Ilargi: The Hubris Circus

Yves here. The writing is delicious. But one thing that is frustrating (and of course quite deliberate) in reading the Western media account of the standoff in Ukraine is that they airbrush out how the West stoked this conflict and can hardly be surprised that Putin finally felt compelled to respond.

Bush the Senior cut a deal with Gorbachev to facilitate the peaceful unwind of the USSR, which was that NATO would not move into former Warsaw Pact states. The Clinton Administration broke the pact, something that even dedicated cold warrior George Kennan regarded as a disastrous error. Destabilizing Ukraine, a country that had been part of Russia and is on Russia’s border, was taking the stealth battle against Russia too close to its doorstep. Let us quote Marshall Auerback on this again:

I’ve always had little sympathy for a lot of these Ukrainian nationalists, as they (like the anti-Russian Baltic nationalists) have very unsavory neo-Nazi antecedents.

That aside, it strikes me that it’s FAR more ambiguous than our short-sighted parochial press is indicating. The Ukraine is literally down the middle on this one. Russia has legitimate concerns especially given the way we double-crossed them on the Baltics and other parts of the Warsaw Pact when the Berlin Wall came down.

Russia has legitimate interests in Ukraine, and also far more at stake than we have. Try the following thought experiment: would the United States feel concerned if, say, Canada lurched into chaos, its government fell to a mob, and there was real potential for a breakup of the nation whereby one segment of the country might opt for assistance from outside powers like China in a hostile alliance against the US?

Oh wait, there is a precedent: didn’t the US have a bit of a mini-meltdown on Cuba in 1962?

Now it looks as if things may have reached the horse-trading phase, except the US appears to have the unrealistic expectation of getting Putin to pull troops out of Crimea, when their numbers, if not necessarily their location, are within treaty boundaries. And as pretty much everyone who is not in the Administration reality-distortion sphere understands, the US has played this one badly and does not have much leverage. Which does not rule out the possibility of something stupid happening, particularly given that there are unaffiliated mercenaries on the ground and I would not see it at all impossible that we’d try to foment some sort of small attack (snipers? torching a critical building or infrastructure?) to bait the Russians to respond, then depict them as having thrown the first punch.

Ilargi has a good selection of fresh news stories. Although we ran this in Links yesterday, one of my experts said an article by Robert Parry is the best single piece of analysis he’s seen, so be sure to read it too.

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth

Arguably, the US lost its first PR war over Vietnam. When its young and hopeful started dying on live TV, it was over. Never again, swore spin doctors on all sides of Capitol Hill. Over the past 40-odd years, PR and spin techniques have been substantially refined, and the media – both written and TV -, hard as it may have seemed at the time, have moved much closer to the government’s PR interests. So much so that one can figuratively speaking expect to be burned at the stake for suggesting Edward Snowden is anything like today’s Woodward and Bernstein.

As I was watching John Kerry land in Kiev today, and walk with his insane security detail to places where protesters were shot, only very recently, the lost PR war of 4 decades ago came to mind. G-d knows they’re still trying with all their might, just watch CNN, and read the WaPo, but it looks very much like a lost cause. The WaPo runs a long piece entitled Behind the West’s Miscalculations in Ukraine; the basic tenet is that the US left it to Europe to deal with Ukraine and Yanukovych, and the EU screwed up, so now John Kerry has to step in and they will never leave this kind of important project up the Europeans again.

And granted, the EU probably didn’t do a great job either, but A) who would believe Washington would leave a project of the geopolitical magnitude of Ukraine up to others, and B) the article doesn’t name Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland even once. While it’s very clear from recordings that she was pivotal in bringing “Yats” to power – she about hand-picked him – and keeping “Klitsch” out. If you’re the WaPo, and you run a long story on the “West’s Miscalculations in Ukraine”, but you neglect to mention the number one – public – US operative, then what does that say about Woodward and Bernstein’s legacy? For Peep’s sake, Nuland is walking in Kiev with Kerry on live TV as we speak, but you just ignore her in your article?

The “Haircut In Search Of A Brain” Kerry (as Jim Kunstler adequately christened the Secretary of State) came traveling with the promise of a $1 billion loan to the self-appointed new Kiev government. He better make sure the documents are iron clad, in case “Yats” is outta there in a few weeks time and the next government refuses to pay up. That $1 billion number was what Yanukovych turned his back on in negotiations with Europe last fall, presumably when the absolutely full of themselves EU crew started attaching ever more IMF and World Bank conditions to it, and Putin had offered him $15 billion. Apparently, that took everyone by surprise, including the US as represented by Nuland and ambassador Pyatt. And now Kerry comes a-carrying the same $1 billion again, undoubtedly with more strings attached than a spinning wheel. The entire western circus is just drowning in its own hubris.

NATO holds a special meeting today. So do the EU foreign ministers. And they’re all of them on the phone with the White House all the time. They’re extremely busy looking at bans and sanctions. And what do we have so far? The US has halted military cooperation with Russia. Yeah, that’ll hurt … A secret document in Britain that the Guardian got hold of calls for any sanctions to leave rich Russians’ investments in London real estate alone. That’s got to have made Putin chuckle.

Economic sanctions? I bet you you can’t find anyone who can assure you those would hurt Russia more than it does the west. So count them out. Like what, we’re not going to buy your oil and gas anymore, Vlad? I see estimates of high (60 days) EU gas reserves after a very mild winter across the continent, but so what? Are Germany et al going to risk first banning Russian gas, and then start buying again, in the hope that Putin will have learned his lesson? For all they know, he’ll just double the price. Apart from all that, don’t forget that contracts have been signed, and you can’t just break those. Moscow sells $180 billion worth of mostly oil and gas to Europe, and Europe sells Moscow $120 billion in machines and various other items.

And whatever you may think of Putin, he’s consistent in his message: Russia reserves the right to protect the Russians and ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine. And despite all sorts of denials in western media that these people are under threat, why should they, or we for that matter, feel sure about that? We’ve seen the anti-Russian sentiments. And If you don’t know what that looks like, try 12 Videos Showing Why Ukraine Fears And Stands Up To Radical Nationalists.

Putin also said today that Yanukovych in his view has no political future, something he indicated last week when he refused to meet with the ousted president. However, Putin maintains that Yanukovych is the only legitimate president of Ukraine, even if he fled to save his life. Which was in serious danger, little reason to doubt that. Russia simply doesn’t recognize the “Yats”-led self named new government in Kiev. And that probably means “Yats” won’t be in power long. Kerry and his EU counterparts better prepare for that, and support a next PM, certainly before the May elections, if those take place.

No matter what you think, if you pay attention, it seems undeniable that Putin is winning the PR war on this one. No matter that Angela Merkel and Madeleine Munster Albright (who dug her up?) say he’s delusional and lives in another world, or Obama states he’s on the wrong side of history. Riddle me this: if you want to have a constructive discussion with someone, to what extent does it help to say such things? And what is the person you’re saying it about supposed to make of it? Anyone notice that Putin doesn’t stoop to such levels? It seems that only the losers do.

The best assessment I saw today came from Russian/American journalist Vladimir Pozner on CNN, who said that whatever Putin does, he is always demonized by western media.

Pozner also remarked that there’s no such thing as one Ukraine, there are many different peoples gathered together under one flag. They of course have the same right to self-determination that all peoples are guaranteed under UN law. And if the millions of Russians living in Ukraine feel threatened, and ask Putin for protection, should he deny that request? What would the US do if it had that kind of number of Americans under threat, and requesting aid, somewhere in the world, let alone on its own borders, like Mexico or Canada? I think we know the answer to that one.

Washington and Brussels would live to get a hold of the pipelines under Ukraine soil. And that they haven’t yet is certainly not for lack of trying. But they’re choking on their own hubris circus, and besides they should understand that Russia will never allow them control over those pipelines, because they keep the Russian economy alive.

It looks like a very real possibility that Ukraine will not survive in its present shape and form for much longer. And even though it would first of all be silly to blame that on Russia, even if Ukraine would split according to the wishes of its separate population segments, the pro west western part of the country should never get it into its head to as much as touch the pipelines. Because that would carry with it a serious risk of warfare. It’s time for the westworld to wake up from its hubris induced dreams of what once was. You don’t win a war with a Haircut In Search Of A Brain, not even a PR war. Those days are gone.

US hypocrisy over ‘Russian aggression’ in Ukraine (RT)

As divisions deepen between the eastern and western regions of Ukraine, the backers of the putsch regime in Kiev portray Russia as a reckless aggressor to absolve their own responsibility for engineering the crisis.

While denunciations of Moscow have streamed out of western capitals in recent days over the standoff in Crimea, it should be understood that the political crisis currently unfolding in Ukraine could have been wholly avoided. In attempts to defuse unrest and maintain legal and societal order, ousted President Yanukovich offered remarkable concessions in his proposal to install opposition leaders in top posts in a reshaped government, which was rejected.

Russia expressed readiness to engage in tripartite negotiations with Ukraine and the European Union with the hope that both Moscow and Brussels could play a positive role in Ukraine’s economic recovery, but the EU was unwilling to accept such a proposal. The February-21 agreement was mediated by Russia, France, Germany and Poland and aimed to end the bloodshed in Kiev by reducing presidential powers and establishing a framework for a national unity government, in addition to electoral reform, constitutional changes, and early elections.

There was clearly no shortage of opportunities to ease the polarization of the Ukrainian state through an inclusive political solution, and yet the opposition failed to uphold its responsibilities, resulting in the ouster of Ukraine’s democratically elected leader to the detriment of the country’s political, economic, and societal stability.

As the new self-appointed authorities in Kiev dictate terms and push legislation through a rump parliament, the reluctance of western capitals to address the clearly dubious legitimacy of the new regime suggests that the US and EU condone what is effectively a coup d’état with no constitutional validity.

The leaked phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, is a testament to Washington’s proclivity for foreign meddling and its brazen disregard of Ukraine’s sovereignty. It is no coincidence that Arseniy Yatsenyuk – handpicked by Nuland for the role of prime minister – now occupies that position in Kiev’s new leadership, and much like the reckless agitation strategies employed by the US elsewhere, extremist groups were manipulated to allow the nominal moderates to seize power on Washington’s behalf.

