Ooobie on Everything

Top Three Reasons for Russia to Take Eastern Ukraine: Location, location, location

Ethnolingusitic_map_of_ukraineThe Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Gen. Philip Breedlove, has told the US Congress that Russia is building up forces along its border with Ukraine. He worries that these alleged military exercises are neither exercises nor consistent with peaceful intentions. He thinks Russia is about to take over eastern Ukraine. I also read that the Pentagon claims the Russians are camouflaging their men and equipment, and that raises suspicions as well. Of course, troops on maneuver do use camouflage and so maybe it’s just camouflage. Maybe it’s just exercises. But NATO thinks not. The western military bloc doesn’t want to be caught asleep at the switch again, so soon after the Crimean embarrassment, and so now everything Russia does makes them jump. But NATO could be right. It could be home-coming time for the eastern Ukraine.

I haven’t gotten a call on my red phone telling me what Putin is really planning. If I had to guess, I’d say he is, like a good Boy Scout, always prepared.  I also have an idea what he is saying to the West: Here we are; we are ready to roll; we will roll if need be. We will ourselves start WWIII rather than allow NATO (the alliance in which old foe Germany is the US deputy) one more inch of territory toward our borders. We will answer sanction with sanction and if Russians suffer, so will you. Kiev is where the Russian nation was born and the territory is vital to Russian security in many ways. If Russia can prevent it, Ukraine will never be a member of an enemy military bloc.

I know that it is an EU association that Yanukovych rejected in favor of a Russian offer, not a NATO association. But in fact the EU has been NATO’s cat’s paw in bringing more countries into the Alliance. Where goes the EU, there goes NATO. Unfortunately, the disorder spreading throughout Ukraine is not going to be contained from Bonn, from Washington, or even from Warsaw, which is implicated in the sniper shootings at Independence Square in Kiev. You can say “those dirty Russians,” but the violence is real and it is ethnically-based. With five billion dollars worth of US encouragement, per the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, the western Ukrainians flipped the bird to Russia and to the eastern Ukrainians and now it is a no holds barred fight. Russia is exploiting the resentments between these two intimately-related Slavic tribes for all they are worth; and the western Ukrainians are counting on the EU, US and NATO to pull their anti-Russian chestnuts out of the fire. Russians are being hounded and persecuted by extreme right Ukrainian thugs, whom neither the EU nor US seem able to control, while Russians won’t hesitate to use the back of their hand or the pressures of a mob against the Ukrainians. None of this was necessary.

failed stateUkraine is in grave danger of falling apart under pressure of ethnic strains, weak rule of law, and a divided national identity. It is in dire peril of becoming a  failed state as defined by NATO.  A failed state is something that explicitly would, under NATO doctrine, allow NATO to intervene militarily and unilaterally as a preventative humanitarian action. Of course, that apparently only applies in cases where NATO holds the clear upper hand. In the case of eastern Ukraine, I think it will be the Russians who assert their moral obligation and absolute right to intervene in the Ukrainian failed state to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. As the Russians are the heavy majority in eastern Ukraine, that rationale certainly has some gravitas.

Here’s another thing to consider, one of many ills to result from this stupid confrontation: Russia is now committed to investing many, many billions into defense research and development of new weapons systems, upgrading or more likely replacement of outworn equipment, and improved military training. The Russians have even offered to give the Ukrainians the military equipment that belongs to the units that refused to go over to Russia. I have to assume that is because the equipment is worthless or close to it. No doubt Russia will be happy to share its latest generation military output with any number of other countries who might or might not be on a US/NATO blacklist and who are willing to pay for what they get. Russia will before long be a threat, once again, to US military might and certainly so within the Russian sphere of influence.

And back to eastern Ukraine — if Russia has concluded that this is going to come to confrontation with the EU and NATO sooner or later, it will absolutely need to make Crimea into a naval fortress armed to the gills. Armed perhaps with tactical nuclear weapons and/or medium range missiles. And to do that and secure its fortress, it needs its eastern transport corridor, from Russia through a region heavily populated by Russian speakers, to Crimea, predominantly ethnic Russian. From this perspective, it should be assumed that Russia will, indeed, take that corridor. I would also assume Russia has activated within other areas of eastern (and western) Ukraine cells for the creation of disorder to impede any military action by Kiev or its allies in reaction to an occupation and incorporation of eastern Ukraine into Russia.

Tneutralityhese are very dangerous times. It’s at a moment like this I weep with relief that John McCain isn’t the president. I find comfort that from both Europe and America, from the right and the left, from the ordinary observer and from the experts, comes the voice of reason. We need a step-down by both sides and a reconsideration of true European security imperatives. Crimea may be part of Russia and not open to discussion, but the larger question of a buffer zone between the political rivals remains unsettled. Treaty-guaranteed neutrality of the last non-NATO countries born of the former Russian Empire would defuse the NATO-Russia quarrel without damaging the fundamental security interests of the countries involved. Austria thrived for a long time as middle ground where both sides did their business and dropped their money. Finland has made itself prosperous catering to the interests of the USSR and then the Russian Federation and any move to NATO status can only damage that economy. These other countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus) would be wise to think about what they want to be, and whether being the point man for NATO, with a short life expectancy, is more in their interests than playing the favored nephew to both East and West. We all have to decide if we will thrive together or perish apart.




Foreign Policy 101: Breaking Precedent and its Long-term Consequences

kosovocrimeaThanks to for preserving this extremely prescient analysis of the impact of NATO’s war against Serbia in 1999.  This speech was given in February of 2000, less than a year after NATO began its bombing, by a former Canadian Ambassador to Belgrade. His views were shared by very high-ranking diplomats from Germany and the US, both former Ambassadors to Belgrade. As someone who served in the OSCE mission he mentioned, I can verify every thing Amb. Bisset wrote. After reading this, you should be able to trace the outlines of what is happening in Ukraine and how important precedent is to global stability. One footnote: the Ambassador calls the head of the OSCE “General Walker,” but he is being ironic. There was a William Walker who managed to take over Nicaragua in the late 1800s and served as president there very briefly and tried to  launch a takeover of Central America. He was shot by firing squad in Honduras. The modern-day William Walker is a retired US Ambassador who was seconded to the OSCE as its head before the bombing of Serbia.

The NATO bombing: an assault on sovereignty

Former Canadian Amb. to Yugoslavia, James Bisset Address to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, House of Commons, Ottawa, Feb. 17,   2000


I wish to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity of speaking this morning.

It is some comfort to know that although I was not allowed to speak to anyone in the Canadian embassy in Belgrade during a recent visit there that I am free to speak to members of the Canadian parliament.

