Rob Urie: Mr. Prigozhin Goes to Washington

Yves here. Please welcome Rob Urie, whom many of you have read at Counterpunch. We are excited to feature him here. His must-read offering takes a historical look at US/Russia relations, using l’affaire Prigozhin as a point of departure.

BTW, be sure to click on the link at “well-censored” in paragraph five. That alone shows how extreme information management in the West has become.

By Rob Urie, author of Zen Economics, artist, and musician who publishes The Journal of Belligerent Pontification on Substack

The glee that greeted the news that Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian oligarch and the titular head of the Wagner Group, had gone rogue might have been unseemly if the American political establishment were capable of shame. It isn’t. That alleged adults would hope for the dissolution of Russia, and the catastrophic social consequences that would follow, requires an ignorance of history that would be heroic if it were consciously chosen. The truism that people don’t know what they don’t know has particular relevance for the US in the current political moment.

The details of the story are reasonably well known by now and won’t be restated here except where relevant. Missing from Western press accounts since Russia launched its SMO (Special Military Operation) is the actual history that led to the conflict. On his way to Rostov-on-Don Prigozhin stepped into this absence with a series of anti-historical claims regarding the start of the war, all while asserting his allegiance to Vladimir Putin. Knowing nothing about the war outside of the talking points handed it by the Biden administration, the American press had a collective wargasm at the sight of a Russian channeling CIA talking points.

As fresh as current events may ‘feel,’ the US has been interfering in the internal affairs of Russia for well over a century. Racist crank and Progressive fascist Woodrow Wilson created the Committee on Public Information to sell WWI to the American people. As the war was winding down, Wilson deployed the American Expeditionary Force to Russia to reverse the Bolshevik Revolution. Ironically (not), the Brits and French also sent Expeditionary Forces toward this same end. The point: most of the anti-Russian West currently supporting the NATO proxy war in Ukraine has been at it since the early twentieth century.

Graph: in this simplified hypothetical based on current differences between US and Russian military spending, the ratio of US to Russian spending in Year 1 is 10:1, while the dollar amount of the difference is $90 ($100 – $10) . By Year 10, the ratio remains the same (10:1), while the cumulative dollar difference has risen to $900. The US spent $1,000 on its military while the Russians spent $100. Applying market logic (value = expenditure), the US has produced ten times as much ordinance and materiel as the Russian have. And yet Russia is a military threat? Source: Urie.

The political posturing around Prigozhin’s tour of Rostov-on-Don has largely been a restatement of the national-security-state-informed views of the regular consumers of American state propaganda. As evidenced by Prigozhin’s now well-censored statements on the internet, he spouted Biden administration talking points regarding the causes of the war (‘unprovoked’), interspersed with claims that the Russian military leadership is more interested in earning medals than with winning wars.

“Just before World War I ended, in 1918, an American force of seven  thousand landed at Vladivostok as part of an Allied intervention in Russia and remained until early 1920. Five thousand more troops were landed at Archangel, another Russian port, also as part of an Allied expeditionary force, and stayed for almost a year. The State Department told Congress: “All these operations were to offset effects of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.”” Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States<

The video of Prigozh

in contradicting the historical events that Russian President Vladimir Putin cited as the proximate cause for Russia’s SMO (Special Military Operation) appears to have been disappeared from the internet. In opposition to OSCE maps of Ukrainian forces amassed at the border of Donbas in January 2022 as they shelled ethnic Russian Ukrainians, Prigozhin instead stated that Mr. Putin, whose claims were supported by the maps, was lying. To be clear, the OSCE is an EU institution with no ties to the Russian state.

News that ‘US spy agencies’ had briefed Congress on Prigozhin’s plans well before he stumbled back into Russia indicates foreknowledge. With US President Joe Biden stating that the US played no role in the rebellion, his audience has been reduced to the rapidly shrinking number of citizens of the world who find his views interesting, plausible, or relevant. Recent (alleged) leaks of Pentagon, DoD, and intelligence agency documents by Jack Teixeira put a lie to the Biden administration’s happy talk regarding Ukrainian military prowess.

Teixeira’s leaks revealed a much grimmer view of the war up to the present, as well as raising substantive questions regarding Ukraine’s prospects for the Spring / Summer ‘surge.’ In fact, the surge was halted immediately prior to Prigozhin’s holiday in Russia. Whether this represents abject failure on the part of the Ukrainians, the pause that refreshes, or anticipation of Prigozhin’s rebellion, has not been disclosed.

Described as an attempted ‘coup’ in the American press, Prigozhin subsequently claimed that that wasn’t the motive for his actions. Whether this is true, or he got cold feet when the leading institutions of the Russian state rallied around Vladimir Putin, is a question for the history books. That US intelligence agencies had foreknowledge of Prigozhin’s actions gives them a ‘Maidan’ feel. That most Americans have no knowledge that the US ousted the duly elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, in a US-led coup in 2013 – 2014, helps explain American support for the war.

Retired US Colonel Douglas MacGregor, a frequent and insightful commentator on events in Ukraine, is convinced that Prigozhin’s motives had little to do with a coup attempt. MacGregor’s theory is that the Russian military leadership, including Prigozhin, is frustrated with the slow pace of the war, particularly following the apparent implosion of the Ukrainian ‘surge.’ However, foreknowledge by US intelligence agencies, combined with the specifics of Prigozhin’s rant regarding the American starting point for the war, suggests that there is more to the story.

Prigozhin challenged the history of the war in terms that came straight from CIA talking points. The Russian explanation since the winter of 2021 has been 1) the war started with the American-led coup in Ukraine in 2013 – 2014, that in turn led to 2) and eight-year civil war in Ukraine in which 3) tens of thousands of ethnic Russian Ukrainians were slaughtered by the Banderite right (a.k.a. Nazis) supported by the US. Using maps from the OSCE, the Russians concluded that the Ukrainians were about to launch a major offensive against ethnic Russian Ukrainians in Donbass.

