domingo, 17 de diciembre de 2017

Habla Gilbert Doctorow

La nota que sigue es una charla dictada por el historiador y analista político Gilbert Doctorow (foto) en el National Press Club, en Washington, la semana pasada. Vale la pena leerla; una transcripción de la misma apareció hace unos días en el sitio web Information Clearing House. Quienes prefieran escucharla de boca de su autor, pueden hacerlo en el sitio: Acá va:

Título: Does the United States Have a Future?

Nota del editor: Gilbert Doctorow is a historian, political analyst and expert in Russian affairs going back to 1965. A graduate of Harvard College in 1967, Doctorow did his graduate research in Moscow as a Fulbright Scholar and got a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1975. He later worked in international business, including eight years as managing director of Russia for multinationals, beginning in 1994. Doctorow began writing on international affairs in 2008 and was a visiting scholar at Columbia in 2010-2011. Doctorow, who has a new book called “Does the United States Have a Future,” delivered the following talk at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7.

Texto: I am going to deliver a talk that will come in at 30 minutes in which I address in greater detail than you will find in the book the connection between the title question and the content of the book. To be more specific, I will explain why a book about the United States failing on the world stage deals so largely with what is happening in Russia.

This is not an overview of the book. It is essentially a new chapter of the book. For those of you who want a quick listing of the merits and highlights of the book, I refer you to the thorough review that appeared on Nov. 19 on the portal The Duran. This was republished the next day on Johnson’s Russia List, the digest of writings about Russia that is hosted by George Washington University and is received daily by all U.S. university centers and think tanks interested in Russian matters. I have several copies with me to distribute.

When I began preparation of this book six months ago, I never imagined the title and overriding concept would be so timely as it is today. Each new issue of The New York Times or The Washington Post provides additional material for the case. Each new revelation about “groping” or other sexual misconduct by U.S. Congressmen reveals the Nation’s capital as a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. But that is today. The evidence has been piling up for at least as far back as the essays in this new book were being written.

In particular, the questioning of America’s future has become a mainstream issue ever since the election of Donald Trump.

The movement to obstruct and take down Trump began immediately. Open and public attacks not just on his policies but on his intellectual faculties and mental balance have appeared in our mainstream press every day. A beleaguered president is lashing out in all directions. We see chaos in policy formation. Executive staff contradicts one another and contradicts the president on a nearly daily basis. The president himself is flip-flopping on policy. He is issuing alarming tweets.

Some well-considered observers have drawn dire conclusions from all of this. I think of David Rothkopf writing in Foreign Policy magazine on May 10, 2017. The title of his article: “Is America a Failing State?“

The author was for five years chief editor of what is a respected international relations journal. He believes that the United States is well on its way to becoming a banana republic. And for this he blames Trump and his cronies in high federal offices. They are a threat to national security, a disgrace on the world stage. The cronies are feathering their nests at the expense of the broad public, while the commander in chief shows open admiration for thugs and authoritarians around the world and disparages his federal employees, mocks the Constitution.

In continuation of the same idea, an op-ed essay by E.J. Dionne, Jr. in the Washington Post on Nov. 30 was given the title “Our political foundation is rotting away.” Dionne concludes: “The longer this president is in power, the weaker our country will become.”

However, the gloom over the future of the U.S. also appears in other, still more moderate and respected establishment publications. I take as my marker Foreign Affairs magazine, which has a subscription in the USA and abroad of several hundred thousand and may be called the bedrock of the establishment. The essays there are issued in a neutral, scholarly tone, rather than deeply partisan attacks such as you find in the daily newspapers.

Tellingly, the September-October 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs ran on its front cover the headline: “See America. Land of Decay and Dysfunction.”

More recently, in mid-August 2017, an FA article entitled “Kleptocracy in America” takes us entirely away from the personality peculiarities of the 45th president into the broader and more important realm of the systemic flaws of governance, namely the extraordinary political power wielded by the very wealthy due to the rules on election financing and the self-serving policies that they succeed in enacting while the general public has stagnated economically for decades now, setting the stage for the voter revolt that brought Trump to power.

Then as one final straw in the wind, I would mention the remarkable op-ed piece in The Washington Post on Sept. 1, 2017, written by Senator John McCain. He described American politics at the federal level as simply not working due to overheated partisanship that compromises the national interest (a problem to which he has himself contributed handsomely) and due to a never-ending electoral cycle.

Indeed, a country which appears to be unable to govern itself is hardly the exemplar and all-powerful state suitable to govern the rest of the world.

However persuasive these points of analysis may be, they overlook what I believe is the main determinant of the onset of America’s decline as a world power that we are presently witnessing and of its possible withdrawal into true isolationism: the decision going back to 2007 to break the back of Russia.

Gilbert Doctorow. (The National Press Club)

Why Russia? Because it has been the only major power to publicly reject the U.S. global hegemony both in word and in deed.

The U.S. has applied all imaginable efforts to put Russia in its place, as Washington sees it—namely as just another regional power, a European state that is in decline, that nods approvingly to whatever policy line comes out of Washington.

These endeavors have mobilized American soft power and hard power.

Soft Power—attempts to foment a color revolution in Russia that removes Vladimir Putin from power by financing opposition figures, by imposing personal and economic sector sanctions in the hope of splitting the Kremlin elites from the broad population and from Putin, by denigrating the president of the Russian Federation in terms that no one would have dared to use during the original Cold War in addressing Leonid Brezhnev, for example. I think of Hillary [Clinton] and her repeated description of Putin as a “Hitler.”

In parallel, there have been our attempts to contain Russia by our physical presence at its borders and off its shores through expansion of NATO going back to 1996 and more recently through positioning of NATO brigades in Poland and the Baltic States, and holding large-scale military exercises in these advanced positions, within easy striking distance of St. Petersburg and other Russian population centers.

Then there has been the U.S. drive to achieve a first-strike capability, namely development of weaponry and systems intended to decapitate Russia or any other enemy, systems which are globally positioned and in space.