I have been an out spoken critic of the NATO  bombing of Yugoslavia. I believe it to have been a tragic mistake — a historic miscalculation that will have far-reaching implications.

When NATO bombs fell on Yugoslavia in the spring and summer of last year they caused more than just death and destruction in that country. The bombs also struck at the heart of international law and delivered a serious blow to the framework of global security that since the end of the second world war has protected all of us from the horrors of a nuclear war.

Kosovo broke the ground rules for NATO engagement and the aggressive military intervention by NATO into the affairs of a sovereign state for other than defensive purposes marked an ominous turning point in the aims and objectives of that organization. It is important that we understand this and seek clarification as to whether this was a “one-off” aberration or a  signal of fundamental change in the nature and purposes of the organization. This is something the committee might well examine in the course of its work.

2: An Illegal War

NATO’s war in Kosovo was conducted without the approval of the United Nations Security Council. It was a violation of international law, the United Nations charter and its own Article 1, which requires NATO to settle any international disputes by peaceful means and not to threaten or use force, “in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

Apologists for NATO including our own foreign and defence ministers try to avoid this issue by simply not mentioning it. There has been no attempt to explain why the United Nations Security Council was ignored. No effort to spell out under whose authority did NATO bomb Yugoslavia. The ministers and their officials continue to justify the air strikes on the grounds that the bombs were necessary to stop ethnic cleansing and atrocities, despite all the evidence that by far the bulk of the ethnic cleansing took place after the bombing not before it. It was the bombing that triggered off the worst of the ethnic cleansing.

As for the atrocities it now seems that here again we were lied to about the extent of the crimes committed. United States Secretary of Defence Cohen told us that at least 100,000 Kosovars had perished. Tony Blair spoke of genocide being carried out in Kosovo. The media relished in these atrocity stories and printed every story told to them by Albanian, “eyewitnesses.” The myth that the war was to stop ethnic cleansing and atrocities continues to be perpetrated by department spokesmen and large parts of the media.

No one wants to defend atrocities and the numbers game in such circumstances becomes sordid. Nevertheless numbers do become important if they are used to justify military action against a sovereign state. In  the case of Kosovo it appears that about 2000 people were killed there prior to the NATO bombing. Considering that a civil war had been underway since 1993 this is not a remarkable figure and compared with a great many other hot spots hardly enough to warrant a 79-day bombing campaign. It is also interesting to note that the UN tribunal indictment of Milosevic of May 1999, cites only one incident of deaths before the bombing — the infamous Racak incident — which itself is challenged by French journalists who were on the ground there and suspect a frame-up involving US General Walker who sounded the alarm.

The Kosovo “war” reveals disturbing evidence of how lies and duplicity can mislead us into accepting things that we instinctively know to be wrong.  Jamie Shea and other NATO apologists have lied to us about the bombing. The sad thing is that most of the Canadian media, and our political representatives have accepted without question what has been told to us by NATO and our own foreign affairs spokesmen.

3: An Unnecessary War

Perhaps the most serious charge against the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia is that it was unnecessary. NATO chose bombing over diplomacy. Violence over negotiation. NATO’s leaders tried to convince us that dropping tons of bombs on Yugoslavia was serving humanitarian purposes. A UN Security Council resolution of October 1998 accepted by Yugoslavia, authorized de-escalate the fighting. From the accounts of a number of these monitors their task was successful. While cease-fire violations continued on both sides the intensity of the armed struggle was considerably abated.

The former Czech Foreign Minister, Jiri Dienstbier, and Canada’s own Rollie Keith of Vancouver —  both monitors for the OSCE on the ground in Kosovo —  have publicly stated that there were no international refugees over the last five months of the OSCE’s presence  in Kosovo and the number of internally displaced only amounted to a few thousands in the weeks leading up to the bombing.

The OSCE mission demonstrated that diplomacy and negotiation might well have resolved the Kosovo problem without resorting to the use of force. It was the failure of the United States to accept any flexibility in its dealing with Belgrade in the weeks leading up to the war that spelled diplomatic failure.

The adamant refusal of the USA to involve either the Russians or the United Nations in the negotiations. The refusal to allow any other intermediary to deal with Milosevic and finally the imposition of the Rambouillet ultimatum which was clearly designed to ensure that Yugoslavia had no choice but to refuse its insulting terms.

It is now generally accepted by those who have seen the Rambouillet agreement that no sovereign state could have agreed to its conditions. The insistence of allowing access to all of Yugoslavia by NATO forces and the demand that a referendum on autonomy be held within three years guaranteed a Serbian rejection.

The Serbian parliament did, however, on March  23, state a willingness to “examine the character and extent of an international presence in Kosovo immediately after the signing of an autonomy accord acceptable to all national communities in Kosovo, the local Serb minority included.” The United States was not interested in pursuing this offer. NATO needed its war. NATO’s formal commitment to resolve international disputes by peaceful means was thrown out the window.

The Rambouillet document itself was not easily obtained from NATO sources. The chairman of the defence committee of the French National Assembly asked for a copy shortly after the bombing commenced but was not given a copy until a few days before the UN peace treaty was signed. I hope that members of this committee have a copy to look at and will be able to find out when and if Canada was informed of its conditions.

4: NATO’s campaign a total failure

We have been asked to believe that the war in Kosovo was fought for human rights. Indeed the president of the Czech republic received a standing ovation in this House of Commons when he stated that Kosovo was the first war fought for human values rather than territory. I suspect even President Havel would have second thoughts about that statement now that a large part of Yugoslav territory has in effect been handed over to the Albanians.

The war allegedly to stop ethnic cleansing has not done so. Serbs Gypsies, Jews, and Slav Muslims are being forced out of Kosovo under the eyes of 45,000 NATO troops. Murder and anarchy reigns supreme in Kosovo as the KLA and criminal elements have taken charge. The United Nations admits failure to control the situation and warns Serbs not to return.

The war allegedly to restore stability to the Balkans has done the opposite. Yugoslavia’s neighbors are in a state of turmoil. Montenegro is on the edge of civil war. Macedonia is now worried that Kosovo has shown the way for its own sizeable Albanian minority to demand self-determination. Albania has been encouraged to strive harder to fulfill its dream of greater Albania. Serbia itself has been ruined economically. Embittered and disillusioned it feels betrayed and alienated from the western democracies.

The illegal and unnecessary war has alienated the other great nuclear powers, Russia and China. These countries are now convinced that the west cannot be trusted. NATO expansion eastward is seen as an aggressive and hostile threat and will be answered by an increase in the nuclear arsenal of both nations. After Kosovo who can with any conviction convince them that NATO is purely a defensive alliance dedicated to peace and to upholding the principles of the United Nations?