The Americans have maintained that the Russian offensive in Ukraine was ‘unprovoked,’ as in bearing no relation to the 2013 – 2014 US led coup there, the subsequent civil war, or the three-plus decades of the US moving NATO troops and weapons up to Russia’s border against repeated requests from the Russians not to do so. This Western anti-history is what Yevgeny Prigozhin was shouting when he announced his move of Wagner Group troops into Russia. Facts that were widely considered true before the SMO was launched are now verboten in the US.

Colonel MacGregor’s view that Prigozhin is frustrated with the restrained pace of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine doesn’t seem a complete explanation of recent events. Firstly, most Americans have no idea that the Russian pace has been restrained. To the extent there has been opposition to the war inside Russia, a substantial portion of it comes from the fact that the Ukrainian military and political leadership still exist in any incarnate form. ‘Shock and awe’ are how the Americans destroy a nation.

Unless Prigozhin is claiming that the OSCE is serving Russia’s war propaganda interests with its maps— a low probability endeavor, then he was giving a pledge of allegiance to the US / NATO / Ukraine war effort with his shouted announcement of the Wagner Group’s move into Russia. This would help explain the foreknowledge of his actions by Western intelligence agencies. It also contradicts US President Joe Biden’s wide-eyed insistence that the US was not in league with Prigozhin.

However, the Russians aren’t the intended audience for Biden’s rambling incoherence. ‘The world,’ meaning the governments that in theory represent the interests of 80% of the world’s population, supported Russia when Prigozhin went on summer holiday, and they still do today. This puts the incoherence of the American liberal conceit that they (liberals) represent the interests of the world’s downtrodden into perspective. The Global South supports Russia, not the US. Why would this be the case if Americans are regarded as liberators abroad?

Parallels between Joe Biden and Woodrow Wilson are mounting. Both are / were liberal technocrats who institutionalized racist and fascist / repressive policies while proclaiming themselves to be the saviors of humanity through ill-advised wars. WWI lit the world on fire. Colonel MacGregor argues, with some justification, that there wouldn’t have been a Bolshevik Revolution without massive Russian losses in WWI. Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potemkin’ brings some of these tensions to light.

“Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.” George Orwell, 1984

So again, concern inside Russia over the slow pace of the war contradicts everything that Americans have been told about it. While recent leaks of DoD and intelligence agency documents suggest that the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian conscripts have been lost to date, CNN and the New York Times have gone full-Orwell. American development economist Jeffrey Sachs, who was invited by the State Department to visit Ukraine during the Maidan ‘uprising,’ explains why and how it was a US sponsored coup here.

More to the point, a large contingent of American liberals have argued for eighteen months that the war in Ukraine should continue until Ukraine is victorious. This argument means one thing if the Ukrainians are winning the war, and quite another if they aren’t. The (alleged) Teixeira leaks reveal 1) that what American officials have been saying publicly about the progress of the war is contradicted by what they say about it in private, and 2) that the official assessment has it that things are going quite poorly for Ukraine.

This puts American supporters of the war in the position of volunteering Ukrainians to die for a war that they (the Americans) don’t understand. And yet there is no accountability. The proverbial ‘you’ had your facts wrong and large numbers of Ukrainian conscripts died as a result. But this is America. ‘You’ get promoted for having your facts wrong. A lot of people died as a result. However, as word from the Global South has it, the Lilliputians are rebelling.

An institutional problem in the US is that the domestic forces that instigated and continue to support the war risk losing power if the public turns against it. With Joe Biden representing the interests of the MIC (Military-Industrial Complex), Wall Street, the technology industry, and US-based oil and gas industry, the fear is that fake anti-war Republicans can pull a Nixon and shift the war, and with it, donor support, from Democrat to Republican hands. Unfortunately for both the self-styled heroes and villains in this scenario, Ukraine is losing the war.

What should put the fear of Buddha, Yahweh, God, into actual Americans, as opposed to the American political class, is the sanguine discourse being used to assert that nuclear wars are winnable. Go back and read the logic of American nuclear arms production from the 1950s – 1970s and you find talk of nuclear weapons being ‘cheap’ to produce relative to the cost of conventional military ordnance. That low stocks of non-nuclear ordnance could create a choice between surrendering or using  nuclear weapons when adverse conditions arise suggests that, with NATO stocks running low, the adult children in the Biden administration could roll-the-dice by using nukes.

Moreover, with the MIC running US foreign policy, the temptation to use the war to sell newer ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons to an international clientele by demonstrating them on the battlefield is likely strong. The same Alfred E. Neumanesque mindset that claimed that Americans would be greeted as liberators when they invaded Iraq in 2003 imagines that the Russians aren’t serious about their nuclear red lines. The fake history of the Cuban Missile Crisis that Americans have been fed represents the MIC standard. By 1962 the Americans had installed first-strike nuclear weapons within miles of Russia (USSR) as they pretended to be shocked that the Soviets would do the same.

Likewise, much of the violence attributed to the Bolsheviks following the Bolshevik Revolution was spillover from WWI sweeping Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. WWI lasted from 1914 – 1918, while the Bolshevik Revolution took place in 1917, but wasn’t settled until 1922, when the (Soviet) Civil War ended. Again, the Americans, Brits, and French sent standing armies to reverse the Bolshevik victory in order to install a liberal, Western-friendly, government that would guarantee the property of Western investors in the USSR following the Revolution.

