In the race of the Syrian troops and the US-backed SDF associations to the strategically important city of Deir-ez-Zor, the conflict between Russia and the US is exacerbating

As is clear for a long time, the suppression and expulsion of the Islamic state in Syria does not lead to a solution to the conflict. The geopolitical interests of the USA and Russia, as well as the regional powers allied to them, which are in turn linked to the Syrian parties (power pokers in Syria), diverge too much. Currently, the conflict overcomes Iran’s interest in the construction of a land bridge to Lebanon through Iraq and Syria, which is met with a strong resistance from the US. In addition, the city is also strategically important in Syria, and there are oil sources in the vicinity.
The expulsion of the Islamic state around the city of Deir ez-Zor led to a raid by the Syrian troops and the Shiite militia from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, and the Kurdish SDF, which functioned as American troops and American special forces and US combat aircraft get supported.
A week ago the Pentagon accused the Russians of attacking “coalition partners”, ie SDF units, to the east of Deir-ez-Zor, and injured some fighters. “Multinational troops”, which advised and supported the SDF, had also been present, but there was no sacrifice among them.
Shortly thereafter, the Russian Ministry of Defense has complained that the SDF units can cross the territories held by IS without being involved in combat. It has been known several times that the SDF and the IS have made appointments, for example, in the conquest of Tabqa (The Deal with the Islamic State). In addition, SDF units would attack Syrian troops. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konasenkov said: “The nearer the end of the Islamic state, the more obvious is who is actually fighting the IS, and who has instead merely feigned it for three years, and if the US-led international coalition, Terrorism in Syria, it should at least not disturb those who do it continuously and effectively. ”
Now the Russian Ministry of Defense has published aerial photographs of places north of Deir-ez-Zor, where there are still IS fighters. They were made between 8 and 12 September. The US special forces are now being prompted to ensure a safe passage through the IS controlled territories to the SDF associations. “Without opposition from the IS fighters, SDF units are moving to the city of Deir ez-Zor on the left side of the Euphrates.”
The bases of the Americans were where IS-fighters had just stopped. Do not notice on the recordings that the US special forces have secured the bases. There are no signs of safety. That could mean, the Russian Ministry of Defense says the Americans feel “absolutely safe” on the territory, which is still held by the IS. There are also no signs of attack, fighting between the IS and the Americans or craters, which would show that the former IS bases had been bombed. See also: armored Humvee vehicles, which were also captured by the IS.

By  TPP

Alfons

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Kim Jong-un is not mad

by Gary Leupp

Kim Jong-un is not mad. Quite the contrary. He has pulled off a wholly rational feat. By producing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles capable of delivering them to U.S. territory, Pyongyang has obtained near-assurance that the U.S. will not attack it, in (yet another) attempt at regime change.

Wait, you’ll say. He already had that insurance. Every talking head on cable news says a U.S. strike would inevitably mean an attack on Seoul, which would kill tens of thousands immediately. South Koreans would blame the invasion on the U.S. So it’s just not tenable. Even if limited to conventional forces, the threat of invasion already constituted adequate deterrence. There’s no way the U.S. would trigger an attack on a city of 10 million people who are supposed to view the U.S. as their benevolent protector. So the North Koreans didn’t need to upset the world by acquiring nukes.

But think about it from Jong-un’s point of view.

Born in 1984, Jong-un was 7 when the U.S. first bombed Iraq, supposedly to force its troops out of Kuwait (although Saddam Hussein had already agreed to withdraw). Then the U.S. imposed sanctions on the country that killed half a million children. He was 11 when the U.S. intervened in Yugoslavia, bombing Serbs to create the dysfunctional client state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

He was 15 (probably in school in Switzerland) when the U.S. bombed Serbia and created the dysfunctional client state of Kosovo.

He was 17 when the U.S. bombed and brought regime change to Afghanistan. Seventeen years later, Afghanistan remains in a state of civil war, still hosting U.S. troops to quell opposition.

He was 19 when the U.S. brought down Saddam and destroyed Iraq, producing all the subsequent misery and chaos.

He was 27 when the U.S. brought down Gaddafi, destroyed Libya, forced the Yemeni president from power causing chaos, and began supporting armed opposition forces in Syria. He was 30 when the U.S. State Department spent $5 billion to topple the Ukrainian government through a violent coup.

He knows his country’s history, and how the U.S. invasion from September 1950 leveled it and killed one-third of its people, while Douglas MacArthur considered using nuclear weapons on the peninsula. He knows how U.S. puppet Synghman Rhee, president of the U.S.-proclaimed “Republic of Korea,” having repeatedly threatened to invade the North, executed 100,000 South Koreans after the outbreak of war on the grounds that they were communist sympathizers who would aid the enemy. He loves Elizabeth Taylor movies but hates U.S. imperialism. There’s nothing crazy about that.

Jong-un was 10 years old when the U.S. and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework, by which Pyongyang agreed to freeze its nuclear power plants, replacing them with (more nuclear proliferation resistant) light water reactors financed by the U.S. and South Korea, and the gradual normalization of U.S.-Pyongyang relations. He was 16 when U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang and met with his father Kim Jong Il. (In that same year, South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung met with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang during the period of “Sunshine Diplomacy” eventually sabotaged by the Bush/Cheney administration.) He was 20 when the agreement broke down (undermined by Dick Cheney and his neocons in 2004).

He was 17 when his older half-brother Jong-nam was busted at Narita Airport, for stupidly trying to enter Japan with his family on forged Dominican passports, to visit Tokyo’s Disneyland. That stunt ruled Jong-nam (murdered as you know in Malaysia in February 2017) out for the succession, whereas the next son, Jong-chul, was deemed “effeminate.” (At a Clapton concert in Singapore in 2006 he was seen with pierced ears.) Jong-un probably didn’t expect to be the next monarch until he was in his mid-20s.

He was 24 when the New York Philharmonic Orchestra visited Pyongyang to a warm welcome. (Washington refused a North Korean offer for a reciprocal visit.) Selected as successor, he became the new absolute leader of North Korea at age 27, a young, vigorous, well-educated man (Physics degree from Kim Il-song University) groomed for the post and with a strong sense of dynastic responsibility. That means returning the DPRK to the relative economic prosperity of the 1970s and 80s, when average per capita energy consumption in the north exceeded that of the south.

Analysts suggest that Kim has made economic development primary, and the long-standing “military first” (Songun) policy is giving way to a policy more empowering civilian Korean Workers Party leaders. The DPRK economy, according to The Economist, “is probably growing at between 1% and 5% a year.” A new class of traders and businessmen (donju) has emerged. The complex social status system (Songbun) that divides society into 51 sub-categories of “loyal,” “wavering,” and “hostile” (and distributing privileges accordingly) has been falling apart with the rise of market forces.

Fourteen months into his tenure, Jong-un invited Dennis Rodman, a member of the U.S. Basketball Hall of Fame, to Pyongyang for the first of what have now been five visits. He is a huge basketball fan, an aficionado of U.S. popular culture, a child of rock ‘n roll. He is also rationally aware of the threat the U.S. poses to his country (among many countries). So his strategy has been to sprint towards nukes while he can. Perhaps he thought that since the Trump administration was (and is) in such disarray, no violent response (such as an attack on the Yongbyon nuclear complex) was likely. But it was risky; the U.S. president is, after all, unstable and ignorant. He has asked his advisors repeatedly, why can’t we use nukes since we have them?

The fact is, Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster have been presented with a nuclear fait accompli to which they must respond, in a period of diminishing U.S. influence and relative economic decline.  They cannot do it by dropping a MOAB bomb (like they did in Afghanistan in April) or a missile strike on a base (like they did in Syria the same month, to display their manhood). Jong-un has insured that.

If Jong-un plays his cards right, he will get international recognition for the DPRK as a nuclear power—the same degree of recognition afforded other non-NPT signatories like India, Pakistan and Israel. The U.S. will have to defer to Chinese and Russian sobriety and abandon hollow threatening rhetoric. It will have to back down, as it did in the Korean War, when it realized it could not conquer the North and reunify Korea on Washington’s terms and had to accept the continued existence of the DPRK.

In return for tension-reducing measures by the U.S. and the South, and the establishment of diplomatic and trade ties, Pyongyang will suspend its nuclear weapons program, content with and proud of what it has accomplished. It is the only way.

