it’s the same mentality. We’re the boss, we have special privileges.” He stresses that “a deal is not imminent.” The Americans refuse to provide guarantees: “The main problem is the scope of the sanctions, they want to keep many of them in place. In fact, they don’t want the JCPOA. Basically, it’s the same attitude as during Trump.” Marandi offers practical solutions. Remove all maximum pressure sanctions. Accept “a reasonable verification process if you have no intention of cheating Iranian people again.” Provide assurances so “Iranians know you won’t violate the deal again. Iran won’t accept threats or deadlines during negotiations.” It’s unlikely the Americans will ever accept any of the above. The contrast between the Raisi and Rouhani administrations is stark: “In the hope of getting something from the West, the previous administration wasted serious opportunities with both China and Russia. Now it’s a completely different story,” says Marandi. The Chinese angle is quite intriguing. Marandi notes how Amir-Abdolliahan has just returned from China; and how the only nation in West Asia that the Chinese can reliably depend on is Iran. That is inbuilt in their 20-year strategic deal, many positive facets of which should be adopted by the Russia-Iran mechanism. The lineaments of a new world The gist of Raisi’s exposé to the Duma is that Iran has been winning battles on two different fronts: against Salafi-jihadi terrorism and against the American campaign of maximum economic pressure. And that places Iran in a very good position as a Russian partner, with its “extensive economic potential, especially in the fields of energy, trade, agriculture, industry and technology.” On its geoeconomical position, Raisi noted how “the privileged geographical location of Iran, especially in the north-south corridor, can make trade from India to Russia and Europe less expensive and more prosperous.” Way back in 2002, Russia, Iran and India signed an agreement to establish the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200 km multi-modal ship/rail/road cargo network linking India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia and Central Asia all the way to Europe as an alternative transportation corridor to the Suez Canal. Now Putin and Raisi want maximum impetus for the INSTC. Raisi’s visit happened just before a crucial joint drill, codenamed  ‘2022 Marine Security Belt,’ started in the Sea of Oman, actually the north of the Indian Ocean, with marine and airborne units of the Iranian, Chinese and Russian navies. The Sea of Oman connects to the ultra-strategic Strait of Hormuz, which connects to the Persian Gulf. Pentagon denizens of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ strategy will be hardly amused. All of the above spells out deeper interconnection. The Putin-Raisi meeting precedes by two weeks the Putin-Xi meeting at the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing – when they are expected to take the Russia-China strategic partnership to the next level. A new Eurasia-led order encompassing the vast majority of the world’s population is a work in fast progress. China using Eurasia as the larger stage to upgrade its global role, in parallel to the fast-evolving Sino-Russian-Iranian interaction, carries larger than life implications for the Western gatekeepers of the imperial ‘rules-based order.’ The de-Westernization of globalization, from a Chinese point of view, does involve a completely new terminology (‘community of shared destiny’). And there are hardly more glaring examples of ‘shared destiny’ than its deeper interconnection with both Russia and Iran. One of the crucial geopolitical questions of our time is how an emergent, supposedly Chinese hegemony will articulate itself. If actions speak louder than words, then Sino-hegemony looks loose, malleable and inclusive, starkly different to the US variety. For one, it concerns the absolute majority of the Global South, which will be involved and vocal. Iran is one of the leaders of the Global South. Russia, deeply implicated in de-Westernizing global governance, holds a unique position – diplomatically, militarily, as an energy provider – as the special conduit between East and West: the irreplaceable Eurasian bridge, and the guarantor of Global South stability. All of that is at play now. It is no wonder that the leaders of the three main Eurasian powers are meeting and holding discussions in person, within just a matter of days. As the Atlanticist axis drowns in hubris, arrogance, and incompetence, welcome to the lineaments of the Eurasian, post-Western world. thecradle.co

[Category: Editor's Choice, Diplomacy, Iran, Middle East, Russia, Sanctions]

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[l] at 1/23/22 7:00am
If done properly, Russia’s wide rivers and preexisting canals with some upgrades could have an impact on international trade and create some previously impossible shipping routes. Recently the Russian government revealed a plan to radically change cargo transport within the nation that could even have an international geopolitical impact. There is a quest to revolutionize the transport of goods going on globally. As it stands today, looking back on the 20th  century, technology still looks much like it did during the early Cold War. We have trucks on highways, trains, boats and jet airplanes. True, all of these major forms of transporting goods have become more efficient, there are some very fast trains out there now, and in terms of sea transport everything is vastly cheaper than ever before. This has helped lead to the rise of today’s China. Without cheap sea exports they’d be living in a much different, less wealthy nation and that is exactly why Washington and friends do things like make that lovely AUKUS agreement and surround the South China Sea to the best of their ability. Image: The unsung metallic hero of the rise of modern China. Washington wants China to be surrounded so they can have the ability to cut off Beijing’s access to their cargo hauling golden goose. This is why the Chinese came up with the whole idea of the Belt and Road Initiative. This allows China to circumvent NATO encirclement and could be one of the biggest and most expensive “plan B” projects in human history. On the other side of the world there is a sort of Green transportation pseudo revolution mostly starring the brilliant showmanship of Elon Musk and his offers to the scientifically illiterate public. Self-driving semi-trucks and the mysterious “HyperLoop” prop up his empire’s bloated stock prices. This growing trend of “vaporware” in all forms of development in the West where feelings and excitement about a technology outweigh its viability and feasibility is quite an interesting phenomenon. The concept of the Green New Deal is really the apex of this “feels = reality” way of looking at technology and development. Although the methodology may be off, it is certainly worth the West’s time to keep searching for some new development in transport that could be a game changer. Image: Big but not nearly big enough, Russia needs to update its canals, locks and river fleet. And so, China in terms of transport wants to maximize and diversify routes, the West is looking for some sort of zero-carbon-emission futuristic Green answer to a problem that may not exist, and Russia is going to put a large stack of chips down on the most medieval form of cargo transport – river hauling. We live in interesting times. The Russian government is considering investing up to $10.3 billion to update the nation’s river freight capabilities. Considering the fact that river transport is pretty much dead (or at the very least extremely limited in scale) in most of the world this decision sounds strange. The Ohio & Erie Canal near my place of birth is the perfect example of this. It was a slow, limited capacity, surprisingly expensive form of moving goods that is reliant on an infrastructure that is very “organic” and susceptible to flooding, drought and all sorts of other issues that trains and trucks are not. In fact, it combines the linear nature of train hauling with the limited capacity and weather factors that affect semi-trucks into a worst of both worlds. So why would the Russians put so much money down on a technology that was obsolete in America before WWI started? If we read the tea leaves, the logic looks something like this. With some modifications including widening and deepening some locks and upgrading other infrastructure, the miracle of ultra-cheap shipping by freighter on the high seas could work within Russia itself. Essentially it is taking this Chinese transport model and plopping it onto pre-existing rivers and canals at home which can be accomplished relatively “cheaply” by government project standards. The length of Russia’s river system would allow it to become almost like a new Suez or Panama canal for certain nations. Image: Many boats already use the route in Red, with some upgrades, container ships could do so as well. This project may sound like something very minor and internal for Russia but it has the potential to have a major effect on the world geopolitically. At the very least it has been pointed out that with these infrastructure upgrades put in place, some sort of mega freighter could travel freely between the Azov/Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Baltic Sea and the White Sea. This would make Iran become neighbors with Europe in a transport sense overnight and would certainly give Tehran some breathing room as their nation’s geography makes it very “blockadable” by sea. It could also help relieve some of Kazakhstan’s difficulties of being highly landlocked. Turkey and Russia have often been at odds historically and their ability to blockade the Black Sea has always been a problem. So it would be to Russia’s advantage to have an alternative means of shipping from the Black Sea if need be. Image: The Russians want to develop the Arctic, having many major north-south lying rivers sure helps connect it to the rest of the country. The Rivers of Siberia have the potential to be able to take the riches of that region and transport them by containerships all over the world, pending those boats can make it up to the Arctic Ocean and not run aground. Putin has been a big advocate of developing the Arctic for many reasons, this being one of them. Although Siberia is famous for its minerals and wood, it also produces a lot of food and this infrastructure will help Russia continue to grow as a major food producing titan which is a factor in the great relationship between Moscow and Beijing. The food production capabilities of Southern Siberia are beyond comprehension, but have been kept dormant by the region’s landlocked isolation. If done properly, Russia’s wide rivers and preexisting canals with some upgrades could have an impact on international trade and create some previously impossible shipping routes. This will not be done overnight but it is something for geopolitics fanboys to keep an eye on which ironically harkens back to the very birth of Russia, which heavily used river transport from its inception up until the fall of the USSR. Russia was born with this infrastructure mostly in place now it is time for the Russians to make sure that mega container ships can start using it.

[Category: Business, Belt and Road Initiative, China, Economy, Russia, Siberia, Transport]

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[l] at 1/23/22 3:30am
By Bradley DEVLIN Welcome to President Joe Biden’s America: record-high inflation, an ongoing crisis on the southern border, and the rapid expansion of the national debt, all while giving up on his main campaign promise to shut down Covid-19. The numbers, whether metrics from the U.S. economy or public polling, don’t bode well for Biden, the soon-to-be octogenarian heading into just the second year of his presidency. I don’t want to get out over my skis, given President Donald Trump seemed to have a clear path to reelection this time just two years ago, but Republicans seem poised to make big gains in this year’s midterms. If a red wave crashes this November, Democrats will try to blame the DINOs, namely Sens. Manchin or Sinema, but the blame falls squarely on Biden’s shoulders for his abysmal record. Preliminary data shows that the cost of consumer goods rose about 7 percent in 2021. The 7 percent increase in prices set a new record for the U.S. in the 21st century, which prior to last year had not eclipsed 4 percent . In fact, one has to go back all the way to 1981 to find an inflation rate higher than the one Americans experienced last year. At the time, the U.S. was in the midst of a recession caused, in part, by then-Chair of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker’s decision to increase short-term interest rates for an extended period of time to bring the stagflation of the Carter years to heel, which it eventually did. Biden’s first year also added about $2 trillion to the national debt, which already sat at a staggering $27.8 trillion when he took office. This increase was thanks primarily to Biden’s misdirected Covid relief and an infrastructure package filled with progressive priorities, rather than the infrastructure improvements the American working class actually needs. Furthermore, 1.78 million migrants were apprehended at the southern border, and 1 million migrants have been expelled from the U.S. under Title 42, the health regulations put in place by the Trump administration to turn away migrants in March 2020 because of Covid-19, in FY 2021. At first glance, this might seem like a silver lining, but the increased number of expulsions and apprehensions have been caused by the Biden administration’s rhetoric and policies that encouraged a record-breaking number of migrants to seek entrance to the United States. The 1.78 million migrant apprehensions is nearly quadruple that of the 458,000 apprehensions in 2020, and nearly double that of the 977,508 apprehensions in 2019, which saw a migrant crisis of its own. The migrant surge has contributed to a record-number of pending cases in immigration courts, which now stands at 1.6 million. When Trump left office, the immigration case backlog was 1.3 million cases. Arguably, Biden’s foremost campaign promise was that he would “shut down” Covid-19, which killed just over 385,000 Americans in 2020. However, less than a year into his presidency, Biden openly admitted his administration would not be able to deliver on that key promise. “There is no federal solution,” to Covid-19, Biden told a group of governors during a late-December phone call. Last year, more than 450,000 Americans died of Covid-19, despite the proliferation of vaccines. It’s astonishing how quickly Biden admitted defeat in the face of Covid-19. For comparison, President George H.W. Bush took nearly two years to renege on his promise of “no new taxes.” That didn’t end well for the 41st president. Even Biden’s defenders in the corporate media have been forced to admit the first year of Biden’s presidency, which was supposed to deliver the nation from the darkness of the Trump years, has been an unmitigated disaster. “Joe Biden enters the second year of his presidency looking for a reset after a tumultuous first 12 months,” one CNN headline read. A NBC News headline proclaimed, “Biden ends first year as president with ‘bleak, discouraging’ marks from the public,” announcing the findings of a new NBC News poll. Another headline, surely intended to be the most damning of Biden’s first year, from Politico, read, “Biden’s first-year report card: Just like Trump’s.” Of course, once the 2022 election cycle is in full-swing, Biden’s defenders are sure to fall in line. But Biden’s first year seriously calls into question his viability as candidate for Democrats come 2024. This isn’t a cheap shot at Biden’s mental faculties or age (he’d be 82 at the start of his second term), though those considerations merit serious discussion. No, this is purely based on the president’s performance. Rumors are already circulating that Harris, Buttigieg, or Warren might replace Biden as the Democrats’ frontman (or woman). If Republicans retake the House, and possibly the Senate, could Biden benefit from the low expectations that a divided government brings? It’s possible. But for now, I’m thinking: One year down, three to go. theamericanconservative.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Crisis, Democratic Party, Economy, Joe Biden, Pandemic, Politics, United States]

