Russia/Ukraine: The Donkey Turd Bomb and US Empire in Europe – How It Began, How It Is Ending

Yves here. Nothing like an unflattering historical reference to frame an update about the state of play between Russia and the US over Ukraine. After all, the US armed services do have a certain fondness for pursuing the sort of ideas a Brit would call unsound way beyond the kicking the tires phase, see for instance, The Men Who Stare at Goats.

Note how the EU, which would suffer the most collateral damage, still does not seem to have a seat at the table despite the Europeans staging parallel talks with Russia and Ukraine. From France24 on January 26:

Advisors to the heads of state of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to uphold a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine after holding talks in Paris. The negotiations to defuse the crisis came as the US and NATO delivered written responses to Moscow’s raft of security demands for the region.

In a joint communiqué released after eight hours of talks in Paris, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany supported an “unconditional compliance with the ceasefire… regardless of differences on other issues related to the implementation of the Minsk agreements”.

The Minsk agreement, signed in September 2014, was aimed at stopping the fighting in eastern Ukraine, but failed. However, the four countries that make up the so-called Normandy Format agreed that the accord formed the basis for any future resolution to the conflict.

Interestingly, Times of Israel has a fresh story based on an interview with former CIA analyst, now TV writer and producer Joseph Weisberg. Weisberg was a former Russia hawk, so his current thinking is instructive. He contends that the US tricked Russian with its promised that NATO would not expand further east, and the US has not exhibited any empathy towards Russia, which is understandably touchy about having missiles on its doorsteps. He argues for negotiations and reducing economic sanctions would be more effective than brinksmanship. Weisberg also has very harsh words for what passes as intelligence and espionage.

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

During the US Army invasion of Morocco and Algeria in 1943, enroute to the invasion of Italy, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), as the CIA was called then, came up with the donkey turd bomb for destroying the enemy. Since 2014, the CIA has come up with the modern equivalent – it’s called the Ukrainian bomb.  The first was designed to kill Germans. The second is designed to kill Russians. Both of them,   donkey turds and Ukrainians, are failing to hit their mark.

The donkey turd was the name and brainchild of a Harvard professor called Carleton Coon. In designing an American version of an improvised explosive device, Coon said that because  donkey turds were more common on the ground in Morocco than stones, bombs would be more effectively disguised to look like donkey turds.

The US didn’t fight any Germans in Morocco or Algeria. The US invasion promised the Arabs their national sovereignty and independence — — President Franklin Roosevelt was explicit on the point — but that was a calculated deception. The territories were returned to the French. After the US invasions of Italy, then France, the locals were again promised their national sovereignty and independence, but that too was an American deception. The territories were returned to those who accepted the terms of US occupation. They continue in their capitulation to this day, but the terms have been modified according to the American principle of US-directed and managed collective security. The North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) is the main organisation for implementing this.

The defeated Germans, half of them to start with, retreated back into the territory from which they had come, the western half of Germany that is, between 1946 and 1990. The Soviet Army had defeated the Germans who had invaded the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, and driven them back to the Berlin checkpoint. Until the Soviet terms were modified by Mikhail Gorbachev to accept Soviet withdrawal from eastern Germany, this is the way collective security operated in Europe — two opposing alliance forces confronting each other but deterring an attack from either side.

Gorbachev retreated on the US promise that NATO wouldn’t move forward. It was a promise Gorbachev was a fool to believe. He only had to ask the Moroccans or Algerians whether the Americans keep their promises, and he would have been told they don’t.  He wanted to believe otherwise. His successor Boris Yeltsin was just as ready to believe American deceptions until NATO invaded and bombed Serbia; both Gorbachev and Yeltsin believed they depended on the Americans to keep their power in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin tried to believe the promises until 2014 when the war to advance US occupation to the Russian frontier began in earnest. At that border, there is nowhere but inside Russia for the Russians to retreat to, just as they had when the Germans invaded in 1941. Putin announced there was no retreat in his speech to the Russian officer corps last month.   This marked the end of his accommodations with the advancing NATO forces and US nuclear warheads.

In the line of this advance, the Russian Foreign Ministry proposed two treaties on the principle of indivisible security in Europe.  This principle means that one state cannot, and promises it will not,  increase its military capacities in such a way as to threaten the security of a neighbouring state in the same geopolitical space.   The treaties have also proposed there will be no more donkey turd bombs – no more Ukrainian, Romanian, Polish and other nuclear-armed missiles within close range of Russia’s capital, military command control centres, and land-based nuclear missile bases.

The principle of indivisible security, aka Russian self-defence, now confronts the principle of collective security, aka NATO forward defence, along a red line which runs from the Baltic Sea southward down the eastern Ukrainian border to the Black Sea, to Romania and the other littoral states, including Turkey. On Thursday the US rejected indivisible security, and thus the two draft treaties.  On Friday, at a 90-minute radio interview in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained why the conflict of the two security principles cannot result in a Russian retreat.*

This fight is now the last stand for the American empire in Europe which began with the donkey turd bomb 79 years ago.

Lavrov’s speech reveals that from the history of that period, from the destruction of Arab sovereignty, and through the destruction of European sovereignty, and through the near- destruction of Russian sovereignty by Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the Russians have learned a lesson which they cannot now unlearn and from which they cannot retreat. No retreat – that’s the lesson.

The Lavrov text provides a comprehensive guide to what happens next. Read the text in full.  On air, it ran for just under one and a half hours.


Lavrov left out the timing. “I would like to emphasize that the answer we have received is currently being studied,” he said. “We have already outlined the first estimates!” “Our response will be prepared. Proposals on the response will be reported to the President of Russia, and he will make a decision. We are still working out our line at this stage, including the steps I just mentioned.”

Blinken has announced: “I expect to speak to Foreign Minister Lavrov in the coming days after Moscow has had a chance to read the paper and is ready to discuss next steps.”

The Chinese Olympics start on February 4 and end on February 20; President Putin’s campaign for re-election or succession has begun and concludes in January 2024, before polling day the following March. In this two-year interval, the US campaign of escalating pressure is expected in Moscow to be maintained; the Russian surprise measures in response must preserve the initiative for twenty-four months. In the Kremlin these measures are also political and personal survival measures.

“What will we do if the West does not listen to reason? The President of Russia has already said what”, Lavrov said on Friday. “If our attempts to come to terms on mutually acceptable principles of ensuring security in Europe fail to produce the desired result, we will take response measures. Asked directly what these measures might be, he [Putin] said: they could come in all shapes and sizes. He will make decisions based on the proposals submitted by our military. Naturally, other departments will also take part in drafting these proposals.”

Lavrov has provided the Russian guide to what has been exhausted already, and cannot happen next:

  1. NATO has shot its bolt. Comparing the replies from Washington to those from Brussels, Lavrov said: “the American response is all but a model of diplomatic manners compared to NATO’s document. NATO sent us such an ideologically motivated answer, it is so permeated with its exceptional role and special mission that I even felt a bit embarrassed for whoever wrote these texts.” The NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will be replaced in September. Until then everything he says is advertising for a job in the armaments industry selling weapons to aim at Moscow; two weeks ago, Lavrov said Stoltenberg was “shaking the air”. The British candidate to replace him, Baron Mark Sedwill, is the author of the first Novichok operation in March 2018 — the man who failed at neutralizing Sergei Skripal but succeeded at blaming Putin for the affair and at covering up the evidence of what happened. He, and the three women candidates reportedly running for the job, are career Russia-haters.
  2. The European Union (EU) has shot its bolt. “It is not my intention to discuss our partners on a personal level”, Lavrov noted, “though there is much that could be said.” About Josep Borell, the EU’s foreign minister, Larvov said Friday he has been “whipping up hysteria on the topic of escalation in Ukraine”. A fortnight ago, he said Borrell was  “emotional and not very polite”. Lavrov’s spokesman, Maria Zakharova, added “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.”
  3. The only negotiating partner is the US, and it is incapable.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lavrov has dismissed before as “foaming at the mouth” and displaying “arrogance of the highest degree”; for a psychological analysis of Blinken, read this.   In the current Russian   negotiations, the Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd Austin, is represented by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley; Austin’s absence is unprecedented; unexplained in the Washington press.  President Joseph Biden’s absence is of a different character; Russian officials carefully avoid commenting on the evidence of the president’s condition. Biden’s political position is getting steadily weaker; the poll margin of disapproval is now almost as large for Biden as it was for President DonaldTrump:



The Russian calculation is that for the next two years the US side will be increasingly nervous and internally vulnerable. War in Europe is not a vote-winner for the incumbent Democrats.  Also, after five years of campaigning, war against Russia has failed to prove either its truth or its vote value to the Democratic Party against Trump.

