The scenes in Kiev over the past few days have been reminiscent of the “Orange Revolution” in the fall of 2004, which paved the way for Viktor Yushchenko’s eventual victory in the disputed presidential election. There are several significant differences, however, which make a similar outcome unlikely.
The first is that the trigger for the street protests in 2004 was the well-founded suspicion of electoral fraud. Now it is President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to sign an association agreement with the European Union, and to seek closer ties to the Russian-sponsored customs union which also includes Kazakhstan and Belarus (with Armenia slated to join the bloc next year). The accusation of fraud was credible enough nine years ago to paralyze the administration of former President Leonid Kuchma, already discredited by years of corruption and scandals. The current government, by contrast, is displaying an unexpectedly high degree of self-confidence, apparently convinced that in extremis it can count on the support of the plurality of Ukrainians who feel uneasy about the proposed EU agreement. The government’s ability to retain control was bolstered on December 3, when it comfortably survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence tabled by opposition deputies: there have been no desertions from government ranks, as expected by the opposition. Yanukovych’s departure for China on previously agreed schedule is counter-indicative of a beleaguered leader running out of options.
The demonstrators “won’t go back to their homes until they accomplish what they came here for,” an unidentified protestor told the CNN Tuesday, but the goalpost has shifted. They initially came to protest the non-signing of the EU deal, but by the weekend they started demanding a street-forced regime change. The shift was not spontaneous. It was agreed upon and launched on Sunday by various Western-financed “civic” groups, with the intention of repeating the scenario initially tested by “Otpor” in Belgrade in October 2000, and repeated in Tbilisi in the fall of 2003 and in Kiev a year later. (“The Democracy Small Grants Program enables the Embassy community in Kyiv to support unique and sustainable pilot projects fostering democratic reforms in a given field or geographic region,” the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine website announces. “Over 200 projects from Ukrainian NGOs have received funding…” The big grants remain undisclosed, but they are reliably estimated to go into tens of millions.)
The Western media narrative has been customarily one-dimensional: Ukrainians are protesting because they want to break free from the grip of “Putin’s Russia” and put their country firmly on the “European path.” The reality is more complex, as usual. Judging by the latest opinion poll, conducted by the politically neutral Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in mid-November, 40.8 per cent of respondents said they would vote in favor of joining the Customs Union in a referendum, with 33.1 per cent opposed. Support for joining the customs union was very high in the east of the country (64.5 per cent) and in the south (54 per cent), dropping to 16.4 percent in the west. Asked if they would vote in favor of Ukraine joining the European Union, 39.7 per cent were in favor and 35.1 per cent opposed, with regional balances neatly reversed. This reflects the traditional divide of Ukraine into the pro-Russian east and pro-EU west, but this time cultural preferences are mixed with economic issues.
The Western media coverage tends to ignore economic considerations behind Yanukovych’s decision not to sign the EU agreement. In addition to the high cost of systemic adjustment to EU standards, Ukraine would have opened its market to European goods with which its own industrial products would have been hardly able to compete at home, let alone abroad. As Le Monde Diplomatique commented on December 3, the EU demanded “sacrifices from the Ukrainians without providing their country with any significant financial compensation.” Yanukovych called an earlier EU offer of 600 million euros ($800 million) in aid “humiliating,” as indeed it was, considering that Ukraine’s estimated cost of upgrading to EU standards alone would amount to $19 billion (€14.7bn) a year. Ukraine is on the verge of insolvency, and the likely cost of signing the EU deal would have been a mind-boggling $200bn over the next decade – which is more than the country’s current annual GDP.
The EU wanted to woo Ukraine on the cheap, and failed. Had Yanukovych received an adequate financial incentive—matching the offers of cheaper gas, trade incentives and cheap credit from Moscow—he probably would have signed. He is not a dyed-in-the-wool Russophile, as the checkered history of his relations with the Kremlin over the past three years indicates. Brussels has made an offer he had to refuse, however, regardless of his ideological preferences. Heavy-handed Western insistence on the immediate release of Yulia Tymoshenko only added to his resolve. Weathering the ensuing unsurprising storm in Kiev’s streets entailed, in his estimation, fewer risks than risking bankruptcy and alienating his political base in the industrial heartland. He is a politician, after all, and his calculus in any key decision is therefore based on whether it will improve his odds of holding on to power.
“We’re extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and in private to have Mr. Snowden expelled to the United States to face the charges against him,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. He added that Barack Obama might now boycott a bilateral meeting with Putin in September, due to be held when the President travels to St. Petersburg for a G20 summit on September 5-6.
“Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife,” says Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). He urged Obama to insist on moving out of Russia the G20 summit.
Russia’s action is a “disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States… a slap in the face of all Americans,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said. “Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia, he added. Mc Cain and his GOP colleague Lindsey Graham suggested the United States should retaliate by completing all missile-defense programs in Europe and proceeding with further expansion of NATO to include Russia’s neighbor Georgia.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) predicted that Snowden is “going to want to get back to the United States in any way possible after he realizes what it’s like to live in a totalitarian state.”
We are not going to discuss now which is more “totalitarian,” Putin’s Russia or Obama’s America; my views on the kind of society we live in are presented here. We are also not going to join the “Traitor or Hero” debate on Snowden. Two technical points need to be made in the context of the White House and Congressional reactions to Snowden’s Russian asylum: (1) America has granted asylum to the Chechen “foreign minister,” the spokesman for one of the most barbarian regimes in recent history, who is wanted in Russia for terrorism; and (2) America “renditions” Russian citizens from third countries to have them tried for crimes allegedly committed in Russia without informing the Russian authorities.
Imagine the No. 3 leader of a terrorist separatist movement in southern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, a group guilty of murdering thousands of unarmed Anglos—airline passengers, theatergoers, women, hospital patients, and schoolchildren—being granted political asylum in Russia and living openly for over a decade in a posh part of Moscow, courtesy of Russia’s taxpayers. One can only imagine the paroxysm of rage in the White House and on the Hill. Diplomatic relations would be severed. McCain-Graham would urge nuking Russia.
No needs to imagine much, just reverse the roles. Ilyas Akhmadov, foreign minister and chief global media advocate of the short-lived “Chechen Republic,” until 2000 was the third highest-ranking leader of that blood-soaked monstrosity, after Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev. To take but one exampke, he was directly responsible for the atrocities of the Chechen terrorist regime, including the invasion of the Russian Republic of Dagestan in the summer of 1999 when hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children were murdered. According to the UNHCR, 32,000 people were driven from their homes. And yet Akhmadov was granted political asylum in the United States in 2003, in spite of Russia’s repeated and amply documented demands for his extradition for a variety of terrorist offenses. As Professor Robert Bruce Ware asked eight years ago (“Response to Brzezinski,” Johnson’s Russia List, March 20, 2005), if the U.S. was right to declare the entire Taliban government a terrorist organization, why is Russia not right to declare the self-designed Chechen government—Akhmadov included—a terrorist organization?
If we would think it wrong of Russia to grant political asylum to Mullah Omar, then why do we not think that it is wrong for the United States to grant political asylum to Illyas Akhmadov? Why didn’t Illyas Akhmadov resign from the Chechen government when Dagestan was invaded? … Exactly what record is there that Illyas Akhmadov ever issued a public statement repudiating the invasions of Dagestan while those invasions were in progress, or supporting the extradition of the invasions’ leaders? If the 9/11 [attacks] made Bin Laden a terrorist, and if the Oklahoma City blast made McVeigh a terrorist, then why didn’t his public acceptance of responsibility for the Ingushetia raids make Aslan Maskhadov a terrorist? And if his public acceptance of responsibility for those raids made Maskhadov a terrorist, then why doesn’t it implicate those who represented him, such as Illyas Akhmadov, in charges of terrorism? And if it does make Illyas Akhmadov a terrorist then why is he enjoying political asylum and a prestigious professional position at the expense of the American taxpayer?
“Harboring terrorists, their henchmen and sponsors undermines the unity and mutual trust of parties to the antiterrorist front,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the U.N. General Assembly in 2004. “We cannot have double standards while fighting terrorism and it cannot be used as a geopolitical game,” President Vladimir Putin declared in December of that year. But Maskhadov remains in his Wodley Park mansion in Washington D.C. to this day, courtesy of your tax dollars. Back in 2004e was also given a generous State Department grant that enabled him to maintain an office with a secretary at the National Endowment for Democracy, to keep a busy travel schedule,e and to retain the services of a PR agency.
Akhmadov is an utterly nasty piece of work, so much so that in 2004 then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee chairman John Hostettler (R-IN) jointly demanded that Attorney General John Ashcroft review the ruling that granted Akhmadov political asylum. “If the United States had evidence that Mr. Akhmadov was involved in terrorist activities, it is unclear why he was not barred from asylum as a terrorist and as a danger to the security of our nation,” they wrote to Ashcroft in September of that year—but to no avail. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that one of the happiest days of my life was when I called Ilyas to tell him that he would be able to stay in America,” averred America’s über-Russophobe Zbigniew Brzezinski, as quoted by Akhmadov’s publicist and Zbig’s nephew Matthew in the Washington Post (March 20, 2005).
It would be equally interesting to imagine the reaction of McCain et al. if Russia routinely resorted to the arrest of American citizens in third countries—Belarus or Kazakhstan, say—and their extradition to Moscow for trial on various charges. That is exactly what the U.S. is doing to Russians. The most recent case concerns Aleksander Panin, a 24-year-old Russian computer programmer from Tver. Panin was arrested at the airport after visiting the Dominican Republic in May, swiftly transferred to a Federal prison in Georgia, and charged with a variety of cyber crimes committed in Russia—and all that without Moscow’s consent or knowledge. The case only became known a month later. “Of course, we are seriously concerned with yet another arrest of a Russian citizen with a U.S. warrant in a third country… The fact that such practices are becoming a vicious tendency is absolutely unacceptable and inadmissible,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “We have repeatedly told the US that if there are demands for our citizens, it is necessary to send relevant requests to the Russian law enforcement authorities on the basis of the 1999-bilateral agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal cases. However, this is still not being done.”
There are several cases similar to Panin’s. On July 22 Dmitry Ustinov, a Russian citizen, was extradited to the U.S. from Lithuania and accused of smuggling night-vision goggles. In November 2010, Russian citizen Viktor Bout was extradited from Bangkok to the United States, where he was convicted of involvement in the illegal arms trade. In May 2010 a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, was arrested in Liberia and taken to the U.S. on charges of drug trafficking. In 2011 was sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
The practice of having Russian citizens arrested in some pliant third country and delivered to the U.S. to be tried for alleged crimes committed outside America is a legal novelty which has the potential to create a great deal of trouble for U.S. citizens, too, and especially for American businessmen working in the former Soviet Central Asia. But as the cases of Snowden and Akhmadov indicate, all too many people in Washington still act in accordance with Madeleine Albright’s psychotic doctrine of imperial exceptionalism—“we are America, we are the indispensable nation”—which is as profoundly un-American as it is irritating to the rest of the world. (Another gem of hers is “I’ve never seen America as an imperialist or colonialist or meddling country.”)
The delusions of late-imperial grandeur die hard, but in the fullness of time they will die nevertheless; the sooner, the better.
Speaking at the end of the meeting of the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council in Luxembourg on June 24, European Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle warned Ukraine that “time is running preciously short” for the government in Kiev to meet all European Union conditions in time to sign a free trade and association agreement in November. “Ukraine has made good progress in some areas,” Füle said, but added that “more needs to be done for Ukraine to achieve tangible progress on all the benchmarks,” including “increased determination and reinforced action”—an obvious reference to the case of Yulia Tymoshenko.
While stressing that closer links with the EU remain its priority, in recent weeks the Ukrainian government has also probed the possibilities of strengthening its ties with the Customs Union formed in 2010 by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Moscow would like to see Ukraine in the “Common Economic Space,” but it is reluctant to grant it a half-way status that would fall short of full membership. Kiev would prefer that option in order not to sever its EU connection.
The dilemma has received scant attention in the Western media. Considering its size and strategic importance, it is curious how underreported Ukraine remains 22 years after independence. The second largest country in Europe—the true link (and a key energy corridor) between Russia and the Old Continent’s heartland west of the Carpathian Mountains—has just under fifty million people, a rich agricultural base, and a long Black Sea shoreline which includes the all-important naval bases in the Crimea. Its geopolitical significance cannot be overstated.
Kiev’s current quandary is real, but it should not overshadow Ukraine’s promise as a pivotal player in the development of regional cooperation with its EU neighbors to the West, former CIS countries to the north and east, and emerging regional powers further afield. On my recent visits to Ukraine—most recently as an election observer last October – I was struck by the tendency of some local analysts to focus on the role of their country as an object of geopolitical rivalry of others, and to neglect its potential as a significant actor in its own right.
That potential is real. The importance of food as a key strategic commodity will continue to grow in the decades ahead, and Ukraine has an enormous, still untapped capability to become a global-scale producer. In 2012 Ukrainian agricultural sector raised $2bn in capital investments, which is 11 percent higher than in 2011 but still short of what is needed to unleash its potential. If and when Ukraine’s farmers gain reliable and affordable access to finance, they will be able to compete with, and perhaps out-produce, their peers in the American Midwest or Canada. Cooperation with key EU agricultural producers, such as France, is proceeding apace and should continue regardless of what happens in Vilnius next November. The same applies to Kiev’s cooperation with the EU in the energy sector in 2013—an important step in making Ukraine’s role as a key energy conduit more stable, predictable and transparent.
Bilateral cooperation can flourish even in the absence of speedy integrations, as recent experience suggests. Ukraine’s merchandise trade deficit narrowed to $608.5 million in April, which is markedly less than a year ago. Exports increased 4.7% year-on-year, while imports declined 8.1%. Most of its minerals, steel, coal, petroleum products and grains go to other former Soviet republics, but Germany and Poland have been gaining importance in recent years. Trade with Hungary, Sweden, and other smaller EU members has also recorded significant increases. Outside the EU and the former Soviet Union, Ukraine’s key partners are Turkey (second-largest overall, after Russia) and China. Ukraine will sign an agreement on a free tradearea (FTA) with Turkey in October, and its trade with China is expected to double to $20bn in the next few years.
Regardless of its hoped-for integrations, Ukraine can and should project more resolutely its “soft power” in the region. Its rich cultural heritage and still underdeveloped tourist industry are by no means the only assets. The 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, commonly referred to as Euro 2012—jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine—was an expensive but useful step in the right direction. There are still too few foreign students, researchers and guest-lecturers in Kiev, Kharkov, Lvov or Odessa, considering the quality of their institutions of higher learning.
