Monday 28 September 2015

Putin's talks with Obama

No Brains in Washington

by Paul Craig Roberts


27 Septermber, 2015

Washington’s IQ follows the Fed’s interest rate — it is negative. Washington is a black hole into which all sanity is sucked out of government deliberations.

Washington’s failures are everywhere visible. We can see the failures in Washington’s wars and in Washington’s approach to China and Russia.

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was scheduled for the week-end following the Pope’s visit to Washington. Was this Washington’s way of demoting China’s status by having its president play second fiddle to the Pope? The President of China is here for week-end news coverage? Why didn’t Obama just tell him to go to hell?

Washington’s cyber incompetence and inability to maintain cyber security is being blamed on China. The day before Xi Jinping’s arrival in Washington, the White House press secretary warmed up President Jinping’s visit by announcing that Obama might threaten China with financial sanctions.

And not to miss an opportunity to threaten or insult the President of China, the US Secretary of Commerce fired off a warning that the Obama regime was too unhappy with China’s business practices for the Chinese president to expect a smooth meeting in Washington.

In contrast, when Obama visited China, the Chinese government treated him with politeness and respect.

China is America’s largest creditor after the Federal Reserve. If the Chinese government were so inclined, China could cause Washington many serious economic, financial, and military problems. Yet China pursues peace while Washington issues threats.

Like China, Russia, too, has a foreign policy independent of Washington’s, and it is the independence of their foreign policies that puts China and Russia on the outs with Washington.

Washington considers countries with independent foreign policies to be threats. Libya, Iraq, and Syria had independent foreign policies. Washington has destroyed two of the three and is working on the third. Iran, Russia, and China have independent foreign policies. Consequently, Washington sees these countries as threats and portrays them to the American people as such.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will meet with Obama next week at the UN meeting in New York. It is a meeting that seems destined to go nowhere. Putin wants to offer Obama Russian help in defeating ISIS, but Obama wants to use ISIS to overthrow Syrian President Assad, install a puppet government, and throw Russia out of its only Mediterranean seaport at Tartus, Syria. Obama wants to press Putin to hand over Russian Crimea and the break-away republics that refuse to submit to the Russophobic government that Washington has installed in Kiev.

Despite Washington’s hostility, Xi Jinping and Putin continue to try to work with Washington even at the risk of being humiliated in the eyes of their peoples. How many slights, accusations, and names (such as “the new Hitler”) can Putin and Xi Jinping accept before losing face at home? How can they lead if their peoples feel the shame inflicted on their leaders by Washington?

Xi Jinping and Putin are clearly men of peace. Are they deluded or are they making every effort to save the world from the final war?

One has to assume that Putin and Xi Jinping are aware of the Wolfowitz Doctrine, the basis of US foreign and military policies, but perhaps they cannot believe that anything so audaciously absurd can be real. In brief, the Wolfowitz Doctrine states that Washington’s principal objective is to prevent the rise of countries that could be sufficiently powerful to resist American hegemony. Thus, Washington’s attack on Russia via Ukraine and Washington’s re-militarization of Japan as an instrument against China, despite the strong opposition of 80 percent of the Japanese population.

Democracy?” “Washington’s hegemony don’t need no stinkin’ democracy,” declares Washington’s puppet ruler of Japan as he, as Washington’s faithful servant, over-rides the vast majority of the Japanese population.

Meanwhile, the real basis of US power—its economy—continues to crumble. Middle class jobs have disappeared by the millions. US infrastructure is crumbling. Young American women, overwhelmed with student debts, rent, and transportation costs, and nothing but lowly-paid part-time jobs, post on Internet sites their pleas to be made mistresses of men with sufficient means to help them with their bills. This is the image of a Third World country.

In 2004 I predicted in a nationally televised conference in Washington, DC, that the US would be a Third World country in 20 years. Noam Chomsky says we are already there now in 2015. Here is a recent quote from Chomsky:

Look around the country. This country is falling apart. Even when you come back from Argentina to the United States it looks like a third world country, and when you come back from Europe even more so. The infrastructure is collapsing. Nothing works. The transportation system doesn’t work. The health system is a total scandal–twice the per capita cost of other countries and not very good outcomes. Point by point. The schools are declining . . .

