Condemning War

W.J. Astore

And so the dogs of war are off and running again, this time unleashed by Putin’s Russia against Ukraine. What is Putin up to? Is it a punitive raid against Ukraine, or a general invasion followed by an occupation, or something in between? Time will tell, but wars are unpredictable. Just look at America’s wars. Vietnam was supposed to be over with quickly after the U.S. committed large numbers of troops there in 1965. Afghanistan started as a punitive raid in 2001, then morphed into a wider invasion and occupation that persisted for two decades. Iraq was supposed to be over and done with in a few weeks in 2003, but that general invasion also morphed into an occupation that persisted for nearly a decade.

At their best, wars are controlled chaos, and that contradiction in terms is intended. My best guess is that Putin sees this as an extended punitive raid to send a message to Ukraine and to NATO that Russia won’t tolerate NATO expansion into Ukraine. Put bluntly, NATO, led by the USA, got into Putin’s grill on Ukraine, and Putin calculated that drawing his saber was a better choice than simply rattling it. Whether he who lives by the sword will die by it remains to be seen.

In the meantime, I took a quick look at how the mainstream media is covering the Russian invasion. I noted that NBC spoke of Russia’s “terrifying might,” while CBS spoke of “dozens reported dead” in Ukraine. CNN simply said that “Russia invades Ukraine” and that “Ukraine vows defiance.” I have nothing against these headlines, but I wonder if the same coverage would apply to the U.S. military. Would NBC speak of the “terrifying might” of U.S. military attacks? Would our mainstream media mouthpieces report on the deaths of foreigners from those attacks? Did we see terse headlines that read, simply, “U.S. invades Iraq” or “U.S. invades Afghanistan” or “U.S. invades Vietnam”? I can’t remember seeing them, since we like to think of the U.S. military as “liberating” or “assisting” other countries, or, even better, bringing democracy to them with our “freedom” bombs and “liberty” missiles.

U.S. leaders like Antony Blinken and Nancy Pelosi have shown their toughness. Blinken said Putin will “pay for a long, long time” for his actions, and Pelosi said the Russian invasion is an “attack on democracy.” Did Ukraine truly have a functional democracy? For that matter, does the United States have one?

I’m with Ike: I hate war with a passion. Most often it’s the innocent and the most vulnerable who end up dead. Whatever Putin is up to, it’s wrong and he should be condemned. But while condemning Putin for his invasion, we shouldn’t forget America’s wars. Indeed, in condemning Putin for his invasion, it offers us a fresh chance to condemn war in general — even, or especially, America’s own versions.

85 thoughts on “Condemning War

  1. I’m a bit of a cynic. I wonder, did the US (referring to those in charge of worldwide perception) really want to avoid conflict? The aftermath of the Afghanistan withdrawal/fiasco combined with the past years spent battling a worldwide viral pandemic (depending on who you ask, it’s either a pandemic or “just the flu”) greatly impacted the finances of many in this country. Is this partly another case of “follow the money” to who will benefit most from military involvement without regard for the downsides? We do know that Putin has his own agenda in strengthening his power now that Biden is president, but then the US also has an agenda, keeping its appearance of military superiority and personal democracy at the forefront of its actions. As you noted, those in charge are not usually the ones who truly suffer from their actions.

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    1. Agree 100%, Miscellany. I’d add that if we followed the money, not only would it lead to Lockheed, Raytheon, et. al., but also to corporate media owners. We’re living in a Gordon Gekko world, and ain’t nothin’ we can do about it, ’cause no matter which side of the aisle it is, money wins.

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  2. Someone in the last post thread—you, Ray?—mentioned ego as a motivator of this world-shaking face-off. Besides money, in the case of the U.S., I think ego and reputation are indeed factors.

    At the risk of crudity and sexism, I say, “Put ’em back in your pants, boys, and come to the table to talk like grown-ups, before you end the world out of sheer macho stubbornness.”

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      1. And really, those who make threats—on either side—when diplomacy and compromise are called for, are NOT wearing the big-boy pants (I know you meant that sarcastically, Bill). They’re acting like 10-year-olds on the playground, with no depth of experience or wisdom. They’re wearing little-boy knickers.

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  3. I’m watching the Biden speech and press conference now. The press is trying to goad Biden to do more against Putin and Russia. Sanction Putin now!

    Naturally, Biden described Putin in the harshest terms: tyrant; bully; sinister. Russia he described as an empire engaged in “naked aggression” that was “totally unjustifiable.” The U.S., he said, is “freedom-loving.” The usual stuff.

    As usual, Biden concluded by saying “May God protect our troops.” Not Russian or Ukrainian troops, I guess.

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  4. I would like to turn the topic around to: When should war be embraced? This is really asking what conditions would make war necessary? It is easy to condemn war, even Eisenhower condemned war, yet he was the supreme commander of allied forces in Europe in WWII.

    Those of you who are absolute pacifists have an easy answer, Never! The rest of us are somewhere on the bell curve.
    What provocation or threat would justify war? Is there an absolute number of Americans killed? In 2001 the number was 3000, same number in 1941.

    Is there any ally that we should absolutely defend? Everyone has pretty much agreed it’s not Ukraine. How about Great Britain, France, Canada, or Mexico?

    It can get pretty messy when false information is given out such as in 1965 with the Tonkin Gulf incident or 2003 with Bush – Cheney accusing Saddam Hussein of having Weapons of Mass Destruction. Even at that, a clear idea of where the line between peace and war is drawn is needed.

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    1. My oath of office may provide guidance: War should be embraced when the Constitution of the U.S. is threatened. And that would include when the U.S. is threatened with invasion or some other form of direct attack on the government or our people.

      Alliances may also require war. I would think a major attack on Britain would trigger a U.S. response. But note that in the case of the Falklands, the U.S. favored Britain while not getting involved in the fighting.

      War is abhorrent, but there are necessary wars of defense, especially when the fundamental rights in the U.S. Constitution are threatened.

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      1. WJA, according to the definition you give, was the U.S.A. justified to go into Afghanistan in 2001 to apprehend, or neutralize Al Qaeda? This meant dealing with the Taliban who gave them protection.

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        1. It seems that the Taliban were willing to turn over Osama bin Laden to the U.S., if we had been willing to present evidence proving his guilt. Naturally, Bush/Cheney wouldn’t accept any conditions, so war came instead.

          So, was the U.S. justified? In its initial efforts to capture or kill OBL — yes. Everything after that — no.

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  5. File this under “Never let a crisis go to waste”

    The fossil fuel industry isn’t letting the Russian invasion of Ukraine go to waste. As the world watches the crisis unfold, fossil fuel interests are more than willing to contradict themselves to justify more oil and gas production everywhere.

    Last night, just before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion, the American Petroleum Institute (API), a lobbying group for oil and gas companies, tweeted, “As crisis looms in Ukraine, U.S. energy leadership is more important than ever. Here are four things the @WhiteHouse can do right now to ensure energy security at home and abroad.” The group’s suggestions for “energy security” included allowing drilling on federal lands and “reducing legal & regulatory uncertainty,” among other proposals aimed at expanding oil and gas production.

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  6. And don’t overlook Bill its just another excuse for Big Oil to raise the price of gasoline at the pumps! They are saying gasoline is heading toward $5.00 per gallon in California.

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  7. Professor! We agree! All it talk was an invasion to do it.

    War is the most terrible of all human activities. It engenders destruction, cruelty, dehumanization, and the usual horsemen. Talking is always preferable to fighting.

    Yet it is not always useless or pointless. Ask the Cambodians if they would have preferred the Vietnamese not to invade in ’78, or the citizens of Seoul if it would have been better to let Kim occupy the whole country, or the Jews if America should have listened to Republicans and isolationists in the 30’s, or the American slaves if Lincoln should have thrown up his hands and let the south secede.

    Terrible? Yes. Pointless? Most emphatically not.

    Not that all wars, or even most wars, have such ennobling aims. Second Iraq was ego and hubris. America in Vietnam was more hubris and posturing. The Great War was ego run amok, where the last shreds of the Imperial ideal ran into the industrial age.

    Regarding the war du jure, despite what the professor believes, I don’t think there’s any doubt as to the outcome and next steps:
    * Russia will quickly suppress all resistance, using any means and levels of force it deems necessary.
    * The existing government will be overthrown, with or without show trials and executions. I would not be surprised if elected officials’ blood flows.
    * A new “government of national reconciliation” will be installed, filled with Russian sympathizers, at the national and local level throughout the country.
    * A new constitution will be written (it’s probably already sitting in a drawer in Moscow) stating the principles of non-alliance, and the unbreakable ties with the peoples of the east.
    * A Russian-advised security force will round up the usual suspects – dissidents, professors who don’t toe the line, writers, poets, business leaders who don’t start paying protection money to the Putin oligarchs, and anyone who represents a threat to new order.
    * Russian forces and arms will be installed throughout the country to ward off “the threat of NATO invasion.”
    * Life will go on. Duller, flatter, with strict limits on expression, travel, and commerce. If you want models, look to Hong Kong, Crimea, Belarus, Kaliningrad. Not at the North Korea level, but nothing like you would want to live under.

    Hopefully the people of Ukraine can get on with their lives without too much suffering. Ts and Ps to them all.

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  8. There is one other thing I would like to say. Since I started reading the comments on this blog I have been shocked at the extraordinary naivete expressed by some (only some, by no means all) of the posters.

