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Western Media and Putin's Paranoia


Paul Goble’s analysis and apparent support for Andrey Piontkovsky’s contention after  Piontkovsky’s article at that Vladmir Putin is intent on confronting the US and NATO, in the belief that he can win, with the aims of achieving “the maximum extension of the Russian World, the destruction of NATO, and the discrediting and humiliation of the US as the guarantor of the security of the West” is flawed because it is based on a seriously closed-minded interpretation of the context of unfolding events, so myopic in fact, that it seems to ignore reality.

The United States and ‘Losers’

Piontkovsky’s argument begins with the assertion that “No state or regime goes to war firmly convinced that it will lose it”. In fact, states or regimes, even a stateless people may go to war because they have no choice. To contend that Hezbollah, Hamas and the defiant people of Gaza are taking on the Israeli state and the US as a matter of choice with an assumption of this sort would expose a foolish embrace of Israeli hasbara, which obscures the truth of that conflict, a conflict that will not end, from the Israeli perspective, until the last Arab is driven from Greater Israel, whatever ‘Greater Israel’ may eventually be.

It should be clear to anyone who paid close attention to the development of the US-Iraq conflict (through two wars) that Saddam Hussein progressed from an original position of obsequious deference to acknowledged US supremacy to become a reluctant adversary in consequence of a combination of naivety, hubris and bravado but essentially based on his misinterpretation of US long term intentions.

In July 1990 Hussein sought US ‘consent’ for an invasion of Kuwait and received (in my opinion, a deliberately contrived and misleading) response from U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie to the effect (quotation from Wikipedia) “inspired by the friendship and not by confrontation, [Washington] does not have an opinion” on the disagreement between Kuwait and Iraq, stating "we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts". It was the aggressively vehement and starkly at variance response to the actual invasion after the event that induced the (probably US-anticipated) flurry of hubris and bravado from Hussein that did the rest, ultimately locking Hussein into the role of ‘reluctant aggressor’.

The revised history of this detail today (Wikipedia) is that this exchange between Hussein and Glaspie occurred at US initiative when “Glaspie asked the Iraqi high command to explain the military preparations in progress, including the massing of Iraqi troops near the border”. However, others may also recall that Glaspie later left a news conference literally in tears having revealed under pressure of questioning that in fact Hussein had ‘sought permission’, something Glaspie’s masters had obviously instructed her (and presumably also Wikipedia) to conceal. So I contend that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was probably a state that invaded Kuwait “firmly convinced that it will win” in the belief there was a tacit US nod and wink, but by 2003 had no choice but to go to war against a formidable enemy “firmly convinced that it will lose it” and with nothing left to negotiate with but the hubris and bravado.

Given the equally obsequious efforts of Moammar Gaddafi to court US favour and renounce his former ‘transgressions’ – paying compensation over Lockerbee (even though, as we now know, Libya had nothing to do with it), condemning the September 11 attacks on the U.S. by al-Qaeda (even though half the world has doubts about the nature of 9/11) and calling for Libyan involvement in the War on Terror (even though Gaddafi understood the disinformation of the “War on Terror” ruse), engaging in secret talks with the British government to normalise relations then meeting with Blair, decommissioning Libya’s chemical and nuclear weapons programs, and cooperating in EU immigration strategies, the idea that Gaddafi’s Libya was a state that went into a war firmly convinced that it would win it” is absurd.

President Bashar al-Assad's Syria is hardly a state that could be described as going to war with the proxies of the US and its Middle-Eastern allies with any set of goals or firmly convinced that it could win.

Hussein and Gaddafi are people of a type that some in the circles of power like to call ‘losers’; ‘we came, we saw, he died’. My grandmother always liked a saying that went ‘pride cometh before the fall’.

Is Putin a Loser?

Putin’s position is much more realistically interpreted as that of reluctant defender, standing his ground at the last bastion. Putin is literally defending the home borders into what was once the Russian sphere of influence and far within the lines that past agreements had defined as the limits of NATO expansion. The ‘seven invasions in five years plan’ blatantly exposed by General Wesley Clark is one very forthright pointer to this reality and Finian Cunningham outlines and explains the NATO encroachment here.  But to expand beyond these assertions there are some no longer contentious facts to consider.

The CIA interventions in Afghanistan in 1979, which precipitated (and were intended to precipitate) the Soviet invasion (the Soviet Union’s Vietnam) and eventually led to the fall of the Soviet Union, not to mention the first destruction of a highly civilised Eastern nation, that would be the pattern to come for Iraq, Libya, Syria (as work in progress) and Iran on the drawing board, is also a matter of public record. Take this to mean that the US was willing to engage in clandestine measures to undermine a government that is progressing towards all the things that we in the West ostensibly tout as commendable (Democracy, human rights, equal opportunity for women in society, education and literacy – as were all happening then in Afghanistan) as if sacrificing a pawn in a game of chess. We should take a good, close look at Iraq and Libya before and after.