The other way is suggested by John McCain, crazy warmonger to the end. The Senate Armed Services chairman told CNN’s “State of the Union” that if the North Korean leader “acts in an aggressive fashion”—whatever that means to McCain who will never realize that his bombing of Vietnam constituted aggression—“the price will be extinction.” Shades of Gen. Curtis LeMay and his casual comments about killing every man, woman and child in Tokyo during the terror bombing of that city in 1945.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain’s good buddy, has said that Trump told him: “If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong-un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here… And that may be provocative, but not really. When you’re president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States.”

Just knowing that the enemy is capable of contemplating one’s people’s extinction surely motivates some leaders to seek the ultimate weapon. The dear young Marshall pulled it off. He replicated what Mao did in China between 1964 and 1967. He got the bomb, which had been introduced to the world over Hiroshima on August. 6, 1945, and used again three days later over Nagasaki. And never used anywhere since in the years since, in which the U.S. has been joined by the USSR, UK, France, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan as members of the nuclear club. He has no reason to use it, unless the U.S. gives him one.

Negotiations on the basis of mutual respect and historical consciousness are the only solution.

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More articles by: GARY LEUPP

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands, and Laborers in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama

 

Ukraine revolution turning incredibly sour’

The fact Mikhail Saakashvili played a prominent role in Ukrainian politics shows the disarray in Ukraine, explains journalist Martin Summers. The economy is in free fall, and the potential of joining NATO might spark further war in the country, he added. The former Georgian President and Governor of Odessa Mikhail Saakashvili has illegally crossed the Ukrainian border with the help of supporters. Saakashvili recently became stateless, after having his Ukrainian citizenship revoked by President Petro Poroshenko.

The Ukrainian police say he will now face criminal charges.

 Question:  What do you think happened between the current Ukrainian leadership and Saakashvili? Has he fallen out of Poroshenko’s favor, and why?

 Martin Summers: …They don’t get on at all, and [Saakashvili] lost his citizenship. It is hard to see why he fell out. He claimed it was corruption going on. He was being blocked by the government in Kiev. It is hard to know who is right and who is wrong about that. It is probably the worst corruption going on. Saakashvili himself is wanted for corruption in Georgia, as we know. Of course, the danger of him coming back like this is that the Ukrainian authorities, who’ve fallen out with him, might extradite him back to Georgia to face trial there. So, he is taking a bit of a risk by trying to come back into the country. They are obviously not on the same page now.

The politics in current Ukraine are very opaque. You’ve got a lot of oligarchs of various kinds jostling for position. The economy itself is in a terrible state. They don’t know what to do about it. The population has not had much joy from this revolution – let’s put it that way.

Question:  How did it happen that both Poroshenko and Saakashvili, being two US darlings, are now at loggerheads? In 2014 Saakashvili supported the Maidan revolution that brought Poroshenko to power.

 MS: US darlings can fall out with each other. It is may be that the US has decided that Poroshenko is going to be thrown under the bus and Saakashvili is being used as a pawn to try and bring that about. Saakashvili has got a track record for being a loose cannon in his own right anyway. People may remember him eating his tie on television in Georgia when he started the war in Ossetia. He is a bit off a dangerous clown.

Question:  What do you make of Saakashvili’s personality, given that after being a resident of one country, he gave up his native citizenship in favor of another? Yet now he’s left without any?

 MS: He lost his Georgian citizenship, he lost his Ukrainian citizenship. If he comes back in Ukraine, he might be extradited to Georgia. Or he may just have to go back Poland and hang around there in a stateless way. I don’t know how this is going to play out. It’s all a game of cat and mouse, isn’t it?

Question:  How was it even possible that Saakashvili was given such an important role in Ukraine? What does it say about the Ukrainian state of affairs in the recent years?

 MS: It is very odd that he played such a big role in Ukrainian politics since he isn’t Ukrainian and had been given the governorship of the Odessa, which is a key region, especially since it has got a large Russian population. He was parachuted in by the Western powers. I think what is going on – it just shows in what disarray Ukrainian politics are. The revolution is turning incredibly sour – nobody really knows what to do next. The economy is in free fall, they are not going to be joining the EU anytime soon. They are talking about joining NATO – but all that will do is potentially spark further war…The government in Kiev is very weak. The population is very unhappy. The war has been a failure in every possible way you can imagine. I don’t see a very good future for Ukraine unless there is a change in the geopolitical situation, which allows the situations to stabilize so their Russian neighbors and their Western neighbors can cooperate better, so they can cooperate better. But I am not holding my breath.

From the news Alfo

 

A World without Nuclear Weapons

As one of the few European countries, Sweden has supported the draft agreement. US Defense Minister Mattis threatens the country from a possible ratification

In summer 2016, only 120 states signed a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. The states with nuclear weapons have not participated, the five members of the Security Council, who are permanent because of their nuclear weapons, have also renounced this, and thus made it clear that they do not wish to comply with their obligations which they have entered into with the nuclear arms treaty. Not rhetorical, as Barack Obama did. On the other hand, an atomic contest has long been used.

In addition to France and Great Britain, most European states and all NATO countries did not support the prohibition treaty, including Germany, which holds a “Nuclear Participation” agreement with the United States. In Germany, US nuclear weapons are stored in Büchel and German tornado bombers are held ready for the war to use them under American control. There is also “nuclear participation” with Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey (where between 50 and 90 atomic bombs are to be stored at the Incirlik Air Base).

In addition to Austria, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Switzerland, Sweden has also voted in favor of the Nuclear Ban Treaty, which can be ratified from 20 September. Making the 50 states, he enters into force. This would not change a lot, but the nuclear states might come a little more under legitimation. In addition, military alliances between nuclear and signatory states could become difficult. Thus, not only the storage but also the stationing of nuclear weapons for signatory states would be prohibited as well as the support or the search for the help of states that are developing, storing or deploying nuclear weapons.

It seems that Sweden, not yet a member of the NATO, was now the target of the United States. The US government is putting pressure on the country not to ratify the agreement. Defense Minister Jim Mattis has written a letter to his Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist, threatening that ratification could endanger military cooperation, as reported last week by the newspaper Dagens Nyheterin. Moreover, NATO’s Gold Card program, which grants privileged rights to Sweden, and the possibility of joining NATO in the future. This means being a member of NATO also means accepting nuclear weapons as military means or not wanting to prevent them.

USA could no longer support Sweden militarily in a conflict

A deeper warning is that the US, Mattis said, could no longer help Sweden in a crisis. Mattis probably responded to a statement by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström on 25 August that Sweden was likely to sign the agreement. Nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to humanity, and all other weapons of mass destruction are already prohibited.

The nuclear arms treaty would have hindered the spread of nuclear weapons and would bring about a reduction of nuclear weapons. According to Wallström, the nuclear states would “modernize” their nuclear weapons, which had strengthened support for a ban. Sweden’s agreement to the prohibition agreement fully agrees “with our disarmament policy as part of a larger security policy”. “Under our interpretation of ‘support’, our nuclear cooperation agreement is not affected by the agreement because it does not include nuclear weapons. … Our commitment to disarmament can go hand in hand with a responsible one security cooperation. ”

Mattis is also threatened by the dismissal, and the Swedish position can no longer be called hypocritical. One would like to embrace a moral cloak, because one advocates a nuclear-weapon-free world, but this is not supposed to change in real-policy terms. This is not seen in the Pentagon. Spokesman Johnny Michael said the US had a big problem with the nuclear bans agreement. States would be urged not to sign the agreement. This would ultimately also undermine the nuclear arms treaty. A claim that is, of course, absurd.

Sweden plans to increase armament spending by 11 percent by 2020. Because in the transition to a purely professional army no longer sufficiently young people can be recruited, from January 1, compulsory military service will be introduced – equally for men and women.

by alfons

The rich are getting richer

The societies are becoming more marginalized. In democracies the proportionately growing elderly will increasingly determine politics. The trend is therefore conservative. It should remain as it was. And when the super rich, who can influence politics, are getting older, the younger people have a bad chance of setting the course for their benefit and for the future.

According to Bloomberg [1], 6 of the richest 25 Americans are over 80 years old, including Carl Icahn, Charles Koch, George Soros and Warren Buffett. Although the US over-80s represent only 3.7 per cent of the total population, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), they control more than all US citizens under the age of 50. Really rich are the ancients. This has always been the case, and now young people can become rich. One example is Mark Zuckerberg, the fifth-largest man in the world, who is only 33 years old.

