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April 22, 2021

The Ukraine Crisis Recedes - But A False Narrative Of It Leads To Bad Conclusions

Some two month ago we discussed how the U.S. focus on narratives will let it collide with reality. It is certainly not only the U.S. government that creates narratives, comes to believe in them, and then fails when it is confronted with reality. Carried by think tanks and media the narrative mold has grown throughout the wider 'western' world.

On the danger of this development the above piece quoted Alastair Crooke who wrote:

[B]eing so invested, so immersed, in one particular ‘reality’, others’ ‘truths’ then will not – cannot – be heard. They do not stand out proud above the endless flat plain of consensual discourse. They cannot penetrate the hardened shell of a prevailing narrative bubble, or claim the attention of élites so invested in managing their own version of reality.

The ‘Big Weakness’? The élites come to believe their own narratives – forgetting that the narrative was conceived as an illusion, one among others, created to capture the imagination within their society (not others’).

They lose the ability to stand apart, and see themselves – as others see them. They become so enraptured by the virtue of their version of the world, that they lose all ability to empathise or accept others’ truths. They cannot hear the signals. The point here, is that in that talking past (and not listening) to other states, the latters’ motives and intentions will be mis-construed – sometimes tragically so.

Over the last weeks we passed through a crisis that easily could have had a tragic ending.

Since February the Ukraine built up a force to retake the renegade Donbas region in east-Ukraine by military force. After waiting several week to see the situation more clearly Russia started to assemble a counterforce backed up by statements that were sufficiently strong to deter the Ukraine from continuing its plans. The danger of a Ukrainian assault has now receded.

Today the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave orders for the troops to return to their bases. Much of the equipment though will stay on training grounds near Ukraine until the regular fall maneuvers later this year take place. That minimizes transport costs and gives a little time advantage should someone in the Ukraine again have silly ideas.

Russia has clearly won this round.

Cont. reading: The Ukraine Crisis Recedes - But A False Narrative Of It Leads To Bad Conclusions

Posted by b at 17:25 UTC | Comments (59)

Open Thread 2021-030

News & views ...

Posted by b at 15:28 UTC | Comments (42)

April 21, 2021

Vladimir Putin On Petty Tabaquis And International Issues

“Nice sidekick, Shere Khan. A hyena who laughs at his own bad jokes.”
― Bagheera to Shere Khan about Tabaqui

Today Russia's President Vladimir Putin gave his annual Address to the Federal Assembly (English transcript).

Most of his talk was about domestic and economic issues. At the end he made some remarks towards international developments and other governments.

The warnings he is giving seems stronger than usual. Here are some snippets with emphasis added by me:

Setting the general tone:

Russia certainly has its own interests we defend and will continue to defend within the framework of international law, as all other states do. And if someone refuses to understand this obvious thing or does not want to conduct a dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone with us, Russia will always find a way to defend its stance.

On the coup attempt in Belarus which seems to have been planned with outside actors:

[L]isten, you can think whatever you like of, say, Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych or [Nicolas] Maduro in Venezuela. I repeat, you can like or dislike them, including Yanukovych who almost got killed, too, and removed from power via an armed coup. You can have your own opinion of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s policy. But the practice of staging coups d’état and planning political assassinations, including those of high-ranking officials – well, this goes too far. This is beyond any limits.

Suffice it to mention the admission made by the detained participants in the conspiracy about a planned siege of Minsk, including plans to block the city infrastructure and communications, and a complete shutdown of the entire power system in the capital of Belarus! This actually means they were preparing a massive cyberattack. What else could it be? You know, you cannot just do it all with one switch.
What if there had been a real attempt at a coup d’état in Belarus? After all, this was the ultimate goal. How many people would have been hurt? What would have become of Belarus? Nobody is thinking about this.

Just as no one was thinking about the future of Ukraine during the coup in that country.

A remark on the ankle-biters in the international scene who serve as U.S. proxies:

Cont. reading: Vladimir Putin On Petty Tabaquis And International Issues

Posted by b at 17:23 UTC | Comments (115)

April 20, 2021

Xi's Boao Forum Speech And The Messed Up Reporting Around It

A Reuters piece about a speech held by China's President Xi Jinping reveals how 'western' reporting skew the view of global issues:

China's Xi calls for fairer world order as rivalry with U.S. deepens

BOAO, China (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called for a rejection of hegemonic power structures in global governance, amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over a widening range of issues including alleged human rights abuses.

