A Defective Petition
At PEP we were sent the petition below and chose not to sign it.
The reasons I think it's defective
1. It doesn't demand Putin withdraw his troops from any part of Ukraine! Yes, it asks for a ceasefire, but even if enacted that would leave Putin in control of 20-30% of the country.
2. It says "above all we're angry at our own government" and all its demands are pointed at the U.S. government. This comes from a strange brand of Leftism that worries most about one's own moral purity rather that what affects the masses of people in the victimized country. In the case of Ukraine the worst actor is not the U.S., but it's traditional colonizer, Russia.
3. The petition calls for, "US support an immediate cessation of the export of arms to Ukraine", and for US support for "UN Security Council guarantee of neutrality and security for Ukraine".
Neither is a good idea. Watch the show on TheStrugglevideo.org where I interviewed Brazilian unionists who went to Ukraine and met with unionists there. They told them they were simultaneously joining the army to defend against Russia AND opposing Zelensky who is using the war to cut away labor laws. These Ukrainian workers are desperate for more weapons to defend themselves.
The proposal about the UN is a non-starter. The Security Council is totally split and will not defend anyone (Remember Syria?). There is a signed document from 1994, the Budapest Memorandum, in which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for its then "existing borders". It was signed by Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the U.K. The U.N. Security Council didn't lift a finger to defend it or Ukraine's "security".
4. The petition's "history" is doggy. Russia is not surrounded by NATO. Look at a map. The Minsk accords were defective from the start, at best they allowed a ceasefire. They were not the basis for a peace.
5. The word "solidarity" is missing from the statement. Our main duty is solidarity with the everyday working people of Ukraine not to use geopolitics to stand behind some "lesser evil".
This is the petition in question.
PETITION TO CT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
We, the undersigned are horrified, saddened, and angry at the war in Ukraine.
We are horrified that humanity still resorts to mass murder to solve political-economic differences.
We are horrified that the world is endangered by nuclear war.
We are saddened that innocent noncombatants are reduced to the status of “collateral damage.”
We are saddened that soldiers are forced to fight and die.
We are saddened at the horrific bloodshed and damage the war is causing in Ukraine.
We are angry at all the governments and institutions involved for their role in this catastrophe.
We are angry at the Russian government for breaking international law, by invading their neighbor, no matter what the provocation.
We are angry at the government of Ukraine for failing to live up to their commitments in the Minsk Accords to engage the breakaway republics of the Donbas in political compromise, for slow-walking the peace talks, and for tolerating fascist groups dictating events.
We are angry at our corporate media, for their omissions, half-truths, and lies in the pursuit of war hysteria and arms sales.
Above all, we are angry at our own government, because it is that government that represents us, spends our tax money on slaughter instead of human needs, and must listen to us. We condemn the machinations of the US/NATO to surround Russia’s borders with aggressive military weapons which have created the tragic situation of death and destruction in the Ukraine. The US government has supported the expansion of NATO east to the border of Russia, steering the region into war in order to feed the Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex.
For more background on the history of and reasons for this conflict see the linked documents:
- Immediate ceasefire and relief for the victims.
- US support an immediate cessation of the export of arms to Ukraine.
- US support UN Security Council guarantee of neutrality and security for Ukraine
- US support a UN-mediated solution to the questions of the Donbas, and Crimea, with its warm-water port, Sebastopol.
- We call for a new International Disarmament Convention, to eliminate all nuclear weapons, and drastically reduce strategic arms and arms commerce.
- Stop the eastward expansion of NATO into Ukraine and the rest of the region
A Putin Apologist is Interviewed on Democracy Now
Joe Lauria, editor-in-chief of Consortium News was interviewed by Juan Gonzalez on 7/12/22. This is the full text of the interview. It was awful. My comments and sarcasm in red.
…Plenty missing from the mainstream media coverage of this [Ukraine] from the initial part of this invasion until today. Mostly we have seen reporting in the corporate media based solely on U.S. officials or Ukrainian officials… So, American and European audiences have been fed the idea that Russia has been failing in this war and that Ukraine still has a chance to win,
Lauria’s message is that Ukraine has no chance to “win”, meaning to stop Putin from seizing 25% or 100% of their country. Since they have no chance, they should accept whatever Putin has in store for them.
but I think we’re starting to see the reality seep into the reporting. When you’ve got somebody like Henry Kissinger saying that Ukraine is going to have to make territorial concessions, when the pope says that NATO was barking at Russia’s door, we start to see that, in fact, it wasn’t the simple story that we’re being told every day.
And the Alt-imperialists love to quote the Henry Kissinger as a font of wisdom. Seems to me he was once considered by the Left the master of empire, coups and massacres.
And the reporting on the ground is very difficult. We shy away from it, because both sides lie in wars.
Excellent. Everybody lies so why bother with trying to find out what’s “on the ground”. Let’s stick to geopolitics.
When both sides admit an event happened, then you can pretty much be assured that it happened. And now there’s pretty much a consensus emerging that Russia is close to taking all of Donbas, which was their initial aim in this war.
No, their initial aim was Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city. Don’t you remember?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Joe, I wanted to ask you, in terms of the roots of the conflict — I’ve been really impressed by a lot of the coverage that Consortium News has been producing, from people who used to be covered a lot by folks on the left, like Scott Ritter and John Kiriakou and Caitlin Johnstone and Jeffrey Sachs, but are now sort of ignored because they’re not going along with the main narrative. But there
Scott Ritter, an utterly discredited apologist for Iran. Caitlin Johnstone former astrologer. Jeffrey Sachs whose “shock therapy” ruined Russia
JUAN GONZÁLEZ (continued)
was an interesting piece that came out in The New York Times in July, five months into the war, which says — the headline is “Commando Network Coordinates Flow [of] Weapons in Ukraine.” And deep in that story, there’s this amazing fact thrown in, and I want to quote it: “From 2015 to early this year, American Special Forces and National Guard instructors trained more than 27,000 Ukrainian soldiers at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center in western Ukraine, near the city of Lviv
And why oh why would Ukrainians want such training? Could it be that they had witnessed Putin seize Crimea, which had been part of Ukraine for 70 years, and they had seen him generate in the Donbas a civil war by militarizing what had been to that point an angry, but civil conflict?
…The U.S. has been deeply involved in Ukraine. And this comes as no surprise with The New York Times report. And I think we already knew pretty much that this was going on, that in fact NATO — while Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it has been and is a de facto member of NATO today.
Actually, if Ukraine was de facto part of NATO the U.S. would have bombed Russia and the world would not be seeing the farce where Russia can obliterate any part of Ukraine it wants while Ukraine is expected not to use any weapons of the West on Russian targets.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you mentioned the coup in 2014.
“Coup”. Juan, you should know better. You’ve seen coups in Latin America where the U.S. and the capitalists call out the generals to overthrow the government. In 2014 in Ukraine 200,000 people occupied the Maidan through sub-zero weather and chased out their President. He banned demonstrations and had his goons shoot the people. Should they have just waited to see if their would be another election?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ (continued)
The founder of Consortium News, the legendary investigative reporter Bob Parry, did a lot of coverage on that [alleged coup]...
[He] pointed out that the U.S. was working with extreme-right groups, neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine to help overthrow a democratically elected, albeit corrupt — but I don’t think there’s hardly a politician in Ukraine who cannot be called that
Of course you know that fact without having any knowledge of Ukraine.
