Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 31, 2014

How Foreign Policy Demeans Democracy At Home

Nothing by me but you should read and discuss this essay in Spiked Its conclusion:

The EU and the US act as if they bear no responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine and in Western-Russian relations. Possibly the West has deluded itself about global affairs to such an extent that it is oblivious to its own complicity in the current crisis. Such delusions mean that the normal rules that inform international relations have given way to shallow posturing and empty moralising, always with an eye to making an impact with the media. This corrosion of Western diplomacy represents a real danger to global stability. It also undermines the moral authority of democracy. At a certain point, the politics of double standards in foreign affairs will demean democratic ideals so much that even the integrity of democratic institutions at home will come to be undermined.

To some point this is, I believe, already happening.

Posted by b on March 31, 2014 at 17:35 UTC | Permalink | Comments (141)

March 30, 2014

Ukraine - New Propaganda Meme: Fascists Are Russian Tools

The Right Sektor, the Ukrainian fascist paramilitary group, was the main organization which brutally fought against the riot police on Maidan square. On February 20, after an agreement was signed between president Janukovich and three opposition leaders, the police withdrew. But the Right Sektor did not want to stick to the agreement:

A deal aimed at ending a lethal spiral of violence in Ukraine began to show serious strains late Friday just hours after it had been signed, with angry protesters shouting down opposition members of Parliament who negotiated the accord and a militant leader threatening armed attacks if President Viktor F. Yanukovych did not step down by morning.
Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector, a coalition of hard-line nationalist groups, reacted defiantly to news of the settlement, drawing more cheers from the crowd.

“The agreements that were reached do not correspond to our aspirations,” he said. “Right Sector will not lay down arms. Right Sector will not lift the blockade of a single administrative building until our main demand is met — the resignation of Yanukovych.”

The brutes immediately marched to the parliament, broke in and physically pressed the parliamentarians, those who had not fled, to replace the president.

Yanukovich, members of his party of regions and parliamentarians of the communist party had to flee. The headquarter of the communist party was stormed by the Right Sektor and turned into their headquarter. As the Estonian foreign minister reported to the EU high representative Ashton parliamentarians were beaten right in front of the building. A rump parliament voted to impeach Yanukovich but did not have the required 3/4th of all votes. An illegal government was installed. The U.S. and the EU immediately recognized it even though it had come to pass disregarding the constitution and under physical pressure from the fascist.

Anyone who pointed out that this fascist led coup was illegal and a dangerous precedence was denigrated as a Russian propagandist.

A month later special police force killed one of the Right Sektor leaders, the wanted criminal Oleksandr Muzychko. Right Sektor fighters responded by laying siege on the parliament demanding that the interior minister step down. Now the EU is suddenly concerned and Ashton released a statement:

I strongly condemn the pressure by activists of the Right Sector who have surrounded the building of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Such an intimidation of the parliament is against the democratic principles and rule of law.

Isn't Ashton a fine hypocrite? A month ago these people were driving the putsch and the U.S. and the EU lauded the violence they used as "peaceful" while condemning the rather passive police force. Now such violence is suddenly against the "rule of law". What a joke.

But even worse. Now the Right Sektor fascists are revealed to be Russian agents:

At a parliament session on Friday, Mr Turchynov, called the Right Sector rally outside parliament "an attempt to destabilise the situation in Ukraine, in the very heart of Ukraine - Kiev. That is precisely the task that the Russian Federation's political leadership is giving to its special services".

The propagandists in Washington agree. The head of the Brookings institute, Strobe Talbot, joined the conspiracy theorists:

.@billmon1 - some of those thugs are funded by Russia for sure, but as you say, they wouldn't want their cover blown.

Now, after over 70 years of cooperation between the U.S. government and eastern European fascists to further U.S. imperial goals, Washington DC insiders believe that those are Russian tools? These folks certainly smoke some rather strong stuff.

Meanwhile the Russian foreign minister Lavrov is meeting U.S. secretary of state Kerry today. In a recent TV interview Lavrov again explained that decentralization and federalization of Ukraine is the only possible solution for the country. Two weeks ago Kerry had already agreed to the need of decentralization and constitutional changes but the implementation was delayed over U.S. grandstanding about the reunion of Crimea and Russia. But that has now been somewhat accepted as inevitable. U.S. propaganda about alleged Russian troop concentrations on the Ukrainian border turned out to be nonsense. There are no more troops there than normally stationed on the Crimea and along the long Russian Ukrainian border.

The Russian solution for the Ukraine is now back on the table and one can hope that the U.S. will now help to implemented it. This might be a bit more difficult now as the leading contender for presidential elections, chocolate oligarch Petro Olekseyevich Poroshenko, rejects federalization:

Mr. Poroshenko, for all his moderate leanings, flatly rejected Russia’s proposal for the federalization of Ukraine as allowing “somebody in the Russian government trying to tell us what type of governmental system we should have.”

If the U.S. wants to it can surely pressure Poroshenko to get its will implemented. Ignoring the Russian opinion on Ukraine will not solve any problem but would rather lead to new upheavals.

Posted by b on March 30, 2014 at 8:30 UTC | Permalink | Comments (175)

March 29, 2014

Open Thread 2014-08

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 29, 2014 at 15:31 UTC | Permalink | Comments (136)

March 28, 2014

Media Neglect Turkish False Flag Attack Leak And Its Implications

Some more thoughts on the leaked tape from a meeting in the Turkish foreign ministry which is only very selectively reported in "western" media. A video with recorded voices and English text is available as is the seemingly complete text in two parts.

The setting of the recording is this:

The voices of the illegal recording believed to belong to Davutoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Gürel. According to the information obtained from sources, the recording consists of a chat between four officials in Davutoğlu’s office before the commencement of the official meeting with the participation of more civil and military bureaucrats in another room at the Foreign Ministry.