The perennial issue of Ukraine’s geopolitical strategy—should it lean to the East or to the West—is on the whole somewhat artificial. Experts note that recent trends in the country’s foreign trade have created preconditions for growth even if it joins neither the European Union nor the Moscow-led customs union. It is noteworthy that even some EU leaders take the view that Ukraine should follow a two-track approach.
Stability in Europe and the continent’s long-term integration devoid of the Cold War, zero-sum-game mentality, requires a new paradigm in Kiev. It should be based on further diversification of political and economic options, which is not incompatible with Ukraine’s quest for optimal forms of association with its eastern and western neighbors.
One variant of a well-known law of bureaucracy says that the amount of time spent discussing a budgetary decision is inversely proportional to the magnitude of the budget in question. Judging by what I witnessed on March 20 at the European Parliament—at the Committee on Budgets’ hearing on the “Financing of the Eastern Partnership”—the Brussels machine functions entirely in accordance with this adage.
The money involved is substantial: 2.8 billion euros ($3.6 billion) over 5 years. The project’s stated purpose is to promote “shared values”—democracy, human rights and the rule of law—in six former Soviet states deemed to be of “strategic importance” to the European Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, andUkraine. Promoting the principles of market economy, sustainable development, civic society and “good governance” is also among the objectives.
In their opening remarks, the officials involved in running the Eastern Partnership Program were self-congratulatory about its alleged achievements. That much was to be expected: lots of sinecures, cushy jobs and expense-padded missions can be extracted from a few billion. Nevertheless, the entire construct’s numerous problems and shortcomings could not be concealed:
- Conceptually, there is no clear consensus within the EU on what exactly it is trying to promote in its eastern neighborhood under the bombastic slogans of “shared values, collective norms and joint ownership.” What does it all mean, if anything, in the real world?
- Empirically, the program has followed, and still follows, a “top-down” approach of deciding in Brussels what are the goals, then telling the eastern “partners” what they need to do, and finally rewarding them accordingly—rather than developing genuine partnerships based on those countries’ real needs and attainable objectives.
- Managerially, in order for the funds allocated to the “Partnership” to be optimally utilized, they would require elaborate apparatuses of deployment, supervision and evaluation. On the basis of the presentations last Wednesday, it is clear that the EU has neither the institutional mechanisms nor the supervisory bodies capable of insuring that this is the case.
- Substantially, the elephant in the room was the issue of EU enlargement—or, rather, the extreme unlikelihood of further enlargement after Croatia’s accession next July. Without the realistic prospect of an eventual path to full membership, the EU lacks meaningful leverage over the political elites in the six eastern countries to make them change their ways.
Far from being addressed, these problems are bypassed by the tendency of the EU bureaucracy to close its eyes to the reality on the ground in the countries concerned—or, worse, still, to misrepresent that reality for reasons of institutional self-preservations. The result, to put it succinctly, is that billions of European taxpayers’ cash are poured into a bottomless pit of post-Soviet corruption, graft, and pork-barrel politics. “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us,” went the old Soviet joke. Its modern-day “Eastern” equivalent should be “We pretend to reform, and they pretend that we are doing a good job.” Instead of being properly perceived as part of the problem, terminally corrupt political “elites” are treated as partners in finding solutions.
Moldova is the prime example. On per-capita basis, this backwater squeezed between Romania and Ukraine—the poorest country in Europe—has received far more money than the other five “partners,” and the EU pretends that its objectives are being met. While I was at the European Parliament, the European Commission presented its own regional report on the implementation of the Eastern Partnership. It asserted that “significant progress was made in the implementation of the Eastern Partnership” and singled out Moldova for “showing significant progress,” “stepping up efforts to implement judicial and law enforcement reform,” and “continuing to implement reforms in the areas of social assistance, health and education, energy, competition, state aid and regulatory approximation to the EU acquis.” Moldova’s government was asked to “continue to vigorously advance reforms in the justice and law enforcement systems” as well as intensify the fight against corruption.
This is surreal, on par with the Soviet Communist Party congresses exalting the great and glorious achievements of socialism in the years of terminal decline under Brezhnev. In reality, Moldova is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, according to independent analysts, who also claim that the majority of EU assistance is being misused by local officials. The Warsaw-based EaP Institute warns that the EU is devoting considerable sums to Moldova for very little return in terms of progress in the country’s reform process: “It begs the question: Why is the EU throwing money like this at a black hole of corruption, when there is so much to do in the EU’s own member states?”
It does, indeed. Moldova has already received some €482m from the EU Eastern Partnership, which is about 110 euros ($145) for every man, woman and child in the dirt-poor country—the equivalent of an average two-weekly wage. Nobody knows for certain where it went, but we have a fair idea. Recent opinion polls say that the majority of citizens of Moldova consider their current coalition government as “totally corrupt.” According to the Transparency International 2012 report, Moldova is among the most corrupt places in Europe, with Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia topping the list. But the EU says it is doing well, because an unhealthy symbiotic relationship has been developed between the unelected and mostly unaccountable bureaucrats managing enormous funds earmarked for nebulous purposes and their foreign “clients” who gloat at the mouth-watering prospect of placing a major portion of those funds into their own pockets.
After last Wednesday’s introductory presentations, several experts and members of European Parliament (MEPs) expressed misgivings about the Eastern Partnership policy. Olaf Osica, director of the centre for eastern studies in Warsaw, declared that “in four years the policy had failed to produce any tangible political or social results.” A prominent Polish MEP and former senior government minister, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, said the entire edifice should be “completely revised”:
There are a whole multitude of projects which, as we have heard at the hearing, no one seems able to follow or understand… What we are doing is creating the illusion that the EU is helping to transform these eastern European countries when, in fact, the naked truth is that the EU is losing its eastern neighbors. What is actually needed is for the EU—and that means both the Commission and Parliament—to totally revise and revisit its Eastern Partnership policy.
All this was in stark contrast to the earlier assurances by senior officials that the current picture was “confused,” but the EU was nevertheless “doing quite well” in addressing concerns about the transparency and accountability of its funding for the six countries (Marcus Cornaro); or that the EU was determined to push ahead with closer cooperation with those countries that have “demonstrated a commitment to the reform process” (Richard Tibbels).
The lenient attitude of EU officials regarding the patchy record of their “Eastern partners” on corruption, democratisation, and the rule of law is in stark contrast with the ever-moving goal posts for a half-dozen aspiring EU members in the Western Balkans. None of them will join the EU for a decade at least, of course, and a realistic reassessment of their political and economic policies is long overdue. The EU is in a state of chronic institutional and financial crisis, and trying to get on board at this point is equal to betting on Romney last November 5. Alternatives do exist, but they call for the cold-blooded diversification of long-term strategies. Belgrade and Kiev in particular should take note.
Speaking in Dublin last Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that a new effort was under way by “oppressive governments” to “re-Sovietize” Eastern Europe and Central Asia. She took a stab at Russia and her regional allies for their alleged crackdown on democracy and human rights, only hours ahead of meeting Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss Syria and other issues of mutual concern.
Addressing a group of “civil society advocates” on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) foreign ministers’ meeting, Clinton decried a wave of repressive tactics and laws aimed at curtailing U.S. “outreach efforts” in Russia, Belarus, Turkmenistan, and other Soviet successor states. “There is a move to re-Sovietize the region,” Clinton declared. “It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that,” she said, alluding to Moscow’s initiatives for greater regional integration. “But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.”
To support her claims Clinton presented one Igor Kochetkov, an activist with the “Russian LGBT Network”—a homosexual advocacy group financed by U.S. taxpayer money—who declared that Russian authorities were stifling the discussion of discrimination based on sexual orientation. She also produced one Olga Zakharova, supposedly a journalist, who said that the use of social media was being restricted by the Russian authorities. Clinton warned that there is a concerted effort under way to eliminate American and international assistance to such human rights advocates.
It is noteworthy that the “Eurasian Union and all of that” is, in Clinton’s view, a neo-Soviet project primarily designed to violate human rights as she defines them. In fact the Eurasian Union (EAU) is a project of regional political and economic integration openly modeled on the European Union. It was first suggested by the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1994, and the idea was revived by Russia’s then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in October 2011. The following month the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement to establish the EAU by 2015. The agreement included the blueprint for the future integration and established the Eurasian Commission—clearly emulating the European Commission in Brussels—which started work on the first day of this year.
Clinton’s pledge to throw a spanner into this project—“we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it,” as she put it—reflects her dangerous arrogance. Her ability to do anything of the kind is limited, however, and if she believes otherwise she is deluded. More seriously, there is no rational reason for the United States to oppose regional integration of post-Soviet countries. The EAU is not a threat to American interests—unless those interests are defined as open-ended, full-spectrum dominance over the planet. She is unnecessarily throwing down the gauntlet and thus undermining a cooperative relationship with Russia, which in view of America’s many challenges in the greater Middle East and in the Pacific region—not to mention the disengagement from Afghanistan—should be among our top foreign policy priorities.
Secretary of State’s complaint about Russia’s “repressive tactics” aimed at curtailing U.S. “outreach efforts” is hypocritical in the extreme. She was alluding to a recently enacted law regulating the work of Russian regime-change focused “NGOs” funded by the U.S. taxpayer money, and funneled through organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and the National Democratic Institute. In fact the Russian law regulating such activities was patterned directly on the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which regulates activities of foreign governments in the United States. FARA would require full public disclosure of those same activities that the U.S. Department of State has been lavishly funding in Russia during Clinton’s tenure. She is forgetting that the Federal Election Campaign Act flatly prohibits foreign involvement in American political process that she regards as legitimate and desirable when conducted in Russia by Washington’s protégés under the guise of promoting democracy.
As for the restrictions on social media, Russia blacklists websites devoted to drug use, suicide promotion and paedophilia. The government was accused of using the law as a tool for censorship after two—two—popular sites were banned. We may take Clinton’s criticism seriously when she expresses similar concern over Internet censorship by our NATO ally Turkey—which bans access to thousands of sites—or by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which block access to all sites which engage in the criticism of those countries’ governments, not to mention those “deemed offensive to Islam.”
Hillary Clinton’s performance in Dublin reinforces my view (see the September 2012 issue of Chronicles) that she is the worst secretary of state in U.S. history. The substance and style of her foreign policymaking have undermined the national security of the United States. Her standing abroad is abysmal. It ranges from raw hate in the Muslim world—Egyptian protesters threw tomatoes and shoes at her motorcade last July—to contempt (Jerusalem), eye-rolling irritation (Moscow, Beijing, most of Latin America), or grudging endurance (Europe).
Clinton has abused her position in pursuit of a radical ideological outlook formed in the late 1960’s. Her disregard for long-established international norms and mechanisms is as revolutionary on the global scene as Obama’s presidency is domestically. She has undermined this country’s national security in various ways—her support for the misnamed Arab Spring, her Syrian policy, her Russian policy, her Balkan policy, her obsessive advocacy of “gay rights” in traditionally Christian countries—but the roots of those decisions are in her view of the United States as an ideological proposition. She does not see America as a real country populated by real people, whose security interests are rationally quantifiable on the basis of tangible costs and benefits. “When I ask people, ‘What do you think the goals of America are today?’ people don’t have any idea,” she told MSNBC in 2007. “We don’t know what we’re trying to achieve. And I think that in a life or in a country you’ve got to have some goals.”
The notion of a country having “goals” is the product of an un-American, corporatist, liberal-fascist paradigm that demands permanent cultural revolution at home and permanent “engagement” abroad. The result is a foreign policy that is part-Ribbentrop, part-New Age. Any outcome desired by Hillary Clinton becomes nonnegotiable; any opposition to it is more than a personal affront; it is an insult to “history.” To lie for the higher truth is a virtue, and to enforce the lie is a test of will.
Subterfuge came first. Mrs. Clinton has reduced the ability of American diplomats to function effectively by signing orders early in her tenure—revealed by Wikileaks—instructing Foreign Service officers to spy on the diplomats of other nations. She also told State Department officials overseas to collect the fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans of foreign leaders, and to obtain passwords and credit-card numbers used by foreign officials. Some spies have always masqueraded as diplomats, but under Clinton all American diplomats are rightly assumed to be at least part-time spooks. Remarkably, she has succeeded in evading scrutiny by congressional oversight committees. Three or four decades ago, such revelations would have resulted in the offending secretary of state’s resignation, but the legacy of her husband and his successor have altered the moral climate, making Mrs. Clinton safe from sanction.
More serious in their impact on America’s national security are Hillary Clinton’s strategic blunders. There is no rational explanation for her support for the forces of jihad in North Africa, the “Arab Spring” that is predictably reshaping the region (and particularly Egypt, the key player in that region) into a foreign policy realist’s nightmare. Clinton turned the Egyptian “revolution” into her own pet project because of her ideological makeup: a seemingly popular mass movement was ipso facto historically preordained, and therefore worthy of support. Her relentless pressure on Egyptian generals to surrender to the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the country was patently not in the American interest. The process now continues in Syria, where a false-flag chemical weapons atrocity is a distinct possibility.
Clinton and her team treat meddling and intervention as a moral imperative and a test of American leadership. The doubters are maligned in terms unprecedented in diplomatic discourse. That Russia and China vetoed her U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing war against Syria was, according to her U.N. Ambassador and possible successor Susan Rice, “disgusting and shameful.” Such “diplomacy” is indicative of neurosis, not statesmanship. It merely hastens the decline of American power and influence around the world, the long-term process enhanced during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at Foggy Bottom.
The heavy loaded cargo boats, passenger liners, cruise ships and plentiful ferries packed with tourists steam by the Maiden Tower rising from the black rock amid lucid waters; they gingerly make their way past the mountain-like mosques on the mainland into the Bosporus, this huge God-made river running between the Med and the Black Sea. The City, one of the greatest Capitals of Man of all time, has straddled Europe and Asia since the days of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who established this New Rome. It was the biggest city on earth a millennium ago, and it is still vast. Fifteen million people live in the City, twenty million visit it annually. Its greatness explains a strange vision of the heretic Russian historian Anatol Fomenko who claimed that Jerusalem, Rome, Babylon, Moscow and London are but misplaced images of this city, the original Empire.
Despite its size and history, the city is alert and vibrant in a peaceful, even demure way. It does not feel crowded – apart from the hotspots. The streets are clean, the greenery is neatly trimmed, the ugly street flea markets of recent years are gone; old buildings have been given a facelift, crumbling palaces have been repaired at no cost spared. The Bosporus has been cleaned up too, and sewage no longer flows into it – for the first time ever. Modern freeways encircle and cross its suburbs but do not intrude into the historical precincts.
The former seat of the Caliphate and home to an Islamist government, the City found a good balance between faith and modernity. Sufi schools are plentiful and learned men discuss theology, comparing Aquinas and Palamas with Ibn Arabi and Ibn Tufail. Muezzins’ harmonious calls to prayer do not disturb café customers sipping their drinks. Girls are free to wear headscarves or miniskirts and they do exercise both options.