Speaking at the annual Boao Forum for Asia, Xi criticised efforts by some countries to "build barriers" and "decouple", which he said would harm others and benefit no one.

China has long called for reforms of the global governance system to better reflect a more diverse range of perspectives and values from the international community, including its own, instead of those of a few major nations.

The bolted sentence is wrong. China has not called 'for reforms of the global governance system' but for a return to the existing global governance system that the 'west' over the last years tended to ignore.

Here is the relevant section of his speech (emphasis added):

- We need consultation on an equal footing to create a future of shared benefits. Global governance should reflect the evolving political and economic landscape in the world, conform to the historical trend of peace, development and win-win cooperation, and meet the practical needs in addressing global challenges. We need to follow the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, uphold true multilateralism, and make the global governance system more fair and equitable. We need to safeguard the UN-centered international system, preserve the international order underpinned by international law, and uphold the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core. World affairs should be handled through extensive consultation, and the future of the world should be decided by all countries working together.

To 'safeguard', 'preserve' and 'uphold' existing laws and organizations is not a 'call for reform' of the global governance system but a call for a return to its foundations which were set after the second world war. The Reuters writer pretends, like some 'western' politicians, that those foundations no longer exist.

The Reuters piece continues:

Cont. reading: Xi's Boao Forum Speech And The Messed Up Reporting Around It

Posted by b at 16:21 UTC | Comments (95)

April 19, 2021

Why Washington's Anti-Russian Policies Are Likely To Intensify

Thanks to a monoculture of anti-Russia hawks in U.S. policy institutions relations between the U.S. and Russia are likely to further decline. But some hope might be seen at the horizon.

Scott Ritter predicts the end of a generation of anti-Russian influencers in Washington DC who depict Russia and is policies as being run by just one man:

These “Putin whisperers” infiltrated every aspect of American culture and politics, their writings achieving near-scripture-like reception in the pages of American newspapers and political journals, and the authors of this intellectual dreck being offered prime seats at the table of national security policymaking, either on the National Security Council, or as a National Intelligence Officer.
These “Putin Whisperers” thrived during the administration of President Barack Obama, led by the likes of Michael McFaul, and achieved near-critical mass during the Trump administration, empowered by overly politicized claims of collusion with Russia by people in the Trump circle. They continue to play an important role today, filling the airwaves and pages with anti-Putin propaganda whose cumulative effect is to dumb down the American public by demonizing Russia and its president to the point that any accusation will be accepted at face value, regardless of the lack of corroborating evidence or the improbable veracity of its claim; the recent scandal over allegations that Russia paid the Taliban bounties to kill Americans in Afghanistan serves as an apt illustration of this phenomenon.

Unfortunately the constant demonization of Russia's president by the 'Putin-whisperers' has already led to some tragic consequences:

A children’s author and parish councillor died after a neighbour with mental health issues shot him in the face and stamped on his head, believing he worked for Vladimir Putin and was to blame for the spread of Covid-19, an inquest heard.

But the danger of seeing everything caused by just one man is much greater. It explains the confused policies of the Biden administration which may lead towards war.

Ritter argues that Biden trapped himself:

Biden is a prisoner of his own anti-Russian rhetoric, influenced in large part by the need to be seen as responding to a domestic political prerogative founded on decades of Russia - and Putin-bashing at the hands of the “Putin whisperers” and their ilk. It is one thing to spout off as a candidate for president; it is an altogether different reality to be serving as president, where words and actions have life-or-death consequences.

As the realities set in the people and their policies will have to change:

These are policies pushed and promoted by the “Putin whisperers.” For the moment, their will continues to prevail. But their days are numbered, as realpolitik pragmatists in the White House, Pentagon and Intelligence Community are recognizing the reality that the days of taking for granted US global hegemony are over, and that for the United States to remain relevant, it must adapt to the reality of a multi-polar world, and Russia’s rightful role therein. This will not happen overnight, but it is in the process of happening. In promoting and supporting Biden’s latest round of sanctions, the “Putin whisperers” have reached their high-water mark. From here on out, their influence will begin to ebb as the national security demand for fact-based assessments outstrips the domestic political need for fact-free propaganda.

I am not that optimistic. The Blob is resistant to change because those who are inside it tend to bite away anyone with even a slightly different view.