The wealth of the super rich can only be appreciated by the tax authority. The richer one is, the better he can afford to be a consultant to cover up his assets and thus reduce his tax burden. The estimation is based on inheritance taxes, which had to be paid by the descendants of the deceased rich. Also there can be a lot of screwing. Real wealth can therefore be much greater than that which the government has grasped, especially if donations are already made before death, in order to circumvent taxation.

The latest IRS data comes from 2013. Thereafter, 584,000 US citizens have assets of 6.9 trillion US dollars. These super rich are just 0.2 percent of the population. People over the age of 80 alone have 1.2 trillion US dollars, all people under the age of 50, including Zuckerberg, have only 1 trillion, but represent 43 percent of the population. And the eighty-year-old rich also have only half the debt that people under 60 have.

This is a remarkable gap, as the demographic changes, ie the political overweight of the elderly, are once again drastically strengthened. The super rich have not only economic influence, but also political. They are well networked with the powerful in society. They do not pursue the same interests as can be seen, for example, in George Soros, the Koch brothers or Warren Buffet, but with their financial and economic power, they are negligible for no decision makers.

The IRS data do not show that the proportion of the super rich in the total range has grown. This suggests that, despite increasing wealth, there are many loophole for inheritance tax. However, many studies show that the share of the richest 1 per cent has risen in the last decades – not only in the USA (the richest 1 per cent in the US, the remaining 99 per cent is still falling in Germany one third of total assets [3]).

In a study published last year [4] on equilibrium in the US, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley stated that the share of the wealth of the wealthiest 0.1 percent of the total assets from 7 percent in 1978 to 22 percent in 2012 has risen, similar to 1929. But according to this investigation, the richest are younger than 1960 and have a higher share of income. The assets of the “lower” 90 percent have risen to the middle of the 1980s and have been steadily declining since then. The increase in inequality over the past decades, according to the two researchers, is due to the rise in top income in combination with an increase in the inequality of reserves. If you earn less, you will also be able to save less money and save money for old age.

Saez and Zucman suggest that an additional trend will result in the inheritance tax remaining the same. With the growing gap between rich and poor, the distance between the life expectancy between the rich and the poor grew. Because the rich live significantly longer than the poor, the increase in the wealth of the rich could possibly have not yet been covered by the inheritance tax. In addition, the Superreichen become older.

In the 1980s the stereotypes between the poor and the rich were not so far apart. People from the richest between 65 and 79 years also had a 12 per cent lower risk of dying in one of the years than the average of Americans. Now the risk is already 40 percent lower. In addition, the rich live longer, but the average life expectancy stagnates. The richest 0.1 percent lives longer than the richest 1 percent, which in turn lives longer than the richest tenth, etc.

The bottom line, drawn in the Bloomberg article

by alfons

Sergey Lavrov’s article “Russia’s Foreign Policy: Historical Background” for “Russia in Global Affairs” magazine, March 3, 2016

 This informative article from Russia’s Foreign Minister, is not mentioned in any MSM in the western world. The question is why?

International relations have entered a very difficult period, and Russia once again finds itself at the crossroads of key trends that determine the vector of future global development.

Many different opinions have been expressed in this connection including the fear that we have a distorted view of the international situation and Russia’s international standing. I perceive this as an echo of the eternal dispute between pro-Western liberals and the advocates of Russia’s unique path. There are also those, both in Russia and outside of it, who believe that Russia is doomed to drag behind, trying to catch up with the West and forced to bend to other players’ rules, and hence will be unable to claim its rightful place in international affairs. I’d like to use this opportunity to express some of my views and to back them with examples from history and historical parallels.

It is an established fact that a substantiated policy is impossible without reliance on history. This reference to history is absolutely justified, especially considering recent celebrations. In 2015, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of Victory in WWII, and in 2014, we marked a century since the start of WWI. In 2012, we marked 200 years of the Battle of Borodino and 400 years of Moscow’s liberation from the Polish invaders. If we look at these events carefully, we’ll see that they clearly point to Russia’s special role in European and global history.

History doesn’t confirm the widespread belief that Russia has always camped in Europe’s backyard and has been Europe’s political outsider. I’d like to remind you that the adoption of Christianity in Russia in 988 – we marked 1025 years of that event quite recently – boosted the development of state institutions, social relations and culture and eventually made Kievan Russ a full member of the European community. At that time, dynastic marriages were the best gauge of a country’s role in the system of international relations. In the 11th century, three daughters of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise became the queens of Norway and Denmark, Hungary and France. Yaroslav’s sister married the Polish king and granddaughter the German emperor.

Numerous scientific investigations bear witness to the high cultural and spiritual level of Russ of those days, a level that was frequently higher than in western European states. Many prominent Western thinkers recognized that Russ was part of the European context. At the same time, Russian people possessed a cultural matrix of their own and an original type of spirituality and never merged with the West. It is instructive to recall in this connection what was for my people a tragic and in many respects critical epoch of the Mongolian invasion. The great Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin wrote: “The barbarians did not dare to leave an enslaved Russ in their rear and returned to their Eastern steppes. Christian enlightenment was saved by a ravaged and dying Russia.” We also know an alternative view offered by prominent historian and ethnologist Lev Gumilyov, who believed that the Mongolian invasion had prompted the emergence of a new Russian ethnos and that the Great Steppe had given us an additional impetus for development.

However, that may be, the said period was extremely important for the assertion of the Russian State’s independent role in Eurasia. Let us recall in this connection the policy pursued by Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky, who opted to temporarily submit to Golden Horde rulers, who were tolerant of Christianity, in order to uphold the Russians’ right to have a faith of their own and to decide their fate, despite the European West’s attempts to put Russian lands under full control and to deprive Russians of their identity. I am confident that this wise and forward-looking policy is in our genes.

Russ bent under but was not broken by the heavy Mongolian yoke, and managed to emerge from this dire trial as a single state, which was later regarded by both the West and the East as the successor to the Byzantine Empire that ceased to exist in 1453. An imposing country stretching along what was practically the entire eastern perimeter of Europe, Russia began a natural expansion towards the Urals and Siberia, absorbing their huge territories. Already then it was a powerful balancing factor in European political combinations, including the well-known Thirty Years’ War that gave birth to the Westphalian system of international relations, whose principles, primarily respect for state sovereignty, are of importance even today.

At this point we are approaching a dilemma that has been evident for several centuries. While the rapidly developing Moscow state naturally played an increasing role in European affairs, the European countries had apprehensions about the nascent giant in the East and tried to isolate it whenever possible and prevent it from taking part in Europe’s most important affairs.

The seeming contradiction between the traditional social order and a striving for modernisation based on the most advanced experience also dates back centuries. In reality, a rapidly developing state is bound to try and make a leap forward, relying on modern technology, which does not necessarily imply the renunciation of its “cultural code.” There are many examples of Eastern societies modernising without the radical breakdown of their traditions. This is more typical of Russia that is essentially a branch of European civilisation.

Incidentally, the need for modernisation based on European achievements was clearly manifest in Russian society under Tsar Alexis, while talented and ambitious Peter the Great gave it a strong boost. Relying on tough domestic measures and resolute, and successful, foreign policy, Peter the Great managed to put Russia into the category of Europe’s leading countries in a little over two decades. Since that time, Russia’s position could no longer be ignored. Not a single European issue can be resolved without Russia’s opinion.

It wouldn’t be accurate to assume that everyone was happy about this state of affairs. Repeated attempts to return this country into the pre-Peter times were made over subsequent centuries but failed. In the middle 18th century Russia played a key role in a pan-European conflict – the Seven Years’ War. At that time, Russian troops made a triumphal entry into Berlin, the capital of Prussia under Frederick II who had a reputation for invincibility. Prussia was saved from an inevitable rout only because Empress Elizabeth died a sudden death and was succeeded by Peter III who sympathised with Frederick II. This turn in German history is still referred to as the Miracle of the House of Brandenburg. Russia’s size, power and influence grew substantially under Catherine the Great when, as then Chancellor Alexander Bezborodko put it, “Not a single cannon in Europe could be fired without our consent.”

I’d like to quote the opinion of a reputable researcher of Russian history, Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, the permanent secretary of the French Academy. She said the Russian Empire was the greatest empire of all times in the totality of all parameters – its size, an ability to administer its territories and the longevity of its existence. Following Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyayev, she insists that history has imbued Russia with the mission of being a link between the East and the West.