More importantly, the government does not subscribe to unrestricted market economics and has thereby avoided the neoliberal excesses of its neighbours. There are many municipally-owned cafés, especially in the parks, where prices are quite affordable, even in the luxurious old imperial palaces, where no entrance fees are charged. They do not serve alcohol, and attract families with children. Downtown, the rents are kept low to allow bookshops to survive and flourish. The global squeeze is as apparent in Turkey as everywhere else, but here poor people receive tangible subsidies in kind, while the salaried classes are given generous loans to tide them over. Prices are kept under control, avoiding rapid increases; conspicuous consumption is discouraged. The rich are rich, and the poor are poor, but rich are not ostentatious and the poor are not desperate.
People are modest, helpful and inoffensive;- a far cry from the Turkey of theMidnight Express. They are rather honest and straightforward, and do not make a show of themselves. They are not very artistic, and their cuisine is comparable to the British one. If it is not a great compliment, it was not meant to be: they were Empire builders, and such nations usually are no great gourmands. The French ate too well, and their women were too appealing for their empire to last.
Istanbul is not the only oasis of prosperity in the country, as is often the case with capital cities outside of Europe. Now I have travelled the breadth of Turkey and all over I’ve witnessed the modernisation of the last ten years. Roads are smooth, houses are in good repair, markets are full, people are well-dressed, the cities are neither drab nor garish but quite up-to-date. This is a great achievement of the moderate Islamist government led by Prime Minister Erdogan.
Turkey is no longer the basket case it was in 1960s and 1970s. I’ve met a few Turkish immigrants in Germany, who said that their fathers made a hasty decision when they left home for Europe forty years ago. They would like to go back to Turkey, though it would not be easy to find work and to reconnect to a new environment, for they were reared in Western Europe. Anyway, there is no mass emigration out of Turkey; the nightmare of millions of Turks moving to Europe has dissipated. They would rather stay at home, for the Turks are very proud of their own country.
Erdogan is popular with the people. He is a real charismatic, people tell me. He defeated his adversaries, and his position at the helm is undisputed. And for good reasons: Turkey is doing nicely, thank you. The country prospers, incomes have doubled, and the GNP tripled (a very remarkable one trillion euro GNP is within reach). The Erdogan government can really congratulate itself on the fine job they’ve done in Turkey.
The Turks have overcome the huge trauma of the Transfer, as the mass deportations and expulsions of 1920s are called. Though the Greeks of the City weren’t expelled, almost all other Christian communities of Turkey were sent to Greece, while the Muslims of Greece were deported to Turkey: a violent and painful divorce of two closely knit communities. As in many a divorce, the separated partners – the clever wife and the strong husband – spent years adjusting to their new position.
The Greeks suffered the most. They were spread all over the Empire and occupied central positions. Some Turkish historians prefer to call the Ottoman rule “The Turko-Greek Empire”. The Greeks were Great Viziers of the Empire; they ruled and managed the Med from Alexandria to Damascus to Istanbul; they traded and wrote poems in the days of the Second Rome just as they did under the sceptre of First Rome. Suddenly, they were corralled into a small and parochial Greece where they hardly could find their place. The Alexandrian poet Kavafy strongly felt that little Athens could never substitute for the loss of the great seaboard cities. Today’s Greek crisis can’t be understood without this bit of history.
The Turks suffered as well. Traditionally, they had served in the military and worked the soil; without the Greeks, trades and crafts declined, militarisation went unchecked, food shortages were common, life was drab and brutish, as if their culture had sailed overseas with the Greeks. Only now, many years later, the Turks have managed to recover, and recover they did.
Erdogan’s government is good to the Christian communities. The previous Kemalist governments of the Turkish Republic were viciously anti-Christian, even more than they were nationalistic and anti-Islamic. They deported even Caramanli Turks, for they were Christians. They forbade the remaining churches to be repaired; the priests could not be brought from abroad. Now, church properties are being restored, funds returned, priests are allowed to come, stay and acquire Turkish citizenship.
The Islamist government allowed the Greeks and Armenians who had left the country after the riots and pogroms of 1950s to come back, reclaim their property and settle again in Turkey. Previously unimaginable, an idea of a union with Greece began to be pondered again.
The Turks are not the only suitors of the beautiful Hellas: the Russians also would like to take her, their sister-in-Christ, ditched by the West, into the embrace of their Eurasian Union. So declared Sergey Glaziev, the coordinator of the union (including now Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan) at the recent Rhodes Forum, a top-crème gathering of Russians, Asians and dissident Westerners. The offers are not mutually exclusive: one can imagine their ménage-a-trois, a new Byzantine Empire Resurrected. The moderately Muslim and Turkic Kazakhstan is an old friend to Turkey, so such an alliance is plausible. Another turn of the screw by Frau Merkel, and it is may happen.
In Greece, re-evaluation of the Empire is also going on. There are voices calling for the reassessment of the past, for recognition of the advantages to both sides, and for proceeding cautiously. Dimitri Kitsikis is one such voice, and I’ve heard more of them while visiting Athens. The interaction is not limited to practicalities, either. Last Sunday, I went to a modest Greek Church in a suburb of Istanbul, and there I met a young Greek priest, a recent arrival from Greece who had already mastered Turkish, and even more surprisingly, I met a few ethnic Turks who had embraced Orthodox Christianity and were attending the service. The participants benevolently and indulgently smiled while they recited the Lord’s Prayer in Turkish.
And all these wonderful achievements they intend to destroy, squander and let go down the drain. I refer to the Turkish government’s plotting against Syria. It would be bad enough if they were to send their legions to Damascus. It would be wrong but comprehensible, for Damascus and Aleppo are as much parts of their past for Turks, as Kiev and Riga are for Russians, or Vienna and Tirol are for Germans. But what they are doing instead is much worse.
The Turks are about to replay the Afghan scenario as it was played by Pakistan: they bring together from all over the Muslim world the most fanatical militants, supply them with arms, and infiltrate them over the Syrian border under their artillery cover.
There are reports that the jihadists of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were flownfrom North Waziristan in Pakistan to the Turkish border with Syria, for instance on a Turkish Air Airbus flight No. 709 on September 10, under auspices of the Turkish intelligence agency, via the Karachi-Istanbul flight route. The
93 militants were originally from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and included a group of Arabs residing in Waziristan. This report could not be independently checked, but there are many reports of foreign jihadists who made their way to Syria via Turkey.
This is exactly what Pakistan did under the US guidance in 1980s. Then, Afghanistan had a secular government, women worked as teachers, universities were full, factories were being built, and opium was unheard of; Pakistan was in a good shape, too. A few years later, Afghanistan imploded in civil war (under the guise of “fighting the godless communists”), and Pakistan followed it to perdition. After undoing Afghanistan, the warriors began to terrorise their Pakistani host. Now Pakistan is one of the most miserable countries in the world. It was eaten up by the disease they nourished and exported, by mindless jihadism.
This ideological disease is akin to biological warfare. You may hope your neighbours will be infected with the pest you have delivered, but you may be sure your population will eventually get it, too. For this reason nobody has tried biological warfare on a large scale. It is suicidal. And that is the equivalent of what the Turkish government is doing now. They bring jihadists to Syria, but it is only a question of time when the jihadists will turn on Turkey.
I respect the Islamic feelings of the Turks. I see them in the mosques; I know their Sufi orders and their mass appeal. So many Turks gather in Konya, where they venerate the memory of the great Sufi poet Rumi, who is loved from California to Teheran. The Islamic government was a real success in Turkey. So why do they now want to follow Pakistan’s way to perdition?
An essay written by Ahmet Davutoglu, Foreign Minister and chief promoter of Turkish intervention in Syria, answers this question. He wrote it as a university student, over 20 years ago, and an acquaintance who studied with him, remembers it well. We can and we should make a deal with Satan if necessary, the young Davutoglu had written.
In his view, Sunni Islam of the type practiced in the Empire under Sultan Selim the Grim and his successors (that postulates an unbridgeable schism between the Creator and Creation) is not just the only true faith; it is an iron-clad guarantee of good results. A state guided by it can’t do wrong. Even evil deeds by such a state will be turned by the Almighty into good results. For this reason, he wrote, the Empire managed to survive and rule for 600 years.
That’s why, wrote the young Davutoglu, Islamist Turkey may build alliances with powerful partners, and it is irrelevant whether these powers are bad or good. This means, that we may even make a Faustian pact with the devil himself, for we shall triumph by our beliefs and with the Almighty’s help. America is a Satan for Davutoglu, as it is for many Muslims, but armed with his dubious philosophy, he is prepared to join with Satan for the further glory of Turkey.
Could this very unorthodox reading of Islam be influenced by his contacts with Yezidis, whose attitude to Devil is at best ambiguous, or, more probably, with the Dönmeh, followers of Sabbatai Zevi who believed that everything is permitted, and a sin is the best way to salvation? People of more orthodox beliefs know that whoever deals with Satan will eventually come to grief, for no spoon is long enough to sup with him.
Then came the moment when his dubious theology was transformed into dubious policy. The US asked him to bring militants to Syria, and so he did.
My Turkish friends stressed that Erdogan personally does not subscribe to these theological beliefs, but is guided by practical considerations. The question of an alliance with the US and NATO caused a rift between Erdogan and his erstwhile teacher Necmettin Erbakan. Erbakan was against it; Erdogan considered it as a given. Erdogan carried a day; a majority of Erbakan’s followers went with Erdogan, formed the reformist AK Party, came to power ten years ago and have been generally successful. The minority formed the hardline (or even ‘revolutionary Islamist’) Saadet Party, which was not successful at the polls, though it retains a certain influence.
Unexpectedly for an outsider, it is the hardline Saadet Party that strongly objects to the Syrian adventure of Erdogan and Davutoglu. Though the intervention in Syria is often described as “Islamic help to slaughtered Muslims”, the Saadet leaders perceive it as an American plot against Syria and Turkey. The Saadet led strong demonstrations against the intervention.
Perhaps this is the right time for Prime Minister Erdogan to listen to his old comrades, disavow the devil-supping policy regarding Syria, and to stop the war machine before it destroys all of the achievements he can so rightly be proud of. The dream of bringing Syria into a closer union with Turkey still can be realised, but not through unleashing the dogs of war.
A coward dies many deaths; a brave man dies but once.
The once proud British government, now reduced to Washington’s servile whore, put on its Gestapo Jackboots and declared that if the Ecuadorean Embassy in London did not hand over WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, British storm troopers would invade the embassy with military force and drag Assange out. Ecuador stood its ground. “We want to be very clear, we are not a British colony,” declared Ecuador’s Foreign Minister. Far from being intimidated the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, replied to the threat by granting Assange political asylum.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/world/americas/ecuador-to-let-assange-stay-in-its-embassy.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&emc=na
The once law-abiding British government had no shame in announcing that it would violate the Vienna Convention and assault the Ecuadorean Embassy, just as the Islamic students in the 1979 Khomeini Revolution in Iran took over the US Embassy and held the diplomatic staff captive. Pushed by their Washington overlords, the Brits have resorted to the tactics of a pariah state. Maybe we should be worried about British nuclear weapons.
Let’s be clear, Assange is not a fugitive from justice. He has not been charged with any crime in any country. He has not raped any women. There are no indictments pending in any court, and as no charges have been brought against him, there is no validity to the Swedish extradition request. It is not normal for people to be extradited for questioning, especially when, as in Assange’s case, he expressed his complete cooperation with being questioned a second time by Swedish officials in London.
What is this all about? First, according to news reports, Assange was picked up by two celebrity-hunting Swedish women who took him home to their beds. Later for reasons unknown, one complained that he had not used a condom, and the other complained that she had offered one helping, but he had taken two. A Swedish prosecutor looked into the case, found that there was nothing to it, and dismissed the case.
Assange left for England. Then another Swedish prosecutor, a woman, claiming what authority I do not know, reopened the case and issued an extradition order for Assange. This is such an unusual procedure that it worked its way through the entire British court system to the Supreme Court and then back to the Supreme Court on appeal. In the end British “justice” did what the Washington overlord ordered and came down on the side of the strange extradition request.
Assange, realizing that the Swedish government was going to turn him over to Washington to be held in indefinite detention, tortured, and framed as a spy, sought protection from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. As corrupt as the British are, the UK government was unwilling to release Assange directly to Washington. By turning him over to Sweden, the British could feel that their hands were clean.
Sweden, formerly an honorable country like Canada once was where American war resisters could seek asylum, has been suborned and brought under Washington’s thumb. Recently, Swedish diplomats were expelled from Belarus where they seem to have been involved in helping Washington orchestrate a “color revolution” as Washington keeps attempting to extend its bases and puppet states deeper into traditional Russia.
The entire world, including Washington’s servile puppet states, understands that once Assange is in Swedish hands, Washington will deliver an extradition order, with which Sweden, unlike the British, would comply. Regardless, Ecuador understands this. The Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced that Ecuador granted Assange asylum because “there are indications to presume that there could be political persecution.” In the US, Patino acknowledged, Assange would not get a fair trial and could face the death penalty in a trumped up case.
The US Puppet State of Great (sic) Britain announced that Assange would not be permitted to leave Britain. So much for the British government’s defense of law and human rights. If the British do not invade the Ecuadorean Embassy and drag Assange out dead or in chains, the British position is that Assange will live out his life inside the London Embassy of Ecuador. According to the New York Times, Assange’s asylum leaves him “with protection from arrest only on Ecuadorean territory (which includes the embassy). To leave the embassy for Ecuador, he would need cooperation that Britain has said it will not offer.” When it comes to Washington’s money or behaving honorably in accordance with international law, the British government comes down on the side of money.
The Anglo-American world, which pretends to be the moral face of humanity has now revealed for all to see that under the mask is the face of the Gestapo.
Source: Paul Craig Roberts
The State Department has an office that hunts German war criminals. Bureaucracies being what they are, the office will exist into next century when any surviving German prison guards will be 200 years old. From time to time the State Department claims to have found a lowly German soldier who was assigned as a prison camp guard. The ancient personage, who had lived in the US for the past 50 or 60 years without doing harm to anyone, is then merciless persecuted, usually on the basis of hearsay. I have never understood what the State Department thinks the alleged prison guard was supposed to have done–freed the prisoners, resign his position?–when Prussian aristocrats, high-ranking German Army generals and Field Marshall and national hero Erwin Rommel were murdered for trying to overthrow Hitler.
What the State Department needs is an office that rounds up American war criminals.
They are in abundance and not hard to find. Indeed, recently 56 of them made themselves public by signing a letter to President Obama demanding that he send in the US Army to complete the destruction of Syria and its people that Washington has begun.
