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D-Day 2014: Goings and Comings on the Eurasian Continent

7:19 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Editor’s Note: Deena Stryker joins FDL Book Salon on Aug 2nd to discuss Lunch With Fellini, Dinner With Fidel.

Pres Obama talks with Pres-elect Poroshenko of Ukraine following their bilateral meeting in Warsaw, Poland, June 4

President Obama’s four-day European tour leading up to the D-Day celebrations in France began in Poland with the announcement of an increase in the number of American troops stationed there, as the post-coup government in Ukraine continued military action against citizens who refuse to recognize it.

The borders of Poland, Bela Rus and Kievan Rus (going back to the Middle Ages) have dissolved into one another for centuries with ‘Ukraine’ as an entity created during the Russian Revolution of 1917. Aside from that, Obama’s commitment to defending Poland from a threat to the east twenty odd years after the collapse of the Soviet Union is no small irony: Having failed to defend Poland against Germany in World War II, it would now defend it against Russia, which has threatened no one.

American academia has finally acknowledged that the Soviet Union played the most significant role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, the allied D-Day landing having signaled the opening of a second front to the one the Soviets had been fighting on since June, 1941. However, from the end of WW II until 1991, the Soviet Union was condemned by the West for creating friendly governments in its buffer zone of Eastern Europe, including Poland, and accused of being an imminent threat to the ‘free’ nations of Western Europe. And by declaring in 2005 that the demise of the Soviet Union had been a geo-political catastrophe, Vladimir Putin provided the United States with a handy excuse to condemn Russia’s every policy.

Russia is labelled as aggressor for respecting the referendum organized by Crimea’s largely Russian population that desperately wants to become part of Russia, as it had been for centuries before the Soviet regime made it part of Ukraine. It is also suspected of evil designs on the Baltic countries as well as in Moldova in the south. And yet, while Washington has made it illegitimate for Russia to resist encirclement, NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe implies that the Soviet Union’s concerns over its buffer zone were legitimate.

The 70th D-day anniversary will serve as backdrop for the first meeting between Obama and Putin since the Ukraine coup, which the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (an interesting, and probably post-Soviet title) Victoria Nuland boasted publicly that Washington spent five billion dollars preparing. It is more than likely that a good part of those funds went to Right Sektor, an ultra-right para-military group that trained in Western Ukraine for months before turning the peaceful Maidan protests into all-out war and installing a government in which it holds four ministerial positions while continuing to worship its predecessors who, as German allies, committed atrocities against Jews, Communists, Gypsies and Poles.

Notwithstanding this uncomfortable truth, the Polish government can no more refrain from meddling in Ukraine today than it has historically. However, Europe’s uncomfortable position between a rock and a hard place is evident in the arrangements France’s President made for receiving both Obama and Putin in Paris in the run-up to tomorrow’s ceremony in Normandy: He had dinner with Obama, then a late supper with Putin. (Putin also responded to journalists’ questions in a TV show, which you can see on RT or France 24.) The reality behind these diplomatic acrobatics is that as Western Ukrainians reach for a European dream that is fast vanishing for its citizens, the United States and its allies are faced with a nightmare: Russia’s spearheading of an economic zone stretching from the Black Sea to the Pacific, in tandem with China.

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Finishing the Job

3:58 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

At the Famine Memorial in Kiev

The existence of an American-backed putsch government in Ukraine suggests that Washington has decided to finish the job it started almost a century ago. The remotely controlled events in Ukraine are not about bringing liberal democracy to that country, but about securing its rich black soil for agribusiness, its minerals for defense contractors, its cheap labor for Washington’s European ‘allies’, and most of all, about drawing Russia into an armed conflict that would finish what was started in 1919, when a motley Western coalition known as the White Army tried to arrest the momentum of the Russian Revolution. Since then, pernicious socialist ideas have spread beyond the industrial world to the four corners of its former colonies, seriously inconveniencing the 1%’s plan to dominate the planet.

World War II interrupted the task of defeating people’s power. (Soviets were workers’ councils, and today’s referendum in Donetsk and Lugansk calls for a People’s Republic.) The war against Germany and Japan was a school yard fight among capitalists for supremacy, forcing the liberal democracies to engage Germany and Japan, momentarily interrupting their main task, which was to defeat Stalin’s Soviet Union. As soon as that war ended, Washington picked up the fight against communism,with the Berlin Air Lift, the Korean War, containment and the Cold War.