Understanding what action on collective security and indivisible security falls between improbable to impossible over the next twenty-four months leads to this Eye-Saver conclusion. There is no longer any point in reading the mainstream media in the West, nor the alt-media of either the UK or the US. Their reporting, analyses and commentaries on the Russian and US sides are either guesswork or propaganda – “shaking the air” or “foaming at the mouth”.

At the point of no retreat, words no longer count. Only force.


*Lavrov cited two agreements on indivisible security in the common European space which have been signed by all member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), including the Ukraine, the central Asian states, Russia, and US. Here they are -- the Istanbul Declaration of 1999;  and the Astana Declaration of 2010.  Paragraph 1 of the Astana declaration declares: “We, the Heads of State or Government of the 56 participating States of the OSCE, have assembled in Astana, eleven years after the last OSCE Summit in Istanbul, to recommit ourselves to the vision of a free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok.” Paragraph 10 says: “We are determined to work  together to fully realize the vision of a comprehensive, co-operative and indivisible security community throughout our shared OSCE area. This security community should be aimed at meeting the challenges of the 21st century and based on our full adherence to common OSCE norms, principles and commitments across all three dimensions.”

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  1. Spikeyboy

    I’m not sure what the mechanisms for leaving NATO are but this is the egg that needs to be cracked. Of course, the key is Germany as always in Europe. This is part of the force being applied in the energy domain. However, the Europeans have an easily stoked irrational fear(hatred?) of Russia. So this is likely a wait and see path.
    There is a great book by Robert Axelrod called The Evolution of Cooperation. He shows how once cooperation takes hold in a non coercive environment it is such a winning strategy that it quickly and easily becomes the dominant one so long as it can gain some small base region of cooperation. Cooperation can be viewed as the win/win espoused by China/Russia/Iran. Non cooperation is the zero sum of the US. In a coercive environment zero sum requires persuasion and corruption for the target to continue interacting with a noncooperating entity so I would argue that the region of cooperation needed for the strategy to survive is seriously larger. I would also argue that Russia/Iran /China is large enough and that therefore the US has already lost. Nothing short of nuclear war can reverse this position and it will now become increasingly obvious to individual nations that joining the cooperative strategy is the only sane choice. The “not an ultimatum”shows that Russia believes that they have the military measure of the West at least in their zone at least up to the point of nuclear. Also that Iran and China will not abandon them.
    The cooperative block can only go from strength to strength because the total shared pool though less to each than if they got the zero sum winnings is greater because cooperation adds value that is lost through coercion. The fact is that in the long run, Russia/China/Iran only need to check the aggression from Uk/Nato/US. Peeling off of some of the major individual countries over time is inevitable

    1. Robert Gray

      > However, the Europeans have an easily stoked irrational fear (hatred?) of Russia.

      You what?!? Try telling the Finns and the Poles (for just two examples) that it’s ‘irrational’! Better yet, let me recommend something for you to look at. It’s called ‘history’. :-0

      1. kgw

        History is a good study, but change does not stop for history. Using history as an excuse to not see the present is not good practice.

      2. Roger

        Then they should also have a hatred of Germans, Swedes Austrians and Hungarians! This is the 21st century not the 18th. Russia/USSR never invaded Western Europe apart from defeating those that attacked it (Napoleon, Hitler). Their fear is irrational, the Poles fought the Russian Empire for decades with both sides being utterly brutal, resulting in the end of Poland for a while (with the cooperation of Prussia, Austro-Hungary and Russia). The Polish-Lithuanuan Commonwealth has gone and will never return.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Didn’t commenter Vlade some time ago write that Clinton was not interested in expanding NATO to include all the Warsaw Pact countries, or even any of them? And that the sainted Vaclav Havel lobbied lobbied lobbied Clinton into accepting that concept?

      Shouldn’t we Americans begin to regard NATO as a European conspiracy against America?

  2. Zamfir

    I have some trouble parsing the Russian argument that’s going around lately, about broken promises on eastern NATO expansion.

    It could be claim about morals, or trust. It’s bad to break promises, as a matter of morality. But morality is a weird basis, given that the negotiations at the time were literally about a peaceful retreat from Soviet-occupied countries.

    It could be calim about trust – breaking a promise is bad for you, in a purely selfish meaning, because the breaker loses more in reputation and trust than they gain from the breach. This might be true, but that ship sailed decades ago. The promise has been broken, the possible reputation damage already happened. Belately honouring the promise today will not restore that trust, and might incur a new loss of reputation because of broken promises made the new NATO members.

    It can be an claim about a-moral Realpolitik. Don’t break promises to powerful countries, because they will retaliate, and the result is bad for everyone. Then again, Russia clearly was not powerful enough to stop the NATO expansion at the time, and was not able to retaliate. Might only makes right if you have might.

    Perhaps they are powerful enough today, to stop further western influence in Ukraine (through NATO or otherwise), or even to demand a western retreat from other countries. If that’s the case, why discuss already-broken promises from the past? If Russia is powerful today, they don’t need promises from 1990, and a lack of promises would change their demands anyway.

    1. vlade

      Based on what I know, there were informal promises to Russia, which were broken. TBH, since the actors who made them never had the authority to make them in the first place. A higher-authority reverting on a promise made by someone who doesn’t have the authority is so old a negotiation trick that Russia (in this case specifically Gorbachev) should really have known. Of course, Gorby was IMO a bit naive towards the West at the time, so..

      Moreover, later Russia accepted that NATO would expand (even though I doubt it had any sort of positive reaction to it), so crying now about it is a pure PR, hoping that the history is far in history that most people won’t bother to check.

      That all said, Russia getting very nervous about NATO at its borders and all is perfectly understandable, and I’m there with Weiseberg.

      Moreover, from my other sources, Russia is getting quite nervous about its fossil fuel income, expecting them to start dropping significantly in about 10 years (the most optimistic scenario says 20). That would be a significant hit to their finances, and, amongst the others, their ability to keep up militarily, especially with both US and China. Hence they see themselves in a bit of an economic corner too, where the time to act is running out.

      From that perspective, easing sanctions AND FDI (not looting, but really FDI) into Russia may be much more effective than weapons rattling. I’d actually see how Germans/EU may be ok with that, but the US has now irrational response to anything that would seem like helping Russia.

      At times I wish for the Cold War warriors to be back, they seem now to be so much more rational..

      1. Zamfir

        Is this irrational from the US?

        My impression is that the US does not have much at risk here, themselves. Worst case, war in the Ukraine does not hurt the US directly much. Dead Ukraine The US does not have much relations with the country, refugees can be kept away. The US can choose how involved they want to be, depending on domestic tastes, without hard commitments.

        It will increase the US influence in the region relative to the western European countries, as the US can provide better military backing. It will raise US income from gas. Sanctions hurt mostly Russia and the EU.

        That’s not to say the the US wants a war. It’s a headache, at the least, it will strain relations with western Europe, it will make all kinds of international processes more difficult when relations with Russia detoriate.

        But I do think the US can afford a more hawkish approach, because they are more isolated from the consequences.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          If you think subjecting a big chunk of Germany to winter with no heating fuel will increase US influence, you are smoking something strong. The last thing Europe wants is the the US stoking a war on its doorstep…with all the costs, including having to absorb more refugees.

          And US LNG cannot begin to substitute for Russian fuel. We can’t begin to ship enough cheaply enough. And I believe the Russian supply is well suited for heating, whereas LNG not so much.

          1. Zamfir

            With “the region”, I meant countries to the east of Germany. When tensions with Russia are high, these countries seek good relations with the US. When tensions with Russia are low, the US is far away and the focus goes to relations with western Europe. I don’t know how much the US cares about this.