During at least the past two centuries any attempts to unite Europe without Russia and against it have inevitably led to grim tragedies, the consequences of which were always overcome with the decisive participation of our country. I’m referring, in part, to the Napoleonic wars upon the completion of which Russia rescued the system of international relations that was based on the balance of forces and mutual consideration for national interests and ruled out the total dominance of one state in Europe. We remember that Emperor Alexander I took an active role in the drafting of decisions of the 1815 Vienna Congress that ensured the development of Europe without serious armed clashes during the subsequent 40 years.

Incidentally, to a certain extent the ideas of Alexander I could be described as a prototype of the concept on subordinating national interests to common goals, primarily, the maintenance of peace and order in Europe. As the Russian emperor said, “there can be no more English, French, Russian or Austrian policy. There can be only one policy – a common policy that must be accepted by both peoples and sovereigns for common happiness.”

By the same token, the Vienna system was destroyed in the wake of the desire to marginalise Russia in European affairs. Paris was obsessed with this idea during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III. In his attempt to forge an anti-Russian alliance, the French monarch was willing, as a hapless chess grandmaster, to sacrifice all the other figures. How did it play out? Indeed, Russia was defeated in the Crimean War of 1853-1856, the consequences of which it managed to overcome soon due to a consistent and far-sighted policy pursued by Chancellor Alexander Gorchakov. As for Napoleon III, he ended his rule in German captivity, and the nightmare of the Franco-German confrontation loomed over Western Europe for decades.

Here is another Crimean War-related episode. As we know, the Austrian Emperor refused to help Russia, which, a few years earlier, in 1849, had come to his help during the Hungarian revolt. Then Austrian Foreign Minister Felix Schwarzenberg famously said: “Europe would be astonished by the extent of Austria’s ingratitude.” In general, the imbalance of pan-European mechanisms triggered a chain of events that led to the First World War.

Notably, back then Russian diplomacy also advanced ideas that were ahead of their time. The Hague Peace conferences of 1899 and 1907, convened at the initiative of Emperor Nicholas II, were the first attempts to agree on curbing the arms race and stopping preparations for a devastating war. But not many people know about it.

The First World War claimed lives and caused the suffering of countless millions of people and led to the collapse of four empires. In this connection, it is appropriate to recall yet another anniversary, which will be marked next year – the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Today we are faced with the need to develop a balanced and objective assessment of those events, especially in an environment where, particularly in the West, many are willing to use this date to mount even more information attacks on Russia, and to portray the 1917 Revolution as a barbaric coup that dragged down all of European history. Even worse, they want to equate the Soviet regime to Nazism, and partially blame it for starting WWII.

Without a doubt, the Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Civil War were a terrible tragedy for our nation. However, all other revolutions were tragic as well. This does not prevent our French colleagues from extolling their upheaval, which, in addition to the slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity, also involved the use of the guillotine, and rivers of blood.

Undoubtedly, the Russian Revolution was a major event which impacted world history in many controversial ways. It has become regarded as a kind of experiment in implementing socialist ideas, which were then widely spread across Europe. The people supported them, because wide masses gravitated towards social organisation with reliance on the collective and community principles.

Serious researchers clearly see the impact of reforms in the Soviet Union on the formation of the so-called welfare state in Western Europe in the post-WWII period. European governments decided to introduce unprecedented measures of social protection under the influence of the example of the Soviet Union in an effort to cut the ground from under the feet of the left-wing political forces.

One can say that the 40 years following World War II were a surprisingly good time for Western Europe, which was spared the need to make its own major decisions under the umbrella of the US-Soviet confrontation and enjoyed unique opportunities for steady development.

In these circumstances, Western European countries have implemented several ideas regarding ​​conversion of the capitalist and socialist models, which, as a preferred form of socioeconomic progress, were promoted by Pitirim Sorokin and other outstanding thinkers of the 20th century. Over the past 20 years, we have been witnessing the reverse process in Europe and the United States: the reduction of the middle class, increased social inequality, and the dismantling of controls over big business.

The role which the Soviet Union played in decolonisation, and promoting international relations principles, such as the independent development of nations and their right to self-determination, is undeniable.

I will not dwell on the points related to Europe slipping into WWII. Clearly, the anti-Russian aspirations of the European elites, and their desire to unleash Hitler’s war machine on the Soviet Union played their fatal part here. Redressing the situation after this terrible disaster involved the participation of our country as a key partner in determining the parameters of the European and the world order.

In this context, the notion of the “clash of two totalitarianisms,” which is now actively inculcated in European minds, including at schools, is groundless and immoral. The Soviet Union, for all its evils, never aimed to destroy entire nations. Winston Churchill, who all his life was a principled opponent of the Soviet Union and played a major role in going from the WWII alliance to a new confrontation with the Soviet Union, said that graciousness, i.e. life in accordance with conscience, is the Russian way of doing things.

If you take an unbiased look at the smaller European countries, which previously were part of the Warsaw Treaty, and are now members of the EU or NATO, it is clear that the issue was not about going from subjugation to freedom, which Western masterminds like to talk about, but rather a change of leadership. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about it not long ago. The representatives of these countries concede behind closed doors that they can’t take any significant decision without the green light from Washington or Brussels.

It seems that in the context of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it is important for us to understand the continuity of Russian history, which should include all of its periods without exception, and the importance of the synthesis of all the positive traditions and historical experience as the basis for making dynamic advances and upholding the rightful role of our country as a leading centre of the modern world, and a provider of the values of sustainable development, security and stability.

The post-war world order relied on confrontation between two world systems and was far from ideal, yet it was sufficient to preserve international peace and to avoid the worst possible temptation – the use of weapons of mass destruction, primarily nuclear weapons. There is no substance behind the popular belief that the Soviet Union’s dissolution signified Western victory in the Cold War. It was the result of our people’s will for change plus an unlucky chain of events.

These developments resulted in a truly tectonic shift in the international landscape. In fact, they changed global politics altogether, considering that the end of the Cold War and related ideological confrontation offered a unique opportunity to change the European architecture on the principles of indivisible and equal security and broad cooperation without dividing lines.

We had a practical chance to mend Europe’s divide and implement the dream of a common European home, which many European thinkers and politicians, including President Charles de Gaulle of France, wholeheartedly embraced. Russia was fully open to this option and advanced many proposals and initiatives in this connection. Logically, we should have created a new foundation for European security by strengthening the military and political components of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Vladimir Putin said in a recent interview with the German newspaper Bild that German politician Egon Bahr proposed similar approaches.

Unfortunately, our Western partners chose differently. They opted to expand NATO eastward and to advance the geopolitical space they controlled closer to the Russian border. This is the essence of the systemic problems that have soured Russia’s relations with the United States and the European Union. It is notable that George Kennan, the architect of the US policy of containment of the Soviet Union, said in his winter years that the ratification of NATO expansion was “a tragic mistake.”

The underlying problem of this Western policy is that it disregarded the global context. The current globalised world is based on an unprecedented interconnection between countries, and so it’s impossible to develop relations between Russia and the EU as if they remained at the core of global politics as during the Cold War. We must take note of the powerful processes that are underway in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Rapid changes in all areas of international life is the primary sign of the current stage. Indicatively, they often take an unexpected turn. Thus, the concept of “the end of history” developed by well-known US sociologist and political researcher Francis Fukuyama, that was popular in the 1990s, has become clearly inconsistent today. According to this concept, rapid globalisation signals the ultimate victory of the liberal capitalist model, whereas all other models should adapt to it under the guidance of the wise Western teachers.

In reality, the second wave of globalisation (the first occurred before World War I) led to the dispersal of global economic might and, hence, of political influence, and to the emergence of new and large centres of power, primarily in the Asia-Pacific Region. China’s rapid upsurge is the clearest example. Owing to unprecedented economic growth rates, in just three decades it became the second and, calculated as per purchasing power parity, the first economy in the world. This example illustrates an axiomatic fact – there are many development models– which rules out the monotony of existence within the uniform, Western frame of reference.

Consequently, there has been a relative reduction in the influence of the so-called “historical West” that was used to seeing itself as the master of the human race’s destinies for almost five centuries. The competition on the shaping of the world order in the 21st century has toughened. The transition from the Cold War to a new international system proved to be much longer and more painful than it seemed 20-25 years ago.