More seriously the NATO bombing has destroyed NATO’s credibility. NATO stood  or more than just a  powerful military organization. It stood for peace; the rule of law, and democratic institutions. The bombing of Yugoslavia threw all of that out the window.

No longer can NATO stand on the moral high ground. Its action in Yugoslavia revealed it to be an aggressive military machine prepared to ignore international law and intervene with deadly force in the  internal affairs of any state with whose actions or behaviour it does not agree.

5: Conclusions

There are those who believe that the long-standing principle of state sovereignty can be over- ruled when human rights violations are taking place in a country. Until Kosovo the ground rules for such intervention called for Security Council authority before such action could be taken. Apologists for NATO argue that it was unlikely Security Council authority could have been obtained because of the veto power of China or Russia. So it would appear rather than even try to get consent NATO took upon itself the powers of the Security Council. I am not sure we should all be comfortable with this development.

Undoubtedly there may be times when such intervention is justified and immediately Rwanda comes to mind — but intervention for humanitarian reasons is a dangerous concept. Because who is to decide when to take such action and under whose authority? Hitler intervened in Czechoslovakia because he claimed the human rights of the Sudeten Germans were being violated. Those who advocate a change in the current rules for intervention are free to do so but until the rules change should we not all obey the ones that still have legitimacy?

NATO made a serious mistake in Kosovo. Its bombing campaign was not only an unmitigated disaster but it changed fundamentally the very nature and purposes of the alliance. Does article 1 of the NATO treaty still stand? Does NATO still undertake to settle any international disputes in which it may become involved by peaceful means? Do the NATO countries still undertake to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations?

Kosovo should serve as a warning call that Canadian democracy needs a shot in the arm to wake it up to the realities that foreign policy is important–important because as happened one day last March Canadians can wake up and find they are at war. Canadian pilots were bombing Serbia. Yet there was no declaration of war. The Canadian parliament was not consulted. The majority of the Canadian people had no idea where Kosovo was — let alone understand why our aircraft were bombing cities in a fellow nation-state that had been a staunch ally during two world wars.

It was not only Yugoslav sovereignty that was violated by NATO’s illegal action. Canadian sovereignty was also abused. Canada had become involved in a war without any member of the Canadian parliament or the Canadian people being consulted. The ultimate expression of a nation’s sovereignty is the right to declare war. NATO abrogated this right.

If it essential that we give up some of our sovereignty as the price we pay for membership in global institutions such as NATO then it is mandatory that such institutions follow their own rules, respect the rule of law, and operate within the generally accepted framework of the United Nations charter. This NATO did not do. It is for this reason I would suggest your committee must ask some tough questions about the nature of Canada’s involvement in the Kosovo war.

And one thing begets another…and so on

natoukrainaThere has been the first outbreak of violence in newly-annexed Crimea. Snipers fired on a military base guarded by the Crimean Self-Defense force. According to RT, the events took place at a small  Ukrainian military topography research center, and the majority  of the staff who work there are women. The center’s area is  rather small, and servicemen have only six machine guns and three  Makarov guns to provide security. The center reportedly decided  to join up with Crimea and Russia and was preparing paperwork to go over. The snipers launched the attack from a nearby high-rise apartment building under construction of some kind, drab in the way only the communists can do. Two people were killed including a Ukrainian soldier and a local self-defense force member.

There were two known snipers, one of whom escaped and one of whom is in Russian hands. The initial information is the sniper is a 17-year old from Lvov (or Lviv as the Ukrainians spell it) near the Polish border. It is rumored he is a member of Right Sector, the party of the goon who suggested blowing up Ukraine’s pipelines. According to the authorities, the previous evening there had been attempted break-ins at several military bases in the region. Rossiya  24 is showing footage of three leather-jacketed thugs roughing up a pro-Russian deputy in his office at the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev. His crime had been watching Putin’s speech on tv.

At the same time, in Sevastopol, at the HQ of Ukrainian fleet, a mob stormed the premises, hauled down the Ukrainian flag and replaced it with Russia’s flag. They demanded the Ukrainians leave the base. After “negotiations,” the commanding officer and thirty Ukrainian naval personnel left the premises. The Russians said they have authorization now to use force to defend themselves following the events at Simferopol in Crimea.

dogsThese are not encouraging signs. We are hanging over a precipice. There are many hands in the pie now, meddling has gone into hyper-drive. My suspicion is that rabid anti-Russians in NATO countries like Poland and Latvia and Estonia are involved and have been since before the events of Maidan. Russia can take eastern Ukraine at any moment, and Putin said as much in his address welcoming the Crimeans into the Russian Federation. A break-away region of Moldova (a former Soviet republic) that has its own government has now petitioned Russia for annexation. It is pro-Russia with a population equally divided between Russians, Ukrainians and Moldovans. There is Abkhazia and South Ossetia, all pawns on Russia’s side of the board. Every step forward now rests on a fragile basis. Russians will be making a list and checking it twice. It will not tolerate further NATO encroachment on its borders. There will be an immediate response if NATO pushes to absorb these currently non-threatening territories into the western military alliance, depriving Russia of its last buffers. In that case, Russia will take its only remaining viable option and absorb those territories for itself before NATO can do it. Russia will perhaps move on one or more fronts on the assumption that is better to be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.

I do think that Europe, at least, is loath to go to war for any reason at all. Their economies could really be hurt by the tit-for-tat sanctions that seem to be ready to escalate in an instant and they have no interest in risking nuclear annihilation for a government that has been corrupt ever since it declared its independence and isn’t even a NATO member. And even prominent analysts in the west are speaking out against escalating the quarrel with Russia. Jack Matlock, a career diplomat and former US ambassador to Moscow, argues that Russia should be allowed to have Crimea which would remove a “complicating” factor in patchwork Ukraine defining a national identity.

The biggest hawks are in the US, far from the tensions that are gripping the Europeans. The GOP is mistakenly taking this conflict between Russia and Ukraine as America’s big chance to show we’re still top dog. Their campaign theme will perhaps be “Nuke Russia.” Or maybe “Nuke Iran.” And of course China did not vote on the US side in the Security Council, so maybe “Nuke China.” John McCain in particular needs his lips sewn shut so he can stop embarrassing himself. Here is an instance in which I personally bless Obama’s inability to take action. We need to pause and reset (for real). Russia needs a security buffer. One still exists. NATO’s choice is to allow this status to continue without disturbing it and thus calm the Russian bear; or become even more aggressive in seeking to draw the concerned countries into NATO’s military web. In which case, the snowballing of events will continue, picking up speed and slipping from our clumsy hands.

This is a moment when what our future is depends on how the West responds. Is this a crusade or the real world?