It is not clear when exactly the meeting happened. It would fit the situation late last year or early 2014.

The major points from my view:

  • Turkey has delivered 2,000 trucks of weapons and ammunition to the insurgents in Syria.
  • There are plans for false flag attacks on Turkey or Turkish property to justify an attack from Turkey on Syria.
  • The Turkish military has great concerns going into and fighting Syria.
  • The general atmosphere between these deciders is one of indecisiveness. Everyone seems to be unclear what Erdogan wants and is waiting for clear orders from above.
  • U.S. military has shortly before the meeting presented fresh plans for a no-fly one over Syria.

Then there is the fact in itself that this tape and others leaked. Internal government communication in Turkey and personal communication of Turkish official has been thoroughly compromised. This will hinder future decision making and will erode any trust Turkish government allies may have in it.

It is somewhat astonishing how "western" media avoid the content of the leaked tape. An AP report on it makes a lot of the youtube blocking the Turkish government ordered in reaction to the tape. Of the recording itself the AP only mentions this:

The four are allegedly heard discussing a military intervention in neighboring Syria, a sensitive political issue in Turkey, although the context of the conversation is not clear.

The Washington Post filed that AP report under Technology. This is an incredible disservice to its readers.

The Guardian report based on Reuters is not any better:

The move by the TIB came hours after an anonymous YouTube account posted a leaked audio recording allegedly of a confidential conversation between Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, undersecretary of the foreign ministry Feridun Sinirlioglu and deputy chief of the general staff, Yasar Gürel, discussing possible military action in Syria.

There is no mentioning at all of the false flag attack. The Wall Street Journal comes somewhat nearer to the truth:

... a leaked recording published anonymously on the platform purported to reveal a conversation in which Turkey's foreign minister, spy chief and a top general appear to discuss how to create a pretext for a possible Turkish attack within Syria.

For once kudos to the NYT which at least touches one point but leaves out the other important ones:

... the officials were heard discussing a plot to establish a justification for military strikes in Syria. One option that is said to have been discussed was orchestrating an attack on the Tomb of Suleyman Shah ...

German media did not do any better.

A NATO ally is planning a false flag attack on its own territory which would implicate NATO Article 5 and other NATO countries' forces and the media do not even touch the issue? This is ludicrous.

Related to the Syria issue is another thinly sourced trial balloon, the tenth or so, by the unofficial CIA spokesperson David Ignatius in the Washington Post:

The Obama administration, stung by reversals in Ukraine and Syria, appears to have decided to expand its covert program of training and assistance for the Syrian opposition, deepening U.S. involvement in that brutal and stalemated civil war.
Details of the plan were still being debated Thursday, but its likely outlines were described by knowledgeable officials: ...

It follows the list of issues that have been discussed on and on over the last three years, more CIA training for insurgents in Jordan, more weapons, maybe some MANPADs. Ignatius source is here seems to be the CIA friends in the Syrian opposition:

The expanded program would “send a clear message to the Assad regime that there is no military solution to the struggle,” according to a March memo to the White House from the opposition. Assad “has no incentive to talk” now, the memo argued, because he thinks he is winning.

The rationale, bluntly stated, is that to reach an eventual diplomatic settlement in Syria, it is necessary now to escalate the conflict militarily. This has been a hard pill for Obama to swallow, but prodded by the Saudis, he seems to have reached that point.

There are so many caveats in here - "appears to have decided", 2still being debated", "seems to have reached that point" - that I do not believe a word of it. The loudly announced, by Ignatius and others, attack on south Syria has yet to appear and the halfhearted attack by the Turkish supported Jihadists in the north seems to be stuck.

I do not anticipate any bigger action by Turkey or the U.S. especially as the such action right now would likely lead to harsher reaction by Russia.

Posted by b on March 28, 2014 at 10:34 UTC | Permalink | Comments (146)

March 27, 2014

Syria: Erdogan's False Flag Invasion Plans Reveled

Updated below.

An March 23 the AlQaeda affiliated groups Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al-Shams consiting of foreign men crossed the border from Turkey and attacked the western Syrian province of Latakia. The seized the Kasab border crossing and the Armenian town Kessab. People there fled as the Jihadist removed the crosses from the Armenian churches and replaced them with their black flag. The Jihadist groups were given artillery support and anti-air cover from Turkey. A Syrian jet on a bombing run against the Jihadists was shot down by the Turkish air-force.

The Jihadist managed to capture several hill sides before being stopped by reinforcing Syrian forces. After the plane was shot down Syrian anti-air radars painted any Turkish flight coming near its border ready to shot them down. Heavy artillery is used against the intruders and they are said to have high casualties. Their wounded get transported to the Turkish border and find help in Turkish hospitals. The Jihadist campaign is clearly in trouble and it may only take a few days until they will have to give up and retreat.

The Turkish prime minister Erdogan and his foreign minister Davutoglu have further plans. They allege that the Tomb of Süleyman Shah, a small place in Syria 25 kilometer from the Turkish border but under Turkish sovereignty, is threatened by Jihadist group Islamic State (ISIS). They say that Turkish troops are ready to go to protect it. This clearly is a threat of invasion under some attack on radio Gleiwitz reasoning. Today leaked tape recordings of two tapes of a conference (in Turkish, UPDATE: English transcript of first part) between Davutoglu, the chief of the Turkish intelligence MIT Hakan Fidan and others, seem to confirm that this is indeed the plot. According to a preliminary translations by Firat Gunay (for which I can not vouch):

  • Fidan offers Davutoglu to send men into Syria to fire missiles on Turkey.
  • After Davutoglu rejects that, Fidan offers to bomb the tomb of Süleyman Shah.
  • Talk about the needs of the Jihadists which is more about ammunition than guns.
  • Fidan states that they have delivered 2,000 truckloads of weapons to the insurgents.
  • Davutoglu says Kerry had asked if the Turks would invade Syria and had pressed for it to do so.
  • Davutoglu also says they have plans for a no-fly zone over Syria and have delivered such plans to NATO.
  • Davutoglu assures Fidan that Erdogan has agreed to all the plans.
  • Fidan says things do not go well for the insurgents and that Turkey has send a general to help them.