Against this backdrop, one of the basic issues in international affairs is the form that is being acquired by this generally natural competition between the world’s leading powers. We see how the United States and the US-led Western alliance are trying to preserve their dominant positions by any available method or, to use the American lexicon, ensure their “global leadership”. Many diverse ways of exerting pressure, economic sanctions and even direct armed intervention are being used. Large-scale information wars are being waged. Technology of unconstitutional change of governments by launching “colour” revolutions has been tried and tested. Importantly, democratic revolutions appear to be destructive for the nations targeted by such actions. Our country that went through a historical period of encouraging artificial transformations abroad, firmly proceeds from the preference of evolutionary changes that should be carried out in the forms and at a speed that conform to the traditions of a society and its level of development.

Western propaganda habitually accuses Russia of “revisionism,” and the alleged desire to destroy the established international system, as if it was us who bombed Yugoslavia in 1999 in violation of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, as if it was Russia that ignored international law by invading Iraq in 2003 and distorted UN Security Council resolutions by overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi’s regime by force in Libya in 2011. There are many examples.

This discourse about “revisionism” does not hold water. It is based on the simple and even primitive logic that only Washington can set the tune in world affairs. In line with this logic, the principle once formulated by George Orwell and moved to the international level, sounds like the following: all states are equal but some states are more equal than others. However, today international relations are too sophisticated a mechanism to be controlled from one centre. This is obvious given the results of US interference: There is virtually no state in Libya; Iraq is balancing on the brink of disintegration, and so on and so forth.

A reliable solution to the problems of the modern world can only be achieved through serious and honest cooperation between the leading states and their associations in order to address common challenges. Such an interaction should include all the colours of the modern world, and be based on its cultural and civilizational diversity, as well as reflect the interests of the international community’s key components.

We know from experience that when these principles are applied in practice, it is possible to achieve specific and tangible results, such as the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme, the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons, the agreement on stopping hostilities in Syria, and the development of the basic parameters of the global climate agreement. This shows the need to restore the culture of compromise, the reliance on the diplomatic work, which can be difficult, even exhausting, but which remains, in essence, the only way to ensure a mutually acceptable solution to problems by peaceful means.

Our approaches are shared by most countries of the world, including our Chinese partners, other BRICS and SCO nations, and our friends in the EAEU, the CSTO, and the CIS. In other words, we can say that Russia is fighting not against someone, but for the resolution of all the issues on an equal and mutually respectful basis, which alone can serve as a reliable foundation for a long-term improvement of international relations.

Our most important task is to join our efforts against not some far-fetched, but very real challenges, among which the terrorist aggression is the most pressing one. The extremists from ISIS, Jabhat an-Nusra and the like managed for the first time to establish control over large territories in Syria and Iraq. They are trying to extend their influence to other countries and regions, and are committing acts of terrorism around the world. Underestimating this risk is nothing short of criminal shortsightedness.

The Russian President called for forming a broad-based front in order to defeat the terrorists militarily. The Russian Aerospace Forces make an important contribution to this effort. At the same time, we are working hard to establish collective actions regarding the political settlement of the conflicts in this crisis-ridden region.

Importantly, the long-term success can only be achieved on the basis of movement to the partnership of civilisations based on respectful interaction of diverse cultures and religions. We believe that human solidarity must have a moral basis formed by traditional values ​​that are largely shared by the world’s leading religions. In this connection, I would like to draw your attention to the joint statement by Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis, in which, among other things, they have expressed support for the family as a natural centre of life of individuals and society.

I repeat, we are not seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union, or NATO. On the contrary, Russia is open to the widest possible cooperation with its Western partners. We continue to believe that the best way to ensure the interests of the peoples living in Europe is to form a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that the newly formed Eurasian Economic Union could be an integrating link between Europe and Asia Pacific. We strive to do our best to overcome obstacles on that way, including the settlement of the Ukraine crisis caused by the coup in Kiev in February 2014, on the basis of the Minsk Agreements.

I’d like to quote wise and politically experienced Henry Kissinger, who, speaking recently in Moscow, said that “Russia should be perceived as an essential element of any new global equilibrium, not primarily as a threat to the United States… I am here to argue for the possibility of a dialogue that seeks to merge our futures rather than elaborate our conflicts. This requires respect by both sides of the vital values and interest of the other.”  We share such an approach. And we will continue to defend the principles of law and justice in international affairs.

Speaking about Russia’s role in the world as a great power, Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin said that the greatness of a country is not determined by the size of its territory or the number of its inhabitants, but by the capacity of its people and its government to take on the burden of great world problems and to deal with these problems in a creative manner. A great power is the one which, asserting its existence and its interest … introduces a creative and meaningful legal idea to ​​the entire assembly of the nations, the entire “concert” of the peoples and states. It is difficult to disagree with these words.

 

This article from the Russia’s Foreign Minister, is not mentioned in any MSM in the western. The question is why.

The so called free world should learn more about the history of Russia. Through the historical moments can explain more that all political interviews. A land history is the driving force of  the country.

By Alfons

 

 

 

The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows

Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

But while the survey has attracted snorts and jeers from some corners — “um, guys, [milk] comes from cows — and not just the brown kind,” snarked Food & Wine — the most surprising thing about this figure may actually be that it isn’t higher.

 

For decades, observers in agriculture, nutrition and education have griped that many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate. They don’t know where food is grown, how it gets to stores — or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. Many more lacked familiarity with basic farming facts, like how big U.S. farms typically are and what food animals eat.

Experts in ag education aren’t convinced that much has changed in the intervening decades.

“At the end of the day, it’s an exposure issue,” said Cecily Upton, co-founder of the nonprofit FoodCorps, which brings agricultural and nutrition education into elementary schools. “Right now, we’re conditioned to think that if you need food, you go to the store. Nothing in our educational framework teaches kids where food comes from before that point.”

Upton and other educators are quick to caution that these conclusions don’t apply across the board. Studies have shown that people who live in agricultural communities tend to know a bit more about where their food comes from, as do people with higher education levels and household incomes.

But in some populations, confusion about basic food facts can skew pretty high. When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.

“All informants recalled the names of common foods in raw form and most knew foods were grown on farms or in gardens,” the researchers concluded. “They did not, however, possess schema necessary to articulate an understanding of post-production activities nor the agricultural crop origin of common foods.”

In some ways, this ignorance is perfectly logical. The writer and historian Ann Vileisis has argued that it developed in lockstep with the industrial food system.

As more Americans moved into cities in the mid-1800s, she writes in the book “Kitchen Literacy,” fewer were involved in food production or processing. That trend was exacerbated by innovations in transportation and manufacturing that made it possible to ship foods in different forms, and over great distances.

By the time uniformity, hygiene and brand loyalty became modern ideals — the latter frequently encouraged by emerging food companies in well-funded ad campaigns — many Americans couldn’t imagine the origins of the boxed cereals or shrink-wrapped hot dogs in their kitchens.

Today, many Americans only experience food as an industrial product that doesn’t look much like the original animal or plant: The USDA says orange juice is the most popular “fruit” in America, and processed potatoes — in the form of french fries and chips — rank among the top vegetables.

 

 

 

“Indifference about the origins and production of foods became a norm of urban culture, laying the groundwork for a modern food sensibility that would spread all across America in the decades that followed,” Vileisis wrote, of the 20th century. “Within a relatively brief period, the average distance from farm to kitchen had grown from a short walk down the garden path to a convoluted, 1,500-mile energy-guzzling journey by rail and truck.”

The past 20 years have seen the birth of a movement to reverse this gap, with agriculture and nutrition groups working to get ag education back into classrooms.

Aside from FoodCorps, which worked with slightly more than 100,000 students this year, groups like the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization and the American Farm Bureau Foundation are actively working with K-12 teachers across the country to add nutrition, farm technology and agricultural economics to lessons in social studies, science and health. The USDA Farm to School program, which awarded $5 million in grants for the 2017-2018 school year on Monday, also funds projects on agriculture education.

For National Dairy Month, which is June, NACO has been featuring a kindergarten-level lesson on dairy. Among its main takeaways: milk — plain, unflavored, boring white milk — comes from cows, not the grocery case.

Nutritionists and food-system reformers say these basic lessons are critical to raising kids who know how to eat healthfully — an important aid to tackling heart disease and obesity.

Meanwhile, farm groups argue the lack of basic food knowledge can lead to poor policy decisions.