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[l] at 1/22/22 1:02pm
By Caitlin JOHNSTONE The Ukrainian-born MSNBC favorite Alexander Vindman, best known for his role in the Trump impeachment, has informed the network’s viewership that we are almost certainly on the cusp of a war with Russia comparable to World War II. “I think we’re basically just on the cusp of war,” the retired lieutenant colonel told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace on Friday. “I think it’s all but certain in my mind that there’s going to be a large European war on the order of magnitude of World War II, with air power, sea power, massive ground force offensives, and my concern right now is making sure that the United States is postured for that outcome. I think there’s little to be done to avoid it at this point.” Rather than yell and scream like a normal human being at Vindman’s incendiary claims about a near-certain world war against a nuclear superpower, Wallace merely asked Vindman to clarify that he did indeed believe it’s a foregone conclusion that there is going to be a military confrontation with Russia on the level of the second world war. Vindman maintained throughout the appearance that there was going to be a war with Russia, that it would be large, that it would involve Ukraine, and that Russia would be the aggressor. “I hope to God I’m wrong,” Vindman said at the end of the segment. “But I’m willing to go ahead and raise this alarm, put my credibility on the line, to make sure that people are paying attention.” I think were basically just on the cusp of war. I think its all but certain in my mind that theres going to be a large European war My concern now is making sure that the U.S. is postured for that outcome The ball is in Putins court @AVindman w/ @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/QXiGv4B9as — Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) January 22, 2022 This massive claim should be treated very seriously. It should be treated seriously not because it’s well-founded (Moon of Alabama explains that Moscow has no good reason to launch an unprovoked attack on Ukraine and war is entirely avoidable, and Kiev is telling the public to stop worrying about a Russian invasion), but because there’s no way for this claim not to be a big deal. Think about it. If Vindman’s claims are true then we should all be running around like our hair is on fire demanding our governments move heaven and earth to prevent this horror from being unleashed upon our world. If his claims are not true then a US news network just aired brazen disinformation about a matter of unparalleled importance, and ironically did so right after the US State Department published a lengthy report on the dangers of Russian disinformation on RT and Sputnik (which was in turn ironic because, as The Dissident explains, the report is itself packed full of disinfo). Fellow virulent Russia hawk Michael McFaul appeared in the same MSNBC segment as Vindman but took a less hysterical approach, saying he doesn’t know what Putin is going to do. McFaul said that between doing nothing and launching a full-scale ground invasion Putin also has options like “cyber attacks, limited aircraft attacks, artillery attacks, seizing Donbass, attacking and then retreating without bringing any soldiers in.” McFaul later claimed that Biden was too focused on opposing China during his first year in office, causing the Russia situation to get out of control. “I am very prepared to just flat-out state that we are on the cusp of war,” Vindman countered in disagreement with his fellow propagandist, citing as evidence a movement of Russian troops into western Russia while conveniently omitting the fact that thousands of them have since withdrawn from the area. Now what? Diplomacy looks to be a dead-end & the U.S. & West have done little on deterrence. Russias offensive against Ukraine will be the largest in Europe since World War II & there is nothing effective being done to avert it. Start working contingencies & arm Ukraine. https://t.co/r2C6aS8ftl — Alexander S. Vindman (@AVindman) January 13, 2022 Nothing either of these clowns say should be taken as true; any random schmuck off the street would be better-qualified to offer opinions on Russia than dopey mainstream liberal pundits who’ve spent the last five years being consistently wrong about that nation. But we should take very seriously the fact that they are working to insert these narratives into public consciousness. To my knowledge Russian state media have not been telling Russians that a world war between nuclear-armed nations is “all but certain”. To the best of my knowledge only western propagandists are indoctrinating westerners with such madness. You can learn a lot by simply watching who is pushing what narrative. The idea that it’s already too late to stop a world war-level conflict with a nuclear superpower is profoundly dangerous. If the public can be manipulated into accepting this as fact then their priorities shift from insisting that their leaders prevent this unthinkable event from being inflicted upon our world to supporting whatever might protect them and their loved ones from being destroyed by it. We collapse into the same learned helplessness we’re trained to sink into when we’re told that a given political candidate is inevitable or a given grassroots effort is doomed to fail. And if that mind virus does take hold we may be certain that the same brainwashed human livestock who’ve been scoffing at us for warning that all the cold war escalations over these last few years can lead to hot war will be the very first to doublethink their way into a complete cognitive 180 and begin assuring us that hot war is inevitable so there’s no use trying to prevent it. Someone benefits from all this, and it isn’t you. .@SenatorWicker: Vladimir Putin is the neighborhood bully, and hes never gotten a bloody nose from anything hes ever done. [] I do think the people of Ukraine this time will resist whatever happens, and it would be a mistake that Putin would regret for a long, long time. pic.twitter.com/6C2L8paHVB — The Hill (@thehill) January 21, 2022 This comes as withered gerontocrats in the US government bravely proclaim that it’s time to give Putin a “bloody nose” over the latest tensions. It comes as tons of US-supplied weapons pour into Ukraine, and it comes as the US president himself announces that he believes a Russian invasion of Ukraine is likely. These people are playing games with the lives of everyone on our planet, and they don’t even seem to understand that that’s what they’re doing. This is so, so dangerous, and there don’t seem to be any adults behind the wheel. We’re being pied pipered off a precipice from which there is no return by blind men with their hands in their pants. We the citizens of this planet cannot allow this to continue. We’ve got to find some way to stop these pricks. caityjohnstone.medium.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Crisis, Mass Media, Propaganda, Ukraine]

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[l] at 1/22/22 11:52am
By Scott RITTER U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a hastily scheduled, 90-minute summit in Geneva yesterday, after which both sides lauded the meeting as worthwhile because it kept the door open for a diplomatic resolution to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. What “keeping the door open” entails, however, represents two completely different realities. For Blinken, the important thing appears to be process, continuing a dialogue which, by its very essence, creates the impression of progress, with progress being measured in increments of time, as opposed to results. A results-oriented outcome was not in the books for Blinken and his entourage; the U.S. was supposed to submit a written response to Russia’s demands for security guarantees as spelled out in a pair of draft treaties presented to the U.S. and NATO in December. Instead, Blinken told Lavrov the written submission would be provided next week. In the meantime, Blinken primed the pump of expected outcomes by highlighting the possibility of future negotiations that addressed Russian concerns (on a reciprocal basis) regarding intermediate-range missiles and NATO military exercises. But under no circumstances, Blinken said, would the U.S. be responding to Russian demands against NATO expanding to Ukraine and Georgia, and for the redeployment of NATO forces inside the territory of NATO as it existed in 1997. Blinken also spent a considerable amount of time harping on the danger of a imminent military invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces said to be massing along the Ukraine-Russian border. He pointed out that any military incursion by Russia, not matter what size, that violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine, would be viewed as a continuation of the Russian “aggression” of 2014 and, as such, trigger “massive consequences” which would be damaging to Russia. Blinken’s restatement of a position he has pontificated on incessantly for more than a month now was not done for the benefit of Lavrov and the Russian government, but rather for an American and European audience which had been left scratching their collective heads over comments made the day before by President Joe Biden which suggested that the U.S. had a range of options it would consider depending on the size of a Russian incursion. “My guess is he [Russian President Vladimir Putin] will move in, he has to do something,” Biden said during a press briefing on Wednesday. While presenting a Russian invasion as inevitable, Biden went on to note that Putin “will be held accountable” and has “never have seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed” if Russia were, in fact, to move against Ukraine. Biden spoke of deploying additional U.S. military forces to eastern Europe, as well as unspecified economic sanctions. Biden then, however, hedged his remarks, noting that the scope and scale of any U.S. response would depend on what Russia did. “It’s one thing,” Biden said, “if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do.” Almost immediately the Washington establishment went into overdrive to correct what everyone said was a “misstatement” by Biden, with Biden himself making a new statement the next day, declaring that he had been “absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding, any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” and that there should be “no doubt at all that if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.” And just in case the President was not clear enough, Blinken reiterated that point following his Friday meeting with Lavrov. Immutable The U.S. narrative about Russia and Ukraine was immutable; Russia was hell bent on invading, and there would be massive consequences if Russia acted out on its intent. This was no idle threat, Blinken said, but rather represented the unified position of the United States and its allies and partners. Or was it? In a telling admission, CNN’s White House correspondent, John Harwood, stated that the “minor incursions” statement by Biden was harmless, because (Harwood said) Putin already knew through sources that this was, in fact, the U.S. position. As for Europe and Ukraine, their collective confusion and outrage was merely an act, a posture they had to take for public consumption, since the optics of Biden’s statement “sounds bad.” In short, the lack of an agreed-upon strategy on how to deal with a Russian incursion/invasion of Ukraine was an open secret for everyone except the U.S. and European publics, who being fed a line of horse manure to assuage domestic political concerns over being seen as surrendering to Russian demands. Biden and his administration are old hands at lying to the American public when it comes to matters of national security. One only need look to Biden’s July 23, 2021, phone call with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for a clear precedent into this inability to speak openly and honestly about reality on the ground. “I need not tell you,” Biden told Ghani, “the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there is a need,” Biden added, “whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.” This, in a nutshell, is the essence of the posture taken by the Biden administration on Ukraine. Blinken has indicated that the U.S. has a toolbox filled with options that will deliver “massive consequences” to Russia should Russia invade Ukraine. These “tools” include military options, such as the reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank with additional U.S. troops, and economic options, such as shutting down the NordStream 2 pipeline and cutting Russia off from the SWIFT banking system. All these options, Blinken notes, have the undivided support of U.S. European allies and partners. Public opening session between Lavrov and Blinken on Friday. (Ruptly screenshot.) The toolbox is everywhere, it seems—Biden has referred to it, as has White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Blinken has alluded to it on numerous occasions. There’s only one problem—the toolbox, it turns out, is empty. While the Pentagon is reportedly working on a series of military options to reinforce the existing U.S. military presence in eastern Europe, the actual implementation of these options would neither be timely nor even possible. One option is to move forces already in Europe; the U.S. Army maintains one heavy armored brigade in Europe on a rotational basis and has a light armored vehicle brigade and an artillery brigade stationed in Germany. Along with some helicopter and logistics support, that’s it. Flooding these units into Poland would be for display purposes only—they represent an unsustainable combat force that would be destroyed within hours, if not days, in any large-scale ground combat against a Russian threat. The U.S. can deploy a second heavy armored brigade to Poland which would fall in on prepositioned equipment already warehoused on Polish soil. This brigade would suffer a similar fate if matched up against the Russian army. The U.S. can also deploy an airborne brigade. They, too, would die. There are no other options available to deploy additional U.S. heavy forces to Europe on a scale and in a timeframe that would be meaningful. The problem isn’t just the deployment of forces from their bases in the U.S. (something that would takes months to prepare for), but the sustainability of these forces once they arrived on the ground in Europe. Food, ammunition, water, fuel—the logistics of war is complicated, and not resolved overnight. In short, there is no viable military option, and Biden knows this. Empty Sanctions Too The U.S. has no sanctions plan that can survive initial contact with the enemy, which in this case is the collective weakness of the post-pandemic economies of both Europe and the U.S.; the over-reliance of Europe on Russian-sourced energy, and the vulnerability of democratically elected leaders to the whim of a consumer-based constituency. Russia can survive the impact of any sanctions regime the U.S. is able to scrape together—even those targeting the Russian banking system—far longer than Europe can survive without access to Russian energy. This is a reality that Europe lives with, and while U.S. policy makers might think hard-hitting sanctions look good on paper, the reality is that whatever passes for U.S.-European unity today would collapse in rapid order when the Russian pipelines were shut down. The pain would not just be limited to Europe, either—the U.S. economy would suffer as well, with sky-high fuel prices and a stock market collapse that would put the U.S. into an economic recession, if not outright depression. The political cost that would be incurred by Biden and, by extension, the Democrats, would be fatal to any hope that might remain for holding onto either house of Congress in 2022, or the White House in 2024. It would be one thing if Biden and his national security team were honest and forthright about the real consequences of declaring the equivalent of economic war on Russia. It is another thing altogether to speak only of the pain sanctions would cause Russia, with little thought, if any, to the real consequences that will be paid on the home front. Americans should never forget that Russia has been laboring under severe U.S. sanctions since 2014, with zero effect. Russia knows what could be coming and has prepared. The American people wallow in their ignorance, believing at face value what they are told by the Biden administration, and echoed by a compliant mainstream media. Propaganda About ‘Propaganda’ One of the great ironies of the current crisis is that, on the eve of the Blinken-Lavrov meeting in Geneva, the U.S. State Department published a report on Russian propaganda, decrying the role played by state-funded outlets such as RT and Sputnik in shaping public opinion in the United States and the West (in the interest of full disclosure, RT is one of the outlets that I write for.) The fact that the State Department would publish such a report on the eve of a meeting which is all about propagating the big lie—that the U.S. has a plan for deterring “irresponsible Russian aggression”—while ignoring the hard truth: this is a crisis derived solely from the irresponsible policies of the U.S. and NATO over the past 30 years. While a compliant mainstream American media unthinkingly repeated every warning and threat issued by Biden and Blinken to Russia over the course of the past few days, the Russian position has been largely ignored. Here’s a reminder of where Russia stands on its demands for security guarantees: “We are talking about the withdrawal of foreign forces, equipment, and weapons, as well as taking other steps to return to the set-up we had in 1997 in non-NATO countries,” the Russian Foreign Ministry declared in a bulletin published after the Lavrov-Blinken meeting. “This includes Bulgaria and Romania.” Blinken has already said the U.S. will reject this. The toolbox is empty. Russia knows this. Biden knows this. Blinken knows this. CNN knows this. The only ones who aren’t aware of this are the American people. The consequences of a U.S. rejection of Russia’s demands will more than likely be war. If you think the American people are ready to bear the burden of a war with Russia, think again. consortiumnews.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Diplomacy, Russia, Tony Blinken, Ukraine, United States, War]