            Of course, Europe mostly does not want a war on its doorstep. How much does the US care about that? If you could assure me that the US cares a great deal, I would be happier. From my perspective, you guys are a safe distance away, and can treat it as a game. Vlade calls that irrational, but I do not think that’s quite the right word.

            Also, I am not sure how much blame people around here will lay on the US, if at some point there are Russian tanks are in Ukraine. No matter how the US behaved in negotiations.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              This “Russia is about to attack Ukraine” is up there with “WMD are in Iraq.” They have fewer men near the border (they normally have a few hundred thousand all the time) than they did in April, which are too few for an invasion. And they haven’t mobilized the supporting logistics, most important of all, medical units.

              1. Zamfir

                That’s my understanding as well.

                All of the above was a response to vlade, who called American sabre rattling irrational.

                As I see it, the likely outcome is that nothing much happens, and the US can claim success for sabre rattling.

                The main risk of sabre-rattling is
                escalation, and the likely escalation is some level of instensified warfare in Ukraine. Which, as far as I can tell, is still not major problem for the US or Americans. Not the preferred outcome, but acceptable as a downside risk.

                In that light, I am not convinced that a US hawkish stance is irrational, for them. It’s a game they can afford to play. Everyone else has to be more cautious, Ukraine most of al, because their stakes are higher.

                1. Spikeyboy

                  The problem for the US is that if it wants to continue with a zero sum strategy, sabre rattling is insufficient. If everything continues with sabre rattling, either Russia/China/Iran win or US changes its strategy to cooperation (win/win)

                2. BNeufeld

                  It is difficult to be confident that American actions are rational in the first place. Let us pretend for the moment that they are. The risk they are taking is that by driving Russia and China even closer together, and forcing an alternative to SWIFT, they create a compelling alternative to US hegemony that could easily make inroads anywhere in the world. The long term consequences of which would not bode well for American supremacy. Of course this speculation is based on the US leaders being rational and insightful. I would hate to be the one tasked with providing proof for that assertion.

        2. Bart Hansen

          ‘Worst cases’ involve acts like Iran closing of the Strait of Hormuz, the closing of Russian air space, closing N2 and existing pipelines to (for a start) poor Poland.

      2. Douglas

        Thanks on that with the expected reduction in petroleum finances.

        “Hatred” of Russians? Uhh, no. Disbelief that peopke who uphold/upheld monsters like Saddam, Assad, & North Korea’s Kim as “models” of “socialism” that .. approach .. Russia’s “more-perfect” model?: they’re kidding, RIGHT?!

        See, human Russians, we-as-humans are not “gophers”, as-in “too-low to the ground”.
        Pick yourselves up & tell us where the North Koreans have their myriad of tunnels under the DMZ as no human in their right mind believes South Korea poses a threat to the North.

        Those ‘sorts’ of considerations about ‘those sorts’ .. of deceptions.

        ” .. Coon said that because donkey turds were more common on the ground in Morocco than stones, bombs would be more effectively disguised to look like donkey turds.” [And Kim looking like a “gopher”, treating his people like .. gophers. Pick yourselves up, yesterday.]

        1. Darius

          Socialism is not at issue here. Although I suppose capitalism is. This is about ever expanding markets for US arms merchants and dollar-based capital.

          1. Douglas

            And/or “clients” ?

            Shouldn’t be ‘dropping’ concepts being discussed, while discussing them all now, should we.

      3. nn

        Well, Baker was Secretary of State, so saying he somehow had no authority about what USA will do in international relations and good statesman should ignore what he says is a bit strange. In fact it’s especially amusing when this line of argument comes from the establishment, which stomps on anyone who doesn’t follow current rhetoric as uderminning their carefully crafted official position, basically down to random commenters on facebook.

        Anyway, the whole unsaid assumption here that West is such paragon of virtue that even suggesting they broke informal promise is devilish proposition only Putin could come up with and we should automatically disbelieve it, is itself ridiculous. They will of course broke signed agreement without blink of an eye, let alone some informal promises. On the other hand for example the Cuban crisis was resolved by similar informal promise to remove missiles from Turkey so USA could pretend they resoundingly won that round. So to automatically assume diplomats always lie and their promises mean absolutely nothing will not get us far.

        1. urblintz

          Baker wasn’t the only western rep who made the promise and vlade’s comment about “informal” is the same self-serving, unprincipled “western” dissembling we’ve been hearing for 30 years about Russia.

          Pozner explains it well – a most succinct telling of what actually happened as you will find. He, of course, mentions George Kennan’s declaring the expansion a “tragic error” (if you don’t know who Kennan is google him). The “west” created the chaos, as it always does, and quislings who believe “democracy” should be spread with bombs support the mendacity uncritically.

          “How the United States created Vladimir Putin”

        2. David

          It’s often a surprise to people (especially Americans) that the State Department is not the only actor in US foreign policy, and often not the most important one. Its fundamental task is to represent the consensus views of the Washington establishment to foreigners. At the time, there was no such consensus in Washington, or anywhere else for that matter, and no chance of reaching one. Indeed, the issue wasn’t discussed within NATO at all, because it was too sensitive. I’ve long assumed that Baker was speaking essentially for himself, and that he said whatever he thought he needed to say at that point. After all, had he said “oh yes we’re going to expand NATO right to your borders,” he would have caused a diplomatic crisis, split NATO and probably been forced to resign.

          In any case, it’s a settled understanding that no government can bind its successor, and that governments can and do change their policies, and even go into reverse.

    2. Daniil Adamov

      It is a grievance. “We trusted you, but you did not keep your promise”. Not sure where that falls among your options. As for why it is being brought up, I suspect mostly to point at American perfidy abroad while catering to (both pre-existing and cultivated) anti-American sentiment at home. It’s entirely pointless from a negotiation perspective, but I am not sure that negotiation is the purpose of the exercise. Or if it is taking place, it certainly is not the only thing this is. Political theatre is a much more plausible explanation, IMO.

      1. Zamfir

        Yeah, a domestic grievance doesn’t have to fall in any of those options. It can just mean that Russians don’t like the NATO expansion, because Russia would be better off without that expansion.

        My options were purely reasons why non-Russians might care about this particular Russian grievance, and I don’t really see why.

        I can see why people should care about Russian grievances in general, but this particular one doesn’t move the needle for me.

        Some people clearly do not agree with me. I don’t know what Helmer’s audience is. Partially Americans, I suppose. But it could also be Russians who like to see an American agree with them.

        1. Michaelmas

          My options were purely reasons why non-Russians might care about this particular Russian grievance, and I don’t really see why … this particular one doesn’t move the needle for me.

          Putin and the Russians have begun the process of making you (and non-Russians) see why and moving your (and non-Russians’) needle. This is how that works and sooner or later you
          will see. Are you really that obtuse?

          1. Zamfir

            They would try that anyway, AFAICT.

            As a thought experiment: suppose there were absolutely no promises in the early 90s. Would Russian demands today be any different?

            If this is simply about Russia making us so stuff, then let’s focus on that: what do they intend to do? Is it going to work? Can we defend against it? Should we?

            The promise stuff seems a distraction in that discussion – but people keep bringing it up.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          Because there aren’t mechanisms like civil courts in international relations. Trust and reliability are how everything works. The US as an unreliable actor puts economic systems at risk. The US can’t guarantee treaties and so forth. From a pure realpolitik stance, the US and China offering similar deals means they pick China.

          Sound as a pound. To a certain extent, it didn’t matter what was in it, just that the Red Coats would be on the case if a merchant, not just UK merchants, had a problem he could prove.

          It’s like Russia intervening in Syria. If Moscow backed out, they wouldn’t make another trade deal for 50 years. The US had a certain amount of impunity and control of international structures, but short sighted decisions have left us in a world where the US is rapidly falling behind. Even our puppets in Europe are getting jumpy, and over what, the threat a country of 145 million might invade a dump like the Ukraine. There are 500 million people in the EU. Super Hitler isn’t coming for Paris or even Warsaw. But we are ready losing everywhere else because Americans can’t be trusted.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Not quite nothing. We are still smarting over Crimea. But this is a silly and wildly dangerous way to deal with the fact that our first Ukraine gambit backfired.