    I know, I know, “Who, us? Impossible! You must produce examples!” Here we go…
    * The belief that blaming Russia for MH17 is some kind of western plot to besmirch poor little Russia. Just do some research, please.
    * That the Ukrainian government is some kind of Nazi-cabal. Of course Ukrainian democracy has a long way to go, just as American democracy (if we survive Trumpism and corporatism) has improvements that must be made. But if you agree with Putin that Ukraine is run by Nazis, please answer a few questions:
    ** How many concentration camps have been established?
    ** How many Jews, gays, physically and mentally disabled, labor leaders, Romi, and political dissidents have been rounded up and killed?
    ** Which countries has Ukraine invaded or annexed?
    ** Which person in Ukraine has been invested with absolute power, and in fact to whom the military swear personal allegiance?
    * The belief that a Ukrainian war has corporate America rolling in that sweet militarist cash. In fact Ukraine is now definitely out of the market for American arms dealers. There may be an uptick in orders from other democracies bordering Russia, but can you blame them?
    * That Russia is a peace-loving nation who just wants to be left alone, and that any bad press is just the MSM kow-towing to the above-mentioned militarist corporate hegemons. It is true, as I stated in another comment today, that NATO should not have expanded so fast into the former SSRs and Warsaw Pact nations. But we did. And what did NATO do with all those countries along Russia’s borders, allegedly bristling with the latest American weaponry? Nothing. Not a thing. Not an incursion, not an annexation, nothing. Just continued to grow economically and (generally) into functional democracies. Not all, of course. Orban and Hungary are a joke. But look at Albania or the Baltic states, and compare life today to what it was in the 80’s.
    * That NATO is some kind of American puppet that we use to intimidate and coerce. The truth is, as anyone who worked in Brussels would tell you, is that getting NATO to do ANYTHING is almost impossible. Military spending is below commitments. Equipment is incompatible. Contributions are on a “if we feel like it” basis. If America really wanted to invade Russia, why didn’t we do so prior to ’49, when we had the atomic monopoly? Why not after ’90, when Russia was truly crippled?

    There are other examples, but you get the idea. Please, to the people who read this blog, do the research, challenge your assumptions. And please, please, stop believing that you’re going to make the world better by singing “Imagine” in three-part harmony.

    Man, I’m going to get crucified for that last one…

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    1. No, I applaud your courage to point out these things at this site.

      I am going to say something equally likely to get myself crucified here, but it needs to be said. I believe a lot of people here and in general are so afraid of war that they will do and say anything to avoid it. They will offer apologies regarding the bully’s behavior hoping that will placate him and make them safe.
      I dealt with a bully at school for years who bullied me. I finally reached a point where I didn’t care if I got hurt and challenged him in front of everybody. He could see the look of determination and abandon in my eyes and turned away. He never bullied me again.

      Appeasing the Russians will only embolden them. They may lay low for a while but Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, will be invaded and either annexed to Russia or made into a Russian subject state as Ukraine is now as you point out. Perhaps the ‘stans’ also, who cares about them?

      I still maintain this is a European matter and we should stay out of it militarily. We engaged in WWI as you mentioned for no good reason. WWII was a different matter. This is like WWI again, an entirely European continent conflict. Notice I said militarily; we should support any nation’s right to sovereignty using diplomatic and economic means for that country and against the aggressor. As Americans we should loudly proclaim our commitment to liberty and justice. Yes, I am aware how hypocritical that sounds given the crimes the U.S.A. has committed but now may be a good time to clean house and remember who we once were.

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    2. I agree with your points, though I do not know if naivete is all to blame.

      One fault may lie in human perception. For example, our visual system does not see absolute color. Our brain computes (or some process) to determine the colors relative to redness, greenness, and blueness. What we see as orange on one background can look purple on another.

      However, we perceive the colors as having absolute qualities. We say that is orange, not that is orange relative to the background.

      I think that is why some people are unable to see the world in relative terms. They divide it into right and wrong. Then once they identify one side as right, anything opposed to that is wrong. Similarly, if they can identify one side as wrong, then anything opposed to that is right.

      I think that some of the commenters are stuck in that process. They identify the US (correctly as having faults). The US is therefore wrong (a false absolutist position) and anyone opposed to the US (Putin in this case) is right, which is just as false. The possibility that the US has committed atrocities and that Putin is also committing atrocities is not something they can conceive of. In cognitive therapy this is called dichotomous thinking and it seems to be hard-wired into quite a number of people and they get extremely distressed their thinking is challenged.

      The reason this is relevant is that one can be educated out of naivete, but dichotomous thinking is rather impervious to facts. I know this from working with patients who suffer from it.

      And while I think that more people singing Imagine would make the world a better place, I absolutely agree that doing so will not stop people who are willing to use force to get what they want.

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    3. Hello Bentonian: I don’t recall anyone claiming the Ukrainian govt was a “Nazi-cabal.” However, there are neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine. Also, with respect to “sweet militarist cash,” what I claimed was that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be cited by the Pentagon and the MIC as a reason to boost future military spending even more in the U.S. So I expect the 2023 defense budget will exceed $800 billion.

      NATO as an American puppet: I’m not sure anyone made this claim. Obviously, the U.S. is the dominant leader of NATO, but we don’t always get what we want. And NATO, as you say, is notoriously difficult to rally; unity of purpose and quick action are rare indeed in Brussels.

      America wanting to invade Russia: I don’t recall anyone suggesting that the USA wanted to invade Russia. What some people have suggested, myself included, is that NATO expansion has constricted Russia while provoking it as well. If I were Russian and looking at a map, I wouldn’t see NATO expansion as benign and peaceful. I’d probably see it as yet another attempt to put Russia in its place; I’d see it as domination without a military invasion.

      We all need to do our research and to challenge our assumptions. That includes me — and you.

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  9. More and more, it seems that what humankind may need to suffer in order to survive the long term from ourselves is an even greater nemesis (a figurative multi-tentacled extraterrestrial, perhaps?) than our own politics and perceptions of differences — especially those involving skin-color and creed — against which we could all unite, attack and defeat.

    During this needed human allegiance, we’d be forced to work closely side-by-side together and witness just how humanly similar we are to each other. (Albeit, I have been told that one or more human parties might actually attempt to forge an allegiance with the ETs to better their own chances for survival, thus indicating that our wanting human condition may be even worse than I had originally thought.)

    Regardless, maybe some five or more decades later when all traces of the nightmarish ET invasion are gone, we will inevitably revert to those same politics to which we humans seem so collectively hopelessly prone — including those of scale: the intercontinental, international, national, provincial or state, regional and municipal.

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  10. From our blog proprietor:

    And so the dogs of war are off and running again, this time unleashed by Putin’s Russia against Ukraine.”

    I take issue with this metaphor on several grounds. In the first place, it does not make the distinction between a pack of barking dogs and a irritated Bear. Second, it does not specify in which direction the dogs are running: towards a fight with the Bear, or away from one. Third, it falsely attributes the unleashing of these dogs to President Putin’s Russian Federation instead of the U.S./UK/EU-NATO owners who lost control of the dogs after “training” them to attack the Bear’s cubs for eight years. Finally, the metaphor does to distinguish between “Ukraine,” as a country that contains a significant population of disenfranchised and murdered ethnic Russians, and the neo-nazi Russophobes that the U.S./UK/EU-NATO forcibly installed in Kiev with the importunate urging to rob, dispossess, and kill as many ethnic Russians as possible.

    Next, moving on to a really strange question about the meaning of it all:

    “What is Putin up to?”

    OK. Now focus. Pay attention here. To make things as simple as possible, Andrei Raevsky (a.k.a., The Saker) says:

    “Putin has clearly stated the Russian goals: demilitarize and denazify the Ukraine.” [emphasis added]

    And:

    “Basically, this is 08.08.08 [Georgia] on a much larger scale: move in, disarm, withdraw.” [emphasis in the original]

    The Russian people, their government, and its leadership will consider this operation successful if it accomplishes these few, simple, easily grasped goals. What the U.S./UK/EU-NATO think, say, and do about this does not concern — or trouble in the least — “The Russians.” The real world has moved on.

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    1. I ask in all sincerity, Michael, because I don’t know the answer: what would be the basis for taking Putin’s stated goals at face value? That is, why is he more trustworthy than any other politician?

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      1. You’ll have your answer in very short order, Denise. It won’t take decades, or even years, as it would with the “any other politician” sort that infests “Western” excuses for “governments.” History will judge the sincerity and competence of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, not me, and that judgement will rest on real-world results not rhetorical narratives.

        At any rate, over the past twenty years Vladimir Putin has led his country back from disorganization and humiliation to first-rank status among nations. Not a bad legacy for any political leader in so short a time. Unless and until I see his equal in the U.S./UK/EU-NATO rhetorical rat pack, I’ll give him at least a respectful hearing while observing his actions and their consequences. In the present instance, the de-militarization and de-nazifying of “Ukraine” will benefit people of good will in many places, not just in whatever becomes of “Ukraine.” If the Russians — the ones who make things actually happen — accomplish these two tasks that their president has set for them, then he will have added two more reasons to grant him a much-better- than-average level of credence.

        Events have gotten into the driver’s seat and we powerless observers can only seek to catch up as best we can. Now, if only we “Westerners” could de-militarize our own worthlessly “governed” countries and rid ourselves of the self-styled “elites” who presume to rule us at their venal whim. Over the course of my life, my own government has lied to me orders of magnitude more times — and with far more evil consequences — than President Putin ever has. So for the present, and deservedly, I would attach the label of “any other politician” to them and not to him.

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        1. Certainly, events will prove the truth of Putin’s words. And as you say, Michael, it won’t take long.

          I’d continue to group him with “any other politician, ” however, because of the position he holds; by definition, he’s a politician, and the vast majority of such creatures commonly prevaricate. I don’t deny that the U.S. government is a fount of lies, but neither do I trust what Putin says, because….see the beginning of this paragraph.