Shortly after the calls were leaked on Youtube Turkey blocked local Internet access to Youtube. It is now also available on Vimeo and elsewhere. The tape release, only the latest in a larger series, came after Turkish police raided a holding company related to the religious Gülen movement, an earlier ally of Erdogan which has become his fiercest enemy. A TV station related to Gülen was also taken down.

There are local elections on March 30 and Erdogan's AK Party may lose the mayor seats in Istanbul and/or Ankara. Erdogan seems to have not only his voice but also his mind. He is using a strategy of demonetization against everything - Twitter, Gülen, Israel, Syria, whatever - to play to his large base. This base though may no longer be big enough for electoral victories.

The Obama administration is also planting stories of new "worries" about Jihadists attacks on "western" interests from north or east Syria. Such an "attack" could easily be orchestrated and then used to "justify" "western" intervention and a renewed perspective of a no-fly zone over Syria.

The northern attack on Syria comes at a time where a long announced attack in the south fails to materialize. There have been sightings of new Chines anti-tank weapons in the south but there is no sign of a coordinated campaign. Indeed there are doubts that the announced Southern Front exists at all. The talk about it may have been a diversion for the attack in the north.

Turkey and the United States should be careful with their dreams of invading Syria. Two can play such games and there are Russian troops ready on the eastern Ukrainian border. A move in one place could result in a counter move elsewhere.

UPDATE: A link to the complete taped conference with English text. A link to the complete English text. (Again: I yet can not vouch for their correctness.)

Posted by b on March 27, 2014 at 15:28 UTC | Permalink | Comments (126)

March 26, 2014

Popcorn Please While "Putin's Agitators" Rule in Kiev

While anything seems possible, the operating assumption among some American and European officials is that Mr. Putin will not overtly invade eastern Ukraine but instead opt for a murky middle plan, using local agitators and perhaps undercover special forces to stir even more unrest in largely Russian-speaking areas of the country.
U.S. Challenge Now Is to Stop Further Putin Moves, NYT


Putin is watching TV. Calls up his Chief of Intelligence: “Give Tyagnibok a medal for banning the use of Russian in Ukraine. What do you mean he isn't one of ours? Ok, give Yarosh a medal for the idea of blowing up Ukrainian gas transit lines. What do you mean, that's his own doing? How about that cretin Lyashko? How about those cretins from Svoboda—Miroshnichenko and others? So, DO WE HAVE ANY AGENTS ON THE GROUND IN UKRAINE AT ALL?! Where the hell are they? What the hell do you mean they bought a dump-truck of pop-corn and a tanker truck beer and are watching it like a movie?!!!” Hangs up in disgust. Calls again: “How could you let Muzychko get killed?”
via Cluborlov

Indeed Putin can just sit back and enjoy the popcorn. The putschists government is doing its very best to disgrace itself, to in-fight with its ideological friends and to push Russian speaking Ukrainians closer to Russia. Just notice today's decision to suspend even more Russian language TV services in Ukraine. How is that supposed to convince Russian speakers in Ukraine that their voices will be heard?

The fighting between the paramilitary rightwingers from the Pravyi Sektor and the Svoboda fascists has only started:

The Ukrainian radical group Right Sector demands Interior Minister Arsen Avakov's immediate dismissal and the arrest of members of the Sokil (Falcon) special task force involved in killing nationalist leader Oleksandr Muzychko nicknamed Sashko Bily in the Rivne region early on Tuesday.

The response from the Svoboda party minister:

Ukraine's Interior Ministry has started a sweep of arrests against the nationalist Right Sector organization, after its activists threatened revenge for the police killing of one of their leaders, Oleksandr Muzychko, a news report said.

Popcorn indeed.

According to Google news search no U.S. media picked up on the published Tymoshenko phone call in which she talks to her political ally Shufrych about mass killing Russians. Yahoo news carried an AFP agency text and a Washington Post blog entry tried to obfuscate the content of the talk. Except that there is nada in U.S. media while German papers were all over it. Of interest is not only the rather vulgar talk but the fact that it was held in Russian. This while the fake blond gas princess and her friends always uses Ukrainian in public speech to promote her fake nationalism. The leaked call will thereby not only alienate Russian speaker from Tymoshenko also the Ukrainian speakers which she tries to embezzle.

Why should Russia try to create unrest in eastern and southern Ukraine when the putsch government in Kiev is doing its very best to create such itself? To the growing unrest one can add the likely economic collapse that will come rather sooner than later. Any "western" help will be conditioned on austerity and impoverishing the people as well as on political reform that the oligarchs and the current politicians will not allow to happen. Under such condition further unrest is a given while Ukraine falls apart and there is no need at all for Russia to intervene to achieve such.

Russia will do nothing nefarious, it will do just nothing. Russia will not help, neither economically nor politically, unless Kiev and the "west" are willing to pay its price: A federalized Ukraine with strong regions and a weak central government.

Posted by b on March 26, 2014 at 13:14 UTC | Permalink | Comments (222)

March 25, 2014

Ukraine: Purge Of The Fascists?

(There was no time yet to read through all your comments on yesterday's thread so I am not sure how much of this has been mentioned yet.)