    3. Harry

      Isn’t it about strategic deterrence? My understanding of the issue is that with enough intermediate missiles within 10 mins of most of European Russia, a first strike becomes a viable alternative. So missile sites adjacent to European Russia (even if labelled Anti-missile sites) represent a strategic threat. Enough intermediate missiles mean Russia’s second strike capacity might no longer deter a first strike. Whats more, decision times for Moscow might be as low as 7mins. Thats a strategically disasterous position to be in, one where you have no real viable strategic deterrence and you only have around 2 mins to decide to order the launch of all your ICBMs, sub based weapons and bombers.

      Why would the Russian military and security apparatus be ok with that shift in the status quo?

      Do feel free to correct my thinking. I try and follow these issues, but Im not sure I do so competently.

      1. David

        It’s doubtful whether “first strike” is a useful concept. Taken literally, it simply means that you can mobilise your resources and strike an enemy before they can get to you. The idea behind it, though, is that you can deliver such an overwhelming attack that the defender simply won’t have the resources to respond. In the early days of nuclear weapons that was a real fear, but after the deployment of submarines with nuclear missiles embarked in the 1970s, it receded somewhat simply because no attack against an enemy could destroy everything, and even a boatload of missiles would represent an unacceptable level of retaliation. Distance doesn’t mean a great deal these days, and accuracy is such that missiles can be fired from a very long distance and still have acceptable accuracy. There is a political difference in having missiles deployed close to your borders, but it’s not actually those you should be worrying about.

        The ABM missiles are kinetic energy kill vehicles, which for technical reasons are not usable against Russian systems, and there are in any event far too few of them. Genuine nuclear capable systems look quite different, and it would be very obvious to the Russians through satellite imagery if any were being deployed close to their borders.

    4. Chris

      Promise or no promise, putting morality aside, encircling Russia with missiles is bad policy. I don’t really understand why we can’t “cooperate” with Russia. There are those that would argue that we shouldn’t cooperate with a “bad” regime; however, that doesn’t seem to stop us in other parts of the world — no need to name names.

    5. Kouros

      Bringing down Americans from their high moral horse and reminding the world again about the fact that the US is not agreement capable is something that needs to be done over and over and over.

      While Russians insist on written commitments, in some of the official statements I have read that they will be skeptical about the US keeping the agreement and because of that they (the Russians) will be prepared to do what is necessary to keep the red line in place.

  3. Ignacio

    I wouldn’t expect that Josep Borrell would end being the stupid xxxxxxx he has turned out. His ‘motto’ is as simple as idiotic: “Ukrania is our partner it’s security is also our security”. The same could be written about Russia.

    It might be something that comes with the position. (Idiocy, I mean)

      1. Polar Socialist

        That’s the thing that confuses me the most on this crisis: why stir up such a hysteria for war and present Ukraine as a de facto NATO member when it’s obvious to anyone neither US or NATO can actually defend Ukraine and that Ukraine actually prefers not to become a battleground for other powers – that’s not really the message I’d think NATO/US wants to send.

        It kinda points to the clay feet of the whole North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that it is, indeed, a North Atlantic area thing where members located elsewhere are meant to just buy expensive weapons, take the pain for erroneous policies and otherwise shut up.

        1. liam

          I wonder if Ukraine is only the icing on the cake, whereas Europe is the prize? To mix metaphors, is Ukraine being used as a wedge to pry Europe and Russia apart, and so consolidate the western alliance? If they can get Germany to accept sanctions that cut off Russian gas they might consider that mission accomplished. I suspect it would be like when Bush stood on that aircraft carrier with that idiotic banner behind him. Equally, considering the ineptitude on display, Ukraine may prove the wedge that drives the US and Europe apart. Somewhat unwittingly of course. I can’t help but wonder do they have any sense of how weak their hand is? Are they just too arrogant?

          1. Kouros

            I thought that was clear. The US is amping up for a new cold war and a new Iron Curtain, while keeping Europe down and hitched at the war cart that will be threatening not only Russia, but China and Iran as well.

            But there is no ideological dimension this time, because “authoritarianism” doesn’t cut it.

        2. Louis Fyne

          (the occam’s razor argument, even if it may be unsatisfying) The US national security establishment has no idea what it is doing long-term, it is a collection of discrete bureaucratic-interest group fifedoms chasing after their own windwills.

          To wit, half of the Establishment says China is the mortal threat of the 21st century, half of the Establishment say Russia is the existential threat.

          Yet combined, US policy is driving Russia and China together when pre-US idiocracy, Russia and China were wary of one another

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            The fiefdoms exist and certainly justify the threats, but Occams Razor is all relevant information.

            -DC gossip rags like politico had articles on Biden needing a foreign policy win to get his presidency back on track
            -he’s being publicly emasculated. Who is the real president?
            -Blinken leaves for a foreign trip. He tried to make an anti-Chinese effort in Africa ending with him saying basically just being America doesn’t work anymore. It was pathetic.
            -Biden’s approval continues to sink.
            -Clintonistas infest the White House and Susan Rice
            -Democrats are obsessed with policy decisions that will lead Republicans to be nice to them.

            All of a sudden we have a new OMG Russian surge with lines about Ukrainian NATO membership being thrown around.

            To me, Blinken clearly came up with expanding NATO as a perceived low cost win. Iran and Cuba for example would certainly need assurances assurances with Biden’s behavior out of the gate new concessions to renew deals. Don’t forget it wasn’t just Trump. DE oceanic congressional leadership pretty much applauded Trump when he ripped up deals. This wasn’t lost on anyone or was more aggressive than Obama.

            Where else is Biden going to get a win for domestic audiences without doing anything? The low hanging fruit is off the board, and the US is everywhere anyway. Its not like we are making a deal for clipper ships to dock in Istanbul and be under the protection of the Ottoman fleet. Those deals aren’t out there for the US to pursue.

        3. NotTimothyGeithner

          Orientalism. They couldn’t imagine the Russians would fight back or wouldn’t fold. Largely because except for Crimea, they acquiesed for 20 years. After all, have you seen the comparative defense budgets? Russia is corrupt too. And so forth. The “OMG Russia” propaganda isn’t just propaganda but an article of faith among elite Democrats. After all, if it wasn’t the Russians, the bripliant people who lost to Trump are probably trash. They are just running the Clinton play book to beat Bob Dole.

          My guess is since Nuland asked the Chinese to get Putin to back down, the White House has mind of figured out their little experiment isn’t turning out the way they want. Biden is afraid of his strongest base of support turning on him, MSDNC voters. I figure the Croatian president and Lavrov have both more or less said this is all the result of Biden’s domestic failures. What the White House doesn’t grasp is US perfidy means Moscow won’t accept a token garrison. Moscow is done with this bs whenever a President doesn’t want to lean on senators or offend potential donors. Obama was given time to reform. Biden as his VP won’t be given that. This is also hard for people like Biden to get. He’s never faced accountability.

          Europe in its secure state farmed foreign policy out to the US and the UK, so the EU kind of just went along. They don’t have mechanisms to counter the US or plans for life with the US functioning as anything other than an overlord. Then there are dozens of heads of state. So coordinated changes don’t just happen.

        4. sulfurcrested

          The current US goal is arguably to either, goad Russia into an attack or create an environment suitable for some kind of “false flag” event.

  4. DJG, Reality Czar

    What’s remarkable here is that the Russians keep repeating that they want some guarantees of détente and de-escalation along their borders — yet the belligerence seems to go up the farther away the participants are. NATO? London? The U.S. foreign-policy swamp?

    The extensive discussion above of Lavrov and negotiations makes one wonder what the “West” is up to and what the “West” even wants. Ukraine, basketcase client state? Really?

    The belligerence also goes up the less likely their children will be drafted and made into cannon fodder.

    The shadow over all of this is great immoralists like Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Nuland, Hillary Clinton (Conqueror of Libya), and that *dreamy* Antony Blinken.

    My solution: Send them all to the front lines. Clinton already claims to have combat experience from her days as a grunt in Bosnia and Herzegovina…

  5. Egidijus

    Frankly speaking, StateSec A. Blinken was trying hard to sell Ukraine to Russia President V. Putin but the latter didn’t buy it having enough of Crimea (which apart from being core Russian fleet base is ethnically Russian with Tatars in minority, think about Kosovo here) and two separatist “republics” that won’t allow Ukraine to join neither NATO nor the EU as unsolved territorial disputes.