Another indication of a third world country is large inequality in the distribution of income and wealth. According to the CIA itself, the United States now has one of the worst distributions of income of all countries in the world. The distribution of income in the US is worse than in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, UK, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Yemen.

The concentration of US income and wealth in the hands of the very rich is a new development in my lifetime. I ascribe it to two things. One is the offshoring of American jobs. Offshoring moved high productivity, high-value-added American jobs to countries where the excess supply of labor results in wages well below labor’s contribution to the value of output. The lower labor costs abroad transform what had been higher American wages and salaries and, thereby, US household incomes, into corporate profits, bonuses for corporate executives, and capital gains for shareholders, and in the dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility that had made the US an “opportunity society.”

The other cause of the extreme inequality that now prevails in the US is what Michael Hudson calls the financialization of the economy that permits banks to redirect income away from driving the economy to the payment of interest in service of debt issued by the banks.

Both of these developments maximize income and wealth for the One Percent at the expense of the population and economy.

As Michael Hudson and I have discovered, neoliberal economics is blind to reality and serves to justify the destruction of the economic prospects of the Western World. It remains to be seen if Russia and China can develop a different economics or whether these rising superpowers will fall victim to the “junk economics” that has destroyed the West. With so many Chinese and Russian economists educated in the US tradition, the prospects of Russia and China might not be any better than ours.

The entire world could go down the tubes together.

So Obama Wants Talks with Putin on Syria?

By Finian Cunningham

After more than a year of demonising Russia as a threat to world peace, all of a sudden the United States changes tack and wants to hold talks with Moscow over Syria. US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to hold talks in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting. The leaders will meet on Monday, 28 September, authorities from both the countries have confirmed. What a change from Obama’s churlish tantrums towards the Russian president!

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking in London last weekend seemed to be overcome with «shared goals» and objectives, seeking «common ground» with Russia to defeat the jihadist terror group, Islamic State (IS), in Syria.

But only the week before that, President Obama was condemning Russia for stepping up military support for its long-time ally, Syria. Obama had said the Russian military aid was «doomed to failure».

Suddenly, it seems, however, there is an American turnaround. The New York Times reported on how the Obama administration has now «reached out to Moscow» to coordinate actions in Syria «to avoid an accidental escalation».

Obama reportedly «instructed» his Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to open dialogue with Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu about «deconfliction» in Syria. It was the first time in more than a year that such high-level military talks between the US and Russia had taken place. Contact was previously broken off by Washington after the latter accused Russia of «annexing Crimea»in March 2014.

Three years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a prescient comment about foreign policy, which is all too relevant to the more recent developments in Syria. Back then Putin said: «Everything we do will be based on our own interests and goals, not on decisions other countries impose on us. Russia is only treated with respect when it is strong and stands firm on its own two feet».

Indeed. For over four years, since March 2011, Russia has seen the US and its clients tear Syria apart with a covert war for regime change against President Bashar al-Assad. The Western narrative of supporting a «pro-democracy uprising» is an insult to common intelligence. Leaked secret cables from the US embassy in Damascus reveal that Washington was seeking regime change against the Russian and Iranian ally as far back as 2006.

Washington’s deliberate sponsoring of jihadist extremist groups like the head-choppers of Islamic State was instrumental in this criminal enterprise of toppling the Syrian government. That some 240,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced by the US-fuelled covert war in Syria is another abominable violation of international law committed by Washington in a litany of imperialist crimes across the Middle East.

Russia’s renewed support earlier this month for the Assad government in Syria certainly stunned Washington and its Western subordinates. It was a huge reality check. The US and its clients have spun themselves into ever-constricting contradictions over Syria – supposedly fighting terrorism, while using terrorism for regime change. When Russia asserted its own narrative – of aiding an ally in the actual fight against terrorism – then suddenly the West tripped over its own contradictions. This is affirmation of Putin’s earlier strategic precept: «Russia is only treated with respect when it is strong and stands firm on its own two feet».

