Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Defector: Mystery Ukranian and the Downing of MH17


The Mystery of a Ukrainian Army ‘Defector’

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

As the U.S. government seeks to build its case blaming eastern Ukrainian rebels and Russia for the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the evidence seems to be getting twisted to fit the preordained conclusion, including a curious explanation for why the troops suspected of firing the fateful missile may have been wearing Ukrainian army uniforms.

On Tuesday, mainstream journalists, including for the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, were given a briefing about the U.S. intelligence information that supposedly points the finger of blame at the rebels and Russia. While much of this circumstantial case was derived from postings on “social media,” the briefings also addressed the key issue of who fired the Buk anti-aircraft missile that is believed to have downed the airliner killing all 298 people onboard.

After last Thursday’s shoot-down, I was told that U.S. intelligence analysts were examining satellite imagery that showed the crew manning the suspected missile battery wearing what looked like Ukrainian army uniforms, but my source said the analysts were still struggling with whether that essentially destroyed the U.S. government’s case blaming the rebels.

The Los Angeles Times article on Tuesday’s briefing seemed to address the same information this way: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”

That statement about a possible “defector” might explain why some analysts thought they saw soldiers in Ukrainian army uniforms tending to the missile battery in eastern Ukraine. But there is another obvious explanation that the U.S. intelligence community seems unwilling to accept: that the missile may have been launched by someone working for the Ukrainian military.

In other words, we may be seeing another case of the U.S. government “fixing the intelligence” around a desired policy outcome, as occurred in the run-up to war with Iraq.

The Los Angeles Times also reported: “U.S. officials have not released evidence proving that Russia’s military played a direct role in the downing of the jet or in training separatists to use the SA-11 missile system. But they said Tuesday that the Russian military has been training Ukrainian separatists to operate antiaircraft batteries at a base in southwestern Russia.”

Though that last charge also has lacked verifiable proof – and could refer to training on less powerful anti-aircraft weapons like so-called Manpads – the key question is whether the Russian government trained the rebels in handling a sophisticated anti-aircraft system, like the SA-11, and then was reckless enough to supply one or more of those missile batteries to the rebels — knowing that these rockets could reach above 30,000 feet where passenger airlines travel.

The Russian government has denied doing anything that dangerous, if not crazy, and the eastern Ukrainian rebels also deny ever possessing such a missile battery. But the question that needs answering is: Are the Russians and the rebels lying?

That requires a serious and impartial investigation, but what the Obama administration and most of the mainstream U.S. news media have delivered so far is another example of “information warfare,” assembling a case to make an adversary look bad regardless of the actual evidence — and then marginalizing any dissents to the desired conclusion.

That was exactly the “group think” that led the United States into the disastrous invasion of Iraq – and it appears that few if any lesson were learned. [For more on this topic of prejudging who’s to blame for the Malaysia Airlines tragedy, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Kerry’s Latest Reckless Rush to Judgment.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Seeing? No. America's Role in Gaza Attack

US plays decisive role in Israel's attack on Gaza

by Jonathan Cook

Two reporters for major US TV channels were summarily “removed” last week from covering Israel’s attack on Gaza, moments before Israel launched a ground invasion.

NBC pulled out Ayman Mohyeldin, who has been widely praised for the even-handedness of his reporting from Gaza, just as he landed a harrowing scoop. He had kicked a football with four boys who were killed moments later by an Israeli missile.

Mohyeldin managed a few tweets before being removed, allegedly on “security” grounds. But why then did NBC immediately send in a replacement? After a public outcry, Mohyeldin was reinstated, but no proper explanation of the decision has been provided.

Shortly afterwards, CNN “reassigned” its reporter in Israel, Diana Magnay, after a tweet in which she labelled as “scum” an Israeli mob that threatened her with violence as she filmed them celebrating missile explosions in Gaza. The tweet was deleted within minutes, followed by her rapid departure.

The impression left by these incidents and the generally deferential tone towards Israel in US coverage is that, faced with huge pressure from the Israel lobby, media executives are frantically policing their correspondents’ output, including on social media.

That view was confirmed to Max Blumenthal by an NBC producer after the channel axed Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian contributor, following her on-air complaints about the massive over-representation of Israeli officials in US coverage. The producer said there was a “witch-hunt” being conducted by NBC executives, led by the media corporation’s president, Phil Griffin.

The obvious shortcomings in US coverage of a story in which Washington itself is a key player deprive us of a vital piece of the puzzle about what is going on in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region on Monday to intensify ceasefire efforts, the day after a studio microphone captured his sarcastic comment that it was “a hell of a pin-point operation” by Israel. He had just been informed of a horrifying assault on the Shujaiiya neighbourhood, which left dozens of dead, taking Palestinian casualties so far to more than 650 killed and thousands wounded.

Washington’s good faith as honest broker goes largely unquestioned in the US, even though the country annually provides Israel with billions of dollars in aid and military support of the kind that enables these repeated attacks on Gaza.

The claim is only tenable because Washington’s actual behaviour is rarely scrutinised in detail.

Two recent investigations by the Israeli media illustrate the profoundly unhelpful role played by the US. They suggest that, whatever its public statements, the US is assisting Israel not only in what President Barack Obama called its right to “self-defence” but in actively damaging Palestinian interests.

And it seems not to matter whether the Palestinians in question are Hamas or the preferred negotiating partner, Mahmoud Abbas.

The first disclosure concerns the offer of an Egyptian ceasefire last week. This was presented as a crucial chance to end the bloodshed, one generously seized by Israel and shunned by Hamas. Only footnoted in some reports were Hamas “claims” that it had not been consulted.

Israel’s liberal daily Haaretz soon confirmed Hamas’ account with Israeli officials and western diplomats.

The reality, according to Haaretz, is that Kerry secretly dispatched to Cairo peace envoy Tony Blair, who in turn lobbied the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to coordinate the ceasefire’s terms with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sisi is currently waging an all-out war against Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ ideological ally. He has harshly punished Hamas too by tightening the siege on the shared border with Gaza. Like Israel, Sisi’s Egypt is a major beneficiary of US aid.

In short, Sisi and Netanyahu share a keen interest to weaken and humiliate Hamas. And yet, the US encouraged them to negotiate a ceasefire over Hamas’ head. Since then, Washington has rebuffed an alternative proposal from Qatar and Turkey, who are more sympathetic to Hamas.

It was a foregone conclusion that Hamas would reject the Egyptian offer. It failed to address key concerns, not least that the suffocating siege be ended and that Israel honour earlier agreements, particularly on prisoners.

The ceasefire proposal was nothing more than a trap – one whose purpose was to elicit a Hamas rejection and thereby provide Israel with a pretext to launch its ground invasion.

Netanyahu, backed by the US, is using the current attack to terrorise Gaza’s civilian population, deplete Hamas’ rocket stockpile, and then force it to accept terms of surrender.

The second investigation comes from journalist Raviv Drucker, this time concerning the peace talks that collapsed in April. Washington officials have told him that US negotiators spent the talks’ key phase coordinating positions exclusively with Netanyahu. Abbas was then presented with a fait accompli of hardline Israeli demands.

Despite its public pronouncements, Washington was also secretly conspiring with Israel on a huge expansion of settlement projects. These were announced – to loud condemnation by Kerry – each time a batch of Palestinian prisoners was released, a condition Abbas had set for his participation.

But US opposition was feigned, writes Drucker. In reality, Washington was “informed of the [settlement] tenders in advance”.

It is no surprise that Netanyahu has been acting in bad faith, and that his military campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza are designed to disrupt the recent reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah.

As Israeli analyst Noam Sheizaf points out, Netanyahu is opposed to a peace deal of any kind. For him, “Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas are pretty much the same. Any gain by either one of them is a loss to Israel.”

But of far greater concern should be the Obama administration’s decision to back Israel to the hilt and the US media’s silence on the matter. There can be no hope of a peaceful solution ever gaining traction – or these bouts of blood-letting in Gaza coming to end – unless Washington is finally unmasked as Israel’s abettor-in-chief.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.


A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WAW Ghetto: Gaza BBQ

Once it was Nazis Leveling the Warsaw Ghetto, Now it’s Israel’s IDF Leveling Gaza Barbecuing the Palestinians

by Dave Lindorff - This Can't Be Happening

About six years ago, as part of his Bar Mitzvah, my son Jed did a project on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, producing his own graphic novel about the underground fighters who used courage, creativity and the city’s sewer system to, in some small way, offer resistance to the murderous program of the Nazis to exterminate Poland’s Jews.

In the course of his research, Jed interviewed a friend of my father’s, a Polish man who had been a teenager in Warsaw during World War II. He told my son how one day, as he was riding the streetcar to a job, the tram came to a halt near the wall of the ghetto. Everyone was told they had to get out. Standing there in a crowd outside the wall, he saw vast amounts of smoke and heard and enormous gun and cannon fire, and bombs exploding. Asking what was happening, he said he was told by a Polish woman near him, “They’re barbecuing the Jews!”

It was, it turned out, the final catastrophic leveling of the Warsaw Ghetto that he was witnessing, and this man recalled, still in horror at the memory, that people had gathered from all over the city to watch it happen, like going to a fireworks display.