Less dramatic technically, but from the Russian perspective equally threatening, has been the construction in Poland and Romania of U.S. installations that are nominally designated as elements in a missile defense shield but are easily usable for the launch of intermediate range missiles, i.e., offensive weapons systems that can strike Russian targets in minutes. This, despite the oft-repeated Russian objections and finally threats to respond effectively if asymmetrically.

The end result of these several intertwined policies has been to create the very Frankenstein monster we have talked up.

The few politicians and Pentagon generals who have identified Russia as the single greatest threat to American security are entirely correct. Today, as in the past during the original Cold War, Russia is the only country on earth capable of reducing the entire continental United States to ashes within a day.

But it is also, as was not the case during the Cold War, the state most capable of deterring American military action against it by its advanced conventional warfare men and materiel, meaning precision bombs and cruise missiles launched from air and sea, with global reach. This conventional capability was developed from virtually zero in the past 15 years and implemented throughout the Russian armed forces over the past five years with very specific target metrics for modernization of the fighting units, not just parade units.

This has been noted by U.S. security analysis. An article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine by Ivo Daalder, who was for several years the U.S. ambassador to NATO, makes precisely the point I just described about the new military capabilities of Russia. However, Daalder gives you the end result of Russia’s modernization program and does not give you the information essential to respond appropriately: namely how and why this threat came about. That is precisely what you find in my books: the action, reaction that has brought us to the present.

Moreover, an article like Daalder’s is not what the general public is reading.

Although Russia’s threat to American well-being features daily on the front page of our newspapers of record, this military threat is not what we read about. Instead, we are told about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections with the aim of discrediting Hillary Clinton and so promoting the electoral chances of Donald Trump, about Russian attempts through social media advertising and otherwise to discredit the institutions of the American political system and to call into question the reliability of the voting procedures.

This is fake news that obscures the far more ominous problem of Russian military forces and the dangerous confrontations with Russia over the past year that were played down to the American public by the very same Pentagon sources.

The closest that the media has come to identifying a Russian military threat is talk of cyberwarfare, itself only a small part of non-nuclear strategic and tactical means being deployed by Moscow.

Let me be specific about how the U.S. attempts to contain and control Russia over the past 25 years have backfired:

Objective One—Cripple the Russian economy by reducing its single biggest source of export revenues: gas and oil sales to Europe. You can trace this economic warfare back, as I did in my 2012 book “Stepping Out of Line,” to the policies of the second Clinton administration that are widely called the “Pipeline Wars” or “New Great Game.” This entailed U.S. promotion of new energy suppliers to Europe—Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and finally, most recently, the USA itself—and its promotion of new paths to the European market, whether pipelines that bypass Russia or LNG, as is the case today.

The second dimension of this economic warfare has been sanctions, which the U.S. first imposed in 2012, under the guise of punishing Russian violations of human rights—the Magnitsky Act—and which were vastly expanded in 2014 up to present to punish Russia for alleged violations of international law and of the post-Cold War world order by its annexation of Crimea and intervention in the Ukrainian civil war, in Donbass.

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Objective Two: Isolate Russia and cast it as a pariah state, without friends or allies. Expel Russia from major international gatherings, like the G8. Strip Russia of its veto in the United Nations Security Council. Impugn its integrity, as in the world Olympics movement. See the decision last week to strip two more Russian gold medalists of the awards received in Sochi 2014. In these ways cripple Russia’s chances of interfering with American global leadership.

A subset of the “isolate Russia” campaign is to cut off Russian access to military technology. Halt the two way flow of materiel and components. We see this most recently in the decision by the organizers of the Farnborough Air Show to exclude Russian participation.

What have we gotten for these efforts?

First, the political effect of the economic warfare, especially of the sanctions, has been to rally the Russian population around the president and in defense of the nation. That is to say, it has been precisely the opposite of what the authors of these measures in U.S. think tanks and in the State Department had projected. All of this has driven the approval ratings of Putin from about 65 percent three years ago to over 80 percent for months on end this year.

Secondly, these attacks have only strengthened the resilience and self-sufficiency of the Russian economy. Indiscriminate importation of all possible consumer and investment goods has stopped. Import substitution is the slogan of the day, and it is heartily supported by the general population that has reversed its feelings about domestic products, which were formerly considered to be inferior, and encouraged a “buy Russian” mentality. With increased demand and less price competition from abroad, Russian producers have improved quality and variety of their offerings in striking ways.

In response to sanctions and its own embargo on imported foodstuffs from those who imposed sanctions, Russian agriculture has boomed, attracting large domestic investment. The result is that this year Russia had its largest grain harvest in 100 years and replaced U.S. and European suppliers on global markets. Russia this year also became the world’s largest exporter of beet sugar, displacing France. Poultry and livestock are also well on the way to self-sufficiency. Even milk production, which was one of the least performing agricultural sectors seems to be turning the corner and attracting substantial investment with government encouragement.

Thirdly, the Russians came up with other pipelines and other partners to ensure their dominant position as provider of imported gas to the EU. Russia has maintained and even slightly expanded its share of the energy supplies to the EU. But let us remember that Russia never was and is not today a monopoly supplier. It accounts for 40 percent of EU gas imports and 30 percent of gas consumption.

Russia continues to work on solutions that ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, those supplies pass directly from its shores to the EU consumers.

Despite all the objections and difficulties raised by the U.S., by Poland, by the Baltic states, Russia continues to pursue the Nord Stream 2 project and has replaced the frustrated South Stream project by the Turk Stream, which is in early implementation stage.

Gas and oil production remain strong, and Russia has been developing its markets in Asia. First and foremost is with China for pipeline-supplied gas and oil. Existing contracts call for supply to China of more than $300 billion in gas over 20 years via the Power of Siberia pipeline now nearing completion. New markets are being opened in Eastern and Southeastern Asia for LNG [liquefied natural gas], which is being supplied from new Russian fields in the Far North (Yamal) and Eastern Siberia.