The fascist defense minister Tenyukh, who wanted to start a war with Russia, is probably being dismissed today by the Ukrainian rump-parliament. The provisional president designated one Mykhailo Koval as acting minister of defense. But Reuters reports that Tenyukh himself asked to be dismissed and that the parliament lacked the votes to accept it. Other claims differ. I have not yet found the reasons for this move. Was it because Tenyukh wanted to start a war or because he did not manage to do so? Or was it the fact that about 80% of the Ukrainian troops on Crimea defied his orders and decided to move over to the Russian side?

In other news one of the most dangerous leaders of the Pravyh Sektor, the muscle paramilitary side of the fascists in Ukraine, was shot down and killed near the west-Ukrainian city of Rivne. It is unclear who killed him and why. According to the (anti-Putin) Moscow Times:

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Doniy said on his Facebook page that unknown assailants blocked off Muzychko's car, dragged him out of the vehicle, cuffed his hands behind his back, and shot him twice in the chest.

Vse and another Rivne website, ChaRivne, said that townspeople believed that Muzychko had been gunned down by a "Russian subversive group."
"Those who killed him made sure that he was not wearing a bulletproof vest and then shot him in the heart," Right Sector activist Yaroslav Hranitskiy said, ChaRivne reported.

Muzychko earlier this month accused the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office and police of planning to kill him or capture and hand him over to Russia.

"I am not afraid of death," he said in a YouTube video. He said his "friends, brothers, patriots" would "continue the battle."

Voice of Russia as well as Associated Press report that Oleksandr Muzychko was killed by Ukrainian police forces:

Ukraine's Interior Ministry says a prominent member of a radical nationalist movement in Ukraine that played a key role in recent anti-government demonstrations was killed during a police operation to detain him.
Police say Muzychko was sought for organized crime links, hooliganism and for threatening public officials.

The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that Muzychko was shot dead after opening fire on police.

Muzychko was an embarrassment for the government. The allegation that the February 21 coup in Kiev was executed by mostly fascist forces is based on the roles that Tenyukh, Muzychko and others played in it. Removing them now may be an attempt to clean the image of the putschists.

Posted by b on March 25, 2014 at 10:23 UTC | Permalink | Comments (281)

March 24, 2014

Fascist Ukrainian Defense Minister's War Orders Defied

The fascist new defense minister of Ukraine ordered to start a war but was disobeyed. He says that is "regrettable."

Not found this in any English language news yet but several German media reports mention this (my translation from FAZ) :

Meanwhile it became clear that the commanders of Ukrainian warships on the Crimea defied orders from the provisional government in Kiev to use their arms. The Ukrainian minister of defense Ihor Tenyukh said on Sunday in Kiev, Russia managed "despite orders to all commanders to use weapons" to take over the ships. "Regrettably" the commanders decided themselves on how to proceed, he said.

Tenyugh is a member of the fascist Svoboda party that took part in the February 21 coup against the legitimate Ukrainian government. His legally dubious order to shoot at Russian troops in a rather hopeless situation could have easily started a larger war.

My deep gratitude to all those Ukrainian commanders who defied the lunatic order to start a hot war with Russia and allowed a peaceful handover of their equipment to Russian forces.

Posted by b on March 24, 2014 at 10:14 UTC | Permalink | Comments (252)

March 23, 2014

George F. Kennan's Prediction On NATO Expansion Was Right

After the U.S./EU/NATO supported coup in Kiev Russia took steps to secure its vital seaport at Sevastopol on the Crimea. With their plans to use Sevastopol for themselves and to thereby blockade Russia from influence in the Mediterranean stopped by the Russian move various reactionaries immediately demand an expansion of NATO to somehow stop further "Russian aggression":

[T]he US should work with its allies in NATO to build consensus for an immediate announcement by the alliance that NATO membership will be extended to Montenegro and Macedonia and make the commitment to a Membership Action Plan for Georgia at the NATO summit in Cardiff.

These people invert cause and effect. Russia reacted like it did because of NATO's expansion since the late 1990. Such a reaction was utterly foreseeable and was foreseen when the very first NATO expansion towards the East happened.

George Kennan was the U.S. diplomat and Russia specialist who developed the cold war strategy of containment of the Soviet Union, though he later criticized its militaristic implementation. In 1998, when the Senate voted to extend NATO to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Kennan was asked to comment. He responded:

"I think it is the beginning of a new cold war," said Mr. Kennan from his Princeton home. "I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever."
"It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are -- but this is just wrong."

NATO expansion and the putsch in Kiev are, as Kennan predicted, the reason that Russia acts as decisive as it does. A harsh Russian reaction because of NATO extension is NOT a good reason to extend NATO further. The Russian (and Chinese) reaction to that would likely be even harsher. No one serious should wish back the times when nuclear war often looked imminent. Luckily neither the public in the U.S. nor in the EU is willing to go that way.

Posted by b on March 23, 2014 at 17:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (159)

March 22, 2014

Who Lost In Ukraine?

Who has lost in the tussle about the Ukraine?

Consider the money:

The EU has provided Ukraine with €13.8 billion ($19.1 billion) in grants and loans since 1991. Aid from the International Monetary Fund, and from individual governments that include the U.S., pushes the total well over $30 billion. On top of that, Ukraine has received massive aid from Russia in the form of discounted natural gas—a subsidy totaling $200 billion to $300 billion since 1991, says Emily Holland, a specialist on energy policy in the region

With unfriendly relations of the coup government with Russia the Russian subsidies are likely to stop. That is an extra $20-30 billion hole in an already deep in debt yearly budget. And no, shale gas will not save the Ukraine.

No one will be willing to fill the Ukrainian deficit. It will now have to default.