In order to maintain enough momentum to oust Yanukovich, Ukraine’s opposition leaders relied on allies in the radical camp such as fascist groups like Svoboda, Trizub, and the Right Sector. These organizations espouse ethnic hatred against Jews and Russians and promote neo-Nazi ideals. The foot soldiers of these movements laid the groundwork for the putsch by occupying the Maidan [Independence Square], storming government offices, and attacking riot police with Molotov cocktails, firearms, and other lethal weapons.

Members of these far-right groups have been integrated in so-called ‘self-defense forces’ that now patrol Kiev and other major cities, and have been seen wearing symbols that include the Celtic cross, which has replaced the swastika for many modern white-power groups, the wolf-hook SS insignia, and other occult symbols associated with the Third Reich. In his capacity as prime minister, Yatsenyuk has relinquished control of Ukraine’s national security forces to the heads of these radical organizations, who have openly used threatening and bigoted language to incite ethnic hostility, in addition to calls for Russians and Jews to be either destroyed or expelled from Ukraine.

The political ascent of radical forces that represent a minority of Ukrainian public opinion has alarmed minority communities, indicated by Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman’s calls for Kiev’s Jews to flee the country in light of recent political developments. Regions in the east and southeast of Ukraine, where many ethnic Russians and Russian speakers reside, are experiencing the Maidan protests in reverse, as protestors plant Russian flags atop government buildings in rejection of the new leadership in Kiev.

Since seizing power, the putsch regime in Kiev has attempted to pass laws against the official use of Russian and other languages throughout the country, fueling social unrest and secessionist sentiment in some quarters that culturally and linguistically identify themselves as Russian. Fast-moving developments in Kiev and actions taken by the new regime have enflamed the crisis, and any Russian intervention should be seen against the backdrop of eastern and southeastern Ukraine’s rejection of an unconstitutional transfer of power that directly threatens the integrity of the state.

The request by the legitimate President Yanukovich and the government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to bring a limited contingent of Russian forces into the region to ensure the safety of ethnic Russian citizens living within Crimean territory is a reasonable request in light of the chaotic socio-political situation currently facing Ukraine. It should be understood that the movements of Russian forces in Crimea have been entirely lawful, and within legal boundaries established by existing security pacts with Ukraine. For western capitals to threaten sanctions and accuse Russia of a belligerent ‘invasion’ of Ukraine is completely unjustifiable, and tinged with political bias.

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s statements alluding to Russia behaving like a 19th century power by ‘invading’ Ukraine on a trumped up pretext encapsulates Washington’s infinite potential for hypocritical double standards and pathological dishonesty. The egregious violations of international law by the United States and its NATO allies are abundant and need not be evoked to rebut Kerry’s desperate and deceptive accusation.

The outrage expressed by western capitals over the so-called ‘Russian aggression’ is in stark contrast to the restraint showed when Saudi Arabia militarily intervened in Bahrain in 2011 to put down peaceful protests. Recent interventions by France in its former colonies, Mali and the Central African Republic, have roused no international condemnation, despite notable local sentiment in those countries that view Paris as an aggressive actor.

The western stance on when intervention is and isn’t legitimate is highly selective, and for the interventionist countries to use their soft power monopoly to portray Russia as a meddler intent on aggressively undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty is truly a politically loaded and dangerous notion.

The Obama administration, in an attempt to offer President Putin ‘a face-saving way out of the crisis,’ has proposed that European forces take the place of Russian forces in Crimea to guard against threats to the population, knowing full well that Moscow would never accept such an arrangement in a region like Crimea, which shares historic political, economic, cultural, and strategic military ties.

The area in which Kiev’s new authorities need Washington and Brussels most is in dealing with Ukraine’s impending debt crisis, and indications suggest that any economic assistance from the West would come with punishing terms and conditions, structural adjustments and austerity measures that would generate widespread social discontent in the country, and threaten the already shaky legitimacy of the putsch authorities.

Internal divisions within the defense sector and the bureaucracy of Ukraine, such as the prominent defection of the newly appointed head of Ukraine’s navy, Admiral Denis Berezovsky, and other significant figures in support of Crimea’s pro-Russian stance suggests that the anti-Kiev sentiment is deepening and showing no signs of abating.

Residents of the Crimea will take part in a referendum on March 30 to reevaluate the status of the peninsula, and the outcome is widely expected to result in the region seeking greater autonomy from Ukraine with a move towards federalism. If Russian authorities feel that all possibilities for dialogue have been exhausted, and a peacekeeping mission must be launched in earnest, there is every indication that Moscow will act within international law and show maximum restraint.

Just as radical forces have become empowered as a result of western policy elsewhere, the result of the illegitimate putsch in Kiev is that those countries who claim to defend the post-World War II international order have empowered forces that sympathize with, and seek to propagate, fanatical prejudice and extremism, on the false notion that such radical groups will move aside peacefully to allow nominal western-aligned moderates and neoliberals to rule. It hasn’t worked elsewhere, and it won’t work in Ukraine.

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Behind the West’s Miscalculations in Ukraine (Wall Street Journal)

U.S. Had Let Europe Take Lead in Guiding Westward Drift of Former Soviet Republic

The U.S. ambassador was waiting in the office of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in November, anxious for a decision that would cinch closer ties with the West, when he ran across a staffer bearing unwelcome news. “I can’t believe it. I just came from seeing the president. He’s told me we’re going to put the European project on pause,” Mr. Yanukovych’s chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkyn, told U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, according to a person who was present.

The ambassador asked how the president intended to explain the turnabout to 46 million Ukrainians expecting a new pact with the European Union. “I have no idea,” Mr. Lyovochkyn said. “& I don’t think they have a Plan B unless it’s a dacha on the outskirts of Moscow.”

The exchange made clear the U.S. would have to come up with its own Plan B. For the previous two years, the Obama administration had sought to let Europe take the lead in guiding the westward political and economic drift of the former Soviet republic, with the U.S. in a supporting role.

Now, the U.S. has been drawn front and center at a far more difficult time after blood has been shed, battle lines drawn and Russian ire provoked. Locked today in the very East-West standoff the administration had hoped to avoid, “The U.S. is now in the lead,” a senior U.S. official said.

Many European diplomats felt that while the U.S. portrayed itself as acting tough in recent weeks, the Americans had left them alone on the Ukraine issue for far too long, preferring to prioritize Washington’s own ties with Moscow.

The White House decision to rely on Europe to cement ties with Ukraine was shaped by a foreign-policy doctrine meant to give international partners more responsibility for the world’s challenges, U.S. officials said. By divvying up responsibilities, these officials said, the U.S. could focus on issues at home after more than a decade of costly wars abroad. There also was initial skepticism within the Obama administration that Mr. Yanukovych was serious about moving toward Europe. Few administration policy makers believed Ukraine should be an American responsibility because the issue was more important to Russia and Europe than to the U.S.

Strategically, the Obama administration decided to take a back seat to Europe because of concerns that assuming the lead in Ukraine might backfire if Russia saw the European Union pact as a part of a superpower “Great Game” competition.

Even with Russian troops streaming into Crimea, administration officials said Monday it wasn’t clear if the outcome would have been any different had the U.S. taken a bigger role from the start. “The truth is Yanukovych left, and the new government is much more Western leaning. This is not a win for Russia,” a senior administration official said.

Talks between the EU and Ukraine date to the breakup of the Soviet Union, but in recent years they have focused on a sweeping trade and political pact known as the Association Agreement. In 2012, Ukraine and the EU initialed an agreement that, once final, would draw them closer.

The U.S. thought the Ukrainian leader might be bluffing about signing the Europe pact until mid-2013, when Mr. Yanukovych began taking more concrete steps. To bring Mr. Yanukovych closer to the West without provoking Russia, the U.S. and the EU settled on an informal division of labor, U.S. and European officials said. The EU’s job was to get the pact signed by a November 2013 deadline. The U.S. would work with the International Monetary Fund to get Kiev to agree to tough economic reforms.

The last thing the Obama administration wanted was another flashpoint with Russia. Relations between the two countries were already fraught over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and the decision to grant asylum to alleged National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Russia began pressuring Ukraine to resist the pact by reducing Russian imports from Ukraine during the first three months of 2013. Russia followed with a targeted trade war to hurt Ukrainian oligarchs who favored European engagement. Unease was growing within the U.S. administration. The EU wasn’t paying enough attention to Kiev’s economic troubles and pressure from Russia, government analysts privately warned policy makers, U.S. officials said.

Anxiety in Brussels surfaced in September, when Armenia, which had negotiated a similar trade and political deal with the EU, backed out and instead pledged to join the Russian customs union under pressure from Moscow. EU officials saw Armenia, which also faced economic and political pressure from Russia, as a warning sign and stepped up contacts with Ukraine. EU leaders expressed confidence the Ukraine deal would be signed, believing Mr. Yanukovych wouldn’t reverse course after coming this far.

At an October meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Minsk, Mr. Yanukovych made his last strong defense of the European pact. He also had a brief meeting with Mr. Putin that day, and U.S. officials believe that was when a more forceful Russian campaign began.

European divisions over Ukraine, with EU member states worried about antagonizing Russia, weakened the bloc’s ability to influence Kiev’s decisions, some diplomats said. Many member states believed the roadblock to a final agreement wasn’t Russian pressure, but Kiev’s refusal to meet European demands that it release at least temporarily imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to receive medical treatment in Berlin.

U.S. officials believe Russian officials persuaded Mr. Yanukovych to finally reverse course in a series of meetings in Sochi in early November. In one of those meetings, the Russians presented the Ukrainian delegation with a dossier spelling out potential damage to Ukraine’s economy if the government moved ahead with the EU agreement, Mr. Yanukovych’s advisers told U.S. officials. The dossier, U.S. officials said, set out specific financial losses and percentage declines in such sectors as aerospace and defense.

While top European officials were meeting almost weekly with their Ukrainian counterparts, the U.S. had little in the way of high-level contacts. But on Nov. 18, a few days after Ambassador Pyatt’s unexpected conversation with Mr. Lyovochkyn in the presidential office complex in Kiev, Vice President Joe Biden called Mr. Yanukovych, suggesting the U.S. could help counter Mr. Putin’s offer.