The government’s import substitution program in other economic sectors has been making some remarkable progress, achieving what was long beyond reach in Russia due to the key role and profitability of energy production in the economy and to an accommodating policy on imports within the context of WTO membership. Government-sponsored national heroes lead the way. We see this in the revived civilian aircraft production. Also in pharmaceuticals, to name just two sectors.

2. Deterrence parity.

The Russians have done exactly what Vladimir Putin said they would do: react in asymmetrical ways, finding defensive solutions entirely designed and produced at home that are vastly less expensive to implement than the offensive systems developed by the United States, but having all necessary potency to neutralize the American initiative and to render useless all the U.S. scheming at gaining a first-strike capability that would decapitate the enemy and spell military victory at one stroke.

That objective today has been stymied on a Russian military budget that is 10 times less than the U.S. spends, which consumes just 5 percent of Russian GNP. For those who find the Russian military budget high, let us remember that in Soviet times the military consumed 25 percent of GNP. That was unbearable. Five percent is wholly supportable by a motivated government supported by a patriotic-minded population. Moreover, to put this 60 billion dollar annual spend in another context, let us remember that Russia spent $51 billion on infrastructure projects to hold the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

3. Geopolitics.

The most stunning dimension of Russia’s successful pushback to the U.S.-led Western world has been geopolitical, entirely neutralizing the efforts to isolate Russia.

The historic geopolitical achievement of the Nixon-Kissinger period, namely making Washington closer to Beijing and Moscow than they are to one another, has been utterly undone. Russia and China today are in a de facto strategic alliance that is changing the geopolitical landscape of the globe and promises to change the economic power balance as well as they pursue determinedly a policy of removing the dollar from its pedestal as the world’s leading reserve currency. The key measures have been to claw away at the petrodollar, which going back to the 1970s is what built up the dollar to its unique standing. This position as prime reserve currency has been a major lever in U.S. global hegemony. Russian sales of oil to China are now in yuan, and this factor also explains how Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the leading oil supplier to China.

The Chinese and Russians have put in place new global financial infrastructure to prevent the U.S. from imposing on them what it did to Iran. These institutions are parallel and alternatives to the U.S.-controlled institutions dating from just after World War 2, like the IMF and World Bank.

Furthermore, Russia, like China, has been developing new sea and land lanes for global goods movements, including movement of hydrocarbons, that can replace and certainly reduce the importance of the U.S.-protected sea lanes through the Malacca Straits and Suez Canal. In the case of China, this is the well-known New Silk Road, or One Belt One Road. In the case of Russia, it is the lesser-known but also game-changing Northern Sea route secured by the world’s largest ice-breaker fleet, and also the expansion of rail capabilities to and in the Far East. The latter will include the building of a bridge from the Continent to Sakhalin Island, to be officially announced early in 2018, and the follow-on construction of a rail bridge to Japanese Hokkaido, which will be the lynch-pin of the coming Russian-Japanese Peace Treaty.

In speaking of the Russian-Chinese alliance, I fully acknowledge that this was not something arrived at naturally. The two countries have one of the longest common borders in the world, with a history of disputes going back more than a century.

There is the obvious point that the Russian side of the border is almost empty, while the Chinese side is brimming over with population. That these sides have come together is the result of both simultaneously coming under threat and containment measures led by the United States and its allies.

The U.S.-led effort to drive Russia from the Middle East by toppling the government of Bashar Assad in Syria, the one secular Arab state where the Russian Federation maintained a significant naval base supporting its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, has been the bellwether in the U.S.-initiated struggle with Russia to maintain global “leadership.” By all parameters, the U.S. proxies in Syria have been defeated.

The tide turned for the Assad regime when the Kremlin sent in its air force in September 2015. The game is almost up, and the net result for Russia and net loss for the United States is vastly greater than Syria itself.

The war zone became testing grounds for Russia’s latest precision weapons systems, command and control, space and drone reconnaissance. Russia demonstrated capabilities in conventional warfare that none of the NATO countries has separately or even collectively without the United States participation.

Russian self-confidence allowed them to feature their actions on television and in real time. All of this, combined with their demonstrated diplomatic skills in working harmoniously with regional states that have difficult relations among themselves, by working in great secrecy, and by showing loyalty to their allies have won for Russia newfound respect in the region and in the world.

A couple of weeks ago, we received still more interesting news demonstrating Russia’s upper hand in Syria and the Middle East. I have in mind the meeting of the Russian, the Iranian and the Turkish presidents in Sochi to agree to a common approach and procedures for a political settlement in Syria that brings in all domestic parties to the conflict. The three states will be co-guarantors of a congress of the Syrian parties to be convened in Sochi in order to define the parameters of a new inclusive Syrian constitution on the basis of which parliamentary elections can be held and the country can return to normal functioning. Iran, Turkey and Russia: once again an “unnatural” coalition brought together by common interest in putting an end to the civil war that is a hotbed of terrorism in the region and in the wider world. It is a major achievement of Russian diplomacy and political will in which the United States is now just a bystander. The tables have been turned and U.S. “leadership” in the Middle East is waning.

My point is that by pursuing its at times vicious campaign against Russia, the United States has been setting itself up for humiliation.

These are trend lines that preceded Donald Trump’s accession to power. His personal contribution through his chaotic administration, inconsistent if not contradictory policy decisions from day to day, unconcealed boorishness and regular betrayal of his close aides and supporters has been to further undermine faith among America’s friends and fear among its detractors. His questioning of NATO has sent European politicians into a fit of confusion and despair. All of this gives greater impetus to the decline of U.S. standing that it will be very hard for any successor in the White House to restore.

However, all the foregoing pales in significance compared to the ongoing risk of World War 3 and nuclear armageddon from the present dismal state of U.S.-Russian relations. There is little communication. There is still less mutual trust. The two powers operate in war theaters like Syria and Ukraine within close proximity and without well-established rules of conduct that developed in the original Cold War in the immediate aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Missed signals, accidents in the field can lead unintentionally but surely to the outbreak of hostilities that would escalate very quickly from local events to worst-case scenarios on the global level.