Now we’re seeing the same phenomenon in Israel, as the Israeli Defense Force enters its second week of bombing and invading the walled-in ghetto of Gaza, where some 1.8 million Palestinian men, women and children have been trapped for years with nowhere to go to escape the bombs, rockets, cannon fire and IDF snipers.

And like the horrific case of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, here too we have a small-scale, improbable, resistance being put up by fighters who use home-made rockets, small arms and a network of tunnels to challenge their much better armed attackers. We also have people -- ironically this time it’s Jewish citizens of Israel -- dragging lounge chairs and refreshments out to hillsides in the evening to watch the fireworks as the IDF’s tanks, bombers and ships off the coast of Gaza pulverize this huge ghetto that is fully under Israeli control.

As the New York Times reported in an article about the Israeli spectator sport of watching the leveling of Gaza [1], where by July 22 nearly 600 Palestinian, including over 100 children, had been killed by Israeli weapons, this was nothing new. Similar crowds gathered, equipped with comfortable seating and refreshments, during the prior bloody assault on Gaza in 2008-9 in which between 1160 and 1400 Palestinians were reportedly killed.



Israelis as spectators, enjoy the IDF assault on the Gaza ghetto(l), 
and a view of the damage from one IDF attack(r)


As in the prior Gaza assault, the IDF has been found to have targeted children, hospitals, mosques and populated residential areas. The Times reports that Danish reporter Allan Sorensen said at 9 pm local time, when he took his photo of the Israeli spectators, who were cheering each explosion in Gaza, the IDF had just fired what it called a “precision strike,” that by either error or design hit a beachside cafe in Gaza where people had assembled to watch the Soccer World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Netherlands. At least eight people died in that bombing.

I know war is always vicious and ugly. But at least, by International Law, it is supposed to be fought between combatants, not by slaughtering innocents and terrorizing an entire population. According to the UN, at least 75 percent of those killed by the IDF in this latest war on Gaza have been civilians, a large percentage of those being children. That compares to two Israeli civilians killed by Hamas fighters, who have also reportedly killed over 30 IDF soldiers.

[I omitted a particularly gruesome photo originally placed here. Link. Of course, it's fucking awful. - ape]
Popcorn anyone? What Israelis and the Americans who back them are really supporting when they cheer on the IDF in Gaza

Sadly, the hatred against Palestinians that has been stoked by politicians in Israel has been so vicious that seemingly civilized people can sit munching popcorn while cheering explosions and gunfire that are slaughtering little kids just a short distance away over a wall. That’s not to say that Palestinians don’t also cheer when they learn that an Israeli has been killed. I’m sure they do. But let’s be real here: the Palestinians trapped in their exploding ghetto hell are in no position to be sitting on couches munching popcorn while watching Hamas’s pathetic homemade rockets whiz off into Israel only to be, for the most part, knocked down harmlessly by the IDF’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

Years ago, when President Nixon ordered the criminal “Christmas Bombing” of Hanoi and Haiphong, including hospitals, schools and dikes along the Red River, I wrote an editorial in the Middletown Press, where I was a reporter, saying that to the Vietnamese under the bombing onslaught, delivered by giant planes flying almost too high to see, it was like living near an erupting volcano, but I pointed out that we, the Americans, controlled that volcano, and had the power to stop it from erupting.

This one-sided bloody-minded slaughter by the Israeli Defense Force has to stop. Once again, as with Nixon’s carpet bombing of North Vietnam, as the major supplier of Israel’s arms, the US is in a position to make that happen, but so far, as in prior assaults on Gaza, Washington is not demanding a halt to the killing. Neither, sadly, are most American citizens.


Source URL: http://thiscantbehappening.net/node/2385

Links:
[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/15/world/middleeast/israelis-watch-bombs-drop-on-gaza-from-front-row-seats.html

What Vladimir Putin Isn't Saying About MH17

What Putin Knows

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

We have repeatedly called on all parties to immediately stop the bloodshed and sit down at the negotiating table. We strongly believe that if military action in the East of Ukraine had not been renewed on the 28th of June, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened. However, no one has the right to use this tragedy to pursue their own political aims. Such events should unite and not divide people.”  - Russian President Vladimir Putin, Official statement on the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17
“Lets be clear, both Russia and the US know what happened. They’d have to. Their intelligence and orbital systems saw it all…. They’d have to know.”  - Omen 4, comments line Zero Hedge

Washington’s plan to “pivot” to Asia by establishing a beachhead in Ukraine and sabotaging trade relations between Europe and Russia, entered a new phase last Thursday when Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched from east Ukraine. Since then, the western media and prominent members of the US political establishment have used the incident to attack Russia mercilessly and to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin personally responsible for the deaths of the 295 passengers.

On Sunday, the Obama administration launched its most impressive propaganda blitz to date, scheduling appearances for US Secretary of State John Kerry on all five Sunday morning talk shows where he made unsubstantiated claims that MH17 was shot down by Russia-backed rebels in east Ukraine. According to Kerry, Russia has not only “supported, armed and trained” the separatists, but also provided them with the missile system (BUK) which was used to bring down the jetliner.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation”, Kerry said:

“We know for certain that the separatists have a proficiency that they’ve gained by training from Russians as to how to use these sophisticated SA-11 systems….. there’s enormous amount of evidence, even more evidence than I just documented, that points to the involvement of Russia in providing these system, training the people on them.” (“Kerry Says Russia Trained Separatists to Use Antiaircraft Missiles”, New York Times)
Amazingly, Kerry’s claims don’t square with those of his boss, President Barack Obama who admitted on Friday that he didn’t know who shot down MH17 or why.

He said, “I think it’s too early for us to be able to guess what intentions those who might have launched the surface-to-air missile might have had… In terms of identifying specifically what individual or group of individuals, you know, personnel ordered the strike, how it came about—those are things that I think are going to be subject to additional information that we’re going to be gathering.”  

The fact that neither the contents of the black boxes or the cockpit recordings have yet been revealed didn’t deter Kerry from making accusations and possibly tainting the investigation. Nor did Kerry mention the fact that the Ukrainian military –who also had BUK missile systems in the area–may have mistakenly taken down the airliner. None of the five hosts challenged Kerry on any of his claims. He was able to provide the state’s view of the incident without challenge or debate, just as one would expect in a dictatorship where information is carefully monitored.

And Kerry didn’t stop there either. He went on to claim that Moscow had sent “a convoy several weeks ago of about 150 vehicles with armored personnel carriers, multiple rocket launchers, tanks, artillery, all of which crossed over from Russia into the eastern part of Ukraine and was turned over to the separatists.”

Needless to say, none of the major media or respective Intel agencies (who closely follow activities on the border) have uttered a word about Kerry’s phantom convoy. Without satellite imagery or some other proof, we must assume that Kerry’s claim is about as reliable as his bogus 4-page “White Paper” that pinned the use of sarin gas on the Syrian government, a charge that was designed to escalate US involvement in the Syrian war and–as journalist Robert Parry says, “spur President Obama into a quick decision to bomb Syrian government targets.”

It’s also worth noting that the journalist who co-authored Sunday’s piece on Kerry in the New York Times was none other than Michael R. Gordon. In 2002 Gordon co-wrote a piece about aluminum tubes with Judith Miller which was intended to scare readers “with images of mushroom clouds” into supporting the war in Iraq. The story turned out to be complete baloney, but it helped to pave the way for the US invasion as it was intended to do. Gordon escaped blame for the article, while the discredited Miller was released.

Now the politicians and the media are at it again; trying to whip up war fever to get the public on board for another bloody intervention. Only this time, the target audience is not really the American people as much as it is Europeans. The real objective here, is to build support for additional economic sanctions as well as a deployment of NATO troops to Russia’s western border.

Washington want to sabotage further economic integration between the EU and Russia so that it can control the flow of vital resources to the EU, crash the Russian economy, and establish a tollbooth between the continents. It’s all part of Washington’s “pivot” strategy that is critical to maintaining global hegemony throughout the 21st century. This is from the NY Times:

“If investigators are able to confirm suspicions that the Malaysia Airlines jet was brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian rebels who mistook it for a military aircraft, American officials expressed hope that the tragedy will underscore their case that Moscow has been violating Ukrainian sovereignty. While Mr. Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia just a day before, Europeans refused to adopt measures as stringent out of fear of jeopardizing their own economic ties….

The Obama administration already has additional sanctions prepared that could be put into effect quickly if Mr. Obama so chooses. “The question is does this finally move the Europeans across that threshold,” said a senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity to speak more candidly. “I don’t know, but how could it not?”

European officials were cautious in their initial reactions, seeking time and information before jumping to possible consequences, and were reluctant to assign blame. But most of the passengers were Europeans. The majority of them, 154 in all, were from the Netherlands, where the flight originated, which could increase pressure on European governments to respond….Some analysts said the disaster would invariably lead to a re-evaluation of Europe’s approach to Russia.
“Ultimately this is going to ratchet up pressure within Europe to do what they should have done a long time ago,” said John E. Herbst, a former American ambassador to Ukraine now at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “The strength of the opposition to firm steps remains strong, and so it’s not going to go away. It’s just that their position just took a serious hit and it should lead to a stronger set of European sanctions.”…

While Mr. Obama did not articulate such a position, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, gave voice publicly to what administration officials were saying privately….“Europeans have to be the ones to take the lead on this. It was a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over European territory. There should be outrage in European capitals.”