Mr. Biden, during a visit to Ukraine in 2009, had gotten along well with Mr. Yanukovych, a senior administration official said. He seemed receptive to Mr. Biden’s blunt style, the official added. Mr. Biden’s message was that the U.S. was prepared to work with both the IMF and the EU “to deliver the support Ukraine needed to get through the economic troubles,” said a senior administration official briefed on the call, which Mr. Biden made while visiting Houston.

The next day, Mr. Yanukovych met Stefan Fuele, a former Czech foreign minister who was the bloc’s point man on the deal, at the presidential palace. As the two officials sipped tea surrounded by top aides, Mr. Yanukovych presented new figures amounting to tens of billions of euros Ukraine would need to see through the reforms embedded in the EU deal. Frustrated by a fumbling translator and determined to convey a clear message to Mr. Yanukovych, Mr. Fuele, who studied in Moscow in the early 1980s, switched into Russian during his response. The EU official rejected the numbers the president was citing and questioned whether Mr. Yanukovych was looking for excuses to justify his reversal. More

Mr. Yanukovych didn’t respond to the appeals. On Nov. 21, the Ukrainian government announced it was putting the EU deal on hold, blaming the EU for failing to offer enough economic support. Even then, some European officials hoped Mr. Yanukovych would make a last-gasp change of heart when he arrived at a summit in the Lithuanian capital on Nov. 28, where he was supposed to have signed the deal. Those hopes were finally dashed that evening in a 75-minute meeting in a sparse meeting room on the ground floor of the Kempinski Hotel in Vilnius’ central square.

Mr. Yanukovych told the EU’s two top officials he could advance the bilateral deal but offered no time frame for signing it, and demanded three-way talks with Russia and the EU in the meantime, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Those were deal-breakers for European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who refused to give Moscow direct say over the fate of a bilateral EU-Ukraine pact.

The meeting ended in farce the next day. After the summit was formally over and faced with growing protests at home over his U-turn on the EU deal, Mr. Yanukovych rushed over to Mr. Van Rompuy and Mr. Barroso to urge them to agree to a Ukrainian drafted joint statement saying talks would continue. It is too late, the EU leaders told him.

U.S. officials said they believed Mr. Yanukovych was looking for the easiest way to raise cash, regardless of the strings attached. EU officials said they weren’t prepared to match the eventual $15 billion loan package from Moscow. U.S. officials tried to convince Mr. Yanukovych it was a bad deal. Moscow offered Ukraine cheap natural gas for three months. After that, prices would rise and Ukraine would be required to buy more, increasing the country’s dependence on Russia.

In his calls, Mr. Biden warned the besieged Ukrainian leader that he was “behind the curve” and putting himself in an “impossible position,” said a senior administration official briefed on the calls. U.S. officials said Mr. Yanukovych was responsive at times, reversing some of the government’s anti-protest laws after one of Mr. Biden’s calls. “But it would always be grudging and halfhearted and too late,” a senior administration official said.

In Washington, Mr. Biden pushed to “wield the threat of sanctions” if Mr. Yanukovych decided to crack down on protesters, a message the vice president conveyed directly in a Dec. 6 call. But the Europeans were torn about sanctions, arguing against the risk of backing the Ukrainian leader into a corner.

U.S. officials said the tipping point came on Jan. 16, when Mr. Yanukovych pushed through laws that effectively banned peaceful protests and outlawed opposition group activities. State Department officials and intelligence analysts warned the White House that Ukraine could be engulfed in civil war.

In the last week of January, at a Situation Room meeting at the White House, Mr. Biden urged the administration to spell out in more detail what financial aid would be provided if Mr. Yanukovych and the opposition cut a deal, said U.S. officials briefed on the session. Mr. Biden was backed by Secretary of State John Kerry, officials said, and President Barack Obama agreed.

A few days later, Mr. Kerry huddled with senior European officials on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich and delivered Mr. Obama’s message: Get money ready, according to officials briefed on the discussions.

In February, EU foreign ministers closed ranks with the U.S., saying they would respond quickly if the situation deteriorated, and, later, agreeing on sanctions. Mr. Kerry was in Paris in the third week of February for meetings when his French, German and Polish counterparts decided to fly to Kiev to try to broker a deal between Mr. Yanukovych and opposition leaders. The U.S. was skeptical, but Mr. Kerry and Mr. Biden agreed to help behind the scenes.

In the end, U.S. officials said, they believed Mr. Yanukovych got cold feet about the power-sharing proposals, and then he disappeared. Many street protesters, meanwhile, resented the U.S. for saying it wanted to work with Mr. Yanukovych instead of booting him. The Obama administration is now preparing sanctions to respond to Russia’s military intervention. “We’re not putting Europe in the lead on this anymore,” a senior U.S. official said.

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Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine (AP)

Accusing the West of encouraging an “unconstitutional coup” in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians there. The Russian leader’s first comments since Ukraine’s fugitive president fled to Russia last month came just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was flying to Kiev to meet with Ukraine’s new government. Putin also declared that Western actions were driving Ukraine onto anarchy and warned that any sanctions the West places on Russia for its actions in Ukraine there will backfire.

Tensions remained high Tuesday in Crimea, with troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. Russia took over the peninsula on Saturday, placing its troops around the peninsula’s ferry, military bases and border posts. Yet world markets seemed to recover from their fright over the situation in Ukraine, clawing back a large chunk of Monday’s stock losses, while oil, gold, wheat and the Japanese yen have given back some of their gains. “Confidence in equity markets has been restored as the standoff between Ukraine and Russia is no longer on red alert,” David Madden, market analyst at IG, said Tuesday.

Speaking from his residence outside Moscow, Putin said he still considers fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych to be Ukraine’s leader and hopes that Russia won’t need to use force in predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine. “We aren’t going to fight the Ukrainian people,” Putin said, adding that the massive maneuvers he ordered last week had been planned earlier and were unrelated to the situation in Ukraine.

Putin also insisted that the Russian military deployment in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. He said Russia has no intentions of annexing Crimea, but insisted that its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum set for this month.

Earlier Tuesday, the Kremlin said Putin had ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s border to return to their bases. The massive military exercise in western Russia involving 150,000 troops, hundreds of tanks and dozens of aircraft was supposed to wrap up anyway, so it was not clear if Putin’s move was an attempt to heed the West’s call to de-escalate the crisis.

Putin accused the West of using Yanukovych’s decision in November to ditch a pact with the 28-nation European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia to encourage the months of protests that drove him from power and putting Ukraine on the verge of breakup.

“We have told them a thousand times: Why are you splitting the country?” he said. Yet he acknowledged that Yanukovych has no political future and Russia gave him shelter only to save his life. Ukraine’s new government wants to put the fugitive leader on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests last month in Kiev.

Ukraine’s dire finances have been a key issue in the protests that drove Yanukovych from power. On Tuesday, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom said it will cancel a price discount on gas it sells to Ukraine. Russia had offered the discount in December following Yanukovych’s decision to ditch a pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Gazprom also said Ukraine owes it $1.5 billion.

The new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea. The Kremlin, which does not recognize the new Ukrainian leadership, insists it made the move in order to protect Russian installations in Ukraine and its citizens living there. [..]

At the United Nations in New York, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said Monday that Russia was entitled to deploy up to 25,000 troops in Crimea under the agreement. Churkin didn’t specify how many Russian troops are now stationed in Crimea, but said “they are acting in a way they consider necessary to protect their facilities and prevent extremist actions.”

Russia is demanding the implementation of a Western-sponsored peace deal that Yanukovych signed with the opposition that set presidential elections for December. Russian envoy at those talks did not sign the deal. Yanukovych fled the capital hours after the deal was signed and ended up in Russia, and the Ukrainian parliament set the presidential vote for May 25.

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Yanukovych has no political future, says Putin (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovych remained its only legitimate leader despite fleeing to Russia but conceded he lacked any political future. “I think he has no political future — I told him that. As for playing a role in his fate, we did that purely from humanitarian reasons,” Putin said of Yanukovych, who took refuge in southern Russia after crossing from Ukraine in a way that has not been made public. Putin said Russia viewed Yanukovych as legally Ukraine’s president. “The legitimate president, purely legally, is undoubtedly Yanukovych,” Putin said.

Crucially, Putin said this meant Russian intervention in Ukraine would be justified because Moscow had received a request for protection of its citizens from Yanukovych. “We have a direct request from the acting and legitimate — as I have already said — president Viktor Yanukovych about using armed forces to protect the lives, health and freedom of Ukrainian citizens,” Putin said. Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin showed the letter dated March 1 at Security Council talks on Monday.

Putin spoke scornfully of his erstwhile ally Yanukovych, who drew his supporters from the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine and in November agreed to scrap a deal with the European Union under pressure from Russia. “Do you sympathise with him?” one journalist asked. “No, I have completely different feelings,” Putin said.

But he said he believed Yanukovych had risked being killed by protesters when he fled Kiev late last month. “Death is the easiest (way) to get rid of a legitimate president. That would have happened. I think they would have just killed him,” Putin said. Yanukovych said he fled Ukraine after he and his family received death threats and his car was shot at as he drove out of Kiev.

Putin said that Yanukovych had essentially handed over his powers on February 21 by signing agreements with the opposition leaders last month, counter-signed by international mediators. He “practically gave up all his powers anyway. And I think he — and I told him this — had no chances of being re-elected,” Putin said. He said he understood peaceful protesters against Yanukovych: “Of course people wanted changes.”

Asked about a rumour reported in Ukrainian media on Tuesday that Yanukovych had died from a heart attack, Putin denied it. “After he came to Russia, I saw him once, that was literally two days ago. He was alive and healthy. He will catch a cold yet — at the funerals of those who spread that information,” Putin added with characteristic black humour.