2012 white paper from the National Institute for Animal Agriculture blamed consumers for what it considers bad farm regulations: “One factor driving today’s regulatory environment … is pressure applied by consumers, the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, a majority of today’s consumers are at least three generations removed from agriculture, are not literate about where food comes from and how it is produced.”

Upton, of FoodCorps, said everyone could benefit from a better understanding of agriculture.

“We still get kids who are surprised that a french fry comes from a potato, or that a pickle is a cucumber,” she said. “… Knowledge is power. Without it, we can’t make informed decisions.”

Update: This story originally said the survey in question was commissioned by the National Dairy Council. It was actually commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, its sister organization. The Post regrets the error. 

by Alfons

„We got a fuckin’problem “

Seymour Hersh wrote this article, which confirmed that it was not the Syria’s which were behind the sarin attack. One of the fake news. Trump was quite aware of who spread the serine attack.

Von Seymour M. Hersh |

 

Intelligence officials doubted the alleged Sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun. WELT AM SONNTAG presents a chat protocol of a security advisor and an active American soldier on duty at a key base in the region.

 

his conversation was provided to Seymour Hersh. It is between a security adviser and an active US American soldier on duty on a key operational base about the events in Khan Sheikhoun. We have made abbreviations: American soldier (AS) and Security Advisor (SA). WELT AM SONNTAG is aware of the location of the deployment. For security reasons, certain details of military operations have been omitted.

April 6, 2017

American Soldier: We got a fuckin‘ problem

Security-Adviser: What happened? Is it the Trump ignoring the Intel and going to try to hit the Syrians? And that we’re pissing on the Russians?

AS: This is bad…Things are spooling up.

SA: You may not have seen trumps press conference yesterday. He’s bought into the media story without asking to see the Intel.  We are likely to get our asses kicked by the Russians.  Fucking dangerous.  Where are the godamn adults? The failure of the chain of command to tell the President the truth, whether he wants to hear it or not, will go down in history as one of our worst moments.

AS: I don’t know. None of this makes any sense. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That’s it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.

AS: And now we’re shoving a shit load of TLAMs (tomahawks) up their ass.

SA: There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran. What the people around Trump do not understand is that the Russians are not a paper tiger and that they have more robust military capability than we do.

AS:  I don’t know what the Russians are going to do. They might hang back and let the Syrians defend their own borders, or they might provide some sort of tepid support, or they might blow us the fuck out of the airspace and back into Iraq. I honestly don’t know what to expect right now. I feel like anything is possible.  The Russian air defence system is capable of taking out our TLAMs.  this is a big fucking deal…we are still all systems go…

SA:  You are so right. Russia is not going to take this lying down

SA: Who is pushing this? Is it coming from Votel (General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command, editor‘s note) ?

AS: I don’t know. It’s from someone big though. . . . This is a big fucking deal.

AS: It has to be POTUS.

AS:  They [the Russians] are weighing their options.  Indications are they are going to be passive supporters of Syria and not engage their systems unless their own assets are threatened. In other words, the sky is fucking blue.’

April 7, 2017

SA: What are the Russians doing or saying  Am I correct that we did little real damage to Russia or Syria?

AS: We didn’t hit a damn thing, thankfully. They retrograded all their aircraft and personnel. We basically gave them some very expensive fireworks display.

AS: They knew where ships were and watched the entire strike from launch to end game.

AS: The Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real Intel and know the truth about the weapons depot strike.

AS: They are correct.

AS: I guess it really didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump. Fuck.

AS: No one is talking about the entire reason we’re in Iraq and Syria in the first place. That mission is fucked now.

SA: Are any of your colleagues pissed or is everyone going along with it and saying this is OK

AS: It’s a mad house. . . .Hell we even told the Russians an hour before impact

SA: But they clearly knew it was coming

AS: Oh of course

AS: Now Fox is saying we chose to hit the Syrian airfield because it is where the chemical attacks were launched from. Wow. Can’t make this shit up.

SA: They are. I mean, making it up

AS: It’s so fuckin evil

SA: Amen!!!

April 8, 2017

AS: Russians are being extremely reasonable.  Despite what the news is reporting they are still trying to deconflict and coordinate the air campaign.

SA: I don’t think the Russia yet understands how crazy Trump is over this.  And I don’t think we appreciate how much damage the Russians can do to us.

AS: They’re showing amazing restraint and been unbelievably calm.  They seem mostly interested in de-escalating everything.  They don’t want to lose our support in the help with destroying Isis.

SA: But I get the get the feeling are simply trying this approach for as long as they feel it might work.  If we keep pushing this current aggressive stance they’re going to hit back.’

by Alfons

Putins Scary Side

BY ANDREW NAGORSKI

Edward Lucas is much too smart an observer, with more than enough experience in both the old Soviet bloc and the new Russia, not to concede the obvious. Russia is no longer a closed society, he points out, and “most Russians have never had it so good,” which accounts for President Vladimir Putin’s consistently high approval ratings. A veteran correspondent for The Economist, Lucas also is willing to admit that Russia isn’t a global adversary since it works with the West, even if testily, on any number of diplomatic issues such as Iran and North Korea. “The old Cold War is indeed over,” he concludes.

So why is his new book entitled “The New Cold War: The Future of Russia and the Threat to the West” (Palgrave Macmillan)? Partly because it’s a meticulously constructed indictment of Putin’s strong-arm tactics at home and his increasingly aggressive tone in dealing with his immediate neighbors and any other countries that try to question his behavior. And, partly, because Lucas is appalled by what he sees as the West’s deliberate blindness when it comes to Russia. The biggest mistake the West keeps making, he argues, is to assume that Russia is in the process of becoming a “normal” country. While it may be too weak militarily now to threaten others the way it once did, he believes the Kremlin is fighting a new cold war with “cash, natural resources, diplomacy, and propaganda.”

Lucas demonstrates how the historical revisionism of the Putin era has set the stage for this new struggle. First of all, Soviet-era myths have been revived. Stalin is once again hailed as “one of the most successful leaders of the USSR.” His “mistakes,” which included mass murder of his own people, are less important than his role in industrializing the country and leading it to victory in World War II. (No matter that he almost led it to defeat at first.) This conveniently sanitizes such events as the annexation of the Baltic states, which helps the Kremlin in its current belligerent stance toward Estonia. At home, the same revisionism allows ex-KGB agents to rule, since that organization’s role in the mass killings has been swept under the rug. The Stalinist past, Lucas notes, “is the source of both the Kremlin’s xenophobia and its authoritarianism.

The other key bit of revisionism concerns the recent past. To justify his crackdown on the media and any political opposition, Putin has portrayed the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin as a period of unmitigated disasters and humiliation. There’s no doubt that corruption and lawlessness was rampant then, but it’s also true that Russia opened up to the world, its media was chaotic but largely uncensored, and there was hope that the country could evolve into a more functional democracy. Although Yeltsin anointed Putin as his successor, the new man has tried to discredit his entire legacy to justify his moves to amass a new monopoly on both political and economic power.

The latter is particularly important at a time when rising oil and gas prices have made Russia flush with cash. The country’s GDP is more than six times higher than it was in 1999, but this wealth remains tightly controlled by the ruling elite. The result is an economy with growing instead of diminishing state control, and appalling public services such as health care. Corruption, murders and demographic decline still characterize this new Russia. But Western notions of democracy based on individual rights are ridiculed, while a new doctrine of Russia’s “sovereign democracy”—its unique path of building a strong state—is offered as the solution.

As Lucas points out, the West has almost no leverage to reverse these trends. Earlier, Russia needed the West’s financial aid, but no more. This allows Putin to flex his muscles, applying pressure against his neighbors by wielding the energy weapon, backing separatist movements in places like Georgia and Moldova and offering new arms sales to Iran. While insisting he wants cooperation with the West, he angrily dismisses all criticism. As happened in the Duma elections in December, Putin has made it impossible for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to carry out its normal election monitoring duties on March 2 when Dmitry Medvedev will become his successor in a sham contest.

“The New Cold War” occasionally gets bogged down in the intricacies of Russia’s relationships with each of the ex-Soviet republics or the pipeline politics that defines today’s energy battles. But Lucas’s main message comes through loud and clear: Russia has changed course, and the West should face up to the implications. For instance, he asks, what justification is there for keeping Russia’s continued membership in the G8, the club for the world’s leading industrial democracies? Lucas has built a very strong case for the prosecution. And, on all too many of the counts in his indictment, the defendant looks smugly guilty.