— to overthrow Viktor Yanukovych, who the OSCE, by the way, certified his election in 2010. And the United States helped install leaders that were absolutely anti-Russian and accommodated these extreme-right groups and then launched a war against the Donbas, because the Russian ethnic speakers
The U.S. launched the war in the Donbas? You got your countries mixed up. It was Putin who did it sending in Russian fascists, criminals and Russian soldiers.
there on the Russian border objected to this coup. Their president that they voted for was overthrown, and they declared independence of Ukraine, and the response, backed by the U.S., was to begin a civil
No they didn’t. It essentially was Russians from Russia who did that.
war, in which thousands of people have been killed over the last eight years. That’s something that’s completely excised from the reporting today.
It was that war that Russia entered, really, in February of this year to try to put down that rebellion — and to do a lot more, no question about that. Russia’s aims, we’re still not clear exactly what they are, but they’re certainly beyond Donbas, though that is what they’ve concentrated on in the last few months.
Well, at last something we can agree on.
… Amy, if you recall, during the Vietnam War, Americans who justly protested the murderous policies of their government were smeared as puppets of Hanoi or Beijing or Moscow. It’s the oldest trick in the book for governments to smear legitimate critics of their policies as foreign stooges. And we’re insulted by that because it takes our agency away from us, as if we can’t think on our own.
Your wretched agency? What about the agency of 40 million Ukrainians which you deny with your claims of Western plots and a so-called coup?
So, they’re trying to — they’re trying to crush the smallest spark of dissent, because Consortium News, we have about 10,000 readers a day. It briefly went up to 40,000 at the beginning of the war. Why? Because we were providing the historical context, the causes of the war — NATO expansion, the rejection of the Russian treaties back in December, to NATO and the U.S. to create a new security architecture in Europe, the failure to implement the Donetsk Minsk accords — sorry, in Donbas. And, of
So the context for aggression is to look at NATO. Obviously, Ukraine by itself had no reason to worry about Russia. Chechnya, Syria, the Holodomor and hundreds of years of Czarist Russia imperialism are not part of “context”.
course, when you remove all of those causes, it looks like Russia is just a madman and only an imperialist. Now, while it’s true Putin has talked over the years about Novorossiya, founded by Catherine the Great in the 18th century, that it was basically an integral part of Russia, if you remove all
“integral part of Russia” Yeah, like Algeria was an integral part of France.
these other causes, he just looks like some imperial madman. And the invasion of Ukraine pales in comparison, of course, with the invasion of Iraq and Panama and Grenada by the United States, all of which — none of which have had Security Council authorization, including Russia, so it is technically an illegal invasion.
“technically” and obviously
So, we are in a situation now where because we report these causes, we’re being smeared and attacked and deplatformed, and PayPal won’t let us raise money through them. But as I said, we are doing quite well without them, thank you very much.
…We have a right even to be wrong. We have a right to say what we want to. This is supposed to be the freedom of press that the U.S. and European governments protest that they support. And in fact, they’re trying to protect their own interests and to cover up any criticism of — legitimate criticism of the failures of their policies. And this is no different than any kind of totalitarian system, I’m sorry, because they want total control — and the word “total” is in “totalitarian.”
You’re a little hysterical here. You sound like Alex Jones. If you want to see what “total control” is like take a visit to Moscow or Grozny. Or visit the prison housing Alexei Navalny.
And by the way, the U.S., in my view, needed Russia to intervene in Ukraine in order to unleash their economic war, in order to unleash their information war and the proxy war, which they want to go on
The U.S. wanted Russia to invade Ukraine and so obviously Putin could not resist Biden’s hypnotic provocations. Quite a plot by Biden.
for a long time. Lloyd Austin said the aim here is to weaken Russia. Joe Biden actually said it, that the aim here is to overthrow Putin. He said on February 24th in his press conference on the day of the invasion that the purpose of the sanctions was never to stop the invasion, it was to bring down Putin. It was to get the Russian people to rise up. So they needed this invasion.
… And I believe U.S. set a trap that Russia walked into, and that was to stir up an offensive in Donbas, and Russia had to decide whether to intervene to try to protect the ethnic Russians there or to let them be slaughtered.
“or to let them be slaughtered.” This is the same justification Hitler gave for “intervening” in Czechoslovakia in 1938, to protect ethnic German from the horrific Czechoslovak state. And it has the same amount of truth – none.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Joe Lauria, we want to thank you so much for being with us, editor-in-chief of the independent news outlet Consortium News, founded in 1995. He’s a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe and others, investigative reporter for The Sunday Times of London, now with Consortium News. Thanks so much for being with us.
Why Should Anyone Care What Jeffrey Sachs Says About Ukraine?
The magazine Tikkun has an article by Jeffry Sachs “Ukraine is the Latest Neocon Disaster”. For some reason liberals like to listen to Sachs. He was even on Democracy Now in June of ’21. But it’s rarely mentioned that Sachs has some direct responsibility for the disaster that is Gangster Capitalist Russia. His “shock therapy” program for Russia in the 1990's ushered in an era of capitalism at its worst, with the rise of Russian oligarchs and constant gangster assassinations. Sachs claims he didn’t invent “shock therapy” and the Russians under Yeltsin didn’t really follow his ideas, but he happily carries the New York Times 1993 article “Jeffrey Sachs, Shock Therapist” on this website.
The Soviet Union officially ended on the last day of 1991. In 1992 Russia’s population was 148 million. By 2000 after 9 years of “shock therapy” it population was two million less, with deaths outnumbering births each of those years.
The reaction to the “wild” ‘90’s led to the rise of a strongman (Putin) who vowed to keep order. You can read about this in detail in the article NPR put on its website in March of this year headlined, “How 'shock therapy' created Russian oligarchs and paved the path for Putin”. Or you can read a much earlier article in The Nation.
Sachs was a disaster for Russia. Why should anyone publish anything he says unless it was a heartfelt apology?
But for the sake of argument let’s look at what he says. My criticisms or sarcasm in red.
Looking at Sach's "Ukraine is the Latest Neocon Disaster"
Analysis by Stanley Heller
He starts by saying:
The war in Ukraine is the culmination of a 30-year project of the American neoconservative movement. The Biden Administration is packed with the same neocons who championed the US wars of choice in Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Syria (2011), Libya (2011), and who did so much to provoke Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Poor Russia is just a victim, forced to blow up whole cities. What rot.
The neocon track record is one of unmitigated disaster, yet Biden has staffed his team with neocons. As a result, Biden is steering Ukraine, the US, and the European Union towards yet another geopolitical debacle
… (paragraphs about the rapaciousness of the neo-cons are omitted)
After the fall of the Soviet Union, both the US and Russia should have sought a neutral Ukraine, as a prudent buffer and safety valve.
And the U.S. and Russia in 1994 negotiated and signed an agreement to respect Ukraine’s “existing borders”.
Kagan penned the article as a private citizen while his wife Victoria Nuland was the US Ambassador to NATO under George W. Bush, Jr. Nuland has been the neocon operative par excellence. In addition to serving as Bush’s Ambassador to NATO, Nuland was Barack Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs during 2013-17, where she participated in the overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych,
“Participated in” covers a lot of ground. Nuland did indeed stick her nose in, but most Ukrainians were happy with the “overthrow”. For some peculiar reason they didn’t like Yanukovych shooting dead hundreds of protesters.
and now serves as Biden’s Undersecretary of State guiding US policy vis-à-vis the war in Ukraine.
The neocon outlook is based on an overriding false premise: that the US military, financial, technological, and economic superiority enables it to dictate terms in all regions of the world. It is a position of both remarkable hubris and remarkable disdain of evidence. Since the 1950s, the US has been stymied or defeated in nearly every regional conflict in which it has participated. Yet in the “battle for Ukraine,” the neocons were ready to provoke a military confrontation with Russia by expanding NATO over Russia’s vehement objections because they
The objections weren’t so “vehement”. When 7 countries joined NATO is 2004 Lavrov attended the ceremony.
fervently believe that Russia will be defeated by US financial sanctions and NATO weaponry.
