Is Geneva 2022 Munich 1938 Without Chamberlain’s Piece Of Paper? How To Read the US Paper to Russia For Peace For Our Time

Yves here. Helmer does the useful service of providing direct quotations from Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on how the US needs to do what it has pointedly failed to do so far in its negotiations over the festering crisis over Ukraine; provide written responses to the Russia formal position. Given America’s history of being “not agreement capable” and in particular reneging on verbal commitments to not move NATO into former Warsaw Pact countries, getting the US to make a simple and clear statement of what if anything it proposes to do would seem to be a reasonable basic step.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

What will be written on the US Government’s piece of paper since the Russian Government already knows – its intelligence services know, the Solar Winds hackers know  – what was not written on the papers which Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was reading at the Geneva talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Monday?

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, announced on Thursday evening the US should now produce on paper its proposals for reducing the risk of war. Or else, Lavrov also told Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, the US will have war with Russia. Enough “arrogance of the highest degree”, and “foaming at the mouth”, Lavrov told Blinken. That “the Secretary of State of a serious state  [солидного государства] declares such things” is –  Lavrov left the expletive unsaid.

“We hope that the promises made now in Geneva and Brussels will be fulfilled. They concerned the fact that the United States and NATO would put their proposals ‘on paper’. We have clearly and repeatedly explained to them that we need to have an article-by-article reaction to our documents. If some position is not suitable, let them explain why and write ‘on paper’. If it is suitable with amendments, then they should also be done in writing. If they want to exclude or add something – a similar request. We gave our thoughts in writing a month ago. There was plenty of time in Washington and Brussels. Both of them promised that they would put their reaction ‘on paper’.”

Lavrov was waving the American piece of paper to remind that the piece of paper which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain displayed on September 30, 1938 (lead image), on his return from talks with German Chancellor Adolph Hitler, contained the line expressing “the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again”. That turned out to be false – Hitler didn’t mean it; Chamberlain wasn’t sure but wanted his electorate to believe it, plus time to prepare.

Lavrov is announcing that Russia today knows the US intention is to go to war; and that Russia is prepared and is already on war footing on all fronts.

That Sherman told Ryabkov on Monday “the United States and Russia agree that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought” is just as false, Lavrov has now declared —  unless what follows is Sherman’s paper. On that paper there must be “legal guarantees of non-expansion of NATO to the East, legal guarantees of non-deployment of shock [nuclear] weapons in our neighbouring territories that pose a threat to Russia’s security, and in principle, the return of the configuration of the European security architecture to 1997,  when the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed. On its basis, the Russia-NATO Council was subsequently created. These are three key requirements. The rest of the proposals depend on how the conversation goes on these three initiatives.”

Lavrov’s declaration also dismissed as empty the attempts to intervene in the Russia-US negotiations  by Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general now approaching the end of his term; and  Josep Borrell, the Europe Union foreign minister from Spain. Stoltenberg, Lavrov said, was “shaking the air”. Borell had been “emotional and not very polite”.

Lavrov’s spokesman, Maria Zakharova, followed at her briefing on Thursday by remarking: “It seems that there are two J. Borrells: one is the one who speaks, and the second is the one who writes. Or one J.Borrell, who speaks, but other people write for him. Both in style, and in language, and in the expressions used, these texts do not belong to one person. It’s obvious.”

The only interlocutor left in Europe Lavrov identified as serious is France. Germany went unmentioned; the British were not to be believed, Lavrov commented; the US Senate is  suffering from a “nervous breakdown… a psychological point that’s difficult to explain.”

Read the full text of Lavrov’s interview in Russian here.  The ministry’s official English translation will follow later today.

Left to right: Sergei Lavrov and interviewers for Channel 1,  Dmitri Simes (videolink) and Vyacheslav Nikonov. 

Zakharova’s briefing is here.

In her press briefing after the Geneva talks on Monday, Sherman had spelled out eight points of seeming convergence between the two states. She also claimed she knew what was on Ryakov’s paper: “Minister Ryabkov and I know each other very well.  We worked on the Syria chemical weapons deal together.  We worked on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [Iran] together.  We’ve obviously now worked on the SSD  [Strategic Stability Dialogue] in my role as deputy secretary of state.  We know each other very, very well.  So we can be very straight-up with each other to the extent that we can be, knowing that we are here for our national interests and are very loyal to those national interests.”

Lavrov reversed Sherman’s claim with its own echo. “We know the American negotiators quite well. We have met with them many times on various occasions, including negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program and the START-3 Treaty. They roughly understood what the conversation would be. It was fundamentally important for us to fulfill the direct instructions of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said that we are obliged to put these issues concerning the entire architecture of European security in the strictest way. There is not only Russia’s unilateral demand not to strike it and not to do anything that causes us dissatisfaction, but also principles aimed at ensuring the security of everyone without infringing on someone’s interests and without harming the security of anyone.”

Lavrov explicitly dismissed Sherman’s attempt to dictate Russia’s national interests on Russian soil in demanding the withdrawal of troops exercising in the west and south back to their barracks. “I don’t think there is a need to explain the absolute unacceptability of such requirements. We will not discuss them.”

Also unmentioned is the withdrawal of about 10,000 Russian troops to their barracks, announced by the Russian Army on December 25-26. So far there has been neither US acknowledgement nor reciprocal response.


“We will continue the standby mode, but it cannot be long,” Lavrov warned this concession is temporary. “We are used to starting from the cruel reality,” he added. “It consists in the fact that we are promised a written response. We will wait for it and then we will determine our next steps. As for optimism, we have such a proverb: ‘Who is a pessimist? A pessimist is a well-informed optimist.’”