          At the risk of being swiftly rebuked, I would also point out—as devil’s advocate—that Putin recently flatly stated that he would not invade Ukraine. Or at least, so the U.S. press contends.

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  11. I understand about dichotomous thinking, JPA, but I tend to think commenters here are a bit more sophisticated. I don’t really think that anyone believes that, because the U.S. does many abhorrent things, Russia is automatically in the right in this situation. Commenters have various reasons for their positions, but I’ve never seen evidence of black/white, zero-sum thinking here; rather, much nuanced thought and complexity. I wouldn’t presume to speak for all readers of this blog, but my guess is that, at the least, there’s agreement that two wrongs don’t make a right, that there are many layers here.

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    1. I agree that almost all of the commenters on this blog would agree that two wrongs don’t make a right. I do think that I am correct in stating that there is some “US bad therefore Russia good” logic, that appears from time to time. I think this logic is invalid.

      Putin is responsible for choosing to start a war with a country that did not pose a threat to Russia. That is immoral. The immorality stands independent of what other countries have done.

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      1. Sorry to have to say this, JPA, but I find your seriously lacking in substantiation. (1) The Russians did not “start a war,” they terminated one. Namely, the U.S./UK/EU-NATO-instigated-and-fueled civil war ongoing for the past eight years since the coup of 2014. They have terminated it quickly and effectively, for all intents and purposes. (2) Amassing weaponry and using it to kill ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine (on the Russian border) while conducting provocative NATO military exercises on land and sea does indeed constitute a threat to Russia. Anyone who cannot see that simply refuses — for whatever reason — to see the nakedly obvious.

        I don’t expect you to take my word for things, but if you genuinely wish to educate yourself on what has actually transpired since 1999 when the U.S./UK/EU-NATO began their eastward expansion toward the Russian border, I recommend viewing a more in-depth and reasonably presented video interview with Professor John Mearsheimer. PROFESSOR JOHN MEARSHEIMER: THE SITUATION IN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE | KING’S POLITICS (February 22, 2022). For the convenience of interested persons, I have provided my own transcript of the interview.

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        1. I wholeheartedly agree with Michael here. Just because what passes in the West for “news” has completely airbrushed the events in the Donbass for the last eight years out of existence doesn’t mean that a fairly brutal war on the Russian-speaking population initiated by the Western-sponsored Kievan regime, has not been a fact of life for the four million inhabitants of that region, who don’t appear to matter at all to some commentators here, as elsewhere by the way. They are invisible. They are non-persons. They don’t count. Much has been made of the Minsk II agreements (confirmed by the UN Security Council Resolution No. 2202 of February 17, 2015, to which all the Western powers signed on to), as a peaceful solution to the conflict, but anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature knows that the Western powers simply did nothing to compel the Kievan regime to comply with its terms. On the contrary. For the Neanderthal Russophobes that rule the roost in the foreign affairs of the United States of America, my country, the benefits of keeping the blood flowing on Russia’s borderlands were obvious then as now: the Ukrainian “project” was always about getting the Russian Federation to intervene, to create a second Afghanistan, to bleed Russian blood and treasure. So all the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth in the U.S. (and Europe), frankly, should only inspire disgust. We got exactly what we planned for, even though the “loss” of Crimea and its proposed U.S. Navy base, was “unanticipated”. It falls to Russia to put an end to this bloody conflict. And forget about “international law”: in the last 30 years, the United States of America, not rarely with the material assistance of the so-called “defensive” NATO alliance, has itself shredded the concept.

          The Prussian military theorist Clausewitz is said to have posited that “War is the continuation of politics by other means”. This is especially so when existential strategic interests are perceived to be at stake: the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders is just so perceived. The U.S. shit its pants when Castro invited the Russians to put missiles in Cuba. Where were our “principles” then? What about the right of countries to choose their own alliances that that idiot Blinken is now shouting from the rooftops? Where does Jake Sullivan get off declaring that the placing of any Russian military facilities in Venezuela or Nicaragua will get “an immediate and decisive response”? On December 17, 2021, the Russians presented the U.S. and NATO with draft treaties that would ban further expansion of NATO eastward, require the removal of offensive weapons systems from the vicinity of Russia’s borders and a rollback of NATO military infrastructure to the position it occupied in 1997. In sum, the “principle” of the right of countries to choose their own alliances is to be balanced by the right of neighboring countries’ to their own security, that is, security is indivisible: security cannot be assured to some countries at the expense of the security interests of their neighbors. In cruder terms, one might say that Russia was politely requesting the combined West, after 30 years of NATO expansion to the east, to “get off my porch.” Since these requests were summarily rejected by the addressees, Clausewitz dictum is in play.

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        2. To state the obvious, all governments lie. And the first casualty of war is truth.

          So one must be skeptical of all government announcements, whether by Biden or Putin or any leader.

          Also, Russia has its state media; so too does the USA. I trust neither.

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        1. Agreed. War is immoral, but so are those that deliberately create the conditions that foster it. But we in the U.S. have no right whatsoever to stand in moral judgement. Not after Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and yes, fomenting the coup in the Ukraine.

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  12. I’d like to take a moment to thank all my readers and especially those who take time to make comments.

    I appreciate diversity of opinion. I don’t mind respectful disagreements. But I think we should always seek to avoid attacks on the person.

    So, for example, I don’t think it helps when we accuse others of “extraordinary naïveté” or when we seek to provoke by suggesting readers of this blog believe that singing “Imagine” in 3-part harmony is going to solve the world’s problems.

    I don’t think the readers of this blog are exceptionally naive or dreamy. People who make such claims are smugly raising themselves above others. I don’t find this to be useful or insightful or courageous.

    Also, I see no evidence for this statement: “I believe a lot of people here and in general are so afraid of war that they will do and say anything to avoid it.”

    First, I think fear of war is a good thing, especially when it could involve the world’s two most dangerous nuclear powers. But I haven’t seen readers here suggesting we should “appease” Russia (or any other country) merely to avoid war. Quite the opposite.

    I can’t be certain, but I think most of my readers are pragmatic and informed. If America was directly attacked today, I think most would insist on an appropriate response, including a military one if needed.

    Again, when we label others as incredibly naive or appeasers at any cost, we had better know this for certain, and back it up with conclusive evidence, and even then I question it, because by saying it, you are basically complimenting yourself about how strong-minded you are, how smart you are, how tough you are, compared to those naive and weak-kneed people singing Kumbaya.

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      1. Agree, my words come close to being confrontational but I did not mean it as an insult. I apologize if it was taken that way.
        I post in order to provoke thought. My intent was for everyone to take a good look inward and ask themselves if they are coming from a place of courage or cowardice.
        I justified my non-response to that bully in school for years saying I didn’t care or it wasn’t worth fighting for. I was coming from a place of cowardice and am ashamed that I did not stand up to him sooner.

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        1. A problem in the USA is the notion that peace is cowardly and war is courageous. We know from history that the opposite may be true. It’s often far too easy to go to war.

          I agree that bullies must be confronted, else the bullying usually continues and often worsens. Like you, I generally avoided fights, but I did get into a few scraps that were, I think, unavoidable.

          I don’t think you should feel shame for not standing up to the bully sooner. Rather, feel proud that you sought to avoid a fight, but when it proved unavoidable and/or intolerable, you DID stand up.

          Recall the song from Kenny Rogers: “Coward of the County.” I know the sentiments in that song are no longer PC, but I believe its message is true: “Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man.”

          Choose your fights wisely.

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          1. Could not agree more on all points, Bill. I’d quote another Kenny Rogers line: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Sometimes, discretion IS the better part of valor.

            At this moment, we’re quite naturally caught up in the nuts and bolts, the whys and wherefores, of what’s going on in Ukraine. The entire world is trying to parse who did what to whom, and how it will play out. But the overarching concern MUST be how we can quickly resolve differences and move on. If the major world powers can’t find a way to cooperate, society as we know it is doomed. THAT’s what the big-boy pants are all about, Charlie Brown.

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  13. To shift the debate, I came across these words of Richard Nixon today: In reality, Nixon’s proscriptions for the Russian situation weren’t very innovative though his observation that if democracy failed, it would not be replaced by communism but instead a “more dangerous despotism based on extremist nationalism,” has proved to be pretty close to the mark.

    A dangerous despotism based on extremist nationalism: this is what we need to guard against in the USA. This is a much bigger danger than Russia v. Ukraine. As democracy weakens in America, we’re not tracking toward socialism — we’re headed toward despots empowered by militant and extremist nationalism.

    The link: https://tropicsofmeta.com/2022/02/25/daniel-schorr-and-nixons-tricky-road-to-redemption/

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  14. I have to admit, I laughed at this:

    And Tucker Carlson, a leading host on the conservative Fox News channel, told viewers: “It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”

    Well, I have to admit Putin’s never called me a racist. 🙂

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/25/vladimir-putin-ukraine-invasion-deepens-republican-divide

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  15. While I agree that it is important to avoid name-calling or accusing people of naivete, I think it is also important to point out how people are engaging in the process of justifying war when one country (Russia) wages it and condemning it when another country (the US) wages it. I see that being done repeatedly by certain commenters in this thread and in their comments from other posts.

    The justifications I am reading are no more a justification for a large scale invasion of the Ukraine than the propaganda that I saw coming from the US justifying Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Russia waging war or US waging war … spuds or potatoes.