The most likely outcome of the current fighting is that Russia will conquer a large swath of Ukraine, perhaps leaving Ukraine landlocked or nearly so. Frustration will rise in Europe and the US with the military losses and the stagflationary consequences of war and sanctions. The knock-on effects could be devastating, if a right-wing demagogue in the US rises to power (or in the case of Trump, returns to power) promising to restore America’s faded military glory through dangerous escalation.
And this is all the result of the crimes of the neo-cons. Putin is an innocent lamb, provoked beyond measure. His desire to incorporate these 40 million people who don’t know they’re Russians has nothing to do with it.
Instead of risking this disaster, the real solution is to end the neocon fantasies of the past 30 years and for Ukraine and Russia to return to the negotiating table, with NATO committing to end its commitment to the eastward enlargement to Ukraine and Georgia in return for a viable peace that respects and protects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
At this point negotiations are a “fantasy”. What is Putin offering to do other than erase the notion of Ukraine from history?
The neo-cons are indeed bad news and their “support” for Ukraine is only to further their idea that the U.S. must dominated every region, but they’ll never be defeated with this one-sided analysis by a economist who should be considered long discredited.
Andrew J. Bacevich Doesn’t want Us to Call Putin’s Russia Fascist – He’s Wrong
In his article in Portside, Quincy Institute president Andrew Bacevich takes exception to those calling Putin’s Russia fascist. Selections from his article are below. My criticisms of his article are in red. Ellipses (…) show my deletions of sentences or paragraphs of his piece.
Timothy Snyder, Levin Professor of History at Yale University, is a scholar of surpassing brilliance...
I just wish Professor Snyder would stick to history.
It’s not my aim to defend all of Snyder’s statements, but I do want to criticize many of Bacevich’s claims. He’s head of the well-heeled Quincy Institute (Koch-Soros money) which all sorts of liberals turn to for foreign policy guidance.
According to an old chestnut, the past is a foreign country. Even so, similarities between then and now frequently interest historians more than differences. Few, it seems, can resist the temptation to press their particular piece of the past into service as a vehicle for interpreting the here-and-now, even when doing so means oversimplifying and distorting the present. Historians of twentieth-century Europe, Snyder among them, seem particularly susceptible to this temptation. Synder's mid-May op-ed in the New York Times offers a case in point. "We Should Say It," the title advises. "Russia Is Fascist." ...
Depicting Vladimir Putin as a fascist all but explicitly puts today's Russia in the same category as the murderous totalitarian regimes that Snyder indicts in Bloodlands. Doing so, in effect, summons the United States and its NATO allies to wage something akin to total war in Europe. After all, this country should no more compromise with the evil of present-day Russia than it did with the evil of Hitler's Germany during World War II or Stalin's Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Not at all. Just knowing what kind of undemocratic regime exists doesn’t automatically impel you to war. For instance, the U.S. was under no moral obligation to wage “total war” against Stalin. In fact, from 1942-1945 we were quite properly allies with the Soviet Union in the fight against Hitler. It depends on circumstances, relative power, etc.
And fascism isn’t the only system capable of immense crimes. The (semi) democratic U.S. government killed three million in Vietnam while holding non-stop elections. The U.S. killed a half-million children in Iraq via sanctions. Yet that didn’t mean Canada, for example, had a moral imperative to launch “total war” against the USA. You do what you can do.
For Snyder, therefore, the job immediately at hand is not just the honorable one of assisting the Ukrainians in defending themselves. The real task—the obligation, even—is to decisively defeat Russia, ensuring nothing less than democracy's very survival. "As in the 1930s," he writes, "democracy is in retreat around the world and fascists have moved to make war on their neighbors."
As a consequence, "if Russia wins in Ukraine," he insists, the result won't simply be the brutal destruction of one imperfect democracy, but "a demoralization for democracies everywhere." A Kremlin victory would affirm "that might makes right, that reason is for the losers, that democracies must fail." If Russia prevails, in other words, "fascists around the world will be comforted."
Certainly, Putin’s consequence-free bombings of Syrians and assistance to the hideous Assad regime made him think he could do the same to Ukraine.
U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been generally consequence-free to the people that waged them (Bush, Obama, Trump, Biden, etc.) and have demoralized peoples of the Middle East.
Fascist and or imperialist victories do pump up other like-minded regimes and they surely demoralize us.
And "if Ukraine does not win"—and winning, Snyder implies, will require regime change in Moscow—then "we can expect decades of darkness."
Don’t see Snyder saying that or implying it.
So once again, as in the 1930s, it's time to choose sides. To paraphrase a recent American president, you are either with us or you're with the fascists.
Bacevich goes too far. Snyder doesn’t say that at all.
Who Are You Calling Fascist?
Allow me to confess that I was once susceptible to this sort of either/or binary thinking as an organizing principle of global politics. I grew up during the Cold War, when bipolarity—a U.S.-led Free World pitted against a Soviet-controlled communist bloc—offered a conceptual framework that any patriotic adolescent could grasp…
Put simply, stopping fascism has once again emerged as an imperative surpassing all others in importance. The climate crisis? That can surely wait. Problems on the border with Mexico? Talk to me later. A never-ending pandemic? Just roll up your sleeve and follow Dr. Fauci's orders. Recurring school massacres? Blame the Second Amendment.
Who says all the other crises should be put on the back burner? Not the Left. But there is that unpleasant fact that Putin’s forces are smashing one Ukrainian city after another.
"Russia Is Fascist" offers a definitive rebuttal to the Trump-promoted revival of "America First." It's a call to action, with a prospective anti-fascist crusade serving as an antidote to the setbacks, disappointments, and sense of decline that have haunted Washington's foreign-policy establishment since the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11.
Yes, the war against the invasion can be used as a stepping point by the Neocons and militarists. At the end of June the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had the gall to declare China one of its concerns.
On the other hand, a big defeat of the Russian aggression will be of great use to 40 million Ukrainians and many other peoples (like Syrians). People aren’t simpletons. They can break through propaganda and realize that they are threatened by all kinds of empires and militarists and fascist at home. I just heard from Brazilian unionists who went to Ukraine and they say a defeat for Russia would have the same effect as the defeat of the imperial effort to subjugate Vietnam.
In a broader sense, targeting fascism may fill a vacuum that dates from the very end of the Cold War, one that the subsequent Global War on Terror never adequately addressed. Finally, America again has an Enemy Worthy of the Name…
On that score, the issue immediately at hand is as much psychological as geopolitical. After all, if the course of the war in Ukraine has made one thing abundantly clear, it's that Russia's heavily armed but strikingly inept armed forces pose no more than a negligible conventional threat to the rest of Europe.
Unfortunately, Russian forces not proving so “inept” in Eastern Ukraine. And if Ukrainians didn’t get weapons from the U.S. and countries in Europe they’d be in a far worse position.
Military effectiveness requires more than a capacity to reduce cities to rubble. So if Putin represents the latest reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, he's a Hitler saddled with Benito Mussolini's maladroit legions.
Yet declaring Russia to be the embodiment of fascism revises the stakes. For Professor Snyder, Russia's lack of military prowess matters less than Vladimir Putin's twisted worldview. Centered on a "cult of the dead," a "myth of a past golden age," and a belief in the "healing violence" of war, Putin's outlook expresses the essence of Russian-style fascism. Exposing that outlook as false is a precondition for destroying the Putin mystique. Only then, Snyder writes, will the myths he has perpetrated "come crashing down."