Consider the case of Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is known as a middle-of-the-road expert of U.S. and Soviet/Russian relations - not a hawk, but also not an appeaser.

Rojansky was supposed to chair the Russia desk in Biden's National Security Council. As soon as that became know the 'Putin Whisperers' came out in force to fight the nomination. Axios led the charge:

Cont. reading: Why Washington's Anti-Russian Policies Are Likely To Intensify

Posted by b at 16:38 UTC | Comments (195)

April 18, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-029

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

  • April 14 - RIP Anna Missed
    Check how the color of the hand changes when looked at from different angles. How did he do this?
notebook #1 - by anna missed

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-029

Posted by b at 12:37 UTC | Comments (142)

April 17, 2021

Biden's Russia-China Tactic Is To Wage War AND To Ask For Cooperation. It Will Fail.

The policies of the Biden administration towards Russia and China are delusional. It thinks that it can squeeze these countries but still successfully ask them for cooperation. It believes that the U.S. position is stronger than it really is and that China and Russia are much weaker than they are.

It is also full of projection. The U.S. accuses both countries of striving for empire, of wanting to annex more land and of human rights violations. But is only the U.S. that has expanding aspirations. Neither China nor Russia are interested in running an empire. They have no interest in planting military bases all over the world. Though both have marginal border conflicts they do not want to acquire more land. And while the U.S. bashes both countries for alleged human rights issues it is starving whole populations (Yemen, Syria, Venezuela) through violence and economic sanctions.

The U.S. power structures in the Pentagon and CIA use the false accusations against Russia and China as pretense for cold military and hot economic wars against both countries. They use color revolution schemes (Ukraine, Myanmar) to create U.S. controlled proxy forces near their borders.

At the same time as it tries to press these countries the U.S. is seeking their cooperation in selected fields. It falsely believes that it has some magical leverage.

Consider this exchange from yesterday's White House press briefing about Biden asking for a summit with Putin while, at the same time, implementing more sanctions against Russia:

Q What if [Putin] says “no,” though? Wouldn’t that indicate some weakness on the part of the American administration here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President’s view is that Russia is on the outside of the global community in many respects, at this point in time. It’s the G7, not the G8. They have — obviously, we’ve put sanctions in place in order to send a clear message that there should be consequences for the actions; the Europeans have also done that.

What the President is offering is a bridge back. And so, certainly, he believes it’s in their interests to take him up on that offer.

The G7 are not the 'global community'. They have altogether some 500 million inhabitants out of 7.9 billion strong global population. Neither China nor India are members of the G7 nor is any South American or African country. Moreover Russia has rejected a Russian return into the G7/8 format:

“Russia is focused on other formats, apart from the G7,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a brief statement ..

Russia has no interest in a summit which would only be used by the U.S. to further bash Russia. Why should it give Biden that pleasure when there is nothing that Russia would gain from it. Russia does not need a 'bridge back'. There will be no summit.

Biden also  called for a climate summit during which he hopes to show 'American leadership' and to dictated to other countries, especially China, how much they will have to reduce their output of climate changing gases:

Cont. reading: Biden's Russia-China Tactic Is To Wage War AND To Ask For Cooperation. It Will Fail.

Posted by b at 17:53 UTC | Comments (139)

April 15, 2021

Three Recent Failures In Foreign Policy Coordination - Why Is Jake Sullivan Creating Such A Mess?

This was fun to watch.

U.S. Navy ships were supposed to sail into the Black Sea "in a show of support for Ukraine" and to "send a specific message to Moscow" due to "concerns about mounting tensions between Ukraine and Russia."

Moscow then let it be known that it was not amused about the obviously preplanned provocation: "We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good."

Next the U.S. Navy put its tail between its legs "due to concerns about escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine."

So the U.S. wanted to send ships due to "concerns about mounting tensions between Ukraine and Russia" and then pulled them back due to "concerns about escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine".

Here is the trail:

CNN April 9 - US considering sending warships to Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions

The United States is considering sending warships into the Black Sea in the next few weeks in a show of support for Ukraine amid Russia's increased military presence on Ukraine's eastern border, a US defense official told CNN Thursday.