The Americans lost 117,000 troops in WWI while the Russians lost five and one-half million. The extreme brutality of WWII was a product of residual animosities from WWI. The Holocaust, for which German Nazis were blamed, was replicated across Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. To be clear, these other Holocausts were contemporaneous with the Nazi Holocaust, not inspired by it. While pogroms inspired by European anti-Semitism existed prior to the rise of the Nazis, conflation of Bolshevism with Judaism tied WWII to capitalist imperialism.

“Thousands of Nazis—from concentration camp guards to high-level officers in the Third Reich—came to the United States after World War II and quietly settled into new lives. They had little trouble getting in. With scant scrutiny, many gained entry on their own as self-styled war “refugees,” their pasts easily disguised and their war crimes soon forgotten. But some had help and protection: from the United States government. The CIA, the FBI, and the military all put Hitler’s minions to work as spies, intelligence assets and leading scientists and engineers, whitewashing their histories.” Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times

Forgotten today is that many Westerners at the time, particularly amongst the elites, were virulently anti-Semitic. Former New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau, the author of The Nazis Next Door, details the casual anti-Semitism that informed US General George Patton’s worldview here. In contemporaneous political and public policy circles inside the US, the Nazis were viewed more as anti-communist fellow-travelers than the genocidal maniacs they are viewed as today. Once selective history is set to the side, fellow-travelers seems the more plausible interpretation.

The neo-Realist ‘Great Powers’ nonsense that is popular again since the launch of the Russian SMO is a ‘political’ exposition of ideas and events that found their basis in imperial economic competition. Consider: Joe Biden’s explanation of the US interest in Ukraine is first and foremost economic— to prevent Russia from controlling Europe through European dependence on Russian oil and gas. To be clear, Biden has no problem with the idea of economic dependence. His problem is with a Russian role in it.

Consider: economic dependence is an unexplained phenomenon in capitalist economics because it implies coercive power. Before the launch of Russia’s SMO, Russia was selling its oil and gas to Europe at a subsidized price, making it more attractive to European industry, while consigning said industries to the vagaries of Russian national interests. Paying a market price for oil and gas would raise costs for European industry, either crimping profits or making European products more expensive on world markets (also crimping profits). This gave the Russian state coercive power over European states through ‘their’ industries.

Recent US Presidents understood this, hence the unity of Donald Trump and Joe Biden acting to prevent the Russians from supplying Europe with Russian oil and gas. But what happened to the ‘freedom’ to purchase goods and services, including Russian oil and gas, from whomever one cares to? In American liberal logic, Ukraine has the ‘right’ to associate with NATO if it cares to, just like the Germans and French have (had) the ‘right’ to buy discounted oil and gas from Russia. The ‘fascist’ response was to blow up the pipeline— a.k.a. Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II.

While this isn’t the place for a full-blown exposition of the hypocrisies and paradoxes of capitalism, what the US is doing abroad isn’t capitalism as it is explained by its theoreticians. But it is capitalism as explained by Marxists. Capitalist imperialism is a corporate-state amalgam that exists to send state resources abroad for the benefit of nominally capitalist enterprises at home. An alternative name for this capitalist imperialism is fascism. The political-theoretical difference between state-capitalism and fascism lies in who it is that controls the state.

This Marxist view of capitalism placed the Germans as imperial competitors of the US in both World Wars. This is quite different from the current moral view of the Nazis as reprehensible human beings. From Eric Lichtblau’s reporting (above), moral clarity regarding the Nazis emerged for the Americans in proportion to the number of anti-Semitic Americans from the WWII era who have died off. That Joe Biden represents the moral vanguard of the American liberal class would be ironic if it weren’t so pathetic.

With the most expensive military in the world by a factor of ten, one might imagine that the US would be well-supplied with armaments. According to Colonel MacGregor, this isn’t the case. MacGregor laid out some fair portion of the path from an insufficient supply of conventional weapons to the use of nuclear weapons by the Americans. The obvious question of where the world’s most expensive military is spending its money seems relevant here. While speculation can go far in developing an explanation, the threat of nuclear annihilation is the more pressing result.

With the Americans having refused to implement multiple peace agreements that have been signed between the Ukrainians and the Russians, the NATO proxy war in Ukraine is now an American war. And while the American liberals who support the war deserve whatever consequences might come their way, the rest of the world doesn’t. End the war now.

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  1. GramSci

    Always a pleasure to read you, Rob. Straight talk has been in short supply at Counterpunch of late, at least wrt Ucrania. Glad to see you here.

    1. jo6pac

      I agree on both points. We all hope to read more of your thoughts in the future.

      Thanks Ives.

    2. JonnyJames

      I agree: CP has been disappointing in general on the proxy war in Ukraine. I don’t visit their site much lately because of it. Eric Draitser has been one of the worst Russophobes on CP, he has repeated the usual CIA talking points and attacked folks like Medea Benjamin and Code Pink. He calls them names and accuses them of furthering Evil Putin’s agenda. It’s pathetic.

      It is encouraging that they post an honest and informed article by Rob Urie.

      1. John Webster

        Agree entirely – I stopped reading it when it became apparent that Draitser (but also Cockburn) collapsed into moralising about how ‘evil’ Putin was. Such an approach is ahistoric and lacks objectivity. Counter Punch has done itself a great dis-service. A mea-culpa wil be necessary.

        1. JonnyJames

          Sadly they have not seen the light, this article appears there from today – it is typically superficial, uninformed, and devoid of significant context. CP has sunk to a very low level. Is the CIA/NED funding them? If not, they might as well be. SuckerPunch have become Russophobic warmongers.

          But on the same day, they post Michael Hudson, who vehemently disagrees with their position on the proxy war. The material from Hudson they do post does not deal with the war, which is telling. Hudson has spoken/written many times about the proxy war. It’s like they are pulling a bait and switch operation to simulate credibility.