So you're saying the Putin’s Russia is not fascist. Then how should today’s Russia be described? Looking at it one sees one leader who has been in power for decades, fake elections, poisoning of enemies and dissidents, persecution of gays and LGBTQ. So what is Russia? It’s not a communist/Stalinist country. Moscow is home to more billionaires than any city in the world. It’s not an apartheid state like Israel. It’s not like the capitalist democracies of Britain or France. So how would you categorize it?
This, for Professor Snyder and for many Washington insiders, describes the actual stakes in Ukraine. Rather than merely regional, they are nothing short of cosmic. Defeating Putin will enable the United States to refurbish its own tarnished myths, while safely tucking away our own sanctification of violence as an instrument of liberation. It will restore America to the pinnacle of global power.
OK, it’s not cosmic.
There are, however, at least two problems with this optimistic scenario. The first relates to our own ostensible susceptibility to a homegrown variant of fascism, the second to tagging Putinism as an existential threat. Both divert attention from more pressing issues that ought to command the attention of the American people.
To the Barricades?
Is Donald Trump a fascist? My own inclination is to see him as a narcissistic fraud and swindler. That said, from the very moment he emerged as a major political figure, critics cited the f-word to describe him…
Well, watch the hearings of the committee investigating January 6th. At the very least Trump was OK with the prospect that the election would be overthrown violently. And despite being impeached twice he owns the Republican Party. Seems a lot more than a “fraud” is going on here.
… paragraphs omitted
Professor Snyder's assertion that "democracy is in retreat around the world" posits a model of history that has two gears: forward and reverse. In fact, history has multiple gears and moves in various directions, many of them unanticipated and unrelated to the prospects of democracy. So far at least, no algorithm exists to forecast where it will head next.
OK, so there are many gears, but the success of Le Pen in France, Urban in Hungary, and the rise of the AfD party in Germany have to give one pause. Then there’s the Dutch FvD which has the largest membership of any party in the Netherlands. “Humanitarian Superpower” Sweden has the Far-Right “Sweden Democracy” party which may very well be part of the government after the next election this fall. Putin is the God of the Far-Right which will be quite energized if he can crush Ukraine.
What threatens the United States today is not fascism but the continuing erosion of a domestic political consensus without which democratic governance becomes difficult, if not impossible.
… paragraphs omitted
In Washington, the conviction that military might adroitly applied will restore the United States to a position of global primacy has tacitly found renewed favor. The ostensible lessons of an ongoing conflict in which U.S. forces are participating on a proxy basis
The ridiculous argument that the Ukrainians are just pawns of the U.S. CIA and neo-cons is getting rather old.
superseded any lessons of the recently concluded Afghan War where the United States failed outright. Rarely has the selective memory of the national security apparatus been so vividly on display. Much the same can be said about the Congress, where a no-questions-asked enthusiasm for underwriting the Ukraine War has provided a handy excuse for simply writing off the entire 20-year misadventure in Afghanistan.
The truth is that neither Russian "fascism" nor its Chinese variant poses a significant danger to American democracy, which is actually threatened from within.
What about the threat of Russian fascism to Ukrainian democracy? Is that unimportant?
Joe Biden once appeared to grasp this reality, even if he now finds it politically expedient to pretend otherwise.
Our salvation lies not in flinging around the f-word to justify more wars, but in rediscovering a different lexicon. To start with, consider this precept to which Americans were once devoted: Charity begins at home. Charity, as in tolerance, compassion, generosity, and understanding: that's where the preservation of our democracy ought to begin.
Charity? You think the Far-Right forces that control the Supreme Court, and state legislatures and which in November may take over Congress can be countered with “charity? Give me a break!
© 2021 TomDispatch.com
Andrew J. Bacevich is president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. Bacevich is the author of "America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History" (2017). He is also editor of the book, "The Short American Century" (2012), and author of several others, including: "Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country" (2014, American Empire Project); "Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War" (2011); "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War" (2013), and "The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II" (2009).
Chris Hedges is Getting it Very Wrong on Ukraine
June 16, 2022. For decades Chris Hedges has been a brave and prize-winning reporter, an educator of prisoners, and a fine analyst of the Christian Far-Right. But in the last few years he’s lost his way. Perhaps it started in 2017 when he interviewed the alt-imperialists Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton on his Russia Today show “On Contact” as they “doubted” media reports of Assad chemical use. Certainly. he’s getting it wrong on Ukraine now. The following is from his April 16 interview on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. My comments are in red and boldface. To keep to the point I’ve eliminated parts of his comments (which are long indictments of U.S. outrages) and replaced them with an ellipsis (…). The transcript of the entire interview is here.
Ralph Nader: Welcome indeed. Listeners, we're going to cover a lot of ground here – NATO, Putin, Ukraine. We're going to talk first about…tell us your reaction to the media coverage here. …?
Chris Hedges: Well, it gets to what Chomsky and Ed Herman wrote about in their book, Manufacturing Consent: [The Political Economy of the Mass Media]--the difference between worthy and unworthy victims. So our victims are not worthy. Yemenis are not worthy. Palestinians are not worthy. … The two decades of war crimes that we committed that have so far dwarfed anything that Putin has done in Ukraine are ignored.
First, why start by talking about coverage by corporate media? We all know corporate media for the most part will spin out whatever story the empire wants. We know all about U.S. government horrors and hypocrisy.
Why not start by telling us what’s going on between Russia and Ukraine?
And this kind of moral posturing and cheerleading and self-adulation, plays to what viewers, and often readers, want to hear but it's deeply hypocritical. And that's not lost on the rest of the world.
Ralph Nader: And then the accountability issue. Like, now they're talking about bringing Putin before the International Criminal Court, accusing him of war crimes, which he committed of course, but there was no accusation against Bush and Cheney and his successors in terms of war crimes….. And then during these air raids, over 600 huddling children, men and women, were in a [Baghdad] shelter, an air-raid shelter deep underground, and the precision munitions of George Herbert Walker Bush somehow found a missile and it went right down the chute and incinerated over 600 people. Of course, that's forgotten.
Again. We know the U.S. empire is endlessly hypocritical. What’s going on in Ukraine?
Chris Hedges: All the shock and awe. It was 3,000 bombs dropped almost exclusively on civilian areas that killed over 7,000 non-combatants in the first two months of the war. …I was in Eastern Europe in 1989 as a reporter covering the breakup of the Soviet bloc and the USSR, that the expansion of NATO is not a lie. The expansion of NATO is a direct provocation.
Ralph Nader: Chris, we're going to get to that in a minute. Just to complete the analogy, Iraq didn't threaten the US. There was no threat there at all. …. So back to your point on NATO, let's go back into history a bit here. Napoleon invaded Russia--slaughtered. The Kaiser invaded Russia-- slaughtered. Hitler invaded Russia--slaughtered. Maybe a total of 50 million people, and it's quite understandable that the Russian people, apart from Putin, are quite concerned about their western frontier. Imagine if that happened on our northern border--three invasions. Do you think we would have calmly set sail for Tahiti or Hawaii? What would we have done to our northern border if the shoe was on the other foot? So start with the NATO assurances with Jim Baker and others.
What does Napoleon have to do with Ukraine? You say Imperial Russia was a victim of the Kaiser? All the empires in 1914 were disgusting and plotting to enlarge themselves. Yes, Hitler invaded the SOVIET UNION (not Russia alone) and killed 50 million, but must all of Russia’s neighbors pay the price for that indefinitely?
Are you saying some countries have a right to a sphere of influence, that the U.S. had a right to attack Cuba in 1961 or the U.S. would have a right to attack Mexico if it made a treaty with an outside super-power? If it’s a matter of national trauma, talk about the trauma Ukrainians suffered in the ‘30’s when Stalin killed 4 million of them.