Can you see what’s going on? Washington doesn’t care about the facts. What matters to Obama and Co. is getting the Europeans on board (“ratcheting up pressure within Europe”) so they can gin up the sanctions, shut off Russian gas, deprive Putin of a vital source of revenue, and set up shop (NATO bases) in Eurasia.” Whether US Intel agencies were involved in the missile attack or not doesn’t change the fact that Washington clearly benefits from the tragedy.

Keep in mind, that the reason Putin hasn’t deployed Russian troops to stop the violence in east Ukraine is because the EU is his biggest trading partner and he doesn’t want to do anything that will put the kibosh on their business dealings. Russia needs Europe just like Europe needs Russia. They’re a perfect fit, which is why Washington has concocted this goofy plan to throw a wrench in the works. It’s because Washington wants to be the Kingfish in Eurasia and control the continents’ resources as well as the growth of regional economies. To achieve that objective, they need to convince EU leaders and people that Putin is a reckless aggressor who can’t be trusted. That’s why Kiev has launched one provocation after another since the legitimate Ukrainian government (Viktor Yanukovych) was ousted in late February and replaced with by a US-backed junta government.

Most of the provocations have gone unreported in the western media, although they have regularly involved violations of international law and crimes against humanity, like the use of incendiary “phosphorous” ordnance on June, 12 in Slavyansk, or the bombing of a kindergarten in Slavyansk or the deliberate bombing of hospitals in east Ukraine, or the killing of journalists or the firing of mortar rounds across the border into Russia or the massacre at Odessa where 42 people were burned to death in a fire at the Trade Unions Building that was started by pro-junta hooligans and neo Nazis. None of these were reported in the western media where the coverage is tailored to advance the corporate-state agenda.

All of these incidents were concocted with one goal in mind; to provoke Putin into sending in the tanks thus providing the media with the opportunity to demonize him as the new Hitler. Putin has wisely avoided that trap deciding instead to work collaboratively with EU leaders Merkel and Hollande to try to persuade Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to stop the bombardment in the east and agree to an immediate ceasefire.

Poroshenko, however, who takes his orders from Washington, has refused to end the violence. In fact, on Monday the “chocolate king” launched a massive attack on the city of Donetsk, home to nearly one million civilians. Here’s a clip from a report from RT on Monday July 21:

“A heavy firefight is underway in a section of the city of Donetsk, with cannonade heard downtown. Self-defense reports of pro-Kiev armored vehicles and infantry trying to cut through defenses next to the central railway terminal.

Ukrainian troops equipped with tanks and armored vehicles are making an attempt to break into Donetsk, a city of approximately 950,000 people, an official of the rebels’ self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Sergey Kavtaradze, informed Reuters.” (“Kiev forces attack city of Donetsk, civilian casualties reported“, RT)

Poroshenko has no intention of complying with a ceasefire, because a ceasefire does not achieve the Obama administration’s objective, which is to lure Putin into a bloody and protracted guerilla war. This is what makes the downing of MH17 so suspicious, because it could very well be a false flag operation intended to hurl more mud on Putin.

In any event, the fate of MH17 isn’t going to be a secret for long. As journalist Pepe Escobar points out in a recent piece in the Asia Times, Russian intelligence has collected tons of data that will help connect the dots. Here’s a clip from Escobar’s latest titled “It was Putin’s missile?”:

“Russian intelligence (has) been surveilling/tracking everything that happens in Ukraine 24/7. In the next 72 hours, after poring over a lot of tracking data, using telemetry, radar and satellite tracking, they will know which type of missile was launched, from where, and even produce communications from the battery that launched it. And they will have access to forensic evidence.” (“It was Putin’s missile?” Pepe Escobar, Asia Times)

So, one way or another, we’re going to know what happened. The US and Russia have the data they need to figure out where the missile was launched and who launched it. They probably even have recordings of communications between Air Traffic Tower and the airliner. They know it all, but they’ll probably be cautious about what they reveal and when they reveal it.

My guess, is that Putin will drag his feet to see whether the investigation is thorough, transparent and even-handed or an elaborate hoax used to discredit him in the eyes of his trading partners.

Clearly, the Obama team see this as an opportunity to do a number on Putin, so they could be tempted to use fake evidence like the grainy photos that popped up in the New York Times some months ago that were supposed to prove that Russian military experts were secretly directing the rebellion in east Ukraine. (The photos were fake.) If they try a stunt like that this time around, Putin will be ready for them. And, of course, if he has solid proof that the plane was blown up by Poroshenko’s henchmen, then there could be hell to pay. In fact, it might just bring Obama’s proxy war to a screeching halt.

One can only hope.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Alison Weir tours Vancouver Island July 28 and July 29

Journalist and author Alison Weir tours Vancouver Island July 28 and July 29

by Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation/ CAIA

Author, journalist and public affairs campaigner Alison Weir will speak on Vancouver Island July 28 and 29 about the origins of the pro-Israeli bias among Western governments and media.

In her Vancouver Island tour, Weir will speak at the following locations:

Victoria on Monday July 28 at 7:00pm in the Fernwood Community Association, 1923
Fernwood Road 

Courtenay on Tuesday July 29 at 2:00pm at the Zocalo Café, 208 5th Street

Duncan on Tuesday July 29 at 7:00pm at the Duncan United Church, 246 Ingram Street

 

Her new book, Against Our Better Judgment: How the US was used to create Israel, uses meticulously sourced evidence to show how the US was manipulated into backing the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Weir is the founder and executive director of If Americans Knew, an organization that focuses on the Middle East and US foreign policy towards it. The organization documents how US policy consistently favours Israel, resulting in considerable financial and military aid to the state of Israel, at great cost to Americans.

Against Our Better Judgment brings to light startling new evidence to show how a small group of Zionists intent on creating a Jewish state after World War One transformed US foreign policy.



Alison Weir’s tour is sponsored by
Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, Victoria
Independent Jewish Voices, Victoria

For further information contact Larry Hannant


Monday, July 21, 2014

Evil Axes to Grind: Foundation of the US Empire

Foundation of the US Empire: Axes of Evil

by James Petras

Introduction


Empires are not easy to sustain given the multiple enemies that they provoke: at the international level (imperial rivals and emerging new powers), at the national level (national resistance movements, unreliable clients and untrustworthy ‘Sepoy’ armies) and at the local level (boycotts, sabotage and strikes). Imperial difficulties are multiplied when an empire is in economic decline, (loss of market shares with growing debt), facing domestic unrest as the economic costs to the taxpayers exceed the returns by a substantial margin; and when the political elite is internally divided between ‘militarists’ and ‘free market’ advocates.

The US Empire today is in the midst of a long-term decline, during which it has suffered a series of costly defeats. In addition, Washington has assumed long-term burdensome commitments to allies who have imposed their own ambitions of seeking ‘mini empires’ (Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia).

The US White House has increasingly adopted a military definition of ‘imperial leadership’ at the expense of reconfiguring imperial relations to accommodate potential new political and economic partners.

As the empire slides, the political elite, operating with a highly militarized mind set, has expanded its intrusive global intelligence networks to spy on allies, adversaries and its own citizens. Washington has risked deepening hostilities among key allies (Germany and Brazil), and exacerbating conflicts with conciliatory competitors (Russia), by refusing to curtail its massive espionage. Spying is a clear hostile act and part of the policy of military-driven empire building.

Empires Depend on Alliances


The entire edifice of the US Empire, like the earlier British Empire, is sustained through a series of complex alliances.

US military forces are injected into a country to orient and ensure that local military and police forces efficiently control their population and become available as mercenaries to fight overseas wars for the US Empire.

In the past two centuries, European colonial empires, especially the French and English, invaded and subjugated nations using colonial solders of color under the command of European imperial officers.

Today, the US empire builders are making their transition back to the 19th century colonial model. The Pentagon has been moving from reliance on US ground troops to recruiting colonial troops under US military command.

To that end, Washington’s empire has turned toward creating alliances with regional powers to sustain imperial pre-eminence. These ‘alliances’ are in place in Africa, Latin America, Asia and, in particular, in the Middle East. The Empire’s Middle East alliances have been operative for decades, but in recent years, they have absorbed the greatest resources with devastating consequences to the Empire as we shall see.

The Empire today operates and can only be sustained by these alliances or ‘axes of regional power’, which are therefore worth analyzing in greater detail.

The Axes of Power: The Middle East


The US Empire builders have constructed three regional axes of power in the Middle East. In order of importance, they are: the US-Israeli axis of power, the US-Saudi axis and the US-Turkey axis of power.

