Saturday 29 March 2014

Russia and the West

Some context in view of current events. I'm posting this unedited - not doubt it will be polished up in coming days

The US Betrayal 
of Russia

In these days when the world is "going to hell in a handbasket" and news on the climate front gets worse every day it has given me a chance to get involved in what Mike Ruppert these days calls a "diversion" - the tragic events in the Ukraine and the western jihad against Russia.

I got challenged the other day by someone who expressed disappointment because he felt I was "taking sides" and supporting Russia's position rather than taking a more 'balanced' position - that Putin was a 'dictator' who was as bad as anyone in the States.  

The age of my correspondent gave me a clue to what what I saw as a gross misunderstanding, not only of the facts but also the historical context.

It made me realise that many people were born after the collapse of the Soviet Union and so have little or no historical perspective on the events that are playing themselves out.

I take as granted (with my liberal education) that people are going to be aware of the Weimar republic and how it collapsed allowing Hitler to come to power, that they are going to have some feel of what things were like for people in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany.

But it is said that most people in the West can't remember beyond what happened yesterday.

That makes them incredibly subject to misinformation.

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it"

My quest has been, not only to provide a counterbalance to the misinformation, "lies by omission" and outright lies of western corporate media, but to provide from my own perspective some context, especially to current geopoilitical events.

I believe I have some qualification to do so.

Apart from my age, which meant that my most formative years were during the cold war and subsequent detente and winding down of the West-East tensions, I have had a life-long interest in Russia and Russian history.  I have a double degree in Russian and history, have taught myself the language, was married for some time to a Leningrader - and spent some time in the country.

That has given me a wonderful opportunity to see things from both sides.

As I have got older I have found that I have good companions who share a common perspective on this most dangerous period of human history.  Not only Tory-voting brother -in -law with whom (when I was young) was constantly at daggers-drawn, but various people who were in their own time cold war warriors.

The ex-PM of Australia, Malcolm Fraser and various other people that were part of the Reagan administration immediately come to mind. Even Henry Kissinger, for God's sake manages to come up with a more nuanced point-of-view

None of these people could ever be accused of being 'fellow travellers' or 'useful idiots' and yet these people find a voice just about every day - either in alternative media or on RT.  These people would not appear on RT if they had a voice in the mainstream.

There simply isn't any space for reason and logic in the mainstream.

Fascists on the street and Jihad against Russia

What stimulated me to write this was two items that came out yesterday.

The first was a speech by Barack Obama, who has declared the Kiev uprising with its gangs of thugs on the street as a "moral victory" and describing Russia as a "brute aggressor" that must be confronted. To prove his point-of-view he painted a positive picture of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and pointed to a referendum in Kosovo that never took place.

The second was a piece by "Pravda on the Potomac", CNN, on the funeral of neo-nazi thug, Oleksandr Muzychko ("Sasha Bilyi").  Like the Guardian, this was the very first mention of the Right Sector, and paints a picture of a weeping mother and of comrades who are reduced to tears by the death of Musychko who is "a hero to millions of Ukrainians" and a "Robin Hood" figure.  The Right Sector thugs are simply referred to as "participating" in the rebellion on the Maidan.

SA leader, Ernst Röhm

Makes me wonder if media at the time would have used similar language to describe the murder of Nazi thug, Ernst Röhm in 1934, who was sacrificed because he became inconvenient - Hitler needed the support of the German industralialists

This was the final realisation for me that corporate media and western politicians are not only misrepresenting the  actual situation, but engaging in propaganda that has more in common with previous totalitarian regimes than with modern journalism.

Both are examples of complete distortion of the truth and of a narrative that has no relation to fact.

Recently, I have become aware of the role of the Liberal class as attack dogs for the neo-cons in their JIhad against Russia. The Guardian paints Putin as a corrupt dictator and implies that action against Russia is the correct course.

This role of liberalism is well-described in Chris Hedges' Death of the Liberal Class

All of this has brought me to a level of fury I have not known for some time.

Perhaps it's a case of when it something that comes into the orbit of something one knows something about.

It's also a realisation of the seriousness of the situation. Russian may not go to war over an attack on Iran or Syria, but when the war comes to their backyard, to their "near abroad", as events have shown they are not going to take things lying down - and that is something that people with more experience and more balance, from Kissinger to Henry Kissinger are saying.