I have little doubt that many of you see this statement as overdramatizing the risk of war. However, I wager that your feeling of security comes from simply not being informed.

Regrettably, the information war that developed over the past several years has entailed news blackouts here in Europe and in the U.S. regarding Russia-sourced news. Not news about Russia but news coming from Russia, meaning the policy statements, the other side of the argument.

Hence, you were not aware of how grave the situation became in September 2016 when U.S.-led forces attacked the Syrian positions in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on the Euphrates killing more than 80 Syrian troops and possibly some Russian advisers as well. That attack dealt a coup de grace to the cease-fire arrangements signed off by U.S. Secretary of State [John] Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov less than a week earlier. As the Russians saw it, the Pentagon and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter overruled the secretary of state and even the U.S . president who had backed the agreement with the Russians. The Kremlin saw a U.S. government out of control, whose signature on a document means nothing. It cut the lines of communication with the U.S. military command in Syria and threatened to shoot down allied aircraft over Syria.

Another very sharp confrontation during which the Russians delivered an ultimatum to the United States came in the days following Trump’s cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base April 7, 2017.

This and other key moments of stress in U.S.-Russian relations that were underreported or simply absent from Western reporting are given due attention in my book.

Did it have to be this way?

That is, for my opinion, a strictly rhetorical question. The answer is a resounding “no.” From 1993, when President [Boris] Yeltsin visited Warsaw and consented to Poland’s accession to NATO, the Kremlin sought and expected to be admitted to NATO itself. This wish to be integrated into a single security architecture was a consistent theme of Russian foreign policy through the Putin era right up to 2010, when it was reluctantly abandoned for a go-it-alone policy and emphasis on the sovereign state not entangled with security obligations to others.

Let us recall that in 2001, following the attack on the World Trade Center, Putin was the first foreign leader to call President George W. Bush to express support for the USA in its hour of confusion and fear. Putin did more than any of our allies to facilitate the U.S. counterattack in Afghanistan by opening up Russia’s backyard in Central Asia to American forces. He was repaid with a slap in the face: the cancellation of the ABM treaty and the pressing ahead with NATO expansion to the exclusion of Russia.

Is there a way out? A solution?

I do not come before you today with ready, definitive solutions. To do so would be to compromise the principle for which I and others have been fighting for the last several years when all debate and public discussion of our key security risks stopped. It would be to replace one solution arrived at behind closed doors with another arrived at behind closed doors. My first mission is to raise questions, to show that the answers which official Washington has been implementing are poorly conceived and ineffective, not to mention destructive for the Greater Middle East, where we have brought chaos from our democracy promotion.

But having issued that warning, I do not shy from offering a tentative recommendation on how to step back from the abyss and enter on new, more promising paths to dealing with a world order in profound change.

It took more than two decades for us to reach the present difficult and dangerous confrontation with Russia. This cannot be resolved with wave of a magic wand. But there is a way back.

And while some see a rosy day of U.S.-Russian strategic cooperation in many areas, I would be content if the chances of accidental or intentional war between these two powers were vastly reduced. This is an objective which I believe is attainable fairly quickly.

The neocons faulted the détente policy with trying to manage a relationship, a coexistence with the Soviet Union which they believed was the wrong goal, when the destruction of the Soviet Union was achievable. They were almost right. The Soviet Union collapsed, but of its own weight, due to its own contradictions and the failures of Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic policies.

However, the destruction of Russia, which is arguably the objective of U.S. foreign policy today, is unattainable, or comes at the price of collective suicide. The Russian economy is today very well-managed by world-class professionals. It is a typically European mixed social and market economy. Meanwhile, the broad population is mobilized around the leadership and quite patriotic. We have no choice but to manage relations and coexist with Russia as it is. In doing so, we will comply with the Kremlin’s insistent demand that its strategic national interests not be violated and that it be treated with respect which it will repay in kind.

sábado, 16 de diciembre de 2017

El pecado original

La foto de arriba muestra al Jefe de Gobierno de la Unión Soviética, Mikhail Gorbachev, en un momento de las conversaciones mantenidas con el Secretario de Estado de los EEUU, James Baker, en 1990. Les habían prometido que la NATO no iba a expandirse hacia el este. Mintieron. Así lo cuenta la siguiente nota de John Wight para Sputnik News:

Título: NATO's Eastwards Expansion: The West's Original Sin

Epígrafe: NATO's expansion eastwards in the wake of the Soviet Union's demise is the West's original sin, reflective of an agenda of domination and intimidation rather than peace and stability, much less democracy. It is proof that for Western ideologues the Cold War never ended.

Texto: Based on declassified documents, a report by the Washington-based independent research institute, the National Security Archive, confirms what many of us already knew — namely that during the negotiations with the Soviet government, led by Mikhail Gorbachev, that were undertaken as part of the process of bringing the Cold War to an end, categorical assurances were given by Western governments, led by Washington, that upon the reunification of Germany there would be no attempt to expand NATO eastwards towards Russia's borders.

In fact, according to the National Security Archive report, a "cascade of assurances" were given in this regard, with then US Secretary of State James Baker going as far as to state that NATO would expand "not one inch eastward" in a meeting with Gorbachev on 9 February 1990. Indeed it was only as a result of this assurance that Gorbachev and the Soviet leadership was prepared to accept German reunification, given its ramifications for the country's security in a period of deep political and economic turmoil.

Before this meeting, in January 1990, West Germany's foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, gave a speech in the Bavarian town of Tutzing, during which he proclaimed that there would "not be an expansion of NATO territory to the east."

From a 2009 Der Spiegel article, we learn that Genscher gave this assurance to end the uncertainty that had arisen over the question of whether or not a unified Germany could become a member of NATO, doing so as part of the post-Cold War settlement between the former Soviet Union and the West. Genscher gave the same assurance during a phone conversation with Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, the following month, telling him, "We are aware that NATO membership for a unified Germany raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east."