Read more …


US-Europe rifts surfacing as Putin tightens Crimea grip (Guardian)

A rift appeared to be opening up on Monday night between the US and Europe on how to punish Vladimir Putin for his occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, with European capitals resisting Washington’s push towards tough sanctions. With the Americans, supported by parts of eastern Europe and Sweden, pushing for punitive measures against Moscow, EU foreign ministers divided into hawks and doves, preferring instead to pursue mediation and monitoring of the situation in Ukraine and to resist a strong sanctions package against Russia.

On Monday night the White House announced it was suspending military ties and co-ordination with Russia, covering bilateral activities such as exercises and port visits. Barack Obama said the White House was “examining a whole series of steps – economic, diplomatic – that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and status in the world”.

Obama said the US state department was reviewing its entire portfolio of trade and co-operation with Moscow, including preparing a raft of possible measures targeting senior government and military officials implicated in the invasion of the peninsula. Obama said the condemnation from other countries aimed at Russia “indicates the degree to which Russia’s on the wrong side of history on this”.

The president is expected to use his executive authority to bypass Congress to quickly target senior Russian officials. But Washington is clearly aware it may struggle to rally support for punitive measures from Europe. “The most important thing is for us – the United States – to make sure that we don’t go off without the European community,” the majority leader in the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid, told Politico. “Their interests are really paramount if we are going to do sanctions of some kind. We have to have them on board with us.”

But at an emergency meeting in Brussels the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy and Spain resisted calls for trade sanctions, instead limiting discussion to freezing long-running talks with Russia on visa liberalisation that would have made it easier for Russians to visit Europe. Washington is also threatening to kick Russia out of the G8 group of leading economies, but Berlin opposes that.

Read more …


UK seeking to ensure Russia sanctions do not harm City of London (Guardian)

Britain is drawing up plans to ensure that any EU action against Russia over Ukraine will exempt the City of London, according to a secret government document photographed in Downing Street. As David Cameron said Britain and its EU partners would put pressure on Moscow after it assumed control of Crimea, a government document drawn up for a meeting of senior ministers said that “London’s financial centre” should not be closed to Russians. It did say that visa restrictions and travel bans could be imposed on Russian officials.

The picture of the document was taken by the freelance photographer Steve Back, who specialises in spotting secret documents carried openly by officials entering Downing Street. The document was in the hands of an unnamed official attending a meeting of the national security council (NSC) called by the prime minister to discuss the Ukrainian crisis.

The document said Britain should:

• “Not support, for now, trade sanctions … or close London’s financial centre to Russians.”

• Be prepared to join other EU countries in imposing “visa restrictions/travel bans” on Russian officials.

• “Discourage any discussions (eg at Nato) of contingency military preparations.”

• Embark on “contingency EU work on providing Ukraine with alternative gas [supplies] if Russia cuts them off”.

• Specific threats to Russia should be “contingent and used for private messaging” while public statements should “stick to generic” point.

• Draw up a technical assistance package for Ukraine “ideally jointly with Germany”.

• Pursue the “deployment of OSCE and/or UN (but not EU) monitors in Crimea and eastern Ukraine”.

• Push the “UN secretary general Ban to take the lead in calling and creating a forum for engaging Russia on Ukraine”.

• Accept an emergency summit of EU leaders to discuss Ukraine. This will now be held in Brussels on Thursday.

Government officials said that no decisions were taken at the meeting of the NSC, but they confirmed that the call in the document for London’s financial centre to kept open to Russians reflected the government’s thinking that it wanted to target action against Moscow and not damage British interests.

Read more …

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  1. vidimi

    i still can’t point to any piece out there and say that, this is the definitive piece on the ukraine story. for the most part, they fall into the trap of constructing a good vs. evil narrative which, impulsive to our natures may it be, is not very helpful in understanding the situation and its possible repercussions. there are no good sides here.

    the west, by which we mean the u.s., engineered a coup to oust one corrupt thug and replaced him with another set of corrupt thugs who lost the last elections in a relative lack of controversy, and another corrupt thug, putin, sent in his forces to annex a formerly russian territory in response; a manoeuver that could have triggered world war 3 and may yet have inspired a similar one in the future that will.

    here, ilargi meijer rightfully doesn’t give much credibility to washington media, but gives a little too much to the kremlin’s. there is a real neo-nazi contingent in the coup forces, but it’s not representative of it. the kremlin has been playing this up highly, though there are enough unsavoury characters on both sides.

    one final critique is that the writing has much room for improvement. passages such as “While it’s very clear from recordings that [Nuland] was pivotal in bringing “Yats” to power – she about hand-picked him – and keeping “Klitsch” out.” and “[Kerry] came traveling with the promise of a $1 billion loan to the self-appointed new Kiev government.” need to be more consistent.

    1. Banger

      Look, enough with the “corrupt thug” nonsense. All major political leaders are tough guys and all need to do things you would call “corrupt” in order to seize and maintain power. In much of the world oligarchs act like oligarchs and don’t pretend to be saving the world so they are called thugs. I’ve actually lived among real thugs and many of them are friendly, personable, and decent with those they care about–if you f—- with them then you pay a price but they don’t pretend to be saving the world.

      Power means using the fist–end of story. Obama or Cameron or Putin it’s the same thing. The key difference here is that Putin has largely eliminated most of his serious rivals or made deals with them. He is far more flexible in his freedom of action and has a certain advantage in this crisis that the West lacks.

      1. Laurens M. Dorsey

        I sympathize with your frustration. Really, I do. But even if all the politicians in the world are corrupt, that doesn’t mean none of them are. It may get boring to be forever calling the corrupt “corrupt”, but pretending that none of them can be seems a little perverse (and I blame Oliver “the-real-world-made-me-do-it” North).

        As for the nature of power… there’s more to it than fists or even the threat of fists. Machiavelli told me, and he should know.

      2. bh2

        “I’ve actually lived among real thugs and many of them are friendly, personable, and decent with those they care about–if you f—- with them then you pay a price but they don’t pretend to be saving the world.”

        Exactly right, Banger. In both ways, this is how politicians differ entirely from honest thugs who work for a living. Pols don’t frankly give a tinker’s damn about your interests as a citizen while never ceasing to pretend they are saving the world on your behalf.

        US and other national administrations have boldly and persistently lied to Russian leaders that they would not extend NATO membership into former Soviet-block countries, yet the present administration now gets all huffy and self-righteous because Putin has finally drawn the line and won’t permit further erosion of its vital national interests. Since he also holds all the high cards, it’s a bit of a comedy that the US and EU might continue parading hollow threats nobody — least of all Putin — find credible.

        That said, if the West can collectively figure out how to extract Europe from its dependency on Russia for energy, it is Russia which would be more damaged as the “Great Game” unfolds unless — unless — China steps in to become Russia’s main energy customer at cheaper negotiated rates and elimination of the USD as the currency of trade. That could put China in a unique position for manufacturing advantages extending well beyond lower labor costs. It could also make Russia and China much closer allies, an outcome unlikely to favor long-term interests of the West.

        1. Thor's Hammer

          “Dmitry Orlov (Russian: Дмитрий Орлов born 1962) is a Russian-American engineer and a writer .— Orlov was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) and moved to the United States at the age of 12. He was an eyewitness to the collapse of the Soviet Union over several extended visits to his Russian homeland between the late 1980s and mid-1990s.[3]” Wikipedia

          Orlov’s background doesn’t make his analysis of the Ukrainian situation correct, but it certainly renders it worth more consideration than the uninformed repetition of the State Department talking points that the MSM serves up.

          Excerpts from “Chronology of the Ukrainian Coup —-

          “Listening to the US media, even the most diligent news junkie would find it difficult to know that the U.S. State Department played not only a vital role in the violence and chaos underway in Ukraine but was also complicit in creating the coup that ousted democratically elected President Viktor Yanuyovch. “—

          “Let’s be clear about what is at stake here: NATO missiles on the adjacent Ukraine border aimed directly at Russia would make that country extremely vulnerable to Western goals and destabilization efforts while threatening Russia’s only water access to its naval fleet in Crimean peninsula, the Balkans, the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East – and not the least of which would allow world economic dominance by the US, the European Union, the IMF, World Bank and international financiers all of whom had already brought staggering suffering to millions around the globe. “–

          • According to a leaked EU’s Ashton phone tape, the Kiev snipers, who shot both protesters and police, were hired by Ukrainian opposition leaders, did not work for overthrown Yanukovych

          • It turns out that Russia has a legal right to maintain a military force of up to 25 thousand troops in Crimea in accordance with an agreement signed by Russia and Ukraine in 1997, which will remain in effect until 2043. Current Russian troop strength in Crimea is well under the legal limit. The troops are there to safeguard Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

          “December 13, 2013: As if intent on providing incontrovertible evidence of US involvement in Ukraine, Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Victoria Nuland proudly told a meeting of the International Business Conference sponsored by the US-Ukrainian Foundation that the US had ‘invested’ more than $5 billion and ‘five years worth of work and preparation” in achieving what she called Ukraine’s ‘European aspirations.”

          ” What Nuland did not reveal on December 13 was that her meetings with ‘key Ukrainian stakeholders’ included neo-Nazi Svoboda party leader Oleh Tyahnybok and prime minister wannabe Arsenly Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party. At about the same time Nuland was wooing fascist extremists, Sen. John McCain (R-Az) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D- Conn) shared the stage in Kiev with Tyahnybok offering their support and opposition to the sitting government. The Svoboda party which has roots with extreme vigilante and antisemitic groups has since received at least three high level cabinet posts in the interim government including deputy prime minister. There is no doubt that the progenitors of west Ukraine’s historic neo-fascist thugs that fought alongside Hitler are now aligned with the US as represented by Victoria Nuland. “

    2. May

      You ned to read up some more:
      Is the U.S. Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine?
      Exposing troubling ties in the U.S. to overt Nazi and fascist protesters in Ukraine.
      Ukrainian ultra-rightists given major Cabinet posts in government
      Op-Ed: Tea With Neo-Nazis: The Violent Nationalism in Ukraine
      The violence in Ukraine is a show case of the pan-European rise of race hatred. Europe is engaging in a risky blindness. Again.
      The Sad Progression of the Ukrainian Protest Movement From Democracy and the Rule of Law to Ultra-nationalism and Anti-semitism

  2. j gibbs

    I read about four paragraphs of this and said to myself: this is very serious for those living inside this non-country, where thugs on both sides are scrambling for power. Sending John Kerry over there makes good sense, because there cannot be anybody this country can more afford to lose if something goes wrong. For everyone outside this non-country, this is just entertainment, something for those left in journalism to hunt and peck about, hoping against hope the output will save their jobs, or even elevate them to celebrity status and lead to a raise or commercial endorsements or an assistant professorship somewhere.