Fast forward, the ‘communist threat’ having been officially extinguished with the demise of the Soviet Union, in 2001 Americans were instructed to focus on Islamic terrorism so that the war complex could finish off the so-called ‘peace dividend’, obfuscating the fact that Russia would be an enemy in the halls of power as long as the socialist ethos remained popular across the globe: was not the second largest economy in the world, the European Union, a social democracy? Were not most third world countries trying to combine capitalist development with socialist protections? The economic crisis of 2008 seriously wounded the European welfare state, but did nothing to dissuade the rest of the world from setting up free clinics and Bolsas Familiales (as in Brazil), putting a crimp in the goal of world domination by the 1% centered around Wall Street and the defense industry.

Although upon the demise of the Soviet Union Gorbatchev had been given to understand that NATO would not advance into the former satellite countries of Eastern Europe, NATO got around that by coupling its membership with that of the European Union, to which most of the former satellite countries aspired. Currently, as Russia is forced to defend its influence in Ukraine (the two countries being not only neighbors, but essentially part of the same geo-political entity going back a thousand years), NATO rushes to conduct war games in the Baltic counties while readying missiles for Poland, ostensibly to defend against Russia’s supposed goal of recreating the Soviet Union.

My review of The Russian Tradition by Tibor Szamuely details Russia’s evolution following two hundred and fifty years of Mongol domination, how it came to be the largest country on earth and why long frontiers imply constant threats. It also suggests that absent any direct threat, Russia has no reason to again take over the Baltic republics, much less Poland. Last but not least, it suggests why Putin’s plans for a Eurasian entity include support for modernization in the Muslim countries on its southern rim, which is the opposite of America’s bellicose approach to the Islamist threat.

Alas, relying on sound bites to follow current events, the American public fails to differentiate between self-defense forces and shock troops determined to take power in Ukraine, allowing Washington to praise Neo-Nazi fighters that deposed an elected President in Kiev, while describing ordinary people erecting barricades against them in Odessa as terrorists. This abysmal lack of knowledge results in the most powerful country the world has even seen being able to accuse others for its bellicosity. Forcing Russia into a defensive position by accusing it of designs on its neighbors, then offering NATO protection, is part of Washington’s fight against the only two countries which together could challenge its dominance: Russia and China.

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Pusillanimous Europe

1:22 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

It’s hard to know which is worse: a Europe that is still caught in a Cold war stance between the bear and the eagle, or a Europe that allows itself to drift into Fascism, as if World War II had never happened.  Notwithstanding the strength of its economy, Europe is in this position because it never took its place among the other four Eurasian giants: Russia, India, China and the Muslim world, preferring a less challenging role as Washington’s junior partner.

Catherine Ashton’s lack of surprise and horror upon hearing that the government she helped put in place had hired snipers to fire upon both protesters and police reveals the true nature of the West’s campaign to detach Ukraine from Russia: F. William Engdhal’s “Full Spectrum Dominance” is not just about ruling the world; it’s about adopting fascist methods to do so.

During the Cold War, Europe was cowed into supporting the United States by constant warnings of Soviet tanks about rolling across the Danubian plain- or at the very least Europe’s ‘Finlandization’: a peaceful takeover by economic means.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, the EU breathed a sigh of relief and signed up for Russian gas.  Now it has to choose between being warm and becoming part of real war Fascism.

The conflict is still between the left and the right, even if the labels are not exactly the same. Ukrainian demonstrators who pulled down statues of Lenin may have been fighting yesterday’s battle, but I suspect they also reject the socialist ethos that informs many of Putin’s orientations – including the reluctance to use force in Crimea and his request for a special session of the Security Council to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.

Re the Olympics: “Do Not Trust Your Friends”

4:45 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Russia Today (RT): With such biased Western reporting about the Sochi Olympics, never was an ancient Greek saying from the Trojan War more apropos: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.”

I’ve been watching Russia’s English language television channel, RT (Russia Today) for several hours a day for about a year now, and this has given me a picture of Vladimir Putin’s presidency that casual watchers miss. When you have seen dozens of interviews by American educated Russian Oxana Boyko, or French educated Georgian Sophie Schevarnadze, Americans Abby Martin and Max Keiser, or Briton’s goof-off John Brown exploring the farthest reaches of this vast country – or even the American ‘Resident’ who poses short questions to New Yorkers on the street, you realize that Russia‘s President is searching for something that is neither Western style capitalism nor Communism. That puts him on the same wave length as grassroots movements around the globe, whether we’re talking about the demonstrators in Muslim Turkey’s Taksim Square, Spain’s ‘Indignados’ or the Occupy Movement.