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[l] at 1/22/22 10:00am
What crime have Eurasian nations committed such that the U.S./NATO military industrial complex has placed targets on them? “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” -Abraham Lincoln It should be obvious that the world is being sucked into a new Cold War, with old school iron curtains, anti-communist rhetoric and even nuclear sabre rattling pushed by unipolar war hawks in the west. Unlike the first Cold War, this new variant strain features Russia and China working closely together along with Iran and a growing chorus of nations who are increasingly integrating into the Belt and Road Initiative. What crime have these Eurasian nations committed such that the U.S./NATO military industrial complex has placed targets on them? Simply that they have chosen to not submit to a unipolar technocratic scientific dictatorship. Instead of embracing a dystopic destiny locked inside a shrinking geopolitical cage as Boris Yeltsin or Zhao Ziyang were happy to do not too long ago, today’s Eurasian intelligentsia has recognized that the only solution to the multifaceted crisis threatening civilization is located in the future. This may sound like a simplistic platitude to some, but from a geostrategic standpoint, the future is where creativity lives. When resources are monopolized and systems of rules shaped by a sociopathic elite antagonistic to the basic rights of humanity, the only viable pathway of resistance to engage in successful combat is to change the rules of the rigged game and create new resources. This is done by increasing the opportunity to 1) make new discoveries which 2) create new resources, 3) translate newly discovered principles into new technological improvements that 4) increase the productive powers (mental, spiritual and physical) of humanity. If steps 1-4 don’t exist in the present, then where are they to be found? I say it again: The Future. The concept of positive future ideals teleologically (1) driving society forward was a powerful notion that once governed much of western civilization. The idea that man was made in the living image of a Creator, capable of participating in the continuous process of creation itself was an empowering notion which animated some of the greatest upward leaps in scientific progress, liberty, sovereignty, increased quality of life and population growth ever seen. In the early United States, this concept became known as “manifest destiny”… that God had a plan to expand the best of civilization and extend the fruits of progress to all in order to fulfill the Biblical mandate that humanity was expected to “be fruitful and multiply” and “replenish the earth and subdue it”. While many goods to humanity arose out of this idea, it was also a double-edged sword that did great damage if used by tyrants, slave owners, or imperialists who ignored the reality that ALL humanity was endowed by the creator with inalienable rights, and not just a select few who felt they had the right breeding, religion, language, or racial characteristics. A popular painting extolling the virtue of manifest destiny during the pioneering days of the 19th century which at times resulted in great good and at many other times, justified great evil A New Eurasian Manifest Destiny Awakens In Russia, this future orientation has taken the form of a sort of 21st century “Russian Manifest Destiny” which aims to extend civilization into the Siberian Far East and Arctic, and beyond Central Asia, Mongolia, Japan, China and beyond. While many are accustomed to myopically analyze world events from a “bottom up” mode of analysis, it is clear that Since 2018, Russia’s eastern development ambitions have increasingly merged with China’s northern extension of the BRI dubbed The Polar Silk Road which has amplified the growth of railways, roads, telecommunication hubs, ports, energy projects and sea corridors through regions long thought inhospitable to human civilization. China has seen the birth of its own version of “Manifest Destiny” in the form of the Belt and Road Initiative, which was unveiled in 2013, displaying a power of transformation, interconnectivity, and win-win cooperation beyond anything even its greatest fans imagined eight years ago. Within a short period of time, over $3 trillion has been spent on small, medium and large-scale infrastructure projects now involving 140 nations (to varying degrees of participation.) Glancing across the thousands of BRI projects springing up around the globe, we find the greatest array of rail lines (including high speed: maglev and conventional), integrated development corridors, new smart cities, new industrial hubs, pipelines and advanced science initiatives touching on space exploration, atomic power, fusion research, quantum computing and much more. These corridors of development have stretched through northern lines via Russia as well as Central Asian states which includes the “Middle Corridor of the BRI”. More recently, we have seen the blossoming of a southern route from China to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon also take form with Syria finally signing up on January 12th, 2022. Nations across Africa have also enthusiastically jumped on board with over 48 of 54 African nations signing onto the BRI. Currently, 18 Ibero American and 20 Arab states have also joined the program. Must Diversity Be Sacrificed for Unity? Both China and Russia have extremely large nations with vast potential in terms of undeveloped resources, manpower, and technological needs, but they also host a diverse array of smaller cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic groups from all walks of life. The vast majority of Russia’s 146 million citizens live in the Westernmost 1/5th of the country with 80% of the population living in or near urban zones extending from the Baltic to Caspian Sea. In the expansive north-eastern regions of Siberia (occupying a landmass 1.3 times the size of Canada), only 24 million citizens are diffused throughout this underpopulated land. China faces similar problems with its population density and developed sectors locked up not in the west, but narrowly along its eastern pacific coast. Nearly 94% of China’s population still lives in the east of the Heihe-Tengchong Line with the vast inner heartland housing only 6% of the Chinese population. Russia hosts 193 ethnic groups comprising nearly 20% of its population and although China’s Han population is by far the largest demographic (representing 91% of the population), there are 56 distinct ethnic groups representing 113 million people, many of whom live scattered across Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. The pressing quandary faced by Eurasian leaders planning out their programs of outward expansion can be stated in the following manner: How is it possible to extend scientific and industrial development across multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic territories both domestically and internationally without destroying the cultural heritage of the hundreds, if not thousands of smaller cultural groups along the way? Must development always occur at the expense of cultural diversity of smaller ethnic groups as has been too often the case in world history, OR is there an organic way to balance both factors? How NOT to do Manifest Destiny The irony is that up until recently, the concept of Manifest Destiny has been traditionally associated with the United States which shares many demographic characteristics with both China and Russia with the vast majority of population concentrated in the eastern half of the continent. Sadly, the forces who shaped American expansion- especially during those first 125 years when Manifest Destiny had its greatest influence, have too often failed this test miserably. In its first 12 decades of life, the USA grew from 13 backward colonies in 1776 to 45 industrially-advanced states in 1900. Throughout those years, the wiser anti-slavery voices of Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Sumner, William Seward, and William Gilpin were too often subverted by an anglophile deep state parasite class that ran both Wall Street in the north and the southern slave power. This multiheaded hydra lurking within the heart of the USA had its own perverse ideas of “Manifest Destiny” which stood in diametric opposition to the ambitions of the great statesmen listed above. Where abolitionist-leading figures like Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton encouraged the sharing of knowledge, technical skills, science and the fruits of technological progress to both blacks and natives without forcing religious conversions or crushing their local traditions, the deep state in both northern and southern zones of influence sought to only expand their power through the conquerors whip. The southern perversion of Manifest Destiny promoted by Andrew Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Albert Pike envisioned increased black slavery and Native Americans crushed under the heel of the “superior” white race, and cordoned off into cage-like plantations or reservations never to have a say in their own destiny. Jackson’s 1830 Indian Removal Act emptied out valuable lands quickly handed over to southern cotton planters who quickly expanded the influx of black slaves from Africa vastly increasing the tension between free vs slave states leading to the inevitable Civil War of 1861-65. It is often forgotten that under the Mazzini-connected freemasonic-laden presidency of Franklin Pierce (1853-1857), then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (later Confederate President) and General Albert Pike were in charge of advancing a “southern alternative” to the trans continental railway through slave states. Unlike the northern line (begun by Lincoln in 1863) which was designed to spread industrial growth and ultimately connect with China, (2) the southern version simply served as an iron cage to keep the enslaved under the control of masters. In this way, the confederate “Manifest Destiny” was no different from the Cecil Rhodes racist vision of the Cape to Cairo rail line that sought to keep the continent under the British heel or today’s EU-London “Green Belt Initiative”/OSOWOG Plan to force green energy grids from Africa to India. During the Civil War, the British were more than happy providing weapons, warships, logistic support, intelligence hubs in Canada and funding to the rebels nearly resulting in Lincoln fighting a war on two fronts early on (one against the south and the other against the British Empire) (3). While the legitimate defenders of American Manifest Destiny sought to avoid war, relying instead on diplomacy to grow their territories (see: the Louisiana purchase of 1804, Oregon Territory in 1848, or Alaska purchase of 1867), the “America” of Wall Street and Virginia’s slave power were always happy to pick a fight with a neighbor to spread their imperial ambitions (see the Mexican war of 1846-48, or overthrow of Hawaii’s monarchy in 1893). Unfortunately, those American traditions that once resisted imperialism have withered away, with today’s republic a poor shell of its former self, purged of genuine patriots in positions of federal power. Today’s USA has hollowed out its industrial base, destroyed its cultural connection to Christian values and its faith in scientific progress resulting in an alienated nation of nihilistic consumers without a vision for the future. The Growth of Eco-Colonialism in the 20th Century The racist program of ghettoization of natives in the form of tribal reservations has segregated First Nation tribes from the rest of society for generations, keeping them locked into cycles of dependence, poverty, substance abuse, infant mortality rates and suicide magnitudes higher than the national average. This manipulation of Native Americans has also seen these abused people used by game masters attempting to block broader continental development projects under a policy of “human ecosystems-management”. Since the late 1960s, it has become increasingly fashionable to treat native populations as just extensions of their local ecosystems- both of which are presumed to exist in stationary equilibrium by computer models which have been used to calculate conservation regions and optimal population growth for decades. For anyone struggling to understand why the large-scale economic growth policy advanced by the likes of Franklin Roosevelt and JFK were derailed in the late 1960s with the onset of the Vietnam War, understanding this racist use of native reserves and ecosystem management is vital. The vast growth of conservation parks and federal lands kept off limits from all infrastructure investment was not the effect of warm-hearted nature lovers as many have been led to believe, but rather the effect of a cold calculated policy by geopolitical gamemasters intent on keeping society locked into a small controlled world of “limited resources”. Image: Conservation lands (top) and national reserve parks (below): National Academy of Sciences of North America While liberal imperialists shed crocodile tears for the plight of natives long abused by selfish white colonizers, they were too happy supporting mass sterilization of native women throughout the 1970s, and keeping the natives without clean drinking water, reliable electricity, healthcare or even access to quality jobs. One of the most vocal proponents of the trans-continental railway (extending into Eurasia) was Lincoln-ally William Gilpin (Colorado Governor during the Civil War) who astutely identified the reservations to be “like blocks of stone in the wall of a jail against the frontier line. Under the veil of this new type of modern colonialism, money was often infused into the coffers of corrupt tribal leaders who have been happy letting oil cartels exploit their resources while keeping their people locked in cycles of dependence and zero technological growth. From this perspective, one can see a clear parallel in the application of a similar neo-colonial policy applied to Africa. China: A Manifest Destiny with Dignity Despite the loud denunciations from the western Five Eyes-managed political class, China’s approach to both African BRI partners and their own minority groups stands in stark contrast to this nefarious tradition of exploitation and cultural genocide deployed by the western oligarchy for generations. What we have seen in places like Tibet and Xinjiang are cultural heritage centers, exploding literacy rates, the celebration and teaching of traditional languages, songs, stories and dances given full government patronage. While evidence of this cultural growth has grown across all minority ethnic zones, we have also seen a dramatic growth in longevity, population density, quality of life, poverty reduction, infant mortality reduction, and access to advanced industrial skills, clean water, internet and abundant electricity. On a religious level, over 24,400 mosques currently exist in Xinjiang, not to mention 59 Buddhist temples and 253 churches. In only eight years, the bane of Saudi-U.S. funded terrorism in China has been dealt with without a single Arab state bombed back to the stone age which is no small accomplishment. In Tibet, high speed and conventional rail has connected the local communities that had long lived in poverty, to broader global markets with durable technical skills and training growing vibrantly among the younger population. Buddhist temples are also thriving with the full support of the government. NED-controlled propaganda outlets in either region would have you remain blind to these demonstrable facts of Chinese life. While concessions favoring Chinese firms are certainly built into most BRI-connected projects springing up across Southwest Asia, Africa, and beyond, the fact is that infrastructure (both hard and soft), new industrial hubs and educational opportunities are springing to life at breakneck speed. Across Africa, we have found local cultural traditions thrive in tandem with the same policy we have witnessed in Tibet and Xinjiang. If this is news to you, try putting down the Epoch Times and watching some local African news or CGTN’s African channels. China’s approach stands in stark contrast to those IMF-World Bank-USAID programs that have systematically kept poor nations in usurious debt-trap enslavement for decades providing money to buy a few fish, but never allowed the capability to fish for themselves. China, on the other hand has encouraged the growth of vast construction projects, manufacturing hubs, and perhaps most importantly, advanced engineering skills. Overcoming Russia’s Monetarist Obstacles In Russia, a privatized central banking system still largely influenced by monetary protocols shaped by the IMF has made actualizing Putin’s Far Eastern vision much more difficult than in China where a vibrant state owned banking system provides an invaluable instrument of long-term growth. Russia’s private central bank, established (in its current form) in 1990, still suffers from deep-seeded structural ties to the IMF, WTO and liberal ideologues swarming across the bureaucratic landscape ensuring that a doctrine of “balanced budgets” and free markets takes precedence over the emission of productive credit. Despite these blocks, Russia’s unique version of Manifest Destiny has begun to spring into life with Sergei Shoigu’s “grand masterplan for Siberia” starting with the construction of five new cities housing 500,000 to a million citizens. Additionally, the plans to expand and improve both the 9300 km Trans-Siberian Railway and its 4300 km southern Baikur-Amal Mainline rail being modernized, double tracked and integrated ever more deeply into Mongolia, China and even Japan. This dovetails the expanding International North South Transportation Corridor from Moscow to India via central Asia and Iran which should now be seen as another dimension of BOTH the BRI and Far East Vision [see map below]. As the project advances, freight traffic along these rail lines will increase from 120 million tons/year to 180 million tons/year in 2024. This rail expansion is tied closely to Russia’s Development Plan for the Northern Sea Route adopted in 2019 and which seeks to increase annual shipments to 80 million tons by 2024. On top of ports and new arctic mining hubs, this plan includes the construction of 40 new vessels (including more nuclear icebreakers), railways, and northern seaports which will see 10 days of shipping time slashed from goods between China and Europe. If this wasn’t enough, on January 15, 2022, Putin announced that proposals to construct a long awaited Arctic railway to the Barents Sea must be submitted by May 10 2022.  This rail will extend to the Indiga Port in the Nenets Region which will host a year-round arctic port with a capacity of processing 80-200 million tons of cargo/year. China and Russia have agreed to build Arctic science research centers in 2019 in order to “promote the construction of ‘Silk Road on Ice’”, while new designs for a new international scientific research base in Yamal called Snezhinka (aka: “Snowflake”) will be opened in 2022. In both instances, pure scientific research on Astro-climatology (the Arctic is the densest entry point for interstellar cosmic radiation which plays a driving role in climate change), species evolution and chemistry will be done in such new centers. Perhaps the most exciting fields of research will involve the testing of new artificial ecosystem designs requisite for sustaining human life comfortably not only in the Arctic but also on other celestial bodies like the Moon or Mars. Both nations have after all, agreed to co-develop a permanent lunar base which will be unveiled in the coming decade. If we can avoid the trappings of nuclear war, then the discoveries that will be made along this exciting new chapter of inter-civilizational development are beyond the capacity of any computer model to predict, but they will happen nonetheless. The unleashing of creative discoveries by educated, inspired, goal-oriented human minds will increasingly awaken new technologies, and redefine humanity’s relationship to the periodic table of elements as new uses are found for the atom with wider access to the thousands of isotopes that still have yet to find a role in our economic systems. In this way, space and time itself will be condensed as magnetic levitation rail, nuclear propulsion systems and new energy sources will be brought online revolutionizing our ideas of “near”, “far”, “slow” and “fast” in dramatic ways. Just think of the many months one would have to travel from old to new worlds in colonial days, to the mere hours such a transit takes on a hypersonic plane today. This is the sort of quantum leap expected as the 300 days transit to Mars currently required with chemical rockets will fall to a matter of weeks with nuclear propulsion. Perhaps one might wish to accuse me of an overabundance of idealism, but so what? This process is already unfolding before our very eyes, as political and scientific realities which many thought impossible only a decade ago, have already begun changing the trajectory of our collective future. If humanity’s phase shift into a mature self-conscious species is subverted once more… at a time when thermonuclear weapons litter the globe, there is no guarantee that we will get another chance. The author can be reached at matthewehret.substack.com Notes (1) The term “teleological” refers to the idea that there is an intrinsic purpose or design shaping the material world, and that human ideas of law, and even economic ambitions are only good to the degree that they square with this purpose built into the fabric of the universe. (2) One of the Trans Continental Railways most vigorous champions was Senator Charles Sumner, who passed a resolution in defense of the 1867 Alaska purchase (through which rail and telegraph lines were planned to move from the Americas through Eurasia via the Bering Strait crossing): “To unite the East of Asia with the West of America is the aspiration of commerce now as when the English navigator (Meares) recorded his voyage. Of course, whatever helps this result is an advantage. The Pacific railroad is such an advantage; for, though running westward, it will be, when completed, a new highway to the East.” (3) This 2nd front against Britain was nearly sparked in 1861 due to the Trent Affair