At the Nuremberg Trials of the defeated Germans after World War II, the US government established the principle that naked aggression–the American way in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen–is a war crime. Therefore, there is a very strong precedent for the State Department to round up those neoconservatives who are fomenting more war crimes.
But don’t expect it to happen. Today, war criminals run the State Department and the entire US Government. They are elected to the presidency, the House, and the Senate, and appointed to the federal courts as judges. American soldiers, such as Bradley Manning, who behave as the State Department expects German soldiers to have behaved, are not honored, but are thrown into dungeons and tortured while a court marshall case is concocted against them.
Hypocrisy is Washington’s hallmark, and all but the most delusional are now accustomed to their rulers speaking one way and behaving in the opposite. It is now part of the American character to regard ourselves as members of the “virtuous nation,” “the indispensable people,” while our rulers commit war crimes around the globe.
Whereas we have all been made complicit in war crimes by “our” government, it still behooves us to know who are the active war criminals in our midst who have burdened us with our war criminal reputation.
You can learn the identity of many of those who are driving the world into World War Three, while their policies result in the murder of large numbers of Arabs and Muslims in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, by perusing the signatures to the contrived letter to Obama from the neoconsevatives calling on Obama to invade Syria in order to “rescue” the Syrian people from their government.
According the the letter signed by 56 neoconservatives, only the Syrian government is responsible for deaths in Syria. The Washington sponsored and armed “rebels” are merely protecting the Syrian people from the Assad government. According to the letter signers, the only way the Syrian people can be saved is if Washington overthrows the Syrian government and installs a puppet state attentive to the needs of Israel and Washington.
Among the 56 signatures are a few names from the Syrian National Congress, believed to be a CIA front, and a few names from dupes among the goyim. The rest of the signatures are those of Jewish neoconservatives tightly allied with Israel, some of whom are apparently dual-Israeli citizens who participate in the formation of US foreign policy. The names on this list comprise a concentration of evil, the goal of which is not only to bring armageddon to the Syrian people but also to the world.
The letter to Obama is part of the propaganda operation to demonize the Syrian government with lies in order to get rid of a government that supports Hizbollah, the Muslims in southern Lebanon who have twice driven the vaunted, but cowardly, Israeli army out of Lebanon, thus preventing the Israeli government from achieving its aim of stealing the water resources of southern Lebanon.
Not a single sentence in the letter is correct. Listen to this one for example: “The Assad regime poses a grave threat to national security interests of the United States.” What utter total absurdity, and the morons who signed the letter pretend to be “security experts.”
How do we evaluate the fact that 56 people have no shame whatsoever and will lie to the President of the United States, telling him to his face the most absurd and obvious false things in order to advance their personal agenda at the expense of not merely the lives of Syrians but, by leading to wider war, of life on earth?
This same neocon architects of armageddon are also working against Iran, Russia, the former Soviet central Asian countries, Ukraine, Belarus, and China. It seems that they can’t wait to start a nuclear war.
You can find the names of some of humanity’s worst enemies here.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org
Given the worsening crisis in Syria, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reported that the Russian army is apparently being prepared for a mission in Syria. Citing anonymous sources in the military leadership, the newspaper said that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the general staff to work out a plan for military operations outside Russia, including in Syria.
The units being prepared for an intervention are the 76th Division of airborne forces (an especially experienced unit of the Russian army), the 15th Army Division, as well as special forces from a brigade of the Black Sea fleet, which has a base in the Syrian port of Tartus.
The details of the operational plan are being prepared by the working parties of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, to which most of the post-Soviet states belong, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which China and Russia belong.
According to the newspaper report, deployment depends on the decision of the Russian government and the UN. However, the plans also foresee that the troops might intervene without UN approval. The Russian government has so far not confirmed the report.
On Monday last week, three Russian warships were sighted off the Syrian coast. An anonymous source from the Russian government told the Iranian newspaper Tehran Times that Moscow wants to show NATO that it will not allow any military operation against Damascus under the guise of a humanitarian mission.
Earlier, the secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Nikolai Bordjusha, had held out the possibility of using “peacekeepers” in Syria. “The task in Syria is likely to be to impose peace—primarily against the insurgents, who use weapons to solve political problems.”
Russia and China strongly oppose a military intervention by NATO in Syria, and have already blocked two UN resolutions on the issue. The US and its allies, especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia and France, have stoked up a civil war in Syria and are systematically arming the so-called rebels, who consist mainly of Islamists, ex-members of the government, or Al Qaeda terrorists. Turkey is increasingly in the leadership of the US proxy war in Syria.
In recent weeks calls for a military intervention in Syria have increased. After the massacre in Houla, French President Francois Hollande spoke out in favour of military intervention. The West blamed the government of Bashar al-Assad for this massacre without any clear evidence. The German elite is also openly discussing a possible military intervention; Berlin has tried unsuccessfully to push Russia to make concessions on the issue.
Russia has not excluded a “political solution”, i.e., the slow transition from the Assad regime to another government. At all costs, however, the Kremlin wants to avoid the violent overthrow of Assad by the West for several reasons, whether it is through direct military intervention by NATO or is brought about by the rebels armed by the West. Two weeks ago, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that a military intervention in Syria could quickly escalate and lead to the use of nuclear weapons.
Since Soviet times, Moscow and Syria have maintained close ties, especially in military and economic matters. More importantly, however, a war against Syria means a ramping up of US aggression in the Middle East. The US has already significantly extended its influence in the region through the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. They also have military bases in almost every country in the area: Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Turkmenistan, as well as some in other smaller states. Meanwhile, Syria and Iran, which are virtually surrounded by US military bases, have become the last bastions of Russia and China in the Middle East against the encroachment of the United States.
A regime change in Damascus would probably bring a Sunni government to power, which would work closely with Saudi Arabia and the United States against Russia and China. Moreover, an escalation of the civil war in Syria—which is already well underway—and a military intervention would set the entire Middle East ablaze. A NATO-led war against Syria would be an immediate prelude to a war against Iran. An attack on Iran would mean another step toward a military escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing.
While China obtains a significant portion of its raw material imports from Iran, Tehran is Russia’s most important ally in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to counter the influence of the US and Israel. Both Moscow and Tehran oppose the construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline by the West. They also reject the massive military rearmament of Azerbaijan, which is promoted by the United States, Israel and Turkey. The Caspian region is of key geopolitical importance because it links resource-rich Central Asia with Europe, and because it also has extensive oil and gas reserves.
The growing threat of war in the Middle East—and the fact that the European countries, including Germany and France, are siding with the United States—is increasingly driving Russia into a military alliance with China.
It is significant that Vladimir Putin’s first foreign visit since taking office was to Belarus, and that he then only spent a few hours in Berlin and Paris before going on to Central Asia. The highlight of his visit abroad was in China, where he met with the Chinese president, and then took part at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 6 and 7. In addition to Russia and China, the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan also belong to this organization; Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have “observer” status.
As was the case at the previous meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, discussion at the SCO summit centred on military and economic cooperation. The summit adopted a declaration on the “establishment of a region of lasting peace and common prosperity”. Military intervention against Syria or Iran was explicitly rejected.
The declaration also condemns the establishment of the NATO missile defence system in Europe, which is directed primarily against Russia and has led to severe tensions between Washington and both Europe and Moscow. In future, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is planning to cooperate militarily more closely on issues of “regional security”.
During his two-day visit to Beijing, Putin had previously agreed with Chinese President Hu Jintao to jointly strengthen “security in the Asia-Pacific region”. Both countries intend to hold frequent joint military exercises in the Pacific, after holding joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea in the spring. The United States is increasingly focussing its military build-up in the Asian Pacific region in preparation for a military confrontation with China.
Moscow is unusually warm: the temperature refuses to dip below zero degrees Centigrade, the freezing point. Instead, it is wet and dark. The sun gets up late and goes to sleep early. To make matters worse, President Medvedev decided to keep Russia on daylight savings time throughout winter. To offset this stupid decision, Christmas illumination was turned on a month before the usual time, in order to cheer up the voters. Now it lights the way for the armoured vans of the riot police sent in to pacify the cheery electorate.
The parliamentary elections were deemed in advance as a futile and vain exercise of no practical importance. “It does not matter how you vote, what matters is how they count”, pundits said. But the results were quite impressive and they point to great changes ahead. The Russians have said to communism: “Come back, all is forgiven.” They effectively voted to restore the Soviet Union, in one form or another. Perhaps this vote will not be acted upon, but now we know – the people are disappointed with capitalism, with the low place of post-Soviet Russia in the world and with the marriage of big business and government.
If communists proved the fallacy of their ideas in 70 years, the capitalists needed only twenty years to achieve this same result, quipped Maxim Kantor, a prominent modern Russian painter, writer and thinker. The twentieth anniversary of the restoration of capitalism that Russia commemorated this year was not a cause for celebration but rather for sad second thoughts. The Russians loudly regretted the course taken by their country in 1991; the failed coup of August 1991, this last ditch attempt to preserve communism, has been reassessed in a positive light, while the brave Harvard boys of yesteryear who initiated the reforms are seen as criminals. Yeltsin and Gorbachev are out, Stalin is in.
Despite the falsifications of election results(discussed below), the communists (CPRF and their splinter party the Just Russia or SR) greatly increased their share and can be considered the true winners. The ruling United Russia (ER) party suffered huge losses. A loose confederation of power-seeking individuals, it could easily fall apart. There is a distinct possibility of the communists being able to form the government, that is, if they should be asked to do so by the President.
Pro-capitalist and right-wing parties were decimated by the voters. Neoliberal Right Cause (PD), the party of choice for market believers, languished with less than one per cent of the vote. The liberal, pro-Western Apple Party (half-jokingly referred to as “the Steve Jobs party”) did not cross the electoral threshold. Many Russians think that, discounting falsifications, the communists “really” got over 50%, while the ER actually got less, perhaps much less. Given the chance, the people voted for communists, as had been predicted a few months ago by VT Tretyakov, a senior Russian journalist and chief editor, during an address to a Washington DC think tank. He correctly said that in fairly honest elections, the communists will carry the day, and the liberals will be gone, and he was right. If this change of heart does not find its expression in political action, people will feel cheated.
This turn towards communism took place with Russia busily restoring its lost legacy:
- The North Stream pipeline connected Russian gas with European consumers directly, leaving Poland (and by proxy, the US) without a point of leverage. Oil and gas pipelines are being built towards China, promising Russia a choice of customers.
- Putin’s idea of a Eurasian Union began to take shape. The Ukraine has made friendly gestures, the crisis of Belarus is over, Kazakhstan is firmly inside.
- The Russian Navy aircraft carrier went to the shores of Syria, in a rare display of power, while Qatar’s ambassador in Moscow has been sent packing, as this tiny but rich emirate is apparently leading the anti-Syrian campaign.
- Last month, the fabulous Bolshoi theatre was lovingly and expensively restored to its purple-and-gold old glory. To conservative viewers’ chagrin, Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila opera (with wonderful American singer Charles Workman) was directed in an avant-garde manner, showing that the theatre will not act as a museum piece but will produce up-to-date art.
- Sochi is about to become the most expensive and luxurious sea-and-mountain resort ever in preparation for the Winter Olympics;
- Moscow has been beautified; thirty-foot-high elaborately decorated Christmas trees have been placed at prominent locations around the city, making the darkness of its northern nights almost bearable. City parks have been granted huge budgets for improvement; skating rinks have been prepared. Even fountains that collapsed twenty years ago have been rebuilt.
- But the most important recent sign of a resurgent Russia took place this month: A holy relic, the Virgin Mary’s Sash, has been brought to Moscow from its repository at sacred Mount Athos. A staggering three million Muscovites venerated it, queuing up for twenty-four hours on average in freezing temperatures. This was Russia’s asymmetric response to America’s Black Friday shopping-mall queues.
Russia is full of problems, too. Russia lost twenty million lives in the transition to capitalism with little to show for it; its villages stand empty, a brain drain has sent the best and brightest overseas. Capital flight bleeds Russia dry; every search for a company’s owners ends at a Cyprus-registered offshore trust. Bribes and extortion are ubiquitous; infrastructure is worn down, de-industrialisation has undermined the working class; agricultural lands have been taken over by speculators. The army is demoralised, its weapons outmoded, and Russian education is as bad as anywhere.
The rich are too rich, and one per cent of Russia’s population owns much of the country’s wealth. This wealth is not considered legitimate by people: the ongoing Berezovsky vs. Abramovich court case offered legal proof that the fabulous riches of the New Russians were obtained by embezzling national wealth. What’s worse, big business is fully integrated with the government; oligarchs and government officials intermarry and live separately from hoi polloi.
People are quite unhappy with what they see as a dictatorial or even an “occupation” regime. While Putin is considered a hostile leader by the West, the Russians think he is too obliging to the West, a centrepiece of the regime installed in the 90s. They would prefer a stronger anti-imperialist position any day.
The elections may have little direct consequence: The Russian constitution was written by Boris Yeltsin after he shelled Parliament in 1993 and imposed his personal rule (to the standing ovation of the Western media). This constitution allows the president to disregard Parliament. But the election results show the changed public mood.
And if that’s not enough, a big demonstration of some ten thousand citizens flared up in the middle of Moscow – something unheard of since 1993. The demonstrators protested against massive falsifications of election results. Three hundred were arrested, among them popular and populist blogger Alexei Navalny who created the meme “Party of Thieves and Cheats” for the United Russia. The next day police dispersed another demo in the centre.
With Arab Spring in the background, the authorities are worried. Troops have been dispatched to Moscow. Though there is no immediate prospect of riots, the traditionally heavy-handed Russian authorities never use a few policemen if they can send a brigade, and so they deployed the fearsome Dzerzhinsky Special Force brigade.
Were the elections falsified? Independent observers reported many irregularities in Moscow; probably it was even worse elsewhere. It seems that the ruling ER party activists inserted many fake ballots, and probably skewed the results in their favour. A poll made by NGO Golos on the basis of a few polling places with no irregularities showed that the communists won big, while the ER almost collapsed at the polls. On the web, there are claims of massive distortions following the vote count. It is hard to extrapolate from the Moscow results to the whole country, but the Russians believe that the results were falsified. They are also tired of their Teflon rulers.
|Official Results||49%||13%||19 %||11%|
This should provide a pretext for a revolution, but present-day communist leaders are not made of stern stuff like their legendary predecessors. They do not demand a recount, and generally accept their fate equivocally. In 1996, the communists won the elections, but accepted defeat as they were afraid of Yeltsin’s hit men led by the ruthless oligarch Boris Berezovsky. They are adamant about avoiding civil war; and it is doubted whether the super-wealthy will give up their wealth and positions just because ordinary people voted this or that way. Many people believe that communist leaders are just part of the same ruling system, a kind of HM loyal opposition.