The US-Israel axis of power is based on a longstanding agreement. The US militarily and financially supports Israel’s colonial expansion into Palestine and Syria, while Israel backs US projections of military and political power throughout the region. Thanks to US military and financial aid, Israel has become the dominant military power in the Middle East and the only nuclear power in the region. The US has used Israel’s wars and invasions of its neighbors to secure several Arab collaborator client states (notably Jordan and Egypt). More recently the US-Israeli power axis has been expanded to include the client regime in Kurdistan (northern Iraq). In addition, the US-Israeli axis has been deeply involved in financing and promoting collaborator opposition forces in Lebanon (currently the Hariri political formation), sectors of the armed mercenaries in Syria, Kurdish Peshmerga militias in Iraq and the so-called ‘Mujahedeen al Khalq’ terrorists in Iran. The US CIA and Israel’s Mossad engage in clandestine violent operations directly intervening to destabilize secular and Islamic nationalist regimes like Iran, to disrupt their communications and to assassinate Iranian scientists and leaders. Israel has secured political and intelligence agreements with Egypt and Jordan to isolate and dispossess the Palestinians. The US has secured military bases and operational platforms in Egypt and Jordan to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon, President Bashar al Assad in Syria and the Iranian government.

However, while in the past each country benefited from the US-Israel axis of power, recently it has turned into a costly, asymmetrical relation, a zero-sum game, where Israel’s regional power increases as the US Empire deteriorates.

This turn of events is easily understood if one examines the way in which Middle East policy is formulated in the US. Over the past three decades, Israel has constructed the most formidable organized power configuration in the United States that has ever penetrated an imperial state in history. Linked by tribal loyalties and blind obedience, over a half-million Jewish Zionists have embraced Israel’s interests and pursued them with a zeal and single-mindedness that is unmatched by any other foreign-based lobby. Prominent Zionists have permeated key state institutions, from the US Treasury, Commerce and the Pentagon, to the White House and the National Security Council. They dominate the US Congress, the ‘two party’ system, especially the nomination and electoral process, ensuring that only candidates who swear allegiance to Israel are allowed to run and be elected. That way no political debate regarding Israel’s subversive influence is permitted. They dominate the mass media ensuring that all news and commentary is favorable to Israel and all criticism of the Jewish state is excluded.

Here we have the paradox of an imperial ally, Israel colonizing an imperial power and extracting tribute, with foreign aid to Tel Aviv exceeding $3.6 billion this year. More importantly the Zionist power configuration plays a key role in waging wars against Israel’s designated enemies and providing diplomatic cover for the Jewish state’s ethnic slaughter of the people of Palestine.

The Israel-US alliance has been set up wholly on Israel’s terms. Even as Israel rains thousands of tons of bombs on the captive people of Gaza, to the horror of world public opinion, the White House applauds and the US Congress unanimously approves resolutions supporting Israel’s war crimes at the behest of the powerful Zionists ensconced in Washington.

Whatever the US Empire has gained from Israel in the way of intimidating and humiliating Arab leaders in the region it has lost in economic terms. Major oil companies have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in trade and investment from the wars in Iraq, Syria and Libya and from sanctions against Iran. The US domestic economy has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in income and investment as a result of the high cost of oil imports resulting from the wars.

Strategically, the asymmetrical US-Israeli alliance has turned the US into an ‘empire’ dominated by militarists, and one exclusively focused on the Middle East. This transformation into a ‘military-driven’ Empire has resulted in neglect, decline and displacement of the imperial influence in the most dynamic growth sectors of the world economy – Asia, Latin America and Russia.

It is a paradox where the lop-sided strength of the US-Israeli axis in the Middle East has profoundly undermined the US global economic and domestic foundations of empire. Moreover, the brutal ‘colonial-style wars’ in the Middle East promoted by US Zionist strategists in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have destroyed any possibility of re-constructing viable client states and markets out of these conquered nations. Israeli military strategists have long wanted these regimes destroyed, their state institutions dismantled and their societies embroiled in sectarian, tribal strife. As a result, the US wars have not produced a single functioning client state: the US military invaded, occupied and destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan while losing the wars in political terms. This came at no cost to Israel, the unchallenged regional hegemon, while the US Treasury will struggle with a trillion dollar price tag and the US public will experience economic decline for generations.

The US-Saudi Axis of Power


The second most important axis of power in the Middle East is the US-Saudi alliance. From the perspective of the US Empire, the Saudi connection has many advantages, as well as costs. Saudi financing, in collaboration with the US, was instrumental in recruiting, arming and financing the Islamist guerrillas, which overthrew the secular pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan. Saudi links to the Pakistani intelligence services and military has ensured Pakistan will remain a client-state of the US Empire. Saudi intervention in Yemen and Bahrain propped-up the pro-empire, anti-democratic puppet regimes while ensuring US access to its strategic military bases.

Saudi Arabia is the principle backer of US sanctions and confrontation with Iran. It provides air bases, military intelligence operations and the funding of anti-Iranian terrorists, like ‘Mujahedeen al Khalq’. Saudi Arabia is the biggest market for US military exports. Saudi increased its oil output to compensate for a decline of oil in world markets due to the US embargo against and the destruction of oil production following the US attacks and devastation of Iraq and Libya. In exchange Saudi Arabia’s absolutist monarchy obtains US protection, security and assistance in repressing its domestic unrest. Saudi billionaires, no matter how brutal and corrupt, have full access to lucrative financial markets in the US. The Saudi theocratic-monarchic dictatorship has clearly benefited from the US destruction of secular nationalist Arab regimes in the region. Indeed, secular nationalism has been the Saudi’s primary target since its monarchy was set up by the British.

Nevertheless, the Saudi-US axis is fraught with tensions. The Saudi regime actively promotes Sunni extremist jihadi movements in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon undermining Washington-backed neo-liberal clients. The Saudi-backed terrorists in Libya have destabilized the US proxies. The Saudis promoted and financed the bloody military coup in Egypt of General Sisi. The Saudi Royals support the brutal military overthrow of the elected President Morsi and the suppression of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood because of Morsi’s rapprochement with Iran. This has ruined Obama’s more ‘moderate’ goal of setting up a Muslim Brotherhood-Egyptian military power sharing arrangement in Cairo.

In other words, the US and Saudi axis converge in opposition to secular-nationalist regimes but diverge on the alternatives. The Saudis tend to choose the most retrograde Islamic extremist groups excluding and antagonizing all other tendencies, from conservative-secular neo-liberals to democratic, nationalist and socialist parties and movements. They end up with political polarizations unfavorable to US long-term imperial interests. The Saudi choice of political alternatives tends to be minorities incapable of sustaining or overtly hostile to the US imperial order. Moreover, Saudi Arabia opposes Israel on religious grounds, the principle US political partner in the region, even as it works with the Jewish state against the secular or nationalist governments Syria, Iran and Lebanon.

Like its alliance with Israel, the US-Saudi axis comes at a very high cost. Saudi financing of the Taliban and other Islamic groups has cost the US empire builders hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of military casualties and a humiliating retreat after a thirteen year war.

Saudi funding for Sunni terrorists in Syria has decimated US-backed neo-liberal armed groups. Equally damaging, the same Saudi-backed jihadi groups have severely destabilized the US-imposed Maliki regime in Iraq. Saudi attacks on the US-Iranian nuclear negotiations have strengthened the Zionist-led opposition in the US Congress.

In other words the US-Saudi axis has buttressed the US Empire in the short-run, but has become a strategic liability. Saudi’s overseas projection of its most reactionary internal politics undermines the US effort to create stable imperial clients. Not to be overlooked is the Saudi role in financing Al Queda and its operatives in the attack on the US on September 11, 2001.

The US Turkey Axis


Turkey has been a major US-NATO asset especially during the Cold War. The secular-military regimes in Ankara mobilized the largest number of combat troops on the USSR’s border and provided the US with numerous air bases and intelligence centers. In recent times, under an Islamist regime, Turkey has become the axis for the US and EU-backed mercenary invasion of Syria, providing military sanctuaries, training, arms and financing to overthrow the secular Baathist regime in Damascus.

The Erdogan regime has sought to regain a pivotal role within NATO by backing the Empire’s effort to topple nationalist leaders and movements in the region.

Turkey has worked closely with the US and Israel in building up the political, economic and military capacities of the Iraqi Kurds. They are seen as a counter-force to the Saudi-backed jihadis, the failed Shia regime in Baghdad and Iraqi petrol-nationalists.

While pursuing neo-liberal policies congruent with US imperial design and collaborating with Washington’s clients in ‘Kurdistan’, Turkey has its own regional ambitions. President Erdogan supported the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and opposed the military coup of General Sisi, fearing, perhaps, a similar coup by the Turkish military. Up until quite recently Turkey had its own ‘mini-imperial’ agenda via trade and investment in Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan and Afghanistan. The recent imperial conflicts and regional instability have undermined Erdogan’s dreams of a neo-Ottoman revival. 95% of Turkish public opinion supports the rights of the Palestinian people; this has forced Erdogan to pull away from the Israeli-US axis, at least temporarily. Likewise the Turkish regime, while not in opposition to the Saudi dictatorship, has refrained from overt collaboration apart from trade and Gulf investments.

With the US-EU in the process of isolating and demonizing Russia, it remains to be seen whether Turkey will once again become the military axis for NATO. Russia is an important energy supplier and market for Turkish goods. If Turkey decides to join the new US axis confronting Russia, it will lose out economically and will have to find alternative markets and energy sources in an increasingly unstable region. A weakened Turkey may be more submissive to empire but it will be more vulnerable to internal opposition.