Zakharova concluded her briefing: “We are already waiting now for the specifics, and not peering into their emotional mood and feelings. We are waiting for an answer from them.”

The specifics on the US paper already appear to be non-reciprocal and for that reason are non-starters, Lavrov and Zakharova emphasized. Lavrov identified the refusal of the US and NATO to withdraw “deployment of substantial combat forces on a permanent basis on the territory of the new members”; and the US and allied rejection of mutual verification of nuclear warhead installations in Romania and Poland. As for the dual-capable Aegis missiles, Lavrov said their deployment on ground or at sea cannot be a temporary arrangement.  “The initiative not to deploy shock weapons near the borders of Russia – this is a useful thing, but apart from the main requirement of non-expansion of NATO to the East, it is unlikely to be of significant importance.”

Lavrov omitted to mention nuclear-armed US Navy operations in the Baltic and Black Seas. If there are to be confidence building measures on these fronts, the Russian side will be watching the Bosphorus Straits in the coming days to see if the number of US Navy and other NATO vessels moving north into the Black Sea appears to drop by comparison with last year.  A Turkish Navy website makes it possible for everyone to observe.

Source: Foreign Warships On Bosphorus in 2022


Zakharova spelled out the specifics of ongoing US reinforcement of Ukrainian forces and escalation of attack capabilities on the Donbass front. “This year they plan to hold a number of joint military exercises, the scale of which will be many times larger than in the past.  As it became known from reports, including the media, contrary to the declared desire of the US authorities to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the conflict, at the end of December 2021, Washington approved the allocation of an additional $ 200 million to Kiev for the supply of ammunition, electronic warfare equipment, lethal weapons to Ukraine. In addition, a group of Republicans submitted to the lower house of Congress a bill ‘On guarantees of Ukraine’s independence through strengthening its defense capability’, providing for the allocation of another $450 million to Kiev, of which $100 million should go to the purchase of air defense equipment/missile defense and warships. It is also planned to expand the range of weapons supplied…”

Sherman said she had told Ryabkov “we believe genuine progress can only take place in a climate of de-escalation, not escalation.  If Russia stays at the table and takes concrete steps to de-escalate tensions, we believe we can achieve progress.”

The response from Moscow on Thursday is that this is as empty and false as the piece of paper Hitler gave Chamberlain.  Lavrov and Zakharova are saying they know the American intention and they aren’t pretending to be Chamberlain.

They have also requested the Americans be more punctual than the Germans. Lavrov has set a deadline for delivery of the paper of one week; he didn’t say if it’s a calendar or work week.

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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    I chanced on Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte, a book that made him rather notoriously famous in a career in which he was often notoriously famous. Malaparte uses the term historic novel to describe what is also reportage about WWII–and his reporting consists of one atrocity after another, in Poland, in Romania, in Ukraine, in Germany itself. (As an Italian in WWII, he was operating “behind” the lines that Americans have access to.)

    He has an incantatory style: Piling up of details, repetition of details, a careful unspooling of the threads of the horrors that he sees–and that the perpetrators are often proud of.

    People like Sherman, Nuland, and Clinton–yes, I’m looking at you, belligerent feminists–have no idea what war is like. They certainly don’t want to have to spend the day with the likes of Medea Benjamin from CodePink.

    And here we are: Another land war in Asia that will be “managed” by our best and brightest.

    Is it too early to start the war-crimes trials? (And I’m not referring to the Russians.)

    1. Carolinian

      have no idea what war is like.

      C’mon man. Hillary claimed she came under hostile fire at an airport in the Balkans (it wasnt true).

      And if the U.S. put their true motives down on paper they’d have to admit it’s all about chickenhawk politicians puffing themselves up and weapon maker profits. Better the hot air by their reckoning.

      Also some would say the current situation is more like the runup to WW1 than WW2.The big thinkers of the time thought the “Great Powers” would never come to blows and if they did it would be brief.

      Biden’s poor judgment (including his national security picks) endangers us all.

    2. clarky90

      In Technique du coup d`Etat (1931),….. Malaparte set out a study of the tactics of coup d’etat, particularly focusing on the Bolshevik Revolution and that of Italian fascism. Here he stated that “the problem of the conquest and defense of the State is not a political one … it is a technical problem” (Hmmmmmm, I’m looking at you Vanguard owned, Big Tech), a way of knowing when and how to occupy the vital state resources: the telephone exchanges, the water reserves and the electricity generators, etc.

      He taught a hard lesson that a revolution can wear itself out in strategy. He emphasizes Leon Trotsky’s role in organising the October Revolution technically, while Lenin was more interested in strategy. The book emphasizes that Joseph Stalin thoroughly comprehended the technical aspects employed by Trotsky and so was able to avert Left Opposition coup attempts better than Kerensky.

  2. Tom Pfotzer

    Do you think the Russians are bluffing?

    What will you do if they’re not?

    Do you see the Russians as the aggressor in this situation?

    ======= separately

    Mr. Helmer is an interesting fellow:

    Degree from Harvard in PoliSci.
    Journalist for several decades, as was his wife
    He’s been accused of being a Russian spy
    He lives in Russia
    He’s been very critical, publicly, of some very powerful Russian oligarchs


    There aren’t that many outlets / ways to get the unvarnished, unedited, un-interpreted actual things the Russians are saying.

    Thanks NC.

    One last point, riffing off DJG above: do you feel comfortable getting your situation report on this most vital of subjects from the mouth(s) of NeoCons?