    I find it especially disturbing when a commenter extols Putin for ” over the past twenty years Vladimir Putin has led his country back from disorganization and humiliation to first-rank status among nations. Not a bad legacy for any political leader in so short a time. Unless and until I see his equal in the U.S./UK/EU-NATO rhetorical rat pack, I’ll give him at least a respectful hearing while observing his actions and their consequences.”

    Yes Putin has led Russia to being a first-rank nation in a short time. So did Stalin.

    Expressing high respect for Putin and contempt for his opponents has absolutely no relevance to the question of whether the invasion of the Ukraine is moral or not. So why is the commenter spending the energy doing so?

    I serious distrust the person’s motives and am suspicious that this blog is being used by some commenters to spout Kremlin propaganda, possibly because they are Russian agents.

    I’m done.

    Like

    1. I don’t think anyone’s a Russian agent. I think we’re all biased. Including me. History has taught me there’s no such thing as perfect objectivity. Our life experiences inform how we think. I’m a retired U.S. military officer. I’m also a trained historian. Both have an impact on how I look at the world.

      With Russia and Ukraine, I see no guiltless parties. Certainly not the USA, and certainly not Russia.

      Putin, I think, is a pragmatist, a survivor, a product of the system in which he’s embedded. A good word for him is Machiavellian. Do I admire him? No. I wouldn’t want him to be my leader. But I suppose I can give him some grudging respect. As I’ve said before, I think he’s played a relatively weak hand well. Some of America’s leaders play a strong hand poorly, or so it seems to me.

      I think it’s good to have disagreements at this site. If we all agree here, then it’s just another echo chamber. Yet another silo on the Internet.

      I just hope we can disagree respectfully as we defend our positions rationally and calmly using the best information available to us.

      We are all mature adults. With maturity comes the realization that people may not always agree with you; indeed, it may seem that some people will never agree with you. This can be frustrating; it can also sometimes be bracing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree that there are no guiltless parties.

        Two additional thoughts: those who support Putin’s actions, in whole or in part, are postulating that the reason for the invasion is that Putin feels backed into a corner and fears for his country’s s

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        1. Oops! Accidentally hit “Post.”

          Anyway, what I meant to say is that Putin evidently fears for Russia’s security, if I have the gist of it correct. My question is, does anyone think Putin genuinely fears an unprovoked attack on Russia, from the U.S. or anyone else?

          And second, author Greg Pelast comes up with an interesting tangent here, in which he theorizes that Putin is acting out of monetary concerns, as oil is now at $100 a barrel, and Russis stands to stands to make a mint. Pelast claims that ending the Venezuelan embargo would calm things down in Ukraine. Thoughts, anyone?

          https://www.gregpalast.com/venezuela-can-bring-putin-to-his-knees/

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        2. Talking about Putin’s motives and fears is highly speculative, of course. So let’s speculate.

          Putin is an autocrat in a nation that has a history of strong rulers that take no guff. He is a survivor. He can be ruthless.

          Continuing to back down over Ukraine, to bend to Western demands, would jeopardize his position in Russia. I’m guessing he would also see it as a betrayal of his responsibility as Russia’s ruler. For Putin, this is NIMBY. Not in my backyard, NATO. You’ve gone far enough. I warned you, I sought a diplomatic solution, and you ignored me or played with me. And I can’t countenance that.

          That’s just scratching the surface, I think. Economic concerns — I’m sure they’re important too.

          We in the West see Putin as a “bully” and a “tyrant,” to use Biden’s words. Is it possible that Putin sees NATO expansion and similar actions by the West as a form of bullying? Unbiased, dispassionate, analysis requires us to look at events from multiple angles, not just from the U.S. side or the Russian side or the Ukrainian side.

          The big loser, of course, is the Ukrainian people, caught as they are in a struggle between Russia and the USA/NATO.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Excellent points, sir, particularly about the Ukrainian people. Our Terminal Tower here in Cleveland was lit with yellow and blue lights on Thusday evening (Ukrainian flag). The Tower is neither the tallest or grandest building in the city, but it is the city’s icon, and its heart. There’s a significant percentage of people of Ukrainian descent in the city, and it has announced it will take in refugees from the current conflict. I can only imagine Cleveland’s being bombed for something D.C. did….

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    2. You finished before you started, JPA. If you would confine yourself to addressing the points people raise instead of speculating darkly about their motives (about which you can have no insight whatsoever) you might offer something of value to the discussion. Normally I wouldn’t bother with your cheap Red-baiting ad hominem straw men and canards, but since you quoted what I wrote — a simple acknowledgment that Russia’s current President warrants respect for his genuine accomplishments (like, for example, a budget surplus of 2/3 of a trillion dollars (in gold and foreign currencies) as compared to the U.S. 30 trillion in unrepayable debt — I will take this opportunity to dispute your cheap and unfounded comparison of Vladimir Putin and Joseph Stalin. If you can’t even distinguish between the now-defunct Soviet Union and the modern-day Russian Federation, then you don’t know enough about the real world of today to warrant attempts at educating you. It would simply take more years and energy than I have to spare.

      At any rate, regarding the present demilitarization and nazi-exterminationcampaign taking place in Ukraine right now, I highly recommend an interview conducted the other day with Scott Ritter, a former Marine Corps Intelligence Officer and UN weapons inspector. You can accuse him of immorality and lack of patriotism if you wish, but he simply lets the facts on the ground speak for themselves, which approach I think has more to offer than pretentious, moralizing lectures.

      See and learn from: “NATO Too Weak to Face Russia: Scott Ritter on Russian Offensive”, Interview with Scott Ritter, RM- Richard Medhurst (February 24, 2022). I spent much of the last two days laboriously typing up a transcript of the interview for those who might read faster than they listen.

      Finally, and for the record, I don’t mind platitude-laden insults, but please try to come up with something that doesn’t sound like a stale, warmed-over combination of Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland, Adam Schiff, and Bomber-John McCain.

      Like

  16. Revisiting Ukraine in 2015
    Victoria Nuland engineered Ukraine’s “regime change” in early 2014 without weighing the likely chaos and consequences, wrote Robert Parry on July 13, 2015.

    By Robert Parry
    Special to Consortium News

    As the Ukrainian army squares off against ultra-right and neo-Nazi militias in the west and violence against ethnic Russians continues in the east, the obvious folly of the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy has come into focus even for many who tried to ignore the facts, or what you might call “the mess that Victoria Nuland made.”

    Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs “Toria” Nuland was the “mastermind” behind the Feb. 22, 2014 “regime change” in Ukraine, plotting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych while convincing the ever-gullible U.S. mainstream media that the coup wasn’t really a coup but a victory for “democracy.”

    To sell this latest neocon-driven “regime change” to the American people, the ugliness of the coup-makers had to be systematically airbrushed, particularly the key role of neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalists from the Right Sektor. For the U.S.-organized propaganda campaign to work, the coup-makers had to wear white hats, not brown shirts……………

    https://consortiumnews.com/2022/02/26/robert-parry-the-mess-that-nuland-made/

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great comment Ray. Most Americans will not have heard – and those who have likely do not care – that twice when the Ukrainian people elected a president who was in favor of maintaining good relations with its Russian neighbor the US intervened and overthrew the government. First time in the 2004-5 “Orange Revolution” and then the fateful 2014 “Maidan” revolt, which was explicitly and overtly supported by senior US government officials on the ground in Kiev including Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland and the late neocon warmonger Sen. John McCain.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. “The Western media is now focusing attention on Russia’s invasion. Built into that focus is a tacit remaking of history.

    US Neocons want history to begin with the invasion. All else that went before is to be swept into Orwell’s “memory hole”.

    That means forgetting the injuries and threats the US has heaped on Russia for thirty years; forgetting how the US helped loot Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall, forgetting the promise made not to expand NATO eastward, forgetting the threat posed by putting missile defense and launch capabilities close to Russia’s borders, and forgetting the fateful 2014 US sponsored coup in Ukraine.”

    https://original.antiwar.com/Thomas_Palley/2022/02/25/ukraine-what-will-be-done-and-what-should-be-done/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. As a historian, it disturbs me that media coverage seems to start with the invasion, as if nothing of consequence happened before Putin’s decision to invade.

      Those who don’t know history are condemned to be easily duped and manipulated.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Someone at the Moon of Alabama blog posted the following excerpt from Professor Michael Brennan. Excellent. No cheap moralizing. Just reality. It pretty much explains the now unfolding events in “Ukraine.”

    [begin extended quote]

    Context and background are everything in understanding the Russian attack. Look at the process of decision as dynamic over time rather than sharply focused in the immediate.

    Putin is not a dictator. He cannot simply choose a course of action and give commands a la Stalin. Never has been. He has great authority; yet, at the same time, he represents the underlying convictions, thoughts and interests of powerful people in and around the government. Most of them were seated in that semicircle at St. Catherine’s Hall for the televised meeting of the Russian Security Council.

    They, along with most all of Russia’s political cum economic class, have felt deeply humiliated by what they see as the shabby, patronizing treatment they have received from the West – led by a crass America – since 1991. The insults in word and action have hit them nonstop since 2014, reaching a crescendo from March 2021 onward. They have known full well that the aim is to denature Russia as a political cum diplomatic power in Europe – and beyond. The West want it neutralized and marginalized so that the U.S. can remain master of Europe as it prepares for a titanic struggle with China for global supremacy. Unfettered access to Russia’s wealth of natural resources is a bonus.

    Concrete security concern have sharpened progressively as Washington has broken a series of major arms control agreements, expanded NATO, connived to replace friendly governments with American proxies via the notorious “color revolutions,” sought to undercut energy ties with European states, and deployed advanced weapons systems (above all, the anti-missile systems in Poland and Rumania able to be converted into offensive missile launchers), and via its ‘rules-based international order’ sloganeering and democracy vs autocracy campaign make explicit its intention to do everything possible to rig the game of world politics in its favor.