Conclusion


The US Empire, like previous ones, depends on a host of alliances and axes of power to sustain it and compensate for military, political and economic limitations in resources and personnel. With regard to the main region of direct US involvement, the Middle East, Washington has embraced three sets of alliances with partners who have played a paradoxical role in both sustaining and eroding the US Empire.

Israel, the primary ally of the US, is largely a political and military construct of US policymakers over the past years. It was originally designed to serve and police the region for the US. Instead, over the years, the relationship has been totally reversed: US imperial power has been subordinated to serve Israel’s ambitions to impose unchallenged regional superiority over the Middle East. For the first time in the history of empires, a satrap of empire has systematically penetrated the principle imperial institutions. Decision-makers and elites loyal to Israeli interests have expended vast amounts of US military resources and American soldiers to wage wars with the goal of decimating Israel’s enemies. Five hundred thousand well organized and financed American Jewish-Zionist activists have directed the global empire into focusing on one region: the Middle East. The mass media, US Congress and the principle advisory bodies (dubbed ‘think tanks’) in Washington are engaged in formulating US policies in line with Israel’s colonial interests with disastrous consequences for the American people. In effect, the US state and society are ‘colonized’ by unconditional supporters of Israel. The Zionist power configuration’s influence finds its most macabre expression in the US Congress unanimous endorsement of the Israeli slaughter of hundreds of trapped Palestinian civilians and children during the July 2014 terror bombing of Gaza. This repugnant act is the culmination of the forced servility of an ostensibly global imperial power subject to the dictates of its lawless, genocidal ally.

The Israeli-US axis has led the Empire into a blind ally: A totally one-sided relation has inflated the military dimensions of empire in Israel’s interests. Economically, this has become the most perverse of all imperial partnerships, where the satrap extracts billions of dollars a year in political tribute and advanced weaponry in return for nothing! Strategically, the global decline of the US Empire, its loss of market shares and political influence in the most dynamic regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa, can be wholly attributed to its sustained focus on the Middle East.

The disastrous ‘exclusive Middle East focus’ can be attributed to the leadership, organization and policies of the Empire.

The US political leadership, beholden to unconditional supporters of Israel, has committed the most damaging policies in US history. First and foremost, these elite-educated policymakers have degraded the entire economic dimensions of empire by pursuing a relentless military agenda – destroying oil producers, raising world prices, sowing instability and by bleeding the US Treasury of trillions of dollars - with few returns.

This self-proclaimed ‘best and brightest’, with advanced degrees from the most prestigious universities, includes policymakers who have committed the US to endless wars which only benefit Israel. Most of these key policymakers, including Wolfowitz, Emmanuel, Feith, Libby, Abrams, Greenspan, Levy, Cohen, Frohman, Lew, Fischer, Bernanke and Yellen have deliberately pillaged the US Treasury in order to sustain Middle East wars for Israel and Wall Street bankers. The ‘leading lights’ among the Zionist policy-makers, occupying influential positions in the imperial power structures, are responsible for an unmitigated disaster: they have initiated failed wars, dismantled whole societies, fomented financial crises and promoted a one-way ‘partnership’ with a genocidal state. If only they had pursued respectable and successful careers as dentists, doctors, investors, bankers or ivory tower academics – millions of precious lives would not have been destroyed....

However, it is not only the empire’s alliance with Israel which is driving the empire to crisis. The Saudi-US axis has given immense power to the most retrograde satraps and barbaric armed insurgents running amok in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. An empire, associated with the most parasitic Arab ‘rentiers’ who send their own fanatical offspring to self-immolate for a head-beheading new world order has scarce resonance in the modern world. An empire, organized around axes of evil and directed by political leaders loyal to satraps, has no material or moral foundations to justify its existence.

Russia and War in Eastern Ukraine

Russia and the War in Eastern Ukraine

by Roger Annis  - A Socialist in Canada

[The following article was written in the days before departing Moscow on July 17, 2014 following a two week visit.]
 
Moscow, Russia, July 17, 2014Bombardments of cities and towns in eastern Ukraine by the Ukraine army are not letting up.

Two days ago, Russia Today reported that 18 civilians had died in Luhansk city over the previous three days from the indiscriminate shelling of neighbourhoods.

Miners rally in Donetsk on June 18, 2014, 
sign reads ‘NATO out!’ 

Today, shelling has killed 20 and cut electricity, water service and communication in the city of 400,000 people. In a display of how the media is turning a blind eye to war crimes, the BBC called the attacks in Luhansk “fresh clashes”.

The number of dead is much higher in Donetsk region, including eleven people who died when missiles struck an apartment building in Snezhnoe July 15. It was 6:30 am. Most people were still in bed. Russia Today broadcast shocking images of dozens of people digging at rubble after the attack. A child is rescued and taken to a waiting ambulance. It’s not clear in the footage if he is alive. (Further video, subtitled, of the aftermath of the attack is here.)

One camp of Ukraine refugees along the Russian border has been moved inland by 20 kilometers out of concern it could be hit by Ukraine mortar fire.

[We have learned from doctors in Luhansk, via the OSCE special mission in southeast Ukraine, that 250 people have been killed in Luhansk region in June and July from shelling and other attacks. 850 have been injured.]

The Ukraine government has artillery, rockets and tanks at its disposition, but its conscript army is not motivated or trained to fight in defended urban areas. Even the more-motivated fascist militias that are operating in tandem with the Ukraine army lack fighting experience. The likely role of extreme right commanders in the units conducting artillery and mortar bombardments might explain the randomness and savagery of it all.

As this unfolds, the Russian government is issuing declarations of concern and it is taking care of the swelling numbers of refugees. But it’s not doing anything to stop the crazed shelling and missile strikes of the Ukraine army and militias, and that has growing number of Russians wondering why not. Of course, anything it does, such as impose a no-fly zone or threaten to knock out artillery batteries, will bring howls of rage from the NATO warmaking side.

Russian colleagues here in Moscow say the government was expecting that the popular resistance in southeast Ukraine would have been vanquished by now. That would suit its acute interest in preserving relations with capitalist Europe. But defeat of the rebellion is beginning to look unlikely, which will open a whole new stage of the anti-austerity and pro-democracy struggle in southeast Ukraine, including the appeal it symbolizes for people in other parts of Ukraine and Russia.

Russia’s cautious reactions to the war being waged by Kyiv disproves the claims by governments and some left wing voices in Europe and North America that Russia has territorial ambitions in eastern Ukraine or is deliberately provoking chaos and destabilization. It is NATO and the regime in Kyiv that is sowing chaos and destabilization, not to speak of perpetrating or abetting war crimes. The regime is refusing any talks with the pro-autonomy political forces in Ukraine’s southeast and it is raining artillery shells and rockets upon the population in an effort to terrorize it into submission. It won’t work; every bomb that falls creates legions of new opponents of Kyiv’s military course and the pro-Europe austerity economic agenda that lies behind it.

Impact of events in Russia


The right wing takeover in Kyiv last February and now the war that the regime is waging in the southeast have been an uncomfortable wake-up call for many Russians, something akin to a slap in the face. One Russian colleague explained to me that one year ago, when he would speak to university students of the importance of following and engaging in politics and world events, he would likely as not be dismissed as someone harkening back to Soviet times. It’s very different today. Many Russians feel threatened by events, as well they should. They are deeply aware of the key backing of Kyiv by the member countries of the NATO military alliance. NATO is not only supplying Kyiv with weapons and advisors, it is also slapping travel bans and economic sanctions on Russia’s leaders and it has begun to target its industries with sanctions.

Crimea is targeted by sanctions that are harming its agricultural production and its vitally important tourism industry. As I discovered when I traveled there recently, the major credit card companies are participating in the sanctions. Tourism is down sharply.

The turn of the Ukraine bourgeoisie to austerity Europe and to war against its own population is not surprising. This is a ruling elite that has no plan or interest in the nation. It is notorious for its rise to wealth and power during the past 25 years made possible by its privileged access to organs of political power when the frenzied privatization of the state-owned resources of Soviet Ukraine took place. They also employed every imaginable trick of graft and corruption.[1]

Similar political bankruptcy was a hallmark of this bourgeoisie’s historic predecessors 100 years ago in the divided territory of the future Ukraine, split between the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires and Poland. Soviet Ukraine was born through the profound social revolution of 1917-20.

Ukraine’s revolution paralleled and intersected with the much better known Russian Revolution. With the defeat of the Russian and Ukraine revolutions and the rise of Stalinism in the 1920s and 1930s, the political axis of mainstream Ukraine nationalism shifted to the right, where has remained ever since. The new bourgeoisie of the 1990s never particularly bothered with Ukraine nationalism until now, since this wasn’t needed for their graft and nepotism. But now they drape themselves in the yellow and blue national colours.

The concern in Russia over Ukraine intersects with something of which not a lot of people outside of Russia are aware. That is the deep antipathy of many Russians towards the billionaires that have come to own and dominate Russia’s middle-power capitalist economy and its “managed democracy” (to use the succinct term of a colleague).

This antipathy to the wealthy intersects with popular resentment over the inadequacies and failings of Russia’s social services. The majority of people in Russia today have much more difficult access to health care, housing and other social safety nets compared to the days of the Soviet Union. This is not lost on Russian leaders. One of the things that keeps Vladimir Putin’s standing in polls high (at least until this war is eastern Ukraine) is his occasional railings against the greed and excesses of the wealthy elite, even if his government does nothing about it.

