Those ignorant of history are damned to repeat it.
- Déjà vu – all over again – stumbling into war?
- Another Day in the death of Ukraine
- No Exit (strategy) – Europe hurries to its own demise
- Truth – the first casualty in any war (blown to bits – by Washington/Kiev)
- Would the real “Ukraine” kindly stand up?
- Blowback – Propaganda poisons its own parents
- Sanctions – if at first you don’t succeed (fail, fail, fail again!)
- How to trade it
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
It's long. It's good. Weekend reading from one of the most incisive observers of The Bear. Published simultaneously in the November issue of Marc Faber's excellent Gloom, Boom & Doom Report
This is part 1 of two parts. For part 2, please click on the link at the end of part 1.
Looking back upon the absolute folly of August 1914 which led not to one but ultimately to the two apocalyptic wars defining our last century – one finds oneself wondering how could men have been so blind, so foolish?
How could they have believed their own obviously fallacious propaganda? How is it that they so totally failed to see the world from their adversaries’ standpoint, making due allowances for divergent aspirations and fears? How could mature nations led by educated men have abandoned their vital national interests so as to blindly follow purported allies with vastly different goals and capabilities?
Following a disastrous engagement with Japan, and faced with severe social distress, the Russian Empire was no more ready to fight a European war than to walk upon the moon. The creaking Austro-Hungarian Empire, searching desperately for a raison d’être, was held together with sticky tape. The crumbling Ottomans were desperate for someone else to invent a reason to renew their tenuous lease on life.
None were remotely ready to fight a global conflict. Yet politicians lied to journalists – then believed what they read in the press; the man in the street picked up the hue-and-cry; Old Europe stumbled toward her own destruction.
What fools they were – seemingly not of another century but of another world. It is inconceivable that our modern democracies could ever do something quite so insane…
Or is it? Before judging our predecessors too harshly, consider how the current civil conflict in Ukraine – a geographical expression, the borders of which were defined by Stalin and which encompass two very different nations – no more a unitary state than were Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia – is being used as a wedge across the European continent, hastening the split of the world into two increasingly hostile camps: East (Beijing-Moscow-BRICS) and West (G7)
Another day in the death of Ukraine
When last we wrote about Ukraine for Doom and Gloom (August Issue) the situation was threatening but not yet tragic on the grand scale; as pessimistic as we were, no one could have reasonably foreseen the full horrors of the civil war lying ahead.
The savagery of the artillery bombardment of the Eastern cities of Ukraine is reminiscent of the Panzer divisions which roamed across these same plains in living memory. Whilst deposed President Yanukovich, for all of his numerous failings, steadfastly refused to fire upon his own people, the current regime – comprised of oligarchs largely beholden to the neo-fascist Pravoye Sektor block, has shown no such compunction.
Beginning with the massacre at Odessa (where a nationalist mob chased pro-Russian demonstrators into a trade-union building, set it alight, then stood cheering while those who jumped from 3rd story windows to escape the flames we beaten to death – on camera – as they lay prostrate on the ground) and continuing with the bombardment of East Ukrainian towns and cities with GRAD rocket batteries – very imprecise Soviet artillery designed to destroy advancing NATO tank battalions by devastating dozens of acres of ground at a time.
Civil wars are always and everywhere particularly savage – this one is outstanding for the utter purposelessness of the random cruelty.
Much like the American invasion of Iraq – Europe has stumbled into the Ukrainian quagmire with no visible exit strategy. Washington – with its signature mix of arrogance and ignorance of local history and culture, had set out to rebuild the Middle-East in its own image, apparently seeking to eliminate the radical Islamist threat by overthrowing every secular and anti-fundamentalist government in sight: Iraq, Libya now Syria; it is not surprising that this resulted in a power vacuum into which rushed the best-organized and most fanatical forces.
Al Qaada began as a creature of Washington intended to be used against the USSR, then conveniently put back into the drawer – Bin Laden had other plans. Now again, Obama announces the US is going to war against ISIS – which until a few weeks ago they had still supported as a tool against Assad.
Brussels can apparently do as badly when it puts its mind to it – it is no mystery to European policy makers that, ex- Russia, Ukraine is not remotely viable as an economic entity – it is dependent upon Russia for the bulk of its export markets, for billions in remittances, as well as for almost all of its energy, capital and industry. To expect Russia to participate in the bailout of an overtly hostile state is patently absurd, while no one in Europe can remotely afford the costs of their imperial Ukrainian policy.
Ukraine could, of course, be brought into the EU – provided that someone can be found willing to spend somewhere in the vicinity of the €500 billion it cost to reconstruct Eastern Germany. Given that Poroshenko left Washington with a generous $52 million, there is some shortfall. The European largesse available to ex-Soviet states in the 90s is no longer on offer, as Europe itself teeters on the brink.
Ukraine is currently on life support from an IMF drip-line, rapidly building up an unmanageable IMF debt load which, unlike its sovereign Eurobond borrowings, can never be defaulted upon, and which their children’s children will still be repaying.