While taking every opportunity to reveal America’s problems at home and abroad, the ‘Voice of Russia’ seeks out movers, shakers and thinkers from around the world who have something useful to say about the possibilities of combining equity with development for humans in the throes of religious upheaval on a planet that challenges their survival as a species. American dissidents like Tom Hartmann or Peter Lavelle have been joined by Larry King, who prefaces his interviews with the slogan ‘Does the Media Abandon Us or Do We Abandon the Media?’

The sound bites that have accompanied the Sochi Winter Olympics, whether about security or the meaning of the low-level official US delegation (headed by the former head of Homeland Security, Janet Napoletano, while a U.S. warship stands ominous guard in the Black Sea over an anticipated terrorist threat), are part of an American campaign to persuade the world that alas, although the Communist Soviet Union has been succeeded by a capitalist Russia, the largest country in the world is still not an acceptable partner on the international stage because it is not a democracy but an ‘autocracy,’ ruled by a  former KGB operative, Vladimir Putin. (Never mind that President George H. W. Bush was a former head of the CIA.)

This campaign is made more difficult by RT’s message that according to a recent article in the Buenos Aires Herald is seen by 630 million people around the globe: cooperation is better than competition and confrontation. The new motto of France’s English language channel, France 24, ‘Understand the World’, is equally subversive, and both define the growing divide between official America and the rest of the planet. After a century of anti-Communism, it is almost impossible for an American politician or diplomat to see anything other than political maneuvering in Russia’s behavior, a lamentable continuation of the Cold War, when the turn to capitalism of a re-baptized Russia fails to signal its alignment with everything we represent. Washington’s antagonism toward the Soviet Union was based on its theoretic espousal of redistribution as opposed to ‘a level playing field.’ But the reasons for its current antagonism vis a vis Moscow are the same as those which drove us to war against Germany and Japan: commercial interests, which have only been heightened in a world scrambling for the last resources. And in that confrontation, resource rich Russia is seen as a threat to Washington.

Beyond that, while ‘the West’ (or ‘Global Corporatism’) seeks to maximize profits, Russia and China, harking to other traditions, see capitalism as the latest tool for achieving humanistic solutions to the problems of a post-industrial world, placing people above profits. And whether we are talking about the much-derided ‘harmonious society’ being touted in China, or Putin’s emphasis on traditional values evidenced in RT’s choice of investigations and conversations, both continue to believe that solutions require dialogue, negotiation and coopera-tion, while the now old ‘new world’ mindlessly touts naked power and confrontation.

Many Americans are prevented from understanding what is going on by a permanent background noise that goes something like this: “The ‘other side’ claims to want ‘peace,’ but it really wants to take over the world.” The dominant theme of the Cold War interpreted the slogan ‘Workers of the World, Unite’ to mean that the Soviet Union – the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ – wanted to conquer the world in the same way that Hitler did. This misapprehension is enabled by ignorance of both the fascist and socialist ideologies. Incapable of defining either political system, the American people have been taught to fear only one thing: lack of ‘freedom.’ The Nazi dictatorship having been defeated, we do not need to fear fascism: however, the Soviet Union having imploded without undergoing Western directed regime change, can still not be trusted under the name ‘Russia’ for notwithstanding elections, it is still an ‘authoritarian regime,’ meaning one in which the people are not ‘really free.’

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Ukraine’s Hissy Fit

8:57 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

 

The country that used to be the breadbasket of Europe is a new bone of contention between the European Union and Russia. Ukraine, the land of the southern Russians (as Yugoslavia was the land of the southern Slavs), sits on Russia’s Western frontier.

According to one RT commentator, the Poles and Lithuanians are pushing Brussels to bring Ukraine into the European fold. Although they have old scores to settle, these pale in comparison to a shared desire to cock a snoot at Russia in retaliation for a historical pattern of domination.

It is difficult for Westerners to understand why any country would want to join a European Union that is currently experiencing so many problems. In fact, this is a totally irrational desire: the Orthodox former Soviet Republics, whether it be Bela Rus, Ukraine or Georgia, are obsessed with not wanting to be identified with historically backward or Communist Russia. Notwithstanding their own backwardness they want to  be considered part of the culturally superior West.  Having lived in Eastern Europe for six years when it was still part of the Soviet Empire, I can testify that it is impossible to overestimate this longing.  When I worked at the Hungarian Radio, lack of recognition that together with Poland and Czechoslovakia it was indeed part of Europe was expressed as: ‘They think we still cook meat under the saddle.’  Of all the countries of the East European block, Hungary most actively strove to play the role of bridge between East and West. Its efforts culminated in the opening of its frontier with Austria starting in May 1989 that allowed thousands of East German tourists to reach the West. A previously unthinkable act, it led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November and the dissolution of the Soviet block.