The reason this history is so important today, almost three decades on, is that it sheds light on the real cause of the current tensions and mistrust that exist in relations between Russia and the West. It also helps us understand the root cause of the 2014 crisis that engulfed Ukraine, when a coup in Kiev supported by the West succeeded in toppling the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych, thus setting in train a bitter civil conflict in the country and the decision of the people of Crimea, in a referendum, to reunite with Russia as part of the Russian Federation.

The Western narrative of the crisis in Ukraine is that it was caused by 'Russian aggression.' This is false. The crisis was caused by the US' and its allies' attempt to pave the way for the further expansion of NATO east, using Ukraine as a cat's paw. The same objective had previously been tried in 2008, using the former Soviet republic of Georgia, led at the time by the hapless Mikheil Saakashvili, like a cat's paw. It led to a brief military conflict, yet clearly, the lessons were not learned; or at least the right lessons were not learned.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, ten former Warsaw Pact countries have joined NATO. And just to illustrate that this is no benign peace-loving organization we're describing, since 1991 NATO has spearheaded the break-up and destruction of Yugoslavia, the destruction of Libya, and has been the vanguard of Western imperial power in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, and most recently, NATO troops have engaged in regular military exercises in proximity to Russia's western border, in what can only be considered an unconscionable provocation and barrier to the normalization of relations.

In his book, 'Frontline Ukraine,' Professor of Russian and European Politics, Richard Sakwa, makes the point that "the US war party is reinforced by the former Soviet bloc members in the EU and NATO." Among them is a "group of militantly revanchist powers, with Lithuania and Poland in the van, for whom Russia's strategic expurgation from the map of Europe would barely be enough."

In what counts as an exercise in Orwellian doublespeak, NATO describes itself as an organization committed to "the peaceful resolution of disputes." The Serbian, Afghan and Libyan people know better, as does anyone with a grasp of history.

There is an ontological difference between democracy and 'democratism.' The former describes progress, the latter regress. The former is underpinned by the rule of law, both domestic and international, the latter is underpinned by the ethos of might is right, redolent of the Roman Empire.

NATO is the pristine embodiment of might is right, part of the architecture of the Roman Empire of our day. As such, it is a barrier to peace and an impediment to democracy.

viernes, 15 de diciembre de 2017

Ese triste hábito de Occidente

El pochoclo de la corpo Occidental nos atraganta con pavadas mientras la Historia gira sus ruedas a ritmo acelerado. Todavía no han tomado nota de lo que está pasando en Siria. Tal vez lo hagan, tal vez no; mientras tanto, un mundo nuevo emerge mientras se asienta (al menos por ahora) el polvo en el Levante. Leemos la siguiente nota editorial del sitio web Strategic Culture Foundation:

Título: Russia’s Victory and the Western Denial Habit

Texto: It’s hard to overstate the historic significance this week of Syria’s victory against foreign-backed mercenaries.

We can dismiss Western official narratives that the nearly seven-year was some kind of “pro-democracy uprising”. The conflict was nothing of the sort.

It was a classic American-led covert war for regime change, of the kind that dozens of countries around the world have been subjected to over the decades.

In Syria, the criminal enterprise involved the clandestine support from Western governments and their regional partners to a whole host of mercenary groups. These groups were largely dominated by extremist self-styled jihadists who descended on Syria from all over the world; armed, paid and directed by a US coalition of governments, to carry out the most horrific violence against civilians.

The supreme irony here is that the Americans, British and French, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel were sponsoring Al Qaeda-type terrorist mercenaries, despite their ostentatious claims of fighting a “war on terror”.

The geopolitics of Washington’s arrogant hegemonic interests meant that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad – being an ally of Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah – was targeted. For decades, in fact, the Americans had been plotting regime change in Syria, along with their trusty British accomplice.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin determined to intervene militarily in the Syria War in October 2015, the Syrian state was nearly teetering on collapse after nearly five years struggling against the Western-led assault on the country. Putin’s decision was courageous and principled, acting on request from Damascus for help. The Russian intervention dramatically turned the war. In just a little more than two years, the Syrian state was salvaged and the foreign-backed terror army has been eradicated.

Last December, Syria’s second biggest city, Aleppo, was liberated by the Syrian army and Russian air force. It was the first time that the residents of Aleppo were able to celebrate Christmas in peace after four years of being subjected to a reign of terror under the cult-like barbarians whom the West lionized as “pro-democracy rebels”. This year, all of Syria will celebrate Christmas, free from terror.

Russia’s role in Syria’s victory is nothing short of heroic. We should acknowledge too the valiant role of Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi militia who also rallied to support the Syrian army. But Russia takes pride of place in rescuing Syria from the US-led international criminal conspiracy to destroy that country and install a regime suited to Washington’s imperialist interests.

The celebration is bitter-sweet. It is estimated that up to 400,000 people died in the war. Nearly half the population of 24 million were displaced. The financial cost of rebuilding Syria’s obliterated infrastructure is put at $200 billion. The country is in ruins because of the US-led war for regime change. Washington, London, Paris and their cohorts should be prosecuted to pay for the reconstruction.

Nevertheless, Syria is victorious, and that is precious. Neighboring Iraq has also declared that the same terror groups have been routed after a three-year war. Syria’s vanquishing of these militants was instrumental in Iraq’s success.

The victory in Syria is so stunning that Western governments and media have been embarrassingly muted. Why aren’t self-acclaimed prestigious Western outlets, like CNN, BBC and France 24, going into Syria to report on the country’s liberation? Why aren’t these so-called “news” services reporting on the millions of Syrians who are gladly returning to their homes? Why aren’t they reporting the Christmas festivities on the streets of Damascus, Aleppo, and other cities and towns, where droves of joyous people are holding up portraits of Presidents Assad and Putin?

Western governments and media are shamefully silent because they have to deny what took place in Syria: a criminal covert war orchestrated by Western governments and media. This is why the American and French governments have in the past week made ridiculous statements claiming that the defeat of terrorism in Syria is not over yet, and trying to belittle Russia’s role.

The war is over thanks to Russia, yet the US and France still continue to keep special forces in pockets of the country and fly their warplanes – in flagrant violation of international law.