Then consider these questions about the outcome:

Is Ukraine more united? more democratic? richer? Is NATO stronger? more attractive? How about the EU? Does it look like a good bet for the future? Are Washington-EU relations stronger? Is Russia weaker? divided? poorer? Putin less popular? Do the people of Western countries think their leaders are smarter, more competent, more electable than they did a month ago? Do people believe their media outlets? [...] And they just keep digging their hole deeper.

The result of the neocon meddling in Ukraine has created, as usual, a terrible mess for the "west" and even more so for the Ukrainians. Is there any way to prevent a repeat of such misdeeds?

Posted by b on March 22, 2014 at 17:40 UTC | Permalink | Comments (170)

March 21, 2014

Robert Kaplan Writes In Defense Of Slavery

Neocon Robert Kaplan is writing In Defense of Empire. Empire is good, he believes, even for those who a ruled by it without having any representation. The lunacy of his arguments can be show best when one substitute the object of his essay:

Throughout history, governance and relative safety have most often been provided by slavery, Western or Eastern. Anarchy reigned in the interregnums. To wit, the British may have failed in Baghdad, Palestine, and elsewhere, but the larger history of the British slaveholdership is one of providing a vast armature of stability, fostered by sea and rail communications, where before there had been demonstrably less stability.
But slavery is now seen by global elites as altogether evil, despite slaveholdership having offered the most benign form of order for thousands of years, keeping the anarchy of ethnic, tribal, and sectarian war bands to a reasonable minimum. Compared with slaveholdership, democracy is a new and uncertain phenomenon. Even the two most estimable democracies in modern history, the United States and Great Britain, were slaveholdership for long periods. “As both a dream and a fact the American slaveholdership was born before the United States,” writes the mid-20th-century historian of westward expansion Bernard DeVoto. Following their initial settlement, and before their incorporation as states, the western territories were nothing less than slaveholdership possessions of Washington, D.C. No surprise there: slaveholdership confers a loose and accepted form of sovereignty, occupying a middle ground between anarchy and full state control.
Rome, Parthia, and Hapsburg Austria were great precisely because they gave significant parts of the world a modicum of slavery order that they would not otherwise have enjoyed. America must presently do likewise, particularly in East Asia, the geographic heartland of the world economy and the home of American treaty allies.
That, I submit, would be a policy direction that internalizes both the drawbacks and the benefits of slaveholdership, not as it has been conventionally thought of, but as it has actually been practiced throughout history.

It is somewhat frightening that people believing such nonsense have influence in political circles.

Posted by b on March 21, 2014 at 18:47 UTC | Permalink | Comments (212)

After Twitter Ban Erdo-gone

Yesterday the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan used a recent internet censorship law to ban the use of Twitter in Turkey. Communication through Twitter and other internet means was one way for the opposition in Turkey to organize protests against him. But such communication was also intensively used by his own supporters.

As usual the user's reacted by circumventing the ban and kept on tweeting. The ban was ignored not only by the 12 million Turkish net-citizens but also by high members of Erdogan's own party. The Turkish president Gül tweeted(!) "Shutdown of social media cannot be approved". Deputy Prime Minister Arınç and Ankara Mayor Gökçek, both high members of Erdogan's AK Party, also broke the ban. Ironically hardcore Erdogan supporters circumvented the blocking of twitter to justify Erdogan's blocking order in their tweets. The government controlled Anadolu news agency tweets about government speeches that justify the ban on tweets.

The EU and the United States condamned the move. If you pretend to be a democracy you are supposed to first talk about the dangers of pornography, pedophilia or terrorism before censuring the net. Erdogan missed that step.

His hard-core supporters may still hold on to Erdogan, despite all corruption allegations and autocratic tendencies. But those who were only slightly affiliated with him will now likely break away. How can anyone still want to associate himself with such a laughing stock?

Erdogan's economic success over the last decade, mostly credit fueled, is coming apart as interests rate rise and the Turkish currency is sinking. There will be local elections in Turkey on March 30 followed by two more elections later this year. Erdogan winning these is now in serious doubt. Yes, damning Twitter, the "interest lobby" and other bogeymen may help him with his base. But that base is by now also more literate, has better phones and can access alternative news. For the better of Turkey he may soon be called Erdo-gone.

Posted by b on March 21, 2014 at 12:14 UTC | Permalink | Comments (53)

March 20, 2014

Ukraine: More On Federalization, Sanctions On Private Russians

The coup government of Ukraine has ordered its troop to leave Crimea. Many of these troops, especially officers, may not follow these orders. Russia is offering them a much better deal:

“The pay is five times that offered by Ukraine,” [the captain] said. “The pensions are five times better, and will be offered 20 years sooner. We are told we would serve on the same military base. Defend the same soil, the homeland of many at these bases. Families living quite nearby the bases will be able to remain in their same homes.”

Why would any officer, especially those native from Crimea, reject such a fantastic deal? The Russian president already signed a new executive order that will let those officers keep their ranks and will recognize their Ukrainian military education.

The U.S. today sanctioned some private businessmen who are on good standing with the Russian president. One wonders who will sanction all those oligarch donors who put hundreds of millions into Obama's reelection campaign. What by the way is the legal foundation of personally sanction private businessman for the policies of the country they happen to live in? Russia only sanctioned a few U.S. politicians so far in retaliation of a few sanction on Russian politicians. Should it now take a deeper look into some Soros or other Obama supporters business deals and confiscate this or that operation they are involved in?