      1. Quentin

        Funny that. Moscow is mentioned in Helmer’s masthead. Or is he just ‘based’ there as the neoliberal dispensation puts it?

  3. Hickory

    Gilbert doctorow gave an interview on rt saying it wasn’t time to stock up on food, chances of war are not trivial but low. The us has continued to escalate this past month (more weapons to Ukraine, Kazahkstan) and then blown off Russian requests during talks while asking Russia to de-escalate in its own borders, at which they laughed.

    How could major confrontation not happen at this rate? May it stay non-nuclear.

  4. Dave in Austin

    The present crisis about the Ukraine seems to be purely an American issue; I see absolutely nothing about it in the European press. The Europeans don’t seem to be upping the ante by supplying weapons to the Ukraine; no European statesman or political party seems to be calling for intervention. Most Europeans seem to think NordStream is a good idea, which for them economically it is.

    The danger I see is that the creeping American involvement in the Ukraine will lead the Russians to respond with their own creep- like the massive internet blackout yesterday or the speculation of Russian military aid and soldiers to Venevuela and Cuba I note that the Ukraine has not yet been set on the official pathway to NATOhood, which in my opinion would be a trigger like a Tiawan declaration of independence.

    For the life of me I can’t seehow the expansion of American and maybe NATO involvement in the Ukraine increases US security interests. How much of this is being driven by anti-Russian lobbies representing American’s of eastern European heritage, who are a tradtional Democratic party constituency? I can think of no other organized group in the US that sees this push as in their interests.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The rumors out of DC were the White House believes Biden needs a foreign policy win to get back on track, and Blinken has been traveling around. Bringing the Kiev rump state into NATO would be a “win”. Biden wants a “win” where he doesn’t give anything up. No one in tne US gives an eff about Africa. The Americans are becoming a problem. Iran and Cuba would be retreats and would need serious US concessions at this point. China is too big. India is still India. The Middle East wouldnt be popular for obvious reasons. As dumb as it seems, this is Biden’s best option for a foreign policy success where he doesn’t cede anything. The Russians simply arent going to be door mats for Biden’s ineptitude.

      It’s like Clinton’s expansion of NATO in the 90’s. It was a political stunt with a kicker for selling weapons thrown in.

    2. Robert Dannin

      The French press is very concerned about Ukraine and Russia’s demands over NATO. Le Monde’s Atlanticist credentials are well-documented, and its editors have adopted an increasingly hard line in concert with Macron’s Foreign Minister Le Drian. The French military led by Florence Parly hasn’t been as pro-NATO since the 1950s. Macron’s personal frustration with Putin demonstrates the limits of Gaullism, particularly in light of the enduring romance between his likely 2022 Presidential opponent Marine Le Pen and Russia which contributes substantial cash to her far-right Rassemblement National party. Rather than fight about which candidate best emulates the Generalissimo, Macron is firmly anchored in 21st century realpolitik. In contrast to Olaf Shultz’s waffling on the sharp political divisions over Nordstream-2 in Berlin, Macron is clearly worried and the press reports and editorializes about this issue nearly every day.

    3. Thomas P

      Dave, You haven’t read Swedish newspapers then. There are tanks on the streets of Visby on Gotland to discourage a possible Russian invasion.–stridsfordon-i-visby-hamn

      Sweden is too small and military weak to threaten Russia, so I doubt they care. The current panic is just a bit silly, and a tactic by the minority that wants Sweden to join NATO.

      Then Anthony Blinken claimed that Finland wants to join NATO, which isn’t true, and suggest that he is either misinformed or trying to escalate the situation.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      The EU remains committed to its ongoing conspiracy to keep America trapped in NATO. The EU could declare the abolition of NATO any time it wanted to.

      By refusing to abolish NATO, EUrope is voting for whatever war the DC FedRegime starts with Russia by deliberately preserving the NATO platform for such a war. Perhaps EUrope thinks it can trick Russia and the DC FedRegime into having a war over EUrope’s head, leaving EUrope the master of the world.

      If that is what the EU GoverBiz Lords are thinking, then let us hope the DC FedRegime and Russia spare eachothers’ territory and have the war all over EUrope instead.

  5. The Rev Kev

    I don’t think that the Russians are kidding. They have nowhere left to retreat to. Probably the main issue for Russia is those missile installations in Europe that can be easily loaded with missiles with nuclear warheads. But the US says that those installations are there to protect Europe from missiles from Iran & North Korea. No, they really do say that and expect people to believe it. And I can understand why Russia is only willing to talk to the US and not the European nations. As an old expression went that I heard once – ‘I want to talk to the butcher. Not the maggot on the meat-block.’ You get an agreement with the US and Europe will have to fall in line. I think that Washington is starting to worry what the Russians will do if there is not agreement reached. The Russians did not rule out sending their military to Cuba and Venezuela and already Washington is making threats about severe consequences if that happens. And I can understand how Russia must be worried. They might be thinking of what might happen if the lunatic US electoral system ended up making Ted Cruz as President one day. He is the sort of person that might think that a first strike might be worth the risk.

    1. timbers

      “The Russians did not rule out sending their military to Cuba and Venezuela…”

      But can the Russians send their military there? Do they have permission from these nations? Honest question. I think they should especially Cuba, and install their most advanced offensive systems aimed at Washington and the U.S. in general. IMO it would do wonders to lessen prospects of nuclear war.

      But…can she do this?