    Ukraine, they believe, became the occasion (not the cause) to pin down a Russia whose growing strength discomforted and annoyed the Americans. It represented a conscious decision of the Biden administration under the sway of reborn Cold Warriors in State, the NSC, the CIA and the Pentagon. The triumph of their will in a government bereft of contrary voices and led by a weak, manipulable President was a sure thing. The Ukraine anti-Russia operation began in March with the Washington encouraged build-up of Ukrainian military forces along the Donbass Line, delivery of large quantities of arms including Javelin anti-armor weapons, renewed talk of heavy economic sanctions, and a chorus of shrill rhetoric from all quarters in Washington and Brussels.

    The American objective of putting Russia back in its subordinate place was taken as an obvious given by the Kremlin. Uncertainty existed on the question of what initiatives on the ground to expect: a major assault on the Donbass or provocative acts to force a Russian reaction that could be used as a pretext for imposing sanctions (above all, the canceling of NORDSTROM II).

    It is likely that senior policymakers in Washington themselves had not made a definitive judgment on the issue. Divisions among individual players and a wavering President could very well left have important matters unresolved within a soft, cloudy consensus. There was visible evidence of this in the repeated juxtaposition, and alternation, of bellicose rhetoric and Biden’s mollifying words in public and the “let’s not go to war” telephone conversations he initiated to Putin and reaffirmed at their Geneva Summit.

    In Moscow, too, there likely were differences of opinion – or, more accurately, of emphasis. They surely led to some divergences over what actions Russia should take. It is essential to bear in mind that Putin himself seems to have been closer to the dovish end of the continuum among Security Council members on the overarching issue of how to deal with the U.S., with the West, and particularly Ukraine. One could imagine a gradual hardening of thinking among all individuals as tensions mounted and frustrations grew in the Kremlin. A Putin, who might have been trying to fashion an approach that reconciled his own wariness about military confrontation with genuine worry about the threats to Russian security presented by Washington’s hard-line, might have found himself in a quandary. I suspect that American officials have very little understanding of this reality or appreciate its implications.

    That could explain the promulgation of that strange position paper/demarche wherein he laid out in detail a list of demands for a drastic revision of Europe’s security configuration punctuated by an emphasis on time urgency. That is to say, a Hail Mary to stay the hand of a growing consensus that the time had come for Russia to hit back at the West in the Ukraine. Two things perhaps tipped Putin’s thinking into accepting the necessity of doing what he did. One was the West’s unbending and unaccommodating response. The other, was the Ukrainians’ launching an unprecedented artillery and mortar barrage against the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. Who forced that fateful step? Elements of the Ukraine Army and/or security services? The AZOV brigade and associated parties? Zelensky? With how much encouragement from the CIA and/or the White House?

    Michael Brenner

    [end extended quote]

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  20. Four reports over the past few eventful days from Andrei Raevski, a.k.a., “The Saker,” a Russian military analyst of long experience working, studying, and living in the United States:

    (1) “The collapse of Banderastan: tomorrow will be a crucial day “, The Vineyard of the Saker (February 24, 2022)

    (2) “Russian operation in the Ukraine – end of day 2”, The Vineyard of the Saker (February 25, 2022)

    (3) “Day 3 of the Russian operation in the Ukraine”, The Vineyard of the Saker (February 26, 2022)

    (4) “Day 3 – Western PSYOPs in full overdrive.html”The Vineyard of the Saker (February 26, 2022)

    As the old song says:

    Walk a mile in my shoes
    Just walk a mile in my shoes
    Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
    Walk a mile in my shoes

    It seems to me only intellectually honest for our national leaders to try and discern the reasons why other nations and peoples think and act as they do. Failure to consider the relevant historical context can only lead to what Barbara Tuchman called “The March of Folly.”

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Regarding the present unfolding events in “Ukraine,” four reports/analyses from Gilbert Doctorow, a professional observer of Russian affairs based in Brussels who frequently travels to the Russian Federation and appears on various talk-shows there.

    (1) “Putin recognizes Donbas republics: what comes next?” by Gilbert Doctorow, gilbertdoctorow.com (February 23, 2022)

    (2) “Unjustified and Unprovoked? Russia’s ongoing ‘military operation’ in Ukraine” by Gilbert Doctorow, gilbertdoctorow.com (February 24, 2022)

    (3) “Day Two of the Russian ‘Military Operation’ in Ukraine” by Gilbert Doctorow, gilbertdoctorow.com (February 25, 2022)

    (4) “The Russian Way of War” by Gilbert Doctorow, gilbertdoctorow.com (February 26, 2022)

    Like

  22. Readers of this blog know about the “new Cold War” that’s been promulgated by U.S. think tanks and the Pentagon over the last five years or so involving China as well as Russia. The end of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — the disastrous results of the war on terror — all the lies these wars were started with and prolonged by — left an opening, however slight, for a shift in policy away from colossal military budgets and constant militarization.

    That slight opening is now gone. Russia’s actions, irrespective of their motivation and justification, are being seized upon by the military-industrial-congressional complex as proof that U.S. military budgets must go ever higher. Because, you know, Putin.

    A saying by JFK comes to mind: “We shall be judged more by what we do at home than what we preach abroad.” What we’re doing at home is building more weapons, spending more on the Pentagon, enriching more corporations, at the expense of the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable.

    New Cold War: sometimes our “leaders” do get what they wish for. Too bad it’s not what we want or need.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s articles like this, from today’s New York Times, that drive the “new Cold War” narrative. Almost gushing nostalgia here:

      Politics
      Biden and Putin, Children of the Cold War, Face Off in New Conflict

      By Peter Baker
      Not since John F. Kennedy and Nikita S. Khrushchev confronted each other over Berlin and Cuba have an American president and Russian leader gone eyeball to eyeball in quite such a dramatic fashion.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. (1) From a recently repatriated expatriate Russian engineer and author who witnessed both the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 the resurgence of the Russian Federation over the past thirty years:

    “The day Russia’s patience ran out” by Dmitry Orlov, The Vinyard of the Saker (February 22, 2022)

    (2) Another knowledgeable observer of Russian affairs:

    “RUSSIA UKRAINE 1” by Patrick Armstrong, Russia Observer (February 25, 2022)

    And two more — see also the longer interview linked-to above — by Scott Ritter:

    (3) “America couldn’t defend Ukraine even if it wanted to” by Scott Ritter, RT.com (January 27, 2022)

    (4) https://www.rt.com/op-ed/547526-us-power-biden-ukraine/“>”Kiev’s government literally has no cards to play – Scott Ritter on Donbass escalation”, RT Moscow / Scott Ritter, RT.com (January 27, 2022)

    That doesn’t quite exhaust everything that I’ve read and taken note of over the past several days, but it ought to do for anyone seriously interested in understanding what the Russian Federation has done and why it has done it.

    Oh, yes — and before I forget — for contrast with how knowledgeable persons view Russia and its actions, I keep this headline from CNN around — I won’t bother linking to it — as a reminder of what the Russians have to deal with in respect to the moronic cretins who infest America’s corporate/government/military/media “elites.” Really. As Jack Paar used to say on the original Tonight show: “I kid you not.” Weep for our nation, children. All hope has abandoned us:

    The West has a rare window to put Putin in his place,” analysis by Luke McGee, CNN (January 9, 2022)

    Liked by 1 person

  24. On a lighter note, I caught this comment from someone on Russian military analyst Andrei Maryanov’s blog, Reminiscence of the Future :

    “Gas and oil revenues are super surplus right now. The West is paying for the Russian operation.
    Even the US is buying oil, gas and diesel from Russia in record amounts.
    Joe Biden is bankrolling Shoigu.”

    This begs for condensation into a Japanese Haiku:

    Suicide Sedative

    Gas and Oil are up
    Biden bankrolls Shoigu
    Sanctions from Heaven

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2022

    Like

    1. This thing keeps growing. Woke up this morning with additional stanzas roiling my addled brain:

      Suicide Sedative

      Less gas for Europe
      U.S. buys more Gas and Oil
      From “evil” Russians

      Gas and Oil are up
      Biden bankrolls Shoigu
      Sanctions from Heaven

      U.S. plays trump card
      Far too early in the game
      “Is that all you’ve got?”

      Cut off your own dick
      Then tell Russians what you’ll do
      With your rainbow flag

      Hey! Stop that laughing!
      Don’t you know that you should fear
      Nazis in Ukraine?

      Some day our “weapons”
      Will arrive to turn the tide
      At the next full moon

      “Training” their “army”
      Like we did in Vietnam
      Where’d those “trainers” go?

      Thirty years have passed
      Daring Russians to fight back
      Over in a week

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2022

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  25. From German Lopez at the New York Times, under the title “Putin vs. Democracy.” I think this summarizes the mainstream view of events, setting up a “New Cold War.” Extended excerpt follows:

    A global retreat
    Democracy has been on the decline worldwide for more than 15 years. One major reason is the growing ruthlessness of authoritarian leaders, particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin. Today, I will walk through how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fits into the broader geopolitical trends of the past decade and a half.

    Putin has spent more than two decades consolidating power, rebuilding Russia’s military and weakening his enemies. He has repeatedly undermined democratic movements and popular uprisings, including those in Syria and Belarus. He has meddled in Western elections. And he has deployed Russian troops to enforce his will, including in Georgia and Crimea.

    The invasion of Ukraine — the largest war in Europe since World War II — is a significant escalation of this behavior. The country’s fall would mark a violent end to one of the world’s democracies.