It is the right-wing opposition that is more persistent in denouncing the electoral manipulations, though no polls, independent or otherwise, indicate that their parties were successful. Moreover, this opposition is not famous for its love of democracy. Prominent Russian right-wing journalist Ms Julia Latynina has already called for the termination of “the farce of democracy”: the Russian people are too poor, she said, to be allowed the right to vote, as they are likely to vote against their betters. This opinion was published in the best-known opposition paper Novaya Gazeta (owned by oligarch Mr Lebedev, owner of the British Independent). For the Right, this is a chance to attack Putin and his regime.
The right wing is strongly anti-Putin; not so the communists who are ready to work with Putin any time. Can Putin change his spots and become Putin-2, a pro-communist president who will restore the Soviet Union and break the power of the oligarchs? He could certainly adopt some communist rhetoric and use the communist support. Judging by his recent utterances at the Valdai forum, he is likely to turn Russia leftwards, with communists or without.
But stability of his regime is not certain. Putin should act swiftly if he wants to ride the wave of popular feelings, instead of being swept away by it. Armoured vans are the last things he needs.
Last Saturday, at United Russia’s congress, the ruling duumvirate of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin finally ended the uncertainty of some months’ standing. Putin first asked Medvedev to head United Russia’s list at next December’s Duma election. Accepting the offer, Medvedev proposed that United Russia nominate Putin as its presidential candidate in March 2012. The news is as welcome as it is unsurprising. Short of an act of God, the world’s largest country will have Putin as president for the next two six-year terms, until 2024. This will ensure much needed stability amidst the ongoing program of reforms at home and an equally desirable continuity in Russia’s foreign relations.
Medvedev is an able technocrat, Putin is a statesman. Medvedev is strongly aware of Russia’s pressing need to modernize, to diversify her economy and to streamline her bureaucracy, and he is well equipped to continue his earlier efforts in that direction. Putin is primarily focused on Russia’s need to preserve and enhance her identity as a Christian nation and a great power. He knows that Russia’s first-order priorities are to increase her relative political, economic and military clout in the global system, to revive the national sense of purpose, and to resist Western pressures to entwine modernization with suicidal multiculturalization.
The former is the job of a hard-working prime minister and his teams of hand-picked managers; the latter is the task of a visionary president. There is no contradiction between these two sets of tasks, Western media pack’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Modernization devoid of the guiding hand of statesmanship is self-defeating—as witnessed by Spain after Franco, a once-great country sadly adrift today. On the other hand, strong insistence on rootedness, cultural identity and tradition, however healthy in itself, may hamper a state’s ability to maintain the dynamics of its autochthonous existence if it is not accompanied by long-overdue reforms—as witnessed in Belarus.
Putin’s return to the helm is a key precondition that Russia will preserve its internal cohesion and external security as Medvedev proceeds with his modernization projects. The experience of the past four years proves that Russia is not inherently ill-suited to a successful “dual power.” It enjoyed 14 years of successful dual monarchy after the Times of Troubles (1619-1633) when the young, reform-minded yet weak Tsar Mikhail Romanov ruled in conjunction with his father Philaret, the Patriarch and “Great Sovereign.”
Since our neoliberals and neoconservatives and their European equivalents are equally antipathetic to a Russia—any Russia—which is cohesive internally and secure externally, it is unsurprising that they are screaming blue murder at the “undemocratic” arrangement about to unfold in Moscow and the country’s pending return to autocracy, corruption and stagnation. This is good. For as long as the Western bien-pensants repeat the mantra, Russia is on the right track. Any praise for its leaders from Washington, New York, London or Brussels—such as heaped on Yeltsin, Kozyrev & Co. two decades ago—would be a cause for alarm, justified by the country’s calamitous state during the 1990’s.
In a broader geopolitical sense Putin’s return to Russia’s helm is beneficial to the American interest because he has a more acute understanding than Medvedev that North America, Europe and Russia essentially share the same civilizational genes and belong to the same cultural sphere. As Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, noted almost three years ago, “If the northern civilization wants to protect itself, it must be united: America, the European Union, and Russia. If they are not together, they will be defeated one by one.”
This statement reflects a profound understanding of the biological, cultural and spiritual commonalities shared by one billion Europeans and their overseas descendants in the northern hemisphere — an understanding evidently taken for granted in Putin’s entourage yet odious to the Western elite class. Medvedev, by contrast, has displayed occasional symptoms of the propensity of Russian reformers ever since Peter to look at “the West” with some awe, or else with a naïve hope that Moscow’s constant assurances of “cooperation” and “integration” may erode the visceral antipathy of the Western elite class toward Russia. That disdain is based on the accurate recognition that Russia is the last bastion of faith and identity which those people have done their best to destroy in their own countries.
In Washington the ruling neo-liberal humanitarian interventionists will deny that any common Euro-Russo-American civilization exists, let alone that it is worth preserving or jointly defending, and they will use Putin as proof positive that this is so. Russia is still steeped in its barbarian blood-and-soil pre-modernity while the propositional credo of the U.S. transcends the shackles of ethnicity, race, culture, and faith. If Putin still insists on a Russian physical or cultural space that does not belong to everyone—while Siberia remains under-populated—he is a bigot, and under him it is even less likely that Moscow will finally see a Gay Pride Parade.
PUTIN AND THE GOP RACE—At the other end of the Duopoly, the timing of Putin’s expected return works out nicely for GOP presidential hopefuls looking for a cheap way to sound hairy-chested on foreign policy. One can’t help but recall then-Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s reference to “Putin raising his head” in the general vicinity of Alaska, a comment no doubt reflecting the work of the lobbyist for Georgia’s necktie-munching president Mikheil Saakashvili serving at the time as Palin’s foreign policy adviser.
Russia has hardly figured in the Republican debates so far, which can be expected to change as the contenders—with the exception of Ron Paul—receive their cues from their various handlers and heavy-breathing commentaries (now being drafted) in the Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard, and “analyses” from Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, to the effect that Putin’s return amounts to a reincarnation of Stalin himself. The fact is that for many GOP apparatchiki the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism served not as a cautionary tale about the hubris of empire and the folly of millennial ideology but the opportunity to supplant the USSR at the end-of-history purveyor of “progressive” values. To the extent that Putin equals a strong Russia, his return is just unacceptable. He is an affront to the Beltway Elite article of faith that no power or combination of powers has any right to reserve its own Monroe Doctrine-like sphere or influence or even to exercise its sovereignty over its internal affairs.
The predictable effusion of anti-Putin rhetoric, for those few with a sense of perspective, will serve as a reminder that the last thing the American electorate will be offered in November 2012 is an American Putin. Depressingly, whether it is Obama or those lining up to challenge him, no prospective president is prepared to make our country once again strong, respected, and self-sufficient.
UNDERSTANDING PUTINOPHOBIA—That a “democratic” Russia can be only the one subservient domestically and externally to American demands and ideas is accepted on both sides of the U.S. duopoly and its Euro-cohorts. The party has already started, predictably enough, in Britain, with The Daily Telegraph expressing fears Vladimir Putin will turn Russia into outright dictatorship. British “conservatives” and their neocon ilk across the Pond have not an inch of space from George Soros when he claims that “a strong central government in Russia cannot be democratic” by definition, and further says that “Russia’s general public must accept the ideology of an open society.”
For both the quasi-Left and the quasi-Right in today’s Western world, “democracy” thus defined depends on an actors’ status on the ideological pecking order, not on his popular support, in line with the Leninist dictum that the moral value of any action is determined by its contribution to the march of history. To wit, Putin’s current approval rating of over 60 percent is now cited in the West as further evidence of his populist demagoguery.
Those Americans and Europeans who love their lands and nations more than any others, and who put their families, their friends, their neighborhoods and their loved ones before all others, should be pleased at Putin’s forthcoming return to Russia’s helm. Unlike our leaders, he is one of us.
When the big banks screamed “crisis,” they were instantly rewarded with trillions of taxpayer money. Likewise, when rich bondholders — some of them bailout beneficiaries — yelled “crisis” at the U.S. debt, they were immediately rewarded with trillions of dollars taken from social programs for the poor. The jobs crisis, however, staggers on with no relief in sight. The recent troubles in the U.S. economy are forcing working people to reexamine their hopes for a recovery, as has been promised to them for years. They will not wait much longer.
Knowing that his 2012 election campaign is at stake, Obama plans to at least appear to be doing something. He’s not. He is, however, to begin a “listening” bus tour — in crucial electoral states — to hear about the plight of those suffering from the economy. After 4 plus years of mass unemployment you’d imagine that the Obama administration would have a massive, concrete plan to address the issue. He doesn’t. Here’s the plan according to Reuters:
“Obama wants Congress to extend the payroll tax cut and emergency unemployment benefits, due to expire at the end of this year, and says he will be talking about other ideas to lift the economy in coming weeks.” (August 3rd, 2011).
That’s it. Perhaps an especially tragic story on his bus tour will push him into action. It is extremely doubtful that even the above policies will materialize. So far, most of the “actions” taken to address the jobs crisis have dealt mainly with helping corporations make more money in the vain hope that they would use the cash piles to hire workers. They haven’t, even though they are sitting on record profits.
Corporations do not want to invest in the economy because they don’t believe they’ll profit from it, meaning they know that consumers are broke and cannot afford their products anymore. This is the same reason why banks are not loaning to businesses or individuals; the banks don’t think they’ll be paid back.
It is Depression Economics 101 that says: when the private sector refuses to invest in the economy, the government must do so. Instead, on a national and state-by-state level we have both Democrats and Republicans drastically cutting spending, which automatically kills more jobs by bringing in less revenue, in a never-ending cycle.
Breaking this cycle becomes all the more crucial when one considers the international economy, which adds nothing positive to the equation. The European Union does not seem likely to recover from its numerous calamities, while Japan and Switzerland have followed Belarus and Vietnam in devaluing their currencies in a desperate attempt to boost their exports (many countries have accused the U.S. of devaluation because of the Federal Reserve Quantitative Easing program). These moves are likely to produce reactions from other countries battling for room on the international market; global market cooperation is heading toward increased conflict, which will worsen an already tattered world economy.
In short, working people cannot simply wait for salvation from either Obama or abroad. They must act independently. The lack of action thus far has much to do with the leaders of working class organizations, many of whom are diehard Obama believers, refusing to look reality in the eye. Their criticism of the Democrats is thus blunted, their demands watered down, their demonstrations small and half hearted. Will this change as Obama begins his 2012 electoral campaign? Will labor and community leaders have the strength to challenge the do-nothing President?
Some clues are evident in a recent statement by the AFL-CIO:
“The American labor movement, together with our community partners and allies, is committed to changing the national debate from the right wing’s destructive focus on deficits, budget cuts and austerity measures — which undermine workers’ rights, living standards and communities — to a clear focus on the creation of good jobs that ensure workers’ rights, support families and build strong communities.”
The statement goes on to call for a Labor Day demonstration followed by a national week of action in early October. Many in the labor movement are arguing for the inclusion of massive demonstrations across the country on Saturday, October 1. This is good, but there are important omissions, too. There is no mention of the Democrats in the statement; all blame for the current jobs crisis is pointed at the Republicans. Also, the demand for jobs is vague, meaning that the Democrats could once again put forth one of their corporate-first job creation bills and the labor movement would be forced to half-swallow the crap in a “it’s better than nothing” way.
The labor movement must demand a massive, federal public works program, at the expense of the wealthy and corporations. Anything short of this cannot address the severity of the jobs crisis; anything short of this cannot inspire working people to take the necessary mass action to force the government into action.
The labor movement will be judged not only by what demands it puts forward, but how much energy it exerts in organizing the Labor Day demonstration and the October week of action. And if these are successful, will the top officials of the AFL-CIO allow that energy to be funneled into Obama’s re-election, which would guarantee to strangle the movement? Time will tell. But to the millions upon millions of working people in America suffering from unemployment, underemployment, or poor paying jobs, time is a luxury they cannot afford.
By Paul Jay…
The Cold War is alive and well in terms of trying to contain Russia’s energy power. Russia is the largest producer of energy”
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Kevin Hall of McClatchy Newspapers reports that on April 20 the big Italian oil company Eni put off its deal with Gazprom, the big Russian oil company, connected to its president, Vladimir Putin, put off a deal that would have given Gazprom a big stake in Libyan oil. That’s been an objective of US foreign policy for at least three years. Kevin went through WikiLeaks documents and found the following cable. At the time, Silvio Berlusconi was about to become Italy’s prime minister, and the embassy urged headquarters to twist his arm, writes Kevin. Then he quotes the cable. Post, meaning the embassy, would like to push the new Berlusconi government to force Eni to act less as a stalking horse for Gazprom interests. The confidential cable said, quoting, Eni, which is 30 percent owned by the government of Italy, seems to be working in support of Gazprom’s efforts to dominate Europe’s energy supply and against US-supported US efforts to diversify energy supply. Now joining us in the studio to talk about the new scramble for oil and controlling Europe’s energy supplies is Kevin Hall. Thanks for joining us.
KEVIN HALL, NAT’L ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Thanks for having me.
JAY: So elaborate a bit. This context [incompr.] certainly are factors that go into the Libyan conflict that we’re following now.
HALL: Well, it underscores the kind of global hunt/scramble for oil. The famous book The Prize by Daniel Yergin, the oil historian, kind of laid that out. And this is kind of the latest extension of that. The Libyan situation ties to development of oil in the Caspian region and places I can’t even pronounce, coupled with Libya, coupled with Europe and Russia. What happened specifically [snip] in Libya, rather, is Gazprom was going to partner in Libya with Eni, which is the largest player. The Italians are the largest player in Libya, which had been a former Italian colony.
JAY: And were getting along quite well with Gaddafi.
HALL: And were getting along quite well with Gaddafi. And that story–we know how that one goes. The reverse of that is that Eni in exchange was going to get access to a project that the Russians were trying to do in the Caspian region called South Stream. South Stream competed with a project that the US has been pushing for the better part of a decade called the Nabucco project. It was going to take natural gas from the eastern border of Turkey, bypass Russia, and provide supplies to Europe through that route, I think through Bulgaria, Romania, basically bypassing Russia. And what all these documents show, there was about–.
JAY: So these are pipeline wars.