Chris Hedges: Right. So I was there. First of all, we thought NATO was obsolete, which shows you how naïve we are, because NATO was created to prevent Soviet expansion into Central and Eastern Europe. Well, that was over. In fact, Gorbachev was negotiating observer status at NATO and speaking about building a joint security alliance between the United States, Europe and Russia. There were promises by Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the German foreign minister, Margaret Thatcher and James Baker, as you said, the secretary of state under Reagan, all of whom promised that NATO would not be expanded beyond the borders of a unified Germany.
Yes, things were said about not expanding NATO. Verbal promises were made. NATO should not have expanded. In fact NATO should have been dissolved. Russia in the ‘90’s should not have been abandoned to capitalism in its most savage form. These are fair criticisms of Washington.
But how can you not mention a written agreement, the Budapest Memorandum of 1994? It was a solemn agreement in which the country of Ukraine gave up all the nuclear weapons it possessed in return for a guarantee of security for its then “existing borders”, borders that included Crimea and had been unchanged for 40 years. Russia signed the memorandum and so did representatives of the U.S., the UK and Ukraine.
And how can you talk about all this danger of NATO and its being a “clear provocation” to Russia, as you say in the next paragraph, when the last big expansion of NATO was in 2004 and the same Russian Foreign Minister Lavarov attended the welcoming ceremony? If it wasn’t a terrible “provocation” then how did it become so awful in the last couple of years?
And everybody understood from Henry Kissinger to George Kennan. It didn't matter, that this was absurd; this was a clear provocation against a Russian government that wanted to work with us. But it expanded anyway. And why? Well, because it was a multibillion-dollar a year bonanza. You had, if you expanded NATO, then Soviet Bloc militaries or countries that had Soviet Bloc military equipment would have to reconfigure their equipment to make it NATO-compatible. And that's exactly what happened. I was in Warsaw a couple of years ago and there were billboards all over the place from Raytheon because, of course, they're bilking the Polish people . . . a lot of this is paid for with loans but it was what George Kennan later called the expansion of NATO the gravest mistake of the post-Cold War era. And
Why do you depend on the understanding of arch-conservatives like Kennan and the abominable Kissinger? What does the Ukrainian Left have to say about this or doesn’t that matter?
then you had not only the expansion of NATO, but during the Clinton administration there were promises that NATO troops would not be deployed in Central and Eastern Europe, and now there are thousands. And we've got to also acknowledge that Ukraine, in many ways, is a de facto NATO country. It also has been flooded with NATO military equipment.
Ukraine has asked for and received a flood of weapons AFTER being cruelly invaded. How can you blame them?
It had I think 150/200 NATO military advisors before this war began. So yes, Russia has every right to be concerned. We almost went to nuclear war with the Soviet Union when the Soviets attempted to station or put missiles in Cuba, which is 90 miles off the Coast of Florida, while you have NATO missile bases being constructed 100 miles from the Russian border. Again, that doesn't excuse what Russia did. They were baited, without question, but they did pull the trigger. But you can't even begin to acknowledge
Baited? What was the bait? 150/200 advisors, that paltry number is a threat to the Russian army with its 1,300,000 soldiers? And what evidence is there that the U.S. government wanted to confront Putin now? The U.S. has been seeking to turn its attentions and military to China, not Russia.
this in the kind of giddy euphoria. I think a lot of it is really wrapped up in the kind of self-adulation that we've probably not been able to visit on ourselves over the last two decades.
Ralph Nader: Let's talk a little geographically. Chris, tell us the names of the countries on the Russian border that have now joined NATO and they were asked to buy F-16s, F-15s, all kinds of military-industrial complex goodies. What are some of the names of the countries?
Chris Hedges: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
This is NOT true. Only Norway, Latvia and Estonia are on the Russian border. You can add in Poland and Lithuania if you like but they only touch Kaliningrad that little piece of Russia which itself is 200 miles west of all the rest of Russia.
Ralph Nader: So they are now part of a military alliance that was created against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s. There was a great opportunity - which George Kennan, the preeminent expert on Russian strategy - as a great opportunity to bring the Russian people in. Yeltsin was there after Gorbachev. And it looks like the US blew it.
Chris Hedges: Well, they blew it . . . yes, they did from . . . it made no geopolitical sense. It makes sense only if you're Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. Poland just signed a $6 billion deal to buy M1 Abrams tanks. So, it made sense from commercial interests, but of course it was a disaster in terms of geopolitical interests. But this is not uncommon. The whole reason we perpetuated the war in Afghanistan. We know from the Afghan papers that were released by the Washington Post that the policymakers and military leaders understood that this is a quagmire. They weren't going to dominate Afghanistan.
This is a very simplistic and crude analysis of U.S. capitalism, so it’s essentially false. The arms dealers are powerful but they don’t outweigh all the other capitalists with their own interests.
But the war kept perpetuating itself. It was also true in Vietnam, as the Pentagon Papers revealed, because for these corporations, it's a very, very lucrative business.
Ralph Nader: And so, Putin now is in his brutal war against Ukraine. According to the latest polls, two out of three Russians support him. Of course, here they say that’s because they're not getting the full story; Russian state propaganda; they know what's going on. The word of mouth, email, phones, this and that, spreads very rapidly. They know that Russian soldiers are in Ukraine, body bags are coming back, and so forth. But the scene is one where Putin thinks he's got popular support. Of course, he talks about neo-Nazi organizations in the Donbas area, and they are white supremacist groups in the Donbas area; Ukrainian groups fighting Russian supported groups in the Donbas area which is right on the border of Russia. It's about one-tenth of the size of Ukraine. And the fighting has been going on since 2014 when Russia took back Crimea. People don't understand that under the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics, Ukraine was one of the socialist republics. Khrushchev was in charge in World War II of going against the Nazi machine in Ukraine. He saw all the slaughter and he gave Crimea to Ukraine.
The brutal Khrushchev was really that sentimental? Much more likely was that it was done to curry favor in the ongoing power struggle. There’s lot more history here including the fact that Crimean Tatars were victims of ethnic cleansing, 230,000 Tartars deported from Crimea by Stalin. Survivors weren’t allowed back to the Crimea for 40 years. Where is their voice in all this?
And then, of course, Putin took it back. But it's important to know all this history. And so, you've been watching the scene. What do you think is going to happen?
Chris Hedges: Well, they clearly want to turn the Ukraine into another Chechnya. That's why they've put these staggering sums of money into providing weapons.
“They” meaning the West wants another Chechnya? When Putin obliterated Chechnya Clinton said a few things but did nothing. If the West wanted another Chechnya it would have just ignored what happened in Ukraine this year. It’s Putin who is willing to make Ukraine into another Chechnya. It would be a better argument to say that the West wants another Afghanistan.
But why only talk about what they U.S. empire wants or doesn’t want. What do the Ukrainians want? It’s pretty clear that even the Russian-speaking Ukrainians don’t want their country absorbed into Russia. Don’t Ukrainian wishes count? And what should “we” want, U.S. working people, the 99%, etc.
Even Germany has lifted its ban on exporting weapons and talked about almost tripling its own defense budget, and then spending 2% of GDP every year, which would make Germany the third largest military in the world after the United States and China. So they are going back to that old Cold War playbook, proxy wars. It's what Brzeziński did in Afghanistan, lured the Russians into Kabul after weakening the government and arming what would become the Taliban. And in their parlance, it's about making Russia bleed. But of course the people who truly bleed are the Ukrainians. So that's the policy. It's very cynical. As long as the amount of weapons that have been provided to Ukraine, as long as this is sustained… The Czechs are now sending tanks; the idea is to perpetuate the conflict.
Ralph Nader: And this could be a gridlock for months, if not years. Is that what you are saying?