    Maneuvers like Putin’s, as well as insufficient pushback from other governments, have fostered this global democratic decline, experts say. Just one in five people now live in countries designated as “free,” down from nearly one in two in 2005, a new report from Freedom House found.

    The invasion of Ukraine is “a taste of what a world without checks on antidemocratic behavior would look like,” Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House, told me. He remains hopeful that democracies will rally to impose serious penalties on Russia, signaling that they will not tolerate Putin’s behavior. But, he warned, “if they don’t, this is going to set the world back in a major way — not just for democracy, but for the rule of law.”

    A war on democracies
    The collapse of the Soviet Union more than three decades ago gave birth to democracies across Eastern Europe — and to Putin’s grievances. He once described the Soviet breakup as “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” — a time period that included two world wars and the Holocaust. He has suggested he wants to reverse that collapse.

    Putin’s complaints are less ideological — he is not a communist, and has not ruled like one — and more self-interested: He wants to protect his hold on power as well as further Russia’s global reach, which would increase support for him at home.

    But the effect of his rule has been to undermine democracy globally. After Georgia moved to join NATO, with the support of voters, Russia invaded in 2008 and has meddled in the country’s politics ever since. Russia has worked with autocratic leaders to help crush democracies and protests where Putin believes that his country has security or economic interests, including in Kazakhstan and Venezuela.

    He has also tried to destabilize democracies in the West — by interfering in elections in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, among other nations.

    In Ukraine, Russia’s meddling in the 2004 presidential contest helped spawn protests against corruption and for fair elections, a movement known as the Orange Revolution. In another round of protests a decade later, Ukrainians overthrew a pro-Russian government and replaced it with one closer to Europe and the West.

    Russia responded by invading and annexing Crimea, in southern Ukraine, and by backing separatists in the east, who have fought a grinding war against the Ukrainian government ever since. Now, Putin is trying to seize control of all of Ukraine.

    Unchecked autocrats
    Democracy has also declined globally because democratic leaders have done too little to stand up for themselves, the Freedom House report argued.

    As is now clear, the world’s response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula was not enough to deter Putin from going further. Even the sanctions imposed on Russia after its full assault on Ukraine this week stopped short of maximum punishment, sparing much of the Russian energy sector that Europe’s economy still relies on.

    At the same time, autocratic governments have increasingly worked together, using their collective economic and political power to create a cushion against punishments from other governments. China approved Russian wheat imports this past week, effectively softening the impact of the West’s new sanctions.

    Authoritarians have also abandoned pretenses of democratic norms. Putin, as well as rulers in Nicaragua, Venezuela and elsewhere, once tried to at least maintain the appearance of free and fair elections. But now they regularly jail political opponents, denying the opposition the ability to campaign.

    All of these moves have shown other leaders with authoritarian aspirations what they can do as the liberal democratic order loses its sway.

    In that context, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is part of a broader test: whether the global erosion of democracy will continue unchecked.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “democracy.” Ukraine tried that. Victoria Nuland didn’t like who got elected. So she spent 5 billion U.S. dollars bankrolling some nazi thugs to set up a U.S. directed “democracy” by coup d’etat. “democracy.” What a load of crap.

      From George Orwell’s classic essay, “Politics and the English Language:

      “In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.”

      Now, precisely whom have you heard utter this world-like mouth noise “democracy”? And what, actually, do they mean by it, if anything? And, of course, a cursory history of how many actual democracies this or that country has violently overthrown can aid considerably in judging the “worth” of that “word” as well as the “veracity” of the person incessantly spewing forth this meaningless noise.

      Like

      1. I’d like to think “democracy” is a government that answers to the people, where the people’s needs are met by officials who do their best to represent the people in aggregate.

        By that loose definition, America is not a democracy.

        It looks like America’s “choice” for president in 2024 will be 82-year-old Joe Biden, representing the right, against 78-year-old Donald Trump, representing the far right. If that’s the best “democracy” can do, maybe we need to pick presidents at random. Or find a decent comedian like Ukraine did.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It seems unfair and UN-Democratic, the current Imperial Power (US) in the mould of the 1st Great Imperial Economic-Military Superpower, Biblical Babylon, now known as Iraq, believing it has some “Divine Mandate” or sense of “Exceptionalism” to conform this world to it’s image and value system.
          I can’t vote for the right person for such an important position of Power. I don’t have a say in who will lead that world Power affecting all Nations and Generations.
          This is profoundly undemocratic and needs to change. Regime Change for this US world “system!”

          There is no True Democracy in this world yet, as defined in the Book, not the abbreviated online definition in the Merrium-Webster Website.

          The Book defines “Democracy” by these words, ideas and images.
          1. A THEORY of governance which, in it’s purest form, holds that the State should be controlled by ALL THE PEOPLE, each sharing EQUALLY in PRIVILEGES, DUTIES and RESPONSIBILITIES, and EACH PARTICIPATING in PERSON in the government, as in the
          CITY-STATES of ancient Greece.
          IN practice, CONTROL is vested in elective officers as Representatives who may be upheld or removed by THE PEOPLE.
          MASS of the people.
          3. POLITICAL, LEGAL, or SOCIAL EQUALITY

          WE have none of that in reality, as the people are slowly waking up from a deep sleep to understand we have a Plutocracy/Oligarchy Pyramid system with the rich getting richer at the top, and only a delusional, pseudo Democracy for the MASSES at the bottom in the False American Dream.

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  26. Bill, you probably know Andrew Bacevich.

    With the massive anti-Russia/Putin Propaganda effort like I’ve never seen before with every imaginable negative adjective to characterize Putin, I’m surprised The Boston Globe published his Opinion piece.

    ‘US can’t absolve itself of responsibility for Putin’s Ukraine invasion’
    The conflict renders a judgment on post-Cold War US policy. That policy has now culminated in a massive diplomatic failure.

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/02/25/opinion/us-cant-absolve-itself-responsibility-putins-ukraine-invasion/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. Bacevich, as usual, has guts for saying this: “By casually meddling in Ukrainian politics in recent years, the United States has effectively incited Russia to undertake its reckless invasion. Putin richly deserves the opprobrium currently being heaped on him. But US policy has been both careless and irresponsible.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I dispute Professor Bacevich’s knee-jerk use of the term “reckless” as a pejorative description of the Russian Federation’s long-considered — and carefully prepared — “military-technical” intervention. The Russian Federation, at all levels of its administrative institutions, has carefully and studiously thought through and evaluated various plans of action directed towards the open and publicly enunciated goal of demilitarizing and de-nazifying “Ukraine.” The Russians, for their part, couldn’t give a damn what “Western” supporters of nazis think about Russia ridding Russia’s borders of NATO military threats and avowedly nazi thugs shelling two eastern oblasts (provinces) for eight years. Anyone who can “heap opprobrium” on exterminators of NATO (meaning, Nefarious American Terrorist Operation) and/or real, self-described, unapolgetic nazis seriously needs to reconsider what they could possibly mean by “opprobrium.”

        However, I do agree with Professor Bacevich’s use of the adjectives “careless” and “irresponsible” as descriptive of U.S. (and UK/NATO-EU) policy. And I would add “lazy,” “venal,” “pompous,” “self-righteous,” “stupid,” and “self-destructive” to those descriptive terms.

        Finally, I come back to what the professional boxer Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) said when the U.S. government tried to draft him into fighting and killing Asian peasants who simply wanted to run their own countries the way they chose:

        I ain’t got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger’

        Which sentiment echoed a similar feeling expressed in Homer’s Iliad, one of the most ancient and foundational works of “Western” literature:

        What cause have I to war at thy decree?
        The distant Trojans never injured me
        .”

        I felt the same way back in the mid 1960s about the Vietnamese (not one of whom had I ever met) ostensibly”threatening” me and my country’s “democracy.” And I feel the same way now about gasbag-blathering Americans and Europeans shrieking in hysterical panic about Russians “threatening” something or other somewhere. The Russians lost 22+ million people fighting and defeating German nazis during WWII. To think that they would go on indefinitely tolerating the U.S. and NATO and EU arming, training, and encouraging rabidly Russophobic Ukrainian nazis on Russia’s own borders, simply beggars human understanding.

        And Professor Bacevich’s milquetoast choice of language — pretty much caving in to the rampant hysteria-narrative of the moment — doesn’t exactly capture the reality on the ground, either in nazi-infested “Ukraine” or in hapless, browbeaten “Western” Europe. Only four days into the Russian “military-technical means” promised — quite some time ago — by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the empty noises and tedious platitudes emanating from the U.S., NATO, or EU have become — really — quite embarrassing in their impotence.

        Welcome, Corporate-Imperial “West,” to your own well-deserved irrelevance. Now, please, STFU.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sources and accounts agree there are militant, far-right, neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine. The best known is the Azov Battalion, which has “hundreds” of fighters and “thousands” of supporters.

          I much prefer the term neo-Nazi to Nazis, reserving the latter to the Third Reich and Germany.

          Also, I would imagine there are more than a few Russian soldiers who’d echo the Iliad: “What cause have I to war at thy decree?/ The Ukrainian people have never injured me.”

          Such is the case with all wars. Soldiers wonder what the hell they’re risking their lives for; the cause is often unjust, or unclear, and clearly disconnected from their lives.

          War is war. It’s hideous and horrible, no matter how “carefully prepared.”