But Bela Rus, Ukraine and Georgia have far less of a claim to a European identity than the Eastern European satellite nations. In the Middle Ages, Bela Rus, Ukraine and Russia were all part of the principality of Kiev, or Kievan Rus, which extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea. While all three countries claim Kievan Rus as their cultural heritage, today independent Bela Rus and Ukraine constitute a sort of no-man’s land that buffers their vast and powerful neighbor.  As of 2011, Ukraine was the world’s third-largest grain exporter, and according to Wikipedia, it is one of ten most attractive agricultural regions. Although regarded as a developing economy with high potential, indispensable economic and legal reforms would be more brutally implemented under Brussels tutelage than if they happened at Ukraine’s own pace.

And yet, for western Ukrainians, (as opposed to the pro-Russian eastern half), the fact that Brussels cannot afford to bring them up to speed economically is obviously less important than being part of glamorous, sophisticated Europe.  They probably feel that they are well-acquainted with hardship, but the demonstrators in Kiev should ask themselves whether they would they be happy in a European Union that is being forced to walk back its welfare state?

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Sea Changes V, VI, VII and VIII

10:30 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

When Larry King signed on to RT, Vladimir Putin’s international television channel that broadcasts in English, Spanish and Arabic, one could rationalize that the aging TV personality may not have found another opportunity in the US after leaving CNN.

But now Donald Trump goes to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant and reveals plans to build a Trump Tower there.

And while that was happening, Germany and Brazil, whose leaders were among those spied on by the NSA, submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly calling for internationally recognized rights to privacy.

If anyone is still wondering whether a new international configuration is taking shape  (led by China, Russia, and the other BRICS nations, including Brazil), they need only to consider that during a Florida fund raiser President Obama mused that it might not make sense to maintain the Cuban embargo put in place when he was a toddler.

A few years ago lifting the Cuban embargo might have sufficed to save America’s reputation.  But now, while it will of course benefit the Cubans, it’s too little too late to save the Empire.

It’s Not About Islam It’s About Money!

9:21 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

How long must we wait before the media begins to connect the dots?

- After twelve years of war supposedly against Al Qaeda, ithe U.S. is getting ready to sit down with the Taliban, who, by offering hospitality to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, made 9/11 possible;

- The US has supported its right-wing Gulf allies, starting with Saudi Arabia, in their efforts to funnel arms and fighters to Syria, for the purpose of toppling the only left-wing, secular government in the Arab world.

- Assad is accused of murdering his own people, while neither Bahrein, which is home to the US Sixth Fleet, nor Yemen, another close US ally, receives the slightest reprimand for violently repressing mass demonstrations, arresting doctors who assist victims of government violence, and jailing journalists.

Now consider this: Like Syria today, Iraq was governed by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party until we invaded.  In the Iraq/Iran war (1980-1988), we sided with Iraq against the Revolutionary government of Iran, either because our diplomats didn’t have a clue about the Ba’ath Party, or because a decision was made to first eliminate Iran, then go after Iraq.

It seems clear to me that the struggle that began early in the last century, and which appeared to end with the demise of the Soviet Union, has continued by the United States. That is the struggle between the many and the few, now known as the 1% and the 99%.

It is a struggle that no longer simply opposes trade unions to bosses, but now would make every human activity a cash cow for someone. It pits a military/financial/-industrial complex, feebly represented by government, against the survival of a growing world population and the planet that sustains it.

The neo-conservatives who effectively run the United States, are determined to eliminate every vestige of democratic socialism, whether it be the European Union’s welfare states, Assad’s Arab socialism, Iran’s revolutionary ayatollah’s, or anyone other regime in which economic rights are as important as civil rights.

To that end, Washington has taken the gigantic step of throwing its weight behind Salafist fighters in Syria, together with the retrograde Gulf States, Turkey and Israel – acountry that went from being a socialist project to one in which the lower classes increasingly find it hard to make ends meet. The mealy-mouthed excuse that the important thing is to get rid of Assad, hoping that ‘moderate’ Islamists will ultimately prevail over the others is not about saving the Syrian people, it’s about shoring up world capitalism.  The United States prefers conservative – ven Salafist – Muslims, to progressive Judeo-Christians.

Increasingly arrayed against this project are a majority of the world’s governments, shepherded by Russia and China. Washington plays down the fact that the Moscow/Peking alliance is stronger than it was during the Cold War, as illustrated by the arrival of Edward Snowden in Moscow from Hong Kong, which is no longer a British colony, but a Chinese administrative region.

Snowden is rumored to have been offered asylum in a country in Latin America, America’s former back yard.