        2. arihalli

          CP had a rather vicious takedown of Caitlln Johnstone, as i recall, by the editor?. That ended my venture into their magazine.

    3. Geoffrey

      I gave up reading CP once they joined the Russophobic campaign at the start of Trumps presidency: it was palpable. Some of my favourite writers seed to leave too -I’ve never logged on to check.. It seemed to me like the powers that be didn’t care what you said, any anti-establishment, radical, or left-wing view was acceptable, provided it was anti-Russian.

      1. JonnyJames

        The CIA refer to these types as the “compatible left”. From today’s posts on CP, the Trump/Putin nonsense is still being pushed.

  2. The Rev Kev

    I’ll just drop this initial comment regarding the American political class thinking that nuclear wars can be winnable. Some American experts modeled how that would work out. Enjoy- (3:31 mins)

    There was a lot of talk by laptop warriors in the first term of Ronnie Reagan about nuclear war being winnable. But about then we learned what wiped the dinosaurs out and how that mirrored what the effect of a nuclear war would be i. e. nuclear winter. And then Ronnie watched “The Day After” and all such talk went away.

    1. Alex Cox

      That is a great video, and should be widely shared. But Simplicitus needs to police his comments. You don’t win sane people to your cause if your comments section is full of racists, nuts and cranks (which is one of the reasons NC is such a pleasure to return to).

  3. Stephen

    This is an interesting article and it is very hard to disagree with the final request to end the war!

    Also good to see some exploration of history that the western narratives like to screen out. In similar ilk, the only pact with Hitler that ever gets discussed is the Soviet one. The various similar agreements from the 30s including the 1935 Anglo German Naval Agreement get forgotten. So do speeches by people such as Churchill which were complimentary of Hitler. The exception is Munich, of course, which is always invoked as “the great mistake”, even though it was deeply popular at the time. We also forget that anti semitic acts in Nazi Germany were not in any way the proximate cause of Britain and France going to war, nor was ending them a particularly conscious war aim. If anything, they were typically ignored it seems, until the full horror hit home at the end.

    When it comes to Prigozhin, I think multiple explanations can be true at once. He was losing his fiefdom and money flow. Larry Johnson also points out today that there was bad blood between him and the MoD going back to various Wagner “off the books” activities in Syria. Easy to believe that these internal Russian drivers would have led to his actions irrespective of western meddling. But, having said that it is also highly believable that Ukrainian / western agents were in touch with him too and might have promised support, although it is not clear what that was practically in the context of the coup itself. Promises of dollars in a bank account (if made) do not enable coups.

    Ultimately, I tend to see him though as driven more by power and status (plus possibly mental disorder) than anything else. I do not think he necessarily had the burning desire to double down on the war effort that Douglas MacGregor discerns. Nor do I necessarily see him though as desperately seeking to end it, despite his mouthing of western talking points. After all, just as with our MIC war gave him his wealth. Western support would just have been a means to an end from Prigozhin’s perspective, if we take this line. My suspicion is that if this apparent coup attempt had succeeded then Prigozhin would have gone simply in whatever direction made sense for him to be able to be in charge.

    1. Donald

      Prigozhin himself seems greedy and unstable and his personal motives are not that interesting, but I think the West saw this as an opportunity. And morality aside ( morality is always aside in wars) it would make sense for the Ukranians and the West to encourage him to revolt. At best, it might have led to chaos behind Russian lines during the Ukranian offensive and at worst ( from the Western pov) it fails, but makes Putin look bad for using this guy and it distracts attention from what appears to be a failed offensive.

      Of course from a sensible pov only an idiot favors a civil war inside a nuclear power, but a lot of our ruling class doesn’t appear very sensible even from a purely self- interested perspective.

  4. Michael.j

    Rob Urie is one of my most favorite writers. His outstanding ability to explain economics and history with the twist of an artist and musician is refreshing and great fun.

    I agree, and the War and try to preserve what’s left of humanity before it either withers and dies, or goes out in a flash of light.

  5. Sardonia

    “End the war now.”

    Here is a (long) but excellent recent (June 23) overall analysis of the situation by John Mearsheimer, explaining the perceived threats and goals of all 3 actors (Russia, Ukraine, and the West), and how utterly incompatible those are (and how there is no trust whatsoever between Russia and the other 2) – meaning that NO ONE will “end the war” – except the war itself, and how the battle plays out.

    He also opines on how the battle is likely to play out. (spoiler – Russia gradually wins a war of attrition, gains a few additional oblasts, and the war becomes a frozen war, which could still keep breaking out and turning hot again, repeatedly.)

    Apologies if NC already linked to this article.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I’m not sure Ukraine can function as a state in the long term (can it survive until the end of the year?). France is the writing on the wall. It’s a guns and butter, and given its Ukraine, it’s horribly corrupt. The news out of Kiev can only get worse.

      Unlike North Korea, the Kiev rump state won’t have a strong enough myth to keep them together. Thugs and oligarchs run everything. It’s missing the collective myth it needs to function. This will be more like the empire withdrawing and trade being cut off with locals left behind along with the violent sort.

      Ukraine is basically engaging in human wave attacks. They threw in extra tanks as if it’s a late ww1 battle where that would matter. They can’t even conceive the Russians would shoot before the Ukrainian forces reached the defensive lines. Their propaganda showed videos of tanks running through concrete barriers.

      Kiev has made promises of being the next Israel and joining the EU and doing what it failed to do since 1991.

      1. Michaelmas

        NotTimothyGeithner: Unlike North Korea, the Kiev rump state won’t have a strong enough myth to keep them together.

        Nor does it have North Korea’s mountainous terrain, which helped the Pyongyang regime withstand the USAF dropping more bombs on North Korea than they dropped on Germany and the Nazis.