          Liked by 1 person

    2. We had a brief exchange on the subject Today. He’s a man of few words except for his articles.

      Thank you for this kind note, Ray.
      Andrew Bacevich

      From: ray032 ray032
      Sent: Sunday, February 27, 2022 4:35 AM
      To: Bacevich, Andrew J
      Subject: Armageddon/WWIII

      Good Day Andrew,

      I was so pleased to read your Opinion piece in The Boston Globe this morning. With the prevailing pressure and Propaganda not to dissent from the enhanced anti-Putin demonization, I’m somewhat surprised they even published it. You don’t see many dissenting opinions with the vetted Experts on TV in their unanimous anti-Putin vitriol having so many SINS OF OMISSION in presenting the whole Truth.

      Knowing you like to keep it short, you might appreciate this answer to Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas as sent to PM Trudeau.

      Regards with Peace and Blessing,

      Ray
      Ottawa-Hull, CanaDa

      Like

  27. I had never heard of the author of this article until I was directed to it by Glenn Greenwald. It’s the best look at the situation regarding Russia/Ukraine/US/NATO that I have seen anywhere. I’m signing up to hear more from him.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. My message sent this morning to Senators John Kennedy(R), Jeff Merkley(D), Jon Ossoff(D), Mike Rounds(R), & Roger Wicker(R)
    Nothing more to lose by trying. I don’t expect any replies.

    Honourable Senators,

    Of the 11 Senators who replied to the Message, ‘Signs Of The Times’ concerning the US-Russia Tug of War over Ukraine sent the 1st week of this month, you are the only ones who replied using a normal email account, and not the restrictive do not reply Senate Office email systems.

    I can only hope and pray you will form an unshakable, unbeatable bi-partisan Nucleus, restoring Sanity to a Senate that is embarked on fulfilling the spirit of this letter, ‘You enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in that way: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and FEW THERE BE that find it.’

    You are all aware of my replies to Senators Feinstein and Cornyn to the same Message.

    Long before this Crisis, I contacted the Chaplains of the House and Senate suggesting it might be more effective citing verses from the awesome, Common Sense speeches of the Last Real Commander-in-Chief, General-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, than quoting Biblical verses. They are more immediate and critical to understand at this Juncture of Human History.

    Within 100 Days of assuming the Presidency, the General, who knew War is Hell, gave a most enlightened Political Vision known as the Cross of Iron speech.

    In it, he stated his Administration would follow these 5 Principles in conducting US Foreign Policy,

    1st: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy — for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.
    2nd: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation — but only in effective cooperation with fellow nations.
    3rd: Every nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.
    4th: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.
    5th: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments — but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

    Unfortunately, he abandoned Principles 3 & 4 presiding over the CIA regime change of the Democratically elected government of Iran just 4 months later, the reverberations of which are still being felt in Today’s World after 69 years.

    The greatest and DANGEROUS US government/MSM Propagandist SIN OF OMISSION is being in denial of the US orchestrated 2014 Coup/regime change of the Russian friendly government, the majority Russian speaking Ukrainians in the East and Crimea VOTED for, installing the Neo-Nazi anti-Russian government headed by the Man US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught on tape saying she wanted even BEFORE the regime change, leading to the peril this World faces Today.

    Those Russian speaking Ukrainians had no Legal or Moral obligation to passively accept that 2014 US Coup, precipitating the 8 year Ukraine Civil War.
    Like Pontius Pilate, the US consistently washes it’s hands of any responsibility, refusing to face the consequences of it’s actions, having the delusional belief in it’s own indispensable exceptionalism.

    General-President Eisenhower continued,

    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
    This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
    The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
    It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
    It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
    It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

    This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.
    This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a CROSS OF IRON. These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953, NOW 2022.
    This was when the US DoD Budget was $60 BILLION, now inflated to $788 BILLION.

    Maybe he felt he had to Atone for violating his own 1953 Principles in his WARNING of the DANGERS of an unfettered Military-Industrial Complex upon retiring after 8 years as President.

    “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plow shares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defence; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defence establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

    This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military-Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

    Regards with Peace and Blessing

    RayJC
    Ottawa-Hull, CanaDa

    Like

  29. Where are all the voices of Reason, Truth and Justice being shut out of the US controlled narrative?

    The US tells Ukrainians they’re on their own, but NATO will supply all the Taxpayer funded weapons to fight a battle all Western “Experts” say Ukraine hasn’t a chance of winning against Russia.

    US/Western Propaganda romanticizes the Ukrainian resistance, not recognizing they are only the Sacrificial lambs of the US in it’s continuous War with Russia since the end of WWII.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I really admired Justin Trudeau’s father, but his son does not have the clear Vision and fortitude of his father.

    My replied to his tweet, “Justin Trudeau @JustinTrudeau
    Feb 26
    Officiel du gouvernement – Canada
    Russia’s actions cannot – and will not – be tolerated. I spoke about that with Prime Minister @NicolaeCiuca
    today, and I praised Romania’s efforts in welcoming more than 25,000 Ukrainians over the last two days. We also spoke about measures to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank.

    Ray Joseph Cormier @RayJC_Com
    ·Replying to @JustinTrudeau and @NicolaeCiuca
    The illegal US invasion and bombing of Iraq was tolerated. The 2014 US orchestrated Coup/regime change of the Elected Russian friendly government the majority Russian speaking Ukrainians VOTED for was tolerated. NATO illegally destroying Yugoslavia in 1992 was tolerated Hypocrite

    Like

    1. I’m sure Putin and Russia felt more secure when the US abandoned the ABM treaty in 2001 so it could place it’s anti-missile missiles in Poland and Roumania aimed at Russia and giving NATO 1st Strike capability minutes away from Moscow.

      US Propaganda convinces Americans and NATO that was a Peaceful move, and not aggressive as Russia legitimately sees it.

      Like

  31. I wrote an article last week on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that is getting A LOT of play, but I do concede that I did not expect the inevitable showdown over that country to happen this soon. Mea culpa.

    As I write this, negotiations are underway between Russian and Ukrainian representatives on the Ukrainian-Belarussian border. Will something come out of it? Who knows? Will there be a ceasefire? Possibly. If there is one, expect it to be broken right away. I am sure that much of these talks will centre around aid for civilians trapped in places like Kiev, Kharkov, Mariupol, and elsewhere. I am also certain that the subject of peacekeepers will be brought up. I am not going to speculate, but I have a very good understanding of how these things play out in light of the hundreds of negotiated ceasefires during the wars in the ex-YU.

    The facts on the ground indicate that the Ukrainian state is in deep trouble. Russian forces are beginning to move in pincer formation throughout the south and east of the country (and Kiev as well), as Ukrainian armed units are now tiring out. More Russian reinforcements are on the way.

    Western military support for Ukraine is at present limited to supplies of arms, trainers/advisors, and intel. Biden has clearly and repeatedly stated that they will not intervene on the ground with their own forces. At least not de jure, as western governments are now permitting ‘volunteers’ to flood the war zone. This could be “Stealth NATO” for all we know.

    What we DO know is that the USA has been threatening a long, drawn out guerrilla war against Russia on Ukrainian soil, akin to 1980s Afghanistan. They have already flooded the country with arms (and shipments are only going to get larger). The USA has recognized that Ukrainian forces are no match in the open field against the Russians, and that they will lose the war. What they seek to do is to bleed Russia as much as possible by way of an insurgency, while hammering it economically at the same time. The end game is regime change in Moscow, to bring Russia back to the 1990s, when western financial interests stole the country’s natural wealth thanks to assists from Yeltsin the Drunk and his oligarchic thieves…………….

    https://niccolo.substack.com/p/saturday-commentary-and-review-75

    Like

  32. I don’t listen to the NATO dominated TV propaganda, as it was usually on in the background constantly. My computer is in my large kitchen. I commentated Daily in The Washington Post but haven’t been as regular since it’s all the same brainwashed voices from the ongoing US War with Russia since the end of WWII.

    For the few times I did watch the Canadian NATO Propaganda mirroring US NATO Propaganda, I haven’t seen a Russian report on the ground fighting, only Ukrainian reports.

    I may have missed something, but even with the most blatant US propaganda I have not seen any reports of Russian bombs doing anything close in Ukraine like what US bombs did in the 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq in violation of International Law.

    US Propagandists say outside of the Russian “invasion” of Crimea in 2014, which is a lie in itself, this is the 1st European War since WWII. What kind of invasion is it when no one is killed, compared to the MILLIONS killed by US Wars since WWII?

    That’s a lie. NATO destroyed Yugoslavia, Russia Ally in Europe in 1992, the year after the collapse of the Soviet Union when there was no longer any Opposition to NATO in Europe, in violation of International Law. Not a mention of those Historical Facts with so many SINS of OMISSION in reporting to manipulate the Public mindset in Western Propaganda. That’s when you know it’s WAR PROPAGANDA.

    US ILLEGAL bombing of Iraq in 2003: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxEjSr6rYXU
    ILLEGAL NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1992: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV0m7abAJUA

    Like

  33. Now that Europe and the West openly admit their Economic Sanctions on Russia are designed to destroy the Russian Economy by Economic Sanctions instead of NATO bombs, will his “nuclear option” be to turn off Nordstream I and all oil and gas to Europe through Ukraine pipelines?

    What would happen then?

    Who could endure material privation more and longer with both Economies crashed, Russians or materially rich pampered and comfortable Europeans?

    Like

  34. Sorry if I’m monopolizing the page with so much happening in the World Today

    Professor Michael Brenner telling it like it is again. I receive his writing by email so I have to copy and paste it in full.