  6. ambrit

    From the Cheap Seats:
    The Russians have shown an ability to accept horriffic losses in pursuit of a longer term goal. Think the retreats before Napoleon and later Hitler. Scorched earth was the operative starategy in both cases. Don’t leave anything useful for the invaders to utilize. In the process of such, the Russian locals suffered great losses. Moscow watched and waited.
    Today, everyone hyperventilates about atomic war being “impossible.” Except for a cadre of seriously delusional Neo-cons in Washington, and perhaps in Moscow too. Russia has seriously prepared for atomic war. The Moscow subway system is a poster child for Civil Defense preparations. This prompts the ‘dispassionate’ observer to think that, if push comes to shove, Moscow will nuke North America, and then, again, as it has done in the past, “watch and wait.”
    I can well imagine some boffins in China looking at the prevailing winds charts and figuring out the ‘safe’ zones for Chinese populations after the fallout settles.
    For America, all I can imagine is “Panic in the Year Zero.”

    1. redleg

      Nukes are merely another way to scorch the earth, but with an advantage: you can scorch other peoples’ earth too.
      Blinken and the other hawks are fools striving to achieve a pyrrhic victory.

  7. Synoia

    All this NATO and Russian bother provides a perfect excuse for the US to avoid the issues around climate change.

    When in trouble at home, go adventuring abroad.

  8. David

    Helmer is often interesting, but here he seems to have parted company with reality entirely. If you’re going to give history lessons, you should at least know a bit of history. As vlade says, and as I and others have pointed out in the past, a whole lot of informal comments, threats and promises were made at the end of the Cold War in the situation of political chaos in Europe. The Russians might be disappointed at the way things have gone, but, PR grandstanding aside, they can hardly pretend to be surprised.

    But then we read this about Algeria and Tunisia:
    “The US invasion promised the Arabs their national sovereignty and independence.” Of course “national self-determination” had been a US idea since Woodrow Wilson, but, even accepting that Tunisia is an “Arab” state, this was not within America’s gift to offer, given that Tunisia was French territory and Tunisians were fighting in the French Army at the time. It would be like Churchill promising independence to the Philippines. Moreover, Algeria was actually part of France at the time (ie not a colony) and had been for a hundred years. So such a promise would be equivalent to De Gaulle granting independence to Texas. Such statements had little importance at the time, and none now. And for that matter, Operation Torch (in which large numbers of non-US troops participated) involved very little real fighting, especially in Algeria, where the Resistance was active and where Vichy forces prudently changed sides. (Algeria had not been occupied by the Germans anyway).

    And then we read this:

    “After the US invasions of Italy, then France, the locals were again promised their national sovereignty and independence, but that too was an American deception.”

    Helmer really is living in a parallel world if he thinks that. The French state, under De Gaulle, was fully re-established by August 1944 after the Liberation of Paris, because a shadow government had been set up ready, and the Resistance was able to take over many towns and cities without much violence. (The first government included members of the large and powerful Communist Party). The situation in Italy was more complex, but there was an Italian government by the end of the War, and a Republic was established in 1946 after the King abdicated. If he’s trying to say that the US had a great deal of influence in both countries after the War he is of course right, but that’s not what he actually says.
    NATO, as some of us keep pointing out, was not originally a US idea, but a European one, born of fear and exhaustion in the late 1940: the British were the originators of the Washington Treaty, and US reluctance to take on military commitments in Europe accounts for the famous second alinea of Article 5, which actually says that there is no security guarantee after all. It was only after the outbreak of the Korean War, and in the expectation that a similar conflict would soon erupt in Europe, that NATO was established as a military alliance. Helmer must know all this … surely.

    1. Douglas

      We suspect he also knows the age of human wave attacks, designed to deplete ammunition stocks at any cost to life, is no longer with us.

      And that Stalin “defeated” some number .. of Russians .. long before turning to Germans.

      Are we to believe such obstinacy in .. exceptional .. assignation of “warring-patriotic” is sincere?

      A somewhat tiresome game, that.

      1. ambrit

        “…the age of human wave attacks….is no longer with us.”
        Tell that to all the Chechen martyrs who ran out into the Russian land mine fields to clear the way for their comrades back in the Chechen Wars of 1994-2000.
        Terran human nature does not change. What has been done before can be done again.

    2. Kouros

      Similar promises were made by Wilson and his 14 points and given the great role US had in winning the WWI, quite a few peoples gained their independence and sovereignty. The precedent was there.

  9. Henry Moon Pie

    “The donkey turd was the name and brainchild of a Harvard professor called Carleton Coon.”

    Them Harvard perfessers is sure smart. Just like that Perfesser Coon, there’s a Harvard perfesser now that has just the solution for climate change. He’s going to shoot sulfur up in the sky every two years. I guess it has to be every two years because the sulfur comes down with the rain. Didn’t some of them Harvard perfessers used to call that “acid rain?” Oh well, I’m sure they and the “Eco”-Modernist buddies know best.

    1. Kilgore Trout

      If memory serves, Coon’s anthropology writings were famously racist even in their time; he made much of cranial capacities in skeletal and fossil remains to “prove” the superiority of European Anglo-Saxons. He was certainly a man of his time.

  10. Poul

    I can’t see an end to an American Empire in Europe, but I can see a Russia willing to risk nuclear war and mutual annihilation in order to secure their borders from the possibility of NATO aggression.

    Which is no different than what the USA was willing to do during the Cuba-crisis. Do any one believe the US today would allow Mexico, Canada or Greenland to become staging grounds for Chinese or Russian troops?

    The answer is simple. Negotiate a new NATO-Russia security pact for Europe. No one in the US are dyeing because Finland cannot be a NATO member, so why should Ukraine, Belorus, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia be any different.

  11. KD

    There are two ways of looking at this problem.

    One is based on the balance of forces. What is Russia’s military capability viz. the Ukraine, and what is NATO/VSU/US military capability viz. the Ukraine. It is pretty clear that Russia’s actual military capability vastly exceed any alliance. Even if the US elected to get in a massive shooting war, Ukraine would be a done deal before it mobilized, and its still not clear that US forces have sufficient training to deal with large combined arms operations anymore. Additionally, making a massive US commitment of forces in Europe would leave the American security umbrella vulnerable in other, perhaps more strategically important, regions. It might even invite attack in those areas. In this view, any diplomatic agreement should reflect the relative balance of forces, that is to say, be skewed to the Russian’s interests.

    The second is based on assuming that your ability to baffle people with your b.s. magically makes your military invulnerable and incapable of defeat. In Washington, we see the emergence of the Ghost Shirt religion, math is racist and a social construct, and balance of forces is outdated and outmoded. Further, its clear that the mass media is confident that the US can not appear to be soft on Russia, so no concessions. It is therefore impossible to reach a diplomatic solution on the Ukraine, and unfortunately, an economic and military disaster will probably be the result for the West, and the dictated terms of resolution worse than could be reached through diplomacy. While there may be attempts to memory hole it, it will probably have significant long-term political consequences in the US relative to ending the conflict in Afghanistan.

    On the other hand, what can you expect when your decision-makers are committed to the metaphysical idea that you can call a “deer” a “cow” and then expect to get milk out of it?

    1. Grebo

      There are two ways of looking at this problem.

      Well, you can look at the problem, or you can pretend it is something other than what it is.

      You seem to be doing the latter, like the US government and western media, as it is not that Russia is threatening to invade Ukraine.

      The problem is that the US is threatening Russia. Russia has historically liked to keep a buffer of friendly (or subservient) countries between it and Napoleon/Hitler. The US has been chipping away at that buffer and planting offensive weapons and forces in it. Ukraine is just the latest. For Russia it is time to take a stand. They have set out their position clearly in writing. The US is trying to ignore it and change the subject.