        Most to the point, though, it’s 2023, and Mearsheimer is an old-school guy who’s deeply naive about the state of technological play re. military technologies. He thinks the Russians can’t ultimately demilitarize Ukraine as per their stated objectives. He’s wrong.

        Today, it’s possible for the Russians to flatten W. Ukraine’s energy and water infrastructure, and throw networks of drones, loitering munitions, and minefields across much of Western Ukraine’s practically flat territory and turn it into a giant de facto No Man’s Land. If the Russians do that, there’ll not even be a Kiev rump state.

        Interesting times. War is the Father of All, Heraclitus wrote. At WWI’s start in 1940, the Wehrmacht’s Blitzkrieg was conducted with more horse-drawn carts than mechanized vehicles, and biplanes were still used in front-line roles by air forces; by WWII’s end in 1945, the opposing sides had developed rocket missiles, radar, jets, atomic weapons, and computers.

        So too with Cold War 2.00, with the West against the Rest (if that’s what it is). Scuttlebutt is that the Russians are already enhancing target acquisition in some of their drones with AI to forestall jamming by EW.

        1. Jay

          It’s also significant that almost all ukraines mineral resources are in the Russian speaking areas. Add in the lack of a port to export bulk cereals if Putin takes Odessa and the rump is an economic basket case.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Odessa already can be a functional port only on Russia’s permission. No need to take it until the Odessa oblast begs Russia to do it.

        2. podcastkid

          How would AI be any less cumbersome than TERCOM guidance (to avoid EW…GPS?). One drone takes a picture, ground crew marks the spot, and uploads the path to the drone going out.

          1. podcastkid

            Seems like a lot of computing power to fit on a drone, and calling it “AI” seems like embellishment.

            How it’s using AI drones: Scale uses AI and machine learning to help train drones on aerial imagery. The machine learning software helps drones identify, label and map everything from homes in a neighborhood to individual objects like cars.

  6. Laughingsong

    Welcome, Mr. Urie! I’ve been reading your work with pleasure for a good while, and I’ve also read your comments here at NC, so it just seems perfectly natural to me to have your work presented here. Oh, I’m a happy camper!

    Thank you for this insightful post. Got more? Bring ‘‘em on!

  7. The Rev Kev

    I’m thinking that Prigozhin is just a traitor to his country. When he said that Russia falsely went to war and that NATO was not threatening Russia, I took that as a signal by him to Washington and Brussels that if they gave him their full support and recognition, that if he achieved major power that he would come to an ‘understanding’ between Russia and the West. I have no idea how far he would be prepared to go. Give up Crimea and the Donbass perhaps? In his videos the past few months he has demonstrated unstable behaviour so perhaps he would have made the next Yeltzin 2.0 for the west. or that is what they hoped.

    One thing is for sure. Both sides see it now as a fight to the finish. There will be no negotiations unless they are enforced by military might. Lavrov said recently ‘When it comes to our former Western partners, though, we cannot rely on any agreements with them, including those of a legally binding nature’ and he is right. Maybe Prigozhin had the delusion that he could broker a deal here with his Mussolini-like march on Moscow. But he was actually making a power play in a country that was in the middle of an existential war and for that he revealed the sort of character that he had. Instead of being known as the victor of Bakhmut he will now be known as that guy. When the war is over, maybe he can go buy himself a mansion – right between the ones owned by Zelensky and Juan Guaidó.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The West does back Navalny, so the idea Prigohzin could overthrow Putin during relatively good times for Russia would make sense to the worm addled minds in the West.

  8. Hans

    American Intelligence states to have known of Mr. Prigozhin’s intentions a few days before he started. If this is true, then also true might be that the Russian military knew of it, which can only mean that P. was allowed to expose himself as a fool what allowed for the integration of Wagner under the Defense Department.

    1. Skip Intro

      If The US knew in advance and Russia knew, then either Prigozhin was allowed to make a fool of himself as you suggest, or he made a fool of his western handlers, giving them a real dud of a surprise for Russia which someone timed for the last day of a large NATO air exercise. They wanted a bloody battle for Moscow, but they got a shell game of redeployments and a check against their army of Belarussian expat invaders, which has also drawn AFU strength away from the southern campaigns.

      I wonder if the state department had already started on the press release recognizing Prigozhin’s regime, and sending forces to support his restoration of stability and reform.

  9. Mikel

    When I heard about the Wagner Group rebellion, I thought: Ah, here is the MIC playing their A game.
    I still maintain that their A game is propaganda and divide and rule (and/or instigate/exacerbate civil wars).
    This missle or that gun or this tank
    …yawn. That is not how power is ultimately claimed.

    Russia thought that something like Wagner Group could be trusted in the first place. That could be the seeds of their downfall. Something like a Wagner Group (private militarized corporate security) would be ideologically aligned with the neoliberaliam of the West.
    So Russia is in trouble as long as they think just a touch of neoliberalism wouldn’t hurt.

  10. Aurelien

    I don’t think this adds anything. Writers who are experts on the country have now had their say, and I think it’s fairly clear that the whole Prigozhin business was essentially home-grown. In particular it’s highly unlikely the US had anything to do with it: USians really have to get over the idea that they are the centre of the universe and everything revolves around Washington. I suspect the suggestion that US intelligence “knew” about this was nothing more than an attempt to conceal them being as surprised as everybody else. The most likely situation is that there was a paper drafted somewhere which looked at possible future developments and mentioned a clash between Wagner and the Russian state as a possibility. Frankly, most people who were paying attention could have done that.