Alfons

 

 

Re-Reading Russian Political History in the Putin Era (2000-2016)

This interesting article is worth wile to read, because it gives you more information in regards of what the Russian view is on the ongoing accusation of Russia’s involvement in the American internal election and other accusations, after the Soviet Union disappeared in 1989.

Igor Pellicciari is Full Professor at the University of Salento, Italy

Spies, Jurists, Diplomats The recent publication of numerous articles that try to analyse Vladimir Putin’s psychological profile—in the belief that this approach is enough to explain Russian policies—provides us with a useful occasion to present the following reflections on the main misunderstandings that are hovering today over the ground of Western countries, whenever they look at the Russian universe to understand its thoughts (not very successfully) and anticipate its moves (even less successfully).

This exercise is even more useful if we consider the simultaneous publication of other works that make the opposite claims—again with sharp tones, but this time biased in favour of Moscow—that Russo-phobia is rapidly spreading through the Western mainstream media and policy discourse.

The main objective of this exercise is to avoid simplistic interpretations—such as the very concept of Putin as the alfa-omega beginning and end of the Russian universe. While these interpretations may be useful to quickly communicate with the wide, absent-minded public opinion, they end up confirming pseudo-theories about Russia being unavoidably different and irrationally aggressive on the international level. These interpretations also prevent us from developing an understanding of what Moscow really wants to achieve so that we can ultimately reach an agreement that is beneficial to both sides.

From Red threat to Russia threat 

The main misunderstanding—“main” because it, in turn, generates many more misunderstandings, concerns the evaluation of how much of contemporary Russia can be ascribed to Soviet times and how much derives from Russia’s political evolution over the last 25 years.

Due to a series of convenient circumstances, both political and cultural, the choice has been to interpret events in terms of a complete continuity with the past, positing a total and automatic overlap between the logic of the Kremlin’s actions in Soviet times and now.

Among the (banal) cultural reasons of this homologation there is also the difficulty of the West to find new expertise on Russian affairs that has developed independently of the study of the USSR. This is also due to insufficient investment in research and studies on Russia promoted in the 1990s, when the geopolitical importance of the country collapsed.

An entire generation of scholars and analysts was lost, so much that today the Kremlin’s news of the day is commented on by experts of the Soviet period or dealt with using daily-news narratives.

The resulting reports are not necessarily wrong, but give little contribution to understanding what is new in Moscow.

The prejudices that accompany these beliefs lead us to think, ex ante, that any crisis may also involve Moscow and make it the first suspect for triggering it; ex post, that the involvement of Russia may only make the situation worse rather that improve it.

On the other hand, the political reasons for this lack of will to accept contemporary Russia as something different from the USSR are less casual, more sophisticated, and correspond to a strategic upstream choice, i.e. the need for Western political systems to find an external enemy to unite the fissures that are open within Western society.

From this perspective, Moscow looks like the perfect enemy because it is: a) well established, due to its long history of opposition to the West; b) institutionalized, because it is used and prone to fighting and negotiating according to consolidated schemes; c) autarchic, because it is ready to take on an oppositional role for long periods; but, above all, d) easy to communicate to Western public opinions, especially during a period in which these public opinions have experienced more confused identities since the end of WWII, and are beginning to question the legitimacy of their respective political and institutional establishments.

In other words, Russia is a reassuring enemy, the “Devil you know.” It is preferable to other threats, from Daesh to various forms of terrorism, which are much more disturbing insofar as they are difficult to circumscribe and define; so much that their roots are in those very Western societies they fight against.

The old channels of the anti-Soviet mainstream, which is still alive, have encouraged European and American political communication to switch from the rhetoric of the “red threat” to that of the “Russia threat”—a short step, easily put into practice.

Nor has the inclusion of Eastern countries in the European Union softened European and American rhetoric against Russia, despite the fact that their inclusion itself was obtained thanks to the approval and coordination of the Kremlin, as Romano Prodi has recently reminded us.

Some EU founding countries—Italy among them—soon abandoned the belief that the new members (above all, Poland and the Baltic countries) would bring with them greater expertise about Russia thanks to their historic proximity to that country. Indeed, these countries often took the European positions to the extreme as a result of their negative experience and obsession with Soviet times. These countries sought confrontation with Moscow, then put up the predictable Russian reaction as evidence of the threat coming from Moscow in front of  the astonished EU older members, thus making anti-Russian positions even more negative.

From this perspective, it is no surprise that in July 2016, with the Middle-East ablaze, NATO gave priority to discussing military deployments in the Baltic countries; or that Merkel, in the middle of an unprecedented migrant crisis, thought it more important to implore German citizens to stock food in case of—among other things—a military conflict with Russia. It is even less surprising that a survey conducted in 2015 revealed that the majority of the interviewees considered Moscow a more serious risk to their security than the foreign fighters who graduate in British colleges and volunteer as Islamic extremists on the Syrian front. As if Russian oligarchs residing in London were scheming to detonate bombs in the heart of the City.

Having demonstrated that the reasons for the persistence and consolidation of the “Russia threat” rhetoric along the same trajectories that once belonged to the “red threat” are mainly political, the basic problem is that they create various distorted perceptions. Being widespread on intermediate levels, they end up being difficult to eliminate, influencing not only public opinions, but the very (micro) politics of the West, and increasing the gap between the West and Russia.

In particular, we would like to stress two main distorted perceptions: a) about the way and the instruments with which Russia interacts internationally and sets its foreign policy; b) the structure of domestic institutional power on which Russia bases its policy implementation.

Measured reaction vs over-reaction 

During the main crises that have taken place in recent years (from Syria to Turkey to sanctions and the doping scandal) Moscow, surprisingly, did not immediately respond rashly or instinctively. On the contrary, the Kremlin’s response has been measured and focused on political negotiation—most of the time offering concessions to the opposing side. This runs counter to the well-established Western myth of Russia’s propensity to over-react and retaliate, which is seen as an essential feature of the emotional and vindictive Slav spirit. In fact, for Russia the use of military power has lost its primary role, becoming a last resort rather than a first choice.

Russia’s emphasis on negotiations is designed to advance its national objectives, which are openly and overtly declared in the first place. This frankness is alien to the narratives of Western foreign policies, which are busy framing and communicating every action of Realpolitik in terms of the universal values they themselves have created; values that have turned out to be political golden cages.

Western countries seemed surprised and fell in the trap of making the discussion more aggressive—often using rhetorical tones that were, frankly, a bit coarse—as if they were nostalgically looking for a conflict with the Red Bear; like in the good old times, when a blunt, obtuse “Niet” (No) from Moscow was a cliché to recite like a mantra on this side of the Iron Curtain.

Lacking arguments that appeal to public opinions (and voters) that were becoming more skeptical and disillusioned, mainstream Russia watchers again focused on the fear of the “red threat” and the Kremlin’s obscure intrigues, as was the case with accusations that Moscow was working for the collapse of the EU—incidentally, nothing more alien to Russian national interests; or that it was supporting Donald Trump in the race for the U.S. presidency, or hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

On the other hand, this negative over-exposition of Russia and its President in Western media has not always had the hoped-for delegitimizing effect. The unanticipated effect of continuously underlining Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian decision-making has been the creation of the myth of a charismatic leader in the mind of Western masses, as opposed to weak European and American leaders, so aloof in their bureaucratic short-circuits and internal political tactics.

If Putin is perhaps the only current establishment leader that can enjoy respect rather than disillusionment—if not sarcasm—of wide sectors of public opinion (not just in Russia), the reason also lies, paradoxically, in the public’s overdose on the rhetoric of the Western anti-Russia establishment.

Indifferent, but also annoyed by the excessive criticism it is exposed to in any case, contemporary Russia has not responded by easily resorting to weapons, which would have been typical of the Western stereotype of the Kremlin as being traditionally “trigger happy.”

Russian foreign policy has invested in the use of those means of persuasion\pressure\conditioning that are commonly included in the definition of ‘soft power.’ This was against the “Tank you” expected (and possibly even hoped for) by the theorists of Russia as a country always ready to attack—despite, we may add, its historically being mainly obsessed instead with defense.

To do so, on the one hand, Russia has resorted to classic means and methods of intervention, such as using energy supplies as a geopolitical instrument, and acting as a catch-all donor by allocating aid to strategically interesting countries and political actors. On the other hand, Russia adapted itself to using traditional Western means, even making use of, when necessary, the strategies and tactics of its adversaries.