    I would rather listen to Charles Barkley talk about basketball than try to make sense out of foreign policy, which is just a sideshow to divert attention from the looting.

    1. Mark P.

      You are so wrong. Foreign policy is what enables the looting and who gets to do what where — that’s why you pay attention.

      “If protection rackets represent organized crime at its smoothest, then war making and state making – quintessential protection rackets with the advantage of legitimacy – qualify as our largest examples of organized crime … At least for the European experience of the past few centuries, a portrait of war makers and state makers as coercive and self-seeking entrepreneurs bears a far greater resemblance to the facts than do its chief alternatives: the idea of a social contract, the idea of an open market in which operators of armies and states offer services to willing consumers, the idea of a society whose shared norms and expectations call forth a certain kind of government.

      – Charles Tilly

      From “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime” by Charles Tilly

    2. craazyman

      Yeah I pretty much agree. It’s MEGO time already. Who can make sense of any of this? People pretend they can, they think they can in their heads, but when they write it down, before you finish their first paragraph it’s MEGO time.

      I’d only disagree with you on one very minor point. I’d rather listen to Charles Barkley talk about the Ukraine, but only for 5 minutes. I have a feeling he’d find a way to make so much sense you’d just think “That’s it!” and I’m not a huge hoops fan anyway.

  3. The Dork of Cork

    Its correct to think the Anglos are doing another Iraq again.
    But its a mistake to think Iraq was a failure from the banks point of view.
    Iraqi oil now flows to the Asian heartland – turning them ever more capitalist and dependent.

    In Europe the game dynamic is more mature.
    The European entreport cannot become much more efficient / increase profits further.
    Its therefore time to pull the plug on the European market state.
    The EU is a heroin addict for former Soviet raw materials and Eastern Europe deinvestment which transfers real resources towards Germany and others as it matured under this strange island continent of pillage.
    But how many cars does England really need ?

    The British are masters at turning the chess board around when nobody is looking.
    Sure they made a shit load of money from mercantile Europe………but now things have changed.
    White is now black and black is white.
    We are at that 1914 moment – a renationalization of claims.
    The Uk is at the point of embracing socialism again.
    But first it must destroy mainland Europe.

    The Putin boy is merely waiting for one more signal.
    A increase in Russian military operations will reduce the oil exported.
    Germany will collapse.into a heap of super efficient but now useless machinery.
    Leaving the UK to rebuild the pieces.

      1. The Dork of Cork

        If you are a little economic island in a large sea of resources then the only means to survive is to inflate and deflate in a perpetual cycle of destruction.

        Household Energy Spending (not inc transport)
        in the UK, 2002-2012

        “55% increase in average household spending on energy
        between 2002 and 2012.
        the average amount of energy used per household was 17% lower in 2012 than in 2002. This means the increase in the average amount
        households are spending is explained solely by rises in energy prices.”

        Add in the decline of wages as more 20 something people from Euroland and beyond maintain the rate of profit and you have a very interesting cocktail developing.

        The UK will change its spots when it cannot extract stuff from abroad anymore.
        Then it will give its Baldricks spending power and become “a island of freedom” until we crest the economic cycle once more.
        But first it must destroy Europe.

    1. j gibbs

      Iraq was a success, not a failure. The war took the ME’s second largest oil producer out of production and prevented the price of oil from falling from $20 down to $8 a barrel in 2003. This would have bankrupted all the banks. Instead, they got a chance to blow another bubble, in real estate. The bailout has allowed them to blow still another bubble, in stocks.

      Oh yeah, oil went from $20 to $100 a barrel. Some failure that war was! What is going on in our so called economy is perpetual recapitalization of assets and looting. You need to keep your eye on the ball.

  4. vlade


    I hear what you saying about Russian’s legitimate concerns. And I even agree as I put it in comments elsewhere that denying Russia the right (as far as they can get away with it) to have their own Monroe doctrine is stupid (in USSR times it was Brezhnev doctrine of inviolability of Warsaw Pact, resulting in invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968)

    But the countries that entered NATO didn’t really need that much encouragement. On contrary, they queued up because they fear Russia, and it’s their very legitimate concern too. Everyone knows how many times Russia was invaded (well, they at least tend to know how Russia was invaded by Napoleon and Hitler), but Russia has a long history of invading neighbors too.

    Parts of Ukraine became Russia only when Russia gobbled what was left of Poland-Lithuania, and there was more Poles in what’s now western Ukraine than Ukraininans (Lvov was fundamentally a Polish city until after WW2). Crimea was Tartar for long time, and part of Ottoman Empire until late 18th century. Estonia/Livonia were Swedish until 1700 (I know, ages in the US history, but not that long from European point of view), and they often feel closer to Scandinavia than Russia. Lithuania was idependeant too until PLC was partitioned by Prussia/Austria and Russia in late 18th century. Same with Finland (lost to Russia by Swedes), who embraced Nazis as a protection against Russia (apart from other reasons). Ukraina has a history of rebellions when it was part of Russian Empire, few every century.

    And I’m excluding the various invasions during Soviet times entirely so people can’t say “but it was Soviets propagating their revolution!”.

    So taking only Russia’s concern into account is really missing the wood for a tree.

    The countries on Russia’s border don’t see Russia as a good neighbor who has valid security concerns. They see it as someone who historically tried to gobble them and would try to do so again given just a bit of encouragement. Which of course means they enter aliances which hightens Russia’s paranoia, which means it does something stupid as right now. Which increases the concerns of the border states (NATO was called by Poland who would hate to see having a proper border with Russia again, militarised Kaliningrad is more than enough for them).

    This is NOT an US media propaganda or anything, it’s what the people there feel like. Same way how Cubans (or various central/south american countries) feel threatened by US. So if you can understand how Cubans/Nicaraguans/Venezuelans feel about US, how about trying to understand how Poles/Baltics/Ukrainians feel about Russia? Various polls before EU/NATO acession were very clear – the main reason was trying to escape Russia’s orbit and sphere of influence.

    I don’t defend NATO/EU/neocons etc., and have no intent to do so. But Russia is truly no better (a simple measure of that is the fact that a large number of ex-soviet block countries people and russians still prefer to emigrate to West, so however bad it is, they still see it better than Russia. And it’s not only economic migrants. There’s no such stream of emigrants from the West towards Russia), so defending Russia is no different from neocons defending US policies, just enemies are switched over

    1. vlade

      To put it otherwise, in short and simple, people tend to flock to the less known (to them) bully boy than the one that threatens them immediately.

      So countries who feel threatened by US want to ally Russia/China, and those who feel threatened by Russia wants to ally US. Doesn’t make either of them any less of a bully boy.
      And then we either accept that we need bully boys (and all read The Prince), or try to figure something that we don’t need them (long shot, improbable).

    2. Banger

      Well said.

      However, all countries, when they can gobble up other countries. But my concern is not with Ukraine or Russia–my concern, a citizen of the United States, is my country. I know my history very intimately and know that it is in ambition and practice an imperial power that wants to rule the world–for the good of the world of course. This has always been a tacit assumption among many people in the U.S. and it is not an irrational one. The U.S. has, potentially, the qualities of a world-state. We are a multi-ethnic society that, despite obvious tribal differences, has a common culture and series of myths. We believe here that, if only the rest of the world were like us, we could all prosper together. We are, in short, the world’s most ideological country–American Exceptionalism is shared by right and left and by the ignorant and highly educated. Lately, this ideology has been fraying at the edges.

      What worries me is that the myth-making apparatus in the my country is gearing up for war as it always does whenever even the remotest chance of armed conflict exists. See my comment below for more.

      1. j gibbs

        You really don’t understand that the guys in charge of US foreign policy cannot pour piss out of a boot. They are of the same class that destroyed England in the first twenty years of the Twentieth Century, and they are going about destroying America in the same way and for the same reasons.

        1. Banger

          Maybe. But there is little similarity between the British upper classes of the early 20th century and the power-elite that centers in Washington. These people are more diverse, more ruthless, more flexible and agile, and way more powerful.

          1. j gibbs

            They are also more exclusively motivated by self interest and considerably greedier and distrustful of one another and generally operating at cross purposes. And about the only weapons in their quiver are an unusable nuclear arsenal and an endless stock of flag waving television commercials.

          2. j gibbs

            Class is an economic category. Don’t be confused by accents, tailoring, ethnicity or religious pretentions.

    3. Yves Smith Post author


      George Kennan disagrees with your reading, and he’s a world recognized expert on Russia and one of America’s leading cold war strategists back in the day. He thought it was utter madness to encourage (and we DID encourage it, starting with Clinton), former Warsaw Pact members to join NATO.

      1. vlade

        From purely Machiavellian principle, I would agree with Kennan. Former Warsaw Pact (FWP) members are (ex Poland) more or less only liability to NATO, and heighten the risk of problems with Russia.

        My point was that looked from FWP perspective, they have a very large incentive to join NATO/EU. They know that outside of that they will get no protection against Russia, and while joining NATO might piss Russia off, they will have some protection once in there. So for them it’s a choice of not angering a bear and hoping (against their historical experience) that it will stay a nice bear, or likely angering it, but getting some protection that they believe will be sufficient (stemming from the nuclear deterent).

        For NATO it gets more complicated, as refusing them with the rethoric NATO had was hard, especially in 90s. It was easier with EU (requiring legislative and economic stuff which took 15+ years to complete), but even that could hold them off only for a time.

        Neverheless, one could invoke a principle here. If it’s well and good on Machiavellian principle for the US to throw FWP to the bear (like principally UK did with Sudeten in 1938 – that was too protecting rights of nationality, in that case German majority in Sudeten who mostly also wanted to the Reich), why should we object to other Machiavellian Realpolitik dealings by the US, be their external or internal?

