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Sochi 2014: US vs. Russia

5:27 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker


Today’s news that the Russian government is hunting for four Dagestani terrorists is accompanied by the seemingly casual announcement that the U.S. is so worried about terrorist attacks during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the Russian Black Sea resort located on the other side of the Caucasus Mountains from Dagestan, that it has poised warships in the Black Sea ready to evacuate victims.

As world opinion appears to be shifting from half a century of deference to Washington to a sometimes grudging preference for Russia’s international positions, the Obama administration will increasingly engage in anti-Russian propaganda and mischief as the February games approach. This afternoon, MSNBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel told Andrea Mitchell from Moscow that the U.S. finds Russian cooperation on security insufficient, and the Voice of America website complained that Washington is not getting all the information it needs to protect its athletes in the Games.

Although the Russian President declares that his country is prepared for any eventuality, fear is likely to inhibit American travel to the other side of the world in the middle of winter. Does anyone know whether the U.S. had ships poised off the British Coast during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, even though Britain had suffered terrorist attacks in the preceding years?

Perhaps not unrelated to Russia’s chance to show it can compete with the West in organizing a major international event, violent anti-government demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital Kiev have been on-going since the country’s president decided to forego an agreement with the European Union last November. Kiev is 860 miles from Sochi (a relatively small distance as Russian geography goes), and today, Washington accused the Ukrainian government of using excessive force, notwithstanding that dozens of policemen have been injured by club-wielding demonstrators. Their leader is world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, whose far-right party, called strike, blow or punch, is allied with the Ukrainian neo-Nazi party Svoboda. Rumors that neo-Nazis from Eastern Ukraine have been the driving force in the months’ long uprising have been ignored by the Western media and no wonder: As with Washing-ton’s embarassing support of Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, an Assistant Secretary of State was photographed giving the Ukrainian demonstrators cookies.

Recently, there were two bombings in Volgograd, a major rail hub six hundred miles northeast of Sochi, accompanied by specific threats against the games on the part of a militant Sunni group that is fighting for Dagestani independence. (The Caucasus Muslim region of Dagestan was the home of the Boston bombers…) One of the men seemed to be referring to potential American spectators when he said:  “We’ve prepared a present for you and all tourists who come over.”

Alfred McCoy’s recent analysis of the fact that the national security state is not about national security, but about the blackmailing of national and foreign leaders in order to keep them in line, couldn’t be more apropos. The policy began with the conquest of the Philippines more than a hundred years ago and was perfected by J. Edgar Hoover, who founded the FBI in 1935 and led it until his death in 1972, accumulating embarrassing files even on the country’s presidents.

In the Philippines, as elsewhere, the U.S. resorted to all sorts of dirty tricks to get its way. But whatever happens in Sochi next month, it is unlikely to fundamentally alter the current direction of the arrow of time, away from American world leadership and toward a bigger role for Russia.

Sunni/Shi’a, U.S/Russia

9:01 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

As sectarian violence makes headlines once again in the Middle East, the mainstream media still fails to outline its causes, which are ideological as well as religious, thereby distorting as well the increa-singly adversarial nature of the U.S./Russia relationship.

In terms of the Syrian conflict, the main reason behind the conservative Sunni Gulf monarchies’ determination to defeat an Alawite Shi’a president is that Assad’s Ba’ath Party regime is the only secular, progressive government in the Arab world. As such it is implacably opposed by Sunni regimes, not only in the name of fundamentalism, but also because of basic ideological differences.

When Iran is referred to as Syria’s main ally, it is strictly within the context of both being Shi’ite regimes. The public is allowed to forget that the mullahs came to power in Iran through revolution, in which socialist and communist forces played a role. (In a way, what is occurring in the Arab Spring is that progressives have been willing to give the Muslim Brotherhood a chance at leader-ship because of its long-standing history of social activism.)

Similarly, though it goes unnoticed due to lack of commentary by the media, the fact that Putin’s capitalism recognizes the social legacy of Com-munism, (and should therefore be described as a particular form of social democracy in which a strong president keeps oligarchs in line), probably accounts as much as oil or seaports for Russia’s support for both Iran and Syria. From regular watching of the Russian English language news channel, RT, it is obvious that although the Com-munist regime is over and done with, its suc-cessors have not thrown the baby out with the bath water. Vladimir Putin’s media outlet to the world promotes a form of capitalism that emphasis simple pleasures rather than mindless accumu-lation of ‘stuff’.

Together with the other BRICS countries, it not only condemns interference in the internal affairs of countries (a holdover from the Soviet Union), but wars of aggression across the board. As the U.S. considers five options outlined by its top military man General Dempsey, that have as much to do with Syria’s ideological orientation as with its lack of ‘democracy’, Russia continues to campaign for talks rather than an escalation of the conflict.

The same ideological inspiration can be seen in RT’s relentless coverage of America’s sorry state.

Raining on Our Parade – and Europe’s

2:54 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

On this 237th anniversary of the adoption of the American Declaration of Independence from the British crown, the nations of Latin America have declared their independence from the United States.

The plane carrying Bolivian president Evo Morales home from a conference in Moscow saw its overflight permissions cancelled in mid-flight by France, Spain and Portugal, on American suspicions that Edward Snowden might be on board. Noting that no presidential plane has ever been denied airspace in the world since 1945, Latin American leaders have called a special meeting of their organization, UNASUR for tomorrow. (UNASUR includes virtually every Latin American country and is headquartered in Quito, Ecuador and Cochabamba, Bolivia, two countries considering granting asylum to Snowden….)

Meanwhile, France’s President Hollande reminded me of a childhood protest that amused my family when someone tickled me: “Stop it I like it!” France’s – and to a certain extent Europe’s – ‘street walker’ relationship to the United States belies affirmations of independence.  This particular instance of government kowtowing has infuriated all sides of the French political spectrum, who point out that France drafted the original Declaration of Human Rights. Lamely apologizing for ‘faulty intelligence’ about Morales’ plane, Hollande reacted to Snowden’s revelations of outrageous spying by the U.S. with an unconvincing call for the EU – also copiously spied upon – to delay the start of negotiations on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) destined to replace NATO as America’s controlling organization in Europe.

The extent of U.S. spying on countries it touts as allies underlines the fact that the Cold War is not over but has simply gone underground. No European took seriously the Soviet Union’s references to a ‘Common European House’ under Gorbachev. Twenty some odd years later, Russia pipes gas to Europe and signs all manner of economic deals with individual countries ever less keen to support America’s wars in the Middle East (except for Syria). The monumental spy scandal involving a country, not an individual, mock America’s tireless assertions of morality and respect for international law, providing Russia with a golden opportunity to defend them.

Sadly, it seems unlikely that this irrefutable proof of American duplicity will give Europe the spine to join the  movement of the most populous countries of the world toward independence from the American Empire. Read the rest of this entry →