    2. Rainlover

      Rev, I’m interested to hear why you think Biden is not the sort of person who thinks a first strike might be worth the risk. All we’ve heard from him in foreign policy is the same old tired cold war memes. I haven’t seen any evidence that he is not just as reckless you imagine Cruz might be. He appointed the execrable Blinken as Secretary of State didn’t he? He might as well have appointed John Bolton IMHO.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Joe Biden is proof positive that the state of animatronics was highly developed in 2021. Seriously, old Joe is not the person that he was twenty years ago for which America can be extremely grateful for. This would suggest that behind the scenes, all those power fiefdoms like the Pentagon, State Department, etc. are all struggling for power which would lead to chaotic governance. The evidence for this may be the dog’s breakfast that his admin has made of the pandemic response since he got in a year ago and how a person like Fauci is still permitted to be running things.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          The admin response to covid is designed to spread covid on purpose. The simulated “dog’s breakfast” appearance is careful cover designed to divert intention away from the intentionality of the “spread covid on purpose” nature of the response.

          1. c_heale

            It seems to be the same in the UK. Tbh the emphasis on only vaccines and ‘Living with Covid’, is the same thing, too.

            Having worked in a pharmaceutical company a long time ago, their main emphasis is in long term chronic diseases that need regular medication. Imo they are trying to make Covid into that disease.

        2. Rainlover

          Thanks Rev. I wish I had your faith that Biden is too feeble now to attack Russia. Unfortunately his advisors may not be as feeble. I’m still practicing my duck and cover.

          1. Anon

            Wouldn’t it be ironic, if instead of the much vaunted Republican election-time war with Iran, we get a Democratic election-time war w Russia?

            Hmm… I wonder where AOC would stand? Will the flags come out?

  6. Harry

    I am suffering from cognitive dissonance. How can I read so many things which point to escalating risks of war in Russian sources, but get so little confirmation of that from my reading of Western Press.

    1. anon y'mouse

      because this would be a real war and not a trumped up excuse to sell more materiel while oppressing agricultural religionists in a “backwater” country in the hinterlands.

  7. ptb

    This whole exchange in the last 4-6 weeks is bizarre. I can’t think of any journalist or pundit who thought US would accept voluntary limits to its position, not to mention how the Trump administration drove a stake through the heart of US diplomatic credibility.

    1. PhillyPhilly

      Not that Trump helped, but did the US really have much diplomatic credibility before Trump? Hasn’t the US been agreement-incapable for a long time?

      1. Louis Fyne

        US bombing of Serbia was the turning point.

        A little footnote for US pundits in an era of US “full spectrum dominance”….but the moment that Russia woke up and saw the existential threat from the US/Nato.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If commenter Vlade’s comment that it was Vaclav Havel who lobbied a reluctant Clinton into expanding NATO eastward, then this confirms that NATO is now a EUropean conspiracy against America’s basic freedom and safety, and perhaps against America’s mere existence.

        Too bad American governance is run by EUrophile traitors against America.

  8. KD

    Wow, its been a long time since the Blob has had to fight a real war, with real stakes, which is as probable as not to go nuclear.

    1. Synoia

      I wonder what the Chinese, who are at the root of the US supply chain, will do.

      In WW 2 US Industrial capacity was all based in the US. Today it is somewhere between 50% and 75% based outside the US, and thus venerable to attack.

      All those ships floating around Long Beach make fine targets.

      1. Thomas P

        Synoia, China may very well take the opportunity to put pressure on Taiwan, or go to outright war taking the islands close to the Chinese mainland. Iran might decide that world is so crazy they need a nuclear deterent. All kind of conflicts may pop up in the shadow of a showdown between Russia and USA, even if that war in itself can be contained.

      2. ptb

        No need to target any ships, China can just refuse to load them. Effective collapse of the stateside tables-and-chairs economy in 6-12 months tops, as stock of parts for everything run out. China has its own huge vulnerabilities of course, so this won’t happen.

        The whole concept of a ‘serious economic war’ between US and China is nuts on its face. And by extension, any military action attempting to “knock out” Chinese production. It would be less damaging to the US to send 1 million infantry to try to march on Beijing. The only thing to do is sabotage third parties.

        Similarly EU physical economy relies on Russian natural resources (and if energy trends persist, possibly food!), and Russia for the time being still relies on EU equipment to quickly and cost-effectively ramp up production of the natural resources. Here too a full economic conflict, and by extension a direct military conflict, are more damaging — to EU and Russia, with the former eating probably 65% of the costs. Furthermore, one by one, China is displacing EU from niche industrial markets, which slowly but surely increases that percentage even more.

        It’s a little odd that EU was convinced to accelerate this process, but for the US, it might buy a little time. China won’t complain.

    2. Louis Fyne

      Most of the tears shed if a Russian hypersonic missile takes out CIA HQ will be on MSNBC and CNN.

  9. Stove Goblin

    Wait, what? America is already going on an offensive in the east, nonsensically with forbidden air defense systems around Kyiv. In spite of this, Russia also expects a reply with concessions to their demands, that based on the accusation above, Russia knows will be prevarication, at best? Chamberlain accepted annexation of the Sudetenland to the detriment of, well, everybody. Therefore, Europe needs to accept annexation of Crimea. Da fooque? This campaign does not try to convince so much as it intends to a create paranoia that renders the political responses passive, non-assertive. Confused from the get go.

    The cynical European sophisticate would call the demands blackmail. But as an American, it is easier to not take it personally. It’s just business.