The US Navy routinely operates in the Black Sea, but a deployment of warships now would send a specific message to Moscow that the US is closely watching, the official said.
The Biden administration and the international community have expressed concerns about mounting tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

MEE April 9 - US notified Turkey about warship deployment in the Black Sea, Ankara says

The United States has notified Turkey that it intends to deploy two warships to the Black Sea amid rising tensions with Russia, Turkish foreign ministry sources said on Friday.

Washington made the notification just over two weeks ago, as required under the Montreux Convention on passage through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.

The warships will stay in the Black Sea until 5 May.

Reuters April 13 - Russia warns Black Sea-bound US warships to stay away from Crimea

Moscow warned the United States on Tuesday to keep its warships away from the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, calling their deployment in the Black Sea a provocation.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was cited by Russian news agencies on Tuesday as warning U.S. warships in the Black Sea to keep their distance, saying the risk of unspecified incidents was very high.

"There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores, this is purely a provocative action. Provocative in the direct sense of the word: they are testing our strength, playing on our nerves. They will not succeed," Ryabkov was cited as saying.

"We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good."

Politico April 15 - U.S. drops plans to send destroyers into the Black Sea due to concerns over Russia

The Pentagon has scrapped a potential Black Sea transit by two Navy destroyers this week due to concerns about escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the plans.
The tentative transit, first reported by CNN, was not unusual or designed to send any particular new signal, as the U.S. Navy typically conducts eight or nine such movements per year, the person said.

But after new fighting erupted in Eastern Europe between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists, officials decided not to undertake the transit to avoid needlessly escalating the situation, the person said.

Then came the next funny thing.

Biden asked Putin for a summit in a third country. The Russians then said lets first see how you behave. Next Biden puts 'tough sanction' on Russia for things that it likely did not even do. Result - no summit.

Then there was this silly story about Russia (Iran, China) paying bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers but with no soldiers getting killed. That obvious nonsense was officially buried today:

U.S. Intel Walks Back Claim Russians Put Bounties on American Troops

[O]n Thursday, the Biden administration announced that U.S. intelligence only had “low to moderate” confidence in the story after all. Translated from the jargon of spyworld, that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven—and possibly untrue.

But just yesterday the Biden administration used the very same false bounty claim to justify the sanctions on Russia:

The sanctions will be among what President Biden’s aides say are “seen and unseen” steps in response to the hacking, known as SolarWinds; to the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia offered to pay bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill American troops; and to Russia’s yearslong effort to interfere in United States elections, according to American officials and others who have been briefed on the actions.

All three, the ship sending and pullback, the attempt to get a summit with Putin to then issue shortsighted and dangerous sanctions, and the contradicting 'Russian bounty' tale point to badly coordinated policy planning.

Isn't Jake Sullivan, Biden's National Security Advisor, supposed to plan and coordinate such steps?

So far he has been a creating a total mess.

Posted by b at 17:48 UTC | Comments (209)

Open Thread 2021-028

News & views ...

Posted by b at 14:01 UTC | Comments (168)

April 14, 2021

Neoconservatives Demand More Meddling In Afghanistan

The wickedness of the imperial U.S. vanguard is well expressed in an Atlantic piece by Eliot A. Cohen, the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

On the U.S. exit from Afghanistan Cohen writes:

This is not the end of the war; it is merely the end of its direct American phase. The war began more than four decades ago, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and its first American phase, in the 1980s, featured indirect United States intervention on behalf of the anti-Soviet mujahideen. The war will assuredly last well beyond the American exit. There will be no power-sharing, no reconciliation, no peace of the brave.

Those are lies. The war began in the mid of 1979 when the U.S. armed warlords who fought against the Afghan government:

In an interview with French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur in January 1998, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski recounted that “according to the official version of history, CIA aid to the mujahideen began during 1980, that is, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, kept secret until now, is quite different: Indeed, it was on July 3, 1979, that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.”

Cohen continues:

The war will grind on, with the edge going to the brutal fundamentalist warriors of the Taliban, who will torture and slaughter even as they repeal the advances made in women’s education and secularism in any form. But they will not have it all their own way. Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, India, and the Central Asian republics have their own stakes in this war, and not all of them want to see an outright Taliban victory. So they will fund clients and proxies, as will, in all likelihood, the United States. And the people of Afghanistan will continue to suffer.

Those advances ...

Cont. reading: Neoconservatives Demand More Meddling In Afghanistan

Posted by b at 18:53 UTC | Comments (69)