There is no uniform picture of how present-day Russians view the changes they and their children have lived for the past 25 years (since the collapse of the Soviet Union). A wealthy minority have done extremely well. An upper middle section has also done well. The center of Moscow and of some other large cities in Russia are fabulously attractive places of wealth and excess consumption. The city centers of Moscow and St. Petersburg, at least, are easily on par with the best of what imperialist capital cities have on offer.

But you don’t have to move too far out of the center of Moscow or other cities to move down the social ladder and encounter roads and sidewalks in disrepair, inadequate housing, and so on. For workers, on average, living standards are only just recovering to where they were 25 years ago. Compared to Soviet times, most Russians are working much longer hours, have poorer social services, fewer vacations and live with greater uncertainty over their future.

Russia’s economy is highly dependent on revenues from natural resources, notably oil and gas. One sees everywhere the heavy dependence on imports of food, consumer and other items. The country’s roads and telecommunication systems are not up to the standards required of a fully developed capitalist economy. Even the railroads are in decline as they became privatized and as the government and the new capitalists focus their attentions and decisions on short-term financial gains, not long term development of an economy and country.

All of this underlines the importance of studying the exact nature of the social and economic system that is modern-day Russia. An excellent source for researchers or just interested people is a new book by Moscow professor and researcher Ruslan Dzarasov, titled ‘The Conundrum of Russian Capitalism: The Post-Soviet Economy in the World System’ (Pluto Press, Dec. 2013). The author draws sharp attention to the degree in which globalized capitalism is focused on earning wealth in the short term and disdaining any long term concern or planning. The zeal for short-term plunder is one of the features of capitalist nihilism in the face of the climate crisis. This phenomenon is heightened in post-Soviet Russian capitalism.

Russia as imperialist?


An important part of economic study is to determine where, exactly, Russia fits into the world capitalist system. Is it an imperialist country and social order, as many argue? Or is the story more complicated than that? The answer to that question would tell us a lot about the interests and the actions of the country’s economic and political elites. It would help us a great deal to understand the crisis in Ukraine. My article on the subject of ‘Russia as imperialist or not’ published in June only scratches the surface. It uses traditional measures of what does and does not constitute an imperialist economy.

Much more analysis, beyond the scope of my limited, formal training in this area, is needed to update traditional measures and account for the globalized world of capitalism, the diminution, for now, of inter-imperialist conflict and the heightened place of inter-imperialist military alliances.

The left internationally has been slow or remiss in looking at this subject in any depth and drawing the appropriate conclusions. I can only surmise that the powerful and intimidating anti-Russia and anti-Vladimir Putin propaganda machines in the imperialist countries have played a role in this. We should not be intimidated or bamboozled away from serious study.

Although I am not an economist, I was driven to write my article in June because I am bothered that a simplistic portrayal of Russia as ‘imperialist’ is serving to confuse matters in Ukraine and delay much-needed solidarity. There is inexcusable inaction against the murderous war by the Kyiv regime and its NATO backers. Never mind that the claim of Russian territorial and other ‘imperialist’ designs on Ukraine is contrary to what events over the past six months clearly show. The underlying premise is also wrong—Russia is a capitalist power, yes, but is far from being the ruthless, aggressive power, coordinated with others through alliances, that characterizes the imperialist powers. It is a middle power with an uneven, underdeveloped capitalist economy that has more in common with Brazil and South Korea than with France or Canada.

Russian nationalists in southeast Ukraine


If the assertion that Russia is NOT imperialist is correct, then the pressuring moves and military assaults by NATO and its Kyiv regime junior partner are an attack not only against the Ukraine nation but also against the Russian nation. As a matter of fact, I argued this from the get-go earlier this year. At the time, I did not have a strong theoretical foundation to do so; I was acting on political perception and instinct. Events and further study have borne those out.

On the subject of the Russian nationalists who are volunteering to fight in eastern Ukraine and playing a role in politics there, Russian colleagues express very thoughtful and considered opinions. They argue it is wrong to view Russian nationalism as uniformly right wing. If you ask many nationalists of their vision for a future eastern Ukraine (and Russia), they are likely as not to answer with ‘nationalization of big enterprises’, ‘expansion of social services and welfare’, ‘development of the national economy’ and ‘greater democracy’. Many will speak with pride of the Russian Federation’s multinational and multicultural makeup. Elements of such a vision are echoed in the manifesto produced by the Ukrainian delegates who attended the July 6, 7 antiwar conference in Yalta, Crimea, which is an explicitly anti-capitalist document. (Read the manifesto here.)

Colleagues have great respect for the courage of the activists and fighters who are volunteering in eastern Ukraine. That has been my view as well, as I read the descriptive reports of the volunteers and why they are serving. Reports invariably explain that they are motivated by a determination to defend the population of eastern Ukraine from fascism and other forms of capitalist violence. Volunteers see an historic opening for this part of the world to break from the unequal, decrepit economic system that dominates in Russia and Ukraine and to inspire others to follow such a lead.

I read recently in The Guardian a translation of an interview with a volunteer who served in Donetsk, a man of Armenian origin. He talks of harrowing experiences in combat, including incompetent commanders during the seizure of the Donetsk airport at the end of May, from which he was lucky to escape with his life. He was asked at the end of the interview why he had volunteered (from Russia) to risk his life for a foreign country. He replied, “I don’t consider Russia a foreign country. I have the mentality of a Soviet person. My grandfathers fought for the Soviet Union and I am fighting for it.” (The man is clearly among those in southeastern Ukraine who view the goal there as some kind of political association with Russia. Given the ferocity of the Ukraine government military attacks, the number of people who view any kind of future in Ukraine is in sharp decline.)

Another recent video is an eight minute interview with a volunteer fighter of Afghan origin. He compares the Kyiv regime’s war with the decades-long war in Afghanistan. (Coincidentally, Ukraine still has a small numbers of soldiers serving in the ISAF foreign occupation army there.)

Given the scale of the assault that the people of the southeast are up against, their historic ties to Russia, including language, and the military experience and equipment that Russian volunteers bring, it’s no surprise that Russians spring into leading roles.

There are reports of ruthless treatment by some self defense units of opposing paramilitaries taken captive, including boasting by one unit that while it treats soldiers with dignity, it will kill fascist cadre it captures. This gives credence to the claims of human rights organizations that rights violations are occurring on both sides of the conflict in the southeast (though hardly in the same proportion).[2] Progressives in Russia and southeast Ukraine condemn such conduct. Part of the political struggle today in chaotic eastern Ukraine is to achieve dignified treatment of opposing enemy combatants.

Marxists have many points of political convergence with Russian nationalists. It is inaccurate and misleading to portray them as uniformly right wing. Russian nationalists are in the front lines of defending the people of southeast Ukraine against extreme violence. They are displaying great bravery and making great sacrifices.

Crimea


My colleagues reminded me of the significant political blow that the imperialists received over Crimea. They lost a prize they lusted after deeply—the possibility of greatly diminishing the presence of Russia’s navy in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea by taking control of Crimea and Sevastopol. Their loss was quick and decisive; they were not able to fire a single shot. Moreover, the anti-imperialist masses in other parts of the world duly took note. That is not good news for empires.

My July 14 news article reports on the vote at the United Nations General Assembly on March 27, 2014 in which 11 countries voted against a resolution to condemn Russia over Crimea. The ‘no’ voted included Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia. Fifty eight countries abstained.

The imperialist ‘loss’ over Crimea explains the vengeful economic and political sanctions which they have slapped on the people of Crimea. It also explains, in part, the fury of the war in Ukraine’s southeast. NATO does not want to lose two prizes in a row. All proportions guarded, Crimea join the ranks of Haiti, China, Cuba, Vietnam and countries or peoples who have dared to defy the dictats of empires. Crimeans are paying an economic price for doing so, and they wish that could be otherwise. But they are also thankful to now be beyond the reach of Kyiv’s civil war policies.

Prospects of the war


There has been no letup in the bloody shelling and bombings of towns and cities by the Kyiv regime. Much of this is in retaliation for the rocket attack on the night of July 10/11 that destroyed a Ukraine army armoured column in Luhansk region. It was a harsh blow to Kyiv and the fascist militias with which it is allied.

The armoured mobility and firepower with which Kyiv expected it could ride to conquest in eastern Ukraine is beginning to look less overwhelming. The capacities of the self defense fighters are proving to be considerable. For example, Ukraine’s fleet of military helicopters has been reduced to ten, according to Ukraine government spokesperson Tatiana Chyornovol, cited in the July 17 Moscow Times. The Times also reports self defense fighters saying they have shot down 11 jet fighters and one (well publicized) military transport aircraft. Here is a recent video of a destroyed and abandoned Ukraine artillery base near Krasnodon.

Kyiv is also paying a growing political price over its savage attacks on civilian populations. Days ago, another journalist was killed, this time the editor of a Russian-language newspaper reportedly tortured and killed in Ukraine proper by government forces. According to previous figures gathered by the Committee to Protect Journalists, this latest killing brings to seven the number of journalists killed in Ukraine since February. I believe all these killings were committed by Kyiv forces.