Russia Annexes Crimea

CrimeaI just watched Vladimir Putin address the Russian Federal Assembly, including Duma and Federation Council deputies, regional governors and public figures. When Putin entered, the audience clapped wildly and then stood to their feet. Putin was nearly in tears and at first had trouble speaking. This was a historic moment. Russia was taking back what belonged to it and screw NATO. And that is the bottom line of what Putin said, bringing tears to the eyes of his audience and joy to their faces.

kosmpaKosovo indeed was a linchpin of Russia’s legal argument, which had several other legs, including protection of human rights, self-determination, and the right to defend ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers. Putin skewered NATO, pointing out that the Alliance went to war against Serbia without any UN authorization, in absolute violation of international law, on the grounds that there were a lot of human rights abuses and victims in Kosovo. Putin looked incredulous and said: if you can ignore international law on the basis of human rights, then Russia is on solid ground. It was deeply concerned about potential human rights violations, which thank God, he said, had not happened, and why, he asked, didn’t they? Because Russia acted swiftly to protect the Russians and pro-Russians in Crimea, who turned to Russia’s government with a request for help. You can be sure, he said, that if we hadn’t acted there would have been many human rights violations. Putin listed as evidence all the actions the illegal government in Kiev had taken against Russians, from threats to physical violence to cultural suppression. As for its military movements, Russia had not invaded Ukraine, though it could have. It did not kill anybody. It had done nothing beyond the limits of existing military and legal agreements regarding Crimea.

Furthermore, Crimea had not been consulted or given a voice when the territory was transferred from Russia to Ukraine under the Soviet regime. A historic injustice, Putin said, and  one worsened by the subsequent governments because “we” did not make a more urgent issue of the territorial delineation talks that the Ukrainians had obstructed from the beginning, refusing to allow clarification of the future for Crimea and other areas. Think about what would happen to us if NATO made Ukraine a member: the Russian fleet would be surrounded by NATO. Russia’s belly would be open to the enemy. This isn’t going to happen, he declared. The injustices had now been righted. For the first time ever, the Crimeans were given the chance to vote on their future and they voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. And now, he announced, Russia and Crimea were one. All the steps were being taken to integrate Crimea into the Federation. Putin said Russia absolutely guaranteed the Tatars their special rights, as fellows of the Crimean peninsula, including full rights to preserve their culture and religion and language as distinct from other nations. He declared Crimea to belong to Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars equally and declared all three languages to be official languages of the Crimean peninsula.

Putin cited Libya and Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Serbia as places where NATO and the US had set international precedents that today Russia is using to defend its own genuine vital interests, and the west rejects Russia’s and others’ right to do so. Why? he asked. Because it wasn’t in their interests to have Ukraine allied with Russia. Putin scoffed at NATO’s claim that Kosovo was a “special case” and not a precedent. He listed all the subsequent actions taken to give an international imprimatur to the actions taken by NATO in Serbia, including UN blessings for the independence of Kosovo. It was established law, now, he said: the UN had declared that (and he quoted) national law (Constitutions, e.g.) does not require a group asserting the right to secede to gain the approval of any central authorities nor can domestic law (Constitution) be cited as a reason to deny a people’s right to self-determination. Thus the assertion that Crimea had violated Ukrainian law by asserting its independence was simply wrong according to the UN itself.

natothreatI think there is a dawning recognition, at least in Europe, that Crimea’s majority did want to secede and join Russia and that Russia has been pushed by NATO as far as it will permit. It will not allow further threats from NATO, nor further encroachment on Russian borders. Putin himself stated flatly that Russia did not have any intention of invading any NATO countries, so that was a false issue. As for Ukraine, he did not directly say he wanted a neutral Ukraine, but only that Russia wants an undivided Ukraine that respects the equal rights of the Russians, the Ukrainians and the Tatars. He said Ukraine had changed government illegally, with the participation of far right elements who provoked the violence and the ousting of a legal government. Ukraine had to observe its own laws because to do otherwise risks destabilization of Ukraine due to its mixed population. He did make clear that Ukraine is a special zone for Russia, a land in which Russians were co-equal, that those sitting in Kiev are traitors to Ukraine and Russia, and that Ukraine is not going to fall to NATO. Other than that, Russia can deal with Ukraine’s normal relations with the west. He even said Russia doesn’t object to cooperation with NATO, but solely if such cooperation is non-military (such as disaster reaction). It doesn’t seek to subjugate Ukraine. But Ukraine will never be allowed to be a threat to Russia. (That earned another standing ovation.)

Putin’s address was a masterful use of national pride and national humiliation, feelings he obviously shared, to further Russian national interests. He admitted that there were those opposed to Russia’s position within Russia itself, but described such disagreement as normal and asserted forcefully that the vast majority of Russians stand with the government. There was little doubt about that judging from his audience’s reactions. I can only describe it as euphoria, and again I am reminded that the humiliation of nations, such as was indulged in at Versailles at Germany’s expense, only leads to future conflict. The ruined national pride must be recovered and the wrongs made right. Now Gorbachev himself, the man who made possible the collapse of the Soviet Union, has spoken in support of the annexation of Crimea as righting what was done wrongly. This is the moment when Russia’s sense of destiny and self-realization has fully awakened. There is no daylight on these fundamental issues of national survival between the Communist Party and those who ousted it. NATO has to recalculate the costs and benefits of further threats.

The Deed is Done, the Die is Rolled

crimea russiaIf Russia needed a boost to its national spirit, the Crimea has provided it. No matter what the reality turns out to be, and for sure there are going to be problems — as many as Kiev and the West can throw at them — the Russian majority in Crimea is ecstatic to have the direct protection of Holy Mother Russia.  A reported 96.77 percent of those who voted in Crimea voted to rejoin Russia and 88 percent of the eligible population voted. Many people reported that it was like a holiday, they felt they were returning to their mother’s bosom. Amy Kellogg of Fox News is skeptical of the percentage win reported by the electoral commission, although she has no doubt that the pro-Russian vote did carry the day handily. And she admitted that turnout was very high. But she said the concern is that the ethnic Russians are hounding the ethnic Ukrainians and that there was a lot of pressure on people to turn out, including by armed men. On the other hand, the armed men were not in the voting booths to determine which box was checked. If you were angry or opposed, that was your moment: vote for Ukraine. I watched ballot-counting and the vote counters held up each ballot to show how it was marked before recording it. One western observer tweeted that he was watching the voting, with ballots cast in transparent boxes, and all those he could read were checked in favor of annexation. And voters were happy and laughing. It’s pretty clear that those opposed were by and large not bothering to vote both because the outcome was obvious and to protest. An actual protest vote would have been better, as their abstention gives Russia real crowing rights. As for Russian hounding of Ukrainians, Kellogg should have added that this was a mirror-image of western Ukraine, where the Ukrainians are hounding the ethnic Russians.