Another day in the death of Europe
Europe too is now little more than an geographic expression – one that is increasingly devoid of any economic logic. Much of the old continent has been in recession for the past 15 years, living off of accumulated wealth while selling down the family silverware.
With crushing deficits and a dangerously frayed social fabric, monetary sleight of hand is now being used to forestall the inevitable crisis. The Ukrainian war may well prove to be the first pebble in an avalanche – whilst trade with Russia accounts for a relatively modest proportion of European GDP, those few percentage points can mean the difference between muddle-through on the one hand, economic collapse on the other.
With no vital geopolitical interests at stake in Ukraine – and with Russia the only real growth market to which they had access, in a rational world the old European states would have acted as even-handed, honest brokers – pushing both sides to find the best compromise possible: either to restructure Ukraine as a highly federalized state, or if that proved impossible, to accept some form of independence for the Donbas based upon an internationally-supervised referendum whereby the inhabitants of the Eastern provinces could choose their own future.
Instead, the diplomacy of the founding EU states has been hijacked by Washington, London and the ex-Soviet Republics. It is of course Europe, not Washington, which stands to pay the price.
The First Casualty
While it has been said that in any war Truth is the first casualty, in actual fact the lying tends to reach its fever pace somewhat earlier; the run-up to wars requires that the populace be whipped into a patriotic frenzy, anxious to make the appalling sacrifices soon to be demanded of them – their livelihoods, their cities, their children, often enough their lives – all justified by the terrible threat from The Enemy.
From the Crimean war to Sarajevo, Munich to the savaging of Vietnam, It would be difficult to name a single instance when the tame press did not enthusiastically participate in the Great Undertaking.
The Ukrainian civil war now underway is certainly no exception to the rule. A 24-hour wrap-around virtual reality has been created presenting a grotesque parody of the actual nature of this conflict. Western politicians find themselves captive to a narrative they themselves invented, unable to seek reasonable compromise for fear that their allies and electorates would turn on them. Only a handful of ex-leaders dare to speak the truth.
In this regard, it is instructive to watch the increasing contortions of the Western corporate mass-media reporting on the grisly war crimes committed daily against civilian populations of Eastern Ukraine.
The NY Times baldly repeated the wildly improbable claims of the Kiev regime that the Odessa protestors set fire to their own building (apparently in a intentional auto-da-fe?) Mass graves of civilians are found as Kiev’s forces withdraw from Russian-speaking regions of Eastern Ukraine and, when the BBC finally airs the story, they haven’t a clue as to how all of those dead people got there.
Artillery shells fall onto the courtyard of a kindergarten in in Donetsk killing 10 civilians – mostly parents and grandparents waiting for their children – and the media employs the passive tense – “the school was bombed” – without mentioning who it was who has been lobbing artillery into Russian-speaking civilian areas. Dozens of journalists working for these media have reported on the atrocities in personal blogs and e-mails, and yet their editors do everything possible to suppress the story.
Meanwhile, the bellicose declarations from the NATO member states involve a great deal of make-believe and play-acting. While no rational person actually believes that Russia is set to invade the Baltics, neutralize Finland, occupy Stockholm or seek to recreate the USSR, to earnestly pretend to fear precisely those eventualities can be a lucrative career move.
Generals who had been shunted off onto side-tracks as NATO found itself desperately lacking in enemies suddenly find a new lease on life. Swedish politicians whose tired anti-Russia rhetoric was increasingly laughed off as quaint and irrelevant feel their vital juices surging. Parties of the right and of the left vie for the attention of an electorate misinformed by the corporate media.
A huge military-industrial complex – fearful for its future given recent deep cuts in weapons spending as part of the dread “peace dividend,” are now savouring the prospect of lucrative contracts for weapons systems to defend against an imaginary threat – systems which will doubtless never see a shot fired in anger.
Ukraine – The Eternal Borderland
Like Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia, Ukraine is an artificial creation – indeed a far more recent one. The boundaries of modern Ukraine were defined by Joseph Stalin (a Georgian) and while the Poroshenko regime declares Ukraine to be a single nation, indivisible and unitary, this claim is somewhat undermined by the savage repression of those of his countrymen who look East rather than West: according to the UN there are some 4000 dead, upwards one million driven into exile, towns and villages devastated, infrastructure destroyed. It seems a very unlikely way to cement a sense of national identify.
Nation states are not immutable – tacit Kerry, there have been numerous shifts of European national boundaries since the Second World War – Cyprus, the collapse of the USSR, the reunification of Germany, the breakup of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, the partition of Serbia by NATO, the Russian-supported cession of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia, most recently the (failed) Scottish referendum and the upcoming Catalan vote. Crimea is only the most recent in a long list, with reunification desired by 85-90% of the population; it now seems increasingly likely that Donetsk and Lugansk will follow Crimea into some form of autonomy; given the savagery of the attacks by punitive battalions it is hard to imagine the Easterners submitting to renewed rule from Kiev.
In fact, two great and incompatible principals here collide: self-determination, i.e. the right of people to decide under which government they will live and of nationalities to enjoy self-determination, versus the sanctity of national borders. Unfortunately, the ability to use force becomes the determining factor in arbitrating between the two great principals.
Please click here for part 2
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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