    A few points of detail. The allied intervention in Russia in 1917 has been much studied and there is no doubt that the original intention was to keep Russia in the war. The western powers were terrified that the Bolsheviks would succeed in negotiating a separate peace (they were the only group that prepared to do that) which would free German troops for the Western Front before US forces could arrive. Subsequently, with Communist revolutions happening or being attempted all over Europe from1918, yes, the western powers did see the new Bolshevik regime as a threat, and provided (very limited) military aid to the Whites. I can’t speak for the US, but Zinn is no authority on any of this.

    I have no idea what “the OSCE is an EU institution with no ties to the Russian state” means. The OSCE has nothing whatever to do with the EU. It is the successor to the old CSCE, established by the 1975 Helsinki accords, and has 57 members, including Russia. That last fact is why it was monitoring the Minsk accords. As for the idea that “the temptation to use the war to sell newer ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons to an international clientele by demonstrating them on the battlefield is likely strong,” I have never remotely heard of such an idea. It would destroy the NPT, be illegal anyway under US law and leave the Russians free to do the same if they wanted to. Nuclear weapons have never been “sold” and there is no market for them. In any case, all the US have is elderly airdropped gravity bombs, and not many of them.

    The deeper problem here is that a politico-military cabal that has long thought itself to be the Masters of the Universe has suddenly discovered that it’s actually marginal to the outcome of events in Ukraine. It can delay the inevitable but not change the outcome. It has no forces to intervene with because its military priorities have been elsewhere, and it actually risks getting run out of Europe altogether. So it’s having something between a hissy fit and a nervous breakdown.

    1. Hickory

      I’ve never heard anyone question Zinn’s work. What specifically did he write that was incorrect?

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Your opening line comes off as if you are annoyed that this article appeared. Even though you provide very fine commentary on Substack and here, that does not give you the right to sit in judgement of writers here as if your opinion is superior, in particular to mine as the owner/operator of this site.

      Moreover, that comment also sets up a straw man. Since when did Urie claim his piece was breaking new ground, as oppose to synthesis and commentary?

      But in fact he Urie did add something: the way Prigozhin’s statements denying that the attacks on the Donbass had occurred are being suppressed on the Internet. Had you tried the link I highlighted, you’ll find a Google search string that at least on my Firefox and Safari delivers the results for a blink of an eye, then flips immediately to the home page. Lambert who uses a VPN got a blank page.

      1. Ignacio

        First time I tried the link i didn’t see anything wrong and the list of links in the search stayed stable in my screen. So I thought, what is wrong with this? Nothing. Next time I tried the results were removed as you say at a blink of the eye.

        Interestingly, if I remove the “H” from Prigozhin and repeat, then I find results.

      2. Jay

        However he is correct in saying that the OSCE is NOT an EU institution and that in fact Russia is a member. This is a huge and rather shocking error – this is a major international security organisation.

    3. Acacia

      Nuclear weapons have never been “sold” and there is no market for them. In any case, all the US have is elderly airdropped gravity bombs, and not many of them.

      Nuclear-tipped ICBMs in the US arsenal don’t count??

    4. Keith Newman

      @Aurelien, June 30, 2023 at 11:30 am
      I would like to preface my comment with the observation that I find your analyses interesting, often enlightening, and helpful in sorting out geopolitical realities.
      However I have a comment regarding “USians really have to get over the idea that they are the centre of the universe and everything revolves around Washington.” You have written this more than once in the past and I understand why you find a US-centric view of the world irritating. But with respect to US involvement in the Prigozhin “business” it is quite reasonable for USians, and others, to suspect US involvement given that country’s record of overthrowing dozens of foreign governments and interfering in other countries’ elections*.
      Indeed, you allude in your final paragraph to “a politico-military cabal that has long thought itself to be the Masters of the Universe (that) has suddenly discovered that it’s actually marginal to the outcome of events in Ukraine”. Agreed. So which countries are the driving force behind that cabal and how do they exert their influence?
      *The book “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II”, 2014 Edition, by William Blum is a good reference for this topic. The book is meticulously footnoted and substantiated by various unimpeachable sources.
      There are other reliable sources as well.

    5. Polar Socialist

      While OSCE has nothing to do with EU, EU still covers most of OSCE’s budget. Or, in the words of the previous High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini:

      The OSCE lies at the heart of the European security order and is a pillar of European security. The European Union, which contributes more than two thirds of the OSCE’s main budget, as well as to additional projects and through personnel and equipment, fully supports the organisation’s work for stability, peace and democracy,

      Our EU contribution to the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is a concrete commitment to bringing peace to Ukraine through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. We work hand-in-hand through election observation missions to strengthen democracies, from Kyrgyzstan to Albania. And we join forces to run training courses in everything from judicial standards, to journalism, to environmental protection.It is clear that when we work closely together, we have real added value and can achieve much more.”

      Whatever it says in the label, to me is sounds very much that EU is to OSCE what USA is to NATO.

    6. Daniil Adamov

      Agreed completely re: the civil war intervention. IIRC they also wanted to secure the supplies they sent here, which influenced the geography of the intervention (i.e. they generally landed where they sent supplies and didn’t go very far beyond those areas). The Entente wasn’t much help to the Whites – in fact the Americans actively intrigued against Kolchak, preferring more “democratic” and “progressive” if also utterly incompetent and discredited leadership. The whole thing was very half-hearted – many Western leaders such as Lloyd George were distinctly unenthusiastic about doing more than the bare minimum, and wanted to pull out at earliest opportunity. Some “invasion”.

  11. Oh

    Thank you Yves for linking to this write up by Robert Urie. I’ve always enjoyed Robert’s writings at Counterpunch, Although most others at that site are very reluctant to go against the party line (lie) Robert has always had an independent view.

  12. Gulag

    Love your historically grounded response to the Urie article, Aurelian. The substack site SpyTalk (June 24, 2023) had an interesting comment on the issue of our intelligence community foreknowledge of the Prigozhin caper.