  12. The Rev Kev

    Been trying to put this whole rah, rah, rah for war in the Ukraine into some sort of context. I mean seriously, the propaganda is non stop and is as crude as. I don’t think that even the average Ukrainian believes that they are about to be invaded by Russia, even though the government has a whole bunch of recruits running around with wood cut-outs of rifles as there are not enough rifles to go around. So why the Ukraine? I think that it has to do with its geography. I mean for the Russians, there is nowhere else to retreat to. What are they suppose to do? Declare a demilitarized Neutral Zone of 500 kilometers on the Russian side of the border? The US is about to take Russia to the UN Security Council to pressure them more which is pointless as both Russia and China will veto any bogus resolutions while pointing out the appropriate mechanism to deal with these problems is through the Normandy format. So what gives?

    So looking at the big picture, I think that it is a matter of great nation politics. Historically, every great power has had to deal with the loss of per-eminence. It happened with the Romans, the Spanish, the British and now the American empire. The unipolar moment is gone and was only ever an aberration in reality. Unfortunately a whole generation of militarily people, politicians and bureaucrats grew up in this moment and to lose it is beyond the pale. So a great power can deal with this loss by managing it like the British did post WW2 or – a great power can double down and try to stop that loss of power even if the military situation say otherwise. The thought that China and Russia are now peer powers who can no longer be ignored or bullied is intolerable. It must be stopped. It cannot be allowed to happen. All forces must be mustered which means here media propaganda, diplomatic & economic threats or whatever else can be marshaled and this is what we are seeing. It is an all or nothing gamble with the bet that the Russians will buckle and complete the encirclement of Russia from the Arctic sea down to the Black Sea with tactical nuclear missiles threatening them to keep them in line. And it is precisely because of this scenario that the Russians will not back down.

    Want to know one of the worse aspects of this all? Great powers tend to despise allies and will seek to convert them into vassal states. Vassal states can be controlled and their resources marshaled into service for an empire. But in doing so, a strong ally frequently gets converted into a weak vassal which ends up becoming a drain on that empire. And in the end, they are not that reliable in any case due to resentments that have built up. And as that empire deals with vassal states, their diplomats no longer have practice in their arts if they were dealing with allies instead.

    1. Eclair

      Good take on the situation, Rev. And, perhaps our recent choices of leaders, septuagenarian white guys with fossilized brains and decrepit bodies (although Trump seems remarkably physically vigorous) are a reflection of the declining status of the US as the pre-eminent world power.

      I’m reading Barbara Tuchman’s ‘The March of Folly,’ recommended by an NC commenter, and wondering if the current Russia-Ukraine brouhaha might fit her definition of ‘folly’: governments pursuing an objective that is not in the best interests of their constituencies (although, which constituencies, we might ask), in spite of their being easily achievable alternatives. And, her observation that the trappings of power conceal the reality that the decision makers are often truly stupid people.

  13. Dave in Austin

    On US promises to Russia. Under the Constitution treaties are negotiated by the president and must be passed by the Senate before the US is bound. But ever since the League of Nations debacle in 1919-20 the US has often entered into agreements which are never signed treaties. Examples are Israel ever since 1948, Great Britain between the wars and our defense relationships with Mexico and Brazil. There was no treaty between the US and Russia to end the Cuba confrontation in 1962. But we both abided by the agreement that they would pull the missiles and atomic bombs out of Cuba and we would remove our missiles from Turkey. A nation which can’t keep unofficial agreements can’t be trusted.

    And I always laugh when I hear some ill-informed person say “But we broke the treaty with the X indian tribe we made in 1843”. These were arrangements made by Army officers to reduce conflict on the ever-moving frontier and agreed to by the Department of the Interior. I don’t think any were signed by the President and I definitely know none were passed by the Senate. The US has no treaties with indian tribes.

    Until recently “our foreign policy was bipartisan and disagreement supposedly stopped at the water’s edge. That is no longer true. We agreed to leave Qaddafi alone in Libya if he gave up his weapons of mass destruction. He did. Then, as Hilary said in a moment stupidity, “We came; we saw; he’s dead”. Great move Hilary; the best chance to get the North Koreans to give up the nucs just vanished. And everyone in the diplomatic world recognizes that the new post- Pinochet “hound the ex-oligarchs” approach means the oligarchs now can’t just quit and go quietly.

    The “No NATO expansion” was about as firm a promise as the US can make short of a Senate vote. It wasn’t put in writing because Brent Scowcroft thought it was an agreement better left unsaid. So now the Russians, quite rightly, are saying “No. We will only accept an agreements publicly signed and released by the President”. In the new, post- “ends at the water’s edge” era, nobody will trust a President to make an agreement unless it is published. The chickens have come home to roost.

    By the way, with all the war talk last week, why didn’t anybody mention that there was going to be a UN Security Council meeting on the subject starting today? Too bad it will not be televised.

    1. Eclair

      Do you want to clarify your statement that no treaties with native American tribes were ratified by the Senate?

      According to the IRS Website (!): Between 1788, when the first treaty was made with the Delawares, to 1871, when Congress ended the treaty-making period, the U.S. Senate ratified 370 Indian treaties.

    2. Cat Burglar

      Not all treaties with Native American tribes were ratified by the Senate, but many were. Major US Supreme Court decisions in the 20th century have found claims based on such treaties legally enforceable, and congress has had to pass laws to satisfy the claims.

      But that supports your larger point, I think: some tribes had the power to bring the US to the table and make an agreement, and regained the power to enforce compliance. Other tribes did not. Russia is now asserting the power to bring the US to the table and negotiate an agreement.

    3. The Rev Kev

      I think that it was Will Rogers – born as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation – who pointed out that those Indian treaties were worded so that they would be faithfully kept while the grass grew and the waters flowed. So then they shipped the native Americans to reservations where the grass never grew and no waters flowed.

  14. ptb

    We’re not looking at a war, but at an energy crisis. The markets have provided some tangible numbers in the past few months. The price level (looking ahead around a year anyway) at which the East Asian market gives up its LNG cargoes to return west was established (futs prices December ish). Perhaps this finally got a small but non-zero minority voices within EU to sober up a little.

    Zelensky’s “hints” that it might be time to climb down were a pleasant surprise, though it also serves as a reminder that that being a ‘frontline ally’ such as Ukraine is a sacrificial position with little or no agency.

    Like EU, the blow felt by Ukraine is more economic. The risk-filled scenario of escalation in Donbass is an outside possibility, and “real invasion” is wholesale fluff.

    So looking at it from the economic lens, Russia called the US bluff. Not surprising. Maybe with ungracefully high volume. But in any case impossible for the sacrificial victims in EU and Ukraine to ignore.

    Perhaps (my own speculation) it’s on the theory that the much-touted sanctions will happen no matter what, at least if US actions vs Huawei are an indication. That is, when a US economic competitor ever starts to really win in global markets, the “rules of the free market” are discarded and the strategic move becomes economic sabotage by means of a hostage international banking sector.

    So finally, last week EU has stated a timeframe for the next kick of the the can to delay this process. The next regulatory hurdle for the ever-delayed NS2 pipeline will be summer ’22. Expecting the current situation to basically continue until then…

    1. Cat Burglar

      “Why…if you start a war…why, why…we’ll…put sanctions on you!”

      Am I the only one that finds this an underwhelming response to what the US considers a dire threat to democracy?

      It will certainly have an impact on Russia, but there have been significant sanctions on Russia for some time, and they do not appear to have had a serious impact. In many cases they have stimulated domestic industry by stopping import substitution — not the lesson neoliberals would want to teach about having an open economy. The threat may be a bluff in large part.

      1. ptb

        Yep. While I don’t exactly think sanctions are all a bluff (some of the more extreme claims, like shutting down energy exports, are bluffs IMO), it seems that in the pattern of Huawei, it becomes more of a “defensive” tool to protect US market position, than an “offensive” one that can persuade a strong opponent to abandon strategic goals.

    2. c_heale

      I think the energy crisis is key. We have reached the point where easily accessible oil/gas is starting to run out. Russia, Kazakhstan, etc., have some oil. Western Europe has nothing. The Western European bet on renewable energy looks like it won’t be sufficient. Realistically large parts of Western Europe can only get oil/gas from Russia etc. So now the US is looking at a situation where the Eurasian continent may unify over trade. This is the greatest threat to US hegemony. A Eurasian landmass over which the US has no influence and which has sufficient power to dominate the world. Things could be different if the US aligns with Russia, but that means the Europeans will be left out in the cold. So they are trying to prevent this. The US neocons are fanatically anti-Russian so they can’t stand the idea of a Russian-US alliance. In conclusion Western Europe is stuck between a rock and a hard place, the only way America maintains power in the long term is an alliance with Russia, and I haven’t even considered the 3rd superpower, China.