People in Europe and North America have a duty to build a solidarity movement to help end the military attacks in the southeast and promote a political resolution of the conflict that respects the right of self-determination of the people of eastern Ukraine. We need to help create political space where the demands of the self-determination movement and self defense forces can be respected and heard. We also need to support people throughout Ukraine whose democratic rights are increasingly under attack.

Echoes of civil protest in western Ukraine have been expressed in recent days, especially of relatives of the young men being conscripted into the Ukraine army. A rally took place in Kyiv on July 16 where mothers, wives and fathers of young men voiced opposition to the dangers and harsh conditions of compulsory military service to which their loved ones are being subjected. Another such anti-conscription protest took place on July 15 at the entrance to an army base in Ternopil, western Ukraine and can be viewed in this seven minute video.

Solidarity will assist in creating much-needed unity throughout Ukraine, in opposition to the billionaires who are running the country into the ground with their dirty civil war and dead-end, Europe-inspired austerity.


Notes:

1. From ‘Punishing Russia for the MH17 tragedy will not help Ukraine’, by Oliver Bullough, The Guardian, July 20, 2014:

Visitors [to Ukraine] can be forgiven for not realising quite how wrecked Ukraine is. Kiev has all the car showrooms, restaurants and elegant architecture of a European capital, but last year Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index rated Ukraine 144th in the world, level with the Central African Republic.

Ukraine’s orgy of kleptocracy reached its riotous peak under Viktor Yanukovych, leaving the country incapable of defending itself, or even of holding itself together. Tax officials trying to make sense of Yanukovych’s greed estimate that around £18bn a year was stolen from Ukraine’s coffers under his rule – almost a fifth of gross domestic product. No country can survive that.

2. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is issuing monthly reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine. Its latest report, dated June 15, is scandalously biased in favour of the government in Kyiv, describing Kyiv’s war in the southeast as a necessary ‘security’ operation. Thus, we read such obfuscation as the following: “Of particular concern is the continued erosion of the rule of law and the limited capacity of the Government to protect residents from the ever increasing acts of violence…” (point 176 of the report); and, “The recent evaluation of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) published on 23 May 2014, highlighted the positive steps of the Government in ratification of, or accession to, various human rights instruments.” (point 241).

There are, nonetheless, interesting observations in the report, including the poor reception and resources made available to Tatars who have chosen to leave Crimea and to refugees from the war zone in southeast Ukraine.

Roger Annis recently returned to Canada from a two-week visit to Crimea and Moscow. He attended the antiwar conference that took place in Yalta, Crimea on July 6, 7. He can be reached at rogerannis@hotmail.com. You can sign onto the conference statement at this online petition website. Background of the conflict in Ukraine is contained in the July 16 article by Roger Annis, ‘It’s war in eastern Ukraine as Kyiv gov’t bombards cities and towns’.

Flying Naked: Ukraine, MH17 and the Raving Atlanticists

Ukraine, MH 17, and the Charge of the Atlanticist Brigade


by Peter Lee - China Matters

The bloody farce in the Ukraine took another ugly turn with the shootdown of MH 17.

And to be ugly about it, if the rebels shot the plane down, it shouldn’t matter very much except as a horrible and unexpected catastrophe in a war zone and an overwhelming tragedy to the survivors of the victims on board. Call it an accident, collateral damage, manslaughter, there is no credible version of events in which it was intentional mass murder or terrorism, either by the rebels or Russian technicians that, according to the Ukrainian government, possessed the ability to operate the elderly but complex anti-aircraft systems fingered in the attack.

Recall the US shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 by the USS Vincennes. It was also an ugly business. The Iran Air jet was on a standard civilian flight path with its transponders on; the Vicennes through some bit of naval derring-do had actually intruded into Iranian territorial waters when it shot the plane down (something that was only admitted by the US three years later). 290 people died, the US never apologized, but eventually paid out some money to smooth things over, not in a particularly classy way, according to a 2002 account:

The US had compensated non-Iranian victims about 2.9 million dollars (not acknowledging any responsibility) but nothing to Iranian family members. In 1996, a 131.8 million dollar settlement was reached that included the ignored families (61.8 million). Seventy million was to be put into bank accounts and used to "pay off private U.S. claims against Iran and Iran's expenses for the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which is handling the claims." The US stated it was for claims "involving banking matters, not the airliner," while Iran said that 30 million was for the plane.

The shootdown was accompanied by the usual quotient of dishonest denial and blame shifting.

The following day, the Pentagon held a news conference on the incident. After originally having flatly denied Iran's version of the event, saying that it had shot down an F-14 fighter and not a civilian aircraft, the State Department (after a review of the evidence) admitted the downing of Iran Air 655. It was claimed that the plane had "strayed too close to two U.S. Navy warships that were engaged in a battle with Iranian gunboats" and, according to the spokesman, that the "proper defensive action" was taken (in part) because the "suspect aircraft was outside the prescribed commercial air corridor" (Washington Post).
 That it "strayed" from its normal, scheduled flight path is factually incorrect. And so was the claim that it was heading right for the ship and "descending" (emphasis, mine) toward it—it was ascending. Another "error" was the contention that it took place in international waters (it did not, a fact only later admitted by the government). Incorrect maps were used when Congress was briefed on the incident.

In an interesting sidebar, the “planeful of naked corpses” conspiracy canard (for which Western journos have repeatedly mocked a Ukrainian rebel militia leader who was, presumably, dumbfounded by the grotesque carnage of the crash) was first deployed by right wing US radio commentators to accuse Iran of staging a provocation by flying a plane of naked corpses at the Vincennes.

The Iran Air shootdown was classified as a goof—although the Iranians declared it rose to the level of criminal misconduct (and have been accused of engineering the Lockerbie bombing as retaliation)--and the captain of the Vicennes was condemned by his fellow officers as a reckless dingbat, perWikipedia:

Commander David Carlson, commanding officer of the USS Sides, the warship stationed near to the Vincennes at the time of the incident, is reported to have said that the destruction of the aircraft "marked the horrifying climax to Captain Rogers' aggressiveness, first seen four weeks ago."[39] His comment referred to incidents on 2 June, when Rogers had sailed the Vincennes too close to an Iranian frigate undertaking a lawful search of a bulk carrier, launched a helicopter within 2–3 miles (3.2–4.8 km) of an Iranian small craft despite rules of engagement requiring a four-mile (6.4 km) separation, and opened fire on small Iranian military boats. Of those incidents, Carlson commented, "Why do you want an Aegis cruiser out there shooting up boats? It wasn't a smart thing to do." He also said that Iranian forces he had encountered in the area a month prior to the incident were "...pointedly non-threatening" and professional.[40] At the time of Rogers' announcement to higher command that he was going to shoot down the plane, Carlson is reported to have been thunderstruck: "I said to folks around me, 'Why, what the hell is he doing?' I went through the drill again. F-14. He's climbing. By now this damn thing is at 7,000 feet." Carlson thought the Vincennes might have more information, and was unaware that Rogers had been wrongly informed that the plane was diving.[41]
Craig, Morales & Oliver, in a slide presentation published in M.I.T.'s Spring 2004 Aeronautics & Astronautics as the "USS Vincennes Incident", commented that Captain Rogers had "an undeniable and unequivocal tendency towards what I call 'picking a fight.'" On his own initiative, Rogers moved the Vincennes 50 miles (80 km) northeast to join the USS Montgomery. An angry Captain Richard McKenna, Chief of Surface Warfare for the Commander of the Joint Task Force, ordered Rogers back to Abu Musa, but the Vincennes helicopter pilot, Lt Mark Collier, followed the Iranian speedboats as they retreated north, eventually taking some fire:

...the Vincennes jumps back into the fray. Heading towards the majority of the speedboats, he is unable to get a clear target. Also, the speedboats are now just slowly milling about in their own territorial waters. Despite clear information to the contrary, Rogers informs command that the gunboats are gathering speed and showing hostile intent and gains approval to fire upon them at 0939. Finally, in another fateful decision, he crosses the 12-nautical-mile (22 km) limit off the coast and enters illegally into Iranian waters.[42]

Captain Rogers was not officially censured for the shootdown; instead, two years later he was awarded the Legion of Merit for his services while captain of the Vincennes and soon after retired.

There you have it.

So, by the ordinary standards of murderous military ineptitude, the fallout from the MH 17 tragedy would be disorganization and denial, an exhaustive and time-consuming investigation, a belated acknowledgment of responsibility, no legal consequences, and the application of some financial emollient eight or so years down the road.

This is obviously Putin’s goal, whether or not rebel forces were complicit (which I should say is not yet a slam dunk, despite the declarations of the US government), an objective which the US and many of its allies are determined to deny him.

There have been several attempts to frame the accidental shootdown as an episode of Putin barbarism that places him and his government beyond the civilized pale and in the fatal zone of illegitimate pariah state upon whom demands can be made, and whose calls for due process can be swept aside, and fair game for whatever principled skullduggery the democratic powers can concoct.

The first and, to be blunt, most ludicrous episode was “corpse gate”, an attempt to depict the militias, and by extension their purported puppetmaster, Putin, as inhumanly callous in their treatment of the remains of the nearly 300 people that had fallen from the sky.