[Category: Business, History, Belt and Road Initiative, China, Russia, United States]

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[l] at 1/21/22 11:38am
Washington and its NATO allies are jeopardizing peace in Europe. They are creating the conditions for war between nuclear powers. American President Joe Biden said this week he thinks Russia will invade Ukraine. Only days ago, Biden and his top aides were not sure, saying they didn’t know if that would happen. If the highest-ranking members of the U.S. executive can’t agree on a coherent thought process, then there is strong reason to conclude that they are clueless and what they are claiming is baseless. In short, lies. Deplorably, however, this cluelessness is inciting war in Europe. For nearly two months now, the Biden administration, aided and abetted by Western media, has been pummeling the public with the message that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine. This is not innocent cluelessness. It is criminal incitement of war and crimes against peace. All of this propaganda – for that’s what it is – relies on a toxic Cold War mentality, as well as Russophobia, arrogant assertions bereft of any substance, and dodgy data. Satellite imagery purportedly of a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border actually shows established bases hundreds of kilometers inside Russia’s territory. As with the lead-up to the Anglo-American war of aggression on Iraq in 2003, there is an orchestration of Western public perception in order to “manufacture consent” for confrontation, this time with Russia. The Big Lie technique innovated by Nazi propagandist Josep Goebbels and perfected by Western imperial powers is being deployed once again. Moscow has repeatedly and categorically rejected claims of an invasion plan and says it has no intention of attacking any nation. Russia has appealed to Western states to refrain from uttering this monotonous insanity. The mere suggestion of those accusations reveals a provocative anti-Russian prejudice and a reckless stoking of instability. It is mind-boggling that Moscow is obliged to say that troops within its territorial borders are a sovereign matter that does not require any explanation or accountability to any foreign government. Now we are told this week that the “specter of war” is growing and the talks on Friday between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva are supposedly “last-ditch efforts” for diplomacy to avert conflict. There is indeed a ludicrous and reckless double buildup: of military forces as well as of propaganda for war. This buildup is all undertaken on the side of the United States and its NATO partners including the Western-backed regime in Ukraine. The U.S. and the NATO bloc are flooding Ukraine with weapons. The Biden administration just announced an additional $200 million in military aid to Kiev, on top of nearly $3 billion that has been supplied since 2014 when the CIA-sponsored coup d’état in Ukraine ushered in a rabidly anti-Russian regime. Britain and other NATO members including the Baltic states are sending anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine along with military advisors. All this weaponry is emboldening the Kiev regime to escalate its offensive against the ethnic Russian population of Southeast Ukraine. Kiev forces have repudiated a political settlement to the nearly eight-year civil war which began shortly after the CIA-backed coup. This week there were reports of the Ukrainian armed forces installing multiple rocket launchers on the contact line in the Donbas conflict zone, a move which is being read as preparation for a major offensive. The glaring reality is one of a ramping up of militarism in Ukraine by the US and its NATO partners that is directly threatening Russia. Yet, astoundingly, the reality is turned on its head by American and European politicians accusing Russia of planning an invasion and stoking aggression. The 2014 coup is retrospectively distorted, as Russia having invaded Ukraine and annexing Crimea. Now we are told Russia is going to invade again. In addition, we see the contemptible pretense of America’s top foreign envoy Antony Blinken reportedly “engaging in shuttle diplomacy to prevent war”. Last week, Russia put forward clear proposals to U.S. and NATO officials for implementing security guarantees in Europe. Those proposals included a halt to eastwards expansion by the NATO bloc and the removal of strategic American weapons from Eastern Europe. Moscow’s eminently reasonable initiative to improve security has been rebuffed. Ahead of his meeting with Lavrov in Geneva, Blinken said he would not be presenting a written response to Russia’s proposals. And yet the American side talks about “offering Russia a diplomatic alternative to conflict”. That’s tantamount to offering peace down the barrel of a cocked gun. The truth is, Washington and its NATO allies are jeopardizing peace in Europe. They are creating the conditions for war between nuclear powers. There are ominous echoes of past war in Europe when Nazi Germany assembled a war machine under the cynical guise of “defense”. Today, the U.S.-led NATO bloc is an aggressor in Europe under the banner of “defense” against alleged Russian invasion. Not one American or European politician can credibly enumerate the basis for the inordinate military buildup and aggression towards Russia. There is a crazed group-think and gaslighting that has taken hold of the political class in the United States and other NATO nations. The incoherence and, frankly, the insanity of their pronouncements are a danger to world peace. There is no doubt that the intensifying current internal political and economic crises of the Western capitalist powers are driving the reckless warmongering as a way to find a desperate distraction from systematic failure. The coronavirus pandemic and social malaise from historic economic failure are multiplying the militarism of Western states in their policy towards Russia. There is an inability by the ruling establishments to deal with political problems rationally and democratically. For those willing to see and think with an open mind it is obvious what is going on. Historically, the U.S. and its NATO accomplices are the political inheritors of the Western-backed Nazi regime that tried to destroy Russia for the sake of imperial hegemony of Western capital. Washington and its Western lackeys need to prevent the normalization of relations within Europe whereby the continent’s largest country, Russia, is able to develop peacefully along with European neighbors. The U.S. – the lead Western hegemonic power – must prevent this geopolitical outcome at all costs. In the past, Nazi Germany and fascism were used as bludgeon. Today, it is NATO expansionism in the “defense of democracy and peace”. War, it seems, is looming and the warmongers are stumbling towards the abyss. As in times past, the ordinary people of Europe and the United States have no interest in conflict. Abominably, disaster and suffering are being contemplated by cosseted elites who are willing to wage war to the last man, woman and child. The mass of people must resist the warmongers and indeed defeat them to find a better, more peaceful way of governing societies and international relations.

[Category: Editorial, Security, War and Conflict, Diplomacy, NATO, Russia, Ukrainegate, United States, War]

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[l] at 1/21/22 10:30am
By Patrick ARMSTRONG To Moscow, Ukraine is not the problem, Washington is. Or, as Putin might put it: Tabaqui does what Shere Khan tells him to and there is no point in dealing with him, go straight to Shere Khan. That is what Moscow is trying to do with its treaty proposals. For the same reason, Moscow is not much concerned with what the EU or NATO says; it assesses that they are Tabaquis too. The current propaganda meme in Washington is that Russia is going to “invade Ukraine” and absorb it. It will not: Ukraine is a decaying, impoverished, de-industrialised, divided, corrupt and decaying mess; Moscow does not want to take responsibility for the package. Moscow is fully aware that while its troops will be welcomed in many parts of Ukraine they will not be in others. Indeed, in Moscow, they must be wishing that Stalin had returned Galicia to Poland rather than giving it to the Ukrainian SSR after the War and stuck Warsaw with the problem. This does not, however, rule out the eventual absorption of most of Novorossiya in ultimo. The second delusion in Washington is that if Moscow did “invade Ukraine” it would start as far away from Kiev as possible and send tank after tank down a road so that the US-supplied PAWs could exact a heavy cost. That is absolutely not what Moscow would do as Scott Ritter explains. Moscow would use standoff weapons to obliterate Ukrainian troop positions, C3I assets, assembly areas, artillery positions, ammunition dumps, airfields, ports and the like. At its choice. It would all be over quite quickly and the Javelins would never be taken out of their boxes. But that is the extreme option as Ritter explains. Unfortunately the Blinkens, Sullivans, Farkas’, Nulands and others who seem to be driving USA policy don’t understand any of this. They remain convinced that the US is a mighty power, that Russia is feeble and fading, that Putin’s position is shaky, that sanctions are biting, that Russia’s economy is weak and so on. And that they understand modern warfare. Everything in the past twenty years contradicts their view but they hold to it nonetheless. Take, for example, Wendy Sherman who was the principal American negotiator in Geneva this month. Look at her biography on Wikipedia. Social worker, money raiser for Democratic Party candidates, political campaign manager, Fanny Mae, Clinton appointee to the State Department, negotiator with Iran and North Korea. Is there anything in that record to indicate any knowledge or understanding of Russia or modern war? (Or skill at negotiations for that matter?) And yet she’s the one on point. Jake Sullivan: lawyer, debate preparer, political advisor, ditto. Perhaps there’s an American general officer who sees reality – certainly there are those who have spoken of Russia’s formidable air defence or EW capabilities; others understand how weak NATO would be in a war on Russia’s home field. But, as Colonel Lang points out, maybe not. Overconfidence rooted on nothing is the problem. Moscow has made a proposal that is based on the undeniably true position that security is mutual. If one side threatens the other, then the threatened one will take steps to shore up its position and the threat level will rise and rise. During the Cold War both sides understood that there were limits, that threats were hazardous and that negotiating prevented worse things from happening. But Washington is lost in its delusion of everlasting superiority. The so-called “Thucydides trap” is the name given to a condition when one power (Sparta then, USA now) fears the rising power of (Athens then, China and Russia today) and starts a war because it fears its position can only weaken. The brutal truth is that that point has already been passed: Russia+China are more powerful than the USA and its allies in every measurable matter – more steel, more food, more guns, more STEM, more bridges, more money – more everything. NATO/US would lose a conventional war – American military wargamers know this to be true. In short, how can Moscow compel these people to see reality? This, in a word, is the problem: if they can see it, then something better is possible; if they can’t, then it’s the worse. For everybody’s sake – Washington’s too – Washington has to pay attention to Moscow’s security concerns and dial down its aggressions. Moscow has asked – demanded really – and it’s not yet clear that the attempt has failed. The negative reaction of the Tabaquis doesn’t matter – Moscow only talked to them as a matter of form – it’s Shere Khan’s answer that matters. And we haven’t had it yet. Perhaps the aborted colour revolution in Kazakhstan was an answer from some portion of the US deep state/Borg but, if so, it was a swift and powerful demonstration of how poor an understanding of the true correlation of forces the US deep state has. We await Washington’s final answer but the prospects are not very encouraging at the moment: the cheap threats and bragging op-eds pour out. So what is Moscow’s Plan B? I have elsewhere listed some responses that I can imagine and others have done so too. I am thinking that Moscow has to do something pretty dramatic to shatter the complacency. I see three principal fronts. The United States has not been threatened with a conventional attack on its home territory since 1814; Russia has several ways that it can do so. The problem will be to reveal the threat in a way that cannot be denied or hidden. A demonstration of Poseidon’s capabilities on some island somewhere followed by the announcement that a significant number are already deployed near US coastal cities? Washington must be presented with a demonstration of Russia’s immense destructive military power that it cannot pretend away. Ukraine is the obvious field for such a demonstration. (See Ritter). A world-changing diplomatic move like a formal military alliance with China with a provision that an attack on one is an attack on both. This would be a demonstration of the correlation of forces that not even the most deluded could miss. Mackinder’s Heartland plus population, plus manufacturing, plus STEM, plus resources, plus military and naval might joined in a military pact. We shall see. The negotiations are not over and something better may come from them. Doctorow, a capable observer, gives some hope. But to get to a better result would require a pretty major change in attitude in Washington. We can hope. The stakes are high. turcopolier.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Diplomacy, Russia, Ukraine, United States]