    It quotes a 25 year CIA operations veteran who retired in 2019:

    “Nothing stays secret in this town, and a question about Russian stability–that shit leaks out. I certainly hope we had advanced knowledge of this from all-source collection, meaning intelligence from electronic intercepts, satellites and human spies…I mean this is the Super Bowl–in every security institution, whether it’s at Langley or the DNI or the Pentagon–anywhere.”

    This veteran argues that our spy agencies were most likely doing ass-covering and rushed to the Hill to say they were clueless on Russia situation. He notes that in many previous crises (like Soviet Missiles in Cuba, Russian tanks maneuvers in 2022) one important indicator of foreknowledge was late lights and massive pizza deliveries around Washington and at Langley. On this latter score the silence of pizza deliveries was deafening!

  13. Irrational

    Since one of my two points (OSCE is not EU) was covered nicely by Aurelien, I’ll just throw in the following observation: yes, the US securing LNG export markets was surely a contributor, but how long is that LNG really going to last> What is far more important – and only mentioned in a few articles I have read – is the staggering value of resources of all kinds located in Ukraine. As far as I understand we are talking about double-digit trillions. This is the real driver of this conflict.

  14. Susan the other

    Instead of cartoons about Spider-Man in the Spiderverse we should be feeding our kids less incoherent confessions. Like a cartoon documentary about lost opportunities and the pointlessness of war with all its exploitation and extraction. All the unnecessary waste and pollution of the planet, and give them a clear explanation of how it got to this point. Not some fat gangster with a gun, but a whole system of monetary policies to promote irresponsibility for the rich. It would give them a foundational understanding of the changes that are happening. The fairy tale is a negative one at this point – it is about all the wonderful things we could have done, but didn’t.

  15. JonnyJames

    BTW: Jeffrey Sachs is mentioned in the article. Maybe I am out of line but: isn’t Sachs an infamous Economic Hitman?

    It is encouraging that Sachs has recently written/spoken out about the US role in the proxy war, but is he talking out of both sides of his mouth? Hypocrisy?

    He appears to favor more covert economic warfare, not the overt military kind. Maybe he is not the person to talk to about Russia.

    As noted: prof Mearsheimer has a lot to say, the late prof Stephen Cohen also. Cohen predicted that the US-backed coup in 2014 would result in war, and he predicted in 2014. He was likely one of the first to do so. He was right, and he was right about most of what has happened.

      1. JonnyJames

        Thanks for your take on him Yves. The “serious credentialed people” like the folks at the Atlantic Council, US State Dept., CIA and CFR. Well, that’s pretty easy to take a position that they don’t find acceptable, like simply stating the history, facts and context. Good to see he has been converted – better late than never.

      2. the harlan ellison rule

        Amd you believe him?

        Sachs was a Bilderberger attendee in the early 90’s when he “worked” with Anders Åslund and David Lipton as senior “advisors” to the Russian government under President Boris Yeltsin and Acting Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar on the privatisation of the USSR (he also “advised” Poland, Slovenia, and Estonia as they were beginning their transitions to capitalism).

        More recently, Sachs attended the WEF annual meetings from 2011-2016.

        This is a man who should be guillotined.

        My god you are naive. Or a willing accomplice to psychopathy.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, you are naive. Do you recall I have a Harvard MBA and worked for Goldman and McKinsey? By your standards, I should be guillotined too.

          I’m weirdly on a big mailing list that has lots of top level bad people on it like Robert Zoellick , Bill Browder , Bill Browder , Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld , Frederick W. Kagan , Dmytro Kuleba , Dmytro Kuleba , James Cleverly , Orysia Lutsevych , Anne Applebaum , Fareed Zakaria , Marta Dyczok , Anita Anand , Chrystia Freeland . Since the sender shows all the addresses every time he mails, I don’t feel any compunction to respect the receivers’ privacy since he does not.

          Anyway he sends multiple links a day to news pieces and articles to this bunch. Nearly 100% neocon party lines.

          He’s sent some articles and presentations by Sachs. Recipients start foaming at the mouth. Vitriol. Accusations of being a traitor. No other postings to the list elicit responses, less alone ones so violently hostile.

          Oh, and in further evidence, Sachs is on the Myrotvorets kill list, along with Rand Paul, Tulsi Gabbard, Paul Singer, and John Measheimer. So was Darina Dugina. When she was assassinated, the list was updated with a line through her entry and the word “Liquidated”.

          Sachs has been asked in interviews about his time in Russia under Yeltsin. Recall he was not the decider, he was brought it to advise Yeltsin’s policy team. From what I can tell, the team from Harvard funded by the State Department under Andrei Shleifer (who speaks Russian) had more day-to-day influence. And the Harvard/State Department initiative shows Sachs was hardly alone in bringing neoliberalism to Russia.

          Sachs gets visibly uncomfortable. He would not be uncomfortable if he thought what he had done in Russia was hunky dory. He tries to explain that he was young, he thought the policies would work, particularly because he’d just implemented them in Poland and in two years, the economy was showing marked improvement. When he saw the corruption and suggested ways to tamp it down, he was treated as nuts for thinking anything crooked was happening.

          1. JonnyJames

            100% neocon (aka cowardly, privileged warmongers who would promptly soil themselves is presented with even a whiff of danger). Whether D or R, the “serious credentialed” nutjobs are all imperialist warmongers.

            and Roger Waters is also on the UkroNazi assassination list

          2. podcastkid

            I’m the one naive round cheer. At first I didn’t see the irony in “credentialed.” Very cool after all to be in a place where one’s challenged!