This Western denial over Syria has historical echoes. Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump was bragging at a rally in Florida that American forces won the Second World War and “defeated communism”. Western official arrogance can’t accept the reality that it was the Russian people and their Soviet confederates who defeated European fascism and Nazi state terrorism. There is a hidden history of how Western finance and rulers fomented Nazi Germany with the express purpose to destroy the Soviet Union.

As in Syria today, the West fomented that war with horrendous consequences for the region. It was Russia that put an end to the abomination. Yet, as with WWII, the West has the audacity to deny the real victor. But of course, the denial is necessary, otherwise the truth about Western criminal complicity would be apparent.

Russia saved Syria in two years. This week the Pentagon is proposing to continue “anti-terror” operations in Somalia for another two years – on top of the 25 years it has been marauding in that unfortunate African country. Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and on and on goes the heinous list.

Russia defeats terrorism, the West creates terrorism, and the abhorrent debacle requires the endless habit of Western denial. 

jueves, 14 de diciembre de 2017

En el terreno

No todo el mundo sabe que media NATO está metida en Siria e Iraq en estos momentos; precisamente por eso es que se habla de una guerra global. Conviene estar atentos a quiénes son los que están, porque se nos ocurre que prontito empiezan a hacer las valijas. El mapa de arriba resume las fuerzas nacionales e internacionales que están sobre el terreno en estos momentos. Viene del sitio web Zero Hedge: 

Título: Mapping World War In Syria & Iraq

Texto: For some time now Syria and Iraq have been a place where interests of many players are clashing. The region is being devastated by civil war or a war by proxy, fought by a number of participants, where the borderline between friend and foe is sharp or vague as the case may be.

The military sorties, airstrikes and other activities are taking place on a day-to-day basis. Conflicting pieces of information that can be gleaned from a variety of sources may reflect both the factual status or the propaganda of the powers that be, hidden behind the media outlets. It is not easy to see the forest for the trees, to filter valuable data in this informational noise. Still, our readers deserve to be informed. With all this in mind, the Gefira team has made an effort to present the current situation in Syria and Iraq in an accessible graphic and textual way according to the best of our ability.

Australia. The Australian Defence Forces have an estimated 780 personnel in Iraq. At Camp Taji and other bases they have trained more than 20 000 of the Iraqi Security Forces and 3 000 federal policemen. Australia has 3 kinds of Task Groups in Iraq: 1) Task Group Taji – which is a training mission – 300 personnel; 2) Australian Air Task Group (ATG), operating within a US-led international coalition assembled to disrupt and destroy ISIL. The ATG consists of six Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft and a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT); 3) Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) – about 80 personnel.

Belgium. The Belgian mission in Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State was planned to end in June 2017, but Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel decided to extend it, and sent four F-16 fighter jets along with 100 troops to a base in Jordan to take part in the war against IS in Iraq and Syria.

Great Britain. The Royal Air Force (RAF Typhoon and Tornado jets and Reaper drones) has flown more than 3000 missions and launched over 1 600 airstrikes across Iraq and Syria. The British Army has already trained almost 60 000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops in bases at Besmaya, Taji and al-Asad. The UK has about 600 troops in Iraq, almost all involved in training Iraqi forces, and 80 soldiers in Camp Taji.

Denmark. Denmark currently has around 120 troops stationed at the Al-Asad air base. Danish contribution in Iraq primarily consists of training Iraqi and Kurdish military units. At the end of 2016 it launched airstrikes against ISIS.

France. Operation Chammal, the French contribution to US-led military operations against Islamic State (IS), has been under way for 3 years. French aircraft have performed a total of 7 349 flights in Iraq and Syria with 1 413 strikes on Daesh and destroyed 2 197 objectives. France has supplied weapons and training to local forces in Syria and Iraq, has special forces operating in the region and has been one of the main countries bombing militants. In total, it has some 1 200 troops in its Levant operation.

Germany. The German contribution includes: a type 122 Augsburg frigate, six Tornado aircraft for surveillance operations in Syria, an Airbus 310 MRTT aircraft for aerial refuelling and participation of staff officers. The German government declared sending 1 200 soldiers to take part in the military operations. In fact the Bundeswehr sent between 500 and 700 soldiers. German troops have been helping train security forces in the area around Erbil in northern Iraq.

Iran. Iran currently has 70 000 combatants in Syria (counting both regular Iranian troops and militias under Iranian control: around 7 000 Hezbollah fighters, thousands of Afghan recruits in the Al Fatemiyoun militia, and volunteers from Iraq and Pakistan).

IraqThe Iraqi army numbers 168 000 active military personnel and 150 000 reserve personnel.

IsraelIsrael has carried out dozens of airstrikes on alleged weapons convoys bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel’s real security interests in Syria lie in countering Hezbollah and monitoring the rise of Iranian influence.

ItalyThe Italian contingent in Iraq is made up of approximately 1 400 military from all services of which 400 are currently engaged in Erbil, including 120 instructors. 70 military are deployed in Mosul to protect the dam and its personnel. The Carabinieri Task Force has been operating there since June 2015. The 90 members of the Task Force have been training Iraqi federal Police Forces tasked with operations to be conducted in areas conquered back from Daesh.

JordanAfter the downed Jordanian pilot was executed by ISIL by being burned to death, King Abdullah II vowed revenge and temporarily took the lead in the bombing raids on ISIL. Current activities include airstrikes and protection of the Jordanian border.

The NetherlandsThe Dutch military personnel are training Iraqi and Kurdish forces to fight the ISIS terrorist organization on the ground (150 trainers, advisers and security and logistic personnel, 35-man force protection for Belgian F-16).