HALL: Pipelines, yeah. And, well, all these documents show–and there’s about 1,800 documents that mentioned Gazprom–is that the Cold War is alive and well in terms of trying to contain Russia’s energy power. Russia is the largest producer of energy–not the largest exporter, but may have more oil and natural gas produced in Russia than anywhere in the world. Most of that goes to Europe. And so the scramble for this development in the Caspian region, in Azerbaijan and places like that, is tied to whether that stuff goes through Russia or around Russia, and the US has worked real hard to make sure it goes around Russia, so that the Europeans aren’t dependent on one source. We’ve seen how the Russians have used oil and natural gas against the Ukraine, against Georgia, against Belarus. So they’ve certainly shown their willingness to use oil as a weapon in their own strategic interest, you know, looking at it from their point of view. And the Libya example was just one [crosstalk] small example [crosstalk]
JAY: Of course, US policies always seem–its dominance in the Middle East and oil also is a very big strategic piece of its strategic puzzle, not just this question of oil supplies for the United States. But let’s jump back to the Libya context, because there’s another piece of background which you write about in your article, which is Eni, the Italian company, was also finding a way to invest in Iranian oil, which was also putting it at odds with US foreign policy.
HALL: Right. Eni have been in Iran long before the current Islamic government, back in the time of the Shah, and lost a lot of money when the change came. Remember that whole unsavory incident in the ’70s with the embassy and everything? In that, what Eni was trying to do at around 2006, 2007 time frame was take Iranian oil out, produced jointly with Iran, and they were going to–they found a kind of way to suspend reality: as the US was trying to put pressure on Iran because of its nukes program, they were trying to sell this on the open market. And then they would–it wouldn’t be counted as a–it’d be valued in present-day dollars, but it’d be treated as the debt that Iran owes Italy. So it kind of means suspending all time and space and, you know, not valued in former currency but current rates.
JAY: In order to find ways around possible sanctions.
HALL: Right, and it did not sit well with the US government.
JAY: So you’ve got the Italian oil companies already at odds with the US over Iran. The Italian oil company is going to, through its deals with Gazprom, allow the Russians to take a big stake in Libyan oil. And then you have the French. As we head towards the Libyan war, the French Total have a small piece of the Libyan oil game, but I suppose they would like a bigger piece of it. And then you wind up having a French-American push to overthrow Gaddafi and essentially shove Gazprom out. I mean, I guess we’re not saying one and one necessarily equals two, but it sure–it makes one think about it.
HALL: Yeah, it’s not necessarily causation, but there’s–you might suggest there’s correlation. And clearly this shows the degree to which oil is kind of the back story to so much that happens. As a matter of fact, we went through 251,000 documents–or we have 250,000 documents that we’ve been pouring through. Of those, a full 10 percent of them, a full 10 percent of those documents, reference in some way, shape, or form oil. And I think that tells you how much part of, you know, the global security question, stability, prosperity–you know, take your choice, oil is fundamental.
JAY: And fundamental to most countries’ foreign policies,–
JAY: –including this one.
HALL: Front and center.
JAY: Well, we’ll do more. As you keep going through WikiLeaks, we’ll do more, ’cause this oil story continues into Latin America and other places.
HALL: Yeah, [crosstalk] lot more.
JAY: And we’ll do more of this. But those who had said it’s not all about oil, they ain’t reading WikiLeaks.
HALL: It is all about oil.
JAY: Thanks for joining us. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
End of Transcript
Trace levels of radiation found in rainwater from California to Massachusetts…
Three of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have partially melted down and highly toxic plutonium is seeping into the soil outside. Plutonium is less volatile than other radioactive elements like iodine or cesium, but it’s also more deadly. According to Businessweek, “When plutonium decays, it emits what is known as an alpha particle, a relatively big particle that carries a lot of energy. When an alpha particle hits body tissue, it can damage the DNA of a cell and lead to a cancer-causing mutation.” If plutonium leaches into groundwater or pristine aquifers, the threat to public health and the environment will be extreme. This is an excerpt from an article in the Guardian:
“The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor, experts say, raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site. The warning follows an analysis by a leading US expert of radiation levels at the plant….
Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, told the Guardian workers at the site appeared to have “lost the race” to save the reactor…” (“Japan may have lost race to save nuclear reactor”, The Guardian)
It also appears that underground tunnels at the facility have been flooded with radioactive water that contains high-concentrations of caesium-137. A considerable amount of the water has made its way to the sea where samples show the levels of contamination steadily rising. This is from the Wall Street Journal:
“Levels of radiation in the ocean next to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have surged to record highs, the government said Wednesday, as operators try to deal with large amounts of radioactive water—the unwanted byproduct of operations to cool the reactors.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said water taken Tuesday afternoon from the monitoring location for the troubled reactors Nos. 1 to 4 had 3,355 times the permitted concentration of iodine-131. That is the highest yet recorded at the sampling location, which is 330 meters south of the reactors’ discharge outlet.” (“Seawater Radiation Level Soars Near Plant”, Wall Street Journal) All fishing has been banned in the vicinity as the toxins pose a danger to human health.
The Japanese government’s chief spokesman, Yukio Edano, issued a public statement admitting that the situation at Fukushima is progressively getting worse with no end in sight. “We are not yet in a situation where we can say when we will have this under control,” said Edano. In other words, the emergency effort is failing.
The fact that Japan is experiencing the biggest environmental catastrophe in history explains why the media has been trying so hard to divert the public’s attention to Obama’s military adventure in Libya. But it hasn’t worked; all eyes are locked on Fukushima where the crisis continues to get more precarious by the day. News anchors assure their viewers that they are only being exposed to “safe levels of radioactivity”, but people aren’t buying it. They’ve seen the comparisons to Chernobyl and made their own judgements. Here’s an excerpt from an article in Counterpunch by Chris Busby that gives a thumbnail sketch of the human costs of the meltdown at Chernobyl:
“The health effects of the Chernobyl accident are massive and demonstrable. They have been studied by many research groups in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine, in the USA, Greece, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. The scientific peer reviewed literature is enormous. Hundreds of papers report the effects, increases in cancer and a range of other diseases. My colleague Alexey Yablokov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, published a review of these studies in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2009). Earlier in 2006 he and I collected together reviews of the Russian literature by a group of eminent radiation scientists and published these in the book Chernobyl, 20 Years After. The result: more than a million people have died between 1986 and 2004 as a direct result of Chernobyl.” (“Deconstructing Nuclear Experts, Chris Busby, Counterpunch)
One million dead, that’s the bottom line. And, according to Busby, “we can already calculate that the contamination (at Fukushima) is actually worse than Chernobyl.”
That’s certain, but don’t expect to read it in the MSM. Or this, which is also from Busby:
Since the official International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) figures for the Fukushima contamination are from 200 to 900kBq.sq metre out to 78km from the site, we can expect between 22% and 90% increases in cancer in people living in these places in the next 10 years.”
There’s a large body of research on the effects of radiation on humans. In fact, scientists conducted a series of studies on the people living on the Marshall Islands following nuclear weapons tests at Bikini and Enewetak atolls. This is where the US exploded more than 60 atomic bombs between 1946-58. Here’s an excerpt from an article in Counterpunch titled “Radiation, Japan and the Marshall Islands; Living and dying downwind”:
“The legacy of latent radiogenic diseases from hydrogen bomb testing in the Marshall Islands provides some clues about what ill-health mysteries await the affected Japanese in the decades ahead…..Traces of I-131 have been discovered in Tokyo drinking water and in seawater offshore from the reactors. It took nine years for the first thyroid tumor to appear among the exposed Marshallese and hypothyroidism and cancer continued to appear decades later……
o Plutonium-239 has a half life of 24,000 years, is considered one of the most toxic substances on Earth, and if absorbed is a potent alpha emitter that can induce cancer. This isotope too is found in the soils and groundwater of the downwind atolls from the Bikini and Enewetak H-bomb tests…
Radioactive Iodine-129 with a half-life of 15 million years and a well-documented capacity to bioaccumulate in the foodchain, will also remain as a persistent problem for the affected Japanese…
The sociocultural and psychological effects [e.g., PTSD] of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be long-lasting, given the uncertainty surrounding the contamination of their prefecture and beyond.” (“Radiation, Japan and the Marshall Islands; Living and dying downwind”, Glenn Alcalay, Counterpunch)
It’s all bad, which is why the nuclear industry needs stooges in the media to soft-peddle the news. Because, in truth, what they’re selling is a noxious stew of irradiated poison that kills and maims people while causing incalculable damage to the environment. That’s why industry bigwigs have turned to their friends at the EPA to loosen regulations so that the radioactive material that’s presently showering-down on the US falls within EPA safety standards. Here’s a clip from Washington’s Blog that explains what’s going on behind the public’s back:
“….the EPA is considering drastically raising the amount of allowable radiation in food, water and the environment.
As Michael Kane writes:
In the wake of the continuing nuclear tragedy in Japan, the United States government is still moving quickly to increase the amounts of radiation the population can “safely” absorb by raising the safe zone for exposure to levels designed to protect the government and nuclear industry more than human life. It’s all about cutting costs now as the infinite-growth paradigm sputters and moves towards extinction. As has been demonstrated by government conduct in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Deepwater Horizon and in Japan, life has taken a back seat to cost-cutting and public relations posturing. The game plan now appears to be to protect government and the nuclear industry from “excessive costs”… at any cost.” (Washington’s Blog)
The radioactive toxins that are now oozing into the soil and water-table or flowing into Japan’s coastal waters or lofting skyward into the jet-stream where they will spread across continents, will continue to wreak havoc long after this generation has passed its mortal coil. Easing EPA safety standards won’t change a thing. Where goes radiation, there too goes cancer and death. The disaster in Japan merely buys a little time for us to rethink our own policies before a similar crisis strikes here. And, it will strike here; it’s only a matter of time. Consider the comments of Dave Lochbaum, Director of UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project, who testified on Wednesday before the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Here’s what he said:
“Today, tens of thousands of tons of irradiated fuel sits in spent fuel pools across America. At many sites, there is nearly ten times as much irradiated fuel in the spent fuel pools as in the reactor cores. The spent fuel pools are not cooled by an array of highly reliable emergency cooling systems capable of being powered from the grid, diesel generators, or batteries. Instead, the pools are cooled by one regular system sometimes backed up by an alternate makeup system.
The spent fuel pools are not housed within robust concrete containment structures designed to protect the public from the radioactivity released from damaged irradiated fuel. Instead, the pools are often housed in buildings with sheet metal siding like that in a Sears storage shed. I have nothing against the quality or utility of Sears’ storage sheds, but they are not suitable for nuclear waste storage.
The irrefutable bottom line is that we have utterly failed to properly manage the risk from irradiated fuel stored at our nation’s nuclear power plants. We can and must do better.” (The Union of Concerned Scientists)
Nuclear energy is a ticking-timebomb. There are safer ways to keep the lights on.
The latest chapter in the quest for open government finds our embattled knight holed up within the grey brick Georgian walls of Ellingham Hall while the dark forces outside attempt a disorderly checkmate. The British courts have long debated whether to pack Julian Assange off to the star spangled torture chambers of Guantanamo, but have finally settled on simply extraditing him to the man-eating Nordic Amazons of Sweden, pending appeal. Meanwhile the chessboard has become crowded with ex-employees, ex-lovers, and ex-friends who compete among themselves to cast mud upon his memory. The same newspapers he enriched gleefully prepare his epitaph, for no good deed goes unpunished. This is a very lonely time for our trusting hero, as yesterday’s oaths are traded for cold cash, and intimate confidences are betrayed.
Bill Keller of the New York Times has labeled Julian “an eccentric former computer hacker of Australian birth and no fixed residence”, who “was alert but disheveled, like a bag lady walking in off the street, wearing a dingy, light-colored sport coat and cargo pants, dirty white shirt, beat-up sneakers and filthy white socks that collapsed around his ankles. He smelled as if he hadn’t bathed in days.” The squemish Keller must have been expecting the runaway man with a case of secret documents to posess immaculately dressed, rakish elegance of David Niven in The Pink Panther. No doubt Keller was wishing his brush with our hunted hero was instead a posh tête à tête at a fixed abode, preferably just off Park Lane. And if Julian cannot look the part 24 hours a day, then he should probably pass the secret documents on to Mr. Keller who is doubtlessly better equipped to handle them.
Keller’s main victim is our own innocent belief in the objectivity and independence of the mainstream Western media. Bill Keller confesses that before publishing, his “colleagues were invited to a windowless room at the State Department, where they encountered an unsmiling crowd. Representatives from the White House, the State Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the C.I.A., the Defense Intelligence Agency, the F.B.I. and the Pentagon gathered around a conference table. Others, who never identified themselves, lined the walls.” Keller reveals that US authorities actually vetted the NY Times “news” release and that corresponding orders were conveyed to the London outlet.
It was for this very reason that Julian Assange refused to give the stuff to the NY Times in the first place – because of their vetting procedure, and because of their ability “to make pretty good lemonade out of the bitterest lemons” in Keller’s words, to wit, to misinterpret data for their own advantage. It may have been naïve of Julian to believe that the Brits, in contrast, would play fair, but he could not have counted on two hired guns as mean, ruthless, and indiscriminate as any character lifted from the Threepenny Opera: David Leigh and Luke Harding.
These two young mercenaries separated themselves from the crowd by breaching their non-disclosure agreements and delivering the cables that were entrusted to them into the hands of the Americans. They followed up this triumph by cranking out another dull exposé on Wikileaks, which is now heavily promoted on the Guardian website. The book has the tone of a Gollum reminiscing about the hobbit he strangled in order to get hold of the Ring: I deserve it. He just found it, and anyway he was just a stray homeless tramp who had no idea what it was worth.
These two young orcs cooked up more than hobbits. They are members of the Guardian gang that is responsible for cooking up the Wikileaks cables so that they are suitable for general consumption. ButThe Guardian adds more than a pinch of salt to their unholy pottage: they add misleading headlines (knowing that the majority of their readers do not read beyond the headlines), they censor, redact, and finally they frame the cables with the prose necessary to twist them to The Guardian’s political agenda.
Luke Harding has made a career of cooking up the news that trickles out of the post-Soviet sphere. His background is Guardian typical: all it takes is a few years’ writing in Moscow as a freelancer. But maybe ‘writing’ is too strong a word for the copy-paste he practiced. This is, anyway, the dominant view of the local expat community and its main newspaper, the devilishly irreverent eXile. The editors of eXile gave Harding the alias Hackburglar for, as the eXile wrote: “Harding seems to have a knack for publishing articles whose content and lead paragraphs look suspiciously similar, in the cloning sense of the word, to articles published by Kevin O’Flynn of The Moscow Times. In fact, Harding’s articles are so regularly similar to O’Flynn’s that some of his colleagues have begun accusing him of using a fake “Luke Harding” pen-name in order to milk two checks for each article”.
His anti-Russian diatribes made him “the man most likely to bring down powerful Russian politicians and cause Moscow international embarrassment by regurgitating month-old articles published in the German press, The eXile, and The Moscow Times” wrote the eXile.