The militias were clearly overwhelmed by the vast disaster scene and the question of how to secure it properly. No doubt there was looting—an endemic problem at all crash sites, even in the civilized United States—and possibly the idea of diddling with evidence and getting the black boxes into friendly Russian hands. As to the disgusting drunkenness allegedly exhibited by some militia members, crash scenes are horrible, they can be extremely traumatic, and it is not out of the question that some militia members turned to alcoholic oblivion to deal with the scenes they had witnessed.

But the media tried to latch on to the idea that the militias were committing a crime against humanity by dragging the rotting bodies hither and yon through the 88-degree heat and eventually loading them into refrigerated rail cars. In this effort the militias worked together with emergency services of the Ukranian government, which somehow made it on site, a fact that was ignored in the accusations of militia barbarism. Once the body bags were put on the train, there was also some attempt to flay the militias for not immediately pulling the train out of the station, even though the root problem seems to have been the Ukrainian government’s inability to come up with dispatch instructions.

Then there was “destruction of evidence gate”. Again, beyond the militias’ fiddling with luggage and removal of bodies, there is no credible reportage that they were attempting to tamper with the key evidence: the immense debris field of plane wreckage.

On US ABC News, an aviation expert, John Nance, pointed out that the key forensic evidence to be gleaned from the crash site would be shrapnel impact on the airframe, which would indicate what struck the plane (SAM, air to air missile or whatever) and where, and is available in abundance across the crash site. The black box recorders would be unlikely to yield useful information on the instantaneously catastrophic event itself, nor would the bodies.

The key evidence for the overall investigation will be the surveillance records of US and Russian satellites and radars, which should be able to identify where the missiles came from, as well as addressing accusations that Kyiv fighters were shadowing the jet, etc.

If indeed MH17 was destroyed by a surface to air missile at 30,000 feet, the culprit would appear to be a BUK mobile air defense battery, a Soviet product extensively deployed across the remains of the USSR. The Russians have them—and the Ukrainian government has accused Russia of shuttling units across the border in order to do the dirty on Ukrainian military aircraft. The rebels might have captured one or more units; it’s unclear whether the Ukrainian military actually disabled them before abandoning them, as they claimed. The Ukrainian government also has its own working BUK units; despite government denials that there was any need to deploy anti-aircraft batteries in the east, AP had photographs of a Ukrainian BUK battery trundling through Slavyansk in early July to protect its ATO units against potential Russian airstrikes.

The Russians have already distributed a fair amount of evidentiary chaff of varying quality, claiming that a Ukranian BUK radar was switched on at the time of the incident; Robert Parry’s US defense sources are also telling him there’s a suspicion that a Ukrainian BUK battery was responsible.

So, in an ordinary investigation, plenty of he said/she said, fog o’ war, bluster, obfuscation and the prospect that a mutually acceptable story will be sorted out months if not years down the road.

As to the “restricting access to crash site gate” the subject of much indignant huffing and a newly-minted UNSC resolution (which Russia supported) this appears to be a canard.

Most Western journalists in the field have reported that they easily passed through rebel checkpoints and wandered unrestricted through the crash site (one journo was castigated for actually rifling through a victim’s luggage to illustrate his video report), and noted that, if anybody was delaying the arrival of the international investigatory team, it was the Ukrainian government (which held 100+ international experts in Kyiv until “security issues” could be sorted out). Further cognitive dissonance was assured when Kyiv forces launched several attacks in Donetsk, not exactly conducive to the ceasefire intended to facilitate the investigation, and also endangering the passage of the “corpse train” that everybody was, at least a couple days ago, so worked up about.

To date, the US strategy seems to be to crank up the indignation machine by whatever means come to hand, in this case excoriating Russia for obstructions of the investigation that aren’t occurring, in order to justify immediate further sanctions that would short circuit Russia’s desire for a conventional, legalistic, and protracted investigation.

As of this writing, the international experts have arrived at the crash site, the rebels, after some unedifying back and forth, have coughed up the black boxes, and there seems to be little that the West can currently complain about.

But the United States is perhaps considering this unpalatable contingency.

Will it demand an immediate and intrusive inventory of Russian and rebel BUK units “or else”? Hold Russia responsible for non-appearance of rebel witnesses/suspects? Issue a pre-emptive US declaration that the culprits have been identified, coupled with a demand to produce them? Or content itself with the boilerplate declaration that Russia is not doing enough to rein in the east Ukrainian militias? We shall see.

By now, I think sanctions are an end in themselves for US Russia policy.

My outsider’s impression is that the US foreign policy for Russia has been pretty much captured by doctrinaire anti-Russians in a diplomatic and military deep state that pretty much permeates and survives every incoming administration. The Russia desk has had a reasonably good run since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I think today the prevailing idea is that oligarch anxieties about the sanctioning of their overseas assets will soon reach a tipping point (see this article about “horror of the oligarchs”), and the “Atlanticists”, perhaps led by that nice Mr. Medvedev, will club together against Putin’s “Eurasianists” and pull the plug on his dreams of confronting the West as an equal and opposite force.

Maybe Putin will need more of a shove—he’s an ex-KGB guy with multiple assets in the Russian elite and his current approvals are running over 80%--but there’s an app for that: intensified sanctions.

So sanctions, and more sanctions. Sanctions for Crimea, sanctions for succoring the separatist uprising, now sanctions related to the plane crash. Sanctions that will never go away, no matter what Putin does, as long as he stays in power.

Best case, some combination of popular and elite revulsion pushes Putin from power and a new regime approaches the West as supplicant. Worst case, Russia = Venezuela, neutered by perpetual sanctions, vitriol, economic and political warfare, and subversion.

The key point, at this stage, is for the US to get European buy-in—especially from Angela Merkel, who is demonstrably less than enthusiastic about having a constitutionally dysfunctional relationship with Russia (and not enamored of the continual political heat brought by revelations of US spying)—so that the US is isolating Russia, and not the other way around.

My sense of the situation, especially from the Asian perspective, is that the US is in danger of overplaying its hand, indeed that it has a bad case of tunnel vision in which it is fixated on the goal of sticking it to Putin at the expense of US global interests.

With its almost comical insistence that “the world” is uniting against Russia (which only counts if “the world” is defined as the Atlantic democracies and their close allies and China, India, et. al. are excluded) and, even more damagingly, the US insistence on peddling the Russia = the world’s greatest monster story even as the United States condones the catastrophic and much more bloody Israel incursion into Gaza, the US is accelerating the natural trend toward disintermediation of America in significant chunks of the global diplomatic and economic system.

The PRC occasionally comes in for mockery for its alleged hubris in wishing to elevate the Chinese RMB to the status of an international currency. However, I don’t think the PRC’s near term objective, or even desire, is to assume the glorious but extremely onerous burden of displacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency.

Instead, I think there are tactical as well as strategic forces in play, inspired in part by Russia’s sanctions miseries as well as the PRC's own experiences with covert as well as overt US financial sanctions relating to China's Iran and North Korea transactions, which date back to the George W. Bush years. The PRC approach reflects the difficulty of sustaining strict capital controls on a national currency when China’s economy is increasingly open to the world; and the risk that a more freely-trading Chinese currency can bring to the PRC in its current competition and incipient clash with the United States.

So the PRC internationalizes the yuan in a series of bilateral agreements with key trading partners, so that its financial transactions increasingly exit the dollar and are less vulnerable to US and Western sanctions; it tries to push its investors to look for adequate returns in friendly regions rather than dumping excess funds in Western financial centers; and it cracks down on corruption and capital flight so that its oligarchs will be less exposed to financial and legal blackmail in places like London and the United States. And for that matter, it offers the enticement to global financial centers of profitable, high-volume trading in yuan, a fungible benefit that can be diverted somewhere else if a jurisdiction turns unfriendly.

And the Xi Jinping regime must take into account the possibility that the outrage and sanctions machine, so intensively deployed against Russia over Ukraine, will be employed against the People’s Republic of China.

The United States is backing off from its stated “honest broker” position in the South China Sea to a tilt toward China’s adversaries, offering the possibility of direct confrontation over the PRC’s maritime claims and use of the sanctions regime to punish PRC misbehavior. Taiwan is inexorably bumping along to a political confrontation between the pro-mainland KMT and pro-independence DPP and student forces, which will offer the US government, if so inclined, a chance to ditch the One China policy and stand up to the PRC militarily and with sanctions.

And, finally, there is Hong Kong.

With that wonderful synchronicity that liberals adore (and their adversaries roll their eyes at) the three UK China-bashing prestige liberal organs—the Independent, the Guardian, and the Financial Times—all recently editorialized that Great Britain should “stand up” to the PRC on behalf of the people of Hong Kong on the issue of whether candidates for the Hong Kong chief executive should be chosen by full suffrage (instead of nominated by a pro-mainland committee). If Xi Jinping decides now is not the time to countenance defiance of the PRC within China’s borders and cracks down on the sizable number of pro-democracy activists and supporters, sanctions would appear to be the inevitable consequence.

So one consequence of the singleminded US campaign against Russia is that it is being driven into the arms of the PRC; another is that the PRC is making its ability to resist sanctions a national priority. The US Atlanticists may succeed in either subduing Russia to Western tutelage or simply expelling it from the European sphere; but what about the Pacific?