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[l] at 1/21/22 9:00am
Washington has decided to ramp up the push for war against Russia using Ukraine as a proxy – and using a twisted narrative about Russian aggression and invasion. American Secretary of State Antony Blinken is shuttling across Europe this week vowing that Washington “desperately wants peace not war” with Russia. This touchy-feely sentiment comes amid reports of additional American and British weapons supplies heading to the NATO-backed Kiev regime. Ukraine has already been massively weaponized by the United States since the CIA-backed coup d’état in Kiev in 2014 brought to power a Neo-Nazi regime obsessed with antagonizing Russia. The Biden administration has boosted inventories for anti-tank missiles and other lethal weaponry with plans for further increases. Now it emerges that additional supplies are on the way from both the U.S. and Britain. Britain is to send anti-tank weapons to Ukraine along with “military advisors”. Moscow this week condemned the increased flow of weapons to Ukraine, saying it is recklessly stoking already fraught tensions. The new supply of anti-armor missiles from the U.S. and Britain – reported only days after high-level talks on regional security between Russian and NATO officials were conducted last week – would seem to be one more proof that the Western powers are secretly pushing for war with Russia despite rhetoric appealing for a diplomatic solution. The frenzy for warmongering seems to have taken over any reasoned dialogue or obligation to diplomacy and international law. Washington and its European allies are whipping up the hysteria of alleged Russian invasion plans for Ukraine. Blinken flew to Kiev on Wednesday claiming that Russia was ready to invade Ukraine “imminently”. The American foreign minister then flew to Berlin to meet with German, British and French counterparts to discuss ratcheting up further economic pain on Russia over its alleged “aggression”. The German government announced this week it was prepared to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas project “if Russia invaded Ukraine”. The New York Times reported claims that Russia was closing down its embassy staff in Kiev and speculated that the move was a portent of Moscow’s anticipation of war. Russia dismissed the report as groundless and said its consular staff was working as normal in Ukraine. The Ukrainian foreign ministry also appeared to corroborate Russia’s claims. Russia has repeatedly rejected allegations of an invasion plan. It says that troop movements within its borders are its internal business that requires no explanation. Even the New York Times which has been pushing the invasion narrative admitted this week that American intelligence claims of Russian troop build-up on the border with Ukraine have not materialized. Moscow says that the military build-up is actually by the Ukrainian armed forces supported by U.S., British, Canadian and other NATO military advisors. Russia maintains that the allegations of a Russian invasion are a cover for the NATO-backed Kiev regime to launch an offensive against the ethnic Russian population of Southeast Ukraine, who have been fighting a civil war with Kiev forces since 2014 when the CIA fomented a coup d’état. Blinken is due to meet with Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday. The Kremlin has said that it expects a legal, written response from the United States regarding the security proposals that Moscow presented last week to American and NATO officials. Those proposals included a commitment from the U.S. and NATO to desist from further eastward expansion and for withdrawal of existing offensive weaponry from Eastern Europe. American and European NATO allies have already verbally dismissed Russia’s security proposals as “non-starters”. They stated that Russia does not have a veto on NATO deployments. This is a high-handed and provocative rebuff to Russia’s concerns over the threatening encroachment of offensive military forces on its borders. The United States and its partners seem to be deliberately kicking Russia’s existential concerns into the long grass. Not reciprocating promptly to the security guarantees that Moscow explicitly delineated last week shows that the U.S.-led NATO bloc is menacingly playing for time to wear down Russia’s resolve. Antony Blinken has made lame excuses for not responding to Russia’s strategic security proposals by saying that the United States needs to first consult with other NATO allies and partners. Washington is making out that it is constrained by an obligation to seek consensus and consultation. Moscow is being told that it will have to put its security concerns on hold while the U.S. confers with its European counterparts. Who knows when that nebulous process will end? Curiously, there was no such need for “consultation” by Washington when it decided to dramatically pull out of Afghanistan last year. After 20 years of grinding, futile war, the Biden administration did not bother to inform other NATO members about the sudden military withdrawal. Indeed, European appeals for a slower withdrawal were pointedly ignored by Washington which had decided unilaterally to close down operations in Afghanistan. The notion that the United States indulges consensus and consultation among NATO members is an absurd delusion. Washington, as the presumed hegemonic power, decides alone when and when not to go to war, and its NATO subordinates fall into line like the good little flunkeys that they are. The militarization in Ukraine is being led by the United States, along with its trusty British bulldog. The conclusion is that Washington has decided to ramp up the push for war against Russia using Ukraine as a proxy – and using a twisted narrative about Russian aggression and invasion. The rebuffing of a historic security detente with Moscow is being disguised by the facade of Washington appearing to be chivalrous and courteous to purportedly find a consensus with allies.

[Category: Security, War and Conflict, CIA, NATO, Tony Blinken, Ukraine, United States, War]

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[l] at 1/21/22 8:30am
By H. Bruce FRANKLIN As the U.S. moves nuclear forces closer and closer to the border of Russia, and as our corporate media bang their war drums louder and louder, does anyone remember the Cuban missile crisis? In June of 1961, just three months after the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was defeated,  the United States began the deployment of fifteen Jupiter nuclear missiles to Turkey, which shared a border with the Soviet Union. Each missile, armed with a W49 1.4 megaton thermonuclear warhead, was equivalent to 175 Hiroshima bombs. With their fifteen-hundred-mile range, the missiles were capable of annihilating Moscow, Leningrad, and every major city and base in the Russian heartland. Each missile could incinerate Moscow in just sixteen minutes from launch, thus wildly raising the possibility of thermonuclear war caused by technological accident, human error, miscommunication, or preemptive attack. We didn’t hear about the Jupiter missiles and of course we didn’t hear anything about Operation Mongoose, the top-secret plan launched on November 1, 1961, to overthrow the government of Cuba through a systematic campaign of sabotage, coastal raids, assassinations, subversion leading to CIA-sponsored guerrilla warfare, and an eventual invasion by the U.S. military. The armed raids and sabotage succeeded in killing many Cubans and damaging the economy, which was hit much harder by the economic embargo announced in February. However, the assassination plots were foiled, and all attempts to develop an internal opposition failed. Many of the CIA agents and Cuban exiles who infiltrated the island by sea and air were captured, and quite a few of them talked, even on Cuban radio, about the plans for a new U.S. invasion, which was planned for October. Cuba requested military help from the Soviet Union, which by July was sending troops, air defense missiles, battlefield nuclear weapons, and medium-range ballistic missiles equivalent to the U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey. At 7 p.m. eastern time on Monday, October 22, 1962, John F. Kennedy delivered the most terrifying presidential message of my lifetime. Declaring that the Soviet Union had created a “clear and present danger” by placing in Cuba “large, long-range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction” “capable of striking Washington, D.C.,” he announced that U.S. ships would immediatly impose a “strict quarantine,” a transparent euphemism for a blockade, on the island. Knowing that the American people knew nothing about the recent and ongoing U.S. deployment of the Jupiter ballistic missiles capable of striking all the cities of the Russian heartland, he stated, “Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift that any . . . change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.” And knowing the American people knew nothing about Operation Mongoose and its previously planned invasion of Cuba in October, the president stated over and over again that these Soviet missiles were “offensive threats” with no defensive purpose. Here was his most frightening sentence: “We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth—but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.” On Friday Jane wrote a long letter to her family: Oct. 26, 1962 Dear Family, Marie, your letter from the east helped rouse me from a state of paralysis in which I have been suspended since Kennedy’s speech on Monday Bo, I am glad your orders so far are not changed I had figured Bill must be in the blockade Thursday night Bruce was one of three faculty who spoke on this crisis. Dr. Leppert, a nuclear physicist (he watched the effects of nuclear blasts in Nevada) and Dr. Holman of the medical school were the two other speakers.  There was a large audience.  The discussion afterwards was intelligent and constructive.  But part of the time there I felt like crying because all their hope and desire for reason is, in effect upon those in power, like the vaguest ripple of a breeze.  When we once sent a telegram urging no resumption of nuclear testing, we received in return a very brisk, official pamphlet on how to prepare for a nuclear attack Tuesday in the middle of the night Karen appeared at our bed and said through tears, “I’ve been having a nightmare about an atomic bomb.”  We had been being careful about our words around them, but the radio had been on constantly  Tuesday I had periods of wishing I weren’t pregnant, but I keep telling myself that instead of bringing one more person into the shadow of nuclear war, I’ll be bringing one more person up to hate hate, respect respect, and love love. Until I recently read her letter, I had forgotten my talk. According to the Stanford Daily, I had explained how Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba violated international law and asked the audience to judge it on “pragmatic, ideological, and ethical” grounds. That all sounds embarrassingly tame and bookish. Jane obviously would have done better. The recipients of Jane’s letter included her sister Marie and her husband Bo Sims, a Marine lieutenant colonel stationed at the Pentagon, and her sister Bobbie and her husband Bill Morgan, the captain of a destroyer.  Back in 1956, Bill has cut our wedding cake with his ceremonial Navy sword. Although he and I rarely agreed about anything—except the Gulf of Tonkin incidents of 1964—I always figured that he was probably a good, albeit gung-ho, naval officer, fair to his crew and responsible about his duty. Only in 2017 did I discover that the destroyer under Bill’s command was the USS Cony, one of the U.S. warships searching the Cuban coast for surviving invaders the Bay of Pigs the year before.  The day after Jane was writing her letter, Bill was indeed carrying out his orders professionally and efficiently. On October 27, the Cony discovered and then tracked for four hours the Soviet diesel-electric submarine B-59 out in the North Atlantic Ocean several hundred miles from Cuba. The Cony was one of eight destroyers and an aircraft carrier hunting for Soviet submarines that might be heading for Cuba. They were under orders to force any such sub to surface by bombarding it with “signaling depth charges,” designed to cause explosions powerful enough to rock the sub, while also pounding it with ultra-high-amplitude sound waves from the destroyer’s sonar dome. Meanwhile, the B-59’s last orders from Moscow were not to cross Kennedy’s “quarantine line” — 500 miles from Cuba–but to hold its position in the Sargasso Sea. After that, it received no communication from the Soviet Union for several days. It had been monitoring Miami radio stations that were broadcasting the increasingly ominous news. When the sub-hunting fleet of U.S. ships and planes arrived, the submarine was forced to run deep, making it lose all communication with the outside world, and to run silent, relying on battery power. The batteries were close to depleted, the air conditioning had broken down, and water, food, and oxygen were running low when the Cony began its hours of bombardment with the depth charges and high-amplitude sonar blasts. Other destroyers joined in an ongoing barrage of hand grenades and depth charges. The Soviet officers were unaware of the existence of “signaling depth charges,” and international law has no provision allowing one warship to bombard another with small explosives unless they are in a state of war. Since the B-59 was hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic, not within the blockade area and not heading toward Cuba, its crew and officers logically deduced that war had started. If so, it was their duty to attack. The officers knew that with one weapon on board, they could destroy the entire sub-hunting fleet of destroyers and the aircraft carrier that had been pursuing them—along with themselves. Neither Bill Morgan nor anyone else in the U.S. Navy or government was aware that the B-59 was armed with a T-5 nuclear torpedo, approximately equivalent in explosive force to the Hiroshima bomb. If the sub fired its T-5, it would plunge the world into nuclear holocaust. One nuclear weapon fired from any of the American or Russian subs still prowling the oceans would do the same today, decades after the end of the Cold War. Hardly anyone in America then or now is aware of the command-and-control protocol on nuclear-armed submarines. In order to deter an opponent’s “decapitating” first strike, which would wipe out all the nation’s leaders with the authority to launch a nuclear retaliation, the three top officers of a nuclear-armed sub have the authority and ability to launch a nuclear attack under certain circumstances. On October 27, 1962, the Soviet command-and-control protocol for launching nuclear torpedoes was even riskier: only the sub’s captain and its political officer had to agree. On the B-59, Captain Valentin Savitsky and his political officer realized that it was now or never. Their choice was either to surface—which was equivalent to surrender while they, perhaps alone, had the ability to launch a significant counterattack—or to fire their nuclear torpedo. They decided to attack and readied to aim for the aircraft carrier at the core of the submarine-hunting fleet. Only one man stood in the way of a nuclear Armageddon, and he was on board the B-59 by chance. He was Vasili Arkhipov, the commander of the four-submarine Soviet flotilla, who vetoed the attack, leaving Captain Savitsky with no alternative but to surface. “This week’s events have brought home,” Jane had written in her letter a day earlier, how few people have any say “about nuclear war before it may be brought down upon their heads by the handful of people who decide man’s fate.” Even that handful of people in the White House and Pentagon didn’t know about those nuclear torpedoes. And that handful of people in the Kremlin didn’t know that the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had been itching for an excuse to launch a full-scale thermonuclear attack on the Soviet Union and that now, led by the “mad”—President Kennedy’s word—ravings of my ex-boss Curtis LeMay, these dogs of war were demanding to be let off their leashes. The Missile Crisis ended with the USSR removing all “offensive” weapons from Cuba in return for a public U.S. commitment not to invade Cuba and a secret agreement to remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey within several months. Years after the Jupiter missiles were withdrawn, we were told that they were “obsolete,” a term still used in almost all accounts of the crisis. But if the Jupiter missiles in Turkey were obsolete, then so were the equivalent Soviet missiles in Cuba. In reality, the problem with both deployments was not obsolescence but reckless brinkmanship, initiated by the United States. Fortunately, Moscow and Washington ended up mutually recognizing that neither was willing to live with a gun that close to its head. What may have looked to the public like a Soviet capitulation turned out to be a successful, desperate, and potentially fatal gamble by the Soviet Union. They won a tit-for-tat removal of the land-based missiles within sixteen minutes of incinerating either Moscow or Washington, with a bonus of stopping the imminent invasion of Cuba and possibly future invasions as well, all without having to commit to the future defense of Cuba. Behind the scenes, Kennedy now had to deal with the shrieking hawks, furious at the president both for missing the golden opportunity to annihilate the Soviet Union and for an ignominious surrender of America’s exceptional right to invade Cuba and to station nuclear weapons wherever it pleased. Alarmed by how close we had come to nuclear apocalypse, Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev set up a telephone hot line to enable direct communication, developed a personal relationship to ease tensions, and succeeded in August 1963 in banning nuclear testing in the atmosphere, under water, or in space. The president inspired many of us with an eloquent June 1963 American University commencement address about the world’s crucial need for an enduring peace. He even urged “every thoughtful citizen” who desired peace to “begin by looking inward—by examining his own attitude toward peace, toward the Soviet Union,” which he extolled for its heroic World War II sacrifices. But then of course he went on to claim: “The Communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today.”  Since today Russia is as capitalist as Saudi Arabia, Australia, and United States, what is “the primary cause of world tension today?” President Kennedy’s final remarks began with this statement: “The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war.”  So it must have been Vietnam that started a war with the United States. counterpunch.org