RussiaRussia has deployed an S-400 air defense system, and stations Su-24 bombers at the Russian military base in Latakia.24)Russians have three bases in Syria: Latakia (also listening station), Tartus naval base and Khemeimim air base. Due to Russian military activities, Syrian government forces have an advantage.25)The Russian military intervention started on 30.09.2015 with 4 000 military personnel.26) Moscow has used the Russian Navy a few times like the Admiral Grigorovich. 27)According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian fighters carried out 672 sorties and bombed over 1 450 targets to support the “offensive by the militias of eastern Euphrates tribes and Kurdish militias”.28)Independent experts said up to 10,000 Russian troops and private contractors could have been deployed to Syria. He suggested that Russia had between 4,000 and 5,000 Russian military servicemen in Syria including personnel at Russia’s airbase in Khmeimim, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad in northwest Syria, and the Tartus naval facility. On top of that, independent Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer said, some 2 000 to 3 000 military advisors helped the Syrian army gain an upper hand over rebels and jihadists on the ground. 29)Vladimir Putin announced 11.12.2017 that his forces will start withdrawing from Syria after a two-year military campaign against ISIS.

SpainThe Gran Capitán military base in Bismayah, which is under Spanish command and where some 450 soldiers and members of Spain’s Civil Guard are stationed, along with US, British and Portuguese personnel have helped train 6 000 Iraqi troops.31)The continued presence of the Spanish Patriot missile battery on the border between Turkey and Syria was a decision taken at the request of the Turkish Government, within the framework of the NATO.

SyriaAl Assad’s army is made up of 154 000 active and 150 000 reserved military personnel.

TurkeyTurkey has a military base in Iraq: in Bashiqa near Mosul, Northern Iraq and in the Shaqlawa region (near Erbil). Roughly 2 000 Turkish troops are currently in northern Iraq.34)35)In northern Syria after conducting Operation Euphrates Shield against ISIS and Kurdish militias, Turkey controls the region stretching from the city of Jarabulus on the Syria-Turkey border to Manbij, Al-Bab and northern Aleppo. Turkey is strengthening its position in the Middle East, also prevents the Kurdish state from coming into being.36)The Turkish military contingent in Syria was reduced from 8,000 to 1,500 people (also commandos, like 180 commandos in Syrian city Al-Bab).

USAThe United States has about 5 200 troops in Iraq (primarily in an advisory capacity) and about 2 000 in Syria. Unofficial military sources announced that there are also 4 000 American troops in Syria.

miércoles, 13 de diciembre de 2017

Mientras tanto, en Pyongyang...

Dos notas breves de Russia Today de hoy sugieren que cambió el clima entre Corea del Norte y el Imperio. Rusia, por las dudas, acaba de mandar una enigmática misión militar a Pyongyang (foto). Veamos:

Título: Russian military delegation arrives in N. Korea, scouting any chance for dialogue

Texto: Russian Defense Ministry representatives have arrived in the North Korean capital. It is the second visit by Russian officials in two weeks, and comes as Washington claims it is ready for direct talks with Pyongyang, while still staging war games in the turbulent region.
The delegation is headed by Deputy Director of the Russian National Defense Command Center Viktor Kalganov, and has been on assignment in North Korea since Tuesday. The officials are to remain in Pyongyang for the rest of the week.

There has been no word on their mission from the Russian military. However, almost simultaneously with news of the visit, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Moscow is using "any opportunity for direct communication" and will continue to do so, including with the help of the Defense Ministry. "North Korea is our neighbor, we must develop relations with this country," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said during a briefing on Wednesday. "Political dialogue is extremely important," he added.

The Russian military have traveled to Pyongyang to "activate" a settlement of the crisis in the region, Deputy Head of the Defense Ministry's Public Council Aleksandr Kanshin told Interfax. "The aim of the military, political and diplomatic efforts is clear: all sides should be put back at negotiations table, to put away provocative and threatening military rhetoric and demonstration of force," the official said. He noted that such missions are part of a road map proposed by Moscow and Beijing, which seeks a solution to the nuclear tensions through dialogue.

Moscow has repeatedly said that only diplomatic efforts can solve the crisis. Following a recent visit to North Korea by Russian lawmakers, the delegation said that Pyongyang is ready for talks if it is recognized a nuclear power. North Korea can sit at a negotiating table with the US with the participation of Russia as a third party, it proposed.

While the Russian delegation is working in Pyongyang, Washington has made a U-turn in its hardline stance towards the North. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the US is ready for talks with no preconditions. Russia, which has always advocated a diplomatic approach, welcomed the new tone of the American rhetoric, with Ryabkov saying that previously the US treated any direct contacts with Pyongyang as “abnormal.”

At the same time, the US has not abandoned another pillar of its policy in the region, which is the continuation of a series of military drills near the Korean Peninsula. The recent maneuvers are considered to be one of the largest military drills to date aimed at North Korea.

"Unfortunately, the US carry on with their non-constructive line aimed at military build-up in North-Eastern Asia," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday. She reiterated that Moscow calls on all sides to refrain from moves that only escalate the crisis.


Título: US ready ‘anytime’ for direct North Korea talks – Tillerson

Texto: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said all that stands between direct diplomacy with North Korea is their willingness "to come to the table" with a desire to "make a different choice."

“We're ready to talk anytime they'd like to talk,” Tillerson said about North Korea on Tuesday afternoon. This shift away from US policy demanding North Korea negotiate on terms of its own disarmament came during the secretary of state's remarks in Washington, DC to the Atlantic Council during an event called Reimagining the US-Republic of Korea Partnership in the Trans-Pacific Century.

He also said that the US has assured China that US troops would return to South Korea afterward if they ever had to cross into North Korean territory.

“In the meantime, our military preparedness is strong,” he continued, asserting confidence in himself to prevent war, while also expressing support for Defense Secretary James Mattis should hostilities break out.

The US's stated goals in the region ultimately have not changed, Tillerson made clear.

“Our policy with respect to the DPRK is really quite clear and that is the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson added that China and Russia shared in that goal, though “our tactics for implementing the policy may differ a bit.”

The US has implemented the “most comprehensive set of economic sanctions that I think have ever been assembled,” the top US diplomat continued.

Earlier Tuesday, the US and Japan held one of the largest joint military drills aimed at North Korea yet. American B1-B bombers, F-35 stealth fighter jets and F-18 combat jets were flown along with Japanese F-15 fighters, prompting a warning from Moscow that the exercises would “increase tension” with Pyongyang.