I have no idea what those sanctions are supposed to effect. Those oligarchs will likely not care, nor will the Russian government. It has other possibility and means to show a cold shoulder for U.S. interference in its near abroad. Russia had, on U.S. request, put sanctions on Iran is is helpful with the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. That surely could end. Or how about leaving the U.S. dollar realm. Russia is the biggest oil and gas exporter in this world. It has new pipelines going east and no longer depends on European customers. Surely it could price and invoice its exports in ruble, yuan, euros, gold or whatever instead of in U.S. dollar. This could do wonders to the U.S. interest rates.

I understand that the White House wants to do some cosmetic sanctions if only to avoid more criticism from the domestic right. But by that measure today's escalation isn't necessary. Does the Obama administration really believe it can, together with a few European puddles, sanction Russia, which is supported by the BRICS and Non-alligned countries, into the ground? With about two-third of the people in the U.S. and Europe against any escalation with Russia and with Putin having domestic approval ratings of 75% which side is more likely to sustain in a sanctions war?

The Russian foreign minister Lavrov again emphasized that the Ukraine needs a federal political structure to be at least somewhat political viable. We had already concluded that such a constitutional change in the Ukraine was part of Russian and U.S. agreement for the way forward there.

It is therefore interesting to see an op-ed in today's New York Times that argues for such a federalized state. Currently the quite mighty governors of the Ukrainian regions are named by the ruling president in Kiev. They change every time a president change occurs. The op-ed authors argue that this creates bad local policies:

Because these governors are politically appointed bureaucrats rather than elected politicians, they have little incentive to cultivate reputations for doing what voters want; instead, they do what the president wants. And with that record, if they later run for national office, voters won’t trust them to govern effectively.

Presidential appointment of governors in a diverse country like Ukraine also stokes secessionist pressure.
[O]fficials in Ukraine have begun to consider alternatives to the current constitutional structure that could reflect such a commitment. Advocates of decentralization include Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, and Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv in western Ukraine. Ukraine’s Parliament, which would need to approve any constitutional change, has formed a working group on constitutional reform.

Some additional pressure from Washington and Brussels to federalize and finlandize the Ukraine could surely help to accelerate the move and thereby clean up the mess the U.S. sponsored coup created in Ukraine.

But are they really committed to clean up the mess or would they like to instigate more trouble?

Posted by b on March 20, 2014 at 17:28 UTC | Permalink | Comments (186)

March 19, 2014

Open (Not-Ukraine) Thread 2014-07

News & views (other then around Ukraine) ...

Posted by b on March 19, 2014 at 18:16 UTC | Permalink | Comments (175)

Ukraine: Just Some News Items II

It seems to dawn to some "western" governments that the spirits they called up for the coup against the elected Ukrainian government may be a problem.

Parliament members of the Svoboda (nazi) party used force against the head of the main Ukrainian TV station and forced the man to resign. The leader of the attacking gang was a member of the parliament committee on free speech. The "western" para-government organization Amnesty International is concerned and wants an investigation. Good luck with that. The new attorney general of Ukraine is also a member of Svoboda. The U.S. embassy in the Ukraine also feels a bit embarrassed and notes:

Over the past months, we have commented positively on Svoboda’s productive, indeed key, role during the Maidan protests and in the peaceful transition to a new, more transparent government.

At east they still admitt that.

The problem Amnesty and the Embassy have with the issue at hand is that the Svoboda folks filmed themselves (see at 4:00min) while doing their thuggish business. The embassy surely thinks they should not have done so as it confirms Russia's (true) narrative of a fascists coup.

But the fascists do need to make their intimidation campaign public because such reenforces the intimidation. It is their way to establish "street cred" and to suppress any resistance against them.

Even Foreign Policy now acknowledges Yes, There Are Bad Guys in the Ukrainian Government - It's time for a frank conversation about some of the unsavory characters in Kiev. But the author comes to this rather laughable conclusion:

So is Ukraine poised for a Nazi putsch? The good news is that opinion polls show Tyahnybok at just 5 percent approval, far behind Vitali Klitschko (the hulking, pro-Western former boxing champion) and the center-right ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

How do you think people will vote, or rather more important, the votes be counted, when Svoboda now has all Ukrainian security services under its control and engages in a campaign of public intimidation? Does anyone believe that these fascists will stick to democratic rules and will allow themselves to be voted out of office?

In other news the Ukrainian government has now ordered its troops in Crimea (Russia) to leave peacefully. This Russian "invasion" and "occupation" must be the least bloody the world has ever seen.

Posted by b on March 19, 2014 at 18:14 UTC | Permalink | Comments (90)

March 18, 2014

Ukraine: Just Some News Items

The government of the Russian Federation continues to make fun about the sanctions the U.S. imposed because the people of the Crimea voted to reunite with Russia:

[Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry] Rogozin told journalists that the Russian government was not considering imposing sanctions against the U.S. and the European Union because it does not view the asset freezes and travel bans seriously.

Rogozin said the "search for accounts and property of people who cannot have them by definition is some angry joke," he said, referring to the ban on Russian state officials holding assets abroad, Interfax reported.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is even impersonating Secretary of State Kerry:

"The sanctions introduced by the United States and the European Union are absolutely unacceptable and will not be left without consequences," the Russian foreign ministry said Lavrov told Kerry during a phone call on Tuesday evening.

"Absolutely unacceptable" and "consequences" are the typical words used by Obama, Kerry and other "western" leaders to push Russia around. Well, not this time.

President Putin's speech on the association of the Crimea into the Russian Federation was very well received in Russia. I recommend to read it.

I read some claims today that Crimea is poor and Russia will have to pay a lot to update its infrastructure. That would be expensive and a bad deal for Russia. That it would be expensive may well be right but there is a points the people who make such claims fail to understand. The Black Sea around the Crimea has plenty of hydrocarbons and the government of Crimea has seized the Ukrainian companies that are involved in bringing those hydrocarbons to the markets. These gas fields will now be part of the already huge Russian reserves.