In this interpretation of Putin’s situation, his behaviour in being assertive while exercising restraint, taking cautious, conservative action and very measured responses to developments, pursuing diplomacy and providing clear and forthright accounts for his actions has been not only admirable, but also intelligent and astute, which explains why Putin’s standing across the Western World is far more respected than that of the slick, deceptive puppet of behind-the-scenes forces that we have in Obama as the token pinnacle of ‘Freedom and Democracy’ as we know it.

Still further, the obvious projection in asserting that one of Putin’s aims is to achieve “humiliation of the US as the guarantor of the security of the West” reveals a heartfelt commitment to the illusion of “the US as the guarantor of the security of the West”. This of itself is at variance with the demonstrably, overwhelmingly favoured opinion globally is that the US is the one nation that poses the greatest threat to world peace, the observed fact that the US (and supporting Israel in the same vein) has been a major force in flouting and undermining International Law, UN Resolutions, Vetoing the moral force of the UN, dismissing the Geneva conventions and various other UN institutions that had been the hope of the 20th Century for a world order founded on law, justice, international agreement and reasoned restraint. The US has, incidentally, been a constant anchor and impediment to the development of the ICC, to which it has never become a signatory, yet contrives exemption from its jurisdiction by a range of means and yet aspires to assert itself as its “world policeman”, using it as an instrument to bludgeon African Nations.

A Closer Look at the Analysis

But examining the context of this article we see that it comes from The Institute of Modern Russia (IMR), a non-profit, ‘nonpartisan’ public policy organization—a think tank—with offices in New York and Washington D.C (Wikipedia). It ranks among the many richly-funded and highly vocal institutions out of the US that call themselves ‘think tanks’, have the shine of high-sounding titles such as the ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ but in practice are little more than propaganda outlets for the US Empire and in some cases far worse. The NED for example was deeply involved in the failed coup in 2002 against Hugo Chavez where the tactic of deploying roof-top snipers to murder demonstrators among Chavez’ opposition was applied in an attempt to demonise Chavez – an attempt that was vividly exposed for what it was; but a pattern that once again emerged in Kiev, where the outgoing President Viktor Yanukovitch (elected to office in an election celebrated as being legitimate and democratic in the West) was discredited on the same ‘evidence’ and driven out of office in an ‘informal’ if no less violent ‘regime change’.

In the Ukraine much of the $5bn, which Victoria Nuland admitted the US had spent on ‘democracy in the Ukrainecame from the NED. But Prof Michel Chossudovsky has much more to say about this ‘funding of democracy’.

Given the lack of oversight of accounting management to which US organisations are prone (Rumsfeld announced on 10 Sept 2001 that the Pentagon was unable to account for around $2trillion) is it any wonder that much of this money finds its way into financing and arming neo-nazi organisations bent on violent rebellion?

So an article like this really needs to be put into the same category with this article in the Tampa Tribune titled Julian Assange’s war on women, which emits the same odour right from its very title, but more about that later.

A slightly more ‘balanced’ view of Andrey Piontkovsky’s contention given by Steve Rosenberg of BBC News, Moscow begins by noting that ‘The word Kremlin means "fortress"’ and goes on to assert that “Today there are no foreign armies knocking at the gates” of Russia, as there have been “For hundreds of years” (no?) and to imply there is no justification for the alleged situation (based on  Piontkovsky’s contention) that “Yet once again the Kremlin feels threatened”. And so Rosenberg deduces that “Whether these are phantom fears or grounded in reality, they are fuelling a siege mentality at the heart of Russian power - one which is dictating Kremlin policy on Ukraine and on the West”. He at least toys with the possibility that Russian fears may be “grounded in reality” but he is all about presenting ‘balance’.

Rosenberg alludes to the happier days when the idea was floated that Russia might join NATO. What an excellent solution to European ambivalence about unity and separate national identities (which after all, are rich, valuable and deeply rooted in history). Putin had posed only one condition: that “Russia's views are taken into account as those of an equal partner”. That being the case, one would have to ask why such a profoundly significant possibility was not pursued and richly debated in the general media. The “If not, why not” question immediately arises and one possible view is immediately suggested in the Cunningham article already mentioned. However, for Rosenberg this is only a preface to assert that “Since then, Moscow believes its views have been ignored” from which he goes on to dismiss information provided by a former deputy finance minister in the Russian government, Sergei Aleksashenko that ‘the Kremlin had warned the West "dozens of times" not to meddle in Ukraine, but that all of Moscow's warnings went ignored’ with the prefix “He claimed”, and note the use of inverted commas around ‘dozens of times’.

Yet the fact of EU and NATO encroachment is something we can all witness as observable fact, the Russian objections over broken agreements on the subject are a matter of record and the stark example of Ukraine where US-backed, blatantly Neo-NAZI thuggery has violently overthrown a government elected in what all hailed as a legitimate election in 2010 and the perpetrators have been funded to the tune of billions on the pretence of ‘promoting Democracy’ it seems hard to imagine that Russian diplomats have never expressed their concerns with the US government.