[Category: Editor's Choice, Cuba, Diplomacy, History, Nuclear Weapons, USSR, War]

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[l] at 1/21/22 7:15am
One thing the individual can do is resist, and when the majority of the population decides to grind the wheels the engine comes to a halt The sum of all fears for the average Russian has just been averted. The large packet of totalitarian answers to a problem of questionable magnitude has been booted from the State Duma. There has been an air of dread amongst the populace who were waiting to see if nationwide QR-code legislation would make it into law destroying their lives and businesses to separate those vaccinated from plague ridden riff raff. There was an expectation that some sort of Hegelian Dialectic gamesmanship would get a watered down, but still crushing version of this system passed. Thankfully for the sake of the Russian economy and sanity itself this is now not to be. This decision to completely bail on a QR Code apartheid not only comes at an interesting moment in history but has great relevance for Russia itself and issues related to Covid-19 on a global scale. Screenshot: From the official Instagram account of the State Duma: “The Council of the State Duma unanimously removed the bill on QR codes from consideration”. Interestingly the text says the next big law under consideration is about “punishing pedophiles” even more harshly. Why was the public so concerned over this, shouldn’t we fight Covid-19? There was a sort of test run of this QR code system in Moscow. It didn’t last very long and from the onset it was clear that the Russian masses were not going to let laws get in the way of their daily activities as is tradition. Any filtration processes at subway entrances were a joke that caused a complete transport collapse and lasted around 48 hours in total. The boiled down version of this idea mostly applied to restaurants which were forced to check guests for having a vaccination code. There was much resistance to this, and certain crafty restaurateurs saw the value of convincing the government that they were enforcing QR code restrictions while just letting anyone through the door anyways. After Putin came back from one of his trips abroad, this system, which was ever so critical for our safety, vanished into thin air, but it certainly left a bad taste in the public’s mouth and many bankrupt restaurants. Later a similar project was put into place in Tatarstan with even more violently resisted results. Perhaps if this were to have happened on a national level in one clean sweep it could have broken the Russian economy. The QR madness in Moscow/Tatarstan from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok would have been vastly more devastating than all of Washington’s sanctions packages combined. Perhaps it was a wise choice for a certain President to keep this a “States’ Rights” issue and repeatedly reaffirm that vaccination is a personal choice.  So why did this happen now?  People have been asking me for quite some time about the reality of anti-Covid measures here in Russia and what the government is doing. The problem is that to understand today’s Russia you simply cannot think of the state as a monolithic block. There is no Putin dictatorship under a crushing cult of personality with all roads to power leading to an often shirtless God-Emperor. Russia is not the Borg Cube. There has been a massive unseen war going on behind the walls of government institutions over the pandemic, which explains why Covid policies here have come and gone seemingly at random in various regions. Even at the macro level, there has been a soft push (with the threat of a hard push) for vaccination and yet Putin himself a few weeks ago said something very important about the Omicron Strain… “Although they say it (Omicron) is not so harmful, some experts even call it live vaccination. <…> Let’s not get ahead of ourselves”. In political terms this seemed like a big call to just let the whole Covid situation go while having the ability to retract this statement in a few weeks if necessary. It is also a very Russian answer to a problem for things to just magically work themselves out on their own. For those conspiratorially minded it is interesting that this self-vaccinating Omicron Variant of Covid-19 that Putin brought to public attention is accused of being artificially created by the Mainstream Media. This is some dark food for thought for sure. Going further into the realm of conspiracy, there could be a connection between the absolute failure of negotiations between Russia and the U.S. and finally dropping this QR code legislation. Russia got nothing that it wanted from the Globalists so maybe the Globalists are going to get nothing from Russia? Moscow’s participation in the big school play may be over for good. What does this mean for Russia? Both sides of the Covid fight in Russia have done a good job of building up enemy lists and a deep seeded hatred for the other. When one side wins in this type of scenario we can all guess what is going to happen next. There could be some major restructuring and firings coming up within the next year as revenge time is surely nigh. For the Russian masses this will show that being obstinate pays off. Very often people of questionable intelligence vastly overestimate the ability of the individual to make change in society, but one thing the individual can do is resist, and when the majority of the population decides to grind the wheels the engine comes to a halt. The more collective mindset of Russians has saved the day and the Russian cultural traits of complete disregard for rules and brutal obstinacy have been revalidated for another generation. What does this mean in the context of Covid-19 globally? There is now a major nation that has essentially given up on anti-Covid measures. It is also a global player with some significant media and internet presence that can advertise this fact. While Australians are being beaten and gassed for not wearing a mask at some bar, Russia will probably say to the world how great it is that they defeated Covid using measures that had a minimal impact on the rights of citizens and now everything is back to the Old Normal. They may even broadcast the whole notion that Omicron is a passive solution to the problem and that there is no threat. This will make Russia become even more attractive to Western Conservatives and we should expect a wave of anti-vaxxer immigration to the land of bears and snow. You may scoff at this notion, but when one gets emails about this issue daily, things look a lot different. But of course, if Russia completely drops its war on Covid, that will mean that Russians will suddenly present a “danger” to the populations of foreign nations and may be banned from traveling to most if not all of the West regardless of vaccination. And going to Russia as a Westerner could mean the death of your travel future as you’ve been tainted by their lack of anti-Covid measures. That may sound insane but it is bureaucratically logical and a natural next step in the ever devolving Monopolar vs. Multipolar conflict that we are all in against our will.

[Category: Society, Conservatism, Medicine, Pandemic, Russia]

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[l] at 1/20/22 10:11am
By Eugene GANT Coming up to the 38th Martin Luther King Day, it is obvious to everyone that integration has failed. The Floyd and Black Lives Matter Hoax riots last year, the ridiculous debate over Critical Race Theory, invites a question no one, least of all the worthies who run Conservatism, Inc., wants to ask: Now what? And that question occasions a look back at two remarkably honest essays, one from Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Little Rock [Dissent, Winter 1959 (PDF)], and the other from Norman Podhoretz, My Negro Problem—And Ours for Commentary [February 1963(PDF). Both tacitly suggested that black-white racial problems were insoluble. Arendt originally wrote her piece for Commentary, but the editors spiked it because her views “were at variance with the magazine’s stand on matters of discrimination and segregation.” That was rich given the atom bomb Podhoretz dropped four years later. Arendt wrote that federal intervention to desegregate southern schools was a dangerously stupid idea, particularly President Eisenhower’s deployment of the fabled 101st Airborne to Little Rock, AR enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s post-Brown v. Board ruling to desegregate schools with “all deliberate speed.” On this day in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deploys troops from the U.S. Armys 101st Airborne Division to Arkansas to enforce the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. pic.twitter.com/Rj0FIM8z5M — Military History Now (@MilHistNow) September 24, 2020 Though “things had quieted down temporarily,” she wrote, but “[r]ecent developments have convinced me that such hopes are futile and that the routine repetition of liberal cliches may be even more dangerous than l thought a year ago.” “The achievement of social, eco­nomic, and educational equality for the Negro may sharpen the color problem in this country instead of assuaging it,” Arendt wrote, and although this didn’t necessarily have to happen “it would be only natural if it did, and it would be very surprising if it did not.” By “equality,” Arendt meant forced desegregation and integration. Predicting they would cause more racial trouble did not mean one opposed them, she wrote, but such foreknowledge should “commit one to advocating that government intervention be guided by caution and moderation rather than by impatience and ill-advised measures.” The federal government must proceed cautiously: It has been said, I think again by [Southern novelist William] Faulkner, that enforced integration is no better than enforced segregation, and this is perfectly true. The only reason that the Supreme Court was able to address itself to the matter of desegregation in the first place was that segregation has been a legal, and not just a social, issue in the South for many generations. For the crucial point to remember is that it is not the social custom of segregation that is unconstitutional, but its legal enforcement. Thus the law must desegregate buses, hotels, and restaurants because they are required for a person to carry on life’s quotidian routine. With an apparently straight face, Arendt concluded “this does not apply to theaters and museums, where people obviously do not congregate for the purpose of associating with each other.” They don’t?! Then Arendt pushed the gas pedal. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 that inspired the Southern Manifesto “did not go far enough” to abolish “unconstitutional [state] legislation,” she wrote: [F]or it left untouched the most out­rageous law of Southern states—the law which makes mixed marriage a criminal offense. The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race” are minor indeed. But at least Arendt added a proviso. SCOTUS, which eventually banned anti-miscegenation laws in Loving V. Virginia, never would “have felt compelled to encourage, let alone enforce, mixed marriages.” Yet it did feel compelled to force integration . That aside, Arendt lamented that Leftists were conscripting children to serve as human shields, and that forced integration meant parents would lose the right of free association: It certainly did not require too much imagination to see that this was to burden children, black and white, with the working out of a problem which adults for generations have confessed themselves unable to solve. … [D]o we intend to have our political battles fought in the school yards? … To force parents to send their children to an integrated school against their will means to deprive them of rights which clearly belong to them in all free societies—the private right over their children and the social right to free association. … [G]overnment intervention, even at its best, will always be rather controversial. Hence it seems highly questionable whether it was wise to begin enforcement of civil rights in a domain where no basic human and no basic political right is at stake, and where other rights—social and private—whose protection is no less vital, can so easily be hurt. It seems impossible to believe that a public intellectual, particularly a Jewish one, could or would write that public education is a “domain where no basic human and no basic political right is at stake.” Then again, that’s one obvious reason Commentary rejected Arendt’s piece. An amusing note about Arendt’s piece, versus Podhoretz’s, is how she introduced it. “Like most people of European origin I have difficulty in understanding, let alone sharing the common prejudices of Americans in this area,” she wrote: [A]s a Jew I take my sympathy for the cause of the Negroes as for all oppressed or underprivileged peoples for granted and should appreciate it if the reader did likewise. Of course. Like most Europeans at that time, Arendt had no direct experience with blacks. This was in dramatic contrast to Norman Podhoretz, who very frankly reported that, during his Brooklyn childhood, black kids beat him to a pulp on his way home from school. Podhoretz was mystified. Why do blacks hate Jews with the same ferocity they hate all other whites? he wondered. “To me, at the age of twelve, it seemed very clear that Negroes were better off than Jews—indeed, than all whites” [in his neighborhood] he wrote. This was despite his older, radical sister’s claim that black were oppressed: [I]n my world it was the whites, the Italians and Jews, who feared the Negroes, not the other way around. The Negroes were tougher than we were, more ruthless, and on the whole they were better athletes. What could it mean, then, to say that they were badly off and that we were more fortunate? Yet my sister’s opinions, like print, were sacred, and when she told me about exploitation and economic forces I believed her. I believed her, but I was still afraid of Negroes. And I still hated them with all my heart. No one could blame him. The beatings were brutal, on par with attempted murder. He received a bat across the head for answering a question correctly in class that a black thug had missed. A track team that cheated and lost a meet against Podhoretz’s high school assaulted him and his teammates. The blacks wanted to steal the medals. And so on. Podhoretz learned early the wisdom encapsulated in the late Colin Flaherty’s book title: “Don’t make the black kids angry.” Podhoretz bluntly noted that that blacks are low IQ academic underachievers, then tried to explain why “the Negro-white conflict had—and no doubt still has—a special intensity and was conducted with a ferocity unmatched by intramural white battling.” Wrote Podhoretz: [A] good deal of animosity existed between the Italian kids (most of whose parents were immigrants from Sicily) and the Jewish kids (who came largely from East European immigrant families). Yet everyone had friends, sometimes close friends, in the other “camp,” and we often visited one another’s strange-smelling houses, if not for meals, then for glasses of milk, and occasionally for some special event like a wedding or a wake. If it happened that we divided into warring factions and did battle, it would invariably be half-hearted and soon patched up. Our parents, to be sure, had nothing to do with one another and were mutually suspicious and hostile. But we, the kids, who all spoke Yiddish or Italian at home, were Americans, or New Yorkers, or Brooklyn boys: we shared a culture, the culture of the street, and at least for a while this culture proved to be more powerful than the opposing cultures of the home. Why, why should it have been so different as between the Negroes and us? Leftist homosexual James Baldwin “describe[d] the sense of entrapment that poisons the soul of the Negro with hatred for the white man whom he knows to be his jailer,” Podhoretz observed. Yet he was still “troubled and puzzled”: How could the Negroes in my neighborhood have regarded the whites across the street and around the corner as jailers? On the whole, the whites were not so poor as the Negroes, but they were quite poor enough, and the years were years of Depression. As for white hatred of the Negro, how could guilt have had anything to do with it? What share had these Italian and Jewish immigrants in the enslavement of the Negro? What share had they—downtrodden people themselves breaking their own necks to eke out a living—in the exploitation of the Negro? Baldwin himself answered that question four years later in The New York Times under this refreshingly frank headline: Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They’re Anti-White [April 9, 1967]. The opening paragraphs indicted Jews by stereotyping them as unscrupulous, moneygrubbing landlords, grocers, and merchants who kept blacks in debt: The butcher was a Jew and, yes, we certainly paid more for bad cuts of meat than other New York citizens, and we very often carried insults home, along with the meat. We bought our clothes from a Jew and, sometimes, our secondhand shoes, and the pawnbroker was a Jew—perhaps we hated him most of all. The merchants along 125th Street were Jewish—at least many of them were; I don’t know if Grant’s or Woolworth’s are Jewish names—and I well remember that it was only after the Harlem riot of 1935 that Negroes were allowed to earn a little money in some of the stores where they spent so much. But in the end, that exploitation didn’t matter. White Christians were Baldwin’s real enemy: The crisis taking place in the world, and in the minds and hearts of black men everywhere, is not produced by the star of David, but by the old, rugged Roman cross on which Christendom’s most celebrated Jew was murdered. And not by Jews. Baldwin certainly knew not to rile the people who bankrolled and provided legal and intellectual firepower to the Civil rights movement that got blacks everything they demanded and more, not least anti-white discrimination. Fast forward 50 years. Blacks are angry and unhappy despite being among the most powerful politicians and wealthiest athletes, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, professors, and public intellectuals in the world. Blacks are angry and unhappy 30 years after the federal government canonized rapist Martin Luther King. Blacks are angry and unhappy 13 years after Americans elected a black president, then elected him again. Almost 70 years after Brown, almost 60 years after the Civil and Voting Rights acts, decades after Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, and Barack Hussein Obama became household names—the farther away we go from Jim Crow and segregation—the angrier and unhappier blacks become. They demand reparations for slavery despite trillions of white tax dollars dumped into their communities; Despite their wanton criminality often directed at whites, they are “exhausted” from dealing with imagined “microaggressions.” “Systemic racism” is still our arrant, defining moral failure. Whites are censored, fired, and professionally ruined if they disagree in the slightest with leftist racial dogma. “Whiteness,” we are told, is a pandemic-level disease more dangerous than the Flu Manchu. Podhoretz could think of only one solution, an early blueprint of The Great Replacement. A black man’s color must “disappear as a fact of consciousness,” Podhoretz wrote: [I]t will ever be realized unless color does in fact disappear: and that means not integration, it means assimilation, it means—let the brutal word come out—miscegenation. … [T]the wholesale merging of the two races is the most desirable alternative for everyone concerned. … [T]he Negro problem can be solved in this country in no other way. If eliminating the white race is the only solution to Podhoretz’s “Negro problem and ours,” then it may never be solved. Most whites won’t go along, including Leftists whose zeal for black liberation, Podhoretz confessed, did not match their desire not to live anywhere near or put their kids in school with blacks. As Joe Sobran once quipped, college gives white leftists all the right attitudes about minorities…and the education and income to move as far away from them as possible. They have good reason. Even Leftists know, to rephrase Rodney King, that we just can’t get along. When will we admit it? unz.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Martin Luther King, Racism, Society, United States]