  5. M

    Russia has legitimate interests in the Ukraine? That’s like saying the US had a legitimate right to launch the Bay of Pigs invasion

  6. rkka

    “So taking only Russia’s concern into account is really missing the wood for a tree.”

    That’s not up to us now.

    For the twenty years following our “Gorby, if you agree to a unified Germany inside NATO, we won’t expand NATO one inch” swindle, the West has offered ‘A voice, not a veto’ on matters relating to European security. What this has amounted to is no voice for Russia at all, for twenty years. For those twenty years, Russian concerns have been systematically ignored. With the Georgian war, and this present crisis, the Russian government are making two things plain:

    1) That they care nothing for what we think of them, since we clearly care nothing for them.
    2) That they will defend their interests by force of arms, since we have proven for twenty years we are determined to ignore their words.

    “But Russia is truly no better (a simple measure of that is the fact that a large number of ex-soviet block countries people and russians still prefer to emigrate to West, ”

    Actually, there is now no large flow of emigrants from Russia to the West.

    Russia has net immigration, on the order of 250,000-300,000 per year.

    1. Hugh

      Got a link on immigration to Russia? And how many of these are ethnic Russians from former soviet republics? How many in Eastern and Central Europe are emigrating there?

      You seem to write off the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe and don’t take the security concerns of those countries vis-à-vis Russia seriously. They have no right to look after their security interests? I’m missing the part why Russia would get a veto over their and Europe’s security policy more generally.

      There also seems to be this disconnect between divorcing Russia from the Soviet Union at the same time that Putin expresses nostalgia for the old USSR and pushes to resurrect it in so far as he can.

      1. vlade

        Technically speaking, rkka is right. The emigration to outside, mostly EU, partially CIS (=ex Soviet Union) and quite bit to US/Israel slowed down compared to 90s. He’s also right on the net immigration, but most of it is from CIS (principally Ukraine and “stans”)
        But a lot of people did leave, and are still leaving Russia – there’s more than 1m Russian citizens living in EU alone. It’s not a huge minority, but you have to understand that emigrating from Russia to (say) the UK is harder than say from US to the UK for a middle class person. And it’s not just the language, the whole lifestyle is a massive change. You have to be really committed (ideally single) to do it.

        And while all the Russians I know go back and see their families (one of my Russian friends even went back to find a wife in Russia), none of the ones I know want to ever go back forever.

        If we talk wider ex-soviet block, there’s actually an interesting anecdote there. Quite a few people emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the border controls relaxed a bit. Not a small part of them moved back after the fall of communism. And a large part of those moved back to their foster-countries yet again, mostly massively disappointed by the CZ society (political, civic etc.) compared to what they got used to in the 20 years from emigrating. Even though they in general could have much better life economically in CZ (as in for example living in a large villa instead of 2bed flat for the same money).

      2. rkka

        “You seem to write off the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe and don’t take the security concerns of those countries vis-à-vis Russia seriously.”

        For over twenty years, the security of these countries viv-a-vis Russia has predominated, to the complete exclusion of Russian government views on European security. The Russian government appear to be done with having their views ignored, and henceforth will defend their interests by force of arms, since the West are determined to ignore their words.

        “They have no right to look after their security interests?”

        Their security interests have gotten far more consideration in the West for over twenty years, to the exclusion of the Russian government’s views on security.

        “I’m missing the part why Russia would get a veto over their and Europe’s security policy more generally.”

        The Russian government has had no veto over their and Europe’s security policy more generally, to the point of having their views on security ignored. That is over.

        With the Georgian war, and this present crisis, the Russian government are making two things plain:

        1) That they care nothing for what we think of them, since we clearly care nothing for them.
        2) That they will defend their interests by force of arms, since we have proven for twenty years we are determined to ignore their words.

        The position is serious. In 2017, the number of Russian males turning 18 will bottom out and will increase from that point. This increase will continue until 2031 at the very least, and possibly longer. Russia is the only country in Eastern or Central Europe that has a population pyramid that is expanding at the base. And for twenty years the European security structures have been designed to exclude Russia’s voice from having any impact on European security issues, except as an ‘Amen chorus’.

        That will turn out to have been unwise.

        1. Hugh

          A typical Russian apologist. You are speaking the language of empire. What security threat do countries like Georgia and Ukraine, even one allied to the West, pose to Russia? None. But that’s not the point. An empire identifies its security with its interests, and its interests always extend beyond its borders. So any country that does not do what it is told and is a little too close and a little too weak becomes a candidate for invasion, because security!

          You are making the case for why any country bordering Russia or in proximity to it should belong to strong military alliances like NATO. I am sure this is not the argument you wanted to make as a Russian apologist, but it is, in fact, the one you have made. Perhaps you should rethink your current line of propaganda. In any case, better luck next time.

          1. rkka

            “You are making the case for why any country bordering Russia or in proximity to it should belong to strong military alliances like NATO.”

            Ummm… They already were, even while the Russian government were of a mind to cooperate with Western security structures. And while the Russian government were of a mind to cooperate with Western security structures, they were swindled on the false promise of ‘No NATO expansion if you allow unified Germany in NATO’ and deprived of any voice in European security matters. What you are doing is using the reaction the West has spent over 20 years provoking as justification for the original provocations.

            “So any country that does not do what it is told and is a little too close and a little too weak becomes a candidate for invasion, because security! ”

            As opposed to “We need to throw some crappy little country against the wall every decade or so, to show that we mean business”, which has been the US/NATO excuse for wrecking countries on a serial basis the past 20 years.

            “I am sure this is not the argument you wanted to make as a Russian apologist, but it is, in fact, the one you have made. Perhaps you should rethink your current line of propaganda. In any case, better luck next time.”

            T’aint propaganda. This is the reality that the West has brought into existence by 20 years of ignoring what the Russian government have to say on European security. This is what Kennan predicted when the first NATO expansion was under discussion.

            This is the world the West has made. The time for your pathetic verbal one-upmanship is over, and you had better start considering some realities.

  7. Ulysses

    “indications suggest that any economic assistance from the West would come with punishing terms and conditions, structural adjustments and austerity measures that would generate widespread social discontent…” Yes, they are very much between a rock and a hard place. Their best hope is to keep their heads down and pray that things won’t get any worse.

    1. Banger

      Originally that was the plan. Now, however, things are more confused because the Russians acted more aggressively than Western leaders had planned. Ukraine may be able to parlay the start of a Cold War II into getting permanent aid like Egypt during Sadat/Mubarak. The situation is amazingly fluid–does anybody actually have a realistic plan for Ukraine?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Where is the permanent aid going to come? Europe doesn’t have the cash, and between the Teabaggers, the electioneering GOP, the “good Democrats,” and the Democrats terrified of their own re-election (there are no post careers for generic losers), there isn’t going to be much stomach for a Ukrainian bailout given the state of this country.

        This is no different than any other plans by the imperialists. They just expect things to turn to gold because they are wonderful and have figured out how to make a buck. There are no good plans for the Ukraine going forward, given the state of the EU. If the EU was stronger, there would be a place for Ukraine to go, but Greece is the future without the tourists opportunities. With the collapse of the government with a few months to elections, there is no practical home for the residents. Russia could have made sense, but the Russians won’t take on Ukraine any longer except as customers.

  8. Moneta

    And as pretty much everyone who is not in the Administration reality-distortion sphere understands, the US has played this one badly and does not have much leverage.
    I wonder how many people expect the US to “adequately” police the world and also cut its military spending?

    1. Lexington

      The only only people who expect the US to police the world are American neocons, and military spending happens to be the one thing they are not in favor of cutting.

  9. dearieme

    Sacking Bush the Elder was a daft decision: none of the three Presidents since has been a grown-up.

    1. spacecabooie

      Here’s a good one:
      (Are the US’ economic advisors that stupid or are they inviting someone else – Russia – into the argument in order to have them to blame for an accelerating western economic collapse ?)

      Novosti quoted Glazyev:

      “In the instance of sanctions being applied to stated institutions, we will have to declare the impossibility of returning those loans which were given to Russian institutions by U.S. banks. We will have to move into other currencies, create our own settlement system. We have excellent trade and economic relations with our partners in the east and south, and we will find a way to reduce to nothing our financial dependence on the United States but even get out of the sanctions with a big profit to ourselves.”

      “The Americans are threatening Russia with sanctions and pulling the EU into a trade and economic war with Russia. Most of the sanctions against Russia will bring harm to the United States itself, because as far as trade relations with the United States go, we don’t depend on them in any way.”

      “We hold a decent amount of treasury bonds — more than $200 billion — and if the United States dares to freeze accounts of Russian businesses and citizens, we can no longer view America as a reliable partner. We will encourage everybody to dump U.S. treasury bonds, get rid of dollars as an unreliable currency and leave the U.S. market.”

  10. Banger

    The politics of Eastern Europe is complicated and, in a sense, everyone is right–or, more to the point, everyone has reasons and grievances that they can articulate to be at each other’s throats.

    I am a follower of Realpolitik and I see the crisis in the Ukraine as an opportunity of various forces to grab power both on the international arena and, in the U.S. at least, domestically. I think the international situation is confused and I believe the U.S. Deep State sees this crisis, which I believe American intelligence operatives did their best to encourage, as a golden opportunity to both tighten it’s control of the Empire and the domestic U.S. sphere. The failure of it’s Syria policy has been very bitter for the Deep State.

    Just a word here about the Deep State. It is not some malevolent evil conspiracy. It is a virtual and emergent entity that has to exist because American Exceptionalism cannot comprehend realpolitik and the sorts of things imperial states must do (assassinate, overthrow and conquer governments, mass murder, torture and so on) to rule and extend power.

    Now we have a situation that can usher in Cold War II as the perfect solution to the threat of lowering “defense” spending and that could unite Americans against credible threar, Russia has the virtue of having been demonized for decades and thus lurks as a demon in the collective unconscious of Americans.