Nevertheless, in the maze of Rosenberg ‘balance’ we can see all of this massaged into a picture of extreme paranoia (indeed, the word is used) in relation to Putin himself – balanced of course, with similar fears in the West, although here given substance not with dubious ‘claims’ but asserted facts “There is growing evidence of direct Russian military involvement in the conflict there” – and here is a little of that evidence:

The ‘balance’ in Rosenberg’s article is as insidious and egregious as the BBC’s ‘balance’ in reporting on the latest violent, immoral and illegal aggressions committed by the state of Israel in Gaza, which if anything, gives some credence not to the adage that states go to war believing that they can win, but that states no less than people will commit heinous crimes if they believe that there is sufficient complicity and ‘blind eye’ cooperation to allow them to get away with it.

In the Bigger Picture

In any case, our assessments of the relative veracity or merit of articles such as those of Rosenberg and Cunningham or Chossudovsky and Goble are only a means to nourish our thinking about the facts that emerge from the smoke over time. Both the US and the former Soviet Union sought to expand their sphere of influence. The Soviet strategy had been primarily to curry favour with established regimes (the case of Castro and Guevara over Bay of Pigs is a significant example, and the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia) but they were also not shy of the odd invasion (Georgia 1921, Manchuria 1945, Xinjiang 1934, Finland 1939, Czechoslovakia 1968, Afghanistan 1979) whereas the US strategy has been to assassinate or otherwise promote the overthrow of established (even democratically elected) leaders in order to replace them with compliant dictators (Mosadeq 1958 for Mohammad Pahlavi, Salvador Allende 1973 for Augusto Pinochet, Patrice Lumumba 1961 for ‘anybody other than Lumumba’ etc.) or by outright invasion: Cuba 1898, Philippines 1902, Guatemala 1954,  Vietnam 1965-ish, Cambodia 1970, Grenada 1983, Panama 1989, Haiti 1994, Afghanistan 2002, Iraq 2003 etc.etc.

It is the pattern that emerges from the trail of clandestine intrigue on the part of the United States underpinning all this in conjunction with the obvious gulf between ostensible ‘noble’ intentions and the evident on-the-ground facts of US action among the ‘International Community’, all of it exclusively in the service of ‘American Interests’ that is the reality we should look to if we want to intelligently and honestly assess the context of events. This is essential if we are to critique the state of the world with our own minds and with integrity rather than simply absorb and parrot the propaganda that emerges from the institutionalised process of ‘our side’ that is designed allegedly to serve ‘our interests’ and ‘our interests alone’ if we want to find any truth and reality. We need to know what ‘think-tank’ means.

Why has the possibility of Russian inclusion in NATO not been on the public agenda? Why does the US government need to tap the phones of ‘on side’ political figures such as Angela Merkel (as well as the rest of us)? Why is it that US diplomats presume to ‘anoint if not appoint’ regime change governments in places such as Ukraine with a ‘Fuck the EU!’ attitude – (and get away with it!)? Why does US speculation and assertion of Russian involvement in the downing of MH17 dominate the press while the actual, formal and rational investigation ‘goes to ground’ and the anti-Russian condemnation on the matter evaporates? The same thing happened over Syrian Chemical Weapons.

Most of the truth is obvious to anyone who wants to see (clearly not our BBC) and it is this truth by which we should judge Russian actions or Russian concern about the intentions of the US (and its EU lackey), if not at least give them some credit.

But it’s media of the calibre of the Tampa Tribune article alleging Julian Assange’s war on women that epitomises the abject intellectual poverty of our collective awareness. To contextualise the Tampa Tribune, it comes from the stable of Florida journalism that made a fair trial of the Cuban Five in Miami impossible yet forced it to happen with an outrageously unjust outcome. Numerous of their cohorts were later proven to be on the payroll of the CIA and other US State institutions, propagating disinformation deliberately intended to prejudice the case against the Five. They clearly believe that Luis Posada Carriles is a ‘good’ terrorist. Yet many of the people avidly engaged in the ‘War on Terror’ have never heard of the Cuban Five – Ignorance is Bliss is another adage that comes to mind.

Here is an article, from the Tribune (home base of CIA drugs runner Barry Seal) that is part of the desperate effort, condemned even by feminist groups, to transmute the WikiLeaks issue into one of crimes of attitude and behaviour of Men towards Women. The contention would fall to pieces on the application of one very simple measure – namely, in legally binding assurances by all governments involved that Assange will not be extradited from Sweden to the United States. The article dismisses the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, for which Bradley Manning has been vindictively buried in a US jail cell for 37 years, as “a documentary on U.S. Army gunmen killing two Reuters journalists, whom they mistook for Iraqi combatants”.

Such is the journalistic mind-set of the Tampa Tribune. Put aside all the argy-bargies and polemics about sexual relations and the attitudes of Women to Men and vice versa and you have nothing really to read in the Tampa Tribune about the truth that underpins and is the purpose of the article. Such is the calibre of the debate about WWIII. Somehow, on that score, I’m with Benny Blanco.

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