Iraq & Syria

Tillerson said on Tuesday that the US seeks to “stabilize” the areas of Syria and Iraq liberated from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) “to avoid a reemergence of ISIS but also to avoid a reemergence of local conflicts between various groups.”

He said the State Department has to catch up with the military to determine “diplomatic plans as to what comes after the defeat of ISIS.”

The US would also work with Russia to “promote deescalation of the violence,” he said.

Saudi Arabia & Pakistan

The secretary of state praised Saudi Arabia for making an effort to counter terrorism, but said the kingdom must “get these messages into the mosque” and “into the madrasas.” 

On Pakistan, Tillerson said its relationship with the US had deteriorated over the last decade.

“Our concern is really about Pakistan's stability,” Tillerson said, warning that growth of terrorist groups in the country could cause Pakistan “to lose control of their own country.”

martes, 12 de diciembre de 2017

Después de Siria

A medida que cede la resistencia de los chicos malos en Siria (ISIS, Al Nusra y demás siglas) se va asentando el polvo de la guerra. Aquí y allá van apareciendo ganadores y perdedores, realineamientos, nuevas alianzas y demás. Uno se pregunta en qué terminará todo esto. La foto de arriba muestra al presidente Vladimir Putin saludando a las tropas rusas en Siria. "Vuelvan a casa", les dijo. A tiempo para Navidad y las elecciones que vienen. Mientras tanto, los ojos del mundo miran al Imperio. ¿Qué hará esta vez? La nota que sigue viene del sitio web Moon of Alabama:

Título: U.S. Surrenders On Syria - Resistance Turns Eyes On Israel

Texto: This New Yorker piece is notable for its arrogant headline, and several false assertions. Those may be necessary to divert from its real message - the U.S. surrender to the realities of Syria: Trump to Let Assad Stay Until 2021, as Putin Declares Victory in Syria:

[T]he Trump Administration is now prepared to accept President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule until Syria’s next scheduled Presidential election, in 2021, according to U.S. and European officials. The decision reverses repeated U.S. statements that Assad must step down as part of a peace process.
The Trump Administration says it still wants a political process that holds the prospect of Assad’s departure. But it has concluded that it may take until 2021, when the next election is scheduled, to pull it off.
U.S. officials worry that Assad could win the 2021 Syrian election, one way or the other, and remain in power for years to come.

The U.S. "lets Assad stay" because there is simply nothing else it can do without waging a large scale war. It has tried everything else - and lost. In 2012 it attempted to assassinate Assad, but he wasn't at the security meeting that the CIA blew up. It send 100,000 Takfiri fighters from all over the world to Syria and shipped in ten-thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition. The global anti-Syrian propaganda campaign in favor of the Takfiris was unprecedented. It tried to build a political opposition and sponsored it with hundreds of millions. It lastly invaded the country and tried to split it by force. It failed on all fronts.

The U.S. decision reflects the Administration’s limited options, the military reality on the ground, and the success of Syria’s Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies in propping up the beleaguered Assad regime.
The Syrian opposition groups backed by the United States have been ineffectual. They have squabbled among themselves and split into factions.
Diplomatically, Washington has been marginalized by the powerful troika of Russia, Iran, and Turkey, which now dominates the peace process.

In 2013 the author of the piece, Robin Wright, presented the Israeli dream of a split up Middle East.

It was a remake of the "Blood Borders" map peddled in 2006 by the neoconservatives Col. Ralph Peters. That gain was an updated version of a map of a "New Middle East" by Bernhard Lewis published in Foreign Affairs. Those maps went into the trash-bin when the U.S. had to leave Iraq. Wrigth's cartographic expression of imperial arrogance will end there too.

Wright is heavily wired in Washington. She is part of the *borg* and held/holds positions at the U.S. Institute of Peace (which plans wars), the Wilson Center, Brookings and Carnegie Endowment. That she has now given up on her ludicrous map likely reflects the leading opinions within those institutions.

One wonders if the military junta in the White House is on board with this. It continues to dream of keeping Syria and Iraq under its thumb:

Col. John Thomas, spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM), said that the international coalition forces would remain in Syria to support the operations of the Arab-Kurdish “Syrian Democratic Forces” until the conclusion of negotiations on a political solution in Geneva.

He added that the US forces would continue to fight terrorist organizations close to “al-Qaeda” in Syria, including al-Nusra Front, “regardless of ISIS presence.”

Dream on.

Yesterday Putin visited Syria. He declared victory and announced that part of the Russian troops in Syria would return home. He made sure that everyone, the U.S., the Turks, the Saudis and the Israelis, understood that the troops would be back in no-time if they try to reignite the war:

"If terrorists again raise head, we will deliver such strikes on them that they haven’t seen so far," Putin told the Russian military.

Another member of the Syrian alliance, the Lebanese party Hizbullah, is now refocusing on Israel. Trump's hail-Mary pass of illegally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital came just in time to give new impetus to the resistance:

Mr Nasrallah called on the “resistance axis” — a reference to Hizbollah and its Syrian and Iranian allies and patrons — to “devote all its power and time to the Palestinians. I call on all the resistance factions in the region to unite and put one common strategy and practical plan to face this threat,” he said.

It was Israel that was behind (pdf) the campaign to dismantle Syria and Iraq. It utterly failed and the revenge will be harsh. Hizbullah is better armed and trained than ever. Battle experienced Iraqi and Iranian groups stand ready. The Syrian army is much better trained and equipped than before the war. The Iraqi resistance leader Qais Al Khazali recently visited south-Lebanon and took a look over the border into Israel. He was surveying the new battlefield.

Israel's great new alliance with Saudi Arabia has not helped its position. The Salman tyrant and his son are in an insecure position and their great relations with Trump have tanked, allegedly over the issue of Jerusalem.

The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo is under pressure at home. The corruption accusation accumulate and his time in office is now limited.

Who will replace him? What is the new plan the Zionists will come up with to react to the changed situation?