  15. jefemt

    I know it is an overly facile notion, but why not EXPAND NATO to include Russia and Ukraine?

    If nothing else an offer of the notion might give a sharp whap to the temples of the wise guys and gals ‘in charge’- the two-by-four paradigm shift inducement?

    Aren’t there much bigger fish to fry and problems at hand on Spaceship Earth in the dawn of the Anthropocene?

      1. Polar Socialist

        It’s even olderer: “[…]This text was issued, unaltered, to Britain, France and the United States on 31 March 1954. It announced two amendments to the Soviet draft treaty on European collective security: the United States would not be excluded from formal participation in a system of pan-European collective security and if NATO relinquished its aggressive character the USSR would consider participation in the organization.[…]”

        Warsaw Pact was established 14 months later, when it became obvious collective security was not on West’s agenda.

    1. Cat Burglar

      The Blob, speaking through Zbigniew Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives, suggests that the idea Russia could be a geostrategic partner with the US through NATO is an unrealistic illusion.

      What “realism” means in that context, must, of course, never be spelled out in public by the better sort of person, but it basically means power. Russian leaders, in his view, lacked full political control of their country, and did not have a military strong enough to force their interests on others, the way some other nations did. Seems like things have changed since the book was written.

  16. Kilgore Trout

    The Doomsday Clock of the BAS is set as close to zero as it ever has. The never-ending effort by the US to dominate and destroy the Soviet Union/Russia continued with NATO expansion for no good reasons except inertia and blind Cold War propaganda that our corporate media parrots relentlessly. Missiles in Ukraine and elsewhere that can carry nuclear weapons create a dangerous state of ambiguity, given how quickly they could reach Moscow–less than 500 miles away–and the absence of intermediate and ABM treaties. Russia would have no choice but to launch on warning under this scenario. Which our foreign policy blob seems too stupid to understand: what is so hard to understand about a buffer zone/security zone of neutrality for Ukraine and other nations bordering Russia?

  17. Trisha

    Russia has drawn a redline and will accept no more attacks from Ukraine upon DPR/LPR. When Russia’s current strategy – forcing Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements – fails, it will simply annex DPR/LPR. The next Ukraine attack will then not be upon DPR/LPR militias, but upon the Russian army, who will end those attacks for good.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Why not partition Ukraine into two countries? Banderakraine in the west and Novokraine in the east.

      1. bidule

        Would the Minsk agreements be implemented (by Ukraine with the DPR/LNR as cleary written on paper, and not by Russia who has already fulfilled her obligations by stopping DPR/LNR from further crushing the Ukrainian forces — remember Debalstovo around February 2015, and some of these funny russian words that we learned then: cauldron, maskirova), it is how Ukraine would (for the beginning) be split, more or less along the Dniepr, with DPR/LNR gaining some sort of “large autonomous status”.

        But it would probably not stop there. Poland and Romania would likely also ask for “a large autonomous status” (if not just politely asking to get some territories back) for their people in north-west Ukraine. There are quite a number of “minorities”, regions or oblasts, and not all russophones, who are not that happy with the rule of neo-nazis in Kiev, or of their handlers, a clique of oligarchs (so-called billionaires in USA), under the complacent eyes of US and UE — and they could also ask for more free air.

        Furthermore, France and Germany whose role is forcing Kiev to implement their part of these agreements with DPR/LNR (and not with Russia: these agreements are only between Ukraine and DPR/LNR, exclusively, and Russia does not want, rightfully, to be involved) suddenly woke up (maybe something to do with the current saber rattling) and asked Russia for a 15 days delay, before the next meeting, to “read” again these papers that they signed a long time ago. As someone whispered (and I fear he is russian), they may even have never read these papers before — or did not clearly understood what they entail: sooner or later (maybe next year or in fifty years from now) Ukraine could be much smaller than it is now; it may have been dissected into smaller chunks, or may have become a sort of federation,… or have just disappeared.

        By the way, “russian invasions” are pretty frequent in Ukraine. One already happened last year (more or less at the same time), and the year before, and so on… AFAIK, there were were at least 36 “official” russian invasions of Ukraine in the last 8 years. For a change this one is just “highly likely” as they say in London. Like some birds, the “Russian invasion” comes back every year in Ukraine: it is how you know the winter is ending.

  18. Douglas

    We’re surely not conflating Russia vs the West with Chechens vs Russia?

    The Russians would find that funny.
    And what with chest-beating.

    Look at the massive bombing campaign against “the gathering of terrorsts” in Syria Russia conducted.
    There the Russians know nukes aren’t necessary, don’t know if they used hyperbarics but the capaign was decimating.
    Hyperbarics vs human waves. You decide.

    & Russian subways as world “re-makers”? Another jest. More unilateral strikes fantasies.

    1. ambrit

      Actually, this is more basic; essentially the “East” versus the “West.” Secondly, who backed the Chechins? My reading says the Conservative Islamics, who are financed by a certain clique in The Kingdom. Oil money put to “G–‘s Work,” just for a different version of G–.
      As for the much vaunted Moscow subways, well, I seem to remember when America had it’s own functional Civil Defense apparat. Then, as now, the ‘real’ value was in boosting morale.
      As for hyperbarics; remember the use of fuel air explosives against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong bunker systems back in the ‘glorious’ days of American neo-colonialism? Who won that war?
      I will venture to suggest that even the Russians know that air power alone cannot win wars. Those Russian air strikes are usually against specific targets called in by ground troops. I venture to say that the Russians learned the basic lessons of WW-2. Air power doesn’t win the war alone and second, beware of wonder weapons. They often defeat their wielders, indirectly.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Who backed the Chechens? In the First Chechen War the United States was pumping all sorts of weapons across the border to help the Chechens. Some Russian officer won a gong by proving the existence of this rat line but when the Russians went to Washington to show them the proof and demand that it cease, the US officials basically just shrugged. I bet that that went down like a lead balloon.

  19. Questa Nota

    Why didn’t Gorbachev et al get it in writing?

    Oversight, and did that person go to the Gulag?
    Credulity in the extreme, maybe from too much vodka, and where was Yeltsin that day?
    Preoccupied with Afghanistan fallout?
    Future maneuvering room on some chessboard?

    Reminiscent of that scene in Animal House: You trusted us. You f***ed up.

  20. Cesar Jeopardy

    Back in American Elementary School in the 1950s, we held Air Raid Drills periodically. We students either sat on floor under our desks or leaned against the hallway walls with our arms folded over our heads. Either type of drill was physically uncomfortable. It seemed unlikely that the Soviets would drop bombs on my tiny little town of no strategic value to anyone. But in retrospect, I now realize that was not the point. The actual point was to leave a lasting impression and propagandize us youngsters: fear the Russians, hate the Russians. I think it worked well. Americans have largely been trained since birth to irrationally fear and hate the Russians. What a country!

  21. NotThePilot

    I’ve had an idea percolating in my head for a while, and this recent flare-up of tensions over the Ukraine touches on it. And while I agree with the article’s conclusions, I do wonder if it’s a misinterpretation to view things just as a American empire imposing its will on Europe.

    First the disclaimers: this has nothing to do with US traditionalists’ recent romance with Russia, Hungary, etc. This also isn’t meant as an attack on the people of the EU countries either.

    However, there is another possibility beyond NATO just patching things up with Russia, or even dissolving so the US can isolate again. As crazy as it sounds, what if in the grand scheme of things, America’s best choice is to quietly ally with Russia against the core states of the EU + the UK? I realize it could never happen without the current system collapsing first, but there is a logic to it.

      1. NotThePilot

        I would have been all for that (I have an unusually positive opinion of Iran, especially for someone with my background), but unfortunately, I think that ship has sailed.

        That said, I feel the best policy for America in the Mideast would be not to pick favorites and encourage an entente between Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Israel would hate it, but beyond a guarantee not to let them be overrun, the pressure would probably even lead to them making better decisions.