  10. Punkonomics

    SecState Blinken is diligently trying to sell Ukraine to Russia to keep the latter too busy with finances and resources allocated to this integration and Russia, knowing it, doesn’t want to buy it. Funny though how UK’s Labradoodle, willing to be a third partner in the US and Russia negotiations, tried to help Americans keeping his SAS close to Luhansk and Donetsk until was told not to interfere with this. Now, the question is what is a compromise for Russia’s demand to NATO to go back to 1997 borders and if it going to be 1999 (Poland’s in) or 2004 (the Baltics are in) border and what Russia bargains from the USA and vice versa. But Ukraine is out of question already.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Better yet, send Pelosi, Biden, Blinken, Clintons, Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham to the front.

      Like in the times of Alexander when leaders led from the front.

      1. Kiers

        please add Viktoria Nuland and Michael Ledeen to this list! No more “behind the curtain when the heat is on”.

  11. Jessica

    Munich 1938 cannot be accurately understood without including the fact that the West and the Soviets were both trying to get the other side to be the one who had to fight the war that Hitler was clearly going to have. That game of “let’s you and him fight” is rarely acknowledged in popular discussion of Munich.
    Of course, the Soviets responded to Munich by completely surprising the West with their pact with Germany in 1939. They also not only completely surprised the entire anti-capitalist left in the West, but also damaged it irrevocably. Oceania has always been at war with East Asia.

    1. Susan the other

      So if all this sort of follows a pattern of paranoid and reactionary human behavior maybe the thing we should be looking for is who is going to get belligerent first? Last time around the Germans made up some exaggerated excuses to take Poland by surprise. Then every other country eagerly piled on. If we are comparing situations, that puts the US in the position of Germany to take some first action. Because all accounts make the US the aggressor in the whole Ukraine thing. But the US is dedicated to color revolutions and insurrections to do that part. So where will this new Ukrainian Insurrection come from? If it comes from Ukraine it will be considered aggression by the West. All Russia has to do is stay in a defensive position and the West will be unable to cause the first aggression because nobody is going to do it. This could go on for a long time. It sort of reminds me that the long term solution is to build a wall. If we build a wall, a real wall or just a symbolic one, it will stop NATO, so problem solved.

      1. Grebo

        I think the US has been trying to persuade Ukraine to try to retake the Donbass, in the expectation that Russia will defend it, which will be spun as an attack on Ukraine.

    2. Bazarov

      Stalin, promising a million troops, first tried to secure an alliance with the French and English against Nazi Germany.

      They refused (mostly thanks to British influence).

      Isolated, this forced the USSR to look for other means of security. Surely the West in rejecting Russia’s overtures understood what the consequences might be. I highly doubt the non-aggression pact was such a great surprise to those in the know.

  12. Cat Burglar

    Can the report of increased numbers of Russian troops near the Russian border with Ukraine be believed?

    The initial report was attributed to “officials,” “people familiar with the briefing,” and so on. Nobody wants to take responsibility for originating it, but every reporter repeats it. During the Vietnam era things like this were put out publicly by named officials. (An AP report today uses the same method: an unnamed official has said Russian operatives are now in place in the Donbass to create a false flag pretext for an attack on Ukraine.) There has been very little US journalistic scrutiny of the facts, just repeating the talking points — it recalls the echo-chamber tactic used to build support for the Iraq war and Russiagate.

    The number and location of of Russian troops has been reported very vaguely. Initial reports were that as many as 170,000 might be moving near the border soon — but that only 90,000 more than usual were there. Another story was that there was a large concentration 150 miles from Ukraine (aka, halfway between the border and Moscow). The increased number of troops near the Ukrainian border is never presented relative to the number of forces based in the region between Moscow and the border along the historic route of invasions — something a person might think is necessary context for evaluating a claim of an increased threat.

    Public opinion is being worked in the hands of the masters of at least one great power here. The US playbook of leaking a half-truth, echo-chambering it everywhere, and presenting it without context or in false context is a sure mark that we are being deceived, whatever the actual facts.

    1. Polar Socialist

      No, they can’t. In the November last year both Pentagon and Ukrainian Chief of Staff said that Russian troops are not about to attack, and there’s not enough of them even if they were.

      Regardless US State Department claimed that Russia was planning to move 170 Battalion Combat Groups to Ukrainian border. Russia has something like 140 at the moment, so that would have been 120% of the total combat strength of the Russian army.

      At the beginning of this year the Chairman of the Ukrainian Security Council again verified that the Russian troops are not in attack grouping or preparing for an attack, and that there’s only 1/4 of the required amount in any case.

      So, neither US, Ukrainian or Russian military thinks there going to be a war in Ukraine. But all agree, that if Ukraine tries to solve it’s internal dispute by force, Ukrainian command and control network and majority of it’s armed forces will cease to exists within 24-48 hours.

    2. Grebo

      Another bit of context we are not given is the number of NATO troops currently in Ukraine. I believe it is not zero.

    3. Futility

      But this propaganda seems to work on a lot of people. Reading the reader comments to the German Spiegel report on the Ukraine’s websites defacement, a lot of people believe the US claims of an imminent false flag operation by Russians in the Donbass. Pointing out that one should be wary on these kind of claims considering the source and its past track record, one is immediately attacked as a Russian stooge. The belief of a lot of people in our masters seems quite undeterred even if this could mean a possible nuclear exchange. Pointing out that NATO’s expansion to the East is not exactly unaggressive is met with rebuttals of the unassailability of sovereign decisions of independent nations while Russian threats to put weapons on Cuba are called dangerously crazy. At the same time Nato troops and weapons in Ukraine are somehow not. It’s all rather distressing.