But Harding would not rest on his laurels, and even began pinching material from the eXile itself. That turned out to be a mistake, since the eXile did not take it lying down. They invoiced The Guardian five hundred quid for the articles appropriated by Harding; The Guardian admitted the guilt and paid. To top it off, he was featured as “Plagiarist of the Year” along the Street of Shame in Private Eye. His defenders claim that Harding’s plagiarisms were not, technically speaking, plagiarism as such: it is just that “his stuff sounds like everyone else’s”!
Still, Harding understood the Blair era better than his more gifted colleagues; England led the West in anti-Russian feelings, and he was always ready to oblige. Thus, he earned his reward: a promotion to be a real journalist in London! His first task: make something useful out of the slew of Russian and other post-Soviet cables provided by Wikileaks. Of course, he did the only thing he knew how to do: he twisted them into weapons in the information war against a too-independent Russia. He invented the catchy headline “Russia a Virtual Mafia State” and he prevented Guardian readers from learning about the corrupt officials and British corporations fleecing Russia and Central Asian states, as we reported in Counterpunch.
Last week, The Russian Reporter weekly revealed Harding’s shameless editing of the important secret cable 10MOSCOW317. Harding did publish this cable, but he completely redacted paragraph number 7. Paragraph #7 discloses the criminal ties of the ex-Mayor of Moscow’s spouse Mrs. Baturina: “Luzhkov’s wife, Yelena Baturina, definitely has links to the criminal world, and particularly to the Solntsevo criminal group (widely regarded by Russian law enforcement as one of the most powerful organized crime groups in Russia)”. The Guardian and Wikileaks sites both display the cable as cooked by Harding – sansreference to Mrs. Baturina.
Why is Harding protecting Mrs. Baturina? Is this a state secret, or simply a personal favor? It turns out that Mrs. Baturina, Russia’s richest woman, happens to looking for real estate in London. I’m sure a billionaire can show her appreciation in very material ways for keeping the British people in the dark about something a US ambassador wrote. But perhaps Harding was motivated by gallantry, or patriotic economic interest; in any case, he clearly does not hold with antiquated notions about journalistic integrity. He protects the rich and well connected, and makes no bones about it.
He does it again in cable 08KYIV2414, which chronicles a conversation between the Ukrainian businessman Firtash and the US Ambassador. Harding deleted one curious sentence: “he added that Tymoshenko hid her wealth in property and investments in the UK”.
Perhaps he did it with an eye toward British libel laws, the strictest in Europe? This explanation was suggested by several kind readers of my report in Counterpunch. Not likely. This consideration might justify deletion on The Guardian site, but in no way it would explain why Harding had to upload his redacted version to the Wikileaks site as well – but he did. Furthermore, Harding certainly shows no fear of libel when he calls me a ‘renegade Jew’ and claims that I passed secret cables to Lukashenko!
No, Harding cooks cables because that is what he was hired to do. In cable 07MOSCOW1770 Harding redacted away the name and occupation of the informant who claimed that Hodorkovsky, the imprisoned oligarch, is innocent. The edited cable leaves the reader with the impression that the informant is an objective, impartial expert, and that Harding is protecting him from retribution. If Harding had not removed the name of the contact, the reader would have seen that the name of the protected informant is actually that of Hodorkovsky’s attorney, Yuri Schmidt!
In his presentation of cable 08MOSCOW2632, Harding carefully blotted out passages in every line, and left just enough words to, bereft of context, create the impression that Putin has enriched himself. A casual reader might get the idea that the redacted sections contain details that would identify the cable’s Deep Throat, but reading the raw, un-cooked cable reveals the truth of the matter. The title of the redacted cable is “XXXX Transparency”, but the title of the original cable is “ACTIVIST SUES IN QUIXOTIC QUEST FOR OIL SECTOR TRANSPARENCY” and it sings the praises of Alexei Navalny, “a self-described political activist”, to wants to sue “various companies regarding their business practices”. Far from being a hunted man whose identity must be protected, Mr. Navalny is the Russian equivalent of Ralf Nader and he is above all things hungry for publicity; his court cases are well covered by the Russian media and are supported by many Russian citizens.
Harding was also assigned the task of cooking the Belarus cables, because Lukashenko has not yet sold off the country’s heirlooms to the rapacious West. On the eve of the Belarus elections, the Guardian published cable 06MINSK641. Harding redacted everything from this long cable, leaving only the summary, which just happened to accuse Lukashenko of stealing nine billion dollars of the country’s cash.
Having blotted out the second paragraph, Harding robbed The Guardian’s readership of a great laugh out loud moment. Here is the second paragraph, so carefully redacted by journalist Luke Harding: “2. (C) The Czech Embassy recently passed to Econoff a list purporting to show Belarus’ top 50 oligarchs and their net worth. The Czechs found this list published recently in a Smolensk, Russia newspaper. The list does not name the paper, but does provide an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Post has learned the Belarusian opposition United Civic Party is most likely the group that compiled this information. At least one independent Belarusian newspaper is reported to have printed an earlier draft of this information, but oddly the GOB never attacked the paper for printing this information, nor did any of the people named ever publicly deny this information.”
In other words, this “list” was made up out of thin air by a small opposition group and published in a small town newspaper with an unknown name found in a neighbouring Russian region. It is like headlining a list of Obama’s misdeeds purportedly found in a Tijuana newspaper (of unknown name), but very probably delivered by a Tea Party faction. Such a reliable source! No wonder Harding blacked it out! On any day this would be considered a dirty bit of business, but on the eve of an election it must be considered an attempt to influence the vote.
The Guardian did not publish cable 05VILNIUS732, no doubt because it disclosed that thousands of dollars in cash were delivered to the Belarus opposition by American agencies. The Guardian also chose not to publish cable 05MINSK1316 in which the opposition leader walks into the US embassy, hat in hand, and begs for money: “Milinkevich admitted his campaign was desperate for financial support. In fact, he apologized to Ambassador that the urgent need for resources was the main reason for his visit.”The Guardian also would not publish cable 06MINSK1234, perhaps because it contains the following description: “Lukashenko is the ideal anti-globalist leader — he is young (51 years old), energetic, bold, and he sits at the helm of a growing, stable (for now) economy in the heart of Europe.”
The Guardian also cooked cables to give their readers false impressions of Iran. The cable 09BAKU695 contains the lengthy debriefing of a young Iranian dissident. He is certainly an enemy of the Ayatollas, and this opinion was published in its entirety. But when the dissident’s remarks began to tread upon the Iranian opposition, The Guardian pulled out the garden shears again. The newspaper cut out the unflattering descriptions of the anti-Ahmadinejad opposition: “He described that the opposition as a coalition of many different groups, lacking organization and facing problems of ultimate direction and leadership. He characterized Mousavi as stubborn, but not charismatic; Karroubi as courageous, but with few institutional allies; and Khatami as cautious and weak. He depicted Rafsanjani’s role as short-term and tactical, arguing that he lacks sufficient popular legitimacy for long term leadership.” Perhaps this too was cut away for fear of libel?
In cable 09BAKU687, a contact explains why the Turkish-speaking Azeris of Iran were unconvinced by opposition claims. Here is the part that Guardian readers were not allowed to see: The contact “…explained that “no matter who wins, (Tabrizis) feel that there will be no change” in language, cultural, and government hiring policies that discriminate against Azeris. While acknowledging that both Moussavi and Karroubi had made campaign statements endorsing liberalization of language policies, he said that these statements were perceived as lip service, and that “(de facto) Tehrani” Moussavi in particular was not regarded as credible on this issue, given his earlier attitudes on the issue when he was Prime Minister.”The Guardian readers are apparently not entitled to learn anything negative about the Iranian opposition.
Comparing redacted cables to the originals, it becomes clear that The Guardian is covering up for BP. In 07BAKU1268, The Guardian removed an assessment that “it was BP who was acting illegally”. In 08BAKU671, another anti-BP sentence was removed: “It is worth noting that within the AIOC Consortium there is a perception that operator BP grossly mishandled the rate of return issue, costing the Consortium billions of dollars over the life of the PSA and significantly emboldening SOCAR in its relationship with the Consortium.” Guardian readers will never learn that Azerbaijanis are angry because BP was colluding with GazProm and the Russians to undermine Azerbaijan’s interests. In cable 07ASTANA919, The Guardian removed incriminating material showing that Western companies give bribes: “The internal investigation revealed that from 1998 to 2003, former employees caused the company to pay $5.2 million to agents with the intent that these payments would influence Kazakhstani officials to allow the company to obtain business.”
These are just a few of the hundreds of cables cooked up by Harding and Leigh. This is the reason they must destroy Julian: he has seen the originals and he can reveal their lies. In a recent interview, Julian said: “Our agreement with The Guardian was that they would redact information for ‘Cablegate’, based on just one criteria, which was the protection of individuals from unfair incarceration, or any type of execution … and for no other reasons. The Guardian has been redacting all sorts of things … for very different reasons. For instance, The Guardian has been redacting claims about particular companies who are corrupt.”
Indeed, the well-connected lawyer Schmidt, the billionaire Baturina and the public activist Navalny were never endangered by their comments to the US ambassador. In fact, the only ones in the dark about the contents of the cables are The Guardian’s readers. There was never any compelling reason to remove the name of Israeli ambassador from cable 09BAKU20, or the names of American ambassadors. The Guardian very obviously broke its pledge, and we can prove it. For making their perfidy clear, they attack me as well; but if their main argument is that I am a renegade Jew, their case is weak.
When The Guardian was through with Harding, they tried to ship him back to Moscow; but Harding is finished with that copy-and-paste hell he so recently escaped. He is a newsmaker now; he creates the news instead of simply copying it. He succeeding in catching the next flight back to London with a simple ruse: he fouled up the paperwork. Guardian editors came to his rescue with a series of articles claiming that a Russian intelligence agent told him, “For you Russia is closed” but it may have been too little, too late. When Harding’s co-correspondents in Moscow heard that he had been deported, they began to publicly speculate as to why. The resulting rumpus was far more damaging to Harding’s reputation than his own actions ever were.
Some of his colleagues surmised that his connections with the intelligence community became too obvious to ignore. Julia Latynina, a syndicated columnist for the anti-Putin papers, voiced her opinion that the reason Harding was deported was because of his expressed sympathy for a suicide bomber who killed herself and forty innocent people in the Moscow underground. Harding had the temerity to suggest that the terrorist was doped and delivered to the underground by Putin’s people, if not by Putin himself. Even for her, an avowed enemy of the government, this was too much.
Harding’s penchant for plagiarism was also cited by The Guardian as a possible explanation for the deportation. “Harding may have further irritated the Russians because other newspapers covering the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables opted to farm out the reporting of their contents relating to the country to correspondents based outside the country. He believed it was appropriate to put his name on the Russian WikiLeaks coverage because the authorities would have believed it was he who wrote the material anyway.” It is amusing to watch a man trip himself up with his own cleverness.
In our next issue of the Assange saga: the whole truth of the sexual scandal in Sweden as it appeared in leaked police reports, and what David Leigh did with it.
 Here is the paragraph 7 creatively removed by the crafty Luke Harding:
Luzhkov’s Links to Criminal Figures
7. (S) Sergei Kanev, an investigative crime reporter at the liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, told us that Luzhkov’s wife, Yelena Baturina, definitely has links to the criminal world, and particularly to the Solntsevo criminal group (widely regarded by Russian law enforcement as one of the most powerful organized crime groups in Russia). According to the Internet article, “On the Moscow Group,” Vladimir Yevtushenko, the head of the company Sistema, is married to Natalya Yevtushenko, Baturina’s sister. Sistema was created with Moscow city government-owned shares, and Sistema initially focused on privatizing the capital’s real estate and gas. Sistema’s president, Yevgeny Novitsky, controlled the Solntsevo criminal gang. Today, Sistema has spun off into various companies, which implement projects that typically include 50 percent funding from the Moscow city government.
Hundreds of thousands of US State Department documents, in the form of cables from hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world, give us an in-depth picture of American interests and activities such as never before seen. Yet as we peruse cables that chronicle the changing faces of US diplomacy, there is one constant: Cuba.
Everywhere, from Dushanbe in the mountains of Tajikistan to Paris, from Kiev in the Ukraine to Sydney in Australia, American diplomats are busy watching over a small island in the Caribbean Sea with an obsessive malice. Like a professional womanizer who was once rebuffed by a small-town beauty, Uncle Sam can’t seem to get over it. The diplomats monitor all Cuban activities, make note of every Cuban utterance, and report every sighting of a migratory Cuban with the enthusiasm of a birdwatcher. It seems that the US has lost none of its Cold War passion for Cuba.
In far-away Uzbekistan, the US Ambassador is promoting the US case against Cuba and duly reports to Mme Clinton:
UNCLAS TASHKENT 000524 SIPDIS DEPT FOR WHA/CCA E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PHUM, KDEM, PREL, UZ SUBJECT: UZBEKISTAN/DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITHCUBAN PEOPLE REF: SECSTATE 46997 (U) on the margins of a May 5 meeting with Foreign Minister Norov, the Ambassador informed the Uzbek government of U.S. plans to mark solidarity with the Cuban people on May 21. In addition, the Embassy has placed a box in the Embassy newsletter ‘Dostlik’ marking the date and has added a brief statement about it on its web site. NORLAND
In a few days, the US diplomats “celebrate a day of solidarity with the Cuban people”.“Embassy Tashkent continues to promote and prepare for solidarity with the Cuban people on May 21. We have raised points with appropriate high-level Uzbek officials and have placed information on our website and in our quarterly English and Uzbek languages publication, ‘Dostlik’.
Now that takes me back to the 1970’s! In Brezhnev’s day, the Soviets were regularly mustered to express their solidarity with “the people of Cuba”, “the people of Vietnam”, “the people of Korea”, etc, and eventually it began to bore us all to tears. The Soviet Union was abandoned largely due to this boredom, and now the Uzbeks (and all the rest) are being offered the same boring dish again, only this time “the people of Cuba” represents little more than the catchphrase of CIA operatives in Miami.
When Uzbekistan established diplomatic relations with Cuba, the US ambassador vented his hurt feelings in a confidential cable. The Ambassador comments: Uzbekistan has only a minimal diplomatic relationship with Cuba, but we thought it important to make this demarche so our Uzbek interlocutors will see that the US government raises human rights issues around the world, not just with the GOU.
When a Cuban delegation visited Uzbekistan, US embassy staff snooped like jilted lovers. When the Uzbeks told them to mind their own business, the spurned Ambassador cabled home: The Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s refusal to discuss this event with the Embassy is particularly laughable. Only a handful of employees work at the America’s Desk, and the same officials who were “unable” to give us any information were likely involved with the Cuban delegation’s visit. Some guys just don’t understand that “No” sometimes means “No”!