        2. Keith Newman

          @the harlan ellison rule, June 30,2023, 8:40 pm.
          Occasionally people who promoted policies that led to very bad things do realise they were wrong and change course radically. One such person is Sachs.
          Another is Wendell Potter* former vice-president with Cigna who has confessed to lying to promote US private health insurance at great cost to US-ians. He is now a strong supporter for public healthcare, including Medicare for all in the US. IIRC he was shaken by observing hundreds of people lining up for free healthcare at a regional fair in the US.
          I have worked many years with a broad coalition to protect and expand public healthcare in Canada. Potter’s accounts have been helpful to us. Despite his past, he does not deserve “the guillotine.”

          1. JonnyJames

            Agreed, too bad Tony Blair has not changed his tune. He continues to defend war crimes and lies. And Julian Assange is the one in Belmarsh prison, not Blair. Maybe if Cheney/BushJr./Blair and the crew were frog-marched up to the foot of a guillotine, they might confess their crimes?

          2. Ashburn

            When speaking of Damascene conversions I would also add the name of Daniel Ellsberg. His rich life as a Pentagon/Rand consultant, his courageous release of the Pentagon Papers, and the title of his final book: The Doomsday Machine — Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner— says it all.

  16. Not Qualified to Comment

    Despite already having had my wrist slapped by Yves I’m still going to diverge a little from NC’s consensus and sail my own course.

    While an interesting overview of the Western history of hypocrisy and duplicity in its treatment of Russia this article leaves unresolved and even unaddressed some fundamental questions regarding the Prigozhin affair. In particular whether or not there was some justification at the core of his complaint. Had a high-level ‘official’ decision been made that Wagner was surplus to requirements and expendable, leading to its being fed in what became as much of a ‘meat-grinder’ for itself as it was for the Ukrainians? Or was this a decision made ‘unofficially’ by a military High Command jealous or worried by its existence and deliberately starving it of resources as Prigozhin claimed. That he had the support of at least some of the Wagnerites suggests there may have been some sympathy for this view amid their ranks.

    And whether or not the US knew this was coming, the Russian security services must surely have done – after all Wagner was their creation and it’s inconceivable that they didn’t have their fingers on its pulse. Yet the Russians seemed to have been caught with their pants down by the ‘revolt’. Could it be that in fact they had support from within those security services who themselves have grudges against the Military High Command and so kept quiet?

    And why did Putin himself put up with Prigozhin’s attacks, and increasingly pro-Western stance, prior the revolt, and then respond to it so mildly? Revolts are for crushing, but the message given here is that if you attempt a coup against the Russian Government you’ll either succeed or, at worst, be sent into exile with a smacked bottom.

    I don’t know the answers to these questions but I am sure there will be many within Russia, particularly in the military, who will also be asking them even if within the privacy of their own skulls where if they are allowed to fester they might grow to poison the plant.

    1. Ignacio

      What consensus are you talking about? Given your, IMO, somehow confused questioning let me redirect you to latest Ritter’s: Wagners, I hardly knew ye. Ritter may not get everything correct, like anyone else, but he comes with explanations that address your questions pretty well.

  17. Freethinker

    When I remember the lies I learned at school in history books, it still amazes me how deep our govts’ propaganda tendrils extend into the future via the brains of children …..and most kids don’t even do history as a subject until15 as I did, because it’s not much good at getting you a job in the age of neoliberalism.

    This is how the same tricks & lies can be repeated, generation after generation, if useful to the ruling elite.

    Just like it’s known that most evil done to a person is statistically likely to come from those closest to them, like family, friends & acquaintances, we should see our masters when they’re on that podium too.

  18. JR

    It seems to me at this point that Prigozhn is now physically closer to Kiev than prior to his jaunt in the direction of Moscow. It also seems to me that in the division of labor that is the Russian military operation in Ukraine, the Wagner forces were generally the forces that went on the offensive. Should military personnel and weapons start flowing in the direction of Prigozhin in Belarus (something to watch out for) or should Prigozhin start having access to Lukashenko’s forces, then we may want to watch out for a Wagner thrust in the direction of Kiev (and we might be able to say that the Prigozhin affair was a head fake). Also, a thrust in the direction of Kiev would be a way for Prigozhin to “redeem” himself. This is of course sheer conjecture, but it is something that crosses the mind on a Saturday morning prior to coffee…

    1. Polar Socialist

      Wagner forces are, for all practical purposes, light infantry with no logistics of their own to speak of, now that Russia has transferred to wartime production and distribution. They also are not constrained by the very strict communication discipline of the Russian Army proper, so their exploits are much, much better known to the public.

      After the end of the battle of Artemovsk, Russian army has conquered 3-4 times bigger area in Lyman-Kremenna direction, and also a big chunk of the Ukrainian defenses around Bilohorivka, bringing the whole Ukrainian position in the Siversk bulge under serious threat. But they don’t rant about that, one has to pretty much interpret it from Konashenkov’s flatly delivered announcements

      Wagners are good street fighters, but they wouldn’t be able to take the Ukrainian armor head on and stop them on their tracks, nor would they be able to advance over the steppes jumping from treeline to treeline – you need well trained, combined arms units for that. You know, the ones that come to get the Wagners out of trouble when they overextend or miscalculate.

  19. Tedder

    Michael Hudson constantly talks about the misconceived ‘GDP’ that measures economies strength. Rather than calculating interest fees and interest payments as subtracting from an economy as expenses, GDP includes them. Likewise fanciful bonuses and executive payments add to GDP but subtract from the real economy. In terms of the military, vast waste and corruption in the MIC are well-documented and the F35 boondoggle is indicative of the sorry state of military preparedness. We can also see that any military expense reduces prosperity; however, just because the US wastes a lot on military does not necessarily mean that military is capable.
    Nevertheless, the collective belief in the West of American superiority drives policy, at least until it runs face against Russian steel.

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