    As for Russia, I see nothing strange about its actions–it is asserting its power after being relatively supine for quite some time–enduring the expansion of NATO to its borders by the greatest breaker of treaties and agreements (the USA) the modern world has ever known. It was weak, now it is stronger. Putin has a certain advantage in that he has more flexibility since he has centered power in his person and can act quickly and decisively. This is most certainly not the case in Europe and the Deep State in the U.S. is internally divided along neoconservative and neoliberal lines and, not being centralized, has difficulty acting and reacting quickly. Obama, in case you are wondering, has no power in this area other than try to broker some agreement among contending parties (nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans).

    The key to see how this turns out is to watch the mainstream media, particularly the NY Times and WashPost to see how belligerent they get. So far, I there is no clear Line other than “something” must be done.

    1. Thor's Hammer

      A different perspective from a Russian/American in a position to be more informed than most of us here in MassMediaLandia. Not to say that he doesn’t wear a particular set of blinders as well—.
      “Reichstag Fire in Keiv”

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      As far as responding, I don’t think they know what to do. The military is largely designed to make cool videos of blowing up random thugs to shock and awe additional appropriations for contractors. Could the military handle a real problem? I doubt it. As far as economic sanctions, what are we going to do? Local populations around the world despise us, and American based multinationals have found it difficult to sell their products in foreign markets and have found the local politicians are more afraid of being run of out office by their voters than any bribe.

      The American Versailles is shocked their prestige has been questioned repeatedly in the past year, but because they have become Versailles, they lack any kind of ability to see beyond the corporate boutique shops of Georgetown to make any rational arguments. Jon Stewart in one line pointed out the utter hypocrisy of John Kerry’s efforts as SoS. Its been the same line found throughout the internet land, but the American MSM can’t deal with the problem because it would mean questioning Versailles and their own stewardship of the former republic.

      1. Banger

        The American military can do quite a lot. The huge weapons are largely useless but military activities are now run, increasingly by the CIA and related covert operatives private and governmental. But you are mainly right–the Cold War I was largely a way for martinets on both sides to stay in power–there weren’t really that many real issues between them at least towards the end of CWI. CWII will be an Orwellian war to keep the masses from questioning the growing police state–that’s the main focus it seems to me.

        1. j gibbs

          I agree completely, They have suffered for twenty-three years from not having an identifiable enemy. ‘Terrorists’ just doesn’t do the trick, although it did produce the domestic security boondoggle, which will come in handy for stifling dissent if it ever materializes.

        2. susan the other

          Then why are we in such a chaotic frenzy over Ukraine? The State Department is very upset about being outmaneuvered by Putin. I think police statism is exactly what we do not want because it might interfere with terrorist coups, which are our calling card. And the objective of all these astroturfed “civil wars” is to undermine national sovereignty with confusion and pave the way for our brand of global trade. If we can’t blanket the planet with enough quisling cooperation, we can’t achieve global trade deals to our oligarchs’ benefit. Putin and Russia are a serious threat to our goals because Russia believes in sovereign democracy, i.e. sovereignty. And the EU is stonewalling us on the question of European sovereignty – I wonder why. It appears everybody sees right thru us and they only remain diplomatic because they want our bribes (money, arms, trade). If we had an economic model that actually worked it would be one thing, but we don’t have shit.

          1. susan the other

            And this is why we are so duplicitous. Take Kerry and Lavrov on Syria and Iran. Kerry acted downright coy and it was unnerving to watch his body language. Lavrov was solid in his remarks. Kerry was swishy. But also overly friendly. Kerry was clearly hiding something and it made him look almost silly. Can’t Obama control the State Department? Or is this just fine with him. Rhetorical question I fear.

            1. j gibbs

              Don’t worry, Kerry isn’t hiding anything except his ignorance, and he hasn’t been much good at that, either. You have to wonder what these superrich widows keep seeing in him. Must be a shortage of celebrity gigolos.

            2. Banger

              There are few American politicians lower than Kerry. He took a dive in the 2004 election in favor of a fellow Bonesman smiling all the way–that I am sure of. Kerry’s pal McCain, another POS, seemed to throw the 2008 election as well.

          2. NotTimothyGeithner

            I think its a case of splitting hairs. I think “Banger” would agree the U.S. military is no longer in a position where it can counter crack troops, maybe not NATO grade, but supplied crack troops. The U.S. can still cause mayhem through special forces and mercenaries.

            Special forces don’t fight off divisions or even brigades.

            I think he was pointing the U.S. isn’t toothless, but I think he would agree the U.S. military is not in a position it was pre-Iraq War even with the relative disengagement.

            Part of the uproar by Versailles is a panic about not being able to counter this mess, and what this means is the United States is not a threat to the larger governments of the world. On a practical level, the threat of the Russians grabbing Crimea is the threat of a rise of old style nation states and the decline of the “kinetic” military responses designed to prop up share holder value. How long until a regional South African bloc emerges? Or Turkey makes its own grabs? An anti-Monroe Doctrine South America?

            The uproar in Versailles is about avoiding the recognition that the emperor has no clothes and what it means for them. Why are we paying for an MIC which is obviously incapable of responding to crises? A trillion dollar glorified drone project which can kill religious nuts on other continents but accomplishes nothing else won’t last forever.

    3. Paul Niemi

      So, the Ukraine President runs away, and Russia sends troops to the Crimean peninsula. Then, not a shot is fired by either side. Our US Secretary of State appears to then hyperventilate, and billions in aid is promised to Ukraine by the EU and US. So, it appears with the aid, Ukraine will be able to pay its bills to Russia. Hmm. Yet rhetoric soars. Why? Is it ironic that Russia invaded the one place on the globe that was actually more prosperous under the Soviets than after? Crimea was the vacation destination where Soviets went to wade in the Black Sea wearing striped swimsuits, get saunas and massages, and drink liquor to oblivion and sleep it off in cheap, concrete hotels. Maybe they were entertained by Tatars, men with swords wearing dresses and dancing to zurnas and jaw harps. Now I read that Crimea has endured hard times lately; the hotels have fallen into disrepair. Pity. But it doesn’t explain the hullaballoo. I don’t get it, unless there is information we don’t know about. Did the West secretly set up a duck blind in an outhouse near a telephone pole somewhere in Post-Soviet Crimea? Otherwise, it looks to me like move a tank, get a check.

      1. vlade

        More prosperous under Soviets then after – where do you take your data from? Do you mean like during the FORCED famine in 1930s that killed (estimated) millions and made people eat their children (admitted as late as last year)? Or the massive shortages of 1980s? (when I was actually there to see it…) Or the one hit by the massive hiccup of Chernobyl under Soviet regime?

        1. MaroonBulldog

          He was talking about Crimea, not Ukraine. Two historically different regions. Crimea only looks like its part of Ukraine because (ethnic Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev signed some paperwork.

        2. rkka

          LOL, it’s true enough for Ukraine generally. The Ukrainian GNP declined about 60% after the collapse of the USSR, and has yet to recover. In 1990, Kiev was a more prosperous city than Moscow.

          ‘Tain’t anymore!

          1. rkka

            “Or the one hit by the massive hiccup of Chernobyl under Soviet regime?”

            Oh, and he fallout from Chernobyl went north, to Belarus.

            Which has suffered far less population decline the past 20 years than Ukraine, and is now more prosperous than Ukraine.

  11. NotTimothyGeithner

    This is just American style fascism. Victim ideology, appropriation of symbols, ignorance of history, and glorification of the corporate dominated state are part of it. The U.S. can’t ignore voting and elements of “free speech” anymore than Fascist regimes in Spain and Italy can ignore the Vatican or Catholicism’s place in society. The primary reason a major call up is impossible is the United States doesn’t have, despite the best fear mongering money can buy, a threat like Russia or history of Anglo/Franco-imperialism around its borders to frighten people into disrupting their lives.

    What is Putin? I don’t know. Russia is far behind and was recently pillaged by Western imperialists under Yeltsin. With the collapse of the Communists regime and the absence of non-Communist affiliated civil constructs for so long, Russia is developing. I think Putin is aware of this issue. Considering the widespread tolerance for the Cuban embargo, I really don’t care what the Russians are up to.

  12. tgs

    There is no way our guy ‘Yats’ will be around at least in his current position after the May election. According to reports I have seen, he simply doesn’t have the support. He has one task to perform – get the Ukraine into a client relationship with the IMF and perhaps some stepped up ties with NATO (not membership necessarily). If he can get this done, the ‘international community’ will be satisfied.

    There are problems, however. Despite the imbecile Kerry’s statement from Kiev last night, the current government is NOT elected. In fact, everything I have read from people who have actually studied both Ukrainian constitutions, Russia is right – the current puppet government is illegal and are not legally empowered to enter into a long term agreement with the IMF or anyone else.

    Which means that it is imperative that the West’s candidate (Klitchko or whoever) wins in May and signs off on the legality of the coming IMF deal. This will be interesting given the divided nature of the Ukrainian people. Manipulating the election will not necessarily be a walk on the beach.

  13. Lexington

    The lede is in danger of being buried here.

    From the strategic standpoint the key fact is that the US and EU are attempting to engineer the Ukraine’s ascension into the neoliberal trade regime. The US has financed the Ukrainian opposition and basically handpicked Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former central banker, to take power after the country’s democratically elected government was overthrown in a parliamentary coup that made a mockery of constitutional government. Yatsunuk wasted no time in proclaiming his allegiance to his patrons’ agenda, declaring that “I’m going to be the most unpopular prime minister in the history of my country” in order to force through “structural reform” demanded by the IMF as the price for throwing the bankrupt country a lifeline. It’s all straight from the disaster capitalism playbook. We all know what’s coming next: integration of the Ukraine into the European trading block, privatization of public assets, shredding the social safety net, lifting restrictions on capital flows, deregulation of financial services, redistributing the tax burden so it falls mostly on those at the lower end of the income distribution, and the evisceration of worker rights in the name of “labour market flexibility”. The only inconvenient part is that it’s going to be hard to find a way to blame this all on Angela Merkel.

    The real story here is about how Ukrainian nationalists are being manipulated by outside powers to advance their global economic agenda. Just as the US and its media handmaidens restored military rule to Egypt by mobilizing the country’s middle class against Morsi they are attempting to install a pro-Western government in the Ukraine by mobilizing the western nationalists against the Russophile eastern part of the country.