It was clear the Russians had a plan ready to go when what Russia feared would happen, happened: NATO decided to draw Ukraine into what Russia considers in many respects an enemy organization. Russia knew the lay of the land and knew how to deploy propaganda to complement the anti-Russian actions in western Ukraine and the threats from the West. The pro-Russian population was good and riled as well as frightened by the mob violence in Kiev and the emerging evidence that NATO member nations trained the snipers who shot into the Maidan crowd. The EU/US rush to embrace the coup leaders, a good number of whom are far right figures who hate Russia, left the pro-Russians feeling they needed their own protector, and that protector was obviously Russia.

russia conundrumUkraine and Georgia are the only buffer Russia has left between itself and the NATO military pact today. Buffer zones give a nation a trip-wire that allows for the mobilization for war. Think of it this way: the entire eastward expansion of NATO is an effort to get a buffer zone between western Europe and Russia thus giving greater protection to the big NATO powers of Germany and France and allowing NATO HQ in Brussels time to mobilize. No great power dares to leave itself no time to react to military aggression and Russia has been given ever greater reason to fear an aggressive NATO since 1991. The moment NATO started casting lustful glances toward Georgia and Ukraine, Russia’s hackles went up. We had the brief Russian set-to with Georgia when the Georgian army tried to retake the pro-Russian secessionist region of South Ossetia. And now we have Crimea and eastern Ukraine. This could be a point where an arrangement is made with Russia or we move into an inevitable trajectory of war.

I see that the western protectors of western Ukrainians are setting up an “observer mission” in Ukraine. I served in such a mission. This is what they are for: military reconnaissance, target acquisition, channeling support to the opponents’ enemies, gathering propaganda material to be used by Brussels and national capitals, and arranging military liaison with those who will form a puppet government following NATO’s military action. The big media are always co-propagandists, no surprise. Observer missions, with their noble stated goals, are always an intended direct threat to whomever NATO is opposing, and if you don’t believe it — ask Serbia. If NATO is planning on wandering around in eastern Ukraine under the guise of observer missions, it is deliberately looking for a direct NATO-Russia confrontation. The outcome will be the occupation of eastern Ukraine by Russia. All hell is going to break loose. NATO, so keen on the Ukrainian prize, has put its big boot in the door and thus is driving up the stakes dramatically. We won’t need to wait for the western Ukrainians to respond with military action against Russia to set off the next global war. And it will be global, because every bad actor in the world is going to use our distraction over Ukraine to go for whatever it is it wants that the US doesn’t want it to have. Look for early reactions in Syria and Venezuela and Iran and North Korea.

solzhNATO doesn’t give a damn what damage its expansionism is doing to international stability. Contrary to their smug assumptions, threatening a massive nuclear state with an arms industry to rival that of the US will not bring peace and happiness to the planet. Once NATO decided to jettison the earlier NATO promise to Russia not to expand eastward in recognition of Russia’s genuine security concerns, it covered its treachery with fine words. Every country can decide which alliance it wants to belong to, NATO said (and says). My response was always this: that may be true, but NATO also has a right and an obligation to make a choice between being provocative and threatening, and thus destabilizing international security, or encouraging some other way to give greater security to the petitioning countries — things like regional defense organizations rather than NATO membership. NATO made its choice, preferring its own aggrandizement to stability. Now the US is responsible for all those countries who have entered in an endless procession and at NATO prodding and encouragement. At this moment, we are in peril of being taken into a war we are not going to “win” — just like we haven’t won a war since WWII. Only this time, the homeland is going to be the field of war, as will be the homelands of everybody else involved.

naziI read that one of the leading right-wing figures who loomed large in the putsch in Kiev has now publicly said he thinks the Ukrainians should blow up all the pipelines in Ukraine to punish the Russians. It’s true that the Russians depend on those pipelines to send oil to Germany and other European nations, including those from the former Soviet Union, but it was just breathtaking that this man doesn’t realize he would also be blowing up Ukraine’s only reliable source of energy, from Russia, part of which has been regularly siphoned off by the Ukrainians ever since the pipelines were built. That’s in addition to not paying a market price for the fuel they get legally and not paying a lot of the bill at all. This right-wing thug is the kind of idiot the US supports, as long as he is useful. I’m not sure anybody will view his suggestion as helpful, least of all Kiev’s supporters in Europe. But this is what we have let loose. And one thing is leading to another and that to another, until we have a snowball rolling downhill. Angela Merkel’s indignant hysterics are not helping either. As the head of a country that took so many millions of Russian lives, she might want to let someone else take the lead. Fat chance.

Will the US/EU/NATO Take Us to War Over Ukraine?

nato eastI watched a presentation on Russian TV by some high-ranking Orthodox Church figure in the ornate robes of that  religion talking about war and peace, and expressing his fervent desire that “brothers of the same blood and the same soul” should never take up arms against one another. He prayed for peace, he said. On the other hand, he added, it is a sacred duty to ensure the integrity of the common “Russian space” and of the common “spiritual space” that is shared by Russia and Crimea.

This says to me the Russian Church is mobilizing, as it always did before the 1917 Revolution and even afterwards, on behalf of the rulers and Holy Mother Russia when it faced foreign enemies. It also means the Russian government is in dead earnest about taking back Crimea, given to Ukraine in the confidence of eternal love in 1954. Interestingly, the Church prelate also raised the international principle of self-determination and asked why this does not apply to Crimea, the majority of whose people want to be part of the Russian Federation. I’d guess the Kosovo precedent is indeed in play when even priests are talking about it.

abandossAnother noteworthy item on the Russian news: a snippet of film showing humanitarian aid trucks en route to Crimea, and man-in-the-street interviews with Crimeans about the aid from their supporters in “Ossetia.” In fact there are currently two Ossetias in the Caucasus. One is in Russia (North Ossetia); and one is in Georgia (South Ossetia). In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the civil war in Georgia, South Ossetians began (with Russian support) a separatist movement to break away from Georgia toward undetermined future status. This has led to a condition of de-facto independence for South Ossetia, which is nevertheless not recognized as independent by the Big Boys of the West. the inept Georgians tried to grab back South Ossetia with their disastrous military foray a few years ago. I have no idea who was advising the zealously pro-western president at the time to undertake this pointless exercise in national humiliation, but there were rumors it was certain Western military friends. The foray failed of course and now it is unlikely there will ever be a return of this land to Georgia. Here’s the point: the news reporter talked about “Ossetia” not North Ossetia or South Ossetia. So I think annexation of this territory under the principle of self-determination is in the works.