Chris Hedges: Yeah. They would like it to continue for a very long time to slowly degrade Russia's military capability. I think they're delighted with what's happening. But then, you have these figures, Robert Kagan and others, who have just . . . I had to deal with Kagan. He worked for Elliott Abrams in Central America as propagandist for the contras and these murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala. There isn’t a war they haven't embraced. They were, of course, cheerleaders for the expansion of NATO. They sold us the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, which boils down to "We should go to war with Russia, and don't worry, Putin won't use the bomb."
Ralph Nader: We had an interview with Ted Postol, the expert on nuclear warfare, professor of engineering at MIT, emeritus, and he said that this could rapidly spin out of control. That if you put the nuclear weaponry on alert the way Putin did, and they only have radar ground technology that can see that can see supposedly what's coming at them, they can make a mistake, as they did a couple times. Luckily, the ground person decided not to give the retaliation signal. And the US can determine any firing from any international ballistic missile anywhere in the world; it's more advanced. And he says that this could lead to an accidental launch or the Russians seeing something that isn't coming at them because of deficiency of their detection system.
Right, this is a very dangerous time. It could be the end of us all, but does that mean if a nuclear armed power commits aggression the only proper course of action for the victim is to submit? Should Ukraine go it alone or surrender as a way of avoiding WW3? Would you say the same if the U.S. invaded Cuba, Vietnam or China?
So this could be a modern version World War I, the assassination of the grand duke in Sarajevo, leading to a clash of egos of the monarchs of Russia, Germany, France, England, Austro-Hungarian Empire. And you know how that turned out. So what do you think people in this country should be doing?
Chris Hedges: Well, I've covered war, of course, and any time you open that Pandora's box of war, you don't control it; it controls you. So you just look at the way the kind of bizarre situations that we've maneuvered ourselves into in the Middle East. So there is this insane idea of arming moderate rebels.
This “moderate rebels” dig is a nod to Max Blumenthal and his gang, who think that the weapons the U.S. gave for a few years to Syrians fighting Assad meant that the whole Syrian revolution was a U.S. plot to have Islamic extremists overthrow Assad. In fact, even during the 3 years when the U.S. gave some support to forces fighting Assad the U.S. refused to give them anything to defend against helicopters and jets, the main force that Assad threw against “his people”. I know that Hedges respects the dreadful Max Blumenthal because Hedges told me so when I asked him to join a call to shun Max Blumenthal’s slanders against the White Helmets and such.
Again, this comes from the neocons who, by the way, work in either administration. Victoria Nuland was Cheney's chief foreign policy advisor, worked for Obama, and now works for Biden. And her husband is Robert Kagan. It's kind of a family business. Fred Kagan, is the one told us we better build up our military so we can fight both Russia and China. These guys are just nuts. So you saw in Syria where we spent $500 million arming, quote unquote, "moderate" rebels, whatever they are. That creates the Caliphate;
Ridiculous. The Caliphate was not created by the U.S. ISIS grew in the ground of a destroyed and humiliated Iraq and then once it was highly armed it moved into Syria.
they decide to destroy it, so they're bombing the forces Assad is attacking. They end up acting as Assad's de facto air force. This is what happens in war. You just don't want to go there. And World War I is a good analogy. Europe stumbled blindly into this suicidal slaughter. Nobody expected it; nobody understood it. They were still kind of mentally locked in the 19th Century Haig. The field marshal who led the British forces was convinced that his cavalry forces would deliver the crowning defeat to the Germans in the age of machine guns and heavy artillery etc. So yeah, it's very, very, very dangerous. You don't want to do this. The whole idea that they have dismissed diplomacy and imposed draconian sanctions that are clearly designed to bring Putin down means Putin is cornered. And you don't want to corner a nuclear superpower.
“They” have dismissed diplomacy? See what Zelinsky proposed in late March. Note the proposal to ignore the issue of Crimea for 15 years and for permanent neutrality from “blocs”. How does that fit with your thesis that the U.S. is forcing Ukraine not to negotiate?
Ralph Nader: Especially humiliating him and leaving no backdoor to have him save face. It seems like all these neocon warmongers, and they're from both Democrat and Republican--Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams and Madeleine Albright who said it was worth it that half a million Iraqi children died during the sanction period. She was interviewed on 60 Minutes. They just go from one party to another, from one administration to another. And they know the history but they deliberately ignore it. They just are warmongers. It's like we haven't learned from Vietnam. We haven't learned from Iraq. We haven't learned from Afghanistan. We haven't learned from Libya. And it's just a gung-ho attitude. The only time Congress was pressured not to go along with Obama on going into Syria was when hundreds of thousands of people flooded the congressional offices of their senators and representatives. It was coming in 95 to 5 against going into Syria. Ninety-five to five was coming in from conservatives and liberals, and Congress said to Obama, "No way." And that's what we’ve got to start doing, because Congress is the only thing we have left in a situation like this.
You’re concerned about Putin being unable to save face? Shouldn’t our main concern be the faces of Ukrainians, which are being physically destroyed?
Five hundred and thirty-five of them; we all know their names. Listeners, you know what you have to do. You have to shout diplomacy; you have to shout negotiation; you have to shout for an end of a war that could spread all over the world. …
Well, you were on RT, Russian television. It's a Russian government media operation. We have our Voice of America, and earlier, Radio Free Europe, but you had a program. Tell us what the program was about. You've had it for a couple of years or more now, and what's happened?
Chris Hedges: So it was on for six years. It had previously been a program on teleSUR, and then teleSUR with collapse of the Venezuelan economy and shift to a right-wing government in Argentina, lost its funding. It was a consortium of Latin-American stations. And RT asked if I was interested in moving the show to RT and just rebranding it under another name, primarily interviewing authors. And I agreed as long as I chose the guests and had editorial control, which I did. …. And so RT was clearly targeted and had already been removed without any warning from cable channels. It was the second most watched foreign news broadcast, after the BBC, in the country but it was just summarily disappeared from cable channels in New York State and California where it had a wide following. And then, of course, Putin's invasion of Ukraine gave them the excuse they wanted. So six years of my shows, not one of which had anything to do with Russia, [underlining done by me for emphasis] were just instantly disappeared with no inquiry, no warning.
Hedges should hang his head in shame for this statement. He was on Russian state TV for six years and never said a word about Russia, nothing about Putin’s hideous bombing of Syrian hospitals, nothing about assassinations of dissidents by the Russian state, nothing about the poisoning of Navalny or Navalny’s imprisonment when he returned to Russia, etc. Shameful.
And you could say that it wasn't over the content but in fact, of course, it was over the content. Those were the kinds of voices that this increasingly discredited corporate state doesn't want heard. You were on it. Noam Chomsky was on it. Slavoj Žižek was on it.
Ralph Nader: Larry King was on it.
Chris Hedges: Larry King had a show on it. He mostly interviewed celebrities but yeah, he was also on our team.
There’s lot more to the interview, and of course, much of it praiseworthy, especially the part about support for Julian Assange, but not relevant to my critique.
I’ve been spending a lot of time criticizing people whom I used to admire wholeheartedly, but the anti-imperialism that has morphed into alt-imperialism, a defense of Russia and China and the Syrian regime, is frankly disgusting and must be opposed and exposed.
Vanden Heuvel on Democracy Now! Repeats False Ukraine “Proxy War” Idea
On June 6, 2022 Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Interviewed Katrina Vanden Heuvel. This is part of the transcript. My comments are in red.
For more, we’re joined by Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation magazine, columnist for The Washington Post. Her recent piece there is headlined “We need a real debate about the Ukraine war.”