There was a something like a sniper attack at a military base used by Ukrainian soldiers in Simferopol. One Ukrainian soldier was allegedly killed and one wounded. On the other side one member of the Crimean self defense forces was killed. Both sides claim not to have shot at each other. This may well have been a provocation by an unknown third forces which snipped at both sides of a potential conflict. From the BBC Live text (18:42):

An officer in the Ukrainian military describes the violence at the military base in Simferopol to Ukrainian television: "One observer was on a rooftop monitoring the situation; he sustained glancing wounds to the neck and shoulder. They say he is being operated on now. Our second observer was on the car park tower. He was shot dead. I personally did not see him. They say his body is still there. Representatives of the Russian Federation and of the Crimean self-defence state that they also have one fatality and one wounded. We did not return fire. We did not fire."

From Russia Today:

The Kryminform news agency, citing an unnamed local police source, reports shooting came from a house under construction opposite the center and targeted Crimean self-defense units as well the military center itself. “Earlier today self-defense units were informed that a group of armed men had been discovered in a partially inhabited building,” a source from the ministry said. “As they were taking measures to check, self-defense units came under fire. One man was killed, one wounded,” the source explained, adding that shooting came “in two directions from one spot”.

The Kryminform source claimed another man from the military center was wounded.

RT’s producer contacted staff inside the military center, who confirmed that the shooting did take place and came from a nearby house under construction. At the same time, the man had no information on the casualties.

Such provocations could start a serious incident. The Ukrainian and the Russian side should ask their soldiers to hold back form violence against each other. At the same time any sign of a third force must be followed up upon immediately and be hunted down.

The biggest and most difficult task now for the "western" foreign policy apprentices who sponsored the coup against the Ukrainian government is to get control over the fascist spirits that they called to help them with the coup. These spirits are likely to use extreme brutality against any perceived enemy. Should they make further trouble in southern or eastern Ukraine Russia will have to intervene against them.

Posted by b on March 18, 2014 at 19:29 UTC | Permalink | Comments (172)

NSA's "Collect It All" Includes Your Phonecalls

Barton Gellman has a new scoop based on the Snowden files:

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary. ...

This NSA capability now exists for only one country (Afghanistan?), but will soon be implemented against at least five others.

If you believe:

  • that such a capability, though not necessarily under the NSA, will not be deployed for the domestic USA or any other "western" country ...
  • that such a capability will not be abuses for petty personal reasons ...
  • that such a capability will not be abuses for petty political reasons ...
  • that such a capability will not be abuses to gain and hold onto power ...
  • that such a capability will not diminish your freedom to think, speak or act ...

you are naive.

The only way we have to defend against the NSA's totalitarian "collect it all" is "encrypt it all". Not all tools for doing that are yet necessarily ready. But they will come. You can help to make this happen by actively preferring those products and services that have the highest level of encryption and privacy.

Posted by b on March 18, 2014 at 16:17 UTC | Permalink | Comments (15)

March 17, 2014

Ukraine: Wet Noodle Sanctions And Pressure For Constitutional Reform

As documented yesterday the "leaked" Russian non-paper which demanded constitutional reform in the Ukraine and more autonomy for its regions was at least partially accepted by Secretary of State Kerry:

In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, their second since unsuccessful face-to-face talks on Friday in London, Kerry urged Russia "to support efforts by Ukrainians across the spectrum to address power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly inclusive and protects the rights of minorities," the State Department said.

That Kerry "urged Russia" is just a silly diversion. The idea of such changes in the Ukrainian constitution clearly came from the Russian side and were already part of the February 21 agreement which the U.S. supported coup government broke.

The Kerry call with Lavrov was followed by one between Putin and Obama. The White House readout of that call also mentions the constitution issue.

[President Obama] noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take concrete steps that would allow for the de-escalation of the crisis, particularly as it prepares for elections this Spring and undertakes constitutional reform, ...

Using that acknowledgement of the Russian plan the Kremlin increased the pressure and went public with its demands:

Moscow, meanwhile, called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way of resolving the polarization between Ukraine's western regions — which favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU — and its eastern areas, which have long ties to Russia.

In a statement Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine's parliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions. It also said country should adopt a "neutral political and military status," a demand reflecting Moscow's concern about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO.

Russia is also pushing for Russian to become Ukraine's state language.

In Kiev, Ukraine's new government dismissed Russia's proposal Monday as unacceptable, saying it "looks like an ultimatum."

The Ukrainian puppet government still has to learn the business. As Kerry and Obama already conceded "constitutional reform" in the Ukraine there will be no way for the puppet government to get around this. It urgently needs money and those who could possibly pay, the IMF, the U.S. and EU, will make their demands heard.

Russia could also easily escalate and help the eastern and southern regions of the Ukraine to create their own state independent of Kiev or the seek, like the Crimea, incorporation into the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian government is right to call the Russian demand an ultimatum. It is exactly that and it will have to submit to it.

But that is not yet understood. The Ukrainian parliament, those now 300+ left from 450 original lawmakers after the others fled under threats of violence, decided to mobilize the Ukrainian military and moved a whooping 12% of its total budget into reestablishing some military force. But the Ukrainian military has been neglected for over 20 years:

“It is absolutely not a combat ready force. It’s sharply underfunded, and they don’t have any real air or surface to air or capacity compared to what Russia can deploy — even though Russia is no paragon of military readiness either,” Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told

The Ukrainian troops are still mostly conscripts and the professionals are paid only half of the average Ukrainian wage. How loyal this military will be to the coup-government is yet to be seen. I do not expect it to play any significant role.