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[l] at 1/20/22 10:01am
China, and to an extent Russia have demonstrated that America can be rebuffed, and their example has emboldened other countries to make choices it couldn’t before. In 1956 Allen Dulles, the then Director of the CIA was addressing a meeting in Asia of the newly formed Non-Aligned Nations. The NAN was comprised almost entirely of countries which had previously been colonies of the Western powers. After what was in many cases centuries of Western oppression, they were intent to achieve independence and national sovereignty. At the time the lines were being drawn in the American-inspired Cold War against Russia, none of the attendant NAN members wanted to involve their countries in Western hostilities anymore, they were, they declared, neutral. Dulles explained the situation clearly, “neutrality is an obsolete concept”. In the American black-and-white view of the world, you had to pick a side. And that choice had better been the right one. Fast forward to 2001 and in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, George Bush told the world, “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”. The dilemma may have occasioned pause for thought among many nations’ leaders, but many chose to go along with the U.S. It did this to justify the seven planned Middle Eastern wars. This was not a moral decision, it was about the survival of their own nations. Twenty years ago, no nation could resist American pressure. Since July 4th, 1976, America has invaded 70 countries, it has interfered in the elections of more than 70 countries and launched many more colour revolutions. These are facts well known to all nations. 120 years ago, the then President Teddy Roosevelt explained his approach to foreign policy, “speak softly and carry a big stick”. America still carries a big stick, but has long since stopped speaking softly. Even the imperialist warmonger Teddy would blush today at the face America shows the world. Trump, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton are all extreme stereotypes of the “Ugly American”. These belligerent, bullying liars are the face of America. One must conclude that America doesn’t care what the world thinks of it anymore. Their bellicose rhetoric is intended exclusively for the domestic American audience. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, America has been the sole superpower. Fortunately for humanity that is no longer the case. China, Russia and Iran all individually stand as powerful opposition to America. All three have been under relentless assault by the Empire for years. This has forced them all to develop strong military capabilities, many more advanced than America can muster. America has gamed out war scenarios against all three nations, it loses all of them, quickly. Absent nuclear conflict, Americas military is no longer the omnipotent threat that it was once considered. China, Russia and Iran are co-operating across many areas, technology and trade in particular. There exists no formal military alliance between them, however, a western attack on one, may well be seen as the start of WWIII. In that unthinkable event, expect the united response to be dramatic. In a nostalgic throwback to America’s Cowboy past, American representatives have been going around the world rounding up a “posse” to go after the Bad Guy, and the Bad Guy de jour is China. Countries once again are being forced to chose, but this time it is different. Tony Blinken and Kamala Harris have imposed themselves upon several Asian countries seeking allies to gang up on China. It didn’t go well, Vietnam, politely showed Harris the door, and Malaysia and Singapore told Blinken not to bother to come. All of China’s neighbours have benefitted enormously from China’s rise and appreciate its non-interference policy. This is stark contrast to its dealings with the U.S. who expect to be able to dictate everything. The recent RCEP trade deal unites 15 Asian nations in the world’s largest trading bloc. It does not include America, must to their chagrin. This would have been unthinkable a few short years ago. More than 140 countries have already made the choice and joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The attraction of investment and development with a strict non-interference policy is an attractive alternative to the insidious Western IMF model. Already more than $11 trillion in trade has passed along the BRI as it extends its reach through Asia, Eurasia and Africa. This has caused great consternation in Washington and attempts to disrupt it have been evident in BRI chokepoints in Xinjiang and most recently in Kazakstan. Yet the BRI rolls on and the number of participating countries continues to grow. Each one a slap in the face to Washington. Of more alarm is China’s growing influence in regions America considered its exclusive domains. At a recent China-Arab summit more than 270 major deals were signed with Arab countries in the Gulf states, many connected with the BRI. Of particular concern is China’s increasingly close relationship with Saudi Arabia. American-Saudi relations have been fractious since MBS took power. It is Saudi’s oil and its dominance of OPEC that underwrites the petrodollar. It is known that MBS is angry at America for its relentless money printing and its resulting devaluation of Saudi’s considerable dollar holdings. The preservation of the petrodollar is America’s No.1 priority, it enables its military adventures and props up the U.S. economy despite it being functionally bankrupt for more than fifty years. Any attempts to challenge or move away from the dollar are met with extreme measures, as Saddam Hussein and Gahdafi discovered to their cost. This situation could get interesting. Hitting even closer to home, China’s recent involvement in Latin America, an area America has been treating as its own private plantation for more than 150 years. Dominated by western-friendly oligarchs dating back to the Spanish conquest, Latin America has remained relatively underdeveloped and has been periodically plundered by the IMF and World Bank. China now has agreements in place with several countries, among them Venezuela and Nicaragua. Other Latin America countries have expressed serious interest in the BRI, notably Brazil. The idea of “Communist China” being in America’s backyard must be cause for panic in Washington. America has no allies, and even those it calls friends don’t trust it. The Germans can see the value of that friendship as they are left to freeze this winter because America doesn’t want them to buy much needed Russian gas. Australia was forced to commit economic suicide by doing in the China hate and alienating its largest customer. The UK and Canada were compelled to abandon Huawei’s 5G, putting back their technological development years and waste the considerable investments already made. America still exerts considerable control over the Western neo-liberal world, all evidence suggests that it will drag its friends down with it on its inevitable decline. China, and to an extent Russia have demonstrated that America can be rebuffed, its example has emboldened other countries to make choices it couldn’t before. They are choosing no strings investment, growth and non-interference. For the first time countries are able to make choices that benefit their people, not the genocidal Western capital class.

[Category: Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, World, China, Imperialism, New World Order, Russia, United States]

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[l] at 1/20/22 7:10am
By Dean BAKER Earlier this month, Dr. Peter Hotez announced that his team of researchers at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor University had developed an effective vaccine against the coronavirus. In limited clinical trials, it showed effectiveness comparable to the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna and better than the Johnson and Johnson and widely used AstraZeneca vaccines. What makes this development so important is that Hotez is making his vaccine freely available to the world. Anyone who has the necessary expertise to produce it is free to do so without worrying about patent monopolies or other intellectual property claims. They are also freely sharing the technology, not claiming industrial secrets like Pfizer and Moderna. The production process is also fairly simple. An Indian manufacturer is already producing 100 million doses a month. Many other facilities can likely be quickly configured to produce the vaccine. With no patent rights, the vaccine is cheap. Hotez estimated that it can be produced for $1.00 to $1.50 a shot. That compares to prices around $20 a shot for the mRNA vaccines. At these prices, purchasing 2-4 billion vaccine doses to immunize the unvaccinated in the developing world should be a very small lift compared to the trillions of dollars and millions of lives the pandemic has cost the world. At the moment, it is not clear that the Hotez vaccine figures prominently in the plans of the international aid organizations providing vaccines to the developing world or to the governments of the United States and other wealthy countries funding these efforts. Part of the hesitance can be justified by the fact that the vaccine has not undergone a large-scale clinical trial to more precisely determine its safety and efficacy. However, this objection should be soon overcome. India has given the vaccine an emergency use authorization. With the vaccine’s widespread use in India, it should be possible to compile enough data to assess its safety and effectiveness in the not distant future. The other issue is a more serious one. The fact that the vaccine is cheap and the technology is being open-sourced is likely a strike against its widespread adoption by major international organizations. The United States and other rich countries are worried about the threat of a good example. Open-Source Versus Patent Monopolies The United States, along with other wealthy countries, has long relied on government-granted patent monopolies to finance most of the costs of developing new drugs, vaccines, tests, and other medical devices. The logic is that corporations will be willing to spend large amounts of money, in often risky research, if they have the prospect of large profits when they have a successful product. While everyone acknowledges the value of government-funded research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies, most of this funding goes to more basic research. The idea is that somehow, if the government was involved in the later phases of the development and clinical testing process the money would be mostly wasted. (Operation Warp Speed is a useful counter-example to this view. The government essentially picked up all of Moderna’s development costs, as well as the cost of its clinical trials.) There are many problems with relying on patent monopolies to finance medical innovation. The most obvious is the price of drugs and other products enjoying patent monopoly protection. Drugs are almost invariably cheap to produce and distribute. However, the patent monopoly allows drug companies to charge markups, that are many thousand percent above the free market price, for drugs that may be essential for people’s health or even their life. In a patent-free world, drug affordability would be a non-issue, except for the very poor. In a world where patent monopolies can allow drug companies to charge tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars for their drugs, affordability is a huge issue. But the problem goes beyond just dealing with high prices. As every economist knows, when the government interferes in a market to keep the price up (by granting a patent monopoly), it creates perverse incentives. The most obvious is the incentive to promote drugs as widely as possible, even if it means misrepresenting their safety and effectiveness. To be clear, companies always want to sell more of their products; that is how they make money. But they have far more incentive to bend the rules or break the law when selling drugs with markups of several thousand percent than when they are selling plastic forks or paper plates at markups of 20 or 30 percent. This is a substantial part of the story of the opioid crisis, where several major drug companies paid billions of dollars in settlements based on allegations that they misrepresented the addictiveness of the new generation of opioid drugs. More recently, we have the case of Aduhelm, an Alzheimer’s drug of questionable safety and effectiveness. Biogen, the drug’s manufacturer, was hoping to sell it for $54,000 for a year’s dosage. The drug was approved by the FDA, reversing the decision of its advisory panel. The biggest problem in assessing the drug’s usefulness is that so many of the experts in the area have received money from Biogen, so it’s not clear whose opinions can be trusted. To protect their patent monopolies, drug companies will spend tens of millions of dollars on legal fees to harass potential competitors. This can mean, for example, pushing dubious patent claims that a less-established or generic company lacks the resources to contest.[1] Patent holders can also effectively pay off potential generic competitors to stay out of the market. While an explicit payoff is illegal, a drug company can certainly make a deal with a potential generic competitor to manufacture one of its drugs. If the generic company decides to drop plans to introduce a generic competitor to the brand company’s patented drug, it would be difficult to prove in court that this was not just a coincidence. The corruption from patent monopolies gets into all areas of health care policy. The pharmaceutical industry always ranks near the top in lobbying expenses and campaign contributions. Huge amounts of money are at stake with the government’s decisions on patent and pricing policy, as well as decisions on approving and buying drugs in programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Perhaps the worst part of the story is that patent monopolies are likely to impede the research progress. Its impact takes different forms. First, the existence of large patent rents for a particular drug is likely to lead competitors to try to find ways to innovate around the patent to get a share of the rents. While it is generally desirable to have multiple drugs for a condition (some patients may react poorly to a particular drug), resources will generally be better spent attempting to find drugs for conditions where effective treatments do not already exist rather than developing the fourth, fifth, or sixth drug in an area, with the hope that a company’s marketing division can get them a large cut of the profits. The desire to protect intellectual property claims can also prevent potentially productive collaborations. It doesn’t do a pharmaceutical company any good if it has a great breakthrough with a partner, but the partner is able to claim patent rights. The New York Times just ran a lengthy piece on the decades of research that allowed for the rapid development of the mRNA vaccines. At one point, it noted how the leading researchers in the field were unable to arrange a collaboration because of disputes over ownership of patents. This problem is likely common. The point of the research being done by pharmaceutical companies is after all is to get a patentable product. Developing drugs or vaccines that may save lives and improve public health is secondary. The Open-Source Alternative There are many different ways to fund open-source research. My preferred route would be long-term government contracts, with large grants going to prime contractors, who would then be expected to subcontract with smaller firms where appropriate. (I outline this system in chapter 5 of Rigged [it’s free].) Military contracting provides a loose model for this approach. While there is much waste and fraud in the system of military contracting, this system for biomedical research has the huge advantage that while much military research is secret (often for good reason), everything would be fully open in this system. If a major contractor with a large grant didn’t seem to be producing anything, it would quickly be apparent to researchers around the world. If Pfizer or Merck got $5 billion over a decade to research diabetes drugs, and had nothing to post after a year or two, it would be apparent to researchers around the world that something was wrong. If the story proved to be outright fraud (e.g., the top executives of the company had all bought themselves huge vacation homes), then the contract would be canceled, and the people responsible would be prosecuted. If it turned out that they were just incompetent, then the company would surely never get another research contract.[2] The big advantage of going this route is that all research findings would quickly be available to researchers everywhere. They could build on successes and learn from failures. We would not be seeing the problem noted in the NYT piece on developing mRNA vaccines, where cutting-edge research was not shared because of disputes over ownership of patents. And, since all research findings were fully public, no one would have the incentive or the ability to mislead other researchers or clinicians about the safety and effectiveness of drugs, as happened with opioids. With everything on the table for all to see, it would be difficult to perpetuate a lie of any consequence. The other huge advantage of going this route is that drugs, vaccines, tests, and everything else developed through this system would be cheap. This would make providing access to the best technology in developing countries a far more doable task. It would even make a huge difference in rich countries like the United States. Instead of spending $500 billion a year on prescription drugs, we would be spending closer to $100 billion. The Danger of the Hotez Vaccine I have argued for years for the benefits of an open-source funding system along the lines discussed here and in Rigged. But, even if this is really a great idea, as I believe, no one would envision throwing out a functioning system, however wasteful and corrupt, for an unproven idea. The obvious route for going from the current system to an open-source system would be to take small steps with little downside risk. This is exactly what Peter Hotez and his team of researchers did with developing their coronavirus vaccine. They were able to arrange enough funding from various sources to cover the research costs. They are now prepared to make it available to the world without conditions. If further research supports their initial findings, the world will have a cheap, effective vaccine that can quickly be produced in sufficient quantities to vaccinate the world. That would be a huge deal and a great success for the open-source model. It would likely lead to demands for more public funding of open-source research. It may also help to pressure philanthropies—that claim to be concerned about public health—to fund research on an open-source model. Needless to say, it would also be very bad news for the profits of Pfizer and Moderna, and other drug companies that hoped to make billions off of COVID-19 vaccines. Given the widely recognized value of government-funded basic research through NIH and other agencies, it would require a very strange view of scientific progress to think that government funding of downstream research would be just throwing money in the toilet. But the best way to disprove this view is to produce results for an open-source model. Dr. Hotez has done that, and the whole world needs to know. Notes. [1] There is an important asymmetry in legal battles between a patent holder and a generic competitor. The patent holder is fighting for the right to be able to sell a drug at patent monopoly prices, meaning markups of many thousand percent. The generic company is fighting for the right to sell the drug in a free market, with markups that may be less than one-tenth as large. [2] To answer an obvious question, we would need some international agreement to share research costs worldwide. There would be problems negotiating such a deal. However, anyone who has followed recent trade negotiations knows that we have had enormous problems negotiating and enforcing international rules on protecting patents and other forms of intellectual property. cepr.net via counterpunch.org