The fighting in and break-away of South Ossetia happened about the same time that separatists in the Georgian region of Abkhazia (with Russian military support and under UN noses, literally) waged a ferocious and brutal war against Georgia’s untrained make-shift army that ended with the ethnic cleansing of all Georgians from the territory and the de-facto secession of Abkhazia. The Chechens also fought with the Abkhaz in one of their early foreign adventures and they used the experience they gained in Abkhazia against the Russians themselves in their many acts of terror. The Abkhaz are a distinct nationality from the Georgians, but the territory was always part of Georgia and the two nationalities lived together, if not always happily. But because of their ethnic identity, the Abkhaz quite legally can declare their independence and request annexation by Russia — it is simple self-determination. They determine themselves to be part of the Russian Federation. This possibility increases with the certainty on the part of Abkhazia that there will be a Georgian military effort to retake the territory to make NATO accession possible. (No territorial disputes allowed.) So Abkhazia can also ask for annexation on the basis of self-defense. There are already demonstrations  in Abkhazia in favor of Crimea’s right to secede. What is next?

And here’s a footnote to all the preceding history: when all these Russian actions were happening in the early 1990s, when Russia was still quite weak, the Clinton Administration and the State Department in particular did not wish even to raise these kinds of thorny issues with Russia much less take any punitive action of any kind in reaction (and nobody was advising such action, either). Georgia’s government asked for a US peacekeeping presence along the Inguri River dividing Georgia from the Abkhazian region after the latter had declared its independence and been cleansed of Georgians, and Washington was simply not interested. This question went around the UN for months, with some people (Ukrainians!) stepping forward to say they would participate in an international peacekeeping force. But no way. And when Russia caught wind of the effort to generate interest in such a body, it rushed in to say it was setting up a Russian peacekeeping force for the security of the region. And the US didn’t care. The US continued its deals with Yeltsin in Moscow, considering it more important to meddle in Russia as much as possible (and make some money while they were at it) than to defend even verbally the right to territorial integrity or the danger of unleashing Chechens on anybody at all. It was important only that Russia’s feathers (or Yeltsin’s, more accurately) not be ruffled.

Long and short — it is my opinion that not only is Crimea gone, but  the Russians are ready to annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia (the latter a highly valuable property as well as a buffer). They can do so under rules just established by the Russian Duma for expedited acceptance of a request for annexation from another region. As for eastern Ukraine, the Russian military is positioned to take it and that’s all we need to know. The entire scenario is strongly reminiscent of 1998/9 when NATO was planning feverishly action against Serbia, but lacked any justification to do so under international law. NATO unveiled its brand-new Strategic Doctrine setting forth an enormous list of reasons why NATO can use force against other countries and almost immediately began its 3-month bombing war against Serbia. In the international arena, it’s all about precedent. If you break it, you own it.

russia usI still have not heard a peep from our government, all hysterical over Ukraine, about the possibility of a Velvet Divorce. We should propose that the two parties divide the goodies between them and go their own ways peaceably. Doesn’t that make more sense then rattling our saber and threatening dire economic consequences that will also deeply impact a world trying to get out of recession? Wouldn’t it be better than bringing us to the brink of worse confrontation for principles we don’t even support in practice? Are we hurtling toward an unthinkable confrontation because we stupidly vowed to defend Ukraine if it gave up its nuclear weapons (which it couldn’t afford to maintain)? If I were advising the bonehead in the White House, I’d whisper partition Ukraine in his ear. And then I’d explain to him what that meant. It would be a sensible way ahead.



Kosovo raises its ugly head

nato and serbiaWay back in 1999, when NATO was revving up the bombers headed for Serbia, the Russians were pleading with the west not to act militarily against Serbia. It was a blatant violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity for a very flimsy reason and it would be a dreadful precedent in future. I bet even then the Russians were thinking of where the Kosovo precedent, set despite Russia’s strenuous opposition, could be used to Russia’s advantage in future. I’m sure one of those places was Ukraine.

kosovosplitToday I watched a press conference in Simferopol by Rustam Temirgaliev, a man who is obviously by name and demeanor someone derived from the Golden Horde of the Mongols. He is the Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers. He began his presentation by asking the press why the West refuses to recognize Crimea’s decision to break from Ukraine, but had no problem recognizing Kosovo’s independence. This, he argued, is a double standard. Temirgaliev also insisted that the post-1991 agreement establishing Ukraine as a nation guaranteed to the people the right to reject an illegal government established by force in Kiev. (I’m sure western Ukrainians had Russia in mind; the Russian part had NATO in mind.) As there had been an unconstitutional seizure of power in Kiev, Crimea would now exercise the right to defend itself (by secession and incorporation into the Russian Federation). Furthermore, he argued, Crimea asserts the same right to self-determination that was used by the US and EU  to partition Serbia and wrest Kosovo from the country. In Crimea, the people now wish, as a result of events in Kiev, to become a subject of the Russian Federation. In that respect, everything is being carried out now to establish the administrative changes that will take place in all fields (banking, currency, police, etc.) The number of flights with western Ukraine have been greatly reduced (by both sides, no doubt) although there are still a couple of flights. Crimea’s civil aviation is being taken under control by Russia’s aviation system.

He also spoke about the Crimean Tatar problem, noting that an official guarantee has been issued that the Tatar language is co-official with Russian, that they have full rights and are guaranteed proportional representation in the legislature, that they can practice freely their culture and religion without interference. (Note: I’m sure there are other goodies thrown in under the table that might guarantee as well the cooperation of the key Tatar authorities in this transition. We will see how that goes.  But that’s tomorrow’s problems.) He was later asked about the rights of the Ukrainians in Crimea, shouldn’t they have the same rights as the Tatars? The Deputy Chairman launched immediately into statistics about Crimean population which have changed slightly with dips in both the Ukrainian and Russian populations but the Russians have 60 percent and 22 percent Tatars and 16 percent Ukrainian. I didn’t hear the rest on that question but I’d guess the gist was that there aren’t enough Ukrainians to be treated like the Tatars (and the unspoken would be “Ukrainian will be an official language when hell freezes over”).

osceTemirgaliev says that there will be international monitors of the election in Crimea and says that the mission members will travel to Crimea via Russia as Ukraine will not allow them to use Ukraine as a transit point (and there is a point where Russia and Crimea are extremely close). He also makes known that the OSCE was asked to send monitors and refused to do so because doing so would recognize Crimea’s referendum. Of course, it is entirely up to the OSCE governments whether they can participate or not — there is no law that says being there to witness and report means we accept you. But that would be the position taken. That way there is no inconvenient evidence in your hands to show the election was actually free and fair, leaving you a future issue to use in this power struggle.