This is demonstrated by counter-sanctions and the re-launch of the sector of media addressed to foreign countries (where Russia Today and Sputnik have taken the place of the old Voice of Russia, with an angle that is directly addressed to Western publics), up to marketing campaigns and tourist promotions abroad that aim to convey the image of a happy, optimistic country—whose ideological manifesto were, in a way, the Olympic Games in Sochi.

The significant costs of all these tools, on the other hand, do not prevent Moscow from using them, despite the economic crisis triggered by the sanction conspiracy, the low price of oil and the plummeting value of the ruble.

Unlike American foreign policy—which always keeps an eye on costs with a military industrial complex largely controlled by the private sector—Russia sticks to old habits. From the Soviet period, Russia has inherited a culture of public expense that prioritizes geopolitical objectives over the necessary costs to attain them. Paradoxically, despite considering the Kremlin as the natural heir to the USSR, the West has not fully grasped this element of political continuity.

This mistake has been paid for with  the failure of the main objective of sanctions: changing Russian foreign policy, and starting a crisis, first economic, then political, which aimed to change the leadership of the country.

The theory of the three Elites: spies, jurists, diplomats 

As far as the institutional structure is concerned, the toughest prejudice to overcome is accepting that the Russian political system is well-rounded, for sure hard to understand, but not impossible to understand. And the simplistic interpretation of a “Tsar ruling alone”—even better if he is a moody tyrant—shows its limits every time it is recalled to explain the Kremlin’s latest decision in foreign or domestic policy. When in the past the information coming from Russia was sparse, this approach could be used from time to time; now that relevant information is readily available, it shows its limits, besides some side effects.

Western countries have always struggled to understand the dynamics of Moscow’s decision making and the relations between Russia’s power elites. The attention, focused on the Emperor, has often concealed the lack of first-hand information about the Empire, and has made us forget that, in large countries like Russia, the destiny of the latter is always more important than the destiny of the former.

The direct evidence of this lack of understanding is the interpretation of the last fifteen years of Russian political history since December 31, 1999, when Vladimir Putin took Boris Yeltsin’s place as the President of the Russian Federation, at the end of a very rapid turnover—incidentally, yet another one that Western countries did not expect and that caught them unaware.

According to those who embrace a person-oriented interpretation, Russia’s last fifteen years have been dominated by Tsar Putin tout court, without adding many explanations.

It is a direct representation, easy to comprehend, which, however, does not help us understand several public policies and international choices that Russia has opted for in the last decades.

We believe instead that in the aforementioned period there have been three public functions played by distinct groups of élites as they rotated in and out of the Kremlin’s ruling positions. Though different they were not opposed to one another and they took the prominent front runner position in government according to the governmental priorities of the moment.

The first elite that was appointed to lead the country was from the intelligence service, in the first five years of the Putin era (the indication is obviously approximate), that is, from 2000 to 2005.

This group was appointed in the most important and most visible role to ensure safety in the country “the Russian way,” that is, as a reaction to the perception at the end of the 1990s that the state was dominated by liberal economists inspired by Gaidar, and was close to collapsing and being sold off to foreign subjects.

The modus operandi that was chosen was deeply rooted in the Soviet experience, since the choice fell on the representatives of one of the main elites of the Russian public administration, that is, the intelligence community (the razvedchiki).

This passage of recent Russian political history is best known and most visible to the West, and the fact that Putin came from the ranks of the intelligence service contributed to the creation of a series of negative narratives that linked him and the Russian elite to stereotypes of the “spies from the cold” of Soviet times.

What the West has not grasped yet is that this phase was only of a limited duration, and the fact that Putin is still the leader of the country does not mean that Russia is, just as simply, “ruled by the KGB,” an idea that the West is still trying to validate.

Though the intelligence community still continued to play an important role in leading the country, in the following five-year period (2005-2010), it ceded leadership to the emerging category of jurists, who started to take the most high-ranking roles.

They were faced with the task of the new emergency that followed, that is, (re)creating a middle class that was satisfied and, therefore, conservative (until then it had been almost non-existent and crushed by the 1990s gap between the rich and the poor) so as to consolidate mass consensus around the Russian leadership.

As Russia was, by tradition, culturally dominated by bureaucratic formalism and hyper-normativism, and witnessed the rise of oligarchs as the consequence of wild deregulation—which was recommended by Western aides to foster the free market—state jurists seemed the best subjects to grant the introduction of (some) rights and (many) rules to encourage the redistribution of income in favor of the middle class.

Rather than adopting economic and structural reforms—which were postponed time and again—the country reached stability by developing a state subject to the rule of law, with limited participation (a hybrid model of liberalism with little democracy), that still persists. This model looked more similar, however, to the Bismarkian Rechstaat or to Giolitti’s Italy from the beginning of the 19th century than to the recurring Western narrative of the “dictatorship of spies” mentioned above.

This second phase—which played itself out well before the patriotic solidarity that followed the Ukrainian crisis—resulted in the real strengthening of the leadership in the eyes of the population and the onset of a real majority consensus in the country.

The West would not acknowledge these changes, and for several years would continue to comment on the Russian leadership as if it were a group of “praetorian spies,” distant and insensitive to the people’s requests, which manipulates the result of the elections and is about to be wiped away by increasing, unstoppable grass-root opposition.

At the same time, the West would not abandon the stereotype of Moscow as the “dark city” of the Evil Empire, and failed to acknowledge the impressive urban and cultural renaissance experienced by the biggest city in Europe, the real beating heart of a huge country with a hyper-centered political and administrative organization.

In the meantime, once it was sure that “Ivan, the civil servant (apparatchik)” was socially put back on center stage and released from the humiliations endured during the oligarchs’ period (the public pillory reserved to Khodorkovsky is only the most striking example), the Kremlin moved towards a new political objective that has characterized the third five-year period, that is, the current phase that began in 2011 (ideally with the end of Medvedev’s presidency).

This phase is dominated by Russia’s strategic decision to resume its traditional historical role—on an international scale—that, rightly or wrongly, it thinks it deserves: to return to being the main geopolitical interlocutor, if not competitor, of the U.S.

Among the three objectives of the government in the fifteen years under analysis, this one directly involves the country’s foreign policy, which now again occupies the heart of the political agenda after two decades in which the domestic dimension was primary.

As a consequence, the third elite that has emerged at center stage are diplomats, another top function in Russia’s public administration. By diplomats we mean not only not only the powerful MID (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) personnel, but also the graduates of MGIMO State University of International Relations—the prestigious, isolated “Grand École” that has now regained its former glory.

Professional diplomats also take on positions at the top of the Ministry, thus creating an efficient functional bridge between the political level and the administration. Moreover, when they are sent to the main reference embassies, their mandate is uncharacteristically longer and they are involved in prior consultations by the Presidential Administration, the real political and constitutional heart of the Federation’s policy making. Incidentally, here we have also seen the rise of MGIMO graduates to key positions—from discreet but ubiquitous Yuri Ushakov, the President’s main counselor for foreign policy, to Anton Vaino, the head of the Presidential Administration, to his deputy Vladimir Ostrovenko, to the President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

This happens both on the multilateral level (before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov was the Russian Ambassador at the UN in New York) and on the bilateral one: the Kremlin’s main decisions in foreign policy have witnessed a growing, precise, direct involvement of embassies and ambassadors like of Sergei Razov (in Beijing for a decade, now in Rome), Vladimir Chizhov (in Brussels for over 10 years), Alexander Yakovenko (in London since 2011), Vladimir Grinin (in Berlin since 2010), Alexei Meshkov (in Rome for a decade, now vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs with the crucial mandate for European Affairs), etc.

The return of the diplomats to the core of the public administration does not imply the demise of the other two elite groups (intelligence servants and jurists), which keep dictating Russia’s domestic political course of action.

Rather, their growing influence is functional: to affirm and fine-tune the technical use of those instruments of foreign policy mentioned above, which clearly contradict some of the stereotypes most rooted in Western governments, preventing them from understanding not only Moscow’s final objectives, but also the meaning behind its intermediate moves.

While in the last three decades the Kremlin has been intensively working on its foreign policy and developing bilateral contacts with each Western actor individually at an unprecedented pace—despite, or maybe, thanks to the hostility of the EU and NATO—the Western mainstream has not revised its own categories.

It keeps telling us that Germany is no longer the same as it was at the time of the Third Reich, but Russia remains essentially Soviet to its core and that this will never change.

By Alfons