    Our elites have clearly concluded that the best way to secure their position at the top of the food chain is to extend their favoured economic policies to as much of the rest of the world as possible. Until you understand that meta narrative you won’t see the forest from the trees.

    1. Jim

      Thanks for this desperately needed comment. But here’s the other lead story that’s missing from the comments, and only hinted at in the posting. That is the fact the the American “Neos” (neocons & neolibs) are increasingly looking more and more feckless as they desperately try to keep the “shock capitalism” music playing around the world. And Putin has showed that he’s willing to make a better deal, cheaper commodities & machinery, to keep his own economy humming along. Who knows, other countries might want to take this deal too. The end game for the “Washington Consensus” may well be closer than many think (even NC readers).

      1. JTFaraday

        Yeah, except that in one of those well worn “birds of a feather” moves, the neo-nazis went with the Kagan Klan.

        They even ate their cookies.

        1. JTFaraday

          Oh, I should have finished my thought. This just goes to show that @ssbeating is a huge motivator for some people.

          It isn’t always about the money.

  14. Matthew Saroff

    One minor correction, Kuntsler did not coin the “Haircut in search of a brain” bon mot. He freely and fully admits that it was Kevin Phillips who coined the term.

  15. TarheelDem

    It’s more important what leaders say to each other in private than in public. Public statements are for domestic audiences. The key point in all this is the Russian Black Sea (nuclear-armed) fleet in Sevastapol and the real interests of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Turkey (now with Russia on the north and Russia ally Syria on the south). If those four NATO countries are not worried, the only point of this exercise is Nuland-Kagan’s neo-con dream of bottling up Russia from the south—Georgia, Kazazhstan, Ukraine.

    The best outcome of all is the intellectual humiliation of the neo-conservative establishment in the US. They have dominated US foreign policy thinking for forty years (and their Realist predecessors nigh on sixty years, and it has been a disaster. Obsessed with a fantasy of Rudyard Kipling’s called “the Great Game”.

    1. Banger

      Realists were very different from neocons. Realists were basically balance of power players. They may have rhetorically talked the American Exceptionalism rhetoric but their aim was stability. The neocons and their neoliberal allies are all about world domination, conquest and the “New Rome” dream that goes back over a millennium and a half.

  16. NotSoSure

    The only thing certain is that there are no good guys here. Heck, one can argue that Putin is just responding to Western countries provocation. Best outcome is if this thing blows off in both Putin and Obama’s faces. Because no one deserves better.

  17. Oregoncharles

    I don’t generally respect Parry, I think he’s a Dem Party sycophant, and I thought the linked piece was typical. It’s little more than making excuses for Obama – though the excuse, at bottom, is that he’s an idiot and a sap. But I guess that’s better than RESPONSIBLE, which he is, one way or another.

    1. EmilianoZ

      I also find that the Parry piece pretty weak. It’s ironic that while NC has rejected that kind of narrative (Obama is a good guy but surrounded by baddies) for economic issues, Yves seems to subscribe to it in regards to foreign policy.

      Parry claims that Putin is doing Obama a favor by harboring Snowden. I don’t find his arguments very convincing. I wouldn’t be surprised if on the contrary Putin is being punished for harboring Snowden.

      As to why some neocons are still in power, I would hazard the wild guess that they have very powerful friends. Iraq and Afghanistan were not total disasters for everybody. Companies like Halliburton probably made loads of money there. It’s not surprising that they want to do the same thing in Syria and Iran.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I think the American ruling class especially the people around the President’s age came of age during the 80’s and made a bit of cash during the 90’s. Intellectually, they aren’t neo-cons, but they have a perverted sense of super power status. The status accorded to Washington in their minds is intrinsic to their moral character.

        The neo-cons may be hideous to anyone who thinks for more than half a second, but I think much o modern Washington is just dominated by these clowns who just don’t think and have some vague views about DC being the legitimate police of the world. Even our language over this Ukranian situation involves the use of the word “punishment” and laughing off Russian suggests of counter sanctions or seizing assets. Its bizarre, but I think it speaks to from where they came

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        No, this is a complete misreading of the Parry piece.

        In the finance arena, Obama surrounded himself with neoliberals. He is a neoliberal. He got exactly what he wanted. He sometimes handwaves in public for the rubes.

        In foreign policy, Obama isn’t very savvy but has enough of an ego that the idea of dealing with Putin directly was appealing (I see this all the time, CEOs love negotiating big deals themselves, even when they are crappy negotiators and are having their clocks cleaned). So I don’t see Obama dealing with Putin as a good thing for Obama, it looks to be a sign of hubris (as in Obama underestimates Putin when Putin is far more shrewd and ruthless. You don’t fight your way to the top of that bloody heap without having highly developed survival skills). But Obama wasn’t surrounded by similarly-minded minions like he is in finance. And the neocons are are really ruthless bureaucratic infighters.

        So the onus is on you to make a better argument as to what is wrong with the Parry piece. I don’t see it as flattering to Obama, it basically says he was an idiot to put so many people who weren’t loyal to him in positions of power.

        1. May

          He may be a neocon. Just look at Libya, Syria and now Ukraine! He is an educated man and yes he makes bad decision, that have not been smart decisions (which someone even without advisers can make out easily). He is going to have a very bad legacy. History will not be kind to him. But dies he care? He may be more like Tony Blair, someone else history will not be kind to.

          1. MaroonBulldog

            “He is an educated man, and yet he makes bad decisions.” No, he’s not, and don’t let the “elite” school names fool you. He’s a political science major who went on to law school. That’s not the resume of an educated person. That’s the resume of a preposterous, farcical, bungling twit.

  18. spacecabooie

    Here’s a good one:
    (Are the US’ economic advisors that stupid or are they inviting someone else – Russia – into the argument in order to have them to blame for an accelerating western economic collapse ?)

    Novosti quoted Glazyev:

    “In the instance of sanctions being applied to stated institutions, we will have to declare the impossibility of returning those loans which were given to Russian institutions by U.S. banks. We will have to move into other currencies, create our own settlement system. We have excellent trade and economic relations with our partners in the east and south, and we will find a way to reduce to nothing our financial dependence on the United States but even get out of the sanctions with a big profit to ourselves.”

    “The Americans are threatening Russia with sanctions and pulling the EU into a trade and economic war with Russia. Most of the sanctions against Russia will bring harm to the United States itself, because as far as trade relations with the United States go, we don’t depend on them in any way.”

    “We hold a decent amount of treasury bonds — more than $200 billion — and if the United States dares to freeze accounts of Russian businesses and citizens, we can no longer view America as a reliable partner. We will encourage everybody to dump U.S. treasury bonds, get rid of dollars as an unreliable currency and leave the U.S. market.”

  19. spacecabooie

    State Dept as an adjunct of the NSC, or visa versa ? Well, Russia has an NSC also. But the joke may be out now that the CIA will not be annexed and has exposed the Dept of State’s leader as ignorant/willfully blind on these issues (but the CIA may need to disavow their own 50 year old involvement with Nazis and Russian and Jewish extermination in Ukraine a la former Western Ukrainian Nationalist cum Agent Stepen Bandera). Just as they have continued to act clueless as to what the west (can I make those letters any smaller, is there some other to font to do this ?…) violated in the first international violation of Ukrainian sovereignty in this crisis, the violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Ukraine’s sovereignty.

    CIA, J. Brennan discusses Crimea with US lawmaker:

    While both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are ranting about a “Russian invasion” of Crimea, and calling President Putin a liar who “isn’t fooling anyone” in denying that Russia has invaded, Obama’s own CIA director, John Brennan, reported to a senior lawmaker on Monday that Russia is allowed up to 25,000 troops in Crimea under the 1997 treaty with Ukraine, and is thus acting within its treaty obligations — as President Putin has insisted.

    According to the LA Times, based on U.S. official sources who declined to be named in describing private discussions and declined to name the legislator, Brennan said that the number of Russian troops in Crimea today remains well below that threshold.

  20. fresno dan

    all war all the time.
    A good portion of the government of the US is involved in a War economy – planning, fighting, negotiating. No war, nothing for these guys to do. As there is always a war, rumor of war, etc, there is always something for them to do. As they say (paraphrased) give a man only a war job, and every job becomes a war.

  21. sadness

    ….of course this thing goes way back….Reagan didn’t know how to play an A list part when Gorbachev gave him the world and the US script writers have simply lost the plot since then

  22. May

    Interesting little mention in MSM there is a neo Nazi government in Ukraine now. That sets an interesting precedent. By the way, wages have
    stagnated or DETERIORATED for the countries that joined EU! Meanwhile when the workers migrate to Europe they are called job stealers, benefit tourists, etc and discouraged from coming.

    This Paper discusses book and mentions working conditions stagnated or got worse after enlargement of EU
    Social Failures of EU Enlargement: A Case of
    Workers Voting with Their Feet.

    See other material
    Is the U.S. Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine?
    Exposing troubling ties in the U.S. to overt Nazi and fascist protesters in Ukraine.
    Ukrainian ultra-rightists given major Cabinet posts in government
    Obama’s Far Right Foreign Policy
    The Sad Progression of the Ukrainian Protest Movement From Democracy and the Rule of Law to Ultra-nationalism and Anti-semitism
    Ukrainian ultra-rightists given major Cabinet posts in government
    Op-Ed: Tea With Neo-Nazis: The Violent Nationalism in Ukraine
    The violence in Ukraine is a show case of the pan-European rise of race hatred. Europe is engaging in a risky blindness. Again.
    This Map Explains Why Ukraine Is So Divided Over Russia
    On Russia, Don’t Believe The US Media
    Distorting Russia
    How the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine.
    Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine
    A Selective View of ‘Democracy’
    Neocons and the Ukraine Coup
    A Shadow US Foreign Policy

  23. May

    What else to expect from neo nazis?
    Was ‘massacre’ which started Ukraine revolution ordered by the new leaders? Leaked tape says Maidan snipers were NOT under control of ousted president but opposition which drove him from power
    Leaked phone call suggests anti-government protesters hired the snipers
    Call is believed to be between EU’s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonia’s foreign affairs minister Urmas Paet
    Paet appears to claim opposition leaders hired the snipers that killed 94

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