There is much more of a  more mundane but urgent nature (shortages, banking, money, the bureaucracy) but the main points of his press conference internationally are those stated above. It is significant and worth noting because it is the first time I am aware of that the Kosovo precedent is being openly asserted in regard to Ukraine. The Russian legal argument will be very tight and it will be a very tough thing for the EU and US to prove that there is any difference between the precedents set and results of US/EU/NATO action in Serbia and what is underway in Crimea. The ethnic question will be dominant, of course, because self-determination is dominant. And there is no question who the majority is in these areas of Ukraine.

helpI’ve been reading a lot of hawkish commentary lately from people who think that the answer to Russia is to become even more threatening than we already are. The assumption here is very macho: we’re bigger than they are; we’re better than they are: come on, we dare you. But somebody needs to beat some sense into them. Russia is dead serious. NATO is never going to regain Crimea or the eastern part of Ukraine. If it comes to war and the West starts to push Russia, Russia will push back however necessary. All of this for a country of charming people of viciously anti-Semitic sentiment and the potential for the EU and NATO’s biggest nightmare ever. But it isn’t for Ukraine at all, or we’d be pushing national neutrality for Ukraine, not membership in NATO and the EU. It is for power, because NATO and the EU have become the world’s new imperialists. They see no borders to their authority or their right to the use of power. It is all going to boomerang.


Mulling Over Russian Identity and Aspirations

identityEverything today is about identity, isn’t it? Sexual identity, ethnic identity, national identity. Not surprising then, that today in Russia the preeminent issue is national identity and ethnic identity. And Ukraine sits right in the middle of it all.

There’s a lot of bluster these days about Vladimir Putin. He has come to represent Russia, and the danger for us is that we aren’t the only ones focusing on Putin. The Russians have followed our lead and are focusing on this guy and whatever he plans, and they are betting on him because they believe in him and believe he represents the aspirations of Russian nationalism.

He’s been puffed up with pervasive PR on his side, and on our side we have helped him. We have reduced all of Russia and its massive diversity to one man. That’s how we do foreign policy these days. It’s always about one man: Putin, Qaddafi, Mubarak, Milosevic. We have used these leaders as agit-prop tools to prod ordinary people into responding the way the USG wants them to respond, by “personalizing” American problems with other countries and creating an enemy everybody can hate. You’re primed to see Putin and say “brute.” That gives the USG a lot of leeway. The only caution is that the Russians react exactly the same way to “NATO.” It gives Putin a lot of leeway.

nto membersAnd I’ll give you another perspective. After heavy losses in WWII, the Russian Communists prevailed against fascist Germany and gained further territory. They gave a chunk of that to Ukraine, which was more commonly known to Russians as “Little Russia.” Later, Russia also gave its Little Brothers a gift directly from the Russian people, the Crimea. The gifts were given in the expectation that this union, this family, with Ukraine would last forever. And it didn’t come to pass. After almost reaching the century mark, in 1991, the Soviet Union went belly up in that great liberating wave that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall several years earlier. When Gorbachev agreed, without demanding a signature, that Germany could remain in NATO after unification as long as NATO agreed never to expand eastward, that really was the moment when this current crisis in Ukraine began. The die was cast.

That is because Gorbachev thought it was an “ironclad” agreement — and probably the leaders of the West did too — but successor governments in NATO could not have cared less what was agreed to by earlier authorities. The moment Russian weakness opened the door, the West slammed through and took in ever greater territory to the East and to Russia’s disadvantage. This, to you and to me, is usually called betrayal. You know: “you gave your word.” On the other hand, we could say, “Gorbachev was an idiot.” Both points of view are correct.

In the aftermath of the collapse of the entire communist empire, beginning in Berlin, Boris Yeltsin emerged as the strongman in Russia. He was the nationalist to oppose Gorbachev, who was hated for his weakness. Yeltsin was a key figure in the collapse of the Soviet Union, a charismatic man and a Russian nationalist, but a hopeless alcoholic. The western powers made billions for their business interests by playing Yeltsin. And when Yeltsin was in power, almost any measure the US was for — Russia was also for. I don’t profess to know any details of all the many underhanded deals that were being done at that time, but I do know this: Yeltsin eventually became an embarrassment to his country. Russians didn’t know who they were anymore, they were afloat and frightened; but they knew that Yeltsin couldn’t be the face of Russia. It was generally felt that Yeltsin was giving the store away, while being feted with champagne by the victorious West. The liberals were at the helm and all they wanted was to be loved and enveloped by the West. And everywhere the Russians looked was misery and uncertainty. Russia was looking to be made partner and everywhere they turned was humiliation.

yeltsinputinBut Yeltsin deserves a medal anyway, both for what he did to destroy the USSR and what he did to preserve Russia. His choice of Putin as a successor showed an admirable political savvy. I think Yeltsin knew he had betrayed Russia in some way, while still serving Russia in the longer term. He knew Putin was a Russian nationalist, and one of the nation’s brightest as a KGB top dog. Yeltsin may have given away a lot to the western powers, but in the end he checked them with Putin. That was his real legacy.

For Russians, with all their affection for the folkloric Boris Yeltsin, order is paramount. Disorder in Russia means death, one way or another, and nobody wants that. The younger people in the West don’t remember, if they knew, that in Russia the NATO threat was a theme of their lives. And they, like all of us, want order. That is what Putin has offered. And another implicit part of Putin’s appeal is that he says the West will never prevail over Russia and he shows he means it. He has that huge NATO stick to inflame his people.

This is a major turning point in history, the last being the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the unipolar world. We are back to some sort of emerging “unstable” stability with the both Russia and China (and probably India and Iraq) as balancing powers to the US. There will never be the stability under a multi-polar regime as there was in the bi-polar world of the US and the Soviet Union; but for Russians, what is developing is a lot better than what they have known. For the first time in a long time, they have a voice in the international arena and the power to amplify it.