Meanwhile the U.S. as well as the EU introduced some sanctions on some Russian and Ukrainian individuals though the White House "Fact Sheet" does not even say what those sanctions are:

In response to the Russian government’s actions contributing to the crisis in Ukraine, this new E.O. lists seven Russian government officials who are being designated for sanctions. These individuals are Vladislav Surkov, Sergey Glazyev, Leonid Slutsky, Andrei Klishas, Valentina Matviyenko, Dmitry Rogozin, and Yelena Mizulina.

There seems to be no real idea why (and with what) these individuals would be sanctioned. Does it make sense to sanction people because of their "status"?

  • Valentina Matviyenko: Matviyenko is being sanctioned for her status as Head of the Federation Council
  • Dmitry Rogozin: Rogozin is being sanctioned for his status as the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.
  • Yelena Mizulina: Mizulina is being sanctioned for her status as a State Duma Deputy.
  • ...

The sanctioned Russian people are all officials who are not even allowed to hold foreign assets. What is the U.S. going to do about them?

One paragraph in the "Fact Sheet" is a threat to Russian businessman and oligarchs:

The United States also will seek to hold accountable individuals who use their resources or influence to support or act on behalf of senior Russian government officials. We recognize that the Russian leadership derives significant support from, and takes action through, individuals who do not themselves serve in any official capacity. Our current focus is to identify these individuals and target their personal assets, but not companies that they may manage on behalf of the Russian state.

Whatever. Putin has some 70% of the Russians in favor of him. He does not have to be considerate of this or that oligarch. The Russians are laughing off this wet noodle assault. None of these sanctions will influence their decision making. They will publish a retaliatory list and equally meaningless sanction some U.S. and EU officials and that will be it.

The U.S. now has the unpleasant task to silence the blowhards and fascists in the Ukrainian puppet government and to push them to accept some meaningful constitution creating process. The Russian government will keep all options open in eastern and southern Ukraine until a new acceptable Ukrainian constitution is done and in place. It can for now sit back and amuse itself about the empty blustering coming out of Brussels and Washington DC.

Posted by b on March 17, 2014 at 15:25 UTC | Permalink | Comments (318)

March 16, 2014

Ukraine: U.S. Takes Off-Ramp, Agrees To Russian Demands

There was another phone call today between Secretary of State Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. The call came after a strategy meeting on Ukraine in the White House. During the call Kerry agreed to Russian demands for a federalization of the Ukraine in which the federal states will have a strong autonomy against a central government in a finlandized Ukraine. Putin had offered this "off-ramp" from the escalation and Obama has taken it.

The Russian announcement:

Lavrov, Kerry agree to work on constitutional reform in Ukraine: Russian ministry

(Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on Sunday to seek a solution to crisis in Ukraine by pushing for constitutional reforms there, the Russian foreign ministry said.

It did not go into details on the kind of reforms needed except to say they should come "in a generally acceptable form and while taking into the account the interests of all regions of Ukraine".
"Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov and John Kerry agreed to continue work to find a resolution on Ukraine through a speedy launch of constitutional reform with the support of international community," the ministry said in a statement.

The idea of "constitutional reform" and the "interests of all regions" is from the Russians as documented in this Russian" non-paper".

The non-paper describes the process of getting to a new Ukrainian constitution and sets some parameters for it. Russian will be again official language next to Ukraine, the regions will have high autonomy, there will be no interferences in church affairs and the Ukraine will stay politically and militarily neutral. Any autonomy decision by the Crimea would be accepted. This all would be guaranteed by a "Support Group for Ukraine" consisting of the US, EU and Russia and would be cemented in an UN Security Council resolution.

It seems that Kerry and Obama have largely accepted these parameters. They are now, of course, selling this solution as their own which is, as the "non-paper" proves, inconsistent with the reality.

Here is Kerry now suddenly "urging Russia" to accept the conditions Russia had demanded and which Kerry never mentioned before:

Secretary of State John Kerry called on Moscow to return its troops in Crimea to their bases, pull back forces from the Ukraine border, halt incitement in eastern Ukraine and support the political reforms in Ukraine that would protect ethnic Russians, Russian speakers and others in the former Soviet Republic that Russia says it is concerned about.

In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, their second since unsuccessful face-to-face talks on Friday in London, Kerry urged Russia "to support efforts by Ukrainians across the spectrum to address power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly inclusive and protects the rights of minorities," the State Department said.

Obama has given up. His empty threats had now worked and he now has largely accepted the Russian conditions for the way out of the crisis.

The U.S. plot to snatch the Ukraine from Russia and to integrate it into NATO and the EU seems to have failed. Russia taking Crimea and having 93% of the voters there agree to join Russia has made the main objective of the U.S. plans, to kick the Russians out of Sevastopol and thereby out of the Middle East, impossible.

The Russian (non public) threat to also immediately take the eastern and southern provinces from the Ukraine has pushed the U.S. into agreeing to the Russian conditions mentioned above. The only alternative to that would be a military confrontation which the U.S. and Europeans are not willing to risk. Despite the anti-Russian campaign in the media a majority of U.S. people as well as EU folks are against any such confrontation. In the end the U.S. never held the cards it needed to win this game.

Should all go well and a new Ukrainian constitution fit the Russian conditions the "west" may in the future well be allowed to pay for the monthly bills Gazprom will keep sending to Kiev.

It will take some time to implement all of this. What dirty tricks will the neocons in Washington now try to prevent this peaceful outcome?

Posted by b on March 16, 2014 at 18:34 UTC | Permalink | Comments (161)

Ukraine: Vitaly And Samantha

Samantha protesting Vitaly's booking for the joint Crimea vacation? I don't know.

How about some funny caption for the pic.

Posted by b on March 16, 2014 at 14:10 UTC | Permalink | Comments (70)