  13. dftbs

    Less like Munich and more like Potsdam. Except this time we are present as vanquished foes. The Russians in their tradition of grand diplomacy are offering terms of cease-fire. You stay there, we stay here, and we both vacate what’s in between. If we refuse, they’ve stated they are willing to continue hostilities.

    This comes as a surprise to Americans, including those at the very top, since we don’t think we were or are in conflict with the Russians (or the Chinese, Cubans, Nicaraguans, Bolivians, Venezuelans, Yemenis, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, North Koreans). Since the time of USSR direct super-power conflict has been limited because of the existence of Nuclear weapons, this remains the case today. But in diplomatic, military, technological and economic term the Russians feel, correctly so, they have us check-mated. Hence the “aggression” we perceive in their actions.

    If we continue down the path of supporting Ukraine and admitting them into NATO, the Russians have stated they will destroy Ukraine as a state. This can done by diplomatic means, acknowledging the LDNRs as independent nations; or militarily, destroying (with or without invasion) the limited physical structures and capacities of the state that presently occupies Ukraine. And they correctly guess that even if we had the will to resist this we don’t have the physical ability to do anything about it, short of nuclear war.

    If we don’t take their suggestions to roll-back NATO from their borders, the Russians appear to be telling us they have the diplomatic and technological means to make that distance to borders irrelevant. Be that forward deployment of hypersonic weapons on land or sea, submarine drones or container ship deployed weapons. Or more tantalizingly deployment of offensive and defensive weapon systems in the Western Hemisphere. Again, short of nuclear war, what can we do about it? Are we going to try to physically blockade Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela because they are deploying conventionally armed Kinzals or S550s? And if we decided to do so, could we? Afte rall those blockaded nations would be deploying Kinzals and S550s, reveal the impotence of our nice little boats.

    There is a laughably false notion that we have economic levers to pull. That we could impose the most severe sanctions, including pulling Russia out of the dollar payment system. This would be the equivalent of committing murder suicide on ourselves and our allies in order to punch some guy on the nose. There has been a persistent question of how the Europeans would pay for Russian energy if the latter were disconnected from SWIFT, but we should also be mindful of how we would pay for Russian energy. If anything the increased price of energy from such sanctions and their consistent flow to Asian markets would overcompensate the Russians (and in hard currency, no one wants greenbacks). In my professional opinion, sanctioning the Russians and removing them from SWIFT would have the most dramatic supply side inflationary impacts on the US, something we can ill afford at the present moment. In a geopolitics meets markets moment, I would say that Russian military deployments in the Western Hemisphere would be inflationary. The diminished coercive power the US would dramatically reduce the purchasing power of the USD relative to other non-western currencies. The Chinese are already the largest providers of capital to the region, leaving us without the means to incite capital strikes.

    All in all, we are being given a graceful way out much like Napoleon at Frankfurt, but I doubt we are humble and wise enough to see this.

    1. NotThePilot

      If we continue down the path of supporting Ukraine and admitting them into NATO, the Russians have stated they will destroy Ukraine as a state. This can done by diplomatic means, acknowledging the LDNRs as independent nations; or militarily, destroying (with or without invasion) the limited physical structures and capacities of the state that presently occupies Ukraine.

      That’s what I don’t understand at all about the recent chatter that the US is going to try backing a Ukrainian “insurgency.” In the one Yahoo article from the links today, one guy even said they want to make it like Afghanistan was to us (why of course Afghanistan and Ukraine are just alike /s). Methinks our elites are projecting their own weird impulses to invade other societies and assimilate them to the Borg.

      Insurgencies happen in an actual territorial and popular base that’s been occupied. Russia OTOH doesn’t need to nor have they hinted at any plans to occupy territory indefinitely. All they need to do is dig-in for a bit where they’re already welcome, blast everything to smithereens in a buffer zone, then keep funneling support to the locals. If they’re feeling really ornery, I guess they could try attacking (but not holding) Kiev or a lot of infrastructure west of the Dnieper. It’s like people forget they fought Georgia less than 15 years ago and weren’t delusional enough to try occupying the whole country then.

      To me, the scarier thing is if the ethnic tensions completely explode, and people are more at risk from their neighbors than the Russian or Ukrainian army. It’s not impossible you could have something like the partition of India, with people fleeing across the Dnieper both ways.

  14. Polar Socialist

    I think the real tragedy of Munich was the simple fact that it attempted to solve European security issues while leaving Soviet Union out completely, even when Soviet Union had been running enormous diplomatic effort to get Germany contained. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Another point, which should be repeated, is that Russia in not seeking NATO to withdraw to 1997 members. It’s demanding NATO to pull troops to where they were in 1997. It’s ok for current members to stay as members, but there should be no external NATO troops present in them. Very significant difference, and also quite acceptable, if one assumes NATO is an alliance for mutual defense.

    It’s only unacceptable if NATO is, unlike we’ve told, seeking to aggressively intimidate and dominate. Or if, as I believe, the main purpose of NATO is and always has been to prevent France and/or Germany from allying with Russia and create the true European powerhouse.