Welcome, Katrina. Lay out your argument.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I think what we’ve seen, Amy, over these last years is that the corporate media has a one-sided debate. You don’t hear from informed, analytical scholars or writers who are not there to justify but to provide history and context about what we’re witnessing today in the proxy war, but the war between Ukraine and Russia. And there’s a marginalization of those voices and a preference for voices which are about how to escalate the war, how to cover the military, not cover the history. And I think the venerable journalist Walter Lippmann once said, “When all think alike, no one thinks very much.” And that seems to be the framework in what we’re witnessing. And I think it’s very important that there’s not an intellectual no-fly zone, even while understanding how barbaric, how illegal the Russian war against Ukraine is.
But this war is going to end, and how it ends is a matter of discussion that isn’t being shown in any real way on our screens in corporate media. I will say there have been a few cracks. May 19th, The New York Times ran an important editorial raising questions about what U.S. strategy is.
“U.S. strategy”, that’s what we on the Left are all about, giving good advice to the oppressor class? Why not see what the Left in Ukraine and its supporters are saying, and take that seriously?
And there have been a few articles in these last days which begin to question concerned about an unlimited war. We’ve now put through about — the United States, Amy, you mentioned the $70 million. There are — $57 billion has been given to Ukraine in these last months and years. And the question of where that money is going and how that may escalate a protracted war between — with a nuclear power, I think, is critical to raise, to understand and provide context for.
“escalate a protracted war”. With Putin using Kh-47M2 Kinzhal supersonic missiles from Russia and Ukrainian city after city being ground into dust, how can you talk about the dangers of escalation from Ukraine and those who will give it weapons?
AMY GOODMAN: So, comment on Macron’s comments this weekend —
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — saying, “Do not humiliate Russia.” The significance of this, and also Putin saying, “If you send these advanced missile systems to Ukraine, we’re going to hit places we haven’t touched yet”?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: So, we’re into more than a hundred days. It’s clear, as Zelensky said, that Russia now controls maybe 20% of Ukraine, but Russia seems to be settling into the eastern part, Severodonetsk, and this is the Donetsk region, Luhansk, Donetsk republics. And I think that that is a measure of where you see parameters for a peace agreement.
Yeah, just give away the Donbas. That will be one of the “parameters” of peace. That 6 million people live there is just a detail. We on the Left don’t’ have business in telling Ukrainians what to give up, especially since the record of most of the Left has been to excuse what comes out of Moscow for generations. At some point Ukrainians may decide that the balance of forces is so against them and that they’ve lost so many people that they make big concessions to Putin, but that’s Ukraine’s business. Our responsibility is solidarity.
And I just want to say something which I think is quasi-subversive. A negotiation is not appeasement. And I think what’s happening with the provision of weapons may well be, as some argue, that Ukraine needs more leverage to come to the negotiating table. That’s an argument. But there are — it’s time now to really push for high-level diplomatic initiatives, which have happened, Amy.
There have been solid offers to Putin. See the one from the end of March which included a proposal to ignore the Russian occupation of Crimea for 15 years and the one that said, “Ukraine vows not to join any military coalitions or host any foreign military bases or troop contingents.”
Macron maybe saying we shouldn’t “humiliate” Putin might have been the wrong word, but, you know, what’s interesting to me is there’s all this talk of how unified the Western alliance has been, how NATO allies are so unified. But, in fact, what we’re witnessing here, it seems to me, is a division between what Donald Rumsfeld during the Iraq War called old and new Europe. New Europe — Baltics, Eastern European countries — fearful, having been occupied by the Soviet Union, of Russian aggression, witnessing Ukraine, but France, Germany — and it’s not just the gas and oil, but it’s a sense that they live on the same continent, that there needs to be agreement and not a kind of sundering or instability, because it’s lost here, but this war, again, is going to end, and what emerges will be — whether it’s mutual security or constant insecurity and instability, again, with nuclear-armed weapons, is, I think, a very fundamental issue, and Macron was right to raise this.
Well, if he hadn’t said “let’s not humiliate” and said the other chestnut, “Let’s give him an off ramp” it would still be bad. Putin has an off ramp. Withdraw all his troops from Ukraine.
AMY GOODMAN: Katrina, you have been studying Russia and in Russia for decades. What sense do you have of the Russian public and where they stand right now, the significance of high-level officials differing from — one even quitting over this — and any pressure that you think is effective from within that’s being placed on Putin?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: So critical, Amy, to talk about pressure from within the Russian opposition. The Russian government has worked hard to chill, to repress the protest that first erupted after the Ukrainian war. Many Russians have relatives in Ukraine, family. And I think there was a shock in the first instance. There has been a rallying to the Russian government, partly because of the propagandistic state television portraying now that it’s a proxy war. It’s easier for Russians to fix on fighting NATO, the U.S. than Ukraine. I have a friend outside of Moscow who says she feels doubly shamed. She’s shamed by her government, but she’s also shamed by the United States, NATO stigmatizing and, it seems, demonizing of all Russians, not understanding there are those who oppose this war.
There are also what we saw during the Afghan War when the Soviet Union was involved: mothers, those who are angry and horrified by the body bags that are coming back to Moscow and the fresh gravesites. So that’s a factor, and the Russians have been very careful to keep numbers low, even though they’re losing thousands a month. And Zelensky, by the way, noted, Amy, just a few days ago, that Ukraine is losing 50 to 80 men a day, which, you know, in comparative terms, is more than the United States lost at the highest point of Vietnam in 1968.
I will note that my longtime friend, the editor of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who received — co-received the Nobel Peace Prize in December, has just auctioned his Nobel, or announced he will, and contribute the money, which he thinks might be $100 million, to Ukrainian refugees. The newspaper continues to operate in Riga, in the Baltics, as do a number of other newspapers, independent papers, critical of the Putin government.
You can see Novaya Gazeta Europe here. The Google browser will translate it automatically.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you make of who stands where in the U.S. Senate? I mean, you have the arch, well, libertarian, conservative, anti-civil rights leader, Rand Paul — right? — the Republican Kentucky senator, who is an enemy of the other Kentucky senator — right? — the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, holding up a vote of weapons sales, saying, “Where is the oversight? We need an ombudsman.” And that — and, you know, finally, he caved on that. But you have the Republicans who are pressing against these weapons sales, and the Democrats and much of the — outside Fox — media, CNN, MSNBC, all just pushing forward, and when weapons sales are not happening, asking, “Why not?” or just weapons give-overs.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Amy, our politics have been scrambled when it comes to U.S.-Russian relations for the last five, six years. You know, there is something that has emerged, which I think is a very important development in U.S. politics, foreign policy, which I would call the restraint caucus. This is the Quincy Institute, headed by Andrew Bacevich, Trita Parsi, Anatol Lieven, who was a guest on your program. These are members of the Quincy Institute who believe not in isolationism but that there is a different way for America to engage the world, with diplomacy, with restraint and with an understanding that America is stronger if it’s not a unipolar power, if it’s not policing the world and if it’s not triumphalist. Sadly, I think, on this issue particularly, on Russia, the progressive community is not at this moment offering, saying, you know, “Negotiations, let’s open a space for it,” but focusing more on Russia as a kind of demon and should be not in the civilized
How do you “open a space for it”? List cities and areas for Ukraine to cede to Russia? The campist Left acts as if Putin is dying to negotiate an end to the fighting. Did you ever look at his proposals?
network of nations, and more weapons, more weapons. I think it’s important not to attribute this restraint caucus solely to the Rand Pauls or Josh Hawleys. It’s much broader and, I think, more representative of this country. And as you know, those in this country’s voices are not often heard inside Washington.
