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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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Munich II?

12:49 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Savage photograph of Neville Chamberlain.

Neville Chamberlain

The increasingly nagging thought that Europe appears to be witnessing a double deja vue becomes irresistible as heads of state gather in Germany for the 50th Annual Munich Security Conference, http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/feb/01/russia-slams-western-support-for-ukraine-oppn/ an event that is no less significant at this point for being privately organized.

This year Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and American Secretary of State John Kerry, are duking it out over Ukraine, possibly the most ironic crisis in recent history.  As pundits here and there evoke the hundredth anniversary of the First World War, how not to focus as well on the Russian Revolution of 1917 that provoked Western Intervention on the side of the Czar – as well as the Cold War that shaped the second part of the twentieth century?

Considering President Reagan’s policy of forcing the Soviet Union to maintain a costly arms race, to the detriment of consumer satisfactions, are we now witnessing an attempt to diminish a rising Russia by detaching Ukraine – then Belo Rus and Georgia – from the largest country on the planet that harbors all sorts of natural resources including oil and natural gas?

Will Europe once again give itself over to fascism, bolstering its Neo-Nazi movements with Stormtrooper- inspired Western Ukraine?  One thing is certain: no conference venue could be more ironically appropriate for that attempt than the lovely Bavarian city whose name became a synonym for capitulation in 1938.
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America’s Finlandization of Europe

3:11 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

As Edward Snowden prepares to tell the German leaders everything he knows about American spying, and considers the possibility of moving his asylum from Moscow to Berlin, it’s time to take a retrospective look at Europe’s relations with Russia.

During the Cold War, Washington incessantly warned Europeans that even if Soviet tanks didn’t come rolling across the Central plain, the continent would be neutralized, as happened to Finland.  For decades that country felt it had to avoid challenging its powerful neighbor, the Soviet Union, thus limiting its ability to pursue a truly independent foreign policy.  (During that period social democratic Finland rose to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world…)

Somehow, pundits on both sides of the Atlantic warned, doughty Moscow was going to draw the prosperous, hip countries of Western Europe into its orbit and lock them away behind an Iron Curtain.  Reagan wanted to install ‘defensive’ Pershing missiles in West Germany; if fired, they would have destroyed the heart of Europe in order to ‘save’ it from Communism.  That insane project fortified the peace movements on both sides of the Iron Curtain and in a few short years led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the emancipation of the rest of Eastern Europe, and less than a year later, to the formal reunification of Germany’s two halves.

Notwithstanding this truly earth-shattering event, which no recognized pundit foresaw (I did, in my book ‘Une autre Europe, un autre Monde’ which came out on the day the Berlin Wall fell), the governments of Europe stuck with Washington (those of the Eastern half being the most pro-American, even though Washington had not lifted a finger to liberate them).  After 9/11, their osmosis with Uncle Sam  led them to throw decades of strict banking regulations to the winds and buy into Wall Street’s Financial Follies.  In 2008, the world’s largest economy was decapitated, along with its welfare system that included month-long vacations, maternity leave and a host of minor benefits that Americans could not even dream of.

Meanwhile, Russia got through the Yeltsin years, during which Western financiers got richer on the backs of its citizens, finally inventing a new power-sharing system between a law professor and a former KGB agent.  The musical chairs between Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, who have alternated in the roles of President and Prime Minister, elicit condescending remarks from American pundits.  But is this arrangement any less ‘democratic’ than alternations between the American Democratic and Republican parties which nowadays can hardly be told apart?

Under its duopoly, Russia’s involvement with Europe is not limited to supplying gas: besides being a member of the Council of Europe, (along with Ukraine and Azerbaijan, while the United States is only an observer…), Russian teams play European football, soccer, hockey, etc. (The Union of European Football Association includes Russia, Kazakstan, Moldova, Bela Rus and Ukraine….)  While all this can be seen as a post-Communist friendly Finlandization (or the realization of Mikhail Gorbachev’s dream of ‘a common European home’), is it pure coincidence that it should come on the heels of a truly devastating American Finlandization of Europe.

The 2008 crash was no self-contained event from which the continent, five years on, is recovering.  It put an end to a system that had provided its people with ever-broader support for everything from education to old-age care (known pejoratively as cradle-to-grave welfare) since the end of World War II.

The United States did not turn Europe into a battlefield, or even bring it under its direct control, as the Soviet Union supposedly aspired to do: it used the international financial system it controls to destroy a superior way of life built up over half a century.  And following Edward Snowden’s revelations as to the extent and depth of America’s secret aggressions, Europe is increasingly likely to gravitate toward Russia and the other BRICS countries, leaving the United States to console itself with the conviction that the rest of the world hates it for its freedoms.