[Category: Editor's Choice, Medicine, Pandemic, United States]

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[l] at 1/20/22 7:00am
It is 2022 and regime change formulas don’t work, color revolutionary magic which worked for decades doesn’t work and even expanding old-school military hardware around the troublesome Eurasian nations of the multipolar alliance no longer works. The old magic doesn’t work the way it used to for the ghouls in Washington, London and Brussels. It used to be so easy to wave that old wand and watch a troublesome president have his brains blown out on live TV or suffer a violent coup. There were a thousand and one ways to eliminate a pesky nationalist politician which had been honed over the Cold War years, and it seemed that all 1001 had been tried… several times over in some cases. If two towers were required to collapse into rubble or a nationally elected government (or twelve) overthrown by a conveniently weaponized mob, then a shadow government apparatus would get the job done without too much ado or resistance of merit. The beat went on and on like a broken record until some time in 2013… when something changed. That change took the form of a couple of nations that realized that without a new set of rules and a new song to dance to, this dark magic was going to lead the world into an inevitable dark age. While some within those nations were more than content adapting to that sulfur as long as they were promised good seats ruling in hell, others with a bit more moral fibre said no to that option. Maybe the leading intelligentsia of these nations saw something in their ancient civilizations that was not worth flushing down a toilet, or maybe they just didn’t like the idea of submitting to a degenerate self-proclaimed elite masterclass… but whatever the motive, they started disrupting the magic tricks and things began changing. After 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya blew up nicely but no matter how many times the old spells were cast, Syria just wouldn’t crumble. What made matters worse, was that oil-rich Venezuela also wouldn’t crumble either despite the vast majority of south American governments having been corralled into a coalition to support a new self-proclaimed president whom some dubbed Obama 2.0. Belarus didn’t fall as expected, and Hong Kong didn’t gain independence as many neocons promised. Iran survived years of sanctions and even a couple of near-hot wars with the USA and Israel in 2007 and 2020, but still it thrived going so far as to join a Eurasian security and economic coalition in 2021. Even tiny Yemen which was supposed to break apart within weeks of Saudi-led bombing still stood strong after 7+ years of war against near-impossible odds. Ethiopia (aka: China’s most strategic gateway into Africa) didn’t fall either despite millions of dollars of foreign funding spent and weaponized terrorists re-framed as “freedom fighters” for an international audience. Many were also surprised that Afghanistan’s Taliban not only fended off the world’s biggest military force after 20 years of combat, but the much-abused central Asian nation found itself on a new track towards becoming an active gateway of the Belt and Road Initiative. Old school military big stick techniques that worked so well in bygone pre-nuclear ages are also not working too well. Despite an array of international military bases numbering over 800, international biolabs numbering over 200 and military treaties with dozens of states in Russia and Chinas’ backyards, key participants in this Anglo-American led war drive are also not playing along as they were expected to. After all, India was supposed to be a part of the Pacific NATO but instead is now adopting Russian military hardware while joining a security pact whose members include both China and Pakistan… both of whom India was supposed to mortally hate. Across the Arab World, key western assets from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the UAE are all doing business with China and have followed India’s lead by adopting Russian-made military hardware making US-military hegemony across the heartland an impossible dream to hold onto. Mortal enemies like Azerbaijan and Armenia who were at each others’ throats just over a year ago, are slowly overcoming their animosity and vectoring towards a new set of relationships defined by Iran, Russia and the growing International North South Transportation Corridor that is moving quickly through the Caucasus. Muslim Brotherhood operatives in Egypt who took power in the wake of the havoc of the 2011 Arab Spring soon gave way to a nationalist resistance under a leader who even began financing large scale African infrastructure like the expanded Suez Canal. Even Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Turkey was no longer the golem for hire that the Anglo-American sorcerers fancied when Erdogan realized how disposable he actually was and began making alliances with Russia and China. Erdogan undoubtedly recognized in the collapsing Euro and NATO model, an unattractive sinking ship he no longer wanted to ride. And who could blame anyone for not wanting to get on the Trans Atlantic economic joy ride at this point in the game? Only a devout CNN devotee or Yale business graduate might miss the elementary fact that the casino bubble that was once known as the Trans Atlantic economy is careening towards a hyperinflationary implosion with nothing but hyperbolically-growing unpayable debts holding it all together. It also doesn’t help that the only significant figures across the dying trans Atlantic who seem to have both 1) an awareness of the inevitability of this oncoming collapse and 2) real power to do something about it, are 3) all obsessed with a Great Reset/Green New Deal decarbonization of the world economy. The operating system upon which such technocratic schemes are premised demonstrably cause more devastation and death to nations and their citizens than those problems of rampant speculation and unpayable debts that such Davos-connected sociopaths wish to cure. So, to recap: It is 2022 and regime change formulas don’t work, color revolutionary magic which worked for decades doesn’t work and even expanding old-school military hardware around the troublesome Eurasian nations of the multipolar alliance no longer works. Now after more than a century of effective neocolonialism, 19 Arab states have signed onto the BRI, joining 48 African states, and much of Latin America. These are nations who not only host civilizations that wish to avoid being sacrificed on either an altar of nuclear war or a utopian green scientific dictatorship. The battle is far from won, but we can get some solace knowing that the old black magic just isn’t what it used to be. The author can be reached at matthewehret.substack.com

[Category: Security, War and Conflict, Crisis, Imperialism, New World Order, United States]

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[l] at 1/19/22 12:00pm
By Stephen LENDMAN MSM operate as virtual extensions of US domestic and foreign policy. They’re allied with the Biden regime’s diabolical aim to eliminate maximum numbers of unwanted people at home and abroad, along with replacing what remains of free and open societies with social control tyranny. Geopolitically, they support US hot and cold wars on nations free from its control. At this time, nonbelligerent, nonthreatening Russia is in the eye of the storm. MSM malice is so intense that if words were weapons, full-scale war on Russia would be raging — based on a foundation of Big Lies and mass deception. According to NYT fake news repeated ad nauseam, “Ukraine (is) surrounded on three sides by 100,000 Russian troops (sic), and Russia has issued subtle but wide-ranging threats (sic), including hinting that it could place nuclear missiles close to the US if the West did not meet its security demands (sic).” Fact: Russian forces don’t “surround” Ukraine or any other countries. Fact: Throughout its 30 year history, the Russian Federation has been at peace with the world community of nations. It threatened none except in self-defense if attacked, the UN Charter right of all nations. Fact: In stark contrast to Russia and other nations free from US control, hegemon USA prioritizes forever hot and cold wars against countries unwilling to sacrifice their sovereign rights to its interests. Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials want the nation’s borders, territorial integrity and security protected. Judge them by their actions. Not a shred of evidence suggests that the Kremlin seeks dominance over Eastern Europe with intent to restore control over former Soviet republics. Fabricated MSM claims otherwise are based on state-approved Russophobic talking points. No Russian “saboteurs” exist. None with intent to stage a false flag pretense for invading Ukraine or any other countries. Instead of condemning nearly eight years of US-orchestrated and directed Kiev aggression on Donbass, the Times falsely blamed Russia for what’s going on. Over the weekend, WaPo featured a Russophobic op-ed by neocon extremist John Bolton. Repeating debunked Big Lies about Russia, Bolton falsely accused Moscow of threatening Ukraine (sic) and cyberattacking its computer systems (sic). With malicious intent, he lied claiming that Russia “planted operatives in…Donbass…who could stage false flag operations as pretexts for Russian invasion (sic).” He lied saying that the Kremlin “escalated a long-standing insistence that Ukraine is not a legitimate sovereign state (sic).” He lied accusing Russia of “threatening to deploy troops to Venezuela and Cuba (sic).” He lied claiming that “Vladimir Putin is readying to invade Ukraine (sic).” He lies saying that Moscow’s aim is “annexing all of Ukraine (sic).” No responsible editors would tough the above rubbish. WaPo editors featured it as part of their longstanding mass deception about all things Russia and other sovereign independent nations. More Bolton Russophobic rubbish followed. He also called for hegemon USA-dominated NATO to “do better in deterring Russia from taking belligerent actions in the current Ukraine crisis (sic).” Crisis conditions in central Europe were made in Washington and other NATO capitals, not Moscow. Does Bolton want East/West relations entirely ruptured? Does he support launching WW III? Is he yearning for turning US cities into smoldering rubble? Does he want the Biden regime’s mass-extermination campaign accelerated by nuclear war? Calling for pouring more “lethal military assistance in(to) Ukraine” and other former Soviet republics would be a step in this direction. Knowing Russia threatens no one, Bolton pretended otherwise, adding: If the Biden regime “fail(s)” Ukraine (sic), “Putin will have perfected a road map to further erode NATO’s deterrence (sic).” Calling US-controlled NATO a “collective defense” alliance ignored that its only enemies are invented — that its mission is offense to rape and destroy nations targeted for regime change. It’s a killing machine menace to world peace. It’s a US-controlled spear to advance its hegemonic aims. As long as the alliance exists and expands, everyone everywhere will be endangered by the unprecedented menace of its rampaging. On the sidelines of government, does Bolton still yearn to set the world ablaze in support of hegemonic USA’s diabolical aims? A peacenik he’s not. stephenlendman.org

[Category: Editor's Choice, Donbas, Mass Media, Propaganda, Russia, Ukraine, United States]

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