Putin Takes the Stage: Great Performance

natoukraineI’m watching Vladimir Putin now on Rossiya 24 (satellite tv) in a brilliant press conference of the sort Obama can only dream of giving. The Russian leader is speaking spontaneously (the way Marco Rubio can) from the heart and he is speaking directly to the heart of every Russian in the world. This is that long-awaited NATO-Russia moment and Putin is quietly furious. There is no other word for it. He is quite proper with the press. He appears to be calm and at ease and friendly. His arguments are multi-faceted and factual but emotional, too. The putsch in Kiev he calls a “coup” and then explains why it is legally an armed and anti-constitutional overthrow of a legal government. He says every single post-Soviet Ukrainian government has left the poor and disenfranchised Ukrainians as bad off as ever, and he names the culprits, the ex- and current presidents of Ukraine. He admits that Russia has vital interests in Ukraine for many, many reasons. I look at the faces of the press, pounding away on computers, their faces stern and unhappy. Some may disapprove of what Putin has done; I’d bet most agree and are glad that he went to the aid of the Russians under threat in Ukraine. I bet many are mortally offended by the in-your-face Russophobes now in charge in some of Ukraine’s most powerful ministries. And despite twenty years of post-Soviet history, I’d also bet many are absolutely convinced that NATO means ill for Russia and this was provoked by certain sectors of the West.

reasonable manPutin is a man in charge of every pertinent fact, familiar with the history, and sure that he is expressing Russia’s heart and soul and still adhering to the letter of the law. Putin pointed out that the origin of the current problems was Yanukovych’s decision (a legal decision fully within the Ukrainian President’s powers, says Putin) to put off — not even deep-six — the association agreement with the EU (as opposed to one with Russia) because, as Yanukovych told Putin, there was stuff in that EU agreement that was worrisome for Ukraine. They wanted to control Ukraine’s bilateral agreements with Russia. Ukraine is highly dependent on Russian trade. In the end the EU threatened Yanukovych to sign or lose, and he decided to go with Russia. At that point, persons primed to stir up public disorder began to take actions for an armed takeover of the legal Ukrainian government. Putin agreed that the people of Ukraine wanted a change from the Yanukovych government, but pointed out that the Constitution of Ukraine has only three methods for the departure of the president: voluntary resignation, death, or impeachment. None of those were pertinent. An agreement with the opposition had been reached with the signature of Yanukovych, who gave in almost one hundred percent to the demands of the mobs and to the demands of the EU and Washington. He ordered the removal of all troops from Kiev. At which point the mob took over, ousted the elected government and declared themselves the legitimate government of all Ukraine. It was all planned.

Here’s another good moment: one of the reporters asked if he personally had tried to contact the current authorities in Kiev. Putin just smiled and said there was no one at his level to talk to in Kiev as the legitimate president of Ukraine was in Russia; so the contacts were at the governmental level and aimed at the ensurance of normal economic and other relations with Russia in this period. Quite right, too. We reject the legitimacy of the thugs in Kiev, but we have to protect the interests of both countries, too.

This is another good moment. It seems a pro-Ukrainian reporter was acting unbecomingly and too aggressively. Putin answered his question but then suddenly we went to another screen and the anchor of Rossiya 24 . I love it. I think now they are hustling him out of the audience as a potential assassin, much as we would do in our own presidential press conferences when someone gets out of line. (We try not to let the trouble-makers in the first place.) As someone who was once hustled out of a genuine human rights trial in Leningrad in 1984 (yes!), I can say it gives you something to talk about for years. The anchor is followed quickly by a man who is obviously known to Russians who is almost crying with anger over the insults hurled at Russia by the fascist western Ukrainians and their (understood) fascist sponsors.

This is my view: Putin is claiming legal and historical and material and substantive reasons for going into Crimea. No matter the political calculations, no matter the words of disapproval, he knows the law is actually on his side. Furthermore, he has now made it quite clear that Russia is ready to rumble, as our hopeless Secretary of State once boasted of himself. He is loath to use force, but if that is what it takes to defend Russian vital interests, so be it. As for those economic sanctions, he warned that the end will not be good for those pushing this action. I’m sure he has energy in mind. Europe is vulnerable and Ukraine was a vital oil conduit. From their perspective, if they only owned Ukraine!! If they undertake sanctions, who is likely to give first: the freezing western Europeans in 2014 or the overly-warm Russians taking one for the Gipper (Holy Mother Russia). Remember that the Germans surrounded and starved Russians in WW2 Leningrad and Russia still won the war. We living the high life in the West don’t realize that most Russians still living remember what life used to be like. They can tighten the belt again if NATO wants to rattle its currently small-looking saber. It looked a hell of a lot bigger in Libya.

chessboardThe current state of play on the chessboard is this: Russia has obviously responded to some back-scenes offer, perhaps brokered by Merkel, to allow a return to the Ukrainian internal agreement that was jettisoned and restore the previous government until the agreed date of early elections. It is clear he will not obstruct any investigation or prosecution of Yanukovych in accordance with the pre-coup law. As a token of good faith, Putin has ordered all those troops on maneuver to go back to the barracks. He has played his move. Up to West. Will the Russian troops stay in their barracks or be deployed in eastern Ukraine, as well? (Hint: Russia isn’t ever going to give up Crimea.)

Next move: West becomes pissy. Tries being provocative as a proof of NATO manhood. Maybe (shudder) they will draw a line in the sand.

Next move: Eastern Ukraine.

And by the way, here is a great link to an interview with Dmitri Simes, a Russian Jew and a brilliant analyst of his homeland.


Two Thumbs down for Supreme Court

supreme courtI’m shocked. Really, shocked. I am appalled, too, that the US Supreme Court refused to hear an extremely important case of religious freedom. What the Court lost was a chance to say that just because a law exists in some part of the world, it doesn’t mean it is a just law or that the United States should not shelter someone seeking haven from that unjust law. In many Moslem countries they mutilate all females by removing a certain body part. You could argue it is a non-discriminatory law because all those having that body part are subject to the same law. Yet we grant (and should grant) amnesty to females who escape and get to the US. But somebody seeking to avoid state indoctrination because of religious beliefs– no way. Religious shmeligious. The US Supreme Court doesn’t care. Law applies to everybody, non-discriminatory, no issue.

I don’t know what the Romeikes will do now. If I were they, I’d look around for a friendly religious country (Latin America, maybe? just steer clear of the Marxists!) and head there. Just keep moving. The long arm of the German State will have to keep moving, too, if they are really that keen on grabbing six more children to brainwash. And I wonder why there has not been an uproar in all the media wherever religious freedom exists (does it exist anywhere anymore?) to say – hey, modern socialist Germany looks a heck of a lot like Nazi Germany, without the goose-stepping.  As someone once told me, scratch a German Marxist and find a German Nazi.

I’ve had it with Europe, I’ve seen a lot of it and frankly it all looks the same. Like a pretty postcard. Furthermore, it’s getting to be like the former Soviet Union, where you could travel far and wide and never see a single innovative and different thing. The New Europe is a lot like pablum, even if the food is often better. The worst of it is having to endure that insufferably superior European attitude.

And I’ve had it with the Supreme Court too. Where do the Republicans come up with their nominees? Was it too much to expect that we could have had a true and steady Constitutionalist as Chief Justice? Here’s the deal – no need to worry about losing that fifth seat on the court. It’s already subverted.