One thing that has fundamentally changed, Amy, since we last spoke, in these last weeks is, of course, what is the strategic focus of the U.S. involvement in Ukraine? Is it to — from the original concept, to defend Ukraine as a free, sovereign, independent country, or is it, as General Austin said, to degrade, to weaken Russia,
What’s the proof that something has actually changed in U.S. conduct? As Australian professor Michael Karadjis writes, “Previously, they [those who say the U.S. has changed its strategic focus] claim, the US was aiding the Ukrainian resistance with the aim of helping Ukraine resist the Russian invasion – for its own reasons, of course, but within these confines. Now the US is doing the same thing, aiding the Ukrainian resistance, but with the aim of weakening Russia. Pardon me for being confused about what has changed in practice.”
or, as President Biden said and had to roll it back, Putin shouldn’t — you know, he shouldn’t be in power? And that’s a very different framework. It’s sort of comparable to the old debate between George Kennan’s containment, which was later changed in focus to rollback idea, which has dominated this country’s foreign policy.
And I think it’s important to understand that there are negotiations that have occurred in these last months. There was one in Istanbul between the Russians and Ukrainians. The FT, the Financial Times, reported in March that there was a 15-point plan that had been put on the table. You know, it’s easy to start a war than to end a war. And I do think surveys show that the longer this war goes on, the much more difficult it is to end it. And certainly, our weapons, which many may argue are critical to defend Ukraine from the barbarism of Russia, but they do lead to a more protracted war with all the ancillary nuclear problems, threats, perils and others. So, I think it’s pivotal inflection point, and I think people need to take steps.
Yes, without the weapons the war will be less “protracted’. Ukraine will end up like Syria, a ruin from end to end. On the other hand, you could also argue that with a lot more weapons the war will be less protracted in that Putin will decide to cut his losses.
You mentioned the Senate. I mean, we are facing midterm elections in November. Inflation, jobs, these are what lead the list. And I think for many presidents, including Biden and Trump and Obama, there was an understanding years ago that Ukraine was not a national security interest of the United States. And Obama did not send lethal weapons. Of course, it was before the Russian aggression. But I think that’s worth thinking about. How vital is Ukraine’s security? Yes, but not a commitment of extraordinary proportions.
I’ll end by saying I think Zelensky, who, you know, is an extraordinary figure, has talked about $5 billion to $7 billion a month needed to keep Ukraine aloft, alive and surviving. And that money — you know, the money is going to be needed for reconstruction of this ravaged country, for those displaced, for food and security, for all the issues we’ve talked about as extending from this war, which has had global impact.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the idea — we’re talking about, if this is a proxy war, you know, major nuclear countries, the United States versus Russia. What about that?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, what’s interesting is, polls show that Americans now are thinking about the nuclear threat. Now, one thing that is of great concern, Amy, I’ve heard that there are no working groups, there are no groups talking at lower levels — U.S., Russian — about the nuclear issues, which are critical. We don’t have a nuclear arms infrastructure at the moment, Amy. It’s been shredded since 2002, the anti-ballistic missile system. START, very weak, extended 'til 2025, ’26, but all these other treaties are just torn apart. And the nuclear issue is terrifying.
Fair criticism. Biden won’t even restore the Iran treaty that Obama and he created. But surely the answer to the nuclear threat is not to merely give in to what a despicable bully like Putin wants.
I mean, this is as dangerous, more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis, which many don't remember, but it’s protracted. And the longer this goes on, the more an accidental incident, a miscalculation could occur, which is why, to some extent, by the way, these missiles being sent from the United States reach only 40 miles, because there is a terror that they might go into Russia and escalate, as Putin has threatened.
This “terror” we feel at our computers in the U.S. doesn’t match the terror felt by Ukrainians who are blown up by Russian missiles fired from Russia with impunity.
I will say June 12th, 1982, we’re marking the 40th anniversary this June 12 of a million people in Central Park to oppose the nuclear expansion at that time of Reagan and Gorbachev. And I think people — maybe this will focus people on the need for freeze, for build-down, for understanding the peril of nuclear weapons, while we live with so many other dangers. This is really horrifying that it has been raised as a possibility in this protracted — let us say, this proxy war, which is leading to a possible global war in its implications for the change of our political-military architecture.
So you think it’s a “proxy war”, that the Ukrainians are being duped or manipulated by NATO or the CIA or Victoria Nuland? So the U.S. has been a puppet master, using Ukrainians to weaken Russia. The idea that Ukrainians themselves don’t want to be invaded and massacred and live under Putin’s fascist (OK “authoritarian”) regime is foreign to you. The evidence that Ukrainians turned out in the millions to join fighting forces or volunteers to provide food and other necessaries is evidently also invisible.
AMY GOODMAN: I know I said “finally,” but this is really finally. What do you think could break the establishment consensus, with the media very much a part of that, even pushing Biden to go further, to sell more weapons at this point, to allow in those other voices?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I mean, that’s the question of our time, isn’t it? And I think that to listen to the people — I mean that, because I think people care about being a good force in the world, but are not up for this policing, this triumphalism. I think that it’s going to take those who understand the need to demilitarize.
Maybe we should start by demilitarizing Russia, by putting U.N. troops on the Russian and Belarus sides of the border to make sure Putin doesn’t send his boys on another mission to convince the Ukrainians that they’re misguided and nazified.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Amy, there was a sense of return to an idea in foreign policy called common security — this was Olof Palme, this was also Mikhail Gorbachev — but an understanding that there are human security needs, to fight the pandemic, to fight global inequality, to fight food shortages and, of course, the existential crisis of climate change, which, by the way, in the $50 billion that has been put through to Ukraine, that’s far more than we’ve been spending to tackle and hold climate crisis. But I do think there’s a way of framing our security needs that could open up minds.
And I think this idea I talked about, about restraint, it needs to be more broadly
“Restraint”. Sure, but start by calling on Putin to show some restraint. Instead of formulaically saying the “brutal invasion” is wrong and then spending all your time complaining about the U.S. government, use some of your words to describe the horrors Putin is inflicting on Ukrainian men, women and children.
understood, because I think it’s much more in the American tradition than what we see from the neocons or the neoliberal interventionists who have dominated inside Washington.
What about the traditions of Left internationalism that extend from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam to South Africa?
And I do think Biden is under terrible pressure. And it’s a pressure, as I’ve said, I said in my Washington Post column, that begins in the center right and extends to the right right. So you need the pressure from these forces.
I read and read your article there and have no idea what you mean by “these forces”. Do you mean Noam Chomsky and Chas Freeman? I do see that you declare in the article that the war in Ukraine is a “proxy war”. This is false. See above.
And they’re there, but he hasn’t opened up his administration or let them in or listened to them. But if you had a more open media and a more open-minded administration, these people are young — Blinken, Jake Sullivan — but they’re recycling the oldest and worst ideas in our foreign policy.
Sure these “liberal” defenders of capitalism have their own motives for helping Ukraine. Instead of wasting time trying to convince them to be nice why not concentrate on building the Left, an ecosocialist internationalist Left?
AMY GOODMAN: Katrina vanden Heuvel, we want to —
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: And we haven’t even talked about China. Sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: Sorry. Go ahead.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: We haven’t even talked about China, in the context that they were supposed to move on to China, but they’re doing so in a way to challenge and treat China as a terrible threat. These countries are not to be admired, in many ways, but they’re needed, not as friends, but as partners, in dealing with some of the grave issues of our time. And that is a realism, one hopes, a realistic approach, because there are a lot of people putting her head in the sand and thinking we’re going to have double wars, Russia and China. This is not a way to build a world.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation magazine. We’ll link to your piece in The Washington Post, “We need a real debate about the Ukraine war.”
Next up, the House committee investigating the deadly January 6th insurrection holds its first hearing on Thursday. Democracy Now! will be live-streaming it at 8:00 Eastern [Daylight] Time. Stay with us. We’re speaking with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Will Bunch.