Frozen in time, Cold War ideology and language is still de rigueur in the State Department, as one sees in this cable from Ukraine:
Ukraine’s Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights (known as the Human Rights Ombudsman), Nina Karpachova was in rare form during the Regions party congress in December. During a feisty speech, she declared that her lowest professional moment had come during the 2005 session of U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, where Ukraine’s Orange government had instructed her to vote “against Cuba, a small island nation that has helped us.” Pressed to explain that comment at a January 16 meeting with Ambassador, during which he passed her information about Cuba’s dismal human rights record, Karpachova launched into a lengthy defense of the Castro regime, praising the dictator for, among other things, curbing illiteracy and running summer camps for Ukrainian children affected by the 1989 Chornobyl disaster. Karpachova even blamed Cuba’s poor economic record on the U.S. embargo, which she advocated lifting.
The sulky Ambassador still insisted on having the last word. He: expressed surprise that a representative of a party that purportedly believes in business would ignore the fact that the socialist policies of the Castro regime were the primary cause of Cuba’s economic problems.
Caught recruiting spies in Bolivia, the US embassy cables Washington: Fulbright student Alex van Schaick reported to the Bolivian Foreign Ministry February 7 that he had been asked by Post’s Assistant Regional Security Officer to report contacts with Venezuelan and Cubannationals to the Embassy. Eventually the Americans apologized and the US diplomat was sent home.
The US continues to exert pressure on the UN to expand the decades-old US embargo of Cuba, but all efforts have been in vain. Every cable dealing with the UN includes these telling words: On embargo of Cuba we remain isolated. The US record of brokering UN resolutions against Cuba is even more dismal than their Middle Eastern efforts. Cuba is the one issue Americans cannot get traction on; they are always met with resolutions against their policy.
In Baku, Azerbaijan, the US ambassador coaxed the Azerbaijani foreign minister to support the US embargo, but received this strong response: On the Cuba Embargo resolution, Mammadyarov said that Azerbaijan had been “with the 184 countries.” Mammadyarov said that over 1,000 Cubans had been educated in Azerbaijan during the Soviet period, primarily at the oil academy and international law department, and that there is a large Azerbaijan diaspora inCuba. Mammadyarov also said that Azerbaijan could not have many embassies in South America because it had so few fluent Spanish speakers, so Cuba was an important element along with Mexico and Brazil. Responding to the Ambassador’s question about what interest Cuba would have in having an embassy in Baku, Mammadyarov said that this would be the first Cuban embassy in the Caucasus, with Cuba having over 145 embassies, mainly smaller one to two person posts.
In contrast, Armenia, after much prevarication, agreed to support the US, and it was “a grand gesture”, the Ambassador writes.
Diplomatic exchanges with Cuba are routinely met with American sabotage. The US Ambassador in Vilnius proudly reported: Last year, we succeeded in blunting an effort by some in Lithuania to recognize Cuba.
Despite continuous American efforts, the cables show that the winds of change are blowing in Cuba’s favor. A secret cable from Brasilia details the US Ambassador’s meeting with a Presidential adviser: The Ambassador asked what Garcia thought would come of the EU decision to lift its sanctions. Garcia said he did not see Raul Castro giving any type of concession to foreign pressure, and that the EU move was a sign that there is a perception Cuba is changing. He noted that in Brazil, both businesses and the press that had been critical of Brazil’sCuba policy have changed their tune. Businesses are now interested in investing, and there is less criticism in the press.
We are working on Spain
After Spanish Minister Dezcallar visited Cuba, he was immediately interrogated by the US ambassador. The cables show that the Spaniard attempted to mollify the Americans by claiming that the trip to Cuba: hadn’t immediately accomplished much for Spain, but said that through its new engagement, Spain would be able to exert influence and push for “Western values” as the Cuban transition advanced.
Dezcallar urged the American to take the long view, and called for ongoing, and discreet, coordination between the US and Spain. But the ambassador is not placated. In the cables, he: emphasized Washington’s deep disappointment with the trip, which was not only a surprise but even a bit of a spectacle as world power Spain’s FM went to Cuba and came away with nothing. He noted that Moratinos didn’t meet with dissidents, and didn’t even try to correct the record when Cuban FM Perez Roque called the dissidents “mercenaries” in the pay of the US.So much for Spain’s independence! Their foreign minister is being told off like a schoolboy!
A cable from Poland shows that the US policy of Cuban isolation is quickly eroding:Szlajfer said there was a serious problem within the EU on Cuba policy. The Spanish had been attempting since 2004 to revise EU policy towards Cuba, saying that the EU’s hard line had brought no results and that therefore there should be a shift towards engagement with both the government and the opposition.
The Polish government still officially opposes engagement with “the Castro regime” and toes the hard line according to US dictat, but in the cables Szlajfer noted that times are a’changing: not only Spain, but also France and Great Britain might be playing a different game. Szlajfer added that their tough line on Cuba had diminished Poland’s influence with these countries and was affecting Poland’s commercial opportunities in the region. Ending the cable on a positive note, Ambassador Fried of the State Department cheered the Poles by assuring them: “We are working on Spain”.
The Czech Republic continues to cooperate with US orders. Like other pro-US outposts in Eastern Europe, they do all they can to isolate Cuba. The US ambassador reports: The Czechs continue to look for ways to raise support within the EU for a Cuba common position with teeth. The Czech NGO initiated an anti-Cuban conference and gained a pat on the head in US State Department cables.
Estonia is another obedient client state, and Estonian leaders are always ready to oblige their masters. A confidential cable from Tallinn relays an Estonian condemnation against Spain for being too soft on Cuba: Kahn [an Estonian diplomat] called Spain’s position, as the new EU President, both “strange and difficult to understand.” Spain is trying to encourage EU states to improve relations with Cuba at the expense of ties with the opposition, according to Kahn. In contrast, Kahn emphasized that the GOE supports engaging the Cuban Government, but only as a means to influence Cuba towards democracy. Estonia cannot accept any policy that forgets about the Cuban opposition. Kahn laid out three elements of Estonia’s Cuba policy: all meetings with the GOC have to be balanced by meetings with the democratic opposition; Cuba must free its political prisoners; and Cuba should be encouraged to undertake reforms providing democracy, free speech and freedom of assembly.
Khan noted, however, that because the GOE is so far removed from Cuba, and receives the majority of its information about Cuba from the press, that Estonia cannot be as staunch and active a supporter of democratic change as is, for example, the Czech Republic.
In another cable, the Ambassador of Estonia is interrogated over Cuba:
5. (C) Did the host country offer or deliver humanitarian or other assistance to the Cuban people in the wake of the major damage caused by Hurricanes Gustav (August 30) and Ike(September 8)? — No.
6. (C) What is the nature of investments (and names, if known) that host country businesses have in Cuba? What host country businesses participated in the Havana Trade Fair (November 3)? – There is no foreign direct investment in either direction between Estonia and Cuba. No Estonian businesses participated in the Havana Trade Fair.
7. (C) Are there any bilateral trade agreements between host country and Cuba? –
There are no bilateral trade agreements between the countries.
8. (C) Are there any exchange programs between host country and Cuba, including but not limited to: scholarships for host country nationals to study in Cuba; Cuban-paid medical travel for host country nationals; and Cuban doctors working in host country? — There are no official exchange programs between Estonia and Cuba and Estonia.
Estonians are eager to support US interests and will always side with the US, even against fellow EU members. In a cable, the US representative in Tallinn, Goldstein, “expressed our concern over Spanish FM Moratinos’ visit to Havana in April”. He received a very satisfactory reply: Estonia fully understands and agrees with U.S. concerns, and has quietly supported the Czech Republic, Poland, and other like-minded EU member states in EU fora. Juhasoo-Lawrence added that Estonia understands dictators such as Castro and what they can do to their people, and does not see any reason to ease up on him now. The EU, she said, is divided on this issue between new and old member states.
In contrast, Belarus has been much too independent for US tastes. The ambassador in Minsk reports with chagrin: A delegation from Cuba led by Minister of Government Ricardo Cabrisas visited Belarus and during the visit, the Cuban representative signed an agreement to purchase 100 buses manufactured by the Minsk Automobile Factory (MAZ) and discussed possible purchases of Belarusian farm machinery and trucks.
The cables note further: In a July 2007 greeting sent to Fidel Castro on the occasion of Cuba‘s “Rebellion Day,” Aleksandr Lukashenko called Cuba ”Belarus’ main strategic partner in Latin America”. They acknowledge that “thousands of Belarusian children from Chernobyl-affected zones who have traveled to Cuba for rest and recuperation since 1991.”
The ties are political as well. A Minsk cable acknowledges that: Belarus is actively working to reinvigorate the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and set up Lukashenko as the eventual successor to Cuban leader Fidel Castro as the next “Papa” of the anti-West block. Lukashenko is the ideal anti-globalist leader — he is young (51 years old), energetic, bold, and he sits at the helm of a growing, stable (for now) economy in the heart of Europe.
Could it be the reason for the US vehement attitude to Belarus? In a fit of green-eyed pique, the US refused to allow Lukashenko to refuel in Iceland as he returned from the 2006 meeting of Non-Aligned States. The American ambassador cabled that he had checked whether Iceland: had received a landing clearance request from Belarusian President Lukashenko, who had reportedly intended to refuel in Iceland on his way to the NAM summit. Gudjonson said Iceland had not, and gave assurances that any such requests would be denied.
The cable goes on to reveal that: The U.S. and EU imposed visa bans and froze the assets of the most odious GOB officials. When the USG and Canada refused to grant a refueling request to a Belarus delegation returning from Cuba, Lukashenko announced Belarus would respond by refusing overflight clearances to aircraft carrying USG and Canadian official delegations. More recently, the GOB announced it would freeze the assets of President Bush and Secretary Rice in Belarusian banks. These announcements remain ambiguous and even comical” …as they were certainly intended to be.
The Ukraine no longer complies with US demands. A cable from Kiev says that despite the US demarche, a Ukrainian diplomat told the ambassador: that Cuba continues to provide substantial assistance for the “Chornobyl children” [belonging to families affected by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster] and that Ukraine’s position is to oppose the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. Ukraine would support the EU statement on the annual UNGA resolution introduced by Cuba condemning the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba. In another cable, the Embassy states: The Ukrainian parliament passed a resolution a few days earlier condemning embargoes on Cuba. Ukraine remains grateful for ongoing Cuban medical assistance for victims of Chornobyl.
Cuba is renowned worldwide for its extraordinary commitment to help all countries in need, regardless of politics. After an earthquake in Peru, the US ambassador in Peru was forced to admit in a cable: Cuban assistance has reportedly been targeted and effective, if not directly coordinated with the GOP. Cuba has sent at least two field hospital teams that have offered high-impact quality service, according to observers. At one camp where a U.S. Medrete team had been sent to provide services, a Cuban team had already been set up.
Cuba is no longer alone. The cables also document that when Bolivian President Evo Morales visited Peru, he: criticized U.S.-Latin American FTAs and called for continued struggle against colonialism, imperialism, and neoliberalism. He also praised Fidel Castro as a “father” and welcomed the presence of Hugo Chavez’s ALBA in Peru.
Relations with Russia: more profitable business
Russia has not yet succeeded in mending fences with Cuba, but the effort is there: Prime Minister Putin called for Russia to rebuild (its) positions in Cuba. The US Ambassador in Moscow reports on several upcoming events between the GOR and Cuba in 2010:
– Russia will host a preparatory meeting for the April 2010 Russian-Cuban Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Commercial, Scientific, and Technical Cooperation.
Foreign Minister Lavrov will participate in the 9th Annual Havana Book Exhibition as a special invited guest. Lavrov will lead a delegation that includes heads of the Russian Ministry of Culture and the Russian Press Agency
Cuba will host a meeting of the Russian-Cuban Intergovernmental Commission. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin would likely lead the Russian delegation. Sechin’s last visit to Cuba was in July 2009 and resulted in several agreements, including a $150 million loan for Cuba to purchase Russian agricultural machinery.
Russia was currently providing humanitarian aid to Cuba in the form of grain shipments, with plans to send 100,000 tons of grain to Cuba this year. Also, the GOR plans to increase the number of scholarships granted to Cubans; 100 Cuban students received scholarships in 2009 to study in Russian universities.
In a secret/not-for-foreigners (NOFORN) cable, the US Ambassador informs the State Department that: Russia did not have a preference for working with Raul or Fidel Castro. As a general trend, Cuba-Russia ties were becoming stronger, but that the relationship had not changed significantly since Raul Castro came to power in 2008.
The cable continued with a report from a Russian academician: Russia perceived a difference between the two Castro brothers in how they viewed the Cuba-Russia relationship. Raul spent more time in the Soviet Union and Russia than Fidel and understood Russia better. Russia believed Raul to be the more pragmatic brother, according to Davydov, and that he did more to encourage outside investment in Cuba from a number of sources, including Russia. The MFA confirmed that Russia and Cuba were looking for mutually beneficial investment opportunities in Cuba.
Cuban President Raul Castro visited Moscow January 28 to February 4, 2009. Raul Castro and Medvedev signed a number of agreements … Russia also pledged two shipments of grain, of 25,000 and 100,000 metric tons, worth USD 37 million. Cuba has agreed to purchase or lease seven Russian-made aircraft. In addition, Kamaz, Russia’s largest truck manufacturer, has agreed to sell its trucks in Cuba and to establish a Cuban assembly plant with Cuba’s Tradex. Russia’s principal exports to Cuba are aircraft, heavy machines, and equipment. Cuba’s principal exports to Russia are sugar, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and cigars.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin negotiated a series of economic cooperation deals withCuban government officials in Moscow. A Gazprom-led consortium created in 2008 to develop Venezuela’s gas and oil fields signed a cooperation agreement with Cuba Petroleo to jointly work on exploration, production, and refining. Norilsk Nickel agreed to fund exploration of ore reserves inCuba, with the prospect of mining them in the future. Carmaker AvtoVAZ signed a deal to service its cars in Cuba. Sechin’s extensive role in mid-wifing the Russian-Cuban relationship likely reflects PM Putin’s personal interest in reasserting a Russian presence in the Western Hemisphere.
Cables also discuss the possibility of: enhanced military cooperation of Russia with Cuba. Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs Andrei Klimov told RIA-Novosti that “If America installs antiballistic missile (ABM) systems next to the Russian border, Russia too may deploy its systems in those states that will agree to take them.” Leonid Ivashov, head of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, told RIA-Novosti that the West was creating a “buffer zone” around Russia and that in response, Russia might expand its military presence in Cuba or other places.
The cables show that the need for support of Cuba is far from over. Americans will do well if they will ask their government to cease squandering their resources in this yesterday’s fight against a small island in the Caribbean.