  15. jim truti

    The best place to be, is in the opposition.
    You get to lecture and criticize without having to make a decision.
    EU will never make a decision, they will “sit tight and assess then express deep concern”.
    In the words of Nuland, Fuxx the EU.
    Having spend years in prewar, the war and the aftermath of the war in ex-yougoslavia, working for the UN, I have a different opinion about the US.
    When war broke out in Bosnia, the US took the view that it was in the EU’s backyard and chose to do nothing. The Serb army committed genocide, separating and executing young boys under the eyes of the famous French general and his soldiers who did nothing while fully armed.
    No american general would have allowed that.
    When the Serbs drove out the whole population of Kosovo into Macedonia and Albania (more than 1.5 million) the US and UK finally decided to intervene.
    They drove out the serb army and the population returned back to the province.
    Had not they done so, we would have a second Palestine in the balkans today.
    And please, dont tell me the US went there for the oil or some selfish interest, other than for humanitarian reasons.
    Given the vast number and complexity of the US actions in the world, its possible to support any narrative by choosing the events that fail or succeed. Iraq war was certainly an unnecessary disaster for example.
    But the majority of commenters here are being unfair to the US, to the point that I suspect some of them are Russian trolls managing to go through the filters.
    First, its not the US that has stationed 100k troops at the Ukraine’s border or making war threats.
    And it is not the US that has annexed Crimea , a territory belonging to Ukraine by treaty.
    I doubt Putin has Biden’s ear for sophisticated conspiracy theories.
    Putin is a KGB thug, he has assassinated most journalists and opponents criticizing him and is no different than his little brother in North Korea other than in possessing more nukes.
    20 million people in Russia live below the poverty level, 30% of Russians don’t even have access to toilet facilities, Putin has been a disaster for the Russian people and this insecurity comes from threats to his power, not Russia.
    Its typical of all dictators. Biden shouldn’t even waste time talking to him.
    There is no country that is a serious threat to Russia currently, other than China maybe in the very long term. All one need to do is fly from EU to Beijing, over the territory of Russia, to instantly understand the foolishness of Napoleon or Hitler or any other madman and at the same time come to the immediate conclusion that Russia has no serious external threat.
    One simply cannot occupy Russia without being swallowed by her vast immensity.
    There are many things to blame our government for, but this is not one of them.

    1. Grebo

      First, its not the US that has stationed 100k troops at the Ukraine’s border or making war threats.
      And it is not the US that has annexed Crimea , a territory belonging to Ukraine by treaty.

      How many Russian troops are stationed near US borders?
      How many key US military bases has Russia conspired to take over?
      How many US neighbours has Russia attempted or succeeded in overthrowing?
      The Empire has been pushing and prodding and poking and provoking Russia for years. It wants a war, and it wants to be able to say “Well, Russia started it.”

    2. Realist

      It wasn’t a French general, it was a Dutch general and a Dutch (lightly armed) troops that had no other option than watch the genocide in Sebrenica.

    3. Cat Burglar

      The US government is knowingly gambling Ukrainian sovereignty and nuclear war in their move to station troops and missiles on the Russian border. They knew the Russians would react; they just think they can manage or win the confrontation to come out ahead. These are states in a power confrontation. Russia is an amoral actor in this, as is the US.

      Before assuming a net positive outcome of a US triumph, based on your experiences during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, it is well to examine recent and older US history to see that employing mass death, and mass death of civilians of all ages, has been a regular tool of US policy –it does not matter what historical period you examine. Just this week I heard a report of the bombing raids by the US on Syrian civilians — certainly approved of by a US general — and heard that some pilots refused to fly raids that were transparent war crimes — but that did not stop the raids from happening. You can probably still find the video of helicopter pilots machine gunning Afghan civilians and laughing about it — and you can follow the coverage of what is happening now to Julian Assange, as he sits in prison for disseminating the video. The US government uses torture as a tool of policy — Lithuania paid up this week for its part in helping out. Go back to the Vietnam war and you can find examples of mass terror and murder committed on a civilian population — and as the Pentagon Papers showed, it was done mainly to make the US government look credible (and why they tried to imprison Ellsberg for publishing it). Your experience is relevant — but so is the historical experience of our nation: read some US history. Assuming the US government is an honest broker is not justified.

      After my candidate for president was twice denied the nomination of his party by a rigged process funded by large donors (the eventual nominee in one case was so bad she even had to cheat in a debate to look good), it is a little rich to read that critics of US policy are somehow lazy and do not want to govern. We tried to! This is an oligarchy — so is Russia — so is Ukraine: popular representation is limited in each state by large donor patronage attended by a security apparatus, and press freedom is under limits set by ruling groups. It is a competition between bad and worse.

      Having a Russian sphere of influence over Ukraine is not right; neither is it right that Ukraine should be under the US sphere — it ought to be sovereign. Were the US interested in Ukrainian sovereignty and effective popular control, it would use the moment to negotiate a neutral, “hands off” position for Ukraine. Instead, the US has elected to make this a test of its ability to create fear (aka, “credibility”). The Russian and US nuclear arsenals are ready.

    4. c_heale

      The old Yugoslavia was not on the border of one of the current 3 superpowers. I think this is a completely different situation to that of breakup of Yugoslavia, and analysing it in terms of that breakup is a waste of time.

    5. D.G.

      I’m just wondering who’s the troll here and on behalf of whom he trolls. Putin is not a dictator. He is not a catastrophe for Russians. He managed to pick up Russia’s pieces after the Yeltsin years and the “spreading of democracy” aka pillaging its natural resources by the West and make a great superpower out of it. That’s why the majority of Russians admire him. In the international stage he managed to save Syria from becoming a second Libya. Americans are so last century that they don’t realize how much the game has changed. They think they can spread color revolutions around the world and no one will stop them. Well, as we’ve seen in Kazakhstan it’s not feasible anymore. They constantly preach about democracy when they live in a system where any way they vote they get the same oligarchy to rule them. The America we knew is now like Biden: an old lady possibly suffering from dementia.