An historical context

While events in the Ukraine and Crimea have been unfolding I have been reading his 2009 book Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold Warwritten by Professor Emeritus Stephen F Cohen who has been a professor of Russian history at New York University

I have found his book the most helpful for me in understanding the political history of post-Soviet history. He does not cover the issues of the American Empire's quest to take for itself all available energy sources by squeezing out Russian and China. 

Rather his theme throughout his career from his biography of Nikolai Bukharin onwards has been "the road not taken" - that there were always alternative routes, possibilities that were squandered.

He begins with Mikhail Gorbachev and his quest for reform of the Soviet system: reform of the economy to a mixture of market capitalism and socialism (perestroika); of democratisation of the political system and free speech (glasnost') as well as an ending of the cold war with the West and the dismantling of empire.

The ending of the Soviet Union (that the majority of the population, according to polls, wanted to maintain to the very last), came with a super secret agreement between the heads of Russia, Belorussia and the Ukraine.

The result was the chaotic unravelling of the Soviet economy that can be summed up with the popular expressions prikhvatizatsiya (grab-itisation) and der'mokratiya ('shitocracy'). The assets of the state were stripped by yesterday's nomenklatura (KGB and Party officials).

The road to democracy was ended, not by the reviled Putin but by the 1993 standoff between Boris Yeltsin and the Russian parliament that ended with a violent, military suppression and the ruling by decree of the president.

From then on all elections in Russia have been rigged. The most recent election was qualified by Cohen as "not free and fair, but the most free and fair so far"

The history of the 90's was an era of chaos, of huge amassment of wealth (by theft essentially)  in the hands of the oligarchs, rule by the mafia and murders on the streets. All the while ordinary Russians became poorer and life expectancy declined and the population declined.

1998 saw a collapse of the Russian stock market and of renewed economic crisis.

Yeltsin who was more frequently drunk and ill chose Putin (then head of the FSB, the successor to the KGB) as successor and there was a managed election by which he came to power.

Putin's rule has seen a return to stability to the country (something that its citizens who have seen so much turmoil in the last century), desire fervently. It has seen an improving economy (corresponding with higher oil prices) and rising living standards - especially in Moscow and St.Petersburg, but also in the country as a whole.

Putin as 'dictator'

The politicians and media in the West justify their actions by saying that Putin has established a 'dictatorship', as opposed to the 'democracy' under Yeltsin.

Cohen in his book goes into some detail as to why this simply does not fit with the facts.

Western commentators assume that "in Russia there is no real politics" and all politics takes place in the brain of Vladimir Putin.

In fact there are considerable factional disputes in political circles, not least over foreign policy.

In that  political realm, where he was viewed as the "most pro-Western leader" Putin was soon being accused of continuing Gorbachev- Yeltsin policies of national capitulation" and of "appeasing" Washington to the point of "betraying the interests of the Motherland

Cohen describes a process of decline in openness and democracy, but points out that this process began right from the break-up of the Soviet Union, under Yeltsin - the high point, he argues, being under Gorbachev.

"The overriding priority of Putin and his allies, including Medvedev, have been the modernisation of the country's disintegrating economic and social foundations, along - term project requiring co-operation with the West"

The development of both political democracy and improvement in the national economy are only possible within the context of a relationship of trust and partnership with the West - something that has not been there right since the early 1990's'.

Russia under Vladimir Putin is as good as it gets - and a vast improvement on anything in the last quarter-century.

That brings me to Russia's relationship with the West.

Capitulating to Washington

After the collapse of the Soviet Union public and political opinion was quite pro-American and trustful.

Stephen Cohen and most sober-minded commentators point out that the opportunities were squandered, not by Russia and Putin,but by the West.

Now opinion, right from liberals to military hawks has moved to an almost universal mistrust of the West.

The perception in Russia is that there is "hatred of Russia" in the West where "Russia has no friends". This did not begin or end with the Cold War but is a permanent "geo-political jihad" against Russia by the US- led NATO expansion.

Unfortunately it is hard for me to argue against this perception.

As the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down there was a promise made to Gorbachev that NATO would not "move one inch toward the East"

In return Gorbachev gave America for its first 1990 war against Iraq.

This co-operation ended almost as soon as it began, with the election of Clinton to the White House.

These were the days of bear hugs between Clinton and a frequently- drunk Yeltsin.

Behind these of Yeltsin clowning or blustering in public, the reality was that Yeltsin capitulated.

From the early '90's under Clinton the US began its expansion of NATO and exploited Russia's weak position by bombing Serbia.

Come Putin and one his first actions was to give political and security support to the George Bush administration subsequent to the events of 9/11.

Each time there was an expectation of a partnership from the side of Russia.

The US response under Bush Jr and Obama was to:

  • walk away from the ABM Treaty, 
  • place NATO bases in Russia's "Near Abroad" - in places like Kazakhstan and Kirghyzstan 
  • get independent access to Caspian oil and gas
  • invade Iraq, which Putin strongly opposed
  • a second round of NATO expansion taking in several former Soviet republics and bloc members
  • the development of a military defence shield directed at Moscow (under the pretence that it was aimed at Iran) in Poland,  
  • a growing indictment of Moscow's domestic and foreign conduct.

It is not at all surprising that Moscow views this as betrayal.

It is not paranoia, but has a solid basis in fact. It has been identified by numerous realist western commentators such as Malcolm Fraser.

From Stephen Cohen:  

In international relations, as President Reagan liked to point out "it takes two to tango". For several years, however Putin's policy towards the United States was primarily "reactive" and his preference "not to return to the cold war era" the main reason relations did not worsen more quickly. Someone is still fighting the cold war, a British academic wrote in 2006, "but it isn't Russia"

Twenty  years of US policy have left the Kremlin "tired of playing the dupe. Russia has made so many advances to the West....It is now America's turn to persuade Moscow of its good intentions, not the other way round"

"A junior partner of the United States"

After years of the Soviet Union acting as a constraining force to US imperial ambitions, the American attitude towards Russia was one of triumphalism.

Russia had 'lost' the cold war and could at most hope to become "a junior partner of the United States in foreign policy" and could not expect to "be treated as an equal" 

Complaints that Putin has "deeply disappointed" by not being a loyal ally to America" or "doing much for the US national interest"

Behind this was the presumption that "Russia should have no interests abroad except those determined by the United States"

Not only that but Washington  "demanded in effect, that Moscow vacate its traditional spheres of political, military, and energy security in former Soviet republics so that the United States and NATO can occupy them"

Every major power has its own Monroe Doctrine that relates to its sphere of influence. Washington has been telling Moscow that it has no rights in its own backyard, but no legitimate security rights at all.

Russian protests have been dismissed as "gratuitously hostile", "laughable" or "bizarre and paranoid".

One wonders what Washington's reaction might have been if Russian bases multiples on the US borders with Mexico and Canada, as well as in Venezuela and Cuba.

We have our answer in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

The Ukraine

When Obama was elected Putin and Medvedev were still proposing a "partnership", something that aside from Obama's public and farcical "restart" was never reciprocated.

The first sign that Russia was not going to accept American terms was in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics when Georgia (almost certainly at the behest of the American masters) invaded South Ossetia, a break-away region that was loyal to Moscow, The subsequent invasion of Georgia was a proxy US-Russia war.

Already in his book, written in 2009, Stephen Cohen talked about US intentions to exploit the Ukraine and to lure this deeply-divided and crisis - ridden country away from Russian influence and into the NATO orbit.

These ideas are reflected in this late-February interview with Cohen.

Events have shown that the West all moral authority it had. Otherwise, in my humble opinion Obama would not have felt obligated to portray black as white in his speech, and CNN would not have needed to portray fascist hugs as heroes of the 'liberation'

It already appears that the West, while continuing to wage a propaganda war has conceded defeat and conceded Crimea to Russia.

All that has been achieved is what has been  achieved by Washington in previous interventions - in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya..... Essentially another broken, failed state to add to the list of Washington's achievements.

In the past few days

  • Ukraine has agreed to crippling austerities in return for a "bail-out" from the IMF, which make Greece look like a stroll in the park
  • Ukrainian authorities have killed a major fascist thug
  • The Right Sector has stormed the Ukrainian parliament

Just the first steps towards the total break-down of power in Kiev and the march towards full-blown nazism.

Meanwhile it seems that the people of Crimea feel happy with the changes - pensions have doubled and Putin has agreed to return some military weapons and equipment to Ukraine. - no doubt the actions of a brutal and aggressive "dictator" that won't make mainstream headlines internationally.


Finally I would like you to hear from the horse's (or more appropriately, the bear's) mouth....

And if your interest has been sufficiently aroused, Stephen Cohen's lecture on the US betrayal of Russia....

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.