        More to my point though, I think the same ideological hang-ups we show in our Middle East policy are reflected in Atlanticism. It’s not just racism or orientalism, but something deeper which takes those forms among more narrow-minded people.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Russia was perfectly content to be a junior partner. The problem is US foreign policy circles are dominated by the idiot offspring of Kissinger and Brzezinksi. There are other issues from the 90’s that make Russia Eastern Europe a place “where there’s profit to be had” in the eyes of many US elites. NATO doesn’t exist anymore to protect US strategic interests. The goal of NATO is to create a captive market for US guns.

      Why does Sweden need an F-35? Italy? Greece? Pick your country. On paper, it makes no sense unless they are intent on conquering. Moving towards missiles, light fighters, and anti-air weaponry make more sense.

      1. NotThePilot

        I agree with all of this except I think the US arms sales could work more like an extra perk, but they’re not what primarily drives NATO. Essentially, even if America materially profits or calls the shots in the immediate moment, whom has NATO really done more for than Europe’s elites? Even focusing on the arms sales, they probably have more of a stake in any profits or kickbacks than the average American.

        So instead of NATO being:
        US elites -> use US institutions -> to keep back Russia & soak the European people

        What if the chain really begins with:
        European elites -> model US elites’ values and ideology -> …

        I think there’s a decent argument that Atlanticism is just one part of a story America tells itself to displace the realization it’s a few things for certain European interests:
        1. A safe & profitable place to stash capital
        2. A place to ship-off and dilute their own trouble-makers
        3. (More recently) an 800-lb, trained attack gorilla

        If you look at it that way though, the implication is that America needs a radically different outlook to fully understand itself and realize its potential. That Western Europe may actually be adversarial in deeper ways than Russia’s ever been is one small part of that.

    2. Cesar Jeopardy

      No one –I repeat–no one can trust the U.S. even for the duration of a single administration. I suppose allying with the U.S. might buy a country some time, but it will end and end badly.

  22. David in Santa Cruz

    I find Helmer’s recitation of history to be a bit “off” here, although I have to agree with his final assessment of the U.S./U.K. media as churning-out worthless foaming-at-the-mouth.

    So much of the “Ukraine” crisis is being manufactured by the leadership in the U.S. and Russia for domestic consumption — and control. I can’t pretend to understand the politics of post-Soviet Russia, but the politics of the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex is quite familiar. Both the U.S. and Russia have crippled industrial bases which are unable to keep large swaths of their populations gainfully employed — and they must be controlled by “crises.”

    It is quite evident that the collapse of Biden’s political popularity is driving the saber-rattling by the U.S. The arrogance of Clinton-Bush-Obama foreign policy, destabilizing governments throughout the world through CIA-fomented “Springs,” “Colors,” and “Freedom Invasions” in a manner that has benefitted the Military-Industrial Complex and no one else is simply being continued after the brief impulsive Trump interregnum.

    Ukraine only matters to the Washington-Wall Street oligarchy as a source of arms sales and electoral hysteria intended to distract the American public from their post-Soviet level of economic deprivation. The reasonableness of the Russian government’s view that American troops and missiles in the former-Warsaw Pact and S.S.R.’s is akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis or that Crimea has been ethnically and politically part of Russia for centuries (think: San Diego) is beside the point.

    However, I fully expect that Russian retaliation will be both unexpected by the Washington Blob and asymmetrical in nature and effect. It will involve China, Latin America, Israel/Iran, and Germany and more economic suffering for the general U.S. population — resulting in further erosion of their support for American political and legal institutions.

  23. Susan the other

    Interesting historical factoid that our imperialism after the war kept former French colonies from their independence and we maintained a mutual defense treaty with countries in Middle East known to have oil. That blew up in Iran in 1953; in 1960, Algeria. But Vietnam was a slightly different animal – Ho and his party of anti-imperialists were not anywhere near the Middle East’s black gold. But we wasted our international integrity trying to prevent Vietnam from becoming “communist” (with American characteristics;-). Because we wanted both the UK and France to maintain their former, very lucrative, colonies. Back then the argument was still about money. The West couldn’t afford to lose those “profits”. It no longer is about money and profits. We still use money, but it is just symbolic and transactional. Now it is about actual resources. We have not maintained control over any but Saudi oil. And they won’t admit how much oil is left in those fields. With Europe in the balance, if we do not find a way to supply the EU with energy which we probably don’t have access to, then it’s “Goodbye Europe.” But naturally Blinken cannot ever admit that. And I’d just submit that whichever way Europe goes, so goes the world. But what do I know.

  24. Gulag

    Russia is coyly building up a large force around Ukraine and also denying its presence–based on analysis of Russian military formation/deployment expert Michael Kofman.

    In addition:

    The Russian think tank community apparently has divergent perspectives on the conflict.
    Anton Barbashin in his recent article “Too proud to pull back? Russia’s Ukraine dilemma.” has a nice summary.

    He argues that the more moderate wing of Russian international affairs specialists, including Andrei Kortunov and Demitry Trenin, are increasingly suggesting that the Russia leadership should promptly organize a glorious way out of the current situation declaring victory with whatever they have in hand right now.

    Barbashin also sees the supporters of more conservative views, individuals like Sergei Karaganov, Dimitri
    Suslov and Fyodor Lukyanov accusing their more moderate colleagues of insufficient ambition, urging them to look at the current confrontation as a opportunity for a final divorce from the Western-centric world–call a spade a spade and disengage from the West.

    Barbashin also makes a point that neither of these 2 groups know what Putin really wants to get from the West.

    1. KD

      Don’t want to disappoint the “Russia has no intentions of invading Ukraine” but if I had all those troops on the border, why not invade? Don’t take the whole country, just partition it until you get your security buffer, and let them try and sanction you. Russia can weather sanctions with their foreign reserves, and the impact will be probably worse for the West, especially as Russia can get out of SWIFT. The Americans have their heads up their rear ends, will never make reasonable concessions, and will never keep their promises on any concessions made. Look at the Iran Deal! America looks weak, Europeans are mad at the US and each other, Germany becomes an economic basket case and NATO looks like a joke.

      It would probably be harder the next time.

  25. urblintz

    NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard

    Washington D.C., December 12, 2017 – U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (…

    1. urblintz

      meant to include the subtitle to the above essay:

      Declassified documents show security assurances against NATO expansion to Soviet leaders from Baker, Bush, Genscher, Kohl, Gates, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Hurd, Major, and Woerner

  26. Sean Oliver

    If Turd Mines and Goat Watching seem like the worst in US military folly, keep in mind these were never actually developed or used in combat, unlike the following weapon :
    During WW2 the Russians were so desparate for new weapons to fight German tanks, they asked their brightest and best military scientists for new ideas.
    The result was the ‘Heroic Soviet Anti-Tank Dog-Mine’.
    This WW2 tactical innovation consisted of an average sized dog with about 10 pounds of high-explosives strapped around its body, with a magnetic trigger mechanism which detonated the HE instantly if it came close to steel. They were trained to run underneath an enemy tank, and the tank’s steel would cause it to detonate. They were a sort of canine commie kamikaze.
    The Russians had to train these dogs to ‘attack’ enemy tanks, of course. The first step involved parking several tanks in a field, each with a big yummy chunk of raw meant underneath it. The dogs were starved for several days, so they were mad with hunger. They would be brought to the field, and released, searching for the meat they could smell, until they found it under the tank. This was repeated many times so that all of the dogs instantly ran under the training tanks, looking for meat. BTW, the NKVD (KGB) refused to allow German Shepards to serve, as they were considered disloyal no matter how long they lived in the Soviet Union.
    They (patriotic) dogs were finally brought starved to the battlefield, and released in the thick of combat.
    The dogs naturally attempted to run underneath tanks and sacrifice their lives for Stalin, but there was one problem: the dogs could not discern a Russian tank from a German tank, and it appears they ran under mostly Russian tanks, and promptly destroyed them.
    This idea was dropped after several squadrons of Soviet dogs destroyed several squadrons of Soviet tanks, and the fate of the imaginative Soviet scientist who developed the idea remains unknown.

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