  16. ex-PFC Chuck

    We could go a long way toward bring the USA’s head-up-where-the-sun-never-shines foreign policy by re-instituting the draft. However it should not be like the drafts of the Vietnam, Cold, Korean, and World Wars. Instead it should be a draft focused on all persons of military service age (say 18-25) who are relatives up to and including the fifth level of consanguinity of the following persons in direct or indirect US government service:
    Members of the United States Congress and the Senate
    Representatives’ and Senators’ staff personnel working on defense, foreign policy and/or intelligence issues
    Staff members of Congressional and Senatorial committees with purviews on these issues
    The President and Vice President
    Politically appointed civilian employees of the Department of Defense
    Politically appointed civilian employees of all the intelligence agencies
    Executives of think tanks with with contracts with any or all of the above agencies.
    Employees of those think tanks who work on those contracts
    Etc. You get the idea

    I suspect many of the family reunions of these folks would have many conversations that would be fun to overhear.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      One suspects such a draft run on such principles would still be used to keep the people you referrence well to the rear, or well to the rear of behind the rear. It would still be rigged and engineered to keep the children of low-power citizens in the battlespace.

      And it would lead to wars designed to grind along as long as the Vietnam War did. It wouldn’t lower the chances of any such war. It might create a big enough pool of combat trained and hardened returning veterans that they might become fully aware of their numbers and seek to join any movement sincerely devoted to the physical extermination of our upper class. Maybe that’s a reason to have such a draft.

      1. Anon

        Alternately, it could foster a genuine sense of duty and responsibility amongst the upper castes, and put them in much closer contact with the starkest of realities their authorities inflict.

        There will always be powerful people. Best we can do is keep them humble.

  17. balkanian

    When the Serbs drove out the whole population of Kosovo into Macedonia and Albania (more than 1.5 million) the US and UK finally decided to intervene.

    You got your timeline wrong. NATO bombing started before the ethnic cleansing, i.e. the expulsion was in reaction to the bombing.

  18. David in Santa Cruz

    Good comments here; I’m going to launch a long one. I’m very concerned about American belligerence toward Russia. Many comments refer to Chamberlain’s return from Munich — the good ones understand that it is Putin and Lavrov who are the ones who don’t want to be Chamberlain. They would much prefer to be JFK during the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis, which the projection of American missile launchers into Poland, Romania, and “Ukraine” much resembles.

    I can’t fathom the deep muck of American media propaganda/poppycock — such as claiming that the “Budapest Accords” are being violated by Russia, when Obama and Clinton’s 2013 repudiation of those agreements is still live on the U.S. State Department website, or that Russia’s “invasion” of Crimea was unprovoked, forgetting the Euromaidan overthrow of the “Ukrainian” government and the 90 percent Russian majority (many of them on the 200-year old Russian naval bases that had never left after the break-up of the USSR) in that region who had only been administered by the Ukrainian SSR since the 1954! The Russian Army is massed on the border of Luhansk and Donetsk because their government believes that “Ukraine” and U.S. mercenaries/contractors were planning a “false-flag” crisis to justify liquidating these Russian-majority regions — and they offered specifics back in December!

    In 1938-42 the German people thought that they were sitting on top of the World, the “indispensable nation” who could murder with complete impunity. By the summer of 1945 the Germans who had survived were either working in Siberian popsicle factories or having babies named “Ivan.” Their country was in ruins and 16 million Germans had been “ethnically-cleansed” from Mitteleuropa, many of them from the place now called “Ukraine.” I for one, think that’s what can and will happen here in USA! USA!

    I can read what Russian government leaders are saying at I don’t need John Helmer’s excellent reporting. They have read the U.S. neocon playbook.

    1. Russia is capable of “surgical strikes” against U.S. missile installations in Poland, Romania, and “Ukraine” just like the Americans launched against Iran and their proxies in Syria. What are we going to do about it? Launch nukes?
    2. Russia is perfectly capable of withdrawing from the SWIFT clearing system. The Germans need NordStream2 gas, and have withdrawn billions in gold bullion from American reserves to pay for it. They are about to complete a similar oil and gas transport line into China. China can pay in other than dollars — and will no doubt be happy to.
    3. China has now developed internal markets and trade with regions other than North America that will make it a simple matter to impose “sanctions” on the fickle and undemocratic Americans, who have rendered themselves incapable of producing much of anything. The American economy and dollar will be in free-fall before 2024.

    Biden showed himself to be capable of the testicular fortitude to withdraw from the Afghan quagmire over the objections of the Military-Industrial Complex and the neocons — whose shambolic slow-walk exit was designed to embarrass him for his impudence. He needs to smack them down again. All that the Russians are asking for is what JFK asked for in 1963: withdraw foreign troops and missile launchers from the former Warsaw Pact and SSR’s, while leaving in place purely defensive alliances with them.

  19. Sound of the Suburbs

    Everything was falling apart in the 1970s.
    What could they do?
    Go back to the even worse ideas that prevailed before Keynesian economics.
    They wrapped old economic ideas in a new ideology, neoliberalism, and hoped no one would notice.

    We stepped onto an old path that still leads to the same place.
    1920s/2000s – neoclassical economics, high inequality, high banker pay, low regulation, low taxes for the wealthy, robber barons (CEOs), reckless bankers, globalisation phase
    1929/2008 – Wall Street crash
    1930s/2010s – Global recession, currency wars, trade wars, austerity, rising nationalism and extremism
    1940s – World war.
    We forgot we had been down that path before.

    Everything is progressing nicely and we are approaching the final destination.
    This is what it’s supposed to be like.
    Right wing populist leaders are what we should be expecting at this stage and it keeps on getting worse.

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