    ON HUMILIATION
    The Mafia is not known for its creative use of language beyond terms like ‘hitman,’ ‘go to the mattresses,” ‘living with the fishes’ and suchlike. There are, though, a few pithy sayings that carry enduring wisdom. One concerns honor and revenge: ‘If you are going to humiliate someone publicly in a really crass manner, make sure that he doesn’t survive to take his inevitable revenge.” Violate it at your peril. That enduring truth has been demonstrated by Russia’s actions in the Ukraine which, to a great extent – are the culmination of the numerous humiliations that the West, under American instigation, has inflicted on Russia’s rulers and the country as a whole over the past 30 years.

    They have been treated as a sinner sentenced to accept the role of a penitent who clad in sackcloth, marked with ashes, is expected to appear among the nations with head bowed forever. No right to have its own interests, its own security concerns or even its own opinions. Few in the West questioned the viability of such a prescription for a country of 160 million, territorially the biggest in the world, possessing vast resources of critical value to other industrial nations, technologically sophisticated and custodian of 3,000 + nuclear weapons. No mafia don would have been that obtuse. But our rulers are cut from a different cloth even if their strut and conceit often matches that of the capos in important respects.

    This is not to say that Russia’s political class has been bent on revenge for a decade or two – like France after its humiliation by Prussia in 1871, like Germany after its humiliation in 1918-1919, or like ‘Bennie from the Bronx’ beaten up in front of his girlfriend by Al Pacino in Carlito’s Way. Quite the opposite, for almost a decade Boris Yeltsin was content to play Falstaff to any American President who came along just for the sake of being accepted into his company (and allowing himself to be robbed blind in the process – economically and diplomatically). The West nostalgically celebrates the Yeltsin years as the Golden Age of Russian Democracy – an age when life expectancy dropped sharply, when alcoholism rose and mental health declined, when the tanking economy threw millions into poverty, when criminality of every kind ravaged society, when celebrity oligarchs strutted their stuff, when the Presidential chauffeur was the most influential man in the country, and when everyone was free to declaim since nobody else heard him in the din of their own voices. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs – to coin a phrase.

    Vladimir Putin, of course, was made of sterner stuff. He put an end to the buffoonery, successfully took on the Herculean task of reconstituting Russia as a viable state, and presented himself as ruler of an equal sovereign in cultivating relations with his neighbors. In addition, he insisted that the civil rights and culture of Russians stranded in the Near Abroad be respected.

    Still, he gave no sign by word or deed that he contemplated using coercive means to restore the integration of Russian and Ukraine that had existed for more than 300 years. True, he opposed Western attempts to sever the ties between the two by incorporating Ukraine into their collective institutions – most notably the NATO declaration of 2008 stating that Ukraine (along with Georgia) were in the alliance’s antechamber being readied for entrance. Putin’s restraint contrasted with the audacity of Washington and its European subordinates who instigated the Maidan coup toppling the democratically elected President and promoting an American puppet in his place. In effect, the United States has been Ukraine’s overseer ever since – a sort of absentee landlord.

    Putin’s views about the preferred principles of organization and conduct that should govern inter-state relations have been elaborated in a series of speeches and articles over the years. The picture it draws is far different from the cartoonish distortion created and disseminated in the West. It clearly delineates ways and means to constrain and limit the element of conflict, above all military conflict, the requirement for rules-of-the-road that should serve as the systems software, the necessity of recognizing that the future will be more multipolar – yet more multilateral – than it has been since 1991. At the same time, he stresses that every state has its legitimate national interests and the right to promote them as a sovereign entity so long as it does not endanger world peace and stability. Russia has that right on an equal basis with every other state. It also has the right to order its public life as it deems best suits its circumstances.

    Western leaders, and political class generally, have not accepted those propositions. Nor have they ever shown a modicum of interest in accepting Moscow’s repeated, open invitation to discuss them. Rather, every attempt by Russia to act in accordance with that logic has been viewed through a glass darkly – interpreted as confirmation of Russia as an outlaw state whose dictatorial leader is bent on restoring a malign Russian influence dedicated to undermining the good works of the Western democracies.

    This attitude has progressively lowered the bar on accusation and insult directed at Russia and Putin personally. For Hillary Clinton he was “a new Hitler” as far back as 2016, for Joe Biden he was a ‘killer,’ for Congress members a Satan using a bag of diabolical instruments to corrupt and destroy American democracy. For all of them, a tyrant turning Russia back to the political dark ages after the glowing democratic spring of the Yeltsin years, an assassin – albeit an inept one whose targeted victims somehow survived in unnatural numbers, for the Pentagon a growing menace who moved rapidly up the enemies list – displacing Islamic terrorism by 2017 and vying with China for the top spot ever since.

    The obsession with Putin the Evil spread as Washington pushed its allies hard to join in the denunciation. It became the fashion. The grossness of their personal attacks on Putin matched the ever-expanding scope of the accusations. In recent years, no election could be held in Europe without the levelling of charges that the Kremlin was ‘interfering’ by some unspecified means or other – and at Putin’s personal direction. The absence of evidence was irrelevant. Russia became the pinata there to be bashed whenever one felt the urge or saw a domestic political advantage.

    None of the above discussion is meant to suggest that Russia’s foreign policy, in particular the invasion of Ukraine, can be personalized or reduced to the level of feelings and emotions. Putin himself constantly displays an exceptional emotional and intellectual discipline. Putin is not a ‘Benny from the Bronx.’ He does not act on impulse nor does he allow his judgment to be clouded by considerations of a purely individual nature. Russia had tangible grounds for concerns about the implications of developments in Ukraine and trends in Eastern Europe generally that jeopardized the country’s security interests. The thinking of Putin and his associates about how to deal with them expressed carefully thought-out analyses and strategies – as surely did the eventual decision to take military action.

    Revenge per se was less significant than what Western treatment of Russia since 1991 augured for the future. In other words, the constant reinforcement of hostile images and intentions, as felt by Moscow, via the steady barrage of attacks and accusations colored the way that Russian leaders assayed the prospects for alleviating the threats they saw in Western actions – including their conduct throughout 2022.

    Conclusion
    The West had a variety of options for addressing the Russia question after 1991. One was to take advantage of its weakness to the fullest and to treat the country as a second-class nation in the American directed world system. That was the strategy we chose. It inescapably meant humiliation. What we didn’t recognize is that in doing so we were planting the seeds of future hostility. Over the years, every sign of a Russia rising from the ashes fed latent, if inchoate, fears of the bear coming out of hibernation. Instead of recognizing that the post-Yeltsin political elite resented the decade of disparagement and humiliation, and taking steps to compensate for it (e.g. carving out a place for Russia in Europe’s post-Cold War political configuration), anxiety led the West down the exact opposite course. Putin’s Russia was painted in ever more frightening caricatures while shunning became the order of the day.

    Demonstrations of Russia’s growing self-confidence, and unwillingness to be pushed around – as in southern Ossetia in 2008 and then more stunningly in Syria in 2015, quickly evoked all the old Cold War images and set the pre-primed alarm bells ringing. Ignorance of Russian realities, coupled with the demonization of Putin whose actual thoughts didn’t interest them, Western leaders and pundits fretted that their master plan for an American overseen global system was being jeopardized. Now from the old enemy – Russia, and the new enemy – China. One set of anxieties reinforces the other.

    Back in the 1990s, the humiliation of Russia logically could have been followed by the traditional mafia act of termination. Forestall any form of retaliation by killing off the victim. Of course, it is a lot harder to liquidate a country than an individual and his close associates. It has been done, though. Think of Rome razing Carthage. After victory in the Second Punic War, the Romans were in a position to act on Cato’s admonition: “Carthage must die !” Legend has it that they sowed the fields with salt. That, of course, is nonsense – the Romans were not that dumb. The Carthogenian lands became one of the empire’s two great granaries. They reconstituted the state and put in place a security apparatus that served their practical interests. (Rome didn’t even have to repopulate the place since most of the inhabitants were partially ‘Punicized’ ethnic Berbers who gradually became partially Romanized Berbers. As, today, Maghrebis are Arabized Berbers for the most part). Roman pragmatism, in this respect, can be contrasted with Germany’s readiness to cut itself off from vitally needed Russian natural gas supplies; admittedly, the Romans were not obeying orders from a United States that doesn’t rely on energy resources from Russia.

    Genghis Khan and the Golden Horde, too, acted in accordance with their version of the liquidation strategy. It worked. The Abbasid dynasty and all the other states they destroyed never were in a position to wreak revenge. The Mongols and their Turkic auxiliaries avoided retribution and suffering at the vengeful hands of the countries they ravaged.

    There are other methods as well for permanently eliminating a foe. Genocide is the most extreme – as implemented by Belgium in the Congo, the Germans in Namibia and the European occupiers of North America. Dismemberment is another. The tripartite division and annexation of Poland is the outstanding example. The total breakup of Ottoman Turkey as envisaged at Versailles is another.

    A few people in Washington did promote the idea of executing a similar strategy against the Soviet Union/Russia. Beyond enlarging NATO so as to render prospects for a Russian revival as a European power nugatory, they envisaged breaking up the country into a number of fragmented parts. The Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski is the best known of these radical advocates of territorial mutilation. Washington’s unrelenting efforts to build an permanent wall between Ukraine and Russia grows out of this soil; so, too, assiduous efforts to provide aid and comfort to anti-Russian elements in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan (as recent events in the last three signify).

    The Western approach toward post-Soviet Russia which entailed marginalization and attendant humiliation was favored for a number of reasons, as summarized above. We should add that there was an additional, facilitating factor at work. The chosen strategy was much easier to implement – intellectually and diplomatically. Its simplicity appealed to Western leaders sorely lacking in the attributes of astute statesmanship. That disability skews their attitudes and policies to this day.

    Michael Brenner
    mbren@pitt.edu

    Like

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