Washington’s knee-jerk reaction was to protest the Russian move, but then it couldn’t level a credible objection because it’s supposed to be fighting terrorism too. And, besides, everything Russia is doing as a bilateral partner of the sovereign state of Syria is legal under international law.

When John Kerry talks about the US and Russia having «shared goals» in defeating terrorism in Syria the American diplomat’s unctuous words are utter, cynical nonsense.

What the US does want, however, is to inveigle Russia into a seeming partnership against terrorism, whose abiding goal is regime change in Syria. This is where the American and British practice of the dark arts of deception come into play.

Here’s how the BBC reported on Kerry’s agenda. «Speaking after talks in London [with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond], he [Kerry] said what he described as Russia's new focus on fighting Islamic State militants could be an opportunity to push towards a political settlement».

By «political settlement» what is meant is a framework insinuated by Washington and its trusty British sidekick by which the objective of Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power is put on the negotiating table. But why should this outcome be even broached on the negotiating table? By what authority does the US and Britain insist on Assad being deposed – apart from their own conceited presumption of authority?

Kerry went on to say with seeming sincerity: «We’re prepared to negotiate. Is Assad prepared to negotiate, really negotiate? Is Russia prepared to bring him to the table?»

The arrogance of Kerry and his British counterpart Philip Hammond is astounding. «Is Russia prepared to bring Assad to the table?» – as if Russia can be treated like some kind of henchman to be deployed by the Western masters to deliver the Syrian president’s head on a platter.

Kerry and Hammond asserted that Assad must be removed, even though the Syrian people re-elected him as president in 2014 with a huge majority. The Anglo-American double act appeared to offer a magnanimous fig leaf for their regime-change scheme by saying that Assad’s removal «doesn't have to be on day one or month one… There is a process by which all the parties have to come together to reach an understanding of how this can best be achieved».

What process? Who says so? Who are the Americans and British to determine «a process by which all parties have to come together to reach an understanding»? Who needs a process when the objective is to defeat terrorism and, as Moscow has clearly stated, the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is the primary force against such terrorism?

The bottom line is that the Americans and the British want regime change in Syria by hook or by crook. They haven’t succeeded so far with their covert criminal war, and now Washington and London see an «opportunity» of roping Russia into a «political process» under the guise of defeating terrorists – terrorists that the West and its regional clients unleashed on Syria in the first place.

A Pentagon spokesman told the Guardian that Ashton Carter emphasised to Sergei Shoigu in their talks that the putative fight against terrorism in Syria was to be conditioned with a wider political objective. «He [Carter] noted that defeating [terrorists] and ensuring a political transition are objectives that need to be pursued at the same time».

«Still,» adds the Guardian, «the White House cautioned Moscow against ‘doubling down on Assad’».

The New York Times helpfully, albeit inadvertently, draws out further the real purpose of Washington’s sudden desire to engage with Moscow over Syria.

«But while Mr Carter’s initial military-to-military talks were limited in scope, officials indicated that the larger goal was to draw the Russians into a political process that would ultimately replace Syria’s government of President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally of the Kremlin,» reported the Times.

Does Washington and London really think that Moscow is that stupid?

Ukraine and Syria are both part of a continuum of Western covert war to undermine, isolate and destabilise Russia. The West has destroyed Ukraine and Syria to get at Russia. And now, as Putin asserts Russian interests in Syria, the West suddenly discovers «diplomacy». But still the opportunistic West wants to engage with Russia in order to better achieve its agenda of undermining Russia in Syria by expediting regime change against Bashar al-Assad. Can you believe the monstrous arrogance of it?

Russia does not need approval, consultation or «partnership» with Washington and its Western minions. As Putin said, Russia must assert its own strategic interests with confidence and without the toxic mediation of Washington.

Let Washington engage if